Sunday, April 26, 2015

84 year old Christine Namwinga and her amazing journey to The House of The Lord in Johannesburg, South Africa. Many of you may know that my sister, Susan Lowe and her friend and companion Renee Query are senior missionaries serving in Luanshya, Zambia about 5 hours north of Lusaka. Also, my mother's cousin, Ruth N. Orien and her husband Orie Orien serve in our mission in Kitwe, a mining town just beyond Luanshya. Susan and Ruth and Orie served a prior mission together in Malasia. Below is an account from Sister Lowe that is too precious not to share. I have met Christine and love her, as does everyone who meets her.

Written by Sister Susan Lowe:
"I started this newsletter while I was on the plane headed to the temple in Johannesburg last Monday. There have been six months of planning with great attention to every detail, along with temple preparation classes, and acquiring passports and birth certificates (of which many didn’t have). Also, countless hours that Sister Query has put in to helping these members prepare their My Family Booklet and Four Generation Group sheet. It has all finally come to a reality. Thanks to Elder and Sister Orien for being the driving force behind this goal. Saturday night, the 11th, we put 29 children and adults on a public bus headed to South Africa, a 36 hour bus ride. One of the couples had only been married a few hours before they left. Their reception was on a tight time frame in order to make the bus. Needless to say, I feel a bit guilty sitting on a plane for 2 hours and meeting them at the temple. But nonetheless, thrilled to go and be part of this wonderful week.
(Forgive me. I will try and make this entry as concise as possible, but who I am about to write about has been a very special person throughout my mission)
One of the members on the bus is a sweet lady by the name of Christine Namwinga. She is 84 years old. Many of you have heard me mention her throughout the year. When you go on a mission, there is always someone or some event that makes you realize why you were called to a particular mission, and even down to the very city where you serve. Christine is that person for me. Every time I have tried to write about her another chapter unfolds, and now I have volumes I could actually write about. I have grown to love this beautiful person. In fact, I fell in love with her the first day I met her at her farm out in the bush of Zambia.
Christine was baptized April 6th, 2014, and confirmed one year ago to the day she leg. She lost her husband in 1992. She also suffered through the death of all ten of her children. Five of them died when they were young, at the same time, being swept away in a flash flood as they took cover under a bridge in a heavy African downpour. She recovered the bodies of only 3 of those children. One son died on his wedding day of a heart attack, another daughter died giving birth to her first child and others died of malaria.
In January of 2014 Christine became destitute and came in from her village to ask the priest for help, only to be turned away and told he couldn’t help her. She wandered through town and noticed a white signboard: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was Saturday, so she spent the night waiting outside the building until she could attend church. She recognized a strong spirit drawing her there. And so began her conversion. The elders began to teach her. On Sunday she would get up at 3:00 a.m. and walk the nine hours it took to get to church. She never asked for any help, but graciously accepted a little food here and there through fast offerings. Precious, who is a young single woman (who got married a week ago and is also on the bus to be sealed) befriended Christine and invited her to stay at her sister’s home on Saturday night and again Sunday night to make her trip to church a little easier. After her baptism she was thrilled to receive her Book Of Remembrance, which we compile and give to each new convert.
Sister Query and I met Christine shortly after we arrived on our mission. Then a month later Elder and Sister Orien went to the bush with us and visited her. We also took with us a member of the District President who is the District Historian. President Kapato took an oral history of Christine. She was quite pleased that she was getting such special attention. In fact---she LOVES getting her picture taken. I can’t even tell you how many I have of her.
Because of a newsletter Sister Orien sent home, and through a few months of sweet circumstances and some very generous friends, a scholarship fund was eventually set up for Christine through an organization called Mother’s Without Borders. In this way we were able to help Christine with some much needed assistance, yet not have it come through the mission. We are strongly counseled not to give monetary aid as senior couples, which is near impossible to adhere to.
Christine is one of the most self-reliant, and resourceful women I have ever met---next to my mother. That’s probably why I love her so much. I think they were kindred souls in heaven. We gave her a used mattress so she wouldn’t have to sleep on the dirt floor and she chopped down some small trees, lashed them together and made a bed frame. She mixed yellow clay like dirt around her farm with some water and using her bare hands painted her humble little home to give it a face lift. We gave her enough money to dig a well so she wouldn’t have to walk 5 kilometers away to fetch water from a stream. She hired local men, oversaw the work and managed her funds perfectly. We repaired her roof so it didn’t leak, built her a porch to protect her entry from the heavy rains and gave her more funds to rebuild her outdoor kitchen area. And I took on the task of adding a roof to her outhouse. I sewed pieces of woven plastic bags that mealie meal come in with used wire. Then I lashed some branches to the posts to form a pitch for the roof so the rains would run off. Then I sewed the fabric to the outhouse walls with more wire. It was quite ingenious, I must say so, and it is still working perfectly to this day.We also took her grocery shopping one day. It was the first time in 84 years of her life that she had ever gone inside a grocery store. She did not know how to even begin to shop for food. She has shopped at village markets all her life.
And now let me come back to the Temple trip and how it all began for Christine. The day that Elder and Sister Orien came for their first visit, back in August of 2014, Sister Christine was not feeling very well. Elder Orien offered to give her a priesthood blessing. And at a point in the blessing he paused for a (very) long time. When he continued, he was impressed to bless Christine that she would be able to go to the Temple and have her children and her husband sealed to her. Tears flowed and the spirit bore witness to all of us that this was the Lord’s blessing to her for being so faithful, so obedient, and so deserving of this glorious opportunity.
And so here we are: 8 months later, and that blessing has become a reality. I never doubted for a moment it wouldn’t happen, although it has been a lengthy process. First she needed to get a birth certificate in order to get a Zambian NRC (national registration card). Then a passport. Then a temple recommend. We helped her understand the doctrine of the church more and then she attended the Temple Preparation Lessons. In the midst of all this preparation she developed double vision and couldn’t see out of one eye. We nursed her along with an eye patch and medication from an eye doctor and she seems to have healed enough to get by. And now she has gone to the temple. It was her first ever trip out of town; her first ever trip on a big bus, and her first ever trip out of the country. She was so excited, and so nervous. We met them at the bus station and helped transport them to the Patron Housing at the Temple Facilities. They spent two days at the Temple and then back on the bus again for another 38 hours. There were 19 adults which included parents of three families with a total of 10 children under 11. Sister Christine had a marvelous experience at the Temple. She loved every minute of it. She was sealed to all ten of her children, her husband and her parents. Today she spent time writing her thoughts and feelings about the experience. (see below) She is a beautiful lady who has a strong testimony of the Gospel and love for her Savior. How blessed I have been to be part of her life this past year. I will miss her dearly when I leave." Written by Sister Susan Lowe

