Monday, August 24, 2009

Hambani kahle to Elders Parker, Devenish, Maxongo, Fowler, Hart, Waterbohr, Kiserema, Schwarting, Feliciano & Taaga

Sanibona to Elders Armstrong, Tsegula, Christopher, Nganda, Vinson, Ssesanga, Ndhlovu, Skinner & Niemand

Elders Dumingu Lupwayi & Clark shaking hands in the 3-part township handshake

Elder Vance heads out to Bluff, as Elder Mbithi comes in as assistant (they both look older now, by the way - these are their arrival photos)

Elder Brinkman saves the mission k's (that means he's driving smart and saving mileage)

2009 08 30 - Newcastle District Conference & Transfers: 10 for 9

Dear Family & Friends:
After a transfer "respite" in July, we're gearing up for major changes over the next few months. This week we got 9 new potentially powerful missionaries, and sent home 10 powerfully prepared Church leaders. Next transfer is 9 out and 15 in - half the mission will be training or being trained. (Now if we could only get 15 couples...)
Transfer week, as always, was complicated and full of surprises. Everything seems to hit during transfer week. We picked up the new elders, as usual, on Wednesday morning. We don't have a bakkie in the office right now, so we flattened out the seats in my Kia Sedona, for luggage, took a car and the mission van, so we could transport everyone. Great group of missionaries (again! We are so fortunate!) Elder Skinner is from Meridian, and has been attending the singles ward in our stake at home - with our favorite almostareamedicaladviser Delray Maughan as part of his bishopric. Thank you, Delray & Marsha, for such a prepared elder!
I love the way the elders express themselves - they are very direct! At the testimony meeting Wednesday night, Elder Ndhlovu expressed the universal attitude of these new missionaries when he said "Missionaries need to go the extra mile. We will run until our legs fall off...crawl if we have to. And the Lord will bless us."
One of our new African elders was living with an uncle, who couldn't provide for him, so he pretty much took care of himself from the age of 9. Then his mother came back into the area with his younger brothers, and he helped take care of them, too. He never got much schooling, but assisted one of his brothers to finish. These young men are really amazing.
They do have a few things to learn, however! Some of them helped clear their dishes at breakfast on Thursday, then they all sat in the testimony room (front room, lounge) while I went in and out clearing up the rest. When I was all done, I went back him with their first "Mission Mom Moment." I explained that when they have dinner appointments, although we hope the members will refuse, they should always offer to help with the dishes. You wouldn't believe (well, maybe you would) how many showed up in the kitchen after that asking to help! I took advantage of it, too... They brought in the 2 patio tables and set up 22 places for the farewell dinner Thursday night. Did a good job, too.
I had one other "Mission Mom Moment" that morning as they heade out for the transfer meeting. I had a Kia full of luggage, again, so a few of them went with two of the office elders. The other office elder, who shall remain nameless, took the rest in the mission van. As I waited to pull out, he backed past me towards the gate - with no one backing him out. Now, you need to understand that 1) It's a big van and a narrow gate, and 2) It is absolutely required to have your companion back you out (and even when they do, we sometimes have accidents - backing into poles and walls is particularly popular) and 3) He was driving 7 brand-new elders who were watching everything he did. I jumped out and flagged him down, asked where his backer was, pointed out to the new elders that you never, ever, ever back up without a backer, and backed him out.
Of course, I then backed up with no backer, to drive out the gate frontways, but I have a sensor that beeps at me if I get close to anything. And by the way, I love the way the elders pay attention to my comments - it's such a nice change from Hunter & Morgan!
The transfer meeting ALMOST got a little too hilarious - I don't know if that's because of the missionaries who were leaving, or because with a big transfer there were over 70 elders there. Elder Feliciano got his Preach My Gospel Missionary Award - after working all night with his companion, Elder Kwendo, to finish the last requirements. And Elder Taaga took the opportunity to add a few comments when Steve introduced Elder Nkambule, one of the young men serving a six-week "mini mission". I wish I could quote him exactly, but basically he explained that he met Elder Nkambule (whom he later taught, and baptized) in a dangerous area that he and his companion probably shouldn't have been in. Elder Nkambule was the only young man in a group of ten who DIDN'T want to stab them... I hope I get the rest of that story sometime...or maybe not.
Interestingly, one of the biggest challenges of this transfer was transportation. There were so many elders who had to get so many places! Two bakkies had to go in to have bike racks put on, leaving those two loads of elders stranded; a car was backed (!) into a wall, putting it out of commission and into the panelbeaters - two more elders stranded; 10 elders and their luggage had to get TO the Pinetown chapel, 10 elders and their luggage (and after 2 years there is WAY more luggage!) had to get to the office; a lot of elders needed rides to McDonald's in Pinetown (traditional lunching place after transfer meetings); two of the vehicles I drove ran out of gas (not literally) so I had to stop at the petrol station - twice; 2 elders went to the airport at 6am, and 7 more at 7am; plus picking bakkies and cars back up from the panelbeaters... They should include logistics at the Mission Presidents Seminar at the MTC. Or maybe they didn't want to scare us?
Oh, and did I mention that the usual dropofftheboys-pickuptheboys-taketheboystogym-picktheboysup-taketheboysandtheirfriendstoyouth-picktheboysupandtakethefriendshome
(to New Germany) stuff was still going on, too? (I will NEVER get the Car Par Award.)Plus a stream of boys, elders, and even Steve getting haircuts at the mission home after school on Friday - John from DRC comes here every other week, and his clientele is growing!
So, Steve and the Assistants left early Saturday morning for Newcastle (District Conference)where I will join them, while Elders Lemmon and Emaneke take over the taxi service for the boys and their friends. I am leaving the (comfortable) Kia, although Elder Ang'ila tried desperately to trade it for the (uncomfortable) Vivaro. Driving only the automatics gives me a great excuse, although to be honest, I drove a van that was a standard in Harare. Elder Sessions doesn't seem to want to risk it here! Ah, my reputation, my reputation...
As we are getting new missionaries again (skipping a transfer is SO weird! It felt like forever!) I want to thank you wonderful adopters for stepping up to support them. I think I'm covered until they start coming after the first of the year. Please be especially faithful emailing during the holidays - it's fun, too, to have the Primary children write letters or draw pictures and send them. Take pictures of any ward activities, too, and tell your elder about them. He may never have never seen a ward in action, and the more he can learn about how they function, the easier it will be for him to implement the programs when he goes home and becomes a leader (as he will, I promise you).
Thank you ALL for your support - we have a wonderful group of missionaries who are "building the kingdom in righteous ways."
ps. Brody turns 2 on Wednesday! Happy Birthday, "Manny"!

