Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sept 22 Ebola?

Well I've been in Africa for a month now! I can't decide if it feels like it flew by or if it feels like it's actually been a year... I think it feels like both because 1. I remember home like it was only a month ago and 2. I already feel like I've figured out Africa and mission life and yeah I can't really put my thoughts into words never mind.  So I won't address my terminal illness until the end. I guess if you don't love me or care about me you can just skip to the end and read about it since this letter is my longest one yet...

So Last Monday we went to one of the nicest restaurants in Malawi haha it was so good! And again they just serve American food... Our schedule here is modified because we have to be home by 7 since it can get sketchy when its dark. So on P-day it's hard to get any work in since we start proselyting at 5 and it takes awhile to get to our area, but we met with a part-member family and had a great discussion so I'm happy to say we got some work in on Monday! Oh and our alottment has to last us three weeks this time, so we had to buy cheap stuff at the store for this week, so I ate a lot of rice, maize, and pasta this week. Oh and Nyemba! I love Nyemba. (kidney beans)

On Tuesday we had our first District Meeting and it was very uplifting and spiritual! My companion is DL (District Leader) and he does a great job. He's such a good missionary!  That morning we got ripped off (on the fare) in the minibus and were pretty annoyed and then decided to just forget about it and be Christlike because us getting ripped off isn't even worth being bothered by. (But seriously we get ripped off every time.  Because I'm white they think I don't know the price it should be.) Also we met my favorite investigator yet today, his name is Michael and he is so kind and humble and very accepting!
Wednesday we had some great lessons too but we were contacting on the streets and Elder Chiliza asked a man we contacted if there was anyone he knew that would benefit from our message too. To this the man asked "How'd you find me?" and we said the spirit directed us (because it did) and then he said "well then use that." and then we all laughed but dang haha he totally confounded my companion and I!

On Thursday we were in a nice neighborhood and then I saw this house a bit off that looked poor and the people in poor houses usually only speak Chichaywa so I can't talk to them, but I felt impressed to go there and we did and found a great guy who was really seeking for the restored gospel.  We committed him to baptism. We then went to the next door house and another man there really needed to know about the gospel of Jesus Christ and that repentance is real and we also committed him to baptism!  I know God is watching over us and directing us in all that we do. Oh we also forgot the phone on thursday so we were helpless. We went to a "payphone" and tried calling people though.  The pay phone was just a lady at a normal phone who punched in your numbers and you choose 30 seconds or a minute and then she hands you the phone and you attempt to set something up with someone in that short time. We failed.

On Friday we visited an amazing recent convert family, The Makawas. They just love us so much.  The father told us how he literally got laid off 3 hours before we came, but he was still being faithful and just knows that God has a better plan for him and his family.  After our lesson they asked us if they could get us cold drinks. I was thirsty and said yes just to realize as he left that when Malawians say cold drink they mean either Fanta or Coke.  I hadn't drinken soda since the summer before high school. 5 years.  And then he walked in
with our sodas and there was NO way I was going to reject it since he just spent money to get it even though he lost his job earlier.  So I drank soda! (Soda here is healthier than in America though...it's just carbonated water, sugar, and citric acid. No high fructose anything. So I will drink soda on my mission when it is offered to me!) We also had some other amazing lessons on Friday, one of which with Homes Mwale, our progressing investigator. He is very slow to understand but he has great faith and is a really great guy! (and he fed me 4 samosas (pastry with savory filling?) soooo I have to like him)

On Saturday we got to go to a district temple fireside with all the endowed members in Blantyre.  I loved hearing about their thoughts on the temple and such and I just love how many of these members have sacrificed so much to go to South Africa to attend the temple. Oh and that fireside was at the District Center in Blantyre. Dang that chapel was nice.  I couldn't help but envy the missionaries that get to have services at that building, but then I repented and I am grateful for our meeting "house" in Zingwangwa.  (It's just a rented house

Saturday was the busiest day of my whole mission.  We had a lesson for every single hour of the day and were practically running from appt to appt!  Oh and our last lesson went late so there were no more mini buses and the ZL's were busy so they couldn't pick us up so we had to walk probably 2 miles home in the dark.  My companion and I sometimes "challenge" each other as we hike and walk where we just start walking fast to kinda race and he was doing that on the way home so I decided to just start running and then he joined and we ran the whole way home! Reminded me of the good old cross country days.

