Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mulanje Mountain with the Missionaries

We had a zone activity yesterday and drove about 1 1/4 hr. to Mulanje Mountain.  It is almost 10,000 ft. high - the tallest mountain in Malawi.  It was beautiful and President Bullock and the missionaries hiked about 40 minutes up to the falls and some pools where people like to swim (but not the missionaries, of course.)   Due to my sore foot and Sister Njoroge not feeling well we stayed to guard the trucks. 
After they returned we drove to another spot by the river and had lunch there.  It was a nice spot.  We had sandwiches, chips and cookies.   It was a good day and all had a great time. 

1.  Elder Ariho and Elder Masika
2.  The Blantyre Missionaries
3.  President Bullock and the missionaries hiked up to the falls with a guide.

Tea Plantations south of Blantyre

There are kilometers of Tea plantations south of here.  We drove through the area to get to Mulanje Mountain.  It is very beautiful and really the only area where we have seen any big established agricultural projects.   It gives jobs to a lot of people.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

More Sunrise Pictures by the Shire River

You liked my last pictures so I thought I would send a few more from that morning.  Some did really turn out nice!
1.  Baobab Tree near the River.  I really like Baobab trees.  They are soooo big!
2.  Calm morning River water.
3.  Boys pulling in their fishnet with their early catch of the day.
4.  Sunrise
5.  Photo from the walkway at Hippo Lodge in Liwonde. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shire River

The Shire River runs through Liwonde and Sitima Village  is also near the banks of the river.  It is the third largest river in Africa, after the Nile and the Zambezi.   There are a lot of hippos and crocodiles in the river.    When we stayed in Liwonde on Sunday night we stay at the Hippo Lodge.  We can always hear the hippos during the night as they often come up onto the grounds of the Lodge.  I got up early and went out near the River and read my scriptures and watched the sunrise.   There was no breeze blowing and the river was so calm.  There were a couple of boats out and they were throwing their fish nets in the river and then hauling them back into he boat. 
This is the seaon when everyone wants to burn the dry grass etc.   It was so smokey that morning that I could hardly see the mountains/hills off in the distance.  The fires here do not seem to burn the trees though, just the grass.  No one worries too much about the fires and they are burning here and there.   One reason they start fires is to enable them to catch the mice easier.  They eat them.  

Sunday at Sitima Village

Sunday we went to Liwonde with President and Sister Padovich and also Elder & Sister Bowers (a new humanitarian couple for our mission).    We attended sacrament meeting with the Liwonde Group and then we took the Group Leader and drove to Sitima Village, where there used to be a Branch of the Church.  
There are still about 150 members in Sitima that have not come to join the Group in Liwonde.  They continue to meet with the x-branch president each Sunday but they do not meet as LDS.   We wanted to talk with them and let them know that they are welcome to come to the Group and we were also somewhat curious.   When we arrived their Church bldg. was full and we estimated about 120 people.  Apparently about 3/4 of them are LDS. 
President Padovich ask Elder Bullock to say a few words and then President Padovich talked for a bit and ask if there were any questions.  It went well.   There are some with hurt feelings about how things were handled back a few years ago and some who are happy the way things are now and want to continue meeting in Sitima with Bro. Phiri.   They don't understand how leadership changes from time to time and are very loyal to Bo. Phiri.  We were told after that Bro. Phiri had coached them on what they should say and what questions they should ask.
There was one man who came in late and he stood up and said that everyone should be allowed to do as they pleased.  If they want to come to Liwonde and meet with us then that should be their own decision.  People clapped and cheered after he said that.       
After the meeting most of the people came and shook our hands and some said that they would be joining us in Liwonde next week.   It will be very interesting to see if they do come and how many will come.  
The majority of the people in the Village do not speak English so this was done with Bro. Chisambo (Group leader) translating.   
After we got back to Liwonde we talked and Bro. Chisambo filled Pres. Padovich in on a lot of details that have taken place in Sitima since the Church was started there and also events that led to it being closed and later events that led to Bro. Phiri being disfellowshipped.   It really is all very interesting and sad, at the same time.    We are happy though that there is now the Group and members who want to attend can.  Bro. Chisambo moved to Liwonde from Blantyre and he was one of the first members here and the first Branch President.   He's a good man even though things get difficult at times.    It will be a Branch again one day  but it will be in Liwonde where it can get the support that it needs.    Perhaps in the near future there will be a missionary couple there and then they could put young missionaries there as well.  Even without that though, the Group is growing.  We love working with the Group and helping out however we can.    We are excited to have Aaron Benjamin, a young man  from Sitima Village leaving to serve a mission on October 4th (going to Uganda).  It is a start.  We have another young man in Liwonde (Bro. Chisambo's son) who also wants to get his papers ready to send in.   We love this Group and the members there. 

Finally legal!

We applied for  TEPs (Temporary Employment Permits) for 5 Elders last year (May 25th, 2011) and finally they were approved and signed.  We have met with a couple of different people at the Ministers office in Lilongwe and they kept promising that we would have them soon.   It only took 14 months and now the only Elder left that needs to have it is Elder Dowse.  They won't make us pay for the other four so that is one good thing.
We surprised Elder Dowse with his TEP and even went and got a cake to celebrate!!!   He is the only missionary that hasn't been legal until now.  He can at least leave the country now and we won't have to worry that they might want to arrest him at the border.  He finishes his mission at the end of September - same time as we do.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wrong place! Wrong time!

Tuesday morning we were leaving to take some PEF brethren for a day trip up Zomba Mountain. We picked them up at the hotel and had decided that on our way we would drop off one of our new trucks at the Isuzu dealership so that they could fix a problem with the canopy on the back.   Elder Bullock drove that truck and I followed.  The men were with me.  We were almost at Isuzu when we turned down a street and suddenly Jim stopped.  He was behind a Security truck that carries guards in the back and responds to alarms, etc.  The Security truck was on its way back to their shop. 
However, about halfway up the  block there was a robbery taking place and some men were fighting.  When they saw the Security truck they assumed that it had been called because of the robbery and they shot at them (the bullet apparently hit the ground).  
From my vehicle we couldn't see any of this because we were behind Jim.  We had stopped and heard the loud gunshot and then the next thing we knew Jim's truck lurched back a bit and I saw a guard laying on the road at the front of Jim's truck.  I thought he had been shot and was dead but then he started screaming and crying.
What happened was:  when the gun was fired the security truck driver got scared and without looking, he quickly backed up and smashed into the front of our new truck .   Jim had no time to get out of the way and of course, didn't want to back into me.  Unfortunately, one of the guards was either starting to get off the back of the truck or climbing back on and when the driver reversed so fast he was just trying to hang on.  His lower leg was smashed between the two trucks.  I didn't get out and look but one of the men did and said it was really bad.    The security guys put the guy into the back of the truck and took him to the hospital.  I really hope that his leg can be saved -- not sure how good their medical technology is for something like that.   After things had settled down a bit I got out to see the damage to our truck.  It wasn't as bad as I expected but bad enough.  Also there was a pretty good pool of blood on the road in front of our truck that no one bothers to clean up. 
Jim thought they were going to take off so he ask for the driver's liscense and he didn't want to give it.  Jim grabbed the keys out of the truck and with some persuasion the driver traded the documents for the keys.  This all happened very quickly and then they left for the hospital.    We had seem some police just  back a block or two so Jim went to get them.  After lots of talking and looking it was decided that we would follow the police and they allowed us to drop the injured truck off at Isuzu.  It was leaking antifreeze but we were very close to the dealership.   We then went to the police station to fill out a report.  The security truck showed up after a bit as well and they do have insurance that should repair our vehicle. 
Apparently the thieves were robbing a bakery and got away with 2.5 million kwacha (about $9,000).  That is a lot of money in Malawi.     We are totally fine and really this could have happened anywhere - not just Africa!   We are grateful that we were not harmed.  Again, the Lord looks after his missionaries and we do have a lot of people praying for us each and every day!  Thank you for your prayers!!!   

Zomba Mountain

Thembinkosi Mkhize (Area PEF coodinator) and Sifiso Madela (Seminary and Institute Area coordinator) from Johannesburg, and Bro. Kaluba  from Lusaka (S&I) came to Blantyre to present the Perpetual Education Fund guidelines and do some training.   They couldn't get flights out of here until today so yesterday was a free day for them.  We offered to take them for a drive up Zomba Mountain.    We had a great time once we got on our way.  We had lunch out in the yard of the nice hotel up on top of the mountain.  It was a beautiful setting and a good lunch.  We enjoyed being with them.  They have a great sense of humor and it was fun to just listen to their conversation.    Bro. Madela is a bishop and Bro. Kaluba is a branch president.  Bro. Kaluba was a Jehovah Witness before he joined the Church.    They are great men and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.
We  met a lady  who was from Italy but living and working in China.  Her dream since she was 20 was to travel.  She has been working and saving so she could do that.  She left her husband in China working and she is travelling all by herself for 9 months.  Incredible and brave, if you ask me!   It was interesting talking to her.   The next leg of her adventure will take her to Columbia, in South America.  She has been to 3 or 4 African countries so far.
It never ceases to amaze us as we see people carrying loads on their heads - so heavy and walking for kilometers.   The view from the top of Zomba Mountain in incredible and beautiful. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fertilizing our yard

It is winter (dry season) here and some of the trees lose their leaves for 2 or 3 months.  This is the time of year when the grass is fertilized but they don't do it like we do.  They have black soil delivered and it is spread thinly all over the grass.   They water it and after 2 months or so it is absorbed in and the grass does look much healthier and greener.  Some people use tobacco stems the same way but it is a bit smelly.   The grass here is different than our grass.    It send out shoots and spreads but doesn't really grow much in height, although it does send up thin stems that need to be cut off to keep things looking neat and trim.   It isn't lush and soft to sit on.    They plant the grass by hand and it takes 3 or 4 months and fills in the yard.

Zimbabwe member - Bessie Thom

We were excited to be able to meet up with Bessie Thom from the Kadoma Branch in Zimbabwe.  That was one of the Branches that we visited during our last mission and Bessie is one of the stalwarts there.  She is in Malawi to renew her passport.   So fun to see her!

