Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unloading the Container: Elders Weaver, Devenish, Holmes, Mills, Kitili, Schwarting, Syphrett, Anderson...and many others!

Visitors arrive at the mission home

2009 04 26 - The transfer week from...well, not heaven!

Dear Everyone, especially Hayley & Grandma Mann:

Happy Birthday Saturday and Wednesday!

This was transfer week. Transfer weeks have been:
  1. Exciting, as we greet new missionaries;

  2. Sad, as we say goodbye to departing missionaries;

  3. Unpredictable, as luggage is lost, or flights delayed;

  4. Complicated, as cars are damaged, traded, and variously moved from place to place;

  5. Busy, as missionaries in Durban for transfers try to get doctor and physical therapy appointments;

  6. Frustrating, as visas expire, renewal requirements change, and queues extend forever;

  7. Unexpected, as elections and public holidays show up just when we need doctors and public officials available;

  8. Cautious, as public elections are held, with school out and violence possible; and


Here are a few highlights:

First, at the airport, picking up the new elders. Their flight was on the flightboard, but never gave an indication of arriving or landing. 10:10 came, but the elders didn't. Steve finally asked at South African Airways, where the desk attendant told him the flight had left Johannesburg on time. She then checked further, and said it had been cancelled. We assumed they would be on the next flight...or the next...or the next, so Steve headed back to the office for an appointment with a missionary, while I waited with the Assistants. Two minutes later, two elders appeared in the door of the luggage area (which is guarded by opaque sliding doors). Elder Vance & Elder Schwarting joined them, to find that the flight had NOT been cancelled, because there they were - but none of the luggage had shown up. I called Steve, who ran back in to say hello to the new elders before he ran back out to get to his appointment. The luggage proved to be coming in at 12:25 (it must have gotten word that the flight was cancelled?) so the missionaries headed back to the mission office, in hopes of getting the schedule back on schedule.

Elder Dimene, destined for Swaziland, proves to have a visa due to expire in a week. The 6am trip to home affairs (always try to be the first one in the queue) is unsuccessful, as South Africa wants a new chest x-ray (for TB). Now, it's Friday of a 3-day weekend, Monday being Freedom Day, so doctors are booked solid, and closed on Saturday. We did manage to bump a fortuitous appointment already made for Elder Brusch, so Elders Dimene and Katende (also on a visa quest) got their x-rays and medical certificates, but by this time Home Affairs is closed until Tuesday. This provides Elder Dimene, just arrived, with his first exchange, as the Swaziland head back to their areas. He'll go with us to zone conference this week, to (finally!) meet his trainer, Elder.

Other highlights:

5 car accidents this week (or 6?) so Elder Sessions had a serious challenge juggling cars in and out of the panel-beaters, and getting temporary cars to all the places they had to go. And of course, every so often Elder A missed calling Elder B and so Elder B didn't pick up Elder C, which delayed something else... Automobile Dominoes, available in toystores everywhere.

A fire in a boarding in Swaziland which started with a fan that was running when the power went off. The fan started running again when the power came on (while the elders were out working), fell over or something and sparked a fire. Not much burned, but the smoke damage was horrendous. We thought about changing the mission dress code from white shirts to gray, but miraculously the shirts washed clean. The boarding was not so lucky, and is going to take some professional cleaning.

A long-awaited 40-foot container of donated schoolbooks arrived and had to be unloaded into storage. This is the same container that has required phone-calls, emails, faxes, the "old boys" network, and multiple copies of official, stamped forms in order to avoid huge import and other delivery fees. Steve called out the troops, disguised as elders in p-day clothes, and they worked for hours moving boxes of books, by hand, from the container to the storage, several hundred yards away. There was one hand truck, and a pickup truck to help, as the container truck couldn't get close to the storage. No other equipment or help was available, as there was a strike going on and all the workers had gone home instead of staying to be beat up. One brave lady kept the place open for us.

And did I mention that Morgan hurt his ankle in Saturday's rugby game? He really wanted to stay in the game, so the coach told him to "Run for me". It was pretty funny from the bleachers, watching him start with a powerful step, and then start hopping. Needless to say, he sat out the rest of the game and has been sitting most of the weekend. Monday's another holiday, so there's no rugby practice until Wednesday, but the game is Thursday, because Friday is a(nother!) holiday and it's a sports-free weekend. So we'll see how it goes.

