Since 2006 we have spent most of our Christmases away from home. This year our Christmas tree is two wreaths and there are four nativity sets instead of 40 or so. But where ever we have been on Christmas the center of it is Christ and family.
The two nativity sets on the left above come from our first Christmas in Indonesia. I bought the small Charlie Brown set in Provo and brought them to Jakarta to surprise Mary. I did not know what size tree we would have so I kept it small. The one behind it is from Africa and we bought it soon after we got here this time.
We were visiting a member’s home and they had this very African Christmas tree made from the branches of a thorn bush. They paint them white and use the two inch thorns to hang their ornaments. While we were there we also saw that they used painted pine cones to make small Christmas trees. We like this idea so much that we gathered up a bunch of cones and painted them silver, white, gold or green and are going to use them as an activity for FHE and Seminary this week. The white base is Mary’s addition to the basic pine cone tree. I will post some of the creations later.
Christmas 2013 found us at home with snow on the ground and our family Christmas tree brightly lighted for Christmas morning. In 2012 we were in Florida and we found a small pine and Costco poinsettias.
Christmas 2011 was also in Florida where I bought a different kind of pine which Mary was not thrilled with because the branches were too flimsy. I am still looking for one from 2010 when we were home. The tiny picture – I can not find the original so borrowed this one from our blog – is our 2009 tree in Richards Bay South Africa. It is actually a tree root that has been sand blasted. I wish we could have brought it home. This was the man where we bought our small tree. I really wanted to buy one of the big ones and send it home to make a table but could not figure how to do it without it costing a fortune.
2008 we were at home and 2006 & 2007 we were in Indonesia. When I have time I will look for pictures from there. But since we arrived in Indonesia just two days before Christmas in 2006 we did not have a tree but got to go to a great Christmas program at the Jakarta branch.
After I had written the above I found this picture of our 2007 Christmas tree while we were in Indonesia. The tree and lights were already in the apartment but we added some ornaments including the Charlie Brown nativity.
This post took about a dozen tries to get into the blog but it was worth it because of the great missionaries that are shown here. The ‘Best Zone in the Mission’ we were told is true – that the Vaal Zone leads the mission as far as reaching the mission goals for the year!
Elder Reese greeted the zone and mentioned that it truly was the leading zone in the mission! Way to go elders!
There are a number of elders in the zone who can play the piano. Elder McAllister played some of the prelude music but when it came time to sing elder Dutson took over while elder Gray led the music.
Elder Togiatomai is the other Zone Leader. He is a Samoan who lives in New Zealand. Elder Rami and elder Mukasa before the meeting.
I thought we had seen the dirtiest car in the zone yesterday but Elders Thompson and Dutson managed to find a very deep mud puddle and was lucky to get the car through it with only a coat of the mud to show for it.
As the next transfer date draws close and the Thursdays before it are Christmas and New Years, we took this Thursday to do flat inspections at the Vereeniging and Ennerdale boardings. We are very fortunate that there are four sets of elders living in one complex and two in the other. So although we do 300K of driving to get there and back, we only have to make two stops.
The Zone Leaders get inspected first because they must leave for Jakarta to pick up mail, supplies, etc and get them back to the zone. Elders Reese and Togiatomai have a very neat and clean flat. Elder Reese must have the most organized closet in the mission – he even rolls his ties and puts them in rows. He explains that it makes choosing much quicker.
Our friend elder Rogers and his companion elder Whitesides serve in the Sharpeville area. Elder Rogers informed me that he was wearing his contacts. They had recently been robbed while walking home but were unharmed and the thieves even left them their watches. I liked their Christmas tree poster with pictures of family and friends as ornaments. The Finnish duo of elders Kankunen and Hentunen are currently serving in the Sebokeng 2 area. They carefully checked the supply list to see if they were missing anything. Sebokeng 2 has elders Sipri and Kalani while the Orange Farm district has elders Thompson and Dutson. Elder Thompson won our heart when he gave us fresh baked banana bread that was so delicious we rated it up with the best we have ever eaten.
Elder Stilgoe stands next to the Ennerdale missionary activity board that shows all investigators, progressing investigators, less actives they are working with and recent converts. Elder Gray is in his second transfer of being trained by elder Stilgoe. As I talked to elder Stilgoe he feels he will be transferred in January.
We thought this mission car would win the dirtiest award until we saw the Orange Farm car on Friday.
