Saturday, December 22, 2007

2007 12 23 - In Another Packed Program...

Merry Christmas Everyone!

The sun is shining (for a change), the flowers are blooming, the fair-haired missionaries are turning red, and I am wilting in the heat. Please send snow.

If reading this entry is as exhausting as living it, I suggest a comfortable armchair and perhaps a few snacks before you begin. I'll start with the week of the 10th.

Monday and Tuesday were shopping like crazy and getting things ready for missionaries coming in from all over the mission for the December zone conference. We bought 10 turkeys - but remember, 2 "large" turkeys fit into the oven together. 16 loaves of bread, 480 slices of meat and cheese, dozens of apples, 325 hot dogs and buns, thousands of chips, jugs of punch concentrate, grocery carts of potatoes, carrots, and frozen peas, brownies and rice krispie cookies to make... well, you get the picture. I am extremely lucky in having Sister Margie and Sister Crystal in Hillcrest Ward, who did the cooking for the Thursday night Christmas dinner.

Wednesday was preparing the Pinetown building for the conference. Elder Hyatt and Elder Johns cleaned everything, then transported 20 tables from Berea, which they then set up with chairs, organized the screen and the sound system. Elders Braun, Biladeau and Woodward helped to un-decorate the office Christmas tree, and take it apart, so we could re-decorate it ornaments of the missionaries over at Pinetown. I put up lots of (laminated, of course) pictures of the nativity on the walls, covered all the tables with white paper, and set around nativity sets and nutcrackers and various other Christmas decorations. The paper goods were stacked in the corner, and misisonaries were rolling in. Then came Thursday...

(At this point I will have to break the story into times of day, to give the full effect.)

7:o0 am Arrive and find that the Church had been broken into. They wrenched the grate off the bishop's office window, and broke the glass. They found keys, but apparently didn't manage to get into the computer room, or didn't know it was there. The bishopric and repairmen were in and out through the day.

7:30 am Elder Dalebout starts shuttling 7 cars to Durban for a modification due to a manufacturing flaw (these are the cars that suck up water and stop entirely when driven through a puddle).

8:00 am Missionaries start arriving; I teach "One Star, A Bright Star" to the 12 sister missionaries.

8:o5 am Elder and Sister Thomas are picked up at the Durban Airport. Elder Thomas is our Area Medical Adviser and spoke to the missionaries.

8:45 am Steve gets a call from Salt Lake (where it is midnight) announcing that the Twelve are reducing the number of sister missionaries in South Africa, and our 12 are to be transfered to their various new missions by next Friday (21 December). (The topic of sisters missionaries in South Africa under discussion for the past few months, but only discussion.).

9:00 am Steve starts off the conference, which is actually very hands on, directed by the Assistants, and spends the rest of the day on the phone with Johannesburg, running back to the office, and having the office elders track down police clearances, passports, and who has had yellow fever shots, in addition to their trip to Home Affairs to extend President Parmley's visa (we have very good relations with the office here, so we get some of Johannesburg's renewals).

10:00 am The Dalebouts try to sort out a broken geyser (hot water heater) at a new boarding so the elders can finish moving in

12:00 A successful do-it-yourself deli sandwich lunch for 120, followed by training and practise in teaching skills.

12:30 pm I run to the mission home for something, and find the power is out (did I mention the potatoes, carrots and 2 of the turkeys were being prepared there?) After several sincere (and panicky) prayers, the power turns back on.

1:00 pm Joseph, the Area Travel Coordinator, calls from Johannesburg to say he's on his way to pick up the sisters' passports, visa photos and signatures - luckily he rented a car at the airport, so we didn't have to pick him up!

1:40 pm Elder Thomas speaks, followed by a "Doctor Is In" session for those with specific questions.

3:00 Elder and Sister Thomas are taken to the airport to return to Johannesburg.

3:30 Elder and Sister Barnes pull out 3 of the sisters to go to their boardings to pick up their passports, which they had in hand for their driving tests. The sisters were simply told that we needed them - and one at least speculated endlessly on what was going on...

5:00 We take a very cheerful and happy photo of all the sisters, then break the news of the transfers and new assignments. I think we could call this a Mood-Swing moment. I'm actually very happy that our sisters loved it here so much - and also that we were in the midst of the all-mission conference, so the elders could lend their support and everyone could say their goodbyes.

5:30 All the missionaries meet in the chapel for the "sister missionary" announcement.

6:00 pm Christmas dinner, complete with gold foil on the tables, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and trifle (not many pumpkins here).

6:50 Joseph arrives for a meeting with the sisters.

7:00 pm Christmas program, starring the missionaries. Numbers ranged from Christmas carols to a "bagpipe" number (elders holding their noses and humming while they hit their throats with their flattened hands - sounds bizarre, but it works) to a break dance to 12 Days of Christmas with each zone, the couples, the sisters, and the office taking a day. The grand finale was a DVD of pictures missionaries had sent in, set to music by Elder Woodward. It was great!

Everyone heads to their assigned boardings for the night, except the office crowd, who stays up frantically searching the sisters' papers to find out who has had yellow fever shots, who has their police certificate with them, and whether we have any extra visa photos. Elder Braun is already exhausted, but gamely continues.

9:00 pm The Phoenix elders call to say a member there has shot his wife and himself, and they have been asked to help the family. The wife's family is Moslem, which complicates things emotionally, even more.

Friday, 14 December

7:30 am Elder Biladeau figures out how to take visa photos of the sisters for Joseph, and gets the last ones done just in time for Joseph's departure for the airport.

8:00 am The conference re-convenes and goes wonderfully - still with little input from the mission president, who is organizing the massive transfer and pulling the sisters out every so often for meetings on details.

8:30 am Couples split up for special training: the elders on how to coach all the new priesthood leaders in the new districts that are being formed, the sisters to discuss auxiliary training needs in the districts. I am leading the discussion, but have to run in and out to answer phone calls about the sister transfer, and one from the Humanitarian couple in Johannesburg to alert me that a large shipment of hygiene & school kits and blankets is on it's way.

10:30 am The greatest testimony meeting ever. The sisters were strong in the commitment to follow the guidance of the Twelve; the elders were supportive; Hurrah for Israel!

11:30 Outside for an all-mission photo

12:00 Hot dogs for 120, followed by handing out of Christmas packages from home, the 2007 mission T-shirt (which has Moroni 10:5 on the back, in Zulu, candy sent from parents in the States who wanted to be part of the celebration, and various stickers and summaries of the conference topics, including a clear sticker for the missionaries' watches, which says "Who else?" and reminds them to ask for referrals after every lesson or contact.

It was then soccer/basketball/Settlers of Zarahemla/Polar Express activities until 3:00 or so, when the missionaries headed out, except for the missionaries and elders who helped dismantle the party! Meanwhile, Steve is calling the stake presidents and new mission presidents of our sister missionaries.

Saturday we head up to Richards Bay for the organization of the new district. Sacrament meeting begins as a ward conference, presided over by President Naismith, conducted by Bishop Baldwin. After 2 confirmations, President Naismith (and all of this is with sustaining votes, of course) changes the ward to a branch. Then he changes the stake bounderies and puts the branch under the mission. Steve is now presiding, and he turns the branch into a district. This is now a district conference, so we sustain all the general authorities, the mission presidency, and the new district presidency. Then 5 new branches are organized, and 5 new branch presidents sustained. Then we have the sacrament! It was a distinctly unusual meeting!

Afterwards, in priesthood meeting, 5 new elders' quorum presidents were sustained, and then all of these new leaders had to be set apart.

Monday 10 am Dalebouts, Barnes & Elder Biladeau take a large load of humanitarian items to 1000 Hills Aids Center

6:00 Sister Boyd and Sister Wileman, heading for South Carolina and Birmingham England, come in for a luggage weigh-in, dinner with the office and the Barnes, and a testimony meeting, then stay overnight at the mission home. A highlight of the evening was Sister Boyd on the piano and Elder Hyatt on the violin, performing "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". We will really miss these two powerful sisters, but their faith and obedience are exemplary.

Tuesday 7:30 am Off to the airport (barely!) with the sisters. Elder Woodward, our financial secretary, accompanied them, for a day of software training in Johannesburg.

Wednesday 9:00 am The Uffens and the Klinglers drive Sisters Mgimwa and Wamunyima (and their stuff!) down from Newcastle.

10:00 am Elder Biladeau is trying to make DVD copies of the Christmas program for the sisters, as well as "pasting in" the office elders in the misison photo, as they were at Home Affairs at the time. (He was successful, by the way.)

1:45 The other sisters arrive for yellow fever shots (for 6 of them)

3:00 Westville police stations for fingerprints for 3 sisters without police clearances (we also emailed and made a few phone calls trying to track the clearances down - we actually found 1!).

