Saturday, February 28, 2009

2009 03 01 - Comings and Goings

Dear Everyone:
In a new and different kind of transfer, we got word of a mid-cycle missionary arriving, which can be awkward to deal with, as all the companionships were just "tweaked" 3 weeks ago.
But then, two days later, a missionary "departed". His companion woke up, and found himself alone, with a good-bye letter. The departing elder is from South Africa, so it was kind of like a young man from Boise deciding to go home early from the Provo mission - and just leaving. This didn't just come out of the blue, of course, but his particular way of dealing with things was a total surprise. He had come to us after going home with medical issues from another mission, and was working and teaching well. His companion (a very good elder himself) handled it great, and all is good there.
So Elder Schmitz is doubly welcome - once for himself, and once for helping even up the companionships!

Elder Wells (area psychologist) and Sister Wells came down for two days from Johannesburg so he could talk with a few of the elders. We had a great time with them - we took them to dinner, along with Elder and Sister Sessions, to a restaurant in the new Westwood Mall. We like it both for the food and personnel, and the view. We sat by the window looking across at a hillside with big houses on top, more medium around the edges, and informal housing (shantytown) plastered on the side of the hill. As the lights came on, the informal housing became even more obvious - because it was pitch dark. No electricity.
And speaking of no electricity, the restaurant lost power shortly after we arrived. The whole mall went out off, then all the stores came on except the side of one hallway that included us, then later the whole mall went off, then all the stores came on again - except our side of the hallway. They cook with gas there, so we still had a nice dinner, mostly with the lights on. I had to go next door to see well enough to pay the bill. The Sessions live very close to the mall, so their power was out when they got home, but not for too long (this time!).
Great story out of Osizweni, near Madadeni - Elder Hiatt went there from being assistant, to check out the area and see if it could be productive towards an independent branch. There are a few members there, and it's a big area some distance from the Madadeni building. A member in Madadeni was thrilled with the news of elders in Osizweni, and offered his non-member father's garage for the meetings. Elder Hiatt has been there a few cycles, working really hard. Last week he and Elder Nyamombe reported 35 present for sacrament meeting (in the garage): 27 being investigators. As Elder Holland says, "Inspired missionaries change history." Inspired...and very hard working!

The rest of today's blog is a story we received by fax from the SwaziWilsons. It was written by Elder Nare, and is called THE SWAZI THREE NEPHITES. It will give you a good feel for the wonderful missionaries we have here. So here goes:
"Behold, it came to pass on the day of our Lord the 29th-30th of January 2009 on the 4th day of the week in the reign of President Mann in the South Africa Durban Mission (SADM), it was a day of the transfer while everyone went to the transfer meeting in Durban except Elder Nare (South Africa), Elder Kona (South Africa), and Elder Makono (Zimbabwe) in Swaziland. We were on a three-some waiting for our new companions so we were working in Manzini 2 area because none of us by that time had a driver's license so we had to walk to and from the area.
Now, therefore, I will tell you of the great miracle of the power and authority that happened this wonderful day. It was just in the middle of the day and it was raining. We were from the lesson walking towards the next appointment when we got a call from one of our recent converts, Nathi Masina, telling us how his wife, Nokuphiwa, is very ill. He was asking us if we could come and have a prayer with them in the house. And it came to pass that we didn't waste any time. We went there as soon as we could and found that she was really sick. She couldn't even speak. We decided to give her a blessing then left to our appointment.
After 20-30 minutes later, we received a call from Nokuphiwa telling and thanking us for coming. She told us that she was totally healed. We were so excited, we didn't know what to say.
On Friday the 30th of January 2009, we were still together. In the morning after our studies, we got a call from one of our investigators, Make Simelane. She was sounding very scared and sad on the phone. She was telling us that her husband Baba Simelane, had not been going to work for the past 2 days because he had an unusual pain under his left hand. It was an interior pain and she was aking us also to come to their house to have a prayer wih them. We went there and asked Baba if it would be OK if we gave him a blessing. He agreed so we gave him a blessing and told him that all would be well.
The next day when we went for our appointment with them, Baba was well, even helping one of his neighbors to move to a new house.
These are really great MIRACLES that happen around the mission because the great great mission equation which is: HARD WORK + OBEDIENCE WITH EXACTNESS + FAITH.
P.S. The motto of the Swazi Three Nephites: "We do not boast in our strength; instead, we are rateful for this opportunity the Lord gives to us to serve him on a mission. It's a privilege not a right! And now we make an end of speaking concerning the things which we saw while we were carried away in the great land of Manzini, Swaziland. Amen."

