Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
I am writing you as a civilian: without a name tag, or cellphone full of missionary, doctor, pizza, and service numbers. I'm not driving the Westville Boys High School "bus", or buying bedding, or paper plates or cups. I'm not giving talks, training or shopping hints, or searching out interesting places for couples seminars. Instead, I'm catching up with all the kids (except Torry's family, who will be here July 24th); shopping for cars (got a sterling gray Ford Fusion Hybrid), cellphones (IPhones), computers (Mac) and groceries (Campbell's soup, Cook'n'Serve chocolate pudding, saltines, graham crackers, grape jelly...); driving a Gator out to see Morgan's wood duck nesting boxes (Eagle Scout project); starting out at a new ward (Vienna Woods) and renewing friendships. And in the midst of all the excitement - thinking about everyone back in the mission. I'm exhausted - and so is my bank account.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
We had a great set of zone conferences this week. (Do I say that every time? Must be true!) We focused first on technical review - reminding the elders of the things that help them in the work, from pass-along cards to weekly planning to Walkabout to the Preach My Gospel Member Program. All the elders came prepared with a talk on "As a missionary, what is the best gift I can give the Savior?" and 4 elders were called on to give their talks in each conference. Their answers included faith, love, diligence, obedience, hard work..." (By George, I think they've got it!)"
For an example of obedience with exactness, an elder talked about going to KFC(which is on every other corner) and ordering a meal. If the price is R100, and you only have R50, or R75, or even R90 - you're not going to get it. Exact results (and rewards) require exact obedience.
I was thinking as the elders sat in the chapels, worrying whether they would be asked to speak, how it would be if everyone throughout the Church always had a talk prepared, in case they were called on. That happens to the elders, the senior couples, and to us all the time here, especially in the small branches. I would suggest some aspect of the atonement. My zone conference talk was on helping investigators understand the atonement, and the Lord's love for them, through our examples. If you have a Preach My Gospel (and doesn't every home, by now?) I went through Faith and Charity under Christlike Attributes and shared my favorite scripture story for each one. Steve then gave his "Last Lecture", which was the scriptures he has most learned from/relied on during the mission, and then there was a brief testimony meeting, started off by the elders who will return home at the end of this cycle. And then, of course, pizza!
After the Hillcrest zone conference on Wednesday Steve and I drove to Newcastle for the Thursday zone conference with Swaziland and Newcastle zones. It was fun to see how the towns have dressed up for FIFA even out there (see photos above). Then we drove back to Durban, so we could fly to Blomfontein at 6:50am on Friday. Bloem is also highly decorated - some of the games are played there - and it was cold - by Durban standards: 0.03 C (34 F?). After the zone conference we had a farewell meal with the Knudsens and Allreds at Coco C's - right near the top of our list of favorite restaurants in the mission, along with Butcher Boys in Hillcrest, Summerfields and in Swaziland, and Mugg & Bean, RJs and Stega d'Oro in Durban.
I think that in spite of the last photos and goodbyes, the zone conferences were pretty cheerful and normal and the elders will just move on into the next ones without skipping a beat. Steve encouraged them all to write a letter this week to President Von Stetton... "and he'll think you write a letter to the President EVERY week!" They loved that - and as you may have guessed from the story, yes, the elders are supposed to write a letter to the President every week; and no, they don't always do it. I hope they're more faithful about writing their families every week.
The mission home remodeling continues - but not as "apace" as Ray Holder would wish. Ray is in charge of all the Church-owned buildings in the Durban and Mozambique missions: KZN, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, & Angola. He really wants the mission home finished for the Von Stettons - it's nice to have lofty goals... However, the painters are done, the tiling is done, the bathroom is maybe a third done, the kitchen only lacks cupboard door handles, sinks and applicances; then we need the new carpet laid, followed by putting all the food and kitchenware away, and straightening the furniture. I'll have to look at the pictures Sister Brock sent me three years ago, to know where the bedroom furniture went: we've moved things around a lot. The good news is, Sister Von Stetton will probably like organizing it the way she wants it, anyway, so "What, me worry?" (Well, yeah, but I'll get over it. I hope Ray does!)
When we breakfast at Little Haven, I always get good stories from Vic and Grace. Today we were talking about the difficulties African return missionaries face in finding work. they told me about a young man who emigrated to the States, jobless and poor. He saw a construction site, bought a broom, and went there and started sweeping up. The foreman asked him what he was doing there, and he answered "Cleaning up." "We didn't hire you!" "That's alright - you don't have to pay me, I'm just going to clean things up." He went to the jobsite every day with his broom, and by the end of the week they hired him and taught him the construction business. As you can imagine, he became very successful.
