Saturday, December 26, 2009

Update 12.26.2009

Much has happened since we last wrote. We hope all have felt the spirit of love this week of Christmas as we have celebrated the birth of our Savior. We have felt of your love through letters, emails, and Skype visits. How blessed we are with modern technology!

We enjoyed our classes last week, and the Saturday before Christmas were able to attend and participate in another baptism in the Mitini Branch. Thirteen more investigators were baptized, making a total of 28 since we have been here. It was especially enjoyable because we had been able to participate in classes helping prepare them for this day. Many times the men are baptized but not the women because they don't understand English, but this time all were sisters except one! Elder Blake was able to help with the baptizing. After, some of the new converts bore strong testimony of the Gospel What a wonderful way to begin the week of Christmas.

When we returned home we had visitors. A couple from Kisumu, Elder and Sister Fox, came early for our couples' retreat, and stayed with us. They went with us back up the hill to Mitini for church on Sunday. All thirteen who were baptized were confirmed in sacrament meeting. It took all of the meeting with only time for a short testimony from Elder and Sister Fox. The branch has about 160 members but there were 296 present. (This branch was newly created in June of this year!) The rows of chairs were so close together it was hard to get in, and many had to sit outside and listen through the open windows and doors. I attended primary and enjoyed hearing the children sing. They sing with such enthusiasm. The melody wasn't quite as it is written but they do well considering they don't have a CD player or keyboard. Sister Fox came in and took a short video of the children singing. There were about 100 children and they all had to fit in two separate small rooms with two to a chair or sitting on laps. The leaders all had to stand. They need more room! Visiting the Young Women was also memorable. There were about 20-25 there and they sang, prayed, and said the YW theme just like other YW all over the church. It's exciting when we realize that most of them are new converts.

Monday morning we left early and drove to the Man Eater Lodge. (On the site where, in 1898, they were building the railroad and a bridge across the Tsavo River. Two large lions kept killing and eating the workers – about 100 of them. (There's a movie made about it – Ghosts in the Darkness. It is a dramatic, true story – perhaps not for young children!) It was very nice tent-cabins with large, king-size beds (with a mosquito net canopy over them), a bathroom, and a separate shower room. There was an outside veranda with chairs and lounge chairs overlooking the Tsavo River. (No swimming in it because of crocodiles and because it was muddy red water!) There was a very nice open-air dining room and another gathering room and a swimming pool. We had to pinch ourselves again to believe we were really in Africa on a safari trip! Ten missionary couples went. We enjoyed visiting with each other and sharing missionary concerns and ideas and just enjoying each others' company. It was hot like we expected Africa to be and the pool was a wonderful luxury. (Hard to believe it was snowing and freezing at home!)

Tuesday we arose early, ate breakfast, picked up a box lunch and headed for animal country, Tsavo Park. Some chose to hire a safari driver But Foxes and Blakes drove the missionary truck with the driver inside and the passengers hanging out the windows to get a better look! Even the sisters took turns driving which was a first for us driving on the wrong side of the road with the stick shift on the left side. We didn't wreck or run over any animals but Sister Blake did get too close to a bush and almost wiped Elder Fox out the window!

We saw many animals, like on National Geographic, including elephants of all sizes (many of them), and they were all red. We thought that was quite interesting until we saw one rolling in the red dirt and realized they were really gray elephants in a dirt-red disguise! We also saw yellow baboons, velvet black faced monkeys, giraffes, zebras, hippos, impalas, Thompson Gazelles, common waterbuck, dik diks (little tiny deer -looking animals about the size of pygmy goats, kudus, and a large variety of beautiful birds. We only got lost a few times and not too seriously. We even arrived home in time for a swim before dinner. We were ready for bed however. The staff were so good and would always come in while we were eating and turn down the covers and put down the mosquito netting. At night we were protected by a Masai guard. What an experience!

We arrived home in the heaviest rainstorm I have ever seen. We could hardly see to drive. We thought we had made it home without incident and as we drove into our compound both heavy gates were open. Just as we entered the wind blew one gate into the side of the truck denting the door and tearing off the side mirror. We felt bad about that but were thankful no one was hurt on the trip and the truck can be fixed.

Foxes stayed another night and as they were leaving their comment was, “We enjoyed the whole experience, but our favorite part was the visit to Mitini Branch and feeling the spirit there and the love of the humble people in the beautiful hill country.” We had to agree with them.

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