5:00 Weighing in/discarding items/weighing in/discarding items/tears/discarding more items/weighing in of luggage. I might explain: we had sisters going to Ivory Coast, Ghana, Uganda, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Inter-Africa flights allow only one bag. Although many had come with only one bag, they had accumulated clothing and other things to use during their mission. They still needed (some of!) these items, so everyone was way over. We covered an extra bag for them, but not any overweight. It was a challenge. It also required an unknown amount of money, so I took out everything I could from the ATM Wednesday and Thursday, Elder Woodward brought the petty cash fund, and I sponged off of the (very kind) Uffens and Klinglers.

6:00 pm Dinner and testimony with the sisters, the office, the Klinglers and the Uffens. Wonderful spirit, and awesome sister missionaries. It's like sending our own kids on missions!

Thursday 7:00 am Take the sisters to the airport, where a very kind airline official gave us a big discount on the extra bags because we are a church (thank goodness for name tags!). We send them off - along with Elder Biladeau, a wad of rands, and many hugs (from me - handshakes from the Prez), then we run out to the Vito with the assistants and dash madly to Richards Bay for the first of 7 district interview/training sessions in Richards Bay, Swaziland, Newcastle and Ladysmith. But you know what, I'll let you imagine those, because I'm blogged out.

We love you all, and appreciate all the help we're getting with temple trips, conferences, and missionary emails and packages.

Happy Holidays!
Love, Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The "chapel" at eZakhawini


Morgan's Class - The Last Day of School


2007 11 Departure - Elder & Sister Beazer



2007 11 Arrival - Elders Sprague, Potter, Katende & Wright


2007 12 09 Practising Empty Nesting

Dear Everyone at Home Enjoying Traditional Christmas-y Weather:

The malls are all decorated for Christmas, and I’ve even seen 5 or 6 houses with Christmas lights on them. The tree is up in the office, with the ornaments I brought from home, and I’ve got a few of my nativity sets, including a new one from Swaziland, and even a tiny Dickens Village – by my standards -lit by battery operated candles, in the mission home. One of our missionaries (from the States!) had never seen an advent calendar before. What’s this younger generation coming too???

It’s 5:30 am and I’m sitting in the dining room of Elder & Sister Hafen’s boarding in Richards Bay. It’s incredibly green outside – we have had SO much rain the last few months! And just this week! It’s a good thing our missionaries are wash-and-wear! We’re in Richards Bay so Steve can interview priesthood leaders for the new branches that will be organized next week. Currently, groups of members in the Richards Bay Ward meet in 4 different locations on a Sunday. Next week the ward will become a mission district, and each of these groups will become a separate branch: Richards Bay, Nseleni, Ngwelezana, and eZakhawini. (Try saying those five times fast! In fact, try saying them once!) This is the first of the three new districts being organized.

This was transfer week, and Elder Larsen, who has been a terrific Assistant the whole time we’ve been here, left on Friday with Hunter and Morgan in tow. They should actually be landing in Salt Lake just about now, after about 36 hours of travel. The boys have been so manic about going home for Christmas that we could hardly live with them…but having them gone is decidedly odd. We haven’t been empty nesters (even temporarily) for 27 years! I guess it’s good practice for the future…

On the way to Hafens we took a detour to the beach town of Saint Lucia. Actually, town is a little misleading. The “downtown” is about a half mile long, with restaurants and a grocery store, and vendors with their curios spread out on the sidewalk, a few outfits that offer whale watching, fishing expeditions, and crocodile/hippo cruises on the river, and bed-and-breakfasts galore. The town is on the edge of a GIANT wetlands park that stretches up to the border with Mozambique. You have to be careful about mosquitos (mozzies) here, because it can be a malaria area. We went down to the beach, which would be a great vacation place with kids – long wide sandy beach, dunes, nice views of hills along the coast in either direction – the only drawback was the water. I don’t know what causes it, but the waves carry in sand, and the water is brown almost as far as you can see. I’m not sure I’d want to go in it! And sadly, no shells, which are my personal favorite.

On the other hand, you see signs like “Hippo Crossing” and “No Fencing!” (which means all kinds of wildlife may be crossing the road at any time) and “Keep our monkeys healthy: Please don’t feed them”. (There’s another sign I see on the exit I take for Pinetown Ward: “SLEGGS ONLY”. No one seems to know what a SLEG is, but I must be driving one, because I always exit there, and no one has ever stopped me.) We also have a sign in construction zones: “Please Don’t Kill Us”. Short, and straight to the point.

Last week we were in Umlazi for Church. It’s the 2nd largest township in South Africa (Soweto is the largest). The ward has very little priesthood (at the moment!) and lots of youth. We have been told that it takes about 3 generations to really establish the Church solidly, so these youth (many the only members in their families) are going to be the ones who raise the leaders who will run it. And they are really great. You can see how crucial it is to start teaching the gospel at a very young age, when you visit a branch where 14 of the 18 young single adult women either have, or are about to have, a child. This is totally acceptable in their traditional culture – so we have a long way to go.

Thursday and Friday will be the December Zone Conference. Thank you again for all the things you have sent out for the missionaries: ties, candy, Christmas packages… And also for the contributions to the youth temple trips. You’re wonderful! I am going shopping on Tuesday for groceries for the Christmas feast – Sister Margie from Hillcrest Ward, who does the transfer dinners for us, is going to put together the dinner on Thursday – for 125! – and for the 2 lunches we’re doing “make-you-own” deli sandwiches, and good old hot dogs. With missionaries, you have to tell them how many slices of bread, meat, and cheese they each get, or all the food vanishes into one zone. They are truly a bottomless pit!

I had a funny experience with one of our new group of missionaries this week: there were only 4 of them, so I got some ham and cheese quiches, and put a knife for cutting slices, and a “pie slice lifter outer” (what ARE those called, anyway?) and told them there was a whole quiche for each of them, though of course they didn’t have to eat the whole thing. When I came back out (they were eating outside on the patio) they had ignored the utensils, put the whole quiche on their plate, and were eating right out of the pie tins. And yes, they finished them, at least the 3 Americans did -our African elders don’t eat as much. THAT’S the picture I should have sent home to their mothers!

This week’s scripture lesson is (as usual) aimed at potential couple missionaries: everyone read Matthew 25:14-28 . Let’s pretend the talents (which the Lord treasures) are testimonies: our own, and those we have helped to establish. I know a good place you can increase talents… and it only takes 36 hours to get here!

Well, everyone have a wonderful week – enjoy the snow if you have any – go see all the Christmas lights – eat candy canes (we don’t have them here, apparently) – and think of us. And thankyouthankyouthankyou to those who are helping with Hunter and Morgan’s visit!

Love,
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann
xoxoxoxmas

PS Morgan and Hunter: Behave yourselves!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One kind of neighborhood in a township


One common style of home


The Best Christmas Present Ever


The Local Game


The Local Hunters: Elders Woodward, Braun, Larsen & Hyatt (with frying pan)


View from the grocery store parking lot


2007 11 28 The Best Damp Mission in the World! (Can I say that?)

Dear Everyone at Home:

As you can see from this week's title, it's still raining. A lot! And the thunder and lightning are spectacular. One night it just went on and on and on - and not just jagged strikes of lightning: the whole (cloudy) sky lights up and you can see outside perfectly for a second. This is not the place to be if you're afraid of thunder. Apparently we'll have rain throughout the summer (which is coming up). I'm told there are rarely five sunny days in a row.

Morgan and Hunter are cheerful this week - school ends on Friday, and next week they fly to the good old U. S. of A. - in rugby shirts. They are absolutely on their honor to behave appropriately ... and to get on the plane to come back!!!

This week was sister exchanges, and as usual they loved it. One of our Newcastle sisters had to come to Durban for a doctor's appointment, so we took advantage of it and had an exchange with the Pietermaritzburg sisters. They took the bus to PMB, stayed the night, the PMB sisters drove them to Durban (45 minute drive) for the appointment, then we had a little meeting and lunch, and they went back to PMB for an exchange. This is the first time these two companionships have had a chance to do an exchange, so they really liked it. I read a letter to them that Sister Scott of the Canada Toronto East Mission had sent me, and they all felt a kinship with sister missionaries all over the world - all having similar experiences! (Elders just can't quite "get" some of it - which is good, or Eve wouldn't have had to be created!)

Sunday night was a missionary fireside at Pinetown Ward. They have one every 4 months, and always send the members out with a challenge. Last time it was to show the "Testaments" video to a friend. This time it was to fill out the gift certificates you see above, as a Christmas gift to the Savior. Feel free to print them and fill out some of your own.

I had fun with my talk, looking for examples of sharing the gospel with friends, and friendshipping new members. See Alma 7:14-15 for people you might not expect to be interested in the gospel - but were. Because after all, Mark 2:17. And for examples of friendshipping new members, try Alma 15:16 & 18, and Alma 27:22 & 27. And in a stretch (imagine the thieves as the trials of life) Luke 10:30-37. So fill in your own name in D&C 14:11, then check out D&C 15:4 & 6. Because after all, D&C 123:12!

