President and Sister Dunn

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2 special baptisms in one day!

So far this year over 500 baptisms have occurred in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. Each and every one is so special and has a story and an individual’s personal journey as part of it. We are lucky to be part of a mission that has ears receptive to the message of the restored gospel.  This was also an interesting week, as we found and read this interesting article about Mormons and the influence of the church, written by a NY Times Author for the Huffington Post. Check it out:
In the morning hours on Sunday September 28, 2014 we witnessed Dimakatso, a 17 year old young woman enter the waters of baptism.  She has been searching and wanting to get baptized for over a year. She has gone through many sets of missionaries, as she had been taught for the past two years. She had many questions and needed the timing to be right. This young girl has overcome many challenges to find and join the church.  Her testimony is strong and her commitment unwavering. It is such a joy to witness her pure joy and desire to have her sins washed away and begin on a new path.  She has many supporters in the 20 young women in this fabulous Sunnyside ward. One friend in particular has really loved and supported her for the past many years. Dimakatso could have had many people baptize her, but she chose to have Elder Delahoy form Australia take this important assignement.

We felt so lucky to be there and be part of this with our great Elders, Brackett and Delahoy.

On Sunday September 28th, there were two baptisms that seemed quite different, but had much in common.  First of all, baptisms are always on Sundays, so that many members can participate. Transportation is an issue for many of the people and by holding them right after church, most members can stay and support and participate.
 Elder Bracket, Elder Delohoy, Elder Pederson and Elder Ndikumanu were all part of this special day.  

 Here are the darling girls from the ward. They are so supportive and ready to fellowship Dimakatso into their wonderful group.
 Elder Pedersn and Elder Brackett gave great talks on Baptism and the Holy Ghost before the actual ordinace was preformed.  After, President Dunn spoke and also the Bishop of the Sunnyside ward and Dimakatso shared her testimony. It was filled with the spirit.

Dimakatso friends that live in her girl’s home to come and witness the baptism on this day. It seemed to make a strong impression on them. 

 We will be back as often as possible to participate in the Sunnyside ward and see how this beautiful girl is doing on her journey as a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints!

Later in the afternoon, Sister Jenny Cook also entered the waters of baptism. She has been searching for the gospel for the past many years. She has had quite the journey as well and we felt so fortunate for her baptism to occur once we arrived in South Africa.  We all felt it was meant to be, that we all came together.

 Pictured above: Michele Stitt, Kathleen Louis, Sam Boudin, Jenny Cooke and me, Linda Dunn.

 Sam and Kathleen both flew from Salt Lake City to participate in Jenny’s baptism. Sam and Kathleen have worked with Jenny on many church and temple design projects. Sam baptized her and Kathleen spoke on the program, about the Holy Ghost. Michele organized all the food and gave the most wonderful talk on Jenny's journey and the significance of Baptism. I could easily understand how all these amazing women were brought together in unique ways to be part of this amazing day and journey ahead.  
 It was a very loving program and baptism. Like Dimakastu, Jenny has had a journey and has overcome challenges and obstacles in her life. She took awhile to get to this decision, but once she did, her commitment and focus is unwavering.
Jenny's friend, Terry, came and supported jenny in her decision. we had a chance to meet her friend Jerry when we went to her house for a teaching lesson with the missionaries. he was there watching Rugby, but listened respectively and was fun to get to know. It was great to see him again at the baptism.
Elder Bodily and Davies were teaching Jenny when we arrived in the mission in July. Then Elder Davies and Stevens finished up with her and taught her the final discussions. How great to have them be part of her teachings and baptism.
The Stitt has re-located to South Africa for work and are originally form the Midwest, but have lived in Alpine Utah.  We are excited to continue our new friendship with them. Michele was such a wonderful part of this baptism with her planning, talks and love she showered on everyone, as well as her great family

The Allred's are our newest senior couple. We just love them and appreciate all the ways they willingly participate in everything they can.  Sister Allred made carrot cake AND baked beans to help support Jenny. Her bowls were literally licked clean.

It was fun to meet the Bonnie and Chappie Winstanley's at the baptism.  Jenny had told me what a great Sunday School teacher Brother Winstanley was, but we had heard about them from other sources. They served as Mission Presidents in the England Manchester Mission years ago and have much to share with us. We already have a dinner date at our home set up to learn from them. Bonnie and Chappie are going to be great new friends! They also love dogs and Bonnie walks her Golden Retriever's everyday by the mission office.
Michele Stitt helped organize the delicious food.  It was a group effort.  I was also able to assist and bring a lemon pound cake and lemon ice drink. Everyone helped and it was really a lovely event on every level.
Looking forward to a long enduring friendship with my dear friend, Jenny Cook!! So lucky to have her inspiration and testimony bless my life.

