Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 79 - Nov 29th - Dec 3rd, 2015 --- Return to the USA and home!

Sunday, November 29th - Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 -  Mission Ends Return to Home

Our last Sunday in South Africa we spent with the Seshego Branch and were invited to speak in Sacrament Meeting.  We love these our brothers and sisters and will miss being with them.  We are certain the Lord will continue to bless and strengthen them as they grow in testimonies and in numbers as they exercise their faith in the Lord.

Monday was p-day  We are more focused now on closing up our flat, perhaps in preparation for the Gubler's to use it at the end of December.  We hope they can come and sort of pick up some MLS activities with Seshego along with Polokwane and Mokopane Branches.

Tuesday was really a wrap it up day for us with the finishing touches on closing up the flat and getting things in the trash for our garbage day.  We know we'll have some more trash but we'll just take it over to the Winward's trash area on our way out tomorrow.

Where did the time go and how fast it flew by, wow!  Wednesday we got up early so we could do all the laundry and the linens.  Then we finished up with our final few things to pack and load in the car.

We drove off and away from Polokwane about 10:30 a.m. and headed for Pretoria arriving there about 1:00 p.m. at the Mission Office.   We dropped off some things to the Hawkins and headed over to the Mission Home and the Wilson's.

Pres Wilson interviewed us before we enjoyed a very nice lunch Sister Wilson prepared.   We shall truly miss these wonderful people who work so very hard in their service.

They drove us on down to the airport at Joburg where we arrived about 5:30 p.m.  We soon found out that our flight was not only going to be delayed but that the airplanes had been switched so we now had a route change with an unexpected stop for fuel in Dakar, Senegal on the West coast of Africa, about an 8-hour flight from Joburg.

We finally boarded, the plane was full, and lifted off about 9:30 p.m. instead of about 8:00 scheduled.

Unfortunately for us we found out our seats would not recline at all and they were almost a perfect 90 degree angle so comfort was not ours to enjoy for the first leg of 8 hours flying.  But we were safe and on our way.

We did make our stop in the middle of the night in Senegal and then were on our way to Atlanta an hour later for the last leg of the flight about another 8 hours.  This put us in Atlanta about 9:00 a.m. on Thursday morning where we cleared customs and got our baggage re-checked through to SLC and headed for the gate.

We had missed our flight that left about 8 a.m. and so Delta put us into standby status because they had oversold every flight to SLC that day, and probably do so every day too.  While there for the unexpected 8-hour delay we found people to talk to and did more missionary work!  We joined up on our flight with five young missionaries, 4 elders and 1 sister who were returning from South and Central America.

Finally, boarded our flight to SLC about 5 p.m. and had quite a nice flight on the last leg for just under 3 hours.   We arrived in SLC about 6:30 p.m. local time.

Happily, some of our kids and grandkids still managed to meet us at the SLC airport.  It was a wonderful reunion with them, hugs and kisses and just being together again.   Such a great blessing.  They drove us home to Riverdale where we joined up with the rest of the kids and more grandkids and my mother.

About 8:30 p.m. our Stake President Dave DeYoung came over to our home and after a short nice interview visit he released us from our full-time missionary service.   Just like that, it was over!  But he did give us a little guidance on what he'd like us to do when we report our mission on December 13th both to the High Council and then in Sacrament Meeting in the Riverdale 8th Ward.

Unfortunately, Jack our 7 year-old grandson was injured in a fall at school so he couldn't make it until the next day, and our new little man Henrik couldn't come until Friday either.

We had a really great time visiting and visiting and being excited together Thursday evening and started up again and all through the day on Friday as well.  It was just great, such a blessing to have family here to make us feel good after leaving our dear friends back in Seshego.

On Saturday morning Melanie and Wendy and Annie and my mother went to the Ogden Temple to attend a sealing of our great niece Harper Rae Folkman to her parents, Casey and Katelynn.  The newly remodeled Ogden Temple is truly beautiful and it felt good to be able to be there inside and feel of the spirit of the Lord's house.

