Monday, June 22, 2009

LAST Weekly Update 6-22-09

Well one last time it is early morning in Nairobi and I am trying to put to words some very special experiences. This last week has been a whirl wind of bitter/sweet experiences. Each of our visits up-country were a memorable experience this week. Tuesday in Kilili we spent a little time with our LDS English and keyboard and were then to support one last RS Enrichment Activity which in reality became a farewell party. President Makiti took some time off from his school and several of the other priesthood brethren appeared. There were a few short thoughts, some great gifts, a bite (chipatas and soda pop) then we struggled through some final farewells. Thursday at Kyambeke was a joint activity with the new Mitini Branch. Each auxillary presented a few thoughts, testimonies from 3 super converts, gifts and a traditional dance outside, and then some refreshments. President Onesmus had asked us to bring some fruit cordial, paloney, bread with peanut butter and jam (I guess we have corrupted them with the introduction of those last items). We brought Michael back with us so he could work on passport documents and security clearance as he wants to leave for the Mission Field in September which is his first anniversary of church membership. Friday we stopped in Mitini to leave a few needed supplies for the new branch and then bounced on up to Ilima. Sister Bishop worked with her keyboard class while I had a few priesthood brethren come in to assist with a disciplinary council so we could meet the desires of a great mama who had been excommunicated several years ago. We were back to Ilima for Branch Conference yesterday which saw a couple of the new converts there called as a branch councilor, clerk, and councilors in the RS, YW, and Primary. They asked us both to share a few thoughts during the course of the meeting and it was a struggle to contain the emotions. There were a few more gifts and farewells after that then the President Taylor (we rode up and back with them) wanted to see the other side of the Ilima Hill to assess the potential for splitting that branch. It was fairly late when we got home last evening but what a great day.

Since today is our final wakeup in Nairobi we are both up a little early this morning. The President conducted our exit interviews enroute home from Ilima but we still have a full day ahead of us. We did a lot of sorting whenever we were home last week but there is a bunch of packing to accomplish yet. We also need to get to the embassy to close out the mail service there and then clear a bunch of items up at the service center. The Flinders have invited us for supper this evening. We will then have our final FHE and then bum a ride to the airport to begin our journey home. We are scheduled to touch down in Boise at 9:15 pm Tuesday but that still computes to over 30 hours of air travel as we chase the sun west over a date line and through several time zones. We have short lay over's in London and Los Angeles. Our kids tell us they will all meet us at the airport so that could be a bit of a crowd but we are sure looking forward to seeing all our descendents (not the least of which are those 4 grandchildren that have been born since our departure). We have a 10:00 am appointment on Wednesday to meet with President Harrison for our Mission Release. Bishop McDonald has agreed to let us report our mission this Sunday which will take place in the chapel at 1985 N. Blackcat Rd. with the service beginning at 10:20 am. The reality of these impending events have not really hit home yet as we struggled with the numerous goodbyes here.

Even with the hectic pace this week the travel hours have afforded the opportunity to reflect a little over the last 23 months and there is a plethora of life enriching experiences to consider. Initial musings have been attempts to quantify in some way the last 2 years and I will close with a few of those today.
Drove in excess of 100,000 kms with the majority done in very trying conditions.
Several scrapes and minor repairs to our vehicle with only 1 major collision. We got stuck once and only 2 flat tires.
I made over 800 sandwiches to support our travel and consumed half of those. Mine were usually ham & cheese with avocado while my companion opted for ham & avocado.
Our gifts this last week include 1 Muzee Stick (that's a cane for wise old men) and woven carrying bag for me, 6 different woven shopping bags and 5 kangas for Sis. B, and 1 live chicken (we graciously returned the bird and asked them to think of us as they dined on it).
We were involved in 4 funerals and one wedding.
We got to help create 1 new branch and each of the buildings are over flowing. They reported 185 in attendance at the new Mitini Branch yesterday.
Eleven missionaries are now serving or awaiting their report date to the MTC. Four others are actively preparing to submit their missionary papers.
There have been 4 trips to the Johannesburg Temple with 58 people.
We have been blessed to support and participate in 163 convert baptisms and there are 5 more cleared to enter the waters on 4 July.
We have associated with countless fellow missionaries that have strengthened us with support, encouragement, and examples. We hope to maintain our association with each of them in some way.
There are several hundred new African friends who are indelibly imprinted in our memories that we might not see again in this life but look forward to visiting with in the next.

God be with You till we meet again,
Elder & Sister Bishop

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pictures 6-16-09

The new converts from Mitini.

The new converts from Kyambeke. Two of these are 8 year olds and President Mbondo is on the back at the far left. He did some of the baptizing for this group.

The new converts from Ilima. The Chuvi brothers (Jerald & Chris) are the tall guys in back and they are preparing to go on missions. They did most of the work with the younger folks in front and did all the baptizing for this group.

