Hello from the beautiful country of Zimbabwe. I have been here since Wednesday, and will be able to email every monday for a few hours. My Living arrangements are simple: I have running water, sometimes hot, a stove that works usually, and I have electricity! (from about 8pm-ish to 9 am-ish) I also have a fully automated, do it yourself, hand-washing laundry system with racks to dry my stuff on built into the room right over there! It is exciting, the food isn't that bad, (alot of it is similar to american food) and amazingly, they have bottled Coke ($.50 or 5R for a glass bottle of sprite. . . oh so delicious!). My trainer/companion is Elder Hayes from Phoenix, Arizona, and has only been in the field for 12 weeks. He is a pretty awesome guy, and I am glad that I will be serving with him for 2 transfers (12 weeks). I am serving currently in sakubva, an area in Mutare. Sakubva is the poorest in Zim, and it is humbling to see what the people live like. Most have only a small home (1-2 rooms) with occasional power and running water. Most people eat sadza, (pretty much corn meal and water) which tastes kind of like straight cream of wheat. It is full of carbs, and is fairly tasteless without a soup or relish on it, but isn't bad by any means (it is ridiculously cheap). The chicken here is good, and the beef mediocre. Presently, my schedule generally looks something like this:
6am: wake up
8-10:30 finish up for the day
They always said this would be the hardest work of my life (yes, the infamous they), and I believe that I am currently in one of the most physically intensive missions in the world, but the only way in which it surpasses my childhood is that we are going 7 days a week for 2 years, as apposed to just Saturdays, for ages 5-15.
Almost everyone here speaks passable english, as it is taught in school, but almost everyone (in Mutare at least) speaks fluent Shona. I am learning, and it is going pretty aribo (good).
When proselyting, we usually walk between appointments, and don't generally approach people about the gospel. However, We have lots of people ask us to come in and share our message with them, or just set up an appointment to do so. So many of the people here are ready to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most people here don't have a set religion, just a church they attend more than any other. The society is so close knit here that nobody has a problem or is even surprised when we refer to them as brother or sister within seconds of meeting them. They already have a sort of feel for each other as almost family, and the prospects of family provided by the Gospel seem so natural to them.
Right before I got here, there were two women who walked into General Conference (It played here just 2 weeks ago, not live) and they can't speak more than a few words of English, but afterwards they went up to the missionaries and told them that this was their new church and they wanted to be baptised. Sister Maconi was baptized last saturday (oct 28), and confirmed yesterday. Sister Rebecca will be baptized this coming Saturday. There is an amazing member here, his name is Brother Henry, and he does almost as much missionary work as missionaries (or so it seems). The branch here in Sakubva has about 30-40 active members, and is in need of a strong leader. It is likely that once Brother Henry gets the Melchizidek priesthood, he will be made the branch or district president, (he has only been a member for a few months) and it is likely they may ordain him to be an elder before the usual year. He is so strong, and knows practically everyone in Sakubva, member or not. As you can tell, he would make an ideal leader for this area. His knowledge of the gospel is smaller than average, but he knows and understands more than most who have grown up in the gospel, and his passion to help others is greater than most people I have ever met. I wouldn't be surprised if he were to become a general authority in the next decade or so.
A friend of Brother Henry's is Brother Wonder. We met with him on friday, my second day here in Sakubva. Our first lesson was a little difficult because the sun was almost down about halfway through so we had little or no light. However, Brother Wonder was so excited to learn about the Gospel. He was excited for us to come back the next day. He told us that his wife had passed away about 10 years prior and so we taught him second about the plan of salvation. Both he and my companion were crying by the end, and the spirit was so strong. His Mother and son will hopefully meet with us next visit, and he has a friend who only speaks Shona who will likely come as well. We taught Brother Wonder about the commandments (Word of wisdom, chastity, and tithing) and he was so ready to stop drinking tea and coffee. It is inspiring to see him work towards becoming like Christ. He came to church yesterday as well. It was awesome to see him there, and he will be baptized on this coming saturday as well. Most of the baptizing and blessing done here is done by members rather than missionaries so as to help create more permanent bonds between members.
We had 6 investigators in church yesterday, though I can't take credit for more than 2 of them, as i hadn't even seen most of them before church. There is a family where the mom and both sons are interested in the church (and my gosh, the youngest son, maybe 10-13 years old easily understands more about God and the scriptures than the rest of his family and most kids I have met. His mind soaks up what we teach him, and he brings up deep questions for us that I would think few investigators in the world have thought of before). The problem, however, is the father. He is resistant to what we teach, as their family, for generations, has been in the same church. Without their father knowing, both of the boys came to church yesterday (what desire to learn they have!), but did ask us not to let their father know they had come. They said they enjoyed church and I hope they will continue coming. I will share a quick story about this family, and then move on.
