December 1 – December 8

Saturday we spent what we thought would be our last full day with Jeff, Augusta and James.  We went, once again, to Organic Market; then finished decorating the Christmas tree.  James only broke one ornament.


On Sunday, we took Jeff and family to the Florida Ward.  Then they made final preparations to leave.  Jeff went online to make certain their flight was on time only to discover that their flight had been cancelled.  After a frustrating call with Delta Airlines, we were told they had to go to the airport to book a new flight.  At the airport, there was a line of about 100 people waiting at the Delta service counter.  The line was not moving at all.  Finally, a Delta representative spoke to those in line.  She said if the passengers did not need a hotel room, they should go home and Delta would automatically book them on a flight Tuesday morning.  We left and returned to the mission home.


After returning home, Jeff once again called Delta.  This time the representative was much more helpful.  Jeff was able to get transferred to a South African Airline flight leaving Monday evening with a much better connection than the flights being automatically booked by Delta.


Monday, we returned to the airport hours before their new flight was scheduled. Luckily we did, because things did not go smoothly at the Delta counter.  By the time we got to the South African counters there was an extremely long line and little time for the flight.  Fortunately, one of the security guards was a member of the Church and helped us avoid most of the line.  We said goodbye and sent Jeff, Augusta and James on their way home.  We had had a great visit and were sorry to see them go.


On Wednesday, we welcomed five new missionaries, four from Utah and one from Madagascar.  That evening we held a going away dinner and testimony meeting for ten missionaries going home over the next two weeks.


On Thursday, we made two trips to the airport.  In the morning missionaries left for Kenya and Madagascar.  In the evening missionaries left for South Africa, Utah and England.  Elder Grochmal met his parents who arrived that day.


On Friday we returned to the airport and bid farewell to Elder Byamugisha as he headed home to Uganda.


On Saturday, we traveled to Maseru, Lesotho . That evening we had dinner with President O’Friel, the Bedfordview Stake President, his wife and Elder and Sister Jensen, the senior couple serving in Lesotho. We like the name of the speed humps in Lesotho.


December 9 – December 15

On Sunday, we attended the branch conference for the Maseru branch. Both Jane and I spoke and Jane provided training (unexpectedly) for the Primary leaders.  At the conference, the members sustained moving the branch from the Bedfordview Stake to the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.


Upon returning home, we met Elder and Sister Moesser who had arrived earlier in the day from Utah.  The Moesser’s first assignment will be in the Ridgeway Ward.


On Monday, we held a “wrapping party” at the mission home to wrap the many gifts sent for our African missionaries from the families of our American missionaries.  Joining us were the Moessers, the Vodas, the Womacks and the Assistants to the President.  We are thankful for the generosity of those that made these gifts possible.


Tuesday we spent in final preparation for our annual Christmas parties.


The first of two Christmas parties was held on Wednesday.  This one for the Bedfordview, Benoni, Bloemfontein and Soweto Zones.  As we have done each year, we started with a short zone conference of Christmas music and messages.  This was followed by our mission Olympics.  We had five games: Noodle hockey, African water carry, pillow fight, boardwalk and water slide.  The winning team received a small prize.  The games were followed by a braai (barbeque).  Then the missionaries could choose to play soccer, volleyball or basketball or watch a movie.  The movie this year was Ratatouille. We then concluded with an award ceremony to announce the winning team and the winners of the mission photo contest. See the winning photographs.


On Thursday we held the second Christmas party.  This one for the Botswana, Johannesburg, Northeast, Pretoria and Roodepoort Zones.  Although the missionaries were different, the activities were the same.  Both days we were blessed with wonderful summer weather.


That evening we arrived at the mission home very tired but satisfied that the missionaries had enjoyed a wonderful time together at the Christmas parties.  As we entered the mission home, we found a note that the missionary department was trying to reach us.