But in the midst of all the chaos, the elders and couples continue to work hard, find and teach investigators, and baptize new members into the kingdom (see D&C 65:2, likewise D&C 121:33). It is definitely worth it, no matter what the get's thrown in our way...and by the way, volunteers welcome!

ps I am always impressed by the way our elders always consent to help out when called upon at the last minute - even when it's hard! I was reminded of that as Elder Alexander, newly transferred to Pinetown, introduced himself in sacrament meeting, led the music, and gave the closing prayer. And speaking of leading music, he looked good! Nice style... At transfer meeting Elder Nare, our opera singer, led the hymns, without accompaniment, but you don't need a piano when you're singing along with him. And I'll never forget how well Elder Crowther did on one occasion: the song was in 6/8 time, as almost always happens to these poor elders. He didn't start out too strongly, but by the last verse he was most excellent. Practice makes perfect!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2009 04 19 - What we're REALLY doing here!

Dear Everyone:

I don't know when you're spring break was, but isn't it wonderful to have it over? Only 2 boys slept over at the mission home last night!

I have been so upset over losing 2 couples in 1 week that I prevailed upon "President Mann" to write his annual "State of the Mission" report for the blogspot. Missionary work is, after all, why we're here! It can't begin to reflect the hard work and wonderful contributions the couples and elders are providing the people here, but at least you'll be able to see some of the progress that is being made - especially our former and much-missed missionaries. You and the missionaries before you laid the foundation for what's going on.

So, brothers and sisters, the President of the South Africa Durban Mission:

"In so many ways the mission just now brings comparisons to the early days of the Church with a consecrated people experiencing almost daily miracles. As I have traveled the mission this cycle I have tried to share some of these miracles with the members and missionaries. Here are just a few.


Swaziland was created as a district just 15 months ago and miracles have been happening ever since.

  • The Mbabane branch has doubled in sacrament meeting attendance. When I asked President Ntshalintshali about his sacrament meeting attendance he grinned and said, "213 last Sunday, President Mann, but I am trying not to be proud."

  • The Manzini branch currently has 14 baptismal dates

  • The Nhlangano branch has gone from 18 attending sacrament meeting to 55, and now has two full-time missionaries.

  • There are now monthly leadership training meetings and new district high councilmen and district auxiliary leaders are being called.

  • Temple attendance has increased dramatically.

  • The district finally got computers, and Elder Piers spent several weeks entering ordination records - the stats have sky-rocketed!

  • There is also a massive reordination project going on for those whose ordination records can't be found.


The Richard's Bay district was also created just 15 months ago, with 5 tiny little branches, often with just 12 to 18 attending.

  • Port Durnford now runs around 50 to 55 at sacrament meeting.

  • Ngwelezane and Nseleni have around 50 attending.

  • Esikhawini now often fills the building with 80 plus at sacrament meeting.

  • Nseleni has 7 scheduled for baptism, today, with 10 more in the rest of the zone.

  • For a year, Elder and Sister Hafen have been teaching and helping a couple who have had difficulty with their identity cards. The difficulties have been resolved, and they can now get married and be baptized.

  • More and more youth activities are being held - EFY, YSA conventions, and roadshows are in the works.

  • Two weeks ago the Bartholomews and Hafens accompanied 60 youth to the Johannesburg temple (the largest group the temple has ever had).


Newcastle is the third district that was created about 15 months ago, and there, too, amazing things are happening. This includes the willing transitions as couples have cheerfully moved from branch to branch: the Dibbs, Uffens, Klinglers, and ladysmithWilsons have trained leaders, served as branch officers, taught seminary, helped couples to the temple, taken elders to the doctor and dentist...and saved the day in a whole host of varied, vital, and often wholly unexpected ways!

  • In Madadeni 1 and 2 sacrament meeting attendance has nearly doubled, and we are getting ready to open a new branch in neighboring Osizweni (there are about 35 people attending cottage meetings, and the branch will probably open with 5 active Melchizedek priesthood holders (won't sound like much on the Wasatch Front, but here in South Africa it's huge).
  • At general conference the Madadeni chapel was so full they had to open the windows so people could stand outside and listen.
  • Newcastle branch, which for years had missionaries serving in the branch presidency, and was declining in numbers, now has 80 to 90 attending sacrament meeting with a large number of worthy priesthood.
  • District councilmen are being called, youth and YSA activities are being planned and run by the youth themselves.
  • Ladysmith/Ezakheni elders had 24 investigators at Church last week.


