January 26We have changed our favorite song (of the moment). You know the one, “Nobody loves us, everybody hates us we’re going to go eat worms! Big fat slimy ones, little bitty dry ones, we’re going to go eat worms!” Mopane (mow-paw-nee) worms that it is. Oh shoot! It didn’t help. Guess we’re just going to have to change some other things now.
I have some pretty great perspective and emotional support from my dear wife and children. Even though I must confess that at times I am just flat mad and sad and well, you get the picture, yet a little loving counsel and TLC, a good night’s rest, a sweet testimony, some time on my knees and in the scriptures, and a deep breath and I am back to the battle – even if I don’t know where to shoot (or is it ‘oh shoot!’).
There are a lot of things that change in our lives and a lot of things that we have to change. Some are wonderful - like the seasons and good luck from bad (or no luck at all). Some are not so good, at least not in the process of the change - things like diapers and tires. Then there are some things that change seem to take so very long - things like the minutes and hours of a watched clock and the decisions of other people about things that affect you and your decisions and actions. Then there are things that change so fast that it can leave your head spinning - things like the direction of the wind, the score in a ball game and the nature of your health, and your perspective on what is important and what is not so important –– anymore.
I have been amazed at how fast individuals and groups of people shift and change from one way of thinking and being to another way of thinking and being. When Moses returned from the Mountain he found that kind of change as the Children of Israel danced around the Golden Calf. We see it in the almost constant change from unrighteous to righteous and back to unrighteousness with the children of Lehi. While Nephi and his descendents had relatively longer cycles, it seems to have been cycles none-the-less.
So I see how s - l - o - w some minds change (those that I want to have changed - fast) and I see how fast some change occurs that I wish would happen much more slowly. Generally, however, I have found that change just doesn’t seem to happen fast enough for me, unless, that is, it is change that I didn’t want to have happen at all. Then to add to the fickleness of my impatience for change, I find my own changes in my mind that show just how unstable and unconstant my own thinking and steadfastness can be.
Such has been the ordeal of the past week – a week of changes of minds, policies, attitudes, constants and location. As we have indicated in former blogs, the system by which Missionaries (young and old - including MIssion Presidents) has been a challenge for those of us serving, or trying to serve in Botswana. It has been a challenge to say the least, in that it makes it so difficult to feel stable, constant and secure in the work there (note the past tense). The challenge is what we generally refer to as “right hand - left hand communication” and the old “naw ma jhob mun” and the cross of both hands pointing to opposite sides as to who is responsible for an answer, decision or an action. And, that is, unfortunately sometimes on both sides of the desk -– them (whoever ‘them’ might be) and us (Church process and personnel). The result can be most frustrating to all (especially to this less-than-patient person).
So, here is the process, as we were told, but that has not worked – so far – consistently. Missionaries are supposed to register with the country and apply for a “Work Visa,” even though our work is volunteer and we don’t work for a paying job. Now we were told that by SLC before we left and the papers were supposed to have been prepared for that – whether by SLC or Area or Mission we don’t know. What we know, now, is that that step didn’t, hasn’t happened for the LDS Missionaries assigned to Botswana in the past - since the new Mission was created (June). When they came from the South African Mission for a shorter time (one or two transfers) the old system seemed to work. We also found out that we were supposed to register with the U.S. Embassy – nope that didn’t happen either – somebody may have known about that, but it wasn’t any of the people we know or who were trying their hardest to get us the residency needed to stay in the country for the two years that was being requested. The result? Most of us have been denied – yours truly, included.
Then, in the hopes that things were being worked out - with consultants and Area and authorities and the Botswana Immigration and Labor Ministries, several missionaries overstayed their initial 90-day visitor visa. There is a 100 Pula-($10)-a-day fine for that per day up to 10 days. There also appears to be a blight on the record of such persons for efforts to appeal and request reconsideration of the request to stay the full two years – or, now as we have found, even for another period of 90-days for processing of the Appeal request.
Whether or not that is the reason for several of us getting a “Security” blacklisting or not, we do not know. What we do know is that nearly a dozen (at this point - including me) have that standing in our way of the process for continuance in Botswana. The result of several high level negotiations with government Ministry Officials has led twenty, or so, Elders, Sisters and couples (us) having to leave the country. Hopefully while the whole thing gets sorted out and there is a new way for Missionaries from the LDS Church to apply and get residency for the term of their mission.
Currently there are only two application processes that come even close to what we are and do. One is the traditional Missionary path. That one, however, is for “Ministers” of churches who are “Doctors of Religion” types and the point system that validates that “Profession” precludes 18-19 and in my case, 63-year-old LDS missionaries. I know - how can that be? I taught at BYU, courses in the Department of Religion and Youth Leadership… Anyway we are not Ministers, nor Missionaries by the definition of that way of applying for residency.
