Monday, September 30, 2013

Daniel wearing the tie that his Grandfathers, dad, and brothers also have.

Daniel living large out in Chyulu

September 30, 2013

This past week seemed to have flown by! Ha it really seemed like we were all over the place this week.
So the work right now in Darajani seems to be doing ok.  We visited a lot of less active members this week.  We are really trying to get these lost sheep back in the fold! Its just sad to see these good people who once had that solid testimony of the True church but have seemed to have lost it somewhere... so we are just trying to be friendly and kind to these members and help them see that we love them and hopefully get them to remember and retain that testimony that they once had! It was good to see on Sunday that one of them did come! He seemed to have a great time at church and seemed to make a real impact to the branch.  But the really cool thing that we are seeing here is that in Darajani 2 the members are really stepping it up! This past week we saw a lot of the members going out to do Home Teaching as well as visiting teaching.... and  at church we had the biggest attendance I've seen since I've been here! Just showed me how important it is for members to do these things that might seem small.... but truly bring about a great good! BY SMALL AND SIMPLE THINGS GREAT THINGS ARE BROUGHT TO PASS!  its true for sure.  It was awesome to see the members doing their best to help out their brothers and sisters. 
Also on Thursday we had made plans to go visit some members of Darajani 1 with the branch president.... unfortunately at the last minute he said he couldn't go with us... so that was a big bummer.  So because of that, we decided that we could go explore our area.... because our area is GIANT! ha i haven't seen half the area just because it is so spaced out.  But it was actually pretty nice, we were able to contact and talk to a lot of people and see the far reaches of our area.  But man.... we were deep in the bush! hah we were biking along and we came past a sign that said "Muthesye village 1 km south"..... ummmm yeah so we were out in the villages! it was cool tho.  So we hope that some good comes out of our time there and that we can find some more people to teach there!
Also this week, we were at market day on Saturday to look for some things that we needed when this guy called us over. At first i thought that he just wanted us to buy something, which is typical because when people here see two white guys walking around.... they think that we have money stacked up.  But once we started talkin to him, he started to ask us some questions. Then i was like ohh yes this guy wants to hear the truth for sure.... turns out tho that this guy wanted to bible bash us kabisa..... haha he asked my comp to take out his bible and then he went crazy, started to read all these scriptures trying to tell us why our church is wrong and how the Book of Mormon cant be true. Ohh my goodness it was soooo ridiculous. This guy was taking all this stuff out of context and misinterpreting things.... ayyye it was bad new bears! It was really frustrating and sad, i tried to be as nice as possible when talking to this guy... but i about lost it with him so i told my comp that we had to go. But crazy enough, my companion got him to accept a Book of Mormon! haha so that was kind of a miracle. But pretty crazy thing. Bible bashing is dumb. 3 Nephi 11:29.
Anywho things are ok! Really trying to find some new investigators, especially families. Elder Tebbs is doing well, seems to be loving mission, not homesick at all, so he is doing a lot better than i was when i first got here so that's good! Got to watch the movie "On the Lords Errand", about Thomas S. Monson. Really came to see and feel that he is truly a prophet of God. I'm grateful that we have a living prophet today who can help guide us and give us revelation from the Lord!
But i love you all!
Elder Thomas

Friday, September 27, 2013

New Companion!

Daniel's new companion from Queen Creek AZ!  Elder Tebbs
The car is the taxi they took from Mtito Andei

Daniel's new jersey - he bargained like a champ to get it.  Started at 2700 ksh
but got it down to 450 ksh.  Yeah it pays to know a bit of Swag-hili!

Westgate Shopping Mall shooting in Nairobi.  Luckily Daniel was far from this.

