Today was the annual Comrades Marathon, with competitors running from Pietermaritzburg to Durban - 56 miles! It's in memory of fallen comrades in World War I, and has been run every year (except 1941-1945) since 1921. For more information, check out the Comrades website at http://www.comrades.com/public_html/index.htm
The reason I mention this is because part of it is run on the M13 highway we take to Church in Pinetown, which will therefore be closed most of the day, along with many other roads that members travel. So instead of a 9am to noon block, we had sacrament meeting only, at 4pm: Pinetown Ward's first ever "evening service". The race started at 5:30 am, and when we went to Church the last runners were still in Westville, which is 10k or so from the finish line at the Sahara Stadium in Durban. A lot of people got stuck trying to get to Church and never made it - and we got detoured on the way home. I have to admire runners who are still moving after running/walking continually for 12 hours!
Elders Lemmon, Muhwezi & Anderson were our (excellent) speakers in sacrament meeting. Elder Anderson referenced a talk by President Faust in the April 1996 priesthood session of conference:
"The Lord said, 'He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' If you will lose yourself in missionary service, you will find indescribable joy."
I really noticed it because last week our missionary couple in Newcastle, Elder & Sister Klingler, had their boarding robbed - for the second time in not very long. Their computer was taken both times, the first time being absolutely horrible because it had all their mission pictures, journals, etc. After this second home invasion, they were ready to move to another boarding, or even just go back home. Then Saturday the Young Women asked them to deliver quilts they had made to the children at an orphanage. They weren't too excited, but did it, and by the time they had given out the quilts and spent time with those children, they felt completely at peace and anxious to continue on with their mission. It was an unexpected miracle - and an example of how sadness can be replaced by "indescribable joy" when you're in the Lord's service.
And yes, that's a HUGE, OBVIOUS hint!!
And now for sports!
There has been a lot of rugby this week. Morgan, having missed Friday and Monday 2 weeks ago for the Parktown Tour, and then taking a day off "just because" (somebody always skips a day of school when we are away!), missed Tuesday last week for another set of Rugby Trials, on the way to choosing the KZN (provincial) U16 team. He will also miss Tuesday this week, as he plays in what I believe is the last set of trials. Ironically, he is being helped out by the fact that the KZN team has to have a quota of black players ... but apparently they don't have to be Zulu, or even South African! For once, his favorite song lyrics are true: "Is it because I'm black?"
We were up in Pietermaritzburg (again!) for the regular school rugby games Saturday. Sadly, Morgan's teams lost (he played for both the A and B sides), but the 1st team won, 3-0. It was Founder's Day Weekend (homecoming) and the game was televised, so that cheered Morgan up now now. By the way, have I ever mentioned how much laundry a rugby game makes? The boys wear full school uniforms to the game, white polos & white shorts for warm-up, striped jerseys for the game, and sometimes their track suits between games.
Hunter, who rejects rugby for basketball, drove up with us, and had to wait in Mpumulanga while Steve did a baptismal interview. I got out of the car and took pictures (see above) because I don't really get into the townships much, and I know you all want to know where the elders are every day. Hunter stayed in the car, because both of the boys think the townships are ghetto and dangerous. That's the trouble with raising kids in a very nice neighborhood... must have made it fun for Logan in Jamaica on his mission!
Elder and Sister Johnson and Elders Terry, Moremong, Swenson, Muthoka, McColgan & Mahloko ran a ward activity in Umlazi W yesterday. The participants moved through the plan of salvation, and if you made it to the Celestial Kingdom you got a brownie. In the Terrestrial Kingdom it was a few pieces of candy, and the Telestial Kingdom was one cheese puff. But everyone got refreshments afterwards. It's a lot of work teaching people how to put together a fun activity for their wards and branches - but it surely pulls them together. It's great to hear the youth, especially, talk about activities, and youth convention, and camp (where they have one) during fast and testimony meetings after the event. There aren't enough activities here for anyone to take them for granted or feel overscheduled.
Happy Memorial Day, by the way! We spent a lot of years putting our ski boat in the water in McCall on Memorial Day weekend - but this is better. Hayley is off yet again, this time to Jackson Hole with Parker for the weekend. I cannot imagine where that girl got her yen for wandering...
Torry and Chris, in the meantime, are taking Eva and Brody to every place of interest within 4 or 5 hours of Amarillo. She remembers our years in California, where we visited state parks, national parks, amusement parks, garlic festivals, pumpkin festivals, beaches, and anything else we could find in the "California tourist book". And now she has her own Texas tourist book! It's nice to see the upcoming generation continuing important family traditions.
Steve and the assistants are in the throes of interviews and mini-training - they're doubling up because of our being gone last week. There were 18 interviews in Newcastle and Ladysmith on Wednesday, plus a few temple recommend interviews. Given this is Steve's first calling where he did much interviewing, he's getting it down pretty good. I guess it's a sign that the elders are very comfortable with him that some of them would talk all day, given the opportunity! It's nice to be in a mission that's small enough that Steve can get around to all the missionaries, and see them twice a month at least. He hardly remembers any interviews with his own mission president in Germany. 98 missionaries is manageable, too - it's got to be so hard for missions like Johannesburg that are so spread out and have 160 or so missionaries!
And if you can be in the middle of two throes at once, we are. We're working on zone conference training that will help the missionaries to better apply the things they learn in Preach My Gospel more directly in their work. Steve wrote up the first draft and worked it over a little with the assistants, then Elder Anderson (our financial secretary/graphic designer) and I got involved about draft C. My job is to "slash and burn" the text and simplify it down. The assistants are cross-referencing with Preach My Gospel, and Elder Anderson is helping with design, for yes, this will undoubtedly end up in yet another booklet. (I actually love all our booklets - they are so much easier to use than a lot of A4 sheets in a binder.)
So, have a great week, and I'll be back next weekend!
ps Just for the record, the McDonald's in Pietermaritzburg is on Burger Street.
pps And I was disappointed to learn this week that the girl at the till point is not called a tiller - she's a cashier, just like at home.
ppps In case it ever comes up, if you're in a shop with a Muslim shop owner, and there is a small carpet on the floor, DON'T STEP ON IT! It could be his prayer rug. (Don't even ask...)