Dear Friends & Family:
We have had a relatively calm transfer week - due in part to receiving only two new (and wonderful) elders, and losing only old (and powerful) elders. Instead of taking the Box, the bakkie and the Sedona to the airport, we all piled into the Box! We expected 3 suitcases and 2 carry-ons: instead there were only 2 suitcases and 2 carry-0ns - but that was because Elder Mbaiwa's suitcase had been stolen out of the taxi they took to the temple a few days before they left the MTC. Now THAT'S not right! Fortunately we had a donated suitcase, as well as donated shirts, ties, socks & trousers, so he left the mission home well supplied. Now we just have to replace his glasses, and he's ready to go.
Instead of lunch on the mission home patio, we drove to Chatterton and had bunny chows, a chunk of a loaf of bread stuffed with curry. (And when I say "we" had bunny chows I am referring to everyone else - I don't do spicy.) Then everyone else headed back to the office for interviews and training, while my friend Beus and I visited the Durban Botanical Gardens. They were lovely, although I wouldn't have recognized the baobab tree as a baobab tree, without the tag. I guess that's because they don't actually grow at this altitude, in this climate: it must alter their looks.
I took Beus to the transfer meeting so she could see how much the elders enjoy being together - it's always very fun. You can tell right away who came out together, or who have been companions; there's lots of hugging and back-slapping and joking. Afterwards, as the elders were heading back to their areas (with a stop at the Pinetown McDonald's, of course) Beus and I went to Tala Game Reserve to try to find some rhinos and giraffes. We were not successful, but we saw some fun stuff and almost got stuck on a dirt road. Exciting!
Beus and I also had the chance to go out to 1000 Hills Community Helpers and deliver the 101 t-shirt dresses the Beaverton Oregon Young Women made as a service project. Dawn Leppan, who started the project out of her car, giving away food and diapers, kept saying she was "blown over" by the generous gift. She tried a few dresses on little girls, for pictures, but will give most of them out as Christmas presents "So the girls will have something that is new, and all theirs". We walked through the buildings, which include a kitchen where free meals are fixed, a clinic where a "baby" day was going on, a workshop where women can make learn to make things to sell, the nursery and the classroom. The children in the picture are all there because of special needs: HIV/AIDS victims or orphans, rape or abuse victims, and so on. The children with AIDS will live for perhaps 9 years. None of the children stay at the school - they go home to gogos or other homes at night. All that Dawn does is through donations; it was wonderful to be able to deliver the dresses. I wish all the Young Women could have come with us. Thankyouthankyouthankyou!
Friday after introducing Beus to Indian schwarmas at the lunch for the zone leader council, I had to take her to the airport. First my sisters, then Beus - I'm a lone woman again. Thank goodness Sister Johnson is working in the office!
This brings me to the weekend and an absolutely fabulous Hillcrest Stake Conference. I wish you could all have been there. In fact, I wish all the members of the Hillcrest Stake had been there! As usual, transport was a problem for a lot of the people in the furthest wards. Pietermaritzburg always brings a busload, which is nice - it's 45 minutes away.
Saturday was a women's session, followed by the priesthood session and the adult session. I was surprised that the women's and priesthood sessions weren't at the same time; it was so that President Wilford could speak at both, and I'm really glad he did! His talk was a real tribute and encouragement to sisters and their talents and abilities and important role in the plan.
He always does wonderful research for his talks, and in this case he had found stories about "unnamed" women in the scriptures. My favorite was the wise woman in 2 Samuel 20 - now there's a powerful woman! I hadn't remembered the story - do you? President Wilford concluded with "He hears your voice even though you think you don't have a name."
For those Young Women leaders out there, Sister Cunningham from Hillcrest Ward gave an interesting suggestion for teaching modest dress. When their daughters wanted to wear revealing clothes, their dad used to tell them "What they can see, they can touch." Scary.
Sister Wilson, stake Relief Society president from Pinetown Ward talked about the theme of the conference, "More Holiness Give Me". She handed out a list of the virtues in the hymn, as divided into groups by Bishop David H. Burton (Ensign, November 2004).
Personal goals: more holiness give me; more strivings within, more faith, gratitude and purity; more fit for the kingdom; more purpose in prayer; more trust in the Lord.
Centered on adversity: patience in suffering; meekness in trial; praise in relief; strength to overcome; freedom from earth stains; longing for home.
Anchor us to the Saviour: more sense of His care; more pride in His glory; more hope in His word; more joy in His service; more tears for His sorrows; more pain at His grief; more blessed and holy; more Saviour like Thee.
She challenged us to pick a virtue in each area to work on - and reminded us to be careful what we want/do more of, and what we want/do less off - because sometimes less is more, and more is less. Something for you to think about...
Sister Wilford gave us a little insight into her husband's past: when he was young, he wanted to be a hurdler. In his first competition he jumped over the hurdles with two feet, and came in "stone last". The other boys laughed at him and teased him (of course) but he went ahead and set up the hurdles after school and practised and practised and practised. As a result, he became so good that if there hadn't been sanctions against South Africa, he would have gone to the Olympics.
She also referred to an article by Larry Hiller, in the June 2009 Ensign. You've probably still got that one laying around somewhere: check out "Hope: The Misunderstood Sister". It's very thoughtful.
OK, back to President Wilford again. He was on a conference recently that was held at a game reserve. They went out one night for a game drive, and came across a pride of 6 or 7 lions, with their kill. The ranger stopped the Landrover, and they watched for several minutes by way of a spotlight. When they were ready to go, the Landrover wouldn't start - the spotlight had run down the battery.
At this point the people in the Landrover got very nervous - and President Wilford is convinced that the lions could sense the fear: that's when the alpha lioness turned and looked at them and started moving closer. (He, by the way, felt pretty safe: he was sitting in the middle, next to a very large man who could be "starters, entree and dessert".) The ranger instructed the group to shine their flashlights into the eyes of the lioness, while he slipped out the other side of the Landrover and pushed it down the (fortunate) incline they were parked on. He managed to start the Landrover, and off they went. Whew!
This story led into the scripture in 1 Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, which now has a lot more meaning to all of us.
Then President Wilford gave a fabulous simile for the way evil can get inside us and change us. He described a spider wasp (Hymenoepimecis) that stings a spider, and while it's paralyzed, lays her egg inside it. The spider continues about it's usual business for 7-14 days, while the newly hatched wasp larva sucks it's "blood". Now get this: the evening of the night when the wasp parasite will kill it (and how does the spider know?) the spider weaves a different kind of web - a cocoon that will protect the wasp pupa until it hatches. The pupa then kills and eats the spider. This is a true, and truly gross story - you can read about it in "A Manipulative Parasitic Wasp" at www.biodiversityexplorer.org/arachnids/siders/manip_wasp.htm (So, is this an educational blogspot, or what?)
This graphic example makes me REALLY not want to let any evil in - for fear of what will eventually come out!
To top off a truly wonderful weekend, Langa Mahaye was batized after the conference. He'll continue attending Pinetown Ward with us, then when we leave he'll switch over to his proper ward, Berea. So, one more person to worry about! Neli, our other recent baptism, wasn't able to come because her birth father died this week, and she went to his funeral in Pietermaritzburg. This has been a month of loss - we had some major rain, and at least seven people died in flood-related incidents, besides the teacher at WBHS who died. Thank goodness for the Plan of Salvation ...
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone! There's really a lot to be thankful for!
ps I was sorry to be driving and not taking pictures on Saturday: I passed a bakkie full of goats, pulling an open trailer with wire mesh walls, with a crowd of goats in the bottom, then a wooden platform and another crowd of goats on that.