Wednesday, October 30, 2013

So Much from So Little

Week of October 13-20, 2013
“Dang! We don’t have any of that - either!”

“Oh well,” as our friend Margaret Rasmussen would say.

“We’ll figure out a way to do it, or something similar without what we are used to doing it with,” Sister Cloward responded.

That was the conversation about trying to make a “Pumpkin Surprise” dessert for a mission activity. It is also becoming the reality of life and work here in Africa. So many of the things we are used to having at our fingertips, and which we are learning how very much we took for granted back home, are simply unavailable here in a third world country - and in the emerging resources of the Church. 
However, this situation is also spawning a realization of what is and isn’t all that necessary, that there are suitable substitutions and what is really important, necessary to get the job done. Every day we are finding out more of how much less is truly needed to have and to know in order for life and the Lord’s work to move forward successfully.

So we substituted Butternut Squash for the Pumpkin in the recipe. Not only did it work - Butternut Surprise may even be better than Pumpkin Surprise. We are discovering that there are other ways and even better ways to get around what we thought was a critical need.

The first thing that we thought was critical was the Internet connectivity. We are still trying to get that “solution.” We have been told that the fiber optic network will be connected to BTC (Botswana Telecommunications Corporation) sometime in November or December. Our experience would lead us to hope for sometime early after the first of the new year... Botswana time.

Another need was something as simple as a chair for the makeshift desk in the makeshift office in our flat. The desk is a piece of particle board counter, the chair an outdoor plastic chair with a flat pillow on top. Like butternut squash, it works - until there is a better solution - that too will come.

Another, need, for watching General Conference with the ward this past weekend (the DVDs came in this week), is a building to have the ward members meet in. Challenge was, Mochudi Ward doesn’t have a building per se, they have a tent for a chapel. 

And yes, it works for that and for a place for members to worship and to watch conference in.

Lobatse Ward has a kind of double-wide trailer for a chapel, cultural hall and multi-purpose room. Both “churches” have grounds that are just dirt with a few thorn trees and brushy bushes. When there are too many to be in the tent or trailer, the overflow stand or sit on the outside under thorn bushes and trees to find a little shade. There they hear the sermons, sing the hymns of Zion (with fervor and feeling) and renew their baptismal covenants. And once more, Elder and Sister Cloward are humbled by the realization of how much can be done, with so little (by comparison to Utah) and with how much spirit and gratitude.

This recurring theme has been impressed upon us again and again through the week. Life is somehow miraculously sustained, sufficient comfort is found or created, complexities in food, programs and Church functions can be reduced. Still, the primary purpose of bringing the good news of Christ, His gospel and the Father’s Plan of Salvation presses forward and increases the happiness of this happy people.

We participated in a YSA event in Lobatse this week. We took pictures of Seminary students who will be graduating and taught the young single adults how to play Scripture Mastery. They had the largest group they have every had at an activity and fully over half the attendees were investigators.

I gave the mini sermon (Scout Master’s Minute) at the end of the activity to make sure the message and spirit ended with the purpose of having them consider the truths of the gospel the doctrines of the Kingdom and to issue a challenge to come to know for themselves - who they really are - where they came from, before this life, why they are here and now, and where they and their loved ones go after this life. They were intent on listening and we believe the missionaries (who were there to be with the contacts) will have more to discuss regarding the plan of salvation this week.

Friday was both Zone Conference for Gaborone (including us) and it was a ‘graduation’ of sorts for a group of medical professionals who had just completed an “Infant Resuscitation” course that had been presented by the Church Humanitarian group. We met Brother and Sister Eggert to manage that program for the Area out of Joberg. They love their work. Next week they and some of our Stake people will be off doing a Measles Vaccination Campaign throughout the mission.

Stake President Clement (I’ll refer to him by his first name rather than Matswagothata) spoke. It was like hearing myself speak - we are really kindred souls. He did a tremendous job of representing the Church without being churchy. I thought again, “either he is bound for Salt Lake or for political contributions here in his own country.”

Sister Cloward and I set up a display in the foyer of the Stake Center and greeted the participants. Many of the tracts, DVDs and other materials were taken. Seeds planted. Someday I suspect they will support and prepare the people for the missionaries who knock at the door.

Our experience watching conference in Machudi, in the tent, was wonderful. Oh did we love being with the children! Sister Cloward sang with the children for nearly an hour, outside in the shade of the tent and small building that held the classrooms. 

Click Here to watch Sister Cloward with the beautiful children.

President Wilson was there coordinating with the Ward Leadership and missionaries.

