Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 12 28 - Just moments from 2009

Dear Everyone:

I hope you all had a Very Merry Christmas!

We began the week on Saturday, by driving up to the extreme northeast corner of the mission -and of KwaZuluNatal, and of South Africa! We were headed for the Tembe Elephant Reserve, as the lodge there is (lucky for me) about as close as we could get to the "twig" in Kozi Bay that we were to visit on Sunday. The lodge is very much what you like to envision for an African holiday: open, thatched roof bomas, staff dressed in safari clothes or traditional dress, and the "rooms" were part tent and part cabin, each down a little trail by itself. That whole area was once under the Indian Ocean, so it is all built on sand, and only 4x4s are allowed in the park, since the sand roads get deeper and deeper and harder to negotiate until it rains and they pack down a bit.

We went on 3 game drives, and saw elephants (up close and personal!), giraffe, kudus, wildebeests, impala, nyalas, red duikers, gray duikers, vervet monkeys, warthogs, zebras, and my personal favorite for this trip, dung beetles. We also had impala steaks for dinner one night (very good). It's strange to go game viewing and then eat what you just took pictures of, but my official rule is "I don't eat anything I've had as a pet". That pretty well covers me for China (dog and cat), France (horse) and Peru (guinea pig). And insects & worms are just not on any list, anywhere.

Sunday morning we drove out to Kozi Bay for Church. Iris is a member from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) where the Church is growing very rapidly. He has a tailor shop in a rented space in a marketplace, and he holds Church there. There are 10 or 12 members, including 3 Melchizedek priesthood holders. They generally have 15 to 40(!) in attendance. Most of the members had gone to their rural areas for the holidays (like the rest of the country) so it was a small group, but it was fun to be there. He hangs up sheets over the shelves of fabric, to make it less "commercial", and they use a cd player when they sing hymns. Steve asked him to see if we can rent a space at the library for their meetings - the group is almost big enough to be a real branch.

Monday we drove down to Richard's Bay for the interviews and skills training on Tuesday. The Assistants, Elder Schlenker and Elder Schwarting (try saying that fast!) met us there. After the interviews we drove to Swaziland, for interviews and a training on the 24th. While the "men" were all busy, I checked out shopping opportunities for the couples seminar in February. (SOMEbody's got to do the hard stuff!) It is very beautiful and green and flowery in Swazi this time of year, but their tourist business is slow this year, just like everywhere, so sometimes I was the only potential buyer at a market, which kind of puts the pressure on!

We took the Swazi zone to lunch at the best Chinese restaurant in the mission, and then just crashed for the afternoon: it's been a busy month! Our Christmas Eve dinner was on the terrace of the Mantenga Lodge, with VERY loud frogs entertaining us from a nearby pond. Christmas morning we drove home so we could Skype the family in Parma, where the whole crowd descended on Grandma and Marilyn for Christmas, and Heather's wedding yesterday. I was sorry to miss it all - especially the inches and inches of snow! Every year I wished for a white Christmas, and this sounds like the best one ever!

Friday we were back on the road to Newcastle & Ladysmith, for more interviews and training, then home again on Saturday. This week Steve is interviewing in the Durban area, so I'll work on the house and projects, one of which is Primary resource materials for the districts. (In January we're doing district leadership training in all three districts.)

If any Relief Society or Young Women leaders are looking for service projects, we are making some upholstery-fabric bags for Primary leaders to bring their manuals and lesson materials to Church. Most of these sisters walk a long way to and from Church, and we thought that when they are called, if the branch president could hand them a bag with their materials, it would be really helpful (and fun!). Sister Klingler in Newcastle is our sewing whiz, and can give you the plan for the very simple bag - Just tell her I sent you...

I hope you all have a very happy and safe New Year! It's very quiet (and clean, and peaceful...) around here without Hunter and Morgan. They're having a great time seeing their friends and family, so I hope they get back on the plane next week!

Love you all!

Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann/Wildlife photographer

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2008 12 19 - All Zone Conference

Ukhisimuzi omuhle! Gese├źnde Kersfees! Joyeux Noel!
Frohliche Weihnachten! Feliz Natal! Meri Kirihimete
Nadolig Llawen! Kuwa na Krismasi njema Ikrisimesi EmnandI
Merry Christmas!

These are most of the languages spoken by our missionaries: I say most, because many of them also speak a tribal language in their homes. (Our own tribal language is currently Rap.)

We just completed our all zone conference, which included all the elders and all the senior couples. It was wonderful (I seem to use that word a lot out here) and you can tell who did the most work by their level of exhaustion: Elders Hiatt, Schlenker, Schwarting, Terry, Nkele, & Syphrett were the mainstays, with lots of help the days of the conference from some particularly thoughtful elders who saw the need for more hands. Margie Nicholson catered for us again, and the senior couples took so much of the work off my hands, that I could actually enjoy the conference!

It was an interesting and varied week. Monday we took Hunter and Morgan to the airport, with a detailed list of exactly what to do for each leg of their journey. Our first phone call came in from Johannesburg a couple of hours later. "We are in Johannesburg and got our luggage. Where do we go?" The checked in successfully for their international flight, then the next call. "What does it mean if the flight is delayed? Will we miss the plane in Atlanta?" That phone call was repeated a couple of times, until their flight took off about 50 minutes late. They made up the time, though, and landed 15 minutes early in Atlanta!

Tuesday we picked up 6 incoming elders, but Steve couldn't interview them right away because elders usually arrive on Wednesdays, and Tuesday was the mission presidency meeting. We had dinner with the office staff, mission presidency couples, and the new elders, then a testimony meeting. In the meantime, Elder Wright (Area security) and Elder Wells (Are psychologist) and their wives arrived, as well as our senior couples, so after Elder Wright checked on a few boardings, and the mission home/office for security issues, they all went out to dinner before heading to their various B&Bs. Elder Heap (Area medical adviser) and Sister Heap also arrived: all three couples were here to give presentations at our zone conference.

Just before dinner I started getting emails and gchat from Torry and Hayley that Logan was at the airport to pick up the boys, that the monitor indicated that the flight had landed, and they were nowhere to be found. Small panic. OK, big panic. It turned out that the flight schedule had changed to a bit later, and no one had changed the monitor in the Salt Lake Airport. I called Delta while Logan went to the Delta desk and we found this all out about the same time: more phone calls and gchat. The boys arrived shortly afterwards, but of course the monitor no longer had a carousel # for the baggage... Eventually the bags came, Hunter went on to his Southwest flight to Boise, and Logan and Morgan made it to Torry's. Whew.

They did have one interesting situation on their trip. On the first leg, from Johannesburg, the (white) woman next to Hunter complained and complained and complained that she didn't feel "safe" sitting next to a black man. I don't know if she truly has issues, has suffered a bad experience, or was hoping to be moved to an empty seat in business class, but I am very impressed with the way Delta handled it. They moved Hunter to business class instead! He stayed there until the refueling in Senegal, then was moved back, where she still complained. Interesting to have their racial incident on the way to the U.S.!

So, back to Durban. I cleaned like mad so the new elders could stay at the mission home for two nights, as the Richards Bay elders stayed in the office. Fixed breakfast for them Wednesday morning, then off to zone conference.

The presentations were first off: Elder Wright scared all the couples to death with his warnings about muggings, ATM rip-offs, break-ins, etc. Of course all the visitors end with "But don't worry, you're doing the Lord's work and He will take care of you..." Elder Heap counselled the missionaries on health issues, and Elder Wells addressed companionship relationships. He had a couple of problem-solving circles that I plan to implement (like the boys will do it) myself. The first stressed addressing tasks that need to be done, rather than addressing shortcomings of the other person. "I really need the shower at 7:30" as opposed to "You always take too long in the shower". And never to attack the "core" of a person, the things they really feel identify them as an individual. The other circle emphasized putting the problem "out there" and the two companions beside it, so they are both working together on solving something external, instead of a problem wrapped around one of the companions. Good stuff!

Cinnamon rolls for break (there were 136 of us); a make-your-own-sandwiches lunch, then hands-on training to prepare the elders to teach members how to be life-long member missionaries. This is a the next step up from the Neighborhood Walkabout. First the members realize they really do know a lot of potential investigators, then they learn the cues and what to say to people who may be interested. We'll be using the movie Parker and Justin Elias made for us; part of it is motivation, and the rest training segments with time for practice and planning.

The elders did the training, under the direction of the couples, in groups of twelve. Then back to the chapel for goal-setting and a testimony meeting. Turkey dinner, Swazi dirt "socks" full of goodies, the 2008 mission t-shirt (made on a Swazi Dirt Shirt) and the annual Christmas program. Every zone and some individuals performed and it was hysterical. Elder Wells said the emotionally it was worth three preparation days (but the elders didn't offer to give up three to compensate). Then everyone headed home or to cram into a local boarding so they could be back at 8:00 the next morning.

Thursday from 8 to 10 was transfer assignments, then talks and some individual/companionship work on our cycle theme, "Developing Christlike Attributes". 10 to 12 was sports (very successful, as you can imagine) and then hotdogs for lunch, handing out packages and mail, trading luggage from car to car due to the new assignments, and off they went, back to work.

Thursday night was the farewell dinner for Elders Tonkin and Vilakazi. Elder Tonkin is from Johannesburg, so his mom drove down to pick him up. It is always nice to fill in a little background on the elders by meeting their families and hearing their stories. The Barnes are also leaving this cycle: they have established ten Employment Resource Centers throughout the mission, and been instrumental in MANY members getting jobs. We will miss their good work - and their humor. Elder Barnes taught junior high band, which was good training for working around all these occasionally goofy elders!

Friday was Zone Leader Council, which included some new zone leaders, including Elder Nkele who has been our financial secretary. Elder Hiatt, Steve's Assistant, is now training Elder Nkosi and trying to open a new area in Madadeni. I'm sure he will also be working on his already excellent isiZulu. We'll miss both of them, but Elder Schwarting and Elder Syphrett are already shouldering their loads.

Tonight Elder and Sister Hill (I love that name), our Area Seventy, have invited the local couple missionaries to their annual Christmas open house at their farm. It's a lovely area, where she "horse whispers".

Tomorrow morning we are off for Tembe Elephant Park, from which we will drive over to Cosi Bay to speak in Sacrament meeting at the Cosi Bay "twig".

I hope all of you are having holidays heavier on family than on food and presents! We miss you all!

Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann/Zone Conference Facilitator

ps Another South Africanism: "Give it a squiz" (meaning, take a look at it)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2008 12 14 - About to be "childless"

Dear Everyone:

I'm thinking this is probably about the 2nd day of Christmas? (Assuming it ends on the 25th.) So, how are your partridge and your turtle doves getting along?

I'm sad again - Elder and Sister Baum are heading for home. "People come and go so quickly here!" (for you movie buffs). I'm sure the miracles will continue as Elder & Sister Wilson take their place in Swaziland. It's really quite amazing how will our couples fit into the places they are assigned. And when a change is made, the people in the new branch are always SO happy and grateful to have them...With the latest transfers, Elder and Sister Klingler switched back from Newcastle to Madadeni, and it was like the branch was welcoming back a returning couple they had sent out on a mission!

You make such good friends with the other missionary couples, that it's hard to see them go - but it's also exciting to meet the incoming couple, and we're delighted with another set of dynamite Wilsons! I learned that they also have a sister and brother-in-law serving in Sierra Leone. The Elders Wilson have 11 siblings, so maybe we can get more! They are a very missionary minded family: their father was called on his mission by Heber J. Grant, and most of them served as young missionaries. Elder Wilson told us a wonderful family story about a great-great grandfather in Vermont who was studying to be a minister, but developed consumption and couldn't continue. He ended up travelling to Ohio, where he heard the "Joseph Smith" was a man who could heal people. He met the Prophet, and asked to be healed, and was handed a Book of Mormon. "Read it, and if it doesn't work for you, read it again!" He ended up being baptized by Oliver Cowdery, and the family still has that Book of Mormon. (Sorry if I muffed the details, Wilson family!)

Sister Baum's family also has an original Book of Mormon, as her great-great grandmother helped prepare the first editions. And speaking of Baums, if you read the last blog early in the week, you missed the sequel to the busload of investigators in Manzini. I just learned it. In one of their (constant) miracles, the Baums got up that morning to go to the Mbabane Branch, and as he started the car, Elder Baum said, "We need to go to Manzini. I don't know why, but we need to go to Manzini." And Sister Baum agreed, "Yes, we do." So they were there to sort out the classes and teach the first lesson to the 72 investigators. This is called "Praying for guidance, getting in the car, and going where the Spirit leads". It has worked very well for the Baums for 18 months...and 2 weeks.

With the hot weather, geckos are becoming more active. Sister Sessions really, really, REALLY doesn't like "critters" of any kind, but they have a very persistent gecko in their house. Elder Sessions learned of this the night he heard a scream from the bedroom and hurried in to rescue his wife from the gecko. Sister Sessions decided to keep it out for sure, so Elder Sessions "herded" it along the wall and outside. She then tucked a rug very securely across the bottom of the door, and set jars on it to hold it in place. When Elder Sessions pulled the rug out the next morning, the gecko had been sleeping in it, and immediately ran up the wall to start it's day. I think it likes them.

In case I misled anyone last blog, Elder Magwa has completed his mission, married, and returned to Richard's Bay to live. He wanted to live where people had known him as a missionary, not where old friends might expect him to be his "pre-mission" self. (Kind of like wanting to be your adult self instead of your high school self?) Anyway, I should have referred to the FORMER Elder Magwa's baby - sorry if I startled anyone!

The office and my dining room are packed with handouts, Christmas stockings, gifts, plates/napkins/cups/rolls of gold foil, snacks for breaks, chips for lunch...They're for the zone conference starting Wednesday. It's quite a logistics problem finding places for the more distant elders to stay: with Hunter and Morgan gone, we'll have the six new elders (arriving Tuesday) here at the mission home - the office is already booked! It's nice to be in a mission that is geographically small enough to get the elders all together - it's a real boost to everyone. The elders really like seeing each other, so they're very excited. (If they were girls, they'd be giggling.)

I'm writing up detailed instructions for the boys for their flight home. We even found a map of the Atlanta airport online for them. It's interesting to try to think of all the tiny details you need to know for checking in, finding gates, finding luggage, filling out customs forms... I'm trying to think of all the mistakes I've ever made travelling, so I can build the cautions in for them. Luckily, the Baums will be at the Jo'burg airport in case of any glitches at the start, and the Dibbs are in Atlanta, in case all the flights get cancelled there and they get stuck! I think I'll send the missionary department a list of cities I need backups in, so they can add that to the mix as they call senior couples for Durban! (Just kidding - they already know in heaven, anyway...)

Thanks again to everyone who is sending packages for missionaries - we'll hand out whatever has arrived at the zone conference, then deliver the rest by Christmas. And if any come after, they will be just as welcome: trust me!

Love you all!
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann/Santa's Helper

ps Two new South Africanisms: "I was pressurized into doing it" and "I was orientated for my new job today"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Introducing Thanksgiving to Jubz, Jono, Langa, Sizwe & Sthembiso

Steve at the Port Durnford "Chapel"

2008 12 7 - Richard's Bay District Conference

Dear Family & Friends:

December! I can hardly believe it. We sang a Christmas hymn to begin our staff devotional on Monday, and as I looked out at the palm trees and the flowers, and all the greenery, it just didn't feel right! Then I got thinking, that a huge percentage of the world always has a green Christmas, so maybe I'm the one that's out of step. However, in spite of the mixed up season, I will continue to "pickle" through (that's an expression I learned from Sister Baldwin in Richard's Bay this weekend).

We were in Richard's Bay for District Conference, along with the Parmleys. President Parmley and Steve did the priesthood training session, while Sister Parmley and I did the auxiliary training. She is always very good, very practical, and fun to work with. I was teaching about using simple, available visual aids, and also about pitching up every week to fulfill a calling. My visual aids were a rock, and some Duplos - I built a wall, and used a great idea from the Brad Wilcox book, "Don't Leap With The Sheep", namely Nehemiah telling the bad guys "I am doing a great work, so I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it and come down to you?" (Nehemiah 6:2) That story is full of useful similes for all of us doing our callings: everyone has their own section of wall, you expose yourself to danger if you leave the wall, we work side by side, all the sections are equally important, it's dangerous work so some of the workers have to be guards, as well. Anyway, you might just want to read the whole story... it's actually very insightful!