Two late additions to the Mitini group. The girl on the left is 15. We baptized their mother Jane in May. A lot of what was done in this group was finishing up some family groups so there are considerably less one member families in all the branches.

This special lady is Virginia and we had her ready for baptism in May but due to some special little challenges weren't able to do it until June.

This is the building that has been rented for the Mitini Branch. The facilities folks need to get busy on the proposed work to expand it as we had over 100 people in it last Sunday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekly Update 6-14-09

It's 4:20am here but after a few hours sleep I kept thinking of all that we needed to do today so finally gave up trying to stay in bed. We only have the usual 4 trips scheduled this week but there are a bunch of things that need to be done here in town also to accommodate our return to Idaho in 7 days. We need to get to the Saret Center for TB tests and haircuts as that is probably our last chance for those until we get back from the reunion in Texas. That might seem like a strange thing to be worried about while in the Mission Field but it is hard to shake the habit of backward planning after 30 years in the military. That has often clashed with the easy going attitude of the Kenyans here so I have done a lot of pacing and cultivated a bunch more grey hair. President Mbondo recently was demonstrating to his congregation how he could tell that I wasn't happy when my plans were falling apart by mimicking my pacing. Have to admit it was rather humorous to see a short African mimicking some long Mazunga strides especially when he nailed it so well. We host FHE this evening so I need to get my companion back to the flat so she can make sure it meets her standards before the event. That means I will solo to the service center to pick and drop then make some deposits at the bank for the branches. Not sure what all our visits up-country will entail this week but we would like to spend most of our time saying goodbyes but will probably spend some time with keyboard and what I refer to as LDS English. Me and the mamas sing along with some of the LDS Hymns on CDs and review simple prayers in English. I have also recently got a branch missionary to help me translate the Sacrament Prayers into Kikamba which I have laminated and given to the students so they can follow along when the priesthood read it in English. I am hoping it will add to their Sunday experience by attacking a little of the language barrier.

As I indicated last update our little truck only missed one day going up-country this week. Tuesday in Kilili was rather uneventful except we did get all the paperwork finished for the baptisms the previous weekend and they had even gotten Erastus finished up as well. He is the young man whose family was involved in a medical emergency so had missed his baptism on Saturday. Wednesday the Assistants and I were in the Kulunga hills to interview the English speaking candidates there. Thursday in Kyambeke Sister Bishop taught keyboard while I worked with the Branch President to finalize the applications for baptism there. The English students there have quit making the long trek to class now that they have been baptized. Friday at Ilima saw Sister Bishop working with her keyboard students while I spent some time working with Anastacia. She had avoided the interviews on Wednesday because she was fearful of not being able to communicate her feelings in English. She does understand okay and I am hopeful of buoying her courage enough to get her to interview with President Taylor while he is visiting Ilima for Branch Conference on the 21st. Jennifer will also visit with him then as she was still struggling with Tea at the Wednesday interviews. President is planning to baptize them on the 27th along with some 8 year olds from the Branch. We did have a few ready for the joint baptism for the 3 Kulunga Branches on Saturday. There were 2 eight year olds and 37 convert baptisms. It really stretched the limit on the availability of white clothes for baptisms. A couple of the young men were in size 16 shirts whose short sleeves reached to their wrists. These guys aren't too used to getting the best anyway and their desire to be baptized certainly overcame any concern to be seen in clothes that were so obviously too large for them and they didn't mind sharing towels as we were a little short on those also. Peter, an older gentleman we were working with at Kyambeke, did not show up even though he had passed the interview requirements on Wednesday so we left some clothes and are hoping he had just misunderstood the time and date and that they were able baptize him yesterday.

We were in Mitini for the inaugural service there yesterday. I had hauled 15 loaner chairs from Nairobi up each of the 4 days we had passed through there last week. We then borrowed a table, another 10 big chairs and 20 youth chairs from Kyambeke after the baptismal service that we dropped on our way home Saturday. Still there were more people than sitting accommodations for the service yesterday. According to President Kaseve there was close to 200% attendance and after our last baptism their numbers were up to 80 members. I taught an investigator class about the Restoration with 22 attendees. The members had resurrected 4 benches from what the previous tenet to the facilities had left and the group was crowded together on those. I will get some materials to the young men serving as branch missionaries there and they will have to continue teaching and make contact with the Mission Office when the investigators are ready for baptism. The lead missionary in that group is Macarius, who we just baptized in mid May. He is excited for the opportunity to share his testimony with his fellow villagers. We can't help but be a little concerned as to the future of the church there with us not being backfilled right away if at all but then we remember that this is not our program and just trust that we have come close to accomplishing what was needed to equip these good people to carry out the Lord's plan on their own.