Last week's incident was a bike-jacking. Our missionaries are taking Luke 6:29 too seriously. (Don't you just hate this? I'll try not to get carried away.) I don't think there was time to teach repentance this time.

We're are greatly troubled in Africa by a custom called lobola. It is the practice of "buying" a wife. The Church, naturally, frowns on it, and many of the upcoming generation are trying to get away from it, because they can't afford it. If the man can't afford lobola, the couple just lives together and raises their family. We have a couple in Mpumalanga who were just baptized, along with 2 of her children. "Baba", who is an older man, was providing for "Mama" and some of her children, as well as his own children and a niece. He can't afford the lobola Mama's grandmother is insisting on (I guess it's her social security) so he has moved out, and down the street, and we have 2 single parents and their kids. If they flaunt tradition and just get married, they'll be disowned and I guess "dishonor" the family. It's a toughie - the amount is 20,000 rands, which is about $3500. (I don't know current livestock prices, but does that equal an 8 cow wife?) We have even had priesthood leaders, who need to know better, ask for lobola.

Other tough customs to deal with are the wildly expensive and fancy weddings they throw in the Indian community, which puts Indian members into horrendous debt, and the lavish funerals expected in the Zulu community. This last is starting to falter because of the high AIDS death rate - it's just not feasible. Provident living needs lots of attention here.

We had another flying termite invasion - I made a little video clip, but haven't yet figured out how to put it on the blog. I'll keep trying. No one ate them this time. But speaking of eating, we had 2 Thanksgiving dinners last week! They have a few turkeys in the freezer case this time of year (only) so I bought 2 for each dinner, the turkeys being about half the size of the ones I usually buy at home. I cooked both at the same time in my oven. I also used the can of pumpkin pie filling I brought from home -I'll have to replenish for next year. And get cranberry sauce...

The "real" Thanksgiving dinner was for the office elders, the elders from our ward, Hunter and Morgan and me. Steve and the Assistants were between Swaziland and Richard's Bay, and their timing was such that they missed dinner with the couples in both places. Hence the 2nd dinner on Sunday, which included the Dalebouts and the Assistants (and the Dalebouts had cranberry sauce!). The Hill stuffing was a hit.

This week Steve and the Assistants are working on transfers - the new missionaries come in on Wednesday. They work like crazy on them, then Steve wakes up in the night with different inspiration, and changes them, and then he meets them and sometimes changes them again. It's quite a process. We will be losing Elder Larsen and getting a new assistant, too. Elder Larsen is the "Adult in Charge" of Hunter and Morgan on the way home - his last assignment as assistant. I hope he survives.

Love to everyone, and get those Christmas decorations up!

Love,

Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We'll miss the Ashtons!


Welcoming the Hafens & the Klinglers


Madadeni Branch fills 350 bags with trash!


Umlazi W Ward Service Project


Kilometers for Christmas


18 November 2007 - We're not in Kansas anymore...

Hi Everyone!
It's raining again, and when I go out in the yard I feel like I'm in a rain forest! It just gets greener, and greener. And more flowers are showing up everywhere, including along the sides of the roads. It actually smells fragrant lots of places.

Before I start catching up on our activities, I thought I'd share a few of the "different" sights and sounds that we have here. Just close your eyes, and imagine you're in Durban with us. (These will be pretty random.)

Outside our house is noisy - very few cars go past, but early in the morning we start hearing birds. Hadedas, as Elder Barnes has suggested, are like a cross between a seagull and a crow. They are LOUD! And we have 2 pair that come by early every morning, and at dusk. They are the first new bird I noticed here. We also have a bird that sounds like it's whistling at a pretty girl; one that is simply a plain whistling note (the first time I heard it, I thought there was someone out in the yard); one with a 6-note call that the Zimbabweans imitated, chanting "Your FAther drinks LAger"; and several others that vary from musical to simply annoying!

We also have either a bird or an insect that sounds like a piece of equipment squeaking, one that sounds like an alarm going off, and one that sounds like a cellphone ringing. I am not kidding - I have gotten up to check all of them.

When we go outside at night, the backyard sounds like lots of crickets; the front yard sounds like lots of bullfrogs. I'm going to try to tape it, just for the record.

Twice in the last month, a few days after heavy rain, we have had a "snowstorm". At least it LOOKED like a snowstorm! We encountered this in Zimbabwe, too. It's actually hundreds of flying termites (Isoptera - yes, I looked them up). The kings and queens have 4 fragile wings that look white as they fly up at lights in the dark. If you drive through a crowd (herd? pod? gaggle?) it looks like snowflakes swirling in the air. After a short time of crashing into the lights, they fall to ground and run around like crazy, popping up from the ground a few inches, then dropping again. As they flap their wings, the wings fall off, two at a time. The ground is then covered in white - and inch-long brown crawling termites, looking for mates. Then it's covered with couples, the less said the better.

Last week, in addition to wings and termites, our driveway was also crowded with elders: Elder Braun (general secretary), Elder Woodward (financial secretary), Elder Larsen and Elder Hyatt (Assistants). They were scooping up the termites, in order to place them in frying pans, fry them, and eat them. They filled two small frying pans, and ate them all. I am advised that they tasted buttery, and did not crunch. Perhaps we need to look at a larger monthly allotment for food...

The exit sign to New Germany, and our chapel, has a big yellow stripe of paint with the words "SLEGS ONLY". What's a sleg?

At the mall, I often see a Muslim woman covered from head to toe in black, with only a slit for her eyes, talking on a cellphone. It just doesn't seem right...

The choirs (and congregations) often sing without accompaniment - and stay in tune! (Actually, many of the congregations have to sing without a piano because no one can play. Apparently, there was a couple here a few years ago serving a "musical" mission. The wife gave 5000 keyboard lessons while they were here. We could use another musical couple...?)

You can get Pringle Potato Chips in regular and sour cream, but the local crisps (chips) come in a whole variety: sweet chili pepper, salt and vinegar, peri-peri, tikka, and a lot I can't remember.

The maple syrup isn't, unless you buy a little bottle of Canadian Maple Syrup for 350 rand ($5). Actually, we do that once in awhile!

Well, that's a start. I don't want to give everything away in one update. So here's the news:

We said goodbye to the Ashtons (of Nseleni Drop-In Center/home-made dolls fame) last week. We hated to see them go. Just a note: their son-in-law is opening a Thai restaurant on Redwood Road in South Jordan (Salt Lake area) next month: we'll let you know where it is as soon as we know.

We also welcomed to terrific new couples from Utah: the Klinglers and the Hafens. The Hafens headed up to Richards Bay with the Beazers for a few weeks, then Beazers will head home and they'll have the whole district to themselves! The Klinglers are in Newcastle, but first we gave them one of our "Welcome to South Africa" specials. Picture this: the Klinglers arrived, after that horrible two day trip from Salt Lake, with long layovers and nowhere to go. The next morning, the office elders pick them up from the bed and breakfast (they've not been in South Africa roughly 24 hours) and stop at the mall for some needed items. While they are in the computer store in the lower level, they hear gunshots echoing through the mall. The store manager drops the metal grate, and herds everyone into a back, windowless storeroom.

After about 20 minutes, Elder Woodward insists they have to leave. As they take the glass elevator (lift) up, they can see police milling around a jewelry store, and yellow tape everywhere, blocking off the 2nd floor and it's entrances. Apparently, 3 robbers held up at least 1 jewelry store (some stories make it 3, but that's hard to imagine). A security guard fired off some shots, hitting one robber, and getting hit himself. The robbers got away, and that's all I know so far.

The Klinglers were quite calm about it, so I know they're the "right stuff" for this mission. We just think of these occurrences as great stories to tell when we go home (or on our blogspots). Seriously, though, we do take precautions with all our missionaries, but as we all know, stuff happens! It just helps build our faith, is all. You won't even recognize us when we get home!

This weekend was full of activities, starting with a kick-off dinner for the 35th anniversary celebration of seminary & institute in Africa on Friday. CES Africa started in Johannesburg and Durban - of course! Hunter and Morgan will be starting their first year of early morning seminary in January. THAT'S going to be fun!

Saturday was the last basketball game of the term. It was actually very good - sadly, we lost by one point to Kearsney. On the other hand, the time keeper wasn't very good, and let seconds tick by when the clock should have been stopped, so we're assuming that with the extra few seconds that were lost, we would have won. Hunter made two baskets, then the other team started "double teaming" him, which he found extremely flattering.

This weekend was also the Hillcrest Stake Conference. Steve spoke in the Priesthood meeting, I spoke in the adult session, then he spoke and I bore my testimony, in the regular session. It was a nice turnout, but because of the long distances it was pretty much only members who have cars who could come. They really need satellite broadcasts in the buildings here. This stake actually includes Swaziland (until it becomes a mission district in a few months) which is 8 hours away. And full of members without transport. And I used to complain when I had to walk a block to the stake center!

The theme was "Come Unto Christ", and President Wilford gave a great talk about "Changing Our Spots". He mentioned the old adage that leopards can't change their spots, then assured us that we are NOT leopards. He's a psychologist who works with our missionaries when needed, and a very good stake president and speaker. I'm evaluating my spots already.