A few weeks ago, President Parmley was on a call-in radio show originating in Johannesburg. One of the questions was, "How does your church differ from other Christian churches?" His talk then proceeded to explain the full answer (more than he could do on the radio). He did a wonderful job of explaining the establishment of the original Church, and it's various components, and then how things changed over the centuries, and how they were restored. I told him afterwards that I'd like to put it all in one of our booklets - it was really well done.

Sister Parmley told some stories about President Monson interacting with her family. I would guess that most of the members here only ever knew President Hinckley as their prophet, so hearing about President Monson in personal stories really helps with the transition.

It's a year exactly since the district was formed out of a ward that was actually meeting in 4 different locations, and things are going great. I think all the members feel very proud of having their own branches, and are working harder to build them. Swaziland is the same - Being their own district, instead of a ward hours away from the rest of the stake has encouraged the members to do lots more. Pride of ownership, I guess! What everyone is really working for is districts turning into stakes, so the Church will announce a temple for Durban. I have no doubt it's coming.

Great story from Manzini, in Swaziland, last week. A new convert, a teacher, rented a bus and brought 72 young men ages 16 to 20 to Church. He then told them that if any of them want to come again, he will give them a ride. I don't know the end of this one yet, but if they ALL want to come again. we're going to have to convert some combie drivers! The Manzini elders were on an exchange with some other elders, but as they started the car to go to Mbabane Branch that morning, Elder Baum said, "We need to go to Manini." Sister Baum thought, and responded, "Yes, we do." So they drove to Manzini and were there to teach the first lesson to the 72 investigators. Miracles happen everyday!

We have a celebrity in Port Durnford: Ayanda is a 10-year-old who has a drawing in the November Friend. Nice work for a girl from a very humble area, and a branch that meets in a one room wooden building with no electricity or water! We're trying to get her a copy of the Friend to keep, but in the meantime I printed off the page from the, and also the cover of the Friend, and laminated them for her to hang up at home. She is so cute - and was so excited!

Hunter and Morgan cut this last week of school, only on condition of working of the last of the home study course from BYU. Funny, they don't teach any U.S. History here... (They were not the only truants - some of the classes had only 5 or 6 students. Apparently they watched movies non-stop all week.) Now we just need to find someone who can administer the final, and we'll start the next one.

There was a very touching story about two friends in Richard's Bay. One had been investigating the Church for quite a long time. He came across an old friend drunk on the street. The friend had been a policeman, developed a drinking problem, lost his wife and family, his job, and pretty much everything. The investigator picked up his friend and brought him to rehab in Durban for two weeks. When they returned to Richard's Bay, the investigator told his friend hee needed to change his life, and to come with him and hear what the missionaries had to say. End result? Both men were baptized this week.

Elder and Sister Bartholomew have a daughter who sent an unusual gift to the township girls: she got 100 colorful t-shirts and sewed ruffles and trims on them, and turned them into t-shirt dresses. Sister Bartholomew only has a few left to hand out, and she says the girls are SO excited to wear them! Friends at home? We love how generous you are to the people here. There are so many ways to help a person who has hardly anything...

This week we have two new couples arriving. The Mickelsens will be handling PEF (Perpetual Education Fund), which has been handled, along with Seminaries and Institutes, by the Smiths and the Markums. There is a huge need for the young people here to get loans to be able to get an education and jobs, and we hope Mickelsens will be really, really busy! They are from St. George (now) via Ridgecrest California, but 18 months of their 3 years in St. George was spent away - on a mission in Florida! It CAN be done, Snowbirds!

Our second set of Wilsons also will be arriving. They will be serving in Swaziland, as the Baums head for home in another week. If the "Swaziland Wilsons" are anything like the "Ladysmith Wilsons" we will be very happy. (I've mentioned previously that the two Elder Wilsons are brothers, right?)
So, a few trips to the airport and welcome dinners are in order. As with our last few missionary arrivals, the travel plans we were sent for both of these couples have changed a few times. As a result, Steve and I will pick up the Mickelsens and bring them to the office, then he's off to Newcastle for interviews and mini-training. Fortunately, our couples will help them get acclimated. Have I mentioned recently how wonderful it is to have couples in the mission?

The Christmas boxes are starting to pile up in the office. I'm not sure where we're going to put them all, especially as so many of you have volunteered to be foster families for our African elders. Last year we had an elder who was so frustrated: his birthday was the end of November, but we didn't know which might be his Christmas box, so he had to open both of them at Christmas! Oh, and if any girlfriends happen to be reading this, I'd like to suggest you NOT put put scent and stamps of pink lips on the envelopes of the letters you send your missionary? Kind of distracting... and liable to invite a few giggles (do elders giggle? chortles? guffaws?) from the other missionaries! Not that we've ever had a letter like that arrive here...

I'll finish with something I heard from our school receptionist as two boys stopped for a pass to leave early. They had a flimsy excuse, and she responded, "You're pulling the wool!" I've seen that expression in print, but never heard anyone use it before (and for those to young to know, the full expression is 'trying to "pull the wool" over someone's eyes'). I got curious and looked it up, and "This term alludes to the former custom of wearing a wig, which when slipping down can blind someone temporarily" (c. 1800).
So there you go.

Love you all!
Mom/Grandma/Gogo/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann

ps We saw Elder Magwa's month-old baby girl today: she is absolutely adorable.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

We're Waiting For You...

Hambe Kahle, Elder & Sister Dibb

Elder & Sister Patterson - Again!

2008 11 24 - Random Thoughts in the Middle of the Transfer Cycle

Dear Everyone except Joyce & Dan Jones, who came in last night to visit the Uffens and are here! (It is so fun to see familiar faces in unlikely places – feel free to drop in anytime.)

Our wonderful Elder & Sister Dibb left Tuesday – we are really going to miss them. The good news is a place to stay next time Hunter wants to go “home” to Atlanta – he did, after all spend his first four weeks of life there! the night before they left they took us to dinner at Roma – “One of the world’s 31 revolving restaurants, as it says on every table. It was beautiful watching the lights of Durban as they came one, but Steve’s favorite things was watching the end of a sailboat race in the harbor. We saw a store there that advertised nautical maps, so he’s going to get maps of the coast sometime. Probably in preparation for sailing home in 2010. Right. Maybe we can at least do a cruise/reunion with the couples one day.

Sister Sessions told me a bittersweet story about stake conference. Not to be subtle about it, any couples who sortofkindofmaybe are thinking of going on a mission, this is for you:

Since people in the townships can’t afford the taxi fare, they usually miss stake conference unless a bus is hired by the Church. Lots of members don’t get the word that stake conference is even happening, and of course the children who come alone to Church (and there are many in every branch) don’t know at all.

During stake conference and 8-year-old from KwaMashu Ward who was attending with her gogo found Sister Session and came to sit by her. She looked up at her for a moment, then asked, “Sister Sessions, who is going to teach Primary if you are here? The children are waiting for you.”

Sister Sessions explained that no one would be at the chapel today, as everyone was invited to stake conference, instead. The little girl then told here that as she and her gogo passed the church in their taxi, they saw the children waiting outside to gate to go in to Primary. “Who will teach them, Sister Sessions? They’re waiting for you!”
(Or maybe for you?)

OK, so that’s pretty dramatic, but you can’t help feeling it out here. It’s like this morning, driving home after taking the boys to school. Every day I pass dozens of people walking, and I wish I could give them all a ride. I’m sure there’s a missionary lesson in their somewhere – maybe D&C 63:4? Our (we’re so possessive about these missionaries!) Elder & Sister Patterson, after a year of civilian life, are heading out in January for another mission. They’ll be right next door, in the Zimbabwe mission. Hurrah for Israel!

So, enough guilt tips, on to a new subject. Hunter and Morgan are taking exams this week and next. It’s pretty tough, like taking tests in a foreign country. Oh wait, we ARE in a foreign country! Here’s an example of what adds to the challenge: In the States we would write four thousand, two hundred twenty seven and forty-six cents as 4,227.46. Here they write it 4.227,46. Try remembering to switch the period and comma while you are taking a timed test and struggling just to figure out the problems and get the arithmetic right! And even if the numbers in the answer are correct, if they don’t put the comma and period in the new order, the answer is wrong. And of course it’s rands instead of dollars.

