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Monday, January 26, 2015

Week 89 – A normal work week in Quelimane


Dear family,

Thank you for your letter and always thinking of me and my safety and health. I'm doing well here in Quelimane.  I do get tired sometimes, but I try not to exert myself more than necessary. The fact that I don't have much time left, motivates me to keep working hard every day until its time for me to go home. The Lord is helping me always. I don't let things get to me too much. The added responsibilities do add an extra weight. But it's nothing I can't handle. Thankfully it hasn't kept me from doing my regular missionary work. Only a couple days during the week I have to spend more time just dedicated to the branch. And I know it will be easier when the branch president returns next month. But for now it's cool to have this added challenge. There's no way I would be able to have an experience like this if was serving in the US or some other place where the church is better established. It's a pleasure to serve here, though, I'm really grateful for it.

This week went pretty well. It didn't rain much, so we didn't get soaked like last week. This week was the opposite; it was just very very hot. The intense heat of the sun dried out all the roads that had been under water just the week before.  
On Monday we had a family home evening for the branch here at the chapel. We read a chapter from the Book of Mormon together and played a few games, it was fun spending a good time with the members. On Tuesday we had a normal work day. We usually go out on the road and contact people in the mornings  and after that we go have lunch and do studying in the early afternoon. Every day we took one of the members with us to teach at least a few lessons. We found a good number of new investigators this week. 
On Wednesday I had the branch presidency meeting with the executive secretary, Cornelio. He's a really cool guy. He's about 25 years old, is single and is a singer. He has made an album already and has had some success. He was once on a program that is the Mozambican equivalent of "American idol', and is working on a new album. He's a really strong member too, always available to help out. Also Abrao was in the meeting. He's the member who will be going on a mission this year and is waiting for his calling which should come soon. 
We talked about the things of the branch and picked the topic for sacrament meeting talks.
Thursday and Friday were good days, we found a couple more new families to teach. On Saturday we had a lot of things to do at the house. In the morning was the weekly cleaning of the chapel. In the afternoon I taught English class, about 7 people showed up. Then after that there was a young single adult activity and we participated. It was pretty fun. Yesterday church meetings went pretty well. The attendance was 65 and we had 16 investigators at church! The classes went well. I didn't teach yesterday, but I did give a talk in sacrament meeting. I talked about integrity.  The other talks were also very good. I felt the Spirit during church. I enjoy when we are being taught by the Spirit. 
We ate at one of the member's houses for lunch and walked with another member for the rest of the day to our lessons. Nothing too exciting or crazy happened this week though. It was a great week and I'm excited being here.
Anyway, I hope you have another great week and enjoy the warm winter.

With Love
Josh  



Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 88 - Happy to be back in Quelimane


Dear Family,

I'm doing well here. To answer your question, I am aware of the floods up north in Macuba, I've seen pics and videos of it as well. This is the rainy season. Quelimane, along with much of Zambezia Province, is extremely prone to floods during the rainy season, but I don't think we will have floods here like in Macuba. However, many roads are flooded due to heavy rain; they're still passable, but in some parts the water gets pretty high, even with our tall rain boots on. But we're staying safe. We dry off immediately when we get home and try not to be too wet during the whole day. It's all part of the experience though; I'll have some interesting stories to tell when I get home. But I’m enjoying my time here so much.




Last Monday in Beira, after I got the news of the transfers, we went about our p-day as normal. That evening we went out to work and I said goodbye to some of our investigators and members in our area. I thank the Lord for the special opportunity I had to work with so many good people here, Almost everyone I met was very receptive and friendly. So it's bitter sweet to have to leave, but this is the work of the Lord and this is His time. The next day I got on a flight to my new area.
So now, I am back in Quelimane,  this city hasn't changed much since I left over a year ago. All the roads look the same, there's still a ton of people riding bikes everywhere, To me, Quelimane is a beautiful place it's not a big fancy city in any way; it is small and old and has a unique history!  I love this place and although it is small, it has about everything you need.

The work this week went well. It was nice to visit the members during the week and see them at church yesterday. All were very surprised to see me here again.  Serving here this time is a lot different than my first time. This time around I'm not a new missionary, I know the language, the culture and the people,  and this time I have a lot more responsibilities, I have been called by our mission president to serve as the 2nd counselor in the branch, however, our 1st counselor has not been coming to church for a few weeks. So the presidency for now is just President Mabunda and me and the executive secretary. But things got more interesting for me because on Saturday, President Mabunda traveled down to Maputo, he's taking a 3 week vacation from work. So yesterday I was presiding and conducting sacrament meeting.  And for the next two weeks I will do the same, as well as presiding over other meetings during the week. So yesterday it was a little strange for me to say the least, but it went well for being my first time ever that I was presiding in a branch of the church.  I also had to teach the Gospel Doctrine class for the adults during Sunday school, the regular teacher was absent, in fact a lot of people were absent because of heavy rain. This week we are going to work really hard to invite people to come to church next Sunday.
The rain wast not enough reason to keep us from doing our job. If that was the case, we would not have gone out all week. The good thing is that when it's raining the people we want to visit are in their homes. So we put on our boots and get on our bikes and do our work as normal.

