Sunday, April 27, 2008

Introducing the Sessions



2008 04 27 - Daily Life

Dear Everyone:

Today’s blog is a wild assortment of odds and ends. This is not to say the work isn’t moving along – it is, in wonderful ways. But real life is also moving along, and I thought you might enjoy hearing about some of it.

Load-shedding: I HEARD that the other night the power went off in Westville at 8 in the evening, and the mission president’s family all went to bed a little early. When the power came back on, the lights woke “mom” up (and no one else, of course) so she reset the clock and alarm, turned off the lights and TV, and went back to sleep. When the alarm went off at 5 am, she started the usual battle to get the boys up and out for seminary. Only trouble is, just before they left she discovered that she had set the clock one hour ahead... so it was actually 4 am that the alarm went off, instead of 5 am. So she had gotten the boys up an hour early for seminary? (How do you spell “My name is mud” in Zulu...?!)

Taxis: There are hundreds of taxis in KwaZulu/Natal. They are white vans (look like VW buses) with seating for 12 or 15. Everyone rides one (or more) to the nearest stop to their work or school, then they walk the rest of the way. There are often people crossing the highway to get to a taxi stop.

The owners (or syndicates, or mobs) are VERY possessive of their routes. Every so often there are “taxi wars” and people get shot. Taxis also own the road. They run red lights when no one is coming, cross one or two lanes to get to the shoulder when they spot someone to pick up, and will even come up between two lanes, like a motorcycle, if there is room. They have also been known to cause accidents by running stop signs. Needless to say, we don’t mess with taxis when we’re on the road.

Monkeys: We have a hammock under the cabana out by the pool (does that sound exotic, or what!) and I have wondered why it’s in such bad shape. It’s a rope hammock, so it’s supposed to have holes in it, but it looks like it’s been torn in several places. I have found out why! The monkeys love to play on it. They leap into it (and usually fall out), wrestle in it, and generally hang on it with their sharp little claws. I’m glad someone is using it – now we just need something to jump in the pool: it sits there empty all day, while the elders think up uses for it. Since most of these uses include wet missionaries, it will probably stay empty.

The following is an excerpt from a letter Steve sent to the parents of our missionaries, to reassure them that their sons are in a reasonable place, and to answer some of the questions the elders don’t pay attention to:

"Dear Parents,

From time to time we get questions from parents about the country and the mission. Unfortunately, too much of the information about Africa to the rest of the world comes from Tarzan movies, Lion King, National Geographic, or the evening news. South Africa is a modern, thriving democracy in a beautiful part of the world. We have fewer mosquitoes than Utah, I have not seen a snake, and the big animals are in the big parks and game reserves. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

1. TIME ZONES: Although South Africa is a huge country it is all on one time zone and does not have daylight savings. As a result when there is no daylight savings we are 9 hours ahead of Salt Lake. During daylight savings (now) we are 8 hours ahead of Salt Lake. If it is 10:00 am in Salt Lake it is 6:00 pm in Durban

2. SEASONS: We are on the opposite side of the planet so our seasons are opposite those in North America, the UK and Europe. We are just now entering our fall and it is getting noticeably cooler and the days are shorter. Around Durban it always stays pretty green and the temperature stays quite moderate, but in the western part of the mission it gets quite cold in the winter and occasionally they do get snow.

3. FIRST OR THIRD WORLD: South Africa is really both at the same time. There is enormous wealth in South Africa and you can find any goods you want. There is a terrific freeway system, everyone has a cell-phone and yes, you can drink the water. At the same time, there is enormous poverty and you often find the wealth and the poverty intermixed. Durban is a modern city with all the comforts of home, and right next to it is Umlazi, the second largest township in the country. (Umlazi, by the way, has two wards, both meeting in beautiful chapels.)

4. HARDSHIP: For those of you who may think your son was sent to a hardship mission, think again. This is one of the most beautiful missions in the world, most of our missionaries are in vehicles, the food is great, the people are even better, and the work is moving forward.

