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,