As always, we loved the Conference talks, music and spirit. I especially appreciated Elder Holland’s talk regarding mental and emotional illness and depression. I suspect everyone could relate, as he did, to seasons of difficulty coping with life’s challenges. And I suspect everyone felt his heartfelt counsel to be understanding, gentle and supportive - to minister where possible, to those who suffer these challenges on an ongoing basis.

I also loved Elder Uchtdorf’s message about “doubting our doubts before doubting our faith.” His frank acknowledgement of all our weaknesses and mistakes as stewards in a perfect church with imperfect people had to feel like Gilead’s balm on many sore and inflamed feelings. Again, I couldn’t help but think that we have all been both victim and villian - albeit most often unintentionally and unknowingly. His pleading to “come back and to join once again” was a clarion call for any to whom the spirit has also been, to return to their faith and fellowship with the “imperfect” saints.

Here again, our expectations of what things have to be (perfect) reverberated in his message. The Lord can get his work done without perfect “pumpkin” people. He can even get it done with some of us butter-“nuts.” The amazing thing is that he allows that privilege. If He can, we must understand, let go of our self-imposed offense and get on with what He will allow us to do to serve and to grow.

Then Sunday we were off to Molepolole Ward to view the rest of the Conference and to meet the people of that part of this very dry but fertile part of the vineyard. While it wasn’t a tent, the Molepolole building was humble and again was filled with the spirit of Saints, singing and service.  We met briefly with the Institute students and Sister Cloward coordinated with the Bishop for the choir practices.

Some of the students asked if we could give them a lift. Oh how we wanted to, but mission rules are very strict as to who and when missionaries can give people a ride - which is about never. That is unless it is a member going to a teaching appointment with you, a member who has a mission call and is working with the missionaries and other missionaries. Other than that, it is a shout in the ear/heart by the spirit not to “transgress the rules.”

It rained, just a little last night while we slept. The trip to Molepolole was yet another testament of so much with so little. With so little rain, yet literally in just a few hours the trees and flora drank it up and the green was almost immediate. It will be wonderful to see a little more rain and how the green and growth is hastened.

And so it is with Africa. They have and are getting so little, yet, like the green from a little rain, they are growing so much. It boggles the mind to imagine what will happen shortly as more missionaries and more light of truth rain down on the parched continent and people.

All that is needed is a little more love, service and leadership. Again, we say - come - bring the rain that will bring in the reign. Don’t think your time is far off - it could be sooner than you thought.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Light is in Their Eyes

Week of October 7-13

This week we learned more about the light of the body being the eyes and that if you know what to look for, you can see the light or,  absence of it in the eyes of those we meet with. This is a wonderful tool and a joy to see those whose eyes and lives are filled with new light.

Monday was spent frustrating, moreover the inadequacy of the Internet service here generally and from our provider specifically. We had technicians here for a couple of hours and they finally concluded that an engineer would need to come and realign the little dish and reset the settings. We sighed and suggested that that happen Wednesday afternoon because we were not available until then.

Tuesday we traveled down to Mafikeng across the Botswana border to South Africa. There we met with the Abrahams, the Member Support missionary couple there. It was a delightful visit with them. They are from St. George, although they are originally from Southern California where, later in life, they and their family joined the church. That conversion story was in itself a real treat to hear.

The real treat however, was their introduction to us of sister Mercy. She is a Zimbabwean saint, member of 17 years, married in the temple to a doctor (who can’t get work in his country, but can’t leave either.) Sister Mercy has a degree in what we would call Physical Therapy. She uses a tapping process to realign the body, similar to what a chiropractor might do with spine manipulation. There is no question that she has the gift of healing.

She lives in one side of a tiny cement block and tin garage, perhaps 7 feet by ten feet. No real door, no indoor plumbing, only recently did Elder Abraham set up an electric line and light in the place. She has only a small bed, tiny table and a few books. No running water, no bathroom, no fridge, no closet, no cupboard, no windows - nothing.

Yet, people send drivers from all over the country and South Africa to bring her, or they come to her, to be able to get pregnant. She has a powerful gift of using this realigning energy from tapping to help women get pregnant. She also does many other amazing techniques that have wonderful healing results.

She had two children of her own, living with her husband in Zimbabwe. Plus she has 10 other children who have come to her from family and friends who have died. She is providing for in their home and education with all the little money she gets from her services here in Mafikeng.

