Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some of our Pinetown Ward Primary children



Primary children

2008 09 01 - Stories & Challenges

Dear Family & Friends (not being necessarily mutually exclusive):

I have a few stories and a challenge for you. First, a great story from the boys’ seminary teacher, Sister Katie de Swardt. She joined the Church when she was 25, and had been working for some years for a very overbearing, bullying, belittling, swear-at-his-employees kind of man. After she was baptized, she went to him and told him:
“I have just been baptized into the Savior’s Church. I know now that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father, and that I have a special purpose in life. I cannot allow you to swear at me, and speak that way to me, anymore.”
“What?!” (That was her boss.)
So she reiterated her statement, and left him thinking about it. He came out to her desk a little later, and said:
“You’re right. I’ve been kind of hard on you lately. I’ll watch it. Now, why don’t you go home.”
“Am I fired?”
“No, just take the rest of the day off.”
So Katie went home, and her mother (not a member) asked what she was doing home in the middle of the day. She explained what had happened, and then went back to work the next day, where her boss did try to mind his language. He minded it even more some years later when she married Andre, a tall, tough Afrikaner who assured her boss that “Nobody speaks to my wife like that!”

Second, a story with a challenge. Grandma Wilford (Gladys), a wonderful, feisty, outgoing sister in Pinetown Ward (imagine Grandma Mann with blonde hair and a South African accent) took a granddaughter and went to visit her daughter in Provo. They attended Church – and no one even acknowledged their presence. They went to a 4th of July breakfast, and again, no one said a word to them. Gladys finally joined a group of sisters, because she’s very sociable, saying “May I join your Relief Society meeting?” (only it really was – the presidency was using the time for a meeting!) and introduced herself. So, the challenge: Put yourself out for unfamiliar faces. What if she had been a nonmember? I know that we all feel foolish if we re-introduce ourselves to someone we already met (and forgot), so just pretend you have memory loss. Gladys did say that in her son’s ward in the Midwest, the missionaries were all over them in a minute. I think the missionaries in Provo are in so many wards they really don’t know who is a member and who is a visitor.

Gladys also mentioned how different “Wasatch Front” testimony meetings are from “mission field” testimony meetings. In Provo, she heard lots of comments about family, and stories, but not one person mentioned the atonement, or actually bore a “gospel-centered” testimony. Hmmm.

OK, here’s another. KwaMashu was the first black branch in Durban. It was actually established before apartheid ended, and the chapel was built in area that was not a good area. The ANC and the IFP (two political parties) were fighting (we’re talking guns) at that time, and some ANC members came to the chapel and threatened the branch presidency with guns.They told President Zulu (currently serving for the 3rd time as KwaMashu branch president) that the ANC was taking over the building. President Zulu told them: “This isn’t my building, it belongs to the Lord. I can’t let you take it.” They left, but harassed him at home, and came back again to the chapel. The last time they came, his counselors took off, and they were standing outside the chapel shooting into the air. Finally President Zulu turned to one and said, "Do you understand why I can't give this building to you?" And he said "Yes", and talked the other guys into leaving. President Zulu said it was like Daniel in the lion’s den: his enemies were prevented from harming him. That original chapel has now been replaced by a very nice building in a better area. So, how brave are we “at all times, and in all things, and in all places”

Reg Nield in Zimbabwe was the branch president of the first black branch there, while the country was still fighting over apartheid. As you can imagine, this was not popular with the apartheid supporters. He and Iris used to load their daughters into the van and drive out to the township every Sunday for Church. This was during the many years of fighting, by the way. He told us that he learned later that when they left after church, the branch members would kneel in the chapel and pray that they would get home alive.

We had our Primary Sacrament Meeting Presentation yesterday – It was wonderful. The children (all 16 of them) were amazingly reverent. We lost a few when the new branch was organized out of Pinetown Ward a few weeks ago, so the Primary president took the faces out of the Primary photo above, and made large, individual pictures of the ones who were gone. Then a child would read their part and hold up the picture. Because of the small Primary, some of the older boys did two parts “...because they’re big, and they can.”

