This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sharpening the Vision

Saturday the 29th of June was a big day for the mission.  Yet, like most changes in church leadership it happens without much fanfare.  As we all know, with each calling that is extended comes a release in the future.  Saturday's transition happened when President Leif J. Erickson stepped off the plane and assumed the role of Mission President of Zambia/Malawi.  He had been set apart previously for that event.  President Padovich was ready and told me once Pres. Erickson was on the ground he (Pres. Padovich) would be just "Mike or Mikele."

It was fun to witness the two couples.  One, relieved, tearful, and full of experience and love for his missionaries and the peoples of Malawi and Zambia.  The other, eager, scared, overwhelmed with immediate tasks, yet confident with a new vision of where the mission was headed for the next three years.  It cracked me up they were both wearing their "power/pink" ties.

The two couples spent perhaps two and half hours together.  Then the Padovich's were off to the airport.  President Erickson had a full day of interviews and a little time to unpack their suitcases  downstairs in their new home.

We invited them to dinner and our goal was to keep them up as long as possible so they could start adjusting to the time zone change.  Pres. Erickson jumped in their assigned car and followed us to the grocery store.  We sent them in alone and Kristi and I talked about our first day and how familiar things seemed, yet so totally foreign.  We laughed knowing what they were going through.

Pres. Erickson had served a mission in Australia so I didn't worry about him driving on the left.  You have to start sometime.  They then followed us to our home for a simple dinner of stew.

As you can see, 30 plus hours of travel plus a full day of "meet and greet" can wilt you a little, but they held up better than I could have under all that pressure.
We sent them out with full faith that they would find the mission home again in the dark streets of Lusaka.  He carries his own light.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


No, these aren't the wild beasts of Africa but they do think they are young and wild.
These folks are our instant best friends.  They are the Lyles (humanitarian) on the left then Kristi and the Padovichs (mission president) on the right followed by the Pretes from Malawai, (member leadership but really a mini mission president) (they stayed with us), and the Louthans (public affairs).  We were still missing the Harveys from the Copperbelt (member leadership and mini mission president).  It is a 5 or 6 hour drive down from the north.

This began our "P" day or preparation day event.  The senior couples of the mission had gathered for a "conference" and to say goodbye to the Padovich's for the last time.

On Monday morning we headed out of town to a crocodile farm for a group activity.

We got there just before a bus of school kids arrived for a field trip.  They were so orderly and fun to watch in their uniforms.  Kristi gets nostalgic when she sees a grey uniform and yellow and grey ties, as that was her school uniform colors in Australia.

These are weaver bird nests.  You can see they enter the nest from the bottom through sort of a tunnel.

Here we finally got our first view of "open" country.

The park had several residents to check out.  This fellow felt like I do sometimes.  My kids say I sometimes just disappear and they can find me upstairs by myself.  Some of us turtles just know when it is time to take a break.  I sort of like his style.

This is what I look like when I am found relaxing.

These guys are really not crocodiles but are alligators in the crocodilian family.

Now this is what my Dad referred to as a "snake in the grass".  Tough to see at first but eventually you see them for what they really are, predators, looking out only for themselves.

There are two snakes in the bottom photo.  I think you should look before picking up that stick.

This leaf/seed was from a tree that was new to me.

These big boys were happily living in a pretty deep pit.

These pythons are all native to Zambia.

Here is what we came to see.

Crocodiles of Zambia.

I am sure you remember Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk about "spiritual crocodiles" back in 1976.  If interested there are excerpts with video on YouTube.  I can't help but think about that.

I was not sure if he was smiling or just waiting for the right time to act.  They get fed only once a week.

This is where some of them end up and many more are shipped to zoos around the world.

Crocodile steaks are available in all the stores but it is priced much higher than beef.  The missionaries have bought and cooked it for themselves and thought it was pretty good.

Of course the other use is leather products.
Here we are outdoors in AFRICA!

These are the couples who came with us.
Louthans, Roses (area real estate), Harveys, Pretes, Padovichs, Lyles and Skidmores.

Funny, how women shopping have to touch things.

Rural Zambia is all about walking for miles and miles.

Here we are heading home after a great morning.

That evening we went to a great Chinese dinner.  The following day was a work day for us but the couples from the outlying areas took care of city business.  That Tuesday we all ate together at the mission home one last time and had a testimony meeting.  What a feast in every respect.
I cannot express the joy of being here with people that are like minded.

I used to think that the Church must somehow put out a memo for couples to recruit other couples to serve missions.  I haven't seen one, but like any "12 step" or "partaking of the fruit" event you cannot help but look around and want to share what you have.  Every day is an adventure and blessing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

"I Have Seen the Elephant!"

