Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mafekeng and Gabarone Game Reserves

When we went to Botswana last week, we had a chance to go to two small game reserves, one at Mafakeng and one at Gabarone. Here are some of the pictures of the animals. Notice the size of the thorns on the bottom. The birds seem happy to roost in them though--probably protects them from larger birds and animals.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

One Third!

Today, July 20 2014, is the 1/3 mark of our mission. We entered the MTC on January 20 so we have served six months of our eighteen months. The first couple of months were definitely a learning experience, now we're feeling that we finally know the basics of what we should be doing. So I guess that gives us another year to support teachers in their teaching and students in their learning. While we're working, we're squeezing in as much Africa time and fun as we can. I've always wanted to go to Africa and now that we're here, we don't plan to get home and wish that we had seen it. In just over a week we'll take a few days to go stay at a bush camp and hopefully see lions in the wild!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Not long after we arrived in South Africa. We were told asked if we would be willing to change our assignment to the Botswana/Namimbia mission. The CES couple that had been assigned there, along with a number of young missionaries had been asked to leave the country because of problems in obtaining permanent residency (they had gone in on 90 day permits hoping the visas would come by the end of that time.) I could describe the reasons, but I've heard so many views that it's hard to tell which one might be the one or if they all contribute--their requirement that missionaries have a pastoral degree, unscrupulous people who have started churches in the country to get money from the people, lack of coordination between the immigration/labor sides of the process, trying to just figure out the process for a new mission, etc. Whatever the reason, we alone with two other couples were going to serve as test cases for a new pathway. We were willing to go and filled out tons and tons of paperwork for both Botswana and Namibia. Finally though, because almost every one of the missionaries who submitted applications were denied, they decided that they would stop the process until they figure out a better process. Our applications were never officially submitted, but we were told to plan to be in South Africa for the rest of our mission.

We are absolutely happy to be here and enjoy the work and the people, but we were curious to see Botswana and what a mission there might have been like. This week we got the chance to travel to Botswana to see what we might have missed. The couple who left before we arrived, had not been able to pack all of their things into their car (they have TOO much stuff!) so our original purpose was to go and retrieve the rest of their things from the now empty flat that they lived in (and in which we would have lived.) Somehow the fleet management people knew we were going, though, and asked that we drive back a new truck that had been purchased there and could not be used (the humanitarian couple that would have used it were also not able to get residency.)

On Thursday, the couple whose things we were retrieving drove us to Mafekeng and then we rode to Gabarone with the mission president and his wife. In the evening, we had dinner with them and the other remaining senior couple then we stayed overnight and got a chance to see the place that might have been home. I'll post a few pictures of the area. I'm sure we would have become attached to it, but at least from first impressions, I'm happy to be in Johannesburg.
 This is the apartment complex where we stayed in one of the apartments that had belonged to another couple. The remaining couple also live here. A lot of the houses have walls as you see, but not many had electric fencing or concertina like here. They have a couple of sets of young sister missionaries there and they walk to their appointments so I think the city must be statistically much safer that Joburg. That would be an advantage of course.
There were lots of street vendors and really simple businesses like they have here, but there were NO beggars on the street corner. Botswana produces a lot of diamonds and the people receive subsidies so maybe there are not so many as poor as here. It is also possible that panhandling is against the law there.
 The city is a lot smaller--200,000 people as opposed to 10 million in Johannesburg, but there is a downtown section with a few skyscrapers and some big office building. Traffic is not nearly as crazy as it is here.
This is the house where we would have lived--bigger than ours for sure, but no one else around that we would have known. There is a room for an office here so we would have always worked at home where here we go to the CES office at least a few times a week. I don't know if I would have liked being that isolated. Hard to know unless you try it I guess. The bare yards are typical of the dry, hot country. They try to keep even the bushes that would grow clear next to their houses, I understand because of snakes. I wouldn't have liked them for sure.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ignite the Light

