September 1 – September 9

Friday, September 1st was a catch-up day in the office.  Since we had just completed a large transfer, many things had slipped that needed to be completed, including correspondence, monthly reports and analyses.  We enjoyed a relatively quite preparation day on Saturday.


On Sunday we attend church in the Kempton Park Ward.  It is a mostly white ward on the east side of Johannesburg .  Monday and Tuesday we prepared for the Zone Leaders’ Conference that would be held on Wednesday and began preparation for Zone Conference that will start on the 11th.  Zone Leaders’ Conference was, as usually, very uplifting.  The zone leaders brought such an enthusiasm for the work to the meeting.  In addition, to the Zone Leaders we invited the missionaries that are opening Bethlehem and Mafikeng .  They reported on their first week in the new cities. Both sets of these missionaries are among our best and will do a wonderful work in these new cities.  Elders Spratling will serve as the Presiding Elder in Mafikeng and Elder Sommer will serve as the Presiding Elder in Bethlehem . As Presiding Elders they will have all of the responsibilities of a branch president until a branch is formed.


Saturday, we traveled to Bloemfontein for the Open House for the new building there.  I was one of the speakers at the Open House, speaking on “Are Mormon’s Christian.”  There was a nice crowd of both members and non-members at the Open House.  As I have said previously, it is a beautiful building that we be such a blessing to the saints in Bloemfontein .  Following the Open House, we drove with the Assistants to a city park called Naval Hill.  The park is on a hill overlooking Bloemfontein , so named because it was used by the British Navy during the Anglo-Boer War. The park has a small herd of giraffe, springbok, wildebeest and other antelope.  We took some nice pictures with us relatively close to the giraffe. That evening we enjoyed a nice dinner, with the Means and the Assistants, at the Cattle Baron, our favorite steakhouse in South Africa .


September 10 – September 16

On Sunday, we attended Church in the Bloemfontein Ward.  Following the three-hour block, the building was dedicated by Elder Golden.  Afterwards, Sister Means fed us a wonderful meal.


Monday, we held the Bloemfontein Zone Conference.  We provided training on effective planning and using the Area Books, working effectively in non-car areas and increasing success in city areas. Sister Bowden spoke about “guardrails and fences.”  I concluded by speaking on becoming Gospel scholars.  We returned to Joburg that evening.


Wednesday, we held the Benoni Zone Conference.  When we arrived, we found that the building had been broken into and burglarized.  The Stake President was called.  Once he arrived we were able to proceed with our meeting.


Thursday we traveled to Gaborone .  Elder and Sister Farris took us to a Chinese restaurant that looked very questionable but the food was good.   Our favorite dish was “Ants Climb Trees.”  It was what we call a lettuce wrap. The Botswana Zone Conference went smoothly on Friday.  After the meeting some of the missionaries just socialized but some couldn’t help but play a little basketball even in white shirts and ties. Saturday, we traveled with the Assistants to Francistown . They were thrilled to go with us, since young missionaries had never, to our knowledge, been to Francistown .  President Tembo, who had served as the first Francistown Branch President had moved to Zambia .  On Saturday afternoon, I interviewed all three Melchizedek Priesthood holders and called a new branch presidency – with one as branch president and the other two as counselors.


September 17 – September 23

We held the annual Francistown Branch Conference on Sunday and during the conference sustained and set apart the new branch presidency.  The branch continues to grow even without missionaries.  We took a branch picture after the meetings.  After a couple of false starts, we are still looking for a more permanent place for the branch to meet.


After two weeks without a preparation day, we had decided to take a brief holiday on Monday and Tuesday.  We had made reservations at a lodge in Kasane near Chobe National Park for Sunday night and Monday night.  We left for Kasane about 1:30 pm.  Along the road we saw elephants and giraffe.  The road was covered with two things: hundreds of African hornbills and thousands of potholes. The hornbills would fly off as we approached. The potholes didn’t move.  The drive from Francistown to Kasane took about six hours, so we arrived about 7:30 pm.  When we attempted to check-in we were told that a pipe had broken in the rondavels which we had reserved.  We were left to worry for about 15 minutes as we waited for the lodge manager.  He was very thoughtful and upgraded us to nicer rooms.