She is a true Saint. I had the impression to offer a special blessing, which she eagerly accepted. The blessing was from Heaven and we all wept at her promised gifts and support from on high. She has recently been called to teach the YSA group in the Branch (5 to 8 students). Meeting her, seeing her living conditions, learning about her life, conversion and testimony were humbling beyond description. But mostly what we found was the sparkle of gospel light in her eyes. Her very life defines humility, dedication and service. Oh how guilty I feel when I see the likes of Sister Mercy.

Then the Abrahams took us to the church for us to attend the Seminary class and to teach the Inservice lesson. A street preacher met us at the gate of the compound where the church has rented some space for church.  His name was preacher Peter. He was there for a handout, not for a bash. Sister Abraham invited him to join us for the class (she had better second thoughts but it was too late to un-invite him).

The teacher of the Institute class is a 19-year-old handsome young man who is very intelligent and has amazing skill with the students. His name is Nelson Hlophe. He lives in a tiny block house, no water, no electricity and he is raising his 16-year-old brother on his own. They have an older brother who is serving a mission. As soon as he returns home, Nelson will go on his mission and the older brother will carry on with the raising of the younger brother.  Then he too will then leave for a mission when Nelson is back. How? With incredible sacrifice, determination and some help from the church and members, themselves who are poorer than the church mice, that join them each Sunday.

Once again, the light in Nelson’s and his student’s eyes was telling and humbling. After the class, Peter left after requesting some assistance from Elder Abraham, who gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. Then we taught the Inservice lesson and Sister Cloward coordinated the attendance rolls and records so we can check on the qualifications for the four students who will graduate. The Institute teacher was a member of the Branch Presidency and is now the Elder’s Quorum President, single, but does have a car - one of the only two or three in the Branch who does.

We left the lesson and watched sister Mercy, brother Diphala and Nelson and his brother leave, I marveled at their diligence and commitment. I had seen how far they had to walk to the hovels where the stayed (they don’t call it their home - only “where they stay.”) Oh what a lesson, what an example, what faithfulness. No wonder their eyes twinkle and their laughter is so contagious. They truly prove that “less is more!”

We had dinner at a quiet little place that was tucked away in the housing area of the town. It was called “The Ferns.” It is not advertised and is sort of a private dinner place for locals (mostly white people). We had reservations and were ushered in through a labyrinth of overgrown plants, walk and hallways to a private room and table. That could have handled a dozen people. The Abrahams had not eaten there either. We were in for a real treat.

Sister Abraham ordered the Kingkilp (ocean fish) Brother Abraham, Sister Cloward and I ordered the fillet. In a few minutes the waiter came back apologizing that they only had two fillets. I offered to have the T-bone.

The T-bone was thin but well prepared with a side of tiny baked potato and a little minced Rape (chard). But the fillets (cut lengthways rather than across???) was amazingly good. I got one bite from Sister Cloward, so I could verify just how wonderful it was. The whole setting was a delightful experience for all of us. But…

I could see how uncomfortable we all were having that dinner knowing what our students of the day were likely having, or not. And therein is the difficulty we have in being surrounded by a society with such divergent wealth and poverty. It is very difficult for couple missionaries (and the younger ones too) to follow the counsel to not give money or more resources to the members.

We all understand the rationale - we can not rescue them and take them out of poverty by giving them money. But we can help them to have the knowledge and spirit that can take the poverty out of them. However, the difficulty here in Africa is so very complex. It takes in so many different nations with such diverse culture and such terrible poverty and political upheaval. Truly the future of the nations here is in the hand of the Lord to work his miracles to get the light into the minds and hearts of Africans who can lead their countries and people to choices and conditions that can improve their lives.

It seems that each place, branch, ward and group we visit and try to leave with better understanding and more effective teaching skills ends up teaching us a lot more than we do them.

We stayed that night at a hotel - very expensive! It was nice, a mid-range place by U.S. standards. However, it was obvious that it catered to the more elite of the country and area. We won’t stay there again. We did that time because the Abrahams had set it up for us and it was where the mission president stays when he goes there. Because it is South Africa there and security is a really big deal, they wanted us to be in a compound area. Wherever possible we’ll try to arrange our affairs and meetings there next time in time to get us back home to our flat (2-21/2 hours --- across and through the border crossing process).

On our way out the next morning, we drove through a small game preserve on the outskirts of town. It reminded me of a drive out through the flat and brushy area south of Tintic and Eureka. But only slight undulation to the terrain. We encountered Redbok (a horse-like horned deer/elk like critter), lots of Zebra, impala, jackal, Caped Water Buffalo, Wildebeasts, Giraffes and the prize was a female white rhino and her calf. I tried to get the car to where we could catch them crossing in front of us. All I got was a picture of them at a distance from the rear. HUGE behind! It had to be 6 to 61/2 feet across the back end. The horn was 18 to 20 inches in length and they trotted along like a Sherman tank. That was an awsome thing to see.

