Sunday, July 26, 2015


Our eighteen month mission and our time in South Africa has come to an end and so will the blog. I have enjoyed keeping it up both as a way to keep in touch with friends and family and to chronicle our mission. I wanted to make one final post because, to me, returning home seems to be an important part of the journey. After a very, very, very long flight and almost missing our last leg to Las Vegas because we were going by the information printed in Johannesburg, we finally arrived home! We landed in Las Vegas where a couple of our kids with their families met us at the airport. 
As you would expect, all of the kids had grown so much. Peter who is standing by me was a tiny baby when we left.
We met baby Kate for the first time; she wasn't too sure of us at first, but warmed pretty quickly.
Ruby and Maia. Maia had lost her front teeth teeth and grown her permanent ones in the time we were gone.
A grandma and grandpa portrait in the airport with seven of our twenty five grandchildren.
Grandpa with the two youngest grandchildren, Kate and Peter.
We arrived late so we stayed over night in Las Vegas. The next day two more families came.
and we had a Cafe Rio party! Hooray for Mexican food!
The next afternoon, our kids drove us home because we had no wheels--a little reversal of the many years we drove them around because they had no wheels :)
Congratulating ourselves on arriving back to our own house. Bags still to unpack as you can see.
The next day, we drove down to St. George to pick up a vehicle that Amie had secured for us--she did all of the hunting and checking and double and triple checking (she's a major bargain shopper) and got just the vehicle we were looking for. Thanks Amie for offering to take on that big task that is never fun.
The next day the kids came up to the cabin for a 24th of July BBQ (or maybe I should now say braai since we've lived in South Africa). This little Gabe is a mini-grandpa and wanted his mom to get him an apron because grandpa wears an apron.
It's good to be home! This is our son Dan who monitored and maintained the cabin while we were gone. He and all of the kids and grandkids worked really hard to get our house and yard and park cleaned up and ready for us. We know it was a ton of work; thanks everyone! They even planted flowers for us as you can see.
They even brought up a batch of cute puppies who played in the yard until they wore themselves out and took a nap on the grass.
Then the next day, we went down to St. George again (we look forward to lots of backs and forths to all of the places our kids live in the coming years.) We went to Jimmy Johns for lunch which is another place that we have been missing while we were gone.
This was a cute little note that Sophia wrote. We were SO happy to be coming to your house Sophia and to all of our kids and grandkids houses. We haven't seen them all yet. Since we are having our family reunion in only a week, it didn't make sense for the other four families who live further away to travel down for the homecoming and then come back again in a week. So we're excited to see them all again for the first time in a year and a half.
There are many, many things we will miss about our mission in South Africa. We'll miss our work, we'll miss how the church is growing, we'll miss the culture, we'll miss our adventures, we'll miss the birds and the animals, we'll miss some of the food, especially the fruit and vegetable market! But at the top of the list of things we'll miss are the wonderful people that we got to know. Africa will always have a place in our hearts now, but as almost everyone agrees, THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Our Last Week in South Africa

Today is the 20th of July 2015 and we entered the Provo MTC on 20 January 2014 so that means that we are at the very end of our eighteen month service here in Johannesburg. Our clock definitely thought so when it stopped just a few minutes after midnight last night. It seems that everything was saying it was time to go home—every bottle or jar or package of everything seemed to run out almost perfectly so the universe must be in agreement. Although we are both definitely ready to get back to our family and our home, we know that serving here has been a great blessing in so many ways. This past week has been filled with preparation, but also with so many comments and acts of appreciation that we feel a little overwhelmed and undeserving at the attention and love we have received. Here are a few pictures and explanations of some of those activities.
As you can guess, there have been some days of cleaning--here's Elder Davie in his apron. Our kids think buying an apron for their kids might be the magic bullet to get them to work like grandpa. Interestingly, one of our teachers asked specifically if when we left she could have Elder Davie's apron. She had seen him in it at our Super Saturday event and thought it was interesting that a guy would have an apron on (highly unusual here) and said that it would always remind her of us.
How often do you clean your oven? Well I clean this one only when it's time to move. It's the oven that is practically Easy-Bake Oven size as our daughter said so that's all it deserves.
Lots of packing too--I can't tell you how many times we have weighed these bags. Still we know we'll have to pay an overage for one and the rest we will keep our fingers crossed because they are very close to 50 pounds by our scale. There are enough clothes in them to put in a small grocery bag. Everything else is souvenirs and gifts for our family :)
We gave away almost all of our clothes and anything that we bought for ourselves here (like the appliances) to the Alexandra Branch. We figured they could use it more than another relatively rich set of Americans who can more easily buy their own appliances :)
One of the bishops invited us to dinner with his family to say thank you for our service.
This was the dinner at the CES (Church Education System) office that they held in our honor.
Dinner with this cute family of one of our Seminary teachers. They are Zambian and eat with their hands, (a basin and a jug of warm water are passed around first so everyone's hands are freshly clean) but they kindly gave us American missionaries some forks :)
A dinner was also held at the home of the mission president to say goodbye to us.
We were busy right to the end--this Mid-Year Convention for the new stake that we have been working with was held only two days ago. The attendance was great by the time everyone arrived. (Clocks and appointments are more flexible here in South Africa :)
This was from the Saturday just before that--our great stake president who gave the concluding message to the students.
This  is Glory who graduated from Seminary last year and will be going on a mission soon. She gives me a big hug whenever I see her as do most of the students in the stake. We gave her the keyboard that I was learning on while I was here because she is learning to play the piano. The baby is her nephew. 
Like I told my own twins, these are my South African twins. They are from the Alexandra township and are such intelligent, capable girls. I hope I can know what they do in the future.
We attended the Alexandra branch on our last Sunday (yesterday) This the young women's class and most of the girls are also in the seminary class there. They sang a special song for us.
And in a few minutes we are leaving the apartment for the last time and going to lunch with President Sehloho who is the counselor in the stake presidency here that we worked so closely with. After that, we'll go the office, turn in a few things and then on to the the airport. We are a "test couple" who will give feedback on our experience flying a different direction that missionaries from here have traditionally gone. We'll fly Etihad Airlines to Abu Dhabi, then to Los Angeles and finally to Las Vegas where part of our family will meet us. The others who are further away will be coming soon for a family reunion in early August. Goodbye South Africa! I'll post at least one more time when we arrive home.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mid Year Convention and Seminary Super Saturda

