Friday, December 26, 2014

First a little followup on the wildlife around here. We have an amazing assortment of lizards, geckos, and chameleons in our yard. From time to time we see different species, and then not again for six months. I'm not sure where they disappear to, but they rotate in and out and we have a selection all year long. These two pictures are of a couple of the more colorful ones, a blue-headed one and a pink headed one. There is also a golden-headed one, but I haven't gotten a picture. We have lots of the smaller ones that come in the house searching for flies and mosquitos. They range from about 2cm long to about 8cm. They are shy and quick, but startling sometimes when you almost step on one. We try not to disturb them so they can help with insect control.
The Sisters in our Zone got tired of waiting for the Elders to organize an outing, so they secured permission to go on a Sisters-only activity day. We loaded them in our trucks and went to Majete National Park, about a 90 minute drive south of here. They traditionally get matching t-shirts for these types of things, so here are some pictures of our day trip.
This falls is only a small side-stream of the Shire river. There are another half-dozen sections in this cascade, but this one is beautiful.
We had an eventful trip, saw a number of antelope species, but the elephants, crocodile, and hippos in the middle of the river were the most exciting. The elephant on the far side of the river represents a single cow and calf. We watched an entire herd of perhaps twenty or so walk through this same clearing over the space of 30 minutes. Awesome!  It was a great opportunity for all the Sisters, since many of the African Sisters had never seen the big animals.  They were as excited as the Americans.
The following week, the Elders got permission for the "real" zone activity, and the group hiked up Mulanje Mountain, the second highest peak in Africa. They didn't summit, but had a great spiritual feast and brae alongside one of the pools in the river. We didn't hike with them, but enjoyed the get-together.
As Christmas was approaching, we were setting up to have both Malawi zones together here in Malawi. The Sisters have all been asking Sister Reynolds to teach them how to make her famous bread, so she invited them over to the house to make the rolls for our dinner. They had fun, and we fed 51 people on Monday night before Christmas.
The gift exchange was hilarious, President Erickson explained the rules, and then we divided the group into two halves, with two stacks of presents and all could choose from either side, but the stealing and laughter was double fun. The jackfruit got the biggest applause, it is big enough to feed ten people, and is quite sweet. Then came Christmas dinner, with fried chicken, rice, mashed potatoes and chicken gravy, stuffing, salads, and of course three kinds of sweet breads for dessert.

We met the next morning for continental breakfast, and a really spiritual meeting to consider the importance of the Sacrament ordinance. President Erickson counseled us to make this time a time of change to a better and higher sense of purpose in serving our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we renew our covenants each week, make this week a time to renew our dedication.
Christmas Eve the Zone was all here at the house, and we watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, so it was a quiet, spiritual end to the day. Of course, the new Zone T-shirts were red and green, and we got pictures between the rainstorms.
Christmas day was much quieter, we just kind of unwound after all the activity. Sister Reynolds is multi-tasking, her computer is on, she is reading on her Kindle, and eating leftovers for lunch. Then it was time for some serious relaxing and reading. We hope that all of you had a blessed Christmas, and that by following Jesus Christ throughout the new year, you will find great joy, as we do in serving Him and keeping his commandments.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hooray, it has finally started raining.  The rainy season is supposed to begin about the first week in November, and here it is the second week in December.  The maize is not irrigated, it depends on rainfall, so nothing has been planted, and we are six weeks late in the season.  It started raining on the 9th, and has rained a couple of times since.  All the maize fields were planted by the 10th.  The cultivation is all by hand, with a broad-bladed hoe.  The blade is a heavy piece of flat iron cut to shape with a spike on the top. The handle is about three feet long, shaped from a heavy branch of a tree with a large knob about the size of a softball at the end.  They drill a hole in the knob, heat the iron blade until it is red hot and then drive it into the hole, where it lodges fast.

These are drawings from archeological digs, so you can see that the concept is not new.  Similar hoes are found all over sub-Saharan Africa.  This drawing shows just a branch of the tree, but the ones used here in Malawi are shaped from the piece of the trunk from where the branch is attached.  That joint is the strongest part of the tree and resists splitting from the constant pounding of the hoe into the ground.

The women do the majority of the cultivation and weeding, but the short handles on these hoes mean that they are constantly bending over as they work.  It is back-breaking work, but the length of the handle seems to be a cultural thing.  Long-handled hoes are seen as a sign of laziness.  It's crazy.