Friday, August 21, 2009

2009 08 23 - Couples Seminar at Tembe Elephant Park

Dear Everyone:

The missionary couples of the South Africa Durban Mission are reenergized, rejuvenated, reinvigorated, revitalized, recommitted, and really wonderful. The wonderful part was there before the Couples Seminar, but the other qualities were enhanced during the few days at Tembe Elephant Park.

The 24 of us carpooled in 2 vans from Durban, 1 car from Ladysmith via Swaziland, 1 car from Newcastle, and 1 car from Richards Bay. Ironically, when, after 2 hours of driving, the two vans met by prior arrangement at one of the two gas stations on the N2, we found the car from Richards Bay there, also! So we convoyed the rest of the way. And 3-1/2 hours later, we arrived at Tembe 5 minutes after the other 2 cars. We are SO in sync!

The first stop was the craft shop just inside the gate - in case we bought all of something and they needed two days to make more. It's mostly baskets and wood-carvings there. My favorite is the basket with the carved wooden dung beetle on the top.

Then we checked into our various accommodations - varying from the extra-large Royal Tembe which the ladysmithWilsons and swaziWilsons shared (nice to have relatives in the group) to the tents in the bush camp for the Markums and Manns. 24 was almost too many for Tembe, but we managed, and "owned" the camp - no other visitors. It was great.