Well, will sign off and get started on the rest of my "to do list" for today. My companion has a plethora of items that have to be done before our departure in 7 days. My list is not quite as big as hers but I try to help out to alleviate her fears that we just can't get everything to fit the constraints we are working with. To that end I finished off the ice cream on hand making our last mango smoothies last week and I am trying to make sure all the cookies are gone too so that any food left-overs we have to haul to the other couples is at a minimum. A scout is helpful right.

We do have 4 more trips up-country this week which means just 8 more trips through the deviation mess at Athi River. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting much bigger. Looking forward to visiting with everyone on the other side of the world shortly.

Love ya,
Elder & Sister Bishop

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pictures 6-8-09

Sister Bishop with her "namesake" Barbara Wykalia Muthiani and Barbara's mother Jacinta Muthiani.

Our latest group of Temple Patrons. President Fredrick Kaseve of the new Mitini Branch is on the right with his family. His wife is the RS President. The Bonface Maukau family is on the left. He is the 1st Councilor and she is the YW President.

Elder Dominic Mambo Makau is having his Missionary Badge pinned on by his younger brother Peter before his departure to the MTC. Does he look excited?

The Baptismal group at the Kilili Branch on 6 June 2009.

Weekly Update 6-8-09

We are back from the Temple but what a great trip. We were able to attend 6 sessions (Sis. Bishop made it to 3 and spent the rest of the time riding herd on the little ones). Besides their own sealing's we were able to do some baptisms and then seal a few of their ancestors also. That kept us pretty busy as the temple doesn't open until 3:00 each day with the exception of Friday and Saturday. We were able to visit with Elders Mutuku and Musembi (we sent them to the MTC 3 weeks ago) who were making one last visit to the Temple before moving to their respective mission assignments. On Thursday Elder Mambo Makau left us to go to the MTC. The trip home was uneventful except a couple of the little ones wanted to hide rather than leave Patron Housing. The beds and environment there are definitely a step or two above what they are used to.

We got linked up with our newly serviced vehicle enroute from the airport and we were back in it Saturday for a baptism at Kilili. We had 21 who were baptized with 3 of them being 8 year olds. There was one other candidate but his family had a medical emergency so we left some clothes and President Makiti was going to take care of it sometime during their church services yesterday. I don't imagine they had much time for testimonies in their meeting yesterday with 22 confirmations to conduct. We were back to Kyambeke for services yesterday. Today will be our only non-travel day this week as I am taking the Assistants up Wednesday to interview the English speaking candidates for the baptism we have scheduled this Saturday. With the 6 trips this week we should be able to just do 4 the next week before getting on the plane home 2 weeks from tonight.

We got word while in Johannesburg that approval had been granted for the Mitini lease so hope to get enough things up to them this week so we can hold services their Sunday. Other than that there are only about 100 other little ankle biters that we need to deal with today. With that thought I must sign off and be about our missionary business. I didn't arise as early this morning so am already a little behind schedule. Not sure if my tardiness was the result of trying to catch up on some missing sleep or if I just need a little more now that I am 61. Thank you for the birthday remembrances. I will try and get a few pictures out before FHE tonight.

Elder & Sister Bishop

Friday, June 5, 2009

Weekly Update 5-31-09

It is Sunday evening but we head to the Temple in Johannesburg at 0-dark-30 in the morning and it would be mid-week before we get at a computer so it is update time. It seems like this trip has been a bit more of a challenge than the other three but it is finally a go. We ended up making a rush trip to the hills last Monday to collect signatures to satisfy a seemingly new requirement with the South Africa Embassy. Wednesday ended up being the only day we didn't travel up country this week. Even though the stress of helping the patrons make all their appointments and dealing with housekeeping chores when it is an alien environment to them it is going to be restful not having to do any driving next week. We will pick it right back up again on our return to Nairobi as we have a baptism in Kilili on the 6th.

Our time on station at each of our regular visits this week were rather uneventful but we had some satisfying experiences. Sister Bishop was able to give another of her students their own instrument as they had met all the requirements of the people at the Harmon Grant who provide these keyboards to qualified people around the world. We have several more adults ready for their baptismal interviews in English when we get back. On our way home Friday Jacinta meant us along the road to show us her new daughter. Jacinta was one of our earlier baptisms and her husband is now the 1st Councilor in Kyambeke. They had a new baby a little over a month ago but it is not unusual for mother and baby to just stay at home for 6 weeks or so after birth. Anyway their little daughter is just adorable and her name is Barbara. These folks just keep making it harder and harder to bid farewell in just 3 weeks time now.

Thursday evening we ferried the Lukes to the airport for their triumphant return to Green River, Utah. They were the Public Affairs couple and had arrived here in Nairobi about 5 months after us. They are the last ones that are scheduled to leave before our departure.

