Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jan 19 My week...a resilient people.

I can't even think of a way to title this week or even really explain it in a way that will make sense to everyone else but me, but I'll try!

Last week I told how we had to run to the Internet Cafe because of torrential rainfall. Well that was the 2nd day of straight rain and thent he rain didn't stop that day nor that night nor the next day. I'm not sure if I have ever explained how they build houses here but the majority of what they have are not very water proof...so you can start to imagine what happens when there is 3 straight days of heavy rainfall - and not rain like you see back in California (when there isn't a drought), but RAIN. 

Well on Tuesday we got news of some of the members in the branch who had lost their homes in the night. One family, the Nthenda's, roof had blown off and their house crumbled. 
Nthenda family home.
Nthenda home after the rain storm.
Another, the Makawas, had their walls fall on their home. And many many other homes in this area were also damaged or completely destroyed along with many people who lost their lives by being washed away in the huge river coming down from the mountain. Basically, I would describe it as a natural disaster and the results everywhere were not good.

The Makawa home after the storm. It was one of the newer, nicer homes in the area.
Another home.

One of several times trying to get the truck unstuck from the mud as we moved the Nthenda family belongings.

Carrying the Nthenda family belongings to their new temporary home.

All the family belongings fit in 4 trips of a small truck.
The Nthenda family all moved in.
Where the water flowed through the village.

There were several deaths from the flash floods. 

All Tuesday we were helping the Nthenda family and also visited the Makawas and both families taught me a huge lesson. I've been humbled this week and have learned and seen things I will never forget. Although these people lost their homes, they were still grateful and in high spirits. After moving all the Nthendas belongings to their parents home far away, Bro Nthenda said "See you at Church on Sunday!". Well church starts at 8 and he woke up at 6 and walked 2 hours and was sitting at church when we showed up! Also, when we visited the Makawa's who had moved into a vacant home that was being build that one of their friends offered them for the time being, they already had a picture of the South Africa Temple nailed to the wall. Amidst all that had happened to these families, they still knew what was most important in life and were still grateful to their Father in Heaven. From these people and all my experiences I have learned to always be grateful in every circumstance I may be in.

That lesson is especially helpful now that the water intakes in Blantyre are covered in silt so we won't have water for a loooong time and our lights were off one night so we had a nice candlelit dinner together and I had to plan a talk for sunday with candle light!

Studying by candlelight.
Later in the week after all the commotion, we had amazing lessons where the spirit was sooo strong. I wish I could explain all of them and explain the joy and the spirit we feel as we share the Gospel and see it work in peoples' lives, but you can only imagine! Also Brother Milore is doing great and his sickness is almost completely gone. (Gave him a blessing last week.)   Listening to him explain his experiences touched my heart and made me so grateful for the priesthood we are blessed with!

I love this gospel. I love this privilege I have to serve a mission here in Malawi, I LOVE these people and I love my new companion!
Love, Elder Grant Hiltbrand


Jan 12 Not So Lonely Anymore!

After being alone and having to work in a threesome for 8 days, I finally got a companion! Elder Ngendabanka arrived Friday night.  He seems like a great guy so far, but I mean I've only known him for about 2 days so who knows...(; He is a pretty mellow guy though, not sure if that's because he's an old man or what (he's 8 years older than me!) but it sounds like we're going to have a very pleasant companionship! He is from the country of Burundi (Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world.  80% of the people live below the poverty level.  It is located below Rawanda.) and joined the Church about 3 years ago while he was schooling in the capital city.  He has already finished schooling and I haven't even started haha! He is also among the first missionaries from Burundi so that's awesome! He has a strong testimony and is a great teacher AND he has the gift of tongues! He came on mission not even knowing English and then learned it very fast and is now completely fluent. He spoke his mother tongue and French while living in Burundi and also learned Swahili while living in Kenya to escape the war, so when he came on mission he knew those 3, but has now since picked up English and he learned chiNanja while serving in Lusaka for 6 months! He has served 6 months in Lusaka, Zambia, and also served for 3 months in the Kenya Nairobi mission! He was originally supposed to serve in England though so he has gone through many changes.

