I had an interesting Sunday afternoon last week! Elder Mapfumo, working in Umlazi BB, was bitten on the hand by a dog. Our instructions are to verify that the dog's rabies shots are up to date, which is usually easy to do (and yes, I speak from experience). Unfortunately, no certificates of vaccination were available, so I met Elder Mapfumo and Elder Ikahihifo at Kingsway Hospital Amanzimtoti to get the wound cleaned, stitched (if necessary) and wrapped. When the doctor learned that we couldn't know for sure about the vaccinations, she was very insistent that Elder Mapfumo have a series of rabies shots; apparently there have occasionally been some cases in the area. Actually, mission policy is exactly that; rabies isn't something you mess with.
So, on the way to the hospital, all the traffice gets slowed down by a bus followed by 5 or 6 cars, surrounded by motorcycle police with their lights flashing. I thought first it was a sports team on the way to the airport, or an important visitor, but the cars weren't fancy enough, so when it turned off for Chatsworth, I decided it must be a funeral.
I finally got there, met the elders, and headed back into the "Toti Med" clinic, which is for minor emergencies. While Elder Mapfumo was being repaired, the police brought in a handcuffed man who wailed and talked and complained: I really wished I understood Zulu. We eventually learned that he was a drunk driver who had hit an ambulance - possibly the one transporting some of the injured people who were arriving? - then drove on and rolled his car. He refused the breathalyzer test, so they brought him in for a blood test. This use of the medical staff, while injured and ailing patients were waiting for care, was not well-received by those who had brought the patients in. However, we eventually finished everything up, and left.
Elder Mapfumo will get additional shots on the 3rd day, the 7th day, the 14th and th 28th - unless the dog is still alive in two weeks (extremely likely), in which case it doesn't have rabies, and he can skip the last shots. I was happy to learn that they no longer give painful shots in the stomach; the shot was in the shoulder, and he said it didn't hurt as much as the tetanus shot did... And by the way, I'm telling this story not to scare you about dogs (which EVERYONE has) or rabies, but to show what good care the missions take of the missionaries. We take no chances.
Here's a way better story - it comes from Elder ladysmith Wilson, dated 17 January 2010:
"There is a young man in Ezakheni named Danny Madondo. Danny's father was Korean, so he is of mixed blood. He is a smart young man, eager to learn, and impressive. He is 13 years old. The elders found his family a few months ago; he is living with his granny, Ma Fikele, as his mother died when he was 8. They began to teach them the gospel, and he was baptized a couple of weeks ago.
Danny's aunt and 10-year-0ld cousin came to stay with the granny because they had TB and were very ill and needed tending to. It put a big strain on the family financially, as they didn't have much to begin with. Danny's cousin passed away a month ago, and his aunt died just this morning.
Danny was to be confirmed today in Church. He came, and said he didn't know what to do about Church, but decided he should come because he thought it was the right thing to do, and so he was confirmed.
Tonight the elders asked if we had heard of Danny's miracle. We hadn't, and we were so happy to hear it. School just started this week, and because funerals are such a big expense for a family, Ma Fikele didn't have any money for the registration fees, uniforms, etc. Danny and his granny went to the school to see if they would let him start, and they would pay as they were able. The principal said no.
Danny had to go make copies of his papers, and he was crying. A woman came over and said, "Danny, why are you crying?" He told her. She asked to see his grade report, and then he left.
Later that day Danny's granny got a phone call from a woman and she said they should meet her in town the next day at a certain time. Ma Fikele didn't even ask who it was or anything, she just said they would come.
The next morning they worried that maybe it was a con person, so they decided to pray before they left. They took a taxi to town, and waited at the arranged place. In a while a woman came; it was the woman from the school. She took them to the bank with her and then to the school, where she paid all of Danny's expenses to get him in school, and bought his uniforms and everything he needs. The registration and fees alone were R800, which is really a lot here. Then she told them she would pay each year for Danny through grade 12! She told him she was giving him an opportunity, and he was to study hard and not waste it.
When Danny went to class, the woman was his teacher."
So who says prayer doesn't work?
Here's another example. There was something Morgan wanted very badly, and while we were waiting to hear whether he got it or not, he said to me, "We need to say a prayer." We did, and when the call came, the first words I heard were "Sister Mann, your prayers have been answered - and that doesn't usually happen around here!" Morgan succeeded in what he wanted, and it was a good lesson in how prayers can be answered very directly. I hope he remembers that next time...
Paul, a young returned missionary in Pinetown Ward, gave a very powerful talk about home teaching in sacrament meeting. One example he gave was when he misunderstood the due date for a very important, long essay, and found himself starting it the night before he had to have it in. (It was 4 pages longer than any essay he had ever written, and the 3 page ones were very hard to write.) As he started the essay, a former home teaching companion called to say he had several appointments set up, but his companion couldn't come. Would Paul help come out with him? Paul prayed and asked for help with his paper so he could go on the visits. He went home teaching, and had some wonderful experiences. Then next day he finished and turned in the paper, which was rated 2nd highest in the class and earned distinction. Time to review attitudes about home teaching and it's importance?
A postscript to Paul's story: he's now considering going home teaching the night before every exam!
I learned yesterday from Elder Terry & Elder Mwita that the kingdom is growing here in yet another way: families moving in from other areas. We were in Amanzimtoti so Steve could do a baptism interview, and the elders were telling me about the baptisms coming up, the families they are teaching...and about two families who have moved into the ward, one from Zimbabwe, and one from Johannesburg. So a big thank you to both of those missions, for sharing!
Two of our favorite friends are now sharing the continent with us: Delray and Marsha Maughan arrived in Accra, Ghana last week. Delray will be the Area Medical Adviser for the Africa West Area. We had really hoped they'd be here with us, but I know they're really needed there - and will have a much more varied and dramatic set of medical problems; Delray will be great at it. And although it's harder to imagine Marsha in the wilds of untamed (OK, less-tamed) Africa, she'll be great, too. When I read Ensign articles or Relief Society talks about the kind of women the Church is trying to develop, I think of Marsha (and our couplesisters and a number of other wonderful friends). When I first met her, I thought she was a sweet, lovely, gracious person, but it wasn't until I got to know her that I discovered her backbone of steel. I can envision her standing up to a mob or pulling a handcart. I should know by now that there's so much more inside people than you can see at first acquaintance, but I seem to have to learn that lesson over and over.
Our African elders often tell me how much they love the "adopters" who take time to communicate with them. I think a lot of lasting friendships are being made. But we have to make it a little more challenging, I'm afraid. As some of you know, we have been strongly reminded that missionaries should only be emailing their families on preparation days. So, those of you who are emailing elders who have no one who can email them: you are their family. Please continue emailing. Those of you who have elders with "email support", please start writing letters instead of emailing. (I suggest you send a large envelope of self-addressed envelopes and stationery to your elder, to help him write back - and I will stress the importance of prompt replies.) This is not going to be as satisfying - parents with missionaries out can attest to how much they appreciate knowing every week that all is going well with their children. But we need to be obedient, so I'm asking everyone to help out. Thank you so much for your support, and please keep it up. It makes a big difference to them. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1741, Wandsbeck 3631, South Africa. If you send a package that requires an actual address, it's 8 Windsor Avenue, Westville 3630, South Africa.
And by the way, ALL of our elders love letters and packages.
ps Happy Birthday the 23rd to Carolyn: our internet was down, but I was thinking of you!
pps For those of you who are keeping track, I passed another Grindrod company Thursday.
ppps I have it on very good authority (a radio newscaster) that if you drive too fast on wet, congested roads you'll "become unstuck". So be careful! I like you as you are: stuck.