August 1 – August 7

We finished our first round of Zone Conferences this week.  We held the Roodepoort and Soweto Zone Conference on Monday and the Vereeniging Zone Conference on Wednesday.  We had a wonderful experience meeting all the missionaries throughout the mission.  We are now planning for our first Zone Leaders Conference. 


On Saturday we took a real preparation day.  We went with one of the senior office couples to the Rhino and Lion Park .  It is about 30 minutes from the mission home. We saw lions, 2 rhinos with babies, springbok, gemsbok, ostriches, warthogs, wildebeests, two kinds of zebras, impalas, waterbucks, cheetahs and wild dogs.  It is hard to believe there is a game reserve so close to Johannesburg.  The reserve was huge.  All the animals but the lions, cheetahs and wild dogs were in one area.  The lions, cheetahs and wild dogs had their own fenced area. 


The Lion’s area was very large and we had to hunt to find them. We found about 8 sleeping under a tree. I whistled and they woke up and began to move toward the waterhole.  They walked right next to the car.  The literature told us to stay 25 meters from the lions, but no one had told the lions. Of course we had to stay in the car and only roll down the window a few inches.


When we were in the wild dog area, the dogs attacked the car and ripped off the cover to the electrical plug by the trailer hitch and almost got the cover to the trailer hitch. The whole car shook. We were glad to be inside the car.


We really enjoyed the Park and especially the lions.  We now feel like we are in Africa.   You can see more pictures from the Rhino and Lion Park by going to Photo Albums and clicking on August 2005 or just click here.


August 8 – August 14

This week was spent planning for and holding our first Zone Leaders’ Conference. One of the main purposes of the conference was to implement a modification to the organization of the mission.  I wanted zones to be as congruent with stake boundaries as possible.  So we reduced the number of zones to eight from ten.  Each zone now covers one stake with two exceptions.  Botswana and Bloemfontein are so far from Johannesburg that I keep zones there even though they are covered by stakes located near Johannesburg. Each zone has two Zone Leaders who are companions.


Attending the conference were all the Zone Leaders and my two Assistants plus the Assistant and Zone Leaders that would replace those going home the next week – 22 in total.  We had a great time with these wonderful and dedicated young men.  We started with some sports activities followed by a braai (African cookout) where I grilled 30 steaks.  Then we followed with leadership training and testimonies.  They all spent the night in the mission home.  The next day was filled with more training.  We finished right after lunch.


Later that day we were visited by David Allman and his family.  David is a friend and business associate from Atlanta. His family was in Africa on vacation.  It was so nice of them to stop by to see us.  We enjoyed visiting with friends from the USA. 


On Sunday, we traveled in three vehicles with the participants in our missionary musical fireside to Gaborone, Botswana.  Once again it was a wonderful and well-attended fireside.  I was impressed by the large number of teenagers in attendance.  The next generation of the Church in Botswana appears to be very strong.


August 15 – August 21

On Monday all thirteen participants from the fireside plus most of the missionaries in Botswana arose early and made the traditional climb up Kgale Hill.  It was a long and tough climb but the view from the top was magnificent.  I gave a short spiritual thought on the top of the hill.  We all then enjoyed breakfast, got cleaned up and those of us from Johannesburg headed for home.  Little did we know that the trip would take over eight hours.


As we attempted to cross the border from Botswana into South Africa , the South African border police took great interest in one of our vehicles, a 2005 bakkie (small pickup truck).  After about one hour they told us they believed that the Bakkie was stolen.  We explained that we had purchased it new and showed them all the appropriate paperwork.  The man in charge said he would have to call his superior.  He came back to say that their only phone wouldn’t work and that we would have to follow a police officer to the police station in the next town.  So, all three vehicles followed the police car, its lights flashing, for about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to Lehurutshe. We often traveled 50 kph over the speed limit.  When we arrived at the police station, it was closed!  We waited another hour for the “Inspector” to arrive.  He spent half an hour looking over the bakkie and our paperwork.  Finally, he asked me to come into the police station and asked for my passport.  A few minutes later he returned my passport and said we were free to go.  He handed me a printout that showed that the Church owned the bakkie.  So after a three hour delay we were back on the road headed home.  On the positive side, the police woman (fourth from left) who led us to the police station has agreed to take the lessons from the missionaries.


On Wednesday, we received eleven new Elders and one senior couple and on Friday we said good-bye to eight Elders and three Sisters.  Among those going home were four Zone Leaders and one Assistant.  Even though we had known these young men and women for only seven weeks, it was difficult to see them go home.


On Saturday we spoke at the Priesthood Leadership and Auxiliary Training Meetings for the Pretoria Stake.  On Sunday we spoke at the Bedfordview Stake Conference.


August 22 – August 28

On Monday we began our first Mission Tour, this one with Elder and Sister Parmley.  Elder Parmley is a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and a member of our Area Presidency.  Monday we held a session in Sandton and Tuesday a session in Roodepoort.  Thursday we traveled to Bloemfontein and held a session there on Friday.  Saturday we spoke at the evening session of the Benoni Stake Conference and on Sunday we spoke in the Roodepoort Stake Conference.


August 29 – August 31

On Monday we traveled with the Parmleys to Botswana. On Tuesday we held the last session of the Mission Tour.  We enjoyed the association with the Parmleys.  They gave wonderful and uplifting instruction to the missionaries.  As we crossed the border on the way home, we couldn’t help remember the difficulties on our last trip home from Botswana, but this time everything went smoothly.