We met a young man named Surprise, not a member, who is staying with them during some training. His parents are divorced, and when he was 13 or 14 his father took him out of school and away from his mother. Surprise was very good at maths and science, and started tutoring children at a church. More and more students came, and the pastor asked him to encourage them to continue with their education. He was then asked to give his motivational talk other places, and was paid a little - enough to get back in school for another semester. He also started helping at a school for illiterate adults.
He never did his matric exams, but a friend encouraged him to apply at Nestle's. They required their own exam (which he failed) and an interview - which he passed brilliantly as he explained his own efforts for an education. They hired him and are now training him in various areas of the company.
We have elders who were not able to finish school - some because they were supporting their families or helping a younger brother afford school. There isn't a GED type degree anywhere here, that I've heard of, so if they wanted to take the matric exams they would have to go back to school, with the youngsters, and complete all the years they missed. Brother Vic tells me that the answer is to start their own business. There is a niche for everything, and if they can find their's, they can rise to anything. I guess it's like thinking up the Post-it, or rubber bracelets, or vuvuzelas! Completing a mission gives the elders lots of training in goal-setting, strategy planning, endurance and tailoring performance to the needs of the situation. I'm sure they'll find their "niches" if they'll just keep on as they are going now.
And here is one more example of why all the senior couples (including us) wish we could put a few of the elders in our bags and take them home. When I cam out of church at Pinetown Sunday it was raining. Elder Cuguara saw me standing on the porch looking at the rain, came out, and offered me his suitcoat to keep dry on the walk to the car - which would have meant his walking through the rain in his shirtsleeves to bring the coat back.
How can you not love them?
Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann(until Tuesday at 1:30pm Mountain Standard Time, when the Von Stettons get off the plane at King Shaka International Airport)
ps There'll be a last mission blog next week
pps We're going to set up a mission website where the elders/sisters/couples can post pictures and comments on their own pages
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
In spite of construction, cars in the shop (including mine), chilly weather and a whole set of issues we haven't ever had to deal with before, we managed to welcome two new elders and send four seasoned elders home to bigger and better things. Elders Khubeka and Hall arrived with a planeload of Spain supporters, and two 12-year-0ld boys blowing vuvuzelas. If two are that loud up close, thousands at the soccer game must be deafening!
The Davises were kind enough to have the dinner and testimony meeting at their boarding, as the mission home was unavailable; it was very nice - and cosy!
The mission home is currently like Grand Central Station. One day we had 6 or 7 tilers, 3 or 4 painters, Nthombenhle trying to iron shirts and clean whatever she could get at, and the yard crew all working away. As you slide along the wall on a path one tile wide to avoid the new tiles being worked on, you have to avoid touching fresh paint. Furniture gets moved from room to room and occasionally I come home to find the closet where I cleverly put things so I could get at them, blocked by 6 lamps and a bookcase. This happened to the overnight bag I packed the day they painted our bedroom. Regroup and move one!
Hunter went to two FIFA games this week at Moses Mabhida Stadium. We dropped him off at the Pavilion Mall, and they took one of the many shuttle buses (full-size buses) to the Workshop mall downtown, and then smaller shuttles to the stadium. It was a madhouse at the Pavilion, but nothing compared to downtown. The stadium holds 88,000 (I think) and was totally full, and very loud, and the fans were all in team shirts and scarves and hats and face paint, blowing vuvuzelas or yelling. Apparently it was way fun. I liked it on TV.
The roadside vendor trade in national flags to hang on your car window is dropping off - most people have them; if South Africa had won, business would have been booming, I'm sure. The vendors have now added back in their plastic hangers and trash bags - it's an interesting combination!
One of the highlights of the week was a dinner after mission presidency meeting, with all the senior couples. It's the first (and last) time we'll have this whole group together. Not everyone knew each other, so it was nice to get everyone acquainted. We ate at Durban's revolving restaurant, and since it had rained earlier, the air was clear and the views were great. We saw one the lights of one ship leaving the harbor, and several more in line along the coast waiting to get in. We now have a Yearbook (Yearsbook?) with messages from all the current couples, compliments of the Knudsens. I'm planning to carry it around with me so I can have all our couples sign it. What a good way to remember everyone (as if I could forget them!!!). The book is full of pictures and information about South Africa, which I will also enjoy, but not as much as the notes from the couples.
