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