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.