Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to All. . .And to All a Good Year!!!

Greetings and Warm Wishes from South Africa!
"Sani Bonani" (ZULU for greetings to all of you!)

Another year has quickly gone by as we continue to serve our Lord and Savior in the South Africa Durban Mission.We are enjoying our assignments, with Elder Nielsen as financial secretary and Sister Nielsen as medical and housing coordinator, as well as baptism recorder.

Our days are filled assisting the Lord's missionary work from "behind the scenes." We ensure all financial, medical, and housing needs are quickly and quietly completed to allow the young missionaries to bring the Lord's message to His children is South Africa. We love serving in the background.  We enjoy hearing the members' and the missionaries' stories of their spiritual experiences. It has increased our testimonies "ten-fold!"

We have had the spiritual confirmation that this is where and how we are to be serving the Lord at this time in our lives.We've encountered several "bumps in the road" but the Lord has seen us through them, with a calm, peaceful assurance of His love for us.

This has been a wonderful opportunity to be here in South Africa and enjoy the uniqueness of this country and its people . . . the Zulu's, the Africaans, those of Indian and Asian descent, as well as those of many other cultures who have come to this beautiful part of the world. We've had the thrill of seeing God's creations which can only be found in this part of the world. For example, we have been within ten to twenty feet of huge elephants, lions, rhinos and hippos, and not much further from cape buffalo, cheetah's, and giraffes. . .  and also the monkeys who reside in the "jungle" surrounding our boarding complex. The monkeys often are just outside our door wanting a handout. And then there are the Ha De Da's (their national bird). We never need to set the alarm clock because just before daylight they begin their loud cries which are more effective. But during the summer months, this is about 4:30  in the morning!!! A few months ago we noticed Ha De Das nesting in a tree not far from our back window. And soon there appeared three tiny birds, which we watched grow to maturity, and finally left to venture out on their own.

On Sundays, we meet with the Molweni Branch, whose members we have grown to love dearly (especially those adorable Primary kids that Sister Nielsen works with). A few months ago, they had been a "group" and were finally made a branch. Our average attendance is 30 to 40 people, all Zulu's except for the Branch President, his wife, and Elder and Sister Nielsen. The 2 missionaries assigned to the Molweni Branch are typically from the U.S. or from various parts of Africa. Since the Branch members do not have transportation, nearly all of them walk to church, which for some takes up to an hour one way. We meet in a rented one-room school building, with two tiny portable classrooms located next to the school building.  Efforts are underway to secure a better facility a short distance away, which we hope will take place just after the first of the year.

We have extended our mission by 2 months, until early June, which will allow members of our family to tour some of South Africa with us prior to our return home. It will be difficult to leave behind a country and people we have come to love.

As we reflect on this past year, we are grateful for the Lord's blesssings to us and all our family and friends during this time of separation. We are grateful for the love and support we have felt from those we serve with, as well as each of you who have supported us in various ways during our service in the South Africa Durban Mission.

We wish you joy and peace as you think of the life of our Savior at this Christmas time and begin a promising New Year. We love our Savior and bear testimony of His life and atonement for each of us.

"Unkulunkulu anibusise" . . . . Zulu for "God bless you all!"

Elder and Sister Nielsen

p.s. It is now 1:00 p.m. local time on Christmas Day, with temperatures in the 80's, and  a light breeze accompanied by a gentle, misty rain.
AND NO SNOW!!!   We love it! 

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Meet the Mormons"

I must tell you about the meeting on Sunday, 16 August. We had a regular, but VERY inspiring Sacrament Meeting, but then set up to show the movie, “Meet the Mormons.” This was planned to take the place of Primary, Relief Society, Priesthood and Sunday School. Over 80 invitations were given out and resulted in 61 in attendance. The movie is extremely inspiring about 5 different individuals and families around the world who are members of the Church. One young man even served a mission here in Durban, by the name of Elder Armstrong. Hopefully, if you haven’t seen it, you will have an opportunity sometime to view it. IT IS AMAZING!

