Monday, February 23, 2015

Carl B. Cook is the Coolest

Feb. 2, 2015
Our district leader, Elder Doig, picked out the material and made skirts and ties for our district for mission tour. I was pretty impressed. They turned out well. I didn't get a picture of the Elders and their ties but they looked nice.

Sister Dlamini's birthday lunch today. Just gaze at the background for a little bit. Malawi is too beautiful.

Feel free to laugh at our amusing height difference. I am not even standing up straight.

Walking to the area. Ndirande is getting greener and greener.

Sister Griffus and I made month pancakes to celebrate our 7 and 14 month marks. Yes, she has double my time on mission.

Darling Family,

It has been a lovely, inspiring week and I continue to get down on my knees every morning and thank Heavenly Father for letting me be His missionary. What a good time to be alive and to be on His errand!

The past month has been one of great challenge and I feel God asking me to step up and be a better everyday. With the standard of excellence we made at MLC and the mission goals for the year on top of the promptings from the Spirit and the zone conference we had with Elder Carl B. Cook this week, I feel the refiner's fire and it is certainly doing its work. We are working harder to find families to teach and to get the best fellowshippers possible from the branch. It can be challenging to coordinate an investigating family with a member family and get them all sat down in one room to teach but oh, how rewarding it feels. 

It can be easy to call the branch missionaries who are YSA and get them to work with us but the only effective lessons are when a quality fellowshipper is there. Since we have refocused on teaching families we then have to turn to the older branch members and get them to take time out of their days to come work with us. It can be intimidating to call a older guy and ask if he will take time away from work and family to come teach but ultimately it strengthens the member when they make that sacrifice. We worked with so many members we have never worked with before this week and it is so satisfying.

I went on exchanges with Sister Griffus on Wednesday and it was good just to talk through things with her. She has recently been called to finish training Sister Browning so we had a good chat. I still don't understand why Heavenly Father called me to be a leader so young when all of these people have double my time but I have learned so much as an STL.

As a threesome, we are called to still balance Sister Mntungwa's area so we have to travel to Chilimoni a few days a week. It poured on us. Guys, the rains are no joke here. But all along I just kept a prayer in my heart that I could stay here in Blantyre for as long as possible. I am growing to love this place. It is becoming my home, just as Lilongwe was. We are just on the up and up after a long few weeks of hard finding. I am so excited about the families we are teaching. Such tiny things make me happy. The other day we were walking to the area and we saw this agogo (grandma) carrying a hoe and bag of things so we offered to help her and then she held my hand as we walked for about 5 minutes. It was so sweet. It's the little things.

As I said, we had mission tour with Elder Carl B. Cook and it was so powerful. I think I say this about every other paragraph but I am so blessed to be a missionary at this time in this place. This is the most exciting, wonderful thing in the world. Elder Cook talked about how Elder Russel M. Nelson was here in Blantyre in 2011 and he got down on all fours and dedicated the country of Malawi for the gospel. We often look back at church history and think, "I wish I could be missionary in those days when they were getting tons of baptisms" but then he said with power and conviction that "THESE are the days for Malawi". I can't tell you how much I feel that. We are pioneers but it is a privilege to be part of the genesis of something grand.

We talked about conversion and how the Lord is hastening His work and I felt so strongly that God might not be increasing the number of baptisms, although that might be a fruit of the hastening, but He is hastening us from within. He is refining His servants and giving them treasures of great knowledge to know how to do His work with more power and impact. Let me tell you, I certainly feel the hastening within myself. He said that only a, "progressing missionary has progressing investigators." We need to be growing in our conversion everyday in order to help others in their own conversion process. 

President Erickson got up at the end and read a long-anticipated letter from the Area Presidency announcing that there will be the formation of the first stake in Zambia. I know I haven't served in Lusaka but tears just filled my eyes. The work is moving forward. He also announced that this year in the Africa Southeast Area there will be 12 new stakes and 93 new branches. This is what I get to be a part of. The rain was pouring the whole conference and planes were delayed for President and Elder Cook to come and there seemed to be a lot of opposition around the whole meeting and then Sister Cook's final testimony just blew me away. She had been contemplating why there would be so much opposition and she practically had to shout her testimony over the sound of the rain but she said she knew that Satan didn't want this announcement about the stake to be made but that no unhallowed hand could stop the work. I could cry right now, I just love being a missionary.

