Monday, March 28, 2016

Mar 28 Hallelujah! Happy Easter!

Last week I had said it was the best week of my mission, but I don't know this week may have been even better!

On Tuesday we received a call from the AP's telling us that we need to cancel our appts. and go to the computer and print off a sheet that was sent to us. The sheet was a list of 71 baptismal records that were missing in our mission. Missionaries hadn't turned in the papers for people who were baptized so they weren't inputted and weren't yet official members of the church, so when President Erickson found out there was that many missing he said that the whole mission must stop teaching appts. or having any mtgs. until all records were in. Well everyone started scrambling and got most of them in! The only ones left were those that had some special circumstances, such as Margaret, the one Elder Barrett and I taught. She actually asked the sisters to just rip up her record because she lost her testimony due to anti-Mormon literature...that was pretty sad to hear.. but they haven't ripped it up and are still working with her so we'll see...

My birthday this week was great! We went out to dinner with the AP's on Tuesday to 'Chang Thai' then went to the same place the next evening with the elders in our district. I've wanted Chinese food my whole mission but Thai food  was even better so I was so happy!

It was also Nebby's and Teddy's birthday on Friday so we got them a nice Church DVD and baked some muffins and sang to them. I'm sure they were happy because I don't think that is really part of the typical culture here.

I'm just going to skip to Sunday sorry haha. Easter Sunday was amazing. I was feeling the Spirit so strong in the sacrament meeting and then I got to teach Gospel Principles this week and went into depth on the events of the Atonement (The Garden of Gethsemane, The Cross of Calvary, and The Empty Tomb) and showed some of the Churches wonderful videos such as 'Because of Him' and 'He is Risen' and 'Hallelujah'.  (Click on highlighted link to view.)  John's mother who we recently started teaching seemed very touched even though her English isn't 100% and she may not have fully understood all the words.

After Church we had the baptismal service for John, Nebby, Litambezi, and Mazuba. It was the best baptismal service I've attended on my mission. We printed programs - which they never have- and baked cookies for refreshments after! Our first few batches burnt because of the darn oven and we were close to just surrendering and sleeping since it was late already, but we continued and it all worked out in the end!

Many of our other investigators were in attendance at the baptismal service like the Mwembas and Lukopeshas who are working towards their dates of the 16th April, so I'm excited to go this week and hear their impressions from what they saw!

We had an amazing lesson this week with Sister Lukopesha and her daughters. She said that after her husband passed away she had gone 6-7 months without going to church and she's been looking for a church and that's when we came along and she feels this is all true and right for her and she bore testimony saying '"I will never leave this Church" and we were reading in the Book of Mormon with them for that lesson and helping them understand better and she said, very boldy,  "and i will read this Mormon Book until I understand it." It's amazing to see how the Spirit works in people when we are not there. I can tell her testimony has come mostly outside of our teaching appts. Two of her daughters attended seminary on Saturday with Mwansa Lukopesha as well and Martin Jr Lukopesha also went to institute!

I am so grateful for what is taking place in my life because of the Savior Jesus Christ. In Him I truly have found new life and now I am seeing others also find new life. 

Love you all. Happy Easter! Praise ye the Lord! (English for Hallelujah).
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Mar 21 No pants allowed!

Sorry for the title of this email, but it was probably the funniest moment of this whole week! To explain let me tell you of the Mwemba Family. They are a family of 7 we met in passing on our way to the Lukupeshas. We introduced ourselves and they allowed us to come and teach them. We have now visited only thrice, but that was enough to get Sister Mwemba and a few of the daughters to come to Church! They actually asked about coming to Church on their own ha! The family consists of Sis M and her daughters Vanessa, Natasha, Katherine, and Charity as well as her sons Brighton and Paul. As we have taught them Sis M has just loved it and it seems to click with her and especially her genius daughters. Charity is my favorite. After watching the Restoration DVD the Spirit was really strong and we turned to the family and just asked what some of their thoughts were and she was the first to answer: 'I'm crying'. Ha but really the Spirit was really strong in that lesson. At the end they asked more about church and Sis Mwemba said to the family, 'You all heard? Were going to Church tomorrow, be ready by 7:00'. So now here's the funny part: I explained how the meetings go and then Elder Malinga touched on how to dress and he said that women should not wear pants. All of their faces were so shocked and even repulsed by that statement so that confused us a bit. Then I remembered: pants means underpants here! The word they use here is trousers! So once that was cleared up everyone had a good laugh but Elder Malinga was definitely embarassed haha!

So Sis M and the three youngest girls - Charity, Natasha, and Katherine - came to Church. Sis M was just beaming when she came in. She is such a wonderful lady! The Relief Society in our ward is really strong and they welcomed her so graciously.  The Lukupeshas also came to church - except for Bro Lukupesha because he had a 'shoe blowout' on his way! I guess he soiled his shoe in a puddle or something since there was torrential rain Saturday night (I woke up 4 times that night so anxious for Church and fearing if the rain wouldn't stop to allow everyone to walk to church!).

