Friday, January 31, 2014

The Flight Story So Far

After arriving at the airport yesterday, our flight was delayed three times and then moved to another plane at another gate.  When even that “plan D” flight wasn’t boarding on time, the announcement was made that the pilots had reached their permitted hours of flying and would have to go to a hotel and sleep until the next day. Of course there was a scramble then for everyone to try to find another flight so we waited in a line for an hour or so to be re-routed. Worse than the waiting was the fact that we had to get our bulky luggage back again (we were so hoping never to see those bags again until we landed in Johannesburg!) Luckily, we were able to fly out that afternoon, but of course that flight was late too so we landed in Chicago nine minutes after our connecting flight had boarded. We made a mad dash and again luckily the flight hadn’t taken off. Maybe they knew that we were landing since several in the crew said, “oh you made it!” We then flew through the night and are now at Heathrow Airport in London. Customs took an hour or so and we will wait another six or seven hours before hopefully boarding the flight to Johannesburg without any drama. I know for anyone who flies these stories are becoming more familiar, but I’m a little glad we won’t have to repeat this airport experience for a while J

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finally, The Flight to South Africa!

Today we fly (and fly and fly and fly and fly)! When our son Mike saw our itinerary, he said that it was the longest flight in history. We leave in January and don’t get there until February J It is actually a very long flight—three hours from Salt Lake to Chicago, eight and a half to London and then twelve to Johannesburg. That’s twenty-three and a half hours in the air. In between the three flights there is a five-hour layover in Chicago and a ten-hour one in London. Those are longer layovers than I would wish for, but they will give us a chance to do some walking between all the sitting. From the time we get on the plane in Salt Lake and get off in Johannesburg we will have been traveling for almost 40 hours! Add jet lag to that and it will be interesting to see how we will look to the person picking us up. Oh well, we’re glad to be finally on our way. Keep your fingers crossed for us that the bad weather in the eastern states doesn’t lengthen the trip even further. Next time we post, we should have something to say about Africa!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 10, The Davie Family Mission

As we complete our training and are excited to depart, we find that the hardest part of going on a mission is leaving family, so we have decided that we are going to take them all with us!!! Our daughter, Rachel the creator of PegBuddies has made this not-so-little family group to travel with us to South Africa. 

We are taking them with us because this is not just our mission, it is our family’s mission, all eight of our children, eight of their spouses and twenty-four of our grandchildren (whether every one of them want to go on a mission or not :) The fact that they are all healthy, financially stable and self-sufficient makes it possible for us to serve without serious worry and their support and excitement has made it so much more fun.

We often talk about the sacrifice of missionaries, but families sacrifice a lot too. We are very close to our children and grandchildren and know that while we are going to miss them, they are also going to miss us. Some will have important occasions where they wish their parents or grandparents were there to enjoy it with them. Some may have challenges and they’ll wish for the comfort of proximity. When they go to the cabin, it may seem empty without us. Our grandchildren will miss working on wood projects, gardening or doing artwork with us; they will miss grandma’s rolls and grandpa’s pancakes. So because they will share the sacrifice, they will also share the mission and all of the blessings attached to it. We’re sure the blessings will come.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 9, The Changing Face of the Church

While our training has been with other senior missionaries, it has been so fun and interesting to interact with some of the two thousand or so young missionaries here. We have been able to hear some of their stories and enjoy their cute personalities. Something that has really struck me as I compare the senior missionaries to young missionaries (beyond the obvious :) is that the face of the church has dramatically changed in a single lifetime. With the exception of a few, all of the senior missionaries are white. Not so with the younger missionaries. There is every skin tone represented from darkest dark to lightest light. They come here from many homelands speaking many languages and then learn still other languages. Today a new group of missionaries arrived from Micronesia Guam. The Sister accompanying them said that more missionaries are now coming from Micronesia than are going to the island. To me, these beautiful young people are visual evidence that the face of the church has changed from a North American church to a truly world wide church. We will be able to enjoy that phenomenon very soon as we fly 10,000 miles from Utah and become part of a church organized just as it is here with many stakes, wards and branches. We are anxious to both grow and to serve through the experience.

On day 8 part of our instruction was about getting to know our students so that we are aware of what they need and not act quickly on what we think they need. This funny video illustrated the point:
(although I can see this video on my computer, a friend said she can't, so below is the YouTube link:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 8: CES, Laundry and a Message from Our Soon-To-Be Home

Today has been a long, busy day. We’ve been getting up early to spend half and hour on the treadmill hoping to counteract a few of the calories from the wide range of delicious food here. After the treadmill, we of course went to get more food for and then off to class. This week we are involved in specific CES or Church Education System training. Today has been a lot like a teacher in-service (but a good one J There are lots of familiar concepts like creating clear objectives, asking meaningful questions, involving students, etc. I really like their emphasis on “trusting the students” or in other words, teaching them to find their own information, to study and then to come to their own conclusions. After class was over for the day, we went to do our laundry in the big MTC Laundromat. This is the first time in many, many years that we’ve used a washer and dryer other than our own, so it took a bit to figure out the system.

We received an email today from the person who will be picking us up from the airport (so that’s good—they remember we’re coming J) The writer said that we would be living in what he called a “cottage” located behind the home of one of the church members there. He said that we would love it and that it was in a very secure area. Still not sure exactly what that will look like, but it sounds promising. He also said that he has the keys to our car and would take us out to drive (wrong side of the road.) He reminded us that we should have a Garmin when we arrive or that he would take us to buy one. That must mean it’s a must-have so thanks Sarah for donating yours. Everything is on track for our departure; we’re almost there!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 7, Things that Matter Most

Sunday at the MTC has been familiar in some ways—same meetings for example, but very different in others. For example, about 15 or 16 Tongan missionaries sang the special number in sacrament meeting. In their own language, they sang beautifully a hymn found only in the Tongan songbook. I wish I could have recorded it and included it here; everyone would have loved it. It was a distinctly island sounding melody with this cool under-song that was a steady drumming sort of sound, sung in very deep baritone. It’s impossible for a non-musician to describe, but really amazing. Also unusual was the woman’s meeting (Relief Society) because song composer, Janice Kapp Perry was the speaker. During her talk she led us in a medley of her now-world-famous songs for children and sang another one herself.

What I wanted to write about though was an observation from a week of watching the 123 senior missionaries interact during the week. By this time in our lives, our physical bodies have changed enough that you would never know who was the home coming queen, who was the football star or who might have been considered the nerd. It doesn’t matter who among us might have had a perfect body because we’ve all grown a little fat, a little soft or a little saggy. Unless we specifically ask, you couldn’t distinguish between who has a doctorate degrees and who never graduated from high school. You don’t know who had the biggest house or the latest car because no one brought them along. For us and for everyone, by the time you get this far through life those things have far less importance or don’t matter at all.

There are only a few things that matter most, our relationship with the One that created us; who we have become during our time here; whether or not we’ve made life better for anyone else along our way; and the people we love and who love us. In the long view, it seems that the things that matter most are the only things that matter at all.

By the way, the only thing we have been prohibited from talking about here at the MTC as senior missionaries is the "g.c." word :) I'm sure that our sweet g.c's are about the hardest thing to leave (evidence shown above :) My kids and their spouses really are also part of what matters most but they aren't quite as cute to make a collage of :)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Day 6, Provo Temple

This morning we didn’t have training so went to the Provo Temple, which is located very near the MTC. For those of you who haven’t been, temples may seem mysterious. They are sacred structures, but if at some time, you go inside a temple, you will find that, except for being strikingly beautiful, there is nothing strange about it. In fact, on the church website you can see pictures of temple interiors, taken before the temples were dedicated and learn as much about temples as you wish. There is also nothing strange about the ceremony. If you were familiar with the Bible and the story of the creation, you would not be surprised by the proceedings. You would probably take note of the orderly, peaceful atmosphere and the fact that everyone is dressed in white. As we enter the temple, we go to private dressing areas where we change into white clothing to signify cleanliness and reverence; there is a great sense of unity with everyone dressed very much the same. Although there are standards of worthiness to enter temples, they are not meant to be exclusive—the requirements are attainable by anyone who has the desire to be there.

For those of you who have been to the temple in other places throughout the world, I would say that the experience in the Provo temple must be unique or at least unusual. In St. George, for example, where there are many retired church members, almost all of the temple workers are older people and a large share of the patrons also. Provo is a young persons temple I think. It is right next to the BYU campus so at least on this Saturday, almost all of the temple workers were very young—probably age 18 to 25 or so. The young man who led our session was in his early twenties. The same was true of the vast majority of the patrons. Seeing so many bright faced, sweet young people dressed in white, efficiently but reverently going about their duties was like seeing a host of angels. I thought that that is what Heaven must look like.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 5, Our First Week Complete and Set to Go!

We have completed our first week of general training that all of the senior couples receive, focusing on effective methods of teaching. We have gone through lots of information and lots of scenarios and had way too much fun. Being with so many great people of about our same age has definitely increased the fun factor. I had a little laughing breakdown today when role playing with Frank. If you know him, you know that he is all about truth which makes him NOT a good pretender for role playing J When we were supposed to be pretending to be someone investigating or whatever, I had to constantly keep track of the story he was telling, which was much more truth than the fictional character he was supposed to be J

The first picture of the large group was taken in two parts because there were so many of us, and the second picture is of the small group that we met with when we broke into classroom training. We got to know these four couples really well. One couple will be serving a member leader support mission in Idaho, another will go to Paris, France, another to Oslo, Norway and then we will go to Johannesburg, South Africa.

