President and Sister Dunn

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 21-22 Departing Elders

Well, it has been one week since our first Elders left the missions and headed for home.  I don't know how we will survive without these 15 great leaders in the mission...but we must!  These young men had the distinction of being President and Sister Omer's last missionaries and they got to end their last three weeks with us, the new kids on the block!

We couldn't have been schooled by a greater set of missionaries. They are men that have matured in the gospel and their growth is evident and their spirits are strong. They represent 8 different countries and they have all left their mark.  It was an honor and a privilege to spend an evening with them in the mission home. We witnessed their camaraderie and heard from each one as they expressed their gratitude and testimonies. They helped season me regarding transfers and the departure dinners I will have ahead over the next 35 months. I figure we need to savor each one, for we will have about 23 nights like this and each one will be very special.

As part of our new tradition, we asked each Elder to take time and leave a reflections with us and create a page for our book. They took it seriously and made creative, heartwarming personal pages we are already treasuring. Here is a line from each one of their reflections. i could have written so much-but this also lets you see their names and where they are headed home to!

"I am happy to serve a faithful mission and to have you as a mission dad and a mission mom. It's a blessing."Elder Kelem (Kenya)

"I love this gospel and this Church. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. "
~Elder Mower (Utah)

" Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God and no man can possibly get back except through Him.
~"Elder Costigan (Australia)

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding," Proverbs 3:5 ~Elder Ruekhart (Utah)

"It has been an absolute pleasure to serve in this mission. In my heart I know the gospel is indeed true and Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.    ~Elder Smith (UK)

"My mission has been a great experience for me. I have learned how to love my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ." ~Elder Ramiaramanana (Madagascar)

"Following the Lord brings blessings in my life and to those I taught on my mission."
~Elder Msanga (Zanzibar)

"The Church is true and the Johannesburg Mission will continue to thrive under Christ-like leadership." ~Elder Brinkerhoff (England)

"My mission has taught me more than all the books I read in school." ~Elder Mukarati (Zimbabwe)

"The time has been short, yet glorious, our interactions have been divine and life changing, wish we could have had more time together, but the Lord's timing is for a reason. "
~Elder Nherera (Zimbabwe)

"This is for sure and by far the best thing I have done in my life. The things that I have experienced will never leave me." ~Elder Booker (California)

"Thank you for the energy you have brought to the mission. South Africa Johannesburg will always be in my prayers." ~Elder Purnell (Canada)

"It really has been the best two years and I  have a strong testimony of the truthfulness of this gospel." ~Elder Searle (Idaho)

"In my service of God here in Joburg, I count myself lucky to have glimpsed through "God's Window" and seen  His children as they really are."  ~Elder Elliott (California)

"I feel blessed to have had such a sacred opportunity to become one with my father and saviour." ~Elder Ryan (UK)

Fun to prepare dinner for 22. Elder Smith from England had his great family pick him up and join with us.

Our second table had the Assistants joining with the other departing Elders.

Everyone is satisfied after dessert!
A sense of our dinner shown above, plus a salad and a fillet of beef and homemade chocolate cake and ice cream. It all turned out, despite a new cook in the country and a new kitchen to work with!!

After dinner we gathered around and had time to hear from each departing Elder.

It was so sweet to hear them bear testimonies and share their gratitude for the growth and opportunity they have had.  This is a very close group with deep and enduring friendships.

Standing for the mission song!!

Elder Elliott started it all off by being the first to stand and share his testimony!

Elder Smith sharing his testimony. His parents also spoke to everyone and it was wonderful to have them with us.

You can feel of the love and comraderie

Elder Kelem from Kenya loves his camera and asked me to send him every picture I have taken in addition to  his!:)

Elder Ruekhart with everyone singing

Elder Rami heads back to Madagascar. He had open heart surgery during his mission and has been quite a champ during an unexpected health challenge.

Elder Purnell from Canada and Elder Ryan from England will be missed!

Elders: Smith, Costigan, Elliott, Searles and Mower

Elder Msanga, Elder Kelem and Elder Booker -You can feel of their sincerity and love

On our way to the airport, we had time to take a few hours at spend some time together at the Apartheid Museum. Many of the Elders had not been here during their mission. It is a sobering place to be reminded of the  South Africa's past and the amazing healing and forgiveness that is part of this country's rich history.

Last chance to say good-bye before the airport

Elder Ryan checking in and getting a little support from Elder Bodily,

Elder Ruekhart getting everything in order

On day two of transfers we make one more ride to the airport to send all the departing African missionaries. They leave during the day instead of night flights like those going to Europe and North America.

One last photo before they go their separate ways.
 Elder Nherera, Elder Kelem, Elder Rami, Elder Msanga,  and Elder Mukarati
Can I get a different seat??:)

We have only been with these Elders for three weeks and already we feel so connected to each and everyone of them. It is crazy how quickly your hearts are knit together. We love these Elders and are so proud of them. They will go back to African countries and be such amazing leaders and examples. They really are so inspiring to us and we are so blessed to know and love them.
Elder Nherera, Elder Msanga, Elder Mukarati

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's All About the Women!