We have a new branch president in the Madadeni Branch, and tried something new to identify the members there (the computer got a virus, and the records were all wiped out). All the missionaries in the Newcastle Zone teamed up with members and went door to door for two days, in the rain, visiting 250 homes. They registered 20 people for institute, 12 for seminary, and had 18 less-actives show up at Church the next Sunday, glad to be back. We call it a Blitz.

Did I tell you about the All Africa Service Day? The last saturday of October, all the branches and wards throughout Africa identified a service project in their community, and the members and missionaries put on yellow "Helping Hands" vests, and set to work. Some cleaned up litter (205 bags in Madadeni Township alone); others worked at old-age care centers; our ward cleaned, and painted, and washed windows, and hung curtains at a primary school. It involved thousands of people, and thousands of hours of work, and everybody felt great afterwards. Some of the projects even ended up in the local papers.

Which is a lead-in for something else we're doing: I fired off an email to some of my nearest and dearest already, but I wouldn't want anyone to miss out... We have a lot of youth who are trying very hard to earn money to go to the Johannesburg Temple. They have to hire a bus, and leave at 2 am, drive 6 or 8 hours, do baptisms, and then drive back, all in one day. In a totally mission only, non Church suggested project, we are encouraging cans, baskets or bottles at young adult ward activities and youth activities, with an invitation to throw in any loose change they can spare, to get our youth to the temple before the end of the year. We're calling it "Kilometers for Christmas" (and if it doesn't work, you'll next be hearing of "Miles for May Day" and "Small Change for St. Patrick's Day"!)

Anyway, if you are associated with either young adults or youth, give us a thought.

Well, that's some of what we're doing! I love to get your emails, even though I'm not great at answering. It's time-consuming having 106 kids!

Love to all of you, from all of us,
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann/Secret Santa...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Swaziland


Swazi farm on a hillside


Swazi Children during the Measles Campaign (before we came)


Butchery become chapel


Durban City Hall


Africa South East Area Office - Johannesburg


2007 11 11 - Welcome to the Thrill Ride!

Hi Everyone!
It's hard to know where to start, so much has happened since I last checked in, so find a soft seat and a snack, and I'll try to fill you in.

First, the zone conference tour. It was the first time I'd gone on "The Loop" to Ladysmith, Newcastle, Swaziland and Richard's Bay, and left Hunter and Morgan. We asked the office elders to stay in the boarding on the back of the office, and they woke the boys up in the morning, took them to school, picked them up, and bought them dinner. They also had Family Home Evening together and played Settlers of Zarahemla, which is the latest craze in the mission. Actually, they had a pretty good time without us.

The zone conferences were really great. It's nice when we only have one zone, because it leaves more time to talk to each missionary. The theme this cycle was the atonement, and the skill training was being a missionary "Like Unto Moroni". We showed Bruce R. McConkie's last talk, and a zone leader in each conference gave a talk on what the atonement means to an investigator, and they were GREAT! I think Steve is going to have the missionaries do more and more of the speaking and teaching at conferences - they do an amazing job.

I am putting in some pictures of a few of the places we went. The white building is the old slaughterhouse where one of the "twigs" meets. The other pictures are Swaziland, which is beautiful - hilly like the Durban area, but larger hills - small mountains? - with larger valleys between, so there's more room for farms. I didn't include any pictures of Mbabane, the capital - it's too civilized to look effective!

It's about 4 hours between the different zones, which gets old fast, even with sugar cane fields, tree farms, and green hills to look at. In fact, some of it looks an awful lot like Idaho and Utah - except where it's especially green, and some of the exotic trees. There's even red soil.

We left Monday afternoon, and got back Thursday night. Friday was a 2-zone conference at our Pinetown chapel, and we got home Friday afternoon looking for a brief break, only to spend the afternoon and evening on the phone with Elder Thomas, our Area doctor, dealing with an emergency appendectomy. Steve and the assistants went to the hospital in Durban, and Elder Charlesworth is just fine. In fact, he had laproscopy (could be the wrong word, but it's far less invasive than the normal operation) and came to the last, 3-zone conference the next day in Durban!
We have tough missionaries!

So, the last zone conference on Saturday, then off to Johannesburg on Sunday for the Area Mission Presidents' Seminar with the Area Presidency (Presidents Parmley, Young and Hoelliker) and Elder Richard G. Scott. There were 10 mission presidents and their wives, including the MTC president. It was one of those "small world" meetings:
1. President Hill of the MTC is a cousin of mine, descended from George Washington Hill's brother (I'll get the exact connection).
2. President Bowden of Johannesburg was on Steve's floor in John Hall in Helaman Halls at BYU.
3. Sister Cowan, whose husband is the new Area Director of Temporal Affairs, pulled out a photo of Melinda, Jordan and Parker (my brother Dave's kids) and her two children, who are all best friends.
4. We knew the Egans of Cape Town because of frequent phone calls over our "stalker" earlier this year.
5. The Livingstones (DRC), Taylors (Kenya), and Christensens (Uganda) were all at the MTC with us.
6. The Packards of Mozambique had connected with Steve previously and he was involved with the project they were running in Mozambique before their call.
7. President Koelliker and his wife (Area Presidency) know and asked me to say hello to Carolyn, Nancy, Margaret, and Richard and various of their family members.
8. Parmleys had been in Durban for our first mission tour, Elder Scott set Steve apart, and we'd met Elder Young in our first training at April Conference.
But Sister Young, the Besters of Zimbabwe and the Gayas of Mozambique were new...

It was, obviously, pretty comfortable and very fun. Sister Taylor was SO happy to see a few familiar faces! And we all liked comparing experiences, and learning from each other. And from the Area Presidency, and especially from Elder Scott. I remember when he was called to be an apostle: we were living in California, and he was one of the first apostles called whom I didn't either know, or know about. He came to a stake conference, and I came out thinking "He is so GOOD!" And I mean good as in righteous and wholesome, in addition to good as a speaker. I could hardly believe it when Steve told me his profession was designing nuclear submarines!

His training was wonderful, and centered on the atonement, and trusting the missionaries, as he gave suggestions on how he would teach missionaries various doctrine and skills. He very kindly corrected errors in understanding, and seemed to just talk, not lecture. He interviewed each couple for about 15 minutes, and made you feel like you were wonderful and it was an honor for HIM to know YOU. Wow...

Then, like Nephi coming down off the mountain to find Laman and Lemuel quarreling, we started getting calls from the mission Tuesday night. The assistants had the bokkie (pickup) full of furniture for a new boarding, up in Empangeni Township near Richard's Bay. They were rear (and side?) ended, but OK. As the bokkie stopped it's turn and they sat up to take stock of the situation, the cellphone rang. Without even taking off his seatbelt, Elder Hyatt answered. It was Elder Beazer in Richard's Bay, reporting a carjacking. Elder Hyatt and Elder Larsen said they'd call him back...

So, the carjacking: Elder Ricks, and Elder Parry (one of our BRAND new elders) came out of a discussion in Empangeni to be met by two men with guns, who ordered them to open the car. They took the elders to Esluweni, a neighboring township, and left them there. (I should add that during the car ride, Elder Ricks explained to the carjackers that they were breaking the Ten Commandments, but could be forgiven through true repentance...) When the carjackers dropped them off, the elders had to hand over a credit card and the cellphone, but were allowed to keep their scriptures, and the K-report (which is the card they keep track of mileage on, for Elder Dalebout!). They weren't sure where they were, in the dark, but eventually found the building the ward meets in, and from there went to a member's home and called the Beazers. They were totally unharmed.

Amazingly, a day and a half later, the car was found. It is apparently muddy and dented, but we can't believe it was found! We assume it was because Elder Ricks' lesson softened the robbers hearts, so he gets credit for two more contacts for that day.

We got home Wednesday, to receive a call from the stake president in Soweto. The father of Sister Shoba, another BRAND new missionary, had come out while her father was ill, and he had passed away. She is a very spiritual person, and actually knew it had happened before any of us got word. In the first sadness, she was ready to pack up and go home; the area presidency decided to let her go to the funeral (Soweta is not far) and help her mother deal with things, and she'll be back on Monday. To stay, we really hope. She is the very articulate and well-prepared sister I've mentioned before.

So her companion, Sister Essma of Twin Falls (go, Idaho!) was my companion for part of Saturday, at the Durban Stake Conference, and helped me with the auxiliary training I did for Sister Young. We basically put on a Sharing Time, and it was way fun! We also dashed home during the lunch break to laminate some things for Sister Young - I am the only mission president's wife in the Area with my own laminator! Ah, fame...

So today was the main stake conference meeting. None of the chapels are big enough, so we met in the amazing City Hall in downtown Durban. It is apparently an exact replica of the city hall in Dublin, Ireland (according to our Scottish stake president, go figure) and really neat. The meeting was in a very large hall, with a stage, and pipes that looked like the Tabernacle organ! No kidding! It was very well attended, and a very good meeting. The boys are getting very good at meeting people - standing up, shaking hands, responding to the ever asked question: "How do you like South Africa?" Most common response? "It's different."