Later on afterwards, we headed out to one of my favorite hamburger places, Crown Burger and enjoyed a reunion there with a very delicious cheeseburger, yummmmmm!

That Saturday evening we went to our grandson Henrik's first birthday party along with many other family members.  We also celebrated his sister Elizabeth's 6th birthday too so it was sort of a double up effort which was really nice and fun to see more family there as well.

This was such a memorable week for us and a wonderful conclusion to a truly remarkable and amazing mission experience together.   One cannot really describe it adequately, the blessings and the spirit of it all is as is often spoken in the Book of Mormon, 'words can only begin to describe the things that we were blessed to experience' for a fullness you'd just have to do it yourself and see for yourself.   The Lord is so kind and merciful to us to have blessed us in such a way.   Thank you dear Father!

Week 78 - Nov 22nd - 28th, 2015

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

A little more MLS work trying assist the Seshego Branch with getting their checkbook and budget money so they can proceed with what they need to do.  The Area said they would help with the bank, but it appears there will have to be some transfer adjustment agreed to with the former Polokwane Branch for budget money until the new year begins.

Also some support work with members and Elders with a VISA payment, a water leak at a flat, a fan to be replace for Jimmy, and a few calls (which are now diminishing significantly thanks to Elder and Sister Hawkins).

This makes enough room in our schedule to continue our walks around the housing estate in the mornings.   Melanie continues to help me appreciate the flowers, the birds, anything creeping, crawling or African.

Melanie loves these purple 'Dr. Seuss' flowers that bloom a couple of times each year.

The yellow masked weaver birds actually built a triple decker nest off of this limb.

This crawly lizard made the mistake of hiding under our garbage can just as I shifted it and cut off his tail
and accidentally smashed him.   He died but his tail kept wiggling for about 15 minutes.   Then the ants
came and began to feast on him since I'm sure he feasted on many of their brethren as part of his diet.

Melanie was busy this week gathering items and making preparations for a traditional 'Thanksgiving' dinner for us and our non-member neighbor Maggie and the Zone Leaders, Elders Lybe and Kusi-Poku.  The meal was great and the company and the visit and the thanksgiving was a true expression of gratitude and love.

This week also was a major effort to part with much of our personal things, clothes, etc. that we will not be taking home.   Lots of chores around the flat to deal with and I helped with the laundry, sort of like hanging things on the line but Melanie made fun of the way I did the shirts.

Melanie made an announcement at the front gate of the housing complex which more than did the trick of gathering the domestic workers to our flat for our own version of 'Black Friday' here in Africa!  These first two were calm and friendly enough to even thank us and pray for us before they left.   The other large group were a little, well, a lot more aggressive and grabby even to the point of taking Melanie by her shirt.  She finally gave in and gave them the shoes off her feet.

We followed this up with our last visit with the Molepo family in Seshego.   We have grown very fond of them and feel such love and a close attachment to Gpa and Gma Molepo.   Since they are both non-members we felt a little more free to pass along some things to them that they could use, enjoy, share, etc.

Our week finished up with the crowning visit of them all with our brother Jimmy Letsoalo and his pal Simon.  We had some special things put together for them both along with some Primary class drawings from our daughter Annie's class in Draper, UT. which they were excited to receive.  

We prepared some Christmas card letters for Jimmy that he could send through us to some of his friends from around the globe.

He surprised us with a couple of personal thank you cards and a special copy of his Dish Africa cookbook that he published last year.

The finale was some tributes and singing that we captured on video of him and Simon which I followed with a priesthood blessing for each of them.  A tearful farewell until we meet again on the other side.  Sad that it is over, but so very happy that it happened and that we could be a part of it!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 77 - Nov 15th - 21st, 2015

Sunday, November 15th - Saturday, November 21st, 2015

At Church this morning we replaced the badly tattered and torn South Africa flag.  Then, Melanie took a few pictures to share.