And all the boys (not just mine) are also complaining that the new government exams are testing on things they didn’t cover in class. Oh, and during the EMS test on Friday (it’s kind of like accounting) the academic head came in two or three times as she looked over the exam (the exams are delivered each morning so no school can cheat) and found errors. So the students would have to re-do the spreadsheets, etc. because a plus sign was supposed to be a minus sign, or vice versa. (I’m kind of simple, but couldn’t they just have done it as written, since the whole country has the same exam paper?)

Now for more cheerful news: Hunter is back playing some basketball – his knee seems to be allowing it, so we’ll see how it goes. He’s much happier now that he can play again.

And on Saturday Elder Waterbohr had the unusual opportunity to be best man at a wedding in KwaDabeka. When the missionaries first met the bride and groom they were living together, but as they progressed in the lessons he moved out, and they were recently baptized. Now they are married, he will move back in! The groom’s name is Mafia, but he’s thinking of changing it to something more positive. I hope he chooses something like Ammon or Moroni... And, as a point of interest, members have to be married civilly first, so they have a week afterwards to get to the temple to be sealed, or they need to wait a year.

I saw a parable come to life this week. There are always men who appear to be loitering around the parking lots at the video store, and McDonald’s. On Saturday I was returning a video early in the morning, and a car pulled in behind me. The driver stepped out, and all the “loiterers” headed for him. He pointed to two of them, and they climbed in his car and off they went. The others went back to waiting. I don’t know if these labourers get a penny or a rand for the day, but it certainly made the scriptures come to life!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Couple Missionary Recruiter

ps I spotted a couple of interesting hair salons this week: the one in Pinetown offers Hair Cuts, Braiding, and Human Hair. I didn't want to ask... On the other hand, you can always stop in Swaziland at the Anointed Hands Hair Care Saloon (sp). Elder Schlenker says we have a member who works there.

pps When I tell these stories, it is definitely not to poke fun at the wonderful people here: I'm sure they could find just as many funny things in Idaho! In fact, while I was growing up in Salt Lake, we did!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2008 11 16 - Zone Conferenced Out

Dear Everyone:

This has been (again) quite a week. Monday morning the Uffens drove down from Ladysmith and went with us to pick up Elder & Sister Wilson at the airport. While we were waiting, a very cheerful woman walked straight up to me to say hello - it was Elder Alexander's mother, in town for business, and she recognized me by my name tag. It was fun to meet her - and to know she wasn't here to check on him! (Just kidding, she wouldn't.) By the way, name tags are a very handy thing - you should all wear them. Coming back from Swazi this week the Assistants drove the Vito, while we drove a bakkie (so they could have a cd player. Are we nice, or what?). They made a stop at the Manzini Market before they left, and as it was late, and dark, we called them after awhile to see where they were. They didn't answer the first few times, probably in a dead spot for cellphone reception, and then they called us. They told us they were about 45 minutes behind us. How did they know? Because when they stopped at the only petrol station for miles, the girl said "Your People were just here!" So everyone go out and order name tags - you can be Our People too!

But let's get back to the airport - which we always seem to be doing! The Wilsons arrived, very tired, and very excited to be here, which are two difficult conditions to combine, but they did it well. We whipped them off to the mission home for showers, lunch, photos and "business stuff", then we all headed up to Ladysmith and Newcastle (total: 4 hours). They stayed pretty alert for being on the road so long. We dropped their bags in Ladysmith while Steve did an interview, then drove to Newcastle for dinner at the Dibb's with all of us, as well as the Klinglers. Steve had his third birthday cake there. We spent the night in the Dibb's infamous Rooster Room - you have to open the windows to cool it down, and there is a rooster living next door who started crowing this time about 10 pm. (And yes, Joyce and Dan, that will be YOUR room in a few weeks!)

Tuesday morning was Elder Wilson's birthday - he served in the Northwest States Mission, including the Nyssa Ward, the same time Steve was in Germany - and the Newcastle Zone Conference. I had created a very nice powerpoint on faith, if I do say so myself, and since I was SO pleased with it, I was due to be humbled, and the computer settings proved to be messed up. My powerpoint would show up only as solid pages of pictures and text, without any "one item at a time" effects. It was a bit disappointing, and I got the point: technology is nice, but unnecessary. Steve then gave a long (but energizing and delightful!) talk that pulled together everything we are doing, and stressed the importance of keeping a solid foundation of the basics. The Assistants talked about the Neighborhood Walkabout, and showed the "trailer" for the training movie (an instant hit) and two elders spoke in each zone conference (Newcastle was Elders Kwendo & Ang'ila, Swaziland was Elders Peterson & Beardsley, Berea was Elders Vance & Wright, and Hillcrest was Elders Katende & Kiserema. They spoke on the mission equation - Obedience+Hard Work + Faith = Miracles - and on "Faith in Your Ability to Promote Change". You parents will be impressed that your sons realize that to help others change, they have to know how to change themselves, first. Last was a testimony meeting (or "storymony" meeting, as Elder Schwarting would say: Steve asked the elders to share miracles and faith-promoting experiences) and they were outstanding. Then we had our pizza lunch and dispersed.

From Newcastle we drove to Swaziland (4 hours) and stayed overnight with the Baums. It was SO fun! Swazi is a small zone and gets very little attention (and there's only one pizza place, and they don't deliver) so we always go to lunch after zone conference. (My powerpoint worked in Swazi, by the way.) Baums took us to the best Chinese restaurant we've found in the whole mission - it was terrific! We then sent the Assistants to Manzini Market and headed for Durban. The mission home wasn't the disaster it usually is - Sister Sessions came in and cooked dinner for the boys on Wednesday, and was so appalled she cleaned the house. It was pretty nice! I think I'll just ask the Sessions to move in, next time I'm gone. It's amazing the things missionary couples will do for the mission president's wife! I think this is how feudal overlords got started...

Thursday was a lot of meetings for Steve, with the two stake presidents, and Elder Hill, one of our Area Seventies. Elder Hill is meeting with the Coordinating Council in Johannesburg (the mission president, President Poulson, and the Johannesburg stake presidents) and discussing the Neighborhood Walkabout. They might call it the Talkabout, so members will feel less threatened; it IS meant to be a conversation about the families in the neighborhood, after all. Steve also had the first of his 32(?) individual meetings with branch presidents and bishops to help them understand the walkabout and how to implement it in their units. Are we serious about member missionary work? Yes.

Friday was the Berea Zone Conference (the powerpoint worked again) and when I mentioned the Chinese food to Sister Hafen, she told me they went there 3 times in the 2 days they last spent in Swaziland. We're planning the next Couples Seminar for February in Swaziland - guess where we're eating, at least once?

Friday afternoon I went to pick up the boys at school, and was in an absolute deluge of rain and dime-size hail. It started 5 minutes before school let out, and within minutes there were rivers running down both sides of the road, and the path was all mud and water. By the time boys got to their parents' cars they were drenched to the skin. The storm lasted exactly 30 minutes, by which time most of the walkers had probably just reached home. Great timing (if you're the mom, inside the car!)

The rain wasn't so funny in some areas, though. In Kwadebeka, some hillsides were saturated, and houses slid, and roofs collapsed, and deep mud was everywhere. At least 6 children were killed, and some of the elders were out helping to look for survivors. The stake has pulled together supplies, and baby food for the area, and tomorrow a lot of the missionaries will be out there helping the municipality put together aid packages, and digging out the platforms former homes were built on.

Saturday was the last zone conference, at Hillcrest. This time the projector didn't work, so I gave my talk without any technological assistance. And you know what, that was OK, too. The elders got to use their imaginations as I described Jonah boarding a ship, and Laman & Lemuel wilfully rebelling, and the Tree of Life. That was probably better, anyway. (But I'm still going to make powerpoints, just in case I get to use them!) It turns out that on Saturdays the Romans' pizza delivery driver doesn't come until 2:00, so I also got to pick up and deliver 26 pizzas. My resume is growing!

I get to sit back a little, now, although Steve will be just as busy, between interviews & mini-training, and meetings with bishops & branch presidents. I like not being the president. Hopefully I can do a few things for the office elders - they are always swamped.

