Sunday, November 23, 2008

We're Waiting For You...

Hambe Kahle, Elder & Sister Dibb

Elder & Sister Patterson - Again!

2008 11 24 - Random Thoughts in the Middle of the Transfer Cycle

Dear Everyone except Joyce & Dan Jones, who came in last night to visit the Uffens and are here! (It is so fun to see familiar faces in unlikely places – feel free to drop in anytime.)

Our wonderful Elder & Sister Dibb left Tuesday – we are really going to miss them. The good news is a place to stay next time Hunter wants to go “home” to Atlanta – he did, after all spend his first four weeks of life there! the night before they left they took us to dinner at Roma – “One of the world’s 31 revolving restaurants, as it says on every table. It was beautiful watching the lights of Durban as they came one, but Steve’s favorite things was watching the end of a sailboat race in the harbor. We saw a store there that advertised nautical maps, so he’s going to get maps of the coast sometime. Probably in preparation for sailing home in 2010. Right. Maybe we can at least do a cruise/reunion with the couples one day.

Sister Sessions told me a bittersweet story about stake conference. Not to be subtle about it, any couples who sortofkindofmaybe are thinking of going on a mission, this is for you:

Since people in the townships can’t afford the taxi fare, they usually miss stake conference unless a bus is hired by the Church. Lots of members don’t get the word that stake conference is even happening, and of course the children who come alone to Church (and there are many in every branch) don’t know at all.

During stake conference and 8-year-old from KwaMashu Ward who was attending with her gogo found Sister Session and came to sit by her. She looked up at her for a moment, then asked, “Sister Sessions, who is going to teach Primary if you are here? The children are waiting for you.”

Sister Sessions explained that no one would be at the chapel today, as everyone was invited to stake conference, instead. The little girl then told here that as she and her gogo passed the church in their taxi, they saw the children waiting outside to gate to go in to Primary. “Who will teach them, Sister Sessions? They’re waiting for you!”
(Or maybe for you?)

OK, so that’s pretty dramatic, but you can’t help feeling it out here. It’s like this morning, driving home after taking the boys to school. Every day I pass dozens of people walking, and I wish I could give them all a ride. I’m sure there’s a missionary lesson in their somewhere – maybe D&C 63:4? Our (we’re so possessive about these missionaries!) Elder & Sister Patterson, after a year of civilian life, are heading out in January for another mission. They’ll be right next door, in the Zimbabwe mission. Hurrah for Israel!

So, enough guilt tips, on to a new subject. Hunter and Morgan are taking exams this week and next. It’s pretty tough, like taking tests in a foreign country. Oh wait, we ARE in a foreign country! Here’s an example of what adds to the challenge: In the States we would write four thousand, two hundred twenty seven and forty-six cents as 4,227.46. Here they write it 4.227,46. Try remembering to switch the period and comma while you are taking a timed test and struggling just to figure out the problems and get the arithmetic right! And even if the numbers in the answer are correct, if they don’t put the comma and period in the new order, the answer is wrong. And of course it’s rands instead of dollars.

And all the boys (not just mine) are also complaining that the new government exams are testing on things they didn’t cover in class. Oh, and during the EMS test on Friday (it’s kind of like accounting) the academic head came in two or three times as she looked over the exam (the exams are delivered each morning so no school can cheat) and found errors. So the students would have to re-do the spreadsheets, etc. because a plus sign was supposed to be a minus sign, or vice versa. (I’m kind of simple, but couldn’t they just have done it as written, since the whole country has the same exam paper?)

Now for more cheerful news: Hunter is back playing some basketball – his knee seems to be allowing it, so we’ll see how it goes. He’s much happier now that he can play again.

And on Saturday Elder Waterbohr had the unusual opportunity to be best man at a wedding in KwaDabeka. When the missionaries first met the bride and groom they were living together, but as they progressed in the lessons he moved out, and they were recently baptized. Now they are married, he will move back in! The groom’s name is Mafia, but he’s thinking of changing it to something more positive. I hope he chooses something like Ammon or Moroni... And, as a point of interest, members have to be married civilly first, so they have a week afterwards to get to the temple to be sealed, or they need to wait a year.