So, there you have it. It's now Sunday afternoon; Steve is off interviewing someone, and I'm being pressed to help with art homework that is due tomorrow, but "You weren't here to help..." Different continent, same complaints!

We love you lots, and thank you for all your support! Joyce Jones has collected lots of ties for our Christmas Zone conference, and lots of you are doing packages for our African missionaries, as well as goodie packets for everyone. The Parma Young Women are going to help us help fund the Ladysmith youth temple trip, and anyone who feels left out, please send baptismal clothes! Our units are so far apart, it's hard to share them! We can use every size, but especially some large ones (like 2X or 3X) and small and medium ones.

Thankyouthankyouthankyou!
Love,
Mom/Susan/Grandma/Sue/Morgan & Hunter's mom/Sister President Mann...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

President Mann

Well, tomorrow we head off on five days of zone conferences all around the mission. This cycle our doctrinal theme is the Atonement and our readiness theme is Being Like Unto Moroni. On this trip we leave Monday afternoon to drive to Newcastle about 4 hours northwest of here and have interviews for potential district leaders followed on Tuesday by district leader training and zone conferences. Tuesday afternoon we drive on to Swaziland (about 4 more hours north) to have interviews that night and districe and zone conferences on Wednesday then off to Richards bay (about five hours.) At Richards Bay I meet with the Bishop and then have conferences on Thursday. Thursday afternoon we head back to Durban for zone conferences on Friday and Saturday. This time Susan gets to come with me and that will be great. It has been raining a lot all month and everything this trip will be bright green. Swaziland is really pretty in the spring.
Next Sunday Susan and I leave for Johannesburg for a mission presidents conference with Elder Scott, the Area Presidency and all the other mission presidents from the area. It will be great to see them all.
It has been a lot of work but we are starting to see success in the mission. The key indicators for all the zones are up and baptisms are coming up too. The missionaries have really taken to the new programs, put their hearts and souls into it and it is great to see them having success. Susan and I are having a wonderful time and I think the boys are starting to find ways to enjoy what they are doing to. Hope this finds you all well.
I don't know quite how to sign this so.
Steve, President Mann, dad, take your choice.

2007 10 Arrival - Sisters Peterson, Shoba, Caetano; Elders Bradley, Richey, Bertagnolli, Hansen, Kiserema, Nkele, Parry, Goldsmith, Davis, & Clark


2007 10 25 departure - Elders Dyum, Bickmore, Yangaphi, Baker, Magwa, Fish, Ntalime & McLeod; Elder & Sister Patterson leave in 2 weeks.


October 2007 departure - Elder Sentengo, Uganda


28 October 2007

Hello, Everyone!


We are sad to announce the departure of some very fine missionaries, including Elder Fish, one of our "starter" assistants, and the Bowens: there's definitely a large opening for a couple to fill! Fortunately, we also got 13 new missionaries, all of whom are wonderful. With such a large group, we had to move orientation from the office conference room to the mission home living room (known as the testimony room, because it hosts so many testimony meetings). For the going and coming dinners we had two tables in the dining room, and the two plastic tables from outside in the testimony room. For overnight, we had 3 elders in the mission home, 2 with the assistants, 2 in the boarding at the back of the mission office, 3 in the assistants office upstairs, and the 3 sisters at a bed and breakfast! There are a lot of logistics involved in transfers!


Two of our recent arrivals need to learn English, so their companions have an extra bit of work to do. Sister Wileman is training Sister Angaman, from Ivory Coast, and she is doing a dynamite job! There are a few suggestions in the language chapter of Preach My Gospel, but they are mainly aimed at missionaries learning a language in the MTC. We got together and made some plans, then Sister Wileman used a lot of creativity and expanded them. Elder Neilsen is training Elder Feliciano from Mozambique, so the 4 of them met to discuss ideas. We learned one thing: elders will never do some of the extra things sisters do! But it's still working out - both the missionaries are teaching successfully, with or without English!



A few weeks ago we had a sisters' exchange for the 3 companionships in Durban. We met at the mission home for a session on perspective - and especially, taking our challenges a little less seriously? The new sister's motto is "And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that...our women...were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings."

After pizza (of course) we mixed up the companionships and sent them out to work. All of them had lots of teaching appointments set up, and when one companionship was "bunked" they spent the time tracting, and taught a lesson off the door. It was a great day. We plan to do it every 6 weeks (just like everything else). Now I've got to figure out what to do for the 2 companionships that are too far away to join in. Any ideas?

This week I'm going on the zone conference loop with Steve. That means 3 nights away, so the office elders are inheriting the boys. They'll wake them up, take them to school, and pick them up after school, as well as taking them to mutual and back on Tuesday. They're also going to share a little fast food (they'll deserve it!). They have actually moved out of the boarding at the back of the office, but they're going to stay in it for the nights we're gone. When we go to Johannesburg the next week for the Area Mission Presidents' Seminar, it will be Assistants' turn. I'll bet they never saw that coming when they accepted their mission calls! I'm looking forward to seeing Swaziland - and all the missionaries, of course. Our theme this time is the atonement, and we owe many thanks to the Montierths and Maughans for helping us get a copy of Elder Bruce R. McConkie's last conference talk, which we plan to show. I don't think these missionaries were even born when he gave it...

The basketball season has started, and Hunter is playing on the A team. South African basketball is a little different than American - lots of running and throwing, very few baskets. They won yesterday, but that's the only bame I'll mention... Morgan has appointed himself team manager, so he goes to all the games, and helps keep score, and tries to keep it quiet that he's not in a sport this term. He just couldn't bring himself to try cricket, and the promise athletics (track) never materialized, except as a kind of optional, no practices or coaching event on Saturdays down in Durban.

They also had 3rd term exams this week (they were let off Zulu, and took an Immigrant's test for Afrikaans, which they think they passed). They claim they did well, so I'll let you know when the scores are in. Teachers administered the tests in subjects they don't teach, and the art teacher who supervised one test told the "C" class that they will never pass their grade 10 exams - they're just too dumb. Nice, eh? I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and hoping it was reverse psychology, but I'm probably wrong.

I'll be sure to post something about zone conferences next Sunday, so I don't forget it all while I'm in Johannesburg the next week!

Love to everybody -
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Sister President Mann/Susan...
xoxoxokzn

ps I was surprised to discover that there is a handful of Halloween in Durban! One or two stores have costumes and decorations, and a few of Hunter's friends actually trick-or-treat at the "gates" in their neighborhood.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Elder and Sister Bowen


The dolls


The Place


Cute, or What?


The Children


15 October 2007

Dear Everybody:
We just said goodbye to our first missionary couple, the Bowens. It seems strange to have them gone - and we'll miss them a lot! We need more couples; know anyone looking for a great experience, includes travel and lots of new friendships?
I thought you might like to hear about a recent giving experience. Our Elder Biladeau, from Quebec, has a wonderful mom who directed a Stake Relief Society enrichment meeting that included knitting dolls to be sent out to missions. We got two boxes, and divided them up for some of the AIDS orphanages and care centers our missionaries help at. Here is what happened to one batch of dolls:

Montreal Mount Royal Stake Relief Society
Donation of Handmade Dolls

11 October 2007

Dear Sister Bilodeau:

First of all we need to tell you that we have met your son on several occasions and he is very talented. We specifically enjoyed the Christmas program he was in that toured the mission.

The Drop In Center is located next door to the Nseleni Library where we hold our Seminary / Institute classes and Sunday services. The Drop In Center is where orphan children are dropped off by their siblings who are in school. They are picked up usually after 1 p.m. when schools begin to close. These orphans are provided with a couple of meals, some games and activities, and more importantly security at the Center. These children would have no supervision at home during school because their mothers and fathers are gone, either through diseases or other domestic crisis.

When we took the batch of dolls (about 36) we received from Sister Mann to the children, they were so excited that they could hardly keep their feet on the ground. The attached pictures will depict their outstretched arms and wide open eyes of anticipation. It truly is heart rending when these children receive genuine help. We made a poster that includes all of these pictures and presented it to the Drop In Center and it hangs proudly on their wall. You should be very proud of this project and hope that you can share this with the participants from your Stake. Thank you for your sensitivity to a very worthwhile cause.

We have been here almost a year and a half and we will be going home with a much larger spirit than we brought with us. These people have a hope and a faith and a trust that is incomparable with anything we have ever observed. Again, thank you and may the Lord bless you, your family and your Stake.

Very sincerely,
Elder and Sister Ashton
Clive and Rosella

It makes us feel pretty great to belong to the same Church as the unselfish women who made all these wonderful dolls for children they don't even know. Thank you, sisters of the Montreal Mount Royal Stake!

