Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 13 - Aug 24th - 30th, 2014

Sunday, August 24th - Saturday, August 30th

A welcome Sabbath Day again to start our week with Sacrament Meeting at the Roodepoort Ward across the street.  Our second YSA lesson today, we doubled our attendance from 2 to 4 this week!  

One of our YSA young women, Yo-yo as she is called by her nickname got accepted to study medicine in Cuba and she'll be leaving us soon.  This afternoon the ward held a refreshments-type open house farewell for her.  Their buffet table was covered with some great looking dishes some of which we tried, but we had already eaten so we didn't eat much.  We did have a nice visit with those there though.

Monday was our first 'set-up' of a new flat for Elders.  This flat will be used on Tuesday, September 2nd's transfer day.  It is one that the other Senior's arranged before we got involved.  Not a place I would have leased, but oh well.  We made the best of it.  Had four Elders close by help us load, unload and arrange the heavy things.  I actually helped hang curtains for the first time in my life, in their bedroom and their study room (actually a 2nd bedroom).  It was fun to pull everything together so it will be ready.

New flat helpers Elder Nicotra - Italy, Elder Dzowa - Malawi, Elder Xalabile - S. Africa, and Elder Dthembu - Durban, S. Africa

My pals that help with the heavy lifting.

Got home after dark to find our power was out and my cell phone didn't work so I couldn't call or message the landlord.  Had to go next door and borrow a phone from the other senior couple.  The landlord told me of a 'third' breaker box and I went and found it and fortunately got things reset okay.  No power, no phone, and I'm the one over utilities and phones, ouch!

Tuesday I went to a Muslim Dr. IM Essack, a dermatologist and had him examine and freeze an unwelcome little friend that has been growing on my beautiful bald head.  Liquid nitrogen just like home.  But had to pay cash because they don't take credit cards in his office.

A couple of CES senior Elders Cloward and Davie helped me out with some handyman repairs this week on some long-standing work in some Elders flats, one a plumbing problem and the other and Elders problem (pulling the shower head so hard it broke off and pulled off some tile with it).  Need to find a way to communicate some common sense training I guess until it sinks in.

Wednesday we arranged for a Branch President to come in with a helper and a truck to pick up a load of household furnishings, furniture, etc that Melanie and I were not going to reuse with our missionaries.  They are so very happy to get anything, good, bad, working or not they load it up and are glad to make use of it.  These two drove two hours each way for what we would throw away at home.  By the way, there are actually scavengers who go through everyone's garbage cans each week to see what they can take out and make use of.  They pull along a large container with wheels that is about the size of a pallet cubed up.

Aside from our regular issues during the week this Thursday evening we got to go to an appointment with the Elders, our AP's actually.  They are teaching a woman about 45-50 who has a baptism date in September.  She is a professional interior designer/decorator who has contracted with the church for temples, churches, etc. for many years and is now ready to get baptized.  She was ill so I assisted the Elders in administering to her.  Melanie gave a nice prayer along with the visit as well.  It was a good experience.

Friday we had the coldest day since we've been on our mission here.  The wind blew in from the south and was such a cold, cold, steady and strong wind.  It blows right through the office door and makes a loud whistle sound all day long.  Felt bad for the poor construction workers who were out in it all day.

Saturday we had some furnishings work and furniture moving work to take care of in the morning then we got some weekly chores done and did a little shopping.  I made a trip to my Muslim barber friend, Ishmael.  He made quick work of the item the Dr. had frozen by knocking it off with his clippers.   Probably should have gone to him first and saved myself some money.  He's really friendly to me now because it's a great deal for him with my mostly bald head and it works well for me too.

Later we met up with Elder Ben and Jill Jones for dinner at a nice little Italian place in Joburg along with the Meldrums, a senior couple in our mission who were down to the temple from Tzaneen up north about a five-hour drive.  Good food and a good visit.

Meldrums - left, Jones - center with us at Tortelline De'Oro in Joburg.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week 12 - Aug 17th - 23rd, 2014

Sunday, August 17th - Saturday, August 23rd

Wonderful Sabbath day of rest and worship!  We have been busy and working hard enough that we are enjoying our Sabbath day more and more and more.  It is both spiritually and physically refreshing and rejuvenating to us, love it.  Today the Bishopric sustained us as YSA advisor couple so we are excited to work together in our 'spare' time serving and getting to know the YSA's in the Roodepoort ward.  Hopefully we'll be able to make a difference in some lives among them and feel of their enthusiastic spirit and zest for life here in S. Africa.

