Monday, April 25, 2016

Makadii Week 12

Hi Everyone!
This week has been really action packed, and a ton of things happened toward the end of the week. I'm loving it, and trying to immerse myself as much as I can so that I don't dwell on the negative things.
The start of the week was pretty normal, and it actually started to look like some of our baptisms wouldn't happen, and that we would fall short of our goal this month. On Friday, everything turned around, and everything came together for us. We ended up having 7 baptisms this weekend, which was our goal! Also, one of the couples we have been working with, Patrick and Rachal, were married, and were part of the group that was baptized. The baptism and marriage went great, and I myself got to baptize 4 of the 7! The marriage ceremony was really cool, and we didn't outside by the church building. Just a small group of people came, and the Stake President (President Makaza) performed the ceremony. It was a really cool thing to be apart of. We even got them some cake to celebrate as well. Sunday was a very busy, but oh so wonderful day. Our hard work has been paying off! We had 9 interviews, but 2 ended up not being baptized. There are just some things that happen that we really can't control. Even though we had those people fall through, we were still so successful this month, and those people we missed this time we will be sure to pick up next time. It's pretty crazy that I've had 14 baptisms in just 2 transfers. It's quite amazing to me actually. People here are just so ready to hear our message, but they have to work to follow it.
The exciting news is that a representative from Church headquarters was here a week or so ago to start plans for the temple. He went to a few sights around Harare, including right next to the mission office in Highlands. From the sound of things, it will most likely be built there, but we don't know for sure. It is still in the works.
I also got a pretty sweet Zimbabwean Soccer jersey, and had my name and number put on the back. The printing guys messed it up originally, but they fixed it and it looks great now. Elder Milikafu got one as well. It was our companionship item! There is also a guy in our ward who makes things for missionaries. He is making some elephant leather shoes and a belt for me very soon. I'm super stoked!
It sounds like things back home are going very well for all of you. I hope the end of the school year goes well, and that the crappy weather starts to stop. I do actually miss the snow, but it is starting to get a little cooler here. Even though it will never snow, I still enjoy the colder weather. My companion thinks I'm crazy! He gets cold when it's like below 60 degrees, and that is the perfect temperature for me!
The braai last week was pretty fun. We ended up playing some soccer afterwards, and I played ok. I had the chance to score but totally screwed it up/ Better luck next time I guess! :) We are playing the other Harare Zones again today, so I think I will have my shot at redemption!

The Shona word for the week is Mupfana. It means little kid, or child. Elder Milikafu is super super short, so lot's of other missionaries call him that just to make him mad. They say he is the smallest missionary in the whole church! The funny thing is that I could actually see that being true! 

I still have no idea what is going to happen when he leaves, which will happen this Friday. I hope that these last few days are awesome for the both of us. I could end up being in a threesome with other elders, or just get a new companion, but I haven't been notified either way. I'm both excited and nervous about having a new companion, but I feel like I'm ready for the challenge. I just really hope and pray that he is a good guy! I'm sure he will be.

I didn't end up getting to sing in church this Sunday, because the others slept in and forgot! That happens a ton here! People always plan for things, and then just don't show up. It is so so different from home when you can count on people to be on time to things. Just part of the lifestyle here I guess. It makes me laugh most of the time, but other times it can really irritate me. We practiced again after church, and they said that this time they would for sure be there. haha :)

One thing I've come to know out here is the reality of this gospel, and how hard Satan actually works to make us miserable. So many things happen daily that show how he works on the people we teach, and on us as missionaries. He is real, and we have to do all we can to combat what he is throwing at us and the people around us. Back home my perspective of the gospel was so limited, but now I can really see that this is real. It is not some distant thing we just learn about, it is why we are here. The gospel is and should be what are lives are centered around, because without it our lives would have no meaning and no purpose. Sometimes I think that it would be easier to not know about the gospel, and to just live in the world, but I know that I have been called to be above that. I have been learning these things my whole life, and it is so important for me to live the way my Father in Heaven wants me to live; like his Son Jesus Christ.

I love you all so much. Please keep me updated on all the crazy things happening in your lives.

Until next week...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Makadii Week 11

Hey everyone!

