Monday, September 28, 2009
I hope September rains bring October flowers, because the students enjoying the holiday break have had very little chance to go to the beach or do much outdoors - it's been raining. A lot! That works out alright for Hunter, because he likes to chill at the mall, or go to movies, or play video games, or spend hours on the cellphone. Did I ever mention that the cellphones here have "mixit" which is like chat rooms? It's cheaper than phoning or even SMS, and the newest version even does photos like Facebook. It's so odd to take a carload of kids somewhere and hear no conversation because they are all either listening to mp3 players, or talking with their fingers on mixit.
Steve and I actually took 2 nights and 1 day off this week. Mission presidents are strongly encouraged to take some occasional downtime, to relax, but Steve never does. This time it was his idea, even. All of the booklets and programs are in place, I guess, so it was a breather before we get fifteen(!) new missionaries next week, and lose our wonderful Elder & Sister Sessions. They've been training Elder & Sister Johnson, who have been serving in Umlazi. They will continue to do work out there (as the Sessions have worked in KwaMashu), just not so fulltime. They're doing great, and we are very lucky to have them, as we haven't heard any news of a replacement office couple. Help!
Anyway, back to our "break". We went to a B&B in Salt Rock - that's the beach where Morgan went a few months ago? It rained the afternoon we arrived, was cloudy but dry the full day we were there, then started pouring the afternoon we left. We were so lucky! There was even a German restaurant there - pretty much the first we've seen. Steve had his first jaeger schnitzel in years (he served a mission in Germany, for those who didn't know). And apfelstrudel. It was very fun, and he actually relaxed and read books. Amazing! And there were only 7 calls from missionaries - and 2 from Hunter - and 4 from Morgan. The only downturn was the computer running out of power halfway through "Charade". Good thing I've seen it a few dozen times!
While we were gone a new missionary arrived - Elder Kapande from Harare. He arrived mid-transfer because he was actually coming from the Mozambique Mission, where he has served for six weeks. His parents are from Mozambique, so everyone assumed he could speak Portugese - not! He was working very hard at it, but they (?) decided to send him to us, instead. And we are delighted! He's been trained by the Cannons at the MTC, and trained in Mozambique by the Spendloves, so we won't have to do a thing! We look forward to having him here.
To even things out, Elder Nkele left Friday, a week early. He's from Botswana, and his passport expired this week. We took him to dinner with the Assistants, office elders, the Johnsons, and Elder & Sister Harms, who are our Public Affairs couple, based in Cape Town, but working their way through the mission. It's a good way to share ideas from one mission to another. We have been using For the Strength of Youth with students; Cape Town is using Family Enrichment with their parents, in groups set up by school administrators. I'm sure we'll get even more ideas at the Mission Presidents' Seminar in Johannesburg in a few weeks.
And speaking of Johannesburg (OK, Pretoria, but they're pretty close together), Morgan is having a so-so time on his rugby tour. His team lost all three of their games, which, frankly, we expected. He had a good time on Wednesday, which the boys spent at Gold Reef amusement park. And he's had the chance to play prop, flank, center and wing, so that's good, although it goes to show the team isn't very powerfully put together. Probably the most fun he's had is when people call him "Beast". He had a note from Dr. John so he didn't have to shave on the tour, and he really does resemble the Springboks "Beast". When he ran of the field people were yelling "Beast! Beast!" and he's often asked if he's the beast's brother. Watching two days of other people playing, and the ride back on the bus weren't his favorites, though. Oh well, he got team shirts and a cool tracksuit out of it! And Hunter got a week on his own...including two days without parents. Nice for everyone!
For you soccer fans (which we apparently now are) the FIFA 10 video game came out this week. It has Hunter and his fellow video game fiends glued to their controllers. The XBox people must be delighted that our boys have expanded their sports interest to rugby and soccer. They can sell us SO many games now! And an update every year. Plus their continuing interest in Halo and other games, inherited from Logan and Parker. This is one section of the economy that shouldn't be having any problem!
