The weeks are slipping by quickly and we are learning a lot. We work hard every day, travel a lot, and traffic is unbelievable. We are living right in the “heart” of downtown Botswana; across town from the Olson’s and we feel safe where we are. Our little apartment complex actually has a fence, a gate that is guarded and the other night when we came home late we found out that the night guard has a huge big dog that almost came after us but the guard jerked him down. We went immediately to our back door and didn’t make any more noise so we didn’t worry about being attacked.
We love the people here. They are so kind and friendly; all you have to do is talk to them and they smile and greet you very politely. They don’t usually speak first, in fact they kind of check us over and definitely read our name tags, but when they see the “Jesus Christ” and we smile and say “Hello”, they always say Hello (or Dumela, which is Hello in Swetlana) and we are learning that they like it when we speak to them in their native tongue.
We have attended our Young Single Adult Branch for church and also gone to their Institute classes and they love us and the feeling is definitely mutual. Most of them are in college, very ambitious, very spiritual and they definitely study their scriptures and participate in class. The young men are dressed very sharp and the girls are darling with their beautiful braided hair-do’s. I have to admit that I don’t remember many of their names yet, they are very long and difficult. My tongue just doesn’t say the sounds that they use and sad, but true they all seem to look alike and I get them mixed up. It is getting better though and I am getting a few names down and they love it when I remember them and they hug me. They treat us like celebrities and love us to come to their meetings. We love to go there also, but we have 3 Wards and 7 Branches to visit and only one Sunday each week.
We had to speak again this last Sunday and in one of our newest Branches, Kanye (Kon ya). They only started their Branch Jan 1st and they are already having about 70 people out to church each week. In fact, they have had to start an afternoon session of meetings as they can’t get everyone in their little rental house that they hold church in. They buried a portable swimming pool in the back yard that is about 4 ‘deep and that is where they hold their baptisms. Last week was the first time they had held Relief Society so after we both spoke in Sacrament Meeting, I conducted the first Relief Society Meeting and Dad taught the Priesthood lesson. I taught the Sisters (about 20) all about the organization and purpose of Relief Society and they were so excited to get to belong to such a wonderful organization. I told them we would take their picture and put it up on the wall because that was the first Relief Society Meeting and when the Relief Society was organized there were also 20 Sisters in Attendance. They can always look at their picture and say they were there on the first Sunday Relief Society was held in the Kanye Branch. Kanye is about 1 ½ from us and it’s out on a small country road with lots of little villages along the way. We love the drive and we count the animals eating right next to the road along our trip. There are way too many goats and sheep to ever count, but this last time we counted 137 big Braham cattle on our way there and 201 donkeys on the way home. Sadly, though we also saw one cow that had bit hit and killed, four dead donkey’s and also 2 dogs.
Today we traveled to another Branch about 2 hours in another direction. We attended a District Meeting and took them some supplies they needed. This Branch is call Mafikeng (just like it is spelled) and it is back into South Africa so in order to go there we have to go through the border into South Africa and then back into Botswana and that was our first time since we got here to do that; and this time we did it without the Olson’s help. I was nervous about it and woke up this morning at 3:30 worrying and couldn’t go back to sleep. We finally got up at 5:00 and made our preparations for the journey. I shouldn’t have worried, but every time someone goes through the border it’s a new experience and I didn’t want to be the one that landed in jail for not having something documented right. Dad told me not to worry, he always take care of me.
Tomorrow we are headed up North about 5 hours to another Branch (Francistown) that is actually having 7 baptisms at noon tomorrow. We plan to leave about 5:30, deliver some supplies to Mochudi Elders on the way and then get there in time for their baptisms at noon.. The missionaries there are really working up a storm. President Poulsen put a missionary couple up there about 6 months ago as there were a couple of member families begging to have church up there. After a couple of months they had enough people attending church that President convinced the Area Presidency to let him put missionaries there and now they are having over 100 people at church every Sunday. We are excited to go meet our missionaries in that part of Botswana and also the couple, the Cardiff’s from Arizona. We will drive up on Saturday and back on Monday, stopping by another smaller Branch (actually not even a Branch yet) called Serowe (Sara Way) that is just beginning to develop. There is a family there that holds church in their home and invites others to attend. We want to stop and meet them and see how we can help them and see if they need any church material.
Olson’s are wonderful to work with; they just let us do everything and see if we get it right on our own before they remind us of what else we might need to do before going into the different places of business. Immigration was a nightmare this week for dad, paying the rent went pretty smoothly for me except that we had a couple of check problems and landlords wanting things done differently so we just did them over and smiled and made good notes. I’m trying to document EVERYTHING so I won’t mess up when Sister Olson is gone home. Olson’s aren’t sure when they will leave; they have a few problems at home and will probably go sooner than they had planned. We are working hard to learn everything so we’ll be ready when they decide.
We love the mission, we love the work, we really love our missionaries (we truly have Africa’s finest we are sure) and we do love the people of Botswana. We have noticed that we don’t see people begging on the streets here like we did in Johannesburg. There is less traffic (I guess, at least everyone tells us so) and we are learning our way around town. We just have to travel early in the morning to Olson’s right when the traffic is bumper to bumper all the way, and then we get home about at the worst time of night when it was at its worst again. Today is a holiday (Easter weekend) and they make a real holiday weekend of it. Most businesses closed yesterday (Thursday) at 1:00 so traffic all day was so bad that Olson’s were on their way to get us to do some business on our side of town and they couldn’t even get here and then they realized that everything would be closed anyway so we just made our way over to their place so we could at least do office work and go through files and etc. It usually takes us 15 to 20 minutes to get to their home and it took us 55 minutes but we made it. We stayed until after 6 and then the traffic had settled down. Today when we went out, there was no traffic and we actually loved it. Olson’s said last year the holiday lasted almost a week, so we’re hoping we don’t run into too much traffic on our way home from Francistown on Monday, but it may be awful if people are really returning.
Roads are all narrow two-lane roads with lots of pot holes and lots of roaming animals. We will not do any night driving this weekend, we try not to do much here in town either but sometimes we have to.
We hope all is well at home, we think of all of you often and we have to say we aren’t receiving many letters but we know you are busy. We hope you all get to enjoy Conference, we will not be able to see or hear any of it as we have no satellite’s set up here in Botswana. Conference will be recorded in Johannesburg and then sent to us so we will have Conference weekend on April 24th and 25th. Count Your Blessings and relish the gift of being able to set at the feet of a Prophet of God and his counselors and the Twelve Apostles and listen as they give you the messages from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; those messages that they would have you receive to bless your lives and the lives of your family.
I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, I love being a missionary, I know Heavenly Father loves me and you, I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, The Book of Mormon is the Word of God and Thomas S. Monson is our Prophet today. The people of Botswana no longer look Black to me, we are all the same.
We Love You, each and every one of you, individually. Please take care of each other for us!Mom and Dad