May 1 – May 5

The Mission Presidents’ Interim Seminar continued until Friday.  In addition to wonderful and uplifting instruction, time was allotted for some recreational activities.  One day we visited the Shark Board where we saw a film on sharks and how the Shark Board protects swimmers from shark attacks.  We saw the dissection of a Hammerhead shark.  From the Shark Board we went to the Durban harbor and boarded a large catamaran.  We sailed out into the Indian Ocean looking for dolphins and to see the shark nets.  Unfortunately, the seas were very rough.  Only one dolphin was seen and many of the mission presidents and their wives suffered from seasickness.  Jane and I chose to stay on the bow of the boat.  We got soaked to the bone, but avoided any major sea-sickness.  Back in the harbor, I took a picture of the group at the stern of the boat. 


One afternoon some of the group went horseback riding on the beach.  The day was beautiful; perfect for a horse ride.  After being assigned horses, we rode down a path through thick foliage toward the beach.  When we reached the beach, we let the horses trot and gallop on the beach.  It was very enjoyable and invigorating.  Just as we were about to head back, I decided to take one last gallop up the beach.  When I pulled on the reigns to return to the group, one of my stirrups gave way and I found myself lying in the sand.  Luckily the sand was soft and I had done no damage.


On Friday, just before we left, the group gathered on the stairs of the lodge for a group photo.  As we parted company and said our good-byes we thought how strange it is that we have grown so close to these wonderful people, many of whom we only see twice a year.  This would be the last seminar for the Brocks, the Bargers and the Maycocks.  Although, we didn’t know it at the time, it would also be the last seminar for the Dukes.  Also, Elder and Sister Golden will head to their new assignment in Ghana before the next seminar.


Saturday, May 5th was very busy since we had been gone all week.  Transfers were coming next week and there was much to do.


May 6 – May 12

On Sunday, we attended church in the Bedfordview Ward.  The ward includes one of the nicer areas of Johannesburg and the township of Alexandra.  Alexandra is the oldest township in South Africa and the only one within the Johannesburg belt road.  It has a reputation as being unsafe, but our missionaries have served there safely for many years.


Monday and Tuesday were spent working in the office and, for Jane, shopping and cooking, as we prepared for transfers.  On Tuesday, we learned that Sister Tumwebaza, who was scheduled to go home and who had been serving in Botswana, was stopped at the South African border and denied entrance.  Her South African visa had expired, but we had expected that she would be issued a transit visa into order to get to the Johannesburg airport.  After a vigorous but unsuccessful attempt to convince the South African High Commission Office to provide a temporary or transit visa, we were forced to fly her from the Gaborone airport to the Johannesburg airport and then on to Uganda. Since she lacked a visa, she could not leave the airport and she missed the traditional going-home dinner and testimony meeting.


On Thursday, I tried to call President Duke of the Uganda Kampala Mission to tell him of the situation with Sister Tumwebaza.  It was then that I learned that he had died in an automobile accident early that day.  We had grown very close to President and Sister Duke and were extremely saddened by the news.


This transfer we welcomed five new missionaries: two sisters from Zambia and elders from Madagascar, South Africa and Idaho.  Seven missionaries left for home: three returning to Uganda; one each to Australia, Canada, California and Utah.  Elder Allen who has served as an assistant to the president for the past six months was called to preside over the small congregation meeting in Botshabelo and Elder Nathan Grochmal was called to serve as an assistant.


Saturday evening we attended a concert in Soweto featuring the BYU Singers and local groups from Soweto and Gauteng.  The BYU Singers are touring South Africa and included stops in Johannesburg, Soweto, Nelspruit and Cape Town.  The audience responded warmly and enthusiastically to the BYU Singers especially when they sang in Zulu.


May 13 – May 19

We attended church in the Gold Reef Ward.  Just after lunch, the Knorrs, a couple serving in Zimbabwe, arrived at the mission home.  They stayed with us for a few days while Elder Knorr received medical treatment.  That evening we attended a fireside in Sandton where the BYU singers performed and spoke.  We met many friends of Sundy Peterson, who served here recently.  Later that evening, most of our children called Sister Bowden for a traditional Mother’s Day call.


On Tuesday, we held a leadership conference for all zone leaders, district leaders and presiding elders.  We have found that holding leadership conferences occasionally is very valuable.  This allows us to provide training on baptismal interviews, filling out baptismal forms, holding effective district meetings, dealing with companionship problems and developing leadership skills.


On Wednesday, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with Elder and Sister Parmley.  Elder Parmley is the first counselor in the Area Presidency and will become the Area President on August 1.  Elder and Sister Thomas also joined us.  Elder Thomas is the Area Medical Director.  He provides invaluable help in caring for the health of our missionaries.


May 20 – May 26

On this Sunday we attended church in Munsieville. A sixteen year old girl gave a powerful talk on the importance of commandments.  She told of the challenge of keeping the Sabbath Day holy as the only member in her family and how she had dealt with the situation.  That evening I spoke on the significance of the First Vision at a fireside in the Krugersdorp 2nd Ward.


On Monday, we traveled to Gaborone, Botswana and held zone conference there on Tuesday.  We held three more zone conferences that week; Wednesday for Bedfordview Zone; Thursday for Pretoria and Northeast Zones; and Friday for Johannesburg and Roodepoort Zones.  I spoke on the importance of the Book of Mormon in missionary work and Sister Bowden spoke on how thoughts affect actions.


Saturday, was the semi-annual Gauteng Coordinating Council Meeting.  I am very impressed with the quality and spiritual depth of the six stake presidents who attend this meeting.


May 27 – May 31


We attended church in Protea Glen.  The Bishop asked us to speak because the speakers had not arrived.  However, after the Sacrament he sent a deacon to tell us that the speakers had arrived.  This was fortunate because the talks were wonderful; some of the best we have heard.


We continued our zone conference schedule with a conference in Benoni on Tuesday and Soweto on Wednesday.  On Thursday, we traveled to Bethlehem so I could conduct a temple recommend interview.  From there we traveled to Botshabelo so I could conduct a second interview for baptism and interview a young man to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.  While in Botshabelo, I took a picture of a member family in front of their “tuck” shop, a picture of men playing "township checkers" and a picture of the missionaries playing street soccer with the children in the neighborhood.  We continued our trip to Bloemfontein and spent the night there.