The next morning, we left immediately after breakfast to go to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe .  Crossing the border into Zimbabwe was quite an experience. First we had to pay for a one-day visa, then we had to pay a road tax, then a carbon tax and finally we had to buy third-party insurance because Zimbabwe wouldn’t accept the Church’s insurance through AIG.  By the time we got to the falls we were almost completely out of cash.  When we crossed the border, we were out of our mission for the first time since being here – but not very far out (and we did get permission.)  The falls were magnificent even though we were there in the dry season.  At one point we saw some less than smart people swimming in a pool right at the top of one portion of the falls.  Some were even doing back flips into the pool.


We returned to Kasane and were welcomed back to the lodge by dozens of striped mongooses (or is striped mongeese.) We then boarded a pontoon boat for a three-hour trip down the Chobe River .  The boat trip was the best tourist experience we have had in Africa .  We saw more wildlife in those three hours than in the rest of our mission.  There were hundreds of elephants in numerous herds.  Our favorite experience was when a herd of elephants came to the water to drink.  Old elephants and young elephants of many ages drank at the river’s edge.  Then some of the young elephant played in the mud.  Two got stuck in the mud and struggled to get out.  We also saw dozens of hippos, herds of cape buffalo, many crocodiles (some very close), birds of many species, red lechwe, puku and other antelope-like creatures.  On an disputed island between Zambia and Botswana, Botswana flys its flag to claim ownership. As we returned, we enjoyed another gorgeous African sunset. We arose early the next morning and took a land safari into Chobe National Park .  Just as the sun was rising, we saw the first giraffe of the day. We were pleased to see a sable, which is quite rare.  We also saw a pride of lions.  As we watched, two of the lion began to chase a cape buffalo.  However, the cape buffalo outsmarted the lions and the lions returned without breakfast.  We also saw a kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird. 


We checked out of the hotel just before noon and headed back toward Francistown .  We traveled through thousands of acres that had been burned by wildfires.  We passed large farms with sorghum growing as far as you could see. We were about two hours out of Kasane and four hours out of Francistown , when I swerved to miss a large pothole in the middle of the road and hit another on the left side of the road.  The pothole, which was almost deep enough to hide a giraffe, bent both the wheels on the left-side of the car.  So here we were in the middle of nowhere with two flat tires.  How, we got out of there is another story.  You can read about it in Angel from Zimbabwe in Inspiring Stories on the Home Page.  But this picture gives a hint.  Further on, we saw many temporary shelters where people were living and selling bundles of thatch. This place is known as 171 because it is 171 kilometers from Nata and has some of the best thatch in Botswana .  People come from as far away as Francistown to buy the thatch for their roofs. We arrived back in Johannesburg late on Wednesday.  Thursday we held the Soweto Zone Conference and on Friday the Bedfordview Zone.


September 24 – September 30

Jane had been asked to teach the Mia Maids at the Bedfordview Stake Girl’s Camp.  So we attended Sunday Meetings at the girl’s camp being held at a local Boy Scout Camp. The Camp had been originally established by Baden Powell himself.  Jane did a wonderful job teaching the young women.


Monday was spent in the office. We had been out of the office 12 ˝ of the last 14 days.  Tuesday, we held the Johannesburg Zone Conference and finished this round of zone conferences with the Pretoria Zone Conference. While at the Pretoria Zone Conference I called Elder Tanner Allen to be the next Assistant to replace Elder Roberts.  On the way home we celebrated finishing this round of Zone Conferences by taking the Assistants out to dinner.  Friday, we spent most of the day in the office.  Saturday, we went to a very interesting African shop that the Assistants had found and spent too much money and then went to the Ngwenya Glass Factory to buy a glass elephant for Elder Roberts.  That evening we enjoyed the first session of General Conference.  We will watch the Saturday Afternoon Session and the Priesthood Session on Sunday morning.


September was filled with many wonderful experiences.  Most were spiritual but we took more pictures of our experiences with nature and God’s glorious creations.