By the way, I now live according to a “point” system. I haven’t tried to balance the points for different activities – everything just earns one although some take more effort (is that like the United Order?). The activities range from going to seminary to practicing piano to sleeping in their own rooms (instead of the family room, in front of the TV, and yes, it’s an issue). Examples of “point” prices for the boys’ wishes: 5 points (per friend) to have a friend stay overnight on Friday, 5 points for a ride to and from the mall, 5 points for me to drive to the ABSA stadium and pick up Sharks rugby tickets…

I’m eager for the day they run out of points and I can ask them to do what I’d like them to do – such as: Read a real book! Do jobs around the house! Work in the yard! Finish their correspondence courses! (I know, I’m dreaming, but what is life without dreams?)

Love to everybody – and Happy Labor Day!

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

ps Another of our sister missionaries is back to civilian life: Sister Masilela sent us a letter – she was transfered to Ghana, and had a great mission there. Another 6 months, and they’ll all be home. Feels strange.

pps I have a new (to me) thought: what if all the couples in the Church who would like to serve missions, but can’t for some reason, were to donate the amount of a mission to the missionary fund so some of our couples out here who totally can’t afford it could go?

ppps Our grandson Brody turns 1 on September 2nd. It’s hard to realize he’ll be almost 3 when we meet him!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Durban from near the mission home

Homes on a hillside

"Informal" housing - a euphemism for barely making it

Tracting in a Township

2008 08 25 - Life's Little Glitches

Dear Everyone:

I don't have a lot of inspiring things to tell you this week: it has been a week of "glitches", ranging from humorous to dangerous to very upsetting. Just a normal week in mortal life, in fact!

To list just a few:

Morgan started a fire in the microwave heating up some take-out that was wrapped in tin foil inside it's styrofoam box.

I spattered the wall, the counter, the floor, and myself with chocolate milkshake when I used the hand mixer and didn't have a tight enough grip on the bowl, which spun madly until I could get contol. (I was laughing too hard to handle the situation properly.)

After one of our brief power outages, I reset to alarm clock to pm instead of am, so it didn't go off for seminary. I woke to our daily Hadedas screeching overhead, thinking "They're early today..." only when I looked at the clock, they weren't! I guess it's a good thing they're so predictable - 5:45 am every single day.

An elder rolled a car (no injuries, thanks to seat belts and heaven's protection, not necessarily in that order) and ended up against a concrete house, which now has a crack in the wall.

I dropped my glass, 1-cup measuring cup and it smashed on the tile kitchen floor. This may not sound like much to you, but I've never seen a 1-cup glass measuring cup here: only 4-cup and occasionally a 2-cup. So Hayley sent it over 'specially!

An unnecessarily hard slam to a cupboard door resulted in the glass breaking all over. It's one of four formerly matching doors with design on the glass: I imagine all four will have to be replaced.

Steve's computer fried, requiring a new hard drive. Although he was able to replace a number of his documents from other computers and his flash drives, a lot of important things were lost, or had to be rewritten.

On the flip side, there were some good things this week, as well.

I got to substitute for seminary, as our teacher was out of town for business. Although the subject was Isaiah, it was fun, and I learned a lot. Teaching for only 4 days was just right - it reminded me of doing art mom. It was easy to breeze in for one day a month, new face, new activities, funfunfun; teaching day after day requires a lot more stamina. I think once-a-week Sunbeams is about my limit. Fulltime teachers: you have my full respect! And thank you!

Another good thing this week: I read John Bytheway's Righteous Warriors.
Excellent! I especially liked chapter 4, and his comments about Lehonti on (and off) the mountain, and his discussion of "types" in the scriptures.

Another book I can recommend highly to those of you who would like to better understand the world our missionaries are working in is Stories of AIDS in Africa, by Stephanie Nolen. It was loaned to us by Elder & Sister Smith, our Seminary & Institutes couple. In spite of the subject, it is readable, interesting, and even upbeat. It will also introduce you to a life far removed from the Wasatch Front, but much more extensive.