We were more than happy to meet the Wilson's and the Butler's at the Thornhill shopping area after our Church meetings.   They were headed back to Pretoria and the Butler's were headed home to West Haven, UT following their 23-month mission here.  They are good friend and have served as MLS missionaries over the mountain from us in Tzaneen serving with the Modjadji Branch and the Motupa Group.  We will miss them, but only for a couple of weeks.  We were also quite grateful that they dropped off their car to us since ours is in the shop for repairs.   And we are sort of hitting the wall driving one of the Elders cars without A/C, stick shift, hand crank windows, etc.  Spoiled I suppose.

While we use social media, we try to portray an image appropriate to our missionary callings.   We tested ourselves and these are the words we got back as most commonly used on our posts.  I suppose we're not doing too badly.

This week the AP's came up to have splits with the Zone Leaders.  While they were here they attended our District Meeting.   We had already arranged a special lunch with the District before we return home so we took them to McDonalds for a Hamburger Challenge.  We shouldn't be surprised at what they can eat but here's how it went and 4 of the 6 ate 'for the cycle', which included:

  1. A Mega Mac (like a double Big Mac in one sandwich).  This starter also included fries and a large drink, then on to sandwiches only.
  2. A Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
  3. A Big Mac.  (Two Elders wisely dropped out here.)
  4. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
  5. A Cheeseburger.  (The Elders enthusiasm waned as they slowly ate their way through this small burger.)
No prizes awarded other than bragging rights (actually still held by our Tahitian Elder Tumarae and Samoan Elder Togiatomai who continued on with one more Mega Mac each).

We enjoyed another great visit with Jimmy Letsoalo our quadriplegic member friend at the care center along with his new resident pal Simon.   We took Jimmy a new 2016 calendar to hang on his wall and we took Simon a childrens Book of Mormon picture story book.   We love these two very much.   Next week will be our last visit with them.

On Saturday we were the honored guests at a farewell party provided by our dear friends at the Seshego Branch.  We all enjoyed a spiritual testimony meeting, some great singing and dancing and some really tasty African food!   Lots of love and a great spirit of unity filling the activity.  Plus, after we arrived they had us change clothes, they had a member sister Christina make some traditional tribal outfits for us to wear which added to all of our fun!

Our week and evening ended with the last Branch Presidency training meeting with the Seshego Branch President Mashishi, 1C Pres Sefara, 2C Pres Mkgotu, and Clerk George Mhpaka.  Lots of good discussion and information to share.  They will be great leaders of this new Branch.   Time and experience will allow the Lord and the Spirit to guide and develop them more fully.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week 76 - Nov 8th - 14th, 2015

Sunday, November 8th - Saturday, November 14th, 2015

This week had both some wonderful and some unusual events.  To start the week off as we started the car Sunday morning to head to church we found it running roughly, like on 1 of 4 cylinders which were trading back and forth.  And, the engine malfunction dummy light came on so a quick check of the manual indicated that the car had to go straight to the dealer for servicing.   So, we missed church.  They were watching the Saturday sessions of General Conference so we already knew who the three new Apostles were etc.

Monday morning I had to personally do what I've told the Elders to do when they've had car trouble.  Follow the procedures and get it repaired.  In the meantime make whatever arrangements you can to obtain proper and safe transport.  So, I called the roadside assistance number on the sticker on my window and before too long, about an hour, there was a tow truck here to take the car across town to the dealer service center.

We followed along and arranged for the car to be diagnosed and repaired.   This was followed up later by a couple of phone calls from the dealer to inform me of the problem, a bad ignition component and wiring which would have to be replaced.   No problem, the warranty would cover most of it, cost estimate R8000+.  The part would be ordered and they would get it overnight and have the car ready by Tuesday pm. or Wednesday.

So, in the meantime I recalled that since the Seshego Elders area was temporarily closed down there was a spare car available.  So I arranged with the Zone Leaders to come get us so we could get their sort of beat up, stick shift, no A/C, crank windows, car.  Had to gas it up of course.  This would put a severe cramp on our travels until we get our car back.   We are not supposed to drive around with the windows down but we had to go a few places anyway.   We just had to time ourselves carefully for certain times of the day and only certain places.

Come to find out, as usual, two days finally turned in to 'some time next week, the part isn't in yet'.   So, Melanie wrapped up her hair in a scarf best she could and we were careful as to when and where we went.   The weather was in the mid-90's all week long too, so driving when we did was sort of like a blast furnace!

