Saturday, February 28, 2015

Week 39 - Feb 22nd - 28th, 2015

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

Check week 38 for the conclusion of our daughter's visit to South Africa which carried over onto Sunday and Monday of this week.

Resuming on Tuesday the 24th we sent birthday wishes to the son that turned us into parents 40 years ago today, Jeremy William Hansen.  Jeremy is a trainman on the Union Pacific RR and at present is in training to become an engineer.  He is married to Lilia and her two teen-age children, Liza and Bryan.  They live across the street from our home in Riverdale, UT.

Melanie also had a Tuesday visit to the Dentist to begin a root canal treatment which was quite a way to finish up what had been a wonderful week prior.  She had to return again on Friday for the conclusion of some nice 'chair' time with the nice little Muslim Indian gal, her dentist.  Thankfully all went well.

We had a 'month-of-miracles' miracle on Wednesday while we were shopping for groceries.  Melanie suggested a stop for an ice cream cone and while there we were served by a very friendly clerk who showed more than a passing interest in us and our badges and our accents, etc.  So I talked with her briefly as we were leaving and gave her a pass-along card and told her to be sure to follow up on it.

When we got outside we 'happened' to run into the Zone Leaders Elders who 'happened' to be doing some finding with mall patrons.  So I gave them some money and told them to go in and buy an ice cream cone and be certain to approach this young woman.  They did and later on we heard that they immediately got a teaching appointment with her!  Never know how the Lord will put people in your path when you're a missionary, nor do we always realize the smallest or seemingly insignificant impressions to do things can lead us in the path of the Lord's work.

We made the 2nd trip to Joburg for the dentist and then checked in to the patron housing at the temple for our Branch Temple trip.  I hadn't been feeling well so while Melanie's anesthesia wore off we both took a rest.   She was doing better but after an early dinner I was coming down with something unpleasant.  It got worse and worse, even through the night.   So instead of the pleasure of joining our Branch, and the nine members from our Group in the Temple, we had to drive back home to Polokwane and recover quickly before our Fast Sunday.   

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Week 38 - Feb 15th - 21st, 2015

Sunday, February 15th to Saturday, February 21st 2015 - with a little bit extra to include our daughters week with us.

Our turn to speak in Sacrament Meeting at our group.  Melanie did a wonderful job of delivering just the right sermon they needed to hear from her and in her own personable way.   She has connected to them very well.  My talk sort of took off from her's letting them know of their 'pioneer' status since many of them are 1st generation converts.  They are truly a wonderful group of people and the more we get to know them the more we love them and are so grateful to be given this opportunity to be with and serve them.

We were supposed to drive to Joburg to collect our daughters, Wendy and Annie from the airport on Sunday evening.   Their flight from Atlanta was diverted due to a medical emergency.  So their plane turned around out over the Atlantic and landed in Puerto Rico where they spent one of their trip days until they could resume their travel to Joburg.  So we picked them up on Monday about noon safe and delivered here full of excitement, love, and anticipation!

Ben picked up Alleson and Curtis as well.   We had some real fun together and then went different directions for part of the week as well.

Thanks to Pres Dunn's permission we began a week with them to see and do things here that will hopefully be retained as wonderful memories of this great country and people.

Tuesday we took them to a Mission Transfer meeting with all of it's attendant excitement and spirit.  We had a special Elder Stephens returning home to Roy which gave us an additional excuse to take the girls to see how this happens here each six weeks.

We ended up doing quite a lot of driving back and forth, but the highlights of the week were:

  1. Tzaneen the beautiful tropical valley.

  2. The Crocodile farm where they got to hold a baby croc and Annie and I each got to 'catch' one on a pole and line with a chicken tied to the end of the string.   

  3. A special embroidery place 'Kaross' which is famous for it's unique African style of art work.
  4. A visit to the largest Baobab tree in the world that is large enough to have a small pub inside it.  Not as tall as the Redwoods from home, but much bigger in circumference.
  5. Some safari game drives at the Black Rhino reserve which is a part of the Pilanesburg National Park.   Fun to see these animals in a more natural habitat than a zoo for sure.

  6. Dinner under the beautiful stars in the southern hemisphere each night of our safari.
  7. Church with us at our Seshego group sacrament and block meetings held at a rented primary school.  The daughters were very warmly welcomed and even asked to speak in RS so the sisters could hear them talk with their 'funny' accents.
  8. A night at the mission home provided so graciously by the Dunn's including a nice dinner and an early breakfast.
  9. A trip to the Elephant sanctuary where the girls got to touch, feel, feed, and ride elephants.  It was a fun time and a neat experience.

