Saturday, March 28, 2009

2009 03 29 - Most Thankful...

Dear Everyone:

It has been brought to my attention that a favorite beginning to sacrament meeting talks in the townships is: "Good morning, my brothers and sisters. I am most thankful to speak to you today." When is the last time you felt that way at the podium? Elder Kitili (Kenya), our current secretary, always bids us "most welcome" to our Monday office devotionals. So my goal this week is to find more things to be "most thankful" about, and more people to bid "most welcome" to my day.

Senior couples, of course, I was already "most thankful" for, but Elder Muthoka, also from Kenya, put it great when he was talking about Elder & Sister Johnson in Umlazi. The elders will be watching the Sunday afternoon conference session at Johnsons - at 10pm - and then camping on the floor overnight (slumber party!). Elder Muthoka says the Johnsons are "straight from heaven, and no stoplights!"

Steve and the assistants started a new round of interviews and mini-training this week, interspersed with rugby games, a missionary departure, move-outs, and the loss of my current video tech. Elder Hodson headed home to the U.K. a few weeks early (expired passport) leaving us only Elder McColgan (Wales) to represent the Old Country. Elders Weaver and Hartvigsen, after suffering through mold, heat, sleeping in the assistants' office, and a whole flurry of other inconveniences, finally got to move on to real boardings. On his very last stop by the office, I had "one last thing" for Elder Weaver to fix: I was making sure we'll be able to get general conference on our "special, used-twice-a-year" satellite box, and managed to turn the TV from color to black and white. Hunter was outraged, but I think "Law & Order" in black & white is seriously more impressive. Try it sometime!

Steve is constantly telling the missionaries to park their cars and walk - that's where they meet people. Well, today in fast meeting Sister Thabile took that advice one step futher. Her car "blew up" a few weeks ago, and as a result, she has been doing missionary work! She's been talking to people on the taxis, and placed a Book of Mormon with one fellow passenger. One Sunday she was ready for Church, but no way to get there. She stood at her gate, and then saw a neighbor's car pulling out down the road (someone she knew only to wave to). She flagged them down, and they gave her a ride as far as they could, and she managed to get to the chapel. A few days later, she took some cookies to the neighbors, and started getting acquainted. Now they are becoming friends - so I imagine we'll see them at Pinetown Ward one of these days!

Elders Lemmon & Reeves have a new investigator - and they earned him honestly, by doing manual labor! They work in Clermont, and during the mid-day, everyone at work hours, were helping with gardens and roadside clean-up. A man stopped to find out what in the world two "white guys" were doing in Clermont - and why. The elders must have explained just right, as he has asked them to teach him the lessons. That's power (and a good example of the rewards missionaries get when they follow the counsel of their leaders).

I have chapters 2 & 3 of the Pomeroy story. (Chapter 1 was a member teaching the Restoration to the students at his school?) Chapter 2 is Elders Waterbohr & Parry teaching 34 people gathered at a member's home in Dannhauser, last week. And chapter 3 is teaching around 60 students (from Pomeroy) and parents on a Saturday, then right afterwards teaching 15 or 16 Melchizedek Priesthood age men who came in suits and ties, and then stopping in Dundee to see if an hour of tracting would turn anything up, and finding 5 families to teach. Phrases like "golden investigators" and "fields ready to harvest" and "Lemme at'em!" (I made that one up) are starting to be heard in the Newcastle Zone. Makes us all feel like we're with Wilford Woodruff in England... President Hinckley did say, that "Africa is in a hurry"!

Back on the "try" line - rugby continues to run apace and amok (I spent a few minutes with Lord of the Rings this week: can you tell? And by the way, J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa..) The U16A's will get ready for the festival in Pietermaritzburg this weekend by playing the Westville Third team. These are the grade 11s and 12s who wish they were in Namibia touring with the First and Second teams. I hope they don't take revenge on our team - we're scheduled for games on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, and Morgan might be playing for both the A and B teams.

