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"!