I love to read about the days of western migration in the United States.  Many travelers of those days related that they "had seen the elephant."  This usually meant that some occurrence was encountered or would yet be encountered of life's turning points.  Sometimes it was used in anticipation and sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. 

Often writers would allude to their experiences as seeing a part of the elephant.  The California gold rush has many examples of folks "seeing the elephant."  Most of the time this referred to facing reality.

Well, I hope to see REAL elephants in Zambia but so far, as you can see below, this is the first and only elephant I have encountered.  Yet, in this mission adventure I can now say too,  I am beginning "to see the elephant".  That is; about senior missionary life, and day to day life in Africa.

These fellows above were across the street from the FedEx office.
Here is the FedEx office in Lusaka.  Many businesses are located in homes that have turned commercial.

There seems to always be plenty of paperwork in this calling.

Here starts what is known as "pouch" delivery back to the USA.
Letters with US stamps will be sent by FedEx to Salt Lake and then reposted.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sabbath Day

Sunday is a "day of rest" but still very busy.  I still think of my neighbor across the street in Clayton that said "I would never join your church because you are gone all the time, and all day on Sunday."  Looking at this lifestyle from the outside, it is like that.  It is so difficult to explain the peace and satisfaction that comes from "trying" to live more Christ-like.  Isn't it nice to have less stress and an Eternal perspective.  Life's puzzle pieces just fit seamlessly together, and all the other garbage just falls away.

We have been assigned to attend two branches, the Libala and Woodlands Branches.  They both meet in the same building on the outskirts of Lusaka.  Libala starts first at 9:00.  We found the church after a couple of wrong turns and pulled into the parking lot at ten minutes to 9.  No other cars were in the lot, and there was not a soul around.  It was our first introduction to "African time".  Unless you work in a big building with electricity and clocks, time is sort of relative.  We started about 9:15 or so.  Folks just kept wandering in.  By the time Sacrament meeting was over there were 70 or 80 people there.

Here is Kristi checking out the Church's flowers.
Below is the Primary and since they were outside I just had to take a photo.
Their teacher is Sister Mushala.

I so wanted to take out my camera in church but I know better since it is totally frowned on and I need to set an example.  Their were six or seven young women sitting a couple of rows in front of us and each had a different hair style.  I tried to sketch them, but that wasn't too successful either.  Some might have been wigs, but they were really beautiful.  I thought how all the high school girls at home worry if they don't look just like their friends.

There is a piano and a key board for an organ sound but no one to play in the 9 am Branch.  The chorister sings the first line then everyone starts in at the beginning.
In Sunday School they also have an opening and closing hymn.  A sister chose "As Sisters in Zion".  I've heard it sung a few times but I must admit I didn't know the words or had I ever sung it before.  I am finding a lot of firsts in Zambia for me.

This sampler of the Relief Society mission statement was hung in the Relief Society/Sunday School room.  The Sunday School teacher is a school teacher during the week and I haven't heard any better teaching.  Honest.

On July 6th we will be involved in the District Family Fun Day.

I got brave and snuck a photo in Elders Quorum.  The teachers are excellent.  Notice the chalk board in front of the white board.  I have noticed this in all the chapels.  It is hard to keep markers, but chalk is abundant and so it is just a small example of Salt Lake not listening to outlying areas.

Here are a couple of young men chatting and trying to practice/learn to play after church.  Sister Louthan, (Public Affairs Missionary) teaches piano lessons two times a week.  When they have learned the first book of simplified hymns to her satisfaction they get their own keyboard.  She is doing a great service.

The building doesn't have a recreation hall yet, but there is plenty of room for the addition when warranted.

I kept telling Kristi that one fellow reminded me of someone and I was wracking my brain to think of who.  Finally, she said that Bro. Banda looked like Johnny Mathis.  That was it! 

I am sure as we get to know the two Branches we will attend more activities and I can introduce you to more of our friends.  It is just awkward taking photos on Sunday at/during church.  We do stand out a little bit since everyone for miles around is black.  The members are very friendly and gracious.  

The men shake hands (not just at church) with a handshake, a lock of thumbs with outstretched fingers, and a shake again.  The women just delicately grab the first few joints of the hand (fingers) and shake.  Sometimes they will do that and hold their elbow up with the other hand and curtsy just slightly.  The women will greet each other at times with a brush of both cheeks while shaking hands.

