Thursday, April 23, 2015

Adventure is Out There

April 20, 2015

Walking through Nyambadwe with our plastic bag and chitenje for protection. 

Ian Mafuleka, our eternal investigator. He is like my Malawian grandpa (agogo amuna). I can't wait to see him in the celestial kingdom.

Carrying maize on our heads.

Visiting the Elder's recent convert and her two kids. She is my age and has two kids. Mind blown.

.On the top of the hill. Be still my soul.

Hiking down. That mountain in the distance is Ndirande mountain.
The sun rising on our hike this morning.

Evance may not speak any English but he is sure sweet and so proud of his coloring.

Crossing the rickety bridge in our area.  

Darling Family,

It was a week full of adventures and so many times where I could have been disappointed or frustrated I just laughed. That is one of the greatest lessons I am learning lately. Laughing makes every situation so much better.

Breaking news: My Mozambiquano companion from November is ENGAGED. Yep. That is strange. And exciting of course. But we were just walking around Blantyre together and now she's almost married. What?

We had interviews with President Erickson this week and since it has only been a few weeks since the last interviews we just had a really good chat. He made it clear, not only to me but to my companion, my district leader, and even the branch president that Sister Dlamini and I will be split up very soon. I don't know whether it will be this week or May 12th (transfers are a bit unpredictable in this mission) but I am anxious for the call this week. Everyone thinks I am going to Zambia so I am preparing my heart to be happy either way. I love Ndirande so, so much and I would be happy to stay but President told me that I am needed in other places in the mission. I'll go where God wants me to go. So next week I might be off to another place or with a new comp. We shall see. President told me since the last time we met I seem more settled within myself and I think that is true. He talked about the perspective in which we view our trials. We can either think that God is punishing us and laughing at us in our troubles or we can see them from the viewpoint that He desires to bless us and raise us higher. I love President Erickson. I feel privileged to serve under him.

Well, we definitely thought rainy season was over but it came back in a big way this week. The rain caught us completely unprepared so many times and we were subsequently drenched. One day we were trying to find this guy we contacted on the bus in Nyambadwe. We had never been that deep into the neighborhood so we sort of just went for it thinking it wouldn't be too far. Well, we walked forever and even found Mr. President's house (President of Malawi). When we finally found his house, he ended up being a Jehovah's Witness which was just slightly awkward. Then he had some work to do so we had to wait for a while (we weren't about to turn back after walking all that way). When we finally began to teach they were cutting down a tree outside. Basically every little detail was totally not ideal but instead of getting frustrated we just laughed. It poured on us our whole walk and all we had was a plactic bag and a chitenje to cover us but it was just so fun. I love being companions with Sister Dlamini. We are cherishing every last moment we have together.

One of my favorite moments of the week was helping Weekly to pray. He is still progressing amazingly for his baptism on May 3rd but he has been feeling like no answers have been coming. So we knelt down in his small house and prayed together. He gave a very nice prayer but didn't ask any specific questions. I still felt the Spirit but when we got up he said he felt nothing. We discussed this recently at MLC about having no fear to just ask them to pray again so Sister Dlamini and I looked at each other and asked him to pray again. This time we quieted the children playing outside, closed the door, and reminded him again to ask specific questions to his Heavenly Father. After the prayer we just stayed on our knees in silence for a few minutes and when we finally got up you could tell in his voice and eyes he had been touched. ALSO, he went to a YSA activity in the branch and bore his testimony to all of the YSA. I love seeing people change and bud in the gospel.

That lesson with Weekly took longer than planned because it was raining like crazy and you can't really hear each other when rain is pelting the metal roof so we decided to take a short cut to get to the meeting house for a young women activity we planned. The short cut involved a crossing a river that runs through our area and when we arrived to the river edge it was much higher than normal. All the stepping stones were still exposed except one so I decided to take my shoes off so they wouldn't get too wet. When I took my shoes off, a shoe insert fell out into the water and I was left staring into the water hoping it would come back up. The onlookers all assumed since I was in the middle of the river on a rock staring down that I was scared so they all began speaking in Chichewa trying to help me across. I guess if you drop your car keys into hot lava, don't bother. They're done for. The same principle applies to a shoe insert falling into a river in Blantyre. We safely made it across but we were soaked and when we finally made it to the meeting house no one showed up to the activity. We just laughed. Oh, life. Too many adventures.