Around the 6am and 3pm game drives we had reports from the various areas and assignments, updates on the mission, and a testimony meeting around a campfire. Here are just a few of the stories I heard:

The Johnsons told about a sister in Umlazi W got lots of heckling from her friends when she investigated the Church. The local ministers even put up a tent in Umlazi BB with a plan to pray together and condemn the Mormons - only a big wind came up and the tent blew away.

A young man in Richards Bay is known as the "pineapple" convert, because Bartholomews stopped to buy a pineapple, started talking to him, and he ended up joining the Church. Whenever he talks about what he's trying to accomplish in life and in the Church, he says "I want to do it because of what you did to me."

The Mickelsens (PEF) have helped a young deaf man get a PEF loan and start school. Originally Elder Vance signed for them so they could communicate. When he was transfered from Margate, Sister Mickelsen started typing on the computer to communicate. During the process, there was a fire in Kolise's apartment. He lost a lot, but managed to rescue his paperwork, which he turned in, singed on the edges, but still legible. When he started school, he asked the Mickelsens to meet with him, opened up his backpack, spread out his new schoolbooks, and signed "I love you."

In Madadeni, a young man named Vincent, very poor, came to the Klinglers and said the Lord had impressed him three times that he must buy a suit for Elder Klingler. They tried to demur, but he insisted on taking his sizes. He brought he new suit to Church, but when Elder Klingler tried it on, it didn't fit. Right at that time, though, we had an emergency need for a short-term missionary. Elder Pakathi was getting ready for a mission, so they hustled him through the extraction of his wisdom teeth(!) and got him ready - only to find he had no suit. Sister Klingler is a seamstress, so she had him try on the gift suit. It needed only a minor tuck to fit perfectly.

When the Baums were serving in Newcastle, they were going home one night and saw a house on fire. They stopped to help put it out, and later helped the resident, Lucky, build a new one. Lucky joined the Church, and since the Baums left has baptized, married, and confirmed his wife.

The Markums (Seminary & Institute) were going to Swaziland, and a friend at home contacted them and asked them to look up a former missionary companion of her daughter Catherine's. They were meeting with a longtime member, Mabel, and asked about this young woman, whose name is Fakile, not really expecting anything. Mabel responded, totally unexpectedly, that Fakile was the friend who introduced her to the Church, and could introduce them to her. Fakile is currently less-active - hopefully Catherine will be able to encourage her to come back to Church. (Does EVERYONE in the Church know everyone else?)

How's this for a youthful branch? President Pilani, in Richards Bay, has 8 members over 40: the rest are all under 25.

Elder Pier commented that "this is the work of the Lord, and it will go forward if we don't get in the way."

Another good quote was "Service is the rent we pay for our own room on earth...(and) the rent is due on a daily basis" (see "The Joy of Service, Nov 1984 Ensign).

And Sister Klingler helped me out with one of my talk themes for the Newcastle District conference, coming up soon, when she talked about the fields that have been burned all around Newcastle (it's an annual event) and how she's finally starting to see a little green coming up. It takes a lot of time - and difficulty - before the rewards start showing.

Sister ladysmithWilson expressed her concerns about all the "other" things they are doing, instead of straightforward proselyting. She wondered if they were off-track. Then she read D&C 64:29 - "Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord's errand; and whatever ye do according to the Lord's will is the Lord's business." So there you go!

We had some fun with D&C 99 - verse 1 is very applicable to our mission, as it says to "go into the eastern countries, from house to house, from village to village, and from city to city, to proclaim mine everlasting gospel unto the inhabitants thereof, in the midst of persecution and wickedness." And we could perhaps add muggings and carjackings?

Verses 7 and 8 are my favorites though, as we have three couples going home the next few months. "And after a few years, if thou desirest of me, thou mayest go up also unto the goodly land (home!) to possess thine inheritance (grandkids!); Otherwise, thou shalt continue proclaiming my gospel until thou be taken. Amen." (Nobody went for the otherwise...)

