Busy times, Long days, Happy hearts

Date: January 29, 2011
Area: Johannesburg
Companion: The other Missionary Porter, of course



Dear Family,

It’s the male half of this companionship putting in more than a dime’s worth this time.  Mom has been so good to make the time to get something posted, and I love her for her commitment to keeping the home fires burning.  My contribution will be random, and I hope not to repeat things your mother has said, though what she says is always worth repeating.  (Hopefully I’ll pick up some serious marital points for saying that – even though it’s true!)  And, by the way:  Fasten your seatbelts.  This will be a long one.  You’ll probably have to read it in different sittings.  I wonder: can you bookmark one of these letters for later resumption?  I’ll likely end up making two posts.

Several things that have kicked into motion are just almost over-filling our time each day:

One: Khumbulani (coom [as in boom] – boo – law - knee), who is our CES area director and immediate supervisor of our missionary work, is clearly thinking a lot about us, and how the Lord wants us used.  He is forever proposing new ways to involve us, and use our “expertise” in CES.  At the very beginning of our mission, I was checking things out on the CES site, and saw that what I think is our assignment is actually an encumbered position with CES. That means that they are holding salary money for an eventual full-time employee, because they believe the position will grow and require that.  If that is true, it likely means that Khumbulani is hoping that we will be able to expand the CES work here in this part of his area (which includes 10-12 different countries in southeast Africa) sufficient to require the hiring of a full-time CES employee.  (He has never even hinted that this is the case.)

He has mentioned 3 different stake areas where he would like to get an institute center going.  Basically that means a program of classes and activities like at a regular institute – but, to start with, without a building.  Our role would be to enthuse and train and assist the local priesthood – starting, of course, with the stake president – and then help train and mentor the new teachers/institute directors.  Then to help enthuse students and parents about getting involved.

[ASIDE: The need for institute centers is pointed out by an experience in my Thursday class this week.  We had about 35 of our own students going when a group of 5 more came in and sat at the back.  They were a group of YSA up from Cape Town (far, far to the southeast of Joburg), who were up here attending the temple for a week, and visiting with family and friends.  They willingly and eagerly participated throughout the class, and were there for closing reminders about our social the next night.  Their comment to a couple of our students:  “We don’t ever have this many students in a class; we don’t have a building; we never have institute activities.”  Most of the institute classes throughout South Africa are simply a called member of the Church teaching a class to 5-10 students one night a week, and that is it.  The power and strength that come with a larger experience just isn’t there.  You can see why Khumbulani wants more centers like ours around South Africa.]

[ANOTHER ASIDE: Your mom mentioned that we sent out nearly 200 letters to students inviting them to “come home – to the institute” and enroll in our program.  A week ago Tuesday (18) a young man (name is Ivan) came into the building.  A fine looking young red-headed white man with two brilliant diamond-like earrings in his ears.  I tried hard not to stare at the earrings, although they looked nice enough to stare at.  He went into your mother’s class, and stayed throughout.  He indicated to the other students that he had come because he had gotten our letter, and that he was also going to come to my Thursday night class.  I did some research on him on Wednesday.  He hadn’t been in an institute class since 2007, and that had been a “Preparing for an Eternal Marriage” course – go figure.  Khumbulani knew him, and asked how long his hair was.  He was surprised to find that it was normal length.  However, Ivan did not come Thursday night the 20, and did not show up this week to your mother’s Tuesday class.

So, I texted him (they mostly call it SMSing, not texting here) and said we missed him and hoped he would join us the next Tuesday, and mentioned my Thursday class again.  He actually called me back (who ever calls back to answer a text?) and calling me “sir” several times, apologized, said a family emergency had kept him away, and said he would definitely be in my Thursday class.  He did come, on time, to class – and with the earrings gone!  Then he showed up for about 40 minutes or so to our social last night.  He came late and left early, but he came, talked with a group of YSA who I’m pretty sure are in his ward, and seemed perfectly at ease.  Once again, without earrings.  No way to know how the story ends, but something has triggered in his heart to try and do things a bit differently.]