Had quite a bit of rain in Nairobi this week with a minimal amount in the Hills and none down at Kilili. Just muddied up the commute a lot with the biggest impact being on the deviation through Athi River. Got to do a little mud bogging on unauthorized deviations. Our 4 wheel drive has sure been much appreciated on numerous occasions and we have certainly tested its' mettle numerous times. The odometer was at 88,600+ when I filled out the monthly report tonight so I am sure it will be glad for the week of rest this week also. It is needing a new clutch, inspection sticker, and service while we are in Johannesburg. Normally they recycle the vehicles at around 90,000 but because this vehicle is only 2 years old they are going to keep it around until 100,000 but it wont have far to go to reach that milestone when we depart but it will probably be used as an extra for a while as it is still looking like we will not be replaced.

Well, must bid goodnight as we need to meet the patrons at the office at Upper Hill by 5 in the morning. Here's hoping for a safe journey to all till we check in next week.

Elder & Sister Bishop

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekly Update 5-26-09

Well the sprint to the finish line is picking up speed as we try to finish off a few last items before our departure in 4 weeks time. We are ready to finish up all the paperwork for our Temple Group today and just hope that Victor is able to gather all the visas at the South Africa Embassy this week. In an effort to stem the flow of immigrants from each country here, the more established South Africa imposes some rather stringent restrictions on other Africans visiting there. The Church is required to ensure via a monetary deposit that the people will only be there for the specified time but the money is credited back once the terms of the visa is satisfied. This is even the case with the young people who fulfill missions there or attend the MTC enroute to another country. We are still waiting on approval from the Physical Facilities folks to begin occupation of the proposed building in Mitini. Also this week we received word from the Dr. who reviews mission applications for the Area that he wants to wait a month on Stellamaris' application. In and of themselves these little ankle biters aren't much but as this race nears its' finish they do raise my anxiety just a little. I realize that a portion of this anxiety is the result of rather low tolerance for any who would disagree or fail to have the same view of the situation that I do (I'll try to work on being a little more tolerant but please don't hold me to that commitment). Just to add to the stress level it appears that the last baptisms we are trying to accomplish is swelling to a number of around 60 people and the few available dates combined with a deficiency of the number of white clothes is more than just a little worrying. In our visits up-country more of the members are trying to get us to visit their home before our departure and as much as we would love to do that just to show our feelings and respect time just doesn't allow us to accommodate all the requests and we are struggling to keep from offending anyone.

Our Tuesday visit to Kilili was held in conjunction with a RS Enrichment event as they wanted to teach my companion how to weave bags and blankets before she left. Whenever our visits coincide with enrichment we can count on a disproportionate number of attendees at our English Class so we just worked on singing some hymns. It is amazing how well that medium seems to bridge the language barrier somewhat and they seemed to enjoy themselves but I hope in our last few visits there the number of attendees becomes a little more manageable.

Our Thursday and Friday visits to the Kilungu Hills were pretty much the same although our English classes there have pretty well dried up with the baptism of Mamas who were struggling with the language. However there are at least 10 solid investigators that we are trying to prepare for their English based baptismal interviews so we are still staying rather busy there and our time on site is not decreasing as we thought it might. We did visit President Simon's mother in Ilima for a few minutes on Friday as she lives very near the chapel there. We scored some cups of warm milk (no refrigeration in the hills) a bag of grapefruit sized avocados and a stalk of bananas. More than we can possibly eat by ourselves so we share with the other couples here but it is touching to see their willingness to share from their meager resources and the last thing we want to do is offend by refusing their offer even though they certainly have a greater need than this fat mazungu.

Saturday I drove back to Mitini with Victor and a couple of medical folks to administer the required yellow fever shots to the temple attendees. It was their first ever immunizations and not at all appreciated by the younger ones. I was afraid my young friends would never come near me again. However I was able to illicit shy smiles from them at church yesterday so think maybe they have forgiven me already. Sure looking forward to the trip to Johannesburg and the creation of 2 more "forever families" next week. A note on the Saturday trip was when I returned the medical folks to their pick up point they asked if my immunizations were current and upon being assured that they were he offered to secure me a matatu drivers license which I think was a good natured statement on my aggressive driving habits. I will certainly have to work to ensure that those habits stay here as they would get me in a lot of trouble state-side.

Well once again the sun is up on a Monday morning in Kenya and I must cease my ramblings as we want to get the plethora of travel documents to the service center the first thing today so we can be sure all is ready for next Monday. We were then going to check the mail box at the embassy but realized that it is Memorial Day on your side of the world which means the local embassy employees are on holiday also. That does remind me that with the time required for mail to get from there to here I would encourage all to not post any letters to us after June 1st as I doubt that we would receive it. We will visit the APO one last time and leave a forwarding address on the 22nd as we finish up here but it would probably be months before any mail caught up with us as we do have a few plans elsewhere upon our return.

Sowa Sowa. Elder & Sister Bishop