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 www.lds.org/csm/0,17022,4431-1,000.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?