President and Sister Dunn

Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Sunday in Joburg

On this first Sunday in Joburg, we are experiencing our last day with the other mission president couples we have been spending so much time with during our training. We spent 5 days at the MTC, and here in Africa for the past three days.  This all ends tomorrow as we all head to our respective missions and homes.  The Thomas' will be heading to the Democratic Republic of the Congo-Lubumbashi, we are already at home in our mission in Johannesburg, but will travel to the mission home tomorrow. The Monga's are heading to their home country, but a new side of it in the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville. The Merrill's are heading to Cape Town, South Africa.  This is our last day together for awhile. We will gather with all the Africa SE area twice a year for training. So, we will see our new friends again soon. (LPD)

Brent and Carolyn Thomas, Michael and Linda Dunn, Elie and Vianney Monga, Steve and Brenda Merrill

This is the view from the temple grounds.  It is winter time in Johannesburg and there is smoke in the air, due to controlled fires burning in the area. Usually it is very clear, we are told. The temple sits in a beautiful spot in the city on a hill.
We loved getting to be on the Johannesburg temple grounds today was a special treat. We have seen it many times in pictures, but it is much better in person. Oh, and the weather is lovely!
 The Johannesburg Temple is very special to us because our daughter in law, Mindy Wagstaff Dunn connects us with this temple due to the fact her grandfather Stan Smith built it in the early 80's. He and his lovely wife Leola lived in Johannesburg for three years during the construction.  It is extra tender due to the fact that Stan and his dear wife,  passed away a month apart about a year ago. We feel their spirit with us.  I am sure they are looking down  and remembering this great time of their lives. Their testimonies and life journeys connect us to them in a meaningful way.

Driving to church today, we entered the province of Gauteng. This area was once affluent, but after Apartheid, the area became impoverished and filled with many immigrants.  As you can see from this tenement, people are living in sub-standard conditions. The neighborhood is blighted and feels dangerous and dirty.  In contrast, the church  is a beautiful historic building and filled with humble, clean, happy people from the neighborhood.

We found ourselves in the Johannesburg 2nd ward sacrament meeting today. It was one of the most spiritual and moving meetings I have ever attended. The two speakers gave such deep, meaningful talks on the family, marriage and our body as a temple. We have much to learn from these amazing saints.  We also got introduced and had a chance to bear a brief testimony. What a pleasure to look into the eyes of the people and bear witness of Christ in our lives.  This is helping me know why we have been called to this special place on earth. "I was not born in Africa...but Africa is getting born in me."After the meeting we mingled with many ward members. It was a young, energetic congregation with many families and young single adults.  After church, a young man greeted us by sharing his love of the gospel and music.  Pretty powerful!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A trip to "The White House"

Ever heard of jet lag? After our day of travel yesterday (...or was it, the day before???) across ten timezones, Linda and I both has a bad case of it. Arriving in Johannesburg the night before we immediately jumped on the local time zone, ate dinner and then went to bed. We slept well, but then woke up wide awake at four in the morning. We tried to get back to sleep, but to no avail. So we went out to exercise and were treated to an epic African sunrise. 

Our day was spent at the "White House," the compound which houses both the Johannesburg Temple and the Africa-Southeast Area Offices. We were there with the three other newly called Africa mission presidents and their wives for a day of training from Elder Cook and Elder Hamilton. It was really well done and went very well until the early afternoon when, following a great meal, the jet lag hit everyone. That became painfully obvious to Elder Cook who wisely (and mercifully) condensed the training segments as we each took turns standing to avoid falling asleep. That said, it was a lot of great information on topics such as finances, member districts, mental health, missionary recommendations (...BTW, more than 450 South African missionaries from our area this year alone have gone out to other places in the world) security and how to make a successful transition with the existing president (which happens Monday morning). We ended the evening with a great dinner at Mike's kitchen, and no I didn't cook.

Following all this great training we are so ready to go to work and just can't wait to meet our missionaries. We really have a strong sense of what remarkable men they are, and can't wait to join them next week and begin in earnest to help bring this vital message of truth and salvation to this amazing land. Oh and, thank you so much for your prayers. We need them and can feel them.

