Sunday, July 27, 2014

Week 8 - Jul 20th - 26th, 2014

July 20th - July 26th

Sunday after church we had a nice dinner hosted by our trainer couple the Taylor's.  Happened to have another couple come too from their Botswana Mission, the Gubler's from Santa Clara, UT. who've been out 22 months.   Very nice food and visiting.

Monday was a very long busy day preparing for Elders transfers.  Melanie has new bedding to buy for each of the 10 incoming new Elders along with assembling a package of information for them.  Also, the Zone Leaders distributions are early this week because of transfers which means getting other things sorted and prepared for them to pick up.  This was a very busy day especially for Melanie.  Because of the holiday coming up and the lack of computer support from the Church employees who take that day off I had to work late (10:30 p.m.) to get support payments done for the housing, utilities, etc.

Pillows, bedding, linens, and boxes of items Melanie puts together for transfer day, T-Day.

Tuesday was transfers, or T-Day as our new Pres Dunn wants to call it.  He and Sister Dunn are very busy with interviews, airport, dinners, etc. for the 10 new incoming and 15 going home.  It is quite a day for them, actually more than one since the American Elders fly out on Tuesday and the African Elders fly out on Wednesday.

Bags are packed and ready for service or to go home.

The hand-off meeting and the training that follows for the new Elders.  A great experience for them and us.

Melanie and I got our first dose of teaching and training the new Elders about how things work to sustain their lives in their flats.  So we took turns teaching them about flats, utilities, phones, supplies and furnishings, etc.  Tried to keep it very positive and not badger them about what will happen if they don't keep up on their housekeeping duties.

Melanie with Sister Taylor her trainer getting ready to teach the new Elders what their Mother's would want them to do.

Being transfer day brought many of the Elders into the office even though we try to keep it closed.  They always have some reason or issue that needs our support action so we try to be accommodating.  The work they brought in kept us busy until 8:00 so another long day.

Wednesday was a major day because the MTC is taking over our office space to accommodate the expansion of dorm rooms so more missionaries can be called to train here.  Our new office space is on the same property and is adjacent to the CES building where they handle Institute, Perpetual Education, etc.  We had some moving support from a crew of black Africans who seem to have to do all of the heavy labor while being supervised by a white boss.  

How do eight Africans move a 500 lb. safe?  If their white boss doesn't get them a dolly or hand truck, they tie a rope around it and drag it across the offices to the door, then....

...sort of like the ancient Egyptian's, when they get it to outside they would 'roll' it along moving these pipes as they go.  Fortunately for them, when I saw this going on after I took a picture I offered to let them use our mission hand truck that I had in the storage garage.
They and we both worked very hard and long to get things moved over.  Now it will take a week or ten days to get it sorted and arranged so things will work again.

Larry's office before.

Larry's office after. (Had to hang garbage bags on the window until we get blinds.)

Melanie's office before.

Melanie's office after.

Thursday was a continuation of the move issues.  Melanie worked so hard at helping get things moved and rearranged.  I went out shopping for shelving since they didn't move any of that for us which left us in a mess of piles.  

Shopping for shelving at a store like Sam's called Makro.  Check-out line is really long.  They have you stand in a queue so everyone has a chance at the next available clerk.  They put signs like Disneyland that say how long your estimated wait is from different points in the line.

We made some good progress though.  The main thing was that we were able to get our computers and phones working again.  Pres. and Sister Dunn had some good leftovers from the transfer meals they hosted so they invited us and the Thompson's over to the mission home to have dinner with them.  It was nice, the first dinner we've had all week so far.

Friday was focused on catching up however we could with the highest priority urgent matters that had come up while we were disrupted.  The important things we were working on just had to wait.  In the midst of this I got a call from some Elders who had been mugged at knife-point and had their cell phone stolen so I had to get the number blocked and arrange to send them out a new phone with a new SIM card.  Then back to work on important stuff which kept Melanie and I both busy until after 10:00 p.m.

Saturday we had a little project to get some supplies and furniture loaded up on a trailer to go up north.  Afterwards, we went for a quick trip to get a couple of grocery items.  In the afternoon Ben and Jill came and took us to a favorite shop where they sell African memorabilia.  It was an interesting trip.  Then we went to dinner at a nice restaurant in Joburg and then to their flat to see where they live.  Their flat is in a 5 story high-rise.  There are many Area couples and Temple couples that live there too.  Ben and Jill are blessed with a very large and nice 3-bedroom 2-bath flat.  They even have a maid that helps them!

