September 1 –
On Saturday the 1st we drove to Kroonstadt to meet Elders traveling from Botshabelo so we could pick up Elder Willem van Heerden. Elder van Heerden is from Zimbabwe where
his family are among the last white farmers left in the country. Because of the confiscation of the family
farm, he left Zimbabwe
to begin his mission six weeks earlier than planned. He came into South Africa on a 30-day visitor’s
visa. We had been working since his
arrival in February 2007 to secure a temporary resident’s visa for him – which we
were told was possible. After more than
six months of effort, we were finally told that he would have to go back to
Zimbabwe and apply for a new visa at the South Africa Embassy in Harare – a process
we were assured would take only one week.
We had arranged for a flight to Harare
with a return flight ten days later. Elder
van Heerden stayed in the mission home that night.
On Sunday, we took Elder van Heerden to the airport so he
could catch a plane to Harare,
Zimbabwe. I gave him 1,000 rand to pay for an expected
fine for overstaying his visa, even though South Africa Home Affairs had had
possession of his visa the whole time.
Monday, Elder van Heerden called to report that he was fined
3,000 rand at passport control for overstaying his visa. We made arrangements to pay the fine so it
would not delay the process of getting a new visa. Monday evening we joined the President of the Johannesburg MTC and his wife for dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary.
President and Sister Hill live in the MTC which is adjacent to the
mission office. We enjoyed the evening
and wished we could get together more often.
However, given our schedules this is difficult
Tuesday, Elder van Heerden called to tell us that the South
Africa Embassy told him that he would have to pay a deposit of 2,400 rand and
that the process of getting a new visa would take more than one month. I called the lady in the embassy that I had
spoken with about Elder van Heerden’s visa.
She told me that the 2,000 rand was not needed and that he should be
able to get a visa in a week. Each day
over the next week we got a different story.
In the end, we paid the 2,400 rand and the process took three weeks.
Early Wednesday morning we drove to the airport to pick up Elder and Sister Gittins. The Gittins
came to us from Centerville,
Utah. This will be their second mission as a
couple. Previously, they served in the
Illinois Peoria Mission. Their first
assignment will be in Polokwane.
On September 6th our 9th grandchild
was born, our fourth while on our mission.
We were happy to have good communication so we could follow the birth
and get current information. The baby
had been known as “Pablo” before he was born because a penguin named Pablo was
his older brother’s favorite character from Backyardigans. He was officially named Jack Richard Walker, but is often still called Pablo.
That day I called a new assistant to the president. Elder Joseph Kearns of
Albuquerque, New Mexico
was called to replace Elder Grochmal who had requested to finish his mission in
September 9 –
On Sunday the 9th we attended the Soweto Stake
Conference held in Pimville. I spoke,
but Jane was spared a speaking assignment this time.
On Wednesday, we received 9 new missionaries from the
Johannesburg MTC. The group included a Sister and an Elder from
4 Elders from Utah, and one Elder each from Idaho, Germany
and England. After their orientation, a meeting with the
new missionaries and trainers and our transfer meeting, they began their
service in the mission that very evening.
Seven missionaries were going home this transfer: A sister from
Madagascar, 2 Elders
from South Africa, and one
Elder each from England, Germany, Canada
and Idaho. They stayed with us in the mission home that
night where I conducted their final interview and we enjoyed a final dinner and
testimony meeting together.
September 16 –
We attended church in Daveyton on Sunday the 16th. We had learned that Bishop Joseph Mokoena was
being released. Bishop Mokoena has been
a great supporter of missionary work and one of the missionaries’ favorite
bishops. We also know him well because
he is the Travel Director for the Area.
In March we had moved a majority of the mission’s cell phones
to MTN from Cell C. As part of the
transfer, we received 42 new cell phones.
We had requested the most durable phone they offered. They suggested the Nokia 5500 which had a
protective rubberized coating. Within
weeks the phones began to fail. The
keypads became detached from the phones and many of the speakers failed. After months of hard and long negotiations,
Nokia finally agreed to replace the phones with a difference model on September
On the 18th, we held our bi-annual leadership
conference for all district leaders, zone leaders and presiding elders. We have found these leadership conferences
invaluable. They allow us to train
leaders on such important topics as baptismal interviews, properly filling out
baptismal forms, exchanges, district meetings and leadership skills. We are blessed to have wonderful, powerful
and spiritual leaders.
On Saturday, we drove to Francistown, Botswana
so I could preside at their annual branch conference. The assistants traveled
with us. One of the cities we drive through
is Mokopane. Since it was Saturday, many
people from nearby villages were in town to shop. Many had come by donkey cart. I wish I had taken a picture of the many
donkey carts parked in front of the stores.
Just before leaving South Africa
, we stopped at a lane that was lined with Baobab trees.
Typically, Baobab trees only grow north of the Tropic of Capricorn. These are slightly south of the Tropic of
Capricorn and had obviously been planted.