Before and after the meeting, Elder Cook personally greeted each missionary and when he greeted me at the end he said, "Sister Proctor, thank you for your comment. It really impacted me." Woah. I don't even know what I said but these are the things you will always remember.

The Chimwanga family continues to be the best ever. We have been praying about what couple from the branch we could bring to teach with us and then on Sunday we show up to church and there is a new couple in the branch that moved from Liwonde (a group of members far away in a small town). They have been members for 6 years and they happened to have moved to the same street as the Chimwangas. I asked them right then if they would teach with us this Thursday and they said yes. What? The answer to that prayer was already in the works before we even asked. Perfect orchestrations.

Today is Sister Dlamini's birthday so we went out to eat and she also got her dreads retwisted. Yes, my companion has dreads. It's pretty cool. Hair is such a big thing here. So many times on Pdays I have gone on hunts through the market to find the perfect weave for my companion. Ha! Adventures.

I am the happiest child in the world, though this is definitely not the easiest thing in the world. Hope your week is wonderful.

Sister Proctor

Showers, BOM Raps and Service Projects

Jan. 26, 2015

Pounding casava leaves at Susan's house.

My nice nice blister,

Sister Dlamini and I trying to be legit but we aren't.

Sister Mntungwa and I. We can't take this singing thing seriously.
Darling Family,

Just an update on the water status: After 14 days of bucket baths I had my first shower last night. It was freezing cold but it was running so I felt blessed. You don't know how hard it is to wash this long of hair in a bucket. Hopefully the water is back to stay. Thank you for all of your prayers.

Last Pday we went to our investigators' house and recorded a song they wrote. These guys we are teaching our rappers/singers (authentic African swag) so we told them that they should write a song about the Boof of Mormon. It was mostly about Jesus but it was still super fun to record our song in their little mud house/recording studio. The walls have egg cartons on them because apparently it helps with the sound. Sounds legit.

We had a sweet district service this week at the zone leader's investigator's house. Her yard but sort of overgrown so we weeded and cut the grass. Lawn mowers aren't really a thing in Malawi so we were given these long curved knives to wack the grass with. I got some good looking blisters but it was a good time. The Elder's in my district are awesome. 

We had a sweet lesson with Susan, one of the members that we work with a lot. She has lived with her uncle since she can remember with no real feminine influence so it seems like she has fallen into feeling like all life is is cooking and washing and cleaning. We taught her about goals and how God can and will help her to accomplish even grand, seemingly impossible dreams. We asked her what her deepest desires were and then sort of went around the room sharing our deepest desires. I obviously have a lot of dreams but I've never thought in depth about the greatest desires of my soul. When I examined my heart I found that above all--my desire to write and to travel and to explore--I want to be a wife and mother. Yes, I know I am a sister missionary but ultimately I want to raise a family in righteousness. 

We had our first lesson with this one guy called Moses who is a teacher at a secondary school in our area. As we got to know him he expressed how he knew that it was no coincidence that we met. We just contacted him as he was leaving work one day and he said he had since pondered that out of the 31 teachers at the school he was the one that we met and stopped. It's always cool to see when people recognize that it is God that directs our paths to meet. He wanted to meet with us at his school first before we met his wife and family so our next lesson we will get to teach all of them. I am excited to see where they go.

Multiple people this week have had a hard time believing that before we came to earth we were spirits living with our Heavenly Father. It's funny that many times the argument that one person has starts a trend for every other investigator. Many people here believe that we are just made up of bodies and the breath of life and when we die the breath just returns to the air. I personally think that is a depressing doctrine. It gives me eternal hope and joy to know that I am known of God, not only now but an eternity before this mortal existence.

Well, opposition continues to hit us hard. There are so many hard things I could focus on but it makes life 10x happier when you focus on the good. There is still a ton of rain and a ton of cancellations and a ton of rejection but we also finally got a few investigators to church and I saw Alinafe (our recent convert) teach primary for the first time and it was adorable. He was having the children repeat, "JESUS LOVES ME!" There are too many things to be grateful for.

I hope you all have a great week. Look for the good!

