March 1 – March 3

We started the month by traveling to Botswana.  Near Botswana, the road runs parallel to the Madikwe Game Reserve.  We travel this road often without seeing wildlife, other than baboons, but this trip was exceptional.  On the way to Gaborone, we saw a large herd of elephants.  On our return trip we saw a giraffe very close to the road, two elephants and a small herd of zebra.  On this trip, the border crossings went smoothly.  We never know what to expect.  The temperatures in Gaborone were very warm; near 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37° C).  Thankfully, the building where we hold zone conference has some air conditioned rooms.


On Saturday, we attended the wedding of Alan and Babara Blom.  The Bloms were a referral from Jim Lindahl and Phil Marriott, who serve as branch presidents at the Provo MTC.  The Bloms had been well prepared by Jim and Phil. The Bloms were taught by the Assistants to the President (not by special assignment but because the Bloms live in their area). You can read the Bloms’ story under the Inspiring Stories link.


March 4 – March 10

On Sunday, we attended the Soweto Stake Conference.  We arrived early for a new member meeting.  This was fortunate, because there was a cycling race in Soweto which delayed traffic terribly.  Many members were late for the conference, including the Area President, Elder Golden, who was presiding.  I spoke in both the new member meeting and the general session.


Following the conference we drove to Sandton for the baptism of Alan and Babara Blom.  There was a wonderful spirit at the baptism.  The Bloms will make powerful members of the Church.


Two more zone conferences occupied most of the remainder of the week.  On Thursday evening, we held a going away dinner for Elder and Sister Shirts and on Friday we took them to the airport and sent them on their way back to Utah.  The Shirts served in the office; she was in charge of flats and medical and he was in charge of finances.  They came to the mission when we needed their skills and experience desperately and they served faithfully in the office throughout their mission even though they would have liked to have been more involved in proselyting.  Friday night, we learned that Elder Nyenyezi’s father had died.  Elder Nyenyezi is from Malawi and is currently is serving in Bloemanda near Bloemfontein.  He felt that he needs to return home at least for a couple of weeks to make arrangements for the care of his mother and younger brother and other family members.


On Saturday, we attended two sessions of the Roodepoort Stake Conference.  Jane and I both trained during the leadership session and Jane spoke in the evening session.  Elder Sitati presided.  We learned that Elder and Sister Sitati have been assigned to the Nigeria Uyo Mission where he will be the mission president. 


March 11 – March 17

Sunday, we attended the final session of the Roodepoort Stake Conference, where I spoke.  That evening Elder and Sister Cox arrived from the Mozambique Mission and stayed in the mission home while Elder Cox received medical care in Johannesburg that was not available in Mozambique.  Elder and Sister Cox serve in a much more primitive area than we do.  We enjoyed our time with Elder and Sister Cox, although we were gone much of the time they were in Johannesburg.  They enjoyed eating salads and fruits that are not safe to eat in Mozambique and shopped for things they had not seen for some time.


We traveled to three zone conferences during the week; the first to Bloemfontein.  We brought Elder Nyenyezi back to Johannesburg with us so that he could fly home to Malawi.   On Wednesday, we took Elder Nyenyezi to the airport.  The traffic to the airport was terrible; it took us 35 minutes to go the first two miles (3 kilometers).  At the airport, we found the parking deck full and had to use more remote parking.  Thankfully, we had left in plenty of time.  There is always some worry that a missionary who returns home temporarily will not return to the mission.  However, I was confident that Elder Nyenyezi would return.  Thursday we held a zone conference in Pretoria and then on Friday, one for the Northeast Zone in Polokwane.  Although formed in November, this was the first formal zone conference for the Northeast zone.  Since its founding we had held a combined zone conference for Christmas followed by Mission Tour in January. 


When we checked into our hotel in Polokwane, we met a husband and wife who are members of the Church from Utah but originally from South Africa.   They were in South Africa for the first time in twenty years.  We had a nice chat and they gave us a referral. The building where we held the Polokwane Zone Conference was very hot and uncomfortable and the water did not work.  Someone had stolen three of the six large pumps which the city of Polokwane uses to provide water for the city.  This left the city unable to provide adequate water supply. After the zone conference we were anxious to get to some working restroom facilities. At the service station we found the facilities protected by locked burglar bars. No one could seem to get the lock undone. Much to Elder Allen's relief they finally broke off the lock.


