Monthly Archives: June 2009

Catch-Up!

It is amazing how easy it is to get behind in my journal keeping.

Friday was spent getting a lot of things ready for Youth meeting at Esikhawini and the many things that we have to do on Saturday.

We thought that most of the Mutual time at Esikhawini would be taken up with writing the roadshow but it turned out that two show up with good scripts and decided with the one Mary had written, they only needed to meet on Saturday and do some combining. So we spent the rest of Mutal working on the Articles of Faith and playing some games. We were really surprised when some of the youth brought treats for after the meeting – a true first. It looks like the new YW president is really going to make a difference in the branch youth.

I did get one other surprise. At one point Mary said “We need to take a break. Elder Pier is in charge of games.” Since Elder Pier had no idea that he was in charge of anything, I did some quick thinking and came up with a couple of games that got them outside and reduced their energy level.

Saturday was full for us. It started with the three roadshow writers and a couple of other people getting together and coming up with a finished script. Mary had taken her computer so she could type it up right there. After their meeting I took Mary over to Port Durnford so she could do the same thing there and I hurried back to do some training with the new counselor in the presidency. Although he bunked me – that is he did not show up – I blame myself for not calling him. I did not duplicate the mistake with my next training session and called to make sure the elder’s president was coming. We had a good hour of training. Brother Nkhosi is very teachable and wants to do his calling well. Hopefully over the next few months with the Lords help we can fully train him for his important calling.

After that meeting I dashed back to Port Durnford where Mary had met with Gabi and they had written the script for their roadshow. We immediately headed back to Esikhawini where we had schedualed an English class. Although many people showed interest last week, no one showed up. So we stayed for 30 minutes and then left.

Earlier we had called the Bartholomews and arranged to meet them for dinner at a Thai restaurant. We did not know exactly where it was but managed to a meeting place and then follow them to the restaurant. It was right down on the water over-looking the small boat harbor. The food and service was excellent and so was the view. We had a great time talking about what went on this week and what we hoped would go on in the coming weeks. We took a full 2 hours to eat and talk, it was a good way to end a rather busy Saturday.

25 June 2009 – Thursday

Today we taught our English class at the Mzama’s boarding in Port Durnford. There were only two people there but that is OK because it is not about numbers but about providing the opportunity. We were surprised that brother Themba was not there because he has never missed before. We hope he is OK.

After the class we took Tandi and her sister to the chapel for Youth meeting. The whole meeting was spent working on a script for the Roadshow next month. Mary came up with most of the ideas but a number of the youth joined in. Hopefully we can get them excited enough about this to get everyone involved.

We ran a little long so we rushed home so I could drop off Mary and then go to the District Council Meeting. I continue to be impressed by President Baldwin – his ability to make decisions and to lead. He just seems to have a spiritual strength that is not really noticeable -at least it was not to me – until you really get to know him.

We discussed many different items that were important to the district. He assigned the members of the district council in the branches on the 2nd Sunday. This should be a busy day for me because we also have a branch conference at Port Durnford. But I do look forward to carrying a message about the blessings of tithing and fast offerings to the members. I think it is a commandment that they would greatly bless their lives and branches if they decided to live it.

24 June 2009

24 June 2009 – Wednesday

It was a very normal morning around the boarding. I started to catch up on the 80 plus pictures that I had not downloaded from the camera – almost a months worth I am afraid. Mary made some Rice Krispy treats to take to DDM.

DDM is always a spiritual event for us. To share the experiences of the missionaries, join them in song, recite the D&C 4…I always want to linger on the part that says ‘Therefore, oh ye that embark in the service of God; see that you serve him with all thy heart, might, mind and strength…etc.’ Putting your hands willing to the plow means you are covenanting to keep them there until the work is done. A couple of weeks ago, Elder Schlenker – the district leader – had committed each companionship to try and find one new family to teach each week. That is a family headed by a baba. So far they have managed to do that but most of them have not yet come to church. Hopefully this dedication to this goal will produce results that will greatly help the branches.

The Bartholomews were a little late getting to DDM because they had some problem with some charges to their credit card. Credit card theft is one of the major problems here. Most of the couples have it happen at least once. This one was strange because it happened at a website that sells LDS music. Although it was probably just a mistake, the Bs did not take a chance and cancelled their card. This of course means they must now wait until a new one is sent to them.  