Thank you, by the way, to all of those who volunteered to adopt our African elders - I'm really excited to see how that works out. We will be getting new ones every 6 weeks, so if yours goes home and you want another name, or if you didn't contact us but would like to email an elder, I'm still at (and probably will be for the rest of my life, so our missionaries can always find us).

Love to everyone!

Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Romans Pizza Delivery - Kloof & Hillcrest areas only

Friday, November 7, 2008

Here at last! Elders Alexander, Hansen & Makono

Out into the World: Elders Thompson, Fofanah, Allred, Morrill, Wolmarans, Wigginton, & Moreno

2008 11 09 - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Dear extended family of the Durban Mission:

Our missionaries must be doing something right - Satan didn't have any luck slowing them down individually, so now he's targeting our cars! We have had a lot of accidents over this transfer - still no one hurt - and Elder Sessions spends most of his time shuffling the working cars around so everyone can get where they need to be. The elders don't live in the townships, so most of them need transport just to get to their areas.

One of our strangest accidents happened to Elder & Sister Johnson in Amanzimtoti. They were pulling into a parking place at the little shopping center there, and a car whammed into the side of their car, which then spun into the adjacent parked car. The green paint (!) in the back went all over, of course (Satan is even trying to slow down our service projects!). The driver of the car, which just kept going, was trying to escape the police. The Johnson's must have slowed him down, though, he was caught not far away. What next? (Don't tell me.)

Elders Alexander and Mokono arrived this week. The missionaries usually arrive on the 10:10 am flight from Jo'burg, so we had the day all scheduled, then received a call at 8 am from the MTC informing us that the elders were on the 8:10 flight this time. They got to the airport before we did! Our elusive Elder Hansen also arrived, from Germany via the Provo MTC. Ironically, after we have waited for him twice at the airport, he ALSO got on an earlier flight than we were told, and called from the airport to say he was in. Good thing our elders are independent and don't panic when the mission president doesn't show up on time.

These elders came in ready to work - well, Elder Hansen was dozing a little the first afternoon... he is from Duesseldorf, where both of my older brothers served their missions, and was the catalyst to reactivate his whole family. Elder Alexander is from Johannesburg, and sounds more like an elder who has been out a while, than someone brand new. (They just keep getting better!) Elder Makono is from Bindura, Zimbabwe, where 70-80 people come to Church each week. By January they will have 7 missionaries out - that's 10 percent of the active members in the branch.

We had to say good-bye to 7 great elders this week, as well. Elder Thompson will be off to Iraq with the Marines in three weeks - that will be an interesting Neighborhood Walkabout! He and Elder Moreno showed up in locally made/decorated suits. Very jazzy! Elder Moreno sang for us for the last time, at the farewell testimony meeting. Strange to hear "Abide With Me" coming so beautifully from an elder in a "Zulu wedding" suit!

Elder Allred's family came to pick him up, as his twin brother ended his mission in Johannesburg the day before our Elder Allred finished here. It was fun to meet them - especially the "other" Elder Allred. Those two will have some very interesting stories to compare!

We heard some more great stories from the elders this week. In Madadeni, Elder Thompson and Elder Kwendo tracted out a Zulu family who belong to the Dutch Reformed Church (VERY unusual!) and the father wasn't interested in learning more. The elders are very active in the community there, and were doing a service project that included 2 young men they were teaching. The father stopped at the project and told Elder Thompson that he'd been watching the missionaries working in the community, and the change that had occurred in the behavior of the 2 young men, and he asked them to come teach his family.

Elder Johnson shared the story of Brother Duma's conversion - he is in a bishopric in Umlazi. He was a bus driver, and took a load of people to an LDS funeral. He came back for them a little early, so he went in and sat in the back. He had no interest at all in any "church stuff". He listened to the program, and then the daughter of the deceased man stood and bore her testimony about being children of God, and knowing she will see her father again, and Brother Duma absolutely knew it was true! He sought out the missionaries, and has been a power in Umlazi ever since. So never underestimate the influence of your testimony!

Today we had our broadcast stake conference - it was very specifically tailored for the needs of Africa, and included talks by Glenn Pace (formerly in the Southwest Africa Area Presidency); Roger Merrill (did training for government officials in South Africa shortly after the first multi-racial election; Elder Holland (who was here 2 weeks ago, and is first contact among the Twelve over Africa) and President Uchtdorf. It was really good. They didn't show it in our districts, because with the transport difficulties, very few could have made it, and therefore most of the members would have had no Church meetings today. Instead, we will make the dvd available to the branches for a combined class.

We have a new couple arriving tomorrow - the Wilsons! They'll come in, have some orientation, then we'll take them up to Ladysmith with the Uffens, and they'll have their first zone conference on Tuesday. I don't imagine we'll get much conversation on the way to Ladysmith: I remember when we were in Zimbabwe: Marilyn and Grandma came to visit us, and as we drove around I was pointing out the sights, and they slept right through it. Jet lag is pain...

This week we head to Newcastle and Swaziland for zone conferences, then back to Durban for the other three. Then Steve and the assistants start their interview/mini-training loop, while Hunter and Morgan start their exams. And finish their correspondence course on U.S. History - so they can start another one. Funny how they don't offer that course here...

Love to all!
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann

ps Edgar's department store has a great offer for account holders: if you are disabled, retrenched, or die, they will settle your account at 30 cents to the rand. You could use this in a murder mystery...

pps On the way to the stake center I saw a blank billboard with the words: Currently being serviced (?)

ppps Steve is 60 today! We've had 2 cakes so far, and there's another coming in Newcastle. He doesn't look a day older...than this morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 10 31 - Happy Halloween!

Dear Everyone:

Halloween isn't really anything here. Some stores have imported the idea, and one of the neighborhood malls has really nice decorations and invites children to trick-or-treat to the shops, but I don't think it's in the townships at all. Gertrude, who saves my life cleaning 2 days a week, remembers very fondly a spook alley masterminded by one of our sister missionaries. It scared her to death! But she loved it.

I have real "mission" stories this week, and they're great! Here's a sample:

In Swaziland, an inactive sister did the Neighborhood Walkabout with the elders. As she was introducing them to one her friends, the lady said "Why should I talk with the missionaries? You don't even go to your Church anymore." She thought about that, and the next Sunday she was back in Church.

In one area, where there were no members, the elders told a young man they had met about the Church, and how they were trying to find the people who might be interested in hearing their message: would he be willing to tell them about a few of the people in the neighborhood? He went inside, came out in a white shirt and tie, and spent the day with them. They ended up with a number of teaching appointments and a lot of information about the people there. He himself was not interested, so they bought him dinner and parted as friends (for now...who knows?)

Elder Brusch and Elder Dygert were asked to share some of our beliefs in a secondary school. They spoke to the whole student body for 35-40 minutes about the basic principles of the Church, and how the Church can help them in their lives, and seeking an education. They then visited each class and explained "For the Strength of Youth" and handed them out to the students. The headmaster told them students were asking how to learn more, so they passed around a list where they could put their name, address and phone number if they wanted to be visited. And the elders gave out their phone# for those who really wanted to be visited soon. The list resulted in 420 names, and 12 students phoned them. Then on Sunday, 2 students who had been absent, but heard about it, showed up in Church. I don't even have an adjective for this one.

At least 3 of our companionships have been approached by people on the street, asking to be taught.

Elder and Sister Baum have been our Swaziland couple, and are both very outgoing and warm and fun with the people. She visited a member family one day, and the sister asked Sister Baum to look in and see what the children were doing. There were a girl and boy, 6 and 4, and they were sitting on the floor, each with a Book of Mormon, singing a Primary song. Then the little girl said "I'm Sister Baum, and I'm going to teach a lesson now." They were "playing Elder and Sister Baum", which is their favorite game.

Sister Dibb, in Newcastle, has worked very hard to train all the auxiliary leaders, but they don't always "pitch up" for the training. She has been "bunked" by the Primary president, especially. Last week the Primary counselor asked her to come help them get ready for the Primary sacrament meeting program - which is in 2 weeks! Nothing organized had been done to prepare. It was a mad scramble for Sister Dibb to find out what songs the children knew, copy the parts and assign them. Next week will be an intense song practice, then away they go! And it will probably be wonderful.

