Monday, June 28, 2010

The work would not have progressed as wonderfully as it has, without these amazing couples...

President & Sister Von Stetten have a great group of senior couples to help them out - and you could be one, too!

2010 07 01 - We're not in Kansas anymore...

Dear Family and Friends:

I am writing you as a civilian: without a name tag, or cellphone full of missionary, doctor, pizza, and service numbers. I'm not driving the Westville Boys High School "bus", or buying bedding, or paper plates or cups. I'm not giving talks, training or shopping hints, or searching out interesting places for couples seminars. Instead, I'm catching up with all the kids (except Torry's family, who will be here July 24th); shopping for cars (got a sterling gray Ford Fusion Hybrid), cellphones (IPhones), computers (Mac) and groceries (Campbell's soup, Cook'n'Serve chocolate pudding, saltines, graham crackers, grape jelly...); driving a Gator out to see Morgan's wood duck nesting boxes (Eagle Scout project); starting out at a new ward (Vienna Woods) and renewing friendships. And in the midst of all the excitement - thinking about everyone back in the mission. I'm exhausted - and so is my bank account.

It was wonderful meeting the Von Stettens at last; they are as enthusiastic, likeable, and eager as we were told by those who already knew them. The transition for the missionaries will be very easy - and the missionaries will be ready to move forward with all the new things the Von Stettens brought from the MTC. I can't wait to hear about all the huge growth that is about to take place!
I thought I'd give you a few of the Mission Mom stats I've accumulated over the last three years. (They surprised even me!)

Transfer dinners: 48
Pizzas ordered: Over 2000
Miles driven: 100,000(ish)
Chickens hit: 1 (he flopped off - alive)
Nights when a boy stayed overnight and was fed (constantly): At least 700 - probably over 1000
Talks/training at stake and district conferences: Over 60
Zone conferences/Sunbeam Message of the Day: Over 70
Trips to the airport: At least 50
Trips to the hospital: Enough that nurses call me by name...
Times lost (but found my way back): A lot!
Trips to the mall (most often with teenagers): 300 (That's probably a low estimate...)
Fast food meals: Not telling
New friends made: Hundreds
Testimony building experiences: Can't count that high
Grateful feelings for having been allowed to do this: Innumerable

And that's just the beginning. And guess what? Experiences even better than these are available to anyone who goes on a mission - or helps the fulltime missionaries grow the kingdom in their own area. I started my own efforts on Sunday, by meeting the elders in our ward (one of whom is Elder Magoffin's cousin, in the Durban Mission!) and saying Hi to new neighbors out walking their dog - and obviously not on their way to Church.

So there you go. We loved the mission - although Steve is still listening for calls from the elders, and going into withdrawal without a six-week cycle to give form to his life. We're looking forward to seeing our former missionaries (of all ages!) who are home now and will return over the next few years. Our first official missionary reunion will be Friday, October 1st at 6:30 - is someone on the Wasatch Front can help us find an as yet unscheduled cultural hall?
Then in 18 months or so we'll hold reunions in Kampala, Nairobi, Harare and Johannesburg. And then, of course, there will be the trip to Durban with any of the couples who can join us, for the Durban Temple dedication: whenever!

Steve is going to organize a website where every missionary has his/her own spot to post photos, and comments, and current contact info. We'll email the info to everyone, but I may also post the information here on the blog at the end of July in case our email list isn't quite right. Our current contact info is:
Steve Susan
208 891 4072 208 891 3082

Address: 2167 E Handel Street
Meridian, ID 83646

We're doing a report in our old ward, River Heights, on July 25th at 11am. Steve will be picking up Torry and the kids on Saturday the 24th, but he'll be home that night, and I'll be home that day, and it's open house 24-7 for all our missionary "companions" - and family and friends! (Couples: bring brownies!)

It's also open house anytime you're passing through and need a place to sleepover - I'm very good at that! But I still only do breakfasts...

Thankyouthankyouthankyou for all the support and love and help you've been. Let's be friends forever.

Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/theformerSisterPresidentMann

ps People drive on the right here

pps And no one wears nametags

ppps But the Church is just as true

President & Sister Von Stetten - It's their mission now! And they're great!!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

With all the vuvuzela hype, this was inevitable (And what can they do if I post it: send me home?)

On the way to Newcastle...

Newcastle District at FIFA time - and the new entrance to Ladysmith!

