Hi everyone, I shouldn't get so far behind on my writing.
It is Saturday morning -- Jim's 60th birthday! Don't know that we will do anything too exciting for it. I see there are some emails coming in for him though. I just invited the missionaries to come over tonight for cake! They like that idea --- they like anything that involves food!!
Jim is standing in line at the bank. He was there at opening time but so were about 100 other people and he called to say he is about 30th in line. We decided we better get some more petty cash before we head to Lilongwe tomorrow.
The area office has ask for documentation on the status of all missionaries with Immigration so I have been scanning everything and sending it in. As of January they say there are going to do all immigration stuff. Good for them!! Hope it works! :)
I just killed a mosquito -- good for me!! They are out in abundance right now and they really like me. I hope I don't ever get malaria. We do take our malaria pills every single day though. We got our mosquito net up over our bed again so that helps.
When we were in Lilongwe last weekend Jim and two missionaries (I didn't want to go) went to the "other" Sacrament meeting that those members were holding in a house. They planned it so they would arrive after it started and got there when they were starting the sacrament. Jim said they started breaking the bread and he felt like that is when he should stand up and say what he went there to say. They were REALLY happy when he arrived at their meeting, however.... it didn't last! He explained 'authority' to them again and told them they have no authority to do what they are doing and that it is putting their membership in the church in jeopardy, etc. etc. They wanted him to sit down and listen and discuss their complaints but he said 'no'. He was instructed by Pres. Padovich to deliver a message but to not discuss their issues right now. There were 17 in attendance at the meeting and when he and the Elders left the people were not very happy at all. The women especially were yelling at them (in Chichawa) but he could tell it was not good! That evening one of those men went to the Branch President's home and threatened to beat up his wife and to cut them with pumpkin knives! Jim suggested he call the police -- don't know if they would do much though. We haven't heard any reports that any threats were carried out.
Last night we got a call from two of the men who are leading the group. We aren't sure what happened but... they were being very humble and wanted advice from President Bullock about what they should do. They said they love the Church and want to do things right. They wanted to know if they could go back to the Branch on Sunday and not hold any more of their own meetings. We really hope they are sincere. It brought tears to our eyes when we listened to them. He told them to go back and that we will be there all next week and that the new couple is coming on Thursday. Also that Pres. Padovich is trying to come. (He is coming but we didn't want to tell them that yet). He and Pres. Bullock will do a lot of interviewing and try to sort this mess out and decide what to do. A member of the Area Presidency will come the first part of January as well. Hopefully this little Branch can be salvaged and they can learn to love each other again and work together.
We have had some sick Elders --- one spent the night in the hospital last weekend in Lilongwe. He had a high fever, (almost 104) headache, etc. We were afraid it was malaria and they did treat him for it, just in case! It seems like it was a bacterial infection and they gave him medication to bring down his fever and treat the infection. He was better fairly quickly but tired. Then when we got back to Blantyre another Elder had exactly the same problem but tested negative for malaria - it was a bacterial infection.
Another Elder had a surgery (same as a couple of our sons had). It was first done before his mission but needed a second one - same as ours. It put him down for a few days and he is still taking it easy.
The missionaries have learned the hard way to stop eating food in the village as they were getting diaherra etc. Members like to feed them fish, as it is cheap, but it doesn't do well in their stomachs as it isn't always kept cold and taken care of properly. We see mini buses (public transport) with fish hanging from the windshield wipers. YIKES!!
Mom - I hope it was ok that we used some of your money to help Petros and Maria with seed for their fields. We hadn't planned on it but it felt right. I am sure you don't mind. The group leader also ask if we could help a lady from the Village who's husband died and she needed some seed too. We did! There is still enough left to help out Sister Chisambo with her rice business that we helped her start. She is doing well and keeping very good records. We haven't told her yet that you wanted to help - we were waiting to see how she did. We are very pleased with what she is doing. When she couldn't get rice she bought some bags of maize and has been selling that. The profit is not as great but that's ok. When we were in Lilongwe we got her a couple bags of rice and if she has sold those we will get some more this trip. The price has gone up but it is óff season' for rice so she can also sell it for more. She has some regular customers and the rice from Lilongwe that we got is "nice" rice. Everyone says -- you can tell by the smell of the rice that it is good. Hmmmm.... We can't tell the difference but obviously we aren't experts on rice!! haha
The money here (kwacha) is being devalued fairly regularly. Food prices are getting high, so much so, that the allotment for the missionaries was increased last week. Bread used to be 100 kwacha and now it is 200 for a loaf and flour is not as plentiful. The Elders say there is still lots of food at the stores it is just more expensive. There still is no beef though due to 'foot and mouth' disease in the Shire valley of Malawi. We are eating a lot of chicken. The Indians (from India) that we are friends with tell us that their wives are stocking up so we went out and bought some staple foods. If we had to feed all the missionaries it wouldn't last long.