5. CULTURE: We have one of the most cosmopolitan missions in the world. KwaZulu Natal (the state or province that composes most of the mission) has the largest population of Indians outside of India (we have three primarily Indian branches). It is also home to whites of both English and Afrikaaner descent, and a mix of just about everything else. South Africa has had very open borders and so has immigrants from all over Africa and the world. KwaZulu/Natal is also home to the Zulu Kingdom, and as a result the primary tribal group is Zulu, although we have a mixture of all kinds of South African tribal groups. We also have a huge mix of religious beliefs, Moslem, Hindu, Christian of every kind, and native religions. One of the wonderful things here is to go to a shopping mall and see people of every color, religion, ethnicity, and nationality all living in harmony.

6. GEOGRAPHY: The mission is composed of KwaZulu/Natal and the Kingdom of Swaziland. We are bordered on the east by the Indian Ocean. Along the coast the temperatures and seasons are moderate. As you go west the elevation quickly goes up to about 5,000 feet and the seasons get more pronounced, and you move from tropical vegetation to plains and savanna. On our Southwestern boarder we have the Drakensburg Mountains (a World Heritage site) and the country of Lesotho. To our North, along the coast is Mozambique.
7. LANGUAGE: While most people speak at least a minimum of English, Afrikaans is widely spoken, especially in the western part of the mission. Zulu is the primary native language. Many of our missionaries learn Zulu and a few learn sign language and work with our deaf members.”

So there you have it: life in a nutshell. Our door is always open if you'd like to experience it first-hand. But book ahead: last night, while Steve was in Swaziland, we had 8 boys here overnight (including Hunter and Morgan): 3 from the rugby team, and 3 visiting from Zimbabwe. But they were all on mattresses and couches in the family room, so there were 3 bedrooms still free...

Love to everybody - and did you all wish Grandma Mann and Hayley Happy Birthday?

Grandma/Mom/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Youth Hostel Director

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sawubonani to Elders Otiene, Babeeyo, MBithi, Reese, England and N'ongom

Hambe Kahle to Elders Ryker, Conway, and Brown

Morgan at the Paarl U15 Invitational

2008 04 17 - Load-sharing, transfers and zone conferences

Dear Everyone Who Doesn’t Have Their Power Turned Off For Two Hours Every Other Night:

Yes, load-sharing is back. We have candles placed strategically in most of the rooms, and a few rechargeable lanterns that come in VERY handy. I actually kind of like it – it gets a lot quieter, and sometimes we even talk to each other! (For really meaningful conversations, we would need the power outage to last longer than the laptop and cellphone batteries.)

Last week was transfer week, and we lost 4 elders and gained 6. Then this week we got a new couple, the Sessions, from Rexburg. They were absolutely exhausted from the flight over, so we very sympathetically took them directly to a zone conference. (They were very good sports about it!) They’ll be working in the Durban Zone, in KwaMashu. It’s the first time they’ve had a missionary couple there, so everyone is very excited.

If you remember, we demonstrating “exploding” scriptures at last zone conference, and developing scripture chains. This time we’re having elders share their own exploded scriptures and chains, as well as talking about how to use the Book of Mormon as a second witness of Christ. The talks and scriptures have been awesome. It’s hard to believe these are the same young men who were goofing off in priest quorum a few years back!

We are also hearing some pretty interesting stories over our pizza lunches each day. For instance, in Empangeni there is a member who owns a bar near the Church. (He owned it before he joined the Church – we’re hoping he can make a change of jobs one of these days!) On one occasion, they were about to start sacrament meeting and discovered they were out of sacrament cups. This member raced out, and returned with a box of brand-new, never-been-used shot glasses, which did very well!

Did I already share the lightning strike? Two elders were out on their bikes, when lightning struck a nearby tree. The lightning ricocheted from the tree to the nearest elder’s hand and handlebars, then from him to his companion. They felt a little buzz (thank goodness for rubber tires!) and their hands felt a bit sore so they kept working for awhile, and then headed home.

Esikaweni Branch, which meets in portables like the overflow classes at schools, had a record 84 people at sacrament meeting last week – and 21 were investigators.

Our elders are now teaching 3 pastors, and 2 congregations.

