The power is off again tonight – probably for a couple of hours. I did manage to get supper cooked before it went though so we had some chicken and rice with a mushroom sauce.
We got back from Lilongwe after spending 9 days away. We met up with Pres. & Sister Padovich and he and Pres. Bullock interviewed about 50 people (anyone who wanted to talk) from the Kauma Branch. The stories and complaints were pretty much the same but there is no proof to the accusations. Mostly they just have decided they don't like the Br. President and think Satan is working through him. No changes were made to the leadership. The mission will let things sit for a bit and see what happens. Pres. Padovich gave a really good, direct talk on Sunday when they ALL attended. After Sacrament meeting the dissenting group gathered outside and complained. Elder Prete and Elder Bullock tried to talk with them but they are pretty determined and the women were even worse than the men. One man came back in and attended the other meeting. Elder Cook from the area Presidency will be there the first week of January and I guess we will see what they decide to do at that time.
With the experience that Elder & Sister Prete have they will be good in Lilongwe. I had mentioned that there were problems there but of course, they didn't realize the extent of it. They will have their hands full. We didn't want to tell them too much until we had their passports locked away so that they couldn't escape. (Just kidding!) We are glad to have them here and they will do great. We had their flat ready for them and they like it and we were lucky enough to finally get internet hooked up for them the day before we came back. AND it is a really good internet connection. We might have to look into that for ourselves at some point if ours doesn't get any better. We actually skyped and called our mothers and could hear each other very well. It was nice.
On our way home we stopped in Liwonde to see Maria. She is in the hospital. We paid a deposit to the hospital and bought some medications (morphine) for her. She was to have a blood test the next day to see if she needs another blood transfusion. Young Maria is staying by her side, night and day. Petros, her husband is out planting his maize before it is too late to plant. He is behind due to time spent with Maria. Young Maria is going to have a hard time when her mom passes away.
It is good to be back in Blantyre and we have spent the past couple of days catching up and still have more to do. We are still trying to organize the house and find a place for missionary supplies etc. It is almost in good order.
Diesel is still not available. We did manage to get about 300 litres for the Lilongwe side and are trying to get some for here. We hear that there may be no diesel in January so we are trying to get as much extra as we can. We bought 12 more jerry cans. We are expecting 3 more mission vehicles in the next couple of weeks so it would be nice to have diesel for them but we will see. The Elders may be on foot yet. The Elders in Lilongwe had to give up their truck to the Pretes as the vehicles have not yet materialized. They were more than willing to do that. We have some good missionaries.
We put up a small Christmas tree that we found. There were a few decorations and a string of lights so now we are looking a bit more festive. We have some Christmas music and 3 or 4 Christmas DVDs so that will make it feel a bit more like Christmas. People here do not celebrate like Americans do. There is no sign of Christmas, other than a few decorations in the grocery store. For the most part they plan to get together with family and have a special meal together which may consist of some meat or chicken, if they can afford it, and some rice or Nseema and vegetables. We will spend Christmas eve and Christmas afternoon with the missionaries. We will pool our resources and put together some treats for Christmas eve and a dinner for Christmas day. We haven't decided just what we will make yet but there is no turkey here so we may have to pretend with some chickens.
This morning we attended a baptism and then the District had a Christmas activity for the 4 branches in the District. They had a good turnout and fed about 300 people. They served them a bun, small piece of chicken, small piece of beef (I think) and a banana. Oh yes, and also a pop (Fanta, as it is called here). They had activities and a bit of entertainment. We didn't stay to the whole thing but it seemed to be a success. One of our Elders had made some sugar cookies for the little kids. Fun!
We learned recently that Malawi has been downgraded to the poorest country in the world. Sad! People are not starving though. Hopefully there will be good rains so that their maize will grow well. We saw some that wasn't looking so good as the rainy season is late this year. President Padovich reports that they had the rain storm, of all rainstorms (lightening and thunder and super heavy rain) in Zambia a couple of days ago. Their power has been out since so they have gone to stay at the missionary couple's place tonight. He is said the storm was really something to see.
My internet is really acting up lately. I seem to only get it for a little bit at a time. Not sure what the problem is. It has gone off again so hopefully I can send this letter - if not, I will copy and paste it to a document and send it later. It is like President Padovich keeps saying about our mission and these countries --- "You just can't make this stuff up!" Never a dull moment.
Love to all and Merry Christmas!
Jim and Nancy/Elder & Sister Bullock/mom & dad