The other way of applying is as a “Volunteer” and that is the way we have been trying to get in and stay in the country. Unfortunately it appears that is where we needed the Labor side of Immigration clearance and the Embassy registration and who know’s what else. The result? Well in our case, we are now living in Johannesburg while they try to get a new Application System worked out. Don’t misunderstand, it is not that the Botswana folks don’t see and appreciate the volunteer service we do. Our work (volunteering to help) with their Measles eradication, Infant Resuscitation and other service we do doesn’t go unnoticed. While there may be a person here or there who doesn’t like us (as there have been since the Gospel was restored and the Church was organized) it is not the general anti-Mormon attitude at play here. It is just getting a process that clearly defines and works for the work Mormon Missionaries do – and they are working to “C H A N G E.” But oh, change is sooo painfully slow, even knowing that they are trying to get it right and that the Church will never cut corners nor act contrary to the laws of the land nor succomb to any corruption or bribery that may be offered.
I believe that the Botswana Government folks are trying to do what is right and safe for their country. Getting to understand what we are, how we can help and how we serve takes time, patience and cooperation. That is going on now – with folks much more patience and non-judgmental than I. We hope and pray that they will be able to work out the details and “changes” quickly and that we will be able to return to our beloved Botswana soon –– but if not?...
And there you have the current state of affairs.
We left for Windhoek Namibia a week ago Tuesday. We were met by the Richins, a great Missionary couple who have literally been the only ones there for the past 14 months to consult with the leaders of the two Branches (Windhoek and Katatura). They have been doing all the teaching, baptizing and growing the church from the Missionary perspective way over there – pretty much alone. They are good metal and have worked hard. Now, tomorrow, they return to California. We were able to get two missionary Elders there who will carry on, but the Richins will be sorely missed.
They took us to a Missionary flat for the night and set us up with a missionary car for our trip the next morning, Wednesday, to Swakopmund on the coast, about four hours drive northeast. There we met with the LDS group lead by brother Marcel Nobel. The Church was set up on the ground floor of an office building directly in front of the Governor’s offices. It is very, very nice – without a doubt the nicest set up for a rented space for an LDS group to meet in we have seen anywhere in Africa to date. We stayed at a member’s B&B (Bed & Breakfast rental) and met the Branch members that evening and taught the Seminary and Institute Teachers pre-school training – Phase I that evening. We would come back Thursday evening for Phase II.
The Richins had told us about a morning tour that was offered out onto the Nambian Desert dunes (some of the largest in the world) that run right down to the seashore. The tour was promoted as a tour of Africa’s “Little Five” contrasted to the “Big Five” – Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cape Buffalo and Rhino. The Little Five turned out to be every bit as interesting as the Big five. They were the creatures that are native to the Nambian Desert Dunes – the Desert Chameleon, Gecko, Side-winding Adder snake and White Widow spider. There were more, including the largest Scorpion in the world (we didn’t see one, just its tracks), Black Desert Jackals and a variety of lizards and skinks. My two favorites were the sand tunneling Gecko and the chameleon.
Look at the pictures to see why.
[Dad said it was a VERY poisonous snake but the guide took their camera and got in close. After he shot the picture the snake came out of it's hiding spot.]
We also did some sand hill climbing, on our feet and in the tour vehicle. We were with a German family with four small children. That added to the fun. We went out at 8 am and returned at 1 pm. It was well worth the cost ($150 U.S.) for both of us.
The drive to Swakopmund included a little diversion from the highway and such vast “changes” in terrain, scenery and vegetation as to have even outdone a drive from the mountains to Lake Powell in Utah. It was truly amazing. The diversion came as we came to a sign that pointed off to the left on what appeared to be a well-groomed gravel road. It led to what was labeled as an “Oasis”. The area looked much like the San Rafael Wash area in southern Utah. The Oasis was 19 Kms out and the road continued on down and into the back of the town (Swakopmund) we were headed to. The road was well groomed and when we were out about 10 Km, Sister Cloward looked out to the left and saw two ostriches there in the middle of a barren desert panorama with just a very few low scrubby weed bushes.
We pulled over to have her snap a picture. As we did to my amazement there was a low wash, like maybe 1 foot deep and 30-50 feet across that seemed to run to the right and left of the road from what could have been miles. And I thought at first it was full of Ostrich eggs! On closer view I realized that they were all watermelons! All about the size of medium cantaloupes back home.
They were sort of a round garden variety of melons. Sister Cloward picked a couple and we continued our drive. It was a fascinating adventure with incredible vistas again that looked much like areas of Southern Utah, although the rock was more limestone-ish than sandstone.
