Saturday, December 19, 2009

A few missionary Christmas trees...sometimes you have to be creative!

And just in time for Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Elder Fowler!

This is alongside the road into Pavilion Mall - a really efficient tsunami could turn it into a great desert island!

To a mystery fan, this looked an awful lot like a load of bodies being taken out to be dumped!

These aren't actually space ships taking off, just the roof parking at Pavilion Mall while waiting for the Hunter and his friends

These are some of the Young Women from Beaverton Oregon, making the t-shirt dresses for the girls at 1000 Hills Community Helpers

2009 12 20 - Logan and Sara are arriving tonight!

Happy Holidays, My Darlings! (That's South Africa talk.)

It almost seems Christmasy here every so often: like in Hillcrest today having brunch at Mugg & Bean. It was very foggy, and there were Christmas decorations hanging on the building, so it looked kind of wintry - if you didn't look at the extremely green leafy trees. I've put out lots of nativity scenes, and decorated the tree - again, only this time with Christmas ornaments instead of pictures of missionaries. Morgan made sugar cookies, and I bought 2 traditional Christmas cakes at Woolworth's (with some encouragement from the cashier: they're having a competition selling them).

Monday was like a whole transfer week rolled into one. First the internet was down in the office, and when that finally got going, the elders couldn't get into any of the Church system to work on things. The assistants usually do stats on Monday mornings, and they were going so crazy they asked for a job and I suggested strongly that they clean their office upstairs - and they did! We had (very minor) runs to the hospital, a (minor) car accident, and a number of other small but annoying and time-consuming incidents. It even went into the night! At 10:30 Elder Johnson got a call about a car in Empangeni that wouldn't start and had to be left at a member's all night while the elders were rescued by another set of elders - all of whom should have been home in bed. Lastly, at midnight Steve and I heard several minutes of loud, eerie wailing outside, and then a most tremendous catfight. I was worried that it was "our" cat, but he showed up as usual the next morning, looking unscathed.

Tuesday started the same way, with a car coming in to the office for a new headlight getting rear-ended on the way, but later things picked up. The best news was the computer system being straightened out so everyone could get back to work. The worst news was that the boys are now on holiday and home all day - except when I'm running them to the mall, or a braii, or a party, or picking up friends or taking friends home... Actually it's fun, but I'm trying to get them through a correspondence course, and it's a bit of a battle. Progress is being made, however! Hunter and Morgan are currently writing research papers on terrorism and racism, respectively. Are they cheerful, optimistic boys, or what?

We had a lovely story out of Esikhawini this week. The young new branch president has been waiting for his wife to deliver their 2nd baby. She had a caesarean the first time, and really didn't want to have another one. They waited and waited, and things were just not happening. She was in the hospital, and the doctor said there was something wrong, and they really needed to do the c-section. They asked for a moment alone, and said a prayer, and then the doctor came back. He checked again, and said "You must have a lot of faith. Everything is fine!" The sister had the baby naturally and everything is fine.

Khulekani Mchunu is a young man in Enselini Branch who has wanted to go on a mission (he's 21) but his grandmother would not agree, so he couldn't go. Elder Pier went to see her, taking the branch president along with him (fortunately, as she didn't speak much English). She didn't want him to go because he is the only able-bodied man around to help her with the younger children, and a disabled man who also lives with them. Elder Pier left feeling pretty discouraged about it.

The next day Khulekani was very anxious to talk to Elder Pier, but there wasn't time, so he cornered him on Sunday after sacrament meeting. He asked what he needed to do to go on a mission. His granny had received a phone call from his oldest uncle in Johannesburg, not a member of the Church who felt the Spirit had urged him to call and talk to her. She told him about the conversation with Elder Pier and President Vilane, and he said that he thought Khulekani should "go teach the gospel". So now he has permission, and all he needs to do is complete his papers - and cut of his very impressive dreadlocks. He plans to do that soon, anyway, so he can start looking and feeling like a missionary.

We'd like to recommend the movie Invictus to anyone who would like to get a little flavor of South Africa. You have to remember that it is recreating Johannesburg/Soweto of immediately after the end of Apartheid. The neighborhoods you will see still exist in many areas, but there has been a great deal of improvement, and most of the townships our elders work in are made up of brick homes, and look much better. But it is very authentic and will make you appreciate a whole different culture and way of life. Nelson Mandela is really amazing. Thank goodness for South Africa that he "came forth" at the time he did!

Morgan and I had an exciting experience on Friday - we were driving through Bluff in Durban, and passed some men working on the center island. They were using weedwhackers, or something motorized like that. Just as we passed I heard what sounded like a small explosion, and the car shook, and I thought I had a flat tire. Then Morgan looked around and discovered that a rock had been thrown against the middle passenger window. It had radiated out into a zillion cracks, and we could hear a little cracking still going on. Luckily, there is a tint on the window, so the glass didn't fall in. It's actually very Christmasy looking - like ice all over the window!

Elder and Sister Johnson had a more cheerful if peculiar car experience this week. They came out one morning to find a cat stretched across the front window of their car, taking a snooze. They got in and started the engine, and the cat raised it's head, yawned, looked around and through the windscreen at them, then laid back down. They backed out of the parking space, and the cat just ignored them. Elder Johnson finally had to get out and lift him off. The cats here are pretty persistent - or else think they're in charge. Actually, I think that's a cat thing, here or anywhere.

The elders are excited every time mail is delivered - packages are pouring in! It's going to work out well for them this year, as we can take everything that comes in at the last minute to Richards Bay and Swaziland on our holiday with Logan and Sara. Newcastle might some a few days late, but at least it will be before New Year's!

So, have a Merry Merry Christmas! And remember why you're celebrating...



ps Vocabulary words of the day:
1. Suss it out: figure it out
2. Timeously: in good time, or a timely fashion

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 12 13 - All-Zone Conference

Dear family, friends, and missionary support group:

We have absolutely terrific missionaries here! I can say this as a fact, because I just saw every one of them at our all-zone conference. They are dedicated, hardworking (and hard playing, and hard eating) creative, helpful, attentive to instruction, supportive of their brother elders, and anxious to build the kingdom. There are few things as inspiring as a chapel full of missionaries. You can feel the power - and the potential power.

The theme of the conference was "I Believe in Christ" and we started out with two hours of instruction on the Atonement, by our Area Seventy, Elder Garith Hill. Through use of the scriptures, group participation and pure testimony, Elder Hill brought a spirit that lasted throughout the conference.

He gave some good counsel to the missionaries. He reminded them that through the Atonement we can always start over and progress. "The advocate uses love to inspire people. The adversary uses fear to control people." He used the example of Adam and Eve and added,"The minute you do anything wrong you hear ringing in your ears: Run away! Hide! You are no longer worthy."

"An angel came to tell Adam and Eve why they were performing sacrifices. For the Adams and Eves out in the world, we may be the only ones who ever clearly indicate to them how they can have hope." We do not threaten, coerce, or manipulate. We invite as many as will believe."

