Thursday, January 31, 2008

03 Feb 2008 - Just Chat

Allo, Ma Dahlings! (go up a few notes on “-lings”)

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a P.G. Wodehouse novel (google him). For example, today I dropped Morgan off for rugby practice. As I’m leaving, a boy in a school uniform says (I will try to convey this phonetically): “ Ahftanoon, Mawm. May I awsk the tahm?” “You may”, I respond (I can’t help it!). “It’s twenty to four.” “Thenk yu, mawm.” Then as I’m walking away, I hear another boy ask, “Whawt’s the tahm, Reginald?” Honestly, has this ever happened to you? (Just a little aside on non-missionary life in Durban.)

I’m getting pretty used to some of the vocal patterns, such as “Ha yu?”, which if it were played on the piano could start on a G below middle C, then the “yu” slides from C# to D. The answers is “Fahn, n yu?” but the “yu” doesn’t slide so much this time. You can also respond “Ah’m well, n yu?” In the townships, if you don’t greet in Zulu, it’s more likely to be “Are you well?” which is a translation of the Zulu greeting. I’m actually trying to work on a South African accent, to try out when I get home. The South Africans won’t recognize it, but since most of you have never heard one, it’s worth a try!

Hunter and Morgan are now officially 15, which is handy, because Hunter has been claiming to be 15 for 3 months. Morgan celebrated by getting in a minor altercation at school, which led to 2 hours of after school detention. However, since the next day there was a scuffle among some matrics (grade 12) during which a row of lockers (in the walkway outside the classrooms) were knocked over, and later a boy in Morgan’s class accidentally(?) pushed another boy through a glass windowpane, sending the boy to the hospital for cleanup, I’m not too worried about his little event. Morgan says there will be LOTS of people in detention of Friday: I’m afraid he’s going to enjoy it.

The rugby coach is talking about training Morgan to be a "prop" instead of a "wing". This position wouldn't take as much advantage of his speed, but would capitalize on his bulk and strength (as if I knew what exactly a prop does...) And Hunter's team won their game this week - he is now a point guard, and made 12 of their 30 points. Nice! The coach of the older 1st team is taking Morgan up on his offer to bring a missionary basketball to play the 1st team and a few of the coaches on a Preparatin Day Monday. The players will wear the mission t-shirts, and their companions will be in their whites - way to break down the gates of Westville!

We also celebrated with a 2-1/2 hour power outage in the evening, so all the people we planned to Skype – sorry! The boys feel very rich, by the way: money makes a very good birthday present here. Grandma’s present exchanged into 250 rand! That doesn’t sound as good as a million Zimbabwe dollars for a loaf of bread, but we can’t ALL be in total economic meltdown – thank goodness!

This all doesn’t sound very missionary, so back to business. Sister Tanner, the general YW President, and Sister Matsumori, 2nd counselor in the general Primary presidency, were in Durban this week as part of their Africa Southeast Area training tour. It was very helpful. They had their husbands with them, as well as Elder & Sister Koelliker (who say Hi to all my family that they know). Elder & Sister Hill came, too. Sister Hill is way fun to be around. The training was just what I needed just now, as the Couples Seminar coming up is focused on training priesthood and auxiliary leaders, and we’re trying to pull out the highlights from all the manuals and guidebooks, and use very, very, very simple instructions! Sister Tanner had some simplified pamphlets I had never seen before, which we’re now getting copies of. They will save us some time. We plan to take photos of members in the mission to use in our handouts, as the general Church material is usually a little sparse on pictures of Zulu members. (And even sparser on Swazis!)

I forgot to share a great visual Elder Hill used in his zone conference training. He was talking about how Satan likes to work on us one-on-one; the illustration is in the photo above. It's good, eh?

Another nice mental visual was looking for investigators like a needle in the haystack...and the Spirit is the magnet. I wish I were a cartoonist so I could draw all these images as they come up. Any volunteers? Katie? Logan? Torry?

We’re starting to hear from our sisters-in-a-different-mission. They are teaching a lot, and having to adjust (beautifully, I’m sure) to different approaches and leadership styles. In addition, a few have to cope with running into people they know on temple trips (good job hiding in the locker room, Sister Wileman!). Just when you think you know all the challenges a mission can bring...

