Dear Family & Friends of the Durban Mission:
At this particular moment, I am not even sitting in the Durban Mission! We are just finishing our interim Africa Southeast Area Mission Presidents Seminar, in Cape Town. It’s been a really good week. We flew in on Monday, and met up with Area Presidency, the mission presidents, and their wives, at the airport. Then we all climbed on a bus and headed for the waterfront, where we are staying at the Victoria & Alfred Hotel (for English history buffs, Alfred was Victoria’s son). (Hayley – the hotel is actually the blue building where we ate dinner one night on the verandah – and I wandered off while you were getting ice cream.)
We started right in with meetings. First there was some “new business” from the Area Presidency, and a review of the three-part Area emphasis for 2008: Bring all qualified and worthy members to the temple; retain in Church activity every returned missionary in the Area; retain all youth and YSA in full Church activity. Then each mission president shared activities that are forwarding the work and supporting those goals in his mission.
Listening to the reports, I was struck yet again by how different each mission is, even though we are all in the same Area. Having been out here for awhile, it’s now easier to listen to what’s going on in another mission without feeling that we need to do those things too, right this minute. Some things work in one place, that aren’t crucial just now in another. Case in point: Sister Cannon, new this January at the Johannesburg MTC, was asking how they can be more helpful to us. A suggestion was made about preparing elders better to communicate with companions from other countries and cultures. Only DRC only has missionaries from DRC, so not an issue for them.
The living situations are all very different, too. The South African missions are way more first-world than any of the others. They actually do have to use water filters, and clorox and lettuce, and keep their feet dry and their shoes in good shape to avoid hookworm, in lots of the other missions! Some don’t have access to emails home, or familiar groceries; transfers take place by plane because of distances; some missionary couples are 1000 miles away from their mission home.
But there are many more things in common. The Church is starting to take off in Southern Africa. Apparently, we’re not the only mission where pastors are being taught, and people are traveling (on foot) for an hour and a half to get to Church, and baptisms are increasing. I think it’s Africa’s turn, which makes it a very nice place to be right now! Elder Koelliker has drawn a lot of comparisons to the Church in South America 30 years ago. It seems that when you hit a certain critical mass, things just explode (in a good way!) so that’s what we’re aiming at.
The second day we split into two sessions: mission presidents with heads of different departments in Johannesburg, and wives with the Area Presidency wives. Ours was SO much more fun! There were, of course, goodies: the theme was “Bind up thy sandals” and sister Parmley had tiny wooden feet in sandals that had been carved in Mozambique, to help us remember. Everyone spoke on something they’d found successful (I shared the priesthood and auxiliary training materials our couples put together, and they were VERY popular! Everyone is taking home a CD with the training to their missions.) I got some good very good ideas, and plan to go back to Durban and become terribly wonderful at my job (thank goodness I have 25 months left to work with...)
We’ve also had some less serious time – such as shopping at the Waterfront, and driving out to a Huguenot museum in the wine country, and taking the boat to Robben Island to see the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years. Our tour guide, Tholani Mabaso (from Newcastle, in our mission) was also a prisoner there, and his first-hand experiences made it very memorable. It’s so amazing that South Africa was able to end apartheid peacefully. The Church certainly wouldn’t be growing here as it is, if we had the violence that is going on in so many other African countries.
Sister Packard (Mozambique) presented a teaching approach that I really liked. You may already be familiar with it: it is nicknamed FAMA (Facts, Attitude, Meaning, Action).
F: You start with a “code”, which is some kind of visual aid or role-play, or song that represents what you will talk about. Our code was a picture of a mother with a sick child.
Talk about what is happening, and what the people feel.
A: Ask the group about the experiences they or others have had with this situation or these feelings, and share their stories.
M. Talk about things and people who have helped in this situation. How did they help? Did they all come together? Was one more important than another? How did they relieve or solve the problem? Group them into categories and make a list.
A. When we have this problem, what can we ourselves do about it? What specific thing will each of us do as a result of this discussion? What can we name this discussion to help us remember - we called ours “Sister Parmley’s rheumatic fever” (you had to be there...).
I hadn’t seen this before, although Steve says they use it in the HIV/AIDS training we’ll be doing in a few months (he helped write it, so he should know!). As I sat in Relief Society and Sunday School today, I visualized it being used, and could see how it would lead to much more interaction during the lesson, and actual action afterwards. I may even try it with Hunter and Morgan! (I hope I can find lots of pictures of rappers in the situations I need to discuss!)
So, I learned a lot, as well as really enjoying the association with the other mission president wives. It’s always nice to hang out with people in your same (kind of) situation. I am the only one with kids here, though, so they like to hear about it, and feel sorry for me. Actually, I like having kids here (except when they hate it or I’m trying to figure out how to correlate their school reports to Meridian District high school requirements). It was a lot more like “coming home” after the seminar than coming to an empty house would have been. Although the missionaries are like our kids, too...
Just before we left, we gained a surprise, mid-cycle missionary, Elder Devenish from South Africa. He will be a great addition – plus he’s a rugby player, which Morgan always likes!
Love to all of you!
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Hey You/Sister President Mann
ps Happy Mother’s Day!
pps Hunter’s friend Jubz, who has stayed over the last few Saturdays and come to Church with us, and come to Mutual, rode a bus to Pinetown (which is a distance from his home) and surprised us at Church today. He wants a Book of Mormon (came to the right place!). This is VERY exciting!