I've been very grateful that we have a BYUTV (not KBYU) connection here at the mission home. I only use it for conference, but it's so nice to keep up the Wasatch Front tradition of watching general conference from the couch! Also, since the sessions are broadcast here at 6 and 10 pm, it's nice to stay home at night. We now have a satellite dish at the Pinetown chapel (first time) so members in our stake can go to Pinetown or Hillcrest. The 10am was at 6pm Saturday, priesthood conference will be Sunday at 11am, with the 10pm Saturday session at 2pm, the 10am Sunday session at 6pm, and the 2pm session at 10pm. The members who have no personal transport will hopefully make it to at least the priesthood and 2pm meetings. Sometimes a ward will show one of the sessions later, when the DVDs come out, but the Liahona is the most common source of conference for most of our members here.
I'll be speaking at a Relief Society Conference in Richards Bay this Saturday (Sister Pier is too kind!) and I was frantically writing down stories and thoughts as I listened to conference - so much of it was apropos to the theme of Moroni 10:32, "Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him". I'm hoping the transcript of the conference will be online this week so I can be sure the quotes are accurate. My personal favorite, though, was a story Sister Matsumori told. I do a Sunbeam Message at every zone conference, and I loved the object lesson where the Sunbeam teacher wrapped each child in a blanket to help them understand feeling the warmth of the Spirit.
It was also very "connecting" to know Parker was sitting in the Conference Center (just couldn't pick him out!) and Torry & Chris, and Logan & Sara were watching, right along with us. Hayley was at work behind the scenes at the Conference Center, and I knew she was paying attention attention when I got an email right after Elder Bednar's talk. She sent an "I love you" to everyone in the family. Now that's following the counsel of the prophets! So I'll follow her example:
I love you!
ps Trivia 1: We stopped in Ballito on the way home from Salt Rock. As the most popular resort town on the North Coast, Ballito has lots of specialty items in the Super Spar. You have to live here to know how delightful it was to find Campbell's Tomato Soup! And Light Pringles!
Trivia 2: I was following a car Saturday and noticed that it had a trailer hitch - the first I'd noticed on a a car here. Just as I was thinking "I guess people don't tow things here very often" a bakkie pulled between us, with a trailer hitch on the back! So either I just haven't been very observant, or I just saw the only two vehicles in Westville that have trailer hitches!
Trivia 3: When I went to Look&Listen with Hunter to pick up his XBox game, I discovered a country western duo who sings in Afrikaans! I've got to go back and listen to it...it's a little easier to imagine than love songs in Afrikaans (forgive me if you are an Afrikaaner - I'm sure American twang sounds just as strange to you!) but still a little out of the ordinary.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I've just finished the New Testament, and I have to say Revelation scares me to death. If it were a movie, I wouldn't go (although Hunter and Morgan and their friends would). I suppose part of the reason it's so unnerving is because I'm not on a spiritual plane to understand the imagery - but it's certainly a good reason to "Follow the prophet: he knows the way!"
Fortunately, I followed that up with Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, which, by the way, I hope one of our modern prophets starts working on soon. (That and the rest of the Book of Mormon...) I am particularly relieved that Lot didn't really offer his daughters to the wicked men of Sodom - that story has always bothered me. I'm a bit ashamed that I haven't spent more time in these verses - if I am typical of other members of the Church, that's probably why we don't have the rest of the scriptures. My favorite verse is the 1st line of JST Matthew 11:13 - it makes me feel better when I watch the news.
Last Sunday was a missionary sacrament meeting in Pinetown Ward. Elders Emaneke, Moremong and Reese spoke and did a wonderful job. It was exactly the kind of sacrament meeting you want to bring investigators to. How many of you have brought people to Church, and (figuratively) sat on the edge of the bench worrying about what the speakers were saying? Maybe when we prepare out talks we should always think "This may be the only time my friend hears about the gospel: what are the most important things I can share?"
