October 1 – October 8

We enjoyed General Conference and it seemed extra special since we are so far away.  We watched the Saturday Morning Session live at 6 pm our time. The Priesthood Session was shown at the Stake Center at 11 am Sunday on a delayed basis.  We then watched the Saturday Afternoon Session at 2 pm on a delayed basis and the Sunday Morning Session live at 6 pm.  Except for the Priesthood Session, we were able to watch all sessions at the Mission Home since we have BYU TV.  We recorded the Sunday Afternoon Session to watch later.


On Monday we drove to Nelspruit.  It is about 4 hours east northeast from Johannesburg.  We looked at new flats (apartments) for missionaries because we are adding two missionaries to Nelspruit and the current flat can only handle two.  We found a nice apartment and then had dinner with the missionaries.  They are not closeby to any other missionaries, so they were very happy to see us.  We stayed overnight at Holiday Inn Express.  Yes, you can find Holiday Inns in many places in South Africa


Since one of the entrances to Kruger National Park is only about 36 miles from Nelspruit, we had decided to do a little sightseeing.  The next morning we entered Kruger National Park at 7 am and stayed in the park until sunset .  Even at that we only saw about one-tenth of the park.  The park covers 7,580 square miles or about the size of Israel.  It is unquestionably one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in the world. We saw hundreds and hundreds of animals of all kinds.  We saw elephants, giraffes, herds of zebras, wildebeests and water buffalo, hippos, rhinos, lions, baboons, monkeys, hundreds of impalas, a lone hyena and one warthog.  One of the exciting moments was as we were watching a sleeping lion, it awoke and chased a herd of impalas at a nearby waterhole and was disappointed when it missed its prey.  Another was when a giraffe was trying to drink from a watering hole, but a hyena wouldn't let it.  In fact the hyena just sat in the middle of the watering hole so no other animals dared to drink. (All of the pictures were taken from the car, since for your own safety you are not allowed out of your car except at protected rest stops and camps.)  Kruger was definitely the most exciting and enjoyable non-missionary thing we have done while in South Africa.


We stayed overnight at Graskop just outside of the park and then drove through the Blyde River Canyon area as we traveled home.  This area is magnificent and looks a lot like Colorado and northern Idaho -- evergreen forests, large mountains, canyons and waterfalls. Not like I ever imagined in South Africa.


Thursday and Friday we made the final plans for the next round of Zone Conferences.  I also met with two of our senior couples. 


October 9 – October 16

Sunday we attended church in the Rynfield Ward where I had an interview to do.  Then we went to a missionary musical fireside in Sandton.  Since one of the Sisters that sang in the fireside had completed her mission and gone home, Jane took her place in a quartet.


On Monday we traveled to Bloemfontein for our first Zone Conference of this round.  We had dinner with the Devenports.  Since the Devenports will be returning home in November, this was the last dinner we would have at their flat.  They have done such a magnificent job as missionaries and in caring for the missionaries in the Bloemfontein Zone.  The Church in Africa has been blessed to have them.  We will miss the Devenports and Sister Devenport’s wonderful cooking.  On Tuesday we held the Bloemfontein Zone Conference.


Our Zone Conferences this round started at 8 a.m. with interviews and workshops.  While I interviewed the members of one District, the other Districts attended one of two workshops.  After about 40 minutes the Districts rotated until everyone had been interviewed and each District had attended each workshop.  We then conducted the business of the Zone Conference, provided training and had talks from two of the missionaries.  After lunch, we heard testimonies from missionaries departing before the next Zone Conference.  Then we had talks from my two Assistants: Elder Plantin talked about the importance of ensuring that investigators have solid testimonies before they are baptized and Elder Walshaw gave a powerful talk on the Atonement.  Jane spoke on wise financial management both while on a mission and afterwards.  I concluded with a talk on the Prophet Joseph Smith. We end each conference by singing the new mission song that was written by one of our talented missionaries at Jane’s suggestion.  On the journey back to Johannesburg, we had some car trouble with the mission combi (van) and arrived home quite late, but safe.


On Thursday we traveled to Botswana.  We took Elder and Sister Means, one of our fine office couples, with us. We held Zone Conference on Friday.  We also went to help some missionaries whose car wouldn't work. (This is one of their neighbors.) On Saturday we visited the two small villages of Oodi and Mochudi. In Oodi we purchased a small woven table runner.  On the way back we saw many large termite mounds and trees with weaver bird nests. Sunday we attended church in the Gaborone West Ward. We saw a group of young members on their way to Church in the back of a pickup. This Sunday was the Primary Presentation in Sacrament Meeting. What a wonderful experience. The children gave short talks and sang many songs -- all a cappella.  They sang beautifully.  The Gospel Essentials Class was so large it had to be held in the chapel.  There were about 40 people in attendance.  The instructor was one of the best we have seen in Africa.  After the 3 hour block we attended the baptism of a young woman, age 20, named "Sunshine."  Following the baptism, we drove the 5 ½ hours back to Johannesburg. 


October 17 – October 23

This week we held three Zone Conferences: Tuesday for the Pretoria Zone; Thursday for the Soweto Zone and Friday for the Roodepoort and Johannesburg Zones.  On Sunday we attended church in Carletonville, a gold mining town, about 1 ½ hours south of Johannesburg. There were about 50 in attendance at the Branch meetings. We were blessed to be there on the Sunday of their Primary Presentation. The Branch has a piano, but no one can play it.  They used a CD player for all of the music.  That evening, I attended the semi-annual Correlating Council Meeting with Elder Young of the Area Presidency and Jane went with the missionaries to the musical fireside at Roodepoort. 


October 24 – October 31

During the last week of October we concluded the Zone Conferences of this transfer period (6 weeks) with meetings in Bedfordview and Benoni. On Sunday the 30th, we attended church in the Krugersdorp Ward where I interviewed a sister for baptism.  That night we attended the last of the musical firesides centered on the Fruits of Restoration.  It was held in Daveyton, a black township to the east of Johannesburg.  We do not plan to have anymore missionary musical firesides for at least six months.