Monday, June 28, 2010

Are We Crazy? -gfh

If you have been following our blog you have read our feelings about serving in the office. I started out certain I could not do this! Then after taking some deep breaths and asking for a blessing I realized that with the Lord's help, I could. Rusty and I flucuated between total stress and insantity for several months. I found myself actually counting the months or weeks we've been in this assignment and then calculating out how many more months we'd possibly have left since when the President asked us to work in the office he said it would probably be for only half our mission.
About two weeks ago I started getting feelings that this is where we are to serve. Finally one morning I said to Elder H: "Sweetie, What would you think if we told the President we'd stay in the office our entire mission?" He replied "I think we should". We were both surprised at the feelings of the other because we knew how difficult this assignment has been.
So last Friday we asked to speak to the President. We told him if he needed us to, we would be glad to stay. He said "Are you sure?" Elder Henrichsen said to him "Do you mean 'Are you crazy?' ".
We feel so good about our decision. Besides coming to the realization that we actually CAN DO this job, we feel so blessed to work with the missionaries coming in and out of the office. And it is such a blessing to work so closely with President and Sister Poulsen. Besides, Sister Poulsen knows all the great places to shop!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Transport -gfh

Transport, as it is called here in South Africa is a really big concern. I think that shoe leather express is the most common form of transport. Every time we are out and about in the car we see numbers of people walking. Usually carrying bags either on their heads or in their hands or both and of course, babies on their backs. I’ve started noticing the shoes they wear and they don’t look like sturdy walking shoes to me. There is some sort of public bus system but either it is too expensive or the routes and the schedules do not work for the ‘common people’. The usual form of public transportation is private taxi’s. These taxi’s are minibuses, not like the taxis we’re used to in the states. And the traffic laws don't seem to apply to them. They make their own turn lane, stop wherever they want, pass whenever they want and then honk on drivers who are obeying the law (that would be Elder H)People walking along the street hold up four fingers pointing outward, two to the left, maybe one straight down or up. One of our Zulu sisters explained to us what this finger system means. Each signal indicates a location the resident wants to go. If the minibus is going to that location, it stops to pick up the traveler. One of the townships name means “Jacket”, so to signal a taxi to go there the traveler shrugs his shoulders up and down like he’s putting on a jacket to indicate he wants to go to the “Jacket” township.
It’s really quite clever and it works! It’s not just the taxi’s that will pick up people using finger signals but also private cars. The passenger is always ready to pay a few rand even if it isn’t a real taxi.
Out in the townships transport is a number one concern. Our branch in Ennerdale actually hires taxis to take people to conference, or Youth firesides, or stake activities. If this wasn’t done no one would be able to go. No cars and no rand to pay for taxis. And most of the members walk to their weekly meetings at the branch.
Today at church I met a young man about 20 years old. He is interested in the church and walks an hour each way to come and learn more. Hmmmm, how spoiled are we?

South Africa also has a great idea for parking lots. I think that the shopping malls in the states should actually adopt the parking system used here. The large parking lots are divided up into invisible sections each with an assigned “car protector” in an official vest and hat. When you park he acknowledges you with a “Hello Mam'n'Sir”. He has then become your official protector. When you return somehow he miraculously remembers where you parked, he will help you unload your shopping cart and then back you safely out of your spot. It is expected that you will roll down your window and reward him for his services with about R2 to R5. (remember the exchange is about $1.00 to the R7.5) It is really quite a nice service and I don’t mind a bit paying for it.

Also when you drive in to a gas station the attendant runs over to your car (like in the olden days) and asks to check your tires and oil and then, while the gas tank is filling, he washes your windshield with such a flair it should be done to music! Again, when the job is completed R2 is gladly paid. We have learned to keep plenty of Rand change handy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What About The Grass Fires? -gfh

Now that winter is here and the grass is turning brown and drying out there is smoke in the air and black patches of burned grass everywhere as one drives out of town.
. The explanation for this might change depending on who you talk to or what part of the country you are in. One person will tell you the grass fires are caused by carelessness and another will tell you that they are designated burns. One thing for sure is that I have never seen anyone supervising a burn no matter where it is located or what time of day. We drove out into a township by Ennerdale one night last week and looking out over the fields we saw a long row of flames as the grass burn moved along .The fires can be somewhat disconcerting when you notice that they have come so close to the road, the telephone poles and residences. One of our home teaching families had to combat the grass fire as it traveled past her fence and into their yard
“We do it for safety purposes, otherwise the grass continues to grow and then when it burns it’s really dangerous,” said one South African. “When it burns, the new grass grows. It’s perfectly safe.”
It appears that grass fires are indigenous to South Africa. You can find them anywhere grass grows. No one seems very bothered by them except maybe the people whose eyes burn and the people who cough, sneeze and sputter because of the smoky air created by them. But these people are probably not true South Africans….. like myself.