Alright so Sunday.  Church is always great. I love our branch and I'm always grateful to be able to partake of the sacrament and think about the Atonement! We got to confirm a man who was baptized my first week here by the elders before us, but now he is ours, so we confirmed him. I really felt the power of the priesthood as we laid our hands on his
head and confirmed him! After church we had 5 lessons planned. Every single one was either not there or "bussyyy". Everyone's excuse here to get rid of us it that
they are "bussyy" haha they say it so funny. 

At the end of the day we went with the branch leaders to the hospital where one of the members is sick.  This is where I got Ebola? First of all let me explain this hospital.  The main ward was completely PACKED with people and so the corridors had people all over
the sides just sleeping and sitting on mattresses.  It doesn't seem very clean there either like you think hospitals should be.  So the brother we were visiting was in the corridor, so we were all sitting with him and talking and then 5 feet away there was a sick man on his
mattress with what we think was his mother and wife caring for him.  5 minutes into our visit, the man starts convulsing a bit and then starting vomiting black goo out of his mouth and nose and then passed away. I have never seen anyone die before or even seen a dead body for that matter.. so this was kind of traumatizing... The whole time I was just thinking what if this man has ebola and I'm right here...but seriously it was such a sad thing to witness...especially seeing his mother and wife. I just was praying for them the whole time and I still am. I just wish that they had a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation because it would give them some comfort although death is never ever easy I understand.  (FYI: There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Malawi. But if you saw this it would make you nervous. Mom will recommend that he not venture into any more hospitals without a hazmat suit.)

The things you see on mission...

Well maybe I shouldn't have saved such a morbid topic for the end of my letter...

Alright well aside from that, this week was amazing and I love this work.
It's good to be a missionary!!!

The Church is true! I love you all!
Elder Grant Alan Hiltbrand

PS Vote Nicole Hiltbrand for Freshman President

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sept 15 Did I say rain in that last email?

So the weather played a trick on us last week with that rain! I thought the rain season was coming early but nooo. Its been so hot this last week, my back just gets drenched with sweat! But that doesn't stop us!  Neither does the sore feet from hiking 6 or more miles a day! But if the hiking doesn't kill me, the smell of all the burning trash might.  Everyone here just throws their trash everywhere and they burn most of it and the smell of that burning trash haunts my dreams. One day my clothes smelled of it the whole day!  Oh the mosquitoes are trying to kill me too.. I hear them buzzing outside my net all night and i woke up with my first bites the other day! Only 3 so far though so I'm fine!

So on Monday after emailing we went to a restaurant that attempted to be like an American restaurant, but nice try! I actually liked it a lot though because I love the Malawian foods and flavors so the mix of American/Malawian was a nice combo. I also bought a hairclipper on monday and shaved it all off! I look like I'm 15 again but it's so nice to have buzzed hair! It was also really funny when I cut it I shaved weird patterns in my head so i had tufts of random hair everywhere but I didnt think to get a picture sorry!

Tuesday we had Zone Meeting which pumped me up and was really spiritually uplifting. We practiced with the Book of Mormon and I just love that book.  I know the Book of Mormon is true and I promise anyone who reads it and prays to know if it's true, will know! That night I got to try nsima for the first time! It is a meal made out of maize where you make it into almost a texture of mashed potatoes but firmer and then you use your hands and roll it in your
fingers then dip it in beans or sauce. I was terrible at roling it and it just got all over my hands but it was still delicious! I think Malawians are good with it because their hands are really clammy (you shake a lot of hands as a missionary) so they have moisture to wick it away so it doesnt stick, but my hands are as dry as the grand canyon (Im not in school but I still know how to use similes) so it just sticks to them. I can't eat it in public or I'll be laughed at haha.

On Wednesday we really saw the Spirit direct us in our tracting! The elders that used to work in our area told us a week ago about some appointment we had but we never wrote it down or knew where it was but then we knocked on a gate and it was the lady that we had an appt with and she was expecting us! We have experiences like this all day everyday but this one was pretty cool to me! I also decorated my planner that night so I guess that means Im a real missionary now since it seems every missionary has stuff taped to the front of theirs.

