It almost seems Christmasy here every so often: like in Hillcrest today having brunch at Mugg & Bean. It was very foggy, and there were Christmas decorations hanging on the building, so it looked kind of wintry - if you didn't look at the extremely green leafy trees. I've put out lots of nativity scenes, and decorated the tree - again, only this time with Christmas ornaments instead of pictures of missionaries. Morgan made sugar cookies, and I bought 2 traditional Christmas cakes at Woolworth's (with some encouragement from the cashier: they're having a competition selling them).
Monday was like a whole transfer week rolled into one. First the internet was down in the office, and when that finally got going, the elders couldn't get into any of the Church system to work on things. The assistants usually do stats on Monday mornings, and they were going so crazy they asked for a job and I suggested strongly that they clean their office upstairs - and they did! We had (very minor) runs to the hospital, a (minor) car accident, and a number of other small but annoying and time-consuming incidents. It even went into the night! At 10:30 Elder Johnson got a call about a car in Empangeni that wouldn't start and had to be left at a member's all night while the elders were rescued by another set of elders - all of whom should have been home in bed. Lastly, at midnight Steve and I heard several minutes of loud, eerie wailing outside, and then a most tremendous catfight. I was worried that it was "our" cat, but he showed up as usual the next morning, looking unscathed.
Tuesday started the same way, with a car coming in to the office for a new headlight getting rear-ended on the way, but later things picked up. The best news was the computer system being straightened out so everyone could get back to work. The worst news was that the boys are now on holiday and home all day - except when I'm running them to the mall, or a braii, or a party, or picking up friends or taking friends home... Actually it's fun, but I'm trying to get them through a correspondence course, and it's a bit of a battle. Progress is being made, however! Hunter and Morgan are currently writing research papers on terrorism and racism, respectively. Are they cheerful, optimistic boys, or what?
We had a lovely story out of Esikhawini this week. The young new branch president has been waiting for his wife to deliver their 2nd baby. She had a caesarean the first time, and really didn't want to have another one. They waited and waited, and things were just not happening. She was in the hospital, and the doctor said there was something wrong, and they really needed to do the c-section. They asked for a moment alone, and said a prayer, and then the doctor came back. He checked again, and said "You must have a lot of faith. Everything is fine!" The sister had the baby naturally and everything is fine.
Khulekani Mchunu is a young man in Enselini Branch who has wanted to go on a mission (he's 21) but his grandmother would not agree, so he couldn't go. Elder Pier went to see her, taking the branch president along with him (fortunately, as she didn't speak much English). She didn't want him to go because he is the only able-bodied man around to help her with the younger children, and a disabled man who also lives with them. Elder Pier left feeling pretty discouraged about it.
The next day Khulekani was very anxious to talk to Elder Pier, but there wasn't time, so he cornered him on Sunday after sacrament meeting. He asked what he needed to do to go on a mission. His granny had received a phone call from his oldest uncle in Johannesburg, not a member of the Church who felt the Spirit had urged him to call and talk to her. She told him about the conversation with Elder Pier and President Vilane, and he said that he thought Khulekani should "go teach the gospel". So now he has permission, and all he needs to do is complete his papers - and cut of his very impressive dreadlocks. He plans to do that soon, anyway, so he can start looking and feeling like a missionary.
We'd like to recommend the movie Invictus to anyone who would like to get a little flavor of South Africa. You have to remember that it is recreating Johannesburg/Soweto of immediately after the end of Apartheid. The neighborhoods you will see still exist in many areas, but there has been a great deal of improvement, and most of the townships our elders work in are made up of brick homes, and look much better. But it is very authentic and will make you appreciate a whole different culture and way of life. Nelson Mandela is really amazing. Thank goodness for South Africa that he "came forth" at the time he did!
Morgan and I had an exciting experience on Friday - we were driving through Bluff in Durban, and passed some men working on the center island. They were using weedwhackers, or something motorized like that. Just as we passed I heard what sounded like a small explosion, and the car shook, and I thought I had a flat tire. Then Morgan looked around and discovered that a rock had been thrown against the middle passenger window. It had radiated out into a zillion cracks, and we could hear a little cracking still going on. Luckily, there is a tint on the window, so the glass didn't fall in. It's actually very Christmasy looking - like ice all over the window!
Elder and Sister Johnson had a more cheerful if peculiar car experience this week. They came out one morning to find a cat stretched across the front window of their car, taking a snooze. They got in and started the engine, and the cat raised it's head, yawned, looked around and through the windscreen at them, then laid back down. They backed out of the parking space, and the cat just ignored them. Elder Johnson finally had to get out and lift him off. The cats here are pretty persistent - or else think they're in charge. Actually, I think that's a cat thing, here or anywhere.
The elders are excited every time mail is delivered - packages are pouring in! It's going to work out well for them this year, as we can take everything that comes in at the last minute to Richards Bay and Swaziland on our holiday with Logan and Sara. Newcastle might some a few days late, but at least it will be before New Year's!
So, have a Merry Merry Christmas! And remember why you're celebrating...
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMannps Vocabulary words of the day:
1. Suss it out: figure it out
2. Timeously: in good time, or a timely fashion