Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 03 07 - Couples Conference

Dear Everyone:

It's nice to be back. And, just for fun, next time you type something, use your left hand and the fourth finger of your right hand: it's interesting.

We had yet another terrific couples conference this week. We went back to the Pumula Beach Hotel, on the South Coast. Sister Knudsen's sister Billie is visiting, and she made a nice addition to our group. Hunter came, too, and was delighted to find that the wireless internet didn't work very well, so he couldn't do his online courses. Luckily, however, I had brought a book he had to read for history, so he still had the wonderful opportunity to do schoolwork. It's the first time I've ever seen him sit down and read a whole book.

The project this time was to put together a recruitment video that couples can use as they give firesides telling about their missions, and encourage other couples to go. First we had "Sharing Time", and showed the photos everyone had brought with them. We were all supposed to bring 10, and it was really fun to see them all. It was like showing pictures of the their other grandparents! There were pictures of boardings, being with the elders, teaching gospel lessons, English and keyboard, baptisms, temple trips, Helping Hands, etc. It made me want to see ALL the other pictures the couples have taken, but I don't think I'll live that long.

We also had reports on PEF, employment, and public relations; a talk on service; a testimony meeting; the Sunbeam Message of the Day and a State of the Mission report. But the bulk of the time was spent in discussing the things that couples fear about missions, and what they might want to know before coming on one. Then Steve and the Assistants filmed each of the couples talking about their own missionary experiences. The pictures and the interviews will now be combined into South Africa Durban Mission: The Movie... I mean, into an instructive and motivating message.

Actually, I think it's going to be really good, so if you really, really, really don't want to go on a mission - don't ever watch it.

Most everyone had a little time between filming and discussions to walk on the beach - or run: Elder Harmsworth came down with the Assistants, and was the undisputed champion at running on the beach. Hunter came with us and was delighted to find that the internet connection was poor, so he was able to read one of his required history books instead of doing math and earth science. I had never seen him sit down and read a whole book before!

We're hearing more good stories from all over the mission. The swaziWilsons report:

"Elders Nganda and Martin are working way too hard in Nhlangano. When we arrived to teach piano lessons today, they were teaching a young man there at the church with excitement and enthusiasm. We had to wait to visit them for about an hour while they taught. They also told us today that they're going to have a difficult time getting to Mbabane Sunday night at a decent time because they have 7 teaching appointments after church meetings. They shared all this information with giggles and beaming smiles, like they really were enjoying what they're doing. Imagine that!

"Elders Skinner and Mbongwe, even though they've been relegated to bikes through no fault of their own, were excited to try something new. But half-way through their day a tire blew (do I need to tattle on whose bike that was?). We drove up Tea Road to rescue them and found them walking their bikes down the hill to meet us. After loading the bikes in the back they refused a ride saying that their next appointment was in an hour and they wanted to walk to it because they could talk to lots of people on the way and maybe find even more people to teach. The sweat waws dripping off their glowing, happy faces. Later that evening we called to see if we could pick them up and get them safely home, but again they refused saying they were teaching close to the boarding and could get themselves back OK. Our elders (all 12) are turning Swaziland into a Magical Kingdom."

Elder Hamilton and Elder SSerunkuma have opened up a new city in Lesotho, called Laribe. This is the Queen of Lesotho's family home. Elder and Sister Van Blankenstein have already gotten acquainted with the King and Queen - an d learned about the manty layers of protocol that must be dealt with properly and
in the correce order, to be granted an audience with royalty. The elders reported that when they started tracting, they were invited into every home, and set up multiple teaching appointments - with families. The local college has given them a room (free of charge!) to meet in for Sunday meetings. They were expecting a much larger turnout for their first meeting than they actually had, but later a number of their investigators apologized for missing church. Most of them were at funerals. Lesotho has the third highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, and it's taking its toll on the people. All the more reason to preach the gospel there - protection, and hope.

Elder Smith and Elder Kwendo, in Umlazi W, were bunked this week and had an hour unexpectedly free. They thought about it, and decided they needed to find someone else to teach. A man was walking down the street near them, and they both said "He's the one!" So they contacted him, and sure enough, now they're teaching him.

Elder Watson reminded us of a great swaziWilson story. Early in their mission they were driving to a meeting and Sister swaziWilson saw some beautiful pineapples for sale on the roadside. When they returned past it, they stopped and bought a pineapple. The man running the stand wouldn't let them leave until Elder swaziWilson promised to teach him to be a "man of faith". They taught him, he was baptized, Elder Watson confirmed him on a visit to Swaziland, and he is now second counselor in the branch presidency...and a man of faith.

