Well, pretty much Mozambiquan internet is the worst ever. I tried to write my letter this morning, but after an hour of typing (on HTML version of gmail), the internet died. So I had no way to save what I wrote or to send it. So let’s see if I can remember what I wrote.
Spring break. Psht.
Tyler, welcome back [originally read: you’re a loser]. Eat a frosty for me!
So this week has been an interesting one, although I haven’t really experienced one that wasn’t… So here in Manga is different than Nampula. Well, it’s the same, but different. No mountains, a little more humid, and flat. So flat that when it rains, it pools up so much, and gets difficult to get to people’s houses for a few days. We’re on bikes though, which helps the problem a little bit. But the bikes suck, and Elder Schnobrich, who I replaced, destroyed the bike right before he left. So I had to pump $30 of my money into it to get it working again. And they break down a lot. But it’s better than walking our huge area, so I can’t complain too much. The temperature here is a lot like Richmond in the summer. So think of the hottest, nastiest day you can remember in Richmond (humidity and everything), and that’s most days in the summer here. But the ‘winter’ (they really only have two seasons, the ‘time of heat,’ and the ‘time of cold’) is supposed to be really nice, and even get chilly in the winter.
So this week, we spent a lot of time with me getting to know our investigators and members. We have 5 people who are getting baptised this week, including three teenagers (who I already forgot their names), a woman named Duxa, and a woman named Paulina. But my favorite investigator that I have met so far is a woman named Paula. Her life used to be a mess. She had an abusive boyfriend, a huge drug addiction problem, and she drank and smoked. She found the Gospel, and started learning with the missionaries, and her life turned around. She dumped her terrible boyfriend, stopped taking the cocaine, marajuana, and other drugs, stopped drinking and smoking. She has a super strong testimony of the Gospel and its restorative effects, based on this first hand experience. Unfortunately, she will not be able to be baptised this Saturday like was originally planned, because of a small problem. She had a tooth taken out a while ago, and every now and then, she feels pain in the ‘ghost’ of the tooth. She has found no other way to relieve the pain than to put a small wad of chewing tobacco in the empty spot of the tooth. We are trying really hard to make sure she gets this worked out so she can be baptised. She is a wonderful woman, and is already a strong person in the church, just not quite a member yet.
We also have a less active woman named Fransisca, who is having problems making it to church. She has problems with her feet, because of some sickness. Her baraca (hut to sell goods in) fell because of some rain last week. Elder McCulloch and I are going to go tomorrow to rebuild it for her, since she has no real source of income other than this shop.
It’s weird being a district leader. I definitely need all the help I can get… We had a District Leader’s Conference this week (given by the zone leaders, who I live with), which was really nice for me, and gave me some ideas about how to study personally a little better, and how to hold a district meeting with a little more efficiency. This week, we just had a get to know you session, and it was really cool to see the members of my district and where they came from and what they are trying to do/what they think will help out our areas the most. We have two Cabo Verdianos in our district, Elder Delgado (a zone leader, who lives with me), and Elder Correira (who is in the Inhamizua branch as the Branch President). Then there is Elder Miller, Elder Delgado’s companion, and Elder Clawson, Elder Correira’s companion.
This week in the branch was very… interesting. I had heard a lot about false traditions from President, but it wasn’t until this week that I saw how prevalent they really were here in Mozambique. There is a tradition called Chisassa, which used to be for the blessing of a baby… or something. The baby was required to stay seven days in the room where it was born, and the tribe was required to stand vigil around the hut, so that others could not kill the baby, or evil spirits couldn’t get it (or something like this… I’m not entirely sure of the history of the tradition). But nowadays, the tradition is just an excuse to have a huge party, and to require people to give you presents and money. This had caused many problems in the past in the Branch, so we had a member of the district presidency come and have a debate with the branch to see if he could show them why it was such a problem. It was interesting to see what came out of it. The two things that I got most were these:
One: We were reading in Alma, about Ammon and Aaron and their success in converting the Lamanites. And it says that they Lamanites were converted, and that they became and industrious people who would rather give up their own life instead of kill their brethren. This instead of the lazy people who delighted in bloodshed, and were cursed by God for it. And because of this, they literally became as the Nephites, and the curse of God was no longer with them. This shows to me the true repentance process. Not only do you have to desire to change, you have to do a lot to do it, even a 180 degree change in the direction you are going. And this conversion of the Lamanites to Nephites brought up the second point:
Two: That there is a culture in the Church. Not one that is assimilated and changed slightly with each successive generation of people that are born into, or are converted to, the Gospel, but a true, living, and dynamic culture that is the culture of God. His people who truly want to do the right things and want to live a live that warrants the return to His presence will do things that make this happen. There will be less bickering and fighting, and the people will want to help each other only because they know that every person they come into contact with is a son or daughter of our Heaven Father. And because of this, they will follow the example of our Savior, and a culture is born out of it. It is interesting to note that this culture has existed through out all periods of time, from the early Jews to Christ’s church, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. No we aren’t perfect, but, especially here, I have seen the effects of this culture on the people, and as they try to live in the culture of the Church instead of in the culture of the world, I have seen lives change, families blessed, and communities strengthened.
I love you all, and would like to leave my testimony that I know that the Church of Jesus christ of Latter Day saints is the true and living church here on the face of the earth. That Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet who speaks for Jesus Christ in the direction of the Saints, and for their benefit. I know that while we are not perfect, as we strive to follow our Savior’s example, we will be stronger, more caring and better people because of it.
I have noticed a lot this last week how much I rely on the Lord. It was interesting, because before, I never really noticed it. I always knew I did, I suppose, but I never could see how He was helping me. I always thought that when things got hard, I would be able to see His hand in my life. But this week, with the help of my companion, I realized something. We keep teaching our investigators that a lot of people are waiting on the Lord: “I’m ready here when He decides to come and help me,” when in reality it is the other way around. He waits for us to come to Him: if we don’t do anything to prove that we want His help, He won’t do anything to help us. He doesn’t do this because He doesn’t want to, on the contrary, He would like nothing more than to alleviate our burdens, but because of the Great Plan that our Father created for us, we need to have the opportunity to learn and to grow ourselves. It was hard for me to wrap my head around this. It was something that I could easily understand, when applied in someone else’s life, but when it came down to applying it to my life, I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. This week, I have been able to see that as I search for the Lord in my life, I will see things that I never thought were there. I can see His hand in my life in every aspect: in all that I do, in all that I receive, and in all the joy that I am able to see around me.
Elder A. Spencer Leake