Then after the movie we had a meal provided by President and Sister Smith, my husband and I, and two other senior missionary couples. We had chicken, gravy, rolls, veggies, rice krispy squares, cup cakes, banana bread, oranges, suckers, drinks, and popcorn. They sat around visiting while eating – some even gathering outside to eat and enjoy the beautiful weather.

I think we only had maybe 2 or 3 non-members, but it was even GREAT for the members to see.
(BREA -- Could you put this on our blog. Wrote it to send to a young African sister who left a couple of months ago for a mission in Ghana.) 
Love you all,
Mom (a.k.a. -- Judi)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Just a Scrap of Paper

Missionary finds an answer on a scrap of paper.

Excerpted by Marnae Wilson

When the Church was first established in South Africa, missionaries had to travel by ship to get to their mission headquarters. The trip was long, difficult, and expensive. Often missionaries traveled alone, with little support, and no way to communicate with their mission president.

The little boat had been tossed by storms for more than six weeks as it made its way slowly from England to South Africa. Aboard was Elder Franklin D. Price, a young Mormon missionary, trying to get to his South African mission.

Each day Elder Price became more worried, for food and money were scarce. According to the law of the Union of South Africa, no one was permitted to enter the country unless he had at least twenty dollars with him. Elder Price did not have the required sum.

When the boat finally docked, the young elder decided that he would board a train and go as far as he possibly could. As he walked off the ship, he noticed a small folded piece of paper lying at the foot of the gang plank. Without thinking, he stooped over, picked it up, and automatically slipped the paper into his pocket.

In no time he was on a train, speeding down the tracks toward the Union of South Africa. At the border, immigration officials came aboard to check all entry papers. Elder Price was worried about what would happen to him when the officials discovered that he had no money. When the men approached, Elder Price almost panicked. Then, without even knowing why, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of paper that he had found earlier. Elder Price handed the paper to one of the officials. The man nodded his head and returned the paper to the astonished young elder. That paper was an endorsed check in the amount of twenty dollars with the stamp of the Union of South Africa affixed.

As Elder Price told his story at the mission home, tears of gratitude streamed down his cheeks. The Lord truly provides for those who serve Him.

Taken from “True Stories from South Africa,” Friend, April 1972; excerpted by Marnae Wilson

Monday, July 27, 2015

Train Ride

On Saturday, 4 July 2015 all the coastal senior missionary couples serving in the South Africa Durban Mission rode on a special exhibition running of the Umgeni Steam Railway. The "Wesley" locomotive was built in Berlin, Germany in 1938 and the coaches on the train were built between 1928 and 1952, although even older vehicles, dating back to 1908, are sometimes used.
The train runs through the picturesque Valley of a Thousand Hills between Kloof and Inchanga on the last Sunday of each month, with occasional additional trains during school holidays and for special events. The train largely follows the route of the original Natal government Railway Main Line from Durban to Pietermaritzburg, which was opened in December 1880. Even today the line is considered something of an engineering feat (and an operational challenge!) due to the tortuous topography it has to traverse, abounding in 1 to 30 gradients with many curves nearly 300 feet in radius. Major engineering challenges along the way include a pass with almost sheer cliffs, a short tunnel, and a spectacular cast iron viaduct. Historically, it was said that the notorious viaduct apparently swayed so badly in the wind that passengers were requested to alight and walk ahead of the train during inclement weather!
On this special run of the Umgeni Steam Railway, numerous vintage cars from an earlier era ran beside the train on the adjacent highway.  Spectators gathered along the journey to cheer on both the vintage cars and their treasured steam railway.
Elder and Sister Nielsen can be seen peeking out one of the left windows of the coach. It made for a fabulous way to celebrate the 4th of July on the other side of the world, while serving in South Africa.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Do you know where your iPad is?