Love to all of you - and be sure to follow the advice at conference, and get a copy of Preach My Gospel, and start carrying Article of Faith cards to give away, along with a "little" information about the Church.
Susan/Mom/Sister President Mann/Sue/Grandma/...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007

2007 09 Departure of Elder Matwale & Elder Pule


2007 10 Arrival of Elder Feliciano from Mozambique


2007 October Conference

Happy Conference Weekend, everyone! We watched the Saturday morning session live, at 6pm our time. The afternoon session didn't start until 10 pm, so we taped it (we have one of the only BYU channels, maybe the only one, in KwaZulu/Natal). Priesthood conference was at 11 am this morning, then the stake center showed the Sat pm session at 2 pm, and WE HAD INVESTIGATORS THERE! Elder Holland gave a very Bruce R. McConkie-esque talk, I thought.
Now it's 6 pm Sunday and we're watching the 10 am Sun session (along with all of you, I'm sure).
I asked Steve to describe his overall schedule for you. Here it is, in his own words:


"Missions run on 6 week cycles so over the last few months I have developed a schedule that goes something like this:
Week one: we have transfers. This transfer we have 15 new missionaries coming and 7 going home including 4 of our Zone Leaders. That means 4 new apartments to find and furnish, 4 new areas to set up, about 9 hours of interviewing, a Zone Leaders conference, and a lot of moves. It really is fun, however, to meet the new missionaries at the airport and feel their excitement and enthusiasm. It is also really nice to counsel and say farewell to our departing missionaries. They really do become like sons and daughters and sometimes it is hard to say good-by. This transfer I lose one of my assistants who taught me what to do when I got here. I love him (Elder Fish) and will really miss his testimony, smile, obedience, willingness to do anything, leadership, and sense of humor. Between last transfer and the coming one, we have 24 new missionaries. That means 24 new trainers so half the mission is either training or being trained.
Week two: we have five Zone Conferences (each about 2 hours long) with a Zone Lunch, and district leader training (about two hours long). We do one a day, first in Newcastle, northwest of here (about a 4 hour drive), then to Swaziland (about a 5 hour drive north from Newcastle, then east to Richards Bay on the coast, (about a 5 hour from Swaziland), and then south back to Durban (about 3 hours drive from Richards Bay) where we do two more conferences. I also try to spend two to four hours at each place either working with the missionaries or working with District and Branch leaders.
Weeks three, four and part of five. We go back around the loop meeting district by district. While the Assistants provide skill training I interview and then we go on exchanges when possible. I also do temple recommends, leadership changes, and training of District and Branch leadership during these visits.
Week six we gather back at the office and plan out the themes, training, travel, and transfers for the next cycle, and then start all over again. This schedule is always changing, however, due to mission tours, mission president's conferences and various other things.
In between all of this I meet with my Mission Presidency, the two Stake Presidents, High Councils, and various others. We also take care of the budgets, finances, and everything else it takes to run a mission. There are also the phone calls (insert from Susan - especially from the Sisters!) and issues that come up with 120 or so missionaries. Fortunately I have great assistants, terrific office elders, and the world’s best couples to make it all happen. It really is fun.
Since we arrived we have spent a lot of time rewriting all the mission training materials for new missionaries, new trainers, new DLs, new ZLs, and couples. We are trying to focus all the training on Preach My Gospel, hard work, obedience, and instilling a “we can do it” feeling.
Over the next three months we will be creating a district where we currently have 4 units and creating two more districts that are now part of the existing stakes. That means calling District Presidencies and Branch Presidents and developing methods to coach and train in these new areas. Our mission goal is becoming clear: To turn these three districts into Stakes and to help create a third Stake out of the existing two. This means conversion, retention, reactivation, and lots of training and coaching. It is really an exciting place to be just now.
Aside from the mechanics of the mission the real joy is working with the missionaries and the members. The biggest surprise I have had out here is the quality of the missionaries. They have great testimonies and spirits, work hard, are obedient and really know how to teach by the spirit and through the scriptures. It is a real joy to work with them.
This mission is an incredible mix of races, religions, and ethnic groups. It contains the very rich, the very poor and everyone in between. The people face enormous difficulties but are some of the most humble and spiritual people on Earth. Everyone who leaves feels they have learned far more than they taught.
If it sounds like I am having fun, I am. Some days I get home dog tired but every day is terrific. For me it is an amazing experience being a mission president. At evening prayers I try to give an accounting to the Lord of the day and almost always wake up around five with ideas and answers to problems, and directions I didn’t even know I was seeking. I am learning to follow the promptings of the spirit. I thought I would really be worried about how to do things but I am not. I have come to just expect the spirit to guide. I am grateful every day for this incredible opportunity."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Brody Wilson Moncivais (ready for the baseball season...)


Big Sister Eva with Brody


Our Second Hello - President Mann, Elders Hart, Fowler, Ta'aga, Waterbohr, Schwarting, Maxongo, Parker; Sisters Ravozolafindrafaitra, Angaman, Mann


The Penultimate Day of September, 2007

Greetings, People! (As opposed to wildebeests, wart hogs, rhinos, giraffes, impalas, and nyalas with whom I spent the last few days...)

We just completed our first Missionary Couples Seminar (I try to avoid the term Senior Couples - it makes us all sound too old.) We went for 2 nights to the Tala Private Game Reserve, about 45 minutes Northwest of Durban. It was terrific. We checked in Wednesday afternoon, and began with a game drive at 4, which included a 4-week-old baby white rhino. Very cute, if that term can be applied to a rhino! After the drive we had a braai at a boma (one of those thatched roof buildings that you see in all the pictures) and an opening session where each couple reported on the work in their area. It's amazing how many challenges (we don't say 'problems' either) are the same, yet how varied their experiences are.



The Uffens, who attend the Ezikhini "twig" in the former butchery, attended a funeral of a member, that was also a political rally. The Beazers and Ashtons are in Richards Bay Ward. The ward has 200 members attending every week - in 4 different locations. In Esikhawini they meet in 5 white portables - I have no idea where they came from. In Enseleni, it's the town library. In Port Durnford, it's a one room, cement floored, corrugated metal walled structure with no electricity. In Empangeni it's a public school, and 30 members meet in the lovely stake center sized building in Richards Bay itself. Very complicated!

The Baums are in Swaziland, which is 7 hours away from the stake officers. Needless to say, not a lot of auxiliary training or visiting goes on up there. Elder Patterson is branch president in Ladysmith, because there is not a Priesthood holder currently worthy to serve. Elder Dibb is branch president in Madadeni, ditto. None of the couples have met the branch president in Newcastle, because he has had a job in Johannesburg for the last 2 or 3 months - and couldn't afford to not take it. The two counselors are trying to hold down the fort - with limited success.

The Dalebouts participate in Phoenix Branch, an almost all Indian branch, which meets in a schoolroom that can barely hold the 90 members. When people go in and out of the meeting (as they always do) they have to walk up to the front of the room, cross in front of the "podium" and out the door. Sister Dalebout volunteers to fill in for missing teachers so she can demonstrate how a lesson should be taught.

When the mission becomes responsible for more of these units (there are requests in to form 3 districts, incorporating a few of the branches now in stakes, and the mission branches, and turning the "twigs" into branches) a "coach" will be assigned to each new branch president. The couple-elder may be a counselor in the branch presidency, or he may coach 2 or 3 branch presidents. Training is one of the greatest needs out here. The poor leaders have just never seen the Church in operation! Guess who gets to help with the auxiliary training when the branches are all "ours"? Good thing I went to Relief Society a few times between Primary callings!

Thursday was our full day of meetings. We spent time on the Church Aids Program, which is supposed to be run at least every other year, and has only been run once, 5 years ago. Luckily, Steve helped write it while we were in Zimbabwe, so he is pretty good at teaching it, and promoting it! Since Swaziland and KwaZulu/Natal (yes, our mission) have the highest AIDS rates in the world just now, it's very timely. We also talked about CES, PEF, Church employment (efforts to help people become employed - a huge need), our Family Health handbooks (one is big on text, the other is almost all drawings, so you don't have to know English to learn about hygiene, and nutrition, etc.), teaching literacy, how to train new leaders, 4-generation sheets and temple trips, and what to do with hundreds of school ties someone donated to the mission. I think they may all end up as baby blankets!

During the afternoon session 4 great big rhinos started grazing on the lawn at our lodge. Two of the couples couldn't get to their rooms, which were on the opposite side of the lawn. The rhinos were wonderful, and stayed into the evening, until the staff made noise to move them away so we could use our rooms!

I slipped away for a few hours to go with Hunter & Morgan and their two friends on a game drive. We were the only ones in the Land Rover, so our guide, Gareth, took us on an adventure ride. We travelled back roads, went through lots of water, and even drove on some of the 4X4 tracks (I wouldn't call them roads!) Ford Motor Company uses to test their new vehicles. When you see the commercials with cars driving places you are advised not to go, that was us. Needless to say, the boys loved it. (Actually, I did too.)

