Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 25 The Count Down Begins

The past weeks have flown by and now here I am with only two weeks left... At least in these last two weeks we don't have anymore travels or other duties that will take us out of our area for long, so I get to really focus on the people and my purpose in coming on a mission: To invite others to come unto Christ!

The time we spent in Blantyre was so special to me. Blantyre is where I began my mission, so I have some very dear memories there. I was even privileged to go on an exchange with the elders in my first area, Zingwangwa.  I didn't take the exchange as a time for me to just go around and visit all my old friends, but I followed their plans and fortunately I got to see a few friends along the way! One of those was Louis, the first person I taught and baptized! He actually taught with us for most of the day. He is finishing college this year and then he will go on a mission in 2017! 

Grant and Louis, first person Grant taught and baptized.
The next friends were the Makawas. The Makawas were just recently baptized when I came into the area, so I got to teach them a lot of gospel truths that they hadn't heard or understood before. I was also there when a flood destroyed their home and they had to relocate to a house someone was in the process of building. Well now they have rebuilt their home in the same place that it was before...the highest house on Mount Soche! When they restored their home they made it stronger than it was before so that if floods come again it will be able to stand the storm. It was also amazing to see how well Sister Makawa speaks english now! They sent me on my way with a humble gift of 5 eggs. It was actually such a touching gesture of love because that's a large sacrifice for such a humble family.

The Makawas
The Meet the President Mtg in Blantyre was, in my opinion, the most powerful out of all 4 of the zones. I suppose that could be because President and his family have gained their footing and really understand what they are doing now. Anyways, I'm grateful I got to be there. It's been such a blessing to travel with the Kupus.
The Blantyre Zone.

After all of the travels it was good to be back in our home ward of Matero on Sunday!
I love this work. 
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 18 A week of tender mercies...

Bho bho from Blantyre!

OH MAN we are BUSY! Ha it's so fun though! Such an amazing experience to conclude my mission.

I'm back in Blantyre as we conclude our travels with President Kupu. We just arrived about 20 min ago after driving from Lilongwe where we spent about 4 days. We flew over to Malawi this time instead of having to drive and then they gave us one of the extra trucks to drive for the remainder of the trip. We will fly back directly from Blantyre to Lusaka on Friday morning and then I will have about two weeks to focus on teaching before I conclude my mission!

Whilst in Lilongwe, we had the Meet the President Mtg again, President interviewed all the missionaries, and President held a member fireside on Sunday for all the members. In the time when we weren't assisting President we got to go on exchanges with some elders in the zone.

One evening I went with Elder Maele and Elder Slade and we had some amazing lessons and then the next day I spent the whole day with Elder Ntsekwa and Elder Stark - a good friend. That was a great day with them and then to top it off we got a call from a member named Kimberly who asked us to meet her at the meetinghouse.
Kimberly was a girl I accidentally called when I was serving in Blantyre. I was trying to call one of our investigators but typed in the wrong number and called her and instead of hanging up I told her we were missionaries etc etc and then the next day she called back asking for more information about the church in Lilongwe. Cutting the story short: she was baptized because of dialing the wrong number!
When we went to the meeting house we found 4 people with the Branch President. One of them introduced themselves as Kimberly and then the other 3 were her cousin, Patricia, and her brothers, Yamakani and Herald. All of them have now joined the Church... Well actually Herald is getting baptized next week haha. But that was a tender moment for me to see how that not-so-wrong number actually affected multiple lives!

Patricia, Kimberly, Yamakani, and Herald

On Sunday we attended the Kawale Branch with the Zone Leaders. This branch is the newest in the mission I believe. They meet in the branch president's humble home. Now that the branch is growing, many people have to sit outside and do their best to listen to the program. Fortunately they are about to move into a bigger house that the Church is going to rent. That church service was one of the most special meetings Ive attended on my mission. It was amazing to see the members' vigor for the gospel.

Now to add to all of this, Kimberly and her family were in attendance, but also Rosalia, the second investigator I baptized on my mission! She moved to Lilongwe a few months after I left and has been a strong member in the Kawale Branch. She was excited to introduce me to her younger brother Carlos who was baptized a few months ago as well.
Also, Rosalia is getting married! A missionary from Kenya that served here came back and they were just engaged this last week. She was leaving to Kenya after Church, so it was so lucky that I got to see her before she left!

