June 1 – June 7

We attended the Maseru Branch on 1 July.  I was there to re-organize the branch presidency.  David Mokopotsa was sustained as branch president with Mahlomola Kutoane and Kazier Mohobane as counselors.  Elder and Sister Jensen, who had served so faithfully in Maseru , gave final testimonies and bid farewell to the saints they have loved and served. We took a picture of the Jensens with the Lesotho missionaries, the assistants, ourselves and one future missionary.  Many people in Lesotho wear brightly colored heavy wool blankets, even to church.  Here is a picture of four of the sisters in the Maseru branch in royal Lesotho blankets.


We drove to Bloemfontein and had dinner with Elder and Sister Price.  The Prices are serving a records preservation mission.  They are making digitized copies of birth, death and other important historical documents.  The Church keeps one copy and gives a copy to the South African government.


On 2 July we held the Bloemfontein Zone conference – the first of our final round.  We took a picture of each zone held during this round and gave a copy to each missionary in the zone.  We returned to Johannesburg that night.  The following morning, we found a sign in our carport placed there by the assistants to the president.  It read, “We will miss you in 26 days.” On the sign there was also a face with tears (picture taken 14 days later).  Each following day the number was changed to reflect the number of days to our departure.


The combined Johannesburg and Roodepoort Zone conferences were held on the 4th followed by the Bedfordview conference on the 5th and the Pretoria conference on the 6th.  Following the zone conference in Pretoria we drove to Polokwane.  We held the zone conference for the Northeast Zone on the 7th.  For the special musical number the whole zone sang to us “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.”  Jane called it “emotional sabotage.”  The sun was in the wrong place for our zone picture.  The only good place for the camera was on a pile of rubble next to the building.  Elder Gittins took a picture of me setting up the camera and tripod.


We drove from Polokwane to Tzaneen.  The drive through the mountains is winding but beautiful.  As the road drops into Tzaneen, you enter a tropical paradise with banana and tea plantations and orchards of oranges, lemons, mangos and papayas.  The area around Tzaneen is such a contrast to the landscape of scrub bushes and acacia trees on the other side of the mountains.  That evening we had dinner with Elder and Sister Moesser who live in Tzaneen but serve in the nearby Modjadji Branch.  Also, joining us for dinner were Elder and Sister Barnes who are serving as PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) missionaries.  As I might have mentioned before, Elder Barnes taught the marketing classes in my MBA program.  As I learned from him, he also taught marketing to my soon to be successor, President Poulsen.


June 8 – June 14

On Sunday, we attended the Modjadji Branch.  Jane and I both spoke. We drove from there to Lenyenye arriving at the end of their Sacrament Meeting which they hold during the third hour.  Even though we entered during the concluding talk, I was asked to add a few words of counsel.  After the meeting I conducted a few temple recommend interviews and then we drove back to Tzaneen and met with Brother and Sister Swanepoel.  Brother Swanepoel is the presiding elder of the Tzaneen congregation.  We discussed the congregation that meets in Tzaneen and how to manage with limited leadership.  The Tzaneen unit should very shortly become a separate branch.


On 9 July, Elders Roper and Moore came by the mission home to give us a CD of songs at they had written and recorded for us.  Some were serious, but one was very humorous.  It was called “June 29” for the day we would leave South Africa .  That evening, President and Sister Cannon of the Johannesburg MTC took us to dinner to bid us farewell.  They have been good neighbors. The MTC and the mission offices are in the same building.


The Soweto Zone conference was held on the 10th.  On the 11th we went to the airport early in the morning to pick up Elder and Sister Hancock.  None of their luggage arrived with them.  They spent the day and night with us in the mission home.  The Hancocks are from Syracuse, Utah and will begin their missionary service in Rustenburg.  In Rustenburg, they replaced Elder and Sister Summers who would soon transfer into the mission office to replace Elder and Sister Womack.


The next day we left for Botswana . On the way we stopped to take a picture of some homemade art by an informal settlement. At the border, I handed the home affairs officer my passport.  She then asked me for my ID.  I said, “I thought my passport was my ID.”  Without another word, she stamped my passport and gave it back.  We had dinner with Elder and Sister Michaelis.  The Michaelis’ are doing a great work in Botswana as they care for the missionaries, handle many administrative functions, support the units from Lobatse to Francistown and teach when they have time.


We held the Botswana Zone conference on the 13th.   One pesky monkey wanted to join our zone conference.   Each of the missionaries in the Botswana zone had written a farewell letter for us to read on the plane as we flew home.  As we left, they sang, “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.”  As we drove across the border, we realized it was the last trip of our mission to Botswana and we wondered if we would ever see this fascinating country and its gentle people again.


June 15 – June 21

On Sunday the 15th, we attended church in the Germiston Branch where both of us spoke.  Later that day, I read hundreds of President’s Letters.  These weekly letters from missionaries had piled up during our last two weeks of travel. The assistants to the president and I also began work on the next transfer that would happen four days after we leave the mission.


On Monday the 16th, we held a zone conference for the Benoni Zone.  As we arrived, the missionaries greeted us with an African song revised to reflect our near-term departure.  After lunch they sang a traditional song about an African train called “Shosholoza.”  As they did, the missionaries in the “train” each came to us and wiped away our imaginary tears.  For a special musical number they had written new words to “A Child’s Prayer.”  The new words were a humorous tribute.  When we went to leave, we discovered our car was filled with balloons and cans were tied to the back of our car.  As we drove down the road, those we passed probably thought we had just been married.


On the way home from Benoni, we learned by cell phone that Elder Woolsey had had a bicycle accident and was taken to the hospital with numerous breaks and scrapes.  We enlisted the help of our area medical advisor, Elder Heap.  As an orthopedic surgeon, he was extremely helpful and stayed with Elder Woolsey as he was examined and operated on. 


