Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A New Era for the Botswana/Namibia Mission

A New Era for the Botswana/Namibia Mission

President and Sister Wilson have returned home and President and Sister Chadambuka have arrived to take the helm of the good ship Botswana/Namibia. They are wonderful people with significant church leadership experience. They come from Zimbabwe where Pres. Chadambuka ran a successful retail hardware store.
President and Sister Chadambuka with the Halls
When President Chadambuka was interviewed by President Uchdorf he was asked if he would be able to leave his business in capable hands. He replied that if necessary he would just give up the business and start a new one when he returns home. He said "Everything I have belongs to the Lord." We're sure that the mission is in good hands as this new era begins.

Temple Endowment

On July 1st and 2nd we were able to take a choice sister to the temple for her endowments after teaching her the temple preparation lessons. Sister Jermina has been a member for a year and half, serves in the Relief Society Presidency, and is now engaged to be married to Brother James, who has been a member since 1991. Sister Hall was her escort.

South Africa has a "Johnny Lingo" culture and custom called "Lebola" wherein a prospective groom negotiates with a potential bride's parents for a payment to wed her. He even has to make a payment if he intends to court her afrer getting engaged, and then another larger payment if they get married. This custom is a huge roadblock for many couples who want to marry but cannot afford the Lebola. If the parents are members of the church then the Lebola is usually waived and the money used to help the new couple get a good start. But if the parents are not members then Lebola is necessary if family relationships are to be kept intact. Sister Jermina's parents are not members, so they will have to wait to get married until the Lebola can be paid. On the positive side, Jermina is definitely an "eight cow woman!" We are hoping things will work out such that we attend their temple sealing before we leave our mission.

Our Missionary Routine

Some have wondered what a "typical" day is like for MLS (Member and Leader Support) senior couple missionaries. On mission for nearly 6 months, we have now established a daily and weekly routine that keeps us involved and busy with the work of the Kingdom in South Africa.

Monday: Preparation Day  (P-Day)

All missionaries know about the importance of this day!  It's also the day to hunt for wild animals.
But at 6:00 PM every Monday we are at Family Home Evening with the Lenyenye Young Single Adults.

Back: Wizen, Judas, Oupa, Leslie, Queen, Humphry, Thatoe
Front: John, Thalita, Elizabeth

When we organized this group back in March we were lucky to get 5 or 6 YSA's to attend, and we would teach the lesson and provide the activity and treats. Now they average about 10 attendees( not counting the missionaries), and have had as many as 16. They now rotate teaching the lessons and they come up with their own activities. We still provide the treats!


Tuesday is our only open day with no pre-set scheduled events.  This is a good day for us to visit the active and less-active members.

Family Home Evening with the Hotla family one Tuesday night

Crescelda with her brother Coroba and niece Chantel
- they were terrified of us "white" people!

The triplets' Grandmother (GoGo)
thrilled with the pass-along card of the Savior

The Triplets' mother Peggy with her
pass-along card
The Triplet's cousins Charity and Chantel with their cards

Pretty (that's her name) teaches Relief Society
This is the way all of the women carry
their kids around!

Sister Leifa has been a member of the Church for
a long long time. She is old now and struggles
with Asthma and leg pains. You will never
meet a women with greater faith, anywhere!


We spend some time at the Lenyenye orphanage/day-care each Wednesday.

"Suffer the little children to come unto, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done unto me."

Sister Hall sings songs and reads stories to the kids. We borrow books from the Tzaneen library. The littler kids don't understand English but they enjoy the pictures!

Sometimes the older girls (grades 5-7) help lead the singing.

Sister Hall plays games with the younger kids (pre-school to grade 3).

Elder Hall plays games with the older children (grades 3-8). They are pretty good at Dodgeball.

Inside the Cooking Shack that Elder Hall helped build!

Every Wednesday afternoon Sister Hall teaches five piano lessons to YSA members who want to learn, and who agree to play in Church once they know how to play the basic hymns.



After games, the kids get treated to a meal prepared by Orphanage founder Lina Letsoalo, and other volunteers. 

On Wednesdays after piano lessons we visit members, teach temple prep lessons, or work with investigators such as Phina (Nico's wife).

Phina and family: She became interested after her husband
Nico was baptized and she was befriended by ward members.

There is something special about the way these people pray; they are totally dependent upon God, they know it, and they express it in their prayers. They are so sincere when they pray, there is no rote prayer or vain repetition, and they are never in a hurry to conclude their prayers.  Words just can't describe it. There will be many choice experiences and memories from this mission, but if we had to choose just one, and only one, I would always be grateful that I got to hear them pray.

