Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 79 - Nov 29th - Dec 3rd, 2015 --- Return to the USA and home!

Sunday, November 29th - Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 -  Mission Ends Return to Home

Our last Sunday in South Africa we spent with the Seshego Branch and were invited to speak in Sacrament Meeting.  We love these our brothers and sisters and will miss being with them.  We are certain the Lord will continue to bless and strengthen them as they grow in testimonies and in numbers as they exercise their faith in the Lord.

Monday was p-day  We are more focused now on closing up our flat, perhaps in preparation for the Gubler's to use it at the end of December.  We hope they can come and sort of pick up some MLS activities with Seshego along with Polokwane and Mokopane Branches.

Tuesday was really a wrap it up day for us with the finishing touches on closing up the flat and getting things in the trash for our garbage day.  We know we'll have some more trash but we'll just take it over to the Winward's trash area on our way out tomorrow.

Where did the time go and how fast it flew by, wow!  Wednesday we got up early so we could do all the laundry and the linens.  Then we finished up with our final few things to pack and load in the car.

We drove off and away from Polokwane about 10:30 a.m. and headed for Pretoria arriving there about 1:00 p.m. at the Mission Office.   We dropped off some things to the Hawkins and headed over to the Mission Home and the Wilson's.

Pres Wilson interviewed us before we enjoyed a very nice lunch Sister Wilson prepared.   We shall truly miss these wonderful people who work so very hard in their service.

They drove us on down to the airport at Joburg where we arrived about 5:30 p.m.  We soon found out that our flight was not only going to be delayed but that the airplanes had been switched so we now had a route change with an unexpected stop for fuel in Dakar, Senegal on the West coast of Africa, about an 8-hour flight from Joburg.

We finally boarded, the plane was full, and lifted off about 9:30 p.m. instead of about 8:00 scheduled.

Unfortunately for us we found out our seats would not recline at all and they were almost a perfect 90 degree angle so comfort was not ours to enjoy for the first leg of 8 hours flying.  But we were safe and on our way.

We did make our stop in the middle of the night in Senegal and then were on our way to Atlanta an hour later for the last leg of the flight about another 8 hours.  This put us in Atlanta about 9:00 a.m. on Thursday morning where we cleared customs and got our baggage re-checked through to SLC and headed for the gate.

We had missed our flight that left about 8 a.m. and so Delta put us into standby status because they had oversold every flight to SLC that day, and probably do so every day too.  While there for the unexpected 8-hour delay we found people to talk to and did more missionary work!  We joined up on our flight with five young missionaries, 4 elders and 1 sister who were returning from South and Central America.

Finally, boarded our flight to SLC about 5 p.m. and had quite a nice flight on the last leg for just under 3 hours.   We arrived in SLC about 6:30 p.m. local time.

Happily, some of our kids and grandkids still managed to meet us at the SLC airport.  It was a wonderful reunion with them, hugs and kisses and just being together again.   Such a great blessing.  They drove us home to Riverdale where we joined up with the rest of the kids and more grandkids and my mother.

About 8:30 p.m. our Stake President Dave DeYoung came over to our home and after a short nice interview visit he released us from our full-time missionary service.   Just like that, it was over!  But he did give us a little guidance on what he'd like us to do when we report our mission on December 13th both to the High Council and then in Sacrament Meeting in the Riverdale 8th Ward.

Unfortunately, Jack our 7 year-old grandson was injured in a fall at school so he couldn't make it until the next day, and our new little man Henrik couldn't come until Friday either.

We had a really great time visiting and visiting and being excited together Thursday evening and started up again and all through the day on Friday as well.  It was just great, such a blessing to have family here to make us feel good after leaving our dear friends back in Seshego.

On Saturday morning Melanie and Wendy and Annie and my mother went to the Ogden Temple to attend a sealing of our great niece Harper Rae Folkman to her parents, Casey and Katelynn.  The newly remodeled Ogden Temple is truly beautiful and it felt good to be able to be there inside and feel of the spirit of the Lord's house.

Later on afterwards, we headed out to one of my favorite hamburger places, Crown Burger and enjoyed a reunion there with a very delicious cheeseburger, yummmmmm!

That Saturday evening we went to our grandson Henrik's first birthday party along with many other family members.  We also celebrated his sister Elizabeth's 6th birthday too so it was sort of a double up effort which was really nice and fun to see more family there as well.

This was such a memorable week for us and a wonderful conclusion to a truly remarkable and amazing mission experience together.   One cannot really describe it adequately, the blessings and the spirit of it all is as is often spoken in the Book of Mormon, 'words can only begin to describe the things that we were blessed to experience' for a fullness you'd just have to do it yourself and see for yourself.   The Lord is so kind and merciful to us to have blessed us in such a way.   Thank you dear Father!

Week 78 - Nov 22nd - 28th, 2015

Sunday, November 22nd to Saturday, November 28th, 2015

A little more MLS work trying assist the Seshego Branch with getting their checkbook and budget money so they can proceed with what they need to do.  The Area said they would help with the bank, but it appears there will have to be some transfer adjustment agreed to with the former Polokwane Branch for budget money until the new year begins.

Also some support work with members and Elders with a VISA payment, a water leak at a flat, a fan to be replace for Jimmy, and a few calls (which are now diminishing significantly thanks to Elder and Sister Hawkins).

This makes enough room in our schedule to continue our walks around the housing estate in the mornings.   Melanie continues to help me appreciate the flowers, the birds, anything creeping, crawling or African.

Melanie loves these purple 'Dr. Seuss' flowers that bloom a couple of times each year.

The yellow masked weaver birds actually built a triple decker nest off of this limb.

This crawly lizard made the mistake of hiding under our garbage can just as I shifted it and cut off his tail
and accidentally smashed him.   He died but his tail kept wiggling for about 15 minutes.   Then the ants
came and began to feast on him since I'm sure he feasted on many of their brethren as part of his diet.

Melanie was busy this week gathering items and making preparations for a traditional 'Thanksgiving' dinner for us and our non-member neighbor Maggie and the Zone Leaders, Elders Lybe and Kusi-Poku.  The meal was great and the company and the visit and the thanksgiving was a true expression of gratitude and love.

This week also was a major effort to part with much of our personal things, clothes, etc. that we will not be taking home.   Lots of chores around the flat to deal with and I helped with the laundry, sort of like hanging things on the line but Melanie made fun of the way I did the shirts.

Melanie made an announcement at the front gate of the housing complex which more than did the trick of gathering the domestic workers to our flat for our own version of 'Black Friday' here in Africa!  These first two were calm and friendly enough to even thank us and pray for us before they left.   The other large group were a little, well, a lot more aggressive and grabby even to the point of taking Melanie by her shirt.  She finally gave in and gave them the shoes off her feet.

We followed this up with our last visit with the Molepo family in Seshego.   We have grown very fond of them and feel such love and a close attachment to Gpa and Gma Molepo.   Since they are both non-members we felt a little more free to pass along some things to them that they could use, enjoy, share, etc.

Our week finished up with the crowning visit of them all with our brother Jimmy Letsoalo and his pal Simon.  We had some special things put together for them both along with some Primary class drawings from our daughter Annie's class in Draper, UT. which they were excited to receive.  

We prepared some Christmas card letters for Jimmy that he could send through us to some of his friends from around the globe.

He surprised us with a couple of personal thank you cards and a special copy of his Dish Africa cookbook that he published last year.

The finale was some tributes and singing that we captured on video of him and Simon which I followed with a priesthood blessing for each of them.  A tearful farewell until we meet again on the other side.  Sad that it is over, but so very happy that it happened and that we could be a part of it!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 77 - Nov 15th - 21st, 2015

Sunday, November 15th - Saturday, November 21st, 2015

At Church this morning we replaced the badly tattered and torn South Africa flag.  Then, Melanie took a few pictures to share.

We were more than happy to meet the Wilson's and the Butler's at the Thornhill shopping area after our Church meetings.   They were headed back to Pretoria and the Butler's were headed home to West Haven, UT following their 23-month mission here.  They are good friend and have served as MLS missionaries over the mountain from us in Tzaneen serving with the Modjadji Branch and the Motupa Group.  We will miss them, but only for a couple of weeks.  We were also quite grateful that they dropped off their car to us since ours is in the shop for repairs.   And we are sort of hitting the wall driving one of the Elders cars without A/C, stick shift, hand crank windows, etc.  Spoiled I suppose.

While we use social media, we try to portray an image appropriate to our missionary callings.   We tested ourselves and these are the words we got back as most commonly used on our posts.  I suppose we're not doing too badly.