After dinner we had a wonderful testimony meeting. I'm really glad we did the seminar. Our couples really want more direction in their work - the ones in units that are under stakes have to be careful not to tread on any toes, and they sort of feel like they don't really belong to the stake or the mission. And some of them hadn't met many of the others, so they really enjoyed comparing notes. I think we're going to have a training seminar about every 6 months. It's a real shot in the arm for the couples. And for us!

I had a chance to sit down with two of our young sister missionaries this week to help them with a language study plan. Sister Wileman (from the UK) is training Sister Angaman (from Ivory Coast) who speaks only French. They now have post-its all over their boarding with names of everything, and index cards with French on one side and English on the other, and I gave Sister Angaman the Book of Mormon stories for children with the pictures from the filmstrip - at least she'll be able to tell the stories! She is going to be a great missionary - she comes from a strong member family, and has a wonderful spirit. The other sister missionaries just love her.

On the home front, Hunter made the A-Team for basketball, which starts Monday. He is already much more cheerful - he loves glory. All but two of the games will be at our school - I suspect we have the nicest indoor basketball court. It's interesting - at an all-boys school, sports is about the only way you can be generally popular. We're still working with his knee, and I hope if he gets through basketball without any injuries, he'll be able to get going with rugby, which is far less impact.

Last, but most important, Torry and Chris have a new baby boy: Brody Wilson Moncivais. We have seen pictures of almost everyone holding OUR grandson, and can't wait to at least meet him on "Skype" and talk to everyone. Our plan is to watch Eva and Brody grow up via web cams. We do want them to recognize us when we get home... I figure if kids can believe Dora and Big Bird are real, they can believe we're real when they see us and talk to us on web cam!

We've getting a little rain, so it's becoming greener and greener. I'm going to take a few pictures of our purple jaquaranda trees, and some of the other bright blooms we're starting to see, to tempt you into visits.

Love to everyone!
Grandma/Mom/Sue/Susan/Sister Mann
xoxoxokzn

ps Our South African rugby team is doing very well in the World Cup! Do they even show the matches at home?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

16 September 2007

Dear Family and Friends:

We just returned from the Margate Branch, the southernmost branch of our mission. Margate is right on the beach, and surrounded by hills covered with sugar cane fields. We have finally started getting a little rain, and things are greening up at an almost alarming rate! It was beautiful.

The branch boundaries include a school for the deaf, and there are several young deaf members. We drove down with Hunter and Morgan on Saturday, to participate in a Young Men activity: go karting at "Kart Freaks"(!). The branch president awarded me the "Most Docile Driver" award, as I allowed everyone to pass me - and good thing, too, because even with that, one of the Young Men ran right into me - and the go karts here are not luxury cars, so I am just a bit sore! We were also 'specially invited to learn "I am a Child of God" in sign language, to perform with the deaf members in sacrament meeting. It was fun, although probably unintelligible.

One of the deaf priests led the opening song. He laid one hand on the electric keyboard, which helped him keep with the accompanist. He would glance at the sister who led the rest of the hymns, to be sure he was still on the right beat. It was pretty impressive. The elders who work in Margate Branch learn sign language, to interpret for the members. We have one there just now who learned VERY quickly: he says he has the "gift of hands". By the end of a three hour block, he's exhausted. Some words can use a sign, but others need to be spelled out, like Redeemer, and Mosiah, and other less used words.

One sister cited King Benjamin's comments on the connection between doing service and retaining a remission of our sins (Mosiah 4:24...) and spoke about the miracles she saw when she volunteered at a special needs school. She had been a ballet and tap teacher for many years, and when she heard that a man whose daughter she had taught had built a school and donated it for the use of handicapped children, she offered to teach there one day a week. The students ranged up through teenagers, and included children with cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, etc. The principal called it a dance class: she called it movement, as the children were so limited in their abilities. The breakthroughs children made who hadn't been able to count, or cross their midline, or even walk, were amazing. And the closest she could come to describing the feelings she had as she watched these blessings happen, was the way she felt after she was baptized. Continued service(and of course missionary work!) = continued remission of sins. So there's the challenge for the week!

This last week we finished our second transfer cycle, which means we gained 9 wonderful new missionaries, and lost 2 seasoned elders. Among our new missionaries was a sister from the Ivory Coast, Sister Angaman, who spoke only French when she entered the MTC 4 weeks ago. She'll be learning both missionary work AND English while she's here. Sister (get ready for it) Ravolazafindrafaitra is from Madagascar and although her native languages are Malagasy, followed by French, she also speaks English. Most of our Malagasy missionaries also have to learn English here.

We also received our first German, Elder Waterbohr from Hamburg (Scott Minert's ward!) and our first Polynesian: Elder Ta'aga from Long Beach. He is Tahitian/Samoan, an excellent football player and a high school chess champion, so we were happy to see Hunter and Morgan immediately take him as their new role model. He was also assigned in our area, so they'll get to see him a little. This
group also included Elders Schwarting, Hart, Fowler, Maxongo (the x is pronounced like the noise you make to get a horse to hurry up) and Elder Parker, who is (ta da!) a cousin of some sort: he is descended from the Hooper, Utah Parkers, probably my great-great-uncle George. I plan a visit to the Family History Center to pinpoint it. It was amazing to see the difference between this group and the first group: not how amazing the missionaries were, since all of them are amazing, but how nice it is to have missionaries who are awake and excited, instead of jet-lagged! They actually stayed awake for all the training, and were absolutely burning to get out and proselyte!

The third school term is ending next week, so we should have our first report card. Hunter keeps telling us how easy the work is, so the moment of truth is upon him. In art they were supposed to do a carving out of soap, and gave up pretty easily, so the teacher said they could do something else. They chose mosaics, so Hunter made an American flag (with artistic licence: one star) and Morgan is finishing up a BSU logo. I've made several trips for more ceramic tiles in the process, and learned a whole new set of neighborhoods and places you can turn around if you miss the correct road. I saw a sign for a Japanese garden on one of those u-turns: I'll have to go visit it one day. We used to take the older kids to a park in San Jose that had rides, and a Japanese garden, so it brings back fond memories.

We'll be losing 3 couples and gaining only 2 over the next few months, so everyone start working on your missionary papers! The branch president in Margate would love to have a couple - and it would be a great place to spend 18 months (or preferably, 23). And you could learn a new language! (signing)

We are a little lonesome for the family today, as our niece Jessie Mitchell will be reporting on the mission she served in Kirtland, and our new grandson Brody Wilson Moncivais is being blessed. It would be nice to "beam" to Heber for just a few minutes - but then we'd be worrying about our missionaries, so I guess we'll just be contented with our lot - and send lots of love to everyone.

We also send huge congratulations and best wishes to our 2 newest family missionaries: Doug Bauman going to Ireland, and Jordan Parker to South Korea. You will have a wonderful time! (And still be home before we are. Hmmm...) On the other hand, I will have to pry Steve out of here with a crowbar: he is really in his element.

This week starts a round of zone conferences, followed by a 2-day couples conference at a nearby private game preserve (hippos, and wildebeasts, and wart hogs, oh my!). The boys will be out of school that week, so they'll be coming to the preserve with us, and each bringing a friend, board games, the Playstation 3, the football, the rugby ball, and cell phones: true children of nature. I do plan to drag them on a game drive or 2, however!

For those trying to reach us, my email is durbanmanns@gmail.com, though I don't promise to respond very quickly! Our mailing address is P.O. Box 1741, Wandsbeck 3631, South Africa. The physical address is 8 Windsor Avenue, Westville 3630, South Africa.

Love to everybody,
Susan/Mom/Sue
ps Got referrals?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Months Out

Sanibonani, Friends & Family!

I'm feeling a little Zulu-ish today: I've started once a week Zulu lessons, along with our CES and Welfare/Employment missionary couples. A member wants to start providing Zulu culture and language lessons to businesses, so she's practising on us. It's a little tricky working around everyone's schedules, but I think it will be very helpful.

In addition, we had a "Northwest Branches Conference" on Sunday in the Community Hall in Madadeni Township. There was a great attendance: about 400 people from 4 branches and a "twig" (a group that belongs to a branch too far away to attend every week, so they meet out on their own; this is the group we visited that meets in an old slaughterhouse). Out of that group, only some of the missionaries and four other people I saw were white, and one branch president is Indian. We learned a lot about planning conferences. There were 2 youth speakers (assigned to speak 7 minutes, took 15 each) and 4 adults (assigned 10 minutes, took 20) and a long rest hymn (only sang 2 verses) so time was practically up when Steve and I were due to speak, and there was no time to call on testimonies (forewarned as a "maybe") from the congregation. Next time we'll forewarn more and assign fewer! It was a great meeting, though. Two groups of people had come in on chartered buses. And unlike most of us, the late people had no problem filing up to the empty front seats! And they sang during the hymns! The plan is to turn this area into a district, and the twig into a branch. It will mean a lot more 3 and 4 hour drives for Steve up to do temple recommend interviews, etc., but it will be worth it, as areas seem to grow faster each time they hit a new level. Two of the branches in our stake are being made wards this month, and there are two districts in the offing that will move branches out of the stakes and over to the mission.