Sister Temelo, mom, daughter and family
I have never heard a prayer to match the prayers she offers.


Thursdays are spent in Motupa. Elder Hall prepares the Institute lesson that he teaches in the afternoon at the church in Motupa. We only have three students enrolled and only one or two usually show up on any given Thursday. There have been days when no one comes. But we have discussed it and decided that we will prepare a lesson every week, and we will teach it even if only one student attends. That one will be blessed who would not otherwise be blessed in this way.

Sake Schebella (Seminary Student) and his sister
Mami Schebella (Institute Student)

Jane, Julia, Lareto and Michael
We like to visit members before and after Institute, but our car will only take us to a few places. There are really only two paved roads in Motupa (tar roads as they say), the rest are dirt, mud, rocks, and ruts. Some of the roads are accessible only by Bakki (truck), so sometimes we team up with the full-time missionaries to go places -they drive Bakkis!

Facilitating Self Reliance

The past few weeks, before Institute,  we have been teaching and facilitating a self reliance course for Sister Judith who returned from a mission to Atlanta, Georgia, last month. She is trying to enroll in a college in order to pursue an education that will get her a job out of Motupa.

You can probably imagine what it would be like to leave Motupa, a third world village, and adjust to life in Atlanta for 18 months, and then return back to Motupa. While the church could use her here, it is in her best interests to move on, and for that she will need a college education. The church's self reliance program helps members like Judith achieve their educational goals through the Perpetual Education Fund. To get that loan you must complete the self-reliance workshop.

Feeding the Elders

Every Thursday evening we feed the full-time missionaries who serve in this area (there were 6 and now there are 8). We used to split them up with the Campbells, but since the Campbells left we have been feeding all of them. Sister Hall prepares the dinner while Elder Hall prepares the Institute lesson. It is work, and a little expensive, but we count it a great blessing to feed them an "American" meal once a week.

Earlier set: Smith-Halley, Tuschi, Hamilton, Going, Dixon, Bagoole

Hunt, Baldwin, Hall, Nielsen, Paul

We enjoy their spirits, testimonies, enthusiasm and the stories they tell! We usually require them to share a spiritual experience or scripture or thought with us as payment for the meal. It is a blessing to be able to serve here with them. A new set of elders has been added to our district, making it 8 now, so we will be trading off  feeding 4 of them every other Thursday.


Elders Baldwin, Paul, Montansella, Hunt
Fridays are very busy. At 11:00 we have either a District or a Zone Meeting. Our district includes us and eight elders: 2 serve in Tzaneen/Motupa, 2 in Modjadji, and now 4 in Lenyenye. The Zone Leaders and 6 additional elders come from the Polokwane area for Zone Meetings (2 from Polokwane, 2 from Mokopane, and 2 from Sheshaho). Every six weeks we have a Zone Conference, when all of the above are joined by the Mission President, his wife, and the Assistants to the President. Zone Conferences alternate between Tzaneen and Polokwane, a distance of 1 1/2 hours

Following this meeting we prepare a Seminary lesson which we teach to students in Motupa at 4:00. We have been teaching that since the Campbells left in May. Both the Institute and Seminary curriculum are the Old Testament this year, but the manuals and the lessons are different. Even though Elder Hall taught Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine class at home, he is amazed how much more he is learning from these lessons.

There are 5 students enrolled; we get 3 or 4 each week, and some weeks 1 or 2. We are committed to getting attendance up to all 5 a week. These youth are great, have pretty strong testimonies, and are anxious to learn. They are spiritually deep, but their culture is easy-going and their commitment sometimes lags.

Sometimes on Friday nights we go out to dinner (date night). Eating out here in South Africa is pretty inexpensive, about half of what it costs to eat out in Utah. That will be a hard adjustment when we return home. Food is way less expensive here, but electronics, cameras, internet, etc. are quite a bit more expensive.

Seminary Students - Nkomi, 18, and Crescelda, 14


Saturdays are usually very busy: mission meetings, branch training meetings, couple retreats (no couples left!), temple excursions, etc. When other things don't interfere we go to Lenyenye and work with the youth. Sometimes we teach institute at 2:00, at their request, because the regularly assigned teacher doesn't show up. Saturdays we also organize and attend branch and youth activities.

On Saturdays we try to connect with grandkids via FaceTime. Sometimes we even call the kids!