Rosalia Sinjani...soon to be Rosalia Njeri!

Now for the reason I didn't get to email yesterday:

We were traveling with Pres Kupu to make connections for President Kupu to meet with the King of the Chewa Tribe. Elder Andersen asked President K to pursue this and directed him to a man named Moses who was a graduate from BYU living in Malawi. Moses is close with the King and will set up a meeting in the near future for President to meet him. One of the purposes of this is to get permission for the Book of Mormon to be translated into Chichewa in the future! Chichewa is spoken in Zambia, all of Malawi, and parts of Mozambique, so that will have immeasurable effects on the growth of the Church here if the BOM is translated. Of course it will take quite awhile, but its still so exciting.
I am so grateful for the Lord's love and mercy. I know that He loves each of us and is mindful of our lives.

Love Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 11 The Copperbelt

What a week!
On Tuesday we left to 'The Copperbelt' of Zambia, which is a little over 300km to the north of Lusaka. Our missionaries serve in three cities there: Ndola, Luanshya, and Kitwe. 

This was my first time to even see the Copperbelt since I never got to serve there. We drove with the Kupus in the van, so that was a good experience. This was their first time driving in a car for that long...6 hours. The longest they've traveled in a car is probably 1.5hrs or so.

We got to the CBT and Elder Ss and I went teaching with a companionship in Luanshya. It was a wonderful experience. We met this new investigator and just gave her an overview of the restoration. She was so interested she asked for the missionaries to come again, but she lives in Kitwe so the missionaries there will have to be the ones to teach her. I guess that shows how we are all together in the work of the Lord. 

The next day we had the whole zone meet for the 'Meet the Kupu's Devotional' and interviews with the mission president. That zone just felt good. Really good missionaries. But now there was a transfer and the zone changed a ton!

We got to serve the rest of the day on exchanges with the CBT ZL's and then we left the next day. We stopped at a nice little cafe along the road home. It sure is nice to travel with the Kupus ahah.

We had to call out a transfer on Friday and we hadn't talked about them very much beforehand since we've been so busy with other things, so we were talking and counseling for a couple hours on Friday. It took long since President Kupu has only met half of the mission so we did a lot of explaining. President Kupu has brought some good changes as well. He personally called everyone that is called to leadership in order to extend the call himself. It was a great experience and we feel confident about this transfer. I got to see President Kupu's wisdom and divine calling as we counselled about the transfers as well. He would listen to our comments and suggestions but then ask a question or suggest something that maybe we hadn't considered. It helped me see that he is the one the Lord called to preside and oversee the missionaries and we are there to help and counsel. Transfers are always a revelatory experience though that's for sure.

As part of this transfer we are losing 5 really great missionaries who have been some good friends to me though out my mission. We're actually with all those departing missionaries right now at the mission office as they have their interviews and so forth. The Kupu's did a pig roast for them! We didn't have all the correct materials this time, so we ended up having to cut it into quarters and barbecue it. It was quite the adventure hunting down a pig though! My comp and I were asking all the members as we visited with people on Saturday and we got really lucky to find a man who sold pigs! We woke up early this morning and went with Pres Kupu and Junior back to the pig man and got the pig. Viewer discretion is advised when viewing those photos!

 I love you all so much. I love this work so much. I feel like lately my emails home have been sort of a travelogue since we have been travelling so much and have been so busy with administrative duties, but I am learning a lot from this experience -especially from working so closely to President Kupu.

Elder Grant Hiltbrand

July 4 Welcome President, Sister and Junior Kupu!

What a week! The craziness has officially started.

President Kupu was scheduled to land on Tuesday at 9:00pm, so Elder Ss and I were so excited we got there early dressed in our suits and then later President and Sister Erickson showed up as well and we all waited anxiously. Well we saw many people come out and we kept waiting and waiting and then less and less people stated coming out and then after quite awhile they told us "That was the last flight and those were the last passengers"... so we went to the South Africa Airline office and found out they were rebooked to land at 12:30  on Wednesday. Well The Ericksons flight home was to leave at they would be already through security and would not be able to meet the Kupus.

