We've just completed our zone conference cycle, and I wish you could all have been here. The topic continued with Being a Consecrated Missionary part II (and in the words of Elder Schwarting): This Time It's Personal... The ladysmithWilsons had helped us out with a photo/caption presentation on President Monson, so we started with becoming more familiar with our "consecrated prophet". Then Elder & Sister Sessions put taking care of cars and boardings into context as stewardships from the Lord, and it was impressive. The second section was talks by elders in the zones, concerning consecration, what the Book of Mormon means to them, working with member missionaries, and miracle stories. As our missionaries express it: It was power!
I learned a new term from Elder Zeeman's talk: consecration points. He went through his companionships and shared what he had learned from each companion about consecration. Elder Moreno's "consecration points" were being fearless, and having charity; Elder Hart has a love of the commandments; Elder Rothenberger is always positive, and strives to be a master teacher; and Elder Tandberg's consecration point is putting away pride: winning souls, not arguments. It was a great way to teach a lesson and give credit to some fine elders, all at the same time.
A different group of elders spoke in each zone, and they were all inspiring - and very different from each other. Elder Kono was extremely articulate - he began by quoting Winston Churchill; Elder Otieno told stories about working with Elders Potter, Hamilton, Hansen. On one occasion the elders went to make arrangements to teach at a school, and had to wait in the headmaster's office while he tried to deal with a girl who was having some kind of a fit or emotional "event". She was kicking, and screaming and yelling, and no one could do anything with her. Her parents were out of reach in another town, they were afraid to try to transport her in a car while she was so violent. So the headmaster asked the elders to do something - like pray - and they did, and she calmed down. They later went back to the school and taught 1000 students about Strength of Youth.
Elder Sprague is experienced in construction, so he spearheads a lot of service that involves tiling floors, and roofs, etc. The people receiving the service don't always choose to learn about the gospel - but some of their neighbors do! And I have to mention Elder Richey: he was so-o-o excited to have the opportunity to speak at zone conference -these elders just love to teach!
It's always interesting organizing lunch for 40 to 50 missionaries. There are a few pizza restaurants around the mission who are very fond of missionaries, as they get a call every 6 weeks for 25 or 30 pizzas! We start at 9am, and by around 10 my talk is usually over, so I go out and call the lucky pizza franchise (Roman's for choice, Scooter's & Debonair in places where Roman's is not available). First I have to count up the number of conference attendees; multiply by 5 or 6 slices per missionary (depending on the kind of pizza - Roman's is particularly substantial); divide by 8 slices in a large pizza, to get my number of pizzas. Roman's sells their pizzas 2 to a double-sized box, so I have to be sure to order an even number in Newcastle and Hillcrest. I usually ask for a 12:15 delivery, but I'm not sure I've ever had one: 12, 12:30, even 1:00 are pretty common. From around noon on I'm hovering around watching for the deliveryman, so I can open the gate to the Church.
Prior to the start of the conference the elders set up tables and chairs: 6 to a table, plus 2 serving tables - except of course in Hillcrest, where the tables are set up after the meeting in the back of the "chapel", and there are only 4 long tables, so a few people eat on their laps. And in Swazi, when we have a conference there, because with only 8 or 10 elders we sometimes just go to Spar or the Great Taipei (shhhhh....). I haul a big bag full of tablecloths with me, as well 3 plastic pitchers, paper plates, cups, napkins and black trash bags. Also a giant bowl for apples, and something for dessert. Here the couplesisters are very helpful, as they are always willing to bring brownies or whatever. (In Newcastle, when there were 3 couples, we even had home-made crockpot Sloppy Joes several times, instead of pizza. Those were really nice lunches...)
It's always essential to tell the elders EXACTLY how many slices of pizza they each get, otherwise the last in line get zero. It's every elder for himself when it comes to food. And it seems like the skinniest elders eat the most! I wish I could package their fast metabolisms - I could make a fortune! As they go through the line, the sisters help me whisk away the empty boxes and open up the new ones (which we are now bringing back to the office to recycle: the South Africa Durban Mission has gone green). We also tend to whisk off the tablecloths as soon as the elders finish eating, to give them the hint that it's time to head back out to their areas. I'm working on the trick where you pull the tablecloth out without disturbing the dishes, but it's hard with paper plates... And then it's pack everything up for the next day, buy more apples/plates/cups or whatever has run out, and start over again.
The other item that always needs organizing when we have do the zone conference loop is transportation for Hunter and Morgan while we're gone overnight to Newcastle. They have 6am seminary (elders don't even get up until 6:30!), and need to get from there to school, and home from school, or rugby, and to youth or whatever is going on that day, and back again... Elder & Sister Sessions are a lot of help, but they came to all the zone conferences this time, so the office elders pitched up. Unfortunately, Elder Lemmon is still in a leg brace, so 5 don't fit very well in a mission car (we have an office threesome just now) so it takes a little trickiness to make it all happen.
And speaking of Hunter and Morgan, we had a braii Friday night - 12 officially invited. (I always get a basic number, for food and drink purposes. The latecomers just don't get any!) We ended up with 25 or 30, of course, as the kids get on mix-it (cellphone chat) and the word spreads. Some older boys tried to crash, and were smoking out front, outside the fence. (Time to put up Word of Wisdom posters and hand out Strength of Youth pamphlets.) The boys, and their "regulars" are very good about evicting anyone who acts inappropriately. By the way, there are lots of cute girls in South Africa! And even boys at an all-boy high school seem to have no trouble finding them!
Speaking of "regulars": Jubz got mugged Friday walking to his apartment complex. Three guys with a knife jumped him and took his money & cellphone (the one he was borrowing from us - does that mean that technically WE got mugged, too?). They were going to take his flat, technical drawing bag, thinking it had a laptop in it, but he was able to talk them out of it. This incident, of course, lends additional weight to the "Mom, can you give Jubz/Sthe/Langa/Nellie/Wetu/Ana/Jono/David/Peter/Keighan/Danga/... a ride home?"
Saturday was my usual transport service: Group Morgan to and from Pinetown and to the Sharks rugby game in Durban; Group Hunter to and from Gateway Mall, in Umhlanga, and to Kloof; Group M back from the Sharks game. Plus grocery, Pavilion Mall & petrol runs. Meanwhile Steve was doing interviews, unusual for a Saturday, so he will have the week of the 11th free to go to the Mission Presidents' Seminar in Zambia.
Hunter is back in the swing of basketball, and putting a smile on the coach's face. Unfortunately, it's offseason, so these are just sports period games, but he's enjoying the attention. Morgan gets lots for rugby, as you can imagine, so there's a little sibling rivalry in the house. Who would purposely choose to have two boys exactly the same age, anyway???
This week coming up is interviews and skill training - assuming Elders Vance and Schwarting can get over their colds. Hunter is convinced it's Swine Flu ("Do I have it? Will I get it? How do you know?") but I told him that in South Africa it would be Wart Hog Flu, and they haven't identified any cases of that, yet. Unfortunately, they have found one case of Swine Flu, so Hunter is keeping his eye on the reports. (For those who don't know him, Hunter is convinced he is going to catch everything that's going - even though he hasn't ever caught anything!)
Well, that's it for now. Enjoy the first week of May - I hear the weather is not exactly idyllic back home: it's lovely here!
ps on the serious side, President Bricknell of the Durban Stake has a great description of the atonement "deal": We give everything we have, for everything He has.
Pretty good deal.