Sunday, November 7, 2010

Elder Christofferson Visits; More Projects!

Dear Family and Friends:

It is a busy and interesting time here in Zimbabwe.  We had a Priesthood Leadership Training session on Oct. 23 and two stake conferences on Sunday, Oct. 24th.  We were excited to have Elder D. Todd Christofferson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Steven E. Snow from presidency of the Seventy, and Elder Koelliker, the area president for South East Africa area of the Church, come and speak to us.  While the men were holding the Priesthood Leadership Training, we took their wives to visit some of our humanitarian projects.  We had typed up nice handouts for this project tour and hoped they would ask a lot of questions. Sister Christofferson and Sister Snow rode with us in our truck, and Sister Koelliker rode with Sister Dube, the mission president’s wife.

Newborn at the Clinic
Visiting the Clinic
We selected three projects.  One is the Henry John Reimer Clinic.  The Church installed two transformers and a water pump in this clinic.  Prior to LDS Charities help, they had gone five years without water in the clinic and staff living quarters, three years without electricity in the staff  living quarters and two years without electricity in the clinic.  This clinic serves 500 plus patients monthly, including maternity and children services.  It is difficult to deliver babies by candlelight.  We visited this clinic to inform them we would be bringing visitors on Saturday and a baby was born while we were there.  It was so very new and so cute and I took a picture of the mom and baby The mom asked if I would bring her a copy of the picture when we come back. Most people here have never had a picture of their kids or themselves and they love it when I take their picture and show it to them.  They laugh and look again and again in complete wonderment.  We were hoping another baby would be born during our visit with Sister’s Christofferson, Snow and Koelliker, but this didn’t happen. Very few women give birth at a clinic; they mostly deliver at home in their village in not the best of circumstances.  This woman was very lucky that a clinic was close by and it had electricity and a clean delivery room. The sisters were very interested and asked a lot of questions.

Visiting the Kowoyo Clinic
Next we took them to the Kowoyo Clinic where the Church installed a transformer and rehabilitated the borehole with a new motor and booster pump and elevated a new 5,000 liter water tank.  This clinic serves 400 – 500 patients monthly and there are always many people, including children, lined up outside the clinic waiting for help. We all sat outside and all the sisters asked a lot of questions.  Sister Christofferson, Snow and Koelliker were all so much fun and very wonderful with the women at the clinic. 

Elder Bean and Sis. Christofferson tasting cornmeal flour
The last place we visited was the  Kadyamare Primary School where the Church provided a dehuller and grinding mill and installed cable to the mill for electricity.  This project benefits the community and the school. The people in the community take their maize to the mill for grinding into flour and pay $1.00 a bucket for this service. The proceeds from the grinding mill in turn help fund books, food, school fees, uniforms, etc. for the school kids. It was fun to watch Sister Christofferson put some of the maize flour in her hand and taste it.  We also arranged for the kids to do some African dancing for the sisters and they loved it.  We enjoyed telling the sisters about the Church’s humanitarian projects and how they benefit so many people, and how we expect the beneficiaries to help by contributing work, time and effort in return.
African Dancers

We returned at noon and they joined their husbands for lunch.  In the afternoon all the missionaries attended a special meeting  It was wonderful to hear an apostle speak about missionary work and especially about missionary work in our area.  The young missionaries were so excited, and it was great to look over the audience and see these special young men and women so quiet and so in awe to see an apostle personally.  After he spoke, he left time for them to ask questions.  At first they were shy, but soon they were really getting into it.   Sunday was the Mission Conference and Elder and Sister Christofferson spoke, along with Elder and Sister Koelliker.  The conference was held in a large beautiful building that looked somewhat like an opera house, with a balcony and a loge and the chairs in front covered with white material and tied in the back. We really enjoyed the conference. We were so happy to see seven of the young missionaries we served with in Uganda there and had a good time renewing our relationships.  They were sent from Zimbabwe to Uganda and had returned home to Zimbabwe.  The senior missionaries and the special guests then left for a dinner at the Mission home.

Beans and Christoffersons

Beans and Huskinsons
Ron and Jenny Huskinson were visiting with us from Idaho, and attended the conference also. We served with them in Uganda and we were so pleased when they said they would come and visit us in Zimbabwe.  We asked President Dube’s permission to have them included in the dinner on Sunday afternoon at the mission home, so it was fun to have lunch with Elders Christofferson, Snow, Koelliker, their wives and our friends.