Susan (the member we work with a lot) was going to the maize mill on Friday but we needed her for a few lessons so we promised we would help her on Saturday if she would come with us on Friday. On Saturday we took her baskets/bags of maize a few hundred meters to the maize mill and we got to help her grind it and sift it. It's fun to experience culture so first hand. Then, once again, it started pouring rain unexpectedly and we ran through the rain and muddy roads with maize on our heads. 

We finally got a new branch presidency! It was so exciting to see these men called. Our new branch presidency is made up of Brother Amos (president) who was baptized just last year, Brother Wisiki (1st councilor) who comes to teach with us a lot, and Brother Duwa (2nd councilor) who is a young RM that recently had his first baby. I love how the Lord calls people in their vulnerability and weakness and raises them higher. President Matale could hardly hold back his emotions. Ndirande branch is like his baby. I will missing being able to work with President Matale so closely, though he is still in the district presidency so we will still see him around.

This morning we got up early and climbed a tall hill we live next to. We didn't really know how popular this hill is for praying but as we hiked we passed prayer groups singing and many people praying aloud. People get pretty intense about their prayers here ie yelling/speaking in tongues (basically gibberish), slamming rocks together, shaking, etc. It was sort of an interesting metaphor to pass all of these people so desperately trying to connect to deity and ascend above them all to the very top where there was the most light and the greatest view. We did our hour of personal study on the top of the hill where we could see all of Blantyre and the road to Lilongwe and as I prayed to know the Lord's will for me the Spirit said, "To be here now--this is My will for you." My first thought was that I was in the right place being a missionary here in Malawi but as I thought further I realized that it also encompassed our whole journey up the hill. The Lord wants me to live above the noise--above the world. He wants me to seek His light which is higher and takes a bit more effort to reach. He wants me to make the temple a priority and seek revelation there. It was a heart-changing study/hike.

I love being a missionary. I love laughing at the hard times and finding the joy in all things. I love testifying of Christ every day and I love finding those that are prepared. I am the most blessed child on the planet.

Have a wonderful week.
Love forever,

Sister Proctor

Shake the Dust

April 13, 2015

Sister Zohner and I are spider ninjas....or just super strange children.

Sister Griffus, Sister Merrill and me watching the women's session.

Ma seestas watching the women's session.

Darling Family,

The seasons are changing and it's strange to see Malawi come full circle to the season I arrived here in. I have been in Ndirande to see fields plowed, maize planted, grow taller than me, harvested, die, and be cleared. Now the weather is becoming colder and I couldn't be more grateful. We are eating maize and pumpkin and squash so basically my mind is stuck in October now. Is it really April?

My dear friend, Ariana Grundvig, sent her last email from the mission field last week entitled "What I Learned from 'Cutting Vegetables'". Basically she related what she learned on her mission to how many different ways her companions have cut vegetables in the last 18 months and I totally related because everyone cuts their vegetables differently (shout out to Sister Orr for her patience in the kitchen ;)). But besides that, it made me reflect upon the time I have spent here and what more I want to do before I go home. I feel like I just barely dropped Ariana at the curb at the MTC and now she is home. I guess this whole week has been one of refreshment and renewal--a reconsecration to the work.

I experienced two of some of my favorite lessons on my mission this week:

1. We taught that high roller in Nyambadwe again and I literally had to hold back my giggles. When someone just totally gets it and they see the importance of what you teach you can't help but want to do a victory dance when you close the gate behind you. We taught him about the priesthood keys given to Peter and how that is the foundation of Christ's church and he said, "Well that means Peter must have passed the keys to someone which means one man on this earth holds the keys. Who is it?" When we explained further he said, "This is big news. This means war!" in the least contentious way possible. Basically he realized that there must be one true church and he is super intelligent and I am pumped to see him progress.

2. We taught Katie again, and she told us that she had received so many answers to prayers and she knows that what we teach is true. The sweetest part of the lesson was when she told us she had a dream that she was in the temple and a white lady was showing her around. Sister Dlamini and I were both in tears. Her only stumbling block is her calling in her church. I love Katie so much.

It's also just amazing how effortlessly people progress when they are prepared. I have been spending so many weeks and months doing everything I can to get people to keep commitments and come to church and no one has budged. Now we are teaching Weekly and he is so golden. He came to church even before we taught him and he keeps every commitment. I just pray that I will not be transferred before his baptism (May 3rd). My most fervent prayer lately is for peace to accept God's will but I hope His will is for me to stay. This branch has become my home. Oh, how much joy I find when I gather with these Saints.

Some little details about this week/life that make me happy:
-We had no where to go so we prayed and a few knocks later we met a relative to Agnes who had so many genuine questions about the church

-We knocked at the gate and was invited into the house of the former mayor of Blantyre. Big madala status.