The next day we visited Elder Woolsey in the hospital.  As we had learned from Elder Heap, Elder Woolsey had broken his left elbow in three places and also fractured his right wrist.  During a four hour operation, the surgeon had repaired the elbow with numerous screws and plates.  Elder Woolsey was in good spirits and not much pain.  However, we discussed the advisability of an early release for medical reasons.  With both arms in casts, it would be very difficult for him to function as a missionary.  Also, he would need to start physical therapy and that would be best done at home.  Although disappointed, Elder Woolsey realized that would be best.  His doctor said he would not be able to travel until July 3rd.  We made arrangements for him to fly home with the Turnbows on July 3rd.  The Turnbows are from the same stake and were in Africa to pick up their son who was completing his mission.  A minor miracle or coincidence, you be the judge.


Later that day we visited Elder and Sister Parmley to say goodbye.  We then attended a temple session and the sealing of Liva Rasamoela, a former missionary and his new bride, Mino .  The day Elder Rasamoela was released as a missionary he was called to the high council.  The experience gained by African missionaries during their missions will bless their home countries and strengthen the Church throughout Africa.


On the 18th, we took Elder and Sister Womack and the assistants to Pilanesburg National Park.  This would be our last opportunity to enjoy the wonders of Africa’s wildlife before we head for home.  We enjoyed the day.  We saw dozens of rhinos, many zebras and antelopes.  We watched a large herd of giraffe for about an hour as it moved down from the hills to a watering hole.  We were anxious to see elephants, but the later it got, the more doubtful it became.  As we rounded a bend in the road not far from the park exit, we saw a few elephants on the hill about one hundred meters away.  We stopped to watch and were rewarded as a herd of more than twenty elephants came off the hills and crossed the road within ten meters of our kombi (van).  The herd included at least five very young elephants.  It was an exciting way to end our trip to Pilanesburg.


On Friday, the Johannesburg and Roodepoort zones threw a going away luau for us. We enjoyed pork, salads, baked potatoes and a Polynesian dessert called panipopo.  We were very thankful to Elder Brown and all those that helped him.


Saturday evening we were hosted to another going away dinner.  This one was with the Bedfordview stake presidency at the Royal Boma, a restaurant that serves traditional African foods and game meats.


June 22 – June 28

On Sunday we attended the Alexandra Branch.  Alexandra is the oldest township in South Africa and the only one within the ring road that circles Johannesburg.  Because of its age and location, Alexandra is congested and more dilapidated than most townships.  The branch was formed only a few months earlier. There have been members there for many years, but previously they attended the Bedfordview Ward.  Having their own branch is a great blessing to the saints in Alexandra.


On Monday, the movers came to pack our belongings and prepare them to be shipped to the United States.  For the rest of our mission we will live out of our suitcases.  That evening we had a dinner with the mission presidency and the office couples.  It was a farewell dinner for the Womacks and us.


Tuesday afternoon, we took Elder and Sister Womack to the airport to begin their return trip to Smithfield, Utah.  The Womacks have worked in the mission office for most of their 23 months.  They also served in the Pimville Ward.  They will be missed both in Pimville and in the office.  We have such great admiration for these wonderful couples who do so much good, at great sacrifice but with smiles on their faces.


The next day we travelled to the airport one more time; this trip to pick up Elder Mahonri Owen arriving from the New Zealand MTC.  He attended the New Zealand MTC because the Johannesburg MTC is closed for cleaning.  The Americans coming next week are attending the Provo MTC.  We dropped off Elder Owen in Ridgeway with Elder Roper who will be his trainer.


Our last going away dinner, on the 26th, was held at the Royal Thai, one of our favorite Johannesburg restaurants.  The Vodas, Summers and Prusses joined us.  As we finished, the owner and chef came to our table and wished us good luck in America (“number one country,” he said) and then told us our dessert was “on the house.”  We enjoyed our free fried banana with ice cream and honey.


The 27th was a hard day.  We finished our final preparations at the office and said goodbye to the office staff.  Hardest of all, we had to say goodbye to Irene Tshabalala, who works in the mission home, but in reality had became part of our family.  Unlike the office staff who we most likely will see back in the United States, we may not see Irene again.


Saturday, 28 June was our last full day in South Africa.  I made leadership calls for the next transfer.  The assistants to the president had lunch with us and gave us a DVD of pictures from our mission put to music – Elder Roper singing June 29.  We then drove to Bedfordview so I could have a final interview with Elder Woolsey.  He was in good spirits in spite of his broken arms.  From Bedfordview we drove to the airport to pick up President and Sister Poulsen.  We spent the rest of the day until 10 pm orienting the Poulsens.


June 29 – June 30

On our last Sunday in South Africa we took President and Sister Poulsen to the Florida Ward.  The mission home is in the Florida Ward boundaries.  Due to other responsibilities and the need to visit other wards and branches, we only attended the Florida Ward a few times.  However, we were always made to feel welcome and at home.  After church, we continued to orient President and Sister Poulsen, had lunch and then the assistants took us to the airport.  After about one hundred round trips to the airport, this one would only be one way.  


We arrived in Portland on Monday afternoon, 30 June.  We were greeted by our son Scott and two of our grandchildren.  After arriving in Hillsboro, we had dinner with Scott and his family and Jeff and his family and then fell into bed.


It is hard to describe our feelings.  Overjoyed to see family.  Sad to leave behind our missionaries and many friends in South Africa.  Happy to be back in the United States.  Already missing many things about South Africa.  After three joyous, enlightening, challenging, rewarding, and spiritual years, we now start a new phase of our lives.