In another branch, the Primary president absolutely refused to have the children sit on the stand during the first part of sacrament meeting on the day of their program - she was sure they would be too noisy and restless. So she kept them away, in a classroom, until it was time for their program. Sister Sessions, who is one of her counselors, tried SO hard to convince her that they needed to be inside, taking the sacrament, but was unsuccessful. So many things happen out here that you can't anticipate!

I have been reading my own missionary journal (from the early days of the Church!) and been reminded that we also made a movie (for training new missionaries); printed a brochure (about family home evening) and planned a member-missionary event to be used in all the wards in our mission. So I guess our activities aren't too out of line: we're just following what President Ballard taught me!

And speaking of my mission, I have to add one goofy experience I had that was also "not anticipated". Sister Calder and I tracted out a lady who invited us in and proceeded to tell us about all the flying saucers she had seen. As she was describing a particularly impressive occasion, when the house got dark as the UFO passed over, with it's blinking lights, the room got dark and I could see a blinking light reflecting on the wall. I seriously thought one of her flying saucers was about to land, and all I could think of was "How do I explain this to President Ballard?"

(It turned out that the sun had gone behind a cloud, just as a telephone repair truck with a blinking light on top pulled up outside the window. Whew!)

I also read an entry I made after visiting the Monteiros, a Portugese family who joined the Church, but was having difficulty staying active. The comment I added said: "No home teachers, no visiting teachers, no callings yet". I hope President Hinckley's counsel that every new member needs a friend, an assignment, and to be "constantly nourished by the good word of God" is being followed today. It certainly would have helped the Monteiros!

This is transfer week, and we'll be gaining 2 new missionaries (whom we met at Elder Holland's fireside in Johannesburg) and sending 7 great elders back to the worldly world. Some wards/branches are going to getting some good leadership - and 7 terrific member missionaries!

It's hard to believe it's November tomorrow. Our weather is alternating between "Seattle" gray skies and rain, and brilliantly sunny, hot days. I'll have to start searching for a turkey. The largest I found last year was about 12 pounds - in a freezer case, waiting for Christmas, I think!

Sala kahle!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/The only person in Durban wearing a Halloween t-shirt.

Friday, October 24, 2008

2008 10 26 - Once Upon a Time...

Dear Family & Friends:

This week I have a few stories to tell you - life is so interesting!

We had an interesting form of opposition to a baptism a few weeks ago. A mother, a teen and two younger children were all preparing to be baptized. On the Sunday in question, the gogo (grandmother) "kidnapped" the two younger children to "save" them from baptism. The mother and older child were baptized, and I believe things were sorted so the other baptisms took place this week.

Elder Ta'aga and Elder Maneno have been using the Suzuki bakkie while we're waiting for cars to be repaired. They locked the keys inside the other night, in the ignition. (Note: I must admit, I did that once, only with the ignition running, and Torry in her car seat, but let's not go there...) Anyway, Elder & Sister Sessions got the spare key and went to Umlazi, to the rescue. They tried, in the rain, for 2 1/2 hours to get that thing open! The key wouldn't unlock the driver door, and although the lock moved up and down on the passenger door, it wouldn't open either. They called the vehicle emergency people, who took the info, and wanted the VIN #. "Do you have a flashlight?" asked Elder Sessions, on the cellphone. "Yes," responded the young woman. "May I borrow it?" he asked. "Yes," she said. "And how do I get it?" They finally got the first few numbers for her using cellphone lights. Tough job; Sister Sessions now has a tiny flashlight in her bag. The young woman said they would respond "Just now". (That can mean anytime between now and Christmas.) Elder Sessions asked specifically, "Do you mean now, now now, or just now?" Unfortunately, the answer was "just now". They called a tow truck, to try to get into the bakkie, but the guy couldn't do any better with what was at hand than the missionaries. And he kept calling his friend to come help ("He can do it in a minute!") but the friend was afraid it was a set-up by the police. Now what kind of individual would be able to break into cars, and worry about a sting...?

So the end of the story: since someone would have broken into the car and stolen it if they'd left it there, Elder Ta'aga got to break out the rear window, climb in and drive the bakkie back. Turns out it wasn't some fancy security issue: the handle on the passenger door and the lock on the driver door just both decided to die at the same time. Maybe the elders have been climbing through the windows for months, and didn't think to mention it!

A sister in KwaMashu went into labor one evening, and she and her husband started walking to catch a taxi to the hospital. They were held up, and when she told the guys she was in labor, they just said "So what?" She and her husband took off running for their lives, and managed to get away and to a taxi and the hospital, and the baby was delivered safely.

A group of missionaries visited a local mosque on a preparation day, where they were shown around and introduced to Islam. Then they were ushered into a room where the "tour guide" proceeded to show an anti-Mormon movie and harass them on our beliefs. They left (politely) but a few days later the story and some photos showed up in small Islamic newspaper. Steve called the area public relations office, and was told that the head of Islam for South Africa (or maybe all of Africa) is a very good friend to the Church, and will doubtless respond to the incident in a very direct way. I should add that our elders have visited mosques before, and had a very good experience.

Good news from Elders Parry and John - the investigator I mentioned last week who wanted to know more about baptism? The family is now choosing a date for theirs. I love being part of this work!!

For those who may have missed it, our KZN provincial rugby team, the Sharks, won the national Currie Cup yesterday. They haven't won for 14 years, and they beat the Blue Bulls from Johannesburg, who beat us last year for the Cup. Morgan was at the game, and all of Durban was watching it on TV.

Later that night, Hunter heard "noises" in the attic above his room, so he decided to sleep in family room (did I mention that he and Morgan and their friends have been going to all the scary movies lately?). Well, a little later I heard thumping in the attic above my room, and when I mentioned it to the boys, Hunter said "Leave the lights on!" and Morgan immediately called Steve, over in the office. He laughingly informed us that there were fireworks going off in honor of the rugby win. But honestly, you would have sworn the thumps were in the attic... I guess the lights weren't UFOs, either.

We're feeling a lot calmer here, after hearing about people being harassed by protesters on the way to the Oakland Temple. The email I got made it sound like Lehi's dream, only everyone had come out of the great and spacious building and was standing on the sidewalks, and even in the street, yelling and waving signs. It will be nice when the elections are over and California is back to it's normal craziness.

This story is for sisters only: I went for a perm this week, and after being rolled up in rods that were held in place by something that looked like rubber bands, the rods were made more secure with toothpicks, then my head was wrapped in plastic wrap and covered by a towel. I felt like an hors d'oevre!

We visited The Workshop in downtown Durban on Saturday morning. I thought it would be full of African crafts, but it was just a mall. Hunter wanted to go, to find a t-shirt and sweatshirt in one of his favorite, hard-to-find, not-in-Idaho brands (there just isn't a lot of gangsta stuff available, is there?). We had 4 of the "bros" with us. Morgan and Hunter were both worried it would be "ghetto" and we wouldn't be safe there, but it was a very nice mall - probably the main one before Pavilion and Gateway were built. Anyway, the boys had prophesied that we'd be the only white people there, but no: we saw 11 others. I also got a great bargain on comforters for new missionaries at a sidewalk booth outside the mall. And yes, we found something for Hunter, very bling.

The school is getting ready for "controlled exams". It's part of a new curriculum that was put in place this year. Next year every class will require 7 "portfolios" of work, instead of the assignments and exams they've used in the past. I guess they're trying to make the work in different schools more comparable, or something? Anyway, Hunter and Morgan are actually studying (a little). The teachers have given them practice packets to fill out, which will be very helpful, as they throw all their notes everywhere and would probably not be too organized on their own. The matrics (grade 12) have finished their actual classes are are not "revising" for their end of school exams, which are really all that count out of the whole 4 years of high school. It's not like the U.S. where colleges look at all your grades.

Two of Hunter's friends were asking about the requirements for U.S. universities, so next year we may have our own "SAT preparation" class in the mission home. Maybe with some friends involved, our boys will pay more attention. I've got to find out where they can take the ACT or SAT here, anyway. Trying to coordinate the school system here, and the school sytem at home is tricky, to say the least.

Well, love to all, here goes another week!
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2008 10 19 - Mission Presidents Seminar in Johannesburg

Dear Family & Friends:

Wonderful. Amazing. Energizing. Faith promoting. Insightful. Helpful. Renewing. Uplifting. Practical. Spiritual. Testimony building. Friendship strengthening. Fun!