I can't show you any better than that what wonderful young men are coming out on missions. Don't you wish you were all here, too?

ps Steve drove to Richards Bay this morning to do interviews, so the office elders were scheduled to pick us up for Church. Around 7:30 I got a call from Sister Sessions (the Sessions live in the same complex as Elders Syphrett & Kitili) to alert me that the security gate to the complex wouldn't open, so no one could get out. It's not on the same power line as the boardings, which had electricity, and no one had a # to call for help. Half an hour later she called again: Elder Sessions had convinced the gate to open (I can't use the term "brute force" about a coupleelder can I?) so the elders were able to pick us up. If it had been OUR security gate malfunctioning on a Sunday morning I'd have looked very closely into Hunter and Morgan's nocturnal activities...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2009 02 23 - Many and Varied Experiences

Miss Scott, formerly known as Sister Scott, recently returned from the Toronto East Mission, where she served part of her time in Scarborough, as did her future mother-in-law. Other fascinating (to us) trivia:
Sara taught a Jamaican lady who returned to Jamaica and was baptized. Connection? Logan served his mission in Jamaica.
Sara met Sister Essma in the Provo MTC. Connection? Sister Essma was on her way to the South Africa Durban Mission, as part of our once-a-year group from the Provo MTC.
Sara became well-acquainted with Sister Sweeney in Scarborough. Connection? Sister Sweeney's grandson Elder Weaver is currently staying in the boarding on the back of the office (and was able to get our video system to work in the mission home).
I could go on and on... fortunately, I won't. The wedding is scheduled for June 18th, and I get to be there! We are all totally excited for them both, as we already love Sara and have been waiting (along with Logan) for 18 months to see if there would be a "happily ever after." And there will be!
Now, back to our regular programming:
Dear Everyone There:
We've had a few odd things Here.
Sister Sessions tells me that they had an angel visit the KwaMashu Branch one Sunday. A Zulu woman danced and twirled her way into the chapel as the branch president was speaking, flapping her "wings." The branch president tried to keep talking, but she announced that she was an angel and had a message for the congregation. It was that God loves us, which is a good message, but just at that moment. The strangest thing to me was that she spoke English to a congregation that was wholly Zulu except for a few missionaries. Gift of tongues, maybe?
A team of our elders played a basketball game against the Durban High School team on Monday. Elder Knowles has been trying to put something together his whole mission. Our guys played really well for old, out of shape, haven't practised together players! If the scoring had been kept correctly, we think we would have won by one point. As it is, we lost by 5 or 6. I should perhaps mention that the refs were both Durban coaches, and there were a vast amount of "questionable" calls. In fact, my job was to sit near the team, with some of the elders watching the game, and do damage control with those who started yelling at the refs. "Not one more word, elder!" and "Smile!" were two of the more common comments. The elders responded very well - and you've never seen basketball players with such giant smiles as our elders...especially after some of the more unusual calls.
Turns out that years ago there used to be a Mormon League (mostly missionaries) that played regularly with the Portugese League the Durban coach was involved with. We chatted with him after the game, and he let the elders pass out "Who are the Mormons?" pamphlets. The coach would be happy to have his team play the elders every week - no, THAT''S not going to happen! Durban has been the best team in KZN - so we probably gave them their best game of the season.
Hot weather hit hard this week - just in time to catch Steve out working with the elders. The elders don't wear their suit jackets, but he only likes long-sleeved shirts, so he's feeling what Morgan's friend Richard (Van Zyl) calls the "hectic hot". But it's OK, he's still having a great time. He would always rather be out with the missionaries. I find my "wash & wear" hairdo has one small problem: in the humidity, it takes hours to dry. The wet look is back. Morgan's friend Richard Van Zyl from Hillcrest calls it "hectic hot".
The hot weather and a malfunctioning aircon unit has created a problem for Elders Hartvigsen and Weaver. They are staying in the boarding on the back of the mission office while the Sessions find a new boarding in Durban North. All of their clothes and bedding and even books are starting to mold... They've been sleeping in the Assistants' office while we try to sort it out.
Elders Chafin, Stanger and Schlenker have found a new twist for the "Circles" we are using to encourage members to think of people they can share the gospel with. They asked a Nick, in Kloof how many close friends he has... "8 or 10, maybe." So, how about other friends you know? "If I count Facebook, about 325"(!) So now they're figuring out ways to approach Facebook acquaintances - for instance, a lot of the members in Kloof play rugby every Friday. So Nick might make a "group" out of the rugby players, and invite others to join them. We're getting pretty least in the neighborhoods with computers.
We had a great Sunday School lesson today - as you undoubtedly know, it was on the restoration of the priesthood. We heard some wonderful stories of priesthood blessings. The teacher herself was in a car accident as a young woman and newish membe of the Church. She was paralyzed and x-rays indicated her back and spine were broken. The doctors weren't sure she would even make it through the night.
She received a priesthood blessing in the x-ray lab, before her second set of x-rays. Those x-rays indicated no breaks. The doctors didn't know what to do now, with conflicting evidence of injury: they sent for a specialist from Cape Town, and put her in traction and tube feeding for a week. Finally her father asked what the doctors had decided to do, and they said they couldn't decide. So the dad said "Then let's go home!" She had to learn to walk, but everything got back to normal and she went on to marry and have children (something else the doctors said would be impossible.) Isn't priesthood authority great!
A young man running the cash register at Woolworth's gave me a great new missionary slogan this week. He saw my nametag, called me an "angel", and said as I was leaving, "Go there and tell them!" So we are.
Does this sound like South Africa, or what? Morgan called Langa to find out when his cricket game ends today - "When shall we fetch you?" - so we can go from there to pick up Richard after his water polo game so I can drop them all at the Sharks rugby game...
Many thanks to all those who have adopted our African elders! Please keep those emails and packages coming in. They love them. Anything sent through the post office can come to P.O. Box 1741, Wandsbeck 3631, South Africa. If you need a physical address, it's 8 Windsor Avenue, Westville 3630, South Africa. The office number is 031 267 0250.
If you get too busy to continue, please let me know so I can find a new contact for your elder. And if you know anyone else who would like to email a missionary, I'm at
Have a wonderful week!
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann/Soontobemotherinlawfor thesecondtime