Gift's new white shirt & tie

Pam sent a small white shirt,  tie, and belt  that her boys had grown out of.  I have kept it for a while looking for the right little boy to give it to.  The grateful little guy is Gift Gomani.  We had given his dad and 3 brothers white shirts and ties when they were baptized  and I noticed that he got missed.  We went to visit their home last Saturday with the Zone Leaders and he was waiting for us with his new shirt and tie on and I noticed that his parents must have bought him a new pair of Sunday pants too.    They were very appreciative.  They are doing well since their baptisms and are just a wonderful family.  
The second picture is of their home and lots of the neighborhood children gather when we come since we always try and bring them a 'sweet'.    It is hard not to love the children here.  Even though they are often in rags, shoeless and dirty they have smiles that just melt our hearts.  This is their life as they know it and they are happy!

Our kitchen reno continues...

Our kitchen is now gutted - down to the brick and cement plaster.  The wall tiles were nasty to get off as they were cemented on.  The fellow who took them off was very slow and took a lot of break.  We weren't sure where he would go to.  We called the Landlord and told him that at this rate he would take 2 weeks and so he sent his son over who had a rather serious chat with the worker and suddenly he got busy and had it finished the next day (Fri).   The next step is to now chisel into the brick (walls are all made out of brick and then smoothed off with cement) and run new electrical outlets.  Then the walls will be plastered.   As soon as that is done (hopefully Monday) then someone will put new tile on the floor.  Jim has been removing the vinyl floor tiles and that has been a nasty job too.    
We have set up a wash station outside for our dishes etc.  The fridge and stove are in the dining room and that is working ok but we are selective about what we cook.   

A Miracle in our Mission

The Lord does look after His missionaries!   There were 4 missionaries coming by bus from Zambia to serve in Malawi.  They arrived at the border and one missionary was refused entrance into the country because he is from D.R. Congo.    Of course, President Padovich was called and was trying to figure out what he should do and how to do it.  The missionaries did not have money for a hotel or for a bus ticket back to Lusaka so President Padovich was wondering if he should drive to the border (6 or 7 hours) or send the Assistants or what!   He knelt down and prayed about it and ask for help.  Shortly thereafter, he received a phone call from a man who said he was 'a friend'.  He told President Padovich that he had gotten the missionary through Immigration at the border and that he was now on the bus headed to Lilongwe.   President Padovich ask him how that was possible because the bus had already left (an hour ago).  The man told him that he had instructed the bus to wait and that all was well.  He said he would call Pres. Padovich the next day. (Haven't heard any more from Pres. P yet). 
We talked to one of the missionaries and he seemed to think the man was with the gov't. here and had spent some time in the States at some point.   It seems like this man was there, at the right place and time, when he was needed.  His travel plans had been delayed as well which put him where he needed to be to help our missionary.  It just shows how the Lord is mindful of each one of us and especially His missionaries.
When the missionary arrived in Lilongwe  the Pretes took him to Immigration the next morning and had to pay $70 USD for a visa.  Normally we don't pay for visas as they enter the country although we did have a Sister missionary, some months back, who was from Angola and she had to go through the same procedure. 

Malawi gets PEF

This is an exciting thing for the members of the Church here.  It has taken some time to get it set up and approved in Malawi but PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) is now here.  (We didn't have anything to do with it).  There is a training this afternoon for the leaders and tomorrow afternoon is a fireside for members.    PEF is a program where eligible  members can apply for a loan to go to school (within their own country) and then they pay back the loan and the money is then used for someone else.  It is a great program and we saw a lot take advantage of it when we were in Zimbabwe. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kitchen reno started

Here are some before pictures of our kitchen (which actually looks much better in the pictures than it really is).  Just saying.....
The new kitchen cabinets have been ordered and are being built.  In preparation the landlord, Mr. Aboobaker, sent over his carpenter to remove the old cupboards.   With some prying and hammering they came loose, not necessarily in one piece.    The bottom cupboard finally got pulled from the wall but it was SO heavy that the helper ran to get some more men.  In the meantime, Elder Bullock discovered that the bottom shelf was actually made of brick.  They tipped the cupboard over and hammered and pryed some more to break the brick away.  That did lighten the load considerably and they managed to barely get it out the doors.  The bricks were shovelled into Davie's wheelbarrow and hauled out.   That was all done in a couple of  hours and then they informed us that they were done for the day and will be back on Monday.  I guess that is a good thing though as we will still have use of our kitchen sink for a few days.    
We have moved everything, including the stove, into the dining room and will have to make-do for a while. 
The landlord has agreed to pay to remove the old stuff - cupboards, tiles, lino squares; and he will put down new floor tiles and wall tiles.    It should look good.  He will also pay for 25% of the cabinets.  We are happy with that. After all, one day when the missionary couples no longer live here it will be his.   He did agree that we could rent this house for many years if we so wish.  :)    We would hate to do these renos and then get a notice to vacate.  He assured us he won't do that. 
Elder & Sister Bullock