2010 06 27 - Zone Conferences and Hambani Kahle's

Dear Everyone:

We had a great set of zone conferences this week. (Do I say that every time? Must be true!) We focused first on technical review - reminding the elders of the things that help them in the work, from pass-along cards to weekly planning to Walkabout to the Preach My Gospel Member Program. All the elders came prepared with a talk on "As a missionary, what is the best gift I can give the Savior?" and 4 elders were called on to give their talks in each conference. Their answers included faith, love, diligence, obedience, hard work..." (By George, I think they've got it!)"

For an example of obedience with exactness, an elder talked about going to KFC(which is on every other corner) and ordering a meal. If the price is R100, and you only have R50, or R75, or even R90 - you're not going to get it. Exact results (and rewards) require exact obedience.

I was thinking as the elders sat in the chapels, worrying whether they would be asked to speak, how it would be if everyone throughout the Church always had a talk prepared, in case they were called on. That happens to the elders, the senior couples, and to us all the time here, especially in the small branches. I would suggest some aspect of the atonement. My zone conference talk was on helping investigators understand the atonement, and the Lord's love for them, through our examples. If you have a Preach My Gospel (and doesn't every home, by now?) I went through Faith and Charity under Christlike Attributes and shared my favorite scripture story for each one. Steve then gave his "Last Lecture", which was the scriptures he has most learned from/relied on during the mission, and then there was a brief testimony meeting, started off by the elders who will return home at the end of this cycle. And then, of course, pizza!

After the Hillcrest zone conference on Wednesday Steve and I drove to Newcastle for the Thursday zone conference with Swaziland and Newcastle zones. It was fun to see how the towns have dressed up for FIFA even out there (see photos above). Then we drove back to Durban, so we could fly to Blomfontein at 6:50am on Friday. Bloem is also highly decorated - some of the games are played there - and it was cold - by Durban standards: 0.03 C (34 F?). After the zone conference we had a farewell meal with the Knudsens and Allreds at Coco C's - right near the top of our list of favorite restaurants in the mission, along with Butcher Boys in Hillcrest, Summerfields and in Swaziland, and Mugg & Bean, RJs and Stega d'Oro in Durban.

I think that in spite of the last photos and goodbyes, the zone conferences were pretty cheerful and normal and the elders will just move on into the next ones without skipping a beat. Steve encouraged them all to write a letter this week to President Von Stetton... "and he'll think you write a letter to the President EVERY week!" They loved that - and as you may have guessed from the story, yes, the elders are supposed to write a letter to the President every week; and no, they don't always do it. I hope they're more faithful about writing their families every week.

The mission home remodeling continues - but not as "apace" as Ray Holder would wish. Ray is in charge of all the Church-owned buildings in the Durban and Mozambique missions: KZN, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, & Angola. He really wants the mission home finished for the Von Stettons - it's nice to have lofty goals... However, the painters are done, the tiling is done, the bathroom is maybe a third done, the kitchen only lacks cupboard door handles, sinks and applicances; then we need the new carpet laid, followed by putting all the food and kitchenware away, and straightening the furniture. I'll have to look at the pictures Sister Brock sent me three years ago, to know where the bedroom furniture went: we've moved things around a lot. The good news is, Sister Von Stetton will probably like organizing it the way she wants it, anyway, so "What, me worry?" (Well, yeah, but I'll get over it. I hope Ray does!)

When we breakfast at Little Haven, I always get good stories from Vic and Grace. Today we were talking about the difficulties African return missionaries face in finding work. they told me about a young man who emigrated to the States, jobless and poor. He saw a construction site, bought a broom, and went there and started sweeping up. The foreman asked him what he was doing there, and he answered "Cleaning up." "We didn't hire you!" "That's alright - you don't have to pay me, I'm just going to clean things up." He went to the jobsite every day with his broom, and by the end of the week they hired him and taught him the construction business. As you can imagine, he became very successful.

We met a young man named Surprise, not a member, who is staying with them during some training. His parents are divorced, and when he was 13 or 14 his father took him out of school and away from his mother. Surprise was very good at maths and science, and started tutoring children at a church. More and more students came, and the pastor asked him to encourage them to continue with their education. He was then asked to give his motivational talk other places, and was paid a little - enough to get back in school for another semester. He also started helping at a school for illiterate adults.

He never did his matric exams, but a friend encouraged him to apply at Nestle's. They required their own exam (which he failed) and an interview - which he passed brilliantly as he explained his own efforts for an education. They hired him and are now training him in various areas of the company.

We have elders who were not able to finish school - some because they were supporting their families or helping a younger brother afford school. There isn't a GED type degree anywhere here, that I've heard of, so if they wanted to take the matric exams they would have to go back to school, with the youngsters, and complete all the years they missed. Brother Vic tells me that the answer is to start their own business. There is a niche for everything, and if they can find their's, they can rise to anything. I guess it's like thinking up the Post-it, or rubber bracelets, or vuvuzelas! Completing a mission gives the elders lots of training in goal-setting, strategy planning, endurance and tailoring performance to the needs of the situation. I'm sure they'll find their "niches" if they'll just keep on as they are going now.

