June 26 - July 2

We arrived in Johannesburg on Sunday evening June 26th after a 23 hour flight.Monday and Tuesday morning we with met with the Southeast Africa Area Presidency and the new mission presidents and their wives going to DR Congo, Uganda, Cape Town and Mozambique.

 

Tuesday afternoon we met with President Fitch, the outgoing Johannesburg mission president and his wife for about three hours before they left to return home.So by Tuesday, July 28th at 5 pm we were fully in charge of the mission.That night we had dinner with the two Assistants to the President.We are blessed to have their guidance.

 

Wednesday we went to the mission office and met the wonderful couples working there.These couples carry much of the administrative load of the mission.They handle the renting and furnishing of flats for the missionaries, all missionary vehicles, help with medical needs, maintain financial records and one of the sisters serves as Jimís executive secretary.

 

Thursday and Friday were spent learning our way around, learning to drive on the left side of the road, meeting with customs officials and stocking our pantry.

 

Saturday we went on a short excursion to Hartbeespoort Dam.There is an African market there where we purchased some baskets and a wall hanging to add a little decoration to a few of the bare walls of the mission home.Most of the home accessories belonged to the previous mission president.

 

July 3 - July 9

Sunday we attended church in the Florida Ward.It is the ward we reside in, however, this was one of the few times we will attend this ward as our responsibilities will take us to a different congregation almost ever week.There are about 68 wards and branches in the mission.Sunday evening we attended a wonderful young single adult fireside in Sandton in honor of the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smithís birth.There were over 500 young single adults from the Johannesburg area.There were excellent choirs from each of the 6 stakes.

 

On Monday, July 4th it became apparent that one of our missionaries located in Witbank had appendicitis. We made arrangements to have his appendix removed.The surgeon donated his services.Also on Monday final decisions on transfers of missionaries had to be made and new leaders called.Monday night we attend a Braai (a South African barbeque) with missionaries in the Roodepoort area. Tuesday, we held a breakfast for all of the young sister missionaries except those located in Botswana.

 

The mission home is nice.However, it has no central heat or air conditioning.Some nights have been cold and we have relied on a space heater.We are fortunate in that many people in Johannesburg have no heat at all or rely on coal, wood or paraffin heaters to heat their homes.

 

Wednesday morning at we went to the airport to pick up 5 new missionaries fresh from the missionary training center who arrived at 6:55 am.Jane and one of the assistants took them to the mission office and then to the mission home.Jim and the other assistant waited at the airport for a senior couple who arrived on a later flight.

 

After allowing the new missionaries to take a short nap, Jim interviewed each of them while Jane fixed dinner.After a lovely dinner, we had a testimony meeting and let them go to bed early.

 

Thursday was a big day.We provided some orientation for the new missionaries, took their pictures, held a mission leadership meeting, conducted a training meeting for new missionaries and their trainers and held a transfer meeting to introduce the new missionaries to their companions and honor the missionaries going home.Prior to the transfer meeting, all 140 or so missionaries formed a single line outside the church to welcome us to the mission.We were able to shake the hands of each of them.It was quite a sight. We also took a picture of the whole group.After the meeting, we took the 5 missionaries going home to the mission home where Jim interviewed each of them.Jane fixed another delicious dinner.We held another testimony dinner and sent them to bed.

 

On Friday we took two trips to the airport (a three-hour round trip); one for African missionaries leaving early in the morning and one for American and European missionaries in the evening.Saturday we took a break and did some needed shopping.

 

July 10 - July 16

Sunday we attended the Germiston branch in the morning.In the evening we attended a musical fireside in Soweto performed by some of our missionaries.The fireside was well done and very inspirational.There was a large crowd even though many of those in Soweto have no personal transportation and have to either walk or take taxis that cost a significant part of their income.

 

Monday we drove the new senior couple to their flat in Pretoria.We are amazed at the dedication of these senior missionaries who, at their own expense, come to Africa at very advanced ages to serve the Lord and His children.This couple is 77 years old.

 

The rest of the week was devoted to planning zone conferences and Jim spent time at the mission office reading the weekly letters from missionaries and writing letters to missionaries who will arrive in about four weeks.†† Wednesday we hosted a dinner for the senior couples serving in the office.We also had an Elder spend the night with us as he recuperated from an operation. Jim also made contact with the senior couples serving in Botswana and Bloemfontein and with the Branch President from Francistown, Botswana.This branch is under the direction of the mission and is more than 10 hours away by car.

 

July 17 - July 23

Sunday we attended the Johannesburg Ward. It is located in Hillbrow, one of the worst sections of Johannesburg. Many immigrants, most of them unemployed live in his area. The Church services were wonderful and there were over 30 investigators. Monday we held our first Zone Conference. The missionaries from the Benoni and Tembisa Zones met with us in Kempton Park. Tuesday we drove to Bloemfontein. The drive is on wonderful roads through rolling grasslands and takes about 4 hours. That evening we had a delicious dinner with the Devenports, a senior missionary couple serving there. Their daughter is married to David Reynders from the Catawba Ward. Wednesday we held a Zone Conference for the Bloemfontein Zone that also includes Lesotho. Friday we held a Zone Conference in the Bedfordview building for the Johannesburg Zone. The missionaries are wonderful; they come from 19 different countries but each has a wonderful testimony of the restored gospel and are valiant servants of the Savior. In addition to the training provided by the Assistants to the President and the Zone Leaders, at each Zone Conference we both provide training, motivation, doctrinal talks and Jim interviews each of the missionaries.

 

July 24 - July 31

Sunday we traveled to Vereeniging, a town about one hour south of Johannesburg. We attended two Sacrament Meetings there, one in the Three Rivers Ward and one in the Vereeniging Ward. In both cases we were asked to speak.

 

On Monday we drove to Gabarone, Botswana. The drive takes about 5 hours and was very different that the drive to Bloemfontein.There were many small townships and villages. All were very poor.Most people were walking, but some had donkey-drawn carts.You could see young boys hauling water back to their houses in containers carried in wheelbarrows.There were goats and chickens and cattle roaming freely across the roads.

 

Crossing the border to Botswana was quite an experience. First you had to go through South Africaís border crossing stopping at three different windows and then through Botswanaís border crossing.Imagine bureaucracy about 100 years ago.The stamped each of a dozen papers numerous times.

 

We stayed at a very nice hotel in Gabarone with a nice view.On Tuesday we held the Botswana zone conference and then headed back to Joberg.We had to cross the border with the same bureaucracy.Just a few miles after entering South Africa about 20 baboons crossed the road ahead of us.We stopped to take pictures. Another 10 or so passed behind us.I only had my small camera and they were headed away from us so I didn't get their best side.

 

On Wednesday we picked up two new Elders from the Joberg MTC.We fed them lunch, gave them an orientation and introduced them to their trainers and did trainer/trainee training.On Thursday, we held the Pretoria Zone Conference.On Friday we went to the airport and picked up a new senior couple from Lehi, Utah.We spent the rest of the day training them.

 

Sunday, we again attended the ward in downtown Joberg because Jim had a baptisimal interview to conduct.That evening we attended a missionary musical fireside held in Daveyton, a black township west of Johannesburg. The chapel and cultural center were full even though most of the audience had to walk to the fireside.