Thought you would enjoy this picture that was given to me today by the new office couple, the Sorensen's.
Mom (AKA: Grandma & Judi)

Saturday, June 27, 2015


(email written for the Australia Perth Mission Reunion)

We are now serving in the South Africa Durban Mission and have been here 8 months. We are straight across the wide Indian Ocean from the grand city of Perth, Australia -- on the same latitude line. Once again we are working in the Mission Office here in the city of Durban. Elder Nielsen does the finances and Sister Nielsen does boardings, medical, and baptism recording. There are approximately 135 young elders (no sisters) and 14 senior couples serving here. Never thought serving in the Mission Office could be so busy!

South Africa is just as different and wonderful as we found Perth, Australia to be. Upon experiencing a Game Drive with the other Seniors, we discovered that the animals unique to South Africa ar just as amazing as what we found in Australia. But the BIG FIVE of Africa (cheetahs, lions, rhinos, cape buffaloes and elephants) are much more dangerous to man than kangaroos, koalas, ostriches, kookaburras, etc., etc....    HA, HA

Durban, South Africa is not at all what we expected when we got our call. In fact, our flat is surrounded by "jungle" which is home to many monkeys who continue to raid our garbage cans. The area is made up of thousands, upon thousands, of hills, so they tuck homes and buildings everywhere! There is hardly any flat land, and no straight roads; they all twist and turn! And Elder Nielsen STILL has a hard time driving on the left side of the road!. Sister Nielsen has yet to build up the courage to try driving here. But according to her, "All the major roads are expressways, with speeds of 80 to 110 k's, while sharing the roads with pedestrians walking, jogging, or crossing the roadway." But then there are the TAXI'S which can stop anywhere along the sides, to pick up or discharge passengers! (TAXIS are vans similar to the old volkswagen buses, and pack in up to 16 passengers (four across each row).

The population in South Africa consists of those of the Zulu race, many immigrants from India and Asia, and of course, the Africaans (descendants of the original Dutch and German settlers who arrived in the 1600's). We are assigned to attend a small church unit, which was a "group" until it was made a branch just over a month ago. Its members are all of the Zulu race, except for us and the Branch President and his wife. He was released as a Bishop of a ward in a neighboring town about 30 or more minutes drive away, to lead the Molweni Branch, since he has tremendous leadership experience. The members DO speak English, but it is still difficult to understand what they are saying, and they often slip into Zulu during talks and testimony bearing.

We, along with the other Senior Couples, have had numerous spiritual experiences working with the people of South Africa, whether Zulu, Indian, or Africaan. The Lord has prepared many of the people here for the Gospel, but Satan is trying his hardest to thwart the work. But it is still going forth!

We did encounter a few bumps in the road, however. Sister Nielsen fell on wet stairs outside the flat 4 days after arriving and broke her arm. We took her to the hospital and they directe us to check into "CASUALTY", which here means Emergency, which kind of unnerving to us! She spent 4 days in the hospital and 6 months with it in a sling. Her total recovery AMAZED her orthopedic surgeon!! He said it could only be through our prayers that her arm is now stronger than before it was broken...and no diminished use of her left arm.  Then Elder Nielsen developed severe stomach pains, which was contributed to his gall bladder. He had surgery 6 weeks ago to remove the gall bladder and is recovering well.

Our greetings to all....and apologize for the email, instead of the requested video. We still don't have super technology skills!  We know the Gospel is true. No matter where in the world we are is the same.

May God bless you,
Elder and Sister Nielsen
(DeVon and Judi Nielsen)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Successful Gall Bladder Surgery

Today started early, with us heading out the door at 5:30 a.m. to be to the hospital by 6:00. The main hospital waiting room was full when we arrived and we checked in, to take our turn with Pre-Admissions. As they called names of those ready to go back to the surgical wing after pre-admissions, usually two people would leave each time, until they called one name and probably ten or twelve people left. (They must have been having a family reunion while waiting for one family member to have his surgery!).

When Dad was called, we went to Pre-Admissions for a Pre-Paid Hospital Estimate of 15,000 Rand (approximately $1,500) for the surgical procedure (minus anesthesiology and doctor and possible other, as yet unknown, fees). We then went to the Surgical Unit to be taken to a 2 person room and Dad was given a BEAUTIFUL purple gown and disposable "undies." The nurse then showed him how the gown ties in the back and explained that is why they say ICU!! Dad sure looked mighty cute in the purple gown! He looked very striking in that color.