As for the week I had, it was a good one but tiring! I was working with Elders Dlamini and Doig and we would switch off working in their area and in mine each day.  I made the most of it and we had a lot of fun together and worked hard each day! They have some awesome members in their area that's for sure!

One of the highlights of the week, though, was seeing the Milore family. We were teaching them back in the beginning of December, but then they went to Lilongwe for the holidays, but actually Bro Milore got severely sick during that time. He developed sores all over his body and in his body that were developing mucus and such. I'm not quite sure but he was not in a good condition and was in the hospital quite awhile.  When we saw him he was still very very weak but most of the
sores were gone except for around his lips and some other places.  I felt the Spirit very strongly prompt us to give him a blessing when he came out and was talking to us.  So we taught him more about the priesthood and blessings and then we were able to give him a blessing and it was so powerful. He and his wife have amazing faith and know the Church has been restored. Even in his state they were bummed they couldn't be baptized on their scheduled date of the 4th of Jan.
We are able to see miracles everyday while serving the Lord and I'm so grateful for all the Lord has been doing for me here on mission.

I'm excited to serve with Elder Ngendabanka and continue to help the Zingwangwa Branch to grow!
Sorry theres no tornados to report on this week, but it is raining super hard now! It rained super hard all night and is still going strong!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand who is currently soaked from traveling to the internet cafe in the rain!

Thought I was back in California for a second.

Just a little door to door.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jan 5 This Week was a Whirlwind!

Truly this was a chaotic week but the title of this letter has more meaning to it than you might think haha!

This week on Tuesday we had a good day and worked hard so we were pretty tired and when we were going to sleep at 10:30..we got a call from the ZLs telling us to come outside and talk to them..that always mean only one thing. TRANSFER NEWS! And so we walked outside a bit dazed and confused and found out: my companion, Elder Chiliza was being tranferred to be a Zone Leader in the copperbelt of Zambia! And so I would get a new companion that had been serving in Lusaka named something like Elder Ngendabanka? He is from the country of Burundi (yeah I didn't know where that was either!) and has been on mission a bit longer than me I think. Well he still isn't here by the way...he is having visa troubles or something so he hasn't gotten here yet.. so I've been all alone since Thursday and have been working with our flat mates trying to balance their area and mine! Also with Elder Chiliza leaving, I have been called to serve as the new District Leader of Zingwangwa.  Pretty sweet I guess!

Wednesday was our last day together and eesh what a crazy day it was! We started by trying to go visit a less active man, Stainford, in Baluti, an area thats far away from our normal area of Chilobwe. Well to make it quicker we decided to get a ride on bikes (men have a seat on the back of their bikes that you sit on and they ride you to wherever you're going haha). Well there was only one bike..and one motorcycle. So I took the bike and my comp got to ride a motorcycle for the first time! It was pretty funny getting on this man's bike when I am towering over him..but he did really well and even made it up this small hill!(barely!)

Later that day it rained..and right when it started raining...a TORNADO started up only 30 meters away from us! I've never seen a tornado in real life but it was crazy! The wind was insane! It tore up a few of the metal sheet roofs and trash was flying up in the air and then it started coming towards us so we ran for our lives haha but then it dispersed so it was fine but eesh! Crazy experiences on mission! 

We continued in the day with our work in the rain and we were SOAKED and freezing...so we had to go home and it was about time we had to go home anyways because of New Year's eve. 

On Thursday my companion had to get up at 5:00 so I too was woken up at 5 and then at 6 we said our final goodbyes and closed our companionship with a prayer which was awesome. He rang in the New Year on a looong bus ride haha! But at the close of this companionship I look back and see so much growth and so many awesome memories. I loved that guy so much! And I'm sure I'll see him later on my mission!