Elder Kwendo told Steve about a pretty nice phone call he and Elder Mutuku received from an investigator on Sunday night. They have been teaching him for awhile, and he had not been at Church that day. The baba called to explain that a relative had come over and needed help, so he hadn't been able to come. BUT he continued on, that he had been praying and was sure that what they were teaching him was the truth, and that he wanted to be baptized. That's the kind of phone call ALL missionaries would like to receive!
Elder and Sister Bartholomew stopped by the office this week, and Sister B told me about the Enseleni Primary program. This is a branch that meets in one room at the public library. The Primary varies from 20 to 25, with 18 of the children nonmembers who come on their own, no parents. The Primary president, Mbuthle, hasn't been a member very long, but loves the children and really works hard with them. They met on Friday to practise, and Sister B went to watch. As it was pouring rain, and the children would all have to walk, she didn't expect to see many of them, but 15 or 20 showed up. They belted out the songs, and said their memorized parts perfectly. One little six-year-old nonmember boy had a part that began "When I was baptized..."
The children sang and talked about the plan of salvation, being children of a loving Heavenly Father, and building eternal families - while some of them don't even have parents, or just one, and others are being raised by relatives or generous neighbors. And to make it even more impressive, most of them don't speak English, yet they learned the songs and their parts entirely in English. They love Primary, and the feeling that someone cares about them. I wish there were a way to track these children, to see how many continue coming and eventually join the Church.
Wednesday was the last day of school, but Morgan didn't go Monday or Tuesday, and Hunter skipped Wednesday, as did most of the student body, apparently. There is no minimum attendance rule here, so if the students didn't have any control tests, they were just sitting around or watching movies. I made both of the boys work on their English correspondence class part of the day, at least. They are doing research papers, which require lots of sources. The teacher reminds me a little of my dad, who insisted his graduate students learn to use a slide rule, even though they had calculators. Most of the information will come from the internet, but she requires a visit to the library for at least one book source, and one magazine source.
So we went to the Westville Library this morning. "Where is the card catalog? I asked after looking for it in vain. "The what?" "The case with the cards for looking up books?" "Oh, we don't have one anymore." "So how do we find a book?" "The reader adviser will help you."
We wait for our turn with the reader adviser, who has the catalog information on her computer. (There are no patron computers.) We explain what we're looking for; she looks the topics up on her computer, and goes and finds the books - mostly from the children's department. (The topics, by the way, are How to Protect Against Terrorist Attacks and Anti-Drug Programs and Treatments for Teens Who Use Marijuana.) There were no relevant magazines and no back issues on microfilm, so we may use the Meridian Library District Online Catalog for that one.
I'm pretty sure that about all the boys learned out of this excursion to the library is how to find...the library.
At noon, after the library field trip, and school had well and truly ended, Hunter celebrated the start of the break by having me pick up Neli, Chelsea, Vuya and Jubz, to chill for a few hours. I'm not sure it's good for the office elders to hear girls squealing out at the basketball hoop, but what can I do? At least they didn't have to watch Hunter with the OTHER two girls he met at the mall that night.
Also Wednesday was Morgan's "capping" ceremony. This is where the head of the Durban & Districts Junior Rugby Association talks to the parents and teams, then the boys get their kits (a gear bag with their number on it, tracksuit, uniform, polo shirt, etc.) and take a team picture. Morgan will be gone to Pretoria for games from the 27th to the 4th. He wants me to SMS airtime so he can phone us after every game. That's one nice thing about Morgan: he calls us constantly when he is gone, so we always know what he's doing!
Saturday the Hillcrest Zone had a community event: soccer at Queensborough High School. The missionaries (and two members) made up our team, and they played the Queensborough team. Elders John, Mwita, Ssesanga, Terry, and Vinson answered questions and visited with people in the stands, where they had set up "street boards" with gospel information. Our team lost, but they awarded a trophy to the school team, which has our name on it and will sit in their trophy case. It was fun - and none of the missionaries were injured! OK, so Elder Hansen has a sore knee - but he had that already, and couldn't bear to miss the game. And by the way, soccer is harder to follow and video than rugby - the ball travels a lot further downfield a lot more often.
