Monday, July 31, 2017

"...I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen"

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."  Matthew 28:18-20.
As we depart our wonderful adventure with both light hearts and heavy hearts, we testify that we have witnessed His power, His gospel is being taught in all nations, the children of the promise are being baptized by proper authority, and we know He is with us always, even unto the end of our mission, and even unto the end of our lives.

Eternal Memories

(In no particular order)

Memories of Africa we will never forget:

  • We got to hear them pray
  • Organizing and facilitating YSA Family Home Evening (activities, games, & treats)
  • Loving and interacting with poor kids at the "orphanage" (all the kids are poor)
  • Teaching piano lessons
  • Visiting members in their homes and hearing their testimonies and conversion experiences
  • Sharing the gospel with active members, less active members and non-members
  • Teaching temple preparation lessons
  • Making birthday cakes and celebrating birthdays - they were always surprised
  • Teaching 11 year olds the Articles of Faith
  • Attending District Meetings, Zone Conferences and Mission Tours with the elders and leaders
  • Teaching Institute and Seminary lessons
  • Organizing branch parties and social activities
  • Feeding the missionaries and marveling at how much they can eat
  • Watching children, youth and adults dance
  • Listening to the members singing the hymns of Zion
  • Participating in service projects with the members and elders
  • Attending funerals
  • Attending weddings
  • Attending African cultural events
  • Speaking in church without prior notice
  • Teaching classes in church without prior notice
  • Conducting and teaching in primary without prior notice
  • Witnessing baptisms
  • Preparing and taking the youth to the temple to do baptisms for the dead
  • Helping members receive their endowments
  • Facilitating and witnessing a temple marriage and sealing
  • Teaching missionary preparation lessons
  • Teaching self-reliance lessons and organizing self-reliance groups
  • Talking to everyone about Jesus Christ
  • Having family members visit and showing them the people and wonders of Africa
  • Conducting financial audits/teaching correct practices for handling the Lord's money
  • Mild, pleasant winters (May - October) - no snow!
  • Senior Couple Retreats
  • Magnificent wild animals
  • Awesome skies and sunsets
  • Panoramic landscapes, flowers, flowering trees
  • Fruit plantations
  • Playing golf on the 19th hole (see below)

Memories of Africa we hope to forget:

  • Taxi drivers
  • Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car
  • Driving on rutted dirt roads and pot-hole riddled tar roads
  • Driving at night - can't see dark people wearing dark clothing in the dark night
  • Cockroaches (though rare in our flat)
  • Ants (big problem at first until we learned how to combat them)
  • Mosquitos (haven't seen them for the past 12 months)
  • Hot summers (November - April)
  • South African time (late!)
  • Primitive health care and hospitals
  • Same old missionary skirts, tops, shoes, etc.
  • Most stores closing at 5:00 p.m.

Some Recent Baptisms:

(Elder Madsen, Mission Leader Khobela, Mamela, Mpho, Elder Mahube)
Francis, husband of  Sister Cumo, a "dry Mormon" for several years
(Elder Hall, Elder Madsen, Francis, Bro. Letsoalo, Elder Mahube, Sister Hall)
Caroline in Tzaneen
A friend, KeKe, introduced Caroline to the gospel and she gained a testimony,
but her mother was against her joining the church. She attended church regularly
for over 6 months, and even taught Institute when it's her turn.
Finally she decided to be baptized regardless, and now her mother is not speaking to her!

Our Most Recent Missionary:

Mamiki Segobela from Motupa has been called to serve in the Madagascar Mission.
 She will be serving there with Elder Opa Shai from Lenyenye.
 She loves the church and will be a great missionary.

Another Mormon Helping Hands Project

Mormon Helping Hands is service to the community, with visibility to "bring the church out of obscurity."

This edition was installing a nice fence around a children's playground at a school near Lenyenye.

President Matlou, Tzaneen Branch President, is the principal at the school.
Brian Moleli lines up the posts
Elders Andem and Mahtenjana pound the posts
Bro. Zebulon in the background

The Church uses Councils!

Bro. James painting the posts
Stretch it tight

Involve the Youth: Thatoe and Thalita
Involve the Children - they can paint.
Involve the Relief Society
Sisters Rosey, Matlou, ?, Portia, Jemina
The Relief Society cooks the meal, of course
Sisters Kekana and Minnie

Institute Activity

Without a senior couple to replace us (at the moment) we have begun transitioning some our tasks to the members so they will continue on after we leave. The Institute class is now being taught by the students themselves on a weekly rotating schedule. We did throw one last party for them. They didn't know about Yahtzee but now they do, and they each received a game for themselves.
We also played "Let's Make a Deal," which allowed us to get rid of a lot of stuff we couldn't bring home with us! They cheered just like on the real TV show at some of the "prizes" and they also groaned when the "contestant" made a bad deal!

