Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Brother Dan Botha of Pinetown Ward, his wife Joan, and one of the nine handcarts he built for the stake youth pioneer trek

2009 08 02 - Rugby, Pioneers, Music & Missionary Work

Dear Family & Friends:

Happy Birthday Chris! You are my favorite son-in-law!

We had an unusual music appreciation in Relief Society this week, which both illustrates how unselfconscious Zulu people are about sharing spiritual thoughts and feelings, and helped me look at a scripture story in a new way. Sister Thandi told the story of the blind man who cried out over the people's objections, so that Jesus would heal him (Mark 10:46-52). Then she sang a very simple song (in Zulu) which I assume was about his plea. The message obviously had a real, personal impact for her, as she had a very hard time getting through it. It was very moving - and got me thinking about having our "spiritual" eyes healed so we can see. I know that it wasn't exactly what the Relief Society Handbook has in mind for music appreciation, but as a testimony, it was wonderful.

Brother Dan (Botha) in Pinetown Ward has built 9 handcarts for the Hillcrest Stake Trek. He wasn't a woodworker in his profession, but took it up after he retired. He has built cabinets and all kinds of things before this. He told me that the man who helped provide resources for building the handcarts runs a "Pioneer Heritage Park" sort of place at Baynesfield, the home of South African pioneer Joseph Baynes (http://www.baynesfieldmuseum.co.za/). It features a museum, working blacksmith & woodcrafters, a dairy, gardens, a house tour, and displays of vintage tractors, a steam engine - and now a handcart with an explanation and picture of the Mormon pioneers! He was very taken with the story of the pioneer trek, so the Church has a new (very mini) visitor's center. Oh, and if you'd like to come, the next big event at Baynesfield is Spring Day - on October 11th!

I'm starting a file of recommendation letters for elders who are gaining experience acting as EMTs and doctors for companions who are injured or ill, and taking trips to the hospital with them. A few that come to mind in the last several weeks: Elder Brusch, Elder England, Elder Reeves, Elder Dygert, Elder Crowther, Elder Lwanga, Elder Schmitz, Elder Waterbohr, and ALL the couples! In addition to our informal missionary doctors, we have a roster of approved hospitals and doctors that we use, and add specialists as the need arises. I saw the dermatologist last week, and he spoke very highly of the missionaries he has known in Chatsworth. Then I told him about the Church's humanitarian efforts, and he told me about the Islamic humanitarian association he belongs to. There is a clinic in Durban that he visits once a month to do free exams and procedures. They have nurses there, and various doctors come in and donate their time and expertise. They are just expanding into a cataract service - they should contact the Nields in Harare for pointers! Eyes for Zimbabwe has done hundreds (maybe thousands!) of free cataract operations over the years!

I had a great time on Monday going to the Sesalos recording studio and watching Elder Nare make a cd. Sister Johnson accompanied him, and Elder Johnson was coach, page turner, and cheer squad. I was impressed by the way Brent, our sound engineer, could replace one or two notes if needed, to make the finished product just right. He told us that none of the cds we buy are "real". There is endless tweaking and correcting to make the performances spectacular. You can click up above to hear one of Elder Nare's songs.

Hunter started pre-season basketball practices this week, just as Morgan is playing his last rugby games. The rugby season is actually over, but they had another match with a visiting team from the UK on Monday. This one wasn't a walkover - it was very fiercely fought! It was a "basket at the buzzer" situation as they made a try right at the end of the game, making the score 18-17 for us, but with the chance of 2 points in the after-try kick. VERY luckily for us the kicker missed... Our kicker had missed almost every kick, too. There really aren't a lot of good kickers on the team - everyone would rather spend their time practising passing and catching so they can make the tries. A good kicker is really a star. (I can't believe I'm talking about sports...what has happened to me!)

Great news, by the way! Neli, Hunter's friend, had her first lesson this week. She had already started reading the Book of Mormon. Her parents aren't interested, but they are willing to let her make her own decision about religion. Near the end of the lesson her two sisters came in and were asking some questions - the elders are hoping they decide to come to the rest, as it would be great support for Neli. She knows a few girls at school who are members, so the next step is to gear up for fellowshipping. Pretty exciting! Wouldn't it be something if Hunter was able to baptize someone before we went home?

