Twas the night before Christmas…

Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

Dear Family,

It’s Christmas Eve and I thought I would share some feelings of the day. The Elders came over to go with us to visit each of the members and take them some Christmas goodies.  The plate held a small loaf of banana bread, some candy and a photo of us with our home address information, and a gospel message.

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They loved it and each family was almost giddy as we sang a carol to them. We took Sister Ruth from the Relief Society with us as well.  The sisters had put together some food for a few of the families in the group.  As we visited Sister Joyce, she could hardly hold the tears back as Sister Ruth gave her the two bags of food. She has been out of work for some time now.  We know how it feels to have very little, especially at Christmas time. We walked away with a lump in our throats and grateful for so many blessings.

We then drove to Bernard’s family out in the village.  Bernard insisted that we come inside and stay long enough for a Christmas song.  Lucky had a favorite Primary song that he wanted to sing … “Christmas Bells are Ringing.” Mom had taught all the children in Primary to do a round with that song.   We proceeded to teach the rest of the family the song so we could then do it in a round.  They all had a great time.  What a sweet spirit filled the humble room and surroundings as we were all singing together.

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Bernard’s friend, Christophe, who is currently being taught by the Elders, was there and he wanted a blessing.  I asked Bernard to use his Priesthood and take charge. He grabbed his crutches, made his way over to the chairs where we had his friend seated.  Bernard gave a powerful blessing of hope and counsel.  Again, the Spirit was strong and noticeable.

No one had eaten lunch, so Mom suggested a lunch break at KFC.  Ruth had never been there so Mom helped her order what she wanted.  She was so excited to order a strawberry sundae for desert – – she said, “oh, now my Christmas has started.”  An ordinary experience for us turned out to be a very special time for her.  Mom asked her how long we could have her to go around with us.  Ruth replied, that she would like to go with us as long as we would have her.

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It is the little things that matter.  We sang Christmas songs as we drove from house to house all over the area.  It was nice feeling the Christmas spirit.  I could tell that everyone had a good time.

At Gwen Molopo’s house, everyone was outside sitting in the front yard under a large shade tree.  It was really hot outside, and even worse in the house. This was not the white Christmas, we have been used to at home.  Gwen was busy doing her washing in two big tubs.  What a great visit.  Even Grandma and Grandpa joined in the Christmas songs with us.  I know this was the Spirit of Christmas as we shared a little bit of love, with a few hugs thrown in on the side.

We did not think it was going to be so hard to leave South Africa, as we explained our contact information on the back of the picture that we handed out.  When we gave Gwen our journal to write in, she told us that she could not do it yet.  Even though we still have some time left, to her, writing in the journal meant she was saying good-bye.  Gee, here are those mission good-bye feelings again?  When we left home, with all of you standing on the front lawn, Mom and I could not even talk through the tears as we drove away.  It seems those same feelings are returning but we are now on the other side of the world.

Our visits had taken all day, since 9:30 this morning.  We were supposed to be at the Church to have our Christmas Eve party with President and Sister Dunn and all the Elders in our zone at 4:00 pm.  Why are we in such a hurry all the time?

Mom and Sister Brammer had made all the sloppy Joes and the other Senior Couples had brought the extra trimmings.

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President Dunn had been able to get a copy of the movie “Meet the Mormons.”  It made us proud to be part of such a wonderful work in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His love for us.

The night is not over yet. We told Nigel and Nelly that we would take them to the taxi area so they could leave to go to Zimbabwe. We picked them up and brought them to our flat. The taxi was supposed to leave Joburg at 4:00 pm but as of 8:00 pm they had not left yet.   Since we are about 4 hours from Joburg, this may be a long night.

As it turns out, Nigel and Nelly slept in our living room on whatever they could find.  I took them home at 8:00 am the next morning since Mom & I had to drive to Mokopane to have a brunch with the Elders.  The taxi did finally arrive after breaking down on the way here and picked them about noon on Christmas Day.  One thing you can always count on when going to Zim is . . . you get there when you get there.

Christmas day included having a brunch with Elder and Sister Brammer and the 6 Elders in our District. They loved the food and members provided a gift box for each of the Elders from the mission.  South Africa has had a mail strike for the last 5-6 months, so there was no mail or Christmas from home unless it came FedEx. The day finished up with a little ball for the Elders and of course some time on the phone talking with everyone at home.

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The first part of the week was all about helping our sweet Sister Mary get her home ready for a wedding party at her house.  She was already stressed trying to get ready, and then she got word that her Sister-in-Law passed away.  So, it was time to go to work.  She wanted a little paint face-lift for the living room and hallway.  The Elders agreed to help and with only a few minor problems, like Elder Reed stepping in the roller pan and Elder Olsen falling off the chair, everything turned out great. The green wall with yellow stripes is gone and the living room looks really nice.

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I will say that it was a challenge mixing your own colors with only 5-gallons of white paint, in one can, and 5 different little plastic bottles of color to add as you saw fit (3 brown, 1 yellow, and 1 black).  I know we had some major help coming up with the right shade of tan.  That was stressful.

The weather here as been hot, hot, hot, but cooling off at nights with lots of rain. Christmas seems to be a little misplaced with this kind of weather.  The sunsets are rated somewhere near fantastic at this time of year.

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Well, the big Wedding Party is over and what a party it was. The tent was set up, music in place, and lots of food for everyone.  Mom made a killer fruit salad and banana cake with frosting.  The guests don’t stop eating until the food is completely gone, and so it was. Mary’s sister finished up the fruit salad with the bowl in her lap and 3 lady’s surrounding her with spoons in hand.   As always everyone wants to know what Mom has brought and watches to see when it is brought out so they can make sure and get some.  Mom says, “it’s just because it’s new to them” yeah, right.

The wedding dances, dress, and traditions were so interesting to watch. It really is wonderful that they let us be part of all this great celebration.  Notice the bride starts out in a white, blue and pink traditional  “Sepedi” dress and they dance and sing in a procession and then the groom’s family takes her in and changes into the blue & black plaid traditional “Tswana” dress from his family.  Then they all sing and dance some more – – – it was such a fun afternoon to be among such a happy people.

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We have been leaving our journal with the members and asking them to write their feelings, their testimony and give us their contact information.  Last night we started reading some testimonies that we have gathered.  I’m not sure that was a good idea.  Wow, how tender and powerful they are.

Mom and Batsirai spent some time between classes at church today sharing some tender moments and a few tears.  How could we have been so blessed to be called to serve such a wonderful people? She started telling Mom all of her prayers that the Lord had answered and how she felt of His love. She said that she knew that we had been sent here for her and her family. We know of the Lord’s love for them. We have felt direction in our service to them.  We feel humbled to be a part of their lives. Mom shared how much we love them. We cannot help but think the blessing we have received have been far greater than those we have served.

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It was great talking to everyone on Christmas. We miss each of you more than you know. Thank your for the “Gifts of Service” we have received so far.  We are looking forward to the rest, so we, along with you can feel of the Spirit of Christmas.

We hope this family tradition of giving will last for generations.

We love you.

MOM & DAD

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