Working with the Young Single Adults has been one of the most rewarding parts of our mission. They hunger and thirst for gospel knowledge, but they are already spiritually deep. There is no principle of the gospel that we could not discuss with them.

The "Orphanage"

We are going to sorely miss instructing and interacting with the kids attending the after-school "orphanage" center. Sister Hall sang primary songs with them and tried to teach lessons about Jesus Christ. The language barrier was sometimes a problem, but they felt our spirits and we felt theirs.

Sister Letsoalo and her kids
A Labor of Love
On Nelson Mandella day, Woolworths came and donated a lunch complete with a Mandella birthday cake. More importantly they donate food every week so the kids can have a meal after school.
This year they also donated a sturdy gate and enough fencing material to replace the flimsy fence constructed last year as a Mormon Helping Hands project. When and if Sister Letsoalo can procure some sturdy posts we're sure another helping hands project can construct this much better fence.
Sister Hall used the birthday cake icing to do a little face painting. Once a couple kids got painted, the entire group lined up, not wanting to be left out:

On one recent visit, and with the help of the missionaries, we put on a dance contest; and some of these kids really have the moves:
Elder Mohube from Soweto knows how to dance
This little gal won the prize

Things We've Seen in Africa...

That We've Never Seen in America:

Seat made with old mattress springs
Transporting Water (heavy!) on Top of Head
Transporting Dinner (live) on Top of Head
Leaving Car Parked Outside Overnight
Expensive Delicacy - Mopani Worms
Small House - Large Satellite Dish
Scary Tree
(Baobab in Winter)
(Winter is Summer here - and Summer is Winter)
Doing Laundry the Old-fashioned Way
(Sister Kekana)
Learning to Drive at the "Surprise" Driving School
(This explains the Taxi Drivers)

Cute-so - I Mean Khutso
(Are you reading this?)
Playing the Woodpile Drums
Playing the Woodpile Drums
(Ringo Starr)
Hair Styling with the Birds
Monkeys in the Front Yard

Signs We've Seen in Africa...

That We've Never Seen in America:

Hippo Crossing
Baboon Crossing
Warthog Crossing
Even-Toed Ungulates Crossing
Common in Botswana
No Street Hawkers Allowed
The people who live here have a serious problem with self-esteem
The people who live here, however, are very happy
Maybe this is why they are "cheery"

If only taxi drivers could read!

OR, Go Here....Motupa Chapel....And we will pray for you.

No Caskets or the like allowed in Kruger Park
On August 15th we will be making a left turn here.
We hope it is a good road.

Golfing the Legends

Elder Hall played only one round of golf on mission - at the world famous Legends course 2+ hours south of Tzaneen. Each hole on the course was designed by a different famous pro golfer from various countries. The unique 19th hole is the world's longest Par 3 - From a tee box high on the mountain (access by helicopter) to a green shaped like Africa in the valley below.
Golf with Elder Brammer, Elder Johnson (Area Dr.), and Elder Hall
19th Hole Tee from mountain in background

The golf course has stationary hazards and moving hazards too!

The 19th Hole tee box is in saddle of the mountain in the background

View of 19th hole green from tee box
Teeing off from 19th hole tee box - yes it's a driver on a Par 3!

Elder Hall and Elder (Dr.) Johnson celebrate hole-in-one on the 19th hole. Woe be unto the liar!

Feeding the Elders

(and signing each other's journals)

Elders Ntanjana (Eastern Cape), Andam (West Jordan) and Banda (Zimbabwe)
Elders Franco (Southern Cal), Critchfield (Spanish Fork) and Madsen (Pleasant Grove)
Elders Matlanyane (South Africa), Flake (Arizona) and Ntanjana