About that time I was called back to pre-admissions and asked to pay another 10,000 Rand (about $1,000) -- still not sure why -- which I did. But the computers were now down and they couldn't give me an official hospital receipt. In fact, they weren't going to give me anything until later in the day when the computers were back up. They weren't even going to give me the small cash register type receipt, until I asked them to photo copy it so they would believe me when I came back for the computer receipt.

When the anesthiologist came to speak with Dad about the details of the procedure with regards to being put under, he asked if Dad has any crowns or dentures. He also asked how tightly they fit and Dad showed him. The anesthiologist jokingly said, that looks OK, but if they fall out, "we have quite efficient techniques to fish them out!"

Dad got all dressed up for the surgery, and rested until he was taken over to the "operating theatres" about 9:15 for the final pre-op questions and prep that I was present for. He was taken into surgery, as the first on Dr. Wessels (pronouced Vessels) operating schedule, for what was to be a 1 hour procedure. I was taken to a "Comfort Room" to wait....and wait....and wait. Close to 2 hours later, I went exploring to see if he was out of surgery, and was told he was still in Recovery and had been given morphine because he was in considerable pain.

Then I waited, and waited, and waited some more. It was now after 1:00 and I went to stand just outside the Comfort Room to see if I could find anything out. Along came Dr Wessels who asked me if my husband wasn't out of Recovery yet. I explained that no one had come for me, so he went to check and discovered that Dad had been taken back to his room -- and no one had come to get me. Dr. Wessels gave me a quick report of the surgery and mentioned that he found the gall bladder to be extremely inflamed. He said that it definitely needed to come out. He also said that Dad would not have been able to put it off until we got back home to Utah.

Well, to briefly tell the rest of the story, Dad started coming around after I was back in the room with him for about 30 minutes. He then was so groggy that he would ask me the same questions over and over, forgetting that he had already asked. But when fully conscious, he couldn't wait to show me his bottle of GALL STONES. It was only a small sample of the stones that prior testing had revealed nearly entirely filled his gall bladder.

A Senior Couple came to pick me up about 3:30 and had a good visit with Dad. Another Senior Couple is fetching me at 8:30 tomorrow morning to go to the Shongweni Market, right across the street from the Hillcrest Private Hospital where Dad is being held hostage (for the 25,000 Rand or about $2,500 in US
dollars). After breakfast and brief shopping at the market, they will drop me off at the hospital. The plan is that Dad will drive us both home after being released tomorrow --- but if still rather groggy, we may have to plead with the Senior Couple to have one of them drive our car back while we are riding with the spouse in the other car. I am still frightened to drive here on the left side of the road, where nearly all of each trip anywhere is on freeways with an average speed of 100 kilometers per hour!.
Quite the South African adventure!! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Got the package today. It was given to the AP's by Sister Zackrison and they have been carrying it around with them.

We could only open half of the package..........the other half said DO NOT OPEN over and over again in big letters, even until THANKSGIVING!!

Thanks for the Tootsie Rolls....and the Motts....and the candy corn....and everything else. But we also found some tiny gremlins in an egg carton. Strangest thing....they all had on white shirts and ties! What a fun, fun surprise after an EXTREMELY ROUGH DAY AT THE OFFICE!!! The power was turned off for lack of payment to a Senior Couple's flat (where JD and Kyle got the mattresses). Elder Snell had just gotten home of the hospital after surgery. It took all day to find out WHY and how it was going to be resolved. However, it seems that from past experience, it takes three days to get it turned back on. They are under the Area Office in Johannesburg who is supposed to pay rent and utilities, and the electricity never got paid.

We certainly needed the GOODIES to sweeten our dispositions again!

Thanks for all your help and prayers. We love all of you lots,
Mom and Dad

Monday, April 20, 2015

"This Shouldn't Have Happened!"