Ndeipi!? (What's up!?)
Zimbabwe is great at the moment, and this week was chalk full of wonderful experiences. The days are starting to run together more and more, and time is starting to fly. I hope things continue to move fast, but I'm doing my best to enjoy every second.
Today is independence day in Zimbabwe. Most of the shops are closed for the holiday, so there actually aren't many people in town today, which is a nice change of pace. It is so crowded here most of the time! Winter is about to start here oddly enough. The winter season here is summer for you guys, and the summer/rainy season here is winter for you guys. Winter here isn't really winter, but it does cool down. It doesn't usually rain in the winter, but the temperature is pretty calm. Nights are always the perfect temperature, at least since I've been here.  It's pretty weird, but my body has adjusted well for the most part.
A couple of cultural things:
1. They do use US currency here, but only the bills. The coins they use aren't the US coins, which is really weird to me. They have what they call bond coins instead. They are very similar to US coins, but they are different.
2. Corn is absolutely everywhere. It is called Chibage here. I eat it almost all the time, and it is considered the staple food of Zimbabwe. Sadza is made from it, people roast it, and put it into many different foods. You can't look in one direction when your outside of town without seeing fields of corn.
3. Public transportation here is mostly done by combies. They are small vans with a driver and a conductor that collects the money from people that ride. They are everywhere as well, and they all look very similar. It only costs around 50 cents, but it can be more depending on how far you are going. So far I've only had to ride in a combie twice, which I'm very thankful for. They fill them past capacity with people most of the time, so it is very hot, smelly and cramped. Most missionaries without a car have to use them, and almost everyone else here uses them anyway.
The bugs here have really died down, and they are only ever a problem at night. My mosquito net has really helped, and the fan we have helps as well. I only have a few new bites every so often. The altitude here is almost 5000 feet, so it hasn't been too big of a change. It has been super hot this week, and I'm even more tan than I was! It is supposed to continue to be hot for a while.

We got our car fixed this week. Finally! It is running very smooth now. I wouldn't say that I'm a pro with the manual yet, but I'm pretty darn good at it now. I will be getting certified to drive soon. When we were in town getting our car fixed, there was a huge protest march going on. Politics here are pretty crazy right now. Things didn't get violent, but there was a lot of yelling, and a lot of people.
The highlight of the week was going to a small zoo/game park. We were planning on seeing some elephants, which I was super excited for, but it didn't end up happening. I sure hope it happens soon! I still got to see some lions, a zebra, a leopard, and monkeys. I got to play with the monkeys, which was a blast!
On Saturday, we got to go to the baptism of the Kambuzuma branch, another area in our district. I even got to be a witness for the 4 baptisms that took place. The cool thing is that they don't have font, so they were baptized outside in a big tub! Most areas have to do their baptisms that way, which is actually pretty cool.
Zone Conference on Tuesday was also a blast. I always enjoy learning and being around other missionaries. There were a few other Zones along with ours, so it was pretty packed. I also got to give a talk in church on Sunday about missionary work. I feel like it went really well, and I got quite a few compliments. I am singing a hymn in church next week as well with a few other members. I'm excited to share my love of music and singing with others!
Soccer hasn't been happening the last few weeks, which is a bummer. I hope I get to play again soon. Today, we are planning to go to Lake Chivero to have a braii (a barbeque/cookout). It should be really fun!
Our area is going very well. Our baptism will be happening this coming Sunday, and we are planning to baptize another 8 people, if all goes well. The marriages that we have been planning will be happening in a few weeks, so that is very exciting! Our Stake is having an FSY camp this week, so many of the members are gone until next weekend, that's why our baptism was moved from Saturday to Sunday.
Our investigators are progressing well. We are currently teaching a pair of twin daughters, and their friend. Their names are Tonderai, Tafadzwa, and Tatenda. The twins are actually the daughters of a sister we baptized last month, Sister Mapingire. It is really fun to teach them, because every time we do all the kids in the neighborhood come and join the lesson. It has been a blast to see them all get involved. They are learning a lot, and if all goes as planned, they will be baptized this coming week.
I'm loving it here, and am learning so much. I still have to remind myself that I'm really in Africa sometimes. It sounds like things are going really well back home. I wish all of the college students the best of luck on their upcoming finals! I hope they go well.
I am very excited for the upcoming changes. Elder Milikafu will be leaving in a little over a week, and I really feel like I'm ready for whatever gets thrown at me. It truly is amazing how my confidence has grown in such a short time. Jesus Christ truly does help us grow, as long as we are willing to let him work in our lives.
I love you all! Keep working hard, and keep loving.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Makadii Week 10

