completed his mission this week (27 February 2008) and headed home to Malawi. His departure reminded me that I had not yet
posted the story of his return to Malawi after the death of his
Elder Nyenyezi was, at the time, the only member of the
Church in his family. He had sold his
small automotive electronics business to come on a mission. About 10 months after he entered the mission
field, his father died. The death of his
father left Elder Nyenyezi’s mother and youngest brother without financial
support. He felt a need to return to Malawi
temporarily to attend to family business resulting from his father’s death and
to make financial arrangements for the care of his mother and for his brother
who was still in school.
Elder Nyenyezi left South Africa on 14 March 2007. Upon his arrival in Blantyre,
Elder and Sister Muhn, a senior couple serving in Malawi, met him. They kindly drove him to his sister’s house
in Ndirande. Over the next few days, Elder
Nyenyezi made numerous trips between Blantyre
and his home village in the Nsauje district, some 180 kilometers away, as he
made financial arrangements for his mother and brother.
As is customary in Malawi, the most senior members of
the family are expected to be consulted upon the death of a family member. The oldest living member of Elder Nyenyezi’s
family was an aunt living in Mozambique. He began the journey to consult with his aunt
in the back of a truck. Unfortunately,
there had been heavy rains and the roads had been washed out. Unable to travel further by truck, Elder
Nyenyezi secured a canoe and paddled for six hours on the Shire River
in order to reach his aunt’s home.
His aunt returned with him to Malawi. Fortunately, by then the roads had reopened
and they were able to travel by truck.
Arriving at his home village, his aunt called a family meeting. The aunt, in her role as senior surviving
member of the family, insisted that a goat be sacrificed to ward off evil
spirits. Elder Nyenyezi said, “We are not
sacrificing a goat.” The aunt said, “If
we don’t sacrifice a goat, we will get sick and die.” To which Elder Nyenyezi replied, “Sickness is
caused by viruses and bacteria, not by failing to sacrifice a goat.” No goat was sacrificed.
After making arrangements for the care of his mother and
younger brother and satisfying the traditional family responsibilities
resulting from the death of his father, he returned to the mission on 29 March
Sister Bowden and I had arranged to meet Elder Nyenyezi at
the airport when we went there to deliver a group of missionaries going
home. At the airport, we found Elder
Nyenyezi with Elder Parker’s father.
Elder Parker’s father explained that he was supposed to fly home that
day with his son, but there was a mix up with his ticket and he would fly the
next day. As he was waiting for a ride,
he met Elder Nyenyezi. Elder Nyenyezi
spoke with Elder Parker’s father about the financial sacrifices he had made to
care for his family. Elder Nyenyezi
later told me he had been very much comforted by Brother Parker’s response,
“Money comes and goes, but family is forever.”