Thursday I made my first meal our on mission! I actually really enjoy cooking! Usually our flat mate, Elder Hunter cooks and he is an amazing chef. He makes us pizza and peach cobbler and such, but unfortunately
he and his companion decided we aren't all going to cook for everyone anymore..Is he trying to ruin my mission or something? So on thursday the tiredness from the work really hit me but we pushed on and I have these flavor powders for water that my companion and i guzzle to get energy haha.

On Friday we had some awesome lessons and have a progressing investigator finally! Our teaching pool is a puddle right now so we are trying to find more and more people and soon it will be a great big pool!

On Saturday our branch president invited our district over for dinner (my first dinner with members on mission!).  They fed us rice, beans, and chicken and chipatis! He and his wife served missions in Kenya so they made chipatis which are a Kenyan dish i believe because we have a Kenyan in our district that is dying soon. {He actually is from Rushtons first area, Kilungu Hills}

On Sunday I found the bug bites and then forgot to take my doxi pill (anti malarial pill), so when i remembered I forgot, I took it right away {in sacrament meeting haha oops} but I hadn't eaten for a few hours and I learned the hard way that you can't take that pill on an empty stomach... I felt like vomiting but luckily I had a Clif Bar in my bag just in case so that was lucky!

So just some stuff: We only drink whole milk here and for anyone who knew my feelings towards milk before mission would know that is pretty much my worst night mare.. I would only drink skim milk at home and even then very rarely. But I actually kinda like the whole milk! Mission is changing me already!
And while I'm talking about milk...
During lessons, mothers will just start breast feeding their babies RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU without covering up or anything! It even happened in one of the classes at church hahaha. Luckily I have seen it coming and have been able to look away in time so I haven't actually seen and I hope I never will have to!

Well I'm loving being a missionary more and more everyday!
The Church is true!
Love you!
Elder Grant Alan Hiltbrand

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sept 8 Muli Bwanji!

I have been assigned to Blantyre, Malawi! I am in the Zingwangwa Branch ( AKA the bush of the Zambia Mission apparently).  But so far it's awesome!  I like it because it’s more of what you expect Africa to be than Lusaka was.  I spent 2 days in Lusaka with the AP's (Assistants to the Mission President) then the ZL's (Zone Leaders) just working with them while I waited for my plane flight on Thursday.

I arrived in Malawi and was greeted by my companion, Elder Chiliza (that "ch" is actually a click sound.)  He is from Durban, South Africa and he is the best trainer I could have ever asked for! We immediately clicked! (; 
But seriously he is so excited about the work we are doing and is a great example and strength to me!  We are always laughing and having fun while we work.  The other night he made me sing to a guy we were contacting haha!  South Africans love to sing.. But it was actually awesome and the person felt the spirit and even just gave us a call to teach him this morning! I must have a good voice or something..  

But yeah we work hard and have fun with it. Rain or shine.  It has rained twice so far and we just keep contacting and teaching even though we are soaked with only short sleeve shirts on!  My scriptures got a bit wet though so that was a bummer.

So our flat is actually pretty nice for "the bush".. We have hot showers AND a toilet!  But our stove/oven is another story... I call it the easy bake oven because it is soo slow.  Also we only hand wash clothes but most missionaries pay someone to do it so I guess I will do that too.

Our kitchen.

Our flat.

Our weight.
Oh yeah a picture of our weight.  It's just cement connected to some pole and weighs about 66lbs, I haven't run yet. I've accepted I might get out of shape, but not spiritually out of shape! 

The church building is just some rented house up in the hills..it’s so hard to tell people where it is for church! On Sunday, we had someone come to church though!  His name is Witness and we taught him  on Saturday and it was such a spiritual lesson and he prayed and knows the Church is true! but..he left to boarding school today for 10 weeks... I guess we will see him when he gets back haha!  I'm sure I'll still be here because when you get assigned to Malawi in this mission you don’t really leave apparently... Most missionaries stay in this area for about 10 months...

This area is very hilly and the only paved roads are the main roads, so we are hiking all day. I love it! (And yes mom my shoes  and socks are perfect now! Oh and while I’m on that topic.. I had to ditch almost a whole suit case to make the weight limit to fly here.. It's just hard having a mother that loves you so much! But I took all that I need and they can always send stuff over when the AP's or a couple comes over here.  That’s the same with mail too. It goes to the mission home and then will sit there and sit there until someone comes to our area from Lusaka.)