Mom's last doctor's appointment regarding her broken arm was scheduled today (20 April 2015) with Dr. Rajah, immediately following new X-rays. The X-rays were scheduled to be taken at 1:30, with the doctor's appointment following at 2:00. We finally went from X-ray back to the doctor's office at 2:45 . . . and waited some more!

When we were finally called back into his office, he had been reviewing the X-rays. No sooner than we got seated, he began to mumble, "This shouldn't have happened!" He repeated it several more times, and we began to worry about what he must mean! Was there a problem with the healing of Mom's arm? Was more surgery going to be required? What shouldn't have happened!?!

He then turned to both of us, and said, "This shouldn't have happened!!!! Nothing I did in the surgery worked . . . and even the pins I put in place didn't work. The arm shouldn't have healed. . .but it HAS! It is stronger now than it  was before it was broken!" And he just kept mumbling. Then he said, "I never thought it would heal because everything I tried didn't work. The bones were too soft for the pins to hold, and they even FELL OUT!" He was even afraid that I would loose mobility in the shoulder and arm and be left with pain and osteoporosis. He then asked me to raise my arm, and I raised both arms, nearly to the same height...straight up! He said, "You shouldn't be able to do that! And I have no explanation for that or how much bone has formed around the break."

He then showed us the series of X-rays, which began with those following the surgery, where 4 pins were placed to try to hold together an arm where the two sections of bone were far from matching up . . . with only a small portion overlapping. He commented that after my last appointment three months ago, there was no more than a thread holding the arm together. Yet he had no explanation as to why so much new bone growth had formed around the small overlap. He commented that the arm was even STRONGER than it was before the accident. He made the comment several times, that it could only be due to prayer. He said, "I can't take the credit for this success." Then he topped it off my saying, "If you break your other arm, please don't come to me; go to my competition! I can't take credit for this success!"

I reminded him that he was going to give me a series of exercises at this visit to strengthen my arm. He turned to me and said, "With that much mobility in your arm, you don't need exercises to improve what you have!"

The Lord has certainly been with us both during this trying time, which has definitely made us both stronger. Trials truly do bless us and He has blessed us ALL THE WAY!

Nomonde's Baptism

Nomonde (pronounced sorta like "no Monday" was baptized on Sunday, 19 April by Elder Berkey at the Kwadabeka Chapel.

Now, Nomonde is an extremely shy, quiet young girl about 10 years of age in mom's primary group. Regular attendance at Primary varies from 2 to 16 kids, ages 2 to 12. Well, Nomonde is there nearly every week, and throws her arms around Mom the minute she gets out of the car at the school where church is help. Mom and Nomonde have really bonded and have quite a special relationship.Nomonde started attending quite regularly about 3 months ago. Her young mom was already a member, but Nomonde spoke very little English, using mostly Zulu in all conversations with others. BUT...the baptismal interview has to be done in English by the Bishop and she has to be able to understand and answer the questions in English.

Note: this may seem somewhat unfair...but South Africa's official language is English. However, most of the children in the Primary were raised with Zulu being their first language. During Mom's lessons, often her assistant (Sharing Time Leader) translates most of her sentences into Zulu to make sure the children understand all the concepts.

Well . . . It took Nomonde many weeks of real effort with her Mom and the Missionaries to have the necessary English skills to answer all the interview questions. WOW was she excited to be baptized! We had to leave Primary about half way thru, to drive to the Kwadabeka Ward meetinghouse (our parent ward, since we are only big enough to be a "group"). The Baptism was to take place there about 12:30. She was "just beaming!" Hers was the only baptism to take place, and afterward, during the brief testimony meeting, she was asked to bear her testimony. As Sister Nielsen puts it, "I have never heard her say SO MUCH! Seldom does she say more than about 2 words." She bore a beautiful, well thought out (and practiced!) testimony, completely in English. It was quite a stirring moment for both Elder and Sister Nielsen.

Afterwards, there was lots of hugging and celebrating together. Then she quietly came and whispered in Mom's ear, "Did you bring any biscuits (cookies) today?"  "Yup!" and the biscuits were passed around to the Elders and others who shared in her very special day.