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some Favorite Street Signs

2009 02 15 - Nancy's Birthday (my little sister: we're now twins for a month)

Dear Everyone:

Our cars are in good shape - not even one is at the panel beaters or in the shop, but minor missionary illnesses continue to plague us (but luckily, no plague). I was on the phone back and forth with elders and doctors every day this week - all little stuff except Elder Nkele's overnight in the hospital after surgery on a torn miniscus. He has been staying here with us since Thursday, but he's already tossing aside his crutches now and then: he wants to get back to work! But the work moves forward, in spite of Satan's efforts to slow it down.

Anybody ever seen a scripture indicating that Satan has power over sound systems? The Sunday session of the Newcastle District Conference was a sound disaster! The conference was held in a big hall, not at a chapel, as there were 400 people in attendance. The guys providing the sound system showed up at 10am (time to start) instead of 8am (time to set up and test), so the conference started 30 minutes late, so they could set up the system. Well, it went in and out, and squealed, and just didn't work right, although they kept on (disruptively!) working on it. Finally Steve told them to shut it down, and gave (yelled, he says!) his talk without any mike. He says it hard to listen to the Spirit when you're yelling. Then a cute young girl got up to speak, so Elder Uffens translated her talk into "loud". She would say something, then he would boom it out. Steve said that went pretty well! The Swazi choir that sang did very well, and after their closing hymn...the congregation clapped. All in all, it was an unusual conference.