I am furnishing our house-bought-over-the-internet with appliances-bought-over-the-internet. I look them up, then I email Parker and Morgan, and they go buy them with my credit card, and install them. Groceries are next. We'll be able to move right in and start living there...as long as we sleep on the floor; we get in on the 2nd our boxes and furniture won't be delivered until the 6th. Won't be much different than now, except the paint will be dry...
ps In their struggling young married years, Vic & Grace Rawlings drove a VW that required two drivers: one to hold the stick and keep it in gear, and one to steer.
pps More new terms (from Brother Vic):
Active Citizen Forces (ACF) = Army Reserves
Built-in cupboard = a closet
Lad = a male any younger than he is!
ppps They have pulled the R200 note out of circulation because there are too many good counterfeit bills out there.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
It is so crazy here! On Wednesday at noon people all over the city (and probably the country!) blew their vuvuzelas - and if you don't know what they are, you haven't ever watched South Africa play sports. They make the constant buzzing sound that reminiscent of an attack by giant killer bees. If you want to see a few interesting human interest articles about the games, check out http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8672014.stm or
The reason I'm giving you all this "worldly" news is because our missionaries are greatly affected by FIFA. Most days, no one wants to talk about anything but the games. They gather early to party before the games, and stay after to celebrate or commiserate with each other. The first day, when South Africa's Bafana Bafana played Mexico, many stores and lots of workers (including our tiling crew) knocked off early. And those who didn't were watching the game on the nearest screen! There are 3 games most days, so that pretty well wipes out the contacting in some of the areas.
But never fear! The latest ploy is to invite non-members to a member's home to watch a game - along with the elders. I gave a zone conference talk once that I called (to myself) "Rugby as Missionary Work". I guess now that I'm learning about soccer, I'll have to prepare a sequel. You have to be very adaptable when you're working with eternity in mind...
We had an interesting lunch at Mugg & Bean the other day: the waitress had a different accent than I'm used to, and an unusual name: Zuky. I asked her about it and she said she was Xhosa. Then when she brought our food, she asked if she could "pray for our food" (maybe it was the nametags?). Anyway, we said yes, and she said a few words and off she went!
This weekend was our last district conference - everything seems to be a last something - in Blomfontein. It was also my first district conference in Bloemfontein, and I was very impressed. It felt just like a stake conference. The women's session was held in the chapel and it was packed! The three district auxiliary presidents spoke, and they were as poised and articulate and thoughtful as you'd hear in any stake - and more scripture-centered than I've heard in some of the meetings at home.
There were several young men heading out on missions - including one to the UK and one to Ogden, Utah! - and they are clearly very well-prepared. Over the last few months, in addition to missionaries going out from the mission to other African missions, there have been calls to Florida, France and another to the UK. It will be great for them to see the Church operating in different places, and bring that wider vision back here.
Between Afrikaans and siSotho, the spelling and pronunciation is totally different in Blomfontein/Lesotho from Zululand and Swazi. One more challenge for the missionaries! And for the senior couples - Sister Allred made a mighty effort, announcing the program in the womens' session. I was very happy not to have that assignment! Fortunately, although the members chuckle, they love the couples no matter how they pronounce their names.
It's a lot colder in Bloemfontein and Lesotho than it is on the coast. We landed in a thunder and lightning storm that ended up dropping great big hailstones: it was fun! Of course, we weren't out contacting, or walking to appointments or home from work... Steve had been looking all over for a knit scarf in South African flag colors, but of course they are all sold out. On the way to dinner with the Allreds and Knudsens at Coco C, our favorite "chocolate-centered" restaurant we saw a cute family getting out of their car. The mom was wearing a South African scarf, so he went over and said, "That is so great looking! I've been trying to find one - where did you get yours?" She asked where he was from, and then took the scarf off and put it around his neck. Then her husband took a picture of Steve with the rest of the family. People are so nice!
We had a good office devotional today. The deadbolt (to which there seems to be no key) on the office door got locked, so Elder Harmsworth couldn't get in to check and see who was assigned to participate. As a result, he did both the quote (on facing your fears, and gaining new strengths) and the thought. He talked about Christ healing people, and then expanded it beyond physical healing, which I admit to mostly thinking about, to emotional and spiritual healing. It was very thoughtful - and I particularly enjoyed it in his UK accent!
