Thursday, November 14, 2013

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.

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