Saturday, June 16, 2012

Elder and Sister Olson with President and Sister Von Stetten

We have already been here in Durban 7 weeks and things are going great. We have been learning so many things that need to be done here in the office. Here are some things that we do while serving here. I have been doing double duty here for several weeks, doing all the recording of baptisms and conformations, managing the medical needs for the missionaries and filing the claims for the Elders insurance. Overseeing all the missionary flats (apartments) and making sure that the Elders have the necessary items in their flats so they can function. Taking care of the leases, oh man what a JOB!! This sure does entail a lot of phone calling and organization. Definitely one thing I am not too good at but I am sure I will learn to be a little more patient and organized in this area.  I thought it was hard enough to keep up on just my place let alone 75 other places. But oh well I just have to remember who I am working for and whose help I am receiving. I plan the couple’s conferences and help with the Elders Zone and District conferences, providing them with snacks and lunches. Help with the new incoming Elders in orientation meetings and then help get them to their first new area. This job is called the recorders responsibilities. I am doing this for a few more weeks and then a new senior couple will arrive and I will train them to do this job. I am also training for the general secretary’s position, so when I get the new couple trained for the recorders position I will then take over as the general secretary for the mission. AWE!! This has been a little challenging to say the least, but it is all good and I am learning a lot but most of all I am learning to be patient with myself. I am also teaching Rory patience (as if I haven’t already taught him enough over the past 35 yearsJ). He has had to put me back together way to many times, and I am so glad that we DO NOT change companions every 6 weeks because I am so sure that he would jump all over that idea in a heartbeat J. He is so amazing and I am so glad that he is my companion. I won’t speak for him on that topic. He would probably say something different. But I love him to death he is the BEST!

The general secretary’s position is very demanding and at times quite overwhelming to say the least. I know I am going to need the Lord’s help a lot to make my job function like it is designed to function for sure. It still just impresses me every day how much it takes to run a mission and the time that goes into planning everything and what leaders do to take care of 155 missionaries and move the church forward at lightning speed. But that is exactly what missions do they move forward with lightning speed. Africa is so ready for the gospel and they are so prepared for the truth. They have amazing testimonies here and it makes me so grateful that we are able to serve here among some of the greatest people on the earth.

Rory takes care of all the cars in the field, making arrangements to have the repairs done and here on the coast he gives the new drivers, (Elders) the driving TEST! After his first training run with a new Elder driver he came back to the office and said, “I wish I had a driver’s education car that had a break and controls on the passenger’s side like they do there in the States.” He said it was a little stressful and he was glad to be back in control of the car. The Elders are not allowed to drive without having a driving course with a senior missionary.  The Elders have to be cleared to be able to drive according to the mission rules for this area. J He is also a head of all the phones and keeping the Elders stocked up on minutes. Here in South Africa you pay ahead for all your minutes. The Elders have a certain allotment of minutes given to them each month. When they have used up their allotment they have to call him and he OK’s for them to have more time, and he will load more minutes on their phones for them.  This happens quite often. He really likes what he does, he gets to associate with the Elders quite a bit of the time, and that is the fun part. He is also quite involved in the flats as well. The flats really take a lot of time and it is difficult for one person to do that task alone.

  We are keeping very busy and everyday it still just amazes us how much work and time is put into running a mission.  We love being on this side of the fence and being a part of the greatest work that will ever be done on earth. The Lords work is the greatest and we have been so blessed to have given the opportunity to come and serve here in South Africa. We love the people here they are the most amazing people ever. Our testimonies have truly been strengthened in the short time we have been here serving. We wish every one of you could see what we see and experience what we have experienced.  We are so blessed to have the gospel in our lives and to know how much our Heavenly Father loves us. To KNOW where we came from and to KNOW of a grand and glorious eternity that we all have the potential of having in the life to come.  We need to share that knowledge with everyone that does not have that knowledge. The gospel will change not only individual’s lives and families, but it will change countries.  South Africa is so ready for the gospel and there is just not enough priesthood authority here to keep up with the growth. It is so sad to see how desperately they want the truth and the sacrifices they make to come to church. Their circumstances are very humble and for them to come to church on Sundays they either walk, take a taxi, sometimes two separate taxis to get to the church. They do not have the money to pay for the taxi’s and therefore they just don’t make it most of the time. The members can live quite a distance from the church or from the meeting place and it is just too difficult for them to get there.  In order to get more buildings for them they have to have high activation. To get the activation up they need buildings that are closer to their townships. This is a real problem and the only way to solve it is to overload the places that they are meeting in and then it can be divided into two branches. Then the church will build another building closer to more of the members. But it is way too hard to make it to the meetings due to the transportation issues. Nonetheless they are so amazing and strong. Someday in the future they will have numerous buildings and they will all be able to go to church every Sunday without troubles. 
A beautiful foggy day in Africa