We got back a little after noon and expected the Internet guys to follow through with the promise to return to get things fixed. No such luck. Sister Cloward continues to remind me “Honey, remember, we are in Africa and Botswana and people don’t do things the way you expect.” Well these guys don’t, but I have seen some amazing young and not-so-young people here who do. The difference seems to have something to do with the light, or lack of it, in their eyes.

Oh well, there was Wednesday to try again. No such luck. Oh they did come, but they couldn’t fix the problem. It seems the whole country is so over jamming the few copper lines that carry the Internet that about the best speed they can get is 1.5 Down and .35 Up. The real problem is the quality of the carriage of the signal. That is where and why we have such a difficult time connecting or even sending an email.  I suspect that this battle is going to take more time and teach more patience, (I have decided that is the word people use to describe the exasperation of frustration over idiotic situations). “Yes dear, I know, it does no good to complain.” --- yah I know, but...

We met Wednesday night with brother Caiphus who is the single 31 year old Stake Music Chairman. Sister Cloward was asked by the Stake President to help him with a choir for the first Sake conference that will be conducted on November 2. She has a lot to do to get some of the Branches ready to contribute some voices. Caiphus is sharp and would really like to get married. Our story encouraged him to be more bold in his courting. I think we’ll have a great friendship with him.

Thursday was filled with more Internet research and frustration and a bit of coordination with the Gublers for getting a new car that we would take up to Francistown on Friday. Then Sister Cloward got together with the other Sister missionaries and Sister Gubler and Sister Wilson (mission President’s wife) to watch the DVD of the Women’s Conference. Sister Cloward had started a Pumpkin Surprise (without pumpkin -- not available here). So we used Butternut Squash which they have a plenty. She left it cooking and about the time the conference watching was over I was to take it over to the Gubler’s flat (about 15K away). One of the AP’s was here with me while his companion and Elder Gubler were down to the City water district trying to work out the water bills for all the missionaries, mission office and mission home.

Just as we were getting the desert in the car it started to rain. Now mind you they haven’t seen anything but a light sprinkle or two in over a year. Suddenly the sky was full of lightning (different than what you see in the valleys there. It was quite a show as torrents of rain fell for about 30-40 minutes. It had been 100ยบ outside, but when we got out of the car at Gublers it was hailing and we got drenched in the quick run in with eh Butternut Surprize (that I had accidently let burn on the bottom - we are still trying to figure out cenagrade conversions and timing of our tiny electric oven). I’ll, we’ll get it better next time.

Friday we drove up to Francistown bringing the new replacement car for the Sister missionaries. It was a little white Hyundai 2i. Sister Cloward (I am still getting used to calling her that) drove the Aveo and I drove the Hyndai after an interesting false start.

Originally she was to drive the new car. We did start out that way, but after just 20K she called me on the cell phone in the Aveo and asked if I had seen the helicopter go over? I responded no and that I didn’t hear it either. In a couple of minutes after passing the last roundabout when she increased her speed up toward the 120K posted limit she called again. It seems that the helicopter was not above the car, it was the car! It was making a horrific sound and shaking like it was going to “fly” apart.

We pulled over and traded cars. About the time I got it up to 80-90K it did the same thing to me. We pulled over and called Eder Gubler, the fleet manager. He had us meet him back at town and brought us another new car identical to the other one. We started out again and as we hit 90K Sister Cloward called again informing me that this was doing the same thing. We traded cars again and sure enough, at about 85K the car went into helicopter mode. I decided to push it up a little more. I got the heli-car up to 140K and heard a little pop sound and the noise stopped. It didn’t happen again for all five more hours of driving, most of the time at 120K.

We later determined that the noise was a vibration and harmonics from the plastic under panel of the cars. The pop must had been a rivet or something that made the airflow produce the vibration. Both cars now seem okay. Sister Cloward is okay to. Given her helicopter ride with Thayne (after his water skiing accident) she was not interested in another one.

We finally arrived in Francistown just after dark. The Davis’ are a delightful young couple (about our age) from Cache Valley where he has been in the car dealership business all his life. They have a wonderful flat that the Mission President can use when he comes up to hold meetings, interviews and he and his wife can stay in the second bedroom. That bedroom has a king bed that was nearly as wonderful as our own at home. We stayed with them two nights.