I made the mistake of filming his second game, and now am expected to film ALL the games - which he then makes into very cool dvds with all kinds of titles and music and so on. (I get billing for the camera work as S. H. Mann.) It's actually not a bad way to watch the game - kind of like half a pair of binoculars, which is great for me, because I only have one good eye anyway! I've learned the game well enough that I can follow the action (namely, the ball) quite well. Yet another potential post-mission career opportunity for my list...

Hunter and Morgan are writing exams this week, and Hunter, at least, has really put in some good study time. I have no idea whether what they are learning here will help them the least bit when they get back to Meridian District and the "Did you learn enough to graduate from high school" exam the studens now take. I think I'll try to bribe a school counselor to "loan" me a sample test, so we can find out ahead of time. The boys are still plugging away at their correspondence courses (if plugging away is read as S-L-O-W-L-Y & G-R-A-D-U-A-L-L-Y doing their assignments. They've finished US History to 1850 (thank you, Elder Markum, for proctoring their exams!) and are now starting a semester 11th grade English, before doing the second History course. The English class includes a section on the Harlem Renaissence - that should be interesting - and they have to read "Our Town". I can say already, that they won't like it. They liked Lord of the Flies, so there you go.

Have a wonderful conference weekend - we'll look for you in the crowds!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

South Africans are very direct.

Top that, Mann Farms!

Not the Vito!!!

Zone Conference March 2009

Creative Training in Newcastle Zone - Elders Waterbohr & Parry

2009 03 21 - Zone Conference: Becoming a Consecrated Missionary

Dear Everyone:

This has been a great week. We held zone conferences in Berea, Hillcrest and Newcastle, focused on Elder Tad Callister's MTC talk on Becoming a Consecrated Missionary. When I first read it I thought it was almost overwhelming, but then, consecration IS overwhelming. It's overwhelming selfishness, and laziness, and the temporal man, and all kinds of things.

The elders were given a copy of the talk last week, so they could read it before zone conference. Tuesday we met with Richards Bay, Umlazi (with their "folks away from home", the Johnsons), and Durban Zones. Elder and Sister Hafen gave terrific talks on sacrifice, consecration, and sanctification. We are really going to miss them in April when they go home - they are our one couple who was called to come on a mission, rather than putting in their papers. Sister Hafen told the elders how unhappy she was when she arrived, and how unhappy she is be leaving the people she loves so much! They wouldn't have missed this experience for the world. And their attitude about the people here must have made an impression on their family at home: a son and daughter came out to visit this month, for only four days. They didn't care about the sights and the safaris: they just wanted to meet the people. The Bartholomews may go into a decline when the Hafens leave: the four of them have been a great team up in Richards Bay.

Wednesday we met with Hillcrest and Pietermaritzburg Zones. Elder Sessions gave the talk there, and as usual it was like being at general conference. His talks are always very thoughtful, and full of great quotes. We invited the Mickelsens, Markums and Griesemers to this conference, as these are two zones without any couple missionaries. The elders like being around the couples whenever they can - and it's fun for the couples, too. Their assignments with CES, PEF & welfare/employment require them to travel, so although they meet (and help!) lots of different people, they don't have much time with the fulltime missionaries.

After zone conference we drove up to Newcastle and had dinner at the Black Pepper - the restaurant with our favorite round table - with the (Swazi)Wilsons, Piers, Uffens, Klinglers and (Ladysmith)Wilsons. We're losing the Uffens in April, too, very reluctantly, but they just helped us to a new couple, so it is easing the pain a little. This may be the new requirement for leaving: providing your own replacements! Elder (Swazi)Wilson gave the talk there - totally different from the others, and once again wonderful. He shared some family stories about his pioneer ancestors, and what they gave for the faith. I'm sorry you miss all these great experiences. Reading a little about them is just not the same. Of course, those of you entering your "twilight" years (what an awful expression, especially if you've seen the movie) could join us and experience it all first hand...