Then Saturday night was another first: after Hunter spent the afternoon at the mall with Jubz, Jono, and assorted girls, I gave Hunter, his friends and 4 of the girls a ride to Vuya's aunt's apartment, for a birthday party/braii. Interesting part is, her aunt works at the prison. And the staff housing is in the prison compound. It was like going to an army base. We drove through the guarded gates, and could see the men's and women's prison complexes off to our left as we climbed the hill to the extensive staff housing. So, how many mission presidents have sons who go to prison while they are on their mission? Life just gets more and more interesting.
ps And now on the shopping front:
Jack's Hardware sells "Insect Chalk". I asked about it, and yes, it is in insecticide. So now I can't decide whether to look for a sleeping cockroach, draw a circle around it, and then watch it trying to get out...or to draw a line across the kitchen threshold, drip some honey, and watch thousands of ants piling up on one another, unable to cross over the chalk. I'll let you know...
And Dischem Pharmacy has a spa/salon in one corner, and is now offering a "Beautiful Woman Card" with discounts and a newsletter. I asked the cashier, and she told me any woman can have one, because every woman is beautiful. That's a very YW attitude, so I think it would be a great YW activity to take the Laurels in and get them each a card to carry. Maybe someone could suggest the card to Fred Meyer's?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I had an opportunity this week to watch missionaries in action as they introduced "For the Strength of Youth" to a secondary school. It was really fun - I wish you could all share some of these experiences firsthand!
We were at Nilgiri Secondary School in Marionhill, which is in the Hillcrest Stake. The missionaries involved were Elders Bradley, Kuamoo, Moremong, Reese, Ssesanga, and Terry. The school has about 1400 students, although not all were there - this is exam week, and those who have finished stay at home. The school population is Zulu, but almost all the teachers and administrators are Indian. It's a financially-poor school, so they have no money to build a hall for their assemblies. We were outside on the asphalt, with the students standing in lines in front of the "stage". The elders had to use a microphone, and the speakers were on the outside of the classroom building behind the students.
Schools here always start assemblies with prayer, and sometimes a scripture. The deputy headmaster (I think) then introduced the elders as young men who had finished high school and chosen to put their lives on hold and serve others for two years. He was very impressed that they would do this, and asked the students if any of them would be willing to do the same. He then turned things over to Elder Bradley, and the fun began!
The students were very excited about having visitors from American, Uganda, and Krugersdorp. Elder Kuamoo got an especially wild reaction when he said he was from California - that's one place they've ALL heard of! One of the real benefits of a service activity like this is that there are now a thousand teenagers in Marionhill who feel they know these elders personally. When they see them in the neighborhood, they will undoubtedly come talk to them, and introduce them around.
There wasn't a lot of time out in the wind, but the elders gave an introduction to Strength of Youth through skits and questions. They stressed how following these kinds of guidelines bring blessings, and help us to be successful. Then they handed out the wallet-size copies to every student, and have been invited to return to individual classes for additional discussion. I'm not sure how many thousands of these cards the missionaries have given out over the last few years, but if even a fraction of the youth read them and act on them, it will be such a step forward!
The pictures above show some of the neighborhoods in this area, and actually could represent most of the townships in the Durban area. The homes are built all over the hills; some sections are full of the square brick homes the government is putting up, a few have larger homes. There are some duplex/fourplex type homes, but very few apartment buildings. The students almost all walk to school - that's how I found it: I followed the crowd.
Another service project completed recently was decoration of the Khan Hospital waiting room in Chatsworth, an Indian area. Elder Anderson spent time designing the background so Elders Bradley, Hartvigsen, Lemmon, Lerios, Terry & Vance, plus members of the Chatsworth Ward, could do a "paint by number" project within his lines. He then added trees and other details. He went back later to put in some clouds, but he has been transferred to Swaziland, so animals will have to wait. The elders also painted the walls in other areas of the hospital. They volunteer at the hospital information desk once a week, and it's been a great way to become part of the community.
I don't know whether to blame the changing weather or the adversary for all the illnesses we've had lately. Colds and flu are common (not just the missionaries - students at Westville, as well), and we've had a variety of minor but time-consuming ailments. One of these did give me an opportunity to chat with our new dentist in Swaziland, however. It was a unique experience: an American in South Africa talking to a Russian in Swaziland. She was so sweet, too! She said she felt so sorry for Elder Weaver because he was such a nice young man; she'd been praying for him, and please give him her love. Nice to know our elders even make friends at the dental clinic!
In spite of the challenges, every district Steve has visited is experiencing miracles. He is interviewing by companionships this time, and tells me some of the stories every night. It's one of those "Wow - this is what would happen if the Church is true! Wait, it IS true!" We have started receiving a new and very helpful set of statistics from the Church. We've always had things like numberofbaptismspercompanionship, and numberofbaptismaldatespercompanionship and totals of that kind, but the latest one was "number of baptisms per baptismal date per companionship". What this measures is how many of the people who set baptismal dates actually get baptized, or in other words, how many investigators make it through the conversion process? President Hinckley asked us to double our baptisms, which sounds overwhelming, but asking missionaries to get 6 investigators through the conversion process instead of 3 sounds doable. As we have LOTS of baptismal dates right now, that's LOTS not just lots, and the missionaries are learning to be more effective teachers, and to rely more on the Spirit, we'll be able to meet President Hinckley's challenge. And get closer to three new stakes and a Durban temple! To which dedication all of our couples plan to come - but they'll never all fit in Little Haven (inside joke).
Hunter had another basketball game this week - they won, so they are now 3-0. He hasn't let me come to one yet, but once the full season is rolling, I'll sneak in to a few. He told me he didn't make any of his shots (he's a point guard?), but he had some steals and assists, and a technical foul: for tackling (?) an opposing player? I don't even want to know...
School gets out Wednesday for 10 days - I guess, being the Southern Hemisphere, that makes it Spring Break. I can't believe there's only one term left before Christmas. Time is really flying!
ps I would like to start putting engagement/wedding pictures of our former missionaries on the blog - Elders, please send picture, names, date and temple(!) by email to firstname.lastname@example.org - and if you're already married, as I know some of you are, please send them also. I don't want to leave anyone out!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Ever heard the phrase "No good deed goes unpunished"? It can be true! Last Saturday some of Hunter's friends wanted to do jobs to earn money for the mall. I had them sweep the patio, clean cupboards...and wash some cars. Well, teenagers can't work without music, so they plugged an ipod into the Box (mission office Vivaro) and turned the key. So on Sunday morning, Steve decides to visit the Berea Ward. He heads out to the Box, only to find that when the ipod was unplugged, no one took out the key, and the battery was dead. Well, we now know where the battery IS in a Vivaro; and that you can jump start a car using two sets of cables hooked together; and that it takes quite awhile for a Vivaro to recharge; and than no good deed...oh wait, we've been there already!
We started out our "back to normal" week with a car wreck, a side-swiped car, six punctured tires, an elder with a kidney stone, a preparationdaysoccer ankle injury, and two unexpected missionary counselling sessions. And those are just the ones I heard about! But that's to be expected, as we are trying to have a "perfect week" and the adversary doesn't like it one bit. A perfect week means living the white handbook to the letter - including all the getting up on time, individual study, companion study and planning, being in the right places at the right time, and so on. Of course the elders know what's coming next, if they can do it "for just one week..." But think how great a missionary would feel if he could go home after his mission and look back on 104 perfect weeks!
On the flipside, they suddenly found one of our hijacked cars - it was stolen in Stanger, and turned up in Empangeni. so there are a few nice things happening.
Actually, HUGE amounts of nice things are happening. In fact, huge amounts of miraculous things are happening. Steve and the assistants are out doing interviews/mini-training/work with the elders, one district at a time. He comes home every day with new stories to tell. For instance, Elder Kitili and Elder Nkambule were impressed to knock on the door of a particular house - and found a whole family, baba, ma & children, ready to be taught. They are also teaching a church youth group (no, not our church) and 8 other families.
Elder Holmes and Elder Wengert called from Newcastle to say they had decided to really make an effort to talk to everyone, so they chatted up some university students at a tuckshop. They are now going to teach the campus church group, and have been added to the local group of Christian organizations that do service in Newcastle and the surrounding communities. Our contact number will be listed so people can contact us. (I like the idea of investigators calling the missionaries...)
Elder Kwendo and Elder Mutuku went to a lesson prepared to invite the family to be baptized on November 1st. As soon as they were in the door, the baba started told them he had had a confirmation that what they were teaching was true. He wanted to take his family to the temple (the temple had been the theme of some of the meetings at Church that week). He had heard a temple trip announced in a few weeks, and wanted to go. The elders explained that he must be baptized first, to which he responded "Of course!" They further explained that the family could only do baptisms for the dead on this trip, and that was fine with hiim. He just really wanted to go there with his family. Elder Sessions thinks this baba will be the branch president in a not too distant future - new members here don't have a lot of time before they are given major assignments.
Langa Mahaye had his third missionary lesson today, after coming to Church with us. It's fun having lessons here at the house -
There are elders all over the mission going into schools and youth groups to teach For the Strength of Youth. Missionaries are apologizing that they can't tract during prime time (late afternoon and evenings) because they are too busy teaching. Uh, that's ok!
I am finding our missionaries in the scriptures as I read. For instance, we have a Moroni. Remember how influential Moroni was as Joseph Smith's teacher and guide? Joseph grew from an uneducated young boy to a young man who could translate, and preach, and lead. Our Moroni can take any missionary who is having difficulties, and love him and teach him and help him grow. Steve has relied on him on several occasions to be the mentor for a challenging elder. I know a good part of his strength and determination comes from his parents. The day he arrived in the mission, he started volunteering to help with anything that needed to be done. After the welcome dinner, the first night, I complimented him on his willingness and he said "Well, Sister Mann, my parents taught me to work." Well done, Mom and Dad! And you too, Moroni!
We have some Nephis who came out all ready to "go and do", and some Sams who believe what the Nephis tell them, and prove very faithful. There have been a few Jareds: they like being "king" but leave it up to their companions to "cry unto the Lord". And guess which elders feel best at the end of their missions?
We have an Ammon, too. He gets along with everyone, missionaries and investigators and members alike. He has a gentle spirit, but if any arms need to be lopped off (I am speaking metaphorically, of course) he can do it - and then go right back to loving everyone and helping them grow in the gospel. Plus he's good at planning, and follow-through.
We also have an Alma the elder. He is tremendously organized, and can go off in the wilderness and organize a branch. His enthusiasm and positive attitude pushes things forward.
Steve would love to work closer with many of these elders, and they would make wonderful assistants, but he says he "can't afford to take them out of the field. They are too valuable where they are." I hope our elders have realized that being an assistant, or a district or zone leader isn't the measure of success in our mission - for that matter, in three years a mission president can only have about 12 assistants, out of 300 or so missionaries. And Steve rotates the assistants back out into the field as soon as he can, because that's the most important place to be, and that's where they'd really rather be.
Our couples are also having tremendous experiences - as are their branches and wards. One of our absolutely amazing, fantastic, loving, capable, innovative, hardworking couples is about to finish their mission and emailed:
"We are going to be celebrating Pres. Monson's Birthday with the youth...we will have a presentation on Pres. Monson's life so the youth know him better and then we are going to decorate eight cakes -all chocolate. It should be fun. We did this in Ngwelezane Wedensday and the youth loved it. We have 17 boys and 2 girls and we decorated three cakes...We expect around 30 youth in Nseleni tomorrow.
Our last activity will be a YSA District dance. We have a DJ coming and we hope to have about 70 youth.
We love these people. They are our friends, our brothers and sisters. I will always be grateful for their influence in my life."
If for nothing else (and there is plenty else) this mission would be worth it for the friends we are making - particularly our couple missionaries. I wish I could explain how wonderful they are in a way you could really feel. It's like gaining additional brothers and sisters - only without the fighting while growing up. I want to be just like every one of them.
And on the home front:
Hunter had his first basketball game Saturday. They won 65-9 (undoubtedly because of the American influence...). The U16 cricket team also won by several wickets (?).
The really important activity of the weekend, however, is Neli's 16th birthday party, which is "smart casual" and required frantic shopping trips to the mall, particularly for Hunter, whose wardrobe is strictly "gangsta". Morgan has lots of smart casual, but can't wear the same shirt twice. Honestly, boys can be worse than girls!
Oh, and the world is continuing to shrink - Parker emailed that Elder (Aaron) Larsen's brother is in his Bozeman singles ward this year.
ps Language lesson #203
South Africa: I will do it "just now". U.S.A.: "In a minute!"
South Africa: It's coming "now". U.S.A.: "Hang on a sec!"
South Africa: I want it "now now". U.S.A.: "OK, OK! Hold your horses - I'm coming!"
pps In the spirit of "You can prove anything with the right scripture" I would encourage anyone who (like myself) prefers lds.org to training at the gym, to check out 1 Timothy 4:8. Sometimes I just love the Apostle Paul!
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
2009 09 07 - Mission Tour/District Conferences/Transfers/Zone Conferences Over - Time to Breathe Again!
Happy Labor Day! We tried to talk "the Prez" into a 3-day weekend, but no go.
It was strange to have zone conferences again so soon after the set we had during President Koelliker's mission tour - but it's always nice to see the elders as often as possible. I got some more great stories for you - I wish I heard ALL the stories, but they are all over the mission, and there are so many!
Elder Crowther told about a man who lives in the same apartments where he does. Elder Crowther and Elder Katende always back each other out (well done!) and finally one day the baba asked why they did it ... was it a rule or something? And what were they doing in Pietermaritzburg, anyway?
They are now teaching the baba, and his family. And the baba, who is a fireman, is trying to get them down to the firehouse to teach his co-workers. Obedience works!
Elder Amerikau told of a driving school teacher who had been taught long ago, but never pursued his investigations. They got talking when Elder Maremela took his driving lessons. Turned out the teacher has an LDS girlfriend who talked him into coming to Church. The topic that day was temples, and he was very impressed and asked for a copy of Gospel Principles. He read it all night, then called the elders in the middle of the night, and arranged for a 6 am meeting. He said he knew our Church was true, and he had told his uncle.
Part 2 is the complication: his uncle is a pastor, and it's a family-owned church. Plus he had been baptized into that church the very week before. So now he's trying to figure out how to be baptized without being totally disowned by his family. The elders will just have to convert the whole congregation, I guess...
The efforts to negotiate lobola and get people married (so they can be baptized) continue apace. President Moloi took the train to Durban from Newcastle (many hours, in the wee small hours of the morning, and stops everywhere) to help a young return missionary in his branch. In this case it's the uncles who are being demanding. The young woman involved has said she will do whatever her fiance thinks is right - even if the family disowns her. But they want to try, first. The next step will be President Moloi, as the negotiator, coming on his own - with a fistful of dollars, and a "take it or leave it" approach. (I suggested using small bills so it looked like a lot more money.) This is so hard for our investigators - it's so accepted to raise a family without being married, that it's an uphill (but eventually winnable) fight. (Is winnable a word?)
