Sunday, April 26, 2009

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!

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