Friday, June 25, 2010

This Made Me Smile! -gfh

I love my job when I get these kinds of emails! It totally makes me smile! This is a reply to a welcome letter I sent to a young man from Swaziland called to serve with us here in South Africa Johannesburg Mission.

THE GOSPEL IS TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
VUSI!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Special Guest! -gfh

This just shows you how important the work is here in South Africa!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vuvuzelas! -gfh

If you've been watching the World Cup games, the sound you hear that resembles the attack of millions of mad hornets is 'millions' of vuvuzelas, a long plastic horn that is part of South Africa soccer tradition!This tradition has been known to actually cause temporary deafness in fans. We attended the Roodepoort ward Opening Ceremonies festivities a week ago and got our real introduction to how fun and noisy they are. The Bafana Bafana (that means "boys boys" in Zulu) game was shown on the large movie screen in the cultural hall with boerewors (which is South African sausages that Elder Henrichsen loves!)being grilled on the braai(bar-b-que). After making an appearance and getting the feel for the fervor we slipped away to the CES building next door and watched the game with our mature missionary peers.

This is Dudley, our computer geek from the Area Office, getting into the spirit of things!

Boerewors hot off the grill!

PS: I forgot to mention that all the South African school children are out of school for the whole month of the games! This is a really big deal!

...for more photos see the side bar.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! -gfh

We are just not used to this kind of cold! Cold outside is one thing but cold inside is an entirely different story! "South Africa just is not set up for winter" is a quote from the director of the SAF MTC. He is a local South African and I asked him if he was comfortable in his home and he said "no, it is freezing". The temperature the other night was -3C which translate to very cold! I think our flat is colder inside than outside. We could see our breath yesterday INSIDE our flat! We have very hard floors with a thin carpet over concrete. I bought some slippers with foam soles to be more comfortable walking around the flat. BUT now not only are the floors hard but they are cold and it goes right through the slippers.

I am now sleeping with thermal underwear, my silk camping pjs, my flannel pj's,my fleece jacket, a stocking cap on my head and wool socks on my feet. Oh, and a sleep mask which keeps my face warm! AND during the day I wear a stocking cap and gloves along with my layers. I've been looking for a pair of those half gloves, you know with the fingers sticking out, that I could wear and still knit or play the keyboard. Our friend George suggested we get some.

I decided that Emily Post would approve of eating oatmeal with gloves on..if it's winter in South Africa!

Elder Henrichsen bought this hat at the lion park and wears it doing everything in the flat. I think it prevents "Brain Freeze".

Our office has central heating and I also have a little space heater under my desk to warm up my feet which takes considerable amount of time to accomplish after I arrive. In fact it is so cozy in the office that we hurry in the morning to get out of our flat and linger longer at the office in the evening. I am actually at the office right now at 6:30pm posting this entry because it's too cold to go home. We're told that July is the coldest month of winter. Oh goody!
Something that has been ever present in my thoughts though is the people who live in the townships in the shanty houses made out of metal sheets and poles. No running water, no toilets and not only no heat but a house that is even colder than my flat. I count my blessings and remember them in my prayers but how will they stay warm?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Some Day! -gfh

One of my jobs as mission secretary is to take care of referrals that come in. This week I received this referral:
" Angus & Jane, Mzuzu, Northern Region Malawi, husband and wife, lost their one week old daughter about a month ago. Want to be baptized so they can go to the temple and be sealed as a family."

I emailed this referral to the Zimbabwe Harare Mission and this was the reply:

" We do not have missionaries in that area. We go no further north than Lilongwe. Mzuzu is another 8 hours north. It is about 13 hours north of us, the couple missionaries in Blantyre. Someday we will go that far North. If we were to baptize them living in Mzuzu, they would have nowhere to go to church and no support and would be less active...."

