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 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8672014.stm or
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???
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!"