I heard two object lessons that day, that I thought were interesting.  First of all the teacher was talking about "enduring to the end" and said we should all do that like Elder Skidmore.  I smiled but, WHAT!, am I really that old or old looking?  Then I realized we really are old compared to the people we see.  I read that the median age of Zambian people is sixteen and a half, due to AIDS and sickness.  The statistics that were just posted said that the life expectancy here had been raised from 37 to 44 years due to improved immunizations.

The other example used was when the instructor was talking about taking inventory of our lives.  We might relate that to going to a doctor for a check-up.  They spoke about the guy in the village that comes around with a bathroom scale and charges you to be weighed.  That is how they judge their health.  If you are not gaining as a child or if you are losing as an adult then your health is not as good as it should be.  We are fortunate and blessed to live in the USA.

After Sunday School in the Libala Branch we attended Sacrament Meeting in the Woodlands Branch and all their meetings.  That makes for five hours of church.  We then headed home and prepared for a meal with the other missionary couples that are in town.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sort of a Roomy Jail Cell/Coffin

We lock ourselves in the house whenever we are here.  We are just following the advice we get from everyone.  You will notice the bars on the windows.  I think they are rather attractive as far as bars on windows go.


Looking out it doesn't seem quite so bad - sort of arty and they are painted white, which helps.

These are the bars at the other couples home and I sort of feel like I am in jail.

This is our front door.  It is sort of pretty - some might say "elegant".
I think it is sort of cold since it is all metal with thick glass.
That design is made out of stainless steel.  It is 1/4 inch by 1 inch thick steel and is a deterrent from unauthorized entry.

Every time I get inside and turn the strange key around twice the four dead bolts move into place with a very solid clunk.

This is what gets to me.  This material the door is made of reminds me of some coffins I have seen.
I hate to get morbid but I really prefer wood.  It has such a warmer feel to it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Local Food

Food is available wherever you go.  The problem is most of it doesn't look familiar to me yet.

This lady doesn't look happy in the photo but she was very friendly.  The Elders seemed to know her.
They use mostly native languages on the streets and in the villages.

I have noticed that even after warming people up and finally getting the nerve to ask if I could take a photo they always say "yes", but the bottom line is that they really hate to have their photo taken.  It is very difficult to have them look right at the camera unless they have been around foreigners comfortably.  Some say it stems from the tribal beliefs of a photo capturing their spirit.

Dried mushrooms.

Beans, mushrooms, dried green beans

Dried and ground okra.

Dried caterpillars (not sure what flavor).

Dried grubs ( I think these are the caramel flavor).

Local fruit, and apples and oranges from South Africa

Drinks if you want one.

Dried fish about 3 inches long (probably licorice flavored).

Dried minnows (with sugar and cream they would taste like fishy sugar and cream).

These little dried minnows must have a popcorn buttery flavor.

These dried fish about 5 inches long are a little crunchy probably like potato chips.  I think I would add garlic flavor.

These bigger ones are only good for soup as the bones get a little annoying.

Plenty of chard and spinach and weeds.

I loved the bean colors

There really is a lot more and each stand seems to have a specialty.

We chatted with this woman for about 15 minutes and she was all smiles.  After asking if I could take her photo this was the best one I got.  Believe me, she truly tried to be cooperative but just couldn't bring herself to look at the camera.  This was the last of about six shots and it looks like I just knocked her head with the camera.  I use a small pocket camera without a "click" sound.

More stalls and some turnips.

You might think this next item on the menu is a joke.  Believe me it is not.  The Lusaka Zone of Elders and Sisters went for a service project out to a farm about an hour from town to help a family harvest their crop of maize.  The 26 of them got it done by 1300 and the family graciously fed them lunch.

This was the highlight.
Mice and rats.
They gut them, then boil them and then for flavor roast them over a fire.  The hair, nails, tail and head are all still there.  It was the first mouse for most of them, but once they started they all had to try and have their photo taken.

I am really sorry I missed this, but I did see a movie of what looked like the TV show "The Amazing Race" that one Elder took with his phone.  The gagging and wretching was pretty hilarious.  I think it was Sister Rawlins that took the prize and put the Elders to shame by keeping it down.

This is Elder Owens contemplating what the end result will be.
I asked the Elders if they eat at members homes much.  They said they could every night if they wanted to.  The problem is that they are taught to be polite and not refuse any food.  Elder Stewart said that he tries to find a bottle of coke within an hour to try and kill any bad effects.

Just so you know it is cultural.  Here is the equivalent of our "peeps".  These are marshmallow mice.
Quite a treat for the kiddies to get trained gnawing on a sweet rat.

Here is another competing brand.  Just roast those little marshmallows over an open fire and swallow away the homesickness.

I, on the other hand, opted for something unfamiliar but less daring.