Friday, April 19, 2013

April 19, 2013

Since the last entry, a few things have occurred, many seemingly routine at the time.  The Blantyre 2nd Branch Seminary class organized a tripto a nearby Game Preserve Park, most trees and mountains, with a few monkeys and baboons, plus reported hyenas (rarely seen).  There were 24 students plus 4 adults, being a great turnout.  It seems that our vehicle was needed to transport 5 persons, so it went to take people out there and then again to pick them up.  In the middle of the night, on March 27, the burglar alarm went off twice, with no explanation or real problems.  This happens from time to time, but certainly makes one lose sleep for awhile, just wondering.  Sometimes, the security company calls, to see if there is a problem, other times, nothing happens.

On Sunday,March 24, we had the privilege of watching Jared Shields, be ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood via skype.  It was not a perfect rendition, but we got the essential parts.  Congratulations to a fine new, young priesthood holder.  Potentially, only 6 years away from a Mission call.

We had the Greens, auditors from the Area Office arrive on March 27, a Wednesday, staying until Saturday March 30.  We would drive them from their hotel to the various audit locations (at Branches), as well as pick them up at the airport and take them back.  It is about a 15 minute drive, unless the President happens to be coming or going on the same flight.  There are currently only two flights a week that we know about, both coming and going from Johannesburg, Wednesday and Saturday.  Otherwise, the airport is rather quiet.

On March 30, the Mission President, his wife, the Pretes, the Lookharts and the Assistants to the President all arrived in the afternoon, in preparation for Zone Conference the following Tuesday.  It was Lookharts one and only visit to Malawi.  We took them to the Ndirande Branch for Church on Sunday, March 31 and that Branch was happy to have 2 sets of visitors.  It was Easter Sunday, but the talks were not related to the day.

On Monday April 1, it was Preparation Day, so everyone, but the Mission President and wife, got in a four car convoy and traveled to the Majete Game Park, about 70 Kilometers from Blantyre.  It is an inspiring drive down a steep escarpment, but there were heavy clouds, so the visit was not as good as on 2 other trips. At the Park we divided into two groups of two cars each, and each drove in opposite directions, to see the animals.  When you have multiple cars, the 2nd to 4th cars often miss the animals, so it worked well. As before we enjoyed a lunch there and hurried back to the City, in time for the missionaries to do emailing and grocery shopping.

Tuesday, April 2, was Zone Conference, held at the chapel.  Sister Shields was the main cook, with Christopher Sitolo helping out.  Elder Shields got to take the Assistants to the President, shopping for a car battery during the Conference and transported food and related items back and forth from the house to the Chapel.

We were able to watch most of General Conference "live" this time, only subject to an 8 hour time difference.  Most of the time the Internet co-operated.  We hope that many of you were likewise able to see some or all.  We receive DVDs of conference, to be played in the branches by the end of April.  They rarely see more than one or two sessions.  All members receive a copy of the Liahona (foreign version of the Ensign, within a month or so.  The Liahona is similar to the Ensign, but with a local content section.

Much of the time is repairing plumbing related problems.  Most of the time it is with the help of a local contractor member.  We have to drive all tradesman, to and from, as they do not have vehicles.  Often we supply the tools.  We spent parts of many days, being present while "burglar bars" were being installed on one of the missionary apartments.  This is in addition to the security alarm systems.  The missionaries generally feel much safer, even when there are false alarms to contend with.

Other regular activities included taking a sister missionary to the hospital for stitches to her arm from a fall in the shower, landing her arm on the sharp end of a squeegy handle.  It was a very long an deep cut.  We made two subsequent trips to the hospital, to have it checked and remove the stitches.  We pick up mail from a private mail box, deliver contents of same, attend various missionary meetings, drive the Elders mainly to and from various places, to grocery shopping, and anytime it is after dark when a meeting concludes. In this country, all proselyting, etc, ceases at dark, because there is no public transportation after dark, and it is considered to be unsafe.

We have done "driver training" for two new Sisters from the States.  They have drivers licenses, but have never driven "standards" and never driven on the "left" side of the road.  They are now driving on their own, leaving us shuddering at the potential consequences of mishaps. 

Some pictures follow that demonstrate things happening at our house.

This "dirt" known as fertilizer.  It is the duty of the tenant to fertilize the lawn and flower beds

A few loads of sand, delivered to repair part of the driveway and build a base for the water tank (yet to be built)
The load of bricks, to be mixed with the sand and maybe cement for the water tank tower (10 - 15 feet high?)

These are poisonous mushrooms (in the yard), so our full time gardener (guard) removed them all

These are bundles of charcoal, being taken to town to sell, pretty heavy and awkward.

Friday, March 22, 2013

It seems like just yesterday that we posted but AGAIN, it has been a month.  We have been so busy it has gone by very quickly.  Since we last wrote we got word that we were going to be "whitewashed" in the mission.  That means a total turnover in an area, or both companions, so that it is a fresh start. Indeed, that is really what happened.  We started by losing one elder - Elder Majafe who was called into the mission office as he is very skilled in Computers.  We miss his skills here in our office, but life goes forward.

Toyota Malawi finally got in the parts we needed for the trucks to be fixed.  The parts were ordered on December 12 and got here about the 19 of February.  Everything comes from South Africa as far as parts go so you find that even when they say they have everything - they usually don't because they don't set them aside and if anyone shows up with the cash it's sold and you wait again, even though you already paid for it.
Adjusting to their way of doing business is just part of every day life.  We also deal with Isuzu and have found them to be more agreeable but no more efficient.  They are just nicer about it.

We celebrated Elder Shields "71" birthday twice - once with the missionaries on Monday night when they were here for dinner - and again the next night at DDM (Sister Patterson made him another cake).  Lucky Man - they were both chocolate - his favorite.

Starting March 5th we watched the change take place - we sent 4 missionaries to Lilongwe that day - two of them continued on to Lusaka the next day and one of them went on the next day to the Copperbelt.  Going the other direction - 4 left Copperbelt by bus on Tuesday, Lusaka to Lilongwe on Wednesday, Lilongwe to Blantyre on Thursday.  We met and greeted 8 missionaries that day.  Their bus from Lusaka Zambia to Lilongwe Malawi had broken down making it a 17 hour ride.  Very hard on the Baby Sharks (Greenies).
Adjustments all round - no one knows where they live, what area is theirs, or where their area is.  They don't know their companions yet either.  It kept us busy at Immigration work.

We have been attending Blantyre 2nd Branch lately as they are struggling with leadership.  These good people are not used (yust) to what it means to accept callings and follow through.  They really need the RMs to help with the stability of the different callings.

We have had two young men receive their mission calls in the last 2 weeks.  They are both very excited - one is going to Zimbabwe and the other to Kenya.  They are needing help to get the things they need to be ready to go to the MTC.  It's quite rewarding to work with and watch their progress.
Steven Sikumbiri receiving his call to Zimbabwe Mission

Kade Lever, a young man from South Jordan,Utah, has been doing his Eagle Scout project and sent us 3 large boxes of White shirts, ties, some pants, belts, even shoes.  The people here are so grateful for that.  They really appreciate getting a shirt, etc. when they are baptized and feeling like they belong.  It's been great to be involved in this. The sea of white shirts in Sacrament Meetings on Sundays has mostly come from these efforts. We will be forever grateful to Kade for his efforts in behalf of the Great People of Malawi.
Young Men of Blantyre 2nd Branch in their white shirts
Young Adult Sunday School Class of Great People with Great White Shirts

Elder Shields now spends much of his days as Mr. Fix It.  We are grateful for basic knowledge that helps us be able to do these things.  Sr. Shields spends much time doing books.  We both help out the missionaries and sister missionaries all that we can.  Next week we'll have another uplift - Zone Conference.  President and Sister Padovich are coming and bringing President and Sister Lookhart.  They will have the Lilongwe Conference first then continue to Blantyre with President and Sister Prete as well.  We will also have Elder and Sister Green here next week doing audits and President Kaluba.  Should be a busy week.  Great for company, help and uplift.  We're looking forward to it.  Keep the Faith!

Friday, February 15, 2013

I was just looking at the name of our blog and thinking that it could be confusing for some friends who are not aware that we moved in October to Blantyre, Malawi from Lusaka, Zambia.  We are still part of the Zambia Lusaka Mission so the name will stay the same.
It has been a busy few weeks here in Malawi with Rain like we have not experienced before (ever).  It is still very warm and pleasant but very humid and a lot of 100% humidity to the tune of 4-6 inches per hour for 10 and 12 hours at a time.  It washes out the roads, the pavement gets to be full of big deep holes, the valleys flood, and the people are very happy because the maize grows taller all the while.  They are happy without much in the way of temporal things - they depend on their spiritual knowledge to carry them through to the next harvest and enough maize to keep them alive to the next one after that.  In some ways life is much simpler here than in North America.
There are huge numbers of children here - they come out of the bush everywhere when you are driving down the road in the country.  They are on their way to school - some have uniforms, others are lucky to be dressed - the other day we were going to Majete Animal Reserve with the Pretes and we noticed that MOST were barefoot.  They must have very tough feet.  We have noticed at church though, that shoes are not a comfortable item, even for the ones who can afford them - they take them off as soon as they arrive and don't put them back on until they are leaving to go home.  They prefer the bare feet.  The women also prefer to sit on the floor instead of a chair - some do not have a chair at home so the floor is their comfort zone.  Many do not have electricity in their homes, they cook using a form of charcoal outside and they go to the well to get water (some near and some go far), which they then carry on their head back to their home.  They can balance and carry heavy loads on their heads, their baby on their back (tied in a Chitenge - piece of cloth), sometimes another older one on the side or front, and keep their arms open for anything else they find (like sticks to build a fire with).