On Wednesday we had planned for President Erickson and Pres Kupu to meet for an hour or so and have a small meet and greet with muffins and juice, but that wasn't happening anymore, so we met at the office and still had the muffins and then bade the Ericksons farewell as the senior couple took them to the airport. Later, once again in our suits with just as much excitement, we left to the airport - this time with the Groesbecks. We waited and eventually they came out and greeted us and told us that all of their 9 articles of luggage were missing! What a mess, but later that day the airport called and we went and retrieved the luggage. 
Also, the Kupus and the Ericksons met ON the airstrip! The Ericksons were heading to board their plane while the Kupus were getting off of theirs!

Throughout Wed, Thurs, and Fri, I was the Kupu's driver. It was nice because we got a lot of time to get to know them, but I'm sure glad President Kupu is now driving himself!

So the Kupus: 
They are from the Pacific island nation of Tonga. President and Sister Kupu came with their 17 yr old son, Junior (named after his father, Inoke). President Kupu was a stake president for 8 years as well as a principal for the Liahona High School, a church-owned school. He and his wife graduated from BYU-Hawaii. Junior is making a huge sacrifice to accompany his parents on this mission. He originally didn't want to come but after counseling with a general authority about it and praying about it he felt he should come. He gave up friends and family and the comforts of home as well as a spot on the U16 national rugby team, so I have a lot of respect for him. He will be attending the American International School of Lusaka for 2 years then he will serve his own mission. (He's praying he goes back to Tonga or else New Zealand where he was born.) 

They told us that Tonga has a population of about 103,000 people and over 50% of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! They have a chapel in every village!

The Kupus are classic Tongans. They are super friendly and loving and are always laughing. They also love food haha they came with one suitcase just packed with American candies to give out to the missionaries.  They are soo much different than the Ericksons, but that's okay. President Kupu is going to be so good for this mission and will take us to higher heights. Sometimes we think we always have to go the same direction to go higher, but sometimes it's by switching directions that we really go higher.

We had a "Meet the President and Family Meeting" on Friday where the Kupus introduced themselves, showed everyone where they come from and a little about their culture and then President Kupu told us what direction he wants to go and what he expects. He is putting great emphasis on PMG (Preach My Gospel) and the Book of Mormon as well as teaching investigators to repent. Junior wore the traditional Tongan skirt thing for the meeting as well. 

On Saturday, we showed Pres around Lusaka and went to all the chapels and meetinghouses where President had interviews with all the missionaries. We will be doing this along with the Meet the Pres Mtg in all the zones over the next few weeks.
Tomorrow we drive 6 hrs up to the Copperbelt Zone, then the next week we will be busy with sending out 5 missionaries and receiving 8 new missionaries then we will fly over to Malawi and do the meetings in Lilongwe and Blantyre. 

Lots of excitement for Elder Ss and I over the next few weeks. What a fun way to conclude my mission experience.

Love you all!
Elder Grant Hiltbrand

Monday, July 4, 2016

Goodbye From President and Sister Erickson

Below is a letter from President Erickson to all the missionaries. I suppose I put this on the blog for my own enjoyment, but you may find it inspiring as well.
25 Jun 2016

Hiltbrand, Grant Alan

Dear Elders and Sisters,

It's Saturday afternoon, the 25th of June and I am sitting in my office in Lusaka. My mind is awash with a host of different emotions. I sit at my desk, which to me has become a sacred place, and think over the words I might choose to use in saying goodbye to my beloved missionaries. No words seem to adequately express the depth of emotion a mission president might be feeling at this time. Certainly joy, peace, satisfaction, pride (the good kind) in our missionaries and love. However, I also feel a sense of loss at the parting dear friends. Sister Erickson and I have grown close to you and the members, and have much love for you all. We will hope to see many of you in years to come. However, we live at a time when we can stay in contact regardless of where we live through social media and email, so we have hopes to stay in contact throughout our lives. We will be eager to see what the Lord and you have made with your lives and how you are growing. 

Regardless of the degree of contact after our missions, I'm content in knowing we are all eternal Brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God, our Heavenly Father. And so, it is in His care and love that I trust you will all be blessed. This brings enormous peace.

As you know, President and Sister Kupu will arrive in the mission Tuesday evening. As soon as he arrives he assumes the presiding role as President and I am released. As of his arrival my phone number will be his phone number. We depart the following day.

Then it is with the warmest of affection and love that I leave you my blessing. Please know of our abiding faithfulness to you.

President and Sister Erickson