Saturday was a Tri-Nations rugby match between the South Africa Springboks and the New Zealand All-Blacks (and no, they're not). The other team in the competition is Australia. We won, 31-19. Hunter and Morgan and several friends all attended the match at the ABSA stadium, in the rain - see photos above. Steve and I each took a load of kids in a van - I drove Morgan's group and Steve drove Hunter's. Afterwards Morgan and some friends took a taxi to a birthday party, one girl was picked up by her dad, and I drove a mix of both groups either home or to our house. Two boys stayed overnight and came to Church with us.

We had dinner Friday night with two of our legal advisers (and their wives) from Johannesburg - Elder Creer, from Utah, and Elder Thompson, who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, then was mission president in New Zealand. Since the New Zealand rugby team was playing here, he planned his meetings in Durban especially for this weekend - too bad! It's always fun to meet new couples, and discover all the people and places we have in common. The Thompsons had recently been to Eagle, and spent some time in Donnelly with friends, and Elder Creer is a cousin of a family in Federal Heights Ward in Salt Lake, where I grew up - among other connections.

Osizweni has grown enough that they are moving out of their original meeting place (a garage) into a school. We're working on a bigger place for Dunde (currently in a hair salon/cafe) too. The Kingdom is growing!

ps Grandma Wilford has a new great-grandson: Shelly & Francois Viljoen had a son they named Xander.

ps Everyone who comes to the mission office pulls into the driveway, then has their companion back them out. I'm not so great at backing out the gate, so I pull into a double parking space next to the mission home, then back around the corner of the house and drive out forwards. The last few weeks while Elder Sessions has been trading old cars for new cars, there has been a car parked in the other half of my parking space, so I've had to be very careful backing out. Ironically, now that it's gone and I have twice as much room, I'm having a harder time! There's too much room, and I pull into the middle and have to do more pulling up and straightening to get out without backing into the wall. I guess that's why the path to heaven is both straight and narrow - it helps you pay attention.

pps Matthew 9:37-38: Please read if you are a couple looking for something to do...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Elder & Sister Klingler are making a real contribution to the people of Newcastle: they've been burgled twice

I'm envious of Elders McColgan & Reese - they only listen to classical music: of course they ARE missing all that great rap, house, WWE themes...

2009 07 26 - School's Back in Session - Hurray!

Dear Everyone:
I am working at home this week while Steve and the Assistants do the interview/skills training loop. They're doing it faster than usual, as August has both a mission tour with Elder Koelliker, and a couples conference. And another zone conference. This means there are more interviews every day than usual, so Steve really gets worn out. Maybe he can take a break...after we go home?

The boys and their friends are using a new slang expression. With huge apologies to my son, and brother, and father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather, and Steve's grandfather: Lately, when someone says something foolish, the boys all start laughing and say "That's George!" or possibly "That's making George!" Do you have that in America?
Sister Johnson has scheduled the recording session for Elder Nare, our opera singing missionary. He'll be doing six songs, ranging from sacred to opera to Christmas. The man who set it up for us at Sesalos Recordings has a blogspot (doesn't everyone?) and he mentions some of the companies he has worked with. Ready for a little irony? One of them is the infamous "Grindrod"! I expect next that Sister Sessions will be submitting a baptismal record for Boltt Njabulo Grindrod...

Today I had an actual missionary moment, thanks to Elders Summers and Swenson. Lucia, sister to Jubz' girlfriend Neli, called to ask for help with a school paper. They are writing on different cultures/religions and she chose the Mormon culture(!). I picked Neli and Lucia up in Kloof and met the elders at Hillcrest chapel. They gave the girls a tour, and taught them a lot of gospel principles. I don't often get to hear our missionaries in action; they did a wonderful job. Neli asked how someone her age learns more about the Church - that's a question we like! Hopefully the elders will get a chance to talk to her parents, and either teach the whole family or just the girls. I know our emphasis is rings and spears (families or potential priesthood) but when the young women are your kids' friends, you tend to lean towards an exception. Jubz has been reading the Book of Mormon, and goes to Youth (mutual) all the time. Who knows where all this may lead?

Also today Steve got a letter from Elder Machawe Shongwe, one of the missionaries out from our mission, serving in the Zimbabwe Harare Mission. Here is just a tiny piece of it: "Three months ago I was called as a zone leader and I felt that I was so inadequate...For me it was a surprise, and I took all my weakness to my Saviour...I asked the Lord for revelations because Nephi and Lehi were entitled to revelations daily (Helamen 11:23). I have had sleepless nights because revelations kept on coming..." There are wonderful missionaries serving in the Church these days. They know why they're here, and where to go for guidance. I feel like a new, inexperienced convert when I hear some of their experiences and testimonies.

