Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's A Pleasure! -gfh

The South Africans have a wonderfully gracious way about them. When they greet you they always ask how you are. "Good morning, Ma'am, how are you?" When people call the mission office they always start with "You are speaking to_________ from _______. How are you?" It is so commonly done that if you don't ask them how they are they automatically reply "I am fine thank you". (and I say to myself "Oops, I forgot") Most of our non African missionaries have adopted this courtesy but for those who haven't it is a glaring omission, almost seems rude, when they call and get right down to business. I've really noticed a difference.
However, I don't think I've heard "you're welcome" from the people here. Now that's not because they are rude, but when you thank someone the most common response is "It's a pleasure" or just shortened to "pleasure". It's not only what they say but how they say it. I can't duplicate it but it is very gracious and with the accent it sounds so charming. Little children and young people also have this upbringing. If you ask a child how they are they will say "I am fine Ma'am, and you?" I just want to give them all big hugs!

Yesterday before church started one of our young single adult young men was sitting by a little two year old in the back of the chapel and was polishing the little boys very dusty shoes with a shoe brush. I asked Brassington, the young adult, if he had brought the brush with him. He said he always carries it in his back pack because he has to come far(he has to walk quite a ways) and when he arrives his shoes are dirty. It was such a sweet picture I had to take one. What a fine example this young man was being to little Tholithemba. There are many lessons we can learn from these wonderful people!

Brassington and Tholithemba

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is Anybody Home? -gfh

How would you like to get off the plane returning home from your mission and have no one there to meet you? One of the questions I ask when I make the "trunky calls" to get information i.e. airport they want to fly in to, current address of parents and other questions, is "Will there be anyone at the airport to meet you when you arrive?" I hold my breath and wait for the answer. Many times, if it is an African missionary he will answer "No, there will be no one." And my heart sinks. In this case I email the Stake President or Bishop/Branch President and request that they arrange for someone to meet their missionary. Sometimes several emails or phone calls are made until I get a reply. If no one will be there to meet them, I arrange transport by bus, etc. for the missionary from the airport to his home. I'm reminded of the DVD "RM" when the missionary returns home from his mission, nobody is there, he climbs up the ladder in to a window and soon discovers that his family had moved!
We also have missionaries who NEVER get mail. I talked with one this morning who said he hasn't been in touch with family members for a year. He goes home in three weeks. I'm calling Samoa tonight at 8:00PM our time to talk to his Stake President at 7:00AM Samoa time.(Sometimes the contact persons have no email address) Itineraries are mailed out six weeks ahead to family, Bishop/Branch President and Stake President. However, the mail is so unreliable in many of these countries that follow up is necessary.
And then we have the U.S. missionaries who reply to my question with "YES! My family and the whole town will be there!" And I like to add "and a Big Brass Band!" Now, that's the way it should be.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Just let go - and GO! - -rh

The other day we were communicating with someone from the USA and they were marveling that we are on a second mission while they are still trying how to figure out how to get on the first one. Georgia said, “Just let go, and GO!”

This is not to say to ignore the parable the Savior gave us in Luke 14:28-30. Here he speaks about one who set out to build a tower and did not figure how much it would cost and was unable to finish the job. We should not push blindly forward without some planning and figuring, but over-planning and wringing our hands about the cost is not productive.

Perhaps we should be like Nephi in 1 Ne 4:6 – “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” In other words, we should be trusting in God to help us find the way to serve. Many of us observe our children and/or grandchildren tentatively putting their toes into the lake of life and deciding that they need to wait until they have finished school and have a “good” job before considering marriage. Or they may be waiting until their lives are stable and they have a home before having children. Most of us know that if we wait until we “can afford” marriage or a family, we may never marry or have children.

