Sunday, October 6, 2013

Leaving - Such Sweet Sorrow

Italics = Sis. Cloward’s P.S. to Elder Cloward’s great blog entry :)]

We vacuumed, wiped the counters and walked through the house one last time. Judy sighed and I paused for a moment looking around with a sense of both sadness for what and whom we were leaving behind and excitement for the adventure ahead. As the garage door shut, two of the bluebirds that had nested in the box in front of the house few up from the flowers to the aspen limb where we had watched them from the porch swing all summer while we contemplated the day we would leave. The hummingbird that had made her nest on the caribou antlers over the garage door buzzed back and forth as if complaining about the absence of her feed Judy had retired the day before. She would soon leave her mountain home for a season too.
As we turned east out of the driveway and headed down off the ridge we were greeted with a magnificent sunrise with the sun peering brightly out of the clouds that reminded us that winter would fast bring the cold to our mountain home. We on the other hand were headed to where summer was just starting to bring the heat of our first African summer. The seasons were changing – our season was changing.

We took the traditional picture in front of the world map. We had already used Google earth to take us to Africa, Botswana, Gaborone, even to the very flat (house] we would move into with our suitcases, memories, hopes and gratitude to be a part of the missionary surge that will certainly hasten the work. For the moment we had forgotten what was being left behind.

The MTC experience was a blur. They have had to shorten the time missionaries stay just to move the surge of younger Sisters and Elders through. It was the biggest group of Sr. Missionaries that had ever been there. All 141 of us stood couple by couple to introduce ourselves. We shared where we were from, where we were going and what our assignment would be. [Reminds me of our premortal life and the assignments we said we would fulfill coming to earth…] When we announced that we from Scofield we got mostly blank stares. But when we said we were going to Botswana, there was an audible aah and wow! One of the MTC leaders exclaimed, “So it was you that won the lottery!” As they all shared where they were going, I smiled and knew that we had truly been called to the best place in the world – for us.

 The group was so big that they had to house some of us at the Marriott Hotel and Residence Inn. We drove back and forth from the MTC, but our training we held in the chapel to the north of the MTC. The “Preach My Gospel” training was valuable, but the CES training was masterful. The training highlighted just how inspired the new Gospel Teaching and Learning program and curriculum for the Seminary and Institute courses are. We feel privileged to now be a part of it.

We had met with the kids at Brytt’s home the last evening before we departed. It was wonderful to hug, laugh, eat and remind each other that God would bring great blessings for our family as we sacrificed a period of our joy in each others company and engaged in his work on the dark continent.

Paul and Bryndi drove us to the airport. Little did we know that Jason, just ahead of us on the freeway going to a training in SLC, would be in an accident and that Bryndi would be only minutes behind to take the car and follow him to the hospital. Gratefully all worked out – as tender mercies and mini miracles do - perfectly. Then at the airport Paul and I shed a few tears knowing that our hugs and love would now have more distance between them than either of us had had since our missions as young men. To those who know us, it is obvious that Paul and I are as Joseph and Hyrum in closeness. 

I am grateful that I will not be limited to two calls a year to my great brother. Amy met us and walked us to the stairs. Her love and support were cherished and her prayers will be sustaining.

I am grateful that I will not be limited to two calls a year to my great brother. Amy met us and walked us
The trip was on AA to Chicago O’Hare where we had a 6-hour layover – uhhh. Then it was onto London Heathrow and another 10-hour layover. That was tough enough, but then the journey got a little stressful. The flight to Johannesburg had for about four hours, nearly halfway there, when the captain informed us that there was a warning light regarding something about one of the 3 engines on the 747 and that the decision had been made to return to London!

We got back to Heathrow and were put up in a hotel (4AM to 11am). Then we were bussed back to the airport only to wait until 7PM to start again. By the time they got things sorted out and on the way, the journey delayed our arrival in “Joburg” as they call it, until 7 AM on Sunday morning. That made the trip – well, very long to say the least.

It was also the worst time to arrive and have to go through customs. After about two hours of standing in line we got through, gathered our luggage (four 50lb bags, two carry-ons and computer bags). We were loaded. Then there standing in front of us we saw a handmade sign that read “Elder and Sister Cloward” held by what appeared to be two young, just-out-of high school aged Africans to pick us up and what we assumed were to take us to the South African Mission home. Not to be the case.