And here is one more example of why all the senior couples (including us) wish we could put a few of the elders in our bags and take them home. When I cam out of church at Pinetown Sunday it was raining. Elder Cuguara saw me standing on the porch looking at the rain, came out, and offered me his suitcoat to keep dry on the walk to the car - which would have meant his walking through the rain in his shirtsleeves to bring the coat back.
How can you not love them?


Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann(until Tuesday at 1:30pm Mountain Standard Time, when the Von Stettons get off the plane at King Shaka International Airport)

ps There'll be a last mission blog next week

pps We're going to set up a mission website where the elders/sisters/couples can post pictures and comments on their own pages

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gateway Mall's Tribute to FIFA

I like the guy on top of the bridge the best...

2010 06 20 - Transfer Week: Crazy as Ever!

Dear Family & Friends:

In spite of construction, cars in the shop (including mine), chilly weather and a whole set of issues we haven't ever had to deal with before, we managed to welcome two new elders and send four seasoned elders home to bigger and better things. Elders Khubeka and Hall arrived with a planeload of Spain supporters, and two 12-year-0ld boys blowing vuvuzelas. If two are that loud up close, thousands at the soccer game must be deafening!

The Davises were kind enough to have the dinner and testimony meeting at their boarding, as the mission home was unavailable; it was very nice - and cosy!

The mission home is currently like Grand Central Station. One day we had 6 or 7 tilers, 3 or 4 painters, Nthombenhle trying to iron shirts and clean whatever she could get at, and the yard crew all working away. As you slide along the wall on a path one tile wide to avoid the new tiles being worked on, you have to avoid touching fresh paint. Furniture gets moved from room to room and occasionally I come home to find the closet where I cleverly put things so I could get at them, blocked by 6 lamps and a bookcase. This happened to the overnight bag I packed the day they painted our bedroom. Regroup and move one!

Hunter went to two FIFA games this week at Moses Mabhida Stadium. We dropped him off at the Pavilion Mall, and they took one of the many shuttle buses (full-size buses) to the Workshop mall downtown, and then smaller shuttles to the stadium. It was a madhouse at the Pavilion, but nothing compared to downtown. The stadium holds 88,000 (I think) and was totally full, and very loud, and the fans were all in team shirts and scarves and hats and face paint, blowing vuvuzelas or yelling. Apparently it was way fun. I liked it on TV.

The roadside vendor trade in national flags to hang on your car window is dropping off - most people have them; if South Africa had won, business would have been booming, I'm sure. The vendors have now added back in their plastic hangers and trash bags - it's an interesting combination!

One of the highlights of the week was a dinner after mission presidency meeting, with all the senior couples. It's the first (and last) time we'll have this whole group together. Not everyone knew each other, so it was nice to get everyone acquainted. We ate at Durban's revolving restaurant, and since it had rained earlier, the air was clear and the views were great. We saw one the lights of one ship leaving the harbor, and several more in line along the coast waiting to get in. We now have a Yearbook (Yearsbook?) with messages from all the current couples, compliments of the Knudsens. I'm planning to carry it around with me so I can have all our couples sign it. What a good way to remember everyone (as if I could forget them!!!). The book is full of pictures and information about South Africa, which I will also enjoy, but not as much as the notes from the couples.

I am furnishing our house-bought-over-the-internet with appliances-bought-over-the-internet. I look them up, then I email Parker and Morgan, and they go buy them with my credit card, and install them. Groceries are next. We'll be able to move right in and start living long as we sleep on the floor; we get in on the 2nd our boxes and furniture won't be delivered until the 6th. Won't be much different than now, except the paint will be dry...

Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann

ps In their struggling young married years, Vic & Grace Rawlings drove a VW that required two drivers: one to hold the stick and keep it in gear, and one to steer.

pps More new terms (from Brother Vic):
Active Citizen Forces (ACF) = Army Reserves
Built-in cupboard = a closet
Lad = a male any younger than he is!

ppps They have pulled the R200 note out of circulation because there are too many good counterfeit bills out there.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 06 13 - In the Throes of FIFA

Dear Everyone:

It is so crazy here! On Wednesday at noon people all over the city (and probably the country!) blew their vuvuzelas - and if you don't know what they are, you haven't ever watched South Africa play sports. They make the constant buzzing sound that reminiscent of an attack by giant killer bees. If you want to see a few interesting human interest articles about the games, check out or or,247947

The reason I'm giving you all this "worldly" news is because our missionaries are greatly affected by FIFA. Most days, no one wants to talk about anything but the games. They gather early to party before the games, and stay after to celebrate or commiserate with each other. The first day, when South Africa's Bafana Bafana played Mexico, many stores and lots of workers (including our tiling crew) knocked off early. And those who didn't were watching the game on the nearest screen! There are 3 games most days, so that pretty well wipes out the contacting in some of the areas.

