Saturday, November 24, 2012

 I had a remarkable experience this morning. One of the top candidates for the presidency of Madagascar, who is also the president of the Green Party for all of Africa, and her husband showed up, unannounced, at my office to talk to me. They spoke of their respect for the church and what it was doing in this country. We talked of the humanitarian work and especially water projects. They wanted our "blessing" for the honorable things they were trying to do for their country. They were looking for a platform to present their ideas to church members. I told them that, as a church, we could not endorse a political candidate but we do endorse honesty and a real concern for the country and the people. They were very respectful and said it was an honor to talk to me.  I was very impressed.
What happened this morning may be known by only a few people, but the fact that it happened at all is really significant for the perception of the church in Madagascar. Doors are opening to many  levels of this society. I feel we are being very blessed. 

We had an enjoyable day with the missionaries in Tomatave on the northeast coast for interviews and member leadership training. I have included photos of the pouspous local transportation in Tamatave plus some other random photos.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Spectacular Reunion.
We returned from almost a week in Reunion. I had interviews with each of the missionaries which take place every three months. What a great group of faithful, accomplished young men and women. Elder and Sister Heap serve as a senior couple. Elder Heap serves as one of my presidency counselors. They are a real blessing to both the missionaries and the members and they always spoil us when we go there. On Thursday after some of the interviews we held a very enjoyable zone training meeting. Anna and I spent some time going out with the missionaries making visits and then held training meetings Wednesday evening for the leaders of the Reunion member district.

We reserved Friday for an adventure hike in one of perhaps the two or three most beautiful places in the world that we have seen. This valley, which is only about 40 minutes from St Denis, is so spectacular that is is difficult to describe. It is a cross between Switzerland, Kauai with a little Lord of the Rings and Avatar thrown in. The photos don't do it justice. With Elder and Sister Heap we hiked from the canyon rim  to a village named Hell Bourg on the canyon floor. After lunch we climbed back up in a rain storm. Over an hour and a half non-stop vertical climbing and rock steps. We were all soaked but had a great time.
We are back in Tana for two days and then we fly to the northeast coast of Madagascar to the city of Tamatave for more interviews and meetings.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Johannesburg, South Africa
We just returned from a week in Johannesburg attending a Mission President Seminar for the eleven missions in our area which includes about thirty countries. We had great sessions conducted by our Area Presidency consisting of Elders Renlund, Soares, and Cook. The sessions took three and a half days. The rest of the time we enjoyed the wonderful company of the mission presidents, area presidency and their wives. We laughed a lot and traded stories that only African mission president couples would fully appreciate. There were some remarkable stories, many humorous, and some that  made us think we are happy to be serving in the Madagascar Mission. The church is growing very quickly in many parts of this area and the challenge is to slow the growth down to allow the church units to mature some and assimilate the increase.  Many of the missions sometimes face security environments that are not exactly as depicted in the "missions for couples" brochure. The areas of Johannesburg we visited were delightful, upscale and interesting. We spent some time in the largest and nicest shopping mall we have ever seen with every store one can imagine. Coming "out of the bush", the seminar time is a welcome visit to civilization for many of the mission presidents. We are fortunate to have the islands that we visit on a regular basis so the need for civilization, for us, is not as great. Still, we stocked up on items not available elsewhere in the extra suitcase that we brought and we are set for a while.
We have received news of four and possibly five new couples coming to our mission. This is a big deal for us. We are thrilled to have the additional help. Even with the new changes in the missionary age qualifications, we will not be increasing very much our compliment of younger missionaries for now.
After a day at home to do laundry, tomorrow we are off to Reunion Island for a week.

Here are some photos of Johannesburg, including one of us standing in front of a larger-than-life statue of Nelson Mandela.