June 1 – June 3

Sister Mcharo, one of our Sister Missionaries fell during a Preparation Day activity and chipped her kneecap.  Friday she was operated on laparoscopically and spent the night in the hospital.  During the operation, the doctor discovered a congenital abnormality in her kneecap, which he also corrected.  On Saturday, we moved her into the Mission Home, along with her companion.  Her companion will stay with her in the Mission Home until transfers.  Sister Mcharo will stay with us until the doctor releases her to return to missionary activities.  The Assistants and I finalized transfers.  It was a difficult process since we will be losing 16 missionaries and getting only 6 new missionaries.  We had planned for this by creating five threesomes last transfer when we received more missionaries than those going home.  We still had to close three areas and had many last minutes changes as well.  Most of the pure inspiration that comes during the transfer process occurs after we brood on the transfer assignments for awhile. 


June 4 – June 10

On Sunday, I attended the semi-annual Coordinating Council Meeting with Elder Young of the Area Presidency, the six stake presidents within the mission boundaries and the temple president.  The Gauteng area is blessed with young but strong stake presidents and a wonderful temple president.  One of the presentations to the group was by Elder Stringham, the Area Audit Director and a full time senior missionary.  He was raised in Vernal and graduated from Uintah High School .  How strange that two boys from Vernal, Utah would be in the same meeting in Johannesburg , South Africa .


Six new missionaries arrived on Wednesday from the Johannesburg MTC.  Two are from Utah , one each from California , Colorado , Arizona and Nigeria .  On Thursday, we said goodbye to fifteen missionaries, five returning to various countries in Africa and ten returning to the United States .  One missionary returning to Tonga will stay another three weeks before returning home.  Elder Howe, one of the Assistants, was among those going home. It is particularly hard to say goodbye to Assistants because we work together so closely.  The new Assistant is Elder Parker from Jonesboro , Georgia .  The South is well-represented by this fine missionary.  Sister Mcharo moved from the mission home to her new companionship on Friday.  She is still in a cast from her ankle to mid-thigh, but she gets around quite well.


June 11 – June 17

On Sunday, I attended an Area Planning Meeting with two members of the Area Presidency and the six stake presidents.  We made plans for the continued growth of the Church in South Africa , including where to establish branches, build buildings and possibly create districts.


On Tuesday, early in the morning, we traveled to the airport to pick up a new senior couple.  After waiting for about two hours, we called the office to see if there had been a mistake.  At first they said that there was no mistake, but later called and told us that the new couple was arriving the next day.  So, the next day we went to the airport again.  This time, the new couple did arrive.  They are Elder and Sister Ellis from Colorado Springs , Colorado .  They stayed in the mission home one day and then headed to their first assignment living in Klerksdorp and working with the township branch in Jouberton.


June 18 – June 24

On Sunday we attended the Protea Glen Branch.  We attended there because I had been asked to speak at a new member fireside at 1 pm.  There were about 12 new members at the fireside and another dozen or so longer term members.


On Monday, we traveled with the Assistants to Bethlehem , a city about three hours to the South.  We wanted to see the city and determine if we should place missionaries there.  It is a town of about 150,000 people.  Before the end of apartheid, there was a branch in Bethlehem .  However, after apartheid ended, many of the white members left the area and moved to places like the USA , Canada , England and Australia .  We knew there were some members there; some white members left from the previous branch and some black members who had joined the Church in other areas.  Currently, the closest branch is more than 140 kilometers (84 miles) away. We had made an appointment to meet Malefu, a 23 year-old sister who had joined the Church while she attended university in Pretoria .  She was thrilled to see us.  She told us about the city and gave us a tour of the adjacent township where she lives.  She then took us to meet another member, Lebohang, who had also joined the Church while attending university.  He didn’t know we were coming and wasn’t home, but just as we were about to leave, he came around the corner.  He was so surprised to see missionaries, he was speechless.  He invited us into his home and told us how he read the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants each day, even though he only can attend Church occasionally when he travels to Bloemfontein or Pretoria .  Here is a picture of us with Malefu and Lebohang.  We are excited about the prospects of re-opening Bethlehem for missionary work.


We also traveled about 90 kilometers (54 miles) south to Qwa Qwa, a former black homeland during apartheid and now a very large township.  The place was huge.  It was strung out over numerous valleys and went on in every direction as far as one could see.  I joked that it looked like the LA of townships.  The official population is only about 400,000 but I think there must be closer to a million people living there.  While we were there, we saw a sangoma or tribal witch doctor with his beaded braids and unique apron.  Sometime, Qwa Qwa will be ready for missionaries, but we did not feel that that time had come.  As we left Qwa Qwa, we herded cattle with the mission car.  Cattle are still the symbol of wealth among native Africans.


From there we headed to Bloemfontein by way of the Golden Gate National Park .  The park was beautiful with its red rocks and winter colors of ambers. The scenery looked much like that one would see in Utah or the western United States .  We saw a magnificent sunset on our way to Bloemfonttein. We arrived in time for dinner with the senior couple located there.  We held our first zone conference of this transfer in Bloemfontein .  I spoke on urgency and Jane spoke on reaching to higher levels. 


Later that week we held Zone Conferences in Bedfordview and Soweto .


June 25 – June 30

On Monday, Brother Keith Wride, who was visiting Africa from Church headquarters, came to the office to visit with me.  He is the Church’s security officer for all of Africa .  We discussed how to help ensure the safety of missionaries.  The high crime rate in South Africa presents unique issues that must be dealt with and protected against.


We held three more zone conferences this week: one in Pretoria , one in Benoni and one in Johannesburg .  Following the zone conference in Benoni, we took Elder Kalamafoni to the airport and put him on a plane to Tonga .  Elder Kalamafoni was one of our best and most powerful missionaries.  He will be missed.  When we arrived home from the airport, there was a large paper necktie hanging from a rope in front of our carport.  We were a bit perplexed until the Assistants told us that since it was our one year anniversary in the Mission , we needed to burn a tie in commemoration and they had provided one for us.  Young missionaries often burn a tie at six months, but since our mission is longer, they thought one year was the appropriate time.  So we burned the paper tie that the Assistants hand made.


On June 30th, the seasonal equivalent to New Year’s Eve in the United States, we invited the office couples and the Assistants to the Mission Home for Jane’s homemade scones.  We had a enjoyable evening and ate scones until we popped.