A son returns home!

September 30, 2014.
The last day of the month of September was a highlight. I had the rare opportunity to take Irene Shabalala, who helps us maintain the mission home (and has done this for the past 5 mission presidents) and her family, to greet her son home from a mission in Zimbabwe.  His brother, his nephew, his mom and dad and two close family friends joined with us. The reunion was wonderful.

"Music and the Spoken Word" with the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square gave a tribute to the joy encompassed in reunions  a few weeks ago.  My own son Brady sent it to me and now I am sharing it on this post. As it is most fitting:

August 25, 2014-aired live:
"If it’s true, as Shakespeare wrote, that “parting is such sweet sorrow,” then perhaps we could say that reuniting is the sweetest joy. While saying goodbye can be heart-wrenching at times, reconnecting with loved ones we haven’t seen in a while can be among life’s greatest moments.

For this reason, airports can be the happiest and the saddest of places-full of goodbyes and hellos that bring a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat. Soldiers returning from active service are joyously embraced. Loved ones away for a season are welcomed into open arms. And weary travelers are almost instantly rejuvenated by the sight of their family or friends. It matters not if they’ve been away for a few days or a few years-welcome-homes are moments to cherish.

In reality, we are continually saying goodbye and hello. And because life is short, we must make the most of each homecoming. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, we can be constantly looking forward to such homecomings, even if they seem to be “a great way off.”

One grandmother will never forget the day her daughter’s family, who lived across the country, knocked on her door for a surprise visit. She didn’t know they were coming, but she could not have been more thrilled to see them. They were home! She welcomed them into her loving arms; she prepared their favorite foods; she made sure they were warm and comfortable and happy. She could not stop hugging them-especially the grandchildren. It had been too long since she was able to hold them close, so she did not let an opportunity pass to wrap her arms around them. The family felt like they belonged-like they had never been away. They were welcomed home.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone, prodigal or not, could return home and find kind words, warm hearts, and a loving embrace? Is it possible that all those away from home could someday, somehow find the open arms of welcome- homes? "

As we left there home in Soweto for the airport ,I was able to deliver a note and gift from President and Sister Poulsen for Irene and her family. The Poulsen's were the South Africa Johannesburg Mission Presidents from 2008-2011 and were so close with Irene and have stayed in touch. It was so  fun to be able to bring something to her from them, on this very special day. Irene was thrilled.

This was a special day as their son came home. It gave me a reminder of my feelings when we got to see our beloved sons after their two-year absence. I stood there today, thinking of all the great Elders who will be greeted home as we see them off. It is a sweet reminder of how tender these reunions are.

I remember so well the feelings in my heart of the anticipated return of our sons from the Czech Republic and Micronesia Guam Missions. Nothing can compare to how you feel getting your son home safe and to see personally the amazing growth and change for the better.

I cried as I watched the anticipation of a family waiting to greet a son they have not seen for two years. The excitement in the air was palpable. We arrived just in time, as his international flight had just landed.

A Mother's heart is bursting with joy. She cannot contain herself. She gets first hugs!! Afterwards Dad gets a hug and then all the family members. Irene can't stop crying!!

Elder Kubheka is glad to be home, even thought everyone is asking him so many questions and he is even helping to cook the food on the Braai for many guests. He was a wonderful missionary in Zimbabwe. He served in every calling and role possible. He was the Assistant from month 12-18 and then returned to the field as a trainer and missionary that had strong leadership skills.

We were treated to a welcome home dinner at Irene’s house in Dobsonvile in the township of Soweto. It was the first homemade meal of the traditional “pap and chicken” that President Dunn and I were able to feast on. Irene makes a mean pap with extra veggies and potato inside to keep it soft. It was like mashed potatoes, but made from corn maize. It is a staple here and has a lot of vitamins added for extra nutrition, since it is all some families have as their main food in their families diet.  I am going to make sure our Elders know how to make it the way Irene does! It is inexpensive and very nutritious.

I was happy to make some homemade rolls and honey butter, salad and lemonade to add to the special meal. The Elders from the area were invited to participate and join in with the celebration feast, welcoming a valiant son home!

On the way to airport, I was happy to learn about Irene and Bishop Shabalala.  He is a convert and has an interesting journey.  He had been part of multiple religions and was currently a Seventh Day Adventist, when he heard the song “Love at Home” on the radio and went to many record stores to see if he could find a record from the group of choir that sang it.  Finally, a friend that owned a record store told him to come back in a week or so and he would bring the record. Brother Shabalala went back and was able to purchase an album called "Rock of Ages"  from a group called the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which he had never heard of before.  He cherished this music as he had sought it out for a long time.