First day of companionship.
Last day together (notice the ties.)
The rest of the week I was with the other elders and got to go to their area and also take them to the land of milk and honey, Chilobwe. It's been good working with them but I'm ready to get my new companion and get to work in our area together!

On Sunday I got to baptize for my first time! I baptized Prince and Angela, the children of Anita, an amazing woman who was baptized in December. I always try to talk to them and mess with them at church but they always seem to brush me off but I guess not since they asked me to baptize them! They're so great! Being able to perform that ordinance was such an amazing feeling! I felt the spirit so strongly and am just so grateful for the true order of baptism and the authority that has been restored once again. I felt like I could just baptize people all day haha. I'm down for what happened in Acts 2:41!

So yep that's my week!
It's good to be a missionary!

Happy New Year! 2015 will be a year of full time service to the Lord for me!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Dec 29 I'll be (calling) Home for Christmas!

This week was SWEET. Christmas as a missionary was so much better than I expected and much better than many of you reading this probably would expect as well.

Our Christmas Tree
 On Monday/Tuesday the Lilongwe zone came down to Blantyre and we had a Christmas party. We had a white elephant exchange which was pretty funny. I wanted the huge Jack Fruit, but it got stolen from me. I ended up with my companion's gift, oreos. Soo good! We then had a delicious dinner - of course it couldn't even compare to what Mom makes, but it was way better than anything us missionaries make! Then we watched a movie, The Christmas Carol. Yes, we watched a MOVIE with our Mission President. That night we got to sleep way late which is expected when you have tons of missionaries all staying in the 
same flat!

Jack Fruit
Grant and Companion
The next day we all had breakfast together then had a discussion in the chapel on 2 conference talks on the sacrament. It was super powerful and then we all partook of the sacrament together. We all kneeled for the prayers as well which made it even more powerful.

On Christmas Eve we had a zone activity at the couple's house where we got to see the Christmas devotional. I'm so glad we got to see that, I was missing it! And the Reynolds house had air conditioning so basically it couldn't have gotten any better.

Christmas we woke up singing Joy to the World in our flat then all kneeled in prayer before opening our few gifts. It was awesome to see my companion open his gifts..a hymn book, and baptismal clothing. He was actually surprised I think and so happy. And we will be using those clothes next week even! We then had breakfast with the ZLs next door and our flat then went to our area and took Christmas to the Ambali Family. We gave them a present and had bought food to make for them because amayi (the mother) always makes us food so we wanted to cook for her for once, but she wouldn't let us. So we taught them all how to play Uno while we waited for food. We tried to eat light since we were going out to dinner that night but amayi wasn't going to let us eat light..eesh she gave us a mountain of food! It was a great time and we also got to visit a few others and sing for them and such. 

That night we went to a super nice restaurant (nice for Malawi) with the ZLs and our flat mates and ate even more.  But the best part of Christmas, of course, was calling home - AND calling Rushton! "Hello this is Elder Hiltbrand" "no this is Elder Hiltbrand" "No this is Elder Hiltbrand!"

I thought the day after Christmas would be hard to go back to normal missionary life, but it was just fine and we're still lovin it. I think it helped starting the day with a service activity where we planted soya beans!  

Planting Soy Beans

A well?
We also taught a family this week that is easily the most prepared family I've taught my whole mission so far! We went and taught them the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and they loved it and then when we came home they had completed our reading commitment of the introduction and title page and even read more! Somehow one of the men, Saustin, read 3 Nephi 11, without us even asking or telling him to..

At church, they had the Primary Program (Church program put on by children ages 3-11)! All the kids had memorized a bunch of scriptures and songs that they sang and recited. I love
primary songs and I especially love the children here in the branch and in Malawi! I think they might even have more scriptures memorized than me!

Mission is so much fun and also so much work! And it's one of the greatest experiences ever! I love teaching the restored gospel and meeting many different people here!
Happy New Year!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand