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...