A few years later the missionaries came to visit Brother Shabalala and he was instantly drawn to the restored gospel. He loved mostly the name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He felt like he had been looking for something more from his religion. He loved reading the Book of Mormon and joined the church before his wife, Irene. She was skeptical at first and had to learn more for herself and not rely on his testimony. He got baptized in November of 1993 and she was later in March of 2014.

On the day Bishop Shabalala was scheduled to get baptized, he was supposed to sing in a choir. He told the missionaries that he could not get baptized that day because he loves participating in a choir and loves to sing. They missionaries inquired, Have you ever heard of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? He said "Yes, I have their record and have cherished it ever since I found it, years ago. How do you know about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Brother Shablala inquired of the missionaries?"   Well, they explained, that is part of our church, you know, the Book of Mormon, hence the Mormon Tabernacle Choir!   Brother Shabalala was floored. He didn't know they were connected and he had been drawn to both, in profound ways. The Lord had prepared him years before to love the music and little did he know he would one day become a member of the same church  that sang “Love At Home." This  church has blessed his life in so many ways. Today, he is the proud father of a returned missionary and a former beloved Bishop of the Dobsonville Ward. His choices have blessed the next generation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FHE with the Makasi's and the Mdlestshe's

Look who I found at my front door on Monday night, September 22nd! We are so fortunate to have the Makasi family and the Mdletche Family as new friends in South Africa. We were so happy they accepted our invitation to come over and share a Family Home Evening with us and let us meet all the children and the families.

As the kids took to ping pong and exploring the mission home, President Dunn visited with our two area seventies for the church here in South Africa. Both Elder Makasi and Elder Mdlesche are making a great impact with their professional work as Seminary and Institute Directors, and in addition they balance their callings as they serve in such an important ecclesiastical leadership. The Makasi's moved their family this year from Zimbabwe to South Africa to be able to fulfill the daily work.  We feel so lucky to work in the same complex beside them and to rub shoulders in many capacities. So, tonight it was time to bring their beautiful families together and get better acquainted.  We hope we can gather often with them during our three years here.

After dinner we enjoyed a Family Home Evening Lesson on Missionary Work and being "Fishers of Men."  We read scriptures from the bible in Luke and got a lot of great participation from the kids.  Then we played a "Go Fish" game that was a big hit. Everyone wanted to play and I think this game will come out again.  (It is funny to me that I am using games and lessons I made years ago when our kids were little.  Many of my friends at home gathered together each month and collectively made and shared FHE family lessons. They bring back great memories and are fun to be able to use again.  I also use these visual aids to tell stories to my little grandkiddos through Face Timing!)
It was fun to celebrate a birthday and get to cut cake for everyone.  We called home and sang to our daughter in law Whitney, since her birthday is the same day. Our little 3 year old grand-daughter, Madison, was intrigued as we wished her mom a happy birthday, that we were having a birthday party and had little children her age at our South Africa house. Go figure!

As the night ended, we all commented on what a great blessing it has been to gather our families together and have nights where we spend time together, have a lesson and message and then a treat.  Family Home Evening was instituted in 1915 by President Joseph Fielding Smith.  What a blessing to have this inspired directive part of the guidance and direction families receive in a time when it is sorely needed.

P-day Soccer with President Dunn!

Every Monday around noon, the Elders start showing up around the office for some organized sports!  We have ssen them come in their p-day clothes and they have inquired when President Dunn is going to join them on the field for a little soccer or rugby.  He has told them he will, and so they came knocking last week and he was able to  play with them.  *We love Elder Raymond's personalized Joburg mission shirt that his uncle made for him.  We want one for everyone!!:)
So, on Monday September 22nd, our Elders came requesting for President Dunn to take a lunch break and play a little soccer with them. He had mentioned last week that he would like to play sometime. They held him to it and came knocking in the mission office on Monday. So, President Dunn came home and quickly changed and tried to run with the best of them. (UL)  A beautiful spring day and a pack of eager Elders made for a fun P-day activity. In addition to soccer, Elder Raymond and Batrendse (UR) showed up and brought a rugby ball and insisted on a battle after the soccer. No injuries reported and good times for all. Elder Roybal (LL) was a formidable keeper and  Elder Max (LR) showed his soccer prowess throughout the match.

