March 1 – March 8

Saturday, March 1st, we attended the adult session of the Soweto Stake Conference where Jane spoke.  Before the meeting, we saw Lorenzo Nkombisa, a former South Africa Johannesburg missionary.  He now lives in Carltonville.  It was nice to see him again.  The next day I spoke in the Sunday session.  We saw another former missionary, Anathi Qinisile, and were thrilled to see him.   Elder Grayson Lee was there with his family.  He had completed his mission the week before.


On Monday, I attempted to turn on my laptop computer, but it would not turn on.  I tried a different power supply.  I tried taking the battery out.  All to no avail – it was dead.  I was not too worried since I had an external hard drive and had been using an automatic backup program.  However, when I attached my old computer to the hard drive, I found out the automatic backup program had stopped working a few months before.  Now I was worried!  We spent most of the day trying to locate someone who could fix my computer.  One company agreed to look at it and give me an estimate.  I removed the hard drive and then tried to find a cable to attach it to my old computer.  Such could not be found in Johannesburg.  I did find a small company that would retrieve the data – for a price, of course. 


That evening we hosted a program and dinner for all of our senior couples.  Clive Nichols, a local expert on the history of the Church in South Africa, was the guest speaker.  He shared many interesting facts and insights.  There were 16 couples for dinner including us and the Nichols.  Three couples who had come from distant assignments stayed the night in the mission home.


The next day we held a leadership conference for all district leaders and zone leaders and young missionaries serving as branch presidents and presiding elders.  Instruction was provided on leadership skills, baptismal interviews, recordkeeping, district meetings, zone conferences and branch leadership responsibilities.


On Friday, we decided to visit the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.  This park is only 20 minutes from the mission home.  We had meant to go for many months.  The centerpiece of the gardens is a nice waterfall.  The gardens contain a wide variety of plants, flowers and trees.  We ate lunch at the restaurant located within the gardens.


March 9 – March 15

On Sunday the 9th, we attended the Roodepoort Stake Conference.  I spoke by assignment in both the new member meeting and the general session.  Jane was called on to speak in both meetings without prior warning.  She gave wonderful talks.


After the Roodepoort Conference, we traveled to Botswana.  The trip was easy with very little traffic.  At the entrance to the Botswana border station, the walls and floor were covered by large bugs.  Inside there were new signs in the border station.  One read “Buggage Declaration.”  We couldn’t imagine what the sign meant, but maybe the large bugs understood.  That evening Elder and Sister Michaelis treated us to an excellent dinner.


On Monday we began another round of zone conferences starting with the Botswana Zone.  During the workshops, Jane left long enough to retrieve a quilt that she had had made at Kalahari Quilts. The quilt was made in Botswana with fabric purchased in Lesotho.  It will be a nice memento of our time in Africa.


Our second zone conference was in Roodepoort.  In addition to the members of the Roodepoort Zone, three missionaries from other missions attended the conference.  All three are in Johannesburg for medical treatment.  They stay and work with our missionaries when not in the hospital or at doctors’ appointments.


On Friday, we held the zone conference in Pretoria and then traveled to Polokwane.  That evening I conducted temple and priesthood advancement interviews for members of the Polokwane Branch.  I also called a new counselor in the branch presidency and a new elders’ quorum president


On Saturday, we held the Northeast Zone Conference in Polokwane and then drove to Mokopane so I could interview all the priesthood brethren and call a new branch presidency. We were pleased to see Samuel Mahumani, a former missionary in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission now living in Mokopane.  I also conducted temple and priesthood advancement interviews.


March 16 – March 22

On Sunday, I reorganized the Mokopane Branch Presidency.  Victor Udokwu was sustained and set apart as the new branch president.  Following the meetings in Mokopane, we drove back to Polokwane so I could set apart the new counselor in the branch presidency and the new elders’ quorum president.


We then drove to the Phalaborwa Gate of the Kruger National Park and then on to the Letaba Camp. Along the road, elephants were plentiful.  In the camp, bushbuck roamed freely and un-intimidated by humans.


We spent the next day driving south through Kruger Park.  Almost immediately, we came upon lions that had killed a buffalo.  Although not currently feeding, they were very noticeably protecting their kill.  Later, we stopped at a lookout where we were allowed to get out of the car. We left the doors open while we enjoyed the view.  In a flash of grey we saw a monkey sprint into our car.  We ran to the car and were able to chase the culprit out before it stole our food or belongings.  Here is a picture of the monkey once we had him out of the car.  We attempted to have lunch at the Skukuza rest camp.  While we waited for our food, we noticed many fruit bats hanging on the ceiling above us.  The food never arrived – in fact the cashier had never placed our order.