One does not need to be wealthy to serve a mission. One only needs to have some moderate amount of resources to take that plunge. Our stake president told us before we left that there are 1000 fewer senior couples serving presently than there has been in the recent past. The need is there, so don’t over-plan or put off until there is “enough” money to find a way to serve the Lord full time – JUST LET GO AND GO.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rubbing Shoulders -rh

Since we’ve been here we have been blessed by visits from general and area authorities on a frequent basis. I think the first time was when I was at the Area Office for my usual weekly trip and I ran into Elder Koelliker, the Area President. He is a member of the First Quorum of Seventy and has been here for three years in this assignment. We talked for just a few seconds and I found out that he is a friend of the Jamesons, who are serving in the Congo right now. It seems he is a good friend of Lorraine’s older brother. He is a friendly and very personable guy – just like anybody you might meet on the street.

A few weeks later, Marlin K. Jensen, another of the Seventy, was in town and President Poulsen arranged for him to address the missionaries staying within an hour of the Sandton chapel. When he and his wife arrived, they shook hands and spent just a few seconds with each missionary as they circumnavigated the chapel. The old missionaries were treated just like the younger more energetic ones. We got to speak with them for just a few seconds. They then spoke from the stand for about two hours – what a treat.

We had a couples conference after that and one evening we all ate together at the mission home with Elder and Sister Koelliker as well as Elder and Sister Bricknell, an Area Seventy from South Africa. We were able to hear from the Koellikers and even though the setting was informal, the Spirit was strong and the advice was invaluable.

Two Sundays after General Conference, We were at the Ennerdale Branch for our regular Sunday meetings and I noticed someone talking to President Randall (our branch president) that I did not recognize. I went up to them hoping to meet this new member and was introduced to Elder Mkhabela. He had been sustained as an Area Seventy just two weeks before in General Conference. He had been the president of the Soweto Stake until shortly before his recent call. As he spoke to us in two of the meetings that day, it was apparent why he had received such an assignment from the Lord. His preaching is very powerful.

Just a few weeks after meeting Elder Mkhabela, President Randall told us during a Saturday activity at the Branch that Elder Koelliker would be visiting our branch the next day. He commented that we are very fortunate to have such visits and pointed out that in the USA, wards or branches can go decades without such visits from general and area authorities. How true, how true.

We were also able to hear from both the Mkhabelas and the Koellikers at our Stake conference. Such frequent contact with these brethren is just another blessing of serving here in ZA. We are fortunate to not only hear from them, but also to be able to shake their hands and talk with them one on one at various times.

Which Way? -rh

I don’t know what it does in the northern hemisphere, but the water here spins clockwise as it goes down the drain.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Cinnamon Lane Experience -gfh

Every morning on the way to the office we drive past a charming little corner bakery called Cinnamon Lane. Outside it has old rusty bikes with no tires or seats but great little funky items in the baskets, etc. After several months Cinnamon Lane really called to me and I had to go inside. It is an amazing place! Homemade South African "Sweets" galore! The first time we arrived just in time for warm cinnamon pancakes (crepes) and since then I've found other tasty treasures.
Yesterday I stopped in to buy a celebration cake for our service sister missionary who had returned to help in the office. While at the bakery I got into a very nice conversation with the woman working there. She was warm and friendly and talkative. As I was leaving she asked me about my name tag and what I do at the office. The conversation developed from there as I offered her a pass along card to receive a free dvd of Christ. She then asked me if this was "The Mormons"? When I explained to her that we were, the atmosphere changed. She remained border-line civil but assured me that she was "born again" and she thanks God that she had been saved from cults like the mormons! I listened calmly and when it was appropriate I asked her if she thought the Mormons did not accept Jesus Christ as our savior. She said they "absolutely do not". I listened to The Spirit and briefly shared a simple testimony of Jesus Christ. She gave me back my pass-along card and said she didn't agree. It was a good experience. In Preach My Gospel it tells us to be bold but loving in sharing our testimony. I have to admire this woman's personal conviction but only wish her information was more accurate and that she had listened to my message.
Cinnamon Lane may offer "sweeter experiences" in the future.

(.....who's "the lady in red" in the window relfection?)