Sunday, December 30, 2012

We just received the photo of our mission president group from the seminar in Johannesburg in November.

 front row Left to Right:  Pres. and Sister Kretley, Mozanbique Maputo Mission ; Area Presidency: Elder and Sister Soares; Elder and Sister Renlund (Area President); Elder and Sister Cook; Pres. and Sister Reber, Johannesburg MTC;
back row Left to Right:   Pres. and Sister Broadbent, Kenya Nairobi Mission; Pres. and Sister Jameson, Congo Kinshasa Mission; President and Sister Wood, South Africa Cape Town Mission; Pres. and Sister Padovich, Zambia Lusaka Mission; Pres. and Sister Adams, Madagascar Antananarivo Mission; Pres. and Sister Cook, Zimbabwe Harare Mission; Pres. and Sister Jackson, Uganda Kampala Mission; Pres. and Sister von Stetten, South Africa Durban Mission; Pres. and Sister Omer, South Africa Johannesburg Mission; Pres. and Sister McMullin, Congo Lubumbashi Mission

Two weeks ago we traveled by car to Antsirabe (three hours south) to reorganize the branch of Ambohimena and to create the branch of Andranomoneletra. I, with one of my counselors, spent most of the day interviewing for new branch leaders, and 18 priesthood advancements. The next morning in the Ambohimena branch we had 259 at sacrament meeting for the reorganization at 8am. 

We then had to drive about 12 miles north to the Andranomaneletra group (which was started less than 2 years ago) for the branch creation. They are meeting in a rented house with a capacity of about 60 in the main room. The children were packed into a room across the hall. At this sacrament meeting we had 134 in attendance with many sitting outside the open windows. I have sent an urgent request to the Area Presidency in Johannesburg for the construction of a new building.

We spent Christmas with the senior missionaries and couples. Earlier we attended a Christmas party for the employees that work with and for the Mission. We also enjoyed video conference calls with of our children and grandchildren.

Yesterday Anna and I spent a few hours with Elders Ewell and Smith teaching lessons in the inner city of Antananarivo. We had a lot of fun. We were quickly surrounded by happy children where ever we went. This area is very humble and the people are really very nice. The homes we visited were each about 8x10 feet inside. The ally ways were no more than a couple of feet wide. I don't know how the missionaries find their way in these literal mazes.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This week we said goodbye to Elder and Sister Gray who returned to England after serving as Humanitarian Service Missionaries. This humble couple, working through translators, over the past eighteen months have accomplished amazing projects which have significantly affected the lives of almost sixty thousand people living in many villages and towns. They were honored last week in a ceremony personally hosted by the Minister of Health for their contribution to the country of Madagascar. Many of their projects involved the installation of clean running water in areas where people would often have to walk long distances daily to obtain and carry back drinking water.  Other work included hygiene training, neonatal resuscitation, wheel chairs, vision and dental services. This work has had a real impact on the perception of the Church in this country. Sister Gray also served as our nurse and handled the medical problems for the missionaries in this challenging medical environment. They worked literally up until the last minute, even meeting with people in the airport.  In my final interview with them they expressed how, in their wildest dreams, they never could have imagined the things they accomplished, the adventures they had, and the impact the people they met had on their lives. They are "poster seniors" for a senior couple mission.

Last weekend we flew to Mahajanga on the northwest coast to meet with our two missionaries there and to be with the members for Sunday meetings and training. This is midsummer and it was pretty hot. We have reduced the missionary force from four to two so that the branch can better assimilate and take care of the new converts. It has actually been growing too fast. Sunday afternoon we spent seven and a half hours (again) waiting for the delayed airplane to arrive. There was only one other person in the  airport for most of that time. Just another day in Madagascar.

The rainy season has arrived, so far with mild temperatures here in Antananarivo, much cleaner air and big evening thunder storms every couple of days. The country side is very green. We have been appreciating more the beauty and charm of parts of this city.

Two weeks ago we were in Mauritius for interviews with the four missionaries, branch meetings and training with the missionaries and members. We had a great time. We had an enjoyable preparation day hiking with the elders in the mountains overlooking Tamarin Bay. At the request of the elders, we also stopped by McDonalds (not found in Madagascar). This one is owned by a Hindu so it has a chicken- only menu.

On our last night we took a long walk on the beach and were blessed to sit for a few minutes on a bench and watch a beautiful sunset over the Indian Ocean. We don't get times like these very often. Typical days start early in the morning and last late into the night, often seven days a week. Occasionally, especially when we are in the islands, we plan in some relaxation time.