Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dec 22 The Spirit of Christ(mas)

''It's Christmas time again'' and of course memories of past Christmases and traditions and such are in my mind, but it's going to be an amazing Christmas and the Christmas season so far has been great! We have been visiting members, investigators, and the like and sharing a message that is purely about Christmas and it has been a great experience. And we have been singing a lot of Christmas hymns in those lessons, at church, in our flat, and walking. I have memorized half of them on accident because of how much we have sang them.

Although I am away from home this Christmas, it isn't something to be sad about or anything, but rather it's something glorious because it is helping me to really focus in on the true meaning of Christmas and the true gift of Christmas, which is Christ. It is humbling to see the people here who don't have enough for any decorations or even gifts for their children. We are truly blessed where we come from and please always remember these people in your prayers and while you celebrate just remember how good you have it!

I'm thoroughly enjoying doing the same work that Jesus Christ did while we celebrate Him this Christmas!

On another note..
Mom, you were right..I shouldn't have been drinking unfiltered water...I started off the week with a stomach that was giving me mavuto (problems) and I had a headache (I blame that on the mosquito coils we were burning though). I woke up Wednesday feeling terrible and not in a condition to go out and work.. I was visiting the toilet every 20 min at least.. but then I took some medicine and got a priesthood blessing and waited about 40 minutes then we were on our way to Chilobwe, a 30 min bus ride, so if there was going to be any problems in the area that wouldn't be a fun bus ride home. But I was good for the rest of the day! Truly there's no way I could recover so quickly if it wasn't for God's hand in my life.

Thursday was another interesting day though..for our first appt of the day we were hiking up the mountain to the Makawa Family (a recent-convert family in the Branch) and I was having some fun jumping up onto rocks as we were hiking and so my slightly-shorter companion felt I was challenging him and also jumped up and he actually made it the first time then went back and did it again but this time his foot hit the rock and he fell forward onto it and his hands didn't quite catch him right so he nailed his fingers..he was in so much pain and felt he broke them so we went home and he had to take some pain meds and then rested for a few hours..then when he felt the pain wasn't unbearable we went back to the area! If we can work at all we are going to work! Just sitting at the flat for those 3 hours was miserable though..My whole mission I've always longed for a nap, but this experience helped show me I don't need one or want one I guess.. I felt super lame just sitting so I made lunch, washed some clothes, and updated our area book to fill the time. I used to be perfectly content just sitting before I left..mission teaches you to work and enjoy work!

Friday we went to the hospital (this hospital trip wasn't nearly as bad as the last one!) and my companion got his hand X-rayed just to make sure. Well it's not broken but its badly sprained! {Btw it cost $15 total for seeing the dr and having an x-ray..I'm sure you would have taken me to the doctor more at home if it was that cheap mom!} We also got to visit a few people on Friday though!

Sunday we had an amazing sacrament meeting where I got to speak. I spoke on my favorite Christmas scripture, Isaiah 9:6. Afterwards we had choir practice and it was such a blast with all the members!

Well it was a weird week but still an awesome one! We are loving this Christmas season and really feeling the Spirit!
Thanks for all the love, support, letters, and prayers during this time!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Dec 15 Joy to the Work!

This week has been awesome. But before I tell you about it, my best friend, Kolton Osborn, got his mission call this week! To the Adriatic North Mission! Where there is very few members so he will be establishing the Church there just like us here in Malawi, but probably even more so for him there! So stoked!

This week the Lord really answered my pleas for strength and energy and my companion and I were just so excited all day everyday! We contacted some celebrity singers this week and look forward to teaching them. We even taught one this week and it was a great lesson! We focused a lot on the Book of Mormon. We actually focused a lot on the BOM all this week because we haven't had Restoration pamphlets for awhile so we give other ones instead and people see the BOM on it and that allows for us to come and explain it and its amazing. ALSO it helped because I received 11 extra Book of Mormons in a package with all my loved ones' testimonies in the fronts! Thanks Sister Ujin haha!

We also found some amazing families this week. We've been focusing a lot on families and well-established people lately and the Lord has directed our paths and almost everyone we taught this week was a family! We even had a Zone Meeting on "teaching all men" this week in which we talked a lot about finding those good people. Scheduling this week was especially hard though because almost all of Chilobwe wanted us to visit them! We met the Milore Family and the Bulike Family this week who are amazing. We had some very spiritual meetings with them and they promised to come to Church and when we showed up for Church on Sunday they beat us there! Usually people don't really take it seriously when they promise to come but they are really seeing the truth and definitely felt the Spirit bearing witness to them! Both families are
young families by the way and are excited to be baptized into the true Church by the correct authority. And Church with them there was amazing! In Gospel Principles they were all contributing and sharing their thoughts which really allows for
everyone to learn and grow! It's also a good sign because people that contribute are showing they want to learn and that they will help the Church to grow because they're not afraid to open their mouths and share the gospel!

