It’s been a good Sunday today; Dad and I went to Lobatse (about an hour away) to church and enjoyed the drive. They have a nice little Branch there probably about 50 in attendance; they have a Branch President and they meet in a Pod-Space building which is basically a double wide trailer for their chapel and another double wide serves as class rooms for Relief Society and Primary )and bathrooms. Priesthood and Gospel Doctrine meet in the chapel and the other classes just meet outside. It wasn’t too cold today so with their chairs in the sun, they did alright but I’m not sure what they do when it is so terribly hot in the summer which is about 10 months of the year here.
I think dad already told you, but our Zone Conference dinner turned out really successful and the missionaries were very grateful for the delicious food. We went through 3 crockpots full of hamburger and mushroom gravy and 75 potatoes, 60 rolls and 4 loaves of bread, 50 ears of corn and 5 gallon of ice cream and 5 two liter bottles of Iron Brew (closest substitute for Root Beer). I was so happy though as we plugged all the crock-pots in the cultural hall and we didn’t blow any fuses, the oven worked the whole time on the potatoes, and we borrowed a huge pot big enough to cook all the corn. Next time it will be easier as I now know how to use the appliances at the church, and we are lucky to have such nice facilities to cook with. The kitchens are small and don’t have much in them, but there again it is so much better than when we were in Ukraine and only had access to a Crock Pot when we finally found a way to smuggle them in through Russia from Germany.
When we travel we see people cooking along side of the road in dutch ovens and huge kettles. They build up a big fire and cook up dinner and people stop along side of the road and eat. It’s Botswana’s answer to fast food. There are lots of little “stands” where people set all day under an umbrella and sell everything from chips to cookies, fruits (mostly oranges and bananas) and lots of penny type candy. They call the candy shops a “Tuck Shop” and there are lots of them everywhere but especially in town here by all of the bus stops and outside of all the bigger stores. Sometimes 4 or 5 are set up right next to each other. Elder Olson said that if one shop is successful, several shops set up right next to him and then you have to wonder how much money one person could make in a day selling penny candy and chips and maybe a banana or two. Lots of people that work in town though do go outside to them during break or at lunch; it’s kind of like the “local lunchroom” and they are very plentiful around all of the Universities and Colleges here in Botswana. The University of Botswana is a very big college of Engineering and there are several smaller colleges and Universities in Botswana as well as in most of the smaller towns that we visit. Lots of people are walking everywhere and there are “combies” (white mini vans) transporting adults to work and children to school. There are no school buses here, just these white mini vans with a sign that says “Children in Transport.” There doesn’t seem to be shortage of cars though, traffic is so bad sometimes that we creep through the town at about 15 miles an hour and people are pretty patient and let people in front of them or let the combies get through if they just toot their horns. We’ve decided the people here are really very patient and they are actually pretty courteous drivers; Dad is trying to learn to be like them!!! I do drive once in a while but this driving on the left side of the road isn’t easy for me to get used to. I’m doing better all the time, but when someone darts in front of me, my natural instincts take over and I go the wrong way. I usually let Dad do the driving and I study the maps and pick the best route through town depending on where the traffic is the heaviest. I have to admit though, I still get turned around in the middle of town as the streets go every which way and sometimes even in circles; Dad on the other town very seldom gets confused and gets me safely home every evening. He even struggles some with the North, South, East West, though and sometimes the Sun is just coming up in the West or setting in the East and we can’t get ourselves turned around for a few miles or curves in the road.
One day last week we had to go across town right in the middle of rush hour traffic though so we took a road that is kind of through “the wrong side of town” and it was very educational. We saw lots of young kids out playing in the dirt; a big group was playing soccer on a flat area with sticks up marking their goal and most of them weren’t wearing any shoes at all. A little ways farther along we saw some little boys out playing with some old tires. They had a stick in their hands and they were twirling the tire and running along side of it and probably racing. It looked like they were having a great time and getting lots of exercise. Around the next corner we saw about 10 or 12 kids all waiting their turn to jump on an old box spring and mattress that was substituting for their trampoline. I told dad that this is when you’d like to go to Pine Tree Sports or ????????????????? and buy 20 soccer balls, 3 trampolines and a couple of big swing sets and set them in the middle of their part of town. We’ve only gone through that part of town a few times, but it’s hard for me to drive through there without realizing how unfair life can be. Their homes are tiny, old cement shakes, clothes hung out on the fences for drying, women washing the families clothes outside in tubs and big areas where there are several big pots outside where they all seem to do their cooking together. I don’t think our missionaries can even go in there tracking but I sure wish we could take them the gospel of Jesus Christ; it would bring a ray of sunshine to their lives and give them so much hope for a better life. I wish I knew how to make a difference for even a few of them. Perhaps Heavenly Father will help us to find a way. In the mean time, we will pray for them and when we drive through their area, I will smile and wave to everyone I see.
We still haven’t won our battle with immigration. We have been back out to their main office twice more this week and they still will not grant our Residency Permit which allows us to be in the country. We have a 90 day permit, but it runs out on June 9th so we are praying that this week when they meet on Wednesday, that they will grant us our permit. Otherwise, we have to apply for a 90 day extension and then we have that much longer to keep trying. We can only get one 90 day extension though so pray for us and we have fasted and prayed today for that also. Our Elders only stay in Botswana for the 180 days as that is the limit of time you can be in this country without a Residence Permit. Our Sisters stay in Botswana their entire mission (18 months) so as soon as they get here we apply for their Residency Permit just like we have had to. We always get theirs in the 90 days, but somehow they have chosen to make an example of Dad and I and they are very suspicious of what we might be doing here so they are checking us out really good. They told us that they might visit our church to see what we were actually doing here and we invited them to please come; that we would love to have them visit. I think they are afraid Dad has this harem of young women here or something! Anyway, hopefully we will soon have it all sorted out and be legal for our entire 18 months.
This letter has gotten long enough and I think I’m out of news. We love you all and we pray for you constantly. We fasted for those of you that have been sick, for those of you who are studying, for the future missionary, for those preparing to go through the temple, for our new Grandbaby to be, and for all of you as our children, and each and every one of our grandchildren by name. We asked Heavenly Father to keep you in His tender care and to protect you and help you to look after each other. We pray that you will have love and harmony in your marriages, happiness and goodness in each of your homes and that the gospel will ALWAYS have a central spot in each of your hearts. I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that as we live by it’s teachings, we too will be happy and find the joy that our Heavenly Father PROMISES to his faithful children. The Book of Mormon is true and as you study it in your homes, it will help you to know and to understand our Savior Jesus Christ’s role in our lives and it will testify to you and to your children that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. That knowledge will build strength in your homes that will last through all time. There are also PROMISED blessings to those who faithfully hold their Family Home Evenings, please live for and earn those blessings. You are all awesome and we love you so much and we want to be with your FOREVER!