So the transportation here is "mini buses".  It's just a van with seats all the way back that they cram with about 18 people.  I was squashed against a window the other night with a big lady next to me.  I’m now thinking about becoming a contortionist when I get home!
I am learning some of the language here.  For example muli bwanji is a greeting and then they say tidi bueno kai enu back and then you also say tidi bueno.  It’s like saying how are you.  Also the kids all call me an Azungu (white man) but I learned to say things like "Where’s the white man?" and then they’ll say it’s me and I say BOZA (lie!) and then point to myself and say Akuda (black man) and then call them azungu and then they all laugh. The kids are a blast.

I haven’t really gotten to eat much of the native food here.  We went to a shack the other day for lunch and got rice and meat and some green stuff and it was pretty good!  I also tried sugar cane which you apparently just chew on then spit out but I thought you eat it so I swallowed some and it felt like I have sticks all in my throat...thanks companion for not telling me! haha

I am very excited about my mission and can’t wait to see the fruits of our labors to come soon because we are white washing the area (Whitewashing is when new missionaries are put into an area without leaving one that has been there.)   so we have just been contacting allll day!  We are doing great though!

I feel all your prayers and thank you for all your support!
Love you all!  The church is true!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

The kwacha is about 420 to 1$ so it makes me feel really rich having 40000 haha

Oh yeah I forgot to mention..everyone is a drunkard here in Malawi..I've never seen public drunkeness before or people falling over and such.. I was harassed by one on a mini bus and offered alcohol and my companion just was quiet and left me to fend for myself haha.  We had a good laugh about that after though.

Oh our sched is modified here. We skip comp study in the morning and go out to work at 9:00 then have to be home by 7:00 and then we do comp study then.  Sisters have to be home an hour earlier

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sept 2, 2014 Arrived safely in Zambia.

Dear Family,

We are so pleased to report that Elder Hiltbrand has arrived safely in the Zambia, Lusaka Mission. He is a choice young man and eager to be an excellent missionary. We were very pleased to note the preparation, worthiness and commitment he has to be obedient and to serve the Lord. We know that as he serves the people, he will learn to love them and they will love him. His testimony is strong and we are honored to have him in our mission.

Elder Hiltbrand will be laboring in the Blantyre, Malawi Zone, with an excellent trainer, Elder Chiliza.

Sister Erickson and I will see him at least every four to six weeks at Zone Conference and I will have an interview with him on those occasions. 

The mission home address is:
Zambia Lusaka Mission,  14038 Katima Mulilo Road,  Lusaka, Zambia 10101.
Mail and packages can be sent here.  Providing us with a tracking number will sometimes expedite your packages arriving here.  You can email us the tracking number of your packages.

Uplifting and supportive letters from home are important to missionaries. We encourage you to write or email your son weekly. Large packages are unnecessary and difficult for us to disperse. Most everything can be purchased here if your son needs additional items.
Thank you for teaching, nurturing and sending forth this fine young man to serve the Lord and honor his family and other loved ones. May the Lord bless you with peace and assurance that all is in His hands.

Yours Sincerely,
President and Sister Erickson

President and Sister Erikson with Grant in Zambia

Well we get another 5 minutes or so to email now that we made it to Zambia! So for the past 12 days we've probably gotten hmm... 35 minutes of email time total?  But that's fine actually because there's not tooo much to say since we've been working hard at the MTC and haven't met any investigators or anything!  We started calling the MTC the spirit prison towards the end of our 12 days there because with only 8 missionaries there and it being such a small MTC and just sitting in classes all day, it starts to feel a bit like a prison..but a good prison!  I learned a ton and my testimony was strengthened and I just feel like I now have what it takes to really be a great missionary!  I'm extremely excited to really start my mission now that I've arrived in Zambia!

Love you all  
Elder Grant Alan Hiltbrand

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sept 1, 2014 Off to Zambia tomorrow morning.

Greetings from the South Africa MTC

This is the last photo of our group.  I can’t believe they will leave early in the morning.  The time goes by so quickly while they are here.  This group  has been delightful.  They are obedient and focused.  We have enjoyed them so much.  I am going to miss them.