Yo! I've officially hit double digits in weeks. That's pretty sweet!
This week was really great. On Wednesday and Friday I was on exchanges with other Elders in the district. Wednesday I was with Elder Hove in Kambuzuma, which is a small suburb close to Marimba. It was nice to meet some new people and see some new sites. The other exchange was a little more important, because it was my first time ever leading the area, as well as leading the lessons and visits. I was with Elder Chidarara, who is currently serving in Glen View, on Friday in Marimba and Mufakose, and all in all I feel like I did very well. The good news is that I found every house, and had very meaningful contact with all of the people. I was really worried about knowing where to go, but the Lord helped me! The bummer is that we had to walk all day. Mili had the car, so it was the first day I really had to walk a lot. Our area is much bigger than I thought, especially on foot. I'm very thankful for the car we have!

I really focused on inviting everyone to church and getting them excited about conference. And..... everyone I invited to conference came! It was so great to see them come. I hope that they felt the spirit, and I hope they continue to come. We had 23 investigators come, on top of most of the recent converts. We were very blessed this week. The whole stake came to our chapel, which is the Stake center to watch Conference. The Stake President for the Marimba Park Stake actually lives in our area, so that's pretty cool.
The bummer news is that we didn't have a marriage this week. Shylet's husband ended up leaving for a job in Bulawayo for 2 months, so her marriage and baptism will have to be postponed. I hope she doesn't fall through the cracks. We'll have to make sure we continue to help her. We bought her a cake to celebrate, but we ended up eating it in celebration of the temple announcement instead! :) The good news though, is that Sister Rondinyu and her husband have officially decided to be married! We will be getting their details this week and will be starting banns on Sunday if all goes well. We also have two other couples that are to be married and baptized in the next few weeks, which is very very exciting. Conference this week did end up postponing those marriages, so some things have been pushed back a week, but it's all good. This is the Lord's work, so I know he knows what is best for these people. The good news is that we will still be having a good number of baptisms this month and next. Things are great, and I'm very blessed to have been this successful so far.
General Conference was absolutely amazing. I truly regret sleeping through it all the time back home. Our church leaders are truly called of God, and I know the Lord is speaking through them. I felt the spirit so strongly throughout, but especially during 3 talks. President Uchtdorf's talk in the Sunday morning session was so great. It made me realize that it is never too late to choose Christ. His talks are always uplifting. My favorite apostle of all time is Elder Holland! His talk to end the conference was probably the best talk I have ever heard. I even downloaded it so I can listen to it all the time. The Lord is so aware of us in our individual circumstances. He will always be there. The last talk that really stood out was from Elder Oaks. Since coming on my mission, I now have a totally different view of opposition and trial. They are essential for us in this life to truly become like our Heavenly Father. We can't run away from them, we have to face them head on. As we do so, and exercise our faith, the Lord will always be there to make up the difference.
Things are getting better and better each day here. I'm already looking forward to the October Conference! I have only 3 General Conferences left in Zimbabwe.
We have Zone Conference tomorrow which is going to be sweet! I love being around the other missionaries and leaders. It really strengthens me, and helps me to tackle my frustrations.
One thing I want you all to know is how extremely blessed you are to be living in the USA. You have no idea how lucky you are to be in a developed place, with all the luxuries that come with it. Things are tough here, and my eyes have been opened very wide. I have really come to realize that we can't take anything we have for granted. Trust me, you have absolutely no reason to complain. When I get back, I won't either. I know I've always been one to find something to complain about, but you have no idea how good you have it. Just know that you are blessed beyond belief. Please do what you can to help those people that don't have what you have.
All I know about the upcoming changes when Elder Milikafu leaves is that I will be getting a new companion. I still don't know if I will be changing areas, are how the actual exchange will occur, but I know it is coming. I have only 2 weeks left with Mili. Man it's been a crazy ride with him, but I wouldn't trade him for any other trainer. I have very blessed to be with him and learn from him. I will do my best to carry the torch after he is gone. What a crazy, outgoing, and hard working guy. I will make sure to stay in contact with him. By the way, he says that when the temple here officially opens, he will be the first one inside! He wants to camp out on the temple grounds the night before! Another cool thing about him is that his grandfather was the first branch president in the area we are serving, when the the branch first started. Now there are two wards in that same area, not just one branch. It's crazy how the Lord's work is moving so fast here in Zim.
One thing I know is that the members and people here REALLY need this temple. I'm very thankful that it is coming.
You guys are the best! I hope all continues to go well back home. Know that I love you and pray for you all the time. Put your trust in the Lord and his example and you can't go wrong. Just like President Monson said, If we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice.
Stay sweet!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Makadii Week 9