I saw a parable come to life this week. There are always men who appear to be loitering around the parking lots at the video store, and McDonald’s. On Saturday I was returning a video early in the morning, and a car pulled in behind me. The driver stepped out, and all the “loiterers” headed for him. He pointed to two of them, and they climbed in his car and off they went. The others went back to waiting. I don’t know if these labourers get a penny or a rand for the day, but it certainly made the scriptures come to life!

Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Couple Missionary Recruiter

ps I spotted a couple of interesting hair salons this week: the one in Pinetown offers Hair Cuts, Braiding, and Human Hair. I didn't want to ask... On the other hand, you can always stop in Swaziland at the Anointed Hands Hair Care Saloon (sp). Elder Schlenker says we have a member who works there.

pps When I tell these stories, it is definitely not to poke fun at the wonderful people here: I'm sure they could find just as many funny things in Idaho! In fact, while I was growing up in Salt Lake, we did!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2008 11 16 - Zone Conferenced Out

Dear Everyone:

This has been (again) quite a week. Monday morning the Uffens drove down from Ladysmith and went with us to pick up Elder & Sister Wilson at the airport. While we were waiting, a very cheerful woman walked straight up to me to say hello - it was Elder Alexander's mother, in town for business, and she recognized me by my name tag. It was fun to meet her - and to know she wasn't here to check on him! (Just kidding, she wouldn't.) By the way, name tags are a very handy thing - you should all wear them. Coming back from Swazi this week the Assistants drove the Vito, while we drove a bakkie (so they could have a cd player. Are we nice, or what?). They made a stop at the Manzini Market before they left, and as it was late, and dark, we called them after awhile to see where they were. They didn't answer the first few times, probably in a dead spot for cellphone reception, and then they called us. They told us they were about 45 minutes behind us. How did they know? Because when they stopped at the only petrol station for miles, the girl said "Your People were just here!" So everyone go out and order name tags - you can be Our People too!

But let's get back to the airport - which we always seem to be doing! The Wilsons arrived, very tired, and very excited to be here, which are two difficult conditions to combine, but they did it well. We whipped them off to the mission home for showers, lunch, photos and "business stuff", then we all headed up to Ladysmith and Newcastle (total: 4 hours). They stayed pretty alert for being on the road so long. We dropped their bags in Ladysmith while Steve did an interview, then drove to Newcastle for dinner at the Dibb's with all of us, as well as the Klinglers. Steve had his third birthday cake there. We spent the night in the Dibb's infamous Rooster Room - you have to open the windows to cool it down, and there is a rooster living next door who started crowing this time about 10 pm. (And yes, Joyce and Dan, that will be YOUR room in a few weeks!)

Tuesday morning was Elder Wilson's birthday - he served in the Northwest States Mission, including the Nyssa Ward, the same time Steve was in Germany - and the Newcastle Zone Conference. I had created a very nice powerpoint on faith, if I do say so myself, and since I was SO pleased with it, I was due to be humbled, and the computer settings proved to be messed up. My powerpoint would show up only as solid pages of pictures and text, without any "one item at a time" effects. It was a bit disappointing, and I got the point: technology is nice, but unnecessary. Steve then gave a long (but energizing and delightful!) talk that pulled together everything we are doing, and stressed the importance of keeping a solid foundation of the basics. The Assistants talked about the Neighborhood Walkabout, and showed the "trailer" for the training movie (an instant hit) and two elders spoke in each zone conference (Newcastle was Elders Kwendo & Ang'ila, Swaziland was Elders Peterson & Beardsley, Berea was Elders Vance & Wright, and Hillcrest was Elders Katende & Kiserema. They spoke on the mission equation - Obedience+Hard Work + Faith = Miracles - and on "Faith in Your Ability to Promote Change". You parents will be impressed that your sons realize that to help others change, they have to know how to change themselves, first. Last was a testimony meeting (or "storymony" meeting, as Elder Schwarting would say: Steve asked the elders to share miracles and faith-promoting experiences) and they were outstanding. Then we had our pizza lunch and dispersed.