Arthur and Nimrod, the go-by names of the young men, helped us get all the luggage across the road to the parking garage and packed into a very small, I mean Jetta sized car. That was a miracle as well. Little did we know that “Arthur,” the young man whose car it was, was 36 years old, a Seminary and Institute Coordinator, a former Bishop (five years – released two years ago) and now high councilman. He had left his home at 2AM, picked up Nimrod, a more recent convert, and had driven and waited for us all that time. He did so as a favor to the man who was supposed to pick us up, brother Khumbulani. Our flight delay interfered with commitments he had so Arthur bailed him out, missed his sleep, family and church to pick us up and take us to a small hotel (Lodge as they call it), where we gratefully rested from our adventurous journey for the rest of the Sabbath day. That service, youngness in age and leadership has already proven to be the rule, not the exception of African members and leaders we have met and worked with in our first week in Africa.

We got a day and a half of quick orientation in Joburg at the CES HQ. Bro. Khumbulani, the former Area Director is now S &I Coordinator supervisor who is assigned to work with us in our primary assignment as S & I coordinators for the mission. That means all of the country of Botswana (size of Texas, population of Utah, plus all of Namibia, (larger than Botswana and half the population). On Tuesday afternoon we loaded up our things in his even smaller car (but had one less passenger) and headed north to cross over into the country of Botswana and into Gaborone (pronounced The drive was insightful in both the panorama of the country and the conversation.

The countryside is mostly flat with a few hills that can rise up as much as 1000K (it’s a job getting used to kilometers). We sit at about 6,000’ above sea level so that means we are not all that different from Scofield if we climb up to the top of one of the rocky ridges. That is not recommended because of the snakes and baboons who inhabit those places and are less friendly than the people. The terrain is a very dry Saharan desert with brushy trees and thorns of varied length and lethality (is that a word?) on most every tree, bush, and plant. We’ve discovered that they can go through shoe soles as well…There is packed sandy dirt everywhere with no weeds!) The temperature has varied from about (still having to get used to Celsius rather than Fahrenheit) 70-100 F.  It has been overcast (high haze) and a few raindrops, but mostly dry, hot and everyone is hoping that the rainy season will come – it didn’t last year and the drought is a serious problem here.

We got into Gaborone about dark. We went to the mission office and were treated with a bowl of beans and some warm homemade bread. It was perfect. We met the Gublers who are the mission office couple and President Wilson. After a quick bite we went with them to our flat. It was just as we expected from having viewed the pictures on the Rand’s blog (the couple we are replacing) and the view from Google Earth. There is a fob-activated sliding gate at the entry. A small carport 8 X 12 connects to the front of the house. The house is about 20’ wide by about 40’ long and made of cement flooring covered with linoleum squares, with painted cement brick siding and a tin roof. It has a sort of “shed” that is attached to the rear. They call it a maid’s quarters, but is unfit for anyone to be in it – but they say many come by and ask.

The yard is about ¼ acre with a brick drive and 6-foot high cement block with cement and painted plaster and an 18” electric wire system on top. It is very private for homes (flats) here. It has a variety of small fruit trees, orange, mango, peach, pomegranate – not now in season. There is a patch of grass, of-a-sorts, along one side, 15x40 feet to the west of the house. The grass was pretty much dead due to the drought. The rest of the non-bricked drive and side yard is dirt. It is amazing that there are NO weeds. Not a single blade of grass or other green on the dirt. That too I believe is partially the drought, but there has to be more to it than just that. [Thank you Rands for your diligence in freeing the grass and dirt of all the weeds before we came here! That was a labor of love, sweat and tears! :)]

There is a small area where the Rand’s had planted a garden. It is about 12 x 25 feet maybe 5 x 15 meters. So… of course, with not having been able to have a garden the last ten years except vicariously through Paul, I got a pick, shovel and rake out of the little shed and with a little sweat, we prepared to plant. [as of this writing, Oct 2, there are some tiny leaves popping through the sandy dirt clods, twigs and daily accumulating leaves from all the flowering trees….I do believe, I do believe! :)]

Now we have planted corn, beets, carrots, onions, chives, squash, tomatoes, chard (Rape is what they call it) and some herbs. Now with a little water, luck and prayer, maybe we’ll have a harvest of fruit – both of the spirit, souls and garden. At least we will get a little exercise and adventure in the process. :)

Inside, the house has a small living room, a tiny kitchen (Judy and I cannot pass each other in it at the same time]. A tiny electric stove, tiny refrigerator, tiny sink, next to no cupboard space, a tiny freezer, tiny washer and dryer and now we have added a water cooler to the mix. It is perfect for two – but when did I ever cook for just two??? I guess I will learn. The water was drinkable from the tap until the drought got so bad. Now we have to buy drinking water. They are supposed to get portable filter systems for the missionaries in the next few days. You all know how much I and Judy are wateraholics, so the investment in a water cooler was a must have. We found a store that has RO water so we go through about 15-20 liters a week. It is a luxury for sure [but well worth the 2 yr+ investment!]