After lunch the elders split into workshops: The Divine Companionship (with the Holy Ghost as the third companion), Tailored Lessons (designed specifically for individual investigators),
Teaching Skills, and Having a Balance in the Work. Then we had a wonderful testimony meeting, with missionaries sharing miracles and things they have learned, along with their testimonies. It's so amazing to see the change that occurs in a missionary during his two years of service. They are so impressive!

We had a Christmas dinner (the couples sliced 10 or 12 small turkeys to make it happen!) and then the infamous talent show. Every zone sang or did a skit, then individual missionaries put some very nice numbers together. And last, but not least, the annual slide show, composed of photos taken by the missionaries throughout the year, sorted into categories, and set to music by the office elders. Elder Lemmon was the "producer" this year. The missionaries were then asked to "Drive home slowly, and get to bed quickly!"

Wednesday morning was another powerful session, as President Colin Wilford of the Hillcrest Stake spoke on the characteristics of Christ. He referred to the way President Hinckley used to refer not only to the reality of the Saviour, but to his personality. We should understand and appreciate both. He referred to scriptures that exhort us to learn about Christ: "These scriptures were not suggestions. They are divine imperatives to know the nature of God." President Wilford also reminded the elders that "The Saviour himself only served a three-year mission."

He then discussed the temptations Jesus resisted in the wilderness. Jesus responded to each temptation with doctrine: "It is written..." as if to say, "Don't challenge me on this." Satan knows what is written, so in the second temptation he himself quotes scripture, and Jesus again responds with doctrine, as He does with the third temptaion. "Every single temptation you will ever be exposed to was intensified in this experience of the Saviour. He gave them no heed (which means not allowing them any foothold, no matter how small). He turned to the doctrine and remembered who He was."

Elder Hill had said the day before, about missionary work: "We do not threaten, coerce or manipulate. We invite those who will hear. " President Wilford added: "We are here understand what they need to help them become better." Then we offer it.

He encouraged the missionaries to find the scriptures with the phrase "one by one" and ponder about each of those experiences. Finally, he invited them to "firmly resolve to put aside any actions that are foreign to the nature of Christ." President Wilford always gives a thought-provoking, personal talk that sends me away with lots to think about and follow up on in the scriptures. He's a counsellor by profession, so maybe he looks at things from a slightly different angle than the rest of us. In any case, we were "well-nourished by the word of God" by both our speakers.

The last activities were sports (no injuries!!!) and lunch, then back to their areas with renewed energy to Build the Kingdom. Last year Elder Wells, our Area Psychologist, attended our all-zone conference and did a presentation. He told us that it was one of the best emotional lifts the elders could receive - so we feel it was practically like filling a prescription for emotional health.

Getting back to real life included several elders needing doctor's appointments, and one with an emergency appendectomy. The elders in Nhlangano, Swaziland hit another cow (same bakkie, different elders); one of our cars (parked and empty, fortunately) was hit by a drunk driver, who tried to reverse and take off, and ended up in a ditch instead; a transmission went out; and a bike elder crashed and hurt his knee. They'll be walking for a few days. Everyone's fine, though!


ps A cat has started hanging around the mission home (and inside the mission home, when it can get in!). It's well-fed and very tame, so we assume it has a home. We aren't allowed any pets, but it made me miss my cats!

pps I've seen 2 houses with Christmas lights as I've driven around (a lot). One was all blue lights, and the other yellow-white. I miss my big old coloured outdoor lights!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chris Mangum's Eagle project making a difference at Tyburn Primary School

2009 12 06 - District Conference, Eagle Scouts, and Return(ed?) Missionaries

Dear Family & Friends:

This few weeks we are definitely living in the tropics. The rain, with very short intermissions, has been coming down day and night. Most of the time it's "mizzle", which Elder Johnson explained to me as a combination of mist and drizzle. Other times it is a downpour - and you can't predict when, so the people walking are often caught out in it and drenched. I've seen lots of hats, umbrellas, plastic grocery bags, and even trash bags aimed at keeping people dry. The ground is so wet that houses -mostly shacks- are sliding down the hillsides -which is where they usually are, as no one can build there on the slope. Fortunately a shack can be put together more quickly than a house. It's definitely a proof that "The wise man builds his house upon a rock..."
On the flipside, it is green, Green, GREEN!

The President and Sister Koelliker came to Richards Bay for district conference this weekend. Sister Koelliker asked for a description of the units in the district, so she could focus better on their needs. I thought you might like to see what missionaries are working with in just one of our districts - and they are all different.

The Richards Bay District Conference (our last in Richards Bay) was outstanding. President and Sister Koelliker flew from to Johannesburg to the Richards Bay Airport (so who even knew Richards Bay HAD an airport?). The flight arrived at 10:00, so we left home at 7am to drive up and be there to pick them up (although the Piers were perfectly willing to pick them up for us). It was a "mission president hosting a member of the Area presidency thing".

The first meetings were for auxiliary presidents (us) and district presidency (the men). It's always fun to meet with the women in small groups so we can get a little better acquainted. And it's amazing to think that when we got here, Richards Bay wasn't even a district, and it was a long time before they got any district leaders. Hurray for growth and progress in the Church! You'll probably be surprised (not) at what Sister Khumalo feels is the most challenging problem in Relief Society: you guessed it - visiting teaching. Wouldn't it be great to go to a ward or branch or stake or district where the visiting teaching was so good they were concentrating mostly on food storage or how to make funeral potatoes?

Auxiliary and priesthood leadership sessions came next. Our focus (as ever) was on being better teachers. Now that sisters are accepting teaching callings, and still coming to Church - yes, that can be a problem - the next step is getting away from just reading the lesson out of the manual. In some classes, if the teacher does read the lesson, the class is over in 15 minutes. Then what? Sister Koelliker always brings lots of good supplies for the sisters - manuals, and helpful handouts, and Primary music cds - and a great spirit. They can tell she sincerely wants to help in any way she can.

The adult session came next, with some of the members coming in rented taxis, including those from Cosi Bay, 3 hours away. Steve interviewed a sister from Cosi Bay for a temple recommend, and she and her husband wanted to know what to do to get to the temple within the next few weeks. The reason? They are building a house, and have the money to put the roof on - or go to the temple. And they want to go to the temple before they might be tempted to use the money for the roof. With such an honest explanation, and righteous desire, circumstances are being tweaked and the Knudsens will be taking them to Johannesburg next week.

A young man who was recently baptized taught a great lesson about proper missionary work. He and his roommates like to be "cool, and all that..." so when the missionaries first came they had fun distracting them from their message. "Where are you from?" "Tell us about your country?" etc. Then they would bunk appointments and just not be available. After some time and transfers, Elder Weaver and Elder Peterson showed up at their door. The young men figured it would be more of the same, but it the young convert's words "These elders were disciplined. They would not be distracted from their message." Some lessons were actually taught, and the young man agreed to come to Church with the missionaries - if the elders would go to his church the following week. But that never happened - because after attending the Richards Bay Ward, he didn't want to go anywhere else. Well done, Elders! You are truly focused on the work.

A recently returned missionary told the young men "I urge you to serve a mission - it is the best gift you can give to yourself and to your Heavenly Father."

