Dear Family & Friends about to begin summer vacation:
We are about to begin exams! And winter! (OK, so winter here is pretty easy - just different plants flowering...)
Last Sunday was pretty exciting! The "experiments" are working out. The first ever sacrament meeting in Dundee took place in a restaurant owned by a member in Newcastle, and there were 45 people there! That's more than came to Pinetown Ward last week. AND 22 OTHER people told the elders that they couldn't come last week, but planned to come this week. This is so amazing! A set of elders will be moving into a boarding in Dundee on Monday, so we are officially starting serious missionary work there.
And in Osizweni where they meet in a less-active member's garage, they had 39 people. They'll have to start looking for a school to meet in. Two new branches would be a huge step towards Newcastle District becoming a stake - they already have Newcastle, Madadeni 1 & 2, Ladysmith and Esikhawini. Very cool! (Or should I say humbling, satisfying, inspiring, encouraging, rewarding...or all of the above?)
It's coming on transfer week - and Steve has already called his new assistant, so I'm not giving anything away: it's Elder Ang'ila from Kenya. He's been a zone leader in Swaziland with Elder Wright the last while. And he's the first African assistant since we got here. This is due mostly to the fact we had WAY a majority of American elders at the start. He'll be power. Elder Schwarting can't wait to get out in the field, and was practicing at McDonald's in Richard's Bay after interviews/mini-training. A nice looking group of people was there, obviously interested in the 9 white shirts/ties/blacknametags, so he went over and said hi and started talking to them. Two of them were the son and fiancee (due to be wife #6) of the King of Zululand. They were very friendly and said to drop in when the elders were in their area. Well! So I doubt he'll have too much of an adjustment as he goes back to contacting...we'll miss him, though! And the totally unfamiliar hymns he chooses for office devotional...
We've had the Durban and Hillcrest stake conferences these last few weeks. They were both wonderful, the only downside being that so many people can't come because of transport. Even in our geographically small stakes at home - do you think we'd have a smaller turnout if no one had a car?
Elder Hesbon Usi, a new Area Authority from Kenya, came to Hillcrest today. Elder Sitati, wfrom Nigeria, used to be one of the Area Authorities, but is now in the 1st Quorum of Seventy. It's very nice for the members in Africa to see priesthood leaders from their own countries becoming general Church leaders. It helps them feel their own value, which not everyone has had the opportunity to feel, in the past political climates. ((How's that for non-confrontational comment?)
The conference theme was unity. President Wilford, always a wonderful speaker, told about going straight into 2 years of mandatory military service, straight from high school. One of the first activities for their platoon was running several kms. The soldiers were promised a prize if they won, so they all took off, and came in fast. But there was one soldier who was out-of-shape and slow, and came in last. President Wilford's platoon was called around the corner for their prize: a pile of logs. Each of them had to carry one and run the distance again.
Next day, same run, this time for a "record". The young, fit guys take off fast again, and finish quickly. Naturally, the same slow guy comes in last. Around the corner, pick up your log, and off you go again.
The third day they figured out that this was a group effort with "no man left behind". So they CARRIED the out-of-shape guy, made it in all together, and no more logs.
So we are all left to figure out whether we want to be the fit guys who carry others, or the out-of-shape guy who needs to be carried (possibly through no fault of his own). Any guesses as to which one we're supposed to be?
Another gigantic rugby week has come and gone, as the season is winding down. Morgan went to the final trials for the KZN team. He didn't make it, but 3 of the Westville boys did, including his good friend and fellow prop, Sthe (Stee). I'm actually relieved: it would have meant 3 more rugby practices every week, possibly in Pietermaritzurg (45 minutes away) where most of the team lives. But it would have been fun to go to George and see all the teams play! (Not that I'd have much hope for us against all those big Afrikaans teams!)
It was Founder's Day Weekend at Westville, with all the old boys coming back, and a giant white tent ("full of beer" explains Morgan) on one of the fields. The competition was from KES (King Edward Seventh School), pronounced KEZ, and we hosted 4 of the U16A players overnight on Friday - along with 4 other friends who are usually here on Friday night. Morgan went into good host overdrive and brought extra mattresses over from the mission office (we keep them in the back boarding) and set up beds, and moved around video games... They all spent the evening a Pavilion Mall (dinner and a movie) so it was pretty easy. We gave them breakfast and dropped them off at school Saturday morning. KES is the third-ranked team South Africa, so when both our U16A and 1st teams ended with tie games, we considered them wins! The 1st team tied it up with a kick at the last minute, so it was very exciting. All the boys (in their uniforms or sports kit) ran on the field and chanted one of their school anthems. Nice end to a long day!
The project to replace the water system throughout Durban is continuing - our street has been full of workmen and ditches and piles of dirt for the last few weeks. Yesterday they must have hit a water main, as I passed a very powerful geyser of water shooting up over the road in the afternoon. And something sprung a leak last night, as well: we woke up to no water, and the intersection at the bottom of our hill looked like a river delta, it had so much deep mud in it! But the water was back by the time we got home from conference, so all is well. We always assume it's the workmen, too, when our power goes out unexpectedly. Because it doesn't happen often (at least in Durban) it's kind of fun!
In a lightning change of subject: We are running short on people to email our new African elders. If you are willing to be a reliable electronic penpal for two years, or know someone else who might be - please let me know! The elders love it, and it gives many of them their only email correspondent. It's also a way of supporting missionary work - without leaving your house!
And thanks to all of you who are already helping -
ps One of the elders (Steve can never remember who, when I ask) had a succinct comment about the need for preparation: "The Spirit can't pull anything out if there's nothing in there!"
pps As I drove up the street yesterday I saw flowers (I thought) on the very thorny bush that tries to scratch my car when I pull in and out of the gate. It looked nice, but when I was tempted to investigate more closely (getting stabbed by thorns in the process, it turned out to be a trick - vines from a nicer bush, twining their way around the dangerous one and making it look attractive. There's got to be a zone conference talk in this somewhere...