Elder Davis had a brief meeting at the church with the Branch President just before we went to the dinner at a place right across from the church called Barbara’s restaurant. At one time years back it was surrounded by a golf course. But draughts and budgets have now allowed the course to return to its native brush. There we met President Majofi from  Zimbabwe. He survives in a tiny hovel like the one sister Mercy in Mafikeng. He has no work, no income and survives by raising a small garden at the Davis home and getting whatever he can from odd jobs. He cannot officially work in the country. He has an emergency at home in Zimbabwe so he will not be at church Sunday. How he is going to get there we don’t know - no car, no money, only faith and a little help from Heaven and Heaven’s helpers.

At church we also met the newest member of at he Branch a brother Hassin. He has been investigating the church for seven years. His wife and two young children are members, but only just recently did he humble himself enough to pray about the church. His powerful answer came like most testimonies. It came as a washing of peace and calm from the spirit. He recognized the difference in his feelings and he allowed that spirit to lead him. He has a great testimony and his eyes are alight with the truth he has embraced. I fully expect that he will be the Branch President one day. They are looking forward to being sealed with their children a year from now. I hope we are able to join them for that sacred occasion.

The purpose of the trip was to do an Inservice Training for the new Seminary and Institute teachers. That was the primary agenda for Saturday morning.

We had dinner that night  at an interesting little restaurant that was owned and run by a German woman named Barbara (late 50’s). She was the owner, cook and socializer for her guests. She also had a glass of wine in her hand all the time. She came and sat next to me to take our orders. She rattled off as many other items she had available as she had on the menu itself (and that was a good many). I asked her if she would just fix me something she loved to cook. Her eyes sparkled and she smiled at the prospect of surprising me. She was already a few sheets to the wind, so I wasn’t sure what I was in for.

Sister Cloward had a Hake fillet (a local ocean fish) with mashed potatoes. I ended up with a small piece of beef in a sort of egg batter with minced onions. It was very similar to how I sometimes prepare venison. Okay, not great, but the food was only part of the deal. She sat at the table and talked until past our curfew. She simply would not let us go. She would have talked all night about a few gospel concepts I passed her way, but we promised to return the next time we were there and take up the conversation again.

We left not sure if she would remember the discussion or gospel principles or not the next morning. Her eyes had been full of self assured opinion about the nature of deity or prime order and how she was not coming back to the same body. Her eyes were clouded by the alcohol as was her thinking. However, I think she has had a hard life and that she may actually have a desire to hear the truth. We’ll see. I only hope that next time she will be able to visit under the influence of the spirit not the alcohol. But, the spirit was not in her eyes that night - they were dark.

The next morning we went to the church for the inservice lesson and met brother Olifile Moumakwa and sister Prudence Bakoko. Brother Olifile (O.lee.fee.lay) is a fifty plus single man, well educated, convert of three years and was endowed in the temple a year ago. A former Catholic, studied at Commonwealth College in Richmond VA. He is a very bright and faithful member and a great teacher. Sister Bakoko is a lovely wife and mother of two of the absolutely most beautiful young children (girl 4 and boy almost 3). Her husband is the 2nd Counselor in the Branch Presidency. They are a wonderful family. Both brother Olifile’s and the Bakoko’s testimonies and conversion stories are amazing and testify to the Lord’s moving in mysterious ways to answer seeking minds and hearts.

Their eyes literally sparkle like the children as they tell how the light of the gospel came into the lives and hearts. The lesson was good and the spirit was rich as we explored teaching in the Lord’s way to help their students find the truth in the principles and doctrines they were discovering in the scriptures.

We taught them how the new S & I teaching process is to “read the scriptures sequentially” and how the teacher can help them “discover the context” or setting of the story they are reading, “how to find the content” (who, what, where, when and why). Then how to ask questions to help guide the students to “find the principles and doctrines” that are included in the verses and chapters they are reading.

They were excited to understand how they as teachers could help “expand the students understanding and insight for application of the principles and doctrines in their own lives.” Then finally we discussed how effective teaching leads to a clear desire and “commitment to incorporate the principles and doctrines into their lives” to live and be “Like That.”

Again, these great saint’s eyes sparkled at their own discovery of how they can become more effective teachers. And what a sacred trust to teach the youth in the church is for them.

While we were teaching Sister Bakoko’s children and husband were busy cleaning the building for church the next day. You will see in the pictures of this delightful little girl and little boy that their eyes dance with joy of life and love. They like so many young people, especially children, here as just full of joy and gladness. Even in their dark little eyes you can see the light of love.