President Koelliker invited all the Primary children to come up (and there were lots of them) and they sang I am a Child of God in English and Zulu, led by Sister Baldwin and Sister Vezi. I loved it, but the part I liked best was the gogos in the congregation singing right along. And in case you'd like to join in:

"Ngingumtaka thixo, ungilethe lapha. Unginiki khaye lihle, nabazala bahle. (Chorus) Ngihole ngigade, hamba nami, ngisize ng'tholindlela, ngifundiso kumele ngikwenze, ukuze ng'halale nawe."

How did you do?

President Koelliker then reminded us that the Spirit of God speaks every language on earth.

It was a wonderful conference; there were about 250 people present, including a lot of investigators; they were all very happy to be there and to be together; the spirit was strong, and the messages were all well worth listening to. And the sun was shining! First time we've seen it in days and days. It was nice to have the last Richards Bay conference also be the best Richards Bay far.

Earlier in the week I had a terrific morning out in Chatsworth. Chris Mangum, a Boy Scout from Provo, contacted me some time ago about doing something for people here, as his Eagle project. He chose school bags, and a few weeks ago I received 3 boxes full - close to a hundred! Morgan and I met up with the Chatsworth Elders, and we went to the Tyburn Primary School, which is a very poor senior primary school. The government here pays the teacher salaries, provides the building (but no upkeep) and some money for textbooks, and that's it. Where other public schools may charge R10,000 per year for school fees, Tyburn charges only R600 ($80) and still, only 20% of the students can afford it. They depend on donations for a lot of what they do, for instance they feed lunch to the students, donated by temples and churches in the area. For many, that is their only meal of the day. They also enter every available competition. The most recent was collecting a particular brand of bread bags; they won, and now have their first jungle gym.

In November of 2007 I went with Elder and Sister Dalebout to take blankets, hygiene and school kits to Tyburn. Grace, the principal, told me they gave the blankets to some of their poorest families. Then they took the kits apart, and every single one of the 900 students received something - a bar of soap, a pencil, a washcloth - and they were absolutely thrilled. We have no idea how blessed we are - but the best part of having "stuff" is being able to give it away.
So, Chris: you did a very good thing! Keep up the good work.

Have I mentioned lately how terrific our elders are, and how rewarding it is to know them and see them grow?

This week is the last week of school, although this last week Hunter and Morgan haven't gone much. Westville had their exams 2 weeks before everyone else, and although the school claimed they were going to begin the 2010 first term work this month, they haven't. The students watch movies, and visit out in their lunch areas, and basically do nothing. We negotiated with the boys that on days they don'y go to school they have to spend 3 hours on their correspondence courses - and they do! Finally, we're making some progress! The trick will be overcoming the "But Mom, it's the holidays!" attitude that will start next week.

Love to everybody!


ps The Piers found a spice at Victoria Market called "Mother-in-Law Exterminator".

ps We had dinner in Richards Bay at a Thai restaurant on a yacht harbor. Steve was casting a lot of hungry looks - but it wasn't at the food! (I keep telling him he ought to just sail home in July...)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

We ran across these impala having a wild time at Tala Game Reserve (and that's ran across, not ran over...)

2009 11 29 - In the thick of a few thin things

Dear Everyone:

The best part of this week was skyping/talking with family for Thanksgiving. (Missionary moms, don't be too jealous: Christmas phone calls are right around the corner!) It's interesting as all our kids get married to join the "holiday shuffle". Who gets them for Thanksgiving? Who gets them for Christmas? Can we work it out so everyone comes home the same holiday, or is he marrying into a family that already has their schedule established? Either our generation stayed home more, or my Mom just never explained this part of being parents-in-law. So this year, in our absence, Hayley and Parker went to Marilyn's in Parma, Logan and Sara went to her grandma's, and Torry and Chris are already with his mom. Steve wasn't actually even here for Thanksgiving dinner - he flew out that afternoon for Johannesburg and meetings with the Area Presidency and the Coastal Coordinating Council. (I saved him a turkey casserole - he likes the leftovers best, anyway.)

The worst thing of this week was talking to Grandma Mann on the phone. Not because I don't like talking to Grandma, but because she was in the hospital after another fall, and couldn't be home with everyone for Thanksgiving. She was moved on Thanksgiving Day to a rehab care center - and is she grumpy about it! - so I hope things will be picking up soon. It's tough to be 90. At least she had lots of people around to visit her.

We had a lot of minor challenges in the general category of "medical" this week - including some "first time THAT ever happened!" incidents. Example: We've had to repair or replace three pairs of glasses this week; one pair was dropped, and when the elders drove back to find them, they drove over them...

An elder was worried that he had appendicitis, and it turned out to be flu. And if you're thinking "What a ridiculous thought - what's the likelihood of appendicitis?" - we HAD an elder with appendicitis a few years ago.
An elder got a sting or bite, and his hand swelled beautifully. The doctor gave him something to take down the swelling, and I'm assuming it was just a local reaction, and not a general allergy such as we saw when Elder Waterbohr was stung by a bee (gruesome).

Morgan apparently has a hernia, which is brought on mostly when he's doing "core" exercises at the gym. Unfortunately, Dr. John can't really sort it until he actually sees the "bulge", so on Friday I took Morgan in to the doctor's rooms, where he did situps and leglifts in hopes of getting a reaction from the hernia. Sadly, no bulge, but he did get a good workout! We're now supposed to grab him from the gym or home or school or wherever he is if the bulge appears, and haul him in to the Dr. for appraisal. This, of course, means Morgan will be in pain the whole time, because he can't massage it and push it back into place. Can't wait for this one - I'm sure it will happen during transfer week, just like everything else!

Three elders in Madadeni had to be checked out after falling through a roof (it's ok, the table and chairs took the brunt of it, so their fall wasn't too far). They were doing service, helping with emergency roof repairs, and they're fine - and delighted to have such a great story to tell!

Elder and Sister Knudsen sent this description of the the event: "A band of violent hail moved over the Mathukuza and Madadeni townships and dropped hail of the size between a hardball and a golf ball on the area. Many windshields were shattered in cars, and any car in the open was dented by the hail. (In Madadeni) we saw about 100 to 200 tiles broken on the Church which will leak on the next rainstorm...We then went to Mathukuza to see Lucky (who had called us) and we saw about 50 holes in the roof of his home...We are going back out to help others in need and helping to organize a larger work party from Newcastle and Madadeni Branches to help with the effort if we can get enough supplies to fill the holes and make the roofs tight."

So, this is some of the reality of missionary work in less-developed areas. The missionaries are strengthening roofs as well as lives! And in both situations, you never know what will happen. On the positive side, this is one time we can be happy that so few members have cars...

Hunter, who will take any opportunity he can find to miss school, stayed home on Friday, along with huge numbers of other students, because the Muslim students got it off for Eid al-Adha. This is a major Muslim holiday that commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Traditionally it is a day of prayer, and sheep are killed and the meat given away, especially to the poor. I wasn't in any predominately Muslim areas on Friday, but was told that you can see the activities as you drive around neighborhoods. I would probably deal with the sheep outside, too; kind of messy for the kitchen.