Another investigator who will be baptized next week, Litambezi had a 'shoe blowout' as well haha! I guess the heel fell off his shoe as we was on his way.. He was really worried because he was supposed to be interviewed after Church, but we will now have it on Tuesday.

Nebby, John, and Mazuba, some of the other investigators we've been teaching, were all
interviewed and found worthy of baptism as well this week! So we should have 4 next week!

This week we had 2 exchanges. That was exhausting...

The first one was on wednesday with the AP's. I was with Elder SS in Matero haha who would've thought that would ever happen! We had a fine day and the whole day I was just praying Elder Sagers and Malinga would also have a great day in our area. When we met up they had had an 'unbelievable' day - not just a great day. Eight member present lessons in one day?!

Our exchange with the Lilanda Elders was also pretty great , not quite unbelievable, but still really great. I was with Elder Tema in Libala and Elder Malinga got to go back to his old area of Lilanda with Elder Wyman. Elder Tema was really inspired by what is taking place in our area and said he is also going to be focusing on families more now too.

I can't say all these miracles that are happening to us are because we are just so great or anything. We are trying our best, but just as the scriptures say, we are still ' unprofitable servants'. Truly, it is 'unbelievable'. I am so grateful to have Heaven's help in this work!

Love you all.
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Mar 14 Zone meeting, Zone Conference, Stake Conference

Like I said, this week would be a busy one! But it must not have been busier than last week because we taught more lessons this week!

Things are sooo great with Elder Malinga. Elder Malinga is from Swaziland. Actually, his parents joined the church FORTY years ago and were the ones that introduced the Church in Swaziland! His father joined while in the UK studying I think. That's actually how many of the early members here joined. Like in Zambia I met the first people: Sister Mulimo is one of them and she attends our ward. She said she joined in the UK then came back and one day she got a letter from the Church telling her to start the Church with another man's family who joined in UK as well. Okay back to Elder Malinga: He came on mission a little more than a month after me and has served over 13 months in Lusaka. He schooled in South Africa for a number of years, so he is always paranoid that we will get 'Joburged' as we jokingly call it, or in other words, mugged. He also tells me lots about the Swazi culture - espcially the King who currently has 17 wives and also about the Juju (witchcraft). 

This week on Tuesday we had a zone meeting. Elder Malinga first one as a zone leader. I think that was one of the best zone meetings I have ever been to. The spirit was strong and everyone was united. We had a few struggling missionaries join our zone recently but it was awesome to see everyone being optimistic and untied in the meeting. 

On Wednesday we conducted exchanges with Elder Slade, Elder Duncan, and Elder Stark. I was with the DL, Elder Slade, in our area. We had a near-perfect day. I'm grateful the Lord has helped us build our area so it can be an example for the other missionaries to base their areas off of as well. I was able to focus on working with members effectively, teaching families, as well as teaching repentance.

On Friday we had zone conference. ZC is different than Zone meeting because its put on by the AP's and Pres Erickson instead of us. The zone conference was equally as powerful as the zone meeting though! It was inspiring when President Erickson's message to us was almost synonymous with our message on Tuesday. That we must 'educate our desires' (as taken from a message by President Joseph F Smith as well as Neil A Maxwell). We must educate our desires to do good and whilst on mission the way we do that is through diligence in our missionary work, rules, and schedule.

Saturday we had a session of stake conference. The Area 70, Elder Makasi, that was attending, was actually the missionary that baptized the Stake President, Pres Lumbama, 20 years ago! It was touching to hear their story.

Sunday was the general session of conference where the Church hires buses for the wards to transport members who can't afford themselves. The Lukopesha family got to Libala Chapel over 30 min early with the whole family so they could attend. Almost half of those on the first bus were our investigators! Again this week we had 10 investigators! Also we found out that the youngest boy in the Lukopesha Family is 7 but turning 8 on the 25 of March so he can also be baptized with the family!

Stake Conference was wonderful. The chapel was overflowing. Every seat was full all the way to the back of the cultural hall. It's been such a blessing to serve in Lusaka for almost 1 year and having served in 3 of the 7 wards as well as having gone on exchanges to many of those wards as well as doing baptism interviews for many of the new converts. Because of all of that I know sooo many of the members of the stake. I felt like it was my 'home stake'! It was wonderful to greet all my old friends and those that I helped teach or baptized or interviewed. It's also been great to see the growth of the stake and the experience of the leaders.

I'm just so full of gratitude again this week. 
I love you and I love this work!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mar 7 The Glory Days!

Things are soooo good. Elder Malinga and I have such a great companionship and are having so much success.

We had 9 investigators at Church on Sunday! Even the Lukopesha family brought the kids and they LOVED primary!

Sorry I wasted all my time and forgot to write, but it was an amazing week and I'm just so grateful for what the Lord is doing in my life. This might just be the best time I've had on my mission. Like mom always said, the last 6 months should be the best. Should be the hardest I've worked as well!

Lots happening this next week so I'll repent on being so short this week next week!

