Thursday, December 3, 2009

Update 11.3.2009

We're a little late with this post (and it's too long again, sorry). We are used to writing on Sunday but now Sunday is one of our biggest days. Last Sunday we spent 7 hours on the road going to a little branch in Kilili. We were scheduled to go to Ilima Branch way up in the high hills, but it was too rainy and the roads were washed out. (Please see more about Sunday below.)

The Assistants to the Mission President slid off the road and got stuck Saturday on their way up to do baptism interviews. It took 15 men to lift their truck out! (No tow trucks up there. They paid them 100 Ksh each.) The A,.P.s had to walk all the way to Mitini and back to their truck in the mud.

The elders interviewed 25 people for baptism and passed 16 of them to be baptized. These are from the classes that Elder Blake and I have been teaching the last couple of weeks - before that, they were taught by members. They will be baptized next Saturday. What an exciting, spiritual time. (I wonder where they'll find enough white clothes. We wondered if they'd have to take turns wearing them wet .

(Sunday continued) We changed our plans quickly on Saturday evening and called a young man from Kilili (Victor) who has been going to the University of Nairobi. He agreed to show us the way. (We never would have found it alone.) We agreed by telephone to meet him at 6:30 a.m. at the mission home. We had never seen or met him. We arrived at 6:30 a.m. and didn't see anyone so Elder Blake walked down and around the mission office. On his way back to the truck he saw a nicely dressed young man and asked if his name was Victor. He didn't understand what the young man said so he asked him again. The young man looked confused but nodded his head "yes". Elder Blake walked with him back to the truck where I was waiting and introduced him to me, and then proceeded to put him in the back seat to go to Kilili. [In Elder Blake's words: When I returned to Carol in our truck, I saw a nice looking African man, I'd say probably 6'3" tall approaching our truck. I said, "Are you Victor?" and he looked sort of confused; so I asked again, two more times (Africans can't understand our English very well, just as we can't understand them very well). Finally he nodded "yes"; so I introduced myself warmly, took him to the truck and introduced Sis. Blake to him. I opened the back seat door and told him he could sit there; and since he was tall, I explained how he could put his feet over the other side of the floor. So he sat down in the back seat, and placed his feet where I had suggested. I closed the door, and was going around to get into the driver's seat, when Carol's phone rang. The voice identified himself as "Victor," who was waiting for us over by the British Embassy.// The look on Carol's face was one of shocked confusion that I shall never forget!! She told me that it was Victor on the phone! And as I looked around, I saw our passenger climbing (escaping) out of the back seat. // Come to find out, it was the compound guard, who had come to investigate what I was doing down by the office, that I had tucked into the back seat of our truck. // We both woke up in the night laughing about the confused look on the guard's (and Carol's) faces!]

Kilili is way off the main road but it isn't as high in the mountains, so we could get to there. We saw a large herd of zebras and wildebeests on the way as well as lots of impalas. After leaving the main road it was like visiting another century. There were many homes with mud or red clay/sand bricks and thatched roofs just like in the pictures of Africa - very primitive conditions but delightful to see.

We arrived at the church about 10 minutes early and what a special greeting we received. Since the last couple missionaries had left six months ago, they had been praying for missionaries to come to their branch to teach them and their investigator friends. The sisters would shake my hand and hug me on one cheek and then the other with such a warm welcome. As in the other branches, there is no music or electricity to play a keyboard - they just sit in silence waiting for the meeting to begin. They announce the page number and then the song leader gets up and sings the first line and then says, "sing" and the congregation sings. Without accompaniment it is often not quite the melody we are used to but is very nice.

It was fast and testimony meeting and we were asked to bear our testimonies. Many others bore their testimonies - especially young people. The branch president showed a picture of seven people standing outside a building and said that was the beginning of this branch in the 1990's and now there are over 200 members.

The worshiping conditions take a little getting used to. At one point the rain pelted the tin roof so hard it was impossible to hear. There are no windows in their "chapel," so they just open large doors on all sides (almost like garage doors) to let the air through and light in. A goat wandered up to the door and bleated during the prayer, but no one lets that bother them - they just go right on. The spirit is so strong with these people.

I visited primary in a small room behind the chapel. There were 30 wall-to-wall chairs filled with sweet, totally reverent children - no teachers sitting with classes - only the primary president and one counselor sitting at the front of the room. They were practicing for the primary sacrament meeting program for next Sunday. Different children were assigned to be the song leader for different songs. The president would announce who would participate next and then say, "Welcome" which I assume means "Come do your part ," because they would then get up and do their part!

We met with the branch president and will be going there each Friday. Elder Blake will teach investigator classes and temple preparation while I teach English and keyboarding. It's a long way there. We tried to write directions as we went and we hope we can find our way back!

As a note, on my birthday we didn't have classes to teach so we went to the baby elephant orphanage. It was such a fun and unique experience. They have about 30 elephants from the age of 4 weeks to 3 years old. At 3 years they take them and reintroduce them to the wilds at Tsavo Park. They brought the elephants out by three age groups with the youngest first. These young ones were so cute; they each had a "comfort" blanket tied on their back to keep them warm as they as susceptible to pneumonia. They fed them formula in big baby bottles with nipples. I only wished all the grandchildren could have been there and it would have been perfect! They then brought out the others and all were fed by baby bottles. They were playful and would try to put their trunks in the caregivers' pockets. One man put his hand in the baby's mouth while he was talking to us like a mom might put in a pacifier to keep the baby quiet and content. They could tell the story of where each one was found - down a well, or the mother died in the drought, or the mother was killed by poachers - each had a story.

We had a nice birthday dinner in a place that resembled the Congo Jungle, as we ate outside on the veranda. It was hard to imagine everyone at home raking leaves and some shoveling snow! The last stop was to Kazuri Bead Factory - a factory that hires 200 single mothers who hand-make every bead. Their bead necklaced, bracelets, and figurines are world famous, and sold all around the world. I chose a pretty necklace for my birthday. What a fun day.

We are feeling well and getting a little more used to living here. The other couples are wonderful. We had them here for home evening last night. I had a little homesick day yesterday but I think that is only natural. I just told myself what Pres. Hinkley's father told him, "Forget yourself and get to work!" (It mostly worked.)

Have a good and safe week. Happy Birthday Dad Blake last Sunday and Dad Maxwell today!

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