Part I: Medical Report (do not read if you have a queasy stomach)
I hope you are all feeling well, because this has been like plague week in the mission! There is flu going around, so all the elders are calling in to see if they're dying or have giant parasites or something. (I would never have expected this, but I now actually know the major symptoms for some of those! Yuck!) I'd already been on the phone a bunch of times setting up booster shots for Hep A and Hep B, as a whole group of elders came due. Then an elder had a sort of anxiety attack and needed some medication (he's great, no problem), and another elder had an incredible migraine that required a visit to the doctor for 2 shots to stop his throwing up (also recovering nicely). I took the boys to the dentist and one of them had 11 cavities (no surprise there).
Dealing with these issues is a multi-step process. The elder calls to report his problem. I try to determine whether it needs medical intervention. If it does, depending on where he is, I either make an appointment then call him back with the time, or give him a doctor's name and number so he can call. Then I call after the appointment to see what's up. In some cases, we also have to fax something to the doctor's rooms indicating that we will pay for the appointment. Then the bills come in. I enter them on my monthly report, and make sure they haven't been paid already, then pass them on to the financial secretary. He pays them with bank transfers, and returns them to me so I can add the payment date to my report. Then I pass them back to him for filing. Once a month I send a medical report to Johannesburg. And if any of the appointments/procedures are $25 or more, and it's an American elder, and he has insurance, I also make copies and fill out a form to send to Missionary Medical. So there you have it.
Part II: Missionary stories
Our friend Sara has returned from the Toronto East Mission, and told us about a woman from Jamaica that she and her companion taught the first few lessons to. The sister called the missionaries her "angels." When she returned to Jamaica, they made sure she was contacted by missionaries there. The elders later wrote to Sara and said that they had been praying for angels to help them find people to teach, and when they met with this sister (now a member) and she told them about her "angels" in Toronto, it was powerful.
It's pretty impressive to see how eager the young men here are to go on missions. We have an 18-year-old serving as a short-term missionary this cycle, and he is amazing. Steve loves his weekly letters to the president - for one thing, he can read the handwriting! - because he is so excited, and thoughtful, and dedicated. I wish all the 18-year-olds at home could feel the same desire to go - being out here is such a lesson in not taking things for granted!
Not that we're counting, but we ended the year with 4th quarter baptisms 50% higher than our 4th quarter of 2007. (This is good.) What makes it even better is the increase in families and priesthood over single young women. Although we certainly don't discriminate! One of the elders called in last week, almost apologetically, to ask about baptizing a young girl. He told Steve she was only 14, but she had been attending Church regularly. For how long? Four years! Needless to say, her baptism was approved.
The elders are all encouraged to teach their lessons with the "right" member present, so the investigators have friends at Church, and the members get to have missionary experiences and a chance to bear their testimonies. Today one of the Pinet0wn elders asked what the "record" was for lessons taught with members present in one week. He and his companion have taught 31 this week - and today isn't over yet. I told him I didn't think there was a competition - and to be sure he took the right member. It was fun seeing him so excited. Boys are so competitive!
Elder and Sister Watson arrive Monday for our mission tour. We'll have three zone conferences, but I'm going to take the pictures this time zone by zone so it's easier to see everyone. I'll post them next blog.
We'll be at the airport today, as well, as our welfare/employment couple is finally arriving to take over for Elder and Sister Barnes who left at Christmastime. The Griesemers would have loved to get here sooner, but they had to attend some extra training at the MTC, which was this month. I believe the Barnes went an extra (few hundred) miles, though, and met with them in Utah to give them some transition help.
Part III: Miscellaneous
Yesterday we went to pick up Jubz for the Sunday School Class party at Grandma Wilford's, and there was a troop of monkeys on the side of the road. I must admit, I stopped for a minute to watch them. There were three babies with them: still quite small, but big enough to run around on their own. They still hang on their moms for the climbing trees and roofs stuff, but they also like to explore a little, then run like mad after their moms when the troop heads out. (Trivia note: I just checked, and troop of monkeys is correct - but did you know it's a "gang" of elk?)
I then took the boys to Wilford's, where I found another troop of monkeys, this one with two babies. Hunter wasn't too patient with my game viewing: he suggested I just go to the zoo. Problem? There are no zoos here. So here I am, enjoying my monkeys, and Steve calls on his way to Swaziland, to say they've got a mother and baby giraffe in sight. Show-off. There's a game reserve right before the Swazi border, and it's always a contest to see what you can see. Last time it was wart hogs. The funniest wart hogs on that trip, though, were two with big tusks sitting upright in a pond of mud. The picture up above isn't quite it, so just imagine that face, but sitting up properly.
Love you all! Stay healthy!
ps In case any of you are planning to move to a hot, humid climate:
1. Put rice in the salt shaker so the salt doesn't all clump together
2. If you leave a package of caramel corn open overnight the caramel will melt off.
3. If your son spills a little powdered fruit punch on the floor and doesn't clean it up, it will be liquid by morning.