Steve got back from his mission loop through Swaziland last night - there are two news items to add to the Swazi legends. One is their new "babas and babies" program. When they spot a man with a small child or a baby, they go out of their way to talk to him. They are finding lots of married men (not always the case) and starting to teach their families. The second is the new "Swazi Dirt Shirt". Swazi has very red soil, and Sister Baum made some dirt shirts (like Crazy Shirts in Hawaii?) for the elders, and now a member is going to start making them and try selling them to tourists. We plan to make our 2008 mission t-shirt on a Swazi Dirt Shirt.

We had a great fast for families (with transport!) to teach. I'm assuming the numbers will start rising this week! Thanks to those of you who joined with us. And if any of you are doing the 40-day ward fasts I'm starting to hear about, feel free to sneak the Durban Mission into your prayers. We can use all the help we can get (as can every mission).

Love to everybody!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann

ps This week's guilty thought: If you're not sharing the gospel...then you're hoarding it! So if you "don't know anyone to share it with" it may be time to go somewhere that millions of people have never heard of Joseph Smith. Application forms are available online.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2008 01 27 - A new branch & zone conferences

(The following is from "The Prez" about organizing the Ezakheni (ezz uh kay knee) Branch):

"Hi everyone,
This last week we had a marvelous experience organizing the Ezakheni Branch. Ezakheni is a township about two and a half hours north west of the mission home. Most homes there are concrete with flat tin roofs and maybe 15X20 or smaller. This time of year the grass is up and there are goats and cows and chickens all over in the streets and yards. As you might imagine unemployment and HIV infection rates are very high. For the last several years we have rented what was an old slaughter house, (concrete floors and walls, few windows, leaky tin roof and only one real room). For the last two years the saints there have come together in the humid heat of the summer, in the damp and mud of the rain and in the cold of the winter. There is no heat in the winter and only a few fans to move the air around in the summer. In 2006 they averaged about 65 people attending sacrament meeting. In 2007 they averaged 88 with sometimes as many as 120, including all of the investigators. They did all of this as just an extension of the Ladysmith Branch about 20 miles away.
What an experience to get them organized as an independent branch. There is a spirit there that is incredible. The new branch president is from Zimbabwe, has been a member for about a year and a half and is one of the most humble spiritual men I have ever met. As a counselor in the Ladysmith Branch he would stop the branch president and say, “Can you please go with me this week to visit members?” His wife just got baptized and they are looking forward to going to the temple next year to be sealed together along with their two children.
The branch was so excited and the spirit was strong during the meeting. There is quite a bit of priesthood and a high percentage of tithe payers so we hope to buy land and get scheduled for a building soon. I wish you all could see Ezakheni for yourselves. If you could you would be far more thankful and probably a little embarrassed for all of the material things you have. You would also, I think, be humbled by their daily dedication to living the gospel of Jesus Christ, the strength of their testimonies, and their knowledge of the scriptures and doctrine. While we may have a few things to teach these people, we have far more to learn. "

Now it's me again. We just finished a mission tour, which is when an area authority comes around with us on zone conferences. Our Area Authority, called last April conference, is Elder Gareth C. Hill. He and his wife Lyris (a "horse whisperer") came with us to 3 zone conferences: 2, and once 3, zones at a time. It's fun, because the elders line up early and we all go through shaking hands with everyone. Elder & Sister Hill talked to each missionary for a moment, and some they knew already because they had served in their ward. They both did a dynamite job. Sister Hill spoke on consciously appreciating the things the Lord does for us each day. Elder Hill taught that the way to help investigators progress to baptism, is by helping them gain an understanding and testimony of the atonement. Many people feel they just can't be as "perfect" as a Mormon seems to be. Understanding just how complete the atonement is, and how the gift of the Holy Ghost strengthens us to resist sin, will give a person confidence to make the commitment to be baptized. He had a wealth of scriptures to share - I couldn't write down the references fast enough - and he challenged us all to read the scriptures with a blue pencil and mark every reference to the atonement. Luckily, I am verses away from finishing the Book of Mormon again, so I can start over with my blue pencil. Then I'll have to do it in all the other scriptures, too.

We also went out to dinner with the Hills, once with the Uffens, Klinglers, Dibbs, and Dalebouts (and the assistants) and once with the Baums, Smiths, Hafens, Bartholomews, Hunter & Morgan.
It's great when the couples have a chance to get together - since the Bartholomews just got here, they hadn't met everyone yet. They'll meet the Newcastle couples in 2 weeks at our Couples Seminar in Swaziland. (Doesn't that sound racy?)