It's reassuring to know that as these couples raise their families in the Church, the issue will at least go away for their children - if they look for other members to marry! Lobola is also being weakened by urbanization and young people moving away to cities to find work. And it needs to, if we're going to get the thousands of Young Single Adults in our Area to the temple!
Elder & Sister Sessions are training Elder & Sister Johnson in the office, as the Sessions' departure date draws near, and we have no new office couple in sight. The Johnsons have been workig in Umlazi, so we are very lucky they were close by. But we won't have them forever, either, so any of you out there who would like the amazing opportunity of working in the Durban Mission office, please get in touch!
The Sessions also work out in KwaMashu, and the branch will really miss them. Sister Sessions has run the huge Primary practically single-handed, but has finally trained a few sisters to carry on. Elder Sessions has been training the priesthood leadership, and together they have instituted a weekly Walkabout Family Home Evening. Each Monday night they meet at a member's house with some of their neighbors and have a lesson, or activities, or sometimes an evening of comfort when something especially troubling has occurred. In true "teach them to fish" style, they have encouraged a member of the branch to be in charge, so this will be able to continue when they're gone.
One of the huge worries our senior couples have as they go home is that their branches will lose ground when left on their own. And it's true - there will be people who stop coming, and activities that fall by the wayside, but with the training and example and love and encouragement the couples have given their members, the branches are so much stronger they can continue to progress. And when we are lucky enough to have new couples to continue working in those branches, the members get to see different approaches, and different styles, and learn that everyone has a place in the Kingdom. At least, that's true in our mission, as we get only the very best couples...
And speaking of the very best couples, we just said goodbye to one: Elder and Sister Klingler. They've been here almost as long as we have, and it was hard to see them go. They worked in Newcastle, and as things turned out, they served in all three branches: Newcastle, Madadeni 1 and Madadeni 2. That means there are three branches full of people who are missing them. They did wonderful things there, and I think they left part of their hearts in Newcastle when they left. We'll miss you, Klinglers!
Hunter stayed up late to follow the progress of the Boise State game on Thursday - good one! - and then we all enjoyed the internet coverage of the post-victory punch. (Probably the first time a duck has ever knocked down a mustang!) He can't wait to see a game in the enlarged stadium. It's nice to see the blue turf and the orange fans again! And, of course, we're all cheering for BYU - Kent and Darin went to the game: I'm sure it was their yelling that put BYU over the top!
Morgan was picked for the Durban area U16 club rugby team - he'll be spending a week in Blomfontein during the holidays, playing teams from all over South Africa. He was on the U15 team last year, but the tournament was here in Amanzimtoti. He's not really in it for the game, though: he LOVES the bags and the t-shirts and the track suits...and, of course, the glory! He's also continuing with the athletics team - he is apparently the captain, which may account for the shot put and the relay baton rolling around the boot of my car - and gets to wear a "captain's tie" to school on Wednesdays. Ah, that 15 minutes of fame.
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann/Newest member of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency, Durban Branch (see ps)
ps (DISCLAIMER: THIS IS TOTAL TRIVAI - FEEL FREE TO SKIP.)
Remember my obsession with the Boltt Grindrod Company? I was looking something up in the phonebook and ran across the following: Grindrod Bank, Grindrod Freight Investments, Grindrod Intermodal, Grindrod Logistics, Grondrod Holding Company, Grindrod Management Services, Grindrod Tank Terminals, and Grindrod Travel. So who in the world is Mr. Grindrod?
Well, let me till you! I found the Grindrod Limited website, and emailed to ask. They responded "check out the website section called About Us: History". So now I know! Captain John Edward Grindrod and Durban attorney Leon Renaud bought a disabled steamer called the Frontier and started shipping up and down the coast, and the rest is history.
And in case all this sleuthing sounds a bit ridiculous, you must remember I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes...and Miss Marple...and Hercule Poirot...and Lord Peter Wimsey...and Amelia Peabody Emerson...and Albert Campion...and Inspector Alleyn...and George Felse...and Brother Caedfael...and, of course, Precious Ramotswe!