I need to set the stage a little for this as we are serving in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission and serve in the Botswana Mission Office. We arrived a couple months before Elder and Sister Olson were to head home. We were assigned to work especially in the Young Single Adult Ward with Bishop Matswagothata to help out the best we could, and to learn all we needed to know from Elder and Sister Olson in running the mission up here in Botswana. Two other important factors take place to help understand how this truly was a miracle. There was a couple’s conference scheduled for the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of April 2010 and Elder and Sister Olson were scheduled for a personal trip to the Okavango Deltawhich is in the northern part of Botswana on the 26th through the 30th of April. This would give them time to stay in our mission office slash mission home for one more night before they drove down to Johannesburg to fly home on the 1st day of May.
Now I have set that part of the stage I have one more item to cover. Sister Morgan and I were pretty much on our own during these two months and we visited most of the branches during that time. The Sunday before the mission couples training we went to the Mafikeng Branch which is just across the border into South Africa but is still in one of our Botswana mission zones. We left early on Sunday morning and attended their block meetings and a baptism. We were getting ready to leave and I took our passports and papers for crossing the border out of the car to make sure we had everything and just as I was doing that one of the Elders called me and I turned around to talk to him and I put the packet on top of the car which contained our passports and all the other papers to cross the border. We were in a hurry to get back to Gaborone and get things ready for the upcoming couple’s conference.
Just as we arrived at the border and parked I went into a shock mode as I remembered even before I looked realizing that I had left the packet of papers on top of the car at the church and here we were at the border with the car. I looked between the seats where I kept them and of course they were not there. I jumped out of the car knowing they weren’t on top but I looked in the boot (trunk) and I just knew they weren’t there either. I got back in the car and Mom and I talked a few minutes and decided to call the Elders back in Mafikeng to see if they had found them. They looked and didn’t know where they were. They looked up and down the street and asked the branch president and the packet was nowhere to be found. We didn’t know what to do so we called Elder Olson and explained our situation. I could tell he was very upset and he told me that we would have to go to Johannesburg and serve there for several months while we waited for replacement passports. I could tell that it would mean real problems for the Olson’s as they had this trip to Okavango Delta planned and paid for and then they were scheduled to leave for America on the 1st day of May. There was no way a replacement couple could come and learn all they needed to learn to make it so they could even go home on schedule. We decided that first of all we wanted the Lord’s help and so fervently we prayed for help. We didn’t even know what kind of help we needed but we knew we needed help. It was the strongest prayer thus far on our mission that I had prayed.
We didn’t know what to do so we went into the South Africa side of the border and they weren’t going to let us cross but they finally agreed to let us pass but that Botswana immigration or border people would never let us into Botswana without having our passports. So South Africa let us pass and we headed to the Botswana border about a kilometer farther north. When we went into their office we had a strong prayer in our hearts and we told the immigration officer in charge exactly what happened and she wouldn’t budge. She said we had to have passports and that was final. As we were trying to convince her the lady across the long narrow room (the departing side) came over and asked what we wanted. She was the same lady that helped us and stamped our passports as we left earlier that morning leaving Botswana. After talking for more than an hour with those two ladies and also the head immigration officer they finally said we could cross and they gave us a piece of paper that we had to take to the immigration office the next morning back in Gaborone. We could hardly believe that they were letting us back into Botswana without our passports, it truly was a miracle and we knew that our prayers were answered in a matter of an hour not weeks and months later. After we got through the border I called Elder Olson and he couldn’t believe that we were back in Botswana.
We arrived back to our hotel room at the Motheo Apartment in downtown Gaborone. May I explain that when you are in a foreign country your passport doesn’t have an address where you are staying and only has the state you live in back in the United States. If some honest person found your lost passport he wouldn’t know how to find you to return it. We were still in awe when we received a call from Elder Olson and he said you will not believe this but a trucker in Mafikeng found your packet and he will be here tomorrow morning at his trucking firm right here in Gaborone and will bring them to us. We can pick up your passports and paperwork from him about 8:00 in the morning.It just so happened that some of the paperwork which was with our passports in the packet was a driving permit for us to be able to drive across the border. On that letter it was signed by Elder Olson with the name of the church and address and phone number down after his signature. The trucker had to look hard to find, us but he did and found us through Elder Olson.The wonderful part about miracles is that they can be extended beyond what we even pray for. We prayed so fervently to be allowed back into Botswana knowing that we would have to stay in South Africa until our replacement passports could be applied for and months later received from the United States, if they didn’t let us through the border. We knew we would have to miss the couple’s conference that was happening later that week but we weren’t worried about that. But with the second part of this miraculous miracle we did get our passports back and all was as though we didn’t lose them at all.
Passports on the black market are worth a premium and usually are not returned. Often they are stolen because of their value. It was the greatest feeling that next morning when we actually held our American passports in our hands, it was worth every pula I gave to the truck driver as a reward for finding and returning our passports. We realized we had been blessed and that we had received an answer to our prayers and we recognize this as one of the most greatest miracles of our lives. May Miracles Never Cease!
Love Out Of Botswana, Dad