  • Where there were only 2 full-time missionaries sent out from Durban Mission branches 15 months ago, there are now 15.
  • 9 of the 13 newly-called branch presidents have now gone to the temple to be sealed (2 are still single, and the other 2 had already been sealed).
  • Service projects in all of the districts have increased and are changing (for the better) the way the Church is viewed in the neighborhoods. Just a few weeks ago the elders were noticed (by everyone!) up on a roof helping with repairs and are now teaching 3 families. Another companionship has a baptism date for a man who stopped to ask: "What are 2 white guys doing picking up garbage in a black township?"
  • In a follow-up to the Pomeroy story of a few weeks ago, Brother Fana apologized(!) to the elders for having only 60(!) youth to listen to them, and has promised more, plus families, on their next visit. A member in Dundee is organizing a cottage meeting for all his friends, and Elders Hiatt and Nyamombe are teaching the lessons to the families they found tracting. The Dannhauser member is also organizing a cottage meeting to improve attendance over the last one, and they have started teaching their friends. A second companionship will be added to that area next transfer.

It was only about a month earlier one of the missionaries asked me: Why don't we baptize big groups like they did in the early days of the Church?" My answer was: "Who says we won't?"

  • The Imbali branch just outside of Pietermaritzburg will soon be reopend. New Melchizedek priesthood has moved into the are, and it will probably open with between 50 and 60 attending sacrament meeting.
  • A new branch is being considered for Molweni, outside of Kwadabeka.
  • Kwamashu set a new record of 124 at sacrament meeting.
  • Both Umlazi branches are greatly growing their sacrament meeting attendance and baptizing more and more families and potential priesthood.
  • The elders in Berea have no time to tract: the members have become so involved in the member missionary program that it takes all their time to follow-up on and teach member referrals!
  • Durban North is having regular baptisms after years of very little growth.
  • The number of missionaries serving from the stakes has gone from 7 or 8 to about 26 currently out in the field.
  • Just as I was typing this, Elders Schaupp and Mapfumo called to ask for assistance in preparing a presentation to 800 high school students, scheduled for May.
  • Elders have given out something like 4,000 Strength of Youth pamphlets to high school students as they have taught them in their schools.
  • And speaking of giving out materials, we are over budget because of giving away too many Book of Mormons - a very pleasant dilemma!"

So there you have it, straight from the President's office. I'll add one more story I just heard: Elders Hooser & Muhwezi had an investigator at Church today whom they have been teaching for a few months. They met him at McDonald's in Pinetown on transfer day. We only have a few McDonald's, so it is a favorite lunch spot after transfer meeting. This young man asked to have someone call on him, and the next day the elders tracted him out, anyway! This one must be meant.

Thanks for all your support! For those of you who don't operate on a 6-week cycle, it's transfer week again. Life just keeps rolling along.


Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann

ps We won our rugby game this week: first time to beat Kearsney in 4 years!

pps New sight #127 - a man in a shirt and tie, using an umbrella as a sunshade, walking along the side of the highway, carrying his suitjacket by the top of the collar, with the shoulders folded neatly against each other, in front of him. I hope our elders worry as much about their appearances!

Friday, April 10, 2009

2009 02 12 - Happy Easter!

Dear Family and Friends:

Easter in South Africa and Swaziland is very different from Easter at home. Some of the commercialism is starting to show up in the malls, and they have some children's activities- including face painting. It is so cute to see all the little kids decorated up! And Pick'n'Pay has tables of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow eggs - and the leftover chocolate santas from Christmas! But it's much more family and church-oriented. Friday, Saturday and Monday are public holidays, meaning banks, libraries, government, schools (only it's holidays, anyway) are closed. But in addition, lots of other stores are closed, too. (I don't know what Morgan's wearing to Church tomorrow: the dry-cleaner has his suit!) Even in the malls, quite a few small stores and even a few of the "middle-size" ones are closed - at a time when U.S. retailers would be staying open late to catch the crowds!

Many churches have services all week, but especially Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As a native Salt Laker, the first time I was aware of extended Easter worship was on my mission in Toronto: on Good Friday you couldn't find anyone to talk to. As it turns out, I am really grateful for the way things are arranged. At home there are constant reminders of Easter, but it's all bunnies and eggs and "stuff". Here the reminders tend me to think: Today is Friday - what would be happening in Jerusalem? What would be happening among the Nephites? My knowledge of the Jewish Sabbath is pretty much defined by Fiddler on the Roof, so I don't know exactly how Saturday went in Jerusalem, but the Book of Mormon is certainly vivid in describing the Saturday experience in the Promised Land. We watched Testaments today after Church, so that made it all more vivid, too.