But never fear! The latest ploy is to invite non-members to a member's home to watch a game - along with the elders. I gave a zone conference talk once that I called (to myself) "Rugby as Missionary Work". I guess now that I'm learning about soccer, I'll have to prepare a sequel. You have to be very adaptable when you're working with eternity in mind...

We had an interesting lunch at Mugg & Bean the other day: the waitress had a different accent than I'm used to, and an unusual name: Zuky. I asked her about it and she said she was Xhosa. Then when she brought our food, she asked if she could "pray for our food" (maybe it was the nametags?). Anyway, we said yes, and she said a few words and off she went!

This weekend was our last district conference - everything seems to be a last something - in Blomfontein. It was also my first district conference in Bloemfontein, and I was very impressed. It felt just like a stake conference. The women's session was held in the chapel and it was packed! The three district auxiliary presidents spoke, and they were as poised and articulate and thoughtful as you'd hear in any stake - and more scripture-centered than I've heard in some of the meetings at home.

There were several young men heading out on missions - including one to the UK and one to Ogden, Utah! - and they are clearly very well-prepared. Over the last few months, in addition to missionaries going out from the mission to other African missions, there have been calls to Florida, France and another to the UK. It will be great for them to see the Church operating in different places, and bring that wider vision back here.

Between Afrikaans and siSotho, the spelling and pronunciation is totally different in Blomfontein/Lesotho from Zululand and Swazi. One more challenge for the missionaries! And for the senior couples - Sister Allred made a mighty effort, announcing the program in the womens' session. I was very happy not to have that assignment! Fortunately, although the members chuckle, they love the couples no matter how they pronounce their names.

It's a lot colder in Bloemfontein and Lesotho than it is on the coast. We landed in a thunder and lightning storm that ended up dropping great big hailstones: it was fun! Of course, we weren't out contacting, or walking to appointments or home from work... Steve had been looking all over for a knit scarf in South African flag colors, but of course they are all sold out. On the way to dinner with the Allreds and Knudsens at Coco C, our favorite "chocolate-centered" restaurant we saw a cute family getting out of their car. The mom was wearing a South African scarf, so he went over and said, "That is so great looking! I've been trying to find one - where did you get yours?" She asked where he was from, and then took the scarf off and put it around his neck. Then her husband took a picture of Steve with the rest of the family. People are so nice!

We had a good office devotional today. The deadbolt (to which there seems to be no key) on the office door got locked, so Elder Harmsworth couldn't get in to check and see who was assigned to participate. As a result, he did both the quote (on facing your fears, and gaining new strengths) and the thought. He talked about Christ healing people, and then expanded it beyond physical healing, which I admit to mostly thinking about, to emotional and spiritual healing. It was very thoughtful - and I particularly enjoyed it in his UK accent!

Steve is starting to interview our four elders who go home this week. Elder Owen asked about the report to the high council - is there a checklist? If there is, these elders will get 100%! I hope all the stakes are taking the opportunity to send these young men around to the wards to speak - and that bishops/branch presidents are giving them callings the minute they get home. We spend so much time here making sure new members get responsibilities right away, I'd hate to think our elders might slip through the cracks.

And speaking of elders who've gone home, we had an email concerning four of Steve's former assistants. As Elder Allred put it, "Hiatt, Schwarting, Vance and I traded in our black name tags for white ones and decided to knock doors again..." They're in Oklahoma City selling alarm systems. I figure being missionaries here prepared them in several ways:

1. Good contacting skills
2. History of perseverance
3. Exceptional understanding of the need for security
4. Personal experience with security breaches of all kind
5. Stamina for knocking on doors
But do they go out in companionships???

Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann

ps I'm learning some interesting facts working on BYU correspondence classes with Hunter. For instance, did you know that originally the name tarantula was applied to a spider of the wolf spider family, Lycosa tarentula, whose bite was supposed to cause tarantism, a nervous condition characterized by hysteria? The best cure was believed to be strenuous and prolonged dancing of the tarantella...

pps Khumbelani, the CES coordinator for the Area, has a wife who is one of several daughters. Her name, Ntombifuthi, means "another girl". Her sister, who was the 4th daughter, is called Sibongile, which can mean "we are thankful" or "we have blessings"...or possibly "ENOUGH blessings!"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Monkey Business - Never be the Smallest Guy on the Team!