Steve's been kind of tired lately (I'm understanding better why mission presidents serve only 3 years) but the interviews he's doing this week have really perked him up. The elders are almost all working so hard, and being so obedient, and finding such good families to teach; they are amazing. You can all be very, very proud of them! In the office we're working to get everything put together for the all-mission zone conference on December 8th and 9th - the serious stuff will be during the day, and the talent show and goofy zone skits will be after dinner. My mission president used to advise us to work hard and play hard (at the appropriate times) and we'd be better missionaries. I think this zone conference will qualify for both.

Love to everybody!

ps The Johnsons were awakened the other night by a skype call - from their 5-year-old granddaughter Malila, who was "playing on the 'puter" while her parents were busy. This is the same little girl who at age 3 "played" on her father's computer and turned all the desk icons upside down and backwards. With the younger generation getting techno-savvy so young, we're now turning off our computers at night. Calls from family are very welcome - but not at 1 or 3 or 5am!

Langa was baptized this week!

Friday, November 20, 2009

We could all fit into the "Box" to pick up Elder Mbaiwa & Elder Herrity!

Four powerful missionaries moving on: Elders Katende, Sprague, Wright & Potter

Elder Emaneke heads out to build the fledgling branch in Dundee after training our new financial secretary, Elder Farnsworth

1000 Hills Community Helpers (

I finally made it to the Durban Botanical Gardens, accompanied by my friend Carol

2009 11 22 - A Small and Delightful Transfer

Dear Friends & Family:

We have had a relatively calm transfer week - due in part to receiving only two new (and wonderful) elders, and losing only old (and powerful) elders. Instead of taking the Box, the bakkie and the Sedona to the airport, we all piled into the Box! We expected 3 suitcases and 2 carry-ons: instead there were only 2 suitcases and 2 carry-0ns - but that was because Elder Mbaiwa's suitcase had been stolen out of the taxi they took to the temple a few days before they left the MTC. Now THAT'S not right! Fortunately we had a donated suitcase, as well as donated shirts, ties, socks & trousers, so he left the mission home well supplied. Now we just have to replace his glasses, and he's ready to go.

Instead of lunch on the mission home patio, we drove to Chatterton and had bunny chows, a chunk of a loaf of bread stuffed with curry. (And when I say "we" had bunny chows I am referring to everyone else - I don't do spicy.) Then everyone else headed back to the office for interviews and training, while my friend Beus and I visited the Durban Botanical Gardens. They were lovely, although I wouldn't have recognized the baobab tree as a baobab tree, without the tag. I guess that's because they don't actually grow at this altitude, in this climate: it must alter their looks.

I took Beus to the transfer meeting so she could see how much the elders enjoy being together - it's always very fun. You can tell right away who came out together, or who have been companions; there's lots of hugging and back-slapping and joking. Afterwards, as the elders were heading back to their areas (with a stop at the Pinetown McDonald's, of course) Beus and I went to Tala Game Reserve to try to find some rhinos and giraffes. We were not successful, but we saw some fun stuff and almost got stuck on a dirt road. Exciting!

Beus and I also had the chance to go out to 1000 Hills Community Helpers and deliver the 101 t-shirt dresses the Beaverton Oregon Young Women made as a service project. Dawn Leppan, who started the project out of her car, giving away food and diapers, kept saying she was "blown over" by the generous gift. She tried a few dresses on little girls, for pictures, but will give most of them out as Christmas presents "So the girls will have something that is new, and all theirs". We walked through the buildings, which include a kitchen where free meals are fixed, a clinic where a "baby" day was going on, a workshop where women can make learn to make things to sell, the nursery and the classroom. The children in the picture are all there because of special needs: HIV/AIDS victims or orphans, rape or abuse victims, and so on. The children with AIDS will live for perhaps 9 years. None of the children stay at the school - they go home to gogos or other homes at night. All that Dawn does is through donations; it was wonderful to be able to deliver the dresses. I wish all the Young Women could have come with us. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!

Friday after introducing Beus to Indian schwarmas at the lunch for the zone leader council, I had to take her to the airport. First my sisters, then Beus - I'm a lone woman again. Thank goodness Sister Johnson is working in the office!

This brings me to the weekend and an absolutely fabulous Hillcrest Stake Conference. I wish you could all have been there. In fact, I wish all the members of the Hillcrest Stake had been there! As usual, transport was a problem for a lot of the people in the furthest wards. Pietermaritzburg always brings a busload, which is nice - it's 45 minutes away.

Saturday was a women's session, followed by the priesthood session and the adult session. I was surprised that the women's and priesthood sessions weren't at the same time; it was so that President Wilford could speak at both, and I'm really glad he did! His talk was a real tribute and encouragement to sisters and their talents and abilities and important role in the plan.
He always does wonderful research for his talks, and in this case he had found stories about "unnamed" women in the scriptures. My favorite was the wise woman in 2 Samuel 20 - now there's a powerful woman! I hadn't remembered the story - do you? President Wilford concluded with "He hears your voice even though you think you don't have a name."
For those Young Women leaders out there, Sister Cunningham from Hillcrest Ward gave an interesting suggestion for teaching modest dress. When their daughters wanted to wear revealing clothes, their dad used to tell them "What they can see, they can touch." Scary.

Sister Wilson, stake Relief Society president from Pinetown Ward talked about the theme of the conference, "More Holiness Give Me". She handed out a list of the virtues in the hymn, as divided into groups by Bishop David H. Burton (Ensign, November 2004).
Personal goals: more holiness give me; more strivings within, more faith, gratitude and purity; more fit for the kingdom; more purpose in prayer; more trust in the Lord.
Centered on adversity: patience in suffering; meekness in trial; praise in relief; strength to overcome; freedom from earth stains; longing for home.
Anchor us to the Saviour: more sense of His care; more pride in His glory; more hope in His word; more joy in His service; more tears for His sorrows; more pain at His grief; more blessed and holy; more Saviour like Thee.

She challenged us to pick a virtue in each area to work on - and reminded us to be careful what we want/do more of, and what we want/do less off - because sometimes less is more, and more is less. Something for you to think about...

Sister Wilford gave us a little insight into her husband's past: when he was young, he wanted to be a hurdler. In his first competition he jumped over the hurdles with two feet, and came in "stone last". The other boys laughed at him and teased him (of course) but he went ahead and set up the hurdles after school and practised and practised and practised. As a result, he became so good that if there hadn't been sanctions against South Africa, he would have gone to the Olympics.

She also referred to an article by Larry Hiller, in the June 2009 Ensign. You've probably still got that one laying around somewhere: check out "Hope: The Misunderstood Sister". It's very thoughtful.

OK, back to President Wilford again. He was on a conference recently that was held at a game reserve. They went out one night for a game drive, and came across a pride of 6 or 7 lions, with their kill. The ranger stopped the Landrover, and they watched for several minutes by way of a spotlight. When they were ready to go, the Landrover wouldn't start - the spotlight had run down the battery.

At this point the people in the Landrover got very nervous - and President Wilford is convinced that the lions could sense the fear: that's when the alpha lioness turned and looked at them and started moving closer. (He, by the way, felt pretty safe: he was sitting in the middle, next to a very large man who could be "starters, entree and dessert".) The ranger instructed the group to shine their flashlights into the eyes of the lioness, while he slipped out the other side of the Landrover and pushed it down the (fortunate) incline they were parked on. He managed to start the Landrover, and off they went. Whew!