We have an “Ammon Project” going, which simply means trying to improve the work in original ways, like Ammon tending King Lamoni’s sheep. One of our South African elders, a very quiet young man, received a “Most Ammon-like” missionary award this week. He was tracting with his American companion, and heard a crash behind the house. He went to investigate, and saw a man running from a broken window with a TV and other household goods. Our elder chased him down the alley, where the burglar stopped and pulled out a knife. The Elder used his leg to sweep the burglar’s legs out from under him, and the bad guy went down and banged his head. While he was woozy, the elders took all the stolen items back to the house. They are now teaching the family. (By the way, we are not encouraging this sort of thing, it just happened!)

We got word this week that we have a new Seminaries and Institute missionary couple coming in September, when the Smiths leave, but we haven’t heard anything about an office couple for July when we lose the Dalebouts. Anybody looking for a great experience? Call your local bishop and specify Durban...

The rugby season is in full swing. On Saturday, grades 8, 9, 10 & 11 are required to wear their uniforms to the games at Kearsney College, a private high school in Hillcrest, and watch all the games (10:00 am to 6:00 pm). They sit together, and cheer, and sing the school song, and generally make their presence known. I think there will be field hockey games, as well. Morgan is getting pumped – he made the A team for the season, and will be starting every game. He goes to training twice a week at the gym and comes home absolutely aching. He’s going to be pretty muscle-y when we come home!

Please keep thinking about those missionary applications!
Mom, Grandma, Sue, Susan, Sister President Mann

Sunday, April 13, 2008

President Mann in "Dad" mode, on the zipline

Oribi Gorge

Hayley leaping 33 stories into Oribi Gorge

Hayley and Hunter, high above Cape Town

2008 04 01 - posted the 14th!

Dear Everyone:

I’m so-o-o-o sorry I’ve been so absent from this blogspot! We really are still here, and still involved in missionary work. Maybe you can assume that when I’m late on making a new entry, I’m REALLY busy! (Come to think of it, that’s true!)

The most unusual and exciting thing that has happened lately was a surprise (to Steve and Morgan, anyway) visit from Hayley. Hunter and I were in Cape Town for Morgan’s Rugby Festival (won 1, lost 2) and she flew in on Easter evening to join us. After a whirlwind day and a half of rugby and sightseeing, we flew back to Durban, where Hayley walked in to the mission home, said Hi to Steve, and we all watched his jaw drop. (You’ve read about it: well, it really happens).

We had already scheduled a few days of family vacation while the boys are out of school, so we threw Hayley into the mix, and went off to Oribi Gorge, where she threw herself off a 33-story cliff, swinging through the air at the end of a rope. Very exciting! (See pictures above.) Then we went up to Karkloof where we all ziplined through the tree-tops. That was fun – and even Morgan, and heights-hating Hunter did it! Elder and Sister Dalebout came, too, and we all had a great time.

A little curio shopping, and sticking our feet in the Indian Ocean, and Hayley was off home again – only to leave her luggage in London – not by choice – on the way home. Hopefully it has arrived by now. We are hoping Hayley will be just the first of many visitors???

I’ve been tweaking our training powerpoints over the last few weeks: as an amateur powerpointer, it takes me a lot longer, and I find myself doing things over and over at times, but it’s fun. The hardest part for me is finally saying “OK, I’m done.” There’s always one more picture that I find that would be even better… But Steve is making frustrated noises, so I guess I’m done…

The sister missionaries are still on the move: Sister Essma has been transferred from the Kenya Mission to the Uganda Mission. She is really getting around! I know she’ll do great there – and will be joining some of our other sisters again.

We had another month of a good amount of baptisms: the elders are discovering that baptizing a family takes a little longer, but it’s nice to have a baptism of 4 or 5 instead of 1! Just about all the companionships are teaching families now, and we hear of branches with 80 in attendance: 21 investigators. It’s pretty exciting! The Church needs families SO much here – the cultural traditions and habits of having children out of wedlock, and living together without getting married are really strong. I don’t think we’ll see a big change even with the Church members until children start growing up in active families.

I got a wonderful birthday card from the sisters in River Heights Ward – thank you! And LouAnn Hoffman is a great visiting teacher – she emails my messages every month!

Love to everybody –

Grandma/Mom/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann