Elder Nyenyezi 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 father.


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 Mozambique 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 2007.


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.”