I don't quite know how to convey all the feelings I have about the mission presidents seminar we just attended! We were in Johannesburg from Sunday evening to Wednesday afternoon. The seminar included all the mission presidents (including the Cannons from the MTC) in the Africa Southeast Area, as well as the Area Presidency, Elder Steven Snow, and Elder Holland, as well as all their wives (of course!). Few things are better than working with wonderful people like this in a small group! (Last year we were taught by Elder Scott, which was also wonderful, but totally different.)

We started off Sunday night with a fireside in Sandton. Elder & Sister Holland were the speakers, but Steve was a little distracted watching for some of our returned missionaries who live in the Jo'burg area. He found them, and it was like Alma meeting up with the sons of Mosiah after 14 years!

Elder Holland spoke about missions, and by the end you were in NO confusion over whether every young man should go or night! I love the way he talks (and writes), and the down to earth examples he uses. He talked about chasing down every young man, and gave a real example: he was at a zone conference in Sweden, and an elder got up and left in the middle. Elder Holland immediately slipped down and asked the companion what had happened. "He says he's done - that's it - he's going home." So Elder Holland went outside looking for him. He had to "chase" him around the chapel a few times, but he "caught" him, and they talked about it, and the elder came back in.

Some years later, a young man came up to Elder Holland in Utah, and said "Do you remember me?" Elder Holland didn't, until the man said "Sweden. Zone conference. Up hill, down hill, up hill..." It was the same elder, and he wanted Elder Holland to know that he had finished his mission, was now married in the temple and had a family. So everyone get your jogging shoes on and start chasing the young men in your wards who are wavering about going on missions!

Monday we started the sessions. We all sat at a long, horse-shoe shaped table, and took turns leading the hymns and playing the piano. We already knew all the mission couples except the Poulsens (Johannesburg) and the Probsts (Capetown) who just came out this year. And of course it turns out we know people the Probsts and Poulsens know... Steve had also worked with Elder Snow when he was in the Area Presidency here, while we were in Zimbabwe, and with Elder Holland at the same time. Plus Elder Snow is the one who set me apart for the mission. The other new couple are the Watsons, in the Area Presidency. President Watson was the secretary to the First Presidency for over 30 years, and Sister Watson's maiden name was Mann, and she turns out to be a "cousin" of Steve's. In fact, we have all stood in the same cemetery in Stratford-on-Avon taking photos of the Mann tombstones there!

The training we received covered lots of different areas. Some was in response to questions that the mission presidents sent in ahead of time. Monday afternoon they really got down to "problems" (like polygamy, for instance) while all the wives met together separately. Our session was way more fun. Sisters Parmley, Koelliker and Watson had the room all set up, with music playing, and a black runner down the center of the conference table with beaded sheep wearing labels "Feed my sheep". As they introduced the theme of the meeting, Sister Parmley pointed out that some of the sheep were all aone, and others were grouped together, and some were headed out in wrong directions. I love visual aids! (And we each got to bring a sheep home, which is always a bonus in the womens' meetings!)

I had never met Sister Holland or Sister Snow, and they were terrific. We had a "general board" kind of meeting, and with people who are all doing the same thing, and reaching for the same goals, you feel a lot of unity. I know you all read my experiences, and I appreciate that, but these sisters are living them - and some in MUCH tougher circumstances! So when you relate something, they can say "Me too!" (Can you tell I liked it?)

Before Sister Snow and Sister Holland talked to us, we went around the table and each of us shared something from our mission experience. I showed some of the awards I've made for the missionaries - like after the all-district mugging. They were all wonderful ideas and experiences, and helped us get to know each other even better. Don't you love the way the Church brings people together?

Tuesday President Snow taught about following the promptings of the Spirit, and Elder Holland illustrated how powerful the Book of Mormon is in conversion. He talked about Joseph Smith, and all the things that had to happen before he could restore the Church, including publishing the Book of Mormon. Then he walked us through 1st Nephi, and we discovered that Lehi's experience of visions, angels, and a book were very similar to Joseph's. Now when I read about prophets and their beginnings, I'm looking for similar patterns.

Tuesday afternoon we went to the temple together - we just filled the session room. Steve and I only get to go once or twice a year, so that was a really great. It was like going to a half-size Boise temple.

One small glitch did come up: the mission ran out of recommend forms, and when we ordered them from distribution, we received 300 order forms instead. So when we got to the temple, Steve borrowed a recommend book so he could give me a new recommend, and sign one for himself. Yes, it's true: the mission president is the only one who needs to interview the mission president's wife, and signs his own recommend. Who'd have thought?

Wednesday morning was a powerful testimony meeting, then we headed for home, to a house that was nowhere as near destroyed as I expected it to be! The boys are getting better at fending for themselves. They even got to early morning seminary (with a little help from Elder Nkele & Elder Terry).
I noticed, though, that there was no food left in the house: all the better to defrost the freezer, my dear!

I spent the Saturday picking out excerpts from the video Parker shot for our member missionary training film. I would watch it, pause it, type up comments I liked, listen again, correct...over and over again. There were 14 interviews, so it took awhile. It was interesting, though: some of our members made the same comments we had thought about using from general authority talks, so we're going to use our local people instead. And Zulu grammar is definitely different from American grammar. We couldn't have written lines for the members that would have sounded the least bit authentic.

Today I had a wonderful missionary moment (I'm running out of adjectives today!). Morgan and I spoke in Church, and my topic was ordinances. After Church a sister who is investigating, with her husband and daughter, stopped me and said she liked the talk about ordinances, and that she wanted to understand more about baptism. I suggested that when the elders come over to teach them tonight, that she tell them she wants to know about baptism. I told her they would be delighted...and surprised! Interestingly, right after my talk Elder John told me I had done a good preparation for his investigators, as they were going to work up to talking about baptism tonight. Little does he know!

Our only low point today was that Jubz' mom, Noni, didn't make it to Church. Next week Jubz is going to sleep at home on Saturday night, instead of at our house, so he can "encourage" her. (He usually comes with us.)

I have a lot of computer work this next few days. We filmed the roadshow, so I'm making copies of that, and we received a copy of conference, so I need a few to make a few copies for people who couldn't get out to see it. More critical, I need to email those of you who have been so responsive about adopting an African elder! You've been great, so I'll be sending a name, picture, country, birthday and finish date to each of you. And if I run out of elders (probably not) remember, we get new missionaries every 6 weeks!

Last, but probably the MOST important, I am finally sending out all the pictures we have taken of Steve and me with each new missionary. I was having trouble because of illegible email addresses, and got WAY behind! So if I send you one and your son has been here a year already, please forgive my delay! I'm going to do better on this...along with 40 other things.

Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann

ps Christmas is starting to show up in our local stores, and I was miffed because it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, let alone Halloween! Then I remembered: South Africa doesn't have Thanksgiving or Halloween, so how can I complain? Besides, it's a good excuse to look for another interesting Nativity set! Can a person ever have too many?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally! A picture of Elder & Sister Markum!

Gogo and her compound - taken by Parker

The Durban District Team

2008 10 12 - Heading off to Jo'burg

Hello, Everyone!

The heat has hit! We had several days of blinding sunshine in the morning, and thunder/lightning/rain at night, but the last few days it has been warm, warm, warm! And it's only the beginning! Thank goodness summer is the rainy season - at least it cools down a little when it rains!

Yesterday Morgan played on the Durban District Rugby Team (Under 15A) and they beat the Johannesburg Blue Bulls. This is very, very good. Club rugby is now over (I think) so he'll be doing his rugby skills training two days a week, and gymming (do we sat that in the States?) two days a week.
Hunter, meanwhile, is doing physical therapy four times a week. He keeps trying to sneak back into basketball, but the therapist is very firm on that point: no competitive sports until nine months have passed. Of course, Hunger figures he's so good, there IS no competition...

Interesting story on our Umlazi W district (remember the group mugging?) The district now consists of Elders Gifford, England, Babeeyo, Reese, Torgersen & Goldsmith. They went to KFC for dinner after watching the Saturday morning session of conference at the stake center (it was, after all, 8 pm) and the place was robbed while they were there. The interesting (and nice) part, is that one of the employees pointed out the missionaries to robbers, saying something unknown in Zulu, and a robber came over and said "Don't worry - we won't bother you" and proceeded to rob everyone else, and the cash register, and leave. Maybe in Umlazi you are only allowed to be mugged once a quarter? Anyway, we were very happy with the respect the elders were shown. I hope it's because they have earned the community's trust.