Hunter's first basketball game was cancelled due to rain, so he and Morgan and 3 friends played basketball all afternoon, first indoors at the Berea chapel, until they were bumped by a Young Special Adult activity, and then outdoors at the Pinetown chapel. Hunter is now playing Point Guard.

Morgan is organizing a basketball game between the Westville Boys High School 1st team (plus a few of their young coaches) and a team made up of missionaries. It will be on preparation day, after school, and the players will all wear the mission t-shirt, and their companions will wear their white shirts and ties, as this is also a "get to know the neighbors" activity. If the Westville boys feel like they know the missionaries, maybe the elders will be able to get inside some of the gates!

Well, love to everybody!
Grandma, Mom, Susan, Sue, Sister President Mann, Sports Mom (who'd have thought...)

ps. I have a new theory that one of these conferences President Hinckley is going to start calling people on missions from the pulpit, just like Brigham Young. I suspect he will start with residents of St. George. Wouldn't that be interesting?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

2008 01 Departure - Elders Gasa, Frost, Van Skeltema, Rosenlof, Andriarimalala, & Maluleke

2008 01 Arrival - Elders Hartvigsen, Rothenberger, Vance & Hurlbut

Tyburn Primary Schoo: Elders Goddard, Fowles & Hart; Elder & Sister Dalebout

2008 01 20 - First Transfers of the Year

Dear Family and Friends:

We have just completed another transfer week, and they are getting harder and harder as we get to know the missionaries better. This latest group was made up of very strong leaders, and we'll miss them a lot. Elder Andriarimalala's mother sent an email in which she described her mixed feelings in sending him on his mission - sad to lose his company, happy to have him serve - and the excitement she feels as he is returning. She said she could understand how hard it must be for us to send our "sons" home from their missions...but too bad: it's her turn to be happy!

It's a good thing we also get new missionaries IN during transfer week, to keep our spirits up! We got four new elders this time, and a great new couple, the Bartholomews, from Sandy Utah. We didn't get the photo taken with the Bartholomews, so they will be on the next blog - which will be soon, as Steve wants to tell "in his own words" about organizing the Ezakheni Branch out of the "twig" that meets in the butchery.

In the meantime, Hunter and Morgan are (finally!) back in school. They really love being in long pants - some of the new Grade 8 boys mistake them for matrics and greet them ("Morning, sir.") which they are loving.
Basketball practice has started for Hunter, and Morgan will have Athletics (track) two days a week and rugby pre-season two days a week. Plus schoolwork; plus 6 am seminary; plus some correspondence work to keep them caught up with schoolwork at home.

The only glitch to some of this is our new "load shedding" program. KZN has grown faster than it's power supply, so they are rotating the electricity in different areas to save on usage. They've sent out a schedule, which lists four different times of day, M/W/F or T/TH/S/Su, when the power COULD be off. The day after the schedule arrived, the power went off - but it wasn't any of the times scheduled for the outage. Bottom line: work while the power is on, because there's no guarantee that it will stay on! (Isn't there a hymn about that? Work while the sun shines...)

Last Thursday I had the best time ever, taking 200 school kits, 100 hygiene kits, and 70 blankets to the Tyburn Primary School. This is a government school, built in 1972, and never refurbished in any way, that has 900 "learners". Only 29% of the children can afford the meager school fees, and many live in "informal housing" on two nearby farms. Some have to collect water at the river and boil it for use. None of them have electricity, or plumbing, or blankets, or school supplies, or even food. And a few are not allowed by their parents to come to school because they are providing for the family by begging on the street.

In spite of all this (and 65 students crammed into some of the classrooms) the school is making a real success of teaching these children, and encouraging self-reliance and hard work. It was very impressive. The elders have been involved there in many ways in the past, and I hope we can do more for them. The boys in the picture above were all involved in an accident before Christmas: 6 of them were riding in the back of a bakkie (pickup) and one was killed in the crash. They are 9 years old. The one who was killed had been looking forward to using a KFC certificate he had won, to buy his first ever chickenburger. I plan, NOT as Sister President Mann, but just as me, to send out an email with more details and pictures about the school, in case anyone wants to help make a difference for some wonderful kids.