Too hot to cook sometimes, so a meal of peanut butter with apple slices is as good as it gets.

Also, neighbor Maggie gave Melanie some beautiful roses but after one day of mid-80's heat in the flat they too bowed down under the pressure of weariness and heat fatigue.

As to this story which by end of the week had not ended.   Pres and Sister Wilson were taking Elder and Sister Butler back down to Pretoria and then to the airport.   So the Butler's brought their Nissan Tida down from Tzaneen on Sunday afternoon the 15th so we could drive that until our car was repaired.   Thank you Lord for a blessing!

We did manage during the week to have a correlation meeting with the Elders, Lybe and Diogo to catch up on their coverage of Seshego which is now an additional area due to a shortage of Elders for at least one transfer.  They also need some things for their flat, many light bulbs, a shower curtain, etc. which we got for them.

We were able to get out to Seshego on Wednesday evening to see the Molepo family which included Gpa and Gma Molepo, Gwen the YW Pres, and Martha the Primary Pres. along with their kids.  It is always a treat for us to be with them.  Melanie shared some Primary program things with Martha so they could get their program ready to present, slow doing it, but it will be good.

Friday the 13th was our 45th Anniversary so Melanie and I were able to go to a nice restaurant, Saskia's, here in Polokwane for dinner.  We're even more in love now than we ever have been.   This mission has added a whole new and sort of unexpected dimension to our marriage relationship.

At home our kids gathered for their own Friday the 13th celebration which is now a wonderful family tradition we share together.

We attended the weekly District Meeting.   The Wilson's and the Hawkins came up.  While they were meeting I showed Elder Hawkins how we did car inspections so we did the ones that were there at the meeting.  Not too bad since there were only three Elders cars.   Just needed one windshield replaced, along with three or four tires and a couple of bent rim wheels.   Makes you wonder sometimes how these Elders go so long without taking better care and preventative maintenance on their cars.   They do hate walking when their car is in the shop.

We ended our week as usual with our weekly visit to see Jimmy Letsoalo and now his sidekick non-member young friend Simon.  We love these guys so much, we will truly miss them when we go home.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week 75 - Nov 1st - 7th, 2015 - Start of month 18

Sunday, November 1st - Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Our week 75 started out with our last Fast Sunday in South Africa.   We attended again along with our friends and members in the Seshego Branch.  I took a turn to share my testimony with them and it felt very good (I also did this on the first Fast Sunday after we arrived and attended the Roodepoort Ward in Joburg).  Thus fulfilling a small piece of my patriarchal blessing which states in part that I would be blessed to share my testmony with others, even in lands far from home.

We dearly love these humble and faithful members and leaders of the Seshego Branch.   Parting with them will not be easy for us.

But, true to our duties, we got right on track once again Monday morning and headed to Pretoria where we were to meet and train our new Mission Office couple the Hawkins.  We and our Mission are so blessed to have them arrive here!  We are thankful for them and their willingness to serve a mission.  

Coincidentally, they are from Victor Idaho and their Stake President is a cousin of mine whom I don't know, Ryan Kunz of my mother's Kunz family who spread up that way years ago from the Bern, Idaho/Montpelier area.

Anyway, we had a reasonably good week or couple of days of training allowing for the shipping and receiving of all of the mission office furniture, equipment, files, boxes etc from Botswana.  We had to get these things in place and then the IT people to get the systems up and running.   All came together quite well except for the Telkom land-line phone side of things.

We did get some quality training in for the Hawkins and also some orientation things about life here in South Africa.   Hope we didn't cause them any unnecessary worries.   They will do fine.   They were driving a car and had their own flat (a temporary vacant Elders flat) until they can get one closer to the office park.

We returned to Thornhill Estates and our flat and enjoyed our own beds once again.

We were blessed to finish up our usual week with our visit to Jimmy and our new young investigator 'Simon', Jimmy's pal.

Then some nice video calls with kids and Gkids at home and another week has rushed by.