When we finished for the day and checked at our “post office” we were really, really, really happy to see that our passports complete with visas were in our mailbox. There was also a message that our flight tickets were electronic, so that means everything is in order for us to both fly away from the United States and into South Africa. That’s a big relief. One couple here was supposed to go to India but their visa application was rejected. Now they are waiting to see where they will be reassigned. I’m glad we won’t be planning for one place and then going to another!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 4 and Pulling Together

Elder Boyd K Packer tells a story of going to an old-time country fair. The center of attraction was an oxen pulling contest, where teams of yoked oxen competed to see which pair could move a weights of ten thousand pounds a distance of at least three feet for three consecutive pulls. A number of beautiful teams, some appearing to be perfectly matched were given the commands to repeatedly slam against the yoke, either succeeding by moving the weight forward or jerking to a halt in failure. Much to everyone’s amazement, the teams that were largest and perfectly matched visually didn’t even place. Instead a team of nondescript animals that were smaller and apparently unmatched took home the prize by moving the weight all three times.

Why am I writing about an oxen pulling contest? Because as the senior missionaries have worked on the team teaching skills that we will need for our assignments, I have thought of how we have to pull together even though we may not be matched in many ways. You would think that older couples would have mastered this, but teaching an effective, unified lesson with a person who may have a different teaching style, different pacing and different strengths is more difficult than you would think. We have actually done fine, but we are improving because we are now preparing together rather than separately, and are teaching in a more overlapping, seamless way rather than in a his-turn, my-turn approach. Since we’ll be working together so closely for the next eighteen months, I’m sure we’ll hone our skills even more.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MTC Day 3 and Suitcase #3!!!

Today our training centered around “teaching people and not lessons” or in other words, really listening to a person and gauging what we teach to what questions they may have or what they already know. Our instructors are extremely skilled instructors themselves and have kept everything lively and interesting. We also participated in mock teaching sessions in which we taught a first lesson to someone who wanted to know more about the church. This was fun and also challenging since the people we were teaching always went in different directions than the lessons we had planned. These “investigators” were converts to the church themselves who used their own backgrounds and experience in the scenario. We learned a lot, and was actually pretty fun.

To go back to my packing story--even though I thought we were both very careful about what we packed (Frank especially J) we discovered that one of our suitcases was very overweight. Checking extra suitcases is very pricey, so I had resigned myself to having to sort through everything to try to shed some suitcase pounds. THEN one of the other missionaries said, “if anyone is flying on British Airways, they will let you check a third bag for free since you’re a missionary.” I called to get confirmation for this (we actually needed permission) and now we have an extra suitcase to move things to. (The MTC bookstore offers great discounts to missionaries by the way) That will also give us a chance to get our kids to get us some spices before we fly out. Some people who have been there said many of the spices we use more frequently are just not found there. They weren’t specific so I’ll have to investigate further, but good news on the suitcase and Hooray for British Airways!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MTC, Day 2

Yesterday, during our first day of orientation, one of our presenters said, “Now tomorrow the young return missionaries are going to teach you. They are bright and cheerful and energetic, and that can get really annoying at about 2:30 in the afternoon J  He went on to say that because of that, we could take a time out from them if we needed. It was a funny comment, but I thought it also might be somewhat true since their “audience” is made up of church members who are 60 or 70 years old with years more experience behind them than the young trainers. Surprisingly though, our (to us) very young teachers have done an amazing job of presenting their lessons so that even we seasoned adults have gained new insights and information. Our teacher this morning, Sister Pace, had served in Russia and our afternoon teacher, Elder Copans had served in Johannesburg. That was very helpful to us since he was able to give us some additional insights into what we might be doing there. We ended day two with a great fireside where Gerald Causse, first counselor in the presiding bishopric and his wife spoke.

Another great day; time to get some sleep in preparation for day 3.

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20, DAY 1 Has Finally Arrived!!!

January 20th has finally arrived and today we entered the Mission Training Center. Our kids had made a delicious bon voyage dinner last night and this morning they again gathered to have breakfast in Provo and J The food for the two meals we’ve had so far has also been really good, just like my sons said it would be.“take us to the MTC” so they were with us as we checked in, got our name tags, picked up orientation materials and found our way to our room. The room, by the way, is very nice, just like a small hotel room. I’m sure that the young elders and sisters are not in such comfortable accommodations

The orientation and today’s classes were great. The leaders are spiritual but still humorous; we laughed a lot. They said that the number of senior missionaries is increasing just as the number of young missionaries is increasing. Today we were two of the123 new senior missionaries checking in. It was so interesting to hear these couples and single sisters introduce themselves—they come from places all over the world to be trained to go to places all over the world. One set of missionaries literally was switching places—a couple from Salt Lake was headed to Samoa while a couple from Samoa was going to serve in Salt Lake. There was also an amazing variety of specific assignments. Some, like us, will be Church Education Missionaries while others were going be working with young single adults, supporting leadership, working in visitors centers or at the Polynesian Cultural Center, photographing old records for family history work, etc. etc. One couple who had both been educators were going to the Fiji Islands to teach classes to certify teachers so that their schools could be accredited.

It couldn’t be training without a little homework I guess, but it’s very light for the first day. We’ll do that studying now and then go to sleep early since we were too excited to sleep very soundly last night. Great day 1!!!