We set out this afternoon on a mission tour with Elder Gareth Hill, our Area Authority, and his wife. It should be really fun - they are very nice, and good with the missionaries. He was formally the Durban Stake President, when there was only one stake, and the Hillcrest Stake President when it was divided, and a member of the mission presidency, so he had pretty much presided over everyone here even before this calling came last year.

Well, I'm off to pack, and pick up food for the zone conference lunch, and more school necessities for the boys, and to make out a detailed list for the office elders, so they can "tend" the boys while we're gone overnight. Isn't life fun?

Love you all,
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann
ps In our sacrament meeting last week, Brother Rawlings talked about temples, and he mentioned that in 1968, he and his wife and 3 children were sealed in the nearest temple: London. In order to get there, they sold their house... Anyone made it to the temple this week?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

Esikhawini "Chapel"

Relief Society Room - and Kitchen!

03 01 2008 - How can it possibly be 2008 already!

Dear Ones Overseas:

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Ours is not officially over yet, as school doesn't begin until the 14th of January, and people are still vacationing. We also added a few days by saving the creative Christmas bundle we received from the River Heights Ward Young Women for an FHE with Hunter and Morgan, who didn't get back until the night of the 27th. Thank you so much, Young Women! You are awesome!

I was so pre-occupied with other things last entry, I didn't tell you much about our December zone conference. Once the themes had been introduced - Preaching with Boldness, and Following the Spirit - the missionaries divided into zones and given topics such as How to Avoid Getting Bunked (stood up); Rings and Spears (focusing on finding families and priesthood); Contacting with Boldness; Teaching with the Spirit; and so on.

Their task was to find scripture references, prepare to teach the skill, and devise a way to practice it. Throughout the rest of the conference each zone had 25 minutes to demonstrate, and to practice the skill with the other zones, one-on-one. The materials they put together were "speed" entered on some laptops, and when they left the next day, each missionary had a packet of material, including scriptures and suggestions, for each topic. (We are very high tech here.) This format may sound familiar to those of you associated with the Academies...

Since there was a great deal of skill training at the conference, the training this last two weeks has been focused more on Following the Spirit. After zone conferences, Steve and the assistants swing through the zones, where Steve interviews while the assistants do training. This time I have been able to participate, as the boys were gone. We're doing the last few this week. It's been fun to do, not only because I like getting better acquainted with the missionaries in a smaller group, but because I am learning a lot from Elder Johns and Elder Hyatt. The basic format is the same each time, and the section of Preach My Gospel, but with the huge amount of scriptures available to teach this topic, there can be a lot of variation. (And should be, as every district has it's own distinct personality.)

During my section we talk about good "pray-ers" and prayers, and bad ones. There are certain instances that always come up: Enos, and the Rameumptom. But very often the missionaries come up with references I hadn't thought of - and they know the references by heart. Very impressive! (By the way, for a good contrast, check out 3 Nephi 3:20, versus Helaman 6:36.)

And speaking of impressive, we encourage the missionaries to send in conversion stories, and good experiences they have. The following letter came in from Elder Eves and Elder Andriaramalala, after the zone conference:

"For the past 2 months that we have been tracting, we have always started with a prayer on what street to tract. All of our new investigators in these past months have been from tracting. We try to involve the lord as much as possible.

Saturday the 22nd of dec.
After getting bunked from several appointments Elder Andriarimalala and I decided to tract. We said a prayer and asked the Lord for a street to tracked. Right after the prayer we looked at the map. For some reason we thought we should pray again. We were more specific with the lord this time and asked for a street to tract where we could find families that have cars/transport. Well after that prayer we both concluded what road and then went tracting. That day was amazing! We found 4 families with cars to teach. Hopefully this finding story will have a happy ending."

We really have terrific missionaries, who are trying hard to do everything right so they can grow the kingdom!

Our next "big" project is to get the other two districts organized, and start the couples training and coaching. Next month there will be a Couples Seminar in Swaziland where we will work on some of that (among other fun things!).

Love to Everybody!
Grandma/Mom/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann
ps I have to add this story: we were delayed on our way to training/interviews in KwaMashu. We exited from the freeway onto a 4 lane highway, and had to stop, because a Coke truck had lost some of it's load, turning the corner. All the traffic in all 4 lanes stopped, everyone jumped out of their cars and ran over - to grab as many 2-liter bottles of Fanta Strawberry (and even the plastic carry cases) as they could carry. It was the ladies that seemed the most unusual... Anyway, the slowdown was cleard up amazingly fast!