Monday we, Melanie and I did some furniture and appliance deliveries with the truck and trailer.  We had a full load, and some good help loading and unloading the stuff on each of the six stops.  It was fun to have Melanie along with me and to meet a few more of the Elders on their 'home' turf (without the threat of flat inspections).

Last stop, trailer mostly empty!

P-Day deliveries happy Elders!

P-day mixed garb early morning.

Happy for a bookcase and a soccer ball on P-day.

The fridge stopped here with some other things!  Happy P-day Elders.

Our last stop, these Elders had two extra study desks so on the trailer they go for a trip back to my storage garage!

We had a wonderful and very tasty Swiss cheese fondue dinner tonight.  We found some at a grocery store and bought a couple.  It tasted as good as I can remember, yummmmm!  It was great.

One of our favorite non-meat dinners of all time, Yummmm this was an excellent way to end a couple of days this week.

Tuesday evening we took a senior couple to the airport, the Hunt's.  They have finished their 18 months here and are heading home after a side trip to Dubai to see their son and his family.  Very nice people who worked doing MLS (Member Leadership Support) in a town about 4 hours east of Joburg called Nelspruit.  They drove themselves in to the Mission office in a car, but we literally had to take my truck, Nissan with a small crew cab, and we filled the back of it totally full.   They also shipped some stuff home in boxes.  Bet they had to pay a bundle in extra airline charges so the plane could get off the ground, ha!

Wednesday we had a couple of interesting encounters.  The first was with a Jewish man at the post office.  Good chat with him and he was very friendly.  I asked him if he was a Christian and he said no, he was Jewish.  I said well hello my Jewish brother I've got a pass-along card just for you.  He took it and seemed interested in what us 'Americans' are doing here with missionary work.

The second was with a Buddhist nun from whom we are going to rent a flat to put some Elders in behind her home.  She was a Methodist for sixty years she said.  She was very friendly to us and we sat down and visited in her living room for quite a while.  She said she converted because she really is smitten by reincarnation and felt a connection to the Buddhist monk she met.  That was a good jumping off point for some conversation about the Plan of Salvation and the pre-existence and post-mortal life.  Not much progress, but we established a very good relationship with her.

We got another new senior couple in today, the Scott's, very nice and personable people with whom we connected easily and quickly to help make them feel welcome and comfortable here.  We sort of took them under our wing for the next few days until the President and his wife take them back up to Nelspruit where they will replace the Hunt's.  They are both retired from law enforcement from California and it is their second mission.  Their first was to New York Manhattan a few years ago, great enthusiastic couple.  

Got to turn the tables on the President's wife, Sister Dunn always taking pictures for her blog.  I got this special one for our blog.

Sister Dunn.  Not sure if she has a cell phone cover for each of her outfits, but I couldn't pass this up.  My hat and her good nature and beautiful smile made it even more special.

Melanie's shopping was light this week.  My week was really quite busy with paying rent and utilities and working out some lease renewals and getting a new lease for the senior's in Nelspruit.

Friday I took Melanie to and from her hair appointment, she still won't drive any further than from the mission office across the street to our flat, but maybe sometime she'll get brave enough to go somewhere she feels comfortable with.  It is a bit scary and intimidating to those who haven't had the experience of driving wrong and among some crazy and aggressive drivers, just like home I suppose.

The mission office construction work continues now with the 'paving' one brick paver at a time outside our offices.

Paving crew.  No knee-pads, no gloves, just hard, hard labor for them each and every day.

Some Elders got mugged and their phone was stolen.  This was the fourth incident since we've been here a short time.  Anyway then I have to get the line blocked and replace their phone.  I have quite an inventory of new phones that I set up, charge up, and get a SIM card activated so they were actually back in business late the same evening.  Best turnaround yet for me as I learn more about how to get phone stuff done too.

Saturday after some office work I had to get done and some chores at the flat that Melanie got done we did our weekly shopping.  Our landlord finally came over tonight and repaired our internet set-up which got fried a week ago when some lightning hit our flat and sizzled it out of commission.  It has been a little more challenging this week not having the convenience of the internet in our flat.  We are glad to have it restored finally.

