Friday, November 22, 2013

Sending letters anyone ??? (Hint, Hint Hint) he he :D

I [Bryndi] will post this on the side of the blog as well, but just like any missionary -- a letter found in the mailbox (even though it takes about a month to get there) can do amazing things for the soul!! ;)

If sending a letter you will need an international stamp or at least 1.10 in postage.

Elder and Sister Cloward
Post Net Kgale
AD 172 ADD
Gaborone, Botswana

Mom and dad are very happy and of course we get to chat with them through the blessings of technology despite dad's not so happy thoughts about their internet! BUT I can promise you, a note found in their mailbox--or an email [ and] is the best medicine of encouragement/support/strength/increase in faith! 

Thank you!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fast or Slow?

Week of November 3-10, 2013

There are very few things that have made me have to bite my tongue to keep from saying very nasty things about something or someone. Usually I can get by with a grit of the teeth and a shake of the head. Sister Cloward’s kindly reminders that “Honey, remember this is Africa and…” can sometimes call me back to the reality of things are just not the same here. The issue of things that are too slow and things that are too fast will serve to express the issues of this week.

Actually, the issue of things too slow has been the major issue and frustration from our first day here. Primarily it is the issue of the Internet. Trust me when I say it is too #@! slow! At least on the upload. We are lucky to have a .25 speed Up, Down runs generally around .34, sometimes a little faster. The problem is we need to Upload Seminary and Institute reports to SLC and … anyway just too darned slow.

On the other hand Combies (the small vans that serve as the primary transportation system here for a population that doesn’t drive or have cars) are usually too fast. At least they are too fast dodging in and out of the lanes of traffic.

Then there is the frustration of the FM (Facilities Management group. We experienced that back home too and I could tell you a bunch of… but Sister Cloward would just edit it out. Anyway they are too@#! darn slow! Mind you I am sure they are all good faithful members of the church, but, when it comes to making things happen, well… too darned slow.

Because of the draught we live in here we have the water turned off three days a week. That means you have to be really fast in the mornings to get a shower before the water goes off. Of, and did I mention that the small amount of hot water makers it advisable to be very fast in and out or Elder Cloward or Sister Cloward will be singing other than praises.

Making things happen, fast, has always been my hallmark and my dear wife’s assistance and support usually greases the skids to make things slide a little easier when I am pushing. Here I can’t push so much and her best efforts to get a little grease on the skids is difficult at best. Oh, did I mention that finding a little Crisco or Shortening to grease with is not possible. It, like the Mayonnaise and several other basics must be made or substituted. That tends to slow some things down besides the greasing of the skids.

The point is I am having to learn patience fast and danged if it just seems to be coming slow! Don’t they (whoever that is) know that I am here to get things done FAST? I guess not. So I just keep trying to speed things up and slow me down. Does that make sense? So here is the point.

This week I came to realize that most things change very slowly. Those that seem to do so very fast are often accidental or accident resultant or resulting. It seems that part of mortality is the process of experiencing things that take longer than we think they ought to take. That is especially true when those things are people centric.

On the other hand, in hindsight some of the things that seem to be taking so long actually do happen, in perspective, very fast. Mortality and probation seem to have this balance between fast and slow processes and changes that result in the very fast shift and change of minds, hearts and then actions.

When I look in the mirror I realize that the most important changes I want, the changes in me, seem to happen of so slowly. When I look into the eyes of a new convert who just weeks ago saw life and themselves so differently than they do after the reception of the gospel perspective, truths and the joining into a church family I see how fast some really important things can and do happen.

Going at 120K on the road when a very slow donkey decides to mosy slowly onto the road slows me down - fast! Glancing at the clock and realizing we have 20 minutes to be at a location that takes nearly twice that time tends to speed me up (sometimes admittedly more than I should be going) dang donkeys, goats and cattle! Don’t they know I need clear roads to get there on time! Guess not.

Oh well, what I have discovered is things are as they are slow and they are, fast as they might be and in spite of my hurry they (Internet providers, Facilities Managers, drivers and critters) will slow me down to the speed that is what it is. Sister Cloward may be right about Africa, at least Botswana, and about my tendency to impatience. I am learning to go with the flow and to recognize that fast and slow are shearly a matter of perspective.

So what was fast this week? The week itself. We have been in a rush with the slow Internet to get the records for Seminary an Institute in so we could advise the teachers at our Inservice meeting Saturday about who is qualified for graduation form the courses and the program and who needs to do a bit of make-up work to hit the required 80%. Thanks to a borrowing of the Mission President’s 3G cellular modem we were able to get almost everything in and out of the printer in time for the meeting.

