Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 34 - Jan 18th - 24th, 2015

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

We went to meetings at the Roodepoort Ward for the last time this Sunday.   We have made some friends here and will miss them when we leave.  They are a special group of people that function well together despite their racial differences,  they act like the brothers and sisters that they are and treat each other with love and respect.

What time I spent in the office this week was mostly consumed by working out some cell-phone contract related issues for the nearly 160 accounts that the mission has.   Some of these loose ends will now turn over to Elder Allred's capable hands to complete.

Monday night we were invited to a special dinner hosted by Pres. and Sister Dunn at the Mission Home along with many other senior couples and one young Elder and the AP's.   Some were going home and we were going on our transfer.   We had a nice time, good food and nice visits.

Thursday we had a major big-time show of weather with violent thunder, lightning, rain and hail like we haven't seen before.  The thunder would just shake you and the rain became run-off rivers very quickly.  Heavy duty weather.  It put the power out for a few hours.

Friday we packed up the remaining stuff we have here and loaded it into the car and drove off leaving Joburg for our new assignment in Polokwane to work with the Seshego township Group of that branch.   Polokwane metro area is over a million people.  Not sure how many live in our township but there are many thousands.  Some of them live in small brick and stucco places.   Others live in some shanty type shacks without any facilities, ie. running water, etc.   Some very poor people who do so much just to survive day-to-day.   But some very humble and friendly people too.

The Branch itself is a separate congregation from the Group we meet with about 8-10 miles away.   Between them they average just under 200 attendance each Sunday.  Many of these members are 'first-generation' members and thus pioneers in the church for their families and friends etc.   They need nurturing and support in so many ways to help them become strong and self-reliant.  That is what we will be focusing on over the next 10 1/2 months.  It is so exciting to us to be here and be involved.

We stayed at a local B & B while awaiting the departure of the Harward's whom we will replace on Monday, January 26th.  We can hardly wait!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Week 33 - Jan 11th - 17th, 2015

Sunday, January 11th to Saturday, January 17th, 2015

The week began with us still up visiting for orientation at our new assignment with the Seshego Group of the Polokwane Branch about 200 miles north of Joburg.  It is a group of about 75-80 active members meeting in an old sort of run down primary school.  

An 11-year old proud to be a Primary boy and soon to be a Deacon in April.

Typical building at our group meeting place.

The adults are almost all first generation members and converts of not too many years experience in the Church so they are truly pioneers in their families and their country.  There are about 20-25 primary age children in the group and a fair number of young single adults.

It tends to be quite hot and sometimes quite humid in this part of South Africa.   They grow banana trees and there are monkeys running around wild and loose not far from here actually at one of the church houses in a town called Tzaneen.  

Can you spot the three monkeys?  This is in the Church parking lot at Tzaneen.

Sometimes you see the women carrying bundles and/or about anything on their heads.   This was sort of a parade of bush trimmings with these five women.

There are also hippos and crocodiles in some of the open waters in this area.  One of the group families that live in a village had a cobra near the place where they stay not too long ago.

With Bernard and Batserai Chiddoway at their village home in Seshego.  Bernard has suffered two strokes and has been unable to work since last February.  His wife does anything she can to earn a little money to help support and sustain their family.  They have a garden but for their family needs she has to go fetch water in 5-gallon buckets some distance away.  No running water in their humble home.  Thankfully, now she has a wheelbarrow to help make the water trip less of a struggle.

But this image is a little distorted because most of the area in the city of Polokwane where we will stay is quite urban and has a very nice mall with all of the things anyone would want or need to live comfortably, if only they can afford it, which most of the black Africans cannot.

Fancy malls with many floors and escalators and upscale retail stores like this one in Sandton are fairly common in the bigger cities of South Africa.  This one is adjacent to Mandela Square in Joburg.

We were hosted by a great Senior couple, the Harward's, whose place we will try to take when they go home on January 26th.  They have been working with this Seshego group all of their 18-month mission and have been very successful and loving and serving the members and supporting and training the leaders.

Harward's in the Chiddoway's living room.  Not much wiring or power available in their humble home, but like many others, they do have a TV hooked up.

As we returned back to Joburg for our last week here we are in the process of winding down our office duties as the Allred's have pretty much taken over the day to day things.  They will do a terrific job of keeping the mission running like clock-work.

We helped with our last MLC, Mission Leadership Council meeting this week with the President, the AP's, and the Zone Leaders.  We will truly miss being around so many of the different Elders and getting to know them and love them.