After we got back to Potch from our housing inspections, I went to Jouberton to help elder Dummer give a sister a blessing. While I was doing that Mary taught a piano lesson and started Seminary and Activity night. When we passed through Klerksdorp I took a picture of one of the bronzes that are along the N-12 and shows two people with picks either dancing or trying to kill each other.
I also took this picture of a sign near the police station. We have always thought it was funny because it appears to keep Ikageng clean you need to use a funeral service. Although there are lots of funerals on most Saturdays, we have never seen any stray bodies lying around Ikageng. So we guess they are efficient in keeping the city clean.
We drove up to Parys with the elders to meet with our friend sister Bobbi. After a nice visit we went for a walk down to the Vaal River – Louis needed to make a trip outside – where I took a picture of an anhinga drying its wings on a rock in the middle of the river. This reminded me of the first time I saw one doing that. It was in the Florida Everglades when we were on an outing with senior couples instead of young elders.
It was a very nice day in Parys – overcast with a breeze. As usual at the end of our visit Louis took us all for a walk down by the river. When I saw the Anhinga with it’s wings outstretched I was surprised because I did not know that they were found both in Florida and South Africa. I wondered if they were introduced in America like other birds. I was surprised when I found that Egyptian Geese that I first saw in Africa were in the park across the street from our apartment in Florida.
Monday night we held YSA Family Home Evening at the school. We showed them Mr Kruger’s Christmas and the Piano Guys great video that was made just a couple of miles from our home in Provo. Then it was time for games – the love Book of Mormon Bingo and the chocolate prizes they get for bingo. It was great to have a good turnout and everyone seems to have had lots of fun and fellowship.
The other important event in our lives yesterday was that our granddaughter Hermana McKay Pier returned from the Seattle mission. Our grandson Elder Shane Webb returned last week from Spain and was there to greet his sister. I am going to ask them if they can understand each other’s Spanish as the Castilian Spanish they speak in Spain is quite different from that spoken in Mexico! Just added a picture with all of the gang…McKay looks a little teary eyed in this one.
I was fixing lunch about an hour ago when a bird I had never seen before landed in the back yard to join the crowd of weavers and sparrows for lunch. I managed to get a couple of pictures of it eating – the chunk of bread you see got stuck on his beak and he had a hard time getting it off. A quick look at birds of South Africa turned up the fact that it is a crested barbet. I include a professional shot from the web with no bread. In looking at the pictures I do not think they show how strange and kind of ugly it is. Notice the single band of red on the tail!
The last picture is of a LilacBreasted Roller – we saw two of these flying along when we were in Botswana – or maybe Mafikeng but could not get a picture. They are very beautiful and are a blur of color when flying
We were at a nursery looking for something to use as a Christmas tree – they do not do live trees or cut trees here it seems – when it started to pour rain and it kept up for a solid hour. It was the heaviest rain I had experienced except for February 2007 in Jakarta Indonesia when it rain like that for not hours but days.
However that is nothing compared to what the days of rain did to the streets in Jakarta. Looking back it seems like a great experience and there is a lot to smile about. However for the 3 million or so people who were flooded out of their homes I am sure it was not a very pleasant experience.
Each Saturday a different group of members of the branch gives up part of their Saturday to come and get the school room ready to be a chapel. Sisters Williams and Kujane arrived with umbrellas – not to protect them from the rain but from the sun. They then traded their umbrellas for brooms and mops as the cleaned and then polished the floors. Two priesthood holders showed up soon after these pictures were taken and helped set up the room for sacrament meeting the next day.
While they were working the rain storm pictured above came in and so everyone stayed at the school until the rain pretty much stopped coming down in buckets. I imagine they used the umbrellas to keep off any lingering drops.
We invited elders Liera and Taylor over for lunch and afterwards they helped with our half-finished puzzle. It turned out that both were keen puzzle workers and they got it far enough along that we were able to finish it on Tuesday.
Monday evening we were in charge of the YSA Family Home Evening where Bill provided the lesson on elder Bednar’s talk “Being Converted unto the Lord.” This was followed by a wild game of Book of Mormon “Go Fish” and then some of Mary’s delicious chocolate chip Rice Krispy treats. It was not until later that we realized that she spent the day surrounded by men because no sisters came to FHE. But she is kind of use to this since we have four sons and only one beautiful daughter.