I was busy designing, buying paper and printing promotional posters (after visiting the Classes and taking pictures and getting help from the Abrahams in Mafikeng to send pics of their students. Sounds easy, just a poster for the buildings to promote the Graduation program in two weeks right? Well, that should have been a fast thing, right? Oh yes, fast/slow again. Then it was designing and printing Graduation invitations for the graduates to use to invite their non-member friends to attend. Uh huh, fast/slow again. Then it was getting drafts of letters to the Stake for sending to the Parents of the graduates and for reading in the Units to encourage there participation. Yep, S & L once more.

Then it was getting the Inservice training planned and materials prepared and printed and a luncheon prepared.  Coordination with President Mokweni (second Counselor in the Stake Presidency) and Watson Rwada (High Council Member over the S & I program) regarding the inservice and Graduation program took some time.

Then we made a trip out to Molipololi (Moli) on Thursday evening for a Stake Choir music practice with the group there - Sister Cloward was an absolute hit with her cheerful fun approach to singing and getting them to follow. That was a hoot. We are really falling in love with the members we are serving there FAST.

Then we had Sisters over for dinner on Friday evening. That night I cooked while Sister Cloward continued to do battle with the Internet and Record programs that are, well, the programmers may think that they are wonderful but the users think they are, woops I about said some of those words. See how quick I caught myself - FAST huh. I am grateful that her patience level and natural interest in that @#! insulates and protects me from my impatience and desire to find that programmer and… kindly inform him what an … he … the program is. Alas the Internet is too slow for me to give him/them that piece of my mind.

So while Sister Cloward courageously did the battle with the Net and the Program, I did battle with an Alfredo sauce, Braii style Boerewors (African BBQ) sausage (the African version of Kielbasa). That was the cheapest meat I could add to the stroganoff-like macaroni meal we served after the Inservice Training and Graduation coordination. Then it was peeling a large bag of carrots. Peeling was easy, I mean fast, relatively, compared to slicing them on an old had greater slicer. I hope no-one noticed the several little chunks of my thumb that seemed to get chewed up as I tried to get the small pieces through the slicer - ouch. A water mell saved me from trying to figure out a simple FAST desert.

Through it all I did not hear Sister Cloward cuss once. Come to think of it I haven’t ever in now over forty years heard her even intimate that she wanted to cus, even me, imagine that! Again, I was grateful for her battle, her patience which allowed me to work as fast as I could with only myself to cuss for any slow down.

We had borrowed the Mission’s paper cutter and before we ended the day (long past - so fast) we cut the graduation invitations (two to a page). Then we hit the sack. You guessed it the night, what was left of it, went too FAST.

We got to the Broadhurst Building got things unloaded and waited for what should have been 20-25 Teachers and Stake people to arrive. As seems to be the norm in the Church less than half came, even with all the reminders. I guess life, critters or some other too SLOW process got in their way. The coordination and training went well, for those who attended. The meal was appreciated and the area missionaries just happened to show up after the blessing and helped to rescue us from the leftovers that would have gone to those who got caught in the slow of things. The missionaries were fast at taking care of that.

Then we ran home, yes fast, changed clothes, I am now at the two shirt a day point from the heat induced sweating. We loaded the car with weenie roasters (thank you Rands, we are making good use of your investment in those wonderful tools for sharing the gospel of Smors with the youth). We took briquets, Marshmellows, chocolate (sorry not Hersheys) and crackers, nope, no grahms just some cheap semi-sweet flat cookies, but it works. Some green drink concentrate and a few big jugs of water and we were on our way to Molipololi.

Bishop Somikunda and his First Counselor brother Mutumbi were there with about 30 Seminary and Institute aged youth. After teaching them Dumdum Dada and Crazy Herman I gave them a fireside focused on the principle of “Gathering, circling the wagons and finding safety in the association of the members. The real focus of the fireside was Chastity. The spirit was with us and the words and principles flowed. We felt very good about the presentation and discussion.

I had started the briquets before we started the fireside and after a closing prayer and blessing they got the first discussion and and hands on lesson of Smoring. We all had a ball. I think it was the first youth activity they had had in a very long time. I am sure we will be teaching more campfire songs and gospel principles in the future as we introduce them to popcorn balls and other Utah - US youth treats.

We got home just after dark and ended a very Fast day and had a wonderful slow night. However, at 7:30AM we were back on the road back to Moli for Church and a baptism of two new members. The meetings were good, much to improve and we’ll work with the leaders to see if we can help to nudge them toward more effective management, teaching and communication.

The Bishopric spoke about the upcoming Stake Conference. The stake has only been organized just a year now. Yes, that has passed of so fast for them. The talks were good and focused at the blessings of conferences and again “Gathering” with the Saints.