I couldn’t help but compare the lack of light in our dinner host’s eyes the night before and the eyes of these faithful members and children at the training and at church the next morning. There are several scriptures that relate to the eye as the light of the body and that the light chaseth darkness away. We saw the truth of that concept that night and several more times the next day in church.

We delivered the new car to the Sisters and met the Elders who are serving there. They are a long way from the mission HQ and some of them are very young (green), but they seem to be committed to the work and love the people.

That night Elder Davis had made arrangements for us to have dinner at a private game preserve about 50K north of town. We drove up about 4:30 PM and arrived just before dark. As we drove in we saw several different animals. This place was also a golf course (if you can call it that). But it certainly had its own dry, dry, dry beauty.

As we arrived we gave the cook our order (fish, chicken or beef). Judy had fish, Sister Davis the chicken and Elder Davis and I the rump beef. It would be ready at 6 PM. That gave us a half hour to ride around the course and see the animals from the old safari type truck they had.

We saw a lot of giraffes, and a number of different deer family animals. We enjoyed the ride and animals, but mostly we just really enjoyed being with the Davis’s. They felt like life-long friends. We look forward to being with them again next month.

The food was good and the dessert that came with the meal was a piece of heavy dark cake covered with a wonderful apricot custard. Sister Cloward got the recipe - it really was that good.

On the way out we ran into several more giraffes and I tried to get a shot of them with the camera. Alas, I could see the twinkle in their eyes from the reflection of the headlights, but the little flash could not reach out and capture the moment the way it really was.

Early the next morning early we went to the Francistown Branch for church and the Davis’ had to go to the Gerald group where they are assigned. So we bid them farewell until next time. Church was again a delightful adventure with lots of sparkles in the dark eyes of the children and members. There wasn’t enough room for everybody at sacrament meeting to sit. Even sliding over and sharing seats. They will have to address the lack of chapel space sooner than later as they grow.

Sister Cloward helped a couple of the youth with the player keyboard and after sacrament meeting I helped brother Bakoko set apart his wife to the Seminary Teacher calling and another young sister as the Branch Music director. Sorry, the names are a challenge to say, let alone remember.

After church we headed back on the long drive home to Gaborone. On the way we passed the Tropic of Capricorn and a lot of little huts where the families were gathering and selling bundles of thatch (weedy grass to use on the roofs and for fences of other little huts and compounds. They also were making and selling little brooms and bundles of firewood.

Once again the contrast, poverty, ingenuity, determination and just sheer ability to survive was a lesson and an amazing experience to witness in the life of people whom I know the Lord loves and who he expects us to bring the light of the gospel truths to their eyes, ears and hearts too. I just don’t quite know how he is going to work all that out we such weak vessels as I.

The lesson of the week? First - Simply, in the darkest of eyes and lives there is room for light. Once received, the light will carry them out of darkness and poverty. Second, Oh how very much we have and how very much we want these brothers and sisters to have all that we have - spiritually and temporally. How very much we want to see the day when their is “no poor among them.”

To those other senior couples who could consider a Senior Service Mission now, we encourage you to touch base with us so we can help you understand why and how a Botswana mission could be a great opportunity for you. For those who are not yet thinking it is time we invite you to reconsider and really ask - “Could it be?”

If you have the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your life and your eyes, you too could help to bring that to Africa and share it with these wonderful people who are so ready and anxious for the light of truth - and for you to bring it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Light is On in the Dark Continent

Week of September 29 - October 6, 2013

I don’t remember where I first heard the term “The Dark Continent.” Perhaps it was in one of the old Tarzan movies. The term did not refer to the color of the skin of the original inhabitants. Rather, “Dark” referred to the fact that it was unknown, and was so impenetrable by European and Western exploration in general that the “darkness of the jungle and vastness of the continent was the reason Henry Stanley of “Dr. Livingston I presume…” fame first penned the term the “Dark Continent.”  

Further, the continent was also dark with the traditions of the past that were incongruous to western civilization and specifically to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That dark night has seen the dawn of glorious new light in the continent, countries and hearts of Africa. The day dawn is surely breaking and the clouds of night’s darkness are fleeing away. This is truly the day of gospel light removing the darkness from the minds and understanding of the people of Africa.
This week has been a continuation of preparations for the service and work with the Seminary and Institute teachers and Unit (Ward and Branch) leaders of the mission. There is so little of the area and so few of the people who we have reached, yet those who have been are clearly among the noble and great ones.

