Friday, April 18, 2014

Day to Day

            Here’s a little post on what we do from day to day as Church Education System missionaries. I’m sure that these patterns would vary somewhat from one CES mission to another, but many of our activities would be common for such missions.
            We get up each morning at about 6:00 and go for a walk for about an hour, come home and have breakfast (Elder Davie is always the breakfast cook just as he was at home.) Sometimes we study in the morning together, but we usually do it later in the day. At about 8:00, we leave to go the CES office, which is on the same grounds as the MTC training center in Roodepoort. We are not required to be at the office, but because we don’t have a reliable Internet connection at home, and since so much of our work is done online, we need the Internet. Also, that is the way we keep in touch with our family so we do most of that there as well. We do have a mobile wi-fi that we use at home. Sometimes it works quite well and other times it is in and out. They are building a new cell tower at the end of our street so hopefully that will help. The data is also purchased in a pay-as-you-go system. It’s expensive and it often runs out when we don’t expect it. At the office, we set up seminary and institute classes in an online record keeping system called WISE. In WISE we record names, attendance and assignments completed for home study students.
            As you would expect, the system can only find students by the name recorded in church records. Just trying to read their names can be a puzzle because records are almost always handwritten, sometimes badly, and because we are just not used to the letter combinations possible with tribal based names. Students often have several names, which can be a mixture of African and English, and then they may use none of those but instead a nickname that they have gone by all of their lives, sometimes so long that they have no idea what their name is on the church records. So some are difficult to find because of that and others may not have their records in the stake. I still have a number of names in those categories that I’m trying to do some detective work.
            Often the most difficult part of recording is actually getting the records. Some teachers are just not used to doing administrative work as part of a calling, but others have a challenge in getting records to us. They don’t have access to computers or scanners or even phones that can snap pictures and send them, so a few of the records are picked up in person. Others just take lots of reminding. We are also responsible for making sure teachers have the books and supplies they need to teach their classes so there is some messenger work in that way.
            One of the great challenges in our area is transportation—distances are great and many teachers and students rely on taxis or combies to get anywhere. They are not sedan type taxis like in the states, but usually twelve or 15 passenger vans that are stuffed with half again as many riders as will fit. Because of transportation, we give three separate in-services during the month to try to help teachers learn to teach in a way that involves the student in learning and teaching so that they become independent learners and not only know information but understand principles and doctrines and will hopefully choose to apply them in their lives. During parts of the month, preparation for and presentation of those classes take up a good part of our time.
            A little side responsibility is inspecting the flats (apartments) of the full time missionaries. That only takes a couple days out of our month and it is fun to meet the young elders and see how they’re doing. There are no sister missionaries in Johannesburg because the country is not considered safe enough for the young women to be out unaccompanied in villages and townships as they would need to be. In every case except one, the apartments have been well cared for. We’ll go next week and see if the questionable one has improved.
            Saving the best till last in this overview of our work here, I’ll say that the part we enjoy the most is going to visit the classes and meeting the kids. Right now we have eighteen seminary programs and seven institute programs that we visit. We like kids wherever they are in the world, but seeing the challenges that a lot of these young people face and how they are still happy and hopeful and progressing really humbles you. Also being in the classroom settings that vary from the typical chapel classroom to the humblest of homes is such a dramatic illustration that things don’t really matter that much. Some of these young learners would impress anyone with their knowledge and their drive to progress. We just pray for their country, that jobs and opportunities will be there for these young people. There are several programs here that are meant to support that, and we are just learning about a new more orchestrated effort that is being developed that may help young church members find pathways to education and jobs. We will have a small role in that effort and look forward to learning more.

            So that is a little overview of what we are doing day to day when we’re not posting but just working--recording, requesting, planning, teaching, driving, inspecting, administrating, visiting, supporting and best of all learning.

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