From Newcastle we drove to Swaziland (4 hours) and stayed overnight with the Baums. It was SO fun! Swazi is a small zone and gets very little attention (and there's only one pizza place, and they don't deliver) so we always go to lunch after zone conference. (My powerpoint worked in Swazi, by the way.) Baums took us to the best Chinese restaurant we've found in the whole mission - it was terrific! We then sent the Assistants to Manzini Market and headed for Durban. The mission home wasn't the disaster it usually is - Sister Sessions came in and cooked dinner for the boys on Wednesday, and was so appalled she cleaned the house. It was pretty nice! I think I'll just ask the Sessions to move in, next time I'm gone. It's amazing the things missionary couples will do for the mission president's wife! I think this is how feudal overlords got started...

Thursday was a lot of meetings for Steve, with the two stake presidents, and Elder Hill, one of our Area Seventies. Elder Hill is meeting with the Coordinating Council in Johannesburg (the mission president, President Poulson, and the Johannesburg stake presidents) and discussing the Neighborhood Walkabout. They might call it the Talkabout, so members will feel less threatened; it IS meant to be a conversation about the families in the neighborhood, after all. Steve also had the first of his 32(?) individual meetings with branch presidents and bishops to help them understand the walkabout and how to implement it in their units. Are we serious about member missionary work? Yes.

Friday was the Berea Zone Conference (the powerpoint worked again) and when I mentioned the Chinese food to Sister Hafen, she told me they went there 3 times in the 2 days they last spent in Swaziland. We're planning the next Couples Seminar for February in Swaziland - guess where we're eating, at least once?

Friday afternoon I went to pick up the boys at school, and was in an absolute deluge of rain and dime-size hail. It started 5 minutes before school let out, and within minutes there were rivers running down both sides of the road, and the path was all mud and water. By the time boys got to their parents' cars they were drenched to the skin. The storm lasted exactly 30 minutes, by which time most of the walkers had probably just reached home. Great timing (if you're the mom, inside the car!)

The rain wasn't so funny in some areas, though. In Kwadebeka, some hillsides were saturated, and houses slid, and roofs collapsed, and deep mud was everywhere. At least 6 children were killed, and some of the elders were out helping to look for survivors. The stake has pulled together supplies, and baby food for the area, and tomorrow a lot of the missionaries will be out there helping the municipality put together aid packages, and digging out the platforms former homes were built on.

Saturday was the last zone conference, at Hillcrest. This time the projector didn't work, so I gave my talk without any technological assistance. And you know what, that was OK, too. The elders got to use their imaginations as I described Jonah boarding a ship, and Laman & Lemuel wilfully rebelling, and the Tree of Life. That was probably better, anyway. (But I'm still going to make powerpoints, just in case I get to use them!) It turns out that on Saturdays the Romans' pizza delivery driver doesn't come until 2:00, so I also got to pick up and deliver 26 pizzas. My resume is growing!

I get to sit back a little, now, although Steve will be just as busy, between interviews & mini-training, and meetings with bishops & branch presidents. I like not being the president. Hopefully I can do a few things for the office elders - they are always swamped.

Thank you, by the way, to all of those who volunteered to adopt our African elders - I'm really excited to see how that works out. We will be getting new ones every 6 weeks, so if yours goes home and you want another name, or if you didn't contact us but would like to email an elder, I'm still at (and probably will be for the rest of my life, so our missionaries can always find us).

Love to everyone!

Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Romans Pizza Delivery - Kloof & Hillcrest areas only

Friday, November 7, 2008

Here at last! Elders Alexander, Hansen & Makono

Out into the World: Elders Thompson, Fofanah, Allred, Morrill, Wolmarans, Wigginton, & Moreno

2008 11 09 - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Dear extended family of the Durban Mission:

Our missionaries must be doing something right - Satan didn't have any luck slowing them down individually, so now he's targeting our cars! We have had a lot of accidents over this transfer - still no one hurt - and Elder Sessions spends most of his time shuffling the working cars around so everyone can get where they need to be. The elders don't live in the townships, so most of them need transport just to get to their areas.

One of our strangest accidents happened to Elder & Sister Johnson in Amanzimtoti. They were pulling into a parking place at the little shopping center there, and a car whammed into the side of their car, which then spun into the adjacent parked car. The green paint (!) in the back went all over, of course (Satan is even trying to slow down our service projects!). The driver of the car, which just kept going, was trying to escape the police. The Johnson's must have slowed him down, though, he was caught not far away. What next? (Don't tell me.)