T - I - A or in Other Words: "This is Africa"

We jokingly refer to all things unique to Africa as T-I-A or "This is Africa!"
We would like to share the T-I-A for this past week ----
     South Africa is unable to provide enough electricity for everyone's needs. Therefore, they have come up with their solution, called "load shedding" which means turning off the electricity by rotation to each area of the entire country for two to three hours at a time. Right in the middle of whatever you are doing, the power goes off -- for two hours at a time in our area. It has taken place more often this past week. Before that, it typically was once a week.
BUT...let us share with you the T-I-A's for last week.
     Monday, 13 April -- power off during Family Home Evening at the Stevenson's beginning at 8 pm and finishing by flashlight.
     Tuesday, 14 April -- Transfer Day -- always hectic -- had load shedding from 11 am to 1 pm at the office.
     Wednesday, 15 April -- office had load shedding from 12 to 2 pm. Home had load shedding from 6 to 8 pm. Had a romantic dinner by "candlelight" (HA HA)
     Thursday, 16 April -- Had a new type of T-I-A. Mom took a shower when lst up. When Dad went to take a shower, NOT A DROP OF WATER LEFT! (Ooops!) Did Dad forget to pay our waterbill? (Oh, oh, in trouble now!) Headed to the office and discovered no water there either, and 2 other Senior Couples called with the same dilemma. (Dad off the hook!) One couple phoned the municipality and discovered a BIG watermain break. No water for the rest of the day. Office load shedding from 12 to 2 pm and home load shedding from 6 to 8 pm
     Friday, 17 April -- Just twelve hours from the last load shedding, 6 am to 8 am, home had outage again! Went to office and the load shedding there took place from 2 to 4 pm. Mom had hair appointment at 4:00 about a 10 minute drive away, and when we got there, the power was out there AS WELL. But luckily they had a small generator for the blow drier and a large window to let  in sunlight.
     Saturday, 18 April -- Went to the large Pavillion Mall during the afternoon and at 2 pm, just as we were purchasing our Cinnabons, MORE LOAD SHEDDING! You should have seen the crowds in the hallways, with half of the stores and the theatre closed, but some of the larger stores had generators for minimal lighting. We finished our errands at the Checker Hyper store in very dim aisles, attempting to find what we needed. Finally gave up and went home! 
     Sunday, 19 April -- Load shedding from 8 to 9 pm, during game night downstairs at Elder and Sister Poelman's.  But Sunday was a Very Special Day. Read about it in our next blog entry.
                               WOW -- WHAT A WEEK!

Sunday, March 29, 2015


We wanted to quickly share this beautiful picture of the cheetah we saw at the Nambiti Game Reserve. Since Sister Snell sent me hers while we were still on the drive, thought I would forward it, even though we haven't downloaded ours yet onto the computer. This was taken with her tablet. This is the only cheetah they have at the reserve, a male, and plan to add three females sometime this year.

We have some amazing shots, even though I know none of ours are this good, but when we have time, will try to go through them and put together a blog post.....hopefully!

Love you all,
Mom and Dad...Grandma and Grandpa...Judi and DeVon

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Our thoughts on Uchtdorf's talk titled "Lord, is it I?"

Dad and I finally had time last evening to read Uchtdorf's talk titled "Lord, is it I?" We had quite a nice discussion about it. Then because it was on my mind, a story shared by a Stake speaker today in Sacrament meeting, touched my heart.

Attendance has been down, and today we had maybe 30 to 35 there at Sacrament meeting, with three of those being from the Stake. The Stake YM's president, an Africaan by descent I think, was the one who shared the story I was impressed by. Hopefully I can remember the important details of what he shared.

When he was a young boy, his science teacher gave each student three sunflower seeds and told them to go home and plant them, but with specific instructions. Two of the seeds were to be carefully planted with the small pointed end downward, and the third seed was to be planted with the large end down and the small pointed end up. They were to water them each carefully, by the schedule provided, give them plenty of sunlight, and take good care of each separate pot.