Mountain School

Part of the old culture in the villages seems strange to us, but cherished by the men and at least accepted by the women. It's called "Mountain School." When a boy is 11 or 12 years old, older boys and men will come and "kidnap" them from their homes and take them into the mountains for 2 or 3 weeks. There they become "men." Everything that takes place there is secret so the women and foreigners like us don't know much about it. But some things have leaked out, such as performing a certain ritual with a knife, that should more properly be done to male babies in a sterile hospital immediately after birth, if it needs to be done at all! Some mothers, such as Julia and Maite, take their boys to the clinic before they turn 11 to have the procedure done in a more sterile environment, thus sparing them this right of passage at mountain school.
Neverthless, the boys leave home as boys and come back as men. Upon their return there are great celebrations in the villages and in each individual family, where the new men are presented in authentic African costume, and beads, and painted brownish red. They are not allowed to speak until after the ritual, which involves kneeling on the ground and clapping their hands -- until those in attendance throw money at them. Following the ritual, a fabulous meal prepared by the women is served to those in attendance.
Pontsho and Phetole
Begging for Money
Back row: Lucy, Lorato, Sister Hall, Elder Hall, Maite, Elizabeth
Front: Mquata, guard, Pontsho, guard, Phetole, guard

Jennie's Visit

In June Jennie and Kristin came to visit, allowing us to take some time off from missionary work to tour South Africa and parts of Botswana. (Previously we enjoyed doing the same with Tracy and then later with Glade and Richard).

A very few of the hundreds of pictures we took:

Lion and Rhino Reserve

Best rhino viewing - they still have their horns
Jennie plays with the baby white tigers
Kristin pets the cheetahs

African Cultural Center

(Think: Polynesian Cultural Center - only not Church sponsored so not quite as good!)

Monkey Sanctuary

Monkey see, monkey do
Pick pocket - nothing there
Anything in Kristin's pocket?
Sister Hall laughed at them checking Elder Hall for lice
Then they checked Sister Hall for lice!
And finally Jennie.

Panorama Drive

God's Window
Since it says not to go beyond this point....
... of course Jennie went beyond that point!
A "green" version of the Grand Canyon

A Visit to the Orphanage

The orphanage has been a hit with every visitor
Jennie donated a soccer ball
Then she showed them a few tricks

Chobe National Park, Botswana

A large Croc
How many hippos can you see?
Marking his territory, according to the river guide
Up to their knees - even deeper
Sunset on the Chobe River
Chobe Game Drive
After watching this cat sitting in the grass for a long time...
...she finally made her move - right behind our bakki.
They say patience is a virtue.
These graceful animals are among our favorites
Sister Hall likes the eyelashes
It's much easier eating from the tree tops!

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

One of the 7 natural wonders of the world
The falls are best viewed from the air
Niagra Falls are very small in comparison
Authentic steam dinner train
A dream come true....
for Elder Hall -- who got a few  minutes in the cab and blew the whistle too!
The falls are mostly water vapor from ground level
We got soaked walking around them on the ground,
even though we were wearing rain ponchos!
Jennie and Kristin left us for Capetown after visiting Victoria Falls, and we went back to work. We had a very enjoyable trip with them. Wish you all could have come here while we were here!

James and Jemina Married and Sealed in the Temple

We helped Jemina get her endowments last July. This July we were able to witness her being married for eternity and sealed to her new husband James. James was an early convert to the church in the 1990's and is a pillar in the Lenyenye branch. Jemina is a convert of a couple years and serves in the Relief Society presidency.

Couples' Farewell Retreat

One last P-Day with our life-long and eternal friends:

As we were posing for this picture...

a second cheetah walked up and scared us!
She wanted to be in the photo too!
These are tame animals - we wouldn't try this in the wild.
Walking with the lions.
Even though they are tame, they are so large and powerful
that they can harm and even kill when they are just trying
to be playful. So caution was the order of the day.

Final Trip to Kruger Park

As a "going-away" present to the Wrightsons and ourselves, we took one final trip to Kruger Park. Each visit to the park brought new encounters, and some unique wild animal viewing. Some of our favorites here:
We were fortunate to come across this pride of lions.

Can you spot the two cubs?
Antelope are everywhere, but still a beautiful sight
Giraffe - elegant animals

Cape Buffalo quenching his thirst
Letaba River Basin
Kudu are a favorite - horns and coloring
Even the birds like the Kudu

Lilac-breasted roller
Southern yellow-billed hornbill
Finally - an ostrich with his head in the sand (or close to it)
Southern ground hornbill
Hippos sunbathing - including some babies
A few minutes later many of them jumped in the water
Jurassic Park - objects in mirror are closer than they appear!
Fascinating animals, elephants spend their lives eating and pooping.

God be with you 'til we meet again...

(to be continued...)