Steve is starting to interview our four elders who go home this week. Elder Owen asked about the report to the high council - is there a checklist? If there is, these elders will get 100%! I hope all the stakes are taking the opportunity to send these young men around to the wards to speak - and that bishops/branch presidents are giving them callings the minute they get home. We spend so much time here making sure new members get responsibilities right away, I'd hate to think our elders might slip through the cracks.
And speaking of elders who've gone home, we had an email concerning four of Steve's former assistants. As Elder Allred put it, "Hiatt, Schwarting, Vance and I traded in our black name tags for white ones and decided to knock doors again..." They're in Oklahoma City selling alarm systems. I figure being missionaries here prepared them in several ways:
1. Good contacting skills
2. History of perseverance
3. Exceptional understanding of the need for security
4. Personal experience with security breaches of all kind
5. Stamina for knocking on doors
But do they go out in companionships???
ps I'm learning some interesting facts working on BYU correspondence classes with Hunter. For instance, did you know that originally the name tarantula was applied to a spider of the wolf spider family, Lycosa tarentula, whose bite was supposed to cause tarantism, a nervous condition characterized by hysteria? The best cure was believed to be strenuous and prolonged dancing of the tarantella...
pps Khumbelani, the CES coordinator for the Area, has a wife who is one of several daughters. Her name, Ntombifuthi, means "another girl". Her sister, who was the 4th daughter, is called Sibongile, which can mean "we are thankful" or "we have blessings"...or possibly "ENOUGH blessings!"
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Every so often a mission home needs a facelift, and we are currently on the operating table. We have an option of moving into a B&B - Little Haven, of course - but we're stalling until it's unbearable, as the office is so convenient to us here. The work started Monday, with chipping and pounding from 7am to 5pm six days a week. So far, the kitchen and hall bathroom have been completely torn out, an all the wall and floor tiles from the kitchen, bathroom, and testimony room. They have started putting tiles on the kitchen walls - and they look great!
So here's how we're managing to stay on:
1. The washer and dryer are in the back boarding of the office: my own private laundromat.
2. The refrigerator is on the back patio, plugged in through the window.
3. The food from the pantry is on the shelves in the family room, along with a few crucial dishes & cutlery.
4. The rest of the kitchen pots & pans, mixers, etc. are on the shelves in the dining room.
5. The computer is in the masterbedroom, but we also have a wireless laptop.
6. The TV, microwave, toaster, crockpot and electric teapot are in Morgan's old room, along with the ironing board and one of the family room couches.
7. The XBox and the other family room couch are in Hunter's room.
8. A plastic tub and dishrack in the bathtub in the master (only) bathroom is the "kitchen sink" for washing dishes.
9. The furniture from the testimony room, dining room, hall and family room are in the extra bedroom - except for the dining room table and the two big couches: they wouldn't fit through the hall, so the men have to move them around as they work.
We are eating out a lot, and getting pre-made sandwiches, etc. from Woolworth's. Aside from the occasional crowded conditions, it's working out pretty well. You even get (kinda) used to the noise of the hammers and chisels.
Today at fast and testimony meeting in Pinetown I realized another reason the testimonies shared here are so powerful. Not only do the members testify to the truths of the gospel, they sometimes tell their conversion stories. Today Sister Ann Fagin, Elder Holmes' granny, shared that it was the 50th anniversary of her baptism - and about the many churches she attended on her way to getting here. After her testimony, several other members shared their experiences, and the difference the gospel and being members of the Lord's church has made in their lives. We need to help more of our neighbors at home gain testimonies and be baptized, so we can have more of those powerful testimonies!
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of my own baptism, and I wouldn't even have thought of it if not for Sister Ann's testimony. I was only 8, so it wasn't as powerful as her adult conversion, but I remember the day. My brother Richard had just been ordained a Priest, so he baptized me in the font under the Tabernacle at Temple Square, on the Emigration Stake baptismal day. In fact, he actually baptized me twice, as one toe apparently didn't go under. But even though I was baptized as an 8-year-old, I can still share the story of gaining my own testimony - and often do, out here. So why not at home?
The stake and district presidents are introducing a new member missionary plan (not ours - President Poulsen of the Johannesburg Mission presented it at the Mission Presidents' Seminar) that is going to be terrific. The bishop is the "mission president" of his ward, and marks on the ward map where the new members and investigators live. He then divides the map into areas, and assigns ward missionaries to specific areas. Their job is to fellowship investigators - which means calling or visiting twice a week, offering to walk to Church together, introducing them to ward members. teaching post-baptism lessons, etc. Of course, they can still find people for the missionaries to teach, too. This is so much more focused than "Do you know anyone we can teach?" The fulltime missionaries will have more time to find and teach, as some of the other support is taken over by members - who will then know the newly baptized members very well, and help them stay active. In the Johannesburg Mission it's making a big difference: I'm sure it will here, too. Steve just wishes he were going to be around to implement it!