This week was transfers for the Elders and Sisters. Several went home and a few new ones came in. Couples rarely get transferred and we’re 99% certain we will be here in the same flat for the duration of our service here, even though our area covers the whole mission. We helped the Gublers with some Flat inspections in the Broadhurst area, although given the fact that most of them were in a state of shifts of residents, the inspection was just a visit to leave them cinnamon rolls Sister Gubler had made. It was good to get to know the sisters better.
We had four sisters over one evening for dinner. Then we had the two office Elders over. They brought a member friend that they had just been with to a lesson. We served the leftover spaghetti from the training - there was a lot. Needless to say the pot was licked clean. Elder Bonghani was very hungry. He is a small African Elder (exceptional faith and diligence)… certainly a budding great leader here.

On Tuesday we went to lunch with the Abrahams and Gublers. We went to the Game Mall and ate at Mug and Bean. The food was better than the last time we ate there and it was a pleasant lunch. Other than the KFC in the Mall, there really aren’t any fast food places here. After lunch they went back to the mission office to get ready for the transfer meeting. They gather the group of missionaries at the church to make the exchanges and to have a brief testimony meeting on transfer days. Sister Cloward and I had to go to the stationary store to pick up a few office items. When we came out, I went into the Mall restroom.

Mind you the stalls here, like in Europe, are closets with a floor to ceiling door - not the cubicles we have back in the states. All went fine until I went to leave and the small door handle that shut and locked the door came off in my hand. It was stripped and no matter how hard I tried, it would not release the locked door. Now that was a predicament! There Sister Cloward was out in the hall waiting for me, there I was, the only one in the large men’s bathroom, I mean small 2’x3’ commode room with no apparent way to get out. I am sure I must have felt like I was in spirit prison before the Master came to the rescue.

After several minutes of wishing I had a pocketknife or screwdriver or some other tool (a high speed grinder maybe?), I realized that all I had was my ministerial card, nametag and phone. So I called Elder Gubler who had just gotten back to the mission office (only five minutes away) and explained the situation. He graciously laughed and came to the rescue. I knew that by then Sister Cloward was worrying that maybe I had been mugged or worse (15 minutes and still waiting…). Then I thought maybe I could get someone’s attention by banging on the door. So I did - again and again. (However, I never heard the banging on the door and was really concerned about my hubby!)

Finally, someone came to my bathroom door. I could barely understand him, but he got the message and he was able to jerry the lock and let me out. Hallelujah! Free again! I had just walked out to both Sister Cloward’s and my relief when Elder Gubler got there. We had a good laugh and I determined to find a good gentleman’s pocketknife and to be sure to try the door before I used another public facility.

That afternoon the Gublers and Abrahams were at the transfer (we did not go). They had pizzas for the missionaries - ten pizzas to be exact and you can imagine how much the Elders left for the couples…yah right. So we got a call and quickly threw together a dinner for the six of us. They came over for the feed and a round of SM (Scripture Masters - our new version of Five Crowns with Seminary Scripture Mastery Scriptures). Abrahams are later-life converts with a great story about good friends and work associates who shared the gospel. It was a good visit to get to know them. Next week they will return the favor as we travel down to Mafikeng to meet with the S & I (Seminary and Institute) teachers and leaders of their Ward.

We continue to have major frustration with the Internet and communication system here. Our Internet speeds are typically - 678 png, .012mbs download and .09mbs upload. Every email, software upgrade and Google call effort is dropped again and again. We are grateful to have the resource, but it is usually more frustration than it is worth. The provided has promised to come by and see if there is anything they can do to get the speed up to the standard which is about 48 png, .42mbs down and .24mbs up. I suggested to our people at the Area in South Africa that they might see if any of President Monson’s pigeons were available for communications.

We went with the Gublers to a Braai (BBQ) at the Lobatse Ward (an hour south) with the young adults there. The Rands, the previous CES couple here, had acquired several weenie roasters and we took them to show the kids how to roast Viennas (“hot dogs,” but truly more like breakfast-size vienna sausages.) They usually put whatever they are roasting right on the wire screen over the fire. They don’t use briquettes. We had marshmallows (pretty much the same here as back home). And Sister Cloward and I had prepared some pineapple slices for roasting as well. They had a good time and in so many ways are just like teenagers at home. Yet in other ways, so very different. They have nothing, yet they have everything - even without graham crackers and chocolate bars for smores.

After the braai they went inside the building and I did a short talk about who would be first at the Savior’s feet, would be last in line. I tied it in with striving to get to the temple with all of their friends. It was a “Scoutmaster's MInute” to give a spiritual tone and purpose to the gathering, rather than just to get together for fun. The stake presidency is striving to insert gospel purpose, principles and doctrinal reminders in all the activities.