For the Soche Branch's sacrament meeting I got to sit next to a little girl named Thoko. She's maybe 7 and her and her sister come to church faithfully when they're both only in primary and their parents don't come nor are they members. She couldn't speak english but with my little bit of Chewa I was able to talk to her and we sang together and she followed my example in the prayers and would say amen and then towards the end started touching my hair because "it's different than
theirs". What an awesome little girl! We also got to teach an elder of another church on Sunday and it was intense. He wanted to bash so bad but we just held our tongues and stayed calm with smiles on our faces as he called us liars and such. It just makes me think of Jesus Christ's ministry in which He went through so much worse treatment. This work is beautiful and so is Malawi and so are the people of Malawi.

Rain season is coming! We had some crazy rain storms this week but now it's gone away and it's burning hot.. This is a super unusual year for rain here, but everyone is still saying it's coming but I'm not too sure... In one of our lessons with Bro Kachikondo it was pouring and you can't hear anything with the sheet metal roofs so we had to sit right next to him to teach and still raise our voices but it was still a great lesson. He's facing some more health problems so he hasn't been
able to come to church for 2 weeks, but we pray for him and I'm sure we will be seeing him healthy again soon.
Also, we have to be home at 6:00 instead of 7:00 now because of the holiday season and some unrest with people wanting money for the holidays and such I's a bummer and makes our days seem pretty short but we just put that much more energy into each day because they're shorter!

Christmas here is going to be so awesome and one I'll remember for the rest of my life. Yes I'll miss my family but it's such a great experience to be doing the Lord's work during this time and sharing the Gift of Christ with them!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dec 8 Faithening Your Strength

What a tiring week! On Monday, we went to Mulanje Mountain and hiked, and that made me tired for the rest of the week or something.. also I hadn’t been sleeping well because it’s been hot going to sleep then gets colder in the morning so I’m either sweating or shivering, but I figured out I just need a fan blasting on me all night and then I can use my blanket and be a steady temp all night.

Tuesday we had District Mtg, which was our first one with the new sisters. They are a bit skittish still or something, but it was still a powerful meeting and uplifting! We also went and saw Bro Milos again today (I don’t know if you remember him?) But he welcomed us and then we sat down and he blasted us for 30 minutes about how we are wrong and we just simply and respectful bore powerful, unshaken testimonies and left. It’s a bummer that he won’t soften his heart, but it was also a very spiritual experience and helped me see how my testimony is sure and unshakable.

On Thursday we had Zone Conference.  My first one on mission! President and his wife and the AP's came to Blantyre and instructed us on many things pertaining to the work. Something that really applied to me was Sister Erickson speaking on faithening our strength (because a man in General Conference accidentally said that in his prayer).  Although he said it on accident, it’s actually something we can apply here on mission. Mission is tiringgg. So we can’t rely on ourselves for the strength to do this work. We need to rely on Him, the Lord. I have learned to have more faith in the fact that He will strengthen me everyday.  And He did this week as I spent much time on my knees praying for that strength. Also we were instructed on the ABC and DEF of missionary work. ABC includes finding, teaching, and baptizing. DEF included retaining, reactivating, and strengthening members.  And as missionaries sometimes we get the idea that we just want to baptize and people judge us and we judge ourselves on baptisms, but that’s wrong. Both ABC and DEF are equal. So we are refocusing a bit and focusing on strengthening the Zingwangwa Branch in all ways possible.

On Friday we were on exchanges with the Zone Leaders, I was with Elder Mwangi in Chilobwe. It was a great day with him and I learned quite a bit. Something very important that i realized was that as missionaries we aren’t robots.  He showed me we can just talk to people and have good conversations with them and also relate it to our message and wow it’s so much more effective!

Sunday was a great opportunity to fast and hear testimonies in church. And Louis was finally confirmed! It's powerful seeing people receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost! We also organized the branch choir and will be singing next Sunday "Far far away on Judea’s Plains" with just about 6 people.  It’s gonna be awesome haha I love singing nowadays! Chilobwe is struggling really bad with water recently. They really need rains to come.  Most of our investigators couldn’t come to church because they hadn’t showered for days (They could’ve but chose not to because of that) or other water related reasons.. Even we only had water 1 day this week...and one day completely ran out.   Not a drop to shower or wash dishes or flush the toilet. I went I think 2 or 3 days with only being able to wash my face...