This week the AP's came up to have splits with the Zone Leaders.  While they were here they attended our District Meeting.   We had already arranged a special lunch with the District before we return home so we took them to McDonalds for a Hamburger Challenge.  We shouldn't be surprised at what they can eat but here's how it went and 4 of the 6 ate 'for the cycle', which included:

  1. A Mega Mac (like a double Big Mac in one sandwich).  This starter also included fries and a large drink, then on to sandwiches only.
  2. A Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
  3. A Big Mac.  (Two Elders wisely dropped out here.)
  4. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
  5. A Cheeseburger.  (The Elders enthusiasm waned as they slowly ate their way through this small burger.)
No prizes awarded other than bragging rights (actually still held by our Tahitian Elder Tumarae and Samoan Elder Togiatomai who continued on with one more Mega Mac each).

We enjoyed another great visit with Jimmy Letsoalo our quadriplegic member friend at the care center along with his new resident pal Simon.   We took Jimmy a new 2016 calendar to hang on his wall and we took Simon a childrens Book of Mormon picture story book.   We love these two very much.   Next week will be our last visit with them.

On Saturday we were the honored guests at a farewell party provided by our dear friends at the Seshego Branch.  We all enjoyed a spiritual testimony meeting, some great singing and dancing and some really tasty African food!   Lots of love and a great spirit of unity filling the activity.  Plus, after we arrived they had us change clothes, they had a member sister Christina make some traditional tribal outfits for us to wear which added to all of our fun!

Our week and evening ended with the last Branch Presidency training meeting with the Seshego Branch President Mashishi, 1C Pres Sefara, 2C Pres Mkgotu, and Clerk George Mhpaka.  Lots of good discussion and information to share.  They will be great leaders of this new Branch.   Time and experience will allow the Lord and the Spirit to guide and develop them more fully.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week 76 - Nov 8th - 14th, 2015

Sunday, November 8th - Saturday, November 14th, 2015

This week had both some wonderful and some unusual events.  To start the week off as we started the car Sunday morning to head to church we found it running roughly, like on 1 of 4 cylinders which were trading back and forth.  And, the engine malfunction dummy light came on so a quick check of the manual indicated that the car had to go straight to the dealer for servicing.   So, we missed church.  They were watching the Saturday sessions of General Conference so we already knew who the three new Apostles were etc.

Monday morning I had to personally do what I've told the Elders to do when they've had car trouble.  Follow the procedures and get it repaired.  In the meantime make whatever arrangements you can to obtain proper and safe transport.  So, I called the roadside assistance number on the sticker on my window and before too long, about an hour, there was a tow truck here to take the car across town to the dealer service center.

We followed along and arranged for the car to be diagnosed and repaired.   This was followed up later by a couple of phone calls from the dealer to inform me of the problem, a bad ignition component and wiring which would have to be replaced.   No problem, the warranty would cover most of it, cost estimate R8000+.  The part would be ordered and they would get it overnight and have the car ready by Tuesday pm. or Wednesday.

So, in the meantime I recalled that since the Seshego Elders area was temporarily closed down there was a spare car available.  So I arranged with the Zone Leaders to come get us so we could get their sort of beat up, stick shift, no A/C, crank windows, car.  Had to gas it up of course.  This would put a severe cramp on our travels until we get our car back.   We are not supposed to drive around with the windows down but we had to go a few places anyway.   We just had to time ourselves carefully for certain times of the day and only certain places.

Come to find out, as usual, two days finally turned in to 'some time next week, the part isn't in yet'.   So, Melanie wrapped up her hair in a scarf best she could and we were careful as to when and where we went.   The weather was in the mid-90's all week long too, so driving when we did was sort of like a blast furnace!

Too hot to cook sometimes, so a meal of peanut butter with apple slices is as good as it gets.

Also, neighbor Maggie gave Melanie some beautiful roses but after one day of mid-80's heat in the flat they too bowed down under the pressure of weariness and heat fatigue.

As to this story which by end of the week had not ended.   Pres and Sister Wilson were taking Elder and Sister Butler back down to Pretoria and then to the airport.   So the Butler's brought their Nissan Tida down from Tzaneen on Sunday afternoon the 15th so we could drive that until our car was repaired.   Thank you Lord for a blessing!

We did manage during the week to have a correlation meeting with the Elders, Lybe and Diogo to catch up on their coverage of Seshego which is now an additional area due to a shortage of Elders for at least one transfer.  They also need some things for their flat, many light bulbs, a shower curtain, etc. which we got for them.

We were able to get out to Seshego on Wednesday evening to see the Molepo family which included Gpa and Gma Molepo, Gwen the YW Pres, and Martha the Primary Pres. along with their kids.  It is always a treat for us to be with them.  Melanie shared some Primary program things with Martha so they could get their program ready to present, slow doing it, but it will be good.

