This week was an interesting one for sure….
Elder Lopes and I left at 4ish in the morning on Saturday. We show up, with our second class train tickets in hand, and I followed Elder Lopes to our seats. It wasn’t until at the end of the trip, after the ticketmaster came around, that we found out we were in third class… It was kind of awful.
We get to Iapala after almost 6 hours of a train ride, and are greeted by Augustinho. He is a champion. He lives ‘close’ to Iapala, which is more than a four hour walk for him to get to church every week. (Close means two hours away from Iapala…)
So we are taken to the motorbikes that will take us to Lucas Bento’s home. Have you ever wanted to ride a 25cc bike, overloaded with people and gear, at 50 mphs down what is essentially a dry stream bed? I didn’t either, but it was surprisingly fun. Our trip by bike should have taken about 45 minutes, but we had some bad luck. The bike I was riding on had a malfunction with the chain, and so we had to get that fixed, and then about 10 minutes away, the back tire goes out on the bike I’m on. No injuries, but I had to walk until the other bike dropped off Elder Lopes and could come back to pick me up. So I get on the bike, and we head into the village. I was greeted by singing, and a welcome of clapping and cheering. THe biggest thing I noticed about this week was the absolute certainty that the people had that I was doing the right thing and helping them as much as I could.
Saturday, we didn’t do very much, rested a bit, but that night, there was a bit of a festus put on by the kids. They pulled out the big drum and started to to get some beats going, and there was a very nice dance circle around the drum. A bunch of the adults joined in, too.
Sunday was a very interesting experience for me. Elder Lopes and I were the center of attention. Me more than him, because I was the only white person in easily 150 miles. But as missionaries, we are this community’s strength and support. They manage without us, but they look forward to our visits every 3 weeks, so that we can help them teach and learn better in their classes. About 60 people were there, and I asked for the blessing on the Sacrament and gave a talk (which was weird in and of itself… I had to give it in Portuguese, and then it was translated into Makua…). Then I went to go help the kids and young men and women. They have only been a branch for a couple of weeks now, so they have only needed to have this class for a couple of weeks, and the teacher was super new and had no idea what to do. And yet, he had no doubt that he needed to do it and that he could. But when I was there, they wanted to see how ‘it should be taught.’ I have never been a very humble person, but when everyone thinks you can do no wrong, it’s super hard to be prideful. I recognized so many of my faults, and hoped with all of my heart that they wouldn’t, so I wouldn’t dissappoint them.
If nothing else from this trip, I have probably seen the most amazing people in my life. Lucas Bento, the Branch president and ‘chief’ of the ‘tribe’ is an amazing man. He is in his late 70s, and he walked to find a motorcycle to bring us home. He walked for a few hours to talk to his neighbors, because he said that we would have a ride back, and he didn’t want to go back on his word. On Wednesday, when we left, he was feeling ill, because of the walking he did to help us. Lucas brought the church here from Lisbon, when he was there having surgery for one of his illnesses. His brother was a member, and Lucas brought the church back to Luaha.
I can say almost without a doubt that the Church is the most remote in Luaha, and I can surely say the people there are the most friendly and open, kind and willing to learn that I have ever met. I know I will keep this with me for the rest of my mission, probably my life.
And I get to go again in less than three weeks! I’m so excited.
Love you all, thanks for your continued support!
Elder A. Spencer Leake