Elders Alexander and Mokono arrived this week. The missionaries usually arrive on the 10:10 am flight from Jo'burg, so we had the day all scheduled, then received a call at 8 am from the MTC informing us that the elders were on the 8:10 flight this time. They got to the airport before we did! Our elusive Elder Hansen also arrived, from Germany via the Provo MTC. Ironically, after we have waited for him twice at the airport, he ALSO got on an earlier flight than we were told, and called from the airport to say he was in. Good thing our elders are independent and don't panic when the mission president doesn't show up on time.

These elders came in ready to work - well, Elder Hansen was dozing a little the first afternoon... he is from Duesseldorf, where both of my older brothers served their missions, and was the catalyst to reactivate his whole family. Elder Alexander is from Johannesburg, and sounds more like an elder who has been out a while, than someone brand new. (They just keep getting better!) Elder Makono is from Bindura, Zimbabwe, where 70-80 people come to Church each week. By January they will have 7 missionaries out - that's 10 percent of the active members in the branch.

We had to say good-bye to 7 great elders this week, as well. Elder Thompson will be off to Iraq with the Marines in three weeks - that will be an interesting Neighborhood Walkabout! He and Elder Moreno showed up in locally made/decorated suits. Very jazzy! Elder Moreno sang for us for the last time, at the farewell testimony meeting. Strange to hear "Abide With Me" coming so beautifully from an elder in a "Zulu wedding" suit!

Elder Allred's family came to pick him up, as his twin brother ended his mission in Johannesburg the day before our Elder Allred finished here. It was fun to meet them - especially the "other" Elder Allred. Those two will have some very interesting stories to compare!

We heard some more great stories from the elders this week. In Madadeni, Elder Thompson and Elder Kwendo tracted out a Zulu family who belong to the Dutch Reformed Church (VERY unusual!) and the father wasn't interested in learning more. The elders are very active in the community there, and were doing a service project that included 2 young men they were teaching. The father stopped at the project and told Elder Thompson that he'd been watching the missionaries working in the community, and the change that had occurred in the behavior of the 2 young men, and he asked them to come teach his family.

Elder Johnson shared the story of Brother Duma's conversion - he is in a bishopric in Umlazi. He was a bus driver, and took a load of people to an LDS funeral. He came back for them a little early, so he went in and sat in the back. He had no interest at all in any "church stuff". He listened to the program, and then the daughter of the deceased man stood and bore her testimony about being children of God, and knowing she will see her father again, and Brother Duma absolutely knew it was true! He sought out the missionaries, and has been a power in Umlazi ever since. So never underestimate the influence of your testimony!

Today we had our broadcast stake conference - it was very specifically tailored for the needs of Africa, and included talks by Glenn Pace (formerly in the Southwest Africa Area Presidency); Roger Merrill (did training for government officials in South Africa shortly after the first multi-racial election; Elder Holland (who was here 2 weeks ago, and is first contact among the Twelve over Africa) and President Uchtdorf. It was really good. They didn't show it in our districts, because with the transport difficulties, very few could have made it, and therefore most of the members would have had no Church meetings today. Instead, we will make the dvd available to the branches for a combined class.

We have a new couple arriving tomorrow - the Wilsons! They'll come in, have some orientation, then we'll take them up to Ladysmith with the Uffens, and they'll have their first zone conference on Tuesday. I don't imagine we'll get much conversation on the way to Ladysmith: I remember when we were in Zimbabwe: Marilyn and Grandma came to visit us, and as we drove around I was pointing out the sights, and they slept right through it. Jet lag is pain...

This week we head to Newcastle and Swaziland for zone conferences, then back to Durban for the other three. Then Steve and the assistants start their interview/mini-training loop, while Hunter and Morgan start their exams. And finish their correspondence course on U.S. History - so they can start another one. Funny how they don't offer that course here...

Love to all!
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann

ps Edgar's department store has a great offer for account holders: if you are disabled, retrenched, or die, they will settle your account at 30 cents to the rand. You could use this in a murder mystery...

pps On the way to the stake center I saw a blank billboard with the words: Currently being serviced (?)

ppps Steve is 60 today! We've had 2 cakes so far, and there's another coming in Newcastle. He doesn't look a day older...than this morning.