L to R: Elders: Going, Stanley, Carpenter, Pius, Stapley, Wilkinson, Dutson,                         President Dunn, Dye,  Raymond, Fidel, Stephens 
Ground L to R, Dlamini, Davies, Max, Roybal, Stilgoe, Adjin

Monday, September 22, 2014

Know Where You Live

On Saturday September 20th, we spent a day getting to know the community in which we live and serve.  So we took the rare opportunity to come to to the city for the day and learn.  We drive through downtown coming and going, but today we spent time in the heart of the city, touring around Johannesburg, affectionately know as Joburg. (Hoorah for P-Day's)

This is also a special day back in our home community, Salt Lake City. September 20th is this year's Annual Legacy of Lowell Community Service Day. So, since I could not participate locally this year, I am happy to report I did my own version of coming to know my community, so we can engage in more projects in the future.

Johannesburg is a city that has a reputation of not being safe with a blighted urban area, badly needing renewal. However, it has much to offer and a great deal of contrasts.  We were excited to know Joburg more personally for ourselves, since we are here for the next three years.

We talked to our neighbors, the Van Breda's, (Cecil, Lynne and their son Pierre) when we had them over for dinner a month ago, about our desire to know the city of Johannesburg. They are Afrikaaners and are native to South Africa and had lots to share with us from their experience and perspective. We really enjoyed getting to know them.

Pierre, their  delightful 26 year old son offered to help us organize a tour and be our guide for the day on the Joburg City Sightseeing Bus Tour. Even though the bus lets you on and off as it goes around to many of the important sites in the City, Pierre offered to plan the excursion and be our personal guide. How do you pass up an offer like this?
So, here is Pierre, ready for a great day ahead! He is so wonderful to be willing and enthusiastic about giving up a rare day off to spend with us.  I extended the offer to our senior couples serving in the Johannesburg Mission office and also Dr. Barton and his wife Connie from the Area Office. We work so closely with Dr. Barton, as he is the area medical doctor ( and we talk daily!)
So, off we went for a day of getting to know our new community and city...Johannesburg, South Africa, aka Joburg! So, all 11 of us joined together for a full day of fun!
Pierre also invited his co-workers, Greg and Jenny to join with us. We were explaining to them that we were all missionaries for the LDS church and after a bit of explaining, they said..."we understand, we are also members."  So, it was nice of Pierre to surround himself all day with a whole group of Mormon tourists.  He did a wonderful job making it interesting and so much fun.
We are off! haha

The Allred's have just been here less than a month. So glad they could join us!

The Thompson's and Barton's ready for the day.
Pierre with his amazing camera.  He works for a photo and camera company. Many of the better pictures on this posting come from Pierre's camera, not mine.
It looks like we are on a ride at Disneyland!

The Barton's and the Hansen's
The Hansen's and President Dunn are holding up the back of the bus!
The big red bus turning into the first stop, Ghandi Square.
So many  interesting buildings dot the skyline.  There is a sense of new resurgence in much of the City.

Since 2006 Johannesburg has been going extensive ongoing rejuvenation with organisations such as the JHC (Johannesburg Housing Commision) and the JAI (Johannesburg Architectural Institute) spearheading the operations.

A prime example of the success they have had with their operations is the Braamfontein Precinct.
Formerly a district that was taken over by illegal immigrants from our Neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique seeking refuge,it wasn't long until the area turned into a slum.

Bit by bit the area was reclaimed and eventually turned back into a dynamic,vibrant area where now the fashionistas and trend-setters of the city converse socially.This is also now the design hub of the city with many Architectural firms,Interior Design and Graphic Design studios having relocated here from places such as Sandton for example.
But many dilapidated buildings still exist all around the downtown area. Fire has left some of them empty, but also the financial realities of Apartheid ending and the downtown area completely changing.  It is surprising to see many tall buildings standing, but vacant. Many of the vacant buildings have squatters living in them, with no utilities.  Pierre told us that there is a military group called the Red Ants and they choose a building and evict all the squatters and then commit to refurbishing an area and a building.  They have tried to clean up parts of the City. They come fully armed and after eviction is complete, they get financing to  redo the building and start the process of urban renewal.  Below, is the Hillbrow area and Vodacom Building.  Before Apratheid ended, this area was the high end real estate area of the city. Now, the buildings have flats that are run down with high crime. It has the reputation as one of the most dangerous parts of the city to be in. Missionaries have served here in the past, but currently we are re-evaluating the security measures to have missionaries be able to be in Hillbrow. Ironically, it is one of the strongest wards in Joburg and we desperately have a need for missionaries to be here. Hopefully it will be soon.