Some of you may still be thinking of South Africa as a quiet, third-world country. Au contraire! I've been reading the signs they put up on the poles along the road, advertising events. These few months, among many other things, you could have attended the 55-mile Comrades Marathon, several surfing competitions, professional rugby and soccer games; a country fair, a White Elephant & Pre-Loved clothing Sale at the Presbyterian Church, a (very small) circus at Westwood Mall; productions such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Queens of Comedy, Salsa Sizzle, Boy Bands of the 60's; Boat & Lifestyle/Food & Good Wine/Eastern Bridal Fair events; Fundraising Concert for Islamic Service organization; Jazz at the Lake at the Botanical Garden, the Durban in July horse races, a lecture on self-enlightenment; a rally featuring President Jacob Zuma; AND the Richards Bay Roadshows, a Pioneer Day Satellite Broadcast, and a variety of Mormon Helping Hands service projects. We know how to party here in Africa.

I have learned a few things the last week or two - nothing eternal, like how to hie to Kolob - but interesting:
1. A tiny fuse can make a large, heavy gate stop moving - or start moving.
2. If Woolworth's is having trouble deciding on the price of Hershey's chocolate sauce, they won't sell it to you.
3. Paying a group of boys R10 each to take a survey does not ensure that the one boy you REALLY wanted to take the survey will take it.
4. Even though the runners for a sliding drawer are priced separately, you have to buy two.
5. Alternatively, a clerk in a camera store can be nice enough to let you take your 101 8x10 photos of the all-zone conference home with you with only a small cash downpayment, if her credit card machine isn't working.
6. Someone has determined that my ancestress Sarah Strait was actually the daughter of John Strait, and not Johan Streit. The men lived 5 miles apart, and Johan gave us some German heritage. Of course all the sealings were done long ago, and some of my family have even visited the graves of some of our (maybe) Streit ancestors. Not much I can do about it at the moment, but I'm looking forward even more to the millenium when our ancestors will hopefully be helping out the research a little.
7. And on the same subject, I looked up some of the family records when I got the news. You know, it's not very helpful when the death date for a person on your family group sheet just says "dead".
8. One set of escalators at Pavilion Mall runs backwards. At every other set of escalators, the one you would use is on the left. (Yours are probably on the right, like traffic flow.) But to go down to the movies in the basement, on level 0, you take the right hand escalator.
9. At St. Augustine's (aw-GUS-tun's) hospital, level 5 in the South Block means going five floors down instead of 5 floors up. The hospital is built on a hill (of course, this is Durban) and the top floor of South Block connects by a tunnel to the ground floor (level 0) of the main hospital.
10. When Zulu children count with their fingers, they start with their pinky finger as 1, and progress to the thumb as 5. This makes teaching fingering on a keyboard a little difficult, as it's all 1, 2, 3, etc. starting with the thumb.
11.. Pedestrians let the taxi drivers know where they are going through hand signals. For example, if you hold up your index finger and move it up and down, you are waiting for a taxi that is going to town. The drivers also make signals to explain where they are headed, by hanging their arms down out the window and making hand motions. I don't think any of the hand motions are only rude gestures, but then, my hands don't speak Zulu.
12. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. Oh wait! I knew that already!


ps I'm not sure I can fit my life, Steve's life, Hunter's life and Morgan's life all into one Saturday. Today it meant:
Mission Home -Pavilion - Mission Home
Mission Home - Pavilion - Mission Home
Mission Home - Pavilion - Pinetown - Pavilion - Mission Home
Mission Home - Pavilion - Mission Home
Mission Home - Kloof - wandering lost around Kloof in the dark - Mission Home
Mission Home - Pavilion - Mission Home
Steve drives longer distances, but I get to more places!

pps It snowed in Newcastle Friday night!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 07 19 - All Zone Conference & A Farewell to the first missionary group we met at the airport

Dear Everyone:
This week has been more like a week and a half! Even with no new missionaries coming in (first time ever) it was hectic! The Assistants did all the sleeping arrangements, thank goodness: the elders from Margate, Stanger, Pietermaritzurg and the Districts all stayed here over Wednesday night, bunking with other elders. The couples stay at B&Bs - there is a real competition to get into Little Haven, run by Grace and Vic Rawlings of Pinetown Ward!

Margie Nicholson from Hillcrest, who cooks for the transfer dinners, did the catering. Due to a misunderstanding (she's going to Melbourne Australia on August 15th, and I thought she said July 15th) I had her make lasagnes, thinking she could make them ahead and we could cook or reheat them at the mission home, the Sessions, Markums, Griesemers, and office elders boardings. By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late, so we did some extra running around getting them all hot and back to Pinetown chapel.

