Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Hello Family and Friends,

Well, it's almost Christmas Eve in Zimbabwe. Someone asked me what the date was today and I said the 23rd of December. It hit me like a train! It's almost Christmas and I really didn't even go shopping. I just can't believe it. We always go grocery shopping but other shopping is almost never. We don't even have a tree or lights, but that's ok. We've watched "The Gift" and read the Ensign and scriptures, sang songs at church and zone conferences. That's good enough. Good food!
Today was a rather slow day. In fact, we are having Holiday hours in the mission office for the next week and a half. Walks in the morning and home before dark. There was not a lot of activity in the office, so we left early after our work was done. There is always work to do.

I do hope your trees are all trimmed and the house smells good with holiday cooking and friends and family. We welcomed 2 other couples into the mission last week. They both went through the MTC together, so we are the man out in the group. They are older than we are, but they are very active. In fact the second day for this one couple, the wife was driving and got into a car accident.  You can't be timed in your driving here, you'll get into an accident and she did. We got the car fixed today, so she can wreck it again this coming week. They were alright, some man ran into the side of the car. Good thing they weren't driving the car that was issued for them, a new Toyota Corolla. President might reconsider the car issue for them.

Today at the chapel next to the mission office, there was a double funeral. A mother and her only son were laid to rest. They were coming back from South Africa, Johannesburg Temple and the vehicle they were riding in, hit a pot hole, blew out the tire and the vehicle flipped 3 times. Every one was injured and they both died. I've never seen so many people at a funeral. It was very touching. The young man was baptized last January and his mother was baptized in March of this year. The young man was attending BYU and was home on school break. There is still a teenage daughter in a coma in the hospital. The lady driving has suffered a lot of broken bones and two little boys were thrown from the vehicle but they are recovering after surgery. Very sad . A tradition here when people die, the grieving family will have to provide food and lodging for all the friends and family that come for the funeral. This can last up to a week, a large hardship on the family that is grieving. No one brings food or flowers to the family. They just all mooch! Also last week a Stake President's counselor who was in his 40's just died and left a very young family behind. Just too much sadness for the church members here.

Our Mission president and his wife and two of their children are in Victoria Falls for the next few days. Today I forgot to turn on my beeper on my cell phone. He called me on the office phone and asked if I had deleted him from my phone. I just couldn't tell him that it was on vibrate. I do have a problem with turning my phone on so I can receive incoming calls. I'm just not a secretary. My children can verify that I don't answer a cell phone. But I do call out on it. Poor President Cook.

On Friday I made reservations for the "senior couples" to go out on a safari again. I just hope it doesn't rain really bad. One of the new senior couples likes to hunt big game animals. He said that his son's house is covered with head mounts. I do hope he doesn't ruin the atmosphere when we see these beautiful animals on Friday, and say something like, " I'm going to come back for a hunting trip". I just might not like him for a year or so! This Saturday we are having another party, at the branch building. After the 4 baptisms, we are going to teach the new members about tithing, home evening, temples, and anything else that might come up. We hope to have around 60 people to the event. So they are going to cook more sodza, chicken, rice and vegetables to serve. Last week during Sacrament meeting there were 6 confirmations. The missionaries just can't keep every one straight, with their names, and baptismal dates. Very exciting!

Last Sunday night Sister Cook invited all the office workers, and the new couples to the mission home for dinner. It was so wonderful, and the home is new and beautiful. At the end of the night, President asked each of  us to tell something about ourselves. Elder Hermansen and I didn't have much to talk about. We have an assistant to the president who is from Uganda. He told us about his conversion. He use to be a Muslim. He said that he is very nervous about going back to his home and meeting his fathers family. They are the Muslims, and they hate Christians. His father died when he was 12, so his mother has raised the family of 5 kids. She joined the church first and then he did and now all but his younger brother has joined the church. Alan asked what was it that interested him in the church and leave the Muslim practice. He said that this church teaches that we can repent and be forgiven of our mistakes and the Muslim faith teaches that there is no hope of forgiveness and life with Heavenly Father. He said that they believe that they have a different God, and that what he says is final. This young man is so sharp, and smart. I could have listened to him all night long. In one of our zone devotionals, a young man talked about the "gift " that has been given to him. He told us that when he was younger both of this parents passed  on. So he was on his own. Someone introduced him to the church and he studied and prayed if it was true. He joined, and is on a mission now. He said something that was so great, he said that because he'd been given so much, he too must give. What a great thing he is doing, teaching others about the gift of the Savior and life eternal. he said that he'd been given great parents , the church, and temple blessings. He wants to share those blessings with other people. I just kept thinking, you have no family waiting for you after your mission! I just know the Lord will bless him after his service.

