Tuesday, June 2, 2009

2009 06 07 - We're Now the Oldest in the Mission - or Do I Mean the Most Experienced? No, the Oldest...

Dear Everyone:

This week Elders Chafin and Schaupp finished their missions (extremely well, I might add) and returned home. They originally arrived here just a few weeks before we did, so we are not the "longest playing" missionaries in the mission. It's a strange feeling - second only to the stranger feeling when we we welcomed the first group of missionaries who will still be here when we go home next year. Next transfer it will be our first group of elders who head for home - and that will REALLY make it feel like times running out.

But let's not be morbid...There's still plenty of time to Build the Kingdom and Strengthen the Brotherhood! To say nothing of developing life-long member missionaries and (maybe) a stake or two! Feel free to come out and help... By the way, Elder Ang'ila recently revealed the three questions asked by every elder at transfer time: 1) Where am I going? 2) Who is my new companion and 3) Are there any senior couples there? (Hmmm, is this overkill or what??)

We had four new elders arrive, all from Africa. Next transfer we don't get any at all - a first. The Johannesburg MTC is closed for cleaning in July, so the last two July transfers were all Americans from Provo. We're not getting quite so many Americans now, so I guess they just figured they'd skip us this time. We do have a few American elders coming in the fall, though: that will help out with the driver's licence crisis! And speaking of American missionaries, our good friends Delray and Marsha Maughan finally got their call - we were pulling every string we could get hold of to get them here in the Africa Southeast Area (as Area Medical Adviser) but apparently the Africa West Area needed them more. We're jealous - but the nice thing about the missionary world is that you know everyone goes exactly where they're supposed to. They'll be about as far from us as they can be, and still be on the same continent! I think we measured it on a world map once, and it's as far as the distance from the U.S.-Canadian border, to Peru.

Elder Mwita is our new elder from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He lost his parents when he was young, and spent several years in an orphanage then went to live with an uncle who is a pastor in the Pentecostal Church. While he was living there, he went to free classes to learn English - as taught by missionaries, using "They Shall Have My Words", and the Book of Mormon. Thnkgs progressed, and he gained a testimony and started attending Church. His uncle warned him that it was the church of the devil - to which Elder Mwita responded "But why would devil teach me to keep the commandments?" "Well, the devil knows the commandments, too..." Hmmm. He attended both Pentecostal and LDS services for awhile, to please his uncle, but when he wouldn't give up the Church, his uncle conferred with his fellow church leaders, and then kicked him out of the house. Elder Mwita went to the branch president, who found a member family who took him in. And now he's here - (And Hunter and Morgan didn't want to give up high school...)

So many of the elders here have inspirational stories like that one. The "Wasatch Front" missionaries (myself included!) kind of wish they had one too - but as they see the difficult lives people lead without the gospel, that starts changing to gratitude for NOT knowing how hard life can be! It's not until we get out here that we realize how much we took safe gospel homes for granted. I certainly did: I just thought that was how every family lived! Big surprise!

Saturday Steve went to Johannesburg for the Coastal Coordinating Committee meeting with President Koelliker, President Probst of the Cape Town Mission, and the stake presidents of the two missions. They meet twice a year and work through issues like missionary complements, temple attendance, member missionary work, and all the administrative headaches that are included in running stakes and missions. One of the blessings of the priesthood?

Meanwhile, I was rugby mom and taxi driver. We played Durban High School for their Founder's Day Weekend: Morgan played on U16B, and we won 22-nil. U16A also won, 24-nil. 1st team played at 5pm - "under the lights"! - and won 22-3. The rugby season is winding down, so I'll have to find a really exhausting training program at the gym to keep Morgan busy...

This term the boys have a work/study project for Life Orientation. They have to spend 5 days in a workplace, observing and doing whatever the boss lets them do. It's to help them start looking at careers, but we're finding it a bit hard to find places Hunter & Morgan can actually shadow someone in a career they're interested in: not a lot of NFL and NBA players here! So Morgan is working out a deal with a rugby friend, to go along with him to his dad's office, and Hunter is working in the mission office - he's done one shift so far. He went with Elder Sessions to the panel beaters to pick up a car that had been repaired, and inventoried, according to him, "10,000 things". This could be very useful! The boys will keep a log of when they went, and what they did, and the "businessman" will do a review of their punctuality, willingness, attention to detail, appearance, etc. I've asked Elder Sessions to be the office manager for Hunter's project and do the review. Apparently the school does this project every year - 5 days in grade 10, 10 in grade 11, and 15 in grade 12. Considering you have to do it during school holidays, and most places are closed on Saturdays, it's quite a challenge.

Our weather is swinging from cold to hot to cold to hot, and everyone is getting sick. I know weather doesn't really have anything to do with it - but I always blame it, anyway. I get calls from the elders, and I wish I had an instant, magic pill for them..."take it easy and rest" isn't popular with missionaries who want to be out there teaching - which is nice. I'd be pretty suspicious of any elder who loved that advice! Steve and I and half the WBHS rugby players have all been sick, too. The best part about it...is when it's finally over! So stay healthy, everyone!


ps Anyone else having trouble keeping up with what teenage boys are calling each other? I was just getting used to "Man", "Dude", and "Bro" when they started in with "Dog", "Bru", and now "O". Maybe it originated with "Cheerio" which evolved to "Cheers, Hunter" and " and Cheers, O" and now it's just "O". (Etymology 101)

pps I'm also being "surname" challenged: first we had Schlenker & Schwarting in the office, now try saying this fast: Mbongwe, Mwita, Muhwezi, Mahloko, Mholo, Muthoka, Mutuku, Maxongo; or Ndhlovu, Nganda, Nkele, Nkosi, Ntalime; and we'll soon have Sichinga, Ssesanga, Tsegula.
Oh well, I guess it's a little easier than Andriarimalala, Tojomampionona, Randrianirinaniarivo, & Ravolazafindrafiatra. I'll just stick to "Elder!"

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