This past weekend, the Young Single Adults of the Johannesburg Stake hosted a production Called "Ignite the Light." These are the same kids that we work with in Institute classes so we went to see them perform. We video-ed a little of the play and I've put the pieces together to show what they did. I was just using an iPhone so the quality isn't great, but you can get the idea. The break dancer was amazing! Unfortunately I was so amazed at his first performance that I didn't think to record it, and that one was even more amazing than the one shown. My favorite though was the last dance shown here where a bunch of South African kids dance like cowboys.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Letters From Home

I guess none of us realize how important it is to hear from friends or family until we have been away from them for a long time. Our family does a good job staying in touch using email, Instagram and especially Google Hangouts, but there is something about a physical letter in your hand that can't be replaced by technology. Several of our kids have sent us packets of letters from our grandchildren and we have been excited to receive every one. This week, we received letters from Rachel and her kids and have added them to our refrigerator and wall collection. We still have some laying on the counter that we will tape somewhere. Thanks for staying in touch family; it makes the distance seem not quite 10,000 miles. If someone who is close to you is away from home--on a mission, at school, in the military or for whatever reason, take some time and write them a letter. They will be so happy to receive it!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Monkey Sanctuary #2

I've posted about the monkey sanctuary before, but I wanted to make a second post about it. It has been one of our favorite places we have visited while we're here. We had friends visit from a nearby mission and they wanted to go, so of course we went again. The monkeys are so fascinating to watch and so intelligent. For example, they know that there are insects in a certain type of tree but that they can't get to them while the tree is living. So they break off parts of the tree and throw them down so that they will dry out. In a couple of weeks, they can get to the insects. The little guy in the pictures took the water bottle he is drinking from the hands of one of the visitors. He took the cap off, pulled up the center part that allows the water to come out and drank as much as he wanted. He then retrieved the cap that he had taken off, put it back on and offered it back to the person he had "borrowed it from."

As they emphasize, monkeys don't make good pets and many of these have been donated by people who thought they might be. One of the monkeys may have been a pet or in any case, he was very comfortable hanging around our group. For some reason, he decided I was his best friend that day and rode on my shoulder for almost the entire time we were in the park.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Seminary Super Saturday

We have been working for about the past six weeks on a “Mid-Year Convention” for our Seminary and Institute teachers and a “Seminary Super Saturday” for the Johannesburg stake Seminary program. The last few weeks have been especially busy with preparation. The events were planned for the same day, which worked really well for transportation (which is always a major issue here) and for the combined lunch and for a lot of reasons, but it gave us two, big separate events to plan at the same time for the same day.

We did all that we could, asked for support from the stake presidency and others and, of course, prayed for assistance. The result was more than we could have hoped for. Almost all of our teachers came along with a representative from their bishopric. The stake president and his counselor who we work closely with gave excellent talks and the other training that we planned went well also. The combined lunch was wild and crazy with more than 100 people picking up the box lunches we had prepared (also a lot of work) and eating outside picnic style.

We had almost as many students for Super Saturday as we have students—I think even the ones who don’t always make it to seminary thought the day sounded fun enough to make the effort to be there. The event started with a game and then the students heard counsel from their stake president. Following that, each of the seminary classes presented a short skit they had prepared based on a Book of Mormon account, but adapted for a modern day application. They were told that they could use music, props or humor as long as it was respectful and they did a great job. You would have had to be there to appreciate how funny and yet meaningful each skit was.

After the skits, we gave the students some beautiful bookmarks that our daughter Amie had created for them, based on the first half of the scriptures that they should be learning during this course of study. They were also given a set for the second half, but those were uncolored and unfinished, which we explained, would will give them a chance to create their own bookmarks while trying to memorize the accompanying scripture. A set of inexpensive colored pencils was also given to them. Our coordinator, who is a newly called Area Seventy then spoke to them briefly and all went home fed, taught and happy. We went home unfed, tired but still happy that everything went so well.