Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 30 New Flat

This week we spent a lot of time working on getting a new flat for the Lilanda area. Their old flat was probably the most infamous flat in the mission, but now this new one is going to be one of the nicest! I remember Elder Barnard, one of my Zone Leaders last Feb, telling us horror stories from that flat. So we found a great new flat around the same area and had to deal with all the contract matters as well as moving the salvagable items from the old flat to the new one and giving out the other stuff. We got to give out a queen size bed along with some chairs and couches. We gave them to some young men in the ward who were literally sleeping on the concrete floor. That was a humbling experience.

For the rest of the week, though, we got into our area and worked. We have about 6 people currently progressing towards baptism and it's so exciting. One of them is a 17yr old young man who would hang around "Banka's Grocery" and became really good friends with Ngendabanka, so Ngendabanka invited him to come to Church and learn from us. Now the young man, Kelvin, is coming closer to Christ and really liking it. His learning and embracing the gospel will completely alter the course of his life. Previously he probably didn't have very good friends, he doesn't come from a united home where faith is very important, but now he will learn the gospel and serve a mission and grow up in a much better way I'm sure.

"Christ takes the slums out of the people, then the people take themselves out of the slums."

This coming week we will be very busy. Tomorrow we pick up new missionaries and do orientation with them. This will be my first time picking up new missionaries! Then on Wednesday we will wake up very early and travel to Malawi where we will have a conference with both zones in Blantyre. I'm excited to be back in Malawi and to participate in this conference. I might also get to see Rosalia, a not-so-recent convert along with another woman who joined the Church in Lilongwe because Elder Ngendabanka and I called the wrong number!
By the way, on Sunday I sustained Bro Ngendabanka as the 2nd counsellor in Matero Ward's Bishopric!

Love you all,
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Monday, May 23, 2016

May 23 More Baptisms!

Let me begin this letter with a story I was thinking about yesterday about one of the Mormon Pioneers:

"In 1832, Weltha Bradford Hatch lived in the tiny town of Farmersville, New York, USA, near Lake Seneca. When missionaries Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt called at the Hatch home, Weltha purchased a Book of Mormon and read it right away. Convinced of its truthfulness, she asked for baptism.
Her husband, however, cautioned her to wait due to mounting persecutions and an approaching baby. Shortly after the delivery, Weltha was baptized—but only after a hole was cut in the ice on the river in which the ordinance was performed!"  

Yesterday we had baptisms for Sister Mphalo and her son, Vincent, as well as Gabriel Chola. We cleaned the font on Saturday and having experienced water challenges in the past, we decided to fill it on Saturday as well. We neglected how cold it has been though! So the water sat over night until Sunday morning. It wasn't frozen, but it almost felt like it haha! But nonetheless, all 3 of them showed faith similar to Weltha Hatch's and entered the cold water to be baptized! So refreshing I’m sure! I got a small taste of it from my waist down since I performed the ordinance for the Mphalos and that was enough for me. 

This week we worked with President Erickson to plan the upcoming transfers. What a unique experience to counsel together on the needs of the missionaries. Being in this position is very humbling. I don’t want to do something that is not the will of the Lord, so we are sure to seek His guidance as we make decisions. The decisions are still not even finished though. We decided to leave the proposals we have made and continue to ponder on it and then we will meet again to finalize it this week. It's a privilege to work so closely with President Erickson.

We visited Gabriel Chola's family last night to celebrate the baptism. Most of his siblings came to his baptism, but his parents did not. His brother, Andrew, even baptized him. Most of the siblings are members of the Church, but the parents are not. They are soo supportive of Gabriel though! His father said that he was like a tortoise: When you see a tortoise with its legs outside of its shell you can’t tell how its feeling, but when the tortoise is inside its shell it can dance and nobody knows. He said he was dancing on the inside because of his son's choice to follow Christ. His mother does not speak English very well so she spoke to us in Nyanja. This was the first time that I have understood everything someone has spoken to me! (It took a lot of concentration since she was talking so fast!) She just expressed how happy she was and she thanked us for always coming and teaching Gabriel and encouraged us to continue coming.

(Also some more good news: In Libala they baptized the Kanema Family. That is the family to John, the one I baptized back in March. We had been teaching the Kanemas for quite a while before I got transferred so it is wonderful to hear that the rest followed John's example. That is his mother, Lilian, his sisters Elizabeth and Nina, and his brother, Jack. Also a relative of the Mweemba's that moved in with them also got baptized!)