Back to trying to establish other institute centers.  About 3 weeks ago Khumbulani was approached by a stake president, asking about meeting with him and us to discuss his YSA and their needs for institute.  This was NOT one of the 3 stake areas Khumbulani had been considering, but is a large stake about an hour’s drive northeast of Roodepoort and Joburg.  (For Dave W: It’s the Bedfordview Stake, specifically in the Tembisa area).  He jumped at the offer, and a week later you mom and I went with Khumbulani to meet with this president in the early afternoon.  It was a good meeting, and a second one was arranged for a week later with 3 of the bishops of wards where there seemed the best chances for an institute center.  That meeting also went very well.  The 3 black bishops (we love seeing black bishops, as they to us represent a statement of hope for this country to one day completely erase any trace of apartheid - there is a long way to go) had some serious and meaningful questions and doubts as the meeting started, but it was incredible to watch the Spirit work in them to the point that within about 30 minutes they appeared as excited and enthused as a child with lots of money in the pocket standing in a candy store.  Most of that was due to the work of Khumbulani and their stake president, but I know that when I shared “Ivan’s story” at the end, it helped tip the scales of their enthusiasm.

[ANOTHER ASIDE: When your mom and I were traveling back from the first meeting in the daylight hours, Khumbulani, who was driving, said “This is one part of Johannesburg you should never be in at night.  We agreed.  Then the next meeting with the bishops was held on a Wednesday night, when your mom and I teach the young marrieds’ class.  So I left your mother in Roodepoort to teach the first part of the class with the hope and expectation – because the meeting started at 6:00 and the class not until 7:00 – that I could do the meeting and still get back to teach my part about 7:45 (The classes are all 90 minutes).  I had followed Khumbulani to the meeting, he using the freeway almost all the way, and it took us about 55 minutes at rush hour.  I figured to go back to the institute the same way, knowing that after rush hour I could probably make it even faster.  I was on my own, in the beginnings of dark, when our meeting ended.  (I should have known I was in trouble when I got lost in the building, and the president had to guide me out!) Khumbulani had left early to get to another appointment he had in that area.  I turned on my GPS, and started the journey. However, the GPS did not take me on the freeway as I had expected (I had chosen “faster route” thinking that would make it the freeway).  By the time I had realized that I wasn’t going the way I wanted to go, it was darker, and I had no idea where to go to find the freeway.  I had to rely on the GPS to take me to the ‘tute.  And – you guessed it – it took me through miles of downtown Johannesburg – all those places we were NEVER to be in the dark!  You talk about praying at every robot – in fact slowing down so I wouldn’t have to stop at any robot – [An Aside to the aside: a robot is what you and I call stoplights] I drove through so many areas of narrow roads with scores of people on both sides of the car; and through so many streets where I was the only vehicle in sight.  I got to the institute on faith, prayer, and adrenalin.  I was in time, by the way, to pick up my part of the lesson.  Is Heavenly Father good, kind, and generous or what??!!

Back to the story of our assignment.  That second meeting is to be followed next week with another with the president, then a Sunday fireside for the YSA and their parents on February 20 in Tembisa.  There will be more as the teachers/directors are called and begin their work.  Each such experience is a commitment of a minimum of 3 hours, generally more when all is done.  It is exciting, it is right.  But we will now add potentially 3 more stake areas to this one (Johannesburg, Pretoria Sunnyside, and Benoni.) The part we like the least is that most of these extra meetings will likely take place on a weeknight when we have classes at the ‘tute, and so we are separated for most of the evening.  It works out great, of course, because it is after all the Lord’s work, not ours.  But whatever happened to “Stay with your companion 24 hours a day”?  I sort of liked that.

So those, as it were, are the “extras” of our assignment. Last week, however, Khumbulani said that he had wanted us to travel with him to Mozambique on his last trip, and then it turned out he couldn’t take us.  Why go with him there, I don’t know, but he is looking for a window to do that.  Then he mentioned about going with him to Botswana as well. 

TWO: Another thing that adds to our day is: The compared-to-us-young CES Coordinators who have offices in the same building as ours.  Three of them are bishops, and they are now dropping by to chat about their bishoping experiences – which we truly love and will continue to encourage – but it can take an hour or 2 out of a day depending on who, how many, and whether they are on a schedule of leaving that day.  Even Khumbulani loves to pop into our office for a chat.  He most always has an ulterior motive for the chat, but he is a very interesting chatter, and it’s delightful as he leads up to why he really came!

THREE: See the next posted letter J


<<Previous Letter Go back to letter index Next Letter >>