-We helped an investigator draw water meaning walking with buckets of water on our heads. Good times. 

-It's starting to get dark earlier and we aren't used to it so the darkness sort of takes us by surprise. We go all "I Am Legend" status when the darkness comes. GET INSIDE!

-As you see from the pictures, Sister Zohner and I determined enough was enough and become spider killers with the Doom and a broom. We had a colony of like 20 spiders living on our porch so we killed them all. Conquering my fears!

-We got together as sisters and watched the general women's session of general conference and it was just lovely. We belong to the coolest church ever. I cried happy tears.

-President Matale told us that Blantyre is one branch split away from becoming a stake. Also, they are looking for land to build a chapel in Ndirande! Seeing the work progress in Malawi is so exciting.

-I got a new nickname in my area. The kids always call me by a previous sister's name and when I correct them they can't pronounce Proctor. Now they call me "Sister Zungu" (sister white person). Yebo!

-Alinafe (my favorite RC ever) texted us twice this week. One to inform us that he had gone by himself to do his family history at the chapel and the other to tell us he was going to attend the other branch this Sunday because he invited two guys in the market to church and he wanted to fellowship his investigators. This guy is on fire.

-We saw an ice cream truck in our area. Say what? Those exist in Africa? More like, those exist in Ndirande? The kids went wild.
-I think the happiest is that the other week we passed this deaf guy on our way home. We had passed them two or three times before and he was so sweet. After he passed, I felt strongly that we needed to contact him so we literally ran after him (since he is deaf and he couldn't hear us calling after him). He understands English really well he just can't speak or hear so we gave him a pamphlet and wrote down directions to the church. Yesterday he showed up to church with his other deaf friend and I nearly cried. He has such a light about him, I can't even describe. Unfortunately, he lives in the Elder's area (we give the Elders so many referrals it's ridiculous), but they are totally prepared. 

I studied the principle of unity this week and I realized just how critical unity is to salvation and to building Zion. The Lord promises that all who the Father gives Him He will not lose. "Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost," (D&C 50: 41-42). But then He tells us that, "if ye are not one ye are not mine," (D&C 38:27). We must be filled with charity and consecrate our whole lives to serve Him and the people around us or we will not be welcomed into Zion. But Zion is attainable and it seems like a pretty wonderful place to be.

Shake the dust, my friends. Shake the dust from your souls and remember just how blessed we are to be alive. Life is beautiful.

Love forever,

Sister Proctor

Life is What You Make It

April 6, 2015

The RS sisters singing to cheer on the workers at our service.

Planning in the dark.

Our smokey, sad attempt to brai. Good times.

The big bwana we found while contacting. The tiny spider next to it is rather large by itself and then you see this huge creature the size of my hand. My skin is crawling.

Darling Family,

It was another wonderful, soul-stretching week in Ndirande. Many things I counted on happening didn't happen which was sad but the Lord is blessing me with a greater understanding and a broader perspective.

One of the things I studied this week was perfection. Sometimes it blows my mind to think that the Savior was perfect in the mortal state and that perfection is also our goal. It's sort of overwhelming to think about. But it D&C 93 it tells us that even the Savior grew grace to grace until he received of the fulness of the Father's glory. In Jesus The Christ it talks about relative perfection and how we can be perfect within our own spheres. In D&C 88:25 it says that the earth with gain celestial glory because it fills the measure of its creation. The Spirit opened up to my mind that the Lord doesn't expect us to attain His level of perfection in this life but He does expect us to fill the measure of our creation. I have been given a different mission than any of you. To be perfect in my sphere I need to fulfill my specific mission. The Savior showed us an example by perfectly doing all the Father sent Him to earth to do. Even in His perfected, glorified state the prints of the nails in His hands and feet remained because that was how He filled His measure of creation.

This big bwana (boss) who lives in Nyambadwe has come to church a couple of times on his own and we were finally able to teach him this week. Since we can't teach a man without a woman there, we brought sweet Sister Chinomwe who comes from a very humble background. It was sort of embarrassing how much he was talking about his travel experience and how he hopes his children never come back to Malawi from the US because there is nothing to offer them here. Sometimes it is so strange that our area covers the richest of the rich in Malawi (Mr. President has a house in Nyambadwe) and the poorest of the poor. The contrast is funny. 

But speaking of big bwanas in Nyambadwe, a ton of HUGE spiders have suddenly moved into Nyambadwe. I wish I could capture how large they are in a picture but we always joke about them because they make huge webs too. They know where the high rollers stay.

