May 1 – May 6

On Monday, May 1, we took our first airline flight in eleven months.  We flew to Phalaborwa in northeastern South Africa to attend the Mission Presidents’ Seminar.  The small plane was more than half filled with mission presidents, their wives and a member of the Area Presidency.  Another flight brought the rest of the group later that day. By coincidence, our flight attendant was a member of the Church from the Attridgeville Ward in our mission.  The airport terminal at Phalaborwa was very unique, with a thatched roof and metal statues of wild animals.


We enjoyed wonderful meetings with the Area Presidency and the other mission presidents and their wives.  We have developed a wonderful relationship with the other mission presidents and wives in our Area.  We don’t see each other often – about twice a year – but having similar experiences and trials tends to draw us closer to each other.


We had some time for recreational activities.  Our favorite was a boat trip down the Oliphants River.  The day was a beautiful fall day, warm but not hot.  As the boat glided slowly down river, we saw dozens of hippos, many crocodiles, beautiful birds of many varieties, giraffe and in the distance, a herd of elephants drinking at the river’s edge.  As the boat tried to maneuver toward the elephants, the boat became lodged on a sandbar.  After numerous attempts to free the boat under engine power, the guides got into the crocodile infested river and pushed the boat off of the sandbar. Fortunately, no one was eaten. The sunsets during our stay at Phalaborwa were spectacular.  The lodge where we stayed was also home to many vervet monkeys, warthogs, impala and other wild critters.


We returned to the Mission Home on Friday and had dinner that night with Elder and Sister Pemberton, a new senior couple from Bluffdale, Utah.  On Saturday evening, we joined the other mission presidents at the Johannesburg MTC to watch the new Joseph Smith movie.


May 7 – May 13

We attended church in the Katlehong Ward.  This all black ward is very strong with good leadership.  As is often the case, Jane played the electronic piano for Sacrament Meeting.  When she sat down to play prelude, the keyboard wasn’t even plugged in and someone had to locate a plug adapter in order to plug it in. The rest of the week was spent making final preparations for the next round of zone conferences.  The first two were held on Thursday and Friday.  Jane’s subject this round was “hands.”  My subject was the life of Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant.


May 14 – May 20

For Mother’s Day we attended Church in the Florida Ward. This is the ward we belong to.  We have now attended there three times. After church we had the Assistants over for dinner.  Elder Robert’s baked Jane a chocolate cake in honor of Mother’s Day.  Late that evening, we enjoyed talking with Timothy. Since he will return from his mission before Christmas, this was his last call from his mission.  Monday, we traveled to Bloemfontein.  We had dinner with Elder and Sister Means.  They told us they had had a number of flat tires on their car and had taken the car to the tire store once again to have a flat fixed.  When Elder Means returned, all the workmen were huddled around the car.  When he asked them what they were doing, they said that they believed the wheel was “witched” and they had moved the wheels to new places to confuse the “spell.” 


On Tuesday we held our first zone conference in the new Bloemfontein chapel.  What a difference from the old building. Conferences in Pretoria and Johannesburg followed later in the week.


May 21 – May 27

On the 21st, we attended church in the Alberton Branch, a mixed branch in south Johannesburg. The weather was very chilly and the building was even colder.  Jane nearly froze.  She said that she had never been colder in a meeting anywhere.  Monday, we traveled to Botswana, by way of Mafikeng, South Africa.  We wanted to go to Mafikeng in order to determine if it should be opened for missionary work.  We were very impressed.  It is a prosperous city of approximately 300,000 with a university and a military base.  It is just 70 kilometers (42 miles) from Lobatse, Botswana, where we already have missionaries.  We are still amazed that cities the size of Mafikeng have not had missionaries.  We had a little difficulty getting across the border into Botswana.  The border guard demanded the “particulars” on the car.  We offered the registration, but he wanted something else.  Seeing our puzzled looks, he finally waived us through.


As usual, we had dinner that night with Elder and Sister Farris, the senior couple assigned to Botswana.  At my request, they had visited a small group of members in Serowe, about a four hour drive from Gaborone.  They reported that they had found about 14 members and investigators that meet weekly in an informal Sunday School.  The group is led by a High Priest from England who is managing a construction project in Serowe for the next two years.  We will formalize their Sunday School and provide them with manuals.


On our way home, we had another interesting border experience.  As we drove to the South African border gate, we noticed people getting out of their cars or buses and carrying their luggage somewhere.  At the gate, we were told to take the luggage out of our boot (trunk) and put it through an x-ray machine, obviously newly acquired.  Our boot was completely full of suitcases, boxes and other materials we had taken to zone conference.  I asked, “How much of it?”  The guard said, “All of it.”  They then left us to do it completely by ourselves.  So after, a few pieces, I closed the boot and the guard waived us through.  Why they were x-raying luggage, we might never know.  Next time, the experience will surely be different again.


May 28 – May 31

We traveled to Pretoria to attend the Pretoria 1st Ward. The spirit was warm in the meeting, but again the building was very cold.  Jane was asked to play the organ and had left her coat on the stand.  Someone sat in her seat on the stand, so she was left without her coat throughout the meeting.  On Wednesday, we celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary by holding Zone Leaders’ Conference.  During the meeting, I did surprise Jane with 18 long-stemmed roses and projected a picture of Jane the year we got married.  I was a big spender – the roses only cost 40 rand or about $5.00.  We also went out to dinner that night to a nice Italian restaurant.