Hey Everyone!
Things have been so great. It was a wonderful end to the week to hear that Zimbabwe is getting a temple! When I got here, I told everyone that it would be announced while I was here, but I just didn't expect it so soon. Elder Milikafu almost started to cry when he found out. Bringing a temple to Zimbabwe was the reason he came on his mission. He feels like extending his mission happened so that he could hear the news while he was still a missionary. I'm so happy for him, for this country, for this mission, and for these people. I'm super excited to be serving here during all the excitement. I really feel like this announcement will really change this place.
I'm bummed I didn't actually get to watch conference this weekend, but I will next weekend! I'm sure it was wonderful, and from what I've heard so far it was very special.
The first week of this transfer went pretty darn well. We have had a few investigators drop us, but we have around 10 that we will hopefully be baptizing this month. We will also be having at least 3 marriages this month, one of them on Sunday! It will be my first marriage on my mission, so I'm very excited to be apart of that.

I only have 3 more weeks with Mili, so I'm doing my best to learn all that I can while I have him around. He talks ALL THE TIME. More than anyone I've ever met. This week, there have been some days where we don't get home til past 9:00, which is when we're supposed to be back. Some of our lessons have been around 2 hours long, which in my mind is way too long. He is just so fired up about teaching people, it's crazy. I'm just trying to be patient with him as much as I can. He ends up reteaching whatever I talk about, which frustrates me a lot of the time. It makes me feel very useless, but I'm doing my best. I'm trying not to be discouraged.
There is one powerful family in our area, the Panya family. The mother is so wonderful and feeds us all the time. Her husband is a member, but is very less active, and we never see him. They have many children, and one of them has recently returned from his mission. His name is Peter Panya (not Peter Pan), and he is the Ward Mission Leader in one of the wards we are serving in. He is super helpful. We have been teaching some of the other kids in the family, as well as many of their friends. We are planning to baptize and marry two of the family friends this month, as well as one of the kids. We baptized one of them last month. I've really learned that member support and fellowship is critical to missionary work.
It just continues to amaze me how people are prepared to hear the gospel. Many of our lessons go smoothly because they are so prepared. It's awesome to see the spirit work on them.
So his week, we had a flat tire. I've officially changed my first tire on my mission, and I'm sure there will be many more. The potholes here are just ridiculous. Luckily, people have been fixing some of them in our area. The government just doesn't fund any road construction really, so the roads are just crap. We make it work though. Just to clarify, the drivers side of the car is on the right, and cars travel on the left side of the road here. Things are very opposite, but I'm getting used to it.
The soccer match this week was pretty low key. Not many missionaries could make it because of gas. We are only given a limited number of gas coupons each month, so sometimes people run out. Luckily, we had enough to be able to go. The fields we play on are just dirt and grass. We don't play on actual nice soccer pitches. Some times the grass is pretty high. It is very unorthodox, but it's fun to play backyard soccer in Africa! I'm not very good, but the other guys say that I'm getting better every week.
One thing that has been really different here is breastfeeding. People don't get mad or offended by it like they do in the US. Moms just do it wide out in the open, even during lessons. Just a different culture I guess. At first I was pretty uncomfortable, but I've gotten used to it now.
I am super happy to know that my Celtics ended the Warriors home win streak! Yeah buddy! With the playoffs coming up soon, they are going to make some noise in he Eastern Conference!
The Shona words of the week are Gogo and Kudenga. Gogo means Grandma, and Kudenga is heaven. I've learned how to start a prayer in Shona as well!
One thing I've come to realize this week is the importance of love. If I can do my best to love the people here,and to genuinely care for them, everything will be great. My frustrations will diminish, my weaknesses will become strengths, and I will really start to love being out here. It is truly remarkable how the Lord has taken me, a skinny runner boy from Wyoming, and turned me into someone I never thought I could be. He truly does make weak things become strong. All we have to do is turn to Him. It's also really cool that I will continue to grow throughout my mission.

Missionary work is the toughest thing I think any member of the church can do, so you have to find ways to be happy as you do it. I encourage all of you to follow Christ and to love those around you, and if you do you will find that everything else in your life will work out.

I hope all continues to go well with you back home. I love you all very much, and I'm very much grateful for your support.
Stay sweet!