The building with the Vodacom sign on top is in fact Ponte Tower,a very important structure,here is more about it:

Ponte City Apartments is a skyscraper in Hillbrow .It was built in 1975 to a height of 173 m (567.6 ft), making it the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa. The 54-story building is cylindrical, with an open center allowing additional light into the apartments. The center space is known as "the core" and rises above an uneven rock floor. Ponte City was an extremely desirable address for its views over all of Johannesburg and its surroundings. The sign on top of the building is the highest and largest sign in the southern hemisphere.

11 Diagonal Street was Designed by world famous Architect Helmut Jahn.The fully glazed building facade was designed to portray a diamond laying on its side.A fitting reference since the building was formerly the headquarters of a mining company.
Below is an example of one of the re-vitalized areas in Hillbrow.  The buildings have been painted and streets are cleaned up. Hillbrow residents are taking back their community one street and building at a time. 
There is no where in the world with more renewal opportunities in an urban area than Joburg-and with a population of young entrepreneurs interested in trying to tackle this in bite size pieces.

Newly painted and refurbished buildings in Hillbrow, part of the Ekhaya neighbourhood initiative

Nelson Mandela Bridge, connecting the old with the new!
City Streets on a busy Saturday!
The Gold Reef Casino has the Springbok in the fountains, symbolizing strength and agility. This stop included the Gold Reef City and Theme Park, Apartheid Museum, (which we go to often with the missionaries as they depart) and the fancy Gold Reef Casino and Hotel.  No pictures taken here, other than the Springbok statue.

View from the top of the Carlton Building.  The Carlton Conference Center has a 500 room Carlton Hotel attached. When Apartheid ended the hotel owner was charged with tax evasion. Apparently, he closed the hotel, locked the door and walked away. No one has done one thing to purchase or renovate the hotel since that day over 20 years ago. With a new government and challenges figuring out the impact of ending Apartheid, no one would take a chance on renovation.  All the furniture is still in every room and the registration area is as it was, with papers, furniture, etc. It is in the heart of the City and one of the Tour stops.  This gives you an idea of the challenges and realities facing urban renewal projects in Joburg.

Architectural significance of the City.

Carlton Centre is a skyscraper and shopping centre located in downtown Johannesburg. At 223 metres (730 ft), it is the tallest building in Africa and about half the height of the Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower) in Chicago. It was the tallest building in the southern hemisphere when originally completed. The Carlton Centre has 50 floors, and is 223m tall, about 40m short of featuring in the world's top 100 skyscrapers.

The foundations of the two buildings in the complex are 3.5m in diameter and extend 20m down to the bedrock, 30m below street level. The building houses both offices and shops, and has over 46 per cent of the floor area below ground level. A viewing deck on the 50th floor offers views of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Braamfontein is where we got off to enjoy lunch. It is an area that has renewal and a very good vibe. We loved it here and will be back to enjoy the amazing food and atmosphere when we have a little time.

The Neighbour Goods Market was our favorite place of the day.  We got treats before our sit down lunch. Pierre bought us some billtong, (the best beef jerky you will ever eat)  I got him some homemade roasted banana ice cream and the Allred's found homemade tarts and crepes.  We will be back!

Lunch stop across the street from the Market at Velo's

The food market is full of the most innovative food entrepreneurs selling waffles, pizza's, crepes, taco's homemade ice cream, name it...they seem to have it.

Last stop was Constitutional Hill. This is a most interesting place where a prison was erected inside the city area during the Apartheid area. Criminals and political prisoners were housed here for decades.  Nelson Mandela's wife, Winnie,  spent time here as well. When Apartheid ended the doors were open to the prison and everyone was freed.

Here is the Lobby of the Constitution Building, built when Apartheid ended on the same site for a symbolic reminder. They have kept the prison as a museum and put the working Constitution Building on the same property.
The bricks of the prison were used to build the Constitutional Court Room, to serve as a reminder of the injustice from the street on the judicial proceedings to symbolize this commitment.

We took the GauTrain from RoseBank to and from Park Station to get on the train. The GauTrain is a fairly new addition to the city, coming at the time of the World's Cup, 4 years ago. It is clean, efficient and high tech in every way. It was  a fun way to begin and end our tour. Pierre insisted we go that route, because in his view it is a vital part of the tour. It runs from downtown Joburg to the airport and to major city centers outside Joburg, i.e. Sandton, Centurion and Pretoria. We will take it again, now we know more about it. It is one of the nicest rail systems I have ever seen in any big city. 

This day gave all of us a much more personal sense of the city of Joburg. The dangerous, crime ridden image is not what you should imagine when you think of Joburg. Instead, it is a vibrant, emerging city with a poignant past.

For more informatin about Joburg