Friday the 13th was our 45th Anniversary so Melanie and I were able to go to a nice restaurant, Saskia's, here in Polokwane for dinner.  We're even more in love now than we ever have been.   This mission has added a whole new and sort of unexpected dimension to our marriage relationship.

At home our kids gathered for their own Friday the 13th celebration which is now a wonderful family tradition we share together.

We attended the weekly District Meeting.   The Wilson's and the Hawkins came up.  While they were meeting I showed Elder Hawkins how we did car inspections so we did the ones that were there at the meeting.  Not too bad since there were only three Elders cars.   Just needed one windshield replaced, along with three or four tires and a couple of bent rim wheels.   Makes you wonder sometimes how these Elders go so long without taking better care and preventative maintenance on their cars.   They do hate walking when their car is in the shop.

We ended our week as usual with our weekly visit to see Jimmy Letsoalo and now his sidekick non-member young friend Simon.  We love these guys so much, we will truly miss them when we go home.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week 75 - Nov 1st - 7th, 2015 - Start of month 18

Sunday, November 1st - Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Our week 75 started out with our last Fast Sunday in South Africa.   We attended again along with our friends and members in the Seshego Branch.  I took a turn to share my testimony with them and it felt very good (I also did this on the first Fast Sunday after we arrived and attended the Roodepoort Ward in Joburg).  Thus fulfilling a small piece of my patriarchal blessing which states in part that I would be blessed to share my testmony with others, even in lands far from home.

We dearly love these humble and faithful members and leaders of the Seshego Branch.   Parting with them will not be easy for us.

But, true to our duties, we got right on track once again Monday morning and headed to Pretoria where we were to meet and train our new Mission Office couple the Hawkins.  We and our Mission are so blessed to have them arrive here!  We are thankful for them and their willingness to serve a mission.  

Coincidentally, they are from Victor Idaho and their Stake President is a cousin of mine whom I don't know, Ryan Kunz of my mother's Kunz family who spread up that way years ago from the Bern, Idaho/Montpelier area.

Anyway, we had a reasonably good week or couple of days of training allowing for the shipping and receiving of all of the mission office furniture, equipment, files, boxes etc from Botswana.  We had to get these things in place and then the IT people to get the systems up and running.   All came together quite well except for the Telkom land-line phone side of things.

We did get some quality training in for the Hawkins and also some orientation things about life here in South Africa.   Hope we didn't cause them any unnecessary worries.   They will do fine.   They were driving a car and had their own flat (a temporary vacant Elders flat) until they can get one closer to the office park.

We returned to Thornhill Estates and our flat and enjoyed our own beds once again.

We were blessed to finish up our usual week with our visit to Jimmy and our new young investigator 'Simon', Jimmy's pal.

Then some nice video calls with kids and Gkids at home and another week has rushed by.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Week 74 - Oct 25th - 31st, 2015

Sunday, October 25th - Saturday, October 31st, 2015

This Sunday we started viewing the October conference sessions by DVD.   We began with the General Women's Session and finished with the General Priesthood Session.  We will watch the other Saturday and Sunday sessions on alternating Sundays beginning after November Fast Sunday.  So, on the 8th and the 22nd we'll finally get to learn who the three new Apostles are, ha!

Monday morning early before we did chores and office work we took an hour to drive across town to the Polokwane Game Reserve.  We had heard the Elders say it was sort of worth seeing some animals and for some of them that is all they might get to see anyway.   It had rained the night before and we were the first car in of the day and driving on the dirt roads we could see our tire tracks and some animal tracks on the road.   Here's a little bit of what we got to see.  And all of this for the total pensioner's (retiree's) cost of R75 or about $6.00.

Then, bringing back some memories for me especially, I took a turn to hang up some laundry on the lines.   Over here many people use their clotheslines because many of them don't have dryers.   And, of those that have dryers, they are hesitant to use them because they are usually not vented to the outside and so it creates heat in an already very warm flat almost all without the blessing of A/C.

As we spent much of our time this week preparing for our time in Pretoria next week to train the new Sr. couple, the Hawkins, we needed to go back to the Winward's senior flat to retrieve some household items that Sister Wilson wanted to have us bring down to Pretoria.   So, since we won't be closing the flat we took some pictures of the items we left behind so when the time comes those that need to know will have an idea what is still there for them to deal with.

We had a little search and rescue operation going on one night this week.  Melanie screamed for help removing an African intruder from our bedroom.  It took a while and it took tearing apart and reassembling our bedroom to do it, but I finally caught him and after one flush from me and three from Melanie he was gone forever and she was safe once again.