On Christmas day, we are going to serve the missionaries by opening the office and letting them use our laptop and other computers so they can Skype home and talk with their families. I just wish that I could give every one of these missionaries a great big package of goodies, new shirts, and a family that loves them. But we can't do that, so this is something in a small way of saying we love them. One missionary received a small package last week, he's an orphan, he was elated! he shouted, that he's never received anything. One of the past missionary couples sent some packages to the orphan missionaries.

Enough about us, we hope that you're all doing well. Enjoy some homemade cheese cake for us. I found a bar of Philly cream cheese in the store today. $9.38 for a small brick of Philly cream cheese. I bought 2kg's of cooked ham for $57.00 dollars. I just had to indulge, because it's Christmas. I might even use my 8 dollar cake mix. Elder Hermansen bought a small bag of cashews for $12.50.

It's been raining about every day now. My hair has been so wild, it's so humid. I don't want to cut it short, but the rainy season has just begun. The maze fields are growing. The people are out gardening all the time. I wonder if they'll sleep in their fields when the corn gets ready. I'm sure there is a lot of stealing that goes on.

We love you all and pray that you'll all have a wonder Christmas. We'll be thinking of each of you. Hope you have snow and enjoy all the family that will come your way. We're doing well, and look forward to a new year, because this time next year, we'll almost be home. We love you always, always.

Merry Christmas,

Love Elder H. and Sister H.

short message

Hello family.
We hope you are all doing well. This afternoon we skyped with Russ and Christine and they are doing well. It was great to see them and also we visited with Rob and Whitney this week. So good to see them, Rob had a snow day, so he was home. Hailey is so cute and we loved hearing her say words, like "thank you" and "bye bye." It was so cute and soft. Just loved it.
On our P-Day, we were at the branch Christmas party. There is this cute little boy in the ward. He's just learning to walk so he's just a little unsteady on his feet. Well he started out walking towards us, then he stopped in his tracks and looked at us with his big dark eyes and started crying. I just think he saw his first "white ghosts". Even at church today he started to cry when he saw me. I just want to squeeze him and give him a hug. Our branch party was attended by so many people. There were over 300 people and half were investigators. There were over 150 kids and they had to wait hours for their food. I felt so bad for them. I'm not sure what the culture is, but they served the adults first, youth and then the young children. It was fun and these women cooked for hours over an open fire, preparing the food for everyone; sodza, rice, noodles, chicken , sausages, roasted potatoes, and soda drinks. Then the primary kids had a soup with rice and a little piece of chicken. So today at church, we started out the meeting with only 12  people. Then for the sacrament we had 31. After the sacrament, there were about 170 people. They all came on the busses. All in all, a good day at church.
This week we'll be having our zone Christmas devotional and dinners. I'm just a little stressed, because I've had to plan for 2 days of dinners. I just pray that the food is good and will be filling, because it needs to be special for Christmas. On Wednesday and Saturday, Alan and I will be going to the airport to get the 2 senior couples that are coming from the states. We have one apartment ready but the other apartment is empty. We need to have about 10 people working on this project to get it completed by Wednesday, but we don't have any extra people hanging around here. I know that I'll just be tired come Wednesday morning.
After our branch party, we were driving home and decided to stop and get some gas. We pulled up to the attendant, and we said to fill it up. Then he asked if we had any information about our church he could read. Out of the blue, he was interested in reading information about our church. We didn't have anything to give him. I now have a bag full of reading material in the truck. Elder Hermansen, said that is the first time any one has come to him and asked about the church. This young man looks and sounds smart and would be willing to read and learn. This referral goes to the Apps. in the morning.
I don't have a lot to talk about, just would like you all to know, we love you and pray for you all daily. Please be safe in the winter conditions that you are experiencing. The church is true and I'm grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ.
I'll write more in the next few days. Who is the new stake president in the Kanab Stake? I hear that Lex is doing better! Merry Christmas to all.
Love MOM