Last Saturday, we had our Mid-Year Convention for teachers and leaders in the Johannesburg Stake in the morning, and the Seminary Super Saturday in the afternoon with a combined lunch in between. The attendance wasn’t quite as good as last year because the date it was scheduled was during their school holiday so a lot of students and some of the teachers were out of town. Those that were there had a lot of fun with the skits they performed and enjoyed the message from the stake president. One of the highlights was the dessert we had for lunch—American root beer floats which almost none of them had ever tasted. They don’t have root beer here but we had one of our kids send some root beer extract and we made a big batch with dry ice. It was a fun and productive day.
Some of the Relief Society sisters were helping to serve lunch and this was the lesson in root beer making--not much to making a root beer float, huh?
These are mostly teachers that you see here, but the kids were coming in about that time.
Everyone just mingling and enjoying themselves.
One of our bishops on the left and two great, dedicated seminary teachers on the right.
As the kids came in they played a game that got them talking--here is one group getting answers from each other.
Gathering to start the skits
I know you can't hear this :) but they were singing for their presentation.
They were supposed to illustrate at least one gospel principle in a modern day application. This is a mother who teaches her daughter and they had put together a poem that did this.
You may not recognize it, but the girl kneeling is Oliver Cowdery :)
I can't remember what he's explaining, but she looks happy about it :)
This was depicting the revelation that introduced the Word of Wisdom where we were told that tobacco wasn't healthy for the body (long before science told us that) See the puffs of smoke? It was pretty clever how they made pipes that did that without anything burning of course.
Each class that performed took a bow afterwards. It was a fun way to emphasize the importance of what they were learning and to have a lot of fun and get to know other kids in the stake at the same time.

Monday, July 13, 2015


At a few points in our mission, I have posted milestones of 1/3 finished or 1/2 or 2/3 done. Now we have only one week left! Our bags are mostly packed, we're spending today cleaning our flat and the week is scheduled with lots of activities and work that will be our "last time" efforts. We have loved being here and gaining all that we have by doing the work that we have been "called to serve" in, BUT we are really, really excited to get back to our family!
So today is Monday, and in ONE CALENDAR WEEK from today we will be on our way to the airport to fly out of South Africa to Abu Dhabi and from there to L.A. and then a short jaunt to Las Vegas where a good number of our family will greet us. The others will come for a family reunion a couple of weeks after that.
That is seven...only seven. SEVEN days! Whenever I see lined up sevens like this I think of our granddaughter Sophia who was born on 7/7/07. Pretty lucky huh?
Seven Days!
That's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven!
Here's a paper chain we made at our 100 days left mark, and some of the grandkids made the same chain at home.
Emma, Kate, Maia, Ruby and Mike with their chain and the cute sign they made to identify it.
We've all been taking a link off every day and here is Oliver a couple of days ago, showing us how small his chain has grown.
And ours is so small now that it hardly qualifies as a chain! The green paper are the directions for our luggage. We're packing and weighing now. We're leaving almost everything we brought with us or accumulated here because we need all of our luggage room and weight for the gifts and souvenirs we're bringing home :) I know they tell young missionaries not to think about the end of their mission until it's actually over, but I think grandmas & grandpas are given an exemption from that rule! 
See you very soon everyone!