September 23, 2013

Famalia na marafiki,
So this week was pretty crazy and unexpected! So on Monday night we found out that Elder Dimingu would be leaving Darajani and be going to Dar es Saalam.... and i would be staying and TRAINING a new missionary! So president Hicken called me and told me that my new companion fresh out of the MTC would be Elder Tebbs! So it was sad to have to say good bye to Elder Dimingu, but the work moves on. So Elder Tebbs arrived on Thursday afternoon and i got to pick him up at the Mtito Andei bus stage.  So he is from Queen Creek Arizona! So that was cool to find out, i guess he played football for Queen Creek high school and won state there, which is good. But he is a big guy! He is about 6'3" and maybe 220 lbs! so he is the first companion that i have had that is bigger than me!  But he is a good guy with a great spirit and is ready to work hard!  So the next few weeks will be pretty interesting to see how things go with my new companion! But i hope and pray that all will be good.
As far as the work goes, we were able to visit a lot of less active families and individuals.  One problem that we are running into tho is language.  Most people here only speak either Swahili or Kikamba... so i know zero Kikamba and only a little bit of Swahili, so its a little difficult at the moment.  But it was great to see both branches concerned about our situation! We have received help from a few of the young men who have been able to go with us and visit with people. And even the people we visit see our sincere desire to meet with them and help them, and many of them thanked us for coming to visit.  One thing that i have come to see here is that sometimes people just want to be visited and talked to... its an obvious thing but people light up when we come to visit and see them! It has really shown me how important Home and visiting teaching are.... so remember that! haha. 
Still doing our best to find people to teach.  We have a few investigators, but seems like our teaching pool is slowly decreasing.  But its ok because i know that as we do our best the Lord will continue to help and bless us for our best efforts. 
Also I'm continuing to learn Swahili pole pole...(slowly slowly).... haha but i have already seen the Lord bless me, because i am speaking a lot more than i really know how to speak.  Even tho its really not that much, its enough to help people in some little way!
Things are good in Kenya tho! I love the people and love being able to serve the Lord.  I have come to learn that no effort is wasted... and that the Lord will bless us as we try our level best to do what is right. I love you all. Have a super week!!
Love Elder Thomas

