December 1 – December 11
On December 1, 6 and 8 we held three combination Zone Conferences/Christmas Parties. We started each day with a shortened Zone Conference where we conducted some mission business, had testimonies from departing missionaries and both Jane and I gave Christmas messages. Then everyone changed into preparation day clothes. We divided into 8 teams of 5-6 missionaries each and held our crazy Olympics. We had 4 events:
The Dual Duel where missionaries had to stand on one leg on a platform and swing at each other with pillows. The missionary who fell off or had the other foot touch down lost. Sisters got to stand on two feet.
The Super Slip Slide Sprint where teams raced against the clock down a hill of slippery wet plastic and then back up. The other team was throwing water and water-logged sponges at them while they attempted to make their way to the finish line.
We then had a Braai (African BBQ) of chicken, coleslaw, chips, sodas and watermelon. After the Braai, missionaries could play soccer, volleyball, basketball or watch
Planning and implementing the parties was hard work and we were exhausted when they were over, but everyone seemed to have a great time. Our only injuries were one broken toe and a few sunburns. Remember it is the middle of the summer here.
On Sunday the 4th we attended Church in Kwa
Thema, a black township branch. Their
building had one of the few drinking fountains we have seen in
On the Wednesday between the last two Christmas parties, we
picked up a new senior couple at the airport.
The Hodgsons are from
We have had, Elder Maluana, a
missionary from the Mozambique Mission, staying with us. He is in
On Saturday, the 10th, we bid farewell to Elder Walshaw, one of the Assistants to the President. Our new Assistant is Elder Howe from
Sunday, the 11th, we attended Church in the Bedfordview Ward. The ward is large and covers both a town area (mostly white) and a township (all black). The mix of races works very well. The vestiges of apartied are not apparent in this ward.
December 12 – December 18
On the fourteenth our sixth grandchild was born: Zachary Craig Johnson. The biggest sacrifice of our mission is not being able to cuddle our grandchildren. Pictures are nice, but holding is better.
The parents of the North American missionaries, friends and others have sent us all kinds of small presents to give our African missionaries. We began the week by dividing up all the gifts into piles for each of our African missionaries. Each African missionary will get socks, ties and candy and a couple of other things like small hymn books, white shirts, belts, flashlights, etc. On Thursday evening, the office couples and other senior couples that live near the mission home came over and we wrapped the presents for the African Missionaries. We also had Christmas goodies and enjoyed visiting.
We were asked to care for a missionary from the Uganda
Mission. Elder Woodford has been sick off and on for six months so they
sent him to
On the 16th, there was a special Christmas program
at the temple grounds called
On the 18th, we attended Church in the Pimville
Ward. Pimville is part of
December 19 – December 25
Elder Woodford from the Uganda Mission returned to his mission on December 21st and Elder Maluana from the Mozambique Mission returned there on December 22nd.
On December 21, we received five new missionaries: one each from
On the day before Christmas, Elder Gama joined us at the mission home to recuperate from a bout of pneumonia. He will have to have an operation early in January to remove part of his lung that was damaged by tuberculosis before his mission. The damaged part of the lung will continue to get infected unless removed.
On Christmas we attended Church in the Florida Ward which is the ward we actually reside in. It was only the second time we had attended our own ward. Christmas was very quiet. Our Christmas decorations are still a little sparse but we have added two African Navities; one that we purchased and one that was a gift. We missed opening presents with children and grandchildren. The highlight of the day was getting to talk to each of our children, especially Timothy who is serving a mission in the California Riverside Mission.
Most of the time between Christmas and New Years was spent in interviews with missionaries. I interview each missionary every six weeks, usually in conjunction with Zone Conferences, but since the last round of Zone Conferences were also Christmas parties, I did the interviews separately. Being with these great missionaries is such a wonderful, uplifting and priceless experience.
On Friday, the 30th, we said goodbye to the Harrisons who have worked in the office since we arrived. It was hard to see these wonderful people go home, but we know their family was excited to have them home.
New Years Eve was spent with our new best friends – the Assistants to the President. Happy New Year to each of you.