This will be another week of Steve and the assistants meeting with missionaries in their district meetings, and going out to work with them. He really likes doing things with smaller groups of missionaries, and one-on-one (or I guess it should be one-on-two, companionships). He hardly ever saw his own mission president, so he know how important it can be for elders to know the president's interest in and concern for them.

It's hard to believe it's almost summer (here). Apparently we have only two season: winter and summer. Temperature-wise, I definitely prefer winter. The last few months I have noticed lots of red and orange blossoms - now we're getting pink, and yellow, and lavender. It's really nice to have all these flowering trees and bushes. Idaho may look a little drab when we get back!

I learned a very good lesson in Sunday School this week. The teacher had expressed some views on the lesson that were not quite accurate, but I didn't want to speak out and hurt any feelings, and as I worried about it, "Grandma" Wilford, a wonderful, longtime member, raised her hand and said she really liked this part of the Book of Mormon, could she read a few verses?

What teacher can refuse a request like that? So she read the verses, and clarified the error (for anyone who was paying attention). I was very impressed with using the scriptures instead of my own assumed knowledge to straighten it out. Well done, Grandma Wilford!

Today I was thinking about the blog as I drove the boys from seminary to school, and almost missed the turning. The boys caught my attention with "Aybo, Mom!" (I bo). It's going to be intersting when they get home and are sprinkling their conversation with zulu words and South African expressions!

Speaking of which, if a store here doesn't have what you want in stock, they will "source" it for you. And a new warning light has shown up on my dashboard: "Dipped beam bulbs faulty". I'm guessing my dim headlights? Do I have "dim" headlights? I only know regular and bright...

We are once again trying to promote greater family cooperation - threats and yelling just don't seem to work! We had a family home evening and went around made lists of what we "wish" (sounds less greedy than "want"). They ranged from family prayer to Christmas in the States to a tv in every room to regular dinners at 6:00. Then we talked a little about what they require, such as if the boys want to go to the mall on a Friday, I have to take the time to drive them. Next step is to assign values to the "wishes": if it takes and hour of my time to get them to and from the mall, then what will they do for an hour (or 1/2 an hour, we're still deciding) to earn it? I can't wait to see how this works out. Steve is convinced that I'll give in, as usual, but I'm determined to keep this a "cash only - no credit" effort. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Well, everyone take care this week - and make copies of the First Presidency Message in the March, 2008 Ensign to hand out if anyone asks you "Do Mormons believe in Christ?"


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Burning the Sugar Cane Fields

Moving In - Elders Maneno, O'Brien, Binks, Thomas, Reeves, Maremelo, Mendenhall, Hooser, Dygert, Weaver, Swenson, John

Moving On - Elders Woodward, Mecham, Nehring, Dolder, Fowles, Kaschula, Larsen, Hurst, Moss, McKechnie, Braun, Majors

The Corner Mann

2008 08 17 - Peace and Quiet

Dear Family & Friends & Missionary Parents:

The frantic pace has relaxed for a moment...and just in time. We completed a successful transfer week on Friday, and are now the proud possesssors (managers? leaders? co-workers? associates?) of twelve brand-new missionaries. And we've sent 12 very experienced, capable, spiritual, available (!) priesthood brethren back into the real world. Pretty good for one week.

On Wednesday we spent a lot of time shuttle back and forth to the airport. Apparently Durban's Home Affairs Office is either easier or less expensive than Home Affairs in Johannesburg, so our mission secretary often deals with visas for missionaries throughout South Africa. Out of the blue, a call came that an elder would be coming in Wednesday morning - so the office elders picked him up first thing, and Elder Rothenberger spent a chunk of the day helping him with his paperwork, and standing in queues at Home Affairs.

An hour after his trip to the airport, Steve & I in our car, and the Assistants driving the bakkie and the Vito headed to the airport to pick up 11 elders coming from the Johannesburg MTC. These large groups take a lot of vehicles! Then after pictures and a short "Presidential Address", the elders had lunch while Steve and I went back to the airport for Elder O'Brien, who was coming from the Provo MTC (get to work on your visas early, future missionaries!). Later the office elders dropped the "visa" elder back at the airport. Then we didn't have to go back to the airport...until Friday.

