We have had another wonderful week in Swaziland and South Africa. But as you read through this post, you will find that President Mann told us that we would be soon transferred to another part of the mission. We knew this was probably going to happen, but until this week we did not know exactly when or where.
Monday was P-day and it was filled with running errands and shopping. It may be strange to talk about the Lord’s tender mercies when relating running errands, but I feel we really did have them today. We had a long list of things we needed to do, including getting some of my pants altered, finding batteries for my hearing aid, cashing a check – due to fraud this is not an easy task in Swaziland – and finding some buttons for Mary. We managed to get each task done with minimum problems – my batteries took the most effort but through the help of the gracious people here, it was accomplished.
I should mention here that parking on the street in Mbabane is very difficult – especially if, like my self, you are reluctant to parallel park. I think the problem is that it is free to park on the street so everyone owning a car that works in a shop parks on the street all day. Thankfully, because it costs to park there, there is usually plenty of parking at the mall. However on Monday some of the errands were in the city itself so I dropped Mary off near the shops and then later came back to pick her up.
Once we were through with our shopping, we came home and loaned our car to the elders so they could do what they needed to do and to go to a FHE. They were gone longer than expected but when they returned they showed up at the door with a beautiful Black Forest chocolate cake to share. We contributed some ice cream and we had a good time eating and talking about missionary work.
Tuesday I again went slashing at two homesteads with the elders. I held my own at the first place and because of our sharp slashers, we got the work done quickly. The second project was a very long driveway and after about 15 minutes I decided I was done for the day. One of the problems was that I had an older and duller slasher. But the real reason is that I am just not in as good of shape as I should be. What ever the reasons I stopped and sat in the car while they finished up the job.
In the evening we went up to Mbabane for couple’s night. As the elders were finishing the slashing it had started raining and by the time we got to Mbabane it had been pouring for a long time. This really cut into the attendance and there were only two couples who braved the storm. But the meeting went really well because both couples got a chance to participate and comment as much as they wanted. In some ways the smaller group was better than a large one. Elder and Sister Wilson are always well prepared so the meeting flows right along.
Wednesday was busy because there was a Zone Development Meeting at the Wilson’s in the morning and we drove to Newcastle in South Africa in the afternoon. Before the ZDM we fed 12 hungry elders breakfast. They ate dozens of eggs and pancakes, toast, fruit, and cinnamon rolls. Sister Wilson said that for the first time there was actually a little food left over.
We caravanned to Newcastle and everything went great until we got near Newcastle and the GPS got us lost twice. The first time elder Dygert, who had served in Newcastle got us back on track and the second time the guard at a gate told us that the terrible road we were traveling on had been closed for years. But we finally made it safely to the Uffen’s boarding where the elders put on their new soccer uniforms and headed off to play the other zone. We sat and talked with the Uffens about missionary work and what they are going to do when their mission ends in a month. We found out that Sister Uffen’s brother, Carl Wrigley, lives down the street from us and used to be in our Stake Presidency.
We had dinner with the couples from the two zones – the Ladysmith Wilsons, the Uffens, the Swaziland Wilsons, the Klingers and ourselves – and President and Sister Mann. The food was OK but the best part of the evening was sitting around a large round table and talking about missionary work, the elders, and our families. There is a special comradery among the couples that is different from the one you have with friends at home. I am sure it is because of the special experience we share as couples serving in a foreign land. Since we do not get together too often, we did not want the evening to end but of course it did.
On Thursday we had a two Zone conference with the emphasis being on becoming consecrated missionaries. To dedicate ourselves to working more diligently by being more obedient to the mission rules outlined in the handbook. To put aside the habits that keep us attached to the world. While the work has really picked up, President Mann wants it to move to the next level. It reminded me of the talks by Elder Maxwell about committing completely to the Lord that I had read before we came on the mission.
President and Sister Mann are perfect companions. They are serious about the work but also want to make it enjoyable. They can be firm but you can always feel their great love for the Lord, the missionaries and the members. They can be folksy but always with a purpose. Thinking about their style brings the song “A spoon full of sugar” to mind. We are blessed to be serving almost all our mission under their guidance.
After the conference president Mann talked us and told us that we would be going to Richard’s Bay to replace the Hafens when they leave in April. I must confess that I was hoping that we would go to Newcastle and replace the Uffens but if the Lord needs us in Richard’s Bay we are ready to serve there. We hear that it is a new district and there is a lot of work to do in training leadership and strengthening some very small twigs – they are hardly big enough to be branches.
We again caravanned home and this time we took another route that led us through some of the most beautiful country I have seen since being here. Mainly it was emerald colored, rolling, high country plains that was broken by mountain tops and tabled mesas. For the first time we saw large herds of cattle and sheep and along parts of the road were masses of white and pink cosmos in full bloom. These are growing wild and in some places there were acres of them. It is truly a marvelous country to drive through. I would like to go back some time when we are not in any hurry so we could stop and take pictures.
Friday morning I took the elders up to Manzini to get their bakkie back. We had to make the trip twice because they forgot their credit card and since the cards are vehicle specific we could not use ours. It gave me a good chance to get to know Elder Murch better and talk about how they felt about their mission experiences.
