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.

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