Kenya Shooting at Westgate Mall

Ambulances were lining up outside Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Mall, and helicopters circled overhead. When I arrived Saturday afternoon in the mall’s parking lot, policemen, AK-47s and pistols drawn, were running around, speaking into walkie-talkies. The crowd of journalists and onlookers was growing.
People were reporting that a dozen or more assailants, armed with automatic rifles and grenades, had stormed the mall around lunchtime. After a series of explosions, they had shot, it seemed, whomever they could—men, women, children, the elderly. Estimates of fatalities kept climbing; the siege would last through the night, and by Sunday the Kenyan government would claim fifty-nine dead, a hundred and seventy-five wounded, and dozens missing. Among them, according to news reports, were not just Kenyans, but Americans, Europeans and Canadians.
“I heard an explosion—at first I thought it was a transformer exploding,” Zulekha Abass, who lives directly across from Westgate with her family, told me. Then she heard another, and another. “Thud, thud, thud.” Then shooting.
As we talked, sporadic gunfire reverberated within the mall, and a group of people rushed out. Medics led them to a triage center that had been set up by the Red Cross across the road. In the group was Caroline Fowler, a woman from Washington, D.C. She was shaking, and had what appeared to be bloodstains on her pants. She had been waiting for a taxi at the front entrance, she told me, when the shooting started. She ran inside, into a tapas restaurant. “We hid under the bar for a little while. Then the shooting was louder and I saw a man and I saw a gun,” she said, struggling to catch her breath. They snuck from the bar, and then “we all hid in the kitchen.”
Westgate is a large building in Westlands, Nairobi’s upscale commercial district and its expatriate social hub. On Saturdays the mall is full of families from around the world. It’s a symbol of Kenya’s status as the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan country in East Africa. And Kenyans and expats alike have long observed—until yesterday, often enough with a laugh—that with its worldly crowd and lax security, Westgate is also an ideal target for terrorists.
Another group rushed from the mall. Some had their hands raised, to show they were unarmed; many were crying, others hyperventilating. A woman whose hands and forearms were covered in dried blood told me that she and her husband had left Westgate and were getting into their car when two men with AK-47s approached it. One pointed his rifle at her. “So I do this,” the woman, Sangu Shah, said, putting her hands together in prayer and lowering her head, “and closed my eyes. And I don’t know what happened, I’m not even very sure what has happened. The next thing I hear is his phone ringing. And I just opened the door to see he’s lying there.” Her husband had been shot. “I think it’s in the head,” she said.
A man yelled at her to stay still. All of the traffic in front of the mall had stopped. There was gunfire all around her, and she saw people climbing under their cars. Shah’s husband lay on the ground, bleeding badly. She slid down in her seat, trying to grab hold of him through the open door. “All I could see was just blood and I couldn’t do anything,” she said. He struggled for an hour. “He stopped breathing at, like, one thirty-five,” Shah said, matter-of-factly, looking at her watch.
In the triage center, Shah sat next to a Kenyan woman named Maggie. They did not know each other, but Maggie held Shah’s hand. Maggie had been parking her car inside the mall, she said, when she heard gunfire. “They sounded really loud and we didn’t know if it was bombs or whatever so people ran out of the basement towards the exit,” she said. But, when they got to the exit, they heard more shooting from outside. So they ran back in. Maggie found a pair of large decorative rocks, and hid between them. “I heard a lot of shooting so I just stayed there,” she said. “On the outside was absolutely quiet but on the inside was gunfire, gunfire.”
When the shooting ceased, Maggie ran from the mall. Outside she watched as two gunmen, whom she described as young and light-skinned, approached a man. “He lay down,” she said. “And at close range they just shot him.”
By four o’clock in the afternoon, the crowd outside Westgate was in the hundreds. Ambulances were backing up in a steady stream to the entrance, as bodies were carried out and loaded into them. The death toll was rising. One Kenyan photographer I spoke with, who’d made his way up an exterior car ramp to an upper level of the mall, said he had counted forty-two bodies along the way. A medic told me that he removed fifteen corpses just from the lobby. Some were still clutching cellphones to their heads. “There was a pregnant woman on the floor, dead” he said. “She was hugging a man. He was also dead. I guess it was her husband.”
When he heard the first explosions, Zulekha Abass’s husband ran from their house and into Westgate. He was one of many Nairobians who risked his life to try to save people. He’d been inside for hours when she and I spoke, calling her when he could. I asked her how she was so calm. “He went in to do the right thing,” she said.
Survivors were claiming that after entering stores and restaurants, the gunmen told Muslims to leave. A police officer told me, “I heard these guys, they came in and asked, ‘Are you Christian?’ They shot you. ‘Are you Muslim?’ They let you go.” Maggie claims that as the gunmen shot the man on the ground, they yelled, “Allahu Akbar!”
Immediately, suspicions turned to al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group. These suspicions seemed to be confirmed when Shabaab’s Twitter account lit up Saturday night. Lately, the main sponsor of Somalia’s ongoing civil war, Shabaab is believed to have sponsored a campaign of terrorism and kidnapping in Kenya. In 2011, the Kenyan Defense Forces invaded al-Shabaab’s base in southern Somalia in an effort to eliminate the group, which has been vowing revenge since. Shabaab refers to itself on Twitter as H.S.M., an abbreviation of its official name, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. “HSM has on numerous occasions warned the #Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences,” the first tweet read. Then: “The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia #Westgate” And: “Since our last contact, the Mujahideen inside the mall confirmed to @HSM_Press that they killed over 100 Kenyan kuffar & battle is ongoing.”
As the afternoon wore on, Kenyan military units arrived. A group of soldiers in camouflage made their way toward the mall, leading German Shepherds. They were followed by a body-armor-clad team with high-powered rifles and riot shields that made its way up the exterior ramp and inside. Later, an armored personnel carrier pulled up to Westgate’s front entrance, and soldiers emerged and took up positions outside.
President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the country Saturday night. “We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them,” he said. “We shall punish them for this heinous crime.” Meanwhile, an unknown number of hostages were being held inside the mall, by an unknown number of assailants.
Seven hours in, with an end to the siege nowhere in sight, it had grown dark, and a light drizzle was falling. There hadn’t been any shooting for a while, and the crowd was inching closer to the mall. Suddenly, a burst of loud volleys and explosions—this time not from inside the mall, but outside it. The crowd ran for cover. I ducked behind a Toyota S.U.V. After a minute, I poked my head up. A security guard smiled and beckoned me to the other side of the Toyota. There were fresh bullet holes in the doors and windows. “See how close we came?” he said.
Photograph by Simon Maina/AFP/Getty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Septmeber 16, 2013