We got back Thursday night just in time to take the boys and their friends to Mutual (the kids call it "Youth" here, due to peer group pressure). Friday we got word that Steve's beloved Vito was going to be replaced on Saturday. Morgan and five other rugby players were the last to ride in it: to and from Ciao Italia for carbo-loading for Saturday's matches against Hilton. The new Vivaro came in - less pickup, less leg room, a little easier to drive, seats nine instead of eight, and easier to pack lots of stuff in. Life is full of trade-offs!

And now, this week's rugby update...
Josh, the #3 prop on the U16A team, was caught on film (though not by the ref) stepping on the head of a Michaelhouse player. There were, apparently, some hard words being thrown about on the field, and Josh had finally had enough. It can't have been too bad, as the stepped-on-player continued playing with no pause for a run-on-field by the medical folks. Anyway, the Michaelhouse headmaster spotted it while watching the game film, immediately called the Westville headmaster, who immediately called in Josh, who has been suspended from rugby for three games and had to write an apology letter to the Michaelhouse headmaster. Whew.

Why this long story, do you ask? I will tell you, whether you ask or not! This moves Morgan up (at least for three games) to the A team, and the jersey and bag with a big white #3. Is he happy? Were all the Utah teams eliminated during the first round of March Madness? So today he played (hard! he wants to keep the spot) with the A team, and they beat Hilton 22-5. There were several minor injuries, including a mild concussion that Ste ("stee") suffered, and a Hilton player being taken off in an ambulance. (Rugby is way more physical than football, guys.) The 1st team also won, 13-9. Once again, Westville is bragging freely and walking proud. Well, walking slowly, with very sore muscles...

So there you have it: a typical week for mission president's wife. Which is to say, every mission president's wife has her own totally different weeks. I enjoy reading blogspots from Albania and the DRC and other missions that are so different from mine. If you want to check some out, just google the mission name you're interested in. They're all pretty interesting!

So happy spring, to those of you in the northern hemisphere. We are heading into fall, although you don't see too much to prove it. Once in awhile there's a gray day with the wind blowing, and a few trees lose leaves or turn a little yellow, but things are still blooming, and there's lots of green, so not much has changed. I hope you all get some nice warm weather soon, and that none of the blossoms freeze. And that Grandma Mann can find geraniums soon! That's the real sign of spring...


ps Grandma Wilford taught her teenage Sunday School class combined with our adult class today. It's lovely to be called on by a teacher with "Yes, my sweetheart?" and finish with "Well, my darlings, that's my lesson for today."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2009 03 15 - Music & Mayhem

Hi Everyone:

Happy Ides of March! I hope you weathered Friday the 13th alright...ours was almost the calmest day of the week!

Tuesday night after mission presidency meeting Morgan escorted 7 missionary couples (Markums and Griesemers went on Monday) to the high school's production of Oklahoma. It was very well done. The kids did a great job with their American accents - I only heard a couple of lines that sounded South African. Two things we especially liked: the backdrop looked just like Southern Utah (obviously, no one here has ever been to Oklahoma); and Morgan's friend Langa, who is black, coming onstage as Ado Annie's father - well, at least she had black hair! We all enjoyed it - I think this has been the longest I've ever gone without seeing a stage show, for a very long time.

Wednesday our new missionaries arrived: another really good group. The boys are excited about having a BYU football player here (Elder Friel). He is the only American elder we got - more and more of our elders are African, and very well-prepared. Two of them even had driver's licences: Hurray! That is our only problem with the number of Americans dropping - we need drivers in almost every one of our areas.

Thursday was transfer day, and very busy: two trips to the airport for the office elders; transfer meeting; extra elders in for a district leader meeting; car exchanges as we moved a bakkie to Swaziland; Patriarch Courtney coming in to give a newly-arrived elder his patriarchal blessing (no patriarch in Zimbabwe, yet); compulsory rugby meeting for Morgan and a parent (me); farewell dinner & testimony meeting. Whew.