I love this work. I am so grateful for all that the Lord is doing through me. I am so grateful He has allowed me to be a part of this work.
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Things are heating up due to Presidential elections in August!
There was a rally in our area this week. Lots of traffic...
Lots of hooligans in the streets..
Elections are on the 11th and my flight home is on the 12th..
we'll see how that works out!

By the look on my face you can tell it's cold!

Sikaonga's School

We realized that in order for our investigator Sembe to finish all the discussions by his baptism on 12th June, we would have to teach him at his house a few times. Usually we just teach him at Church since he stays VERY far, but we will be travelling to Malawi soon so we need to expedite the lessons.
He stays with long-time members, the Sikaongas. Recently they made their home into a school for the needy children in the community. Everyone in the family participates: Bro S is the headmaster, his wife is the head mistress and head teacher, his 2 daughters and Sembe (wearing a striped collared shirt in picture) are teachers. The fees are very cheap so that anyone can attend. I thought you would all like to see some pictures of the school:

Main Classroom (Previously the living room) 

Nursery Class


Headmaster's Office

Wall of Certification

The restrooms

The Kitchen

May 16 There Was a Flood!

This was a great week in Matero! We are steadily getting more and more investigators to teach and to come to Church. A month ago we had 2 investigators at Church, but then we had 8 at church yesterday and it could’ve even been a few more if Bro Magunje (the investigator one) wasn’t out of town! I have never seen the Matero Meetinghouse so packed in the 7 months I have been in that ward! There wasn’t a single open seat. It flooded! (Ha, I know when you saw the title you were expecting an exciting story of a real flood, but this news should be even better!!) 

Next week we will be having baptisms as well, so I’m sure it will flood again. Sister Mphalo and her son Vincent will be baptized along with Gabriel Chola. Gabriel is the brother to an elder I served around, Elder Andrew Chola. He was originally serving in Sierra Leone, but when Ebola broke out he was sent back to his home mission where he finished the remaining year of his mission in Malawi. (He actually came to our mission with a letter for me from Cody Beckett.) Andrew will even be the one to baptize him next week. Gabriel has done a total 180 from his previous life to where he is now. He has really experienced the redemption that is made available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

This week we had zone meeting on Tuesday. It was nice to just sit back and enjoy the meeting now that I am no longer a zone leader! But I guess we didn’t sit back the whole time since we got to present on Preparation day - no longer to be called 'P-Day' haha!

We also had a zone service on Friday. The road opposite the mission office was getting really overgrown and rutted, so to show the community that we can take matters into our own hands and help where we can AND to prepare for Pres Kupu's arrival, we cleared all the bush and tried to level some of the dirt. It didn’t look like a huge project at first, but it took many hours of hard labor in the sun! It was a blast though. I'd forgotten what it feels like to wake up with a sore body!
Also, during the service a man that was walking by stopped and spoke to the other Matero elders and they brought him to us since he lived in our area and we got to talk to him for a bit and we invited him to Church and he actually came! Can't wait to meet him and his family in their home this week!
It's such a privilege to be a part of this 'marvelous work'. It's truly a 'wonder'!


Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Nice hat eh?
Vine Jumprope
Model Shot

May 9 Happy Mother's Day!

This week we taught a lot but it didn’t feel like it. We had about 3 days where we were super busy and then also a few that we had fall-throughs and other disappointments.. But when you look back on the week as a whole you see it was really productive!

We had 3 investigators preparing for baptism on the 22nd of May, but one dropped off and will be baptized on a later date, and then one jumped on for the 22nd! So we still have 3! The one that jumped on was the son to Sister Mphalo who will be baptized on the 22nd. Sister Mphalo is wonderful. She’s the best friend to Sister Magunje. Her english isn’t AS good as she would like, but she attends the english class in Matero Ward every week! And she seems to really enjoy it. Seeing her leave Church yesterday beaming was awesome. I just get really happy when I see people recognizing the blessings and light that come into their life as they embrace the gospel.

We had another service opportunity this week! We were shelling maize. Here in Africa they usually leave the maize in the fields to dry out and then they harvest it and remove all the kernels (that’s what we did) and then they take the kernels to a mill which makes it into the flour they use to make 'nshima'.
The finished product: nshima!

On Sunday we went home with the Ngendabanka family to their new home and they fed us lunch. They’re actually a wonderful couple and doing very well together.
Skyping home was the cherry on top of a great week, but it made me realize how soon I will actually be home and it also showed me how things at home at basically the exact same as I left them haha!