The only Easter event we felt bad about missing was the combination Parma Easter egg hunt/Grandma Mann's 90th birthday celebration. It was, apparently, the social event of the season! I talked to Mary on the phone, and just the menu made me homesick (but only for a visit - this is too fun). And hey, I get to visit for Logan and Sara's wedding, so all is good! I'll just have to buy a second seat on the plane if I try to get a bite of everything I miss...

Steve just got back from the interview/training "loop" through Richards Bay, Swaziland, Newcastle and Ladysmith. He has volumes of great stories to tell, so I'm leaning on him to write the blog next week. I will steal one story though: in Madadeni, in Newcastle District, they had so many people show up to watch conference that they couldn't fit in the chapel, so they opened the windows and people listened from outside. Power!

While Steve and the assistants were travelling, I've been playing taxi-driver to Hunter & Morgan and their friends during their Easter break. We've been to movies at Gateway (don't take any small children to Monsters vs. Aliens). Also, if you ever have only one working eye, you won't be able to see any 3-D effects. Trust me.) Morgan & Co. went to Fusion one night, an under-18 club with a DJ. Hunter and Jubz had Wetu and Nellie over one afternoon, while Morgan was watching a rugby meet at Kearsney College (actually a high school). There were lunches at the mall, sleepovers, and more horror movies than I would ever have thought possible. What is it with teenage boys? I have to run through the family room to avoid the movies - and the latest trick (only worked once, I might add) was Hunter: "You have to see this part, Mom, it's OK, don't worry..." So I stood there for a minute, and sure enough, somebody's head got lopped off. Trust no one. School starts again on Wednesday, for which great exclamations of joy.

Steve just told me another great story which I am stealing for this week: Elder Pier is up in Swaziland (for a few more weeks, then he and Sister Pier will move to Richards Bay as the Hafens leave us). He did a lesson on consecration for the elders, based on the story of the widow's mite (Mark 12: 41-44). He pointed out that the widow had two mites, and if she had only cast in one, that would have been half of all she had: a pretty good sacrifice. But she chose to cast in both, "...even all her living." Then he challenged the elders to keep track of their efforts, and rate their days as "One Mite" days, or "Two Mite" days. Great idea! Steve asked him to write it up for next zone conference, so all the elders can benefit from it. And so we have another great example of the power of couple missionaries. (By the way, the pictures up top are to show that couple missionaries have other kinds of fun, too.)

It looks like Elder Lemmon will be joining us in the office, the hard way. He's going to have surgery on a couple of torn ligaments (soccer injury: never go one-on-one with Elder Ikahihifo) and it will take him six weeks or so to get "usefully" mobile. The irony is, Steve was thinking about bringing him in some weeks ago, and then didn't. So-o-o (spooky music in the background) was he pre-destined to be in the office? And when that transfer didn't take place, was a more definite "hint" needed? And did Elder Lemmon agree to this injury in the pre-existence, knowing he needed to be in the office at this time, and that his mission president might not make the right call? And am I TOTALLY kidding????
Well, not about the surgery or coming in the office...
Elder Nkele is still having post-operative problems with his knee, so we may put them together and add to our car/bike/walking areas, a wheelchair area! (Still kidding...)

Love to everybody!
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann/Easter Break Coordinator

ps In another example of couple missionary flexibility, Elder ladysmithWilson rebuilt a non-functioning refrigerator in one of the boardings, and the wonderful Kugara family (one of our Zimbabwean branch presidents) was able to serve a "cold" dessert to the Uffens at their farewell dinner. Well done!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

2009 04 05 - Richards Bay Youth Go On Their First Ever Temple Trip

Dear Everyone:
I can't think of anything I could share that would bring home the power of couple missionaries than this email from Elder & Sister Bartholomew in Richards Bay. Sister B's goal when she came was to get the youth to Johannesburg to the temple - and she did it! A lot of you contributed to the cause, for which many thanks, and the Bartholomews and the Hafens worked tirelessly to make sure every young man and young woman in their branches who could make it, made it! They had to be worthy, and active, and find family names to take with them. Because of the long distance involved, they slept (briefly!) on the floor at the Ladysmith building (well-chaperoned, of course!) to save money on housing. I'm guessing that the Bartholomews and Hafens packed lunches for the bus.

