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

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, 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,
ps Got referrals?