As of today, the FIFA countdown is at 4 days to go, and the excitement is mounting! All the teams are in the country and warming up, and multiple vendors on every corner are selling flags to fly on your car; you set the base of the pole on the top of the car window, and roll it up until it holds. Many cars have South African flags, others have flags of their team of choice, some have both! I even saw a motorcylist today with a South African flag waving from his helmet! The missionaries have been asked not to display any kind of national insignias - which makes us perfect targets for the vendors, since we obviously need a flag! More and more people are wearing the yellow Bafana Bafana shirts on "football Fridays" too. It's actually very fun! I imagine Salt Lake was like this before the Olympics...
Love, Mom/Grandma(or maybe Granny?)/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann
ps Ballito is celebrating the 4th of July weekend with a Prawn and Jazz Festival. Think it could compete with Rocky Mountain Oysters and country music in Eagle?
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Happy Memorial Day!
This has been a very difficult week, due to some personal and health issues for some of our wonderful elders. As a result, I'm cheering myself up by sharing some of the quotes and stories I've been writing down over the last few years. I hope you like them, too.
As people come up out of the waters of baptism, we hope they see the spires of the temple.
As [missionaries] teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ to the people, they need to apply it to themselves.
Endure to the end, continue in faith, be repentant, be service-minded.
Learn the doctrines of the gospel, and how to extend the invitation, and you will reap the blessings.
In the timeline of the Restoration, the only thing that preceded the Book of Mormon was the First Vision.
Sister Christensen (Uganda
(After commenting on cultural traditions) In the Church we don't have to bow down to men: we stand side by side with them.
Sister Donnelly (Madagascar - she's originally from the UK)
When something niggly happens to the elders, I like to jolly them along. They've got all those knocks: I'm going to be their sunshine.
Sister Taylor (Kenya)
When you go to war, you take your weapon. The Book of Mormon is my weapon in life.
Focus on the Master; anchor to the atonement. Let His spirit walk with the missionaries and make them master teachers.
Somewhere out there is a young Jeff Holland, who doesn't know what he's doing, doesn't know where he's been, and certainly doesn't know where he's going - and your are arriving in the nick of time.
Every truth that a missionary teaches is only an appendage to the atonement.
[Preach My Gospel] was designed beyond the veil and put together here.
(See D&C 8:3) Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground just as the gospel can lead us through the dangers of today's world in safety. We show [others] the way to the dry ground.
We are here to help sad people find happiness.
Using your agency to be receptive and to participate makes it possible to be taught by the Spirit.
Alma gave up all the power and prestige of being the chief judge...to become a missionary.
When you're on the Lord's errand you're entitled to the Lord's help.
The word "atonement" is mentioned once in the King James Bible - and 39 times in the Book of Mormon.
We can understand the Restoration only as we understand the Biblical doctrines that needed to be restored.
The Book of Mormon restores, underscores, and clarifies Biblical doctrine.
Christlike attributes are essential to becoming a successful missionary [or saint!]; they are a gift from God, and cannot be developed without His help.
An intellectual conversion is important, but not as important as a conversion of the heart.
In Leicester, England, an inscription on the outside wall of an old church reads, "In the year 1654 when all things were, throughout this nation, either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded and built this church. He it is whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the
worst times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous."
A sister at Durban Stake conference told a story about a tour in heaven given by an angel. The first stop was a very large, crowded room full of angels writing things down. This was the order center - prayers and requests from people all over the world.
The second stop was another large, busy room, with angels filling packages and envelopes. This was the delivery center - blessings and answers going out in answer to prayers.
The last stop was a tiny room with only one angel. sitting a leisure. This was the acknowledgement center - where thanks and gratitude are recorded.
I'm definitely going to try keeping that 3rd angel busier...
GOOD NIGHT AROUND THE WORLD
NETHERLANDS: Goeden nagt
AUSTRALIA: Night, mate
USA: Good night
GERMANY: Gute nacht
SOUTH AFRICA: Are the doors locked, are the windows closed. is the car put away, is the alarm activated and have you fed the Rottweilers? Sleep tight, and dont worry about the lights, Eskom will put them out.
