September 1 – September 10

The first week and one-half of September was somewhat quiet.  Since the Mission Tour was a week earlier than the normal schedule for Zone Conferences, we had this time to catch up on the many things that had been postponed due to our hectic schedule during the last weeks of August.  We used the time to rewrite most of the materials that go to new missionaries.  We had decided to make a booklet to give each new missionary rather than dozens of loose papers.  The end result looks very nice and will give the missionaries something they can keep throughout their missions.  Besides guidelines on finances, health, safety, vehicles, music and apartments (flats), we included other useful things like metric conversion charts and South African terminology.


On the 9th we held a temple trip and dinner for all the senior couples serving in the Mission including proselyting, office and CES couples.  There were 32 of us in total.  Since the Johannesburg temple ordinance rooms only hold 22, we filled most of two sessions.  We then had a wonderful dinner in a private room at a Chinese Restaurant.  One of the Senior Couples was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary that night but chose to join us.  We are blessed to have such dedicated and helpful couples in the Mission.


September 11—September 17

On Sunday the 11th, we attended the Soweto Stake Conference where I was one of the speakers.  It was a wonderful conference – a sea of black faces with a few white faces sprinkled in.   That evening both Jane and I spoke at the Seminary kick-off fireside for two of the local stakes.  After we spoke, there was a scripture chase.  We were amazed at how well these seminary students know their scriptures.


On the 16th we started on our journey to Francistown, Botswana where I was to preside at the first annual Branch Conference.  This branch is under the direct supervision of the Mission.  The first day we drove the five hours to Gaborone and had dinner with the Elder and Sister Farris, the senior couples serving there.  The next day the four of us drove the additional 5 ½ hours to Francistown.  That night we invited President Tembo, the Francistown Branch President, to join us for dinner.  He is a stalwart in the Church, having previously served as a Branch President and later Bishop in Zimbabwe.  He is responsible for building up the Church in Francistown.


September 18 –September 24

At 8 am on Sunday morning, I met with a brother who had been baptized in May, to interview him for advancement to the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordination as an Elder.  I then called him to be the Elders’ Quorum President.  Most of his training will be on the job training.  I later learned he had arisen at 4:30 am to hitchhike the 100 kilometers from his home to the Church because he had no other means of transportation.


At 9 am, the Branch met in President Tembo’s home for the Branch Conference.  The living room was packed with a variety of chairs.  Including us, there were 36 in attendance, of which 6 were investigators.  The branch choir had 10 members and sang magnificently.  Both Jane and I spoke.  Jane taught Relief Society in the living room, Primary was in a bedroom.  I taught the Priesthood outside under a tree.  After the conference, the Branch held a braai (BBQ) of boerwoers (African sausages) and steaks. There were no plates or utensils. We ate the boerwoers and steaks in rolls.  After the braai, we drove back to Gaborone.


The road between Francistown and Gaborone is quite desolate, mostly Africa desert.  Along the road are several small native villages of mostly small round huts with thatched roofs.  We saw many villagers gathering thatch from the side of the road were animal hadn’t eaten it; we suppose to repair their roofs.  We also saw numerous donkey-drawn carts carrying containers of water or firewood.  There were goats wandering everywhere, as well as some underfed cattle. Monday we drove back to Johannesburg.  Along the road to Johannesburg are many giant termite mounds.  Some are over 6 feet tall.  The villages in South Africa are a little more advanced than those on the road to Francistown.  One even has a beauty parlor.


On Wednesday, the 21st, we attended a luncheon to honor President Golden, the first African born Area President in the Church.   Local government and religious leaders were in attendance as well as local stake presidents and the temple president. Our missionary choir provided the music, singing three songs.  Elder Golden gave an inspiring talk telling the audience about the Church in a way that was uplifting without being offensive in anyway to the non-member guests.


On Friday, we held our second Zone Leaders’ Conference.  The theme of the conference was “Building the Kingdom.”  I spoke on the importance of retention and activation as an integral part of missionary work.  Although the South Africa Johannesburg Mission has the highest level of retention in the Southeast Africa Area, there is still a critical need for holding on to more of our converts and strengthening the wards and branches through activation.  A senior couple taught the Zone Leaders about the Legacy of Love program. This is a very successful program to get converts to the temple to do proxy baptisms within two or three months after baptism.  The Assistants gave wonderful training on effective retention and activation techniques.


September 25 –September 30

Late in September the Jacaranda trees begin to bloom all over Johannesburg.  The city becomes dotted with beautiful purple blossoms covering the many large Jacaranda trees. It is a glorious sight.


The last week of September was dominated by transfers.  On the 28th we received 9 new Elders and 1 new Sister. We picked up the North American Elders from the airport and the others from the Johannesburg MTC.  They came from Canada, England, Germany, South Africa (3), Uganda, Utah, Wyoming and California.  We had to learn to pronounce names like Tumwebaza and Swelindawo.  Wednesday of transfer week is always hectic.  We train the new missionaries, take their pictures, load their luggage in the mission trailer and take them to the Roodepoort Chapel.  There we have a leadership meeting, a training meeting for the new missionaries and their trainers, hold a meeting of all missionaries who are being transferred, send all the missionaries back to their assigned areas except those going home.  We take those going home back to the Mission Home where I interview each one; we have a nice dinner followed by a testimony meeting.  Friday morning I took the Africa missionaries to the airport. The airport was very crowded since it was school holiday.  I waited with missionaries in three different queues and spent about three hours not counting travel time. That evening we took the North American Elders to the airport. The queues were just as long but we only had to wait in one queue.  This transfer we had a missionary returning to Madagascar.  His flight did leave until Saturday afternoon, so we took an extra trip to the airport.