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...

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."