In an hour or so Steve and I will be flying off to Johannesburg for a Mission Presidents Seminar. We have them twice a year, and this is the really "serious training" one. Elder Holland and Elder Snow will be the trainers, and there will be one separate afternoon where Sister Holland and Sister Snow will do...whatever with the wives. We all stay at a hotel together for the training and meals, and do a temple session. The Hollands, Snows, and Area Presidency must be pretty worn out. They were all conference, and then flew back in time for meetings with the 3rd Quorum of Seventy (our Area Seventies) yesterday and today. Tonight Elder Holland is doing a fireside, and we start our seminar at 8 tomorrow morning. When do they sleep???

My biggest concern, of course, is leaving the mission home to the mercy of Morgan and Hunter. The assistants and the office elders will help with transportation, but my real comfort is Elder and Sister Sessions. They'll keep a closer eye on them than I probably do!

Parker has sent us the rough draft of the member missionary training dvd that he filmed while he was here. It looks really good. The members who are in it will love seeing themselves - and it will be a great tool for the missionaries to use. We are very into modelling and role-playing (sorry, we don't role-play, we practice). Once the members have been through the Sunday lessons on sharing the gospel, and the Preach My Gospel Member program, and gone on the Neighborhood Walkabout, and worked with the training video, no one will need the MTC anymore! (Just kidding...)

The stake roadshows were Friday night - they were very different from what you might visualize. The idea was to base it on a musical. Our ward did a very quick version of Grease (and we won, by the way!) Jubz was the angel who sang Beauty School Dropout (he wore Elder Schlenker's white baptismal clothes) and they all sang along to the cd. They were loud enough that you could hear them, though.

The Kwadebeka Ward did an African musical with traditional dancing. Very neat! I'm working on instructions for the roadshows in the districts for February - I think it would be nice to do a mix of traditional and modern, or African and Western, or something. We may need to be very specific the first time around, and provide a very basic roadshow that they can tweak however much they'd like. It's very fun and challenging in the pioneer Church!

Everyone have a really good day on the 13th - It's Torry's birthday.

We appreciate all your support and help! Our latest need is for families to "adopt" an African elder, to email him every week and send goodies at Christmas and on his birthday. We have several who never get anything, and here are their companions raking in the mail and packages. If you're interested, let me know:

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

ps I've decided my name is boring, as I get acquainted with Nonhlanhla, and Sebile, and and Phumzile and Smangele!

pps One of our African elders just came down with chicken pox - haven't seen that for awhile!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Eva (3) by Parker

Brody (1) by Parker

The Boys in our Hood - Sizwe, Hunter, Nkeniso, Jubz, Morgan, Sthe, Mhole

2009 10 03 - Zone Conferences & School Holidays

Dear Family & Friends:

I’m sitting in the office listening to Elders Parry, John, Nkele and Terry plan a “Blitz” for the Hillcrest Zone. There will be 22 missionaries, and as many members as they can commit to come. The missionaries will have a fast, and go out with the members to go looking for all the less-actives throughout the area. They will also be meeting other people in the process, such as the members’ friends, and the people they ask for help in finding the “lost”. Last time Elder Waterbohr and his companion taught 7 lessons that day. It’s been a very successful activity in other areas, and often the elders find members that no one knew were there.

In the meantime, Steve is in Swaziland with the assistants. This is the boys’ week off between terms, but I had everything handled to be gone overnight to a joint Newcastle/Swaziland zone conference in Newcastle (3-1/2 hours away). We had the Richards Bay/Umlazi/Durban North zone conference here in Durban on Wednesday, came home to regroup, then headed out of Newcastle. I will outline the rest of the afternoon, to save space:
1. 3:30 (1 hour out) met a detour off the N3. We couldn’t see a reason, and there weren’t backed up cars, but the lanes were all blocked by bumper to bumper trucks for quite a distance. A demonstration? A lunch break? A trucker’s convention? We will never know.
2. Headed off left on R103, but after a bit it seemed to head south (we needed to go northwest) so Steve had us turn around and go the other way, which turned into a dirt road for quite a while. We eventually got to Curry’s Post (NOT on the way) and turned back around.
3. Phone call from the Baums, 10K into South Africa from Swaziland so their cellphone will work. Elder Mbithi can’t get through the border with his visa (which Swaziland officials have been working on for 3 months!). Steve decided to send them back to Swazi, and have a separate zone conference for them on Friday, so no one would have to stay back and miss it.
4. Realized only Steve had his passport on him.
5. Three of us on simultaneously on cellphones, and Elder Schlenker driving and laughing: Steve with Swaziland; Elder Hiatt with the Sessions, trying to find the assistants’ passports in the office; and me with Hunter, to figure out if I could be gone another day. He was WAY too eager for me to go for it, and I couldn’t reach Morgan, who was at rugby practice, so we decided I’d better stay.
6. Turned around to meet the Sessions halfway to trade two visas for one mission mom.
7. Session hit a traffic jam as a truck had dropped it’s load on the N3.
8. Finally connect at 5:30, in Marianhill (not that far from home!)
9. Steve and the assistants head off to Newcastle, on very dark roads, arriving 9:30 pm.
10. I drop Sessions off at their boarding (we’re a car short again, thanks to a drunk driver: no injuries) and I head home to find Hunter, Morgan, and 5 friends.
It was a good thing I stayed home: there have been a few runs to the mall; an unexpected roadshow practice at the church, necessary food replacement as a constant tide of friends ebbs and flows. The highest # was 10, the lowest 4. They keep telling me they can all cram into the Peugeot to get to the mall, but I’ve drawn the line at 5 at a time.

Sizwe went to the roadshow practice with Hunter, Morgan & Jubz. Morgan is supposed to accompany one song, if we can work it out. Jubz is singing a solo! They’re doing the songs from Grease, and he is singing “Beauty School Dropout”. He will be so cute (don’t tell him I said that) all the girls will be wanting to meet him. Should provide some good fellowshipping while he has his missionary lessons!

The zone conferences are going well. I got to the first two, Pietermaritzburg/Hillcrest, and the one in Durban. We have 24 missionaries of 7 weeks or less, none of whom had been to a zone conference, plus about 60 more who came out after the “Meet the President & his family” zone conference, so the assistants put together a powerpoint on us. We rifled the family pictures on my computer, and came up with some pretty good ones, and then the assistants did a little magic, and voila! Show time! I don’t think the elders will ever look at their president quite the same!

The assistants reviewed some of the materials we are using for the member missionary work, just to be sure everyone is up to speed. It’s fun to watch these things evolve – we have had elders, such as Elders Nkele, Schwarting, Eddy & Schlenker, come up with great “from the trenches” suggestions that have led to new or adapted forms and programs that will be really helpful. Elder Hiatt gave some instruction on Zulu culture and language to the couples that has evolved into a booklet on “Getting to Know the People” and includes additional Zulu customs from Elder Maxongo, a section on working with Indians by Elder Schlenker, and one on working with other missionaries by…oh yeah, me. Information seems so much more important when it’s in booklet form!

Morgan did a braii today for all the (currently in residence) friends and the office elders. We bought a whole variety of Boerwors and seasoned kebabs and porklets, and it smelled delicious! I tried to add carrot sticks to the mix, but was turned down cold. Meat and rolls and an Energade, that’s all a real man needs!

Our weather continues to fluctuate wildly – hot and sunny, cold and rainy, hot and sunny, cold and rainy. It’s probably a good thing – day after day of HOT would not be so nice. Morgan is hoping it will be cool for the rugby game tomorrow – they get pretty hot, playing. Maybe cooler weather would give him an advantage: he’s used to it. He was at the beach this week, and some children asked if he was “Beast” from the national rugby team, the Springboks. They wanted his autograph. He told them he’d be around signing later… There is a “Beast” on the rugby team for every grade, it seems. And yes, Morgan is one of them.

Sala Kahle (stay well)!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Beastmother

ps Elder Brusch has a new tracting technique. On Fridays in the townships a lot of the babas (dads) get drunk? So he finally asked some children if there were any babas in the neighborhood who didn’t drink. They identified four – and they’re teaching two of them. Way to be creative!