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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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