But I was just lying here in bed, alone, wondering about my oldest son. The one I worried about 5 years ago. The one that used to get under my skin and inside my heart almost in the same second. He has been serving as assistant to the mission president for the past couple of months, and due to the vast amounts of traveling he has to do each week (the Kenya Nairobi mission covers the countries of Kenya and Tanzania) we do not always hear from him on his regular preparation day. I am usually okay with this, knowing he is doing important work, but this week I have been missing him a bit and hoping all is well on his side of the earth.
My phone buzzes telling me I have gotten an email at 11:51 pm, and before reaching over to the nightstand I say a quick silent prayer that it is from Perry, my African son. I wanted to share with you some of his experience. Please forgive the length. I tried and tried to edit the email, but couldn't do it.
Last Wednesday I felt like I was in front of a tribunal. A local school asked to come to the church to learn more about our religion. A group of around 50 teenagers came to the chapel here at the mission office. They all sat in the congregation and some of us missionaries sat up on the stand. We showed a short video about the church and some of our basic beliefs, then the floor was opened up to questions. Anyone could raise their hand to ask something. On the stand fielding questions were the missionaries (Elder Paulo and myself, as well as two senior couple missionaries), the stake president, the stake mission leader, and Elder Usi (area authority seventy). The teenagers were, as far as I could tell, all foreigners. It's been awhile since I've been around that many white people close to my age. We took turns answering questions. The session lasted about ninety minutes or so and then they all left. I learned a few things from the whole experience. One is that the missionaries who proselyte (us young single missionaries) should answer questions. We've heard most of them before and we know how to answer CONCISELY without going off on a ten minute sermon that leads the questioner more in the dark. Another thing I learned is that many of my peers (most of the group we were speaking with) do not have a knowledge of the scriptures. They would ask questions like they were representing Christianity as a whole but it was quite apparent that they had little to no knowledge or understanding of the scriptures. I think sometimes I don't realize some of the things I have learned and developed as a missionary. A basic knowledge of the scriptures is one of those things. Anyway afterwards I spoke with a few of the students, they were from all over (some from the US, others born in Kenya but from European families, etc). The only way I can describe it is 'weird'. Instead of fumbling away in my broken Swahili ("Habari, una toka wapi?") I just used normal English. The whole thing just seemed foreign to me.
The weekend consisted of driving to Eldoret for zone conference and then spending time with the missionaries there on exchanges. The drive is quite fun in the rain, there are many dirt diversions from the main highway (mucho construction-o). I didn't want to get our truck stuck as we drove through a giant puddle so I floored it. The tidal wave literally went over the whole front of our truck and ran down the roof onto the back shell's window. Boys will be boys.
We made it there and back safe, nothing too out of the ordinary except for that we didn't even get stopped by the police on the way. Western Kenya is the bread basket of the country, we stopped and bought 10Kgs of potatoes for 200 shillings (about US $2.50). That was pretty awesome.
The water situation is not getting any better. My companion and I spent close to 8,000 shillings (US $100) on water storage tanks that we are going to hand out and use to help missionaries. They say that there is also a food shortage on the horizon. And power as well. Sometimes I just have to laugh and shake my head. The people here don't complain much though, I have to hand it to them for persevering.
Yesterday Elder Paulo and I went up to the Kilungu Hills, about a three hour drive south of Nairobi, to check on a newly formed branch there. The Mitini branch has boasted of having investigators' classes twice a week (there are no full time missionaries stationed there so the branches have to be self relient when it comes to missionary work). President Taylor asked us to comply with the branch president's request to visit. We drove up the mountains in a thick fog. It's very cold up there. The Kamba tribe has inhabited all of the surrounding mountainsides, terracing the hills to grow maize, bananas, etc. In a building (just a step above a 'shack' in my book because it's made of stone) on a peak in the middle of nowhere there is a branch. We taught investigators' classes, each of us going to one, from ten to noon. Without stopping. All of my class was in Kikamba, their tribal language. The second counselor in the branch presidency was my translator. The average age of my students was probably 50+. They were little, weathered grandmas with leathered faces and sunken eyes. There were also a few men there. Despite the cold all they had were colorful sheets ("kangas") to wrap themselves in. I taught, as simply as I could, about God, prophets, the family, and the gospel. I made them repeat (several times) back to me the five principles of the gospel. Many of them knew little-to-nothing of common Christianity. It was a peculiar experience for sure, though very powerful. They are such good people there. They live simple lives without all of the distractions and stresses of our city lives. Buses only go up there once a week (Tuesdays) so they are disconnected from any of the nearby cities on the highway to Mombasa.
We saw a giraffe on the drive back from the Hills. Just right near the road, chomping away on a tree.
I love you all. The Church is true, and Jesus DOES live. I know it.