The South Africa Johannesburg Mission only has "Elders" serving. No "Sister Missionaries" in this mission due to safety concerns.  However, that doesn't mean we don't have plenty of amazing women we get to be among.

I was thrilled to be invited to a Women's Conference in a little community called Modjadjie.  It is about 4 hours from our mission home and  we were already in the area. The Women came from about one hour away in all directions. They had planned this event for months and taxi's were ordered and rides arranged so that women could attend and be together. Over 80 women came and I was honored to be in their midst. The talks were so inspiring and the women are just inspiring all by themselves.
When I was preparing to come to South Africa, a good high school friend of mine, Linda Bentley Johnson told me of a visit she and her husband had made to South Africa. After visiting Robben Island where Mandela had been imprisioned, the tour guide passionalty explained that the forgivenss of this counrty and the healing that is all because of the mothers! The women taught their children to forgive after Apartheid ended and move forward. I can feel that energy alive in the hearts of the women I meet. It is indescribable, but felt and I am honored to be learning from them.

My dear friend Leslie Lords Robbins sent me some sweet ,lines about the role of women...that I want to include here. She knows I have been asked to speak at a Women's Confrence coming up in early August and I appreciate her love and sharing of great thoughts each week.  (she is good at that!):)
“All of us as sisters in the gospel have the responsibility and privilege to support and nourish one another. We have all committed to be disciples of Jesus Christ and this discipleship should be at the heart of all that we do. Each of us is in a different place in our spiritual journey. Some may struggle with testimony. Some have questions or wrestle with the pressures and trials of life. Those who are struggling for whatever reason should be able to find within our sisterhood a spirit of warmth, inclusion, and love.”  

“Occasionally, some of our brothers and sisters may find themselves away from the fold because of personal choices. Without condoning those choices it is important to remember the Savior’s message of leaving the ninety and nine safely in the fold and reaching out with love, with kindness and with compassion to the one. We can demonstrate that compassion by ensuring that our communications with one another are respectful and kind.” ~Bonnie Oscarson, General Young Women President

How can we as women nourish one another? Simple things like a hand-written note, building one another up with inspiration and compliments, knowing one another’s hearts, taking a genuine interest—this is everything you do for me, my sister friend. So in August, when you speak and teach with the Spirit to these women, you have all of the credibility in the world with this topic! I will continue to look and send anything that might inspire and enlighten your mind and heart.  (Thanks, Leslie!!!)
The church building where the conference was held was in a stand alone portable building like the ones we put at schools  when we need more classroom space. These women all dressed up and then were so happy to sit on the grass and socialize afterwards.  The sister on the bottom right just received her mission call in the white envelope.  Her name is Judith Magopa. I was lucky enough to be able to deliver it to her.  She was so excited and later opened it with her family and found out she is going to Atlanta, Georgia. She has never been out of South Africa and is so excited. She is pictured here with her friends and Sister Campbell who just arrived as a senior missionary from Vancouver Canada.
No one wanted to go home after the conference. The senior couples in the area provided a tasty lunch for everyone. What I loved most was that the men made the food, especially Elder Butler, pictured below on the left. Notice the wrap on his wrist.  He told me he needed an ace bandage after straining his wrist to cut up over 20 head of cabbage for his famous oriental salad.
I just keep meeting such great people that are sacrificing so much to make their lives and others better. The Senior Missionaries serving in this part of the mission are the Heyens, the Butlers, the Campbells, the Meldrums (partly pictured) and also the Brammers, Harwoods and Winwards (not at this event, but still serving in the larger area.) They all give so much of themselves and we love them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Awakening to Africa

We set foot in Africa exactly one month ago today on June 27th.  The journey that lay in front of us was exciting, daunting,  exhilarating, overwhelming....all at once.

In the last 30 days we have settled into this new opportunity and place.  We are literally Awakening (every day) to the Amazing uniqueness that is..... Africa. 

Below are a few of the things we "Appreciate About Africa!"

Sunrises and Sunsets

Vistas from "God's Window"

Drackenberg Mountain Range

Animals in Nature


It is common to see fires burning everywhere. It is the renewal process and burnt fields will be followed by new growth when the summer rainy season comes.

But, by far, the most Amazing part of our last month has been the opportunity to meet and serve with 200 missionariesAfrica is just a wonderful place to be able to do this with them. This amazing land of contrast is one we all feel lucky to serve in.
Departing Elders Dinner

Newly Arriving Elders

Transfer Day

Transfer Day Continued

Amazing African People at Every Turn- We feel so lucky to meeting so many new friends in this amazing country. On this first month here, we have begun to get a glimpse of why we are here and the work we have been called to do. We are very lucky to be here.           Stay tuned this week for more detailed posts of departing elders, newly arriving missionaries and transfer day.  We have much to share about our missionaries!   