The last thing we did in DDM was to talk about a special finding experience that we have had on our mission. Listening to some of the ones the missionaries had was a special experience. All of them talk about how the Lord either led them to someone or led someone to them. We were able to share our experience about our neighbors and how a disagreeable situation turned into a missionary opportunity.

Mary’s treats were a big success – the elders made them quickly disappear.

Later we went to PEC with president Machaka and afterwards he I had a private talk about a couple of disciplinary actions that will probably need to take place. After that I got him to talk about his own country and some other things. I think it was the longest discussion I have ever had with him. He has a great testimony and is trying to serve the members of the PD branch.

We stopped by the Esikhawini chapel on the way home and added our garbage to the compost pile. I am afraid no one else is doing much to help there. We also picked up the remaining volumes of “The Work and the Glory.”

Mary fixed a nice chicken dinner but as we were eating she managed to swallow a piece the wrong way. This has happened about once a month or so since we have been here. It really causes distress and she has to stop eating.

However in an hour or so – and much hacking and spitting – it usually clears up and she is tired but fine.But last night she could not get it to clear up and for hours she could not get her throat to work right. She spent a good part of the time standing over the bathroom sink trying to stop choking and to clear her throat.

It finally seemed to clear up some but at about 11 she woke me up and said it was not getting better and would I give her a blessing. I got the oil and anointed and sealed the blessing. The Lord told her that through her faith she would be able to go to sleep – I was not prompted to tell her that her throat would be made well before she was asleep, only that she would be able to sleep – and that she would wake feeling fine.

The blessing did not at first seem to do much – she was soon back visiting the bathroom sink – but when I asked her if she wanted me to stay up with her she told me no – that the blessing would take care of the problem. That is how great my dear wife’s faith is in the power of the priesthood. She did soon go to sleep and when she woke the next morning she was fine.

23 June 2009 –

23 June 2009 – Tuesday

Most of our day was spent taking a Port Durnford sister who has AIDS and her mother to the Government hospital so she could see a doctor and get some medicine. Since she can not walk and does not have a wheelchair, she can not take public transportation. Even if she had a wheelchair she probably could not get on and off the Kombis and buses she would have to take. Besides that the public bus drivers were on strike and all the Kombis – or taxis as they usually call them – were pretty much full. The bus drivers tend to strike on a regular basis – that is once or twice a month. The regular riders – who usually buy a monthly pass – are unhappy of course. Not only do they then have to try and get a place on the now over stuffed kombis but they have to pay for the privilege.

So we were up at 4:30 so we could be at her house by 6 so she could be at the hospital by 7:00. We arrived just after 7:00 and about 5 hours later we were on our way back to her homestead. It was a nice day and we both had books to read – we are re-reading “The Work and the Glory – so the time we had to wait went by rather quickly.I know that some people might be worried about transporting an AIDS patient in their car, but for some reason it does not bother either Mary or myself. I am not sure that I would feel the same way about a seriously ill TB patient – one of the big killers of those with AIDS – but this sister – other than her not being able to walk – is really in fairly good health. 

When Mary tried to work on the 1920 Utah census tonight, she found that it was already done. It seems everyone wanted to work on it. I still had a couple of batches that I had downloaded a couple of days ago so I could work off line and was able to finish them. I hope I was not holding up the whole census.The ability to download up to 5 batches and work on them offline is a great blessing. That means if you want to you can take work on them while you wait for the doctor, or at the airport, etc. It gives everyone who is interested a way to serve during those times that are often wasted. I just wish I knew another language because there are many different ones needing indexing.

22 June 2009

22 June 2009 – Monday

We made it a ‘Let’s see part of South Africa” P-day by heading up the coast to the St Lucia Estuary – Saint Lusha here – to see some of the sights.  St Lucia Estuary is just North of where the Umfolozi river comes into the sea and extends for a good distance.

We ended up only seeing a small part of it including a long section of white sand beach that stretched from one headland to another. About the only people on the beach were surf fishermen. No surfers and no sun bathers. As we walked along the sand dunes and the beach I wished I had brought swim trunks – not so much so I could go swimming but so that I could catch a few rays. Next time I will be sure to do that.