Along with the maize planting, the rain affects several other things, especially the frogs.  The ones outside our dining room window are deafening.  The frogs themselves are about the size of your thumb joint, but they are expert at finding a location which will amplify their chirping.  The loudest one has located himself at the base of one of the pillars in our perimeter wall.  He sits in the corner, on a broken brick, and it all acts like a megaphone.  He is so loud, that when I first went out to see what was making the noise, I couldn't get close enough to see him because it hurts to be anywhere near--really!  It must be well over 110 decibels, painful to listen to for more than a minute or two.

I will try to upload a short clip so that you can tell what it sounds like when they are all going together.  It's kind of like "the wave," in the stadium.  One frog starts somewhere in the distance, and is immediately followed by another and then another until they are all in chorus and finally dies down when they run out of energy.

I finally remembered to take a picture of our night guard with his University of Washington souvenir cap.  He was so excited to have his picture taken so that we could remember him.  I told him I'd post it for some of my Dawg Fans who would appreciate seeing it so far from home.  I have actually seen advertising t-shirts from Snohomish County businesses.  It is amazing to see things from home.  We see WSU Cougar shirts and sweatshirts every once in a while as well.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The next project was the distribution of several thousand mosquito nets.  Our target group was initially the children under 5 years of age and their mothers, especially pregnant women.  Then we followed up with the elderly and infirm, which represent most of the deaths caused by malaria in Malawi.  The children are particularly important, since in the villages they have only a 60% chance of surviving until they are five years old, due to malaria.  The thought of losing 40% of your children in infancy just hurts my heart. Pregnant women are far more likely to die from malaria than any other cause, and since they represent the caregivers for the children, they are very important.  Of course the aged are weak and malaria is commonly fatal.  Some of the versions can kill otherwise healthy persons within 48 hours. There being no immunization against malaria, the nets are our first defense.

We try to work within established service groups, so many of the nets went to orphanages and schools, with no regard to religious affiliation. We do not proselyte in connection with these distributions, they are strictly for humanitarian reasons, although the recipients all know they are from the "Latter-day Saint Church."  We get lots of questions about the name...
A member of our District Presidency supervises the distribution in Ndrandi.  He is also the Public Relations Director for our zone.
 This is the outside of the orphanage.

This group is from another school, which has a really fine facility, but no funding.  It is always the same here, as NGO's and churches fund improvements, but cannot supply ongoing support.
We could not take a picture of the recipients here at the reformatory for privacy reasons, but we also furnished nets to the staff so that they may remain healthy and fulfill their role as support for troubled teens in this facility.

Many of the remainder of our nets were distributed into specific villages, where the mortality rate is the highest.  It is hoped that they will help for  a number of years.  The insecticide with which they are treated lasts several years and multiple washings, but then the nets become just a physical barrier, which is still useful, but not as effective. 

Again, it was a rewarding couple of weeks, but sometimes it seems that our efforts are just a drop in the bucket, there are so many needs.  We also know that in spite of our best efforts, some of these nets will be sold on the black market to buy food.  Teaching people to look a little farther ahead than just their next day's meal is really hard. Still we press on, hoping to make a difference in someone's life.
I though I had better put a little more of what we were usually doing, lest you should think we were always on safari.  We are the anchor couple for this corner of the mission, so whenever there is a project going on we are pretty much involved.  During the last couple of months we have had two major projects, the wheelchair distribution and the mosquito net distribution.

The wheelchair project is administered by Mobility, an NGO which works with disabled transport in several countries in southwest Africa.  As with many of the church's projects, we work with established vendors who have more permanent contact with the native people.  We furnish the chairs, and they furnish the expertise in fitting, training, and follow-up so that the chairs serve long and well.

It was very interesting to be involved.  We were asked if they could use our church facilities for the project, and fortunately, it was on a week when we had few district activities, so they were able to set up working areas, training areas, feeding facilities, and outside practice areas for the entire week.

When we first agreed to help, I was thinking that we would have a large number of people involved, but the primary purpose for this project was to distribute a smaller number of wheelchairs, and while doing so, to train multiple technicians on assembly, fitting, and maintenance of the chairs.
This is the afternoon group at the end of one day, with the trainers and missionaries on the back row, the technicians and administrators in the next couple of rows, the recipients in their new chairs towards the front, and the assemblers/techs sitting down.  They were able to do two such groups each day, and it was marvelous to see the light of hope in the eyes of those who got chairs.  Some had been waiting for many months on the list, and the chance to work again or attend school was something they had dreamed of.

