Thursday, March 29, 2012

Crocodiles in the Shire River

We are heading off tomorrow morning for a little R&R with Elder and Sister Prete and the Collins family.  We will meet in Liwonde and take a boat to Liwonde National Park and stay at a lodge there for 3 nights.  The price includes meals and 2 activities each day - game safari, boat ride to see animals, etc.   It should be good as it is the main Game park in Malawi.   This is our first excersion on this mission so we are overdue.   Colllins go back to the U.S. in June so we wanted to get together and do something.  His next posting is Mali (August) and things sound a bit unsettled there right now.  If things are not good then Meagan and the kids will stay States side.   I guess we will find out more when we see them this weekend.
We had Aaron (from Liwonde) with us last night.  He came to Blantyre to get his interviews for Melch. priesthood and for his mission papers.  We didn't get them done in time so he spent the night with us.  He is a nice young man and will be a great missionary and such an asset to the Church in Liwonde on his return.   I had to explain how to use the shower as he had never used one before.  I told him to enjoy it!   He is from Sitima Village.  We have done a lot to help him get his paperwork, passport, etc. for his mission.  The only thing remaining is his ordination, which will happen next week when we go to Liwonde to Church.   He is very appreciative of anything we do.    When we go to Liwonde he has been bringing us cucumbers from the family garden and when he realized we like eggplant he said his sister grows that and he will bring us some.  The cucumbers here are really good.   Probably like the ones mom and dad liked from Mauritius (I think).  They are yellowish and fat -- crispy and good!
We knew that one of the members in Sitima Village is a widow with a couple of children because her husband got taken by a crocodile a couple of years ago.  Apparently that was Aaron's uncle.   We were quizzing him about it and he said a lot of people get taken when they go to fish the river.   He says they need the fish to eat so what else can they do?  I guess it is a fairly common thing.  I suggested he be careful because we didn't want him to disappear before he could go on  his mission.  :)   He did say there have been some poachers and they have gotten 40 or 50 crocodiles so that helps a bit.    Oh man!  It just kind of makes my skin crawl thinking about it. 
We will take pictures of our weekend.  Our next trip needs to be to visit Lake Malawi.  We cannot be here and not see that.  Everyone always ask if we have been to the Lake.  It is their pride and joy!  It is huge and has 1000 different species of fish with very clear water (clearer as you go north).   Next time -- maybe when Shields get here we will plan an outing.   President Padovich has said that all couples are to take 2 or 3 days off every 3 months so that we keep our sanity and get a break.  I guess that means we could go for a couple of weeks to make up for past months.  :)
We are excited to be expecting grandchild #21 or is it 22.    Mike and Janeal have made their announcement public now.  We will be home for that one!!  :)
We hate to miss all the family fun but......  We love what we are doing to (most of the time).    What an adventure it is to serve these people who are also Heavenly Father's children.   If we can do a little to bless their lives and teach them the gospel it is all worth it!
Love to all,  Elder & Sister Bullock

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We were watching these kids paddle towards us and then throw down their anchor and start bailing!!   They are on the Shire River where we see a lot of little canoes and boats where they are fishing with nets or poles.  They get a lot of fish (Chambo) out of this river.

We went to the Gomani's home this past Saturday so that Elder Dowse the District Leader could interview the family for baptism.  They all passed and the baptism was to be this Saturday but.....  plans got messed up and we have to postpone for a week.  :(   They are a great family! 

This is a spiker on his web, under the big water tank that is on a tall stand in our yard.  He was rather a big one!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interesting facts in the newspaper today

Minimum wage in Malawi is 5280 kwacha ($31.60 U.S.) per month!   Believe me that is not enough when a bag of maize, which will feed one person for about a month, costs 4000 kwacha.  Rents start at about 2500 kwacha for a small 1 room place.  It is no wonder we hear children tell us that they go to bed hungry. 
The Malawi Congress of Trade Union is proposing a 660 percent hike in minimum wage to help fight the high cost of living.  That would bring it up to 40,000 kwacha a month or about $240 U.S.     I can't see that happening but there certainly needs to be an increase.    People work really hard here SIX DAYS a week and get paid so little.  Food prices have really gone up in the past six months.    It is all about survival here for most people.  Luckily some  can grow gardens year round and that is what sustains them but there are areas that have had severe drought this season. 
I hope you all realize how lucky you are to live where you do!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Re: Counting the money!

Sorry -- they just came out with a 1000 kwacha note -- quite a bit different than a 1000 dollar note. 

On Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 6:52 PM, Nancy Bullock <> wrote:
We exchanged some USD today for kwacha.  We were not impressed though when the guy brought us mostly smaller bills.  We will take them to the bank and exchange them tomorrow.  We won't exchange with him again.  He was a member and we thought we'd help him out.  Hmmm....
We heard that they have just come out with a thousand dollar note here which will help a lot.  The biggest bill has been a five hundred.    The money on the desk represents $2000 U.S. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Counting the money!