On Thursday we met with President Makweni, Bro Rwada, and the Stake Young Men’s and Young Women’s presidents (married couple with a young baby) to consider the Seminary graduation and other youth-focused issues and calendaring considerations. It was clear that the President (2nd Counselor) was trying to use the training on working through counsels. Meet, delegate and call for reporting and consideration for further action and planning details. It is the right way to go - but the delay in making decisions and getting the go ahead was a bit frustrating to the attendees. The big question that needs a response from the stake president has to do with a simple change in the date for Seminary graduation.

They want to get the parents and family members of the graduates out to the event. However, the plan was a quick little program and a quick walk across the stage to get a certificate. Many of these are first generation members with non-member parents. However, even with that they get more (and that is mighty few) of the non-member parents to attend, than the member parents. I tried to impress them with the concept that we look at graduation as the “END” (end result of having completed the four years of classes), but that it can also be a powerful “MEANS” to creating interest and desire to attend and graduate on the part of younger youth who see the significance and grandness of the event.

This whole concept of learning to see the means in everything is a powerful concept. The Elders and Sisters see being here as the “END” to the preparation and anticipation of serving their mission. Yet from a higher and broader perspective, their missions are more of a means for training and preparation in their own lives. It is a great “MEANS” for personal and gospel  experiences that will prepare them for future callings and life challenges. I have come to see everything as a means to greater ends that may be beyond us to comprehend or appreciate in the present moment - we tend to see what we do as the end of the current moment, calling, challenge or action.

Saturday, Sister Wilson and the Gublers convinced President to take a P-day and leave the white shirt behind (not the name tag) and spend the morning visiting the small animal preserve about 15-20 minutes from our flat. We went along in the mission van. The Reserve is about a 50-acre fenced area of dry, flat brushy terrain. You can drive through and see some of the animals of the region. We saw warthogs, lots of monkeys, zebras, impalas, gazelles, ostriches and several other small animals and a variety of birds. 

We would have seen more birds, but the drought doesn’t help bring them here now. The drought is a national emergency. Rationing is now going to be 2-3 times a week from the 2-a-wk we are already experiencing. They cut the water off in various Phases (large neighborhood areas) for several hours (8+ where we live) at a time. That’s a bit of a pit for bathroom, bathing and other water need issues of the day.

Anyway, we stopped in the Reserve in a small brushy area where there were some little concrete tables and taught the Wilsons how to play Scripture Masters for a while. The game was interrupted by the constant visits of monkeys looking for a handout and by an enormous ostrich, which at times I could literally reach out and touch. It was a fun outing and I am sure we will see some of the other Animal Reserves in some of the other areas we work in - including one in Mafikeng next week.

Today because the Internet is too slow to stream conference without undue frustration at the lag in pic/voice, the Stake did not try to host a live broadcast of General Conference. Rather, they will show it on DVD in each Unit in two weeks after the disks are available. So Sister Cloward and I attended the Broadhurst Ward for Fast and Testimony meeting. The Bishop invited two new missionaries to introduce themselves and bear their testimonies and then asked a sweet sister who had just returned from serving in the Johannesburg Temple as a missionary to bear her testimony. It was so powerful and moving to hear her testimony and faith.

She is the mother of the 32-year-old stake president. The mother who told her son he was no longer a member of the family when he joined the church. She then reiterated that rejection when he turned a full-ride scholarship at the college to serve a mission in Cape Town. She and her daughter rejected him, the church and turned their backs on him for causing so much contention and frustration in the family. He went anyway. Nine months into his mission, with no contact with his family, his mother called to inform him that she had just been baptized. His sister too found the light and left her darkness behind.

That story of President Clement Motswogothata, [Mot.swo.ho.tata], his mother and the incredible journey, service and leadership here in the Church in Botswana is a powerful story and prefixing metaphor of many lives that have, are and will be the product of the gospel light removing the [spiritual] darkness from this people, nation and continent. I hope to help him write his story and testimony about “Who is Really in Charge in the Church – in his life.” The message applies to all the lives and service of those He has reserved and raised up for this time of enlightenment in Africa.

Once again, we thrilled at the privilege of being here now to see the light and to be able to help to pull back the shades in even a little way. We sincerely invite other couples whom would like to join us here as Sr. Missionary couples to work with the branches and wards, to let us know of your interest. President Wilson would love to talk with you about the opportunity and need and to connect you with the missionary committee to discuss the possibilities of bringing your light to add to the brightness of the Lord’s work here.