Sunday, March 28, 2010

It is good...rh

I don’t know if I shared a similar experience six weeks ago. I’m going to do it even if I did before. Last Wednesday was transfer day – the day that new missionaries come to our mission, also the day that assignments of many of the other missionaries. Some remain unchanged, but many switch companions or geographical areas.

The morning begins with the new missionaries arriving followed by a short meeting with the mission president and his wife. The office couples are allowed a few minutes to speak to the group. Both times I have had this opportunity, looking into the eyes of these eager young men and women has filled my heart with great happiness and brought tears to my eyes. These missionaries are part of the modern day “army of Helaman.” They have proven worthy of their calls and their opportunity to spread the gospel. What a joy to see them, all together and ready to begin their labors.

Later in the day, there is a transfer meeting. President Poulsen pointed out that not all missions have such a meeting – they receive their assignments by phone and then find transport to their new areas. It is a real treat to be in this meeting with 100 or more of the missionaries. I have felt the Spirit as President and Sister Poulsen speak, as the departing missionaries bear their testimonies and particularly as the whole group sings an opening hymn and later close with the Mission song. After this meeting, the missionaries switch their goods from their old companion’s car to the new companion’s or load up the brand new missionary with his/her trainer and they are off to their assigned areas.

The rest of the day is filled with a lot of hustle and bustle as they pick up their mail, transfer packets and supplies for the next six weeks. Problems with housing, cars, bikes, passports, finances and other sundry things are addressed by those of us in the office throughout the day. Lately there have been problems with e-mail on the new system and we hope that those will all be taken care of tomorrow. In the evening we are assigned to help Sister Poulsen with dinner for the departing missionaries. I didn’t make it this time since my vehicle had a problem earlier in the day and was left at a shopping center not far from the mission office. Elder Watts (the car czar) and I went and tried once more to start it to no avail so we called the man that does all of our body repairs as well as some of the mechanical repairs on the mission cars. We were tied up doing that for over an hour and so we missed the dinner at the mission home.

When all of this is done, we are tired and happy to fall into bed but we are glad that we were able to have the experience. As Peter said on the Mount of Transfiguration, ”It is good for us to be here.”

"Going Green" -gfh

When we first arrived here in South Africa and we started being comsumers I asked “Is there recycling in South Africa?” I was told a definite “YES!” However it’s not like we are used to. Let me explain.
We toss everything into one container and take it out to the rubbish bin. Then on Rubbish Day the trucks come around just like they do in the states BUT before the trucks can get there the recyclers hit the cans. It is kind of a sad thing to drive down the street and see people with big black bags or with little carts going through the rubbish cans for recyclable materials. Sometimes we have seen the carts packed six feet high or higher as the person is dragging his cart to the recycling station. Sometimes they seem to barely make it up the hills with their load at the end of the day.
It is all done independently. We have a brother in our branch who just a few months ago started his own business. He said he pays maybe R20 to the people who bring him trash from the bins and then he resells it to a processing outfit for R60 rand. I have wanted to have a picture of the people going thru the trash barrels but I feel so sorry for them and I don’t want them to think I’m making fun of them for doing what they are doing. However I did get a picture of a cart on it’s way to the recycling yard. It is really huge. I hope he got plenty of rand to feed his family from his efforts.
We have mentioned before that there are “Intersection Merchants” everywhere selling all kinds of things. There are also women with small children who seem to “work” certain intersections during the busy hours. Also it is very common to have a young man come up to the car window with a garbage bag asking for your trash. If you roll down your window and give him your old newspapers, soda cans, gum wrappers or dirty Kleenex you also give him a couple of rand for helping you clean out your car.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Using Their Heads! -gfh



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This is what it takes to plug in a keyboard. Various and assundry plugs and adapters. This is not uncommon and applies to appliances bought in South Africa. We don't even try to use something brought from the states.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Catching up. . . .rh

In the past three weeks, we have heard from two general authorities. Elder Marlin K Jensen was in town for some kind of assignment and President Poulsen somehow got him to come speak to our mission at a morning fireside. The president asked that all missionaries within a one hour drive come to this particular chapel and hear him. That included about 65% of our missionaries and so there was a good group. The GPS says that it should take 25 minutes for us to get there, but it took about 1 ½ hours in morning traffic. Next time there is a meeting there, I found a shortcut and I bet that we can beat the time driving to the freeway. Well, back to Elder Jensen – first, his wife spoke to us. She hit on two very important points. First, we’ve all heard that “without the Spirit, ye shall not teach.” She went further and said that without the Spirit, we do not have the sanction of God. Makes it sound pretty important to be listening for and following the promptings of the Spirit. Secondly, she pointed out that each of us needs to decide who we are. I thought about that for a long time and wondered if I have learned who I really am yet. Still working on that one.