And, to wrap up another great week, Melanie fixed the second fondue dinner (I sneaked another one into the cart, yummmm!).  So long for this week.   God bless any who endure reading all of this.  Serving the Lord on a mission is truly a dream come true for us!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Week 11 - Aug 10th - 16th, 2014

Sunday, August 10th - Saturday August 16th

After the block meetings the bishopric called us in to ask us to be the ward YSA advisor couple and teach their Gospel Doctrine class.  We told him we would need to check with our Pres first but they already had and he said yes.  So off we go in our spare time, ha, but it should be another great experience for us.  They have 20 or more that show up for Sunday School.

We had Sunday dinner with Elder and Sister Jones, Ben and Jill, and it was another nice time together with them.  So good to see them from time to time.

Our week was filled with activity and people.  Our work should have been properly stated do all that you can with housing, utilities, household furnishings, cell phones, shopping and delivering but while you're at it learn to deal with interruptions because your days will be full of them.  Most days it is a challenge to do what is expected in spite of, or all while dealing with urgent situations, keys locked in trunk, or keys that won't open front doors, or, still most challenging, appliances that aren't working.

Anyway, another full and busy week, a solo 4-hour trip to make some deliveries for me.  

My furniture and appliance delivery truck and trailer.  A fridge and some beds, chairs, table and desk today.  Elders from left are from Kenya, Finland, and South Africa.  Good helpers to unload for me.

More and more shopping for Melanie.  Mission life sure isn't what it was like for me 46 years ago.  Back then we took care of our own needs and the mission only sent us the proselyting materials we needed.  Now today our duties require us to take care of almost all of the missionaries day-to-day living needs with the exception of their food and personal care items only.  So about 200 missionaries and 100 apartments and providing is not only a big chore it is a recurring weekly chore.  Then the emergencies occur which simply spice things up for us, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, but we love them and wouldn't have it any other way.

Melanie is such a great face to the mission office for the Elders and others who come and go here.  She is so patient with me too, no small accomplishment!  Love her, she's a terrific companion.

Our week closed up with a wonderful evening Friday when Elder Carl Cook called and spoke with Melanie and invited us to dinner with him and Lynette.  It was a great reunion and visit.  We talked and talked, ate some and talked some more for a couple of hours.  So good to reminisce and visit about old times and families etc.  But most enjoyable to be able to talk about being here in South Africa and hooking up with them and doing the Lord's work here.  Wow, it's just terrific!  We'll see them again sometime, but we're all really busy with our own duties.  We love the Cook's.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Week 10 - Aug 3rd - 9th, 2014 - Start of Month 3

August 3rd - August 9th

We received two new Elders from the Sierra Leone Mission which was being closed due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus which has been deadly.  We will get two more tomorrow as well.  The church wanted to make certain that travel restrictions out of the country would not interfere with the safety concerns.

Did a little better with phones and contracts for phones this week.  We have over 150 contracts for cellphones and have to manage them and keep the Elders supplied with phones that work.  Unfortunately for them they use the old button style Nokia's that are ok to talk with and hard to text with.  Quite a few of them get lost, stolen, or damaged, some maybe even get worn out.

We had a 5.4 earthquake centered about 50 miles to the south of here.  A miner was killed and some trapped.  It rattled and shook a bit here, we went outside for a while then back to work.

Melanie and I went together on a delivery with the truck and trailer this week out of town a ways.  We took a box spring and a couple of mattresses.  It was Melanie's first delivery ride.  She was a good sport even helped me load up and tie down the load.

Our mission office got some new cement for the steps this week.  It's an amazing process to watch how the construction workers do things.  Most of the work is labor without equipment.  They sure could have used a cement truck, but instead they mixed their cement from raw materials piled on the ground with a mixer.  Then the workers used wheelbarrows and shovels to throw the cement up into the forms from the bottom of the steps.

It was what is now becoming a typical week, busy, interesting and quick in passing by.  We are getting a lot done and enjoying doing it.  We especially enjoy working with all of the Elders we get to meet and enjoy their spirit and enthusiasm.
Mix, wheelbarrow, and throw with a shovel into the forms.