We also invited the administrators from several organization who will assist with continuing distribution efforts so that they would see and understand our needs regarding reporting, tracking, and follow-up for the chairs.

We helped with logistics, keeping the building clean, and I even got to take a spin in one of the hand-cranked front-wheel drive setups, which was fun.  I had never thought about training for the user, but they need to be able to maneuver their chair up and down stairs and ramps, across grass and gravel, up and down inclined areas and in rough areas (which is most of the time).  The hand-cranked version is an attachment to a regular three-wheel chair, and can be attached and removed by the user without assistance.  We furnish that type of chair to those who have far to travel to work or school, and you will see a good number of them out on the roads in Blantyre.

All in all it was a rewarding week, although it took most of my time.  Even Sister Reynolds got involved because some of the seat cushion covers had not been finished properly, so we took them home to our sewing machine and she did some repair work.  Getting a replacement cushion cover might take several months in Africa, so her repair efforts were especially timely.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I know that all of you have been waiting for pictures, and I finally have taken so many and have a little bit of time that I thought I'd bring at least the travelogue up to date.

Sister Reynolds has just celebrated her most celebrated birthday, and I don't know if Elder Reynolds will ever be able to top this one.

We were invited to join all the rest of the senior mission couples in Chipata, Zambia for a two-day leadership conference.  It was wonderful to see all of us together.  Many of the couples we met for the first time, since the mission covers both Zambia and Malawi, and our area assignments do not allow time to go visiting.  We were instructed by both President Erickson and Sister Erickson, and then we spent several hours in round-table discussions regarding how each of us was fulfilling our calling in our area of responsibility.  Then we compared notes on what we could take away from each other, as far as experience and goals.  It was a wonderful time.

We left Chipata and drove up to South Luangwa National Park to stay at Flatdogs Camp.  We were booked for only a single night, but we decided to extend, so we bought a package that allowed us to go on safari into the park, both on a night drive and on a morning drive.  The camp is really well done.  We stayed in a chalet, but some of our group stayed in tent enclosures, all facing the river, which was spectacular.  We could hear the hippos all night long, as well as the baboons and hyenas and elephants.

The first day we drove into the park in our own truck and just sort of explored on our own for about six houors.  We saw the lionesses with a freshly killed cape buffalo, lots of crocodiles, a herd of about 15 elephant, lots of zebras, 100+ buffalo in a herd, and more impala, waterbuck, kudu, baboons, and monkeys than we could count.

 A cape buffalo had gotten mired in a mudhole, and the crocodiles had managed to kill it.  The lionesses came down to the waterhole and took the buffalo away from the crocs.  After they had eaten their fill, the all moved back to sleep off the meal, and the crocs moved back in, the big ones first and then the smaller ones.  By the next day, their was no trace of the carcass, not even the skull and horns.

The next day we relaxed and enjoyed the animals which wander through camp.  We were told not to move around camp without a guard, which was good advice, since the animals pay little attention to the people.  They walked us out to our chalet, especially at night, since the hippos are dangerous in the dark.  We even saw fresh crocodile tracks about 10 meters from our front porch.  Here is a picture from the pathway leading to our chalet.  Guests had to leave their tables in the restaurant and take their meals inside because the elephants were cutting through between the pool and the courtyard.

That evening we joined a night drive, which lasts about 4 hours and were driven by our guide in an open safari car.  During the daylight hours we saw giraffes multiple times, many different kinds of antelope, and finally stopped for a snack.  After the sun set, his assistant manned the spotlight, and we saw our first leopard, which was really exciting.  We also saw a hyena, civet, gennet, and other small animals, which was lots of fun.

 The guide showed us the largest Boabab tree in that section of the park.  They estimate it is around 5000 years old.

We got back to the camp in time to have dinner, fall into bed, and then be up early the next day to do the morning drive.  We saw another leopard,
several hyenas, tons of different kinds of birds, including some Maribou storks which stand almost 5 feet high, and phalanxes of pelicans fishing in large groups by herding the fish into shallow water and dipping them up.

What a wondrous world we live in!  The Lord has given us so many beautiful things to see and enjoy.  We left the next morning and drove back in to Lilongwe, Malawi, then left early again and drove across to Lake Malawi in order to deliver a Bible I had promised to one of the gardeners while we were at District Girls' Camp the month before.  Lunch overlooking the lake was absolutely spectacular.  It was just clear enough to see the other side of the lake from our table.  We have been their three times, and this was the first time we could see all the way across the lake.