Diesel is still a huge problem but we seem to manage to keep getting what we need. They quit filling up jerry cans for people which actually helps the confusion at the pumps. Yesterday we managed to get a letter giving us permission to fill 200 ltrs. of jerry cans a week. Without that letter they won't fill them. They had quit giving out the letters a week ago but still gave us one. We are happy to get that!!!! It is good for a year. The queues at the pumps are still unreal!!
A couple of nights ago two of the Sister missionaries were on their way home about 6:30 (close to home) and a guy pushed them and took their bag. It has their scriptures, cell phone and 10,000 kwacha in it. At least they were not hurt. We can replace what the lost but they have been told to be sure and be in their flat before dark -- not a new rule!
The same night an Elder in Lilongwe hit a little girl with his bike. She darted out in front of him and he did brake and jump off his bike so she really wasn't hurt. Probably scared and of couse she cried. Very quickly about 50 or 60 people gathered and were upset with the Elder (and he is a new one, and is quite timid). He called the zone leaders and they went and the people wanted them to take the girl to the hospital to get checked out. By then she appeared to be fine and was walking around. We don't have insurance on church vehicles to transport anyone so they had to say - no!. Anyway -- when the family finally left with the girl the crowd dispersed and things calmed down. Everything seems to be ok but the Elder was a bit scared by it all.
The country is turning green and beautiful with the fields/gardens everywhere starting to grow. (mostly maize). Everyone is walking around with their big hoes slung over their shoulder. It is that time of year! They work so hard in their fields and it is all done by hand with a hoe. It really is amazing.
Our new house is finally taking shape and we are mostly organized. I have the office back together. It has been a lot of work. We will go to Lilongwe and get the other flat for Pretes finished off and hopefully get internet working there for them. We have arranged for the internet people to come on Monday. There were a few problems in that flat but the builders are happy to fix things. A toilet leaked and wouldn't flush. They replaced it but the new one was no better so now, this week, they are replacing some plumbing and getting a better toilet. Hope it helps. There are several other problems in that flat but they have been good. The work in that flat is not as nice as the work here in our new flat. The shower in the Prete's flat leaves something to be desired BUT -- our showers here at our new flat are VERY nice!! :) The Prete's flat does have some nice features though that we don't have -- like nicer closets and a car port.
They will like their flat. They have some nice neighbors. The Jamaican lady who is head of security in Malawi for the United Nations lives next door and we really like her. Plus she makes sure that the security at that compound is 'top-notch'. We don't have any neighbors in our compound yet -- we are the first to move in. Apparently some others will move in January. We feel safe here though and haven't had any problems so far. We have our security system working here - brought it from the other place. And, of course, there are guards. Davie, our gardener, got hired on with these new people so he is around to keep an eye on our place in the day time and watch for DHL deliveries etc.
We will give the Zone Leaders a key while we are away this time so they can check the house. Tuesday we came back and the main breaker had switched off and we ended up having to cook up some meat that was thawed - but still cold, luckily. We don't want that to happen again.
I have gone on long enough and need to get other things done. We will head out in the morning and stop in Liwonde for their meetings and then go on to Lilongwe. We will be there for a week. Pretes arrive on Thursday!! Hurray!!!
It doesn't feel like Christmas here at all. We are encouraging the Branches to at least sing some Christmas hymns and have talks about the birth of the Savior on Christmas Day. They do like to get together at Christmas and have an extra special meal -- lots go to their home village to be with family. Gifts giving doesn't seem to be a priority. It was the same in Zimbabwe.
It is hot here now (34 degrees) and we are grateful for our Air conditioners in the office and our bedroom. We are to get one in the living room when it arrives at the shop. :)
Love to all and hope you are enjoying the Christmas season.
Elder & Sister Bullock/Jim & Nancy/mom & dad