Saturday, April 24, 2010

2010 05 02 - Aaron & Elena Anderson visit

Dear Everyone:
We've had a fun week! Week six of our missionary week is transfer planning, so Steve is in town, and a little less harried than the rest of the cycle (dependent, of course on emergencies, car incidents, safety incidents, medical surprises, etc.). We used part of it this week to get better acquainted with one of Logan's good friends/former roommate Aaron Anderson, and his wife Elena. Aaron is doing an internship with Habitats for Humanity in Pretoria, so they took the bus(!) down for 10 hours, and came in Thursday night for a four-day weekend.

Having learned our lesson with Logan and Sara - more activities, less shopping - we ran around like crazy. For those in the Karkloof Zipline Club - they loved it. Their toes have been dipped in the Indian Ocean; they've eaten bunnie chows at Essenwood, schwarmas at Westwood Mall, and butternut bake at Butcher Boys. We tried to ride to the top of the new stadium, but it was under repair (already?). They visited uShaka, and monkeys visited the mission home.

Aaron challenged all comers (Hunter and his crowd) to basketball, things got hectic enough that half the backboard came down - a long expected event, by the way, as the wood wasn't treated for rain, and it has huge holes in it. Two upsides to the visit were someone for Hunter to talk sports with, and someone for Steve to talk world affairs with. I guess the only downside will be getting back on the bus again at 10pm Monday! So, the guestroom is available once again...

Had a "first time that's happened" experience at PicknPay Saturday: I got a cellphone call while shopping, and when I finished a man was standing there, obviously waiting to speak to me. He loved the ringtone on my phone (theme song to Midsomer Murders) and asked if I could send it to his phone. I didn't mind, but had no clue how to do it, so Steve called Hunter, who got it done in a nanosecond. I consider this second only to being asked for my autograph.

I'm updating the mission history booklet missionaries take home with them, and asked two of our couples for their impressions of Swaziland and Lesotho. They are too good not to share:

Elder & Sister swaziWilson
Swaziland is the "Magical Kingdom". It's no wonder the Valley of Ezulwini is siSwati for the "Valley of Heaven". Oftentimes the billowy, puffy-white clouds drift into the valley giving the feel of living in heaven. But the heavens cal also give the rain in due season with tremendous power and volts that cause one to wonder what has made Mother Nature so violently angry. In Spring the land bursts with colour from soft lavenders to brilliant oranges and reds with a lush green backdrop. Homesteads dot the sides of the mountains with a pastoral effect: cows grazing, children playing, and egrets flying.

At any random moment a Swazi can be found helping their neighbour or just visiting with one another. Life progresses at a slower pace here, but from it comes concern for others. On many occasions strangers in trouble have been assisted by a citizen who helps then disappears without fanfare or thankyous. Generally they aren't emotional, but do enjoy a hearty hug in greeting, and it's easy to get someone to smile - just smile at them. The response received is heart-warming.

The Swazi people are naturally curious and enjoy talking to everyone, especially about Jesus Christ. Most have an abiding love for the Saviour and their faith is strong in Him. After asking a sister one day if she was happy, her response was classic: "I have good health and my market. My children are well. Why shouldn't I be happy?" These people are so kind and lovable with hearts of gold.

Elder & Sister Van Blankenstein
Lesotho, sometimes known as the "Mountain Kingdom" is a small country surrounded entirely by the Republic of South Africa. It is very beautiful in the highlands, where the rural farmers live a very simple, independent life style. It is very mountainous with lots of sandstone, but the people use whatever land they can for grazing their livestock and planting their fields.

Their rondavals (round huts with thatched pointed roofs) dot the landscape along with the fields of maize and sunflowers. You can begin to see the changes in the houses, as cement blocks, rocks and bricks are now being used. Most have no electricity or running water inside their home. However, their daily bath is a very important part of their morning routine and they wash in a plastic tub, sometimes with warmed water, sometimes not, depending on what their cooking source is. The interesting thing is that they always look clean and at Church their shirts are always white. [This is true everywhere in the mission.]

As you move closer into the capital city of Maseru, the signs of city life are everywhere: honking taxis, trash-littered streets, hundreds of 'tuck' shops selling fruit, sweets, and snacks. Also, hundreds of little 'braii' stands where during lunchtime the people can buy cooked meat, papa [mashed potato-like staple of the African diet, made from mealie (corn) meal] and gravy (chakalaka). It seems no one ever packs a lunch!

Bakkies [pickup trucks] are the vehicle of choice because most roads are not paved and rainwater runoff makes these roads extremely hazardous at times. Most people in the villages walk from their one or two room homes to the transport stops to get to work, school or Church. Transport funds are usually in short supply, which encourages hitchhiking along the paved inner city roads. Transport also causes severe budget problems for members who live a distance from meetinghouses, especially if several meetings are held in the week, so Saturdays and Sundays are busy meeting days.