After the three-hour block the whole Ward stayed for the Baptism. The font was wire, like that we use in concrete work back home. rolled and tied into a five foot wide by four foot deep frame. Then a rubberized liner was put into the frame and they filled it with water and put a double sided ladder in.

The two brothers who were baptized were from part member families. One was about 19, baptised by his younger brother who is a very sharp and stalwart member. THe other about the same age baptised by his father who was fully a foot and a half shorter. It was wonderful.

Following the baptism we stayed for a Ward Councill meeting. It was the first one they have held in a very long time. Clearly there are some things we can do to help them improve the effectiveness of the council system. By the time we got back home it had been a very long, wonderful  day that had past very fast.

It was the end of a week of so many things that seemed to be happening so slowly, yet in hindsight it had come and gone so fast. This week we will have been here in Africa two full months. In many ways the days have been both slow and fast. The weeks have been fast and the months even faster.

Maybe in the following months I will get more figured out about these concept of slow things leading to the realization of just how fast it is all happening. I suspect as we work toward and sometimes feel that the Lord is slow in coming, we will realize just how fast He is preparing each of us to be more ready for His return. After all He has warned us multiple times that he “comes quickly”.

Our love to all our family and friends. To all those who read our blog and adventures in the slow past of a fast passing mission we bare witness of the truth of the restored gospel, and of the truth that He is coming soon and fast. May we be determined not to be too slow in our repentance and our taking on His name and His work.

Big or Small?

Week of October 28-November 3, 2013

The point is all things are relative - right. We, Sister Cloward, Sister Cornelia (our local host), Elders, Parry, West, Erickson, Sithole, Khalwale, Mabuza and I quietly climbed down the steps into the narrow passage that lead out to the observation bunker. It was 3’ wide, about 6.5’ high and 8’ long with six bar stool like stairs. It was about 9 PM and we had been watching from the platform behind and above us. What we were watching was a small watering hole where the government had piped water to supplement the natural water gathering spot for the desert animals - primarily elephants.

Our cameras we ready, although we couldn’t use a flash and the yellow lights from above and behind us gave us a good view, but would give enough light for good pictures. Then out of the darkness a huge shape started moving in closer. It was an immense wild bull elephant. It moved slowly, deliberately to the 14” pipe stubbed up in the water that appears to be perhaps a foot deep. The fresh water in the pipe was almost like a log dog dish, but it supplied multiple elepants at a time as they sucked up between 6 and 9 litres of water in their trunks and then curled their trunks back into their mouths and blow the water into their stomach.

The shadow was joined by a smaller second elephant. We were within 20-30’ of them with a clear view. It was amazing. They were amazing. The only sound, besides cameras clicking - futilely without flash - for most of us with inexpensive pocket-type cameras. The big bull moved back a little and gave us a long audible breeze of elephant gas. Luckily the breeze was blowing toward him - not us.

That night we encountered several more wild elephants including having to stop on the highway to let one pass. The night before we had one munching on a tree not twenty feet from the Elders tents. They were wandering through the neighborhood without any sense of bother or worry about the humans and traffic. Elephants are big -  right or not?

Early that morning we went on a short game ride safari along the Chobe river in the Chobe Animal Preserve. I think they said it was 150,000 acre preserve - with no fence! The animals wander in and out at will. With the drought, many are staying close to the river, or make their way at night and back into the brush to search for food in the day.

We also some some amazingly tall giraffes. Now they are really big - right or not? A huge male lion was laying off camouflaged in some brush about a hundred yards away. That lion was really big - right? For sure the hippos in the river were big. Even when one got mad and chased another one across the marshland and into the river bay just below us you could see how big they were. Or were they?

We saw several troops of baboons. By comparison to the other animals, they were small. The babies that rode on their mothers backs or hung on underneath them as they moved along ancient game trails up from the wetlands by the river back to the dry brush, trees and bushes of the park were small - very small. So were the the guinea fowl and the mongoose that had taken up residence in an abandoned termite tower. Now the termites, that is small - right?  I guess to the insects, lizards and mice that the mongoose feeds on, they would disagree that the mongoose was small. To them it was likely as big as - an elephant.

It had been a long journey - or was it? Nearly 12 hours from our flat in Gaborone to Kasane where we had been sent to assist local members and community volunteers to distribute flyers and inform people in the villages and housing areas about the Measle vaccinations, Vitamin A treatments (for the children’s eyes) and deworming clinic the government was sponsoring the following week. We found out we were going - for sure - just an hour before we meet the other Elders and took them in the Mission van on the long drive. Because we left around 3 PM, we stopped six hours into the journey in Francistown and stayed with the Davis’ for the night. It was a very short night following a long drive.