We exchanged some USD today for kwacha.  We were not impressed though when the guy brought us mostly smaller bills.  We will take them to the bank and exchange them tomorrow.  We won't exchange with him again.  He was a member and we thought we'd help him out.  Hmmm....
We heard that they have just come out with a thousand dollar note here which will help a lot.  The biggest bill has been a five hundred.    The money on the desk represents $2000 U.S. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14th

Wow!  March is halfway gone already.  Where does the time go?
We have been spending all our Saturdays with the Zone Leaders in Liwonde (2 hr. drive).  We go together to teach the Gomani family and they are doing well.  Then we split up and teach others  the after- baptism lessons.  
This past Saturday was kind of hard because we found out that Maria has been lying to us and that she has a 2 yr. old daughter.  All along we have been led to believe that the child belonged to her sister, Christina.   Maria wants to go on a mission so badly and she knew that she couldn't go if she had a child.   When we got there Maria was at the hospital with her little girl so we were able to talk to Petros, her father and bluntly as him who is the child's mother.  He was startled and didn't want to tell us but with a bit of pressure did.  He was really upset though and wanted to know if the Church would make an exception since it was Maria's dream to serve a mission.  We had to explain that there are strict rules about such things.  They  say she was raped, but that is not the information that we were given and don't think she was.
We then came across Maria on the road when she was walking home with the child.  We stopped and talked with her.  We told her we knew that the child was her's.  She started to deny it but......what could she say.  She wanted to know who had told us.   I told her that she would not be able to serve a mission but that she could do plenty of missionary work while at home.  She burst into tears (which they don't do often here).   I tried to console her but she was pretty upset.  She, too, wanted us to make an exception for her, but we told her it wasn't our decision.  It comes right from the First Presidency and that there are reasons for these rules.  I told her she needs to take care of her child but she said that Christina could do that.  It was really hard BUT we wish that they had been honest about it in the first place.   Honesty is a big problem here a lot of times. 
We also had to talk to a member who wants to be ordained to be an Elder but we found out he has a drinking problem.  We also talked with him and he completely denies it.   Hopefully he is being honest and if not, maybe talking to him will help him to do the right thing.
We have another fellow out there who wants me to help him get his mission papers ready to send in and found out that he is married with a couple of children.    We still have to talk to him and let him know that he won't be able to go.  (We found out last night that Bro. Chisambo, the Group leader, talked to him and that he is perfectly willing to be at home and help the church grow where he stays.   He is a good guy and is an asset to the Church there -- he needs to just get his life in order and continue doing what he's doing.    It just has made us realize that we need to be so careful.  If we had known the truth we would not have encouraged these people.  We emphasized to our Group Leader that he needs to tell us these things as he is the one living there and knows what is going on.  It can be hard for him as he can get caught in the middle and have members upset.   There is so much jealousy here.  We have to teach always how the Church is run the Lord's way.  It isn't  the rich and famous that hold the high callings.  We have run into that more than once.
We were planning to moving Elders out of a flat and into a new one we have found.  Today, however, we decided to keep the one they are in, even if it is old and needs some repairs (which the owner has agreed to do now) and we will still have some painting done in it.   The new one had some things in the lease that we weren't comfortable with and today we found out from the foreman that they plan to hit up the tenants and have them pay to build a toilet for the guards.  When ask about that the agent for the place just said that the foreman had no right to tell us that.   We have waited for this place for quite a while and just decided it isn't worth the hassles that we have gone through.  So everyone is staying put where they are.  That saves us some work.
The missionaries all put in some money for food and we have been making supper for them on Tuesday nights before their DDM (District Development Meeting).  We are doing it at our home now and it makes it nicer and it helps us to get to know them better and have a better feeling about any problems etc.   I have Christopher Sitolo (a returned missionary) help me and he does the clean-up/dishes afterwards and I pay him a little for that.   He likes to cook and likes to learn how to do some new things.   I am also attempting to teach him piano lessons.  I am not the best teacher, I don't think, but we will see how it goes.  Even if he can learn some basic theory (value of notes, etc.) it will help him.   He has a good singing voice and I wish he could take voice lessons.  It would make a world of difference for him but there is no one here to teach that. 
The rains seem to be getting less frequent.  The crops in some areas are very poor and people are going to suffer.   There are  people who are going to bed hungry. 
Diesel was a bit better in January and February.  We heard that the gov't traded some tobbacco for diesel.  However, it is a problem again.  We do have some jerry cans full but have used a few of them recently.   We had a source where we could fill up jerry cans but were just informed that due to the scarcity of the product they will no longer be doing that.  Luckily we found some diesel a couple of days ago and both trucks are full.  Seems like things are going to get worse, if that is possible.     It isn't just diesel it is also petrol.  The queues at the fuel stations have been very long the past couple of weeks.
We have someone who will stay in our house until we get home.  That is a relief as we didn't want to leave it empty.  It was an answer to prayer for us and for the couple who will stay there. 
I better get ready for the day.  Our first stop is Immigration.
Love to all,  The Bullocks