Saturday was Elder Parker’s last day on mission and as an Assistant to the President.  Elder Himber was called as the new Assistant and moved into the Assistant’s flat on Saturday morning. Elder Himber is a Jewish convert and the only member in his family.  He has been a powerful missionary. While Elder Himber moved in the flat, we took Elder and Sister Cox to the Organic Market, where they bought some South African souvenirs and we bought some coriander and cashew mousse that we use to make our version of a “Café Rio” salad.  For lunch, Jane fixed this special salad, one of our favorite meals. The Coxes, Elder Himber, Elder Allen and Elder Parker joined us for lunch. That afternoon, Elder Parker left to pick up his father at the airport.  We will miss Elder Parker terribly.  He has been an Assistant for nine months.


March 18 – March 24

Sunday, Elder and Sister Cox were able to return to Mozambique.  We stayed home with them until their ride to the airport arrived.  We then traveled to Munsieville where I had an interview to conduct.  This was the Munsieville Branch’s first day meeting in the township.  Previously, they had to travel to Krugersdorp for church which was both costly and time consuming for them.  The new temporary building was filled to capacity.  There were 20 investigators in attendance.  With a place to meet within the township, missionary work will meet with much more rapid success.


On the 19th, we were awakened right at 6:30 am by a loud rendition of “Happy Birthday.”  It sounded like it was right outside our second story window.  It was.  The Assistants were standing on the top of our carport singing very loudly.  Other than that and a cake from Sister Womack, my birthday was just another day in the mission field. Our very talented Sister Thurman drew me a wonderful birthday card in place of her weekly president's letter.


On the 21st, we had lunch with Elder Perry, who had served most recently as the Northeast Zone Leader and who was headed home.  He needed to be home a week before the normal transfer date.  That afternoon, we took him to the airport.


On Friday, we had a couples’ gathering in the mission home for dinner and a special project.  Jane had previously bought enough fleece fabric to make over 100 blankets with money left over from our Christmas project.  That evening each of the couples learned how to make simple blankets with strips cut along each edge and then every two strips tied in a knot.  We divided the fabric among the couples.  They will then use the missionaries near them and finish the blankets.  Once completed, the missionaries will present the blankets to and orphanage in their area.


March 25 – March 31

Once again, we were serenaded with “Happy Birthday” by the Assistants – this time for Jane and accompanied by banging pots and pans.  We attended Church in the Sandton Ward where I had been asked to speak.  As is usually the case, they asked Jane to bear her testimony.  We had dinner with the Assistants.  They gave us a CD with a slideshow of pictures from our mission, a handmade coupon book good for their personal services and a very special custard cake like one we had previously enjoyed at the Blom’s home.


On Monday, we went to dinner at Founder’s Grill.  I had been craving prawns prepared the Mozambique way – butterflied in the shell, grilled with garlic and butter and served with lemon butter and peri-peri.  They are served with the head still on.  So Jane’s birthday was a good excuse.


On the 28th, we received 15 new missionaries. Because of the large incoming group of missionaries, we picked up the missionaries from the MTC at 7:30 am and delayed the transfer meeting until 2:30 pm.  This expanded schedule would allow time for me to interview each of them, have an orientation meeting and a training meeting and assign a trainer for each new missionary.  Three of the 13 new Elders were from Madagascar, one each from Tanzania, South Africa and Canada with the rest from the United States.  Both new Sisters were from the United States . The new Sisters were greeted by most of the Sisters in the Mission.


Two Sisters and eight Elders were completing their missions.  We held our traditional going away dinner and testimony meeting that evening.  The next day we made two trips to the airport, taking the two African missionaries to the airport in the morning and the American and Canadian missionaries in the evening.  We had arranged for Elder Nyenyezi to return to Johannesburg from Malawi that afternoon so we wouldn’t have to make a special trip to the airport.  We were happy to have Elder Nyenyezi back in the mission. He had a difficult and fascinating experience while in Malawi.  At some point, I hope to write an about his experiences and post it in Inspiring Stories.  At the airport, we saw Elder Parker’s father, but not Elder Parker.  Upon questioning Elder Parker’s father, we learned that by mistake his ticket was for the next day.  So Elder Parker flew ahead as scheduled and his father followed the next day.  We unwound that evening at Royal Thai, our favorite Thai restaurant.


We watched the first session of General Conference on Saturday.  It was shown live at 6 pm our time.  The afternoon session and the Priesthood sessions will be shown delayed on Sunday along with the Sunday sessions.