Wednesday afternoon was interviews and orientation, then a dinner and testimony meeting. Thursday morning was the transfer meeting, where all the elders involved came to Pinetown, and the new elders went out and the "old" elders came back to the office for their interviews, weighing of luggage, dinner and testimony meeting. It was a powerful group - we'll miss them.

Friday morning there was one more trip to the airport at 7:00 am, and then we started breathing again. And except for picking Hunter and Langa up at school, picking Morgan up from Sean's, dropping Langa at soccer practice on the way to dropping Hunter and Jono at Gateway Mall, driving Morgan to the Pavilion Mall, picking Hunter and Jono up at Gateway, picking Morgan up at Gateway, and dropping Jono at his house, the rest of the day was pretty quiet...

Tuesday through Friday of next week I'm substituting for the seminary teacher - they just started Isaiah. I think she planned this trip based on the curriculum... I'll be calling Marilyn for clever ideas - she's the best seminary teacher I know!

We were sorry to miss the Mann Family Reunion at McCall again - it sounded really fun. We'll be there for #32, for sure, only we may spend all our time at the ice rink - not skating, just enjoying cold weather. I miss winter (easy to say, as I don't have to shovel snow or drive on the ice).

We're getting very worried about our couples complement for fall - we will be losing some really amazing couples, and haven't received word of any new ones coming to replace them. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease talk to every wonderful couple you know and encourage them to contact us for our sales talk! This is a great place, and the work is very busy and satisfying. Even sisters who were really worried and even scared about coming to Africa love it here. We can't guarantee they'll end up in our mission when they put their papers in, but the missionary department pays a lot of attention to requests from couples and mission presidents. And if they end up somewhere else, they'll know the Lord really wanted them there, so it's a win-win situation!

We love you even if you can't find us any couples, but do try!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Taxi Queen

ps The picture of Steve is a result of our mission tour. Elder Bricknell was a boxer, and used the simile of the fighter, and the referee, and the opponent, and the "corner man(n)" in his teaching. The Assistants thought it should be documented, so they went out and put things together. There is also a white polo shirt with Corner Mann across the back.

pps This time of year the air over Durban is very ugly - like an inversion. It comes from the smoke as they burn the sugar cane fields. The sugar cane is a tall stalk, like corn, and they can burn the green on the outside without damaging the cane on the inside. As you can (sort of) see from the picture Elder Hiatt took out the window of the Vito on the way back from Swaziland, it's very beautiful at night. You can actually see each individual cane burning. During the day you mostly just notice the horrible smoke. There must be a sacrament meeting talk in this...

Monday, August 11, 2008

2008 08 11 - Mission Tour with Elder & Sister Bricknell

Dear Offspring, Relatives & Friends:

I arrived back in Westville last night, after the final zone conference and a district conference in Swaziland. The people in Swazi are a lot of fun! The district president's wife gave a talk in the women's session that began with Matthew 20:30-34 (the two blind men by the road who called out to Jesus, were rebuked by the crowd, and cried all the louder). She encouraged the sisters not to be silenced when it came to speaking the truth. (You need to know that in Swazi, as in South Africa, the women have a very low standing, and are not allowed to speak out much.) She told how when she was first married, and they were not yet members, she wanted her husband to come to Church with her, but he preferred to play soccer. The fight went on for some time, then he finally agreed to come home on Sundays by 1 o'clock. Well, 1 o'clock came, then 2, then 3... and he got home late.

The next week she said "You had better be home by 1:00 or I will do something." (I wish you could have seen and heard her: she gestures like crazy, and is so fun to hear!) So when 1:00 rolled around and he wasn't home, she put on her tracksuit and took a pocket knife and headed to the soccer field. The game stopped as she came on the field, and she proceeded to destroy the ball, amid loud cries of dismay.