On the homefront, Hunter is a little happier now that we have a DVD player that can be programmed to record Monday Night Football (at 2 am Tuesday morning). He was actually getting up at 2 am to watch. Correction, he was actually having ME wake him up at 2 am to watch. We also get the BYU channel, so I need to get a schedule for their games. Monday was a hard day for Hunter, as all his friends started high school that day. Morgan has been a little more adaptable, particularly since getting involved in rugby. He has a "group". Hunter wants to play basketball, but is having trouble with his knee (anyone have suggestions on Osgood-Shlatter Disease?). Hope he outgrows it before the NFL draft of 2015!

Our number of missionaries is being upped, starting with the next transfer (in 3 weeks), so the Dalebouts are racing hither and yon searching for new boardings. It's not as easy as it sounds! Missionaries don't live in townships, so you try to find an apartment in the closest town. Some of the houses have granny flats, particularly in outbuildings, but either they were actually built for domestic staff back in the day when no one cared much about the domestic staff, or they didn't like their grannies much. The boardings need to be reasonably priced, in a safe part of town, have bars on the windows (or bars can be added), surrounded by a wall with a gate (if at all possible); sisters can't live in a boarding owned by a single man, elders can't live at a home that has girls (of any age); you can see it isn't easy, but on the flip side, most landlords love missionaries as renters because we always pay our rent (unlike, apparently, a large portion of the population) and, of course, don't smoke, drink, or have loud parties. Older ladies like having someone like that on the property.

The office elders are giving Hunter and Morgan the lessons. Last night was the 2nd visit. We have dinner first, and this one turned into quite a party! We had a braai, the four of us, the office triple-up (a new secretary is being trained), the assistants who were still at the office, and a companionship who had brought in their car for repair and were waiting for a ride. (Someone broke their back passenger window and took the radio, a camera, and a wallet, two of which shouldn't have been in the car, anyway.) So I pulled out every kind of meat I had, and all the kinds of bread, and veggies and salad, and made a quick Mud Cake to serve with ice cream, and there we were! It was good practice for lunch on this next big transfer. It's interesting to note that no matter how much food you put out, the elders eat it all.

Anyway, back to the lessons. The elders challenged the boys to fast for a desire to have a testimony. They are all fasting for 24 hours (!) starting at 6:00 pm on Saturday. I've figured out a way to help - Steve is driving (3 hours) up to Ladysmith for a missionary workshop the branch is having after Church and a shared lunch. We are all going with him and after Church I'll take the boys over to the couple's boarding where we had lunch last week after the conference. They can change into civvies, play with their computers, and chill until we're done, in a place where they own no food. It may be a cranky drive home, but I hope they'll do it! I'd probably better leave something really good cooking in the crockpot...

I've decided (like it's up to me) that everyone in the Church ought to wear name tags. People always read them, and it makes it very easy to talk about what it means. It's very funny for me to walk into my usual shops and have all the employees saying "Hi Sister Mann!" - it reminds me of the Sunbeams in the halls at Church. I do use Susan with the parents of Hunter and Morgan's friends, and secretly with the couplesisters when the missionaries aren't around. You have to have SOME normalcy in your life! But I'm getting pretty used to it.

I think I've gotten to the point that I'm babbling, so I'll finish now. Thank you all for your support, and willingness to help out with projects I email home. Our next one will be a fundraiser to help youth in Swaziland (and other townships) get to the temple for baptisms for their families. They can go do it in Combies (like extra-large Volkswagon buses) in one very long day. We're asking them to earn as many rands as they can (it won't be much) and they have to get their family group sheets ready for the temple, first. President Parmley told us that going to the temple the first year or so after baptism has the most impact on keeping people active in the Church. So be watching for more news on "Kilometers for Christmas!" - save your change: it's only $1/kilometer. (Am I pushy, or what!!)

Love you all!
Mom/Susan/Sue/Sister Mann

Monday, August 20, 2007

21 Aug 2007 - The Mission President's Day

Now that you know what Morgan and Hunter and I do, it's time we got to the good stuff: life as a missionary. Today we bring you "The Mission President".

First let me give you an outline of a few days of a mission president.

Date: Friday 18 Aug 07 Place: Newcastle about 5.5 hours from mission home.
5:00 Up thinking through issues
7:00 Breakfast and interview with Sr. couple
8:00 Zone Leader training for Newcastle Zone Leaders
9:00 30 min interviews with 10 missionaries while assistants train and review area books
1:00 Leave for Swaziland reading mission presidents handbook, branch handbook, and discussing
items with assistants
4:00 Arrive Mbabane, Swaziland for meeting with ward mission leader and missionaries
5:30 Discussions on Book of Mormon with family of 5
6:30 Family Home Evening discussion with part member family. Lesson on Alma 36 followed by learning primary song in South African sign language.
8:00 Dinner at Lodge with assistants
Notes: *The drive to Swaziland was much prettier than last trip. The hills are starting to turn green.
*Mbabane is up in the hills with big rock formations. Really a pretty area and will be
spectacular when everything turns green next month.
* Lesson at 5:30 was in a one room house. There were no chairs so the elders and I sat on
the floor, taught the lesson and read the scriptures by candle light. Family was wonderful and invited us back for the next lesson. Boy what a humble environment.
*Elders were fantastic teachers and worked wonderfully with the members.

Date: Saturday 19 Aug 07 Place: Mbabane, Swaziland
8:00 Drive to Manzini
9:00 4 missionary interviews
10:30 drive back to Mbabane
11:00 4 interviews
12:00 Zone Leader training
1:30 Exchanges with Zone Leaders
*Follow up lesson with recently baptized 18 year old boy and his older sister
*Follow up lesson with recently baptized 40 year old man and his 12 year old son
*Missionary preparation lesson with young man
*FHE with part member family and friends 8 young people
*Preach My Gospel training with 6 17 year-olds preparing to go on mission
* Visit to less active returned missionary
8:00 Dinner with Zone Leaders
9:00 Back to Bed & Breakfast
Notes:
* Lessons were terrific
* PMG session was lots of fun with all those energetic boys

Date: Sunday 20 Aug 07 Place: Mbabane, Swaziland
8:30 Picked up for Church at Mbabane
9:00 Sacrament meeting at Mbabane
10:30 Drive to Manzini to pick up Elder Larsen and meet Branch President
11:00 Leave for Durban
6:00 Arrive Durban
7:00 Debrief trip, e-mail Logan
10:00 phone calls




Notes:
*147 at Sacrament meeting in Mbabane
* Speaker just before me said she was going back to Jamaica. Turned out she knew Logan
on his mission. She told me they called her momma G and that Logan was a great
missionary. Boy what a small world.
* Boarder crossing from Swaziland to South Africa tells the story of the two countries. On
the Swazi side everything is done by hand and sometimes they don’t even bother. They would rather talk with us. Really friendly. On the S.A. side everything is computerized and business like.
* 3 new members confirmed at sacrament meeting and 10 investigators.
* From the Swazi border to the coast is bush with signs for game parks and lodges every
which way. It will be fun to get up here some time with the kids.

Date: Monday 21 Aug 07 Place Westville (Mission Home)
Couldn’t sleep too well at night due to a cold coming on and a few issues to think about
6:30 Up and dressed
7:00 Office to organize all the action items from the trip and make notes to staff on things to do
9:30 Interview with great missionary needing a little counsel
10:30 Interview with a sister missionary
11:00 Interview with companion
11:00 Presentation by Sr couple employment specialists on their activities
12:30 Lunch with Sr couples
1:30 Presentation by CES couples
3:00 Schedule review with Assistants to plan out December Zone Conferences, Interviews, and
Exchanges
4:30 Call E. Young at area office to review questions and possible District creation
5:30 Dinner and discussion with Susan, Hunter, Morgan
6:30 Back to office to work on this Blog update
Notes:
*This is kind of how days go out here. They are busy busy and go by fast. Everything is
new.
*The assistants ask if the mission was what I expected and I said yes. They asked what was different from what I expected and I said, “The missionaries far exceeded my expectations. They are incredible teachers. They know their scriptures, and they work hard.” You can’t believe what wonderful teachers they are and what great grasp of the gospel of Jesus Christ they have. I really feel privileged to be their mission president and be able to work with them. No kidding every time I go with the missionaries to teach lessons I am taught by them. We are going to have the office elders start teaching the lessons to Hunter and Morgan on Wednesday evenings.

In case you can’t tell from this outline I am having the time of my life. Some days when the assistants and I and the office elders and the office couple get home from teaching it feels like the sons of Mosiah getting together after their missions. We take turns saying, “Wait till you hear about my day!!”
I really am the luckiest man on Earth to be out here.

(So there you have it. We'll share some of the great missionary experiences our missionaries are having in the next post. Love to everybody! Sister President Mann)