On Sundays we alternate attending meetings between the Lenyenye Branch and the Motupia Group.
It is not uncommon for us to travel to both places on a Sunday, attending meetings in one place and going to the other for a baptism or other meeting, or to teach a special class. Travel time between the two is about 45 minutes.

Sake and Donald playing during Motupa Services
(Graduates of a previous couple's piano classes)

We also do visits on Sunday afternoon, especially when we are in Motupa.  We are sometimes home early and make calls to family at home or enjoy the evening playing games such as Hand &Foot, Skipbo, Rummicube, etc.

Some might question this as a missionary activity, but the routine for senior couple missionaries is different from the young proselyting missionaries. As instructed in both the missionary rules handbook (the white book) and our own mission rules book, "Couples and sisters age 40 and older are not expected to follow the same proselyting schedule of younger missionaries. Some mission rules established for younger missionaries may not apply..."  So we do have some differences, such as we can sleep in the same bed, etc. Nevertheless we try to maintain a busy schedule of missionary activity. We sometimes don't get up at 6:30 AM, but often we are up earlier than that. And we try to have companion and personal study every day. As Sister Wilson, our previous mission mother told us: "You can be as busy as you want to be."  We feel we have kept ourselves very busy doing the Lord's work here in this lowly part of the Lord's vineyard. It is a life-changing experience for us.

So that is a sort of long summary of a sort of regular week for us.


There have been three baptisms since the last post:

Lareto and Elders Hunt and Baldwin

Lareto's extended family (minus Mom and GoGo)

The story behind Lareto -

She is the daughter of Winnie and granddaughter of Anna, who is Julia's sister. Months ago we told the story of Anna and Winnie, how we gave them a ride to Motupa from the hospital in Tzaneen where Anna had been treated for TB. They were anti the church. They wouldn't speak to us in the car. After dropping them off at their house we left, only later to discover that we still had Anna's medicine bag in our car. We drove it back to them. For some reason this little act of service changed their entire attitude about the church! Anna said she now likes the church! Shortly thereafter Lareto began taking the missionary discussions, and now baptized, she has a good testimony of the gospel. She is 13. Anna is still fighting TB and Winnie is not good with English, so they have not had the missionaries ----- yet!

Thabisio and Michael

A few weeks after Lareto was baptized, her brother Michael took the lessons from the missionaries. He is 11 years old. He was baptized last week. Another success story from the little act of service, and also a testament to the example and testimony of the lady who started this chain - Julia.

Thabisio was baptized on the same day as Michael. He is the son of Maria, who was the first baptism that we witnessed in Motupa after arriving last February. These are great kids, future priesthood holders.

Elder Baldwin, Michael, Thabisio, Elder Hunt

Elder Hall and the baptism boys

For some reason, people here are baptized on Sunday following church services, and then they are not confirmed until the following Sunday, in Sacrament meeting.

One might think that these boys were baptized as part of "thing to do" right now - but they have a good knowledge of the gospel already and are very eager. Sometimes they show up at Seminary even though they are three years away from being official.

It was cold and rainy on this baptism day, and Elder Baldwin had never baptized before. For whatever reason both boys had to be dunked twice, so it was pretty cold. But their hearts were warm!

Maria, Thabisio's mother, was baptized back in February. She speaks very little English yet she comes to church every week and listens to the sermons in English. During Sunday School and Relief Society, however, they often revert to their native language, Sepedi. In those times it's us missionaries who don't have a clue what is being said!

This is Julia's family, joined by Maria and Thabisio (who are not related), showing the number of her relatives who have joined the church since she was baptized less than two years ago.

When the missionaries first knocked on Julia's door, she rudely sent them on their way. Immediately feeling bad about the way she treated them, she  chased after them and apologized. She let them teach her a lesson. It progressed from there. It changed her life (as her sisters testify), and it has now changed the life of many more of her close relatives. The spirit had prompted Julia to chase down the missionaries - the Lord works in mysterious ways.

June Trip to Chobe, Botswana

Some photos from last month's trip to Chobe game reserve. Warning, some of these photos may be disturbing because we came across a fresh elephant kill and our crazy guide/driver drove to within 15 feet. We got good photos but it was scary being so close to the wild lions.

Our guide said they were fighting over a woman!

Fresh Kill - Bad day for the elephant, but good day for the lions! (so says our guide).

Of course, the vultures gather!

We appreciate your love and support! Sorry this blog got too long. We'll try to do shorter updates more often in the future.

We love you all, John and Marcia

Lots of Monkeys by our flat in Tzaneen, but hard to capture on film.