This story led into the scripture in 1 Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, which now has a lot more meaning to all of us.

Then President Wilford gave a fabulous simile for the way evil can get inside us and change us. He described a spider wasp (Hymenoepimecis) that stings a spider, and while it's paralyzed, lays her egg inside it. The spider continues about it's usual business for 7-14 days, while the newly hatched wasp larva sucks it's "blood". Now get this: the evening of the night when the wasp parasite will kill it (and how does the spider know?) the spider weaves a different kind of web - a cocoon that will protect the wasp pupa until it hatches. The pupa then kills and eats the spider. This is a true, and truly gross story - you can read about it in "A Manipulative Parasitic Wasp" at (So, is this an educational blogspot, or what?)

This graphic example makes me REALLY not want to let any evil in - for fear of what will eventually come out!

To top off a truly wonderful weekend, Langa Mahaye was batized after the conference. He'll continue attending Pinetown Ward with us, then when we leave he'll switch over to his proper ward, Berea. So, one more person to worry about! Neli, our other recent baptism, wasn't able to come because her birth father died this week, and she went to his funeral in Pietermaritzburg. This has been a month of loss - we had some major rain, and at least seven people died in flood-related incidents, besides the teacher at WBHS who died. Thank goodness for the Plan of Salvation ...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! There's really a lot to be thankful for!

Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann

ps I was sorry to be driving and not taking pictures on Saturday: I passed a bakkie full of goats, pulling an open trailer with wire mesh walls, with a crowd of goats in the bottom, then a wooden platform and another crowd of goats on that.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2009 11 15 - The Chick Trip (not required reading)

Dear Family and any Friends Who Feel Like Reading a Travelogue:

This week is all about the first trip I've taken with my sisters Margaret and Nancy since - Disneyland and Yellowstone as kids? We also had the pleasure of Carol's (Beus) company, but she and Paul and Steve and I have travelled together much more recently!

The trip started off a little rocky, as I had the wrong arrival info and Margaret and Nancy arrived at Durban Airport and were met - by no one!. They sat in the gradually emptying airport for two hours, reading (they are Hills, after all) until we showed up at 10:00. They were very nice about it.

Sunday was Church at Umlazi BB, followed by another trip to the airport to pick up Beus, and a scenic drive through Durban. Sunday is a far less crowded day to do that! In our second glitch I came down sick, so Monday the three "girls" spent all day on their own with thousands of fish and dolphins and turtles and penguins at uShaka. Rousing success.

Tuesday we set off early and drove all the way north to Tembe Elephant Park ( After a quick lunch we took off for our first game drive, and saw nyala, impala, elephant, duiker, suni, crested guinea fowl, and various birds. It rained part of the drive, and it was almost as much fun to see who would get a shower as we went around corners, as it was to see the animals! The trucks hold 9 passengers, and we shared it with a very knowledgeable couple from Florida who have been on safaris all over the place (very fancy camera) and a couple from England (very quiet).

We returned at dusk, and as Beus and I were walking down the sand pathway to our cabin (#7) we noticed hoofprints. As we arrived at the cabin, we found the source of the hoofprints - two nyala, eating the shrubbery around our porch! We sidled by, took pictures, then left them to it while we went to dinner. The "wild" dish that night was kudu steak.

As we arrived back at the cabin in the pitch dark, with a dim flashlight, we heard noises in the underbrush. The "crack!" of a branch breaking gave it away: now we had an elephant browsing not many yards off the porch. We got the flashlight and could pick out his tusks, and see the trees moving as he pulled down branches. The next morning we could see the trail he had left, including broken branches, dung outside our bathrom window, footprints in the sandy path, stones that lined the path kicked around, branches pulled down over the path... Apparently he wandered around most of the tents through the night. Very cool!

At 6:30 we went on our second game drive, and saw many of the same animals, plus warthog, simango and vervet monkeys, giraffe, zebra and cape buffalo. We moseyed along behind a big old elephant with big tusks for quite awhile as he browsed, and threw dust up on himself to cool off (or kill bugs - not sure). We also saw a gazillion dungbeetles crowded on piles of dung. And a lady dungbeetle catching a ride on the ball of dung her boyfriend was pushing.

After a late breakfast, we headed back south for St. Lucia, which is a World Heritage Site ( We had booked a hippo & croc boat ride, but the company had so overbooked it didn't work out - which turned out OK! We drove into the Wetlands Park instead, and it was beautiful. We saw our first hippos there, reedbuck, waterbuck, and a beautiful view from the top of Mission Rocks, of the Indian Ocean on one side, and Lake Lucia and the wetlands on the other.

We got to the gate just as they were closing at 7pm, and went on to Alfredo's for (sort of) Italian food. Then back to the St. Lucia Wetlands B&B for a short sleep - because we were picked up Thursday morning at 4am for a game drive in Imfalozi Park!

This time there were only the four of us and a couple from the Netherlands. Beus is very handy to have along, because in addition to her delightful personality, and genuine interest in listening to other people's stories, she has also been everywhere in her work for Hewlett Packard - including the Netherlands.

On this drive, we added lions hanging out in trees to cool off, wildebeest, and rhino, including three that were being hassled by some cape buffalo. A young male elephant seemed to have been left behind by the family: we saw him hurrying through the trees on a hill, and parked on a bridge to watch him cross the river. He grabbed a few drinks on the run, but never stopped, and vanished away before we could find the other elephants. Another hightlight: warthogs cooling off in a puddle. They are so ugly, they're cute!

Dinner that night was at a Portugese restaurant called Brasa's, then we slept in(!) until 5, and headed off whale watching. We all put on heavy raincoats and life jackets, then held on like crazy as our boat was pushed off the beach by a tractor, then battled the surf to get out beyond the breakers. It was wild - and Margaret loved it, but two of the rest of our group (no names) got seasick. We followed three male humpbacks as they arched their backs out of the water, showed their tails (each unique, like a thumbprint) and spouted. I don't know how our shouldhavebeenapirate captain kept finding them as they stayed under water for several minutes at a time, but we saw a lot of them. They are really beautiful - and we got really close.

After surviving that wet and wonderful adventure, we had breakfast at the B&B and headed for Durban. We were too tired to go running around in the evening, so we watched Hatari. Nancy and Beus had never seen it, but it's been a family staple for us for years. Anyone who has seen Lost World may remember the dinosaur hunting scene - straight out of Hatari.

As Margaret and Nancy were scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon, we went down to Victoria Street Market that morning, for last minute curio shopping, and over to Essenwood Market just for fun. Then it was lunch at Primi Piatti at Westwood, and off to the airport. Way hectic, way exhausting, way fun, way worth it.

And in the meantime, while we were all off playing? Steve's birthday. Transfer planning. Lots of calls from missionaries with everything from stepping on a nail to shinsplints to a chipped tooth to being hit in the eye by a paintball. A few companionship "tiffs". Langa's baptismal interview (hurray!). Lots of good contacting, service, finding, and teaching. A training visit to Durban by President Osguthorpe (Sunday School) and President Beck (Young Men). News (finally) of an office couple coming in January (!!!!!!!!!!!!!). And all the various and sundry events that make up a mission week.