I had a nice talk with one of the fishermen. I mentioned that my mother and aunt loved to fish the California surf. We talked about what they caught, the large amount of sharks and barracuda that were just off the beach, and fishing in general. When I asked if the presence of sharks is what kept the surfers away, he said no. He said that there had never been anyone attacked along this stretch of beach. I decided I would not see if I could be the first.

We then visited the Crocodile exhibit and found it rather interesting but not something we will rush back to do again. We will come back and take the coast road up to Cape Vidal because we were told we will see many animals along the way. We also want to see more of Lake St. Lucia.

We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant and had Kingklip for the first time since we left Swaziland. The food was excellent, the service was very good, and we sat outside to enjoy the soft ocean breeze that kept things cool. As we were leaving, Mary remarked that St. Lucia seemed like a nice place to live. I think it reminded me a lot of Redondo and Hermosa Beach before they became popular. All in all we had an enjoyable day of travel and sight seeing.

In the evening I continued to work on Indexing – Utah 1920. I find it is a good way to use some of the time in the evenings when we are in our boarding.

During the day we received a letter from President Mann about a special event that is coming up in a couple and how all the missionaries might prepare for it. Here is what is going to happen:

What happens this September & October? An event that happens only once every two years. (It happens a little bit every year in these months but every second year it is huge.)In two cycles, just a little over two months:

1.       We will lose 25% of our missionaries. Our most seasoned and experienced. Those who brought us through the transition to where we are today.

2.       25% of our missionaries will be brand new and another 25% will be training. This means 50% of the mission will be either training or being trained.

3.       We go from being a very experienced mission to being a very young mission.

4.       We launch the next generation of the South Africa Durban Mission.

President Mann then goes on and outlines ideas on how all the missionaries can make this possible stumbling block a great stepping stone for the mission. He explains how by making the missionary boardings, cars and personal lives – including preparing, finding and teaching – examples of a true Preach My Gospel mission we can raise the bar so that all the new missionaries will learn from the beginning how to be excellent, positive, and productive in all aspects of missionary life.

As I read this letter that went out to each missionary, I once more saw and felt that a prophet of God called the Manns to serve here in the Durban Mission at this time.

21 June 2009

21 June 2009 – Sunday

We had a very busy morning because we had to pick up the Esikhawini elders at their boarding and take them to church. Since we needed to be there in time for PEC at 8:00 that meant we had to leave our boarding before 6:45. But everything went smoothly and president Malinga held a good PEC meeting. After the meeting I met with brother Khosi , the elders president, and we agreed that he would come on Saturday at 1:00 for some training. So we are set for a busy Saturday.

When the meetings were finished, there started an interesting series of events.  I left Mary at Esikhawini and rushed off to Port Durnford to help elder B sustain and set apart the two counselors that were approved by President Mann. I was almost there when my cell phone rang and the Barts told me that they had been at the PD chapel but no one showed up. So they had left and gone to the Esikhawini chapel to set apart the new counselor.

I immediately turned around and got back just in time to say goodbye to the Bs who had finished with the setting apart and was heading to their branch meetings.  As I was sitting in sacrament meeting during the opening prayer, my cell phone went off. Usually I remember to turn it off but this day I forgot. I was rather embarrassed as I tried to silence it without any success. When the prayer was over I went out to find that the Bartholomews had called to tell me that one of the counselors in Port Durnford had come late and they were heading back to sustain and set him apart. I decided I would not join them.

The Young Women put on their Sacrament Meeting program and they did great. Some of the talks were a little short and some were hard to hear, but they all did their best and the spirit was strong. At the end of the meeting the traditional Fathers Day gifts were handed out.

During Sunday School and Priesthood, president Malinga kept me rather busy answering questions and helping him with things that he was not sure how to do. I love this man because he desires to do what the Lord expects of him and he wants to do it right. It is obvious that he loves the members of the branch and knows many of them very well. I think in 6 months the Esikhawini branch will be more than able to stand on its own – which they may have to do if no new couples are called to the mission. At the moment, other than the couple coming in July, there is no indication that any more are coming.

They do have the advantage of having 10 fathers – Port Durnford does not have one family headed by a father – and the members own 7 or 8 cars – again PD does not have one.

After the block meeting Mary held her first piano class and there 6 people stayed for it. A couple of them have had some lessons and one even has a keyboard. Mary thinks that by the end of the year someone should be ready to start playing for sacrament.  It is wonderful to see how the members are interested in learning and growing. It will be interesting to see how many come to our English classes.

While Mary was teaching piano I answered questions that President Malinga had about some things. It is a shame he works shifts because if he was available each Sunday the branch would greatly benefit. But to look on the bright side, this way his counselors will get some good opportunities to develop as leaders.

While I was doing the Utah indexing this afternoon, I came across a last name that I thought was Flyyare and of course got a nice pink error message. I looked and looked and that is what certainly seemed to be there. But when Mary looked at it she immediately said – “That is Flygare, I have seen it before.” When I changed the spelling, the pink disappeared. That is why Mary is an arbitrator and I am still doing indexing.

In the evening we went over to the Bartholomews’ to take part in their Sunday dinner for the missionaries. The Bs seem to greatly enjoy feeding the elders and the elders certainly enjoy the weekly feasts I am sure it will continue until they go home. It is a good way to see how the elders are doing, learn what is going on in the branches, and to just enjoy the gathering of missionaries.

During the day I got a nice Father’s Day e-mail from Jim with a short sound clip from Olivia wishing me Happy Father’s Day. It is amazing what you can do today with e-mail and I will save that clip as I would save a card.

20 June 2009

20 June 2009 – Saturday

What goes around, comes around – so the saying goes. The other day I called Tom and Shauna without thinking about the time difference and so it was about 2 am there. Luckily they did not answer so perhaps they slept right through it. Well this morning at 1 am the Vonage phone rang and of course it woke me up. It was a wrong number. It took me about 30 minutes to go back to sleep.

My thought to ponder today from President Uchtdorf’s recent conference talk:“The more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more we extend ourselves to others. We become peacemakers in our homes and families, we help our fellowmen everywhere, and we reach out in merciful acts of kindness, forgiveness, grace, and long-suffering patience…This is the peaceful way of the follower of Jesus Christ.” (pg 76)

A headline in Mormon News- ‘Global hunger reaches 1 billion.”

This strikes close to home because today we will be delivering two food orders to members in Port Durnford. One of them includes a young woman who is dying of AIDS and has not been able to walk for a number of months. She really wants to live but knows that her life expectancy is very short.  A woman born in South Africa in 2008 is expected to live 41 plus years. In Swaziland it is just over 31 years.

We bought the food we needed and then stopped by the Richards Bay chapel where there was to be a special CES – no one can get use to S&I – meeting for the youth. I was the first one there with keys so I got things opened up and then dashed to Port Durnsford. We now know our way around well enough to get to most member’s home. I even managed not to get stuck in visiting one of the homesteads that is out on the plains. After we were through there we headed back to Esikhawini where they were to hold a presidency meeting. Even though one of the counselors could not come because of work, it went well and a lot got talked about. I made arrangements to have a training meeting with the new 2nd counselor.

After that meeting it was back to the Richards Bay chapel where we arrived just in time to help the Barts give out the pizza and help clean up. The meeting was well attended and thanks to a self-less sister from Esikhawini who has a car, most of the youth were able to be there. 

During the evening I continued to work on indexing. Between the Pennsylvania and Utah 1920 census, I found that the one from Utah was much easier to read.

19 June 2009

Along with the normal things I do most mornings I have decided to try to add doing some indexing. If the writing is legible I can do 50 names in about 45 minutes. I think it fits into our call as missionaries because we are helping to do missionary service for the dead. Isn’t it wonderful that through the web anyone can do indexing from anywhere in the world. I am doing 1920 Pennsylvania and Mary is arbitrating 1920 Utah.

I also try to read any new stories on the Church website. They are all uplifting and some give me ideas on things we can do here in South Africa. I especially enjoyed a story in Mormon Times called “He Healed the Hurt” about Brigham Young as a father. Once we got out and around, we spent most of the morning doing some errands that just seem to build up. They included buying more electricity. As I think I have mentioned before, you buy blocks of electricity and on the receipt is a pin number that you have to put in the meter in your boarding. If you let it run down to 0 – everything shuts off. I also needed to buy air time for our cell phone – it is amazing how quickly we use up airtime and of course if we run out we can not call anyone but they can call us. We both also had our hair cut. I was rather worried because it was Friday morning and I thought it might be busy. It was – it turned out that there were some major school graduations later in the day and moms and daughters wanted to make sure they looked their best at the ceremonies – but since we only wanted hair cuts they were able to take us right in. Total cost for the two of us $10 – that is less than we paid in Indonesia. Our afternoon was busy. President Machaka called and asked me to stop by before we went to youth in Esikhawini. Of course I said yes and we talked for a while about some welfare needs. We then went to Esikhawini where we were happily surprised when a good number of young people came on time. So did the new YW president and her counselor – now we just need to get an active YM president.

