April 1 – April 8
We enjoyed watching General Conference. The Mission Home has BYU-TV so we are able to
receive all sessions of Conference.
However, because of the time difference some are broadcast in the middle
of the night. So we watched the Saturday
afternoon session on Sunday afternoon.
The Priesthood Session was broadcast at the nearby Stake Center
On Tuesday we traveled to Benoni for another Zone
Conference. Following the Zone
Conference, I met with three different Stake Presidents in three different
locations from one end of Johannesburg
to the other. On Thursday we held the
Johannesburg Zone Conference. Friday we
traveled to Gaborone, Botswana
on our way to Francistown. Saturday, we completed the trip to Francistown. From Johannesburg,
the journey to Francistown
takes about 10 ˝ hours on roads that vary from excellent to marginal. The scenery on the way to Francistown was very different than the first
time we made the trip. The summer rains
had changed the dry brown desert to a verdant green. Although vegetation was still sparse, what
vegetation existed was now green. We even saw water standing in a few
As we passed the small villages of mud huts, we noticed villagers
selling small containers of brown furry things.
We later learned that they were selling dried Mopane worms. Mopane worms are really caterpillars that
infest Mopane trees. Although, natives
and some young missionaries eat live Mopane worms, they are usually sold and
Closer to Francistown,
many of the roadside vendors were selling long green canes that looked a lot
like sugar cane but somewhat thinner.
When we inquired, we learned that it was sweet reed season. Sweet reed is similar to sugar cane but not
as sweet. Inside Francistown, nearly every child and many
adults were chewing on a stick of sweet reed.
Friday night we had dinner with President Tembo, the Francistown Branch
President. He expressed his excitement
about the growth of the branch. We
discussed the possibility of renting a place for the branch to meet. The branch has been meeting in his home, but
has outgrown the home. (I have since received authorization to locate a rented
facility as a meeting place for the Francistown Branch.)
April 9 – April 15
Sunday, we enjoyed the wonderful spirit of the Francistown Branch. The small living room was filled to
capacity. The branch choir, consisting
of about half of the adults, sang magnificently. Both Jane and I spoke. During the third hour, every room of the
house was used. The newly formed Young
Women's class met in the kitchen, the Primary in a bedroom and, as usual, the
priesthood met outside under a tree. The
Relief Society used the living room.
After church, the branch members moved to a community pool a
short way off. There we participated in
the baptism of three
children and one Sister. Two of the
children were converts whose parents had been baptized earlier. We had to use the kids’ pool for the baptism
of the children because the main pool was too deep. Following the baptism, President Tembo called
on Jane to give a talk on the Gift of the Holy Ghost – without any
warning. As usual, she did a wonderful
Sunday evening we drove back to Gaborone.
On Monday, we held the Botswana Zone Conference and then headed back to Johannesburg. Thursday we concluded this round of Zone
Conferences with the Soweto Zone.
Friday, we worked in the office.
Jane continued her quest to clean up the baptismal records of the Mission.
On Friday morning we attended the baptism of Ernest, a 63
year-old man who had been taught by the Assistants. Over the last few weeks, we have watched the
wonderful change in Ernest as the Gospel has blessed his life. We can now see the light in his eyes.
April 16 – April
On Easter Sunday we attended the Daveyton Ward where I had
two baptismal interviews to conduct.
Daveyton is a township on the east side of Johannesburg.
We know the bishop quite well because he handles travel for the Area
Office and helps with all of our visa and passport issues. Since it was Easter, we were confident that
we would not have to speak. We were wrong. As we arrived, Bishop Mokoena greeted us by
saying that we were an answer to his prayers because two of his speakers did
not show up. Jane also played the piano
for Sacrament Meeting. We had Easter dinner with the Assistants. We couldn’t find a ham, so we had lamb
On Wednesday we held Zone Leaders' Conference. At this meeting, I announced the calling of
Elder Bradley Roberts from Provo, Utah, as my new
Assistant replacing Elder Daniel Plantin who will complete his mission and
return to England
on April 27th. Jane provided
homemade chili, cornbread and chocolate cake for our lunch. I am continually amazed at the strength and
spiritually of the Zone
Leaders and Assistants. We currently have Zone Leaders from England, Zimbabwe,
Kenya, and Canada as well as Utah,
California and Washington. There are many other
missionaries who could also serve wonderfully in these callings.
On Friday, we held a Mexican dinner for all of the senior couples serving in the
Mission. Mexican food is hard to find in South Africa
and most Americans agree it is the food they miss the most while on mission.
The mission could not operate effectively without senior couples. They serve in
a variety of capacities: two couples
serve in the office; some work in wards and branches spending much of their
time on retention and reactivation; some support the CES program; two of the
senior Elders serve as branch presidents and all of the couples do proselyting
as they have time. The couples love to
get together and seemed to have a wonderful time at the dinner. They stayed from 4 pm to after 10 pm. Four couples from more distant assignments
spent the night in the Mission Home.
April 23 – April
Sunday we attended church in the Roodepoort Ward, so we
could hear the departing testimony of Elder Plantin. This is the ward where the Assistants have
been serving in what spare time they have.
Tuesday evening, I held the first meeting of the full
Mission Presidency. Earlier I had called
Wrench from the Roodepoort Ward as my first counselor and John
Means, a full time missionary serving with his wife in the Bloemfontein
Zone, as my second counselor.
On Wednesday, eight
new missionaries arrived from the Johannesburg MTC. Since the MTC is adjacent to the Mission
Office, they just made the short walk from next door while those headed to
other African missions left for the airport.
I interviewed each of the new missionaries, after which, Jane, the
Assistants and I provided a brief orientation.
We trained the newly called trainers along with the new missionaries and
held a brief meeting to introduce the new missionaries to their trainers and to
recognize those missionaries going home.
By three o’clock the new missionaries were on their way to their first
assignments. We then took the four
missionaries going home and the Juchaus, a senior couple also completing their
mission, back to the Mission Home for interviews, dinner and a testimony
We took the three African missionaries to the airport early
on Thursday to catch their flights home.
All went smoothly, except that the flight for Sister Mjiba was canceled
and we had to book her on another flight and notify her parents of her new
arrival time. When we returned from the
airport, we loaded the Juchaus, Elder Plantin and the Assistants in the mission
van and headed to the
Pretoria. The Voortrekker
Monument was built to honor the Dutch
Voortrekkers, or pioneers, who traveled by wagon train from Cape
Town to the interior of what is now South Africa to escape the British. From 1835-1852 more than 15,000 people made
the trek. They had a difficult and
dangerous journey over rugged mountains and through the territory of hostile
native tribes. Many died from disease
and hardship and many more were killed by natives. The Monument is huge, over 200 feet tall, with 130 steps leading to the door from the parking lot. The interior of the monument has a series of bas-relief carvings depicting various events along the journey. There are also very large
needlepoint tapestries memorializing the trek. The tapestries took more
than nine years to complete. Nearby is
where the Afrikaaners defended
from the British. From the fort there
was a great view of the mammoth buildings of the
Late that afternoon we took Elder Plantin and the Juchaus to the airport to catch evening flights home.
We have found it especially hard to say goodbye to missionaries who have served as Assistants and it was additionally hard with Elder Plantin, since he had served as an Assistant for almost nine months. It is also difficult to say goodbye to
couples like the Juchaus who have served so diligently and sacrificed so
greatly to serve the Lord and the people of Africa.
Sunday we attended the Ridgeway Ward where we had agreed to
speak. That afternoon we packed our
suitcases, so we would be ready to leave for the semi-annual Mission
Presidents’ Seminar early the next morning.
Another month has now passed much too quickly.