Last but not least we called our dear daughter Wendy on video and had a nice birthday visit with her.

This was another busy, long-hours week probably about 60 hours, but the time goes by quickly and we are really enjoying being able to serve here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Week 7 - Jul 13th - Jul 19th, 2014

July 13th - July 19th 2014

The Sounds of Africa.
In the early mornings when we walk to the Mission Office, we hear the birds in the trees, flying by and on the ground. The birds in Africa sound different.
When we walk back to our flat in the evenings, the crickets sound different.
The Saints in Africa sound different to our ears too.
The sounds are different, but each sound testifies to us of Jesus Christ.

Monday and Wednesday I took Elder Rami to the hospital for his last lab work and a visit to the Doctor.  He is doing really well following his open heart surgery.  He said he had gained 9 kilograms, about 20 lbs, in the last two months.  He still seems quite slender, only weighs about 120lbs now.  He goes home to Madagascar next week after filling his mission honorably.  He told me that he wanted to be able to return with honor.

Tuesday I had quite an experience, one of those first-time type.  I had to go out to a township which was a giant community of very poor people who live in conditions worse than anything I've ever seen in my life.  The township is bordered all around by 'shanty towns' which are one step worse than the townships.  No utilities.  Corrugated tin and lean-to type huts, etc.  We took the truck and a trailer to pick up three washing machines which one of the church members living there 'fixed' for us.  We got lost and I was driving and got stuck down a dead-end narrow lane which is not advisable under the best of circumstances.  Somehow we got turned around and eventually met up with our member and set the GPS for the mission home and made it back.  The Elder I was with said there were probably a million people living in this area of Soweto called Dobsonville.

Melanie and I did some serious shopping for missionary items, furnishings, etc. this week.  We finally got our mission VISA card so we no longer have to put up our own money to get the things which is not all bad since they give us credit for it against what we would get charged anyway for the use of the car and truck and gas.  We went to some stores that were sort of like Sam's and WalMart, in fact WalMart may have some ownership interest in them anyway, they are called Makro and Checkers Hyper (super) here.

After getting the truck dirty I took it to the local car wash where I had a couple of good missionary experiences and discussions with both patrons and employees.  They use a hose to spray some but most of the wash is hand rubbed and cleaned.  A great job and it only cost $9 including the tip.

On Friday, Melanie and I helped a local Branch President and his helper load up their truck and trailer with a bunch of things from our storage that we would have thrown away otherwise.  These brothers were from a different township so they were thrilled to get a broken refigerator, two microwaves that didn't work, two stained twin mattresses and a bunch of household goods that Melanie pulled out of her storage bunker.

Saturday we did get to have a more normal p-day but still had to deal with a couple of emergencies which sadly are becoming more and more like routine issues for us but are real desperate situations for the Elders, ie. power shut-offs just before the weekend, full gas tank at the station with a fleet card that doesn't work to pay for it and no cash on hand etc.

Anyway, it has been another really busy week, but a good week, we are learning more and more and know enough now to struggle by.  Our trainers the Taylor's are leaving for good next week for their original assignment to the Botswana mission.  We will miss them, we've grown to love them.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Week 6 - Jul 6th - 12th, 2014

Sunday, July 6th - Saturday, July 12th

We started this week with a very nice and restful fast Sunday.  Our sacrament meeting was so busy with testimonies.  I took a turn and added my testimony to all of theirs.  It felt great to be able to do so in a land so far from our home.  We have so much in common with members of the church all around the world!

Monday I took our heart surgery patient Elder Rami back to the hospital lab for his weekly blood check.  He is such a fine young man, it's great to be around him.  P-day for the Elders, some of them stopped by the office.

Elder Going - New Zealand kneeling left, Elder Ramiaramanana (Rami) - Madagascar kneeling right, Elder Wambua - Kenya standing left, Elder Wild - England next, Elder Hansen - USA and
Elder Majodi - South Africa standing right, my size guy.

Tuesday aside from other issues and regular things Melanie and I took Elder Rami to lunch.  He's sort of a single Elder some of the time and needs to be looked after and cared for.  Sometimes he can stay in the MTC with other Elders, sometimes with some of our Elders in areas close by.

A little fellow named Lucky came in with his parents to the office today.  He is seven and was a little bashful but warmed up nicely to a slinky which I gave him.  His parents are members and will soon be going to the temple and taking their family, including Lucky to be sealed!

Lucky 7, with his new slinky from Elder Hansen.

