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...