We were able to take one of our favorites, Elder Tumarae from Tahiti to a birthday dinner along with his three-some companions, Elder Tukia from Tonga, and Elder Watenka from Uganda.  Quite a diverse group we have in our mission and it is sort of amazing to see how they jell together from all the different countries around the world, over 30 are represented here in our mission.

Two for one birthday dinner actually means they each got two dinner plates full of food (notice the six plates on the Elders side of the table, two each) which they devoured rather quickly before we celebrated with some cake and ice cream.   Elder Tumarae - Tahiti, Elder Tukia - Tonga, and Elder Watenga - Uganda.  Food is pretty good here and especially if it is with the Senior couples, right Elders?

Friday we were happy to be able to attend the Joburg Temple with the Soweto Zone Elders.  It might be a while before we can do this again so it was really nice to go.   Afterwards we had lunch with Elder Ben and Sister Jill Jones at a restaurant near the Temple and Area offices where they work.

Since Sunday meeting times have changed we took the opportunity to call the family at home.   We enjoy the video calls so much.   It really makes it easier on us to deal with the separation from the family when we can use this wonderful technology to see them and talk with them half way around the world.  We love them and do miss them, but the time is passing by so very quickly we will have to work faster and better in our new assignment.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Week 32 - Jan 4th - 10th, 2015

Sunday, January 4th to Saturday, January 10th, 2015

Our week started out with the first fast-Sunday of the year and it was a good one for us.  We have really enjoyed being here and meeting with the Roodepoort Ward members, a very strong ward, deep with experience and strength.

After the meetings we drove in to Joburg to have lunch with the Joneses along with a nice visit again.  We are all excited to have our kids coming over in February for a visit and some time off with them and together all of us.

Our office work is winding down now as our replacement couple, the Allred's are beginning to take full charge for the duties.   They are great friends and are doing a terrific job.  We feel much better that they will handle everything so well for the mission and for all of our young Elders especially.

Tuesday we had another transfer day.  It seems like these days come very quickly even though they are structured and scheduled to occur only once every six weeks.  Our good office buddy and AP Elder Stephens from Roy got a transfer out of the office for his last six weeks of his mission.   We will miss him a lot, but we hope to see him some times up north where he got sent.

Elder Stephens, the elf along with his companion Elder Menendez.

Our trainer couple needed a visit at the hospital this week.  Sister Taylor had to go for some diagnostic work about some internal bleeding.  She's such a strong senior sister, we pray for her recovery.

While working on leases this week we had the pleasure of one of our friends and landlords Repa, a Buddhist nun, coming in for a visit about a lease and to say farewell to her.  We've come to like her so much and turned our last visit into a great well-received missionary lesson about the Church and the Book of Mormon.

We finished up our week with a preliminary visit to Polokwane, the city where we will finish up our mission doing Member Leadership Support work.  It was a real eye opener to say the least, but we are excited about the prospects of getting to know and love more and more people and do what we can to help them.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Week 31 - Dec 28th, 2014 - Jan 3rd, 2015 - A Year ends and a Year begins - Start of Month 8

Sunday, December 28th 2014 - Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

This week started out quite busy.  We had prepared for our final YSA SS lesson which was a review of the Old Testament lessons which we studied for the year.  Melanie did a great job of preparing and reviewing the year by pictures with a series of pictures from the Gospel Art book.  We had a good spirit and discussion in our class.

Then it was my turn to teach the fourth Sunday lesson for the High Priests, which turned out to include the Elders as well, a group of about 25-30.  This lesson was derived from Pres Monson's April conference talk:  Love - the Essence of the Gospel.  I learned some good things and we were all edified together and felt a good spirit among us.

We will miss the members here in the Roodepoort Ward when we leave now to go do MLS up north to Polokwane.

Even being another Holiday week with New Year's, for those of us in the office it was pretty much work as usual.  We did get a chance on New Year's Eve to go to dinner together which was nice.   Then on the Saturday following we got together again for a little shopping, sightseeing trip to Mandela Square in Joburg followed by a nice lunch.

The Thompson's, the Allred's and the Hansen's.

Great food here - Melanie's chicken sandwich lunch.

Some of the best tasting spaghetti I've had, yummm! 

We did enjoy video calls back home again for Happy New Year wishes to our family.   Not sure how well we would cope if we didn't enjoy this blessing of these wonderful video calls back to those we love so much at home.  Got to see both the oldest and the youngest members of our family already in 2015, my mother and our new grandson Henrik, born Dec 6th 2014.

Henrik with Mom Tiffani, Aunt Wendy.

Henrik with Aunt Wendy and my Mom LaVaun.