Friday, May 21, 2010
We just completed our zone conference tour, and all of our elders and couples are doing great. This week and next week I'll put all their pictures on the blog.
Steve asked the elders to prepare ahead of time with scriptures to help them overcome Five Roadblocks to Being an Effective Missionary: Pride, Rationalization, Sloth, Doubt, and Blame. The elders had given it a lot of thought and effort, so the discussions were very good. They also made lists of their challenges in those areas - NOT their companions challenges! - and then the companions discussed ways they could help each other.
Two elders, as well as the assistants, also gave talks at each conference. The talks are always a real highlight. Elder Amerikau spoke about the challenges in loving your companion, and said "You can't ask for this-and-such elder as your companion, and even if you're from the same country, at the end of the day you come from different backgrounds." And if they're from different countries, it's even tougher. But somehow they do it, and in many cases an elder going home will say that his favorite companion was the one whose background was the most dissimilar to his own. And once it was the companion who didn't even speak any English to begin with! (Elder Nielson and Elder Feliciano)
One of the elders told a story his "baba" (trainer) Elder N'Ongom had told, about a young man looking out over his wealthy father's estate. His father approached and asked what he thought of it. "It's wonderful! How can I acquire all of that for myself?" The father replied, "When you become like me." (I thought about that, and about all the times in movies and real life where the father is complaining about his "heir" who has grown up expecting to be handed the inheritance, instead of being trained to be a steward over the inheritance. Quite a difference from the gospel approach to rewards.)
Our missionaries are definitely being trained as stewards...and leaders...and companions (husbands, but don't tell them I said that). When someone at the Area Office expressed concern as to where the leaders will come from to handle the growth of the Church in Africa, Steve wrote back and invited him to visit the mission - where he would see the future leaders in action. There are 60 or more missionaries serving right now from our 2 stakes and 4 districts - up from 9 in 2007 - so hopefully the leaders will grow along with the membership.
And on the purely temporal side: Elder & Sister Knudsen introduced the Allreds and me to a new restaurant in Bloemfontein: Coco C. Every dish, breakfast through dinner, has a little (or a lot, in the case of dessert) of chocolate in it. Next time you have soup or vinaigrette dressing, try adding a swirl of chocolate sauce. Sounds peculiar...tastes great! Especially after three days of pizza for lunch!
This weekend is Hillcrest Stake Conference. The theme is Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the Relief Society presidency did a great job speaking on those subjects. Jillian Rieckhof, from Pinetown Ward where I've gone with the boys, talked about staying hopeful through some very difficult times - like having/raising 4 children near the diamond mines in what was basically an abandoned settlement with no electricity, and Church 1-1/2 hours away, when possible. But she talked about all the wonderful things she learned there. What I learned is that I am definitely a wimp. So many members here have gone through very tough situations - and just kept going. I'm learning a lot about endurance here.
This is from Sister JoAnn Wilson's talk: "The opposites to faith, hope, and charity are doubt, despair, and failure to care for our fellowman." (No wonder the gospel emphasizes the former!) My own favorite scripture (out of the many) about faith hope and charity is 2 Nephi 31:20.
President Wilford made us all cry during the session by showing a video from LDS.org called My New Life - go to lds.org and scroll down. (Maybe when I get home and find myself with free time again, I can use it to investigate all the wonderful new offerings the Church has put on the internet.) After watching that, my wimpness became even more apparent. However. if the trade-off for becoming strong is horrible trials... I'll have to think about it.
I also got a great line from President Wilford for when someone starts spouting doubtful doctrine or mysteries: "There's speculation about that, but all we really need to know is..." followed by the true doctrine. Very useful for missionaries. It might come in handy in some situations with kids, too!
ps When a rugby player is tackled, he is "taken to earth". I'm using that phrase next time I trip (it's an inherited clumsy gene...)
pps I wonder if an NFL announcer would ever refer to a really good effort by a quarterback as a "lovely move"?
ppps Yes, we are watching Super 14 Rugby... when we're not watching soccer... or the NBA playoffs...
Monday, May 17, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, May 7, 2010
2010 05 16 - Interim Mission Presidents' Seminar here/ Parker graduates from Montana State University in Bozeman, there
Dear Family & Friends:
We got back Friday from the Mission Presidents' Seminar in Johannesburg: it was wonderful. The best part, of course, was spending time with the other couples. I felt just like the elders when they come to zone conference and get all excited over seeing the elders they came out with from the MTC. We came out with the Livingstones (DRC- went home last year), the Taylors (Kenya) and the Christensens (Uganda). The bond has increased as we have sent missionaries to each others' missions - we have a lot to talk about when we get together! And now we're commiserating with each other over having to leave our missionaries. It's always nice to talk with someone who is sharing similar experences.