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Deliveries are delightful

The movers pulled up with three large boxes packed full of our items from home.
We received our delivery within a month of being here and it was a delight to see familiar things from home arriving at 21 Carnation Street, Roodepoort, South Africa!  We are excited to have more pictures for our walls and books we love from home. We even packed some favorite handmade quilts and our bikes, tennis rackets and golf clubs. We don't know how much time we will have to use everything, but it is comforting to have things from home with us. I chose to use my  scrappy star pioneer quilt  for a tablecloth for our 24th of July spontaneous dinner with our office couples, the Hansen's and the Thompson's. Great new friends that are adopted into our family now.

Quilts, pictures, books all make us feel more at home!

We could not have unloaded the truck without the help of the movers and also Irene, our trusty housekeeper. Irene has been with the mission home for the past 5 mission presidents. We couldn't do all of this work without her wonderful spirit and help. She knows how to help us make a house a home! We needed to leave the day our delivery arrived for a weekend visit to out-lying areas of the mission. (Nelsprit and Tzaneen). We couldn't have made it all happen without theirgreat help.

The Elders in Nelsprit got deliveries this week also. The best delivery was of the Swans, the new senior couple we drove up with us when we came. Senior couples are the lifeline for our Elders far from Joburg.  The Swans are from Vancouver, Canada and were so willing to take this assignment to serve in the outlying areas of the mission, supporting missionaries and strengthening the branches.

The Elders in that area also received some long awaited packages. They were so excited, they tore into them immediately. These Elders get mail even less regularly because they live 5 hours away from the mission office.

Welcome to Elder and Sister Swan all the way from Vancouver, Canada.

It is fun to see any Elder's get a package from home.  I knew it meant a lot when I sent them to our boys on missions, but it is really  fun to see the delight on this side when received. However, it can be expensive to get packages through customs.  It costs Elders to retrieve the packages, even though the shipping has been paid by the senders.  Just one of those Africa things!!  We have heard horror stories of how camera packages get opened and replaced with old tennis shoes. In general, it seems that smaller packages with simple items are best and most appreciated by the Elders.
Elder Bodily getting a birthday package!

Below are the zone leaders coming to the mission office on a Thursday morning to pick up mail and any deliveries.  It is a big deal weekly to get mail and supplies and then distribute to each missionary in their zone.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy 24th of July!!

On this pioneer day in Utah, we are celebrating South Africa style! We honor our pioneer heritage which showed great faith and determination in traveling from Denmark, Scotland and England to come to the promised land. They made many sacrifices in search of religion and the freedom to worship  in America and on to Zion.
Today we started our day on our red, white and blue mountain bikes and took our first (of many) bike rides in South Africa.  Our road bikes are getting assembled this week and ready to go on our next P-day for a more serious ride.

Watch for more posts in the coming days. I have just recovered from 2 weeks with an African Flu Virus and then our first round of transfers with 15 great Elders returning home and 11 new Elders arriving.  We have much to catch up on.....and it is coming! Stay tuned!!

Fun to ride the hills of FloraCliffe. Perfect residential area for a fun up and down 8 mile ride. Great workout!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Welcome to Florida!! (our new home ward)

Our mission home address finds us belonging to the Florida Ward in the Soweto Stake.  We attended our meetings here today and had Elder Worton and Dzowa there early, joined by their investigator family they have been teaching.

 We were fortunate to sit on the stand and watch all the rows of members fill in. The meeting started at 8 am and by the end of sacrament the congregation was filled with about 100 people. We were able to attend the Gospel Essentials class with 4 investigators and a few members getting re-activated. It was great to discuss the concept of repentance with these people.  

I then attended Relief Society with 25 sisters. The discussion was about the blessings of the priesthood for women. The teacher and the women participated in such an honest and open discussion about the blessings of the Priesthood  in their lives. Many women commented  how they want the men in their lives to be empowered with the Priesthood and share in the blessings of the gospel with them.  A lack of men that have been ordained to hold the Priesthood is one of the greatest challenges with the church in Africa. There is a need for more men to be involved and take the responsibility of the Priesthood. The women do so much already, they need men to take their role and be empowered and involved.
I was honored to be in their midst and be able to participate in the dialogue.
The Florida ward building is part of a complex that houses the Missionary Training Center and the Mission Offices.  It is probably one of the few ward parking lots that has a security gate attendee letting you in and out.
Meet our great missionaries assigned to this ward and serving in the Soweto Zone
Elder Dzowa from Malawi and Elder Worton from Idaho! They are doing such a fabulous job here.
Elder Dzowa's scriptures are threadbare, due to his constant reading and studying. It is so amazing to see how much he had marked them and how mature he is in the gospel for such a young man.

Meet the Mthombeni family.  One of many strong members we met today. Brother Mthombeni served a mission in Kenya and has been home 8 years. He has a beautiful wife and darling children and represents the future and hope for the Church in Africa. 

The mission office is on the same property, so we ducked inside today to grab a few things.  Pretty nice set up for President Dunn. Great AP's make all the difference.

Outside the mission office
The Mission President has a big van to drive around Joburg and throughout our mission area. This big car comes in very handy!!

There is even a plaee for me to work alongside. In one week we have discovered how much goes on in a mission office. (all records, transportation, phones, medical, visas, passports, travel, supplies, housing, bedding, etc. etc.
We would love to have anyone come join with us in the work if you have the time and interest!!!!!:)