Since something was scheduled for 4:00 we were only had time for a short meeting and so Mary spent it all on the road show. They decided on a theme – The Title of Liberty – and a group to write it. There was also so discussion of those who could help with the scenery and costumes. We only have 5 weeks to get it all together and that is a little tight so everyone will have to work together.

Once that was settle we gave those who thought they knew the first 6 Articles of Faith. One young man almost got them 100% right and Mary convinced me to give him his reward. Sister Khamalo then said them all perfectly so she got the bonus for being the first. A couple of others passed off the first two and now only need to work on the next 4 to qualify.

After our meeting, we got to hear from brother Mthalane who just returned from serving a full mission in Ghana. He is the first full-time missionary to serve from Esikhawini. He answered questions about his mission for about 30 minutes. He told a couple of conversion stories. It seems in Ghana that the people put a lot of faith in dreams and so a number of times the missionaries were told that the person had dreamed they were coming or something they dreamed happened as they were investigating. He mentioned that one of the most difficult changes that an investigator must accept is that we are not in any way Pentecostal – even in the Catholic Churches they play drums and may speak in tongues. He also said that there was no way for him to truly explain all the blessings of a mission to anyone who has not been on one. He is a very strong young man and should be a great help to the branch.

After Mutual and the missionary discussion, Mary gave her music student a short lesson. She has two others who want to learn – one even has a keyboard. So as soon as Mary can get some more course materials she will start teaching them. When she was done with the lesson we once again got to drive home in the dark but there were no burning fields to awe us tonight.

After dinner as I read the April 1998 talk of Elder Maxwell and came across this: Our Heavenly Father has described His vast plan for His children by saying, “Behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39; emphasis added). Consider the significance of the Lord’s use of the word work. What He is doing so lovingly and redemptively is, nevertheless, work–even for Him! We, likewise, speak of “working out our salvation,” of the “law of the harvest,” and of the “sweat of the brow” (see Moses 5:1; see also Inspired Version, Gen. 4:1). These are not idle phrases. Instead, they underscore the importance of work. In fact, brethren, work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity.

Thus I speak to you as good young men, including seven fine grandsons listening tonight, among them two missionaries and three recently ordained deacons. I remind you that the gospel of work is part of “the fulness of the gospel.” Though joyful, missionary work is work. Though joyful, temple work is work. Alas, a few of our underwhelmed youth work all right, but mostly at trying to please themselves.

The reason I put this quote in my journal is that I have been trying to get away from saying I work in the temple and instead say I serve in the temple. Elder Maxwell’s excellent talk reminds me that while work is a four letter word, it is a good four letter word. So I guess I will go back to working in the temple, doing missionary work, and work at indexing.

Naartjie Season: Has come to the Eastern Cape and so we can buy rather freshly picked naartjies for very little. Today we picked up 3 big bags of this delicious close cousin to the tangerine for just R50 and took them to Mutual – everyone loved them.

18 June 2009

Today is our 49th wedding anniversary and while I did not forget the date, I did manage to forget to buy a present for my beautiful bride. My only excuse is that we are together almost 24/7 but there are times – last night at the mall was a perfect example- when we are not together. Mary surprised me with a beautiful tie from Swaziland that has the big five on it. She had sister Wilson buy it and the Bs brought it back with them when they visited Swazi about a month ago. I can not even take her out to dinner because there is no time.

I have been reading and re-reading Elder Maxwell’s talk from the Oct 2000 conference and have tried to remember some of his great one-liners:

God’s plan is not a plan of pleasure; it is the “plan of happiness.”

Brothers and sisters, there are so many personalized prisons!

Granted, some sincerely wish for more power in order to do good, but only a few individuals are good enough to be powerful.