"We may be relatively small in number, but as members of this Church we can reach across these widening gaps. We know the power of Christ-centered service that brings together God's children regardless of thier spiritual or their economic statue."
                                           Elder M Russell Ballard, May 2012 Ensign

St. Mathew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Well we are here in South Africa safe and a little in SHOCK, ok a LOT in shock. We left the United States on Friday the 4th of May at 9:00am and arrived here in Durban Saturday night the 5th of May. We first flew out of Salt Lake City, Utah then on to Atlanta boarding another plane going straight to Johannesburg South Africa and then catching our final plane to Durban. It was a very long flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg it was 16 hours through the night. Once we landed in Johannesburg we only had a quick flight to Durban about an hour and a half, arriving in Durban at 10:00 pm.

We were fetched (that is what they call it here) by Elder and Sister Zweifel, and taken to our boarding at a B&B called Little Haven. We stayed there for two weeks until the Zweifel’s headed back home we were to move into their flat (here that is what they call apartments). It was a very small place to try and live in with 5 suit cases and 2 large carry-on bags. We barely had enough room to walk around the bed to get to it.

  That first night here was very difficult to sleep and to just relax. Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and got ready for church. We were fetched again by the Zweifel’s and they took us to church, it was stake conference here so we went down town to a very large beautiful city building to attend. The building reminded us of those really old Roman buildings that we saw in Israel and Jordan. The conference was so amazing and it just seemed surreal to actually be here. It was quite difficult to understand any of the speakers African English accents. We had to really listen and then try to figure out what they were saying. They had an all-black choir and it was so amazing to hear them sing, seriously they were incredible. The stake president called them the Durban Tabernacle Choir. They were all from one branch here in our stake. There were about 30 members in the choir. This was the highlight of our day. While driving through town to and from conference we were totally given a good dose of CULTURE SHOCK! We were so surprised at the poverty here and how run down things were. We thought we knew what we were in for but we really did not. After conference the Zweifel’s took us to their flat and we were able to meet two other senior couples, the DeLaMare’s and the Heninger’s. Sister Zweifel made a delicious breakfast it was good to finally eat something decent after looking at and smelling gorse airplane food for two days. That first day here really humbled us and gave us a lot to think about and be grateful for. It is still so hard to believe that we are here.

Monday morning we started our day off with breakfast at our B&B then to the office for our first day of training. It was a good day there and after the office training was done for the day we went and did a little bit of sightseeing. The traffic here is CRAZY AND UNBELIEVABLE, it totally is. Rory was in a daze just trying to think about him having to drive us around here. I know that, even though he would not admit it, he was having a panic attack!!! They drive on the opposite side of the road even the steering wheel is on the other side of the car and there are a BILLION cars on the road and they all drive CRAZY! Everything about the driving is so backwards here. The stop lights are on the side of the road on posts and the Africans think they are just suggestions.  There is not a straight road anywhere, up hills and down, sharp curves and windy roads it is so thick and wooded here you cannot see where you are or where you are heading. I am definitely NOT going to EVER drive here that is for sure.

All week we were trained in the office, we start our day there at 8:00 and go until 5:00. Each day after work we were taken around to see places and to try and orient ourselves on the lay out of this city. Rory was given a car the second day here and we’ll all I have to say about that is now I had a panic attack!! We did survive the first day of driving but I am sure WE gave other drivers heart attacks this time!! I sure hope it gets better and we make it are entire mission accident free. Say a prayer for us please.

