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!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week 72 - Oct 11th - 17th, 2015

Sunday, October 11th - Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Another week that was unusual but yet typical of our mission life here.  The usual tons of phone messages, emails, calls, etc. to deal with.  A lost cell phone to replace in Tzaneen, a front door lock to have replaced in Pretoria, a car not properly serviced by the Elders (oil was like sludge in the engine) that needs a new crankshaft.  Weather from extremely hot to quite cool with a powerful storm that took out electricity.  Some good times with visits and with our weekly basketball.  Concluded the week with our final quarterly Zone Conference over the mountain in Tzaneen.

Batsurai Chitewe with her son Lucky and daughter Khutsai.   Nice to see her at church again.  She has to sacrifice much for transport to get to church.  Her husband has left her alone and destitute to fend for herself and her children.  A tough life and situation for them.

Voting day this Tuesday in South Africa, by absentee ballot.  Had to support Cody in his campaign for Riverale City Council.  Mail delivery varies from unreliable to non-existent so we had to have these sent back and forth with DHL courier's.

Sheets on the line, just like old times.  Melanie took this picture because it reminded her of her mother's laundry.  Many people use clotheslines to dry things, some because they lack options, some because it helps keep the heat out of the flat.

During our scripture reading one morning this week the kitchen timer buzzer went off so I went out back of our flat to change the water.  While I was hurrying and trying to avoid getting sprayed I crashed into a window that was tilted wide open.   Hurt pretty much and then turned into a shiner.  Don't call them black eyes over here in South Africa, it just doesn't translate the same way.
While out walking after it had rained we saw a gazillion centepedes of all sizes.  This was a Grandpa one so we took his picture with Melanie's hand to show his size.  You can tell the males from the females by the thingie on the end.  Well, maybe, just seemed like it to me.

President Wilson presides and teaches at the Tzaneen Zone Conference.  Tzaneen is one of the three Zones he has here in the South Africa part of his Botswana/Namibia Mission.  Senior couples on the front row are the Campbell's (he serves as a Branch President in Tzaneen), the Wilson's, the Butler's (from West Haven, they serve as an MLS couple for the Motupa village group), and us.  Bottom right are the AP's, Elder Hunt a poly, and Elder Lawson from Arkansas, both helping the Wilson's out very much.

Elders always get excited when it's lunch time at Zone Conference.  Today the Butler's and the Campbell's fixed a tasty lunch, chicken enchaladas, with rice and salad.

Melanie made the Zone Conference break treats, gingerbread Elders and Sisters along with some apples.  Very, very good and everyone liked them and gobbled them right up.

After all the Zones had their conferences and Sister Wilson forwarded the pictures from the other zones I compiled them onto this collage of our five zones in the whole Botswana/Namiba Mission.   This is us, all of us!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Week 71 - Oct 4th - 10th, 2015

Sunday, October 4th - Saturday, October 10th, 2015

We took a little p-day road trip to a spot south east of Polokwane called Graskhop.  We went with the two other Senior Couples that serve over the mountain in Tzaneen, the Campbell's and the Butler's.

Our excursion took us to a little village of the Shangana Tribe where we met the Chief, toured his village, met his lady 'witch' doctor, saw some drumming and dancing entertainment, and enjoyed some time with them.  They still practice polygamy in some of the tribes here and this chief had three wives until one died.  Also has 25 children.

Another stop was an interesting little canyon called the 'Potholes' which is a popular stop and became better known after a gold miner and his crews happened upon it long ago in the 1800's.  Some erosion created these fun spots to cool off in the little river without worrying about the crocodiles.  Getting to them was almost impossible though due to the sheer cliffs above them, so we stayed up high on the bridges and trails.

While on our road trip we stopped in at a place called 'African Silks' where we saw how they spin and weave silk from the worms that eat on the Mulberry leaves.  It was a really nice shop and Melanie made friends with one who knew how to establish a sales relationship!  Cost me less than $40 to get out of the store but it was well worth it.  The dark color in the scarf she's holding is actually made using Mopane worms, but not the ones that I ate, some other cousin I suppose.