The people are a happy people and although they have very little in terms of material possessions, they will share everything they have. They love their history and respect their kings. Their culture and traditions present some concerns to the Church, and it will take time, education, and lots of love to change these ongoing ways. The Church has been in Lesotho for 20 years, and we now have 3 branches [which are starting to send out missionaries]. The work is really beginning to take hold and there are many very faithful members who will be the foundation of the Kingdom of God in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

So there you have it: two wonderful countries as experienced by their own wonderful senior couples. Don't you want to join them and get to know these loving people? (

Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann

Monday, April 19, 2010

More Women Working Hard...

2010 04 25 - Welcome to Mortality:Tate Christopher Moncivais

Dear Everyone:

We have a delightful addition to the family, born Tuesday, April 20, 2010. His name is Tate Christopher Moncivais; our son-in-law Chris explained:"We're hoping to teach patience, and hopefully not longsuffering as he bubbles in 24 letters on every standardized test he takes throughout life...if you figure an average of three of those a year over 12 years of public schooling, that's 864 bubbles...dang!" (This reminds me of the difficulties Tate's four uncles had to deal with; they are all known by their middle names. Ever try to fit "Hunter" or "Morgan" or "Logan" or "Parker" into one middle initial space _ ? )

People's attitudes don't change much. William Holmes Walker was one of the first missionaries to South Africa. In 1852, he struggled back across the country from Utah to New York City, and prepared to board ship for England, and then again to the Cape. He showed a Book of Mormon to the ship's captain, who offered a very familiar, and sad, response: "It seems to be a sharp book...but I can't worry about salvation now." (See Alma 33:34)

I was impressed with Elder Harmsworth on Monday when he gave a spiritual thought based on the story of Balaam (Numbers 22). It was a thoughtful message, but what really caught my attention was Elder Harmsworth's preface "I read this while I was preparing for next week's Sunday School lesson." Elder Harmsworth doesn't teach Sunday School, he attends the class like the rest of us. I prepare to teach ahead, but I rarely prepare to learn ahead. That was an even better lesson for me than Balaam.

(Remember the "dog that chewed our bumper"? Things have taken a turn for the worse.) When we arrived here, the mission home Peugeot had scratches on one of the door handles. I was told it was made by lions. Right. So, on preparation day a group of elders went to the Lion Park. There are a dozen or so lions there, and visitors drive through while the lions roam free. Instructions to drivers are clear: keep moving. Well, apparently the directions weren't quite clear enough: the elders stopped, not once, but several times, to "see the lions really close!" The lions took advantage of the situation to "see the elders really close!" and we now have a few "mauled" vehicles - serious scratches, even some holes. One scratch, on one car I could (maybe) understand...It makes me so cross!

However, there is a fatal flaw in my irateness (iratitude? irateousness? irativity?): I now have an overwhelming urge to go to the Lion Park and see what happens!

Which car story brings me to Elder Davis, our vehicle coordinator/car guru. He has really had a baptism by fire. During the few months he's been here he has dealt with practically everything, from a car hitting a cow, to a carjacking, to fender benders, to rolling into a wall(?), to a windshield hit so hard it bent far enough inside that it actually got a hole in lion damage. And he's done a great job! It's amazing how the Lord can call someone to a position and help them do things well, that they've never done before. At least, I don't THINK Elder Davis had to deal with lions in any of the many places they have lived? Have to ask...

NEWSFLASH! The Tiida that was hijacked a few weeks ago has been recovered! This is very good...

As I was reading the talks from the priesthood session of conference, I found a very reassuring message from Elder Rasband. He told about sitting with Elder Eyring as he assigned missionaries to their missions, then said, "I had a further witness that morning that every missionary called in this Church, and assigned or reassigned to a particular mission, is called by revelation from the Lord God Almighty through one of these, His servants." The italics are mine, because I was so struck that Elder Rasband included those words. When our sister missionaries were pulled out of the mission in December 2007, they were great about it, but I think it was very hard, initially, for them to feel these reassignments were as inspired as their initial calls. It's comforting to have this testimony from Elder Rasband that the Lord is in charge of all the calls, even when it doesn't seem like it. I hope all our sisters read his talk - it will re-confirm what I'm sure they've already learned.