The weekend came quickly and on the weekend we once again were so spoiled and taken to some fun places to eat and to see some beautiful scenery. I am having a hard time with the food thing here, on the other hand Rory is not. I just do not like the strong flavors. There is a lot of Indian influence here and they use really strong seasonings and the taste is so different that it is hard for me to eat the food. I am sure that I will get used to it but until then AWE (another prayerJ). We went to a place called 1000 hills, it is a very small little place about an hour form our home up in a very hilly place. It was so beautiful and it was a very nice and quiet place away from the city. That was good to get out of the big city craziness. We had a nice lunch there looked around in some fun little souvenir shops, enjoyed the quiet and beautiful scenery and then headed back into town to go to dinner with some people that wanted to meet us. We ate dinner with the couple that runs the panel beater (the body shop) that does the repairs to all the mission vehicles. And as you can probably tell by now there is A TON OF REPAIRS!! Accidents and accidents constantly, once again the driving thing is difficult for everyone. That is one thing that keeps the Mission President up at nights is the driving and worrying about all the missionaries and the possibility for serious accidents. There has been a few but overall “not too bad”.  Rory is in charge of all the vehicles and the phones. He constantly gets calls about accidents, stalled cars, brake inns, armed high jackings, stolen vehicles and all kinds of problems that come with big city driving and poor countries. Does that seem “not too bad”J? (And again another prayer for us)??  No wonder the President stays awake at nights worrying. We are both also over the flats (the apartments) for all the missionaries in our mission along with so much more. We really like working with the missionaries here they are so amazing and excellent missionaries as well. It is so fun to be around them and to feel of their spirit and see them grow and lead this amazing work.

On the 16th of May we had a couple’s conference with all of the other senior missionaries that serve throughout our mission. We got together in the Drakensberg area about a 4 hour drive up north from Durban. We were able to go to an all-male choir group. It is a boarding school for boys from the ages of 9 thru 15. It is a really hard school to get into from what we understand and it is very expensive as well. They are a famous group known all over South Africa. They performed and put on a great show for us. After the show we had dinner then off to bed. In the morning early we all got together and the President gave us some great council and instructions that would help us. The conference lasted until 12:30 and then we were off to some more fun filled experiences. The senior mission life is a very difficult sacrifice to make. J Rory went golfing with Elder DeLaMare while I went on a hike with several other couples. We stayed another night there in the Lodge, it reminded us a lot the of Sun Valley resort. The next morning we got up packed up and headed to another place called Nambiti for a game drive. We stayed in the coolest place ever. We were each in a tent that was put on a foundation with hard wood floors in it. It was just a one room tent with a bed, a free standing tub, a toiled and a door in the back of the tent that opened up into an outside shower. It was so much fun to stay there. We arrived there at 2:00 in the afternoon, unpacked then at 3:15 we all meet back at the main lodge for an afternoon game drive. We headed out on our game drive that lasted until 6:30 that evening. When we got back they had a great big bonfire for us to sit around, drink some hot chocolate and look at the stars. The southern stars are so awesome!! They are a billion more stars in the southern sky than what we have in the States. They are so bright and beautiful. Then we had a nice dinner and headed back to our tents for the night. When we had gotten back they had turned our bed down and it was all heated up. The beds have heated mattress on them. It gets really cold at night in this part of the country. They had the tub filled with bubbles and hot water and rose pedals scattered around and lite up with candles. I know what a sacrifice but we will do it. Once again it just seemed surreal to actually be here in Africa and experiencing this stuff that we have read about all of our lives. The next morning at 6:30 we were able to go on another game drive. On the game drives we saw so many different kinds of animals native to Africa. We saw zebras, rhinos, lions, giraffes, elephants, wildebeests, warthogs, koo-doos and many different types of antelope some weighing up to 900 pounds. There was so much to see there and we had a great time.

The Zweifel’s headed out and back to their home in Idaho Falls so we were able to move into our place on Monday night. We had a very nice time with them and they sure gave us a great start to our amazing adventure. We will definitely have big shoes to fill and hopefully we won’t make a totally mess out of the office they worked so hard to organize.  It does feel really good to not be living out of a suitcase and to have an ironing board, a mirror you can see out of, and a washing machine to do some laundry and a stove to be able to cook some of our own American food!

Our front door is the second one up on the right hand side.
Oh.....The Safety Issues in Africa...

Our home for the next 2 years.
Our friends just outside in our yard, we see them all the time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Week two at the MTC was another good week. This week we trained on the church office computers. The first couple of days we went over Microsoft word, outlook, and excel. The last couple of days we were trained on imos the church’s office program. It was really interesting how that works. The work that the church has put into the missionary program is so unbelievable .There is no other organization in the world that is as organized as the church.  To all missionary parents, if you think for one minute that our children are not taken care of or if they don’t have their best interest in mind we are here to tell you that the church is so in control and they are led and directed in everything that goes on in the mission field. It has been so educating to us to have had this opportunity to see behind the scenes of how the missions work. What a testimony again of the truthfulness of this work.
The training that we have received here has truly been a great experience and a tremendous blessing, one that we will never forget. The days sometimes were long but we have really learned a lot. On Tuesday night we were able to attend another fireside where a member of the first quorum of the seventies came and spoke to us. It is always a treat to have a general authority come and talk to you.
 We enjoy seeing all the missionaries in one room at the same time it is so awesome to see.

 We finished up our training on Thursday afternoon and then we headed back to our hotel and started packing up .Shortly after we got back Ron and Michelle came to our hotel and we had a very nice visit with them. It was so good to see them and we are so grateful that they would take time out of thier busy day to come. We love them all so much. Thursday evening Mom, Shellie, Renae and Shannon surprised us to by coming down  and seeing us also at our hotel, taking us to dinner and visiting us. We were so excited and happy to see them. They helped us take our luggage to the airport and gave us a farewell goodbye. Thanks to them for taking time out of their schedule and coming. We love our family more than words can express .We are so blessed to have the great support from them and to have their prayers and kind words of encouragement.   Friday we got up early in the morning to be to the airport at 7:00am. We caught our first flight at 9:30am going to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Johannesburg South Africa and then on to another flight to Durban South Africa. We arrived in Durban at 10:00 pm Saturday night. A very long two day flight!  It feels good to finally be here in South Africa and to be able to serve here among some of the most amazing people in the world. We have truly been BLESSED! We love this work!!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Wow, we are finally here at the MTC after much preparation and a crazy whirlwind of events.  We arrived here on Monday April 23, 2012 at 10:00 am.  It feels good to be here after all the anticipation and excitement of our new adventure.  We had a great first week here with all the classes and training for Preach My Gospel. This place is so amazing! It is overwhelming to see all the missionaries here they are everywhere and you can feel of their enthusiasm .They are amazing and full of the spirit.  After sending all three of our sons here it is nice to finally be on this side of the fence to see the places and experience the things they experienced. This place is so unbelievably organized and the teachers are the best! They really pamper the “senior missionaries” here. When we go into the chapel and sit down they come and bring you seat cushions and foot stools. Seniors are allowed to have cell phones and when we are using them and the young missionaries walk by they just smile at you and think, “man you seniors really have it tough”. They are funny with all their expressions. We are in class all day long but every hour or so they give us a 15 minute break to walk around and stretch. We start our day at 7:00 am eating breakfast first and then begin our classes at 8:00. We are in classes until 12:00 then released for lunch until 1:30 then back to class for more training. We usually finish up with classes around 4:30 or 5:00. Some days we also have devotionals and firesides in the evenings. This Tuesday the 24th we had a fireside at 7:00 pm and Elder Russell M. Nelson came and talked to us. It is always a great day when one of the 12 Apostles come and talk to you. The spirit there when he walked in was so strong. The gym was packed full of all the missionaries currently in the MTC and that was quite a sight to behold!!!

  We have had some great experiences here. One of the things you get to do here is to teach a “mock” family. They have volunteers come and pretend to be investigators or part member families that are wanting to know more about Christ. At first we were a little nervous to do this exercise but it really was a great experience. The funny thing is that they are so good at acting you forget that they are actors and start thinking they are for real. They totally stay in character and I am sure they want to just start laughing at us but they are so kind and just let us do our thing .We actually go into a room that is all decorated just like a real living room. They have cameras that record you and your trainers watch and then give you advice and compliment you on the good things that you do as well.  We had to do this exercise on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We got better as the days went on and got a little more confidence in our approach. This place really is so amazing and the organization is like nothing we have ever experienced before. The way this place is ran and organized is another testimony to us of the truthfulness of this gospel. You cannot be here and experience the things we have experienced and not KNOW that this is the LORDS work. This has really been a great week and we have learned so much and we are so grateful to be able to be here at this time in our lives.

 Over the week end all of our children and grandchildren came down to see us and spend this last week end together before we fly out.  It was so good to see them and be able to spend time just enjoying their company. We think that our first week went so well because we knew that we would see them this week end and the home sickness was not an issue. I am not too sure how well this coming week will be because we know we will not be able to see them for 2 years. We are sure that they will be taken care of and know that God will watch over them and protect them until we return. Our family is one of our greatest blessings and they mean the world to us. WE LOVE YOU ALL AND WE WILL MISS YOU DEARLY
 We are looking forward to another great week at the MTC.  This week we will be training on how to use the church office computers and programs that we will be using during our service in the mission office in South Africa.

 I have posted a few pictures of us here and of our family visiting us.