Later in the afternoon the elders pulled a prank on us – well actually more on me. They showed up at our boarding and said that they had just driven around the corner from the garage when the bakkie broke down again and they had to ride a Kombi home. Without any comment I tossed them the keys to our car and we talked about the inefficiency of the repairs here. After about 15 minutes of this they confessed it was a prank and that bakkie was parked up at the Wilsons. We thought this was really funny and it showed that they think enough of us to come up with something like that.
Friday night the Ezulwini elders invited us to their boarding for a braai – that is an African BBQ. They supplied the dinner and Mary baked brownies. They fixed a typical Afrikaan meal of grilled borworst and pap – a corn based food that looked much like mashed potatoes. The borworst was great and the pap was different. I think I would like the pap if it had some kind of seasoning or gravy. We were touched that they felt close enough to us to do this. We are certainly going to miss elders Eddy and Murch – as well as the other elders in the zone – when we leave for Richard’s Bay.
Saturday Mary had a Relief Society Anniversary meeting to go to in Mbabane. It was to start at noon and I figured it would run until about 2:30. On the way there we turned off the highway and went to see what Mvubu Falls was like. We had seen the sign for it any time we went up to Mbabane but either we did not have time or it was raining so we did not stop. But this time we left early enough and it was a beautiful day so we were able to stop.
The falls was more a series of riffles that ran over rocks and down a long slope. We were able to park in an area that was covered with trees and walk along the banks for about 100-150 yards. The sound was much more impressive than the falls but the beautiful location made it well worth our time.
When we got to Mbabane chapel we were surprised to find Elder and Sister Markum, the CES couple, holding a training meeting. We did not realize they were in Swaziland. They were busy so we did not have time to talk but made tentative plans to have dinner together with them and the Wilsons.
While Mary went to her meeting, I went to the mall to check our e-mail and then I had lunch at KFC. KFC was packed with people. Many were just having an ice cream break but still I was surprised at the number of customers they had on a Saturday.
The meeting lasted until 3:15 and then the Markums picked us up to go to dinner at Summerfields. I guess the Mickelsen’s raved about the wonderful dinner they had when they were up here a couple of weeks ago. From now on any couples coming to Swaziland will probably want to go there and eat out over the water. It is a nice experience but we have eaten there enough that some of the mystique of the experience has gone. Good food, good service, and good friends – that does make for a nice dinner.
I continue to enjoy going to the PEC meetings at Mbabane. The president keeps them focused on people and when they talk about programs it is in relationship to how it will help the members. They were especially concerned today about fellowshipping new members and investigators. They discussed the importance of having a home teacher already called when someone is being baptized.
The sacrament theme was Relief Society. The first sister spoke about how Relief Society helped her feel welcome when she joined the church. The last speaker gave an excellent talk about the Relief Society and charity. She was both funny and serious so her talk was interesting and yet informative.
Mary taught the literacy course to our three students. Since we only have 3 more weeks to get them ready to take over we tried to find a time when we could hold a second lesson each week but nothing seemed to fit each schedule. Mary assigned one of the ladies to teach the lesson next week.
Mary also taught Relief Society. The lesson was on the Gift of the Holy Ghost. When I asked her how she had done, she said that she felt it was about 80% good.
Elder Nkele taught the priesthood lesson and challenged the men to live so that God would bless the branch. I am rather worried that there is so much talk about home teaching and missionary work that the people have stopped listening. I think sometimes less is better but will support the effort to increase member participation in missionary work.
The best news of the day was that Mbabane has started to clear up the ordination problem. With Manzini and Ezulwini done, if we could get Mbabane done, we could leave Swaziland feeling like we had accomplished what we were sent here to do. Once there are computers linked to Johannesburg in two of the chapels, the problem will hopefully be solved once and for all.
This Sunday was especially long for the Wilsons. They left at 6:30 to go Nhlangano for their meetings and then on a terrible 35K road to Ge-Ge (pronounced gay-gay) to meet with a family that includes the first person to be baptized in Swaziland. They have been holding prayer and singing meetings at their homestead and said they had up to 50 people coming to them. The Wilsons went out to see if a small branch could be started and to share the sacrament. After meeting with the couple, they decided the missionaries would come out once a month to hold a meeting and teach, but only if they had complete families and not just the gogos in the area. Hopefully some day there will be a strong branch or ward of the church there.
When we started to fix dinner we called the Wilsons and asked if they would like to share it with us. We were pretty sure they would not have had any time to eat much during the day and we were right. We had an excellent spaghetti dinner and talked about the events of the day. We are going to miss the Wilsons when we leave.
After they left we called the elders and invited them for ice cream when they were finished with their teaching for the evening. They were happy to come by and were able to give us the information about Nathi’s ordination. So for once we are ahead of the curve in getting information to Johannesburg.
So ends another week in paradise. It is hard to think of our mission as any kind of sacrifice. The blessings that we receive each day, the wonderful elders and couples we serve with, the chance to help in service projects, going to meetings and sharing the spirit, and all the other things that come with serving a mission far outweighs being away from home and family. We probably think about our family more when we are on missions than we do when we are at home. We include them individually each day in our prayers. We include things that they tell us in their letters that are important in their lives. We know that the Lord will bless them and us as we serve here in South Africa. Missions are truly one of God’s tender mercies that he makes available to all who desire to serve.
As we say in the South Africa Durban mission — Hard Work + Exact Obedience + Faith = Miracles — and we see this coming true here every day.