Then Elder Jensen talked about mission culture – and each mission is unique. He said the culture consists of four elements – leadership, skill levels, worthiness and work. Under skill levels, he said something very important – just having faith doesn’t do the job, we need competence. Zowee! Practicing the lessons and becoming competent is just as important as having the Spirit and exhibiting faith. In the area of work, he said we must be “on task.” He finished up by talking about the various levels of faith. I will give scriptural references and levels that he used and you can figure out where you are on the continuum. Alma 32 – particle of faith. Mosiah 27:14 – much faith. Mosiah 4:3 – exceeding faith. Moroni 10:11 – exceedingly great faith. And finally, D&C 93:1 – knowledge. It was a great morning. I was uplifted and felt the Spirit in that meeting.

Last Sunday evening (March 14), we went to a YSA broadcast. Why were we going to a Young Single Adult activity? Well, our branch president decided we do not have enough to do and assigned us to be the advisors to YSA in our branch. Elder Ronald Rasband spoke – mainly about friends in our lives and how we should be careful in choosing those friends. He spent a good deal of time talking about a friend and mentor in his life and urged all to learn from others and especially to mentor others both in the gospel and in the world. Good counsel! I have learned from many teachers and church leaders throughout my life. I hope that I have been helpful to others that I have worked with through the years.

We will be working hard this week – it is transfers this Wednesday. We expect to be very busy all week getting ready for, taking care of and following up on the things that happen on Wednesday.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Got Bikes? -gfh

You are probably wondering if we’re doing any bike riding while here in ZA. We see bike riders out on the road probably every day. Some riders use the bike for daily transportation but others are out for the exercise and the fun of it! However, I do wonder how fun it can be riding through this crazy traffic in the Jo’burg area. There are no bike lanes and actually no shoulders. There are not only cyclists but very often pedestrians who are walking along the edge of the traffic. Sometimes at night we barely miss them as they come out of nowhere. On Saturdays we see groups of road cyclist in their bright jerseys and matching spandex shorts looking very fit and stylish. They must be out on a club ride. Sometimes they “take the lane” but are usually just braving it along side.
You know that Rusty and I feel very confident riding in traffic BUT NOT THIS TRAFFIC. We are pretty road savvy, ride defensively and have maneuvered our way through traffic congestion in San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Madison Wisconsin, etc but we’re sure we’re not ready yet to ride our bikes on the, I hate to say it, “wrong side” of the road in Johannesburg South Africa. So far the only bike we have to ride is a Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike in our flat that belongs to the Mission. I ride it every morning. I look out the window and watch the sun rise over the hills in the distance and am grateful for the new day. But the chance of riding the roads here and feeling the South African wind in our faces is pretty slim. Need some bikes but mostly need the courage. Remember Africa is not for sissies

Sunday, March 7, 2010

All Is Well -gfh

You will be happy to hear that our brother who had the blood clots is doing very well! He was in the ICU less days than expected and out of the hospital only one day after being moved out of the ICU. He and his wife have been assigned to Botswana but will be hanging around Johannesburg for another week so the doctors can monitor how he is doing. We are all very grateful!! All is well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Scarey Thing .....gfh

A new couple arrived Saturday from Burley Idaho to serve in our mission. They had a couple of days of orientation, getting set up with a GPS, cell phone and practicing driving on the left side. Tuesday,yesterday, the brother was experiencing severe pain with breathing and our office medical person thought it might be pleurisy and sent him to the ER to get checked out. The doctor there first diagnosed it as such and sent him home but called back later that they had found a problem with his blood work and needed him to come back for further tests. It was discovered that he has "multiple blood clots in the lungs" believed to have been caused by the fifteen hour flight and the fact that he didn't get up and walk around or drink water. Ahem!
Well, he is now in the ICU for three or four days and then another three or four in the hospital. Mercy! This is very scary for both the Elder and Sister (and all of us). Imagine this happening right after arriving in a foreign country...and one that is so far far away from Burley and family! And no visiting teachers or Relief Society president. We office sisters will be taking turns keeping her company at the hospital. We're her family here. We're praying all goes well and they can continue to serve with us here in South Africa.