In time, the two seeds planted with the small pointed end down, grew quickly into healthy looking plants, needing transplanting into a bigger pot. Since instructed to take good care of each, he decided to check on the third seed. He carefully turned the pot upside down, and discovered that the third seed planted with the large end down and the pointed end upward, had in fact, grown as much as the other two seeds, but in a downward direction, and the seedling was touching the bottom of the pot. He decided to transplant this seedling, as well, but now turned to grow in an upward direction.

He proceeded to take excellent care of each of the three transplanted seedlings. The amazing thing was that not only did all three thrive, but the heartiest and most healthy looking of the three was the one that was planted upside down and had spent some time growing in the wrong direction Yet it became the most beautiful, the healthiest and the heartiest of the three.

Then to take this "parable of the three sunflower seeds" (as I will call it) and compare this to the parable of the dandelions, beams and the motes, and spiritual blind spots referred to in Uchtdorf's talk, I felt that an analogy could be drawn here, as well. Do we make harsh judgments on those who seem to be making wrong decisions in their lives and heading in the wrong direction, away from the Lord's counsel. Because we are steadfastly holding to the iron rod, do we feel that they must be following Satan's promptings, only to be led in a downward direction in life, and unable to turn their lives around. We no longer feel comfortable in their presence and seem to shun them for their decisions and behavior.

Yet, sometimes, even years later, we discover that they were able to learn from their experiences away from the Lord's light and in a downward direction, and are able to become strong, stalwart examples to others of the need for the Savior in their lives. They become leaders for the Lord's cause, because of their experiences. They may even put our mediocre attitudes of heading in the right direction to shame. We can learn how to become beautiful, shining examples of the Savior's Gospel, through their experiences of growing stronger through "the refiner's fire."


Zulu culture is rich in heritage and tradition. Some of these traditions, however can create difficulties for new investigators seeking to join the Church. Obeying the laws and commandments of the gospel can be seen by some family members as being contrary to cherished traditions of Zulu culture. It takes great commitment and courage for investigators to do what is right in these situations. Here are a few of the traditions that can create great challenges for new investigators.

"Lobola" -- Lobola is the payment, that the family of the bride requires from the suitor before the marriage is allowed. Because of the difficulty in obtaining the large amount of money usually involved, many couples live together and raise a family, sometimes for their whole lives, without getting married. This is, of course, contrary to the law of chastity. Often, if the situation is approached with sensitivity, a solution can be found.

"Polygamy" -- While polygamy is not as common now as in years past, it is still an accepted practice in some Zulu families. The Lord's instructions in our day are that a man should be married to only one wife. (Of interest:  The current king of South Africa has numerous wives and when he selects a wife, it is unlawful to refuse. Recently, he chose a church member's wife to be his next selection, and great care was taken by the LDS Church here in South Africa, to talk him out of that selection, and explain why she could not be taken as his wife. Good relations were able to be maintained.)

"Ancestor Worship" -- Central to Zulu culture, and similar to our own beliefs, is a reverence and respect for ancestors. New investigators should be taught that our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness is built around families, and that we love our children and honor our ancestors. Some Zulu families, however, actually worship their ancestors and perform animal sacrifices as a way of honoring them. They should be taught that this is not appropriate after understanding the plan of salvation and joining the restored church.


This information on Zulu culture and customs was taken from a pamphlet that was recently shared with us. We felt this section might be of interest to our family and friends, and worth us being able to look back on, years after the completion of our mission.

"Greetings or acknowledgements are an important part of Zulu culture. All people you make eye-contact  with, you should greet, and all greetings should be acknowledged.

When shaking hands with a Zulu, you should support your right arm with your left hand underneath. They usually do a 3-part handshake: start with a regular handclasp, then slide hands forward until you clasp the upright thumb, then back to a handclasp. Practice with this greeting with your companion. (This handshake is NOT used in Indian and white areas.)