Melanie shot some pictures of the place she goes to get her hair done and this week the Jacaranda tree was out in full purple bloom.  These purple trees are famous in this area and down in Pretoria too.  They are in full bloom now and are really quite a sight to behold, thus the picture.  Don't know what type the orange tree is but it probably doesn't grow oranges!

Friday we met the kids at Seshego for our weekly basketball community service.   Not as many kids there due to school break, but we had fun with the ones that did come.  Plus, since it was Zone Meeting day we had a few extra Elders along to experience this type of service with us and they had fun as well.

It is growing unbearably hot in our flat.  Our outside temperature now ranges from about 90-95F during the day to about 60F at night.  Our flat has been consistently in the 85-88F range and the fans were just blasting around the hot air.  Since we're still moving on the calendar from Spring into Summer and we still have a couple of months to go (suffer), we had to find some type of solution because we spend more time in our flat doing office support work now.

So, we went to a store called Makro (sort of like Sam's) where we shop occasionally.  We bought a portable A/C unit that can be passed along to another flat after we leave.  It took a day or so to get it adjusted but it is such a help and relief just to keep the flat between 69F and 79F for the most part.

Saturday we enjoyed our weekly visit with Jimmy Letsoalo followed by our video calls home to the kids and grandkids!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Week 70 - Sep 27th - Oct 3rd, 2015 - Start of month 17

Sunday, September 27th - Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

This week we got to welcome home the first full-time missionary to return to the Seshego Branch, Elder George Mphaka who has served in the South Africa Durban Mission just to the south east of us a few hundred miles.  His mission takes in the south Indian Ocean side of SA along with some of the south coast towards the Cape of Good Hope.  He said he made acquaintance while serving with my cousin George Barker's grandson, Elder Barker who serves in the same mission.  

His family and some of the Branch members were there along with us to greet him at the Polokwane airport.  I had to get him on the phone with President Wilson to be released.

The weather has now turned fairly hot from quite warm.  The blanket is off the bed now and the fans are running constantly and it's quite a challenge to keep the temperature inside our flat below 85F, but we will survive even if we melt some doing it!

Since taking over more office duties it seems like the problems with phones has been more than replaced with problems with cars.  Five crashes and/or blown engines, brakes, tires, clutches, etc. seem to come left and right.  Honestly don't know sometimes why the Elders aren't just a little bit more careful and cautious with their precious transport.  I know they don't like walking or losing their driving privileges.   It makes me grateful for those days many years ago when as an Elder in Switzerland I was blessed to have a moped to get around on.  And, if it didn't run the mission office had nothing to do with it, it was my problem!  Oh well.

Many month-end bill paying duties to care for as usual.  I'm working hard to get this to a point where we can transition it over to the new office couple, the Hawkins, when they arrive on October 31st.  Happy Halloween!

We spent much of the day on Thursday with Elder McClellan in the hospital where he was being treated for severe abdominal pain etc.  Due to conflicting opinions from the treating Dr. and the Area's medical advisor Dr. he was released late in the pm and we took him home to have some meds and a very bland diet for a few days.  In the meantime a good blessing and some sincere prayer is in order to sustain his recovery.

On Friday Melanie helped me enjoy a terrific birthday, # 67, here in Polokwane.   Started out with my favorite breakfast, creamed eggs over toast.  Followed by a Big Mac for lunch.  Ended with a wonderful chocolate cake she made for a dinner-time celebration.

Even had another fun day with the kids at basketball in Seshego too.  We are going to miss them when we go home.

On Saturday we visited our beloved Jimmy and his new pal Simon, the preacher boy!  Such a highlight of our week each Saturday.

As usual we had some quick but such enjoyable video calls with Wendy, Cody and his kids, Annie, then Marlie and James.

Later on we stayed up to watch the morning session of Conference and then to catch excitement of the sustaining of the new Apostles, Elders Rasband, Stevenson, and Renland.