When we got to the B&B we cut a melon open. It was white and a bit pithy. We cut a piece out of the heart and put it in our mouths expecting some sweet treat. It did not stay in the mouth for more than a single bite down and spit! Oh! It was the so very bitter. We quickly changed our minds about having a big slice of that melon. It was like biting into a piece of Alum! No wonder there were hundreds of them up and down that little wash. No one and I don’t think any thing could find them to be worth the taste!
Anyway back to Day Two in Swakopmond after the desert tour we returned and cleaned up from the sand and then got something to eat and went back to the Church and finished the training. The group is so small, there are no missionaries and yet the church has invested so much in the building set up. I can’t help but suspect that there are miracles yet to happen there to bring souls to the truth and to Christ.
One new member, Felix, mid-20’s, told us how he had been walking by and saw the picture of the Savior (Red Cloak – Parsons pic) on the wall behind the doorway. It so captivated him that he stood and stared for the longest time. Then he couldn’t get it out of his mind all night. The next day he returned and found brother Marcel there. The result was a very fast conversion. I felt the spirit so strongly from this young man. I have no doubt but what the Lord has and is preparing him for a significant role in carrying the gospel to the people of the area. It was a story of change that touched our hearts and reminded us just who is in charge – of all of us.
The next morning after the training was complete we left early to return to Windhoek to help the Richins prepare a Graduation dinner and program for those who had completed a Marriage and Family Life class they had just finished teaching. There were a few married couples, but mostly YSA. We started by pounding out chicken breasts flat and putting a slice of ham (well, sort-of ham) and a piece of cheese on it.
We rolled it up, put a toothpick through it rolled it through a milk, then flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and voila! It had transformed into a chicken cordon’bleu–ish. Then Sister Richins had a recipe for rice cooked with diced onion, chicken bullion and sliced almonds. The rice is almost all par-boiled, which makes it easy to work with and the result was a wonderful pilaf. That with a big pot of tasty glazed carrots and a Sister Richins’ large homemade roll made a dinner that was yummy and was followed by a piece of cream cheese frosted fabulous carrot-pineapple cake. All of which was created and served from a small missionary flat and small Branch kitchen. It was a feast of food and service.
They had about 50 people attend, some in their native “party-attire.”
Brother and Sister Richins spoke. Then I spoke about becoming and being the right one and praying for the spouse you haven’t even found yet. Our own engagement and life story seemed to inspire some of them and other discussions and encouragement followed the meeting and church services the next day.
The issue of men getting serious about finding wives, dating, seriously and with confidence that the finance and details will work out is a problem here and back in Botswana. Perhaps this is an issue that needs some serious “change.” It is a topic for another long discussion. We have had some insights that tie to the plan of salvation, eternity, pornography and several other important issues – too much for now, but maybe in another blog.
Monday morning at 5 AM the Richins picked us up to drive us to the airport for our return to Botswana. We knew that we were entering a critical crossing situation at immigration at the airport back in Gaborone in that we only had one day left on our visitor’s visa. After a four-hour layover in Johannesburg, we headed back to what had become our home in Botswana.
As we approached the Immigration officer I explained the situation to her and hoped she would give us maybe a 90-day extension. Instead she gave us five days and told us we would have to go down to the Immigration Office to deal with the situation. We knew where that was going to go. So when we stepped out and met the Gublers and told them the response, it was not surprising to see their response of sadness. We all knew what was likely – departure.
Yet, we were holding out hope for the meeting that was planned for Wednesday with the authorities. That meeting came and went with what was initially seen as good news and bad. The good news was somewhat of a sympathetic ear to the need for President and Sister Wilson to get the extension to finish their mission and Presidency responsibilities. And some hope for a 90-day extension for the Elders and Sisters who had not crossed their visitors 90-days. Bad news? Those of us with security issues would have to leave – for 30-90 days while they finished figuring out what they were going to do generally with missionaries from the Church and specifically with us.
Sister Cloward and I had a sad lump in our throats as we began the difficult task of packing up, cleaning up and loading up for the long drive back to Johannesburg. Some Elders and Sisters had to go to South African, Zambian, and Durban Missions.
The challenge, especially for us was that we didn’t (don’t) know whether we are going back – soon or ever. We didn’t have room in the car for everything so we knew that we would have to make a return trip either to finish moving or to continue our Call.
The next morning about 10 am we shut the gate as we pulled out and looked back as we pulled away from our little piece of paradise. We drove the five minutes to the Office and gave our goodbyes to the Gublers. There we found that Elder Gubler and the Wilsons had just returned from another visit with immigration officials that didn’t go so good as the afternoon before. Seems there had been more “changes” in attitude and direction. I could see and hear the anguish of the Gublers and could imagine the frustration that the Wilsons must feel, even though they are being very “presidential” about the whole thing.