Wednesday the Taylor's returned from up north and we got right busy again trying to finish up some cross-training duties, etc.  We have worked busy long days again this week, ten hours plus a day usually.  We went to dinner with the Taylor's tonight before finishing up our work.

Thursday we had a new senior couple arrive at the mission office, the Campbell's from Prescott, AZ.  He will serve as branch president up north about a five hour drive from here.  This is their first mission and they seem quite personable.  Tonight we got a group of senior couples together to take them to dinner at a place called the Cattle Baron's which was quite nice.

Friday we got up early so we could drive the Taylor's to the airport so they could fly off to their beloved assignment in Botswana Mission.  It took an hour getting there because of commuting traffic but only 1/2 hour getting back which was good.  Later I took Melanie to her first hair appointment which she was so very anxious to have.  It went well so I rewarded her with a lunch at McDonald's which was the first time we have done that since we've been here.

Cool little deliver scooters they use here to deliver McD's food orders!

Sometimes we're so busy we only get one meal a day and it's usually not lunch and then we're too tired to fix anything so the dinner we have is small and humble.  Guess that's okay because once in a while we do get to go out with the other senior couples anyway.

Saturday, our first real p-day together since we've been here.  We had so much to catch up on with cleaning the flat and then shopping for supplies and groceries.  We did take a few minutes later to go a gigantic mall close by called Clearwater Mall.  Every store imaginable there.

The money here is sort of fun for us.  Different colors, different animals on the currency, slightly different sizes too.

Denomination is the South African 'Rand'.  If you drop the last zero on these bills then they equate roughly to our $20, $10, $5, $2, and $1.  The animals are what they call the big 5 here, the Leopard, the Cape Buffalo, The Lion, the Elephant, and the Rhino.

Afterwards we stopped at a restaurant close by for dinner, The Porterhouse.  Good food and not too expensive.

Then on to the flat to do a little video calling before calling it a week.  Another great week here in Africa.  And a bonus giant large orange African moon rising in the northeast as we got home.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Week 5 - Jun 29th - Jul 5th, 2014 - Start of Month 2

June 29 - July 5 --- Start of Month 2

We met a nice member couple, the O'Moore's at church and visited with them and their two children, Nathan 11, and Rachel 8, at their home.  They are both returned missionaries and natives of South Africa.  He's an IT consultant and she's a self-employed accountant.  Nice people, good visit, some good treats.

Monday we met our new mission president and his wife, Michael and Linda Dunn.  They seem very nice and personable and enthused about serving.  We look forward to getting to know them better.  Wednesday evening we went over to the mission home where they will live and had a meeting with them along with some of the other missionaries.

Tuesday and Wednesday were both long 12-hour days which each started very early in the morning for furniture deliveries.  Melanie spent many hours shopping for furnishings, etc. for the flats and I went out with some other senior Elders to deliver the stuff with our little truck and trailer.

Nice reflectors for a pre-dawn start.

Load, unload, and reload is the order of things here, lots of times repeated.

Glad to have four Elders when it comes to moving the fridge in.  Not only did they get a new fridge, we actually brought the old one back in for some reason which is beyond me.  If they can't make it work and we replace it, it's probably not going to make it anywhere here but maybe the shanty town.

Friday we had a cookout with some other senior couples to celebrate the 4th of July.  We had some really good food and apple pie and ice cream to top it off.  Our hosts were the Pres of the MTC and his wife, the Collins.

Melanie, Sister Davie, Sister Pier seated, Elders Dummer and Davie on the MTC Pres's new patio.

With Sister and Pres Collins of the Johannesburg MTC.

Friday night we met up with Elder Ben and Sister Jill Jones and had dinner with them and a nice visit and a good time.

The Porterhouse restaurant is supposedly one of the favorites of the Senior Couples in our mission, it was pretty good and quite inexpensive.

We had some good food and a nice visit to celebrate the evening of the 4th of July!

Saturday was supposed to be P-day, but instead it turned into another 10-hour day doing flat inspections and loading up the truck and trailer again so a new flat could be set up for a new senior couple coming in next week.

Nice little Nissan quad cab with a small trailer that holds everything necessary to furnish a senior couple flat.  Glad I had a little help loading all this stuff.

Sister Taylor is a good trainer, a great professional baker, and an inexhaustible shopper!  She ran Melanie in circles and in and out of some dangerous auto traffic too.

This has been a great week, very busy, sort of hard, and over 60 hours of good work.  We're both ready for the Sabbath so we can rest up a bit.