April 1 – April 5

On Tuesday, April 2 we met with a representative of the moving company.  It was strange contemplating moving back to the United States, especially since we have no home to move into. We had to decide where to have our belongings shipped.  So we are having them sent to Portland where two of our sons live.


That evening the power went out at 6 pm and came back on at 10 pm.  Power outages, or as they call them here, load shedding, are scheduled for our area Wednesday evening one week and Monday and Friday the next.  The 6 pm to 10 pm schedule is an unfortunate one for us, since we are left without light or heating.  The evenings without power are much less productive.

On Wednesday, Elder Molele returned from his mission to Ghana. He is from the Lenyenye Branch that became a mission branch on 1 January. We picked him up at the airport, I released him, the Assistants drove him to Polokwane and the Lenyenye Elders drove him to his home. He was the first missionary I have released since being in Africa.


Thursday Telkom came and fixed our internet.  Amazingly, this was only four days after it went out.  However, the reason was not that they were getting more efficient; they just hadn’t canceled the work order for our internet outage in March. 


On Friday, the Assistants and I finished transfers.  We also attended a training session for the new internet based Mission Operating System (iMOS).  Our mission was selected as one of the beta test sites for the new system.  Saturday, I made leadership calls in the morning.  We were able to watch the first session of General Conference Saturday evening. What a joy it was to participate in sustaining the new first presidency and new apostle and to be able to participate in real time.


April 6 – April 12

On Sunday morning I went to the Roodepoort building to watch the rebroadcast of the Priesthood Session of Conference.  Unfortunately, lightning had taken out the satellite receiver in the building, so I traveled to the Soweto building arriving in time for the first speaker.


Also that day we watched the Saturday afternoon session and the Sunday morning session.  The Sunday afternoon session was broadcast from 10 pm to 12 pm, so we recorded it to watch later.


Monday, as scheduled, the power was out from 6 pm to 10 pm.  Since we knew the outage was scheduled, we had eaten dinner early and charged our rechargeable lanterns.  We tried to accomplish as much as possible by lantern light.  The power outages are giving us a renewed appreciation for our ancestors who read by candlelight.


Wednesday we welcomed eight new missionaries into the mission.  One came from Kenya and one from Madagascar.  Those from United States came from Virginia, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin and Utah.


Since eight missionaries arrived and only six went home, we were able to open a new area.  We had selected a village in Botswana named Molepolole.


Six missionaries left for home on Thursday.  Luckily for us, they were all on the same flight so we only made one trip to the airport.  We did have a somewhat hectic day, since American Airlines had canceled over 1,200 flights and all of our missionaries were scheduled on American Airline flights once they got to the United States.  We worked with Missionary Travel to arrange alternate flights, but worried that the missionaries could have complications on their way home.


Friday night the power was off as scheduled.  Surprisingly, it was also off Saturday morning for four hours.  Saturday, we drove to the temple to meet members of the Polokwane Branch who had arisen very early to make the four hour trip to the temple.  They had problems with their transportation so it took them more than six hours. 


April 13 – April 19

Sunday, we attended both the Rabie Ridge Branch and Tembisa Ward meetings.   Tembisa is a large township northeast of Johannesburg.  The counselor in the Tembisa Ward made an interesting announcement.  He said that they had been having trouble with their microphone squealing and squawking.  They had determined that it was caused by cell phones that had not been turned off.  He went on to say, “if someone is electrocuted because of your cell phone, you will be held responsible in this life and the next.”


This Sunday the Elders in Molepolole held their first meetings.  Even though they had been in Molepolole for only four days, they had 22 investigators at the first Sacrament Meeting.


We had a productive zone leader council on Tuesday.  On Wednesday we held our staff meeting.  Following the staff meeting, Irene Tshabalala, who works in the mission home, taught Jane how to make dumbolo. Dumbolo is African steamed bread and is much loved by missionaries. Irene bent wire hangers and put them in the bottom of the pot creating a platform to keep the dough out of the water and then placed the dough on a plastic grocery bag to keep the bread from getting soggy. Many African women do not have ovens, so they make bread by steaming it on a stovetop.