When I stopped at the mission home to pick up my four lasagnes, the gate blew and fuse and the boys and I were locked in until Steve and Elder Sessions zipped over and took it apart. It's very heavy, but with Hunter and Morgan's help they got it off it's track and moved over. I got there just in time for dinner.

But that wasn't the only franticness (frantictude? franticality?). I also had Morgan to run back and forth to rugby practice, and both boys to their "social" commitments...and then there were the three trips to the hospital... Elder Dimene, from Mozambique, has been here 3 months, working in Swaziland. This last week his companion, Elder England, called to tell me he was ill and wouldn't admit it (I could hear Elder Dimene in the background shouting "I'm fine, Sister Mann!"). One night Elder Dimene had chills and a fever, then the next night he was fine, then another night of chills. Well, the zone conference started at 1pm on Wednesday, and at 1:45 Elder swaziWilson was telling me about Elder Dimene - laying on the floor of a classroom, wrapped up in his blanket, shivering and shaking. Elder Wilson, Morgan and I took him at once to Westville Hospital, where they put him in bed, took his temperature (104 f or 40 c) and hooked up an IV (did I mention he hates needles so much he once jumped out of a window (as a child) to avoid a shot?). Then they took blood for some tests they would take 3 or 4 hours. Elder Wilson stayed with him while Morgan and I did a few tasks and returned to the conference, where the wonderful wonderful couples had already sorted the afternoon snack. They are terrific at pitching up when help is needed!

I went back to the hospital later; no results yet, but he's looking and feeling way better. His temperature had dropped a few degrees, too. Back to the mission home to put in lasagnes; back to the mall (next to the hospital) to drop off Jubz to meet Hunter, already there; back to the conference; back to the mission home, where I ended up locked in; back to the conference to help the couples put out the dinner, which they then facilitated while I went back to the hospital.
The diagnosis was dormant malaria. Elder Dimene had experienced chills like this a few times before, at home, but never gone in to have it checked. We got some anti-biotics, checked him out, and caught the last few minutes of the testimony meeting before everyone separated for the night. (At least we can still say no one has contracted malaria in the mission!) Then I picked up the boys from the mall.

Thursday we started at 8am, with sports at 10, lunch at 12:30, and everyone heading for their areas except the zone leaders, who stayed for zone leader council on Friday. And, of course, the five departing missionaries, who stayed for interviews and the farewell dinner and a wonderful testimony meeting. I was so impressed with the stories they shared about following the Spirit and finding families, and the experiences investigators had as they moved through the conversion process. It was a far cry from the young missionaries who got off the plane, straight from the Provo MTC and kept dozing off during the orientation meetings. We have shared a lot of memories with these elders: it was very hard to tell them all goodbye.

During the conference the elders rotated through three workshops taught by Steve and Elders Ang'ila and Vance. They focused on the processes of Preparation, Finding and Retention. The ideas and suggestions that came out of these sessions will be added to the material that has already been put together, and with the Conversion Process material worked on last zone conference, will make up The Versatile Missionary booklet. Our missionaries really have a lot of good experience to share. And with 25 going home over these 3 transfers, we didn't want to lose that wisdom.

Saturday we collapsed, watched Morgan's rugby team beat a team from the UK 19-nil, went to Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, and had 3 hours of quiet in the house while Hunter was at a braai and Morgan was "chilling" with friends. This week Steve and the Assistants will start the interview/skill training cycle (focusing on Area Books) as they need to finish in time for the Mission Tour with Elder and Sister Koelliker in August. The fun just never stops - come join us!


ps I finally figured out why I walk over to the office and can't remember what I came for: I've caught a local disease - Alzuluheimer's

pps Our IT specialist downplayed the latest problem my computer developed by saying it "just had its knickers in a twist". Not an expression you hear all the time - but Ron Weasley useds it in the latest Harry Potter. We are so cutting edge here!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

People Going to Church - look closely at the open dorr of the truck: it was packed with people

Hayley & Grandma - 4th of July in Parma

Brody as cow...well, it IS Amarillo...

Gertrude brought her kids when she cleaned the office Friday (school holidays):Gertrude & Nellie, her twins & and friend playing Mario Kart on the Wii

2009 07 12 - Every Day is Different

Dear Everyone:
Nakapenda! That's our new mission phrase - it's Swahili for "I love you". Try it out on everyone you know.
Steve just finished the interview/skill training cycle, and as part of their work experiences, both Hunter and Morgan attended a skill training. I had an ulterior motive: the topic was getting along better with your companion. Hunter went to one first, so when he got back, I asked him how it was. He said it was good. So I suggested he could use some of it with Morgan. "He's not a missionary." Well, the same skills apply to all relationships. "He doesn't have the skills." Well, maybe YOU could use the skills... Oh well, it was a nice try!
Morgan does his office work this week, as he was at the beach in Salt Rock with a friend's family the last few days. It's a beautiful beach, with rocks and tide pools. There are some manmade pools for kids to play in, that are covered at high tide so the water stays fresh - if you can use that term about seawater? As you can see in the pictures, the area is mostly condos. The "forest" area has a few houses and cottages, and that's where Morgan stayed. Very nice! He didn't stay as long as he could have, however, as his friend Josh likes to fish from the beach, and Morgan found that bo--ring! Morgan doesn't play in the water, either: he just went for the socializing.
And speaking of socializing, there was a combined mission presidency/district presidency meeting this week. I love it when these happen, as the wives all come, and there's lots of visiting and storytelling. Sister Bartholomew had a great story out of Empangeni, a little branch in Richard's Bay (and forgive me, elders, if I have any of the details wrong). A new, older lady stood up in fast and testimony meeting. First she sang a hymn (not one of ours) and the congregation all joined in. But then she bore her testimony, and it was amazing. She had a granddaughter who was being taught by the missionaries last year. but before she could be baptized she passed away . Her family hadn't liked her interest in the Church, so although a few Church members were allowed to attend her funeral, it was all Zulu traditional. Because of her daughter's death, the "Ma" started thinking about the plan of salvation. Elders Schlenker, Babeeyo, and Mholo began teaching her the gospel. Recently, the gogo (grandmother) joined in the lessons, as well as a son.
The gogo is the one who bore her testimony. She said she had been to a lot of churches over the years, but she loved our Church and wanted to become a member. Good example of seeds being planted, and elders never knowing the final harvest. And this probably isn't final, either, as gogos have a great deal of influence, and many of the members of the Church here were first contacted by a gogo. (By the way, singing your testimony is not actually part of the program here. Nor is the "Allelujah! Praise the Lord!" which was pronounced by one of the members after her testimony. It takes awhile to teach the gospel culture.)
This sister explained that she had attended many Churches throughout her life, but she loved our Church, and wanted to be baptized. She could now understand why it had been so important to her daughter.
I have a new medical emergency to add to my list: while doing service on Saturday, Elder Basooma was hit on the head by a pickaxe (I think I saw the movie...). He is fine, but they kept him in the hospital overnight for observation. He wasn't lonely, though. I took him, with Elder Brush to the hospital, and later Steve came over to give him a blessing. Elders Ang'ila and Anderson came from the office to take Elder Brusch back the boarding for Elder Ang'ila clothes, scriptures, etc.
While waiting for them in the lobby, Elders Parry & Summers walked in. They had been doing service, where they met the neighbor of a member. His wife had a baby 11 days ago, and had just been admitted back into the hospital with complications. After some discussion, he asked the elders to give her a blessing. They said it was a really special experience. So they stopped by. The Sessions also came to visit in the evening, so I don't think Elder Basooma was too lonely!
It occurs to me that our five elders going home this week are having a last lesson in the unpredicability of life. One with an injured companion; one with what is practically walking pneumonia which he won't admit, because he wants to work hard until the very last minute; one in a fender bender in one of the new cars (!). I won't be surprised if I hear two more stories in the next few days. Mission life is full of surprises!
This week is our all-zone conference, and I'll finally have a chance to meet Elder and Sister Knudsen, who arrived while I was in Utah and were immediately whisked off to Newcastle. We have no incoming missionaries (first time ever) so it makes the week a little easier. As usual, this will be a zone conference where there's a little from the President, and a lot from the elders. Last zone conference they discussed and gave input for training material on the conversion process. This time it will be finding, preparation and retention. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from the experienced missionaries, and we don't want to lose it and have to start all over with each new group. Some of it is very mission-specific, such as it's ok to go to the back door instead of the front door of a Zulu home, but most of it would apply for any missionary. It's the last booklet (I'm told!) and will be called The Versatile Missionary. (For an excellent example of a truly versatile missionary, read the epistles of Paul.)
So in that spirit, I can only say Philippians 1:1-6.

ps In case anyone was worrying about Boltt Grindrod, I learned from a local that it's a delivery company. Very disappointing.