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? (www.lds.org/csm/mission.html)