December 1 – December 2

On Friday, December 1, we took Cami, Robby and Owen to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve not far from Johannesburg.  They enjoyed their first experience with African wildlife, but enjoyed the lions the most. We also saw a beautiful Black Crowned Crane.


That afternoon we said goodbye to Elder and Sister Means.  The Means were serving in the Mission Office when we arrived.  Later they service in the Bloemfontein Zone and worked in the Thaba Nchu Branch.  Elder Means served as a counselor in the mission presidency during the last part of their mission.  We will miss them.


We spent most of Saturday helping Cami and Robby find and buy some African souvenirs and gifts for family and friends.


December 3 – December 10

On Sunday, we attended the Soweto Ward.  We wanted Cami and Robby to see a large, well-organized township ward.


Monday, we left for Pilanesburg National Park. After checking into Kwa Maritane, we took our first drive in the park.  Even though it was very warm, we saw many animals including elephants, zebras, rhinos, impalas and wildebeest.  Some of the giraffe were lying down in the shade – which is very unusual and something we have never seen before.


The next morning we took an early morning guided game drive.  Again, we saw many animals including a pride of lions with two cubs. As we were watching the lions, Owen said loudly, “I see kitties.”  Everyone in the game vehicle burst out laughing. After the game drive, we had breakfast and put Owen down for a nap.  Later, we took him swimming.  He had great fun in the pool and on the small waterslide.


Late in the afternoon we drove back into the park.  We had some very unique and enjoyable experiences on this drive: being almost charged by a female elephant who believed we were in her way as other elephants crossed the road in front of us; seeing two zebras on their hind legs fighting; watching a large rhino very near the road who attempted to spray us with urine; and watching a large male lion sunning himself in a grassy field. As we were about to leave the park, we stopped at a small waterhole.  Just as we arrived, two large hippos began to challenge each other with wide open mouths and with much thrashing and splashing.  Beyond the lake we also saw another pride of lions.  Jane and I agree that this was the best day we had in any game reserve.


The next morning we took a final ride through part of the park and enjoyed large numbers of baboons, troops of monkeys, many zebras and a few rhinos and giraffes.  We then drove back to Johannesburg.


The next morning we arose early and traveled to the airport to greet Timothy as he arrived “home” from his mission.  Having his mission overlap ours for eighteen months was a unique experience.


On Friday morning, we let Timothy catch up on his sleep while I worked in the office.  That afternoon we took Cami, Robby, Owen and Timothy to the Sandton Lion Park.  We enjoyed watching Owen pet the baby lions.  That evening we ate at Carnivore where we enjoyed eating kudu, wildebeest, crocodile, warthog and ostrich.


December 10 – December 16

We took Cami, Robby, Owen and Timothy to the Florida Ward.  It is the ward we live in.  We enjoyed a quiet Sunday afternoon and took some pictures in front of the mission home: Jane and Owen; Jane; Jim and Owen; all of us.


Monday morning was staff meeting.  We then took Timothy shopping to get some non-missionary clothes and a swimming suit.  Tuesday, I worked in the office while Cami and Robby packed to go home.  That evening we took them to the airport.  We had had a wonderful visit. We had become much better acquainted with Owen and him with us.  Tears were shed as we said goodbye.


We now needed to let Timothy see some of the wonders of South Africa.  We left on Wednesday and drove to Graskop.  We stopped at God’s Window and at two waterfalls.  We stayed at the Graskop Hotel.  It is a very unique and enjoyable place to stay.  The next morning we arose early and drove to Kruger National Park.  We saw lots of elephants and giraffes but hardly any zebra.  It was very hot and the animals were not very active.  But we did enjoy a large herd of water buffalo and seven rhinos lying partially submerged in a waterhole.  Again, we stayed in the Graskop Hotel about 40 minutes from the park. Jane liked this sign we saw near Hazyview.


The next morning we drove back into Kruger.  Not long after we arrived, we came upon two cheetahs.  As the cheetahs slowly hunted within sight of the road, we were able to watch them for about 30 minutes, following in our car.  They are magnificent creatures.  We then drove south through the park, saw more elephants and rhinos, had lunch in Nelspruit and headed back to Johannesburg.


On Saturday, we sorted the many gifts that had been given us for our African missionaries.  That evening we held a wrapping party.  All of the senior couples that live reasonably close to Johannesburg came and helped us wrap.  We also enjoyed some nice desserts.


December 17 – December 23

Our combination Christmas Zone Conferences and Christmas parties were held on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Each day we had about 90 missionaries.  Following our Christmas Conferences we played various games including Noodle Hockey, Water Slide, Pillow Fight, Sponge Relay and the Trolley Game.  Following the games we had a braii with hamburgers, cole slaw, chips and watermelon.  Following the braii, the missionaries could choose either to watch Cars or play sports.  On the day of the second party, a new Senior Couple arrived from Utah.  They stayed in the Mission until Friday and then departed for their first assignment in Lesotho.  Thursday night, a violent bolt of lightening hit the telephone lines near the mission home.  It took out phones, lights and appliances up and down our street.  We lost all of our phones, a television, our internet modem, satellite, security system and intercoms.


On Thursday, we had the missionaries going home on that evening and on December 31 to the Mission Home for lunch.  That afternoon we took one Sister and three Elders to the airport.  I had scheduled them to go home a few days earlier in order to be home for Christmas.


December 24 – December 31

On the day before Christmas we attended Church in the newly remodeled Sandton building.  The Sandton, Randburg and Gold Reef Wards met together for Sacrament Meeting and then watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.  Later that day, Jane made her traditional cinnamon rolls.


Christmas was relatively quiet.  We opened presents with Timothy and the Assistants.  We also watched It’s a Wonderful Life.  Without phone or internet service, we were unable to call family as we normally do on Christmas.


On Christmas evening, one of our missionaries had some health problems that put him in the hospital for a night.  On the 26th he was released from the hospital and moved with his companion to the Mission Home.


On the 27th, Elder and Sister Haymond joined us for lunch prior to their return home.  The Haymonds have done such a powerful job in helping retention and reactivation throughout the mission by training wards and branches to use a program called Legacy of Love.  Legacy of Love is a program to get new members or recently reactivated members to the temple to perform baptisms for their ancestors within a few months of their baptism or reactivation. 


On the 29th our telephone line was finally repaired, but still no internet.  The Assistants and I worked on transfers occurring on January 3.


On the 31st, we made another trip to the airport (our sixth since November 29).  The three Elders going home were scheduled to go home on January 4, but Church Travel could not get tickets any later than December 31.  Timothy traveled with them.  It was hard to believe that Timothy had been with us for three weeks and was now headed back to school at BYU.  We had enjoyed this brief time together.