 We had the Pretes here for a few days.  They brought Elder Naglis (from Olds, Alberta) and his companion Elder Monyo to Blantyre, they having come from Lusaka in Zambia.  We took a full day with the Pretes and went back to Majete Game Preserve.  We drove on "off road" type trails for nearly six hours, seeing quite few of the animals and the swollen river.  While we were gone, a Mango dropped from a tree in our yard, onto the Pretes vehicle, breaking the front windshield.  3 inches further away would have missed.  That will be an expensive replacement.
The avocado tree above one of the parking spaces with hundreds of avocados
The avocado that BROKE the windshields on Pretes Truck
The Damage done by the Falling Avocado - Wow - cost of 125,000MK

We have attached a few random pictures.

Water Control Dam on  the Shire River at the Edge of the Majete Game Reserve

A Hippo enjoying the Shire River at flood time

Water Buffalo inland

Water Buck, partially hidden in the brush

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our last entry was about Zone Conference time and since it is that time again, we thought about our blog.  Actually, we had a minute and were looking at what the Heningers Mission Romania was up to, and the Kelpetesackley2 were up to, and decided it was time for an update from Blantyre, Malawi.

Each week is a unique adventure here.  There are always a few kinks to work out and a few things to learn.  Sometimes we are the learners and sometimes we actually get to be the teachers.  But always, it is definitely an adventure.  The missionaries here have been busy teaching and finding much success in their areas.  The branches love to have the "Missionary Couple" come to visit - they treat us like Royalty and each want us All the Time.  Makes you feel good even if you don't quite believe it.
Maize (corn) growing on a mountain side January 21, 2013

The corn is growing quite well to the north.  We were in Liwonde last Sunday for meetings and took the 2+ hour drive with the District President and the Branch President that is over the group.  They sustained a new Group Leader and gave him 2 counselors.  Two weeks earlier when we were there, there were 26 at church, this week (in their new building), there were about 85 or so.  They were packed with people and had a small group that want to be taught the missionary lessons.  They are very enthusiastic about what they are learning.  We also took some of the men (after church) to the hospital to give a lady a blessing.  President Chinyumba made great use of every minute and we think everyone felt the day was fulfilling. 
Water balloon toss in our front yard

We also had a "lockdown" this week - no one was allowed out on the street as the country was having a protest over the prices all jumping (for Maize and all items) to where they cannot afford it.  No one knew whether it was going to be calm or not.  Instead, we had everyone over and they played football in the front yard, had a water balloon toss, played monopoly, and some watched a movie - How Rare a Possession.  They enjoyed the day.  We made them pancakes for breakfast and they made their own sandwiches for lunch.  It was good to see that they were all fine.

The hippos are almost invisible in the muddy river at Majete Game Park
This a kind of tree that appears in different places, some are bigger.

Monday this week, we had a Zone Activity and went to Majete Game Park.  They claim to have the Big 5, and probably do, but we only saw one of them (water buffalo).  We did see zebras, kudus, impalas, warthogs, and a few other animals whose names escape me.  The Elders and Sisters had a great time - we had lunch there and then came back for the rest of their PDay.  All went well.  They are a great group - get along very well.  We love them all. 
These are pronounced Canadian "Zebra", not Zeebra
They like the mud. (water buffalo)
Hillside or country homes on the way to Majete Game Park
The view towards the Shire River and the valley where Majete Game Park is located
We are involved in helping the young men from the area get ready for their missions (if they want to go).  There is no way that they can afford to get all the things they need on their own and the mission has decided to help them with some of the items.  The Passport is a big item and the mission is going to help them get that.  They still want them to do some of the preparations to make sure they are going for the right reasons.  It is making it so we get to visit a little more with some of these people and get to know them better.  We enjoy that.

Elder Perkins (our District Leader) leads DDM each Tuesday night and does a fantastic job at presenting chapter study out of Preach My Gospel.  Missions really make the leadership potential of each individual come out.  They have so much potential - all of them.  Amazing. We only wish that we could keep up with them.  

Another week and we will be close to 18 months "this side", as the locals would say.  The first of the increased number of missionaries, is about to commence arriving, although our mission is too small to take very many.  Until the next time, take care.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Our travels have not been as far in the last 5 weeks or so.  We have been to a half way point in the direction of the capital city of Lilongwe (Ntcheu -pronounced Nachao) to deliver a new missionary arriving from the MTC in South Africa.  We never did get an answer as to why he came here, when there are flights direct to Lilongwe.  The Mission President and Sister Padovich came to visit in early December, along with the Pretes from Lilongwe.  Their visit lasted over parts of 5 days.
Meeting Elder Wandera at the Airport

While our visitors were here, we took a drive through the tea plantations, just outside of the city and on to Mulanje Mountain, which rises above 10,000 feet and mostly is a vertical shaped rock.  We had a very nice lunch at a lodge a few hundred feet up the mountain.  The tea plantations were being harvested, by individual workers with "shear" like clippers attached to bags.  There are huge fields of the tea plantations.
Malawi Tea Plantation workers near Blantyre.

We also traveled to the area of Liwonde one Sunday to visit the small group that meets there.  Most of the members come from villages and one family walks 2 hours each way to get there.  The Church has rented a house to meet in instead of the school, which has no water, no electricity and is shared by some "rock music" church groups going on at the same time.  It is two hour plus drive each way (riding) for us too.  Many police checks along the way - they like and use a lot of Radar.  We've been o.k. so far.

New Years Eve in Blantyre, Malawi
Christmas Eve at Shields flat with missionaries
Christmas and New Years have come and gone.  Our major function seems to have been providing a place for the missionaries to gather, play games and eat.  There are 2 sister and 8 elders.  Great Missionaries! one and all. (If you are wondering why they are dressed casually - it is PDay).

Happy New Year to all of our family and friends who sometimes follow our blog.  We love you all.  May you be guided and protected in all you do in 2013.  May you know from whence your blessings come and always acknowledge them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

 Some animal pictures from our visit to Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and Botswana

One of more than 200 elephants we saw in an hour

Elder Lookhart and I checking out the Zebras

One of many giraffes on hotel grounds

On October 8, 2012, we officially left Lusaka, Zambia, being driven by the Mission Office Couple, the Lookharts to the Zambia, Malawi border, where we were met by Elder Prete, who with his wife, lives in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.  They are from Cardston, former owners of the Cardston Bookstore.  There is a lot of country with very few people between Lusaka and the border, but after the border it is almost continuous people, living mostly in villages along the road, with some in small towns.
The whole countryside is filled with villages like these
The plan was for us to live in Lilongwe and the Pretes would move to Blantyre, where they would take over from the Bullocks (from Airdrie, Alberta).  Because of some security issues, we moved to Blantyre on October 16, and the Pretes remained in Lilongwe.  They are doing great things there and the missionaries have been successful.  We have begun to handle the "Office" things for the 10 missionaries that are here.  That includes paying rent, utilities, cell phone time, medical issues, bus transportation, automobile fuel, and book supplies.
Our front yard at #1, Kufa Road, Blantyre

We live in an older home, that has air conditioning, a modern kitchen, washer and dryer.  The house has 2 garages (used for storage) and three bedrooms (one is an office), and two full baths.  It is large enough when all the missionaries come over.
Our dining room table, can handle 12

Malawi is a small country in size, by comparison with Zambia, but has just as many people, making it very crowded.  There are lots of mountains and Lake Malawi is the worlds 8th largest lake.  The country has very little to export, so suffers from currency issues.  The local currency have been severely devalued earlier this year and it looks like it will get worse.  There is a serious issue with fuel supplies, and without personal storage, one can sit for hours in a line waiting, if the station has any.
The local chapel, about 8 years old.  Apostle Nelson dedicated the country of Malawi here November 2011

There are four branches of the Church in Blantyre, two meeting in a modern style chapel and two meeting in renovated houses.  In Lilongwe, there are at least 2 branches and soon to be more.  Lilongwe is the capital city and was built from nothing a few years ago and is very flat.  Blantyre is an older, former commercial center, and is located between several mountains.
Some of the members at the Liwonde/Sitima Group - 2 hours from Blantyre

There is one group of members that are about two hours out in the country (Liwonde/Sitima), so we will visit there occasionally.  No members have cars, so they walk or rely on public transportation.  Food is mainly maize (a corn like porridge mixture) eaten three times a day, when they can afford it.  We are able to buy many things that we are familiar with, though supplies are inconsistent. The price is just outrageous, but we do it anyway.
This is a common scene every where in the countryside.  Usually the ladies carry one on their head.  The water comes from drilled wells (bore holes is the local terminology).

Life in Blantyre is much quieter than life in Zambia.  The traffic that is heavy and busy during the days - from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. but after dusk there are NO buses or traffic or people for that matter.  All missionary teaching is done during the day and the people struggle with English - Chichewe is the Malawian language - they also use it at church.  We try to get them to stick with English but many of the ladies (in particular) do not understand English so they have a hard time staying active or understanding callings.