These are magnificent trees. The pictures do not do them justice.
The drive to Francistown
usually takes about nine hours. This
trip took a little over 10 hours due to a lengthy border crossing ordeal. The South Africa passport control went
smoothly. But we learned that everyone
exiting South Africa
had to have their fingerprints checked.
There was a long line and the process was very slow. After waiting about 30 minutes, an officer
asked for our automobile registration. Upon
seeing that the car was owned by the Church and we had on our missionary tags,
he took us out of line and sent us on our way without the fingerprinting. On the Botswana side of the border,
passport and customs went smoothly, until we had to pay the road tax required
of all non-Botswana residents. The line
was long. We waited in the line for more
than an hour. We were then very happy to
get on our way.
We stopped for lunch in Martin’s Drift, just north of the
border. While we were eating, an ostrich wandered into the adjoining petrol station.
The ostrich decided it liked the shade of the canopies over the petrol pumps.
We arrived in Francistown
a little after six pm and went directly to the church building. I held a short meeting with the branch
president and then interviewed a young man to receive the Melchizedek
Priesthood and be ordained and an Elder.
His name was Benson Mokaraga. He had been baptized about a year and a half
earlier in Gaborone. He told us that his friend had a Book of
Mormon and was going to throw it away.
Benson asked if he could have it.
Benson read the Book of Mormon, asked to see the missionaries and was
September 23 –
Sunday morning before the Francistown Branch Conference, I
called a new second counselor in the branch presidency and a new first
counselor in the Elders’ quorum presidency.
The new counselor in the branch presidency, Brother Hudson, is from England and works in Botswana with a construction
company. I called Benson to be the
counselor in the Elders’ Quorum.
Following the Branch Conference, I took a picture of the branch and visitors. Francistown has 23 members. The members had brought 25 investigators to
branch conference. Following the
meetings we enjoyed a light lunch with the branch. As we mingled with the Francistown
saints, I took these pictures, among others:
the branch presidency; the Elders’ Quorum presidency, Sedze, Percy, another girl and a sister in a
Following lunch we traveled to Serowe where a small congregation
of saints meets. We had a hand-drawn
map. The final turn was supposed to be
onto a dirt road. After many attempts,
we could not find the dirt road. We
attempted to call the cell number we had been given, but found we did not have
coverage. We drove until we had
coverage. Brother Gaeboloke told us he
would drive to the turn-off and wait for us.
After missing him twice, we finally found the dirt road which was more
of a path than a road.
The group in Serowe had waited to hold their meetings until we arrived. We met around the dining
room table. In attendance, besides us, were Brother and Sister Gaeboloke,
Sister Matswagothata and her grandson, Casper. Another of their group was out of town for
the week. As we held Sacrament Meeting,
a rooster crowed just outside the window.
After Sacrament Meeting, I called Brother Gaeboloke to be the presiding elder of the group. We said goodbye to
the group and headed for Gaborone. The trip was somewhat stressful because we had
to traverse an 83 kilometer section of road construction after dark. During the trip to Gaborone
we received a call that a Malagasy missionary serving in Mafikeng attempting to
come to Gaborone for the zone conference the
next day, was stopped at the border because his Botswana visa had expired. Using a member who works in Botswana Home
Affairs, we were able to get the Elder into Botswana within an hour with only a
500 pula fine. We arrived at the
Pemberton’s flat about 8:30 pm. Sister
Pemberton had prepared an enjoyable meal for us.
On Monday, the 24th, we held the Botswana Zone Conference. Unbeknownst to us, the
interior of the building was being remodeled and was very torn up. We succeeded in holding a successful
conference in the midst of the construction.
We left immediately after the conference and enjoyed good weather and
limited traffic on our return trip to Johannesburg.
On Wednesday we held the Soweto Zone Conference. Elder van Heerden returned from Zimbabwe after successfully getting the required
visa. The weather turned nasty with
strong winds and heavy rains – the first of the season.
On Thursday we held the Benoni Zone Conference. During the conference, I received a call that Elder Steven Bogart from the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission was being transferred to the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. Elder Bogart had been in Johannesburg for medical treatment for the
last month. We were pleased to have him
remain with us.
There has been a severe drought in Lesotho leaving many people there
with inadequate food supplies. Recently the Church shipped a large quantity of food for distribution in
Lesotho by the
Red Cross. One of our senior couples,
Elder and Sister Jensen, helped make arrangements to get the food into Lesotho and for
its distribution. They took some wonderful pictures of the people from a mountain village waiting for the food, loading the mealie meal (cornmeal) on their donkeys and the loaded donkeys leaving. Scenes like these were repeated throughout the day as food was distributed in other villages.
We attended church in the Florida Ward on Sunday, the 30th.
About 1:30 in the afternoon, we traveled
to Bloemfontein for the zone conference that would begin the following morning.