Transfer day is always an exciting day in a mission. In my day it was every Wednesday. Wednesday came with the possibility of a telegram telling us to pack up and go to meet a new companion at a new address, usually in a new town. We took train or bus by ourselves and everyone was in place by evening.
Nowadays in the church transfer days come every six weeks and of course not everyone is transferred. It is so much better not anticipating a move for at least a six week period. In smaller missions everyone involved gathers at a central point and companions are transferred to a new district and taken home. The events that are key to transfer days are the going home of missionaries after two years and the arrival of new missionaries scheduled in at six week intervals. This six-week cycle makes it so much easier on everyone.
Here in Zambia it is more like transfer "week". Once the mission president has considered the needs of the mission, the needs of different branches and areas, and the personalities and length of service of each missionary, he prayerfully decides if or where missionaries will be moved to. No one is ignored but only some will be moved. We had three fly in from Malawi and some transfers take place within Malawi. The two main cities are five hours apart in Malawi.
Up north in the Copperbelt some transfers take place and we got one or two missionaries, and sent one or two back up there. All this was due to eight new missionaries flying in from the MTC in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was fun to be involved in their processing and seeing their wide eyes and hearing about the homes they came from.
While all of that is going on the mission president interviews each one of them for probably around forty-five minutes, getting to know them too. They are oriented, entertained and fed and finally sent off for a night's rest. It wasn't until Thursday that the final seven flew off to Malawi.
Here are a few photos of that Wednesday.
Here you see the assistants to the President and others pouring over the transfers.
Here was the toughest transfer for me. This photo was taken on Monday, our P day, but we ended up being in the office most of that day. This is Elder Stewart next to me, my trainer, and Elder Shurtz, Kristi's trainer. They have been the "Office Elders" since there wasn't a senior couple here just before we arrived. Elder Stewart was being transferred so I am on my own but he is still just a phone call away. Elder Shurtz has a new companion and won't be stopping by as often either. I will miss them.
During transfers it is hard to get any work done as the missionaries are just in and out and curious about everything. They certainly make us feel younger.
Here are the Assistants are playing games trying to make the time go faster while interviews are taking place.
The new missionaries over twenty-one have to fill out a permit for employment as a visa requirement.
They are all given a chance to email home and let their families know they have arrived.
I give all the new ones their debit cards or "allotment cards" and teach them how to use them and give them their pin numbers. We also talk about budgeting so they don't run out money before they run out of days.
Then they get right to work and even if going to the Copperbelt or Malawi, they are teamed up and go to the local areas and teach or tract, whatever is scheduled.
These are two new sisters who are headed to Malawi, but we dropped them off around noon on Wednesday and they worked until about 1700 and then walked home, probably 4 or 5 miles. I am certain they will remember their first day but it will not be much different for the next two years.
When I got back to the mission this is what was happening.
Four Elders lived in a house in Libala, a suburb of Lusaka. The neighbors had gotten hold of them and the sheriff was there with a lot of people and the house was being repossessed and they were being evicted and all their belongings taken out. We tried to contract with the mortgage holder but to no avail. Everything was on the street and guards were posted. All the locks were broken. So we got the three trucks and started moving everything to the house where the Zone Leaders lived. This includes all the furniture and stove and refrigerator.
The next problem was that we couldn't locate the Zone Leader. His phone was off. I got the spare keys from the locked apartment of the housing couple who are in Mozambique for the week. The next problem was there was no spare on the ring so we waited until the ZL was located in his area.
I had taken a couple of new Elders with me so their first day in the field was moving an apartment and waiting an hour or two to get into the other house.
I spoke to the landlady several times and she said it was over and she had paid the mortgage and we could move back in. We thought it might be a possibility until we checked and the house was still guarded and there wasn't any security as all the locks were broken. So we now have six Elders in a house big enough for two. I have already checked out one new flat and had some negotiations about an other on the phone.
We did get to watch the sun go down waiting for the key. It is the closest I have come to my African sunset photo, but I still need a giraffe silhouette and a Baobab tree in it.
Below are seven headed to Malawi. This was my last stop before the airport. My smile was the biggest but soon faded at the airport when it was realized all of their passports were still at the mission home. There was plenty of time so no problem.
The real problem is the Malawi airline has a baggage limit of 15 lbs. less than what they were allowed in coming from Johannesburg. It is a tiny plane. The challenges are endless but if you are a problem solver then a mission office job is a job (calling?) for you. If you want to feel like a parent and be needed, it really is frustrating fun.
The poor mission president is stuck in meetings and interviews and tough decisions, but this is the fountain of youth, being of service to others.