It was also a week of finishing up pedigree charts, family group sheets, and especially life stories. We wish we had started life stories earlier so more could have participated. What a wonderful experience this has been learning about the early life of these saints and how they learned about the Church. We have especially enjoyed helping them write their testimonies. It's been exciting as we have taken precious, small, old photographs and enlarged them a little to add to the history.
Goodbyes – This was the last week meeting with the Matua area where there isn't a branch yet. We love this huge family group! It's been a blessing in our lives as we have seen so many baptized – about 75 in one extended family, who all live close by each other, some like 1 to 3 meters in between – and watched them grow in strength and testimony as they have learned to serve in the Mitini Branch. They are so dedicated to walk there through the valley and up a high hill just to get to church. We've helped bring new babies from the hospital; suffered with them through trials and temptations; and celebrated their successes. It feels like they are part of our family! As we met this last time we talked about early pioneers and that they are the African pioneers. They loved the Legacy movie and related to the living conditions as that time as many things are similar to how they live and what they are experiencing. We will never forget them.
Sunday we shared our time between two branches for a last meeting. In the high-on-the-hill branch, Ilima, we attended testimony meeting and enjoyed the spirit and love of the people. After meeting the choir sang God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again as we were departing – it was hard to control the tears. We have special memories in each branch. We left part of our hearts there also as we drove down that primitive trail but beautiful hill for the last time.
In Kyambeke they had a combined relief society and priesthood meeting where we all shared memories and thoughts. We felt such an outpouring of love as we relived so many wonderful memories. After meeting they asked us to go outside where they tied a kanga around Sister Blake and then added a scarf on the head and a basket with a strap to carry on her head! Next came the traditional, African-style celebration dance with the sisters, as the whole group enjoying the proceedings. What a fun day with the only problem being our camera batteries were low and our pictures didn't turn out very well. We'll have to keep the picture in our minds.
We also shared with the branch the news that the video Lisa took of the young women singing their special rendition of the YW theme has been viewed by the whole General Young Women Presidency and they loved it! We have the permission slips from each of the girl's parents to send to Salt Lake in case they use the video for training or other purposes in the future. The girls and leaders were so excited.
Next blog will be the last from Africa, as we fly out late Saturday night. We will leave part of our hearts here but are also getting excited to see family and friends again. Our love to you and have a good week.