Photo op just before lunch at "The White House." Seated front row (L to R) are Elder and Sister Cook, Elder and Sister Hamilton. On the back row are (L to R) President and Sister Thomas (from Canada) who are going to the Congo, The Dunn's, President  and Sister Monga (from the Congo) who are going to a newly created mission called the Congo Brazzaville Mission, and President and Sister Merrell (from Tucson) who are going to Cape Town.

The "White House" is a historic home that sits on a bluff overlooking Johannesburg. It houses the Area Presidency, and is as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside.

Okay, we know we look jet lagged, but we are also pretty jazzed about our assignment. Here we are on the grounds of the "White House" enjoying the brisk air of a mid-winter day in South Africa.

Lest you think I slipped in a picture from my mission in Hawaii, no, this is Africa.
This beautiful Koi pond is on the grounds of the Area Office which is right next to
the Johannesburg Temple.

Sorry, couldn't resist. It's not my kitchen, but it sure was incredible food. As is everything we have tasted so far. Fav foods? The fresh fish, fruits and vegetables.

Friday, June 27, 2014

"Ubuntu" - Johannesburg Arrival

After a very teary farewell with our children and grandchildren, we hopped on the plane and flew first to Atlanta and then boarded a 16-hour flight to Johannesburg. It was, seriously, the longest day of traveling in my life before finally arriving in this beautiful city tonight. At the airport we were greeted by Elder Cook, the President of the Area Seventy, who took us to our hotel near the city. We will be spending two days here in training, before meeting the Omers on Monday and officially taking over. We are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, but also really fired up about the sweet work that is ahead of us. 

On the plane Linda and I watched a "TED Talk"( between reviewing chapters of "Preach My Gospel") that is remarkable. It's called "What I Learned from Nelson Mandela." It's 14 minutes long and well worth it. The link is:

In the talk, the African concept of "Ubunto" is introduced by the speaker who is a white South African named Boyd Varty. It means, "I am, because of you." Linda and I agreed that we are what we are because of YOU—all our amazing family and friends. And if you thought my bear story is scary, wait until you hear what happened to him. Yikes! (MAD)

You know it's big deal when even your sweet daughter-in-law is crying the first time you FaceTime! This is cute Whitney Dunn (Jeff's wife) who just sobbed when we called her from the plane. Along with Mindy and Chase, we really hit the jackpot with our kid's spouses and love them all so much.
It's been so much fun to be a missionary already. We are talking to everyone we can about the Gospel. But despite how persuasive Linda can be, her seat mate wasn't very interested.

22 hours after leaving SLC, we arrived in Johannesburg. And we're so happy to be here. First impressions; Beautiful people and city. It has a feeling of a city that feels a little African and a little European. Can't wait to discover it.

Leaving the airport gave us a fleeting glimpse of Africa's legendary sky and sunsets. And it was stunning—even the airport view. Count on lots more sunset and sunrise pics.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

MTC: Day three...

It's Monday and we are halfway through our experience at the MTC. It's going so fast and certainly is the proverbial firehose of information coming at us. But we are learning and loving every minute of it. Today began with a remarkable address by President Henry B. Eyring. His overarching message is that God knows his servants and "prepares the way for us" in exacting detail. He was followed by Elder Quentin L. Cook who talked about the "Covenant Pathway," which extends all the way through the temple. Other great workshops—and pages of notes— followed. Then we ended the day with a rare night off and a refreshing late evening hike on Mt. Timpanogos...(MAD)

Arriving at the Missionary Training Center for nine hours of instruction.

Monday's agenda...

Break time includes comparing notes with fellow African missionaries, Forast and Carolyn Thomas who are heading to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
An afternoon panel discussion moderated by Elder David Evans included a range of topics including developing mission culture and the emotional well being of missionaries. Elder Bednar, Elder Nelson and Elder Oaks were also part of the panel.