Steve talks occasionally about "stealth" Walkabouts, where the missionaries invite a member to come for a walk around the neighborhood, and casually ask about different houses and families. Then when the walk is over, the elders announce "You just did the Walkabout!" and the member is all excited. On Thursday, the office elders did a "stealth" lesson on For the Strength of Youth. Hunter and Morgan had four friends over, and the elders helped drive them to Mutual. Only there wasn't any Mutual - probably because there was a stake youth Valentine's dance scheduled for Friday. I had already asked the elders ahead of time to be ready to teach if nothing was organized for the Young Men (happens a lot). Well, I told the boys about how our elders have been going into schools and presenting For the Strength of Youth to the students, and asked if the elders could present it to them... and they agreed. I may go into the stealth business... it's fun!

Two of the elders had a nice experience a few weeks ago. They were chatting with a baba on his front porch, and somehow got onto standards, and he invited them in, rounded up the family, and had them teach them about gospel values. The Spirit must have preceded them down the street, because at the very next house, the baba called them in and already had his family gathered around to "hear a lesson". If it could only be that easy all the time!

(Did I say?) Last zone conference, Steve used a sailboat simile to bring all the aspects of missionary work together. He had a whole powerpoint to explain the different roles of parts of the boat. Here is the Swaziland version, compliments of Elder Quinn and Elder Nkele, for the newsletter:

"Ahoy Matey! Welcome to the USS “Swaz” Capn’, yarrgh! No need to be a rich yacht owner, ya simply need the spirit to get on board with us!

1. Our Destination - The Port of Mbabane, splitting into 2 branches like the mighty King Neptune’s Trident. Yarrr! And Baptisms! Yo Ho Ho!
2. Our Hull - The Gospel we preach! No need to “Swab this poop deck”, though it’s absolutely perfect already.
3. Our Keel - Working as hard as Jack Sparrow after a chest of gold doubloons and earning and expecting miracles.
4. Our Mast - A Brotherhood never-before seen and never-to-be matched, thanks to the ol’ sea dogs Capn’ Quinn and the “Bearded Beast” Beardsley.
5. Our Foresail - Masterful methods of finding. The mighty ship of “Swaz” is infamous for the success of its finding.
6. Our Mainsail - Ahoy! What’s that I see? Members joining the crew as they do PMG member, Walkabout, and “How Great Shall Be Your Joy” training. Aye, indeed.
7. Our Navigation Station - Greater than the compass of the Black Pearl, we never go wrong with this Direction. Planning and preparation is at a new high on this ship.
8. Our Rudder and Weaponry - Yarrr, what good be a ship without artillery ? Our cannons are the scriptures, and we know how to use them.
9. Our Living Quarters - Make room for more crew! We support our converts with love, friendship, and a chance to master the rudder and cannons (Scriptures).
10. Our crew - Stronger than Davey Jones’ Locker, we have a crew of members that help like no other.
11. Our Helm - Yarrr, the helm is more beautiful than the golden , jewel-encrusted palaces of Atlantis! The helm is teaching by the spirit, and what a helm we have.
12. Our Wind - The wind is always on our side, pushing in the right direction. The prophet is like the wind, bringing the mighty winds of change and growth. Aye.
13. Our Captain - Arrgh, Matey! Ye have a been on this ship now and still don’t know the Capn’? YOU are the Capn’! The question is, are YOU ready to board this fine ship?"

Hunter and Morgan had a full Valentine's weekend, including trips to the mall, dinner out with friends (and no parents - it's hard to remember they're "grown-up" high school sophomores). Saturday night they went to a party and had another racist run-in. The group was large, and mixed (race), and mostly grades 9 and 10. A girl (white) left her cellphone around and it was stolen. Her mother arrived and demanded that all the black kids be searched. She had two people (white) stand by the gate, but didn't actually frisk anyone. At one point she caught hold of Hunter's arm, and he apparently told her off in pretty offensive language. (We're still working on behaving better than our enemies.) She ended up yelling at the hostess, and her mom, and threatening to move her daughter out of their school and even move out of the country.