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December in Zim

Hello Family:
I'm just a little slow at getting a letter off to everyone this week. We've just been busy and a little tired when we get back to our flat. Christmas here is rather different. This Saturday is our branch Christmas party and that should be very interesting. Tomorrow our branch president will be giving me the list of food items to buy, since we are the only ones with a vehicle in the branch. Oh, the elders have a car, but they are hands off for giving rides and helping out. I'm just glad they are not having a roasted goats head. They are killing the chickens that morning and bringing them all bloody to cook. On Sunday our little branch had 231 people to church. It was very amazing to see so many people come into the church. Every chair was taken and during the meeting they brought more chairs and set them in the isles. There are so many people who want to become a member. I hope it's not a fad!  We don't have a Christmas tree and I do hope I can find something for a great Christmas dinner. Oops, the power just went out! We were on such a sweet run for having power. I just hope they fixed our generator and we don't have any more sparks flying inside of our flat. That was a scary night a couple of weeks ago. So I need to hurry to finish this letter. Yesterday it rained, and really came down! It's much needed here. I just pray that our borehole doesn't dry up. I'll have to learn how to carry water on my head. Right at 5pm yesterday a set of sister missionaries ran into the mission office so wet, from the rain outside. We told them we would give them a ride home. Well, it took us hours to go a little distance. It is so crazy. The people here drive like everything is on fire. No thought for laws or rules, driving all over the road and on both sides. On top of that it was raining and flooding on  the streets. It was driving us crazy, but we couldn't let the sisters walk home. Finally it was all Elder Hermansen could take and he decided to turn off the main road and take another road to get to the sister's house. We were trying to drive through this little road through some metal poles on the side of the road and the truck didn't make the turn and we ended on this dirt side walk. The drivers side of the car, the tires just sank in to the mud. It was crazy to try to get out. The more we tried to get out the worse the tires sank into the muck. A long story short, we prayed that we would be safe and that someone would come to our rescue. I was outside of the truck and looked up and saw a man named Brother Banda walking towards our truck. It  was like seeing an angel to our rescue. He said that he and his wife were driving and they knew they had to come and help us. They have a truck and it was just what we needed.  His wife said they both received the same impression that they needed to find us, because we needed help. I was, and still am, very grateful to them for listening and following the Holy Ghost promptings. They didn't even live in the area that we were at. The traffic was something I've never seen before and they found us. We were off the main road by some bushes. Right after they came, here came some zone leaders and their district. The sister missionaries had walked to their area, found the elders and came back to our rescue. With everyones help, the truck got out and we drove home very fast. All I know is the Lord helped us and knew our needs. I'm so  thankful, just very thankful!
Our generator is going on and off, I guess it isn't fixed yet. We are getting ready for Christmas Zone parties and devotional for next week. I love to be with all the missionaries, they are so happy and leave me with such a great feeling. Our mission is growing, and our missionary numbers are shrinking.
Thank you all for writing and giving us those tender mercies when we needed them. Sorry to hear about John Allen. He has always been a kind neighbor to us. Hope you have a great Christmas season. Last Saturday, we spent most of the day at the mission office, so when we got home I asked Elder Hermansen if we could go to this one shopping area. I just need to find a Christmas card to send to everyone. Well, Elder Hermansen's prayers were answered. All the stores close at 12:30 on  Saturday's, so he didn't have to go into any stores. That was a happy day for him! I just need to take some time off and get out there myself. Elder Hermansen hates to shop, he's very concerned about finding some cold cereal that tastes good.
We are doing well, and don't worry about us! Let us worry about everyone back in the states. We had to send another missionary home today. He's an elder that has some great learning difficulties, so he just wasn't ready to serve a mission. It was a sad day to have to send him home. We just pray that his stake president will work with him and not forget him. The area office has said that if missionaries are too sick to work, they will be sent home. We have about 10, who are on the boarder of being sent home. This is my life in the office lately.
I'm grateful for the gospel and how it changes the lives of people for the good, if they will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I'm glad to hear that cousin Lex is getting better. I wrote a letter to Quincy Robinson before he entered the MTC. I'm sure he thought I was some crazy lady. He did enter the MTC with a  group of Americans going all to the same mission. He should develop a great bond with them. Ok, the generator is running better. Elder Hermansen forgot to push the choke back in, now it sounds better and the lights aren't flickering on and off.
For Christmas we are going to open up the office and let some districts come into the office and call home and Skype to their families. I believe that's about all we'll be doing. I just would like to cook something good for the missionaries, but maybe I'll have to buy something for them as a treat.
We hope you're all doing well, and you're healthy and happy. Just remember, you all live in the best place on this earth. Hope you all enjoy your families and friends at this time of year. On Sunday, one lady said that they should spend the ward money and buy everyone a Christmas card. She said that she's never had one before and didn't really know what they look like. I was taken back by this comment. I take so much for granted. They asked me to help with the music for the primary program. They must have had 50 kids in senior primary and only 10 of them can read. So trying to have them read the words is impossible. I hope this sunday goes well in church. Let me know about the new stake president in Kanab.
Battery is almost done. I love you always and I'm so grateful for all of you and love you so much. Family is the best.
Love MOM, Joy