Her husband stayed home for a few Sundays, then begged to go play soccer. He agreed to be back at 1:00. Ten minutes later he came home. As soon as his friends saw him coming, they ran away, in fear of his wife! Fortunately, for the two of them, this worked. She hurried to remind the sisters that she was not advocating taking a pocket knife to their husband's hobbies, but encouraged them VERY strongly to stand up for themselves and the truth. She would have made a great women's libber. (Actually, I guess in Swazi she is!)

Elder and Sister Bricknell are wonderful. They brought a great spirit to every meeting, and had us all teary - elders too - over some of their stories of their own missionaries. (He was president of the Idaho Pocatello Mission.) Elder and Sister Johnson (of the Pocatello Mission), who just arrived a week earlier, were delighted to see them: the Johnsons said they could never have come to South Africa if they hadn't known about it from the Bricknells.

We had 4 zone conferences in Newcastle, Hillcrest, Berea and Swaziland. They went longer than we usually hod them, so I am missing from 2 of the pictures because of picking up the boys from school, and taking Hunter to physical therapy. Longer, but better! I learned a lot about mission mom-ing from Sister Bricknell as we traveled for hours in the Vito. It's nice to hear the different ways things operate in different missions.

Elder Sessions talked to the missionaries about safety, and told a story of when he was a California highway patrolman near Barstow. It was the midnight shift, and he and his partner pulled over a suspicious vehicle. His partner was driving, and stepped out to check the driver's licence and registration. Elder Sessions stepped down off the embankment, behind the headlights, and the driver didn't know he was there.

The driver was giving a little trouble, so Elder Sessions radioed in the license plate number, and learned (in police code) that the car was a stolen vehicle. His partner finally got the driver spread-eagled with his hands on the trunk, and Elder Sessions saw the driver's hands flexing, in anticipation of thrusting off to "take" the officer. Just as the driver was about to push off, Elder Sessions, in his deep voice, said deliberately "I wouldn't do that, if I were you." The guy instantly deflated, and they got him handcuffed and took him in.

It was a great story for pointing out the need for companions to be aware of their surroundings, and to watch out for each other. But my favorite part was "I wouldn't do that, if I were you." We've all been practicing saying it in a really deep, deliberate voice, so we can use it whenever possible!

The Swaziland District Choir sang in conference, and we liked them so well we're going to have them record a few hymns for use as background in our mission movie. The members generally learn the songs by ear, although they had 4 parts, so someone must read music in the group. They also usually sing a cappella, and it is really nice. We also have a song we might use from a family who were filming with Parker and the crew, then wanted to have a prayer with them, but always sing before they pray. It's in Zulu.

And lest you think my life is all Mary and no Martha (see Luke 10:38-42), I came home from this terrific week of zone and district conferences to do laundry, clean the house, and defrost the fridge. So there you go.

Love you!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann

ps There's going to be a Boot Sale at the Anglican Church around the corner - but before you check your shoe size, I think that means selling things out of the trunks of cars. Sort of a Tailgate Flea Market!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Parker with Elder Hiatt & Elder Allred at the zipline

2008 08 03 - Living on a Movie Set

Hello, You Wonderful People Out There! (That's how we movie people talk)

I'm sorry to be so long updating, but I guess I was caught up in our glamorous new lifestyle. Not really - although it's been very interesting watching our member missionary movie being put together.

First step was Steve (screen writer) plotting it all out: the kinds of scenes, the training segments, the order of events. Then the Assistants (casting directors) found people all over the mission who could play parts in scenes, or be interviewed and tell their story of coming into the Church through a friend, or how they share the gospel. We have some members who are absolutely phenomenal at reaching out to their nonmember neighbors.

Once Parker got here we picked up our hired (rented) lights and set up a set in our living room. It was to be the home of a nonmember family, so we took down all the Church pictures, and redecorated. Parker moved the furniture around and set up his lights and reflector and microphone and camera, and we got going!

After a morning of filming the father reading the Book of Mormon, and pondering, and praying and the missionaries arriving with the member friends to teach lessons, the filming crew moved on to the Pinetown chapel for shots of the family in baptismal clothes.

