Monday, April 12, 2010

Update 4/12/2010

First Ever Kilungu Hills Primary Conference – Tuesday, April 6th, the anniversary of the organization of the Church, we held a primary conference for Ilima, Kyambeke, and Mitini Branches. Sisters walked long distances to attend, work together, and share ideas. We worked on learning the music for this year's sharing time and sacrament meeting program focusing on how to teach as well as learning the songs. [Sis. Blake demonstrated how to teach primary children, by having the leaders and teachers participate in the role of primary children. They had a wonderful, fun time! <-- Elder Blakes note.] We also worked on fun action songs and prayer songs. We then divided into a teacher group taught by Elder Blake and a leader group taught by Sister Blake. One sister helped translate some things from time to time so all could understand. There was a special spirit there as we shared the common love of children and desire to teach them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the best way possible in word and music. The sacrifice of the sisters just making such great effort to attend helps bring the spirit. We ended with the traditional refreshments – peanut butter sandwiches and pumpkin bread that Sis. Blake made. The English class and investigator class joined us for refreshments. We're never sure how many to plan for so we just plan plenty!

Heavy Rains – During the prior week, it rained for 5-6 days – a wonderful blessing for their crops, but a perennial hazard for their mud huts. One of our new members, Anthony, lost his home. They felt blessed to get their baby out before the house went down. The home was made of sand-baked bricks, with mud used for the mortar. A flood just washed out the bottom layer and the house collapsed. Another family (not members yet) lost two children and the mother is in the hospital from a mudslide into their home. Saturday was their funeral, while we helped rebuild Anthony's home.

Rebuild a Home – Saturday we left home early with any tools we had and food for the workers. We met at the Mitini Branch to load an old door and corrugated tin roofing recently removed from the church roof, and pick up some nails. We met in President Kaseve's office for prayer and headed for the site. We had taken Anthony and his family home after his wife and two of his children were baptized a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like a long drive to where we stopped and then a long walk for them down the hill to their home. This time Pres. Kaseve said this was a shorter way so we drove to the top of a hill and proceeded to unload supplies to carry down, what we understood was a short distance. We walked and walked and walked almost straight down hill before finally arriving! I had asked some sisters if we should take the food with us and I understood they said “no” so I guessed we'd all just come back to the truck to eat. Later I decided they just didn't understand what I said and we had to walk all the way back up the hill to the truck and carry everything back down! My legs were so rubbery I decided they may have to carry me back up if I ever went home!

There were beautiful flowers all around where the home had been and where the new home will be. It was as beautiful as any landscaped yard we have seen – beautiful and remote.

First Counselor, Boneface, began with a prayer for safety and unity among the workers. We weren't sure how they were going to build a new home on the pile of rubble that was the remains of the old one. I wondered where the rest of the supplies were. They began measuring and pounding sticks into the ground and then went to chop down trees with their pangas – known to us as machetes. They'd skin off the limbs and then pound them into the ground! All the wood for the frame was from what was available in the area. It was amazing and reminded us of pioneers who just used what they had and built a home. They used the same trees to build trusses for the roof and then just hoisted them up on top. Ladders they use are three-legged A-frames with horizontal limb across for steps on three sides. To get on top to build the roof they just took off their shoes and shinnied up and climbed around where they were needed – young men as well as those in their 30's. I was thinking to myself how different it is in America. They were on the roof without shoes working and laughing... and at home I probably would have been saying “Be careful with that big knife!” or “Be careful not to fall!” This was just part of of their daily lives and how they work. They know how to swing that blade!

Grass Thatched Huts – The sisters were busy cooking and serving water to the workers as it was hot. They enjoyed being together. Anthony and his family were so appreciative. He said, “This will be a good example to my neighbors who aren't members of the Church as they see how we take care of each other.” // Anthony's mother who lives near them is not a member yet because she doesn't speak English, but she comes to the English class each Wednesday, and to church each Sunday. She lives near and we fixed the lunch at her home. The living area had one very small table and a few home made chairs, with a dirt floor. Bedrooms were behind an interior mud wall. The kitchen was in a close by hut where they build the fires to cook. There were no outhouses – not even pit latrines – that we could see. They are very curious about our home and wondered if we cook on a fire. Someone also asked if we have to walk a long ways to our home. (It is hard to explain that we drive right to our home with a garage where the door opens automatically! It's a whole different world.)

Peanut Butter Sandwiches – Elder and Sister Blake were volunteered to bring the lunch. Sis Blake and the women made seven large loaves of bread into peanut butter sandwiches! We also brought bananas and a big box of cookies. They all seemed to enjoy lunch and were back to work trying to get the roof completed before dark. The next step will be to “mud” the walls. We have never seen that done but we hope they can complete it soon as the family, parents and 6 children, are all sleeping in the small round hut about 12' in diameter.

It was a wonderful and rewarding day. Elder Blake says that he forgets that he is old, and that balance, coordination and strength have forsaken him. He gets right in and works with the best of them, but says that he tires quickly. His companion helped him remember to take some breaks! We're not as young as we used to be! // We were both tired as we got ready to leave and Elder Blake got out the tow strap he had taken with us (in case we needed it to lift rafters) and pulled me up the long hill --probably only a kilometer, but it seemed like five)! I don't know what I would have done without him. President Henry counseled him to take care of me and he is. These members hike up this mountain to get to the church each week, carrying babies and young children; then at the top of the hill they continue walking 1-2 kilometers to get to the church.

We stayed the night in Kikoko, so we would be close for church in another branch the next morning; then returned to Nairobi Sunday night. We saw three giraffes on the way home. We hope they will stick around, and bring their families with them for when April and Devan come in two weeks! We're getting excited.

Have a wonderful week. We love you.

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