Linda and I traveled to visit a man who has expressed great interest in the Church through his research on the internet. Weston Kapsule is a young father of two children: Owen (7) and Marissa (2). He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Kasungu, in central Malawi, about 115 kilometers from the closest branch of the Church in Lilongwe. Weston studied religion at the university. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Theology. For eight years, he was a pastor for the Church of the Nazarene. He served as the vice secretary of the Evangelical Association of Malawi, the Executive Secretary of the District Interfaith Association, and a board member of the Mandela Foundation and the Mssido organization. Professionally, he is national director of a charitable organization and an adjunct professor. He speaks English, as do many of the people in his area.
Weston researched information about The Church on Mormon.org and contacted the missionaries in Salt Lake by chat on several occasions. The sisters suggested that he attend Sunday meetings in Lilongwe. We first met Weston when he dutifully arose early the next Sunday morning and took a bus so that he could attend Sacrament Meeting that began at 9:00 a.m. He loved the meetings and the people and wanted the same blessings in Kasungu. While there, he was also able to observe a baptism, which greatly impressed him. In Lilongwe he met a senior missionary couple who were very helpful and introduced Weston to the leaders of the branch and gave him some copies of the Book of Mormon, Church DVDs, Gospel Principles, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, hymnals and other materials. This week we took him another larger box of materials to use with those attending the meetings in his home.
It may sound odd but we are only building the Church in areas where there is a large enough population to support future branches, districts and stakes. A single branch this far from Church leaders in Lilongwe would put enormous strain on leaders who don’t have resources to travel and support these distant groups of members. For most of them, this relatively small distance might as well be on a separate continent. In time however, we will grow the strength of the leaders in Lilongwe and they will be able to close the distance to a group like Kasungu.
For this reason, our missionaries are only authorized to teach in centers of strength, where members can congregate together and local leaders support the growth of the Church. The Sisters in Salt Lake, however, continued to teach Weston. He introduced them to some other investigators, and soon two sets of Sisters were involved with this growing group.
Weston and his wife began to invite people to his home, where he taught them the lessons that the Sisters gave him over the phone, and he also taught them lessons from the Book of Mormon, a copy of the Gospel Essential manual, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, Gospel Principles, Liahona, Jesus the Christ and other materials that he had received from missionaries and the branch leaders. The people are learning the hymns from a DVD, and Elizabeth is trying to start a choir.
Weston now has a gathering of 17-30 people a week, most of whom are devoted to learning the gospel and desire baptism and a branch.
Weston challenges them to bring new people to the services to make Kasungu a vibrant area so that they can attract the attention of Church authorities, who will establish a branch of the Church and deliver the priesthood and gospel blessings. The thirty-four people in the congregation have express a desire to be baptized.
The Sisters sent Weston the baptismal questions, and he quizzes the people to determine their commitment and their testimonies. He even taught the group about tithing and fast offerings and the people donated money as an act of faith. Of course, they don’t know where to deliver the money.
About half the people speak English and the others speak only Chichewa, the national language. Weston conducts the meetings so that all can understand. He regularly reads the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. For General Conference in April and in October, he gathered his people and they watched together.
We will continue to stay in contact with him as we grow and strengthen the Church in Lilongwe and expect in time we will be teaching him and others in Kasungu.