I've got completely soaked from head to toe about 3 times this week haha. 



We have great youth here in this branch. Every day this week a young man came along with us to our lessons. There is one young man here, Abrao, who submitted his mission papers this week. He is a pioneer in the sense that he will be the first person from Quelimane to go serve a full time mission. I will probably be here when he receives his call. My companion is Elder Khumal from Johannesburg, South Africa; this is his 3rd month in Quelimane. Even though I know a most of the city already, he's been showing me around parts of the city where I didn't go to when I was first here. 

We also need to work a lot with the inactive families. Sadly, one very nice family we baptized has been inactive, so I'm excited to start working with them and bring them back. Other members I left behind though, are strong.  We had dinner at the house of one of the families we baptized  back then on Tuesday night when I got here.
Our house is still the same as before, it is big and comfortable; we also have our church meetings in this house.  Me and my companion are the only ones assigned to work the whole city, So I’m glad that we are allowed to ride bikes here in this area; it makes it getting around a lot easier- even in the rain.



This p-day has been good so far. We went to a soccer field to a school nearby and played soccer with the youth of the branch. It was pretty fun. Then we did our shopping, and came home. We use internet here in the house. 
Tonight we are having a branch family home evening here at our house, it should be fun.  Now that I've spent this week getting used to the area again, I'm ready to work and find new families and help the members be stronger and help the branch have real growth. It will only be possible with the hand of the Lord.
I thank you for all your prayers for me and my investigators. I love you sooo much and I’m glad to hear that you're all doing well. I am always praying and thinking of all of you.

Love,
Josh




Monday, January 12, 2015

Week 87 – Transfers-- Good bye to the wonderful people of Mascarenha , Beira

“I have been transferred to Quelimane!!!! I am going back to my first area and I will be a member of the branch presidency!”

Dear Family!!

Thanks for your letter this week.  It's hard to accept that I only have a few more months left in the mission.  I love it here and I will have mixed emotions when I leave, there is a part of me that wants to continue serving the Lord and the people here.

This week went by really fast and as always we had some successes and some disappointing setbacks. This Saturday, the 17th, 6 people will be getting baptized. They will be a good addition to the youth group and to the Relief Society here. The setback is that there should have been 2 other families getting baptized this Saturday as well, but that will not happen. One family has run into a problem. Although they have been living together as a family with their child and would now like to legalize their union so they can get baptized into the church, the bride’s father found out about their plans to get married and will not allow it because the groom has still not paid Lebolo or dowry which is a traditional Southern African custom whereby the man pays the family of his fiance for her hand in marriage. And the amount is very high and he doesn't make much money at all. He is barely able to support his family. So paying Lebolo won't be possible for them anytime soon. They can still get married if they decide to do it against her father's wishes, but it is a difficult decision and she is scared to go ahead with the marriage and go against her family. I imagine it must be very difficult for her. She wants to get married and be baptized, but she's just afraid.
I know that one day she will join the church and will follow the traditions of Christ and not the traditions of men. For now, we're continuing to teach and help and pray for them. 

The other family or couple has decided not to get married yet because they are not able to have a big wedding party for now. They could choose to get married and baptized now in a simple ceremony, and later throw a party when they can. But for now, they don't want to do that. It's a little sad because they are putting off their repentance and all the blessings that will come from baptism. But they are still a good family and we'll continue to help them.  Despite these setbacks, we have been super blessed this week. We have many good families with the desire to get baptized.

Church yesterday was really good. The attendance was a record high 142! And we had more than 20 investigators at church. Not only do our investigators have a desire to hear our message, they also act on it and keep their commitments, such as receiving us in their homes and continuing to come to church every Sunday. We also continue to find new families that are showing a desire to follow Christ. One amazing thing that's happening is that the majority of our investigators live in one spot in our area, and everyone seems to know one another. Every week some of our investigators refer their neighbors and friends who live close by and we end up teaching them also. We have built a section in our area with a strong investigator base. I'm super excited for what will happen in this area in the weeks and months to come. But I will not be here in this area to continue to see the miracles of the conversion of so many.