Sister Proctor

When it Rains it Pours

Jan. 19, 2015

Selfie Sunday - No Bathe Sabbath
My foot tan is coming along nicely
Darling Family,

I think Heavenly Father is preparing my for the apocalypse because after this week I think I could survive. Today marks a week since we have had running water in the flat and electricity has been spotty, too. The rains came so hard earlier in the week that there have been flash floods, many people's houses have collapsed, and many people have died. The pipes were buried in silt so basically no one knows how soon we will get water back. It is surreal to walk through my area and see that almost every other house has a wall or more that has collapsed. No one I know has died, in fact the members have been really blessed that only minor damage has happened to their homes, but most people I know have known people who have been killed. I would say that this mission thing is pushing me to all limits, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, yet my spirits are still high. I wouldn't say I am perfectly happy every hour of every day--your heart and eyes can get weary when you are surrounded by this daily and you have to bucket shower and do everything by candle light--but I am still a happy little seesta. 

All of this devastation has caused me to ponder about how we build our own spiritual houses. We learn in Heleman 5:12 (I have shared that scripture a lot this week) that if your foundation is built on Christ that you cannot fall. I think about Blantyre--this place is basically one big rock because it is situated in the mountains--so the foundations are not the problem for these fallen houses. The bricks that they use here are simply sand mixed with water, packed, dried, and then fired poorly. We may believe in Christ and have our foundations on Him but the building materials of our spiritual houses also matter. If we build with bricks of doubt, fear, insecurity, pride, self-righteousness, or sin then when the storms come our walls will collapse. We must build with bricks of faith, trust, charity, humility, and covenants all fired with the refiner's fire of the Spirit. That is the only way we can be protected from the storms of life.

Life is truly an adventure. The lights went out one night, so I got up to feel my way to the table to find my tiny lantern and Sister Mntungwa didn't hear me get up so she just saw a unknown figure in the darkness and she screamed. In turn, I screamed and I collapsed on the floor with tiny tears in my eyes. I have never collapsed out of fear before but we laughed for a while in the dark.

I forgot to tell you last week but I am still in a threesome with Sister Dlamini and Sister Mntungwa. Sister Mntungwa's companion is still having visa problems in Malawi so we are having to balance two areas while we wait. We went to Chilimoni a couple times and waded through rivers of nasty. It was fun. These ladies are crazy and I'm learning so much from them. 

We had zone meeting and talked more about the standard of excellence and goal of 750 baptisms and the Spirit once again confirmed that this is the time to step up our game and become who God wants us to be. I love how President Erickson and the zone leaders put it---this is less of a number and more of a symbol of our desires to be the best disciples that we can be. They compared in to the sacrament. The sacrament is a symbol of the Atonement and as we take it we recommit to try our best to be perfect. It doesn't mean that we will reach perfection that week but it is us showing Heavenly Father that we will try again. I can't wait to see how this goal plays out. I am so glad that I get to be here all year to see it happen.

As I've walked through the area the word, "weary" just kept playing in my head. I have felt that physically and emotionally this week. But it also made me recall a scripture I memorized a few months ago: D&C 64:33. Instead of the word "weary" playing over and over, that scripture replaced it: "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." The more that scripture has gone through my head the more I realize that that "great work" that I am laying the foundation of is not necessarily missionary work or the Kingdom of God but that work is ME. "For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." I am laying the foundation for this great work that Heavenly Father is doing within me. Every time I choose to walk on when I just want to pause and shed little wee tears makes that foundation even better. I am choosing to become celestial rather than carnal (Shout out to Andy for your email last week).

We didn't have as many lessons as I would have hope this week but one lesson made it all work it. Yesterday we taught that family (the Chimwangas) again and again it was so full of the Spirit. They are so prepared it's crazy. They make up for the lack of investigators we have. They not only understand what we teach but the Spirit teaches them further and their responses are so deep. I hope I get to stay in Blantyre long enough to seem that family baptized. I love them so much.

Another thing that made me happy this week was that our branch president, President Matale, came and taught a lesson with us. He is the picture of consecration. He is just overseeing our branch for these few months while they find a new branch president because he is in the district presidency so his family goes to another branch. He goes and visits families in our branch multiple times a week and sacrifices his all to help the branch grow. It's amazing. On Sundays he brings a tiny lunch box, eats after church and all the meetings, and then goes to the area to visit. He's basically another missionary in the branch.

Well, life is fragile and beautiful and strange and adventurous and I am ever grateful to be the Lord's servant on His errand. Pray for the water to come back so I can take a shower again.

Love you forever,
Sister Proctor