This is transfer week coming up, so Beus (who is staying on) will see another side of a mission - the part where I actually do mission work? Around the airport and dinners and transfer meetings she is going to try out Ayurveda (Indian) yoga, as well as bunny chows, schwarmas, and malaguenas. The fun never ends!


ps Choose the correct answer:
1. An invigilator is that thing Bones uses in Star Trek.
2. An invigilator helps loosen your muscles.
3. An invigilator works for a company that gets rid of rodents.
4. An invigilator is a parent who monitors exams at Westville Boys High School.
You're right: it's #4!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

2009 10 08 - This Week's Happenings

Dear Everyone:

Many congratulations to (former elder) Peter Hodson and his wife Evelyn Tandurum . We wish them all the best, and would love a picture!

Sunday was Durban Stake Conference at City Hall; Elder Usi, our Area Authority Seventy from Kenya, was the visitor. The theme was Exodus 19:5-6, and there was a lot of emphasis on keeping covenants, and going to the temple. It's funny, I don't remember repeated admonitions to attend the temple while living on the Wasatch Front, although I may not have been paying enough attention. It would be interesting to see the percentages of people attending the temple who have one right in town, versus those who have to travel long distances. I have friends who go once a week - but a lot of us were doing well to go once a month. We've been advised by our leaders that the continued commitment and activity of new members is in direct relation to how quickly they get to the temple.

Elder Usi talked about letting the Savior into our hearts, and the marks that would leave:
1. The mark of faith
2. The mark of love
3. The mark of understanding
4. The mark of resolution
5. The mark of obedience
6. The mark of sincerity.
7. The mark of prayer
8. The mark of service
9. The mark of virtue

"These are attributes the Savior will bring to our hearts, to uplift our lives."
We had a 16-year-old youth speaker, Sister Khumalo, who gave as good a talk as any adult I've heard, and a young man just returned from his mission to Ghana: powerful. These former missionaries step into all kinds of leadership roles almost immediately. That's why you hear about branch presidents who've only been in the Church for a few years - with the Church growing so quickly, leaders don't have time to hang around being schooled. They learn by doing, even more than watching

Langa Mahaye came with us, so he had a chance to meet the Durban elders, Bishop Scott, and a few of the young men from Berea Ward. Apparently they have Youth on Friday nights, so that may be our next fellowshipping activity. Hunter is usually up for meeting new Young Women...
We had a very unexpected incident this week. Four of the elders took advantage of an opportunity, and stayed up all night playing Dungeons and Dragons "because it would be fun".This may seem "naughty" (as they say at the high school here - go figure), or "boys will be boys" or a chuckle, but we were astounded!

The focus in the mission the last few months has been "perfect weeks", obedience, living worthy of the Spirit... Elders have been reporting miracles happening in the work, and there's been a great feeling throughout the mission. Then this? It's not just staying up past 10:30, it's the ripple effect on getting up at 6:30, having a full hour of individual study and another full hour of companion study and planning, plus the example for the newer missionaries involved. I guess this is the time to quote Elder LeGrand Richards: "If the Lord had wanted 40-year-old heads on 19-year-old bodies, He would have given them to us!"

Every mission president adds his own three years to the Durban Mission History; it's a booklet missionaries take home when the finish their missions. I've been working on it, and found a great story. It's about Alan & Pauline Hogben, members of the Sandton Ward in the 1970s, when Durban Mission was still part of the South Africa Mission.

The Hogbens were baptized in 1970, and soon started planning to be sealed in the London Temple. It was a huge financial challenge, but they were determined, and to firm up their commitment, then went in for temple recommends. The mission president asked when they were planning to go, and they said in about 2-1/2 years. This was in April of 1972. They were sealed five months later, in September 1972.

They had been told that "the only thing the Lord required of us was to make a commitment, and He would open the doors." They established a stringent budget, and kept household expenses to a bare minimum. Interesting things started to happen, for instance, for months they found a food parcel in their car after church. Years later we learned it was from a sister who knew she could never afford to attend the temple, but by helping us she felt she could participate vicariously in our temple experience."

One evening after sacrament meeting a member gave them R200 - a substantial sum of money in those days. When they asked him why, he said that a man had given his family a gallon of petrol once when they had run out of gas. They had tried to pay him, but he said, "o, just give someone else a gallon when they need it." The brother was just giving his "gallon of petrol" to someone who needed it. At last count, that R200 had contributed to at least four more couple going to the temple. "When we returned from the temple, we gave that R00 to another couple, and they gave it to still another. To this day, we don't know how far that R200 went."

On Tuesday Steve had a meeting with Elder Hill, one of our Area Seventies, and we went to dinner afterwards with Elder and Sister Hill - at Butcher Boys, dear couples: we missed you! It was fun listening to Steve and Elder Hill reminiscing about, of all things, their respective military "careers". Steve was in Army Reserves during graduate school, and spent a lot of it in a hotel on a beach near Carmel, working on race relations. Elder Hill was in the Air Force for a year. Most of the men never got to leave the base during the 12-week basic training.

Early on, they organized Sundays by dividing the men into religions. "Catholics, over here. Dutch Reformed, over here. Baptists, over here..." At the end of the division, there were about a dozen men still standing, unassigned. Elder Hill and two other "Saints" were adamant that they were not even close to Catholic, Baptist, or any other denomination, but they wanted to attend Church on Sundays. As a result, the three were given passes to leave the base on Sunday mornings for Church. Elder Hill explained that there were meetings both in the morning and the afternoon (this was pre-block days) so the morning pass was extended to an all-day pass. By the time they organized dinner appointments with the members, Sundays were rather nice! Then Elder Hill explained to the sergeant that their church also met on Tuesdays - and they got ANOTHER pass to attend M-Men and Gleaners (this was also pre-YSA days).

The Air Force also divided the men to play sports. At that time, the Church youth were playing a lot of volleyball, and one of the LDS men was very good. He coached the others, and they were all picked for a team that went to tournaments on Saturdays, so that was another day out. Just goes to show being active in the Church brings unexpected blessings!

(And speaking of blessings, are you mailing your Christmas packages? One word of advise: PLEASE, UNDERESTIMATE the value of your parcel. Write as little description as possible. It's very tough on an elder if Customs decides to pay close attention and charge a lot of Customs fees. And if you want the office elders to hide it until close to Christmas, let us know.)

Friday we took the boys and 4 of their friends to a braii with the Berea Ward Young Men, at Bishop Scott's house in Umbilo (one of the many suburbs in Durban). It was actually pretty simple to get there - we basically traveled 2 roads. However, you had to pay attention; St. James Avenue turned into Spine Road which turned into Booth, which turned into Francois. Then we turned onto Nicholson, which turned into Selborne, and dead ended into our destination street.

Then Saturday it was finally hot, and crowds of high schoolers (including ours) descended on the beach at Suncoast Casino. Ironically, it's the nicest beach in Durban; you pay R5 to get in, and there's a nice expanse of grass to sit on, as well. The casino has a lot of eateries inside the beach end of the building, too.