Then at 5 AM we were up and soon on our way for an even longer drive north to the Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana border. All four countries come together at a single point. That is the only place in the world where borders meet. It is similar to the Four Corners area in southern Utah where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado do a similar connecting point.

The whole project was poorly planned and much less effectively executed. That caused some big trials and problems - or was it all that big? It seemed big in the process of trying to find enough flyers to deliver, people to help with the canvassing and other details.

The other big thing we discovered was the heart on one Cornelia Rautenbach who is a 31-year old convert who hosted us at her small flat n Kasane. She works for a Guest Lodge property and arranges Safaris and a host of other naturalist services. She had three safari tents set up with bedrolls for the Elders. Sister Cloward and I stayed in her spare room. Undoubtedly her heart and task was “big” as was her hospitality and her commitment to the small (five active Melchizedek Priesthood holders) Branch.

There were little gnats that buzzed in our ears and big areas to cover. The lesson about big and small become fully poignant as we worked our way through the cement and block houses to deliver our message and service. There, in these very small houses, there were very small children - the children we had come to help. Some didn’t even have clothes. But one did have a soccer ball and they loved that Sister Cloward and Cornelia played with them, smiled at them, took pictures and showed them their pictures.

It is most interesting how hindsight changes perspective about what is big and what is small. Big deals, big problems, big frustrations seem to shrink quickly in the past tense. While little things - kindnesses, services, courtesies and companionships - seem to grow into being the really big things. The volunteer service of the members of the Branch and Missionaries may have seemed like a little thing facing the very big task of getting the word out. But that service may become a big thing when the Government and civil servants of Botswana see our volunteering and service as proof that we care and that we are really volunteers.

So when I have big elephant-sized challenges and frustrations, I must remember that a little patience and perspective will change the notion of what is a big deal and what the value is in a small kindness. I’ll remember the big wart hogs and little baboons. The big smiles on the little children and the little inconveniences that were such simple things in light of such big hearts in such small frames.

We had big hopes, planted many small seeds and lived an example that will be a big contrast between ours and others. The small pass-along cards may yet prove to bring big friends.

Then when I think of the small effort of so many and how that contribution of small things become the real big things I will be less frustrated with my small inconveniences (Internet speed, lack of follow-through and poor planning). The opportunity to contribute our small bit to the big deal of the hastening of the work and the growth of the church and the people here in Africa is the really big thing. I’ll remember that in His time and valuation of big and small service, the parable of the laborers is to all of us who are now the final hour hires who are working the same field that the Master and his servants have been working for a long time ahead of us.

This week’s trip was our first real opportunity to spend time with the Elders, at least the six who we took to the Kasane project. I couldn’t help look at them as if they were my sons (from the perspective of how they acted, serviced, and not). It made me all the more proud of my sons who I am quite certain would have been different in many ways, even though they would have been the same in others.

It was obvious who had been trained by mothers and fathers about social graces, graciousness, rolling up sleeves and putting a shoulder to the wheel and a dish towel to the utensils. I am again reminded that the means and ends of the missionary is in HIs way a training and developing process for additional work in the field and times ahead.

Upon returning, we met President and Sister Wilson at a store to switch vehicles. They had kept and used our Aveo and we had taken their H1 Hyundi van. Now that was one fine vehicle. It is diesel and was amazing in terms of power, comfort driveability and quality. I was really impressed. Too bad that engine is not available in the U.S.

Went to Moli Sunday morning. It was Fast and Testimony day and the testimonies were wonderful. The youth are great, but challenged with all that youth around the world face - chastity especially.
The bishopric and adult leaders can use some training and to and not-to dos. We loved being with the children. I attended the YSA class and Sister Cloward the Seminary-aged class. 

The Ward should likely have only been set up as a Branch because Priesthood leadership is so thin. I couldn’t help but smile to realize that here again the “big deals” of major weakness in the organization will become strengths as the smaller youth grow and take over the leadership roles of the unit. We just need to strengthen what we have, as best we can, for now, and help to get the S & I and overall gospel system fully engaged in the lives of the youngsters who are on their way up.

We’ll be back there next week on Thursday and Saturday and again on Sunday to groove into a semi-MLS (Member Leader Support) role.

We are still plagued with the Internet issues, but Sister CLoward is finding times in the early morning and late night when she can actually get the records entered. It’s down to crunch time now to enter the info, check the qualifications and coordinate the completion and graduation information with the CES and Stake leadership.

Stake Conference is in two weeks and S & I Graduation is in three and then it’s the Holidays (their summer vacation) and we will be focusing on getting Pre-school training and tools in place. I hope that we will also be able to help the Moli folks groove into the unity, planning, follow-through and understanding of the administrative and support system of the Ward and Stake. That will be a “big” task for such “little” people as us.