Upon contacting the missionary department we learned that the decision had been made to transfer all sister missionaries from South Africa.  Although we knew that this subject was being studied and discussed, we were surprised that the decision had been made to have this accomplished within one week.  At the time we had twelve sister missionaries: eight in South Africa and four in Botswana.   Of the eight sisters in South Africa, two sisters were being released about two months early, four were being transferred to missions in their home countries and two were being transferred to Botswana within our mission.


Friday, I called each of the sister missionaries who were leaving the mission to tell them of the decision. These were difficult calls and most of the sisters shed tears upon learning they would be leaving the mission.


Later that afternoon, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the outskirts of the Randburg Ward to interview Liba for baptism.  Her brother, Leonard, had recently been baptized.  Both are from Zimbabwe .  They came to South Africa to find work.  They send much of their earnings home to their families in Zimbabwe.


Saturday, we enjoyed a visit by Peter Ransom, a former missionary, and his fiancée.


December 16 – December 22

We attend churched in the Soweto Ward.  That afternoon four missionaries came to the mission home for their final interviews before going home.  They were going home a couple of weeks early in order to accommodate their school schedules.  Elder van Heerden’s family came to pick him up to return to East London, South Africa and Elder Bradshaw’s family came to pick him up to return to Utah. 


That evening all of the sister missionaries joined us in the mission home for a farewell dinner for the six sisters leaving for home or to other missions.  After dinner, we sang the mission song which brought tears to many of our eyes.  We will miss the wonderful sisters who have served in South Africa and are thankful we could keep the six sisters in Botswana.


Early Monday morning we joined Elder and Sister Parmley and Elder and Sister Young to travel to the Mala Mala Game Reserve in Sabie Sands near Kruger National Park.  We spent two relaxing days at Mala Mala and a third near the Blyde River Canyon.  In Mala Mala we had excellent sightings of a leopard and two lions. Leopards hang their kill in trees to protect it from scavengers like hyenas.  We found two such kills in trees.  Although it rained most of Tuesday and Wednesday morning, we enjoyed seeing buffalo, elephant, rhino, hyena and many kinds of antelope, including the unique klipspringer.  The third night we spent at the Blyde River Lodge.  The lodge had some resident zebras and a small duiker.  I took some nice close-up pictures of the zebra as they wandered near our rooms.  On our way home we stopped to see once again the Three Rondevals, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window and Lisbon Falls.  Jane did a little shopping at the curio shops. The Protea is a common wildflower in South Africa. I took this picture near the Three Rondevals.


On Friday we attended a session at the Johannesburg Temple with Elder Urry and Elder Kearns.  Saturday, we attended the wedding and sealing of Royceton Vosloo, a former missionary. 


December 23 – December 31

 On Sunday, we attended the combined meetings of the Sandton, Randburg and Gold Reef Wards. 


On Monday evening we enjoyed a quiet Christmas Eve dinner with the Assistants to the President.  Christmas and the day after were also quiet.


On Thursday, we held Zone Leader Council.  Elder Vellinga was introduced as the new Assistant to the President replacing Elder Urry.  We reviewed the year and set goals for 2008.  The mission did very well in 2007 with a significant increase in baptisms.  We took a picture of the zone leaders, branch presidents and presiding elders.  Following zone leader council, we took Elder Urry to airport to meet his parents.  We then drove to Daveyton to conduct a baptismal interview.


On Saturday, the 29th, we drove four hours to Bloemfontein so we could attend church in Botshabelo the next day.


Prior to the Sunday meetings in Botshabelo, I interviewed two men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The conversion of Brother Mokgoetsi and his family is told in “A Miserable Day” in Inspiring Stories.  We enjoyed the meetings in Botshabelo.  The Spirit was strong and the people were wonderful.


From Botshabelo we drove to Maseru.  There we enjoyed a wonderful baptism of two sisters and one brother.  I also interviewed a man for the Melchizedek Priesthood and conducted the final interview for a young man desiring to go on a mission.  We returned to Johannesburg that night.


On the 31st, we had lunch with Elder Urry, his parents and younger brother.  We did not stay up to welcome in the New Year.