So here are the promised pictures.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Missionary Misadventures

I must admit that although my intentions to keep up the blog have been good, my execution has been really poor.  I usually think about it late at night, and then realize that I have to get up early the next day, and won't have time to add much.  And then I think of all the pictures and things I would like to report, and know that I'll never catch up, so here's a little story to reward you for checking back on my page.

Several months ago we rented another flat for an additional pair of missionaries.  Due to other circumstances, we had to move two companionships into this new flat while one of the older flats was being refurbished.  We soon discovered that locking the bathroom door was a no-no.  One of our branch missionaries locked the door and spent several hours inside before I could devise a way to get him out.  We told all the missionaries not to lock the door, and they have been good about passing that on.

However, on the last transfer, someone forgot to tell the brand-new missionary about the no door lock policy, and sure enough he locked himself in.  The other missionaries called for me and I showed up to see if we could extract him.  Unfortunately he had twisted the head off the key, and after much wiggling and jiggling, he finally managed to remove the key and shove it under the door.  The outside missionaries had tried to open the lock, and succeeded in totally jamming the mechanism.

I arrived with my toolbox, and spent 30 minutes or so trying to remove the key from the lock, but to no avail. By now, the new missionary has been in the bathroom for more than two hours.  We leaned on the door, tried to pry it away from the jamb, worked on the wood with a chisel, all to no avail.  It was time to use a bigger hammer.

Elder P. is Tongan, a football linesman, at that.  He has lost almost 40kg since coming on his mission, but still weighs over 125kg.  I said, "Elder O. get away from the door so you won't be in the way when it opens."

Then I said "Elder P. I want you to hit that door."

He said, "Really, Elder Reynolds?!!!"


He took two steps, and the door blew open and crashed against the wall inside.  I got a glimpse of Elder O. and his eyes were really big at that point.

Elder P., "Man, that felt good, just like being on the field again."  The smile on his face was absolutely ear to ear, and he was still grinning 6 hours later.  His last remark was, "This is going to go in my journal!"

My only regret was that we didn't get a picture!!  A new door lockset, several nails and some paint, and the door is operational again, not much the worse for wear.  We will miss Elder P., who is being transferred this week.  I told him the reason he was assigned to Blantyre was to open that door for us.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I seem to have gotten behind in updating the blog.  October?? and now it is the end of January.  Fortunately there are pictures to remind us, so I'll do at least a synopsis of the last three months.  We had hoped to make another trip to Liwonde to visit the group there for another baptism, but our schedule has been full most of the time.  I will post this tonight and put the pictures in in the next little while.

November saw us driving to Lilongwe for the first time since we arrived here.  We have made several half-trips to deliver personnel and immigration papers.  We drive to Ntcheu and meet someone coming from Lilongwe, exchange mail and passengers, and then drive home again.  It means that we can get things to the northern end of our areas with only 5 hours spent from each end instead of a 10-hour marathon to make the full round trip.  We have gotten so that we can enjoy the trip a little more--not so much stress about getting lost on the way and knowing the right time to be driving to miss most of the obstacles (MARKET DAY, FESTIVALS, HEAVY TRUCKS).  We also learned not to come home later than 5:00pm, since the homebound traffic in Blantyre includes bicycles with loads 6 feet wide, oxcarts, wheelchairs, pedestrians wearing black clothing, vehicles without lights, and multiple under-powered large trucks on every hill.  After dark it gets to be a real nail-biter.

We had company for Thanksgiving, although we ate dinner on Sunday.  Elder and Sister Hales, who were the PEF missionaries came to visit.  We had roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatos and gravy, Sister Reynolds' carrot casserole which was a real hit, and a "pumpkin" pie made with butternut squash, which turned out to be even better.

Hales were hoping to introduce the PEF program and get the young people started.  Much to their surprise, they found 20 candidates with their paperwork already complete, the interviews done, and proposals for admittance to the various vocational institutions in Malawi ready to be submitted.  Unfortunately she suffered some health issues, and they had to be released early.  They were home in time for Christmas.  The schooling is now kind of in limbo, because we do not have new PEF missionaries yet, but the young people are moving forward on their own, hoping to obtain loans after they are enrolled in school. The YSA group here is powerful.

