First, I owe a big apology to Elder Pier, the true originator of the "Two-Mite Day". We have so many good teachers among our senior couples, that I can't always keep track of where the great ideas come from! This particular great idea started out in a district meeting up in Richard's Bay, and ended up in zone conference. Elder Pier told the story of the widow, reminding us that she actually had two mites. It was all she had, and she would have been making a huge sacrifice if she had given one: half of all she had. But she gave both... and serving that way makes it a two-mite day.
Since I updated the blog I have visited two new countries: Zambia and Botswana. The Area Presidency meets with all the mission presidents twice a year for training. The interim meeting includes a day of "relaxation". This is because mission presidents absolutely, categorically, autocratically, cantankerously, stubbornly, and sometimes just plain ornery-ly refuse to take a break unless forced to. We were even told in the MTC that the transfer cycle had been increased from 5 weeks to 6 so mission presidents would have a week to take it a little easier. Hah! Like THAT'S going to happen! Even at the seminar Steve spent a morning typing up notes - and enjoyed it!
Anyway, the training meetings were terrific - The area presidency talked about the 2009 goals for the area, and how things are going (pretty good!). Then each mission president shared things that were working well in their missions - if you guessed that President Mann talked about member missionary work, you're right. I only to hear a few of the mission presidents, as the second day the "wives" split off into our own session, which was way more fun, emotional, uplifting, and creative than the men's session. The Heaps and the Wells did presentations on health and mental wellness in both sessions, and they liked ours WAY better!
I felt just like the elders do at zone conference, when they meet up with the other elders they came out with, as I re-connected with " the class of 2007". Sadly, the DRC is a two-year call, so the Livingstones, who came out with us, will be heading home this July, as will the Packards (Mozambique) whom Steve had worked with previously in their humanitarian efforts, the Gayas (Madagascar) whom we plan to visit in a few years in New Caledonia - which I'd never seriously heard of before - the Besters (Zimbabwe) who live in Johannesburg, and we'll hopefully see occasionally, and President and Sister Parmley, who have been here 5 whole years and known around 30 different mission presidents/wives. This all makes it seem the time is passing even more quickly than before. We're very glad not to be finishing this year (except for missing the family, of course).
The relaxation day included a river cruise and safari in Chobe, a park in Botswana. To get there you go through customs, then take a powerboat across the confluence of the Chobe & Zambezi rivers, where Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe all come together. Hop in a boat and go wherever you want! There were dozens of semi-trucks lined up waiting to drive onto the big barge to cross over - one truck per trip. The local people seemed to be riding over that way, too. Tourists are in too much of a hurry, I guess.
The last day was a testimony meeting, and you can rest assured that the Africa Southeast Area is in good hands - this is an awesome group of mission presidents and leaders. Their biggest problem is figuring out what they can do when they finish and go home, that will feel the least bit as important as what they're doing now. Oh, and where they'll live, in the cases of those who sold or rented their homes - or can't get their children out of them!
One of the wives asked whom we had left in charge of the mission, and I had to think seriously for a minute: I left Sister Sessions all the medical information, in case of illness or injuries, but the elders, district leaders and zone leaders pretty much "govern themselves", and the couples are strategically located and deal beautifully with emergencies. So no worries! Some of the other missions had to delegate more, as it was their transfer week and new missionaries were coming in. Good thing mission presidents have assistants and office staff! We were in the middle of the transfer cycle, so our new elders were arriving at the MTC. In fact, one called Steve's cellphone early Wednesday morning, to find out what time he should go to the airport to catch his plane to Johannesburg! At first Steve couldn't figure out who Elder Mholo was, or what any of our elders were doing flying somewhere. He finally asked the elder where he was calling from, and it all came clear. We still don't know how he got the cellphone number...but it's nice to know that even before they arrive, our elders feel comfortable asking their mission president for advice!
Within an hour of getting back I was driving Hunter to a braii and picking Morgan up from a party. Life certainly goes on... And today it was 3 trips downtown to George Campbell Technical College for rugby (we won), back again to the stadium for the Sharks/Blue Bulls rugby game (they lost) and then back again to pick everyone up. Good thing we relaxed so hard at the seminar!
Thank you yet again to those who have adopted our African missionaries and are emailing them every week - you can't imagine how excited and happy and supported that makes them feel. If you know anyone who would like the blessings of this kind of service, please ask them to email me at email@example.com : we have new arrivals every 6 weeks!
ps A few new South Africanisms: I sometimes dig out material for a talk...Sister Bester "scratches" it out...and is "over the moon" if she finds it. And if I go to a store and they're out of what I want, I can ask at the "till point" and they will "source it" for me.
pps There were vervet monkeys at the lodge, and a few of them liked to make a mad dash into the patio restaurant and steal food off the plates - while we were sitting there eating!