Steve was interviewing the elders in the Umlazi BB district and made an interesting discovery. He turned to Elder Dygert and commented, "You're the only white guy out here!" Elder Dygert looked around and responded, "Hey, I am!" (These may not be totally accurate quotes, but they reflect the great attitude of brotherhood in the mission. Nobody notices race anymore.)

Our new office couple arrived Saturday night, Elder and Sister Davis. After a few hours of intermittent sleep we took them to KwaMashu Branch, where they were won over by a "real" testimony meeting - meaning every member bore their testimony, and that's it. It's always nice when a couple's first meeting is a testimony meeting: it really gives good introduction to the faithfulness of the people here.

Hunter had his "other" knee operated on Friday, so everyone is coming over to check on him. It's been a weekend party. He's getting around a little, but it hurts a lot. But one of these days, when he's all recovered, he'll be able to race around the basketball court and be a star - I just have to keep telling myself that when he's complaining and demanding and uncooperative and...

Steve and the Assistants will be continuing interviews and skills training this week while I play nurse and professor, and Elder & Sister Johnson introduce Elder & Sister Davis to the mysteries of the office. The fun never ends!



ps Filling the post = interviewing job applicants

pps New member collecting = applying for a library card

ppps Take two tablets six hourly as needed = 2 pills every 6 hours

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Durban Zone

Hillcrest Zone

Newcastle Zone

Pietermaritzburg Zone - indoor picture: sorry

Richards Bay Zone

Swaziland Zone

Umlazi Zone

2010 02 21 - Mission Tour with Elder & Sister Watson

Dear Everyone:

I'm still typing with one hand, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Elder and Sister Watson were here last week for a misson tour, and did their usual wonderful job. Sister Watson reminded elders of - and in many cases introduced elders to - the Articles of Faith and the 60+ points of doctrine they discuss. I had forgotten that my older brothers left for the mission field with pockets full of Articles of Faith cards with their names and addresses printed on them. So many of our elders are converts, they never went through Primary and learned them - but they're learning them now!

Elder Watson's talks were both instructional (using New and Returning Member forms) and spiritual - we have all been reminded that however much we love reading the Book of Mormon, it is in the four Gospels that we read about the Saviour's life and ministry, so study them all. He asked the elders who will go home next transfer to bear their testimonies - they were surprised, but powerful. It was a great week for everyone.

Steve is off now on a long loop to interview elders in Bloemfontein (for the first time), Swaziland, Newcastle... we'll see him back here on Saturday. Meanwhile I'm playing professor for Hunter's correspondence courses, andmaking plans for the couples seminar coming up. And trying to get some feeling back in my right hand!

In the meantime, love to everybody!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ready to roll: Elders Cooley, Wynder, Kongolo ,Swartzberg, Mohale, Bentley, Mokoena, Tlokotsi, Mashase & Shibambo

Five more powerful elders head off into the world: Elders Peterson, Mahloko, Nare, Wenger & Terry

Elder & Sister Cox arrive to take on Seminary & Institute, as Elder & Sister Markum head off to the icy reaches of Wyoming

Elder Harmsworth is joining us in the office, working with Elder Murch

Kids don't sleep with teddy bears anymore - now it's cellphones...

Always carry a camera with you...

2010 02 14 Happy Valentine's Day from Swaziland

Dear Family & Friends:

Happy Valentine's Day!

And Happy Birthday to my sister Nancy tomorrow. We are now twins for one month.

I had minor sugery for carpel tunnel syndrome this week (too many powerpoints & blogspots?) and am one-handed, so I'll write next week.

Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann

ps You never know what to take literally here. I ordered a chicken salad sandwich, and got slices of chicken with lettuce, cucumber & tomato: a salad!

So what do you get when you order monkeygland sauce?

pps We now have Elders Shaw & Shawairira; Tsegula, Ssesanga, and Sserumkuma (given name Bbosa); Mbaiwa, Mbithi & Mbongwe.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Facebook is going to be even busier from now on...

Bloemfontein Zone

Bloemfontein, center of the Bloemfontein Zone and District

The Lesotho Zone

Lesotho - our newest country

Visiting KwaMashu Branch...I wish I had pictures of the members there, but that's a little hard in sacrament meeting...

2010 02 07 - Incoming! (And outgoing...)