Last night, Elder Hayes and I were finishing up our day and decided to drop in to see the Chippo family (above mentioned). We wanted to get home soon, as it was fast sunday, and there aint no rest for the wicked (good song by the way), or the righteous on Sunday. Anyway, as we went into the home, I said a quick prayer that we could get done quickly, as I could barely stand up. (It was 6:30, and I had had no food and little water all day, and the walking in Sakubva is far from chill and easy. The sun had been beating down, blah blah blah, I was pretty bloody tired) Before I finished the spirit pushed (more like shoved) me into adding an or: OR break through with the Father. (*sigh*, it took longer than a quick scripture normally would =P) We shared James 2:17-18. Faith without works is dead. . . etc. etc. and we focused primarily on the father. He asked a few questions and we discussed faith and works. He was very interested. Then, surprisingly, he started asking a few questions about the book of mormon (good thing my companion was ready because the shock practically rendered me speechless and I still can't remember what he asked). So we started talking about it, and his son (the younger one, though both are intelligent, this one just astounds me as stated previously) asks us what the picture of Moroni burying the plates in the hill Cumorah was about (can you venture a guess right now? haha). We explained and I added that they would enjoy reading from Moroni's words as he talks a lot about faith and charity (which we had been discussing prior to this). The father seemed genuinely interested. As heretofore he has been adamantly against what is in the Book of Mormon, this was, as we had wanted, a huge breakthrough with him. Tomorrow I hope we can go see them, and that the Father won't be drunk (The drunks here are common, annoying, and teaching/talking to them is generally worthless).
Now onto the fun stuff:
The Children here are so fun! They love playing soccer, and their soccer balls are small, tightly rolled up grocery bags (about 5-6 inches in diameter). We will occasionally stop and play with them, but on Friday, there was a guy watching them who called us over. He wanted to hear a discussion. As we started all the children gathered around (maybe 20 of them) and we proceeded to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them all, with the man translating, and ample participation from the children. It was an amazing experience, and hopefully we will be able to teach them another time. I got a picture, but it is on my comp's camera as mine was not on my person nor would the picture have been of passable quality for such a large photo with my budget camera.
I had an interesting experience one morning when passing a school (by the way, imagine how funny it is to see a sign for a primary school partially obstructed by the barbed wire fence on top of the wall. . . hysterical). There were lots of small children. The kids always like to say hi to the Murungu's (white people) as my comp and I are 2 of the maybe like 5 white people in Sakubva (if that). I was excited to give them all hi-fives and fist-bumps, but couldn't understand what they were saying (shona takes lots of practice, but for 5 days, i am doing pretty well). I just felt like a celebrity, and after about 30 seconds, I bid them all farewell, and returned to my comp. He promptly informed me that they had been calling me a satanist. Oh the shock and hilarity I felt, and looking back I can't help but laugh. I still need to remember that word. . .
One problem here in sakubva is that the members as a whole don't associate much with non-members, so there are lots of rumors about our church (bowls of blood in the baptismal font, we are vampires, satanists, etc.). If only the people would make more of an effort to fellowship others and share the gospel like brother Henry does. Even so, as it is we have great success: teaching 5-10 lessons per day, and most of them we have a member present as well (usually either Brother Henry, or Sister D. I won't tell you much about her, but she is a cool person.).
For all of you who want to send me letters, I believe my sister has posted the criteria needed to be followed for pouch mail. I am able to send envelopes, but for some reason, you can't. Because it takes about 2 weeks for a letter to come from the U.S. and for a reply to go there, I am allowed to email all of you on P-days. However, even though it isn't instant, I would absolutely love to receive actual, tangible, hand-written, heart-felt mail from you all. So feel free to both email and send letters.
For emails, I will be at a computer emailing from about 11:00 ish for a few hours on mondays my time, which is 2:00am sunday for you guys. . . which I just found out as I was writing this. So, if you feel like staying up past 4am in order to some-what instant message me, feel free. But don't feel under pressure (also a good song).
What I love most here:
*The Life (trees here are awesome)
*The Rain (haven't had much yet, but when it does it is pretty nice)
What I miss most:
*Music (I miss my rock. . . can you tell?)
*You Guys (I love you all. Write often, and know that it took me 3 tries to correctly capitalize that W back there. . . enjoy that little info)
Everyone who is reading this I am aware or unaware is reading this (yes, including YOU!) send me a small message so I know you are reading this.
That way, when I am writing this, I can keep you in mind so that when you are reading this after I have written this, I can give you advice about stuff while I am writing this and so you can know when you are reading this I am writing this for you. (If that redundant use of redundancies didn't give you a headache, you can have a candy bar. But you are buying, as I need to save my money.)
But know that I love you all, and I will say that you are all in my prayers, but that will be subconscious; because, to be honest, most of you aren't being thought about consciously at all throughout the day, as there are a lot of you, and I only have so much time and we all know my memory isn't the best. But, I love you all nonetheless (which is, by the way, my second favorite word), and my heart is with you indubitably (which is and always will be my favorite word).
Elder Taggart Williams
ALL: Read the scriptures daily and pray always. I never realized what a difference it makes until just recently, don't make the same mistake I did. If you want to send me something package like, get it to my parents and they can include it in a package. I don't have ANYTHING I need right now, as I have enough stuff packed for a full 2 years (minus food, shelter and water). . . thanks mom =P.
Nathan, Dylan, Stephen, and anyone else preparing for a mission: Do your papers NOW! Even if you aren't wanting to leave for a year, get everything you can, done right now. You won't regret it, and it will give the Lord room to work in your life if you don't wait for one thing to be ready before doing everything else (*ahem* Nathan. . . dot dot dot).