Thursday we met Elder Gracieuse and his parents at the temple’s patron housing.  Elder Gracieuse is currently serving as a zone leader in the Benoni Zone.  His parents had come from Mauritius to be sealed in the temple.  That evening I conducted a final interview with Elder Gregory Hone.  His mother and grandmother had come to South Africa to pick him up.  Friday we enjoyed a visit from Sandile Makasi, a former missionary.  He tried to convince us that he had come to Johannesburg just to see us.  However, we knew that there was a certain young lady who teaches at the MTC who was a bigger draw.


Saturday, the Assistants to the President moved into the mission home.  A pipe had broken and flooded their flat.  They will live in the basement of the mission home until their plumbing can be fixed and their walls repaired and painted.


April 20 – April 26

Sunday morning we traveled to Bethlehem; arriving in time for their Sacrament Meeting.  Jane and I both spoke and I conducted a few interviews.  After the meetings in Bethlehem, we traveled to Bloemfontein.  The closer we got to Bloemfontein, the colder it got.  By the time we drove into Bloemfontein, it felt like winter had arrived. 


Monday was the Bloemfontein zone conference; the first of this round.  After the conference we returned to Johannesburg.  The landscape between Bloemfontein and Johannesburg is very flat and seems to go on forever. Elder Tanner Allen once told us the Free State is only place you can see your dog run away for a week. We arrived in Johannesburg about 7 pm and since we knew the power would be out at the mission home because of load shedding, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.  When we got to the mission home, it was cold and dark.  The power came back on a little after 10 pm.


Tuesday was zone conference for the Johannesburg and Roodepoort Zones. The next morning we drove to Pretoria for the Pretoria zone conference.  We left early enough to have breakfast at a McDonalds in Pretoria.  Unfortunately, the kitchen wasn’t working at McDonalds.  We went looking for another place to eat – without  much success.  We finally bought some less than delicious items from a bakery and bananas from a street vendor.


One of the zone leaders in Pretoria is from Zimbabwe. His family's farm was taken away as part of the government's redistribution of land, but so far his family has remained in Zimbabwe. After the zone conference we enjoyed a previously arranged meeting with Ian Mwanyambi.  He is from Zambia, but has been recently living near Pretoria.  He told us he was going back to Zambia until year-end and then returning to South Africa to attend the University of South Africa.


We traveled to Polokwane and had an enjoyable dinner with Elder and Sister Gittins who are assigned there.  Friday we held the zone conference for the Northeast Zone.  Afterward the assistants went tracting with the zone leaders.  The assistants and zone leaders then joined us for dinner.


Saturday was a long day.  We headed for Francistown, Botswana. We expected the journey to take us about seven hours from Polokwane, but it took us more than eight hours because of congestion at the border crossing.  We had to wait in line for more than an hour to pay the Botswana road tax of 40 pula (about $5.00).  Along the way we saw girls carrying bundles of firewood on their heads. One has to be careful driving on these roads because cattle roam free on the roads and roadsides. Just past Palapye, we noticed many women and children selling buckets of something along the side of the road.  We presumed they were selling dried mopane worms.  Africans love mopane worms.  They eat them dried, fried and boiled.   I decided to stop and buy some.  I was offered a two gallon bucket of worms for 200 pula.  I said I was more interested in a cup full.  So I bought a cup full for 10 pula.  Jane was less than thrilled with my purchase. Missionaries who serve in Botswana usually eat at least one mopane worm as a sort of "rite of passage."


April 27 – April 30

Sunday we attended the meetings of the Francistown Branch.  Jane and I spoke and I taught the priesthood meeting.  There is such a wonderful spirit in Francistown that the difficulty of the journey is soon forgotten.  These great saints are stalwart and dedicated in spite of the fact that they are so far from other members and get very little help and support. Following the meetings in Francistown, we drove to Gaborone.  The trip was much more pleasant than on past trips because the new road was mostly finished.


On Monday, the 28th, we held zone conference in Botswana.  Because they are so isolated, there is a unique closeness among the members of the Botswana Zone.  On the drive home from Botswana, we passed through a number of villages. We often see carts being pulled by donkeys. The number of donkeys pulling a cart can vary from one to eight. About 9 pm we arrived home very weary from our travels.


Tuesday evening we attended the sealing of Nicolas Radanielina and his bride.  They had come, with great sacrifice, from Madagascar to be sealed in the temple.  Nicolas served in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission until October 2007.  He currently serves as a counselor in the bishopric of his ward in Madagascar.


We held the Bedfordview zone conference on Wednesday the 30th.  And thus we completed another busy, but rewarding month in Africa.