November 1 – November 3

Another round of zone conferences began on November 1 with the conference for the Soweto Zone.  I spoke on Teaching by the Spirit.  Jane spoke on Budgeting.  That evening we held a going away dinner for Elder and Sister Hodgson.  The Hodgsons served for twenty-three months in Phokeng, South Africa.  Much of that time, Elder Hodgson served as the Branch President.  Through their hard work, diligence and faith, great things happened.  On their last Sunday, the Phokeng Branch became the Phokeng Ward.


On Friday, we held a combined zone conference for the Roodepoort and Johannesburg Zones. I enjoy interviewing each missionary during zone conferences. Immediately after the meeting, we drove the Hodgsons to the airport.  There was horrific traffic and it took us two hours to get the airport.  Fortunately, we had left in plenty of time.  We said good-bye as the Hodgsons started their journey back to California with a three week stopover in England and then Scotland where Elder Hodgson had served as a young missionary.


November 4 – November 10

On the 4th, we attended church in the Florida Ward.  That evening both Jane and I spoke at a fireside for the youth of the Benoni Stake.  From there we drove directly to the Westcliffe Hotel, the location for the Mission Presidents’ Seminar. 


Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were a virtual spiritual feast as we met with the other mission presidents, Elder Richard G. Scott and our Area Presidency.  We were edified and renewed from the seminar.  Tuesday evening we attended a session at the Johannesburg Temple.  We entered the Celestial Room at the same time as a group of Saints from the D. R. Congo who had traveled to Johannesburg to receive their endowments and be sealed to their spouses.  I will never forget the image of these faithful Saints who had sacrificed much to attend the temple and the joyful look on their faces as they were greeted by an Apostle of the Lord.  What a blessing for them!  For many, if not all, this could well be the only time they would be blessed to shake the hand of a member of the Twelve.  Hopefully, they won't think you get to meet an Apostle every time you enter the Celestial Room.


Thursday and Friday, we continued the round of zone conference with conferences for the Benoni, Pretoria and Northeast Zones.  Saturday, I attended the semi-annual Correlating Council Meeting held in Bedfordview. The meeting was chaired by Elder Garith Hill, an Area Seventy from Hillcrest, South Africa. That afternoon Sister Bowden, the Assistants and I traveled to Bethlehem.  We enjoyed dinner that evening with the four hard-working missionaries located there.  Boy, can they eat!


November 11 – November 17

On Sunday morning, I organized the Bethlehem Branch by interviewing, calling and sustaining a branch presidency.  Elder Nathan Perkes was called as the branch president with Lebohang Mosia and Dawie Motshweneng as counselors.  There were 51 in attendance.  Just over a year before, we had traveled to Bethlehem and had located two members: Lebohang and Malefu.  Elders Sommer and Bradshaw started the missionary work in Bethlehem soon thereafter.  Many miracles have happened as the Church has prospered in Bethlehem.  Read the conversion story of the newly called branch mission leader by clicking "Dog Bite Leads to Baptism" at this link: Inspiring Stories.


Following the formation of the Bethlehem Branch, we traveled to Bloemfontein.  As we like to do on occasion, we drove through the small animal reserve on Navel Hill.  We enjoyed looking for and watching the giraffes.


On Monday, we held the Bloemfontein Zone Conference and returned to Johannesburg.  Tuesday we held staff meeting and worked in the office.  On Wednesday, we held the Bedfordview Zone Conference.  On Thursday, we traveled to Gaborone, Botswana.  Elder Thomas, the Area Medical Director and his wife traveled with us.  They have been participating in each of this round of zone conferences.  We enjoyed dinner that evening with Elder and Sister Thomas and Elder and Sister Michaelis, the senior couple working in Gaborone. 


As we left the Botswana Zone Conference, the temperature hovered around 100° F.  By the time we had reached Koster, we were in a violent thunderstorm.  For about two hours, we drove through one of the worst storms I have ever driven through.  Lightning was striking all around us and the rain was falling in heavy sheets.


November 18 – November 24

On Sunday, we attended church in Tsakane.  I was there to interview a young man for baptism.  We easily found Tsakane, but it took two phone calls to the Elders in order to locate the school where the Church meets.  The school was very rundown, but the spirit in the meeting overcame the drabness of the surroundings.


Monday evening we drove to the airport to pickup Jeff, Augusta and James as they arrived from Portland .  We were happy to see Jeff and Augusta, but were thrilled to meet James for the first time.  He was in remarkably good spirits after 30 hours in route.  He warmed up to us almost immediately which thrilled Jane.


Tuesday, we went to the Rhino and Lion Park.  We had very good sightings of the lions, buffalo, ostrich and zebras, a fair sighting of wild dogs, but the rhinos were too far away for a good picture.


Thursday morning we took Jeff and his family to the Organic Market. The rest of the day was spent in final preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.   Jane had scoured Johannesburg stores to find all the ingredients for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner (the turkeys were Brazilian, the sweet potatoes were white and Augusta had to bring the canned pumpkin.)  Those who joined us in the mission home for Thanksgiving dinner were: Elder and Sister Ellis, Elder and Sister Womack, Elder Voda (Sister Voda was in the USA visiting new twin grandchildren), Elder Kearns and Elder Urry and, of course, Jeff, Augusta and James.  It was a nice evening of great food and wonderful company. 


Friday we took Jeff, August and James to the Sandton Lion Park so they could pet the baby lions and feed the giraffes.  That evening we said good-bye to Elder and Sister Ellis as they headed home to Colorado.  Elder and Sister Ellis were magnificent proselyting missionaries.  They did a great work and had much success in Jouberton and more recently in Modjadji.


November 25 – November 30

Sunday, we took Jeff, Augusta and James with us as we visited the Protea Glen Ward, a strong township ward, and then enjoyed a uniquely quiet Sunday afternoon.


Monday, we headed for the Pilanesberg National Park.  After checking in at Kwa Maritane Lodge, we drove immediately into the park.  We saw zebra, rhino, a brown hyena, giraffe and baboons. After a great afternoon and evening of game viewing, we returned for dinner at the lodge.


We spent all of Tuesday and much of Wednesday in the park and then returned to Johannesburg Wednesday night.  Among the things we saw were many more giraffe, a prancing chameleon, a red hartebeest and newborn calf and many more rhinos. A dung beetle crossed our path rolling a ball of dung and giving its spouse a ride. Did you know that dung beetles get all of their nutrients and moisture from the elephant dung they roll into a ball and take home? We had a great sighting of a cheetah as it slowly stalked a herd of impala.  Earlier in the day we had followed a solitary elephant for about 30 minutes. We got rain for part of the last day, but the wildebeest didn't seem to mind.


Thursday night we ate dinner at Carnivore where we overindulged on kudu, impala, zebra, ostrich, blesbok and crocodile.  James spent most of the time playing with the South African Flag from the table. Although quite touristy, Carnivore is a unique African experience.


Friday, I spent the morning in the office while the rest of the family put up the Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations.  Jeff likes lots of lights on the Christmas tree.  When he finished, the tree had 2,700 lights.  Since lights do not string together here in Africa, that meant we had to find sockets for 27 plugs.


Later that day, we went to the African Market in Rosebank, so Jeff and Augusta could perfect their negotiating skills in acquiring African curios.