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
* 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

*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
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
*This is kind of how days go out here. They are busy busy and go by fast. Everything is
*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)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Our first goodbye :[ Our first Hello :]
Baby gecko!!

09 August 2007

Sawubona, Everyone!

We have just completed our first cycle, meaning transfers, zone conferences, zone leader training. Does this mean we now know everything? Dream on...

We were excited to greet our first group of new missionaries, but sad to say goodbye to missionaries we had only just started getting to know. The new missionaries came in on Wednesday, August 1st. It was fun going to the airport and trying to catch glimpses of them as the door opened and shut from Customs/baggage. They were pretty easy to spot - and in amazingly good shape, having flown from Salt Lake to Chicago then from Chicago to London, where they sat for 8 hours, then from London to Johannesburg, and the last flight from Johannesburg to Durban. Usually our missionaries go to the MTC in Johannesburg, but it's being remodeled this month. This group was cheerful, but definitely jetlagged. They spent the next several hours taking pictures and receiving training, and dozing off. It was actually pretty funny: there was usually at least one person with their eyes shut all the time!

That evening we all had dinner in the mission home - the new missionaries, the assistants, the office couple, the office elders, and Hunter and Morgan. Then we had a testimony meeting, and let them go to be. We had one companionship with us, and the rest scattered between the office, and the office staff.

That night the assistants called all the missionaries who were involved in transfers, and on Thursday there was a big meeting at the Pinetown Chapel (our ward) to make the changes. It was so great watching missionaries catching up with old companions, and the news of their areas. The missionaries really are a family. In the transfer meeting, Steve had the new zone leaders and district leaders stand, and as he gave out trainer assignments I introduced each new missionary. As each new trainer was announced, the missionaries would "OO-OO-OOH" and "AA-AAH". The the departing missionaries bore their testimonies. It was very impressive. I think that instead of sending home "returned missionaries" we are sending home very well-rounded "member missionaries". These missionaries have been finding, teaching, baptizing, activating, teaching members to be missionaries, doing service, teaching English, modelling how to teach classes, conduct meetings, and speak in Church, playing piano, singing in choirs... Missions have changed since my day!

We had another dinner at the mission home with the departing missionaries, and "story time" where they each told something from their mission experience. I hope they wrote them all down. The missionaries are supposed to write to the mission president every week, and then when they go home, they get all the letters back, so they should at least have that record, if they haven't kept a constant journal. They also have their planners, so if they save them they have a record of their investigators, and how they helped them progress.

After a chaotic weigh-in of all the luggage, and a few discards, the missionaries left on Friday morning. We left after lunch to drive up to Newcastle (3-1/2 hours NW of Durban) to meet Elder and Sister Parmley. He is our new Area President, after 3 years here as 1st counselor. He's a member of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy, and a very well-known cardiac surgeon from northern California. His mom was General President of the Primary for many years (we were at Philmont with her) and his dad taught physics at the U of U while my dad was teaching there. I wasn't sure what to expect, but he and his wife are terrific. We met them at the bed and breakfast, then went out to dinner, and the next morning started their mission tour.

First up, zone conference for Newcastle, Ladysmith, and the missionaries from Swaziland. We started with two excellent talks from elders, then I did a Preach My Gospel chase (like scripture chase) and couldn't believe how competitive some of the elders were: "Pick me! Pick me!" Then Steve went over some things they could ask themselves to determine if they were really Preach My Gospel missionaries. Sister Parmley and President Parmley did the rest, and they were really good, and fun to listen to. I will not attempt to give their talks: if you want to hear them, you'll have to come out here on a mission!

Our couple missionaries had made crockpots of sloppy joes for lunch - a nice change from pizza! Then we took the requisite zone conference group picture, and started again. There was a musical number that was very good. Steve had worried, because he attended a cottage meeting where a group of elders sang, and it was awful. We don't know if they realized it, because they kept going and sang every verse. Oh well, it's the thought that counts. We then had a few testimonies, and finished, and President Parmley interviewed a few missionaries before we headed out to eZhekini. This is a township with a "twig" - which is what we call a unit that operates under a branch, but doesn't have an official unit number or standing. It's an hour away from it's "center of strength" and wouldn't usually be encouraged, but there are about 100 people out there who are really strong. They meet in a former slaughterhouse (abattoir) that has cement floors and walls, a couple of tiny heaters, and a roof that leaks. They have to open a roll-up metal door in the summer so they can put more chairs out. Some of the classes meet outside because of space, and because it is warmer in the winter. They hold seminary there, too; the couples teach it. The property is for sale, and Steve was hoping to get President Parmley's support to buy it and redo the building, with an eye to an eventual chapel there. It's on a hill and you can see it from almost the whole township.

The longer we drove, the less inclined President Parmley was, but when he saw that the township was actually large, and clean, and stable, he felt better about it. We're hoping eZhikini, Newcastle and Ladysmith will be able to be branches in a Newcastle District, and eventually a stake. So Steve is drafting the proposal, and we'll see what happens.

Then, home to Durban, where the Parmleys stayed at a bed and breakfast, and Steve and the assistants picked them up Sunday to go to Church in a nearby township branch. I went to Pinetown with the boys. (Did I mention that we scattered to different wards to keep an eye out for a sort of "stalker" we're having to deal with? We've had to change all the sister missionaries' cell phone numbers, and Steve gets lots of crazy calls and text messages from her. Sorry, that's all I can say. Isn't it tantalizing?

After lunch at the mission home, the Parmleys gave us our mission president training session. Steve got yet another big binder with "stuff" in it, and I got some good advice from Sister Parmley. The mission president's wife really does design a lot of her calling, depending on the mission, and the family situation. Transfers and zone conferences are pretty much the same, and dealing with missionary medical issues, but the rest of the time you get to be creative. I can't wait until November, when we meet in Johannesburg with all the mission presidents from our Area, so I can compare notes with the other wives.

Back to the mission tour. Sunday night was a 2 stake fireside, which filled our chapel and some of the overflow (transportation, especially at night, is very hard for a lot of the members). The topic was Are You Happy, and everyone went out much more smiley than they went in.

Monday and Tuesday were zone conferences, with the same pattern, but catered lunches, which was really nice, only I don't know the total bill yet... But how often do you have a general authority around? The missionaries LOVED it! Tuesday night was dinner with the Mission Presidency and their wives, and then the men met with President Parmley while the wives chatted and we went over the health manual for out here, and other issues. Wednesday morning the Parmleys drove back to Johannesburg, and Steve had Zone Leader training, and we all had lunch - we eat a LOT here (sadly). I have started going to a little gym by the boys' school after I drop them off at 7:15 in hopes of a little counter balance to all the good food.

Wednesday night was the end of rugby season braii for the rugby families. We ate with 2 very nice couples who taught us to braii boerwors and were really friendly and offered all kinds of help, anytime. They wanted to know all about where we were from, and why we were here. One of them had some kind of relative who is a golfer in Salt Lake and married to a Mormon girl. Good start!

So today is Thursday, and the boys have a long weekend for the Women's Day holiday. I'm taking them to roam the big mall we only spent a minute at one time, and on Saturday we're going to go see a beach. Some of them aren't too nice just now, as high tides have taken out a lot of sand. The couple last night recommended Umhlanga (pronounce oomshlonga). I have no idea where it is, but we're forcing the president to take a day off, and going out to find it.

The Church is true, we miss you all, and are having a great time.

Goodbye, my darlings! (That's South Africa talk.)

Sister Mann/Mom/Susan/Sue