Friday was zone leader council, then the last missionaries headed back to their areas. So now it's time to finalize things for this week's zone conferences. I have three basic tasks: my talk, lunches for the missionaries, and arranging rides for Morgan and Hunter to all their "stuff" while we're gone overnight to Newcastle. I bargained with Elders Weaver and Hartvigsen who are still in the office boarding for a few more weeks: if they'll drive the boys to seminary, they can play basketball at the Church until class is over. They went for it. I imagine a few of the Pinetown elders will also decide to get up early that day and come out for "exercise".

Saturday was the first rugby match of the year. Westville played Michaelhouse, a very ritzy, expensive private school. We won! It was a very good game, and Morgan had a powerful run up the middle where he plowed through the defense, was down, then up again, then down. He must have looked pretty good, because "he benched" for the A-team, and went in near the end. He now has a jersey with a number on it - he's in heaven. Each position has a number: he plays position 1 prop for the B team, so after the 15 players get their jerseys, the 2nd tier prop gets the next number - 16. He wanted to take a picture in it, until we pointed out that the number on the back wouldn't show. We may have to find a three-way mirror...

The first team also won - first time since 2005. The Griesemers and Markums came to watch: they probably brought them luck. Anyway, everyone at WBHS is pretty happy - and joyfully belittling Michaelhouse while they have the chance. I also learned something new about rugby - you are allowed to drag the ball carrier out of bounds by his jersey.

The great story of the week comes from Elders Parry & Waterbohr, ZLs in Newcastle. Apparently there is a member there who teaches school in another town. The religion teacher quit, and he was asked to take his place for awhile. He couldn't find his notes for one of the lessons, so he decided to teach about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. I'm not sure where it went from there, but some parents came by to find out why there kids were so much more interested in going to the religion class, instead of cutting it. Now he has asked if the missionaries can come out to talk to the 200(!) students and parents who are expressing a desire to know more.
Well, OK, sure, we don't mind! Yebo!

I heard a good phrase in sacrament meeting today. A young sister was giving a very good talk about Institute, and commented how important it is to learn while you are young, and your mind is "fresh and able". I am, naturally, now assuming that my old mind is currently wilted and disabled...

But let's all keep trying!


ps "This is God's truth and we're in it to the end."
(Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Mission Presidents' Seminar, Johannesburg 2008)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2009 03 08 - Out of the Ordinary

Dear Everyone:

Today Elders Schwarting and Schlenker took the boys to Umlazi for Church, so Steve and I decided to go to Stanger. Then we found ourselves waffling, and felt like going to Queensborough instead. We were sitting on the stand (it's expected) before the meeting, when in walked (stake) President Wilford. He had been on his way somewhere else, and and felt like he should go to Queensborough instead. Come to find out, the high councilman had cancelled, so Steve and President Wilford were the speakers, after a great talk by Elder Rothenberger. (Does going first make him the youth speaker?)

(By the way, Elder Schlenker went above and beyond the call of duty - Hunter's friend Jono went to Church with them, but had no Sunday clothes, so Elder Schlenker provided a complete outfit - including shoes. We're going to get these boys to Church no matter what it takes! Well done!)

I like sitting on the stand only because I can look at the congregation. There was one couple with a whole row of little, well-behaved children. We asked them after, and they said a few were their own, and the rest were neighbors. Kids really gravitate to Church on Sunday. Most of the Primaries in the township units are huge - and full of nonmember children with no parents in sight. Who knows which of them will be running the stakes and wards and Relief Societies one day?

Sister Sessions had 60 in her kwaMashu primary on Sunday - almost 50% of the entire congregation. They can hardly fit in the room. And most of them don't speak or understand English - they may be old enough for school, where they start learning English, but many can't afford the school fees, so they don't go. Try teaching Primary under those conditions! Single-handed, I might add...