Dear President & Sister Mann:

This past week has been one of the most memorable, spiritual, and humbling that I have had in my life. I know Elder B. feels the same way. It is at times like this that I wonder how I am so lucky to be here. Hopefully, it is because the Lord wants us here. Planning and preparing for this temple trip has been quite the advent. There have been ups and downs along the way, but with every blocked plan there came a new and better way to proceed. The youth eagerly went to their Branch Presidents for temple interviews. They counted the weeks, days, and then when the day arrived they were not only on time.....they all (five branches) were early. This must be a record for our area. I have yet to see any gathering of any kind where the people all come early!! There was much excitement as we boarded the bus and looked forward to our destination of Johannesburg Temple. We stayed at Ladysmith chapel the first night - however, we didn't arrive until almost midnight and we had to leave by 3:30 a.m. to make it to the temple by 8:00 a.m. Not much sleep occurred.

As we arrived at the temple there was awe and wonder in the eyes of the youth. I watched as they looked with surprise at the beauty of the temple and the grounds. As we proceeded into the temple, the temple workers were so kind and patient. They treated each person with love and carefully helped them to find their way. The youth looked like angels in their white jump suits. They were overwhelmed with the beauty of the font and the work that they performed there.
As each youth came out of the temple, there was much excitement and exclamation of the experience they had been privileged to have. It was a tender moment for me to hear their expressions of gratitude and their feelings of love for their Heavenly Father. They are going to be the leaders of this area in the years to come. I hope that this experience has been a defining moment in their lives. I hope that they can look back when times are hard and remember the sweet feeling of the spirit as it testified of the truthfulness of this gospel.

We entered the bus to go home and for four straight hours - even though we were very tired - the youth sang hymns.
They didn't want a movie - they didn't even want to chat - they just wanted to sing. I sat with tears in my eyes wondering how I became so lucky. This has been a huge blessing for me personally. I know it has been a blessing to the people at home who contributed so much of their means to provide this opportunity for the youth and for Pres. Mngadi.

Elder B. had an incredible experience being escort to Pres. Mngadi as he took out his endowments. As we met Sunday for Church, you could feel the difference. What a great spirit he has and will bring to our Ngwelezane Branch. Each youth had the opportunity to bear their testimony in Church on Sunday. It was heart warming to hear their love of the temple and the service they performed. They all mentioned their desire to go back. That is the key. They now know why they must strive to live worthy - it is all about coming unto the Savior through the temple.

We had 55 youth and ten adults on this trip. The temple told us that we were the largest group that they have ever had. They performed about 350 - 400 baptisms. What a happy day in heaven!! Just want to say "thank you" for allowing us to have this opportunity. We love these youth. We love our members and the people of South Africa. Our life will never be the same - it has been enriched beyond our dreams.

Love, Elder & Sister Bartholomew

Unless you have served with or as couple missionaries, you have absolutely no idea of the great influence and service and strength and example couples can give. I am in awe of our couples - and some of them are on their 2nd missions! For some reason, ever since the last zone conference on Becoming a Consecrated Missionary, there have been Sunday School lessons, and talks, and articles on consecration everywhere! Speaking for myself, I have a very long way to go - but at least this experience is moving me out of my comfort zone - or maybe enlarging it. Everything we can do or give helps: if it is absolutely, definitely, totally, unequivally, undeniably, heartbreakingly impossible for you to serve a fulltime mission, then please help out with donations to PEF, or missionary fund, or temple trips, or email regularly with one of our African elders, or make t-shirt dresses or Primary bags or embroider CTR on headbands, or SOMETHING!
Sorry I'm getting to preachy: I'm talking to my future post-mission self more than to you. I get really mad at myself when I think about the money and time I've wasted the last 40 years (childhood doesn't count), and the really, really, really good it could have done here. So when I grow up I'm going to be more like Sister Bartholomew & Sister Hafen & Sister Sessions & Sister Klingler & Sister Uffens & Sister Johnson & Sister swaziWilson & Sister ladysmithWilson & Sister Markum & Sister Griesemer & Sister Mickelsen & Sister Dibb & Sister Patterson & Sister Baum & Sister Dalebout & Sister Smith & Sister Barnes & Sister Bowen & Sister Ashton & Sister Beazer...

So listen to conference, and your old gogo who loves you,