April 1 – April 7

The month got off to a great start as we watched sessions of General Conference.  We are fortunate to get all sessions via BYU-TV.  The final session is after our bedtime, so we record it and watch it later.


On Tuesday, we held Zone Leaders’ Council, but otherwise spent most of the week in the office.  On Thursday, we drove to Rabie Ridge where I had a second interview appointment.  The interview was at the home of a wonderful woman who had been well-prepared for baptism by the missionaries.  She lived with five other members of her family in a very humble cinderblock home.  The small home had two small bedrooms, a living room and kitchen.  The bedrooms were wall-to-wall beds, the kitchen had only a double hotplate and very small refrigerator.  The only furniture in the living room was a small wooden bench and a television. Sister Bowden and I were offered the bench; everyone else sat on the floor.  There were no doors but only fabric curtains hanging from ropes in the doorways.  None of the walls were painted. There was an outhouse behind the home.  Also behind the home was a small structure made of a wooden frame covered with canvas.  As I interviewed the woman, she told me that she had previously lived in the small canvas covered structure, but had prayed for a better life.  She was thankful that her prayers were answered and she now lived in the cinderblock home.


On Saturday, we drove with the Assistants, to Francistown, Botswana – a drive of more than 9 hours.  As we neared Botswana, a few Baobab trees began to appear.  This was the first time that we had seen Baobab trees with leaves since they are leafless for 9 months of the year.  With or without leaves, they are magnificent trees.  When leafless, they look like they have been pulled out of the ground and replanted upside down.  In Francistown, we stayed the Tati River Lodge.  The river was dry and the accommodations basic.  Our room was a small thatched roof rondeval.


April 8 – April 14

We were anxious to attend church in Francistown in order to see their new rented building.  The rented home is not fancy, but much larger than the home they had previous met in and shared with the prior branch president.  The main room, where Sacrament Meeting was held, was filled to capacity, with some people having to sit on the floor because of an insufficient number of chairs.  The home has three bedrooms that can be used for classrooms and a closed-in porch where the priesthood can meet.  For the first time, the Primary has a real room, although, at this time, without enough chairs.   Behind the home is a small swimming pool that will make a very nice baptismal font.  I made note of numerous items of furniture and supplies that were needed, so I could work with Physical Facilities to acquire them.  The branch needs more chairs, whiteboards, a desk for the branch president, a filing cabinet, towel dispensers, etc.


As this was Easter Sunday, I gave the concluding talk speaking about the Savior, his last words on the cross and the reality of His resurrection.  Following the meetings we all met outside for a branch picture. Jane gave each member a chocolate covered Easter egg.  After eating a lunch provided by Sister Pemberton, we traveled to Gaborone.  As we had experienced on Saturday, there were numerous police roadblocks.  Some appeared to be established to encourage safe driving over the Easter weekend.  Fortunately, we passed through fairly easily.


On Monday, we held a zone conference in Gaborone and then drove home to Johannesburg.  Following a day in the office, we held three more zone conferences.  We always take the mail with us, so the missionaries are always happy to see us.


April 15 – April 21

On Sunday, we attended church in the Krugersdorp 2nd Ward.  There were about 10 investigators in the Gospel Principles class.  Sister Amutalla, one of our sister missionaries from Kenya, taught the lesson and did a suburb job.  I then attended the Gauteng Planning Meeting at the Area Office.  The rest of the week was taken up mostly by zone conferences and meetings with stake presidents.


Following the zone conference in Pretoria on Thursday, we drove to Polokwane where we stayed overnight.  We enjoyed a spiritual zone conference with the Northeast Zone on Friday and then drove to Graskop.  This is a delightful mountain town near both the Blyde River Canyon and Kruger National Park.  We stayed at the Graskop Hotel, where we have stayed a few times before.  The hotel is somewhat eclectic. Although not luxurious, it is nice.  Each room has original art and the main room of the hotel is more like an art gallery.  The art is mostly contemporary.   The hotel serves a very nice evening meal.  Breakfast is also nice, but on this trip we left the next morning before breakfast.


On Saturday, we arose early and traveled about 40 minutes to the Phabeni entrance to Kruger National Park.  This is a relatively new gate and one we had not used before.  We spent the day in the park and enjoyed many wonderful animal and bird sightings.  We saw a large Maribou Stork sitting alone in a dead tree. We saw an elephant scratching its ear with its trunk. As always, we saw many impalas. Most of the large animals had newborn babies.  We saw baby elephants, baby hippos and most impressive of all, a baby rhino.  We had not seen any rhinos during the day.  However, just as the park was about to close at 6 pm, we turned down a short dirt road.  There by the side of the road was a mammoth mother rhino and a relatively new baby.  We parked next to the mother and baby and thrilled at the experience.  The baby was fascinated by us or our car.  It would walk toward us, then suddenly become frightened and bounce back to its mother’s side.  We were amazed that the mother paid us no mind.  We watched for about 30 minutes and were unhappy that we could not stay longer; but time ran out and the park was closing.  There are large fines for not exiting the park on time.  We then traveled to Nelspruit and spent the night at a small bed and breakfast.


April 22 – April 28

On Sunday, we attended church in the Nelspruit Branch.  The branch meets in the second floor of a commercial building.  We have four missionaries assigned to the branch.  We met a wonderful Afrikaans family that had been taught the Gospel and were scheduled to be baptized the next Sunday.  We then drove back to Johannesburg.


On the way home from Nelspruit, we stopped in Kwa Guqa, the township outside of Witbank, where I was scheduled to conduct a second interview for baptism.  We met the missionaries at a petrol station and they led us to the home where the interview was scheduled.  Near the petrol station we saw an interesting sign.  The man lived in a very small tin shack next to the cinderblock home of his brother.  While I was in the interview, Jane took some pictures of the shack, of a man making an illegal connection to steal electricity and of the some of the neighborhood children.


On Monday, Irene, the mission home housekeeper, brought her grandson, Mpumalelo, who was visiting from Swaziland to the mission home.  He had been sick and we were happy to see him well. 


Tuesday, we spent a couple of hours in the office and then headed for Bloemanda and then on to Bloemfontein.  We took the mission kombi (van), so that we could take new heaters and some microwave ovens to the missionaries in that zone.  In Bloemanda, which is a township outside of Bloemfontein, I conducted a second interview and spent a few minutes with the missionaries located there.  That evening we had dinner at the Cattle Baron, our favorite steak house in the mission.


The following day, we concluded another round of zone conferences with the Bloemfontein Zone conference and then returned to Johannesburg.  I was very busy the rest of week finishing transfer assignments and writing my article for the Transfer News before we left for the Mission Presidents’ Seminar.


April 29 – April 30

After attending church in the Roodepoort Ward, we had lunch and finished packing.  That evening we were picked up and taken to a hotel near the airport, so we could catch an early morning flight to Durban with the Area Presidency and other mission presidents and their wives.  As we were opening the door to our room, President and Sister Duke of the Uganda Mission came out of their room.  The Dukes started their mission at the same time we did and have become dear friends.  We went in our room and reminisced for about an hour.


Our flight to Durban took about 50 minutes.  A bus then took us to the Zimbali Lodge where the seminar was being held.  Durban is very different than Johannesburg.  It is very green, with lush vegetation similar to what one would see in Hawaii.  The Lodge is on a hillside overlooking the Indian Ocean.  The first session of the seminar started that afternoon.  We always look forward to the opportunity to be trained by the Area Presidency and to interact with the other mission presidents and their wives.