Tuesday, December 6, 2016

WE ARE HOME! 2 December 2016

After 23 hours in the air, we are finally home and this is what greeted us at the airport!  We are so blessed with such a supportive, wonderful, amazing, loving family.  Our "cup runneth over".  The party did not end here.  They all congregated at our home and the reunion continued into the night. Such a joy to be with this "group" again.  How we have missed them. How we love this family of ours!
We met the little one in my arms, Luke, for the first time.  Missing their beginning years is definitely one of the hard things of being a missionary.
Trina and Liam flew in from West Virginia to be at the airport to greet us.  

"Let the residue continue to preach from that hour, and if they will do this in all lowliness of heart, in meekness and humility, and long-suffering, I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families; and an effectual door shall be opened for them, from henceforth." D & C;118:3

The Lord took very good care of our family while we were gone and we are so much grateful!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

WINDING DOWN October 27 thru 16 November 2016

WINDING DOWN - We are winding down.  It doesn't seem possible that it has almost been 18 months since we left home for our second adventure in Africa.  To be honest, this mission has had its low times and high times.....but all times have been such a learning opportunity and has held experiences that I would never trade.  It is such a joy to be a missionary.  Taking off my name tag will be so difficult.

I have learned so much while on mission.  But one of the most important is, whether in Africa or America, the Church remains the same.....the sacrament meeting talks, the lessons, the prayers, the love for our Heavenly Father, Jesus and President Monson.  What a testimony this has been for me. Our love for all of God's children has increased ten fold and our love for His gospel has penetrated our hearts.

But this time of our life is coming to an end.  We say good-bye to the ones we love here in Africa and reunite with our most dear family and friends back home in America. So with this blog, I share some of our last moments with you.
I wanted to document what we saw every morning when we arrived...
Area Presidency offices
Area Office - entrance to garage
Our parking spot in the garage....the first one is our car
 Our walkway past the distribution center to get to our center
 Debbie Pienaar - en employee that has become a very dear friend
On 27 October, Grace Rawlings came into the center to say good-bye.  She is returning to Australia where she stays with her daughter.  We was the very first South African that we met.  We stayed at her B & B our first three nights in Durban on our first mission.
Saturday, 29 October a few couples met at the Johannesburg chapel with Sandile Makasi to go to a Pirates vs. Chiefs football (soccer) game at the FNB stadium (I told you about the stadium and the rivalry of these two teams in a previous post)
Jubbers, Sister Walton, French, Lombardi, Broadbent
 Walking to the bus station
 When we boarded the bus there was no one on it....but this is how it looked in a matter of minutes.  It was so fun.  They were all going to the game and they were singing and so much enjoying themself.
 This man and his sweet daughter was in the bus station with us
 Arriving at the FNB stadium
Elder Mark Palmer and his wife, Jacqui, Steve Broadbent in the way back, Pearl, Jeff and Marcia French, Dennis
 Our wonderful friennds....
 Elder Palmer (counselor in the area presidency) and his wife, Jacqui, came with us.  This lady was going around to all of us wanting hugs. Elder Palmer graciously filled her desire.
 They were packed......
 Me, Pearl (employee in the travel department), Dennis
 Full house...
The game....

Sandile's wife, Nicole, and her mother and their child at church
 Beating the drums right outside the Johannesburg chapel on Sunday
 I can't get enough of the beautiful colors that surround this city

 Sunday, 30 October we had a fireside with MTC President Ashton and his wife.
Elder Brent and Sister Charlene Lee had a party in their flat for all of us.  We had a grand time.
 Our host and hostess - Brent and Charlene Lee (their 7th mission)
 Linda Coleman, Liz Walton, Dennis, Janet Jubber

 We all died laughing when Elder Chuck Walton walked in...
 Potluck dinner - great food

 Elder Stanley and Sister KK Ellis
Our new display in the center.  I really thought we might leave before we were able to see it displayed.  I designed this months ago, found the pictures and write ups.  We had a design team put the colors together and finalized it.  Then it took the people that transferred it onto canvas months to get it done...but love the result.
 Koy and his family sent us this 30-day countdown chain.....
 More color...taken out of Elder and Sister Blakes office window.  An office with a view!