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday, March 4th

It has been a couple of weeks since I wrote.  Things have been rather busy.     We had 3 of our missionaries in Malawi return home as their 2 years are finished and we also had several transferred to Zambia.  In fact, we lost all but one of our Elders in Blantyre and we kept our 3 sisters.   It was a big transfer.  We took two trucks and drove the Elders to Lilongwe and they flew to Zambia from there.  We were to pick up 8 Elders at the airport who were coming from Zambia that same night BUT the flight was cancelled.  We ended up waiting an extra day for them to arrive via a different route.  So instead of flying from Lusaka, Zambia straight over to Lilongwe ( flight of 1 hr. 10 min.) they took a flight from Lusaka to Harare, Zimbabwe to Nairobi, Kenya (with a 2 hr. layover) and then to Lilongwe.  Then we drove them 4 hours to Blantyre.  They were tired!   They have settled in though and are doing well.  We get another sister (new from the MTC) on Tuesday and she will fly into Lilongwe and we will meet Prete's half way and drive her here to Blantyre.    Also on Tuesday we have a missionary returning home from his mission in Zimbabwe and will need to pick him up at the airport. 
This past Wednesday we had to take a quick (overnight) trip to Lilongwe again to take care of an issue with one of the Elders (since Jim is in the mission presidency).    Things should settle down now for a little while with transfers etc. 
Yesterday we went to Liwonde and took the Zone Leaders with us.  We changed plans when we got there and decided to go to Sitima Village.  It was dry and the sky was blue so we decided to chance it and hope that we didn't get trapped on the other side of the stream that turns into a raging river when the rain comes.   We met Bro. McFarlane Phiri who was the Branch President at the Village before that Branch was disbanded.   We had a nice chat with him in the shade under a tree.  We invited him to come back to church and attend the group in Liwonde.  He said he would talk to his people today and see what they say.  He still meets with about 150 (mostly baptized members) in the Village each Sunday but they do not call themselves by our church name anymore.  We saw the building they meet in.  If they all decide to come back we would need to find a bigger meeting place and buy more chairs!!    We just want to be sure that they would come back for the right reasons.    Still a big problem in the Liwonde group (which mostly consists of members from Sitima Village) and with the other inactive members at the Village is the lack of the English language.    A man has been called to teach some English classes and we want to have someone teach at the Sitima Village too.      We did have 71 at Church in Liwonde today -- the school room was full and we could have used more chairs.
Anyway - after our visit with Bro. Phiri we went to the Benjamin family home.  They were thrilled to have us visit and they even wanted to feed us.  We each had a cob of maize that had been boiled.  It tasted okay but was very chewy.  They also served us some cucumbers from their garden.   As we pulled in to their place a mother was just leaving to take her very sick baby (6 or 8 months old) to the hospital (a walk of 7 km. back to Liwonde).  We told her to wait for a bit and we would drive her and the baby.   After we ate and visited for a bit the missionaries gave the baby a blessing.  The baby was pretty lethargic.   We took them into the hospital and dropped them off.  We heard today that the baby had collapsed several times at the hospital and was still there but doing better.  Not sure what the problem was but the family felt like it was not 'by chance' that we happened to visit and help with a blessing and transport.   They were very grateful.  We don't always know why we do what we do but the Lord does direct our paths!! 
The road to Sitima Village was mostly just a pathway and we did cross 3 waterways (they call them rivers, which I guess they are at times).  They were different than we expected.  They were narrow and fairly sharp path down and back up.  There was a bit of water in them.  The way back was worse due to the incline up from the streams.  We almost got stuck but Elder Bullock was able to back up a couple of times and get a better run at it.  A bit of mud was flying but at least we didn't have to get people to push us out.   Always an adventure!
We returned to Liwonde and went to teach the Gomani family.  They had been waiting for us.  We had the family of 8 this time plus gogo (grandma) and the man from the CCAP Church.   He doesn't say much but we give him pamphlets and etc.   He did say that he will attend when the family gets baptized because he wants to see how we do it.  :)  He hasn't disagreed with anything we have taught so far.  We did move their baptism date to April 7th though as we feel like we need a bit more time with them.  (We missed last Saturday due to getting held up in Lilongwe).    After their lesson we dropped the Zone Leaders off to teach one family and we taught another the new member lessons.  By then it was 5:30 and we went to stay at the Hippo Lodge and had supper.    We attended Church this morning and then taught the Gomani family about the Word of Wisdom after the meetings.   We had a couple of full, good days. 
Good news!  Another Canadian couple has been called to serve in our mission.  They are from Langley, British Columbia.  That makes 4 couples from Western Canada now!!   They come at the end of May and will serve in Zambia. 
All is well and the work moves forward.............   
Love,  Elder & Sister Bullock

Saying goodbye to the Benjamin family.  What a treat it was to visit their home.

Cute mom with her twins.  I had two little T-shirts in the truck that mom sent and gave them to the two babes.  The mom and grandma were VERY grateful.

The Benjamin family gave us lunch.  Great family!!  Aaron Benjamin has his mission papers ready - we are just waiting to get his passport.

This part of Malawi has not had near enough rain.  Could be a tough year for them.

Visit with Bro. McFarlane Phiri at Sitima Village

We walked along the pathway to Bro. Phiri's house and visited with him.  He showed us the Church building they use.

Mountain Near Zomba