 We left with the Huskinson’s on Monday to visit Victoria Falls, Botswana and Hwange National Park.
On Safari
We met a wonderful young LDS women in our office a few weeks ago who is a tour director in Botswana and arranges safaris.  Her family had lost their farm in Zimbabwe during the farm invasions and had fled to Botswana for safety and a new life. She said she would arrange and accompany us on a safari in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, so we parked our truck on the Zimbabwe side and walked across the border to Botswana, where she met us. In the morning we cruised the Chobe River, on one side of the River was Botswana and on the other side was the country of Zambia,  we had a nice lunch and then rode in one of those cool safari vehicles.  We saw elephants, hippos, crocs, beautiful exotic birds, etc.  .She really made this a wonderful adventure for us.

Victoria Falls

The next day we visited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, which is very impressive. I believe they are larger than Niagara Falls, at least cover a wider/longer distance. .We also had arranged for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, which is the boundary between Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  On the way back to Harare, we stayed at the Safari Lodge in the Hwange National Game Park in Zimbabwe and were lucky enough to see about 300 plus elephants at a waterhole.  The guides stopped in the middle of them we were surrounded by elephants.  I especially loved the moms and baby elephants. We then returned to Harare, took the Huskinson’s to the airport, and now are back to work in our office.We just received word that our next big water project, in an area called Goromonzi, has been approved, so it was nice to have a fun outing before we start again on another big water project.  They are very time consuming and involve many late nights and a lot of driving.  We work on smaller projects along with the water.  This is a great mission, a little free time and a lot of work and responsibility after, and also a great deal of paperwork.

Two weeks ago, we drove to Bulawayo, where we checked out prospective water project, as well as meeting with several NGO’s to discuss some smaller projects. We were called on the phone by the Stake Presidency in that area and they told us that there is a critical water shortage in that city. We visited there for four days and met with the Bulawayo City Council and promised them 12 boreholes, which we will be doing immediately. We will not have to wait long for approval as we received a phone call from South Africa that they wanted this one done asap.  Both of the dams have dried out, a lot of the boreholes have gone dry and there is very little water to be had in the whole city.  The power was out for most of our stay and it is very strange to see a big city without power in any of the stores, buildings, or anything else.  We stayed at The Holiday Inn, which also did not have electricity.

LDS Charities' Hired Driver
Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe and is the headquarters for the opposition party (the party not in power) so again we have to stay out of their politics and just do what we are there to do.  Zimbabwe is still a very politically sensitive country and it has only been a year or two since terrible things have happened to this country and to its people.  Just a few years ago there was nothing on any of the shelves to buy, no food or any goods whatsoever.  There was nothing to eat and people had to flee to Botswana, Zambia or South Africa for food and safety.  Goods are appearing back on the shelves now and we have no problems buying food   The American dollar is now being used instead of the Zim and the economy is starting to level off.  We must be careful not to wave with an open hand, because that is the opposition party’s symbol.  Out yellow Helping Hand T shirts cannot be worn here, as they have an open hand on them.  The word “Change” cannot be used when we discuss our water projects or anything else, because that also is the opposition party’s slogan.  Just some things to be aware of when traveling around this country.  There are still a police present on most of the roads and they either will wave you by or stop you to look things over.  They seem friendly enough. The things we have going for us are our missionary badges and the logo on the door of our car, which says: “Latter-day Saint Charities”. That is how we are identified in this country, not by the Church’s name, but by Latter-day Saint Charities.

"My kind of town, Chicago is . . . ."
We also visited with a NGO who is helping child heads of households.  These are children from 12 to 14 years of age who have lost both parents due to AIDS and are now raising their younger siblings. They are just kids themselves and some are trying to care for 3 or 4 younger siblings by themselves. This organization is trying to keep them in school, while helping with food shelter, health issues, etc. and is trying to teach them skills to prepare them for future employment.  The woman who heads this organization is wonderful.  She is 29 years old, very educated, lived in Chicago for a number of years working with street kids and has now returned to Zimbabwe, where she was born, to help the young people here. When we met with the kids and talked with them they were all wearing T-shirts that had CHICAGO stamped on the front.  When they greeted us, Elder Bean did a very funny dance while he sang “Chicago” to them.  They responded by doing an African dance for us.  It was very funny.

