Ukhisimuzi omuhle! Geseënde Kersfees! Joyeux Noel!
Frohliche Weihnachten! Feliz Natal! Meri Kirihimete
Nadolig Llawen! Kuwa na Krismasi njema Ikrisimesi EmnandI
These are most of the languages spoken by our missionaries: I say most, because many of them also speak a tribal language in their homes. (Our own tribal language is currently Rap.)
We just completed our all zone conference, which included all the elders and all the senior couples. It was wonderful (I seem to use that word a lot out here) and you can tell who did the most work by their level of exhaustion: Elders Hiatt, Schlenker, Schwarting, Terry, Nkele, & Syphrett were the mainstays, with lots of help the days of the conference from some particularly thoughtful elders who saw the need for more hands. Margie Nicholson catered for us again, and the senior couples took so much of the work off my hands, that I could actually enjoy the conference!
It was an interesting and varied week. Monday we took Hunter and Morgan to the airport, with a detailed list of exactly what to do for each leg of their journey. Our first phone call came in from Johannesburg a couple of hours later. "We are in Johannesburg and got our luggage. Where do we go?" The checked in successfully for their international flight, then the next call. "What does it mean if the flight is delayed? Will we miss the plane in Atlanta?" That phone call was repeated a couple of times, until their flight took off about 50 minutes late. They made up the time, though, and landed 15 minutes early in Atlanta!
Tuesday we picked up 6 incoming elders, but Steve couldn't interview them right away because elders usually arrive on Wednesdays, and Tuesday was the mission presidency meeting. We had dinner with the office staff, mission presidency couples, and the new elders, then a testimony meeting. In the meantime, Elder Wright (Area security) and Elder Wells (Are psychologist) and their wives arrived, as well as our senior couples, so after Elder Wright checked on a few boardings, and the mission home/office for security issues, they all went out to dinner before heading to their various B&Bs. Elder Heap (Area medical adviser) and Sister Heap also arrived: all three couples were here to give presentations at our zone conference.
Just before dinner I started getting emails and gchat from Torry and Hayley that Logan was at the airport to pick up the boys, that the monitor indicated that the flight had landed, and they were nowhere to be found. Small panic. OK, big panic. It turned out that the flight schedule had changed to a bit later, and no one had changed the monitor in the Salt Lake Airport. I called Delta while Logan went to the Delta desk and we found this all out about the same time: more phone calls and gchat. The boys arrived shortly afterwards, but of course the monitor no longer had a carousel # for the baggage... Eventually the bags came, Hunter went on to his Southwest flight to Boise, and Logan and Morgan made it to Torry's. Whew.
They did have one interesting situation on their trip. On the first leg, from Johannesburg, the (white) woman next to Hunter complained and complained and complained that she didn't feel "safe" sitting next to a black man. I don't know if she truly has issues, has suffered a bad experience, or was hoping to be moved to an empty seat in business class, but I am very impressed with the way Delta handled it. They moved Hunter to business class instead! He stayed there until the refueling in Senegal, then was moved back, where she still complained. Interesting to have their racial incident on the way to the U.S.!
So, back to Durban. I cleaned like mad so the new elders could stay at the mission home for two nights, as the Richards Bay elders stayed in the office. Fixed breakfast for them Wednesday morning, then off to zone conference.
The presentations were first off: Elder Wright scared all the couples to death with his warnings about muggings, ATM rip-offs, break-ins, etc. Of course all the visitors end with "But don't worry, you're doing the Lord's work and He will take care of you..." Elder Heap counselled the missionaries on health issues, and Elder Wells addressed companionship relationships. He had a couple of problem-solving circles that I plan to implement (like the boys will do it) myself. The first stressed addressing tasks that need to be done, rather than addressing shortcomings of the other person. "I really need the shower at 7:30" as opposed to "You always take too long in the shower". And never to attack the "core" of a person, the things they really feel identify them as an individual. The other circle emphasized putting the problem "out there" and the two companions beside it, so they are both working together on solving something external, instead of a problem wrapped around one of the companions. Good stuff!
Cinnamon rolls for break (there were 136 of us); a make-your-own-sandwiches lunch, then hands-on training to prepare the elders to teach members how to be life-long member missionaries. This is a the next step up from the Neighborhood Walkabout. First the members realize they really do know a lot of potential investigators, then they learn the cues and what to say to people who may be interested. We'll be using the movie Parker and Justin Elias made for us; part of it is motivation, and the rest training segments with time for practice and planning.
The elders did the training, under the direction of the couples, in groups of twelve. Then back to the chapel for goal-setting and a testimony meeting. Turkey dinner, Swazi dirt "socks" full of goodies, the 2008 mission t-shirt (made on a Swazi Dirt Shirt) and the annual Christmas program. Every zone and some individuals performed and it was hysterical. Elder Wells said the emotionally it was worth three preparation days (but the elders didn't offer to give up three to compensate). Then everyone headed home or to cram into a local boarding so they could be back at 8:00 the next morning.
Thursday from 8 to 10 was transfer assignments, then talks and some individual/companionship work on our cycle theme, "Developing Christlike Attributes". 10 to 12 was sports (very successful, as you can imagine) and then hotdogs for lunch, handing out packages and mail, trading luggage from car to car due to the new assignments, and off they went, back to work.
Thursday night was the farewell dinner for Elders Tonkin and Vilakazi. Elder Tonkin is from Johannesburg, so his mom drove down to pick him up. It is always nice to fill in a little background on the elders by meeting their families and hearing their stories. The Barnes are also leaving this cycle: they have established ten Employment Resource Centers throughout the mission, and been instrumental in MANY members getting jobs. We will miss their good work - and their humor. Elder Barnes taught junior high band, which was good training for working around all these occasionally goofy elders!
Friday was Zone Leader Council, which included some new zone leaders, including Elder Nkele who has been our financial secretary. Elder Hiatt, Steve's Assistant, is now training Elder Nkosi and trying to open a new area in Madadeni. I'm sure he will also be working on his already excellent isiZulu. We'll miss both of them, but Elder Schwarting and Elder Syphrett are already shouldering their loads.
Tonight Elder and Sister Hill (I love that name), our Area Seventy, have invited the local couple missionaries to their annual Christmas open house at their farm. It's a lovely area, where she "horse whispers".
Tomorrow morning we are off for Tembe Elephant Park, from which we will drive over to Cosi Bay to speak in Sacrament meeting at the Cosi Bay "twig".
I hope all of you are having holidays heavier on family than on food and presents! We miss you all!
Mom/Grandma/Susan/Sue/Sister President Mann/Zone Conference Facilitator
ps Another South Africanism: "Give it a squiz" (meaning, take a look at it)