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!