Then, with that on his mind, Morgan read the Book of Mormon chapter tonight...where the Lamanites are cursed with a "skin of blackness"?
(2 Nephi 5.) THAT went over really big...

The assistants and Steve are working from home the next four weeks, and they really need it! They are all three exhausted - they've all been snapping pictures of each other asleep in the Vito, asleep at the computer... hopefully not asleep on the stand at district conference... Of course, Steve will need a bed & breakfast if he's to get any rest - the Westville "Annex" is always overflowing with friends sleeping over. Even on school nights, twice a week, we have a few who can't get taxis in from their homes in time for the 6am rugby fitness training.

Love to everybody!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2009 02 08 - Couples Seminar in Swaziland

Dear Everyone:

It felt both familiar and strange to be back at Timbali Lodge for our Couples Seminar. Last year we were there on Valentine's Day, and it was very intense: that was when the couples created our simplified training for new priesthood and auxiliary leaders. This time we didn't even bring all the laptops! Some of the couples arrived Wednesday evening, and our SwaziWilsons made arrangements for dinner that night, but the game drive on Thursday morning got rained out. They had to shop instead. Shame!

We started Thursday afternoon, with announcements and then a wonderful talk on the atonement by Elder LadysmithWilson. Several of the couples shared reflections on their missions during the two days: greatest fears, greatest joys, advice they would give, etc. Each one shared something very different, although the underlying theme was the great love they have developed for the people here. It's amazing that missionaries serving in the same mission can have such varied experiences. Although I suppose it would be more amazing if all these unique elders and sisters had the same experience!

Before dinner at the Boma Restaurant at the Lodge we all spread out our "wares" in the lounge and had a Relief Society bazaar. I had bags and purses made by a pensioner in Durban; Sister SwaziWilson had the latest version of the Swazi Dirt aprons, Sister Barthomew & Sister Hafen had stone carvings by a Zimbabwean in Richards Bay (I'm getting a stone nativity set - surprised?) and the LadysmithWilsons had computer examples of handmade frames with pictures and carvings, made by another Zimbabwean in Ladysmith. It was pretty fun! Then the 28 of us sat at two long tables for dinner and bonding. Both were very successful.

Friday Sister Markum gave a great talk on service - I was especially impressed by the stories she told about a friend in Laramie, Wyoming. He is constantly involved in all kinds of service, from shovelling snow for all the widows in the neighborhood, to helping with the haying for older couples, to restoring buildings in a historic park, to whatever. And then he was envious that the Markums could serve a mission!

Elder & Sister Griffith were next. They are a couple based in Johannesburg, who are moving forward the gospel literacy program, "Ye Shall Have My Word." Their presentation was like being in a literacy class, and they gave us lots of practical ways to use the program both to help members in their scripture reading, and talks, and to reach out to non-members. It was excellent. One of the mission objectives this year is to reach out more to the community with Church programs, so literacy will definitely be one of the first.

Part of the afternoon was free time, for shopping, and the Swazi cultural village, and shopping, and visiting, and shopping... but Steve took me to the airport so I could fly back to Durban to run things at home over the weekend. Last year I flew from Matsapha to Durban on Swazi Express, and it was an hour flight on a 20-passenger plane, and no problem. Sadly, Swazi Express has gone under, and the only choice was the South Africa Airways Airlink. So, first I flew to Johannesburg, where I had a 2-hour layover. Then I flew to Durban, where I had another 2-hour layover! The assistants had parked my car at the airport for me, before heading up to Stanger for an exchange with Elders Bertagnolli & Emaneke. I called when I got to Jo'burg, and got directions I thought I understood, to find it. However, I clearly had NOT understood correctly, so I wandered up and down the parking lots looking for it, until one of the car guards got worried about me and started helping. I tried calling the assistants, but they had, appropriately, turned off the phone during their teaching visits. Eventually they got back to the boarding and called me, and I found the car in the one corner I had not searched twice. It was kind of like one of those movies where they show a wonderful scene (the couples in Swaziland having their closing testimony meeting) and then flash to a less-wonderful scene (Sister Mann pulling her bag up and down the parking lot in the dark) and back to the couples, and back to the airport...well, you've seen the movie too, right? I figure that in the time it took to get home by air, I could have driven, stopped for lunch, and gone on the hippo/croc boat tour. Live and learn. I don't mind so much the delays, I just wish I could have been at the testimony meeting with all our wonderful couples.

