November 1 – November
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
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 –
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 –
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
. 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
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 –
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
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