As I read this reply tears came to my eyes. There are so many who desire to hear of the Gospel and receive its saving ordinances and eternal blessings who cannot be reached as of yet. But some day!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lion Park P-Day -gfh

We had our first "African Adventure" at the Lion Park about 45 minutes from the office. It was kind of like going to a zoo but it was a safe way to see some South Africa animals close by and close up. We drove around in our cars through dusty roads and tall grass and harkened to the signs to keep windows rolled up and stay in our cars. As you will see in the pictures the Lions were so sleepy they didn't seem like much of a threat.

This little guy looks harmless but he is actually biting my leg! The Ranger said "He is a very naughty cub" and he had to pry him off. The cubs are kept in a "Touch a cub" area until they are 6 months old.

There are a lot more pictures if you've got the time. Check the side bar Album.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

World Cup . . . rh

The 60+ matches of the World Cup begin in South Africa this week. There are new and refurbished venues all over the country to host the games. When we told people that we were going to South Africa, many of them replied with some comment about the World Cup. We told them that we would likely not be involved as spectators at any of the matches. Several weeks ago, Pres. Poulsen encouraged the couples (but not the young missionaries) to try and get to one of the matches. The US – England game is not too far away and on a Saturday as well. I decided that it might be a good idea to go that particular one with some of the other couples. I checked prices and the cheap seats were $259 per person. Well, $500+ to see a game that I really don’t care about just to say I’ve been there is a bit much so we scrapped the idea.

Just last week one of the young missionaries said that he heard that ticket prices had dropped greatly. He said that tickets could be had for 40 Rand (less than $6) each. I checked online again and found out that the US – England seats had indeed come down, but only to $150 per person. We’re still not going. Yes, people will ask us about the World cup when we get home and we will have to confess that we didn’t see any of the games. I understand that we may be able to see some on TV at the CES building on the same property as our mission office, but I’m still not interested in watching soccer (it IS called soccer here in ZA) – grass growing is just about as interesting to me, unless one of the grandchildren is playing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Expectations -gfh

WOW! It seems that many people think the Mission Office is the source of all things! Of course there are the regular responsibilities of seeing that the missionaries are supplied, things go smoothly and that we keep them in the country with current visas. My easy job is being the receptionist, phone answerer and greeter at the front desk and one thing that is fun and interesting is the things that are requested of me.
The office gets phone calls from all sorts of people for all kinds of reasons. Just yesterday I got a call asking if I had ever heard of "Brother So & So" (name changed to protect the innocent). The man he was asking for was in no way associated with the Mission. It was almost as if "you know him, he's a member of the Church".
We've been asked to adjust UTC time to local time, What's the country code for and how do you make a phone call to ????, can you get me a soft copy of an original Church Document that is tamper proof and only for the mission? How do I locate a past missionary? What are the GPS coordinates to a certain building? How do I prepare names for the temple? and always names and phone numbers of Branch Presidents,etc.and even times for the meetings in various buildings? Also I just moved here. Is there a church near by? Where can I stay when I come pick up my missionary? Do you know of any good restaurants? (well, yes as a matter of fact!) What is the email address/phone number for the different missions? Do you have a map to ....? Can I order a CTR ring? Do you have any of those homemade African greeting cards? What about African tours? The number for the temple and/or the Patron House? Would you email my mum and tell her my email isn't working?
And through it all some expect us to keep "sweets" available for visitors and missionaries coming into the office.(well, the mission doesn't pay for those so when we do that it comes out of our pockets. And do you know how many "sweets" hungry missionaries can wander in to consume?)I got a message on the phone from a man in Brasil who was coming here for the World Cup games and "needed some solutions" would I please email him? Also a woman from Salt Lake who wants to plan a Young Women's service project for Soweto.
Oh, I also got a phone call a while back from a frantic father whose son returning home from Zimbabwe mission had missed his connecting flight at the Jo'burg airport. Could we somehow find him and help him even though he had no cell phone with him and his father didn't know where he was in the airport? Well, we did and returned him home safely to his family.
So each day has the routine and the expected but what makes this job fun is the UNEXPECTED!
I think I can apply my saying "Each Day is a New Adventure" to the mission office!