I love being a missionary so much! And Christmas is coming so spirits are rising in town and all over!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Excerpt from letter to mom:
What?! Kwanza actually doesn't exist? haha that's messed up. America has such a wrong vision of Africa.. Well kinda. I got to see the village areas of Africa and they're basically exactly what people
picture, but here in the city it's not like that at all. And here in
Malawi the split between rich and poor is sooo big it's messed up. We see Range Rovers all over the place with the rich people, but then there's Amayis (women) in our area selling peanuts and charcoal to make less than 2 dollars a day.. I found out our area is one of the most poor here in Blantyre.

The electricity went out!

My poor scriptures!

Dec 1 Smile, Smile, Smile!

The internet cafe closes in 10 minutes from now so I'll make this quick. We're late today because we had a zone activity going to what I'm calling the African Yosemite..Mulanje mountain. It was beautfiul and so fun. We're not here to be tourists or vacation but it is important to have fun and we do have fun everyday in the work but also it was great this Pday to have an activity!

We got new sisters in our district, Sister Dlamini and Sister Browning
and they're great. Sis B is brand new and it's fun to watch another Azungu here and seeing them deal with things I also dealt with! We got to work in another area with our flat mate Elder Dlamini as we waited for his comp Elder Doig to come down from Zambia. It was great to teach with him for a few days and I learned a lot! We're making progress and working hard and we have some great families we're teaching that I love so much!

Also people here don't celebrate Thanksgiving (or Kwanza I guess? I
thought that was African Thanksgiving or something? if someone can inform me on what that is please do) BUT we did celebrate it Thursday night with 5 elders! I got to slaughter a chicken for the first time! And it was a terrible experience! The knife was way dull so it took a lot of effort and was just kinda messed up but hey we had fresh chicken, also it barely bled which was weird and creepy. But as for our feast we had jello, potatoes, potato salad, African cake and brownies, gravy, and chipatis! I'm fat.

Love you all
The Church is true!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Oh and as for the title today: Smiling in the work is the key to having fun and happiness! My comp and I smile at everyone and greet everyone! It truly makes you happier!

Nov 24 Growing Up!

Well yesterday was my last week of 'training' and doing the 12-week
program! I'm no longer a child on mission!

This last week was kinda of a down week pertaining to the work though..but not our spirits! We didn't get to teach very much and have been struggling to get members to work with us, but part of that was because the colleges here are having exams this next week so people are 'busy'. My companion and I were very optimistic, though, and still kept a smile on our faces. We were able to do a lot of finding and talked to some amazing people and found some great families that we hope to help come into the fold!

We got to do some service again this week for Sister Chikapa once again. We were moving bricks again! We didn't have as much work to do as last time so we weren't sore the next day which I was thankful for! It was really fun working alongside the Beals, our new senior couple in the branch.  They are such a help to us both in the work and also in helping the branch. We took them teaching with us a few times this week and theyre so great. Elder Beal reminds me so much of Dad with the goofy jokes he makes and also with the way his head got super sweaty (you're welcome dad) and just many other mannerisms.

We had an elders quorum activity on Saturday. The first one this branch has had since it was created 3 years ago! But we had a spiritual lesson then they gave everyone a mountain of rice and nyemba (beans). We didn't have utensils so we had to eat with our hands, I'm getting pretty good at eating with my hands! And when I come home I'll now have an excuse for having bad American manners! I'll just say I served my mission in Malawi!

Sunday was District Conference, so the all the branches in Blantyre got to meet in the nice chapel and watch the conference where Elder Bednar, Uchtdorf, and Gay of the 70 addressed all of Southeast Africa where they said there's something like 80 stakes and 70 districts? The church is growing in Africa! They spoke more on adopting the gospel culture instead of following cultural traditions and such. It was very uplifting and I loved seeing the chapel overflowing! I got to sit back in metal chairs in the overflow section even! (Dad you always said we're a metal-chair family right?) I'm sure many people are wondering about Thanksgiving here so: it doesn't exist. But! We are still celebrating it! We had all these great plans because Elder Hunter, one of our flat mates, loves food and was making great plans, but we got transfer news this morning and he's leaving. The day before Thanksgiving! But we will still be celebrating, just not as elaborately. I think we are slaughtering a turkey and braing (that's what Africans call barbequeing) it!

I'm grateful for many things this season and could sit here for the whole day writing things I'm grateful for but I'll sum it up: I'm grateful for my family, I'm grateful for Church of Jesus Christ being restored in these days, and I'm grateful for the privelege to share the gospel and news of the restoration  with the people of Malawi!

I love you all!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand