Dear Family and Friends,
I am writing this on Sunday evening in the flat and will copy and paste (I hope) tomorrow at the mission office. We have just had supper with the other two couples and a single sister who they have been friendshipping. Nice supper of fish (Tepia), potatoes, butternut squash, green beans and rolls. Tomorrow night we all go out to a restaurant for Turners final night.
Thursday we drove to Mutare. Apparently it is about the prettiest place in Zimbabwe and I must agree. It had hills/mountains and the area was very green and pretty – especially with the rainy season. We have 3 or 4 chapels there and the District President is President Chadambuka. He is a really good man. He met us and took us to the senior’s home. The youth (age 18-24) were already there and had been doing some service work on the grounds. They were all wearing the “Helping Hands” T-shirts that the church uses on such projects. We were given a tour of the facility – it is pretty old. Each tenant has a room with cement floors and walls and a door to outside that faces the middle of the complex. They each had a single bed and maybe a chest of drawers. Very meager circumstances. The tenants were gathered under a wooden frame canopy structure and we were introduced and Jim was asked to say a few words - basically telling that we are with LDS Charities etc. Then the youth passed out two blankets and a bar of soap each. (Note: the blankets and the soap are purchased here in Harare. The soap is about 4” X 12” and can be cut into bars. We keep a supply of these things in a container in the garden by the mission office. The container is the type that you would see on a train. We are trying to get another 1 or 2 containers to keep things in – it has been approved I believe. They seal nicely against rats, thieves, etc.
The oldest tenant at the home was a 91 year old lady, Mary. She couldn’t come out of her room so we took it to her. She wanted to kiss us all and hugged the blankets to her face. She offered us some of her Sudza (food) from her cup – we declined! I will try and attach a picture. She was very small. There were a total of 26 seniors there. They appreciated the help.
From there we went to a school for handicap kids and gave them each two blankets (the reason we give two is one for the bottom and one for the top of their beds). The school is in desperate need of anything we could do. They have 20 students coming in May that live there for the term. They mattress pads were pretty much demolished and conditions overall were horrid. We may write up an ‘initiative’ for covered foam mattress pads and submit it to SA (South Africa) for approval and then give more blankets and soap to the students when they come. The children sang to us and then we sang “I am a child of God” to them.
The next morning we went to an orphanage run by some nuns. It was up the hills in a village. The road there left a lot to be desired – similar to driving up in the hills above Mt. View when I was a kid (only I think this was worse). Luckily we have a truck. The “Helping Hands” youth were with us again. We had our introductions again and a tour and then each child received 2 blankets and soap. Sad conditions - but the children seem happy – big white smiles. Mostly all these people eat corn maize and a sort of relish they make out of green leaves. The orphanage people wanted the youth to move some bricks for them with Pres. Chadambuka’s truck. We tried to drive up to where the bricks were and after the road getting narrower and going across a couple of streams – there was a tractor on the road and no one to move it so we had to turn around. While doing this the youth found a guava tree and picked a few fruit – so we tried our first guava. It was good!
On to the next orphanage about 15 km away. It looked nicer than the last but we didn’t get a tour as the head person was not there yet and we couldn’t wait because we needed to get home to Harare before dark. Pres. Chadambuka and the youth waited and did some work cutting down grass etc. We did play with the kids for a little while after they got brave enough to come close. They wanted candy, biscuits, or popcorn but we didn’t have any of that. They were all quite young. They held my hand and would rub my ‘white’ hand and arm – they don’t see white people much. Jim started playing and flipping them over – they all wanted turns. They are really cute kids.
We are already seeing that there is SO much that we could do here and we have to decide what we can do and for whom. There is just no end to the need. We have to try and help the neediest of the needy!! People hand us letters asking us to help them – one asking for a wheelchair for his friend, a motor for a maise grinder as theirs was stolen, mattresses, water pump, etc. We have a few wheelchairs in our container and may be able to do that if it checks out. We have to be careful because people ask for things and then may just want to sell them.
This couple of days in Mutare did give us a taste of what we will be dealing with over the next 18 months. It is nice to be able to give what we can through LDS charities. There are some initiatives in the works and we will find some of our own to do. Anything less than $15,000 can be approved pretty quick through the area welfare people in SA but if they are more than that it must go through Salt Lake. Lots of paperwork. (I will learn more about that tomorrow).
This mission will definitely change how we look at things. We waste so much in America. By the way, we did get our first shower in Mutare at the motel, however, it was in the dark because the power was out!! We had candles and an oil lamp. Our toilet in the flat here has a problem today. The drain pipe going out the back wall has corroded away and there is a hole – so when we flush – quess what happened!! Yup, it was on our floor! Luckily we have 2 bathrooms – we will just have to carry our bucket of tub water to the other bathroom so we can flush. The mission will get it fixed. (Monday: They checked it out today and will fix it. We will move over to the other flat on Tues. Or Wed.)
We went to church today here in the Harare Highlands Ward. Lots of people there and a mix of whites and blacks. (Note: native whites are called Rhodesians). Most wards or branches are all black. There are some really good strong members.
Monday: can’t get the internet to come up yet. Just had a couple of ladies come in asking for some help. They have 13 of them in two enclosures and have no roof to keep the rain out etc. One of them will come back on Wednesday and we will go out and look at their place and see if there is anything we can help them with. We don’t do building with LDS charities but we can perhaps give them some plastic or some scraps from a building that they are redoing here by the gardens. We did give them each 2 blankets, soap, a little sugar, some water tablets and a bit of maize that the gardener had harvested last week and was drying. That will help them a little. We don’t generally give food but had the maize. They seemed happy with anything we could do to help. I think what we will see on Wed when we drive out could be heart-wrenching. One lady had a baby on her back.