So, back to the trip to Lilongwe.  We took the entire zone of missionaries, along with both counselors from Blantyre District and their wives, for a total of 22, 14 in our trucks and 8 on the AXA bus.  We stayed two nights, and spent time in leadership meetings with Elder James D. Martino from the Seventy who was touring our mission.  This was the first time we have had both Malawi zones together since the mission was opened. We received marvelous training and counsel.  The training had more to do with obtaining referrals rather than knocking gates, and the counsel was about working more closely with the members, including helping with home teaching, visiting teaching, and being more a part of the ward rather than just working in the area.  The work of integrating new members into the church should be shared, rather than just left to one or the other group to do, since the missionaries are always being reassigned. It was a great experience to have us all together, and to personally meet with one of the Seventy

December was busy, as usual.  We had one of our sister missionaries who had to go home early.  Bless her heart, she kept going with pretty severe abdominal pain for 8 months, but after multiple trips to the hospital and testing, she elected to go home.  She was heart-broken, but it was for the best, and she had done her best.  They finally diagnosed her with parasites, although she had been tested for those while here.  We had been advised by the area medical office that drinking an occasional Coke would help prevent that.  She had elected not to do that for personal reasons.  I'm not sure if it would have helped, but it seems to be working for the rest of us.  The Coke and Pepsi here is a little different.  It is not as sweet, and I'm sure it has less caffeine.  I could never drink a whole can of Pepsi without getting all buzzed, but here it doesn't even faze me.  I can go to sleep right after a can of Pepsi.  Not that I mind, as long as it keeps the parasites at bay.

Christmas was another story.  It was hard to get in the spirit of Christmas when we were used to snow and cold.  The temperature was averaging right around 82* and all the flowering trees were in bloom.  It finally cooled down a little bit when it started to rain, but it was still in the high 70's most days.  The stores put up decorations, and played Christmas music, but we had a pretty hard time keeping from laughing when they played Jingle Bells, White Christmas, and such.  That's not happening here, folks! I was sitting in church after Thanksgiving, and they sang "Heark the Herald Angels Sing" for the opening song.  Before I realized why, I thought to myself, "Why are they singing those songs this time of year?"  Duh, it's December, old man.

Sister Reynolds went all out for Christmas.  She asked the missionaries what they would do at home at Christmas time, and incorporated their suggestions into her dinner planning.  We found a couple of small turkeys (Wow!), did a couple of small roasts.  She made rolls for sandwich buns, some regular crescent rolls (a special request) and he famous sausage rolls.  She did pickles, crackers, fresh salsa, home-made ranch dip, shrimp dip (I actually found some Philadelphia Cream Cheese--don't ask how much it was), and olives.  She scrounged for all kinds of substitutions, but made sugar cookies, frosted cutout cookies (the sister missionaries asked to help), ginger snaps, texas sheet-cake, fudge, english toffee, and peanut brittle. They don't have brown sugar or corn syrup, so the sugar stuff came out a little different.  The fudge was good, but soft like cake frosting, the english toffee was good, but a really different texture, the peanut brittle didn't set up until we froze it, and then it was really good.  Not that any of this mattered, the missionaries had a great feast, and of course a lot of it was things that the Africans had never seen before. Elder Amison assembled a video montage of the Church films of the life of Jesus, and it was great, ending of course with the patriarch reading the Christmas story from Luke.

January started off with some exciting-sad-good news.  Three of our missionaries had been sent out of or diverted from Zimbabwe at the same time we were going through the visa challenge, and they were sent to our Zambia mission to wait.  We found out they were actually going to be able to go back to Zim, after 6 months here, and finish their mission where they had been initally assigned.  We lost two sisters, one from California/Tonga and one from South Africa, along with one elder from Uganda, who was a district leader at the time.  Zim got three fully trained "new" missionaries. We shed a few tears--it is so easy to learn to love these fine young people, and off they went on their new assignment.  We have received one replacement elder, and are to receive the two replacement sisters on the 30th of January.