Hunter has proven very difficult to bribe into doing things I want done: he just doesn't want anything badly enough to work hard! However, on Thursday I finally found at least one thing that works. He had to agree to work hard and finish his history essays and print them, in order to have me drive him to the Pavilion early enough to meet Wehtu (our South African Idol contestant) for a movie, and then pick him up in time to be back home before Zandi came over. Hey, it's better than nothing! Anyway, I encourage him to play the field: safety in numbers...

ps Did you know you can enter an ATM password with your thumb?

pps Did you also know that if you forget to do the butter&flour thickening step, but put in lots of chicken, you get a very nice Chicken a la King Soup?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Remember the story of the pineapple vendor in Swaziland who wanted to learn to be a man of faith? He's preparing for a mission...

Monkeys 1, Hammock 0

Life goes on...

"The Africa in Table Bay", Aernout Smit, 1683: my favorite painting in the William Fehr Collection at the Castle of Good Hope

2010 04 18 - A Whole Slew of Totally Unrelated Events not Necessarily in Chronological Order

Dear Family (due this week to be increased by a new grandson) & Friends:

Elder and Sister Ward arrived last Sunday night to a small African adventure - after 36 hours of travel we took them to their B&B. and no one answered either the bell at the gate or the two phone numbers! We eventually settled them at the Westville Hotel, which I've always wanted to see, anyway, and all worked out well...until they learned firsthand that you can't allow 20 minutes for breakfast and really expect to get it. They already know much more about South Africa than they did a week ago.

Exiting the M13 when bringing the Wards here, we found ourselves in a lake - a pipe had burst, or something, and water was gushing down the road. They dug things up, and worked on it for 3 days, and finally finished it, filled things in and smoothed over the road. I drove out Thursday thinking gratefully about how nice it is when construction is over. I drove back 90 minutes later to find the other half of the same road torn up; I don't know what they're doing down there this time, but my thoughts were not quite so kindly as earlier in the day!

Hunter and I stumbled across a biker convention (or something) Friday. We were returning a video, and at the intersection was a man in a fluorescent yellow vest labelled on the back "KwaZuluNatal MF (Motorcycle Federation) Road Master". A short time later he directed traffic as dozens of motorcycles roared out of the Baptist Church parking lot where they had gathered. [Query: This Baptist Church sponsors a Youth Night every Friday night - could they possibly also sponsor motorcycle gangs?]

This week at our office devotional Sister Davis shared a spiritual thought she heard in the MTC, and I really liked it:
"Life works out best for those who make the best of how life works out." I also think it fits in very well with the talks Elder Foster and Elder Martino gave in the Sunday afternoon session of conference - which we watched Sunday with Hunter, just before Langa Mahaye came over to watch the priesthood session. I removed myself to another room to maintain the required "male bonding" environment.

Sunday I was also simultaneously humiliated and rescued by Hunter. My computer was having problems connecting with the internet, so I unplugged the modem and plugged it back in (as usual). But it didn't turn back on. I tried plugging and unplugging everything I could think of, but after the plug sparked as I put it in the outlet, and it persisted in not turning on, I decided it had died. Steve gave it a shot, too: no luck. So along comes Hunter, wanting the internet. I explained that the modem was no longer working - at which point he reached to the back of the modem and flipped the on-off switch... Story sound familiar to anyone?

I was looking through my zone conference notes and found something Elder Smith said in his talk, that I forgot to include in the blog. He was talking in faith, and said "If you don't have faith, you won't survive: they'll shatter you." Missionaries are really on the front line for the gospel - fortunately ours have been mostly shatter-proof. And they work really hard at it, too.

On Saturday Hunter, Jubz and Anastasia went to Gateway for a movie and to see the queues of people lined up to audition for South American Idol. A few of there friends were trying out - and Wetu made the first cut! We may soon be calling in to help her win!

Elder Davis came up with a new couple recruiting idea - it can be part of either the "guilt" approach or the "challenge" gambit: you take the number of people living in our mission boundaries (VERY roughly 5 million) and divide by the number of proselyting missionaries: 150. That means every single missionary is responsible for 33,333(.3) individuals. See why we need your help?


ps OK, I admit it: the Dutch name for the Dutch East Inda Company is Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compangnie, so VOC makes a sensible acronym.

pps I love reading name tags in the shops; this week I was assisted by Sharm, Sphume, Zandile, Precious...and Touch; fortunately that last is a man's name!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 04 11 - Cape Town in the Fall

Dear Everyone:
It's autumn here, so Hunter didn't get a spring break, but he did get an Easter break, and went to Cape Town with Jono and Jubz and, of course, a mom for driving and paying purposes. They stayed at City Lodge V&A Waterfront and went practically everywhere: Table Mountain, Cape Point, Boulders Beach, Ratanga Junction Amusement Park, Canal Walk Mall, & V&A Waterfront. Their Robben Island trip was unfortunately cancelled, as the ferry needed emergency repairs. This gave them time, though, to tour the University of Cape Town campus. Jono would like to go there after he matrics next year. They ran into three boys they knew: one from the stake youth convention a few years ago, one Westville "old boy", and a Westville classmate visiting his brother. Random!
Meanwhile, the mom visited the Castle of Good Hope (South Africa's oldest colonial building: completed in 1679), and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