Here’s some good news as well: 
They had 3 baptisms in Libala this week: Leyundo, Themba, and Natasha Mweemba - all people I taught! And then in 2 weeks they will baptize another 7: The Kanema Family that I taught and 2 more Mweemba sisters! Katherine, the Mweemba daughter who backed out of being baptized in April has now decided she is ready to make that covenant! So happy to see all of them get baptized!

Love you all,

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Monday, May 2, 2016

May 2 The Wonderful Members of Matero

As I conclude this week I feel confident for the future here in Matero. Last week I was feeling a bit overwhelmed wondering if I would manage to improve this area like my last area. Well now I realize that we, as a companionship, can. That companionship is made up of me, Elder Ssengooba, and.. The Lord.

We had many investigators come to Church on Sunday. Even a new family of five! The father of this family is a brother to Brother Magunje, who was baptized in January. I love the Magunje family so much. They are a young couple with 2 children: Harrison (6yrs) and Cherish (1yr). The way they joined the church was pretty funny but it shows the family's personality pretty well: 

Sis Magunje would always sit outside with the neighbor women and they would see the missionaries walk by and people would gossip things about how we are satanists and so forth. Well, Sister Magunje decided she would find out for herself. She half-jokingly just went up to Elder Sagers as they walked by and bluntly asked "So, tell me about your Church! What church is this?" and that's how the missionaries started to teach them and the Magunjes soon embraced the gospel as they saw how it could bless their family so much. 

Well, right after that, Brother Magunje got pretty sick and couldn't work anymore. The Church has been able to provide support in this time of serious struggle for them. I believe that God guided them to the Church at this time because He knows the beginning and the end and without the aid that the Church could provide it would have been terrible for them. I pray Brother Magunje will regain his strength soon though and be able to provide for his family once again.

We actually did some service for them on Saturday. Rats and dust would come through some holes in their roof, so we decided we would come and plug the holes and clean the house. Then the Groesbecks (office Senior couple) even provided paint so we could paint the sitting room.The finishing touches after all the cleaning and painting was when we put a big picture of Christ on the wall as well as a picture of the temple in between their family photos. It looks beautiful now.  (See pictures below.)

Other than the Magunjes, we have some great investigators throughout the area. This area is huge! All of the members and investigators live so far from the Church but still manage to make it every week by either paying for transport or, when funds aren't available, walking. So count your blessings as you drive 10 minutes to Church whilst others are sometimes walking for 1-2 hours !

I love this work. I am grateful for such a loving Heavenly Father.
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Filling Cracks

Sister Magunje with Brother Magunje on the right and their neice, Ruth, on the left.

In our tiredness we forgot to take a picture of it fully finished but this can make due.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

April 25 Who would've thought?

Well, this week I had my last transfer! I will serve the rest of my mission in the Matero Ward with Elder Ssengooba as my companion. I am very content with that!

Who would've thought we would be driving together the same roads we walked together one year ago?!

On Wednesday, as a Zone Leader, I drove all the transferred missionaries to the airport along with Elder Sagers driving another truck with some missionaries (including himself). Then at the airport Elder Sagers handed me the keys to the Assistants' truck and I was 'officially' an assistant haha! I came to the airport as a Zone Leader and I left as an Assistant! We then took all my stuff from Libala to the AP Flat while waiting for the Lilongwe flight to come in so we could then hand over the keys to Elder Ford. It was kinda nice not having to finish the transfers haha..

Since then things didn't slow down for the rest of the week. We had a lot going on like meetings with President, a wedding, and lots of teaching appointments.

I had an interview with President Erickson on Friday - my last official quarterly interview that is. He said it was "my departing interview with President Erickson'"since he won't be here when I go home. It was so nice. He spoke of making a plan for when I go home and he was just really down to earth. I liked how he talked about how you can't expect to do the same things you've done on mission when you go home. Things like 2 hours of gospel study and fifteen prayers a day won't be a part of my post-mission life. We also talked about my progression through my mission which was really cool to hear from his perspective haha and he doesn't really sugar coat things so it was great to hear an honest review!

On Saturday we attended the wedding of Gerard Ngendabanka and Jessica Banda, a sister in the ward. Does the name Ngendabanka sound familiar? Just go look at a blog post from Jan-Apr 2015 if you don't recall. Yes, I attended the wedding of one of my previous companions...whilst I am still on mission.  "To cut the story short...he came into my home as a missionary and he left as a son-in-law!" - Bro Banda. 