We did a branch service and it was so happy. With all of the rains, so many houses/walls have fallen so we went to a member's house and helped her rebuild part of her house. There were too many people and not enough work so the Relief Society sisters sort of just sang hymns to cheer on the workers. It was definitely a branch bonding experience. I love Ndirande branch with all my heart. These people are so full of light.

The APs called on April 1st (April Fool's day) to tell us that the in-person MLC in Lusaka was cancelled. The ZLs had already pranked us so we really wanted to believe it was a prank but alas, the APs were true. After a really long day and being so excited for this celestial council next week, it was sort of a blow. But after thinking it through, I realized it was such a big blow because it was like the one thing I had to look forward to. I realized that was the wrong way to think. These past three months since the last in-person MLC have been the most challenging of my entire mission. It's been work, work, work and not a whole lot to get my mind off of my struggling area. I consider myself to be a pretty happy person but I guess I have sort of forgotten to have fun. The biggest lesson in all of this is that not only is happiness a choice but fun is a choice!

That being said, one night we came home to a house with no electricity or running water. It wasn't too disappointing since that is pretty much a norm here but we decided to attempt a brai on our back porch since we were all starving and we had a random bag of charcoal in our pantry. We had no stove or brai stand but we put a few pots together and the four of us in the dark tried to light these coals. It was such a joke and we couldn't stop laughing. We were determined because we were too hungry to quit. After a meager attempt, the sausage was sort of cooking but all of the grease put out the coals before it was wholey cooked. After an hour and a half of singing camp fire songs and choking on smoke and gazing at the stars, the lights turned on and we just sat there totally defeated but having had a good time. 

We have two progressing investigators that are pretty exciting. One is Weekly, who came to church with his mom yesterday despite the water issues that deterred many of the members. He is excited about the gospel and it makes me giddy. And then there is Evance who is the 10-year-old-son of a less active. He speaks zero English but he also is excited about learning. We have to teach a principle at a time and repeat over and over again but he is slowly coming out of his shell. He can't even write his own name but even when his father doesn't come to church he and his tiny 7 and 3 year old siblings come alone.

Alinafe, our amazing recent convert, told us about a dream he had. He is already preparing to serve a mission and he had a dream he received his first companion. He said that he felt so much happiness but also felt the sadness and the loneliness and the disappointment that missionaries sometimes feel. He was so sincere as he looked at us and said, "Now I understand what you go through. Sisters, you are doing a great job." My heart exploded. He is the best RC ever. 

I feel like my emails are kind of long but hey, I love writing so what can I do. But I just wish I could express to you how amazing and hard and wonderful this experience is. I love Ndirande Branch with all my heart. I was sitting in a meeting with the stand-in branch president and the four of us missionaries and we were reporting and planning together and the excitement in that room was tangible. President Matale is truly consecrated. He follows up and everything we do and when we ask him to do something he does it. He is always in the area visiting families and reaching out and the branch has grown so much since I first arrived. It means so much to be in a branch where people love and help each other. The Relief Society goes out on Sundays and during the week to visit sick sisters and less actives. I LOVE these people. I got up to bear my testimony yesterday and I could hardly handle the love I felt--not only of myself but the love the Lord has for them, too.

In other news, we got contacted by a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. It's always a good time.

Have a wonderful week. Do something to make the Lord happy!

Sister Proctor

The Hearts of the Children

I'm sorry. I had to take the traditional 9 month picture. I made it to humpday!

Saying goodbye to my dear friend Elder Mwangi. Hopefully I'll see him at BYU.

Posing with the two deacons in the branch who brought all of their friends to church. We call them "the guys". Shout out to my nephew who was just ordained a deacon!

The fantasitc four of Ndirande being separated by transfers. We will miss Elder Cunningham!

March 30, 2015

Darling Family,

Well, we may still struggle with water (yes, still--since January) and I may still take bucket showers at least a couple times a week but life is swell in Blantyre. I still love being a missionary with all my heart no matter the weather.

We got transfer news this week and thankfully Sister Dlamini and I get to stay together in Ndirande for at least another month until more missionaries go home. Sadly, my good friend, Elder Mwangi (Kenya) is going to Lusaka to be an office Elder and Elder Cunningham (Arizona) is leaving the Ndirande branch. I will miss them too much. Elder Mwangi and I have served 9 months together--he was my zone leader in Lilongwe and then we were transferred to Blantyre together and he's been my zone leader here. Too many good times. 