I'm going to post this today, as tomorrow I will be a little busy. At this exact moment, my sisters Margaret and Nancy, as well as my good friend Beus are flying to Durban! We're going to play tourist for a few days, while Steve becomes President Mom. I'm quite looking forward to it - although I'm sorry to say that early morning seminary ended last week. Rats.


ps I saw a truck today, and part of the logo said "Abrasive Specialists." I think Morgan and Hunter have been doing an internship with them...

pps Another truck was "Aryan Transport". Think that would fly in the States?
ppps Vocabulary 202: We don't "rent" things here, we "hire" them. It's not a "one-time" deal, it's a "once-off". And cowboys aren't "bowlegged", they're "bandy legged".

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tribute To Senior Elders

How's Winter Going?

2009 11 01 - An Abrahamic Test (if we may define it as being willing to give up something you really, REALLY want, and trusting the Lord is in charge)

Dear Family & Friends:

One of our brand-new elders (well-prepared, powerful testimony, ready to work) became ill at the start of his mission. After the requisite "Wait a few days and see if it goes away," he went to the doctor, who sent him to a specialist for tests, who in turn checked him into the hospital for more tests, including some biopsies.

He spent seven long days in the hospital - but they weren't all wasted. He asked us to bring him pamphlets, as he was proselyting among his fellow patients. He even provided two referrals to the Pinetown elders. On the 4th day (Friday) the tests were all in and the doctor diagnosed a lifetime, but not life-threatening medical condition, which can be controlled by medication.
As the Church takes very good care of the missionaries, and Missionary Medical wants to keep on top of all medical situations, Steve called Salt Lake to report the findings. The reaction there was "Send him back to the States." Steve argued vehemently to keep him here, citing the good medical care, and the doctor's statement that it can be controlled. Eventually they called another doctor for a second opinion, and he agreed that the elder should go home, be stabilized, and then finish his mission in the States. Hayibo.

We went to the hospital Friday night to tell him the news. His previous visits had been a lot more fun - sneaking in pizza, Big Macs, candy bars. This one was pretty sad, but our elder was very positive, and willing to serve wherever the Lord put him. I was impressed, although I know things were more difficult for him after we left, and he was on his own. The other missionaries shared in his disappointment, and his companions from the MTC who are working in the Durban area all stopped by to see him.

Monday the Assistants and his district took him to Tala to see a few African animals, and down to the Durban beach to see the Indian Ocean, then he went back to his boarding to pack for his Tuesday flight home.

THEN, as a result, I am sure, of fasting and prayer, as well as works (contacting Missionary Medical with more family medical history) the decision was made to LET HIM STAY! Wild rejoicing and grateful thanks echoed through the Durban hills. We're working with his doctor to monitor his condition and help him learn to control it, but hey! We got to keep him! He's excited, we're excited, his companions are excited, and his family is excited. Even the few investigators he had worked with are excited! I guess it's just another mission miracle - Faith +hard work + obedience with exactness really does work!

On the heels of that very happy news, however, we recieved some very sad news. Our former Elder Chumani Magwa, returned home to Prince Elizabeth in October of 2007, married, and had a daughter. This week his wife passed away unexpectedly due to complications of TB. For any of you who would like to send him a note, his address is 11 Majombozi Street, Kwanobuhle 6242, South Africa.

These are a few more of the quotes and information we picked up at the Mission Presidents' Seminar - Steve attended some different meetings than I did, and he's been using them in the mini zone conferences:

Evidence that the Church is growing and becoming more locally self-reliant around the world:
Brazil creates one new stake every month
There are 70 stakes in Mexico City
The Area Presidency in Mexico are all Mexicans. In Brazil, there are two Brazilians and only one American.
The Hong Kong Temple District covers one half of the world's population! We definitely need more temples in that part of the world.

Memorable words:

When Elder Nelson dedicated Rwanda to the preaching of the gospel, he said "We lift the hate and malice so there will be no more desire for war."

Bishop McMullin:
To become more spiritual, just study the life and teachings of Christ; not just the great things, but the little and mundane things. When you know the Savior, you will know yourself.
The purpose of welfare is to preserve the dignity of the people. Teach them to solve their own problems.

Elder Andersen:
Ordination gives authority. Righteousness gives power.
To increase spirituality in a stake, teach the principle of tithing. Tithing for members is like mission rules for full-time missionaries. If they are obedient, they will have the Spirit.

Elder Sitati (one of our Area Seventies):
It is Satan who says you are not worthy.

Elder Hallstrom:
Hearken doesn't just mean listen; it means listen and obey.
Diversity is a joy, but it is a greater joy to be as one.
The Lord puts in your circle of friends those who are seeking the truth.

An Area Seventy from West Africa:
We need to teach our children doctrine so they choose Church traditions.
We are the people of the Lord Jesus Christ and He will teach them correct traditions.

Exams started on Monday, and Hunter is studying like crazy. Morgan...isn't. And I'm going to have to repent of some of my less-than-complimentary comments about Westville teachers. Mrs. Parrott, their Afrikaans teacher, actually came to the house Tuesday night to tell them of the special arrangements she had made for their exams: they will be at the back of the classroom on their own, so they can use their notes. Pretty nice!

In reaction to studying and testing during the week, we had five friends go to Gateway with Morgan and sleep over on Friday. (Hunter spent the evening on the phone with girls.) Saturday morning a couple went home, and four of Hunter's friends came over. It wasn't all wild and crazy, though - there were as many asleep on couches all over the house as there were playing basketball or video games. The exams end on Wednesday, and so far the boys have felt like they were pretty easy (famous last words). Could that possibly be because they actually studied this time???


ps PicknPay has added some new muffins to it's offerings: alongside chocolate chip, blueberry and iced cappuccino we now have cheese, and spinach & feta(?)

pps I've been in a lot of queues since I arrived in South Africa, but Elder and Sister Johnson have learned how to do it in comfort! They went down to the municipality to get the power turned on in a new boarding (and we won't go into how many forms and IDs and signatures that requires) and found themselves in a room full of chairs. Everyone "sat" in the queue, and moved over a chair as people were served.

ppps Hitting the trailer hitch on a bakkie does a lot more damage to the front number plate than hitting a chicken - and that's all I'll be saying on the subject.

I must admit, I would have sat there hoping for music and chairs being removed... way more fun!

(They left us! They left us!) Elder and Sister Bartholomew head for home (but not in this car)

Around the Mission Home

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Look what we have in OUR mission!

Seen on the road...

I forgot our other set of missionary brothers when I posted the Elders Babeeyo & Sichinga: Elders ladysmithWilson & swaziWilson being hailed (on!)

2009 10 25 - Mission Presidents Seminar in Johannesburg

Dear Family & Friends:
We've just spent 4 days outside our mission - don't tell the President!

We have a pretty intense training seminar in Johannesburg each October, with visitors from Salt Lake. This year we had Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, and Bishop Keith B. McMullin. In addition, the four Area Seventies were there, the Area Presidency, including Elder Dale G. Renlund, our new counselor. Add all the mission presidents and their wives, and it was pretty high powered! I really like meeting and learning from the priesthood leaders, but my favorite part is renewing and making new friendships with "the wives". With the couplesisters in our mission, and the wives of the mission presidents and area presidency, I am surrounded by wonderfulness!

