What? No Clothes! - We packed for a five-day trip to the Hills, and after many trips loading things in the truck (food, suitcases, lesson materials, branch supplies etc.), we were on our way. Wednesday evening we finished our teaching day and began putting things away in our Kikoko flat. Our conversation went like this: Elder Blake: “Where are our clothes in the hanging bags?” Sister Blake: “I haven't seen them. They must still be in the truck.” Elder Blake:”No, they aren't in the truck. Didn't you load them?” Sister Blake: “No, I thought you did. Didn't you?” Blaming each other didn't seem to help. We were stuck with one set of already used (worn that day) clothes to last for five days. // Thursday we wore what we called our “cleanest dirty clothes.” By Friday we were really ready for a change and luckily the Elders were driving a truck to Kikoko to deliver something to our Kilungu missionary's flat before going somewhere else. They got up early and delivered our clothes before we had to leave. We were two very grateful missionaries!
Music and Pictures in Matua – Wednesday afternoon we went to the new Matua area and met with about 30 family members who were waiting for us in their yard. We are trying to help build leadership and gospel knowledge as this area is being prepared for a new branch. How do you teach music to a group from babies to older grandparents (neither of which speak English!)? We took a large laminated poster that is white on the back to use for a whiteboard. One of the brothers stuck a stick in the mortar of the house for us to hang it on. We took songbooks and the keyboard (which they love), and after an opening hymn and prayer, began to teach them how to lead three beats to a measure hymns. They all practiced and laughed and enjoyed themselves – even getting brave enough to stand in front in groups of four and conduct one verse. // This was followed by dividing the gospel pictures and telling scripture stories about Christ and about pioneers with a little church history. They seemed to enjoy being together and learning and we were invited to come back. We'll probably go every other week.
Cardboard Keyboard – School is on break right now and many of the young people come to mid week classes. One young man (about 12-years-old) came to Kyambeke two weeks ago prepared to learn to play the keyboard. There aren't any extra keyboards and I wasn't sure how serious he was. He listened intently and I gave him a little cardboard picture of a keyboard and some exercises to do. This week he was back with his “keyboard” in hand ready for the next lesson. We wish we could teach the young people as they learn so quickly but with school, especially boarding school, they aren't around. He assured us he would be back at the next break!
Visits in the Hills – When we stay in the Hills we don't have to hurry home and it allows us to make home visits to the families of new members, investigators and others. It's one of the best parts of our mission! Thursday, two YSA's from Kyambeke, Phidelis and Catherine, rode with us to show us the way along narrow, steep, mountain trails to visit one of our friends, Margaret, who married recently. Her husband is not a member and we had not met him. She lives almost 5 kilometers from the church and walks. It's uphill all the way home! What a wonderful visit with her, her husband and mother-in-law and neighbors. They have a little kiosk on the top of a mountain. We felt so welcome. Even her shy husband warmed up to Elder Blake as they looked through his binoculars! We hurried from there to show “Finding Faith in Christ” (on the family Christmas gift DVD player) in the home of the carpenter at Precious Blood and his family. There was a wonderful spirit there.
The next day we went with Sister Elizabeth, RS President in Ilima, to visit her elderly parents who are not able to walk the long way to church. They live by Elizabeth, who walks around and over a mountain about 1 ½ hours each way to get to church. They have recently carved a “road” (trail) into that area (the kind I shut my eyes most of the way!) with hand tools. If they walked on the road to church, it would take them 4 hours. Her parents were so gracious and wanted us to come in and visit, and Elder Blake to bless their home and family.
Our next stop was the Jackson family who have brand new twin girls. They were born at home and twins were a surprise! What beautiful little babies born in a humble, tiny two-room mud home. (Total measure of the home is 9 by 12 feet.) That makes 7 children. Humble home, but sweet spirit in the family. We took biscuits (cookies) to share with the family and it was a special treat for them. Have we mentioned before, “We'll never be the same after this??” When life essentials are met, “things” just aren't that important to having the Spirit in a home. We also had a prayer with the family.
Our final visit was at Sister Elizabeth's home where we parked at the top and walked far down into a valley. (I kept saying to myself, “What goes down must come up.) Where we parked there was a family gathering of some non-member neighbors who were preparing for a wedding. They insisted we come and greet everyone. We kept thinking that we'd met everyone, but walking from hut to hut there were a dozen more people around each hut, totaling probably 60-70 people. It was a nice missionary contact. Not many Mzungus (if any) have ever laid their feet in that area. Sister Elizabeth fed us rice, stew, chapatis, and bananas out of her shamba. Elder Blake was asked to bless her home and shamba. She's a wonderful, strong sister and feels like a real sister to Sister Blake. She's a great RS President and is teaching the sisters so many new life skills as well as spiritual training. We arrived home late, after dark, tired but so full of love for and from the people.
Cookies in a Charcoal Oven – For RS on Friday Sister Blake was asked to demonstrate how to make cookies. None of the sisters had ever made cookies and they only have the charcoal oven at the church. We made snickerdoodles and had a wonderful time. No electricity, no mixer, no one had ever used vanilla, cinnamon, or cream of tartar. They'd never even smelled cinnamon. Talk about down to basics. It was so much fun. They loved rolling the dough in balls and dipping the balls in cinnamon and sugar. It was hard to explain leaving room between the balls on the cookie sheet so they could spread out. They loved the cookies and they cooked very well in the charcoal oven to my surprise. I gave them each a little bag of cream of tartar and a recipe. They could make their own cookies without vanilla and cinnamon, but not without cream of tartar!
All-Africa Helping Hands Day – Saturday was the All-Africa Helping Hands Day. We took the missionaries (new Elder Thornton) with us to help a little at all three branch projects. Luckily, two branches were working in Kyambeke. We cleaned the villages and helped renovate and paint the public toilets. The brooms we used were made of branches tied to a tree limb. They worked quite well! The Mitini saints had to walk from their homes to church (some, over an hour away) and then walk to Kikoko (1 hour) before they even started to work. They worked so hard and loved being together. It was a good introduction to the Church for the villagers and so appreciated.
Too Long – Sorry this is so long! Please just view pictures or read in sections. There's just too much to tell! We love you and keep you in our prayers. Have a good week.