 Sandy Exchange Club sent us some money to donate to the orphanage.  They graciously accepted it.  Thank you Sandy Exchange Club

 A school outside the orphanage.
 I needed to capture the beauty surrounding the temple....the combination is incredible. Do you feel the peace?

 Looking down from the temple
 Angle Moroni in his glory...
 This is our entry into work everyday....
 Saturday, 5 November, we did a trial packing run....it all fit!!!! Then put it all back....

Saturday, 5 November, the Johannesburg Mission President, Michael Dunn and his wife, had a going away party for Dennis and I and Chuck and Liz Walton who are leaving the day after we do.  What a sweet gesture and doing it amidst their busy schedule.

Michael and Linda Dunn...good, amazing people.  They were speaking at the Johannesburg Stake Conference the following day - we went to support them.  They did a super job.
 The area travel team
Monday, 7 November we had our farewell Family Home Evening with the Waltons.  I have always enjoyed these when I was not speaking.....but so enjoyable this night. Elder Jubber conducted.
I did a power point on Visionary People mentioning the people that I had written about in my blog posts.

Dennis' turn - he did a great job.  He talked about the different areas of Church History.
Much more relaxed when my turn was over and I was listening to Sister Walton.
Sister Liz Walton - area mission applications
Elder Charles Walton - Presidency Executive Secretary
Tuesday, 8 November we did an oral interview with Stanley Gorman - the last few months as become a dear friend.  He has been a member most of his life since there was only 1 district in the Johannesburg area....now there is 8, I think.
Gerard and Desiree DalJean from George surprised us at the temple.  It was so exciting to see them.  We met them about a year ago in the temple when they came to receive their endowments and be sealed.  She has been a member but he joined a year prior.  This is their second time since then.  They took us out to dinner along with Linda and Russell Coleman who has been helping them find their ancestors.  Love this couple.  He is French and has the greatest French accent.
Wednesday, 9 November....lunch celebrating the end of the elections.
Also, Wednesday, Koloina Ramasinandro from Madagascar came into our office to inform us that he was here at the temple to be sealed.  He never served with us in Swaziland but was in the mission during our time and our paths crossed often.  He asked if we would like to attend the sealing and if Dennis would be a witness.  These young couples come from all over Africa to be sealed and the majority of the time they are here without any loved ones and friends.  This was Koloina's situation.  Another young man from his mission was there and a young lady that Fitia (his wife) served with on her mission to England.  It was a choice experience.  A true blessing of serving in Johannesburg by the temple.
Fitia and Koloina coming out of the temple

After the wedding, Stan and Rene Gorman invited us over for dinner.  I didn't take any pictures.  For you remembrance, Rene is the one who coordinates the temple housing and works across the hall from us.  Become dear, dear friends. They live in patron housing directly above us.
Alicia and Joyce - our most dear friends that keep the patron housing spic n span! They serve with a smile!
On the agenda for Thursday, 10 November was ladies lunch at Olives and Plates.  Look at this amazing group of women that I have the privilege of working with.  Couldn't be a finer group.
Jacqui Palmer and Liz Walton
KK Ellis and Margaret Blake
All of us....
This group of young missionaries came in to say good-bye.  They were all leaving for home the following day for all around the globe.  We had the opportunity to work with most of them.
It has been the most crazy but wondrous afternoons in Johannesburg.  The day begins with clear blue skies and sunlight but by the late afternoon the sky clouds over and we have thunder storms that rips through the city with a vengeance.  Thursday was no exception.  The Ellis' had invited us over to play Kubb but the weather did not allow that, so we played games inside. KK made us two individual lemon meringue pies.  I was admiring them earlier at Olives and Plates, so she came home and made us some.  How sweet was that!!! A great evening. 
Friday, 11 November was busy.  Still trying to make the transition for the Blakes smooth so we are cleaning up files, etc.  We took Debbie Pienaar to the train station  She is going to Cape Town to join Leon and Matt in training.  We had our exit interview with Elder Mark Palmer. He spent 1 1/2 hours with us just talking.  It was great. That night the Jubbers invited us over for dinner and a movie.  Can you believe that I didn't take any pictures!!! Shame...