We also received news that we will be getting another senior couple to serve as CES missionaries here in Blantyre. They will be responsible for Seminaries and Institutes.  Sister Reynolds is excited to have someone to talk to.  I have been house-hunting for the last week or so, since they will be arriving in March, and we will need to find and furnish a new house for them.  You would not believe the houses we have looked at.  I told the estate agents what I wanted, and of course they want to trade up if they can, since their commission is usually more for a higher rental.  We looked at one place which was the residence of a former member of Parliament--oh my stars!  It was at least 3000 square feet on each of three floors, I mean about 10,000 sq ft including the three car garage.  The master suite had an enormous round bed, columns, mirrors, six closets, etc., etc., Sister Reynolds wanted to take the kitchen home with her, it had double ovens, island cooktop, and a separate prep room for food, walk in pantry, and tons of cupboard space.  The place was tiled from floor to ceiling in most of the rooms, ceramic tile floors or wood throughout, balconies from each of the six bedrooms, all with bathrooms ensuite, and an open air stairwell in the center of the house.  All this for USD
$1275/month. It might have been OK for a mission home, but I only need a nice home for two senior missionaries!  Half of one floor would have been more than sufficient.

We also looked at some houses which might have been suitable, but the location, security, access, or mutiple floors were not good for a 79-year old and his wife. We did find one house in a nice area, with easy road access, and within two blocks of one of our sister's flats.  It is a little too big with four bedrooms and four baths, but would be nice to use about half the house and close the rest off.  It is on about two acres, but only 1/4 of it is maintained, the rest is old fruit orchard. They just cut the grass during the rainy season, and then let it go during the winter.  The rent was really reasonable, about USD$650/mo.  If we don't find something else in the next few days, I will check with Pres. Erickson and see if that would be alright.

We have four new Malawi missionaries leaving within the next two months, so we are also working with them to get them outfitted and ready to go. Most of them have nothing, or very little.  We shop like mad for suitable used clothing, luggage, and shoulder bags.  You wouldn't believe we could get 8 shirts, several pair of slacks, ties, socks, shoes, and most of their other needs for less than $200.  It is an adventure in thrift shopping.  You would have to see three blocks of shoes for sale by the side of the road, no shops, no sizes, just whatever is available today, kind of like an open air vegetable market.  Good used white shirts come from the laundry services, who replace their stock when it looks the least bit worn.  I don't know where they find the socks, but they are reasonable, although you will never find two pair the same color or style. The ties are something else.

One of the biggest expenditures is for a decent set of scriptures and the missionary reference set.  Now if we could just get scriptures it would be helpful.  The announcement of new versions in the US has eaten up all the production of the scriptures.  We haven't been able to buy a Bible for at least three months.  I know we aren't a priority out here in the hinterlands, but it would be nice to send our people out with something besides a paperback version from Seminary.

The rainy season is going on now.  They told us it would really rain, and it has, but not for too long.  We get a pretty good downpour for several hours, then it turns into a nice soaking rain, and the temperature drops into the low 70's.  Of course the Africans are all freezing to death at that temperature.  You see them in stocking caps and gloves with their coats on.  They have a very narrow range of comfort, somewhere between 75* and 85*--outside that it's too cold or too hot.  I suppose we will get that way before we go home, but for us now, it's very comfortable.

The missionaries have accepted a new challenge to build the church up and not so much out.  The people here in Malawi are very open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They love him, and are anxious to follow their Lord and Savior.  Most of them are in church somewhere on Saturday or Sunday, and they love to talk about the Lord.  That makes it very easy for the missionaries to find people to teach, so they seldom knock on anyone's door.  They just ask for referrals and follow up.  However, we need more professional people, and those with more leadership skills to help build the church.  Because we do not have paid ministers, we need people who will work, "doers of the word and not hearers only" in order to build strong congregations
and stronger families.  We need people who are personally financially stable so that they can devote time to the Lord.  There are many strong people among the poor, but they can hardly spare time to build the church when they are working 80 hours a week just to feed their family.  Of course, people who are already doing well in life tend to think they don't need the Lord, and here in Malawi, they live in a fenced compound with a guard at the gate.  It's really easy to tell the guard that he can tell those missionaries at the gate that he's not interested, or can't be bothered right now.  The missionaries are working hard to find ways to contact those people directly, and also teaching all the guards they can talk to.  We have seen some really high-power people come into the church in the last couple of months, attorneys, educators, public officials, businessmen. It is really exciting to see what happens when the counsel of our leaders becomes our focus and guide. The best part is that the missionaries are using us to help them teach, since we seem to represent a more successful role model, rather than just 19-year-olds with a message.  And we have met some really wonderful people because of this.  We love to be involved directly with teaching, and more than that we love to see how the gospel changes people's lives.  It truly does make bad men good and good men better.