Love you
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

The rain season here brings lots of unusual bugs to our flat. They climb up the drains and such. Recently we found a dried up scorpion in our book shelf. It was a smaller one though only about 1.5-2 inch long, but then on that same book shelf last night I saw a huge black millipede! Alive! It was nasty. We got it outside and destroyed it with bug spray and it was writhing around and even making noise until my comp smashed it with his foot.

Feb 29 Aurevoir Elder Madilu!

This week was such a great way for me and Elder Madilu to finish off our companionship with! We weren’t interrupted with hardly any errands this week so we were able to just work work work. Or I suppose I should just say teach teach teach.

Let me tell you of some of our investigators this week:

The Lukopesha Family. The wife is a sister to a return missionary. The brother gave her husband a BOM (Book of Mormon) a few weeks back but didn’t say too much about it. He read a bit but didn’t understand. Eventually the RM  (Return Missionary), Muthale Bwalya, introduced us to his bro-in-law, Martin. Well Martin is super humble. Both spiritually and temporally. We began teaching Martin with his wife and a neice, Mwansa. The gospel really just clicked for Martin, but for Mwansa, a critical-thinker, and Mom, it took some time. Now they all have been having their own spiritual experiences/feelings to confirm the things we have been teaching. Sister Lukopesha used to be a Seventh-day Adventist and Martin has gone to many churches but was currently at a Pentecostal church (Omega Fire Ministries. Intense name right?). Well on Saturday we met with all of them and asked them if they would come to church. Martin said ‘if God allows’ and as we dug deeper he said he would as long as nothing happened to him in the night because you never know what might happen – only God does. Haha. But the wife said she will not because she works on Sundays but she will arrange that next week she works on Saturday and has Sunday off. (I guess that was a sign that she was leaving SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) since she is going to change her off day to Sunday!) Mwansa committed as well.

Another investigator we have been working with is Peter, the Church HQ referral I spoke of awhile ago. We got pretty serious with Peter this week and it revealed that he had not received his own testimony of the truth of these things and so he was shaky. I'm not sure what caused his reluctance, since in previous lessons he has always accepted what we share and he had even committed to a baptism date. Well now he and his family are ‘backed up to the wall of faith’ and will have to take their stand! Whether this is true or not. We are giving them time to ponder and pray about these things. But I'm suspecting that they're afraid to receive an answer actually. Changing churches and lifestyles is not easy and so they are reluctant to do so – even if God tells them.

There’s also Kupe. He’s loved our meetings and finally came to Church on Sunday. He is part of some government programs so on Sundays previous he had meetings he had to attend. He is a genius so it's always fun to teach him and talk with him. He told us he actually lost a lot of family members and property because his father was quite involved in politics…Well now he is also dipping his toes into politics as well. Unfortunately he will be traveling to eastern province for 6 months to oversee a development project so I won't get to see his baptism but I'll keep in touch with him via email and then facebook when I get home!

It seems a lot of our investigators are being influenced by anti-Mormon literature on the internet. I've encountered it a lot more in this area than in previous ones and that can obviously be attributed to the fact that more people have internet access here. But in a way, it can actually be good because then when they really do receive confirmation from God of these things they are aware that there is enemies to the Chruch and what not.

As for our week:

On Wednesday we had an exchange with the Matero Elders. I was with a new missionary, Elder Veney,  in Libala. We had a near-perfect day in my opinion.
Well, heavy rainfall woke me up on Saturday night and immediately that caused me to worry because we had had about 10 investigators commit to come to Church on Sunday.  I have observed in the past that members and investigators often don't come in the rain, but even despite the continuous rainfall, we had 5 investigators make it to sacrament meeting and a few more trickle in afterwards! Three of those 5 were from the family we have been teaching, the Lukopeshas! To our surprise, Sister L even came! I guess she got work off because the rain or something! It was amazing to see them exercise faith, come to Church in the rain and I believe we will get the rest of the family next week since they had a wonderful experience at church.  They also referred us to other family members, a young couple named Musonda and Gloria, who we are now teaching, too.

My new companion is my current District Leader, Elder Malinga! We have been great friends over the past year since we have both been in Lusaka together all this time. We both are the ‘patriarchs’ of Lusaka – having been here the longest out of all the missionaries in the zone! It's going to be a good time!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

You're right, weeks are flying by. The sister I was with in the MTC went home today to Fiji. That means every sister in this mission came after I came. And there are actually very few elders nowadays that came before me. Elder Chiliza (first companion -- his trainer) goes home at the end of this month. He's going home 2 weeks early to be sealed with his family in the Johannesburg Temple. After what he told me about his parents, that is amazing. Truly the Lord blesses our families as we are serving.

By the way, you can say 'I told you so' about this, but I lost my sd card and card reader this week. I hadn't backed up my photos for about 4-5 months as well so that's super unfortunate. Hopefully it shows up but so far I have searched everywhere. At least I emailed home all the important ones. Probably the only ones that will matter in 30 years anyways..