We are desperate for (wonderful) couples to replace the Klinglers, Sessions and Bartholomews. With the current economic conditions, fewer are able to come. If you are the exception, or need extra blessings for your family, missionary application forms are even available online - and you can see a video created especially for you at,17022,4431-1,000.html

This is transfer week coming up, with 10 very experienced, and powerful elders leaving, and 10 brand-new elders coming in. We lose 9 more of our senior missionaries next transfer, and get 15 in! This means a lot of planning way ahead so that the new missionaries get good trainers, and none of the areas get "white-washed" (both elders being transferred out, and new elders who don't know the area transferring in). Luckily, almost all of our elders would make great trainers (a few are still too new).

Love to everybody!

ps There was a bakkie in front of me on Queen's Avenue : a.m bobcat & tipper hire. I've always wanted to drive a bobcat - but what's a tipper?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swaziland Zone with President & Sister Koelliker

Umlazi Zone with President & Sister Koelliker

2009 08 16 - Mission Tour with President & Sister Koelliker

Dear Everyone:
I'm just going to write a little this week so there's room on the blog for all the pictures.
We had a terrific week with President & Sister Koelliker as they toured the mission. I was impressed that he didn't come to give talks to the missionaries, he came to teach them. The theme was bearing testimony and teaching by the spirit. And finding your own gift and using it.
In every zone conference he taught, answered questions, had teaching demonstrations, and opportunities for almost every missionary to bear their testimony. He had asked ahead of time for every missionary to prepare two talks: How to Involve Members in the Work, and How to Teach by the Spirit. Two elders were called up to give the talks at each zone conference, and they were really good. In Newcastle it was Elders, at Hillcrest it was Elders, and in Berea it was Elders
The Koellikers also spoke at stake/district YSA firesides in Madadeni, Richards Bay, Pinetown and Berea. This is in addition to the Swaziland District Conference last Saturday and Sunday. They left us Friday morning to fly down to Port Elizabeth for a stake conference, then he'll be on his way to Uganda and Ethiopia with Elder Holland. I don't know how they keep it up!
More next week!

ps We leave early tomorrow for our couples seminar at Tembe Elephant Park, home of the infamous dung beetles. We are saving ks (kilometers) by carpooling: the office van will have 3 couples, and my minivan will have 3, then there will be cars from Richards Bay, Newcastle and Swaziland with 2 couples each. I point this out simply to show we are not entirely frivolous.

pps Morgan had his first Athletics Meet (track meet) Saturday. His 4x100 relay team won. He was the last leg, so that makes it more dramatic for him!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Preparation Process

The Finding Process

The Conversion Process

The Retention Process

2009 08 09 - Swaziland District Conference & Versatile Missionary

Dear Everyone:

The graphics you see above were designed by Elder Anderson for our booklet The Versatile Misisonary that was printed this week. Their purpose is to help the missionaries see how all the things they are learning and doing fit together. We have 25 new missionaries coming in over the next two transfers, and their trainers will use just the graphics at first, along with their usual training efforts. Then after the first few weeks they will also use the text, which is full of references to Preach My Gospel and the Preach My Gospel DVDs, plus suggestions from learned from experience by our missionaries, and lots of hints and helps. If a companionship feels the work isn't going very well in one of the four areas, they can focus on that one chapter to try to improve. The chapters end with an evaluation box that encourages them to look at very specific actions and how they're doing with them.

Sister Grace is the visiting teaching supervisor in Pinetown Ward. Last Sunday she talked about shepherds and their flocks, and the Savior's commandment to "Feed my sheep". She made a lamb with her name on it for every sister in the ward, and put them on the bulletin board in Relief Society. When sisters do their visiting teaching, they can move their "lambs" into the fold. It's great idea - she had seen it somewhere, but I never have. Of course, I've spent most of my life in Primary and nursery... I liked it because it focuses on who is/isn't getting visits, rather than who is/isn't doing their visiting teaching.