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving 12/3/14

 Hello family,
Well, we do hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Your letters and messages sounded really great. Isn't family wonderful! We are very blessed to have such great family support and love. We had a great Saturday, our little branch had six baptisms. A husband, wife, and daughter were baptized. Then two brothers and then one young man (who we thought was already baptized). I've noticed that Africans don't like to get wet and submerged in water. So the elders had a different way to get them totally underwater. Our little branch has really caught on fire with sharing the gospel. In fact we had 167 people to church on Sunday. So, I sit up on the stand and play the keyboard, and a bus drives up and out comes 25 + people in to the church building. It was quite thrilling to see. Elder Hermansen looks quite good among all these African people, we really do stick out in a crowd.  We are back to teaching the temple prep class, but with new people in the class. In fact one couple have only been members for a year, and they are already planning to attend the temple and their son just submitted his mission papers. Really great families. Our third hour at church was, the fifth Sunday, so our branch president lead the discussion about tithing. One man asked the question, "Since we are so poor, do we have to pay tithing?" My heart sank inside of me, and then President Mutize called on me to answer that question. Instantly, I could see the picture of the widows mite and that's what I talked about. In our Area Conference last week, Elder Bednar reminded the saints, that you don't always have to use money to pay tithing. So I reminded the people about that, but what ever we have we must pay a tenth. Then Elder Hermansen was asked to bear his testimony about tithing and he said that it was a commandment, and we must follow that commandment.
I look around and saw that only 3 people have a bike to ride, 1 car, and all the rest walk to church and take the bus. Our church building is surrounded by gardens and they are praying for rain to water their gardens so they'll have food to eat. I wish I could video tape a day here in Africa, it is so different and humbling, but it's a learning experience.
Today and tomorrow is Zone Conference, so all the zone leaders are here and then leaving back to their different areas tomorrow afternoon. I met one Zone leader and he's from Salem. Just down the hill from us. He's a friend of Brady Badders, that lives across the street from us in Elk Ridge. Small world. Our next door neighbors are leaving the mission on Thursday. It will be sad to see them leave, but this is their 3rd mission to Africa and they want to go home and see their kids and grandkids. In fact, she said that she has one little granddaughter, who has never really met her and gotten to know her. Her granddaughter tells her friends that she has a "black grandmother in Africa". I certainly hope that Hailey and Owen don't use that on us. This couple have been on the LDS Charities mission. They get to make the bore holes, fix schools, and they get to publicly show how great the church is to other people. They were here in Zimbabwe when a loaf of bread was one trillion dollars and still people couldn't buy it. Times are so much better than that. Unfortunately, they still don't have their travel plans. Just hope someone lets them know when to fly out.
We might  trade apartments when they leave. It is really much nicer than ours, is that greed, or common sense?
Our next couple arrives on the 12th of December. President Cook has assigned us to take care of them for the weekend. I can't wait to see their total shock and hear their thoughts about Zimbabwe.
I saw a picture of a hot air balloon in Kanab. That would be a great place to have balloons. The beautiful red cliffs and farm land. Hope it works out for this spring. Mom, I did receive the envelopes with the letters. I thought they were beautiful and heart felt. As I read them, I felt they were for me, giving me support to stick it out to the end. It only took 10 days to get here in Harare. Please tell the young women, they will be blessed for their sweet letters and thoughts. Thank you for sharing them.
We love you all, and pray for you daily. Hope you all are getting ready for winter and can relax next to your warm stoves and fires. Always know that we love you, take care till later. 
MOM and Dad (who never writes a word), Hermansen