Dear Family and Friends - and especially families of our missionaries:
We just completed our zone conference tour, and all of our elders and couples are doing great. This week and next week I'll put all their pictures on the blog.
Steve asked the elders to prepare ahead of time with scriptures to help them overcome Five Roadblocks to Being an Effective Missionary: Pride, Rationalization, Sloth, Doubt, and Blame. The elders had given it a lot of thought and effort, so the discussions were very good. They also made lists of their challenges in those areas - NOT their companions challenges! - and then the companions discussed ways they could help each other.
Two elders, as well as the assistants, also gave talks at each conference. The talks are always a real highlight. Elder Amerikau spoke about the challenges in loving your companion, and said "You can't ask for this-and-such elder as your companion, and even if you're from the same country, at the end of the day you come from different backgrounds." And if they're from different countries, it's even tougher. But somehow they do it, and in many cases an elder going home will say that his favorite companion was the one whose background was the most dissimilar to his own. And once it was the companion who didn't even speak any English to begin with! (Elder Nielson and Elder Feliciano)
One of the elders told a story his "baba" (trainer) Elder N'Ongom had told, about a young man looking out over his wealthy father's estate. His father approached and asked what he thought of it. "It's wonderful! How can I acquire all of that for myself?" The father replied, "When you become like me." (I thought about that, and about all the times in movies and real life where the father is complaining about his "heir" who has grown up expecting to be handed the inheritance, instead of being trained to be a steward over the inheritance. Quite a difference from the gospel approach to rewards.)
Our missionaries are definitely being trained as stewards...and leaders...and companions (husbands, but don't tell them I said that). When someone at the Area Office expressed concern as to where the leaders will come from to handle the growth of the Church in Africa, Steve wrote back and invited him to visit the mission - where he would see the future leaders in action. There are 60 or more missionaries serving right now from our 2 stakes and 4 districts - up from 9 in 2007 - so hopefully the leaders will grow along with the membership.
And on the purely temporal side: Elder & Sister Knudsen introduced the Allreds and me to a new restaurant in Bloemfontein: Coco C. Every dish, breakfast through dinner, has a little (or a lot, in the case of dessert) of chocolate in it. Next time you have soup or vinaigrette dressing, try adding a swirl of chocolate sauce. Sounds peculiar...tastes great! Especially after three days of pizza for lunch!
This weekend is Hillcrest Stake Conference. The theme is Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the Relief Society presidency did a great job speaking on those subjects. Jillian Rieckhof, from Pinetown Ward where I've gone with the boys, talked about staying hopeful through some very difficult times - like having/raising 4 children near the diamond mines in what was basically an abandoned settlement with no electricity, and Church 1-1/2 hours away, when possible. But she talked about all the wonderful things she learned there. What I learned is that I am definitely a wimp. So many members here have gone through very tough situations - and just kept going. I'm learning a lot about endurance here.
This is from Sister JoAnn Wilson's talk: "The opposites to faith, hope, and charity are doubt, despair, and failure to care for our fellowman." (No wonder the gospel emphasizes the former!) My own favorite scripture (out of the many) about faith hope and charity is 2 Nephi 31:20.
President Wilford made us all cry during the session by showing a video from LDS.org called My New Life - go to lds.org and scroll down. (Maybe when I get home and find myself with free time again, I can use it to investigate all the wonderful new offerings the Church has put on the internet.) After watching that, my wimpness became even more apparent. However. if the trade-off for becoming strong is horrible trials... I'll have to think about it.
I also got a great line from President Wilford for when someone starts spouting doubtful doctrine or mysteries: "There's speculation about that, but all we really need to know is..." followed by the true doctrine. Very useful for missionaries. It might come in handy in some situations with kids, too!
ps When a rugby player is tackled, he is "taken to earth". I'm using that phrase next time I trip (it's an inherited clumsy gene...)
pps I wonder if an NFL announcer would ever refer to a really good effort by a quarterback as a "lovely move"?
ppps Yes, we are watching Super 14 Rugby... when we're not watching soccer... or the NBA playoffs...