President and Sister Dunn

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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.

1 comment:

  1. this is so sweet! love that you were able to be there for that airport scene!!! i can't wait to meet irene :)

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