The rouge of recognition is so easily smeared away.

How ironical that some go “into a far country,” leaving the nourishing family garden –in which there may be some weeds – and go into a desert with its tumbling sagebrush.

The distance to “a far country” is not measured by miles but how far our hearts and minds are from Jesus! Fidelity, not geography, really determines the distance!

Love, patience and meekness can be just as contagious as rudeness and crudeness.

Yet some proudly live “without God in the world,” with gates and doors locked from the inside!

Moments are the molecules that make up eternity!

Spirit sons and daughters of God need not be permanently put down when lifted up by Jesus’ Atonement.

By paying more attention to what we are rather than exclusively to what we do, our public and private persons will be the same – the man or the woman of Christ.

Isn’t it marvelous, brothers and sisters, that God, who knows everything, still spends time listening to our prayers?

Each of those are worth pondering. My favorite – probably because it strikes close to me is :”The distance to “a far country” is not measured by miles but how far our hearts and minds are from Jesus! Fidelity, not geography, really determines the distance!”

The lost electric razor cord episode: Yesterday I realized that my electric razors – I brought two – were probably running low on charge. So I went into the kitchen and looked in the bowl where I knew the recharge cord was and found that it was not there. Over the course of the morning I spent about an hour looking everywhere I thought it could possibly be but to no avail. I decided that I would either have to try and buy a replacement cord or get some regular razors.

This morning I could tell one of the razors was about to stop so I once again started looking. After much frustration, I went back to the bowl where it should have been – and where I had looked a number of times – and lo and behold there it was. Now I am sure I could not have missed it all the previous times I looked so some gremlin must have moved it and then put it back early this morning.

Vincent – our excellent Telekom man – came by at about 9:30 to find out why we did not have any internet. As he was working and not getting any closer to figuring out what was wrong, I asked if it could be because we had used up our 3 gigs of download space. It turned out that was exactly what the problem was. We – but mainly me – had used our month allotment of data in two weeks. In fact we had used 4.5 gigs. So I had to get on the phone and agree to buy another 3 gigs of data to keep having access to the internet. I am going to have to be more selective in the size of files I download

Once that was fixed we headed off to the bank so I could cash a check from the district. Unfortunately someone had marked it for deposit only and they could not cash it. Since we were to have District Council Meeting tonight, we decided we would have a nice lunch at the mall instead of dinner. Mary chose ‘Mug and Bean’ and so there we went. When we tried to drive into the parking structure the lady in front of us could not get in because the automatic parking machine was out of tickets. So line of  cars waiting to get in had to back out and find somewhere else to park. I decided about then it might be just one of those days.

After lunch we were too early to go to Port Durnford so I suggested we go to the fabric store and buy some print fabric to make into wall hangings. We ended up blowing almost $18 on three large pieces that should just about cover all the large areas that are still blank. My contribution is bright orange with wildlife scenes.

We then were off to our English class. As usual we had our three stalwards – including brother Thebe who just started taking the lessons. We were joined by a friend of Thandi Mzama who is also starting to take the lessons. So our class has become a missionary tool.  

Since we could give her a ride and her mother could take care of the children, Thandi came with us to mutal – the first time she has been there since we arrived. Her non-LDS friend also came along. It turned out Quinton was not in town so we still have never had both of them there at once but he promised to be there next week.

By 3:45 – it is supposed to start at 3:30 – we ended up with something over a dozen youth there. I stood outside and made sure they went in as they arrived. Mary appointed Siya to conduct the meeting and he did a pretty good job. The first thing was the opportunity to recite the first 6 Articles of Faith and Gabi did it! Since she was the first – and it turned out only – one to do it, I gave her a bonus of an extra R20 and she was thrilled.

The rest of the meeting was used to start working on the Roadshow and I contributed an outline using Nephi being tied to the mast on the way to the promised land. I think it can be a good one and they put together a committee to write and oversee the program. All in all it turned out to be a very good meeting.

Earlier we found out that the District meeting was cancelled for tonight and so we could just head home. On the way we saw another couple of cane fields being burned. I am sure we will see lots of those before we head back home. Of course the sugar folks have this down to a science. The field we saw burning last night was fully cut by the end of today and they will start loading tomorrow. In one or two days the field will be emptied of cane and probably within a week it will be ready to start growing the next batch. I need to get a picture of a loaded cane truck – they are huge and obviously there are no litter laws about how much can fall out or fly off when they are moving.