Tonight will be our Farewell Fireside where we will do our last teaching.  They will have breakfast at 5:00 a.m., we will have a short little devotional, and then they will leave for the airport.  Our Elders going to the Joburg Mission will get picked up by their mission at 7:00 a.m.  They are all anxious and ready to get to their missions and start declaring the truthfulness of the Gospel.  They are outstanding missionaries and are on their way to becoming the consecrated missionaries the Lord wants them to be.  I love them.

With love,
Sister Collins

The last photo of my MTC group which goes on wall in black in white.

I am now on the MTC wall with Rushton.  Cray Rawlings is also on the wall.   He is serving in Zimbabwe.

One of the walls of photos at the Johannesburg MTC.

Rushton's MTC Group 
Cray Rawlings' MTC Group -- he is directly behind girl in the white shirt.  He has glasses.

Aug 28, 2014 I just can't do this anymore...I'm coming home!

HA NOT, loving my mission even though it's only been a week!

So gosh this last week has felt like a month!  The MTC just makes time seem so long! But I'm enjoying the MTC and love all the elders and sisters and staff here!  I have already learned so much and my teaching has increased a ton.  They have little rooms set up that look like a living room and you go in and role play.  It reminds me of Monsters Inc. where the monsters go in and scare the kids and try to fill up a cannister with fear, but we do that with lessons and fill the cannister with the Spirit.  (You can ask Nicole to explain that analogy haha).  If you asked me yesterday how my companionship with Elder Mabe was you would probably get a negative answer.  He is a convert of 2? years and speaks very quietly with a heavy accent.  Most of the time in our lessons I would be the dominant teacher and he would just sit back which was hard but we worked it out and now our teaching is so much better.  We take his strengths (sincere testimony, humility, etc) and add mine (knowledge of the PMG – Preach My Gospel - lessons and scriptures and people skills) and we are a great team.  (That’s not to say I don’t have a sincere testimony haha) But yeah we kept having bad lessons then figured it out and are more unified.  We had to teach the MTC President this morning which is kinda an assessment of all we have learned, so I was really nervous we would just go get ripped apart like in other lessons, but it was great! One of our best lessons so far! I really like Pres./Sis. Collins, they're great.

Oh by the way Elder Mabe and I are District Leaders here at the MTC.  E. Mabe kinda just expects me to take the lead and iniative all the time so I've been trying to work with him on that and increase his confidence and leadership skills and they seem to be increasing!  I had to give a talk on Sunday for our Sacrament service and then also give the District Meeting right after that, so I was stressed out because we have NO spare time here at the MTC but somehow I figured it out and gave a great talk and an even better DM!  This Sunday E. Mabe is giving the DM so that'll be nice to just sit back. 
BTW sorry this letter is all over the place, we have like 15 minutes... and my mind is just all over the place too.. I wrote you guys a letter on Sunday because they gave us time but a lot of what’s in that will be in here too...

Studying at the MTC.
I love all the South African accents here, I’ve never heard someone say tomato like toe-mawt-oh before, but now I have!  They have so many weird things they say here!

We went to the temple on Tuesday and it was the African missionaries first times, so I got to be Elder Mabes escort.  Pretty cool! The temple here looks big but it’s actually quite small! 

My companion, Elder Mabe and I outside the temple.

In front of the temple.
After the temple we went to McDonalds! It's hilarious to see all those chains like McD and KFC here. I took a picture there because I had to prove I went to McD in Africa! Also that's probably my last taste of America for 2 years since they definitely won’t have that in Zambia.
Before going to the temple, we got to have a devotional with Elder Mkhabela, a member of the Area Authority here in SE Africa.  That was cool because it was just us 8 missionaries and him! 


In Priesthood on Sunday we had to go around and say a Christlike attribute for each missionary and a lot of them talked about my example for things that were quiet such as always staying with my companion and other such things.  But yeah it’s cool to see how I can be a good leader but also be humble and lead by example and such.

Oh also while out here I'm very good at focusing on the work and even forgetting about home and things so my mind is purely on the work.  I also don’t miss my phone or social media or anything! I feel almost a peace not having those things anymore. Nothing to worry about!

Alright well I'm out of time... when I get in the field I can give more explanation and maybe I will be able to focus more haha

Elder Hiltbrand