In addition to very good training and idea sharing, an amazing braii in the Area Office garage (rainy weather) and a temple session, we visited the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, and Plumari Game Park with it's "domesticated" elephants. I took lots of pictures, and even kissed an elephant.
One of the lunchtime stories swapped: In Uganda baby boy was adopted by the Tar family, and given his new father's name: David. A few years later, Mom Tar had a baby boy. Dad Tar wanted to give this boy his name. so he split it. David became Da, and the new baby was named Vid. So now David Tar has his sons Da Tar, and Vid Tar. Pretty effective recycling...
Elder & Sister Van Blankenstein are heading home from Lesotho, as Elder & Sister Knudsen move there from Newcastle to continue the good work. The Van Blankensteins have done huge amounts in public affairs, as well as practically everything else, and this is their report of their last event - very exciting!
"We here in Lesotho have been very humbled and well-taught as we put the principle of faith and fasting into practice last week. We held a special fasting day for missionary work to go forward in this country, so the top leaders would be moved to attend our "Appreciation Dinner" where we could better introduce them to the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"We know that 'faith precedes the miracle' and a true miracle happened. We had an outstanding evening at the best hotel in the country, sponsored by the South East Africa Public Affairs and attended by Elder Watson, of the Area Presidency. But the miracle was that the government leaders came, even the King, His Majesty King Letsie III. Other Honourable Ministers, Prime Minister of Foreign Relations, Principle Secretaries, Clerk of the Senate, NGOs and Ambassadors all came and were introduced in a variety of ways to who we are, what we believe in and what we can do to help the people of Lesotho.
"During the evening, several dignitaries asked for information and where our church was located. President Watson even invited the King and Queen to Salt Lake City for October Conference! I know that our prayers were heard and that hearts were touched...
"The news camera was there (Lesotho has only one channel) and it was broadcast last night. Also, yesterday we taped an interview for a weekly Christian show to be shown on TV. Our Government Relations Director from Johannesburg, our local member of our branch presidency, Public Affairs Directors and Humanitarian Directors were all present, which started another chain reaction of contacts and future publicity.
"I know that our prayers were heard and that hearts were touched. Van and I feel so blessed to have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord to help bring this to pass. What a great way to leave the mission field!" (Amen!)
Elder & Sister Mickelsen left today. They were our first ever PEF couple, and over their 18 months (and thousands of kilometers) managed to get more than 100 students through the 2-3 month loan process and into school. They have a dozen or so still in process, and hated leaving any unfinished. We miss them already - but I think Sister Mickelsen and I will be able to keep our little "book group" going even at a distance. And now we have yet another reason to visit St. George!
We had two unusual robberies in Richards Bay the last few weeks.
1. At the Pier's boarding: Sister Pier heard some unusual noises outside, and when she opened the drapes to see what it was, someone had stolen...their front gate! It may be the same group that vandalized an early 20th century cemetery in New Germany and chiseled off or wrenched off the name plaques and every other piece of metal on the gravestones, the fences, etc. They sell it all to scrap metal dealers - who should be at least a little suspicious when a cemetery plaque in Afrikaans is offered for sale?
2. Someone broke into the Richards Bay building, and took... baptismal clothes, tablecloths and cutlery. Better than computers and organs - which has happened here!
Elder Davis has a very poetic way of encouraging elders to drive more thoughtfully:
"I have concluded it is time to promote a 'gentler touch' in driving our vehicles. Some of you, probably most of you, drive too harshly, brake too hard, corner too fast, and accelerate too strongly... If you were riding a horse, I would say 'She was rode too hard and put away wet'." I'm already paying attention to his advice - and nagging Steve about his driving.
ps Steve had a little free time last weekend - and spent most of it whinging about moving from beautiful, lush, warm Durban, to the deserts of Idaho...
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Dear Family & Friends:
The wait, and even the longer drive were worth it: the new King Shaka International Airport is amazing. It's big, spacious, full of stores and restaurants, there are glass doors so you can spot the missionaries (always recognizable) as they look for their luggage, and plenty of parking. We liked it so much we went there 4 times this week! First the eagerly awaited Blackburns arrived on Sunday night. The only glitch in their arrangements was actually om the U.S. side, as their plane was delayed in Atlanta; although they made the connection in Johannesburg, their luggage didn't. Our newest couple handled jet lag beautifully and drove to Swaziland their second day here.