Ayyye its crazy now seems like the weeks are flying by and time is moving fast! ha another week has come and gone here in Darajani and things are pretty good here.  This week was awesome because we got to visit with a lot of the less actives here in the branches.  It was good to find out where some of these people live, but it would have been impossible to have found these people without the help of the members of the branches! ahh its a huge testimony to me on how important members are. Missionaries come and go, but its the members  that stay in these areas and are the ones who really help the work of God to progress! So family..... help the missionaries!! hahah.  Even it was cool to see at church 2 of the less active individuals that we had been meeting over the past few weeks! it was good to see them at church and partaking of the sacrament.  But the only problem that we have come to face with when meeting these less active members is that like 90% of them don't speak any English.... and I'm like ummmm errrr what??? haha but good thing Elder Dimingu is here to help! Ha he knows Swahili kabisa so he is able speak and talk with the people.  ha but this has really shown me how much i need to know Swahili..... so I've really been trying to study lately! so i hope that i will be able to speak it one day! haha but of course with the help of the Lord anything is possible. also still working on my Kikamba... don't think I'll ever know it but the people here love it when i greet them in their own language! Especially the old mama's! Haha they get all excited and always smile. 

Also we had a great lesson this week with Cosmas teaching him about Temples for the after baptism lessons.  It was awesome to see his interest in Temples.  He really has a desire to learn more about Temples, and even asked when he can go! ha so we were able to talk to him about it, ha the only thing was that he was a little sad that the closest temple is all the way in South Africa... but one day there will be one here! Haha but it was funny while we were talking about how temples are really holy and spiritual places were you have to be really worthy to go, he said "ohh, so the temple is the place you fear most if you are not worthy".... ummm yeah i guess so?? haha it was funny but good to see that he understood the sacredness of temples. 
Still working on finding some new people to teach, we have a lot of potential investigators but we are trying to see if they are serious.  Still dealing with the drunkards that like to follow me around and shout "mzungu" every time i pass by.... haha.  But things are good, mission is great, and the church is true! i love you all!
Elder Thomas

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Indian Ocean

Mombasa raha!

The beach with Elder Dimingu

While Daniel was emailing us his companion says "hey elder Thomas go look outside."  So Daniel went outside
and saw these monkeys, yeah for Africa!