2010 06 06 - Living in a Construction Zone

Dear Family and Friends:

Every so often a mission home needs a facelift, and we are currently on the operating table. We have an option of moving into a B&B - Little Haven, of course - but we're stalling until it's unbearable, as the office is so convenient to us here. The work started Monday, with chipping and pounding from 7am to 5pm six days a week. So far, the kitchen and hall bathroom have been completely torn out, an all the wall and floor tiles from the kitchen, bathroom, and testimony room. They have started putting tiles on the kitchen walls - and they look great!

So here's how we're managing to stay on:

1. The washer and dryer are in the back boarding of the office: my own private laundromat.

2. The refrigerator is on the back patio, plugged in through the window.

3. The food from the pantry is on the shelves in the family room, along with a few crucial dishes & cutlery.

4. The rest of the kitchen pots & pans, mixers, etc. are on the shelves in the dining room.

5. The computer is in the masterbedroom, but we also have a wireless laptop.

6. The TV, microwave, toaster, crockpot and electric teapot are in Morgan's old room, along with the ironing board and one of the family room couches.

7. The XBox and the other family room couch are in Hunter's room.

8. A plastic tub and dishrack in the bathtub in the master (only) bathroom is the "kitchen sink" for washing dishes.

9. The furniture from the testimony room, dining room, hall and family room are in the extra bedroom - except for the dining room table and the two big couches: they wouldn't fit through the hall, so the men have to move them around as they work.

We are eating out a lot, and getting pre-made sandwiches, etc. from Woolworth's. Aside from the occasional crowded conditions, it's working out pretty well. You even get (kinda) used to the noise of the hammers and chisels.

Today at fast and testimony meeting in Pinetown I realized another reason the testimonies shared here are so powerful. Not only do the members testify to the truths of the gospel, they sometimes tell their conversion stories. Today Sister Ann Fagin, Elder Holmes' granny, shared that it was the 50th anniversary of her baptism - and about the many churches she attended on her way to getting here. After her testimony, several other members shared their experiences, and the difference the gospel and being members of the Lord's church has made in their lives. We need to help more of our neighbors at home gain testimonies and be baptized, so we can have more of those powerful testimonies!

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of my own baptism, and I wouldn't even have thought of it if not for Sister Ann's testimony. I was only 8, so it wasn't as powerful as her adult conversion, but I remember the day. My brother Richard had just been ordained a Priest, so he baptized me in the font under the Tabernacle at Temple Square, on the Emigration Stake baptismal day. In fact, he actually baptized me twice, as one toe apparently didn't go under. But even though I was baptized as an 8-year-old, I can still share the story of gaining my own testimony - and often do, out here. So why not at home?

The stake and district presidents are introducing a new member missionary plan (not ours - President Poulsen of the Johannesburg Mission presented it at the Mission Presidents' Seminar) that is going to be terrific. The bishop is the "mission president" of his ward, and marks on the ward map where the new members and investigators live. He then divides the map into areas, and assigns ward missionaries to specific areas. Their job is to fellowship investigators - which means calling or visiting twice a week, offering to walk to Church together, introducing them to ward members. teaching post-baptism lessons, etc. Of course, they can still find people for the missionaries to teach, too. This is so much more focused than "Do you know anyone we can teach?" The fulltime missionaries will have more time to find and teach, as some of the other support is taken over by members - who will then know the newly baptized members very well, and help them stay active. In the Johannesburg Mission it's making a big difference: I'm sure it will here, too. Steve just wishes he were going to be around to implement it!

As of today, the FIFA countdown is at 4 days to go, and the excitement is mounting! All the teams are in the country and warming up, and multiple vendors on every corner are selling flags to fly on your car; you set the base of the pole on the top of the car window, and roll it up until it holds. Many cars have South African flags, others have flags of their team of choice, some have both! I even saw a motorcylist today with a South African flag waving from his helmet! The missionaries have been asked not to display any kind of national insignias - which makes us perfect targets for the vendors, since we obviously need a flag! More and more people are wearing the yellow Bafana Bafana shirts on "football Fridays" too. It's actually very fun! I imagine Salt Lake was like this before the Olympics...

Love, Mom/Grandma(or maybe Granny?)/Sue/Susan/SisterPresidentMann

ps Ballito is celebrating the 4th of July weekend with a Prawn and Jazz Festival. Think it could compete with Rocky Mountain Oysters and country music in Eagle?