Dear Family and Friends:
I know the mothers out there can relate to my enthusiasm at the reopening of school. The upside is a quiet house during the day, and gym or sports practices most afternoons. The downside is early morning seminary. Oh well, you can't win them all! And by the way, it's the early morning part of seminary that I am whinging about. I am actually very sad that Hunter and Morgan will only get the first semester of Book of Mormon in seminary, due to the 6-month difference in school schedules between the U.S. and South Africa.
(I've got a National Geographic special playing in the background, which just explained how all of us descended from the early humans in East Africa. Someone needs to contact them and tell them about Jackson County, Missouri...so what mission is the headquarters of National Geographic in?)
Steve started interviews on Tuesday, and he comes home most nights absolutely overwhelmed by the wonderful elders we have in the mission. He says that almost every missionary starts his interview with "Before we start, can I tell you about this great experience I had..." There was a huge number of new investigators in almost every unit last Sunday, and some branches had the largest attendance they had ever had. Plus many of the branch presidents and bishops, entirely on their own, are starting the combined Relief Society/Priesthood meeting on fast Sundays, to focus on member missionary work. Yes!
Our new office couple has been delayed by paperwork for a month - and the wonderful, wonderful Elder & Sister Johnson have decided to extend long enough to train them. We always thought we had the best couple missionaries in the Church - now we are sure! And we appreciate their children and grandchildren for not trying to talk them out of it! (Braden - thank you very much! Rachel - repent?) They may have been influence in their decision by the amazing story of Willard Bean and his wife Rebecca, which Elder Johnson shared in our office devotional (June 1985 Ensign: Willard Bean, Palmyra's "Fighting Parson"). It's definitely worth a read!
Steve received a wonderful email from Elder Mbithi, who returned home to Kenya just a few weeks ago. I hope he won't mind my sharing a little of it:
"Dear President Mann
I'm happy to say that I arrived home well and 30 of my friends from my youth group were there and after sharing my mission experiences with them I could not fail to extend a commitment for them to come to Church, and I'm excited to be involved in their conversion process and their families, too, as they are excited to join the Church.
Sunday I was called as the Branch Mission Leader and I talked with the Branch Presidency and they gave me the last Sunday of the month to do How Great (Shall Be Your Joy) training and they ordered Preach My Gospel for every family as I entend to introduce PMG Member, and also they agreed to make sure that there are missionary moments in the auxiliaries every Sunday.
President, it's fun doing this and I can't wait to show them the PEC Action List so their PECs can be productive..."
This is just one example of the excitement and leadership the elders take home with them. I hope all the local priesthood leaders are taking advantage of their new maturity, right away. I know it happens in Africa, so I actually worry more about our elders from areas where the Church is strong! How unexpected is that!
Saturday Steve and I took Morgan down to King's Park for an Athletics (track & field) meet. Athletics is a "minor" sport, which in this particular case means any boys who want to participate can make their way to an occasional practice at Westville Girls High School and get some coaching. The meets are not actually school vs. school - the one Saturday was open to anyone who wanted to participate, including students, coaches, etc. Morgan did shot put - which he's never done before, and had no coaching in - so he'll have enough events to be on the first team (such as it is) and get gear and glory. His other event is the 4x100 relay, and their team has won the last two meets.
Rugby pre-season practice has also started, and at the moment he is on the 2nd team, which is actually terrific, as the 1st team last year was almost all 11th graders who are still on it. So he is competing against the 2nd, 3rd, etc. team 11th graders, plus all he 10th graders. If he stays on it, he'll get to do some more travelling to competitions during the holidays.
Hunter, meanwhile, is keeping up the social end of our family activities. Last week he went out with three different girls - and two of them are 18 and 20! Of course, they look about 14 - it's so hard to tell how old people are! I'd worry more if I weren't his chauffeur, and the dates weren't in very public places - like theaters and malls. Thank goodness for 18-year-old driver's licenses!
ps Anybody else get to watch monkeys playing in their bushes on Saturday morning?
pps Went to Phoenix Branch today - a very full house and everyone very happy, but missing the Dalebouts.