We needed to go to the Molepo family to take some Primary things Melanie had been working on and to share a couple of pictures with Gpa Nelson and Gma (Gogo) Evaline of them and us together which we took a few weeks ago and which they requested that we bring to them.   We love this family very much!  Their dashunds had three puppies so we got them with a few of the kids, and another with Gma Evaline.

We finished up our week with our regular visit to see Jimmy.  Today though he had sort of lined up his 'teaching pool' for us.  Melanie expounded the scriptures to Simon and to Renee who are both residents of the care facility along with Jimmy.  It was really a good experience and once again we see how Jimmy can influence people for good from his bed.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Week 73 - Oct 18th - 24th, 2015

Sunday, October 18th to Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Two of the most important things for us this week were going to visit Batsirai and her son Lucky and daughter Kudzai.  They are so very poor and live in a village outside of the Seshego township.  Her husband not only left her destitute but sold the fridge and some household things to get himself some money before he left.

She is one strong mother now trying to make it and survive somehow.  They don't have running water in the place they stay.  I'd call it a home, but it's hardly that, windows out and unfinished rough cement floors and walls, etc.

We had been storing up some water in the 5 liter jugs we use for drinking water so we loaded them all up in our car and took them out to her so she could skip a few trips with her wheelbarrow going a long way to fetch water for their place.  On the way we stopped at a KFC in Seshego and got a bucket of chicken for them.  They were so very happy when we got there with it.   As we unloaded it she got down on her knees with her hands together to thank us.  Then her little two-year old daughter followed her example and did the same.   It sort of tears your heart out to see such living conditions but yet with such humility and gratitude for any little thing we are so likely to take for granted.

Then we contrast that with a million dollar plus mansion that is being built on a lot just above the townhouse where we stay.  We've watched this home being built from the ground up over the last six months or so.  Here in South Africa even with the termination of apartheid there is still a terrible gulf between the rich and the poor.   

Sadly, many of the rich are black Africans in control of money in government and the money intended to help the poor people just doesn't seem to make it down to the end of the row so to speak.  But we've learned from many that this situation doesn't cause them to turn on other blacks, it seems they are taught if they can take or get something from the whites, mainly Afrikanners (and us as Americans) then that's okay to do.  Thus the many property crimes, and occasional personal violence crimes take place.

As we take our morning walks around our very nice 24X7 guarded and secured housing area we see many new and nice homes under construction (they can build year around here because of the weather conditions).  Many are built as 'slab-on-grade' homes without basements and most are two story homes.  They just mark off the 'footprint' of the home with lime in the dirt and then dig out for the footings to be laid.  

Sometimes we see them dig it all by shovel, short-handle shovels.  Once in a while we will see a backhoe, but not always.  They will usually rent a cement mixer, we've never seen a cement truck bring cement here like at home.  And they don't use lumber to build, only brick walls and cement.  They do use very small lumber for the trusses which must support the heavy weight of masonry tiles which are on almost all of the homes in the city.

Our new little branch finally got a lap-top computer and a printer to use so Melanie and I went out to the Branch President's home where he has his 'church office' to help him get things operating.  We had a problem with his USB modem though trying to get him a connection to the internet, so I'll have to work through that next week.

Instead of giving Elder McClellan a going away meal of Walky Talkys like the picture below, we took him and Elder Tumarae to a nice restaurant where they could have a very tasty steak dinner.

This Friday was our last day of basketball at Seshego with the kids.  We've been doing this for over eight months and have had such a wonderful time together with them.   We've grown to love them!  This is a community service activity, none of these kids are members, but they know from us that we are missionaries for Jesus Christ's church and that when they ever see a missionary with a black badge on like ours or the Elders, they can and should talk to them.  Maybe the Lord will bless them with an opportunity in the time to come.   Meanwhile we are happy to have had the experience and sad to see it end.

Melanie prepared some special little gift bags with some things in them for each kid.  And, when we finished, we had 'competition' and let the kids win all of the basketballs, our camp chairs, the pump, the net we carried the ball in, and a small rubber USA football we played with.

And from time-to-time we were very happy to have the Elders participate with us and assist us.  On the back left in yellow is Elder Diogo from Uganda,  back center in charcoal is Elder Ndlovo from Malawi.  Taking the picture is one of our favorites, Elder Lybe from Southern California, a wonderful Zone Leader and example.

Saturday Melanie and I returned to visit with Jimmy Letsoalo at the care center along with his new little friend and sidekick Simon.  This visit is also one of the special highlights of our week.

Of course ending each week with a video call home to the kids and the grandkids just tops off our week in a special way.  We love them so much!