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!


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


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.

Mom/Susan/Grandma/Sue/Morgan & Hunter's mom/Sister President Mann...