I'll share a few of the good comments - they are all really close to the originals, but could be slightly off as I was writing as quickly as I could.

Elder Andersen: "When you move away from your conscience, move to your knees, and the spirit of repentance will help you back to the right road." He continued with a scripture chain that traveled through dull conscience to refined conscience, and where each of those can lead us. We were filling in some blanks in Alma 29:5, such as good or _____, life or _____, joy or____? It's "remorse of conscience". Thought-provoking. My other favorite scripture was 1 Timothy 4:2 where it talks about having your "conscience seared with a hot iron". Been there, done that.

Elder Hallstrom: "True unity is not horizontal - it must include God."

Bishop McMullin: "The keys to success in life are undivided belief in God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the power of prayer."

President Cannon, Johannesburg MTC, in speaking of a missionary's purpose: "...helping them receive the gospel" is different than just teaching the gospel."

President Christensen compared spiritual growth to looking through a microscope. Each new spiritual experience is like turning the lens to a higher magnification as testimony is refined and vision becomes clearer.

I didn't take notes on the testimonies shared by the mission presidents' wives, as I was too involved in their stories. One of the real benefits of this seminar is spending time with sisters who are all in very similar situations. The missions vary a lot, but most of the issues and concerns are the same, and we learn from each other. I have heard that it's very hard for returning senior missionaries (and I include mission presidents & wives) to find people to talk to who can relate to their experiences. Very lonely! Of course, our friends will all relate really well after they serve their own missions... I guess in the meantime we'll just have to have a lot of missionary reunions.

There was a big emphasis on teaching the elders honesty - I don't know where that is coming from, as we feel our elders do well in that area. Elder Andersen (whom we all sustained as a prophet a few weeks ago) also re-emphasized that missionaries should only use their missionary email address, at, and email only their familes, as instructed in the white handbook. Apparently this is a tougher issue than in the past, as our elders have all grown up very high tech, using text messaging, Facebook, online chatting, and twitter, among other things, to communicate.

He talked about the way missionaries voluntarily cut themselves off from the world: dating, working, movies, etc. "They're not inherently bad, they're just not what we're doing." He suggested that focusing on just emailing family, and not everyone else, is a form of self discipline that will help the missionaries prepare for more difficult tasks: such as focusing on their future wives only, and eliminating everyone else from their field of vision.

Some of the missionaries have been using their home email addresses, because they found myldsmail too slow, and it was cutting them off before they were finished. Apparently myldsmail is designed to cut off after 30 minutes, and that's not enough time to download photos. Our elders have been telling me the ways they have learned to cope with the situation:

1. Their moms forward their emails to all the zillions of relatives and friends who are anxious to hear about the elder's missionary experiences.

2. Elders have 2 memory cards for their cameras so they can fill one, and send it home for downloading onto the home computer, while they use the 2nd one. The family sends the emptied memory card back, and he just keeps switching from one to the other.

3. Moms print out the mission blogspot and mail it to their sons - which means the elders get LETTERS!

4. Elders write letters (imagine!) and mail them to friends at home or on missions. And the friends write back! (More letters!)

These are just a few of the ways missionaries keep in touch with everyone, while receiving the blessings of obedience (and letters!). Please help them keep it up - it's definitely a great way to support their efforts. And at our end, we will remind and remind elders that they need to email home every Monday! and to call the mission office if for some reason they can't, so we can send an email to their families that all is well.

And for all of you supportive, obedient, friends and families, our mailing address is South Africa Durban Mission, P.O. Box 1741, Wandsbeck 3631, South Africa.

Neli's baptism went very well on Sunday, while we were gone. The Assistants drove the boys and some of their notyetmember friends to Kloof, where they attended Church and the baptism. Apparently there is a very good Young Men's leader there who taught both Sunday School and priesthood, so that was a good experience. Hunter was a witness for the baptiesm, and gave a talk, and Elder Crowther said Neli bore a very strong testimony. She will need it, as she is the only member in her family, and her parents didn't even come to the baptism. I hope the ward will stay involved fellowshipping her.

Exams start next week, and there is a lot of panic in the air. Suddenly boys are studying! I'm helping where I can, with quizzing and whatever I remember from high school math and science. Always willing to do service, the Assistants/office elders kindly agreed, on their preparation day (Saturday) to run a maths class in the mission office. I provided food, and they tutored Hunter, Morgan, and some of their friends. Another side benefit of a mission call that I hadn't anticipated! Why didn't I think of this terms ago??

Steve is doing a series of one hour mini zone conferences, to share with the elders what he learned at the seminar. Nothing is as good at secondhand, but in the zone setting the training can be applied to our specific circumstances, so it will be very valuable. If nothing else, the Durban missionaries go home very familiar with training sessions, and the question: "How do we use this to help our investigators?"

Our indispensable house & office cleaner Gertrude brought a PEF form in for her daughter Kanye on Thursday, and I noticed it had Gertrude's Zulu name on it. I asked her which name she would prefer we use, and she immediately responded, the Zulu name. So now we are all practicing saying "Ntombenhle".

We gave Kanye a ride home at 9:30pm on Thursday and Friday nights from a career workshop held at the Pinetown chapel, as taxis don't run that late. She lives in a township called Chesterfield, on the other side of the Pavilion Mall. I had seen it from the mall, which is on a hill (of course it's on a hill: this is Durban!) and it looked OK from there. Maybe I was looking at the more well-to-do area, because "Ntombenhle's" neighborhood is definitely not. The office elders reminded me that the missionaries spend all their time working in areas like that, full of shacks and government housing, but I don't see it much. The most surprising thing was the number of people (almost all men) on the streets at 10 o'clock. The elders informed me that almost everyone out that late is looking for trouble. Oh good. Fortunately I had three tough bodyguards in the Kia - we were on the way home from Youth. (And yes, we do have the van back - it needed the equivalent of a new motherboard.)

Just one more comment on Ntombenhle's humble home. It is often full to overflowing because of her generosity to others in need - even non-relatives. How many big, fancy houses can make the same claim?

By the way, exciting news: I am a great-aunt once again, as Heather Brooks Torres presented the world with Jack Torres on Grandpa Mann's birthday, October 21st. Grandpa Great offered his kids $1000 if any of the grandchildren were ever born on his birthday - I don't know if that still holds for great-grandchildren! Congratulations to Heather & Jason!


ps I had a very downhomeandpersonalandprobablysilly simile for Centers of Strength and the importance of gathering on Saturday. Unbknownst to me, one of the boys turned down the temperature in the refrigerator. I opened a carton of 18 eggs to make breakfast for our Friday-night-sleepover crowd, and took one from the outside row. I cracked it on the side of the bowl - only it didn't crack. It was frozen solid. 2nd egg on the outside row? Also frozen.Third egg? The same. Turned out that the six eggs on the extreme ends of the carton were all frozen solid. The eggs that were "gathered" together in the center of the carton were all just fine. (OK, so I'm not in the parable class yet, but it's fun to liken things to ourselves!)