Saturday, 12 November we were suppose to go to a cricket game but the weather has been so unpredictable lately that we made other plans.  We ran lots of errands.  We went to the African Market in Rosebank, shopped for food and items for the Blakes, set up their flat and went to the Powells for dinner and games.  Such good, kind couples we have that surround us.  An example for me to emulate.
Jann and Emery Powell (not sure why the picture looks so grainy) She is the party gal of the group!
Sunday 13, November we went the church in the Sharpeville Ward.  Sharpeville is a township outside of Vereeniging - about 1 hour from Johannesburg.  This is the ward where Stan Gorman was bishop and they always talk about.  We wanted to go visit with the people that they love and I understand why they love them so much.  There was great meetings and a confirmation of an older man that is paralyzed on one side. We were told that his baptism was such a spiritual experience.  After we took Ruth home who is crippled but still walks every Sunday to church.  We couldn't believe how far away from the chapel she was.  On our way out we saw another lady from church walking, Maria, that had her older child on her back.  We offered them a ride.  It was a good day and a beautiful drive.
Scenes on our way to Sharpeville

 How I love the sights
 Sharpeville chapel
Sharpeville Primary

 Gospel Doctrine teacher and her granddaughter
 We took Ruth home
 Foudn Maria on the way carrying her granddaughter.  The strength and courage of these African women never cease to amaze me.
Such beauty
14 November we spoke in the Monday morning devotional.  We thought we were going to escape. But someone told them we hadn't spoken and they got us on Friday.  I am so glad that is over.  It did give me an opportunity to thank everyone in the area office for their service to us. Dennis talked about how the Book of Mormon adds what is missing in the Bible.  He said the atonement is in black and white in the Bible but it is in technicolor in the Book of Mormon. He also talked about repentance and how Alma taught his son of this principle. We can be redeemed from our sins through repentance and with a change of mind and heart. He did a great job. I talked about how our missionary tags make us a representative of Christ. As His representative, we need to be like Him and that means we must first know Him.  So we shadowed the Savior for a day to see what He did.  He spent His life in service to others.  Service isn't always planned or convenient, it comes usually when we are on the way to do something else and we receive promptings for opportunities of service.  Leon and Matt Heiss got back from Cape Town and spent the next two days working in the center, doing an RPC audit and then headed out for Kruger.  Monday night we went out to dinner with the Blakes (again no picture - whats up with me). That night we also delivered a token of our appreciation to all our dear "senior couple" friends.  We will miss them.
This is Matovo Olga Denize...she came in to show us her mission papers.  They are ready to submit!  She was baptized 11 December 2015.  Since then she has introduced the gospel to her brother who was baptized, her mother who wanted to join a while ago but wasn't married to her father - her father wouldn't participate in the discussions and refused to marry but has now had a change of heart and they were married two days ago and baptism is on the calendar.  What a great missionary she will be!
 Christmas last year, Tilungile gave me this material and Elizabeth made the beautiful dress for me. I am blessed with so many wonderful people that make my life the best.
 Jeff French's birthday with his wife Marcia.
Mary Louise and Linford Beckstrand...they leave for home 13 December
 Paul and Ginny Graf
 Leon Holmes, Matt Heiss and Jeff Haddon working in the office
 Maria, Rene, Joyce and Alicia presenting me with a going away gift - shoes with a heel!

A group hug with Dennis
 Elder David and Sister Cheryl Blake finally arrived Wednesday 16 November.  Their plane in Atlanta was cancelled which would have arrived here on Tuesday.  So the following day, they had to come on stand-by and were the last two people on the plane.  A day late, and one suitcase short, they finally arrived.  So glad to have them on African soil.  They will take over the Church History Center on 23 November! The young man helped them organize their lost luggage.
Our mission is winding down....just a few more days.  There are so many people and sights here that we will miss.  It is a lovely place to be. But we are excited to reunite with our family and friends back home. America here we come! 

Dear family and friends......Thank you for being such great followers during our mission and thanks for your loving support.  I am so much grateful!  Be home soon!