Sisters Lowe and Orien took me out to see Christine's farm. It is WAY out in the bush. It is a miracle this woman ever found the church at all...let alone go to the temple!

Her newly dug well that makes her life much easier than walking hours a day to get water.

Her queen's chair as she calls it. Sitting in front of her 2 room mud home.
The bed she made to accommodate the mattress she was given.

                                            Sister Ruth Orien and Susan Lowe

                                                     Outdoor kitchen and work table.
 Remember she is 84. She planted all her maize and ground nuts by herself and is digging some for us to take home.
Her neighbors helping
                                 The only way to carry a baby in Zambia! with a chitenge wrap!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On March 24th We became grandparents! On April 11th we did it again! Welcome to the world Gordon Hooyah Garlock and River James McCullough. We are far away but technology brought you to us and we love you both so much! Gordon was born while we were in Zambia and River while we were in Malawi.

 Gordon was 9.5 lbs but his lungs were not quite ready for life in air! so he took some extra time.

                                      But when he was ready....HE WAS READY TO GO!

                                                    River was 8.5 lbs and born in Hawaii

                   Catherine arrived for her graduation in time to see River just hours old.

                                                              Congratulations dad

                                                             Milk drunk

The writing assignment for our senior couple Family Home Evening this week was: Something Amusing on the mission. Here is what I wrote.

To identify an amusing event here in Zambia and Malawi is not hard to do.
Where do I start? The most recent was when the Humpherys daughter in law who was visiting offered to play the keyboard for sacrament meeting in the new Matero Ward and after playing some brief prelude to the opening hymn, Sister Rosemary Mulenga lead the hymn in a completely different and much lower key and continued that way through the entire meeting. It was painful at the time. Amusing after the fact.
I get lots of texts and phone calls from elders and sisters and many of them are amusing. “Hey, can I order 3 name tags one guy one and two regular?” “forgot I had a ring on my finger last night and slept with it. Now my finger is swollen, any idea what I should do?” “I know I don’t leave for another 20 months but how much can my bag weigh?” “Just a question, Are there any sickness or foods that cause exhaustion and tiredness?” “May I please call my mum tonight?” “ I got bitten on my finger by a kid. Should I be worried?”
In 14 months I will actually miss these texts.
I find the goats and chickens and unimproved pigs amusing. But not when they run in front of the vehicle and scare me. Combie drivers are not amusing to me anymore but I am still amused at how many people and things can fit in a single combie. In Blantyre I saw a bag of red onions the size of a medium coffin in a combie. The list goes on and on.

Most of the little frustrations here in Zambia and Malawi can usually…easily… be turned into amusements after the initial amazement and impatience at how ridiculous something is wears off. For example, the 6 hours I spent trying to get Interpol clearance for the Chevrolet to cross the border. I had to go to 3 different locations which were not close to each other to get various documents and pay for each. And of course I arrived at the RTSA at 12:04 and was told to come back at 14 after the lunch break. As my frustration mounted I realized what an opportunity was before me to practice patience and practice what I preach to missionaries when they face disappointments and delays. I began to be amused by the whole long process of something so simple. In the last police post office where I was paying the final clearance I sat in a very small waiting room, more like a hall that was filled with large burlap sacks…the kind they sell grass starters in on Katima Mulilo… and onions and Chinese cabbage. The sacks were filled with files upon files stuffed in the bags. I investigated the ones on top and found the very forms I had filled out all day….dated just a few months ago and knew that my paper work would inevitably end up in one of those bags. And I laughed.

The pictures that follow are pretty random. 

                                                               Sister Bingham  
     Our family home evening gatherings are pretty great and we will miss all these couples that are                                                                      leaving so much.
                                              Elder and Sister Skidmore
The Humpherys and Elder Bingham
                                           Common scene in Malawi
                                        Sunset ....long favorite time of day
                                                      Tis the season for watermelons

                                                               got any suggestions?
                                             Our board! at its almost high mark
                                      March was a busy month with so much good happening!
                               Elder Ssengooba and the titanium ring that would not come off!

                                  Teaching appointment with the elders in Ndirande Blantyre
There is something so cool about watching our elders walk away down the road.  They know where they are going and they walk with dignity.
 Sister Stones and her talks with President....can you just see her intense love for the work...she is 80!
                                                      Our friends the Munkondyas
He laid in a public hospital ward for 4 months waiting for surgery on his back. She took a bus to see him every day without a complaint. He is home now recovering and can stand with crutches. He joined the church first and she joined after she saw that he really did stop drinking beer and attended church in a white shirt for 3 hours.

And us! at Precios and Wilson's wedding in Luanshya