The evening schedule included the opportunity to meet missionaries coming to your mission. But since all of our missionaries go directly to the MTC in Johannesburg, we had no missionaries in Provo to meet. So, we had the night off. Which meant an incredible early evening hike up the back side of beautiful Mt. Timpaonogos.
...and we ended the night with a real treat; being able to FaceTime with our kids. It really is the next best thing to being there.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Never can say goodbye...

Bitter sweet day today as Linda and I said goodbye to our family and home for three years and headed to Provo to begin our training in the MTC. It was a remarkable day. Of course, we could not leave without one last breakfast cookout and hike in Millcreek Canyon...

After hiking Grandeur Peak, we gathered for a breakfast of french toast, bacon, scrambled eggs, sweet rolls and (best of all) Winder Dairy chocolate milk.

With a mom and her daughter, saying goodbye is never easy.
It's official! Putting the name tag on "Sister Dunn."
Fun to run into great friends and amazing people like Paul and Jane Taggart who we had dinner with. The Taggarts will be serving in New Jersey. twenty years ago we served in the same Bishopric when we all lived in Park City. Warning: The Garden State has some mountain movers headed their way!

We ended the day with a preview screening of the new movie, "Meet the Mormons" at the theaters in Thanksgiving Point. It will be coming to theaters this fall. And all I can tell you is that, no matter what you believe, don't miss this movie. It was one of the finest productions I have ever seen.

Friday, June 20, 2014

" ordain evangelical ministers." (D&C 107:39)

It's official! Last night we had the remarkable opportunity of being in the office of an Apostle, Elder Dallin H. Oaks who, along with Elder Whitney Clayton, set us apart for our mission. It was really tender to have our entire family there (...except for Madison, Tagg and Zach :<) and to be taught by Elder Oaks. Among other things he told us that our mission and Perth, Australia are the two missions in the church that are the furthest from church headquarters (...obviously so we can do as little damage as possible!!!) He also spoke of his high regard for the peoples of South Africa. He marveled at their "...dignity and grace..." and confirmed that we are going to a very special place. We completed our evening with a visit to the temple and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (...Miso Salmon...unreal).

We attended the temple as a family after the setting apart. It's a sweet memory we will hold forever ; having everyone together in such a sacred place.
With Linda's mother Ginny
Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory after
There's no going back now!
Follow along on our adventures here.

So long, Farewell...

This past weekend we had our mission "farewell." This is our worship service (called a "Sacrament Meeting") where Linda and I spoke about our feelings as we embark for our missionary service in South Africa. One of our leaders, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, called Sacrament meeting the most "sacred and important meeting in the church." That's because we renew our covenants with the Savior through a Sacrament of bread and water. As part of the service, Steven Sharp Nelson and Marshall McDonald played "If you could hie to Kolob" as a cello/piano duet. Admittedly that is our favorite hymn, but it was seriously the most beautiful rendition of it I have ever heard. All in all it was one of the most tender meetings we have ever experienced. Adding to that was the fact that so many families of current missionaries in ZA showed up to meet and greet us! But I have to admit, that was a long, lonely road on our walk to the church...

Our family at our home after the farewell includes Brady, Mindy, Madison, me, Linda, Emi, Chase, Whitney (holding little Zach) and Jeff.

Proudly flying the colors of ZA on our front porch.

The night before the farewell we had an open house where neighbors and friends brought some of the best food we have ever had! Thanks to all including the Hogues, Cowans, Buehners, Clements, McCulloughs and Holdings who pulled it all together for us.

Holding my grandson Taggart and talking to my brother Jimmy, my mom Patty (...who came all the way from her home in Cannon Beach, OR with her husband Jim Logan—the guy taking the picture on the far right), and great friend Emily Utt.

Special thanks to Liz Cowan who made Malva Pudding—a South African treat.

My grandchildren Madison and Tagg danced until dawn (...almost).

 Linda and our good friend and neighbor Sue Buehner fix their hair for the photo.
It was so wonderful to see so many old friends like Steve and Elaine Dalton.
Walking home from church with my junior companions...

...and can't wait to serve in South Africa with the best companion in the world.