I spent most of the evening reading and writing. I need to come up with another scenario for the Esikhawini youth. I have a couple of ideas but neither of them really seem to work. So I will need to think and pray some more so I can hopefully have something by the time we meet tomorrow.

17 June 2009 – Wednesday

I was not sure I would be able to post this evening because we lost our internet earlier in the day. Maybe it was the Lord telling me I was spending too much time on the web, but since I was trying to access a conference report when it crashed perhaps it was the other guy?

We went to District Development meeting this morning. Sister Pier’s slightly burned and undercooked banana bread/cake was a hit with the elders. But of course the elder tend to devour anything sweet. But seriously it was very good and amazingly moist. They ate most of it before the meeting because one of the group of elders was late. Elder Makono was taking his test for his learner’s permit. Unfortunately he crashed and burned – don’t worry it was a written test.

DDM is always an uplifting experience. To sit with 7 elders and the Bartholomews and share what is going on in each area, spiritual experience and some training from the District Leaders is one of the anchors of the program. In the meeting we had one elder who was having rather serious problems with an ulcer, another who has had back pains most of his mission, and the usual assortment of normal illness that seemsto be always going around, but in no case did this slow up the work nor bring real complaints. They just want to get well so they can work harder. I am always amazed at the strength and spirit of the elders we have served with.

After DDM we grabbed some lunch and then headed off to Esikhawini to meet with president Machaka for PEC. The elders reported that they are teaching some families and are starting to teach one of the men who has been attending our English class at the Mzamas. We are thinking of holding English classes in both branches on Saturday and the missionaries think they will be well attended. I have more hope for Esikhawini than Port Durnford by we will see. The president was excited about the calling of two counselors – he has pretty much been handling it alone up until now. He also reported that he plans to become engaged soon.

Our next meeting was with president Malinga of the Esikhawini branch. President Malinga is taking a computer class during his month off. He felt the need to know how to use a computer for everyday use. Some day I will write about how this wonderful, and humble priesthood leader overcame a poor education to hold a good job.

While we were waiting for him to get home from his class, we spoke to his lovely wife. She came from Mozambique and her first language was Portugues. So when we told her we were going to start English classes in a couple of weeks, she volunteered to be our first student.

We try to spend an hour or so with him each week to train him in his calling. He really wants to learn and is always telling us how grateful he is for our help. I keep reminding him that we are only advisors and that we have no authority in the branch. He embarrassed me a couple of Sundays ago when he talked about how I was helping him become a better branch president. Today we mainly talked about presidency meeting and the need to get home teaching organized. I suggested that he make that the main point of the presidency meeting.

On our way home from Esikhawini we were able to witness the burning of a cane field. At least we got to see the last few minutes. What an amazing site -a wall of crackling fire against the darkening sky. I tried to take some pictures but nothing – not even a movie – can capture the beauty and raw power of the wall of controlled flame. The field that was burned was one that we felt would soon be harvested. The bright green canes had turned to a field of soft tan.

 Next we stopped at the mall to go grocery shopping. Almost all the stores in the mall except for restaurants and grocery stores close up at some time between 4-6. Checkers – where we went shopping – stays open until 8:00. Checkers in on the second floor so we wheel our cart into an elevator to get down to the parking garage. Since it was after 6, it was not hard to pick out our car from the couple of dozen spread over the large parking structure.

When we got home, unloaded and put away everything, I checked and found the internet was back so I was able to write this post.

But before I post it I want to write about President Uchtdorf’s May conference talk during the  priesthood session. I had enjoyed listening to it at Mbabane the day after it was given and I had read it at least twice since the Ensign came out, but this time as I read it, but this morning when I read it again, it’s messages really struck home. I guess it triggered some of the other recent talks I have read about how distractions caused by paying too much attention to the things of the world can take our time away from the eternally important things of the spirit. I know that at times I let things that really interest me take time away from doing what I have been called to do here in South Africa. They are not bad things they are just not what I should be doing at the time.

I have often taught in class that it is not the choices between good and evil that will trip many of us up, but the choices between the good we feel comfortable doing and the good the Lord wants us to do.