Here's what the mom learned from this trip:
1. Teenage boys do not look at scenery - they look at flashy cars and "hot" girls.
2. The west side of Table Mountain is arid; the east side is lush and green. Moral? Always follow the bear over the mountain.
3. If the City Lodge reception desk phone is busy, you can either leave a message or "camp down" until someone answers.
4. Everything really worth seeing is always at the end of a long, exhausting climb.
5. The acronym for the Dutch East India Trading Company is VOC (??)
6. You're never really away - elders can call you on top of mountains, in the middle of gardens, at the bottom of the continent...
7. If there is a longer way to drive somewhere, some moms invariably find it.
8. A free breakfast will get boys up in the morning...but it won't always keep them up.
9. Having a television to watch doesn't necessarily ensure television worth watching.
10. Baboons can get really, really big!

The boys and the mom had a very good time, but are happy to be back.


ps I have it on good authority (Rob Austin by way of his now adult son Nathan) that "When the head is stupid, the body suffers." So be careful who you chirp!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 04 04 - Happy Easter!

Dear Torry, Chris, Eva, Brody, ?, Logan, Sara, Hayley, Parker, Morgan, Grandma, Marilyn & Family & Friends:

Happy Easter! I hope you had a wonderful and uplifting day with lots of family time. I enjoyed having conference and Easter the same weekend - even if the sessions were at 6 and 10 pm! I especially liked knowing some of my kids were in the conference center I was watching...somewhere?

This has been zone conference week, and I can tell you, adding Bloemfontein and Lesotho Zones to the mission (although wonderful and of course inspired) made it way, way, way longer - both in time and distance. Thankfully, being with the missionaries makes up for the exhaustion. And Steve is hugely more exhausted than I am. I only have to worry about lunch, and a talk, and any medical issues that have come up. He not only does major training, but invariably has elders who need to talk to him "just for a minute", first time temple recommend and missionary interviews, and disciplinary councils. I wish I knew how many interviews he has done through these three years - no wonder the kids say that "When Dad talks to us, we feel like we're being interviewed!"

I especially enjoy the talks the elders give at zone conference. Every morning during companionship study the each elder shares a faith scripture (scripture about faith) with his companion. Some of the talks were about faith scriptures, and how they help. One elder had found that the faith scripture shared in the morning is always the perfect scripture for someone taught during the day. Elder Muthoka explained why: "The Spirit of God gives us the prompting while we are studying of what we will need." Elder Armstrong ponders the faith scriptures as he's walking during the day, pulling out one little phrase at a time.

Elder Kapande talked about the Spirit being there to teach us what we need to say, "...but are we listening?"

Another topic was how living the mission equation (faith plus obedience plus hard work = miracles) brings the Spirit to the work. Elder Mwangi said that when he follows it, he feels confident that "I don't know what I will say, but the Spirit will help me. Elder Friel said the times he's had the most "fun" on mission is when he has been trying to be obedient with exactness. "We have to cultivate the Spirit. If it can't be with us, it'll have a hard time being with our investigators. Elder Armstrong gave me a more personal stake in D&C 11:20 when he read it this way: "Behold, this is YOUR work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength." When you read it that way, you feel a lot more responsible for obeying it!

I loved the way Elder Meistre started out: "Much pondering was taken in preparation to give this talk." It made me wonder how often I do "much pondering" in preparation for any of the tasks I have to do?

The Bloemfontein zone conference was on Good Friday. It was also a public holiday, and although most everything in Durban stays open, Bloemfontein was shut up tight. I went after apples for the elders for break, and there wasn't an open grocery store anywhere! I finally ended up with all the bananas from an Engen petrol station. The malls were closed, except for movie theaters and cd/dvd stores and a few restaurants. I found a Roman's Pizza to order lunch, and they took my credit card, but they didn't deliver, so I became a pizza delivery sister. (In Hillcrest Roman's delivers, but won't take a card: only cash.) While I waited for the pizza, I took pictures of some of the interesting buildings downtown.

Steve and the assistants stayed on for interviews and skills training. Sunday Steve spoke in two sacrament meetings - the second branch reversed their schedule so he could make it there. So fun being the mission president!

Well, it's 6pm, so I'm going to watch conference, along with you earlybirds.



ps While we were in Bloemfontein Morgan called us - at 4:30am - to tell us he came in second in his first track meet. As he came sprinting by, Marilyn heard some kids say "Who is THAT? He looks like an NFL player!" I guess that's the American equivalent of "Are you the Beast?"

Even in the mission field, some things are relative...