I just found out that I am being transferred out of Mascarenha today. And you will not believe where I am going! I have been transferred to Quelimane!!!! I am going back to my first area and I will be a member of the branch presidency! I couldn't believe it when I got the news this morning. I will be leaving on a flight to Quelimane tomorrow at 4 pm. My companion will be Elder Khumalo, from South Africa. 
I am sooooooo super excited to go back and be with all the members that I love there. I have never forgotten Quelimane, it's always been in my thoughts and this is an unbelievable opportunity I have to go back and help the branch as a member of the presidency. I can't wait to write back to you next week after my first week back there. I am so excited and grateful for this opportunity. 

Anyway, I love you sooo much and hope you have another good week at work and at home. Stay healthy and warm and happy.

Until next Monday!

Josh




Monday, January 5, 2015

Week 86 -- Beira Zone Conference

January  5, 2015 - In Beira, Manga Branch

“We've been working more with the members so they can get to know our investigators and reach out to them even before they get baptized. This week we walked with the entire elder’s quorum presidency to the houses of our investigators and the inactive members so they could meet them and know where they live
  
Hey Mom!

Thanks for your letter this week. I'm glad you guys had a good New Year's.  We were instructed to return to our house early, due to the partying, drinking and fireworks, so I ended up going to bed at 9:30.  For me it was nice to have more time to sleep. I cannot believe it's now 2015.
2015 seemed so far away at the start of my mission, and now it's already here. I must admit that I missed home during these past couple weeks, thinking of all the Christmas things we do at home, and all the other fun stuff, shopping, dinning out, etc. But now that the holidays are over, all there is left is just the cold weather  and the icy roads.  But the cold weather would be nice, considering that it continues to be really, really, really hot here. It rained a few days this week and we had to walk with rain boots a few times this week because the roads turn into small rivers after it rains, but it's all normal for this time of year.

A flooded road or trail after the rain

Just outside an investigator's house



Transfers were delayed once again for the second week in a row.  So for this next week at least, I'm staying here. I think they want to move a lot of missionaries between Mozambique and Swaziland and are having some visa delays. So we'll see what happens. I don't think I'll leave this area, but if I did I wouldn't be too surprised considering all the changes that are coming next week. 

All our investigators are doing really well. Because of the holidays, we didn't make any progress on obtaining marriage documents for some of the couples that need to get married.  This week we will work on that. We have two additional families that are now working on their documents to get married; They have a lot of faith and are excited to do all they can to get married and baptized. They are really funny and friendly too, I love visiting these two families; they will be very strong members. This past Sunday at church, we had 128 people in attendance; around here, this is a high number of people attending church and this high attendance has become a frequent thing! We've been working more with the members so they can get to know our investigators and reach out to them even before they get baptized. This week we walked with the entire elder’s quorum presidency to the houses of our investigators and the inactive members so they could meet them and know where everyone lives. It all went really well.

The highlight of the week was zone conference on Friday. It was amazing! It took the whole day. From the morning until late afternoon we had training from President Kretly, with a few breaks in between, including lunch. The training had elements of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven R. Covey. President Kretly is president of Franklin Covey in Brazil and works providing leadership training to companies. So as you can imagine, he is a great trainer. Everything he taught applies in the mission, but also will apply in real life. As he told us, we are not on the mission to become professional missionaries. We are here to help others and to help ourselves become better men when we go home, being prepared to be better students, husbands, fathers, etc.  It was a great conference and I learned a lot of great stuff.  After the training we had a nice dinner and watched that video slideshow that was sent to you guys. Also every district had been asked to prepare a skit, so we had some sort of talent show. It was really fun to watch the other skits and be relax with everyone. It all ended at 9:30pm and we got home about 10:30.

Zone Conference in Beira with elders from my MTC district
Also, President Kretly came up to Beira with all the packages they had received for the Beira elders, and sadly, there were none for me :( so, the packages you sent me are lost, but I still thank you for thinking of me. Don't worry about sending anything else; it's not worth it at this point. The only present I was happy to get was a cool polo shirt with a logo that says Mozambique Maputo Mission. It's not much, but it's a nice remembrance of the mission.



Anyway, I'm really excited for this next week to work hard and get these final documents done for these families and get everything set up for their baptism on the 17th. I hope I end up staying here another transfer, but we'll see. Either way, I will be happy with whatever happens. I am here to serve the Lord, and the people here, regardless of where I go.

Have a good week have fun together, as always. I love you and thank you for everything you do for me!

Love

Josh