  10. Lastly, a quick trip to Nelson Mandela Square and the beautiful Sandton Mall which is adjacent for a parting lunch before the airport and their return flight back home.

All in all it was a wonderful week!  A memorable week!   And a great week just to be with Wendy and Annie and share some good times and a lot of talking and visiting.   We're so glad they were able to come here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Week 37 - Feb 8th - 14th, 2015

Sunday, February 8th to Saturday, February 14th 2015

Blog posts will resume after daughters return to USA with updates, pictures, etc.

We started this week with District (ie. Stake) Conference which was held in Tzaneen over the mountain about 1 1/2 hour drive NE of us.  We had an adult session on Saturday 4-6 and then drove back home and back to Conference a hardship for the members to get transportation to and from these sessions so attendance does decrease quite a bit.  Our Elders, Dye and De La Cruz do not attend the adult session, but we did give them a ride over to the General Session on Sunday.  They are really good Elders.

This Tzaneen District is mission dependent as well as all of the Branches that comprise the District.  Pres. Dunn has challenged the people to continue to build strength so they can eventually become a Stake with Wards.   Right now though, Melanie and I are focused on our little Group of the Polokwane Branch called the Seshego Group.   Our group could become a Branch within the next year or maybe less if the members continue to become strong.  Sister Dunn gave a marvelous sermon on changing one's heart!

Got word that my good friend Dave Blackner from Riverdale died on Monday the 9th.

We took the Elders to a Crocodile Ranch on their p-day.   This place has well over 20,000 crocodiles.   They raise them for their leather and supply it to Gucci of Italy.  It was an interesting day, including the Crocodile burgers we had for lunch!

Melanie and I continue our visits with those in our group who hold leadership positions so we can all become better acquainted and so we can teach them about 'shadow leadership' which is a new concept to them.  We've told them that they shall function in their callings and we will be there to support them and assist in an appropriate manner so they can become strong leaders.

We met at the Polokwane chapel for some training in Family History presented by a senior couple from the Area office.  It was good training and some of our group members attended as well.  We learned that our Polokwane Branch and our Seshego group lead the District in the number of names submitted for temple work and for the percentage of our members participating.  This is good!

After our District Meeting on Friday, Melanie and I completed our preparations for something our weekly basketball activity for the youth.   We had even more show up this week about 18 kids.  It's getting some traction so we hope to use it for fun and for finding missionary opportunities as well.   We've gotten two good contacts each week so far.

Valentine's Day we spent checking our our groups seminary and institute which is taught on Saturday afternoons.   Then later we made another leadership visit with the Assistant to our 1st Counselor in the Branch Presidency, Brother Sefara and his wife and daughter.

Thus ends another great week in South Africa Johannesburg Mission!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Week 36 - Feb 1st - 7th, 2015 - Start of Month 9

Sunday, February 1st to Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Our week started out with our first Sunday as the assigned MLS couple to the Seshego Group of the Polokwane Branch of the Tzaneen District of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.

This is a group of about 35 families and about 100 +/- members that live in a township away from the urban part of Polokwane which has an overall metro area with a population over one million.  In the group, most of the adult members are first generation converts who are learning and feeling their way along their path.  Our assignment is to strengthen them and the group leadership so they can continue to grow and perhaps become a sustainable branch on their own.

We are meeting them and finding out what wonderful, humble and faithful people they are.  We are very excited for this opportunity to work with them and to love them and serve them.

We also enjoy working on the 'front-line' more closely with the young Elders and meet with them regularly to correlate our work and have some joint training time.

This week I've spent some considerable efforts to work with the 1st Counselor in the Elder's Quorum Presidency who serves as the Group Leader for the Elders.   He is a returned missionary from Zimbabwe who is also a newlywed and is unemployed and in need of work.   I've been coordinating some prospects with him which I found from the Area Employment and Self-Reliance staff.

Melanie and I met with a young woman at the Athletic Club down the street from where we live and had a great conversation about the Church.   Gave her a Book of Mormon with some pictures of temples.   She hopes to go to the States to get her MBA and maybe stay with her older sister who is a medical doctor in Kansas City.

I hooked up with a gardener in our housing complex who was helping me with a few yard chores.   He was very receptive to talking about families and our Church as well.   I gave him a DVD Families Together Forever and invited him to watch it and learn more.   He's about 40 and has four children and lives about 10 miles out of the city in a township to the east of us.  It will be neat to see how he goes forward now.

We love how the Lord puts people in our path every day to share the restored Gospel with them and let the Holy Ghost touch the Spirit of Christ they brought with them to this earth.

We also spent some time in our 'finding' work this week by setting up a basketball activity at the one-and-only basketball court I could find in this metro area.   It happens to be right in the middle of our Seshego Group area so it's convenient.   We had the young Elders assist and before long we turned two young BB players into about a dozen including some with great natural ability and a couple of little guys who just wanted to participate.   We'll do it again next week.   The Elder's got an appointment out of it right away.   Sister Hansen got to visit with some Mom's who were at the play area with their kids too.    It was some great fun!

The week ended with our Tzaneen District Conference (sort of like the Stake Conference at home).   Wow, what a gathering from the Branches located up here north in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.   Many had quite a challenge just getting to the meetings with transportation.  The messages were very spiritual and on target about strengthening these members so the Church can grow from a District into a Stake some day.   The members gathered before hand with warm greetings of each other.   After the Sunday meeting many of them had a picnic type meal before returning home.   A great social activity on top of a very good spiritual feast!

Ready, set, go!

Aside from us Missionaries, only one YM member here.   All the rest are good prospects for us.   Some are even good BB players, some would sooner kick the ball, ie. soccer.

I was helping the guy (about 30ish) in the green shirt learn how to shoot the BB.  He agreed to have the Elders come and teach him.

This one was really fun showing this little man how to dribble the ball.  He even had sneakers, they were on the wrong feet, but he had some sneakers.  He had a lot of fun too.

At a dam on the way to District Conference we observed these two warning signs.  Not a good idea to fish in close proximity to Croc's and Hippo's.   They are mean and very dangerous!

Can't wait to pick my own banana off of a tree and eat it fresh just like a monkey!   These are still quite green and not ready.

This YW from our Group was wearing this headband jewelry to match her dress.   I told her it would look good on my bald head, she thought so too!

Me on the front right singing with the Priesthood Choir at the Adult session.   It was about 90+ degrees in this room and the humidity had to have been that or 100%.   Wow, a challenge for a cold-weather guy like me who begins to melt at 70 degrees.

This is on here to see which of my kids is first to see it.  I can understand the black man icon, it is Africa after all.   And, it is more than amusing to see the pose the artist chose for this restroom sign!

Our beloved and most friendly and kind Sister Dunn at the Conference.   She's truly amazing!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Week 35 - Jan 25th - 31st, 2015

Sunday, January 25th to Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Our move from Joburg Mission Office work to Polokwane to work MLS with the Seshego Township Group is complete this week.  We are getting settled in and acquainted with more and more members and investigators each day and loving the opportunity to be sent to the 'front-lines' of the battle!

It is quite a bit warmer and at times more humid than Joburg which can make for a little discomfort without the A/C we had enjoyed in the office and our other flat.  But then again, we will endure with faith and patience knowing that our assignment brings with it the joys of dealing and working with some of the most humble of people the Lord has prepared for His kingdom.   What a great deal for us.

We live about 20 minutes away from them.  Many of them live fairly comfortably in small but well kept masonry dwellings. Here are a couple of pictures of the poor areas that crop up wherever the people can gather materials and squat on property.   Some of the poorest of the poor live in much less than that constructed of corrugated metal, wood, rocks to hold their roofs on, etc.  

Many people wouldn't even use these for sheds back home.  Notice that a few of them grow gardens around where they can.

This one won the shanty town parade of shacks for being the most color coordinated model, but the tire swing isn't finished yet.  If the wind blows hard they will just throw it on top of the roof to help hold it on.
Gives a new twist to the interpretation of 'affordable' housing from the liberals back home in the states.  And there doesn't seem to be any whining going on about it either, they just exist and survive.  It's the way of life for millions of them.  Those that can usually find they must lift themselves up to improve their lives with little or no government interventions.

Meanwhile, I've included a couple of pictures from the area above our condo in this very nice gated community.   These two are typical of the beautiful, large, upper-middle class homes in the area.  There is one strange commonality though.  This first house and even some of the shack houses have satellite dishes for TV's.  (Somehow they get power even if they don't have running water, etc.)

While these pic's show more of the extreme ends of the spectrum, there seems to be a healthier and growing middle-class segment of society as well.  But there is a great disparity and frankly it helps us with missionary work here to be able to work with the poorer people because of their humility and because many of them love the Lord so dearly and sincerely.   They are teachable and are joining the Church by the thousands in Africa each year.

In our new assignment, we have been and will continue meeting with some key leaders, the Branch President, etc.   We've enjoyed going with the Elders to teach.  This is going to be a terrific assignment for us!   We love being missionaries here in South Africa and wish that many others would come and join this labor of love.