We drove the 2.5 hours across the border to Mafikeng and had a quick bite of lunch with the Abrahams. They commiserated with the whole situation, in that they had already been through it just four months earlier. Then it was on to CES in Johannesburg, another five hours away. There we met the Bishops, the Office couple who are coordinating missionary flats.
We had met them on our last visit to Joberg. They are wonderful people from Orem, but they are about shot from the sheer workload of trying to find and supply missionary apartments for now some 220 missionaries. Having to find yet another place for us was just one more straw to the camel’s back.
They lead us to a new flat that had just been prepared for a couple (CES couple) who will arrive on the 1st. It is a small cottage behind a members’ home. It is lovely but will be a challenge I believe to operate a CES office because it has one small bedroom and very, very limited electrical outlets.
The family is fantastic. The husband is on the high counsel, a young successful entrepreneur. They have four children ages 7-16. We really like them. We will again have to repack at the end of the week, clean up and move out so the new couple can move in. There is another rental across the street that we may end up in, but it will take the Bishops another couple of weeks to get to that priority as they have a heavy list already in tow for missionary flats. So we will likely go to a B&B or something for another week or two. And, yes, all this change is tough to take because it is fast and slow at the same time and we are not sure what it all means or is leading to.
[When processes seem to be frustrating] I remember that is what this is all about – everything = it’s all about CHANGE. It’s all about change of mind, change of perspective, change of heart and change of me. The mission is all about being a change agent. Inviting others to change their understanding, priorities, habits and beliefs. And then it’s about not changing – being constant in the constants of the doctrines and principles of eternal truth. It’s then that I realize why I am so frustrated about ever changing things when I am most centrally focused on things that never change.
Yes, and then it is that I remember –– wait a minute, wasn’t that the subject of the last blog? Oh, how easy it is to forget! I guess I’d better change my directions.
Sweetheart, do you have any additions or CHANGES you want to make?
Elder Honey, you sure know how to summarize so concisely, I hardly know where to begin… (he remembered much more detail…I’ll try and add some smiles and laughter here and there)
I’m all about change. Just ask Elder C…. I will change my skirt, or blouse, or mind several times before I step out of our flat to head to wherever, that is, IF I Remember where we are going, what day of the week it is, what month it is and when we are leaving… :)
[Note to Davido: In our sudden “transfer” packing up nearly all that we brought and have acquired, I don’t remember into which bag/suitcase I put my Lamanine in our packed-so-tightly car that I’m glad I remembered to bring my mind!]
I have found that trying to remember how to knit again after a 40-yr dry spell, is a great way to concentrate my mind and efforts on trying to knit Elder C’s soft creamy white angora afghan that was supposed to be his Anniversary gift 30+ years ago is a great stress reducer for me…I’ve now undone my first 10 rows at least 10 times and now realize that I need to find someone who can explain stitches and terms I’ve never encountered before! But it keeps me busy and that way I don’t have to feel so inclined to “help” Elder C with his driving as he drives me to and fro. For which I’m grateful. As is he!
I’ve had fun “teaching” other African missionaries the art of twiddling your thumbs. It makes for lively conversation and new techniques for them. Elder C sees the BIG picture. I see the little picture—the moment-to-moment songs of different birds, a mother’s small child, a darling new “do” on an adorable tot, the twinkle in the eyes of a stranger as I share my smile with them as we cross each other’s path in a crowded mall and see their face light up with a sincere smile. To me that means everything. It makes my “day.” A wave, a handshake, a hug, a “mela!” greeting and I’m happy to be an ocean apart from my family for a season. It’s truly about the ONE in a sea of MILLIONS…I see my African sisters and brothers as my pre-earthly loved ones who have forgotten the real reason we are here on the earth in this last dispensation before our Savior’s return.
As for the dunes, I was absolutely floored to learn that so many critters could live in what I thought was a GINORMOUS sandbox filled with dunes and “milk and museli” [ask our Namibian guide about that one—absolutely AMAZING!] To think that the sand crystals are SO colorful when viewed through a magnified camera lens—it had NEVER crossed my mind, EVER! White is white, right? WRONG!And to understand through the stick figures in the sand, the food chain of the dunes certainly outdid my 9th geology class (or was it biology?). I understood and gained a deep appreciation for God’s creations for ALL of us…including the animals and insects. Our earthly world is God’s gift to US! It has everything we need to survive and thrive. And then His unending love for us to remind us of our pre-earth commitments to keep our commitments and return to our Heavenly Home.