Bee Keeping Beauties
She has two other women helping with this organization.  We met with them and reviewed their proposal.  They want the kids to learn a bee keeping vocation.  When Zimbabwe was in the midst of farm invasions, all the bee keepers who were located on or near farms fled for safety and so were put out of business.  At that time there was a strong bee keeper organization with many members, but they all left the country during this period.  There are only two left in the whole country and they are lending their expertise to this project.  They are holding classes and educating the kids in bee keeping.   We were shown a beehive that was donated to the organization and they will use it as a pattern.  We were asked to supply lumber, wire, nails, etc. to make many more. They have a local man who does carpentry and will pay him a small fee for constructing the hives.   We were also asked to provide gloves, clothing and other items for protection. One of the mothers of a lady involved in the organization wove straw hats to protect their heads and they will sew net around the hat to protect their faces.  I was given a hat as a gift and it is beautifully made.  There is a picture in this blog of the beehive and the straw hats.  Their goal is to start a business selling honey, using the wax to make candles and eventually want to grow lavender plants in their gardens to attract the bees, which would allow them to sell lavender hone and perhaps lotions, lavender tea, etc.  The kids will then be able to support themselves and as the business grows, more kids can get involved.  We liked the project and the kids and we are putting a project together to help them with many of the things they need to get started.  We love this kind of project, where the beneficiaries are involved in the work and the project is sustainable and should go on for many years and it helps a large number of people.

When we were through meeting with all the relevant people, we took a drive to a national park called Matobos.  It was like something from another planet. We paid a fee to get into the park, which also includes a huge game preserve.  It was really wonderful.  At one time it was home to a very ancient people.  Some of the formations looked like huge castles and some like animals, there were caves, which had ancient native drawings of leopards, giraffes, etc.  It is also the grave of Cecil J.  Rhodes, who the country of Rhodesia was named after and who started the Rhodes scholarship awards.   We drove for many miles on a dirt road and then much to our amazement there appeared a beautiful lodge with separate guest rooms shaped like African huts, a swimming pool, a separate dining area and a view of gorgeous rock formations in this very deserted place.  We would like to go back and visit the game park someday and spend the night in the lodge. .

Matabos National Park

Another side of this country that is not so nice is the blatant bribery system. We were pulled over by the police last week for running a red light (robot).  Elder Bean told the policeman that he did not run a red light it was green.  The policemen said “What color was the robot”?  Elder Bean said “green”.  The policeman said no it was red.  Elder Bean said it was green and was getting agitated and the policeman could see he was making him mad and so he became belligerent and a little nasty and said he would give us a ticket for running a red robot and we would have to go to court on Wednesday.  I said that we could not go to court on Wednesday because we were going out of town to help his country with its water problem.  I thought that might help our cause and asked if we could pay the ticket here. He acted shocked and said – it was a serious matter to run a red robot, anything else we could have made arrangements with him, but not this terrible thing we had done.  By this time I was poking Elder Bean to settle down or we would be taken to jail.  I asked again if we couldn’t work something out right now and he asked how much do you have. Elder Bean - said $10.00 – the policeman told us that we had done was very serious and $10.00 was too little to pay for such a terrible and serious infraction.  He said the ticket would cost us $20.00.  We agreed. He came around to my side of the truck and I rolled my window down and he told me to fold the money up very small and carefully hand it to him quickly out of the window.  I asked if he would void the ticket and he did.  It makes you so mad to be taken advantage of like that, but we are powerless, they can take you to jail and cause you a whole lot of trouble. We did not run a red robot, but he saw we were white and that means we have money and figured he would get some of it, and he did.  All of us on this mission have similar stories. 

It is a beautiful time of year – Zimbabwe has thousands of Jacaranda trees and they are all in bloom.,  The streets in the city and everywhere else we have been, even in the rurals, are framed with these beautiful purple trees – they form an arch on both sides of the street in some places and we drive under them.  They are gorgeous – the purple shade is like a color you cannot even describe.  They are everywhere.  I have taken many pictures and just can’t seem to take enough pictures of them.  I keep asking Elder Bean to stop, so I can get another picture.  Every bush and tree it seems is covered with blossoms of one color or another and we are told the next tree to bloom is called Flamboyant and they are a bright orange and more beautiful than the Jacaranda, I can’t believe it.    Out in the rurals, the fields are very dry.  They have not had rain since last January and so you wonder why the trees and bushes are still alive. 

Jacaranda Tree
We are busy, but miss family and friends.  Please remember us in your prayers. 

Elder and Sister Bean

PS.  I know you are thinking we are having too much fun, and we are.