This past week was super awesome!!! Probably one of the most enjoyable weeks of my mission so far!
So on Tuesday, me and my companion and all of the elders from the Chyulu zone got on a bus from Mtito Andei to MOMBASA for the mission tour with Elder Renland from the seventy !! It was a 4 hour bus ride, but it was nice because the bus had AC, and because we also got to see some zebras and monkeys on the way there!! so that was cool.  Ha it was crazy to be in Mombasa because it was weird to be in a big city like that with a lot of cars and people!  I'm just used to my quiet life here in Darajani!  but Mombasa is really nice,super super humid, and lots of Islamic people  so that was really interesting. Also we got to take some took-tooks to get around which was really fun! Those are the little 3 wheel car things that the people in India use a lot... they are pretty common here as well.  those things love to go fast and weave in and out of traffic!  But on Wednesday we went to the meetinghouse in Mombasa and got to see Elder Renland and his wife and also pres Hicken and sister Hicken.  It was a super awesome conference! We were able to have a question and answer session with Elder Renland to be able to ask him some questions, mostly about how we can deal with some of the challenges and issues in our areas.  So it was cool to have him give us some advice and help on how to deal with and better our areas.  Pres Hicken also gave a training on obedience.  This is something that he is really pushing for in the mission, becoming exactly obedient to the commandments and also mission rules, which is good!  Really spiritually uplifting experience and cool to see one of the Seventy.  After the conference was over, we got to go to the BEACH!!! it was awesome! So we got to go with a few of the other missionaries there and it was awesome! The Indian Ocean is soooo nice! The water was super warm and very blue! Ha i also got stung by a jelly fish which really hurt... but it was still cool.(Daniel picked it up off the beach)  It was weird because there was like nobody at the beach... where I'm used to being in California and the beaches being packed!  but it was a super great time in Mombasa! I hope to serve there one day! Also in Mombasa, me and Elder Diodati bargained big time to get some ties that we wanted from 2,200 ksh to 1,500 ksh.... yeah for no price tags!!
But once we got back to Darajani, we were back to square one.  We are now looking for more people to teach and baptize.  But lucky for us the members are being awesome in helping us with the work.  We are getting a ton of referrals of people to teach, the thing is though that most of these referrals are little kids from about 9-12 yrs old... so we will see what we can do with them.  Also one thing that i have come to see here in Darajani is that EVERYBODY here knows about the church! when we introduce ourselves to people they usually say "oh your the missionaries of that big church right??" hahaha. Also one big problem that we have come into is that a lot of the less active people that we are visiting right now are now members of other churches.... ha so that is really frustrating but something that we will have to work through.
Other than that all is good here in Darajani! The people here are awesome and i love them a lot! Love you all and have a great week!!!
Elder Daniel Thomas

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2, 2013

So this past week was pretty good.  Ha man we have been super busy though, which is good!
So the big highlight for this week was that we were able to go to Masonagoleni, an area on the way outskirts of our area.  We used to go there with the Couple Missionaries because they had a car, but since then we haven't gone in a long time.  But we were able to take one of the leaders in the district presidency with us and he was able to show us around. But man it is super far! ha we start by taking a 25 minute matatu ride, then drop in a little town, and then get on a piki-piki and drive for 45 minutes... hahah our area is huge.  But it was awesome to be in Masonagoleni.  We were able to meet with some of the leaders of the group that they have there, and it was good.  We also found out that there are a few people there who are not members of the church, but have been attending the group and want to become members! so we will try to continue to visit the members there and also teach the investigators that are there as well.  We hope that if we continue to visit there and are able to find and baptize people, we hope that maybe a branch will be able to be established there. So we will be working towards that. 
We are still continuing to visit a lot of the less active members here as well.  Its sad because a few of these less actives that we have found said that they have no more interest in coming to church anymore... mostly because they have joined other churches.... ahhh its soo sad to see.  Its frustrating but we will just have to keep visiting these members, and hope that we can help them feel of that spirit that they once felt at baptism.  But we have had some success with a few of the less actives, we had a few come to church this week and it was awesome! we had 2 priesthood holders who came for the first time in a while and it was awesome! That is one thing that the district is really pushing for here, having 15 active full tithe paying Melchizedek priesthood holders in each branch so that the district can become a stake! So that is what we are aiming for in Darajani. 
Also this week Cosmas and William were able to be confirmed! It was awesome. Cosmas was especially happy, he was glad to now be an official member of the church and to have the Holy Ghost! We will continue to work with him and help him to receive the priesthood, so he can really start to help the branch here. 
So this week we will be going to MOMBASA!!! we will have a conference there with Elder Renland from the seventy, so i am excited for that. I'm also excited to go to the Indian Ocean!!!! ;)
Things are good here though, i love Kenya!!!!! Love you all have a super week!
Elder Thomas
p.s. i got to wear my tie for fast Sunday! hope someone else wore it as well!