The next trip to the airport was a sad one - saying goodbye to the wonderful ladysmithWilsons. We'll miss them a lot! (Fortunately, you'll be able to see them in the new senior couple recruiting dvd...)
The airport journeys continued as we picked up our 8 new elders on Wednesday - to the music of the Beach Boys singing "Kokomo" - and dropped off 8 seasoned priesthood leaders on Friday. We always have a dinner and testimony meeting for each of these groups of elders, and I thought Elder Hamilton told about coming out to South Africa with Elder Summers, and sitting by a man who was very harsh with them about wasting two years for a meaningless cause. They had no idea what to say to him - then. We're all hoping they will sit by him on the way home, too: it will be a very different story!
Elder Hamilton also gave a very good "last lecture" when he said, "I know the gospel is true. The Book of Mormon is true. In fact, it's all true - and that's all that matters."
For those of you who are not (yet) deeply immersed in Preach My Gospel, here is a message Elder Davis shared in devotional, from page 120. See if it isn't worth your time:
"Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious. It is the ability to do God's will and accept His timing. when you are patient, you hold up under pressure and are able to face adversity calmly and hopefully. Patience is related to hope and faith - you must wait for the Lord's promised blessings to be fulfilled...You must be patient with all people, yourself included, as you work to overcome faults and weaknesses." PGM p120
Every so often Steve sends a special email out to all the missionaries. I thought you might like to see what your elder has been reading lately:
As we have travelled this cycle we have often started skills & interviews with the song "Come Come Ye Saints". Each time we sing it I think of my own great, great grandparents and the sacrifices they made as they left their homes in Europe knowing they would never see their families again and made their way west. They made their way filled with hope and a burning testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored. It was hard, they suffered through hunger and thirst and fatigue. They buried children along the trail, but still they made their way west to the Promised Land where they could practice their religion, partake of the saving ordinances and raise their children in righteousness.
How grateful I am for their commitment and sacrifice. What a legacy they have left as their children, grandchildren, and great, great, great grandchildren have grown to maturity in the gospel and gone on to serve the Lord.
Each day as we make decisions to serve the Lord we too are leaving a legacy. As we live and honor the mission equation we leave a legacy. As we strive to build and support and encourage and love our companions and those in our districts and zones we leave a legacy. We leave an enormous legacy with the brothers and sisters we teach and baptize as they change their lives and start on a path that will unite them with their families forever and allow them to return to their Father's kingdom.
We leave a legacy with the people we serve as they observe missionaries from all over the world serving others rather than pursuing their own selfish interests. We leave a legacy for our own children and grandchildren, for in some future day they will read our journals and hear our stories and come to know the trials and joys of their grandfathers as they served the Lord on full-time missions.
Most importantly we leave a legacy for ourselves as we serve with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength and learn to live by the Spirit and by revelation. This legacy is built each day and each moment as we make choices to serve the Lord. This legacy is built with two-mite days, obedience with exactness, one more doors, tailored lessons, and enthusiasm, and hope and faith, and tired bodies and joyful hearts. It is a legacy that sets the foundation for the rest of our lives and a legacy that will bring us and our families back to our Father.
What a joy it is to serve with you and be part of your legacy. You are magnifying your callings and your priesthood and as you do so you are fulfilling your part of the covenant made in D&C 84 that promises you all that the Father has. I love you, Elders. Go out and make this the best week of your mission. Go out with joy. Go out with boldness and courage. Go out with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a determination to invite all to enter His kingdom.
This week is the interim Mission Presidents' Seminar in Johannesburg. It will be great to see all the other mission presidents and their wives, as well as the Area Presidency and their wives. (Let's be honest: for me it's especially the wives!) The downside, of course, is knowing we won't see many of them again for years. I guess that's one of the advantages of living in the Wasatch front - there are always a lot of people you met on mission who live within reach for reunions. I understand part of the post-mission adjustment is discovering that after the first few minutes, no one else is really that interested in talking about your mission memories - except the other former missionaries!
ps I was surprised last week to see a truck with the bumper slogan: "Say no to crack", as I hadn't seen any anti-drug projects around here or heard anyone talk about specific drugs. Good for you! I thought...until I looked at the logo on the truck: T&R Paving...
pps For those if you who have been asking, we were just invited (via email) to give a homecoming report in our River Heights Ward (Eagle, Idaho) on July 25th at 11am.