When the couples get together we always share lots of stories (of course). Steve was telling about two of our African missionaries who arrived recently. One was wearing a very worn-out pair of shoes, and when Steve asked about them, he explained that he had to sell his good ones to get taxi-fare to the airport to fly to Johannesburg for the MTC. The other elder told about having done everything he could to come up with the money to get from his town to the airport, and just not being able to do it. He prayed hard about it, and just before he really needed to leave, an old friend came by. They hadn't seen each other for a long time, but the friend had heard about his mission call, and wanted to give him something. Not knowing what he might need, he gave him money - enough to get out into the mission field. Some of the elders arrive at the MTC with the clothes on their back - and their scriptures.

A few days before the seminar, Steve went out working with Elder Kuamoo and Elder Swenson in Umlazi, and had a great time. He used "The Circles" with a less-active sister, and it worked really well. You start with the individual in the center, then ask about their family, and draw a circle around them, with all the family on it. Then you continue with close friends, acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, people at the store or on the taxis, etc. This young woman included her teachers, and it turns out she is well-acquainted with her former headmaster. She took a "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet to show him, so she can ask about bringing in the missionaries to do a presentation on it for the students. It gets even better when one of the people on one of the "circles" gets interested in the Church, and you start making their circles. We used this at zone conference to show the elders that the Neighborhood Walkabout doesn't ever end: you just keep adding circles.

Elder Syphrett got out of the office on an exchange with Elder Goldsmith, and visited a member in Umlazi who was on Mixit. (Mixit is an internet chat feature on the cellphones here.) The elders encouraged the member to invite the friend on Mixit to come to Church the next day, and to read the Book of Mormon, and he did. Neighborhood Walkabout via Mixit - another good use of the internet in sharing the gospel!

On the home front, homework is starting to pile up in all the boys' classes. Afrikaans is the hardest for them, and for practically everyone else. It's very interesting the way it works. Students are allowed to fail one class each year, with no consequences (and drop the mark, I suppose). This is probably because when they take the matric exams, they don't take an exam for every class; they choose. The nearest example I can give you is Hogwarts, although the exams are not called OWLs... Anyway, if you don't do the homework in a class, you can get detention. If you whip through the homework putting random answers, even if they're all wrong, you don't get detention, because you did the homework.

So-o-o, I am going to petition whoever it is that can make the decision, and ask if the boys can skip Afrikaans and go to the library and work on other lessons during that class period. The last two years they wouldn't let them skip it, but it may be becasue they were in one classroom all day and the teachers rotated, so it would have been very obvious. It would also have created a difficult precedence, as the majority of the students don't want to take Afrikaans, and would protest (well, Americans would protest, we've had lots of experience). I'm hoping the arguments about them not doing matric here, and having correspondence courses as well as local courses, will carry some weight. If not, Hunter and Morgan will be turning in a lot of homework with random answers!

Morgan asked me to order the new DVD about President Hinckley - he and Hunter watched it with Sthembiso. It's very good - all new wives/moms should watch it. Older wives/moms who have already raised their kids ought to avoid it... unless they are really really happy about their parenting. (Did I mention I'm getting depressed?)

Lastly, Langa (known as Langabobo) has been elected class representative. There are only 2 or 3 black reps on the council. His campaign slogan was "Elect Barack Obobo!", and yes, Morgan was his campaign manager. Although they don't really campaign, I think the boys just throw out names and the class votes: no posters, no speeches, no elections assembly.

Have a wonderful week - and Happy Valentine's Day!


Mom\Grandma\Susan\Sue\Sister President Mann

ps The Swaziland District Conference went great this week. And attendance was up again! There have been 3 conferences since the district was formed: 220, 280, 330 (ish). And this is without all the people who would have liked to come, but were unable to get transport.