Search for a new meeting house for a new branch – We drove to Mitini to meet President Kaseve and visit the Matua area where there are many people joining the church. It is so far to walk (and up a large hill!) to the meeting house in Mitini. The local leaders are trying to find a place near them where a new branch could meet. In a village called Kalongo we looked at a building that might work. Natives are living in the prospective “meeting place” presently, and are not at all excited to think about having to move. Other than that the people of the town were very friendly. They are very curious about these mzungus who visit their village market in their white truck! We picked up the “patriarch” of the Matua large extended family (of some 50-60 members who have been baptized in the past 1-6 months) – Elder Blake calls him “Papa John,” who went with us to examine the buildings, along with a couple of his sons. [ See heading below about 9 new Elders.] By the time we returned everyone to their homes it was about 8:00 p.m.. This was the first we had really seen the MAGESTY of the African stars because it is too dangerous for us to drive at night. (At night 100s of African people walk the roadways – all in the middle and edges of the dirt roadways – and it is very hard to see them in the dark.) As we walked down the trail to our Precious Blood apartment Sister Blake commented “Oh for a McDonalds or Wendy's right now!” Instead we settled for Top Ramen that tasted really good by then!
Primary On a Hill - Friday we went to our high-on-the-hill branch, Ilima. We taught our regular classes and then Sister Blake went to the primary activity. All the children were sitting patiently in rows outside on the grass as the leaders discussed what they should do. The music leader hadn't shown up and that seemed to be their planned activity besides refreshments which they needed to prepare. Sister Blake offered to fill in and loved singing with the children. Their favorite that she had taught them the Sunday before was, “Smiles.” They would giggle and laugh as, with Sister Blake, they all pulled “frowny” faces and sang, “If you chance to meet a frown...” For refreshments they were each (even young children) given half of a small loaf of bread, a drink of orange punch, and a small piece of candy. These are brand new primary leaders who have been members less than a year (and of course never seen a Primary conducted). It touched Sister Blake's heart when, as she was leaving, the young Primary president asked, “Are we doing okay?” The reply was, “You are doing a wonderful job. Look how happy the children are!” The leaders are doing the very best they know how.
New Elders and Converts - Saturday Elder Blake accompanied President Taylor to Mitini and Kyambeke to interview men for receiving the Melchezedek Priesthood and for a new branch counselor. It was a long a full day but very productive. Sunday we attended Kyambeke Branch where Elder Blake helped with the ordinations of five new Elders, several of them quite new members of the Church. We then hurried back to Mitini for the ordination of the 9 new Elders. “Papa John” was the first ordained, and thus with help, he was able to ordain his sons. What a spiritual experience! Another was Brother Anthony, baptized in December, whose house washed away in a mudslide 2 weeks ago. (See last week's blog showing the branch helping rebuild his home.) He's a special friend to us and wanted Elder Blake to ordain him. From there we went up to Ilima for a baptism of 13 new members! Another special blessing was that it had rained very hard during the night and we wondered if it was angels who helped us on the slick, sloppy road which we had to traverse three times during the day! We didn't think we could make it to the baptism. When we arrived one of the young men who had helped teach the new members said, “We prayed that the rain would stop so you could be here to the baptism.” What wonderful and simple faith and what an example they are to us.
Once released, people never want to go to these jails again – On the way home we stopped at the jail to visit a member who has been there since last Tuesday. There were 11 men prisoners (with their heads all shaved) in one cell with no mattresses or blankets and just a bucket out in the open for a restroom. Guilty or not guilty, our hearts hurt for him.
We felt our day was like when you are on a cruise and there is so much food you can't really experience all of it fully. We felt “full” of wonderful experiences and this sad experience. It was hard to process it all. We are so blessed to be able to be here at this time serving our Heavenly Father's children.