Sister Grace and her husband Vic served a long temple mission in Johannesburg, then came back to Westville where they run a B&B that is very popular with our senior couples and the visitors from Johannesburg. She told me that when they bought their house as young married, it took them a long time to tame the yard. At one point they could get "convict" help, so she was out working with several convicts and a guard. One of the convicts grabbed some of Brother Vic's clothes off the line, and made a run for it. The guard handed her his cudgel (!) and told her to keep an eye on the other prisoners, and went after him. She just stood there, wondering what he really thought she would do if the others all took off. I don't remember if the guard caught the escapee, but Sister Grace never did have any more convict help in the yard...

Elder and Sister Bartholomew were in the office for a few minutes today - they had brought a sister down for her patriarchal blessing. We only have two patriarchs in the mission, so it's a challenge to get everyone connected. Richards Bay District will be losing this sister soon, but in a nice way. She is 30, and has been a member of the Church 2 or 3 years. She is really outstanding, and serves in district leadership. So, she went with the youth on the temple trip a few months ago, and was helping Sister B in the baptistry, when Sister B sent her up to do a session instead. In the session room, she noticed an attractive brother, who also noticed her. They spoke to each other a little in the celestial room, then he "happened" to go over to the distribution center, where he ran into her again. They exchanged phone numbers, and the rest is history! In a country where it's hard to meet other young adult members, the temple may be the new center for romance!

Elder B also told me about the youth in Ngwelezane. They generally have 15 young men, some as old as 18 and 19, and preparing for missions, and 2 young women. The young men vie for opportunities to bless and pass the sacrament - in our ward in Pinetown the missionaries often have to help out. One Sunday a few weeks ago, two young men were confirmed - this happens the week after a baptism - and ordained to be priests. For one young man, that Sunday was his 16th birthday. After they were ordained, they proceeded to baptize two of their friends. One of the friends was baptized five times, as he was never completely immersed the first four times. The second friend was baptized only once - and VERY deep in the font! No mistakes that time!

The flu (and some of it is swine flu) is running rampant. Westville sent home a letter asking parents to keep students home if they have any flu symptoms. Now the other half of the boys have decided to skip - and because so many are out, the teachers aren't doing much, anyway! At one school, the nurse took everyone's temperature, saying that anyone with a fever couldn't be in school. She sent home 16 students - and 5 teachers!

Thursday night Hunter, Morgan, Jubz and Mbobo (that's a nickname - he's actually one of our three Langas -you may remember him as Barack Mbobo in an earlier blog) went to a Zulu Cultural Evening at Kloof High School. Jubz' girlfriend Neli was one of many performers. Apparently they did lots of different dancing and singing, in costume. It sounded pretty fun. Hunter came home with lots of new cellphone #s, so I guess the evening was a success.

The boys were on their own this weekend, as we headed out for the Swaziland District Conference with President & Sister Koelliker from the Area. It was a terrific conference - all the families in Swaziland are now better, stronger, and headed for the temple (I hope!). This was our first activity with Elder Koelliker since he replaced President Parmley as Area President, and it was great. One of the many "best things" about being out here is all the impressive people you work with, and new friends you make. It's a real learning experience to do district training with different sisters from the Area, and with the coupleSisters. I could have been a fabulous leader if I had had these opportunities years ago!

We are now beginning a mission tour with the Koellikers. Photos and summaries on their way!



ps I'm having trouble finding any hard and fast rules for the way we pronounce words and the way South Africans pronounce them. We emphasize different syllables, but it's not always the same difference! For example: USA. ADversary - RSA adVERsary; but it's USA conTRIbute - RSA CONtribute; USA aLUMinum - RSA aluMINium.

pps Our local PicknPay (grocery story) likes to have "theme" decorations. This week all the clerks are wearing cowboy hats, and there is a display with a mannikin gunslinger, and hay bales, and a mural hanging up of a frontier town - complete with saloon. I told them it all made me feel right at home...