This will now be tiled over maybe next week.  Only one step short of a 'twelve step' flight.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Week 9 - Jul 27th - Aug 2nd, 2014

July 27th to August 2nd

Wednesdays are shopping day for the mission and we are the shoppers. This week we purchased 3 irons, 5 ironing board covers, 3 shower curtains, 2 shower rods, 3 dust pans, 3 mops, 2 buckets, 5 lg kitchen trash cans, 3 small trash cans, 5 spray bottles, 7 bottles thin bleach, 5 bottles thick bleach, 4 bottles dish soap, 4 bottles toilet cleaner, various light bulbs (there are no standard bulbs), 2 sets measuring cups and measuring spoons, 4 butcher knives, 5 can openers, 3 potato peelers, 2 lg fry pans, and 2 sm fry pans, 2 white boards and a few office supplies.

Inside the "bunker"

There is a large bustling city of lizards
that live under the bunker.

Thursdays the Zone leaders come in to pick up ordered supplies for the flats in their zone. Sister Thompson does the proselyting   supplies and we do the the flat supplies. Today we passed out 1 vacuum (a used one that Sister Hansen cleaned up), 2 heaters, 3 irons, 2 ironing boards, 2 ironing board covers and 1 pad, 3 shower curtains, 2 shower rods, 3 bath mats, 4 dish towels, 2 dish cloths, a set of pot holders, 1 small rug, 3 U.S. plug adapters, 2 regular adapters (because there are several shapes of plugs here, each needing it's own adapter), 4 extension cords (there is only 1 or 2 plugs in a room, if you are lucky), 1 broom, 2 mops, 3 buckets, 5 lg trash cans, 3 sm trash cans, 1 toilet brush, (the order said "birthroom brash", it was written by an African), 1 plunger, 2 spray bottles, 1 squeegee, 1 dish pan, 4 bottles bleach, 1 Handy Andy cleaner, 1 can cleanser, 2 dish soap, 1 toilet cleaner, 1 tile cleaner, 1 windex, 5 different light bulbs, 1 set measuring cups and spoons, 8 lg plates, 6 sm plates, 4 mugs, 10 bowls (Elders complain, they want BIG bowls and they only get regular cereal bowls), 4 glasses, 6 table knives, 8 forks, 1 spoon, 3 butcher knives, 1 knife sharpener, 4 can openers, 2 potato peelers, 4 lg fry pans, 1 med pot with lid, 2 whisks, 2 cookie sheets, 2 9x13 pans (or close to that), 1 clothes basket, a bunch of hangers, 2 bags curtain hooks, 1 table lamp. We will do it all again next week with what ever it is the Elders need. (need not want) They send SMS's to the computer and we take it from there.

All this while Elder Hansen takes care of emergencies with phones, electricity, water, flat problems of every kind. With nearly 200 Elders plus senior couples there are always going to be emergencies. One set of Elders recently had their flat broke into, there were 2 muggings in the last week, one Elder was taken to the hospital for chest pains, and yesterday the AP's (assistants to the president) called because the Elder they were with passed out and they couldn't get him to wake up. When we get the emergencies taken care of, then we can work on our regular assignments. Leases, bills, credit cards, medical claims, and so forth and so forth.....  

Tuesday, I had to close a senior's flat and move 'pack and stuff' their things into the garages.  While I was at it I sort of did what I could to clean and straighten and organize them a little better.  Soon I'll have to move everything into an area under the new offices.

The two bays on the left are Larry's two storage garages for furniture and appliances.

Larry's little Nissan 'bakke' or truck for towing the trailers.  Stick shift 5-speed with left hand driving from right front seat.

My two little helper pals.  I've loaded up everything to furnish a senior couple's flat in the front trailer to be delivered about a four 1/2 hour drive north of here.

Left door is my new 'garage' under our new offices where I'll have to move and store everything as soon as they 'pave' the area.

Other than roads you will rarely see pavement used in any parking lot of any size.  Cement sidewalks are very rare as well.  Instead, because labor is so cheap here they use paver bricks which are usually quite small.  Some of the poor women actually make these bricks where they live from anything they can find to use old mining tailings provide much of the material.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had troubles with the internet server and with the Church IMOS (Internet Mission Operating System) being down, then my SMS message system went down while trying to pay electricity for about 40 flats.  Hard to find joy in some of these trials, but somehow we do and then we just move forward.

The new offices finally looking better now that we could clear out more trash and boxes and get the crew to hang the artwork.

Melanie's reception area is looking better now.

Larry's office still needs window covering.

Pres. Dunn's office is looking okay too but needs window coverings as well.

We are busy, but we do LOVE the work and are blessed to be in this place serving the Lord and his messengers.  What an experience!