I had the opportunity to teach at our district meeting on Tuesday and I was given the topic of contacting and referrals. As I prepared the Spirit directed me away from the hard "how to" and helped me to see what we are really doing as missionaries. My testimony of my calling has definitely deepened. This is more than just a job. In fact, if we think of it as a job then we are going to fail. This is life--this is life eternal. We are inviting people to come to Zion. When I think of Zion, I think of the most beautiful place on earth with Jesus Christ by my side. As missionaries we are not just convincing people to be baptized or join a church but we are inviting them to step up out of the grunge of mortality into His joyous rest. I tried to paint a picture for the district but mostly the Spirit just took over and each person's demeanor was different when they walked out of the meeting house. What a blessing it is to invite people to His rest and His loving arms.

We visited Sister Kuwali again. It was on a morning when I was a bit irritated but she never fails to melt my heart. We can barely understand each other but we had made cookies for a meeting later in the day so we shared one with her. She promptly took it and put it in a small pot to share with her husband when he got home. What love and generosity. They literally have nothing. We obviously had to give her another cookie. They were so small and yet she didn't even think twice to split that meager offering with her husband. 

One of our less actives has a nephew called Weekly who has shown a lot of interest in the Church. This week we taught him a couple of times and he even accepted a baptismal date. The best is to see members fellowshipping. We brought one of the Elder's recent converts and he was just so good to Weekly. 

On a sad note, Jessie, the girl we met last week that just had a baby, is sort of playing games. We went to her house to teach her and we found her sitting on the porch and she said she was a little "beezi" (though she clearly wasn't) and to come back another day. I love writing about all the little miracles that happen each week but sometimes it's sad to see that between each Monday that those people that were so exciting one week turn and close the door the next. I am learning to accept, embrace, and love the fact that I am a little sower in Ndirande and some day the fruits will be reaped.

By far the highlight of the week was our investigator called Katie. As we were planning for her one night the Spirit let us know that we should teach her about family history and temples. At that point we had only taught her twice so it sort of seemed risky but of course we followed the Spirit anyway. Even when we arrived and opened with a prayer, I was still unsure about it but we went for it anyway and it was such a sweet lesson. Before we dove into family history we asked her to tell us about her family and she simply said, "Well, my parents are both dead and my only sister also died." What? My heart simultaneously broke and took courage, knowing we were in the right place at the right time teaching the right thing. Her heart was completely melted as we taught her about family history and she was visibly excited to learn about its importance. She walked with us for a while after the lesson and told me that her father died before she was born so she doesn't know anything about that side of the family. She feels like now is the time to find out. It was so special.

Then, on Sunday we went to a nearby school to wait for her and walk with her to church (her first time). Time was ticking and she wasn't showing up. We finally called and she told us she was already at church! She LOVED church. She even stayed for the baptism after and sang along to every song she didn't even know. As we escorted her (that is a Malawian thing) after church she told us that she loved church and she especially loved that people were encouraged to participate and ask questions. I haven't had an investigator LOVE church in a long time so it was exciting and encouraging. The only sad thing was that we taught her again this morning and when we invited her to a baptism (again) she said no. When I asked if she had a desire she also said no. That sort of crushed my little heart but we won't give up. She has too many family members on the other side rooting for her to accept the gospel.

On Saturday, the branch attempted to have a "Why I Believe" fireside like the ones we used to have in Virginia. I say "attempted" because after a couple of weeks of no rain in Ndirande it poured right when the fireside was supposed to start. The Elder and us just stared out into the rain and said silent prayers that people would still come. Malawians are sort of deathly afraid of rain. If it rains then no one goes out. Finally the rain ceased and a few faithful members showed up (sadly, without nonmember friends). But it was still a lovely time of sharing testimonies and playing some scripture games. At least we strengthened the members' conviction to dig deeper into the gospel. Though it can be difficult, I love being a pioneer. 

Something I studied this week was the vision of the tree of life. The more I read those chapters in 1 Nephi, the more I understand about Jesus Christ. Something that stuck out to me this time was how the angel asked Nephi "Knowest thou the condescension on God?" and then later says, "Behold the condescension of God." After the first question, the angel shows Nephi the birth of the Savior. After the second statement, the angel shows Nephi the baptism of the Savior. My soul rejoiced to think that someone would love me so much as do descend below all to save my little, imperfect, weakness-ridden self. My gratitude for Jesus Christ deepens daily and I am so excited to have a day to remember Him and His resurrection.

Well, that's all for now kids. Enjoy watching conference live while I wait four more weeks! I wouldn't want to wait anywhere else but here.

Sister Proctor