Dear Family & Friends:

OK, the bad/good/sad/hopeful/surprising/unexpected/potentiallyterrific news first. Morgan is, as I write, flying to the States to stay with Steve's sister Marilyn in Parma Idaho. A combination of events brought this about, not the least of which was the lack of communication between Morgan and good grades at Westville Boys High School. Frankly, the academics there are nothing to write home about (even though I am). Add to that Morgan's lack of interest in class/homework, excessive social activities, overwhelming devotion to rugby and working out at the gym, and casual approach to his correspondence courses, and you can see why something had to be done. It may have been meant: Grandma Mann is moving out of the Care Center where she has been having physical therapy since having a fall, and into Marilyn's house. The hope is that over the next few months Morgan will both acquire enough decent credits to maybe graduate in 2011(!) and be a lot of help to Marilyn and Grandma.

But I already miss him, and so do his friends. Even Hunter has found that a few gaps have appeared in his life, and he'll have to make some adjustments. Maybe by June he'll be glad to see Morgan again...

So, there's the outgoing news. As to the incoming, we are now the proud mission parents of 26 new missionaries, 21 of whom we have met. They are a great group, and President and Sister Poulsen can be (and are) very proud of them. We had a joint zone conference with Lesotho and Bloemfontein on Wednesday, and you could see how much the Poulsen's hated to say goodbye to their elders. They also let go of two senior couples, the Elder & Sister Van Blankenstein in Lesotho, who do practically everything from CES to PEF to leadership training to negotiating cheaper rates for the missionaries passing through the border. Our other new couple are Elder & Sister Foster, who are Family History missionaries and have been digitalizing records in Bloemfontein. Their current project is around 400 family Bibles. Most of them were taken from Afrikaaner homes during the Boer War, when the English were looting homes before burning them. The Bible were taken to England, and the Afrikaaners wrote and said "You've taken our country - please give us back our history" and they got them back! Once this project is over, the Fosters may be moving to Durban to digitalize records in the Berea Archives.

The pictures of Bloemfontein and Lesotho are from the internet - except the one of the very nice chapel. They have more buildings just in the Bloemfontein area than we do in any of our other three districts. Our new area has one city you have probably heard of: Kimberly, home of the diamond mines. It's right on the edge of the Free State Province.

Because time was tight, we flew to Bloemfontein this time, but it didn't save a lot (except hours on the road). There are two daily flights to and from Durban and Bloemfontein. At 6:45 am you can fly either way, and the same at 6:45 pm. Any other time (like for us on Tuesday) you have to go through Johannesburg. The Bloemfontein Airport has two gates, and the direct flight is on a prop jet with about 30 seats - window seats on the left, and an aisle and window on the right. Looking out the window on the way in, I was really struck by how flat it was. Durban is so hilly, and lush, that it looked like a whole different world! Lesotho will be more like Swaziland, I think, but I don't know if it will be as green. Being a walking elder in Bloemfontein must be way easier than in Durban, but in Durban you'd get in better shape.

The Free State is strongly Afrikaans, and the black population speaks seSotho, not Zulu. I didn't ask, but English is undoubtedly the business/school language. In Lesotho seSotho is the national language. It is totally surrounded by South Africa, and has a king and a parliament. Lesotho is a much poorer country than South Africa, and the elders there will need a new wardrobe: they get snow! Apparently the people wear blankets (not coats) much of the time.

So, back to Durban. Today we visited the KwaMashu Branch, in Durban Stake. This is the spiritual home of Elder & Sister Sessions, who are greatly missed. Since it was fast and testimony meeting, we were able to hear from a lot of members - mostly newer ones. Among the comments: a man in his forties spoke of meeting with a friend from high school, and counting up which of their group of friends are still living - and no one else is. He then expressed his gratitude for the saving difference (both spiritual and temporal) the gospel has made in his life. A young man spoke of having previously been a very heavy "weed" smoker, and how he is grateful that learning the gospel helped him to quit, and that he prefers the spiritual high he now feels. One young man closed his testimony by saying "The Church is so, sosososo true!"

We sang all the verses of "Behold the Great Redeemer Die" - when's the last time you did that? And there were no empty gaps, as people of all ages came up to bear their testimonies. The Branch President told us that the attendance is running around 250, which is up a lot from a few years ago, and that there are 20 baptisms scheduled in the next few weeks.

Many of the congregation have limited (or no) English, but all the testimonies were in English, with one exception who went back and forth. President Zulu did give the benediction in isiZulu, though. I don't know what happens in the classes: everything at Church is supposed to be in English, but I'm sure there needs to be some occasional translating into Zulu. I've been told that when the missionaries aren't present, meetings/classes in Swaziland are taught in seSwati.

This week will be transfers, then we're off on a mission tour with Elder & Sister Watson. Hunter will be on his own for 4 nights, unless he has Jubz stay over. Fortunately, Elder & Sister Johnson and the office elders are here every day, and live close, so there's help in emergencies - which we don't plan to have. Won't it be ironic if he actually misses Morgan, now that he's gone?

Love to everybody!