I forgot to bring the cord to my camera this week, so I can't upload any pictures. Sorry. I will make sure to bring it next time. I hope everyone had an awesome Christmas (And remembered what it was really about), and I hope everyone has an awesome New Year. This week was really crazy and we didn't have very many appointments or lessons or luck with tracting because during the holidays here everyone leaves and goes to the coastal towns. We did go to like six different Christmas parties though, and I've eaten more candy here than I ever have in my life. I actually like the chocolate here, it's a lot better here than it is in the states. This week we had one of the APs come out with my Elder Blake and I on exchanges, so we spent the day as a tripod. The Elder that was with us was named Elder Ssempala, and he's from Uganda. He's a really cool guy and he's an awesome and powerful missionary. He should be though, he's been here for 22 months. Even though he wasn't here very long, both Elder Blake and I learned a lot from him.
We live in a flat at the base of a mountain, and one morning this week we woke up extra early and hiked it and did our studying at the summit. It was really cool, and the view was really cool. I took pictures but I'll have to send them next week. After that we had an appointment with one of the only progressing investigators that we have. His name is Marcus, and he is going to be baptized, the only reason he hasn't been already is because of his smoking addiction. He's cut down a lot, but he has been regressing lately. At the end of our lesson though, we gave him a blessing and he hasn't smoked since. It's been 6 days. The missionaries have been trying to get him to stop for forever and he has never gone and entire day without a cigarette until we gave him the blessing. It was so cool to see the Priesthood in action, and to see how it really can help us to do anything. Marcus only has to make it two more weeks and he can be baptized. It is so cool.
We would be much more productive but the relationship between the missionaries and the branch was ruined by a couple of Elders who were in this area before we were. Since most conversion happens through referrals from members, and not from tracting (only like 1/100 of the people we talk to will take anytime to even acknowledge that we exist) we've decided to focus the majority of our efforts on building our relationship with the Branch members. We're still doing the best we can on our own, but hopefully our efforts to befriend the members will bring a lot more investigators.
This week I also went on an exchange with some other Elders in our district. I was with my District leader Elder Bais (Australia) and I went to Alexandra in the township (Ghetto of all ghettos). Elder Bais doesn't have a driver's license, so I had to drive. That might not sound like a big deal but I've been on a bike since I got here, and they drive on the wrong side here and the first rule of the road is that there are no rules. It's truly crazy scary driving here. I didn't have any time to practice either, they just tossed me the keys and said "ok, drive!" In the township the streets are super narrow and everyone lives in these little shacks made out of whatever was closest to them. And that could be literally anything from bathmats for shingles, to mud or anything. Anyway, I'm learning to drive on these narrow dirt roads with sewage flowing down the sides, on the wrong side while trying to dodge not only people, but goats and chickens and children and RATS. Big rats. It was literally the opposite of the area that I usually serve in. I liked it a lot more though, because there were no stuck up, rich, white people. There was only black people, but they're way more humble and easy to talk to. I committed my first person to be baptized there and they said "What is the soonest I can be baptized?" It was awesome. I hope I get assigned to an area like that next time transfers happen.
Besides talking to everyone on Christmas, that was the highlight of my week. I love and miss everyone, and thank you all for the letters and emails. I really appreciate them. Sorry I couldn't send pictures, but I hope everyone has a happy New Year!!
-Elder Joshua Danger Balmforth