Next was Brother Patrick's office, for scene 1, when the member friend gives the Book of Mormon to the nonmember friend. And a later scene, where Brother Patrick in turn gives a Book of Mormon to his secretary.

I won't take you through the whole two weeks, but the crew filmed in and around Durban, in Newcastle, Swaziland, Pietermaritzburg and back to Durban again. (Sorry, Richards Bay - you can be in the sequel.)

I watched some of the "dailies" (what was shot that day) and it's going to be good - but it's also going to take an enormous amount of editing and cleaning up by the film and sound editors (Justin and Parker). No wonder they have closed sets with controlled sound...and professional actors! But it's going to be good, and the people in the mission will love having something about them, instead of a Wasatch Front production.

In and around the filming, Parker has been able to:
go hiking and ziplining in the Drakensbergs; visit a cultural village and performance in Swaziland; go on a game drive in HluHluwe; go with me to uShaka to see the dolphin show and aquarium; take me to WALL E; take Steve to Dark Knight; have dinner with the mission presidency; watch Morgan play rugby; shop at Victoria Market; check out both Gateway and Pavilion malls; feed apples to the monkeys in our back yard; make Marilyn's ice cream balls; drive randomly around downtown Durban as I tried to find my way to various places; put in lightbulbs and reach for high things for his short mom, and generally make the mission home feel more like our real house! (Hayley made it feel more real, too. The more of our kids are here, the more homelike it feels.)

There is still a little filming going on, then tomorrow Elder Bricknell and his wife arrive for a mission tour/zone conferences. He's a new Area Seventy, and former Idaho Pocatello Mission president. They come in at 10:00, then after lunch we head up to Newcastle, leaving Parker to the mercy of his brothers and the office elders. Parker leaves Tuesday at noon so he can stop off in Johannesburg and take some footage of people around the temple. I feel bad I don't get to take him to the airport, but we're all being stoic about it.

In the meantime, Hunter is having therapy twice a week, and Morgan played his last rugby game of the season - he's back on the A team. There next "adventure" will be off-campus leadership camps. Morgan and his rugby crowd signed up for Port Elizabeth, which is actually in the Capetown mission, and Hunter and his "crew" chose Seula Zimbili, which I need to find on a map. Their camps are the exact 3 days we have our Couples Seminar in Pumula Beach, so that takes care of organizing wake-up calls and drivers! Very convenient.

We were delighted, in the midst of all the activities, to welcome our newest couple, Elder and Sister Johnson. They will be working with Umlazi BB and Umlazi W wards, and it will be wonderful. Elder Johnson was a seminary teacher, and Sister Johnson has served just about everywhere, so they will be perfect as trainers, and guides in Umlazi. In our latest "small world" moment, they also know Elder Bricknell, as they were in his mission, and Elder Johnson was in a stake presidency.

Also, hot off the presses, we have our new booklet "Here's How We Do It!" to hand out at zone conferences. It's a compilation of the comments elders have made in interviews answering questions like: What are you doing to improve you ability to teach people, not just lessons? What do you do to help your companion be the best missionary he can be? What do you do each day to make it a great day? What do you do to listen more closely to and follow the Spirit? The answers are wonderful - of course, the missionaries are wonderful, so that makes sense!

The lessons and visuals for the Neighborhood Walkabout are done, and heading out to the wards and branches. It is so fun to be in the middle of all this - I imagine the only thing that makes it possible for a mission president to give up his mission is that after 3 years of this, he is so exhausted he can hardly function. It certainly gets to Steve...but he told me (again!) this morning that "One more week, and we'll be back to normal." Whatever that is!

Love you - share the gospel this week!
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Theatrical Consultant

ps I totally forgot! The weekend Parker came in, Steve went to the rugby game, as I had driven Hunter and 4 other boys (in my 5-seater car) to the Drakensbergs for a stake youth convention (conference). They stayed at a youth camp (with buildings) for two nights while I stayed at a bed & breakfast down the road. Hunter mostly had to watch the sports and the dance, but he had a good time. Jubz was there, too - I'm calling his mom Nonhlanhle today to set up a teaching time for the Assistants, hopefully with his whole family.