Christmas and New Years week . . . where has everyone gone?? Streets and roads not crowded; people more laid-back – always a cheerful greeting of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year!” Majority of people have “gone up-country,” which means out to their native villages for the holidays.
Last Sunday we attended Kyambeke Branch. The Young Women wrote their testimonies to send to our home ward and we took pictures of them and their leaders outside the church to send home with the testimonies. What a fun experience. It was also the last Sunday at church for Claire, our good friend who has helped us so much with our teaching here. She bore her testimony and said good-by to the branch. She is the first missionary in her family and the first young woman missionary from the branch and will be going to Uganda. Her feelings were tender. There are nine children in her family.
Tuesday night we stayed at Precious Blood (for the last time before the 420 girls return to school!), and then drove to Mitini Wednesday for a big ceremony. / LDS Charities does so much for the people here and they had completed a water project for the community which purifies the water and pumps it clear up a hill to be available for people to use right at the village crossroad. The whole village came to celebrate including the tribal chief and government dignitaries (in their Kenyan military uniforms) from all over. And do they know how to celebrate! They had set up shade awnings and used the Mitini Branch chairs. The program was two pages long and lasted from 9:30 a.m. (which included a walk down the hill and back to see the actual water site) and ended at 2:00 before starting the lunch! There was music and native dancing from the Tribe and local churches. Mitini Branch choir sang a spirited “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel.”
The villagers are so appreciative for the water. We see women carrying large barrels of water on their backs - so heavy they are bent way forward, their chins about the height of their knees, up hills and long distances. We'll never take water for granted again. When Elder Esplin (LDS Charities Missionaries) spoke he explained to the people that the money used to provide the water didn't come from rich people, but from many people all over the church who gave small amounts because they want to help. The Humanitarian Fund of the church is blessing the lives of many people all over the world. When we put the money in the contribution envelope we see here that it is being used wisely and helping where it really is needed!
After the ceremony we took Claire (young sister who had been helping orient us and serve as interpreter also) back to Nairobi to be set apart by President Taylor for her mission. It was tender time for her as she left her family and friends. We took pictures and there were a few tears shed. She and friend Michael - a convert of 14 months, age 24 - have been teaching all the investigators in two of the branches for the past year+, which accounts for most of the baptisms. Michael is expecting his mission call any day now. They both will be sorely missed by the branch presidents and new members. // We made it back to Nairobi in time for her interview and Elder Blake assisted as she was set apart. She will be a wonderful missionary but there are great changes ahead for her; from living in a small village with no electricity or running water and never being out of the country to flying in an airplane to South Africa and three weeks in the MTC. She stayed with us for the night and was so nervous she didn't sleep. We took her to the airport Thursday at 5:00 a.m.
Thursday was New Years Eve and we had a progressive dinner and games with the couples. It was fun but being "very old" as we are, we celebrated an hour or so before midnight! New Years Day we visited a giraffe center and a crocodile farm just outside of Nairobi. They said that giraffe saliva is sterile, so a kiss would be okay; but hugging and feeding by hand was plenty for me!