Sister Bartholomew ran the Primary in eNseleni on Sunday - 18 kids, no English speakers. She said she "jumped up and down and practically stood on her head" trying to get them to understand a few things. eNseleni Branch, population 39, had a branch party Saturday with 90 in attendance. They filled a pinata (no one had ever seen one before) and Elder Stewart hauled it up and down while a few kids swung at it. Once a few candies fell out, they got the idea and went wild. He pulled it up and swung it back and forth a few times, and then dropped it and let it break. 90 people then dived in for the sweets. Sister Bartholomew said Elder B tried to break it up for fear someone would get hurt, but they just shouldered him out of the way. Everyone was grass stained and probably bruised - but they were very happy!

The power went off before we went to Church, and stayed off most of the afternoon, so we invited the Assistants to braii for us in exchange for lunch. Unfortunately, the barbecue was not willing to work. Fortunately, the power went on about then, so they broiled in the oven. They do a very nice job of inventing marinades.

Elder Thomas and Elder Maneno had an exchange recently that included a semi-mugging. They were walking up a hill in a township, and noticed a young man hurrying up the hill after them. I should perhaps point out that with the heat and humidity here, and the distances people have to walk, no one hurries, especially up a hill. So they figured something was up.

Elder Thomas decided to be pro-active, and turned around and started talking with the young man. A few minutes into the conversation, the would-be mugger pulled out a knife. Elder Thomas just continued chatting as the young man took their wallets and a watch. The elders were instructed to search their backpacks for him, which allowed them to keep valuables (including a camera) under their scriptures and out of sight. As the young man prepared to leave them, Elder Thomas asked for his stuff back. The mugger gave back the watch, and kept the cash (and we all know how little cash missionaries carry). Elder Thomas also got the young man's name and address - so they can contact him and maybe teach him? Life is strange...

And speaking of strange, I may be the only mission president's wife (at least this week) who had to drop her son at the police station before heading out for the day. There was an "incident" at school, involving Morgan, a rugby teammate he had tackled really hard the day before, and 3 trouble-enjoyers, which came to the attention of the administration. It resulted in letters of warning, a session with an anger management counselor, and a full day (8 to 5) of community service. There was also some discipline handed out to the boys who videoed it on their cellphones - especially the one who set the video to music and put it on youtube! Wish I'd seen it! (The headmaster yanked it, of course.) Just for the record, it wasn't actually much of a fight, and Morgan didn't start it - or win it!

The community service didn't turn out to be too much of a punishment, except for a few hours of boredom. The boys did some yard maintenance, which only took a few hours. They took lunch to the prisoners in the small cellblock (which was good, because Morgan seriously did not like jail), and then hung around with the policemen. They got to play with the equipment in the police cars, learn some self-defense techniques such as how to disarm a mugger with a gun or knife, and observe as 11 people came through with reports of crimes.

We're gearing up for transfer day - the number of incoming elders keeps going up and down according to visa delays. It looks like we'll get six this week. We have four elders leaving: two fly out Thursday at noon, and two Friday morning. In addition, two young men from the Newcastle Zone are coming Wednesday to be set apart for their missions, and they go to the airport Thursday morning early. In addition, we have a departing elder with passport issues who has to go in two weeks, an elder arriving mid-cycle in three weeks, and an elder who has to leave 2 weeks early, which is in 4 weeks. Then in six weeks, it's transfers again! We could use a Disneyland monorail for all these trips to the airport...

Rugby trials (try-outs) were this week, and Morgan ended up on Under 16B
instead of U16A. Last year he was on U15B, but played sometimes for the A team. He was disappointed, and keeps insisting I buy him a hockey kit so he can switch to hockey - like that's going to happen! I don't think it's really the A and B part of it, it's that the A squad gets real jerseys with numbers on them. And we all know how Morgan LOVES costumes! He has also been playing with the pre-season A squad and likes all those guys better. I keep telling him that being on the B squad (and sometimes substituting on the A squad) is pretty good, given 20 months of playing rugby, but you know how far that kind of talk from a mom gets.

Love to everybody!