Sunday was a wonderful day. I got a glimpse of what it will be like in the Celestial kingdom when we reunite with old friends and family as I reunited with all the members of Matero Ward! It's so good to see Erick Matapo still very active. He even participated in ordaining another recent convert to have the priesthood on Sunday.
One of the recent converts, Beatrice, was called and sustained as a librarian in church and after church she wanted to get right to work fulfilling her calling so she asked us to help her clean and organize the Library. It was filthy but afterwards it was quite the sight that's for sure. 

It was a wonderful week as you can see! and to make it even better, I heard from Elder Malinga that they had twelve investigators at church on Sunday in Libala even after our 8 baptisms last week! The rest of the Mweemba family is all jumping on board now along with some others I left!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

New and Improved Sign Post for the new and improved ROUND 2 in Matero!
This thing is foreign to me

We helped a recent convert, Beatrice, magnify her calling as Librarian by cleaning out the library.

Cleaning the Library - The African Way

Who would've thought I would attend one of my comps weddings..while still on mission..
The New Great Matero District: E.Abisai, E. Hiltbrand, E. Ssengooba, E. Almeida
Featuring: Elder Groesbeck, the office elder.

Seeing the Matero Ward members again

April 18 Elder Ssengooba Round 2!

This week was insanity! Transfer news.

On monday we began our live Mission Leadership Council, so we went to the airport and picked up the Malawi leaders and then headed straight to the mission office and began the MLC. It was Elder Ssengoobas birthday so we had a super nice meal of mashed potatoes and crock-pot pork (idk, is that called a roast?). But that meal can easily make someone trunky! haha (;

The MLC took up the whole day on Tuesday as well and then Wednesday morning we took everyone back to the airport.  The MLC was mostly focused on the transition that will be taking place shortly with President Erickson leaving and President Khupu coming. Us as leaders will play a role in that transition and will be an important resource to him.

The Mission Leadership Council
On Thursday we were going to sit down for our weekly planning when we got a call from some elders telling us to come and counsel with them because they hadn't gone to the area for 4 days due to companionship problems. (Idk if I should share this on the blog since it shows missionaries aren't perfect, but hey we're people too I guess haha.) So we went and tried to counsel with them but it ended with them yelling at each other and inviting us to leave haha.

Well during our counseling together some more disobedience from other missionaries in their district came to our attention that was out of our hands so we had to report it to the Mission President.  We went over to the office and met with him and he asked to meet with all of them immediately and "see who still wants to be a missionary". Intense. (Fortunately, most everyone repented and is back on track.)

Well, after our counseling with President, he asked to meet with me personally.  He then called me to be an Assistant to the Mission President. He briefed me on my responsibility and how I was called because of my experience and abilities which will be very helpful in the mission president transition - even though I will only be with the new mission pres for 1.5 months.

I will be with Elder Ssengooba once again! and we will be serving together in the Matero ward AGAIN! It's been exactly one year since I was transferred to Matero to be with Elder Ssengooba last time ha. I am so excited. We will be on the other half of the Matero area though so it will be different and there's sooo many new faces from the time I left.

This will be an amazing experience for growth and I pray that I will be able to influence the mission in righteous ways.

We finished the week with a beautiful baptismal service for the Lukopesha Family and the Mweemba Family. Usually we hold services on Sunday, but we knew many people would come out and support if it was on a Saturday because everyone loves these families. So it was on Saturday and we had a full house.
No water at the chapel made filling the font interesting! Thank goodness we had help!

Primary children singing at the baptism.

Performing the baptismal ordinance 4 times and watching the other 4 was surreal. As I changed afterwards I almost felt like it was me that was baptized. It had a cleansing effect on me as well. I love these families so much and I am so excited for them. I know the gospel will bless their lives in so many ways. Participating in the 8 confirmations was also great but eish our arms were tired after all those! (;  I felt such love from everyone as we said goodbye. Bishop fed us that evening and expressed his love and respect for me. He talked about how he truly believes people are prepared for certain missionaries. He gave an example of Litambezi who was trying to join the church for a long time and finally managed while I was here.

We will be having dinner with the Mweembas and Lukopeshas tonight as well so that will be our final goodbyes! I hate to leave this ward!

Elder Grant Hiltbrand