August 1 – August 4

August started with an early morning trip to the Johannesburg Airport to pick up thirteen new missionaries.  It is always exciting to greet new missionaries. The thirteen new Elders had attended the Provo MTC because the Johannesburg MTC was closed for remodeling and enlarging.  All the new missionaries were Americans.  There were originally fourteen in the group, but Elder Blanc broke his finger playing basketball in the MTC and was delayed by the MTC doctors until they could determine if surgery was needed. 


After the new missionaries had completed some paperwork at the mission office, we brought them to the mission home for showers, naps, lunch, interviews, orientation, dinner and a testimony meeting.  This reminded us of the first year or so of our mission when most of our missionaries came from the Provo MTC rather than attending the Johannesburg MTC.  It is much easier for us when they attend the Johannesburg MTC – we pick them up next door at the MTC rather than drive to the airport; we don’t have to house and feed them at the mission home and they come to us fully cured of jetlag.


The following morning we took pictures, had a training meeting and transfer meeting.  There were twelve missionaries going home.  The Allens, Relfs and Brother Parks attended the transfer meeting and left with their sons immediately afterwards.  Following the transfer meeting, held from 10 to 11 am, we brought the remaining nine returning missionaries to the mission home for lunch.  The parents of Elder Quist picked him up right after lunch.  I conducted final interviews for those I had not interviewed on Tuesday and then we left for the airport.  Elder Sonjica was the only African.  The others were English, Canadian and American.  Sister Thurman was the only Sister.  Elder Himber, who had served as an assistant was among those returning home.  Elder Brian Urry of Tempe , Arizona was called as the new assistant to the president


On Friday the 3rd, we received a new mission car.  Our new car is a Hyundai Azera.  We have been very pleasantly surprised by the quality and refinement of the Azera.  I previously had not been a fan of Hyundai cars, but the Azera reminds me of the Lexus GS300 I used to drive.  We had driven the Nissan Maxima more than 93,000 kilometers (55,800 miles) of its 108,000 kilometers (64,800 miles).


August 6 – August 11

On Sunday, we attended church in the Roodepoort Ward and stayed afterward to attend the baptism of Renald.  Renald grew up Hindu.  His wife had joined the Church about two years ago, but he had had no interest.  Renald had struggled in many ways, but through the help and support of a bishop and member of the stake presidency, he was finally ready to be baptized.  He bore a humble, but powerful, testimony following his baptism.


On Monday evening, Elder Allen, his parents and twin brother joined us for dinner.  Sister Allen was a childhood friend of Jane’s.  Although, they had not seen each other since college, they had exchanged Christmas letters each year.  We had a wonderful evening reminiscing about long distant times in Phoenix and sharing some of the more recent experiences we had with Elder Allen when he served as an assistant to the president.


On Tuesday, we held zone leader council.  Six of the eighteen zone leaders were new, as well an assistant.  All four of the presiding elders were new.  From this picture you can tell they are a handsome group.


That evening Jane provided training to the Primary leaders in the Bedfordview and Edenvale Wards.


August 12 – August 18

On Sunday, the 12th we attended church in the Pimville Ward.  Later that afternoon, I was the speaker at the Roodepoort Stake Missionary Fireside.


Mission Tour began on August 13th with Elder Parmley, the Africa Southeast Area President, and his wife.  The Parmleys were delightful traveling companions.  At each stop, they provided wonderful and uplifting instruction to the missionaries. Among other things, they spoke on the “balanced effort,” keys to being successful missionaries, getting along with companions and the blessings of missionary work.  I spoke on missionary work and the role of Elijah and Jane spoke on “keeping your bubble in the middle” using a carpenter’s level as a visual aid.


The first stop of Mission Tour was in Roodepoort for the Roodepoort, Soweto and Bedfordview Zones.  The second stop was in Sandton for the Johannesburg , Benoni, Pretoria and Northeast Zones.  The night before, Elder and Sister Ellis, who serve in Modjadji, stayed at the mission home.  They shared with us the story of their “mountain congregation.”  They went to meet a referral who lived on an isolated mountain plantation. That person invited others on the plantation to attend the lessons.  Soon Elder and Sister Ellis were meeting with a large group each week.


On the 16th, we traveled to Botswana .  The following day, Mission Tour was held in Gaborone for the Botswana Zone.  Following the meeting, we returned to Johannesburg .  Sister Lauren Smith traveled with us.  After struggling for eleven months with a severe case of mononucleosis, the decision had been made that she return home to recuperate.  Although she had been impacted by the illness, she still had accomplished more than many healthy missionaries.  We were sad to see her go home, but know that it was the best decision for her long-term health.


The next day, we attended the leadership meetings of the Bedfordview Stake.  Jane trained the Relief Society leaders and I provided training to the priesthood leaders.


August 19 – August 26

Early Sunday morning we traveled to the airport to greet Elder Blanc who had previously been delayed because of a broken finger.  His finger was operated on and pins inserted and he was now ready to go to work.  After a brief welcome, we handed Elder Blanc off to his trainer, Elder Fetzer. 


We then drove immediately to the Bedfordview Stake Conference where I had been asked to speak.  We returned home for a fast lunch and then picked up the Parmleys for a trip to Bloemfontein where we made the final stop on the Mission Tour the next day for the Bloemfontein Zone.


We traveled with the assistants to Benoni to have lunch with Elder Blanc and Elder Fetzer.  This allowed us to get better acquainted with Elder Blanc and to provide the orientation training that he had missed due to his delayed arrival.


Wednesday, August 22, found us once again on our way to the airport; this time to welcome Elder and Sister Michaelis.  Elder and Sister Michaelis come to us from Bountiful , Utah .  We brought them to the mission home for showers, naps, lunch and orientation.  That evening the office couples joined us for an enjoyable get-acquainted dinner with them.


August 26 – August 31

At 3:15 am Sunday morning, our security alarm went off giving us quite a start.  Since there had been no lightning, we decided to be cautious and wait for the security company to arrive.  They responded much too slowly for our liking, but found nothing when they arrived.


After attending church in Ridgeway and having lunch with the assistants we traveled to Bedfordview Ward to attend a missionary fireside.  The featured speaker was President Barnett, who recently returned from serving as president the Poland Warsaw Mission.  His wife was also scheduled to speak.  However, because she wasn’t feeling well, Jane filled in at the last minute.


On the 28th, we took the assistants to Pilanesberg National Park as a reward for all of their hard work and efforts during Mission Tour.  We had a nice day in the park.  We saw about 40 rhinos (older ones, young ones, baby ones), hundreds of zebra, many giraffes, baboons, warthogs, wildebeests, kudu, gemsbok and a one lion that was not close enough for photographing. We encountered three male elephants. They were sucking up dirt in their trunks and then shooting the dirt all over their bodies. They do this to protect their skin from sun and insects. Also, some beautiful birds, including a crimson-breasted gonolek. Here is a movie of zebra crossing the road.