The day was quite fruitful in terms of wildlife and plant life. We saw a wide variety of birds, antelope, baboons, terrapins, tortoises and other animals.  Some of the most interesting were: seven terrapins in formation, very large ants crossing the road, a side-striped jackal, a bateleur, a ground hornbill eating a praying mantis, two klipspringers resting on a rock, two nice baobab trees, a baby hippo playing beside its mother in the water, an African jacana walking on lily pads, some water lilies and two elephants fighting.


That night we stayed at the camp at Lower Sabie. We spent the morning in the park before heading back to Johannesburg.  We were very fortunate to see a leopard next to the road.  He left before I could get a good picture.  We saw the first rhino about an hour before we left the park followed by four more.  Seeing the leopard and the rhinos completed a successful spotting of all of “big five” (elephant, buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard) in one trip.


The 19th was my 60th birthday.  Both the mission home and the mission office had been decorated, mostly in black, to remind me how old I had become.  The assistants to the president gave me a treasure map that I had to follow to find my birthday present. 


Holly Groberg, a former missionary, had returned with her husband, parents and brothers for a short visit to where she had served her mission.  The Grobergs had arranged to take us to lunch that day.  When we arrived at the restaurant the power was out, but the restaurant said they could still fix pizza and salads.  Just as we finished ordering, the power came back on so we all changed our orders.   That night there was no power at the mission home from 7 to 9 pm.  Power outages, or as they say here “load shedding,” has become increasing common.


Thursday we held the Soweto Zone Conference.  We also met with Mr. Hnatiuk.  He had journeyed from Texas to Johannesburg with his son who entered the MTC that day.  As a non-member he wanted to show his support for his son.  We look forward to having Elder Hnatiuk in our mission.  That night we had a long, but very nice phone call, with President and Sister Poulsen who will replace us around the end of June.


The Bedfordview Zone Conference was held on Friday.  Friday was Human Rights Day, a holiday in South Africa, so the freeway was almost deserted.  The trip took us 20 minutes instead of the usual hour.


March 23 – March 29

On Easter we attended the Sebokeng Branch, which is about 1 ˝ hours south of Johannesburg.  The branch has a beautiful building – the nicest we have seen for any branch in the mission.  As we were leaving Sebokeng, Telkom called us and said they were on the way to fix our internet.  We thought it very strange that they would be working on Easter Sunday, but since our internet had been down for three weeks we were not about to argue.  The Telkom technician was waiting for us when we arrived back at the mission home.


Monday we traveled to Benoni for another zone conference.  Since this was another holiday, the traffic once again was very light.  Oh, that it would be so light all of the time.  After the zone conference, we traveled to the Duduza Township to conduct a baptismal interview.   I interviewed Sibongile who had been introduced to the Church by Rosewell.  The cosmos lining the road on the way home were magnificent.  For some reason, it has been a great year for cosmos.


The 25th was Jane’s birthday.  Since she is younger than I, there were no black decorations.  We enjoyed a quiet birthday dinner that evening at one of our favorite restaurants.


On Friday, we participated in training for a new internet-based mission operating system called iMOS.  Our mission is one of the beta test sites.


March 30 – March 31

We arose very early on Sunday morning and drove three hours to Welkom arriving in time for Sacrament Meeting.  Along the way, we enjoyed seeing the vast fields of corn, sorghum and sunflowers. One sister told us it had been almost 20 years since they had been visited by a mission president.  We were treated like royalty.  Speaking of royalty, one of the members of the branch is a great grandson of King Moshoeshoe, the founder and first king of Lesotho.  After the three-hour block, we were invited to lunch with the Beldons.  We enjoyed both the food and the company.  From there we traveled to Bloemfontein where we met the assistants and then had dinner with Elder and Sister Taim.


On the last day of March, we held the Bloemfontein Zone Conference.  Because the Bloemfontein Zone is so large, interviews lasted until almost 5 pm.  I also interviewed a young man from Lesotho for a mission.  Since we left Bloemfontein so late, we arrived in Johannesburg well after dark.  As we arrived at the mission home, the security alarm was blaring. We discovered that lightning had taken out the alarm’s radio transmitter.  The internet was also down again – it had worked for 8 days.