Then the house has three small bedrooms. We use one, have a guest room for visiting couple missionaries and family (start saving your pennies) and the other is a little office space for us to do our work and store the various manuals and Seminary and Institute supplies. The pictures should give you the sense that we are not in a mud hut and that the area is fairly modern in many respects, although it is very third world in others.


 We have a little Chevy Aveo car to drive. It is small but adequate for our needs. We can have other missionaries in it, but no one else without special permission. The challenge is when they made the car they got mixed up and put the steering wheel and controls on the wrong side. I guess that was to accommodate the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road too! That has been most interesting to get used to. Now after several days we are getting the hang of it and a bit of a sense of the area - major roads, shopping, church buildings and landmarks that help us get around. Of course we have the help of the GPS as well. I suspect we’ll be needing that for a few weeks yet as we venture out further and address our assignments in the distant towns and villages.

There are five major “Mall-like” areas in the area. We can get about whatever we need – just not always at the same place. A couple of exceptions are corn chips and tortillas (none to be had). Prices are similar on a lot of things, a little higher on processed things and very high on other things. We were making spaghetti for an In-service Training we were doing for the S & I teachers. Trying to find real tomato sauce  took most of the afternoon. Then when I finally found one #10 can, what we would pay $3-4 in the states was priced at P72.95. The P (Pula) is trading at about $1to P8. So about $9-$10 bucks. Most canned and processed items seem higher. Petro (gasoline) is about the same here. Housewares and clothes are much higher. Oh for a Walmart, Costco and Sams. It is not just the kids, friends, mountains and a bigger kitchen we will miss over the next two years.

The most amazing thing we have discovered already in Botswana is the people. Starting with our two young (not so) greeters at the airport. So many, certainly a vast majority of the members are young, first generation, only one-in-the-family converts. They are intelligent, for the most part well-versed in the gospel and have a strong sense of commitment to living it. The young lady who offered the opening prayer in the YSA [Young Single Adult] ward Sunday made us weep with the simple yet profound words she spoke about what we were there for and how grateful we were to be part of the kingdom and able to renew our covenants – it was an incredibly powerful prayer.

We have now visited several Seminary and Institute classes, attended a missionary ward fireside, youth activity, the family ward and conducted an In-service training with several of the teachers. I found myself feeling like Utah needed to have some of them as “member missionaries” for us to see what real commitment, testimony and conversation looks like. It’s like walking 1-2 hours to a meeting – in the heat, with clean, neat clothing – even if they come from a small two or three (one in some cases) room home. Their faith and faithfulness is amazing and inspiring. How we see that Elder Holland was so right. They have so little of what matters least and so much of what matters most. It is going to be a humbling and growth producing privilege to work and live with them.

Okay, for the journal, by the days –

September 2, Monday – enter the MTC – Training in Preach My Gospel
Tuesday – Friday, 3-6 – More of TMG
Monday – Wednesday, 9-11 – CES S&I Training
Thursday, 12 – Flights to South Africa
Sunday, 15 – Arrive Johannesburg – Rest and Recuperate Jet Lag
Monday, 16 – Brief CES Training – Meet Bro. Khumbulani and staff
Tuesday, 17 – Travel to Gaborone – Boarder Crossing, meet Gublers, APs and President Wilson, delivered to our flat.
Wednesday, 18 – Doug had his first driving lesson with the APs.
Met with Bro. K, Bro. Rwada and Stake President Matswagothata (mats.wa.go.tatta). Meet at Gublers with missionaries and departing couple (Spahrs),  go to Mission Home for dinner and meet with other couples (Abrahams, Davises, Spahrs, Gublers) meet Sister Wilson
Thursday,19  Driving on the wrong sides lesson with Bro. Gubler
Shopping to get food and supplies, organize the flat. Starting to get time change and sleeping better. Attended Seminary and Institute classes in G West building.
Friday, 20 – More shopping and organizing, Send Nykelle baby gifts DHL. Attended a youth activity with Gublers in Labotse.
Saturday, 21– Working in the garden area to prep ground for planting. Watering trees. More shopping and set-up. Lunch with Gublers (Mug and Bean – rate 2 on 5). Working to get Internet working and printer.
Sunday, 22 – Officially here (Africa) one week. Attend church with YSA and then Family Ward GW. Very impressed with young people.

1 comment:

  1. So glad I finally checked in at your blog site again. Sad to discover that I had been missing out on your adventure. I will definitely keep up with the blog now. Loved reading all about it. Love you guys!