Women may be addressed as "Mama" and men as "Baba."

amaZulu are brought up from their youth to look down when addressing their elders, to speak quietly and to speak only when spoken to. This is deeply ingrained in their culture and should not be taken as a sign of shiftiness or guilt.

Many people prefer you to use the back door -- it is considered more humble. Also, it is rude to knock loudly on a door. Talk, or clear your throat as you approach, and try a soft knock first.

Upon entering the home, amaZulu seat themselves immediately and unobtrusively. They do not wait to be invited to sit.

In Zulu culture a subordinate should not be physically taller than his senior. Try to get to their level. If they are seated, sit. If they are standing, stand.

When handing things to people, always try to hold the object with both hands. Likewise, it is polite to have both hands open when someone hands you something. This is especialy nice with older people.

When visiting a baba or couple, try to bring a baba or couple with you: the ones you are visiting (especially the baba) will then feel obligated out of courtesy to stay and listen to what you say.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Summary of Our First Three Months in the South Africa Durban Mission

We are loving it here in the metropolitan area of Durban, South Africa. We live in Westville, what we would call a suburb of Durban. We had a VERY rough start to our mission when I broke my arm four days after our arrival. It required 4 pins and 4 days of hospitalization, which meant little to no training from the one doing the job before me -- and the same for my husband since he was running back and forth to the hospital (a 30 minute drive away). After 6 weeks they took out the pins, but kept me in the arm sling for 6 more weeks to insure proper healing. They x-rayed and had me put the sling away exactly 3 months to the day after breaking my arm.

We are slowly learning our jobs, in spite of the extremely different economy, customs, languages, etc. They are probably about 30 years behind in most things, if not more. Yes, they speak English here, but since a high percentage of the population are of Zulu descent, Zulu is their first language, and they speak it by far more than English. A clerk in a store will repond to your question in English, then turn to another clerk and ask her opinion or speak to her in Zulu. Another large portion of the population are of Dutch descent (here as early as the 1600's) and speak Africaans, a language whih mutated over time from Dutch and German. Understanding ANYONE on the phone is extremely difficult, because of their "accent" -- but they say WE have the accent!

But the Zulu people are great! For our Sunday assignment, we work with a small group of 50 to 60 maximum, located about a 45 minute drive away. They are all Zulus and meet in a VERY old school building, typical of maybe the 1930's. I work with the children from 2 to 12 years of age, with one young woman who is about 20 years old assisting, and another woman who comes every other week to teach (due to her work schedule). Our attendance varies weekly from 2 to 16 children. Nearly all walk to church, with some walking nearly an hour to get there, one woman with her infant tied on her back with a blanket, Zulu-style. It is great to work with the kids; they are so loving and accepting. Since Zulu is their first language, ideally the young woman translates what I say into Zulu -- but of course, things aren't always ideal.

My husband and I work in the mission office Monday thru Friday. I am over the boardings, totalling maybe 50 to 60, dealing with contracts, furnishings, locating new boardings, etc. I am also over medical by making appointments, billing insurance, and making sure the right people know of the health concerns, from minor to major. My husband is over all aspects of the finances for the approximately 150 young male missionaries and the 14 senior couples assigned to work in the South Africa Durban Mission. As I think of all our responsibilities, it is no wonder we still don't have it all mastered, and get stressed at times.

The animals here are amazing, and the climate is ideal. But we try not to dwell on missing the birth of the 7th grandchild two weeks ago, our oldest grandson leaving for a mission in two weeks, etc., etc. We have had the opportunity to go on a couple of game drives (safari's) and seen giraffes, elephants, rhino's, etc up close in the wild. Everything is an adventure here -- but, of course, we ARE on the other side of the world!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mission Update

Update we gave to our Bishop and Stake President

Sorry about the delay in getting back to you. Between having an extended visit from both our son and our grandson, then hitting end of year reports, etc. that were due this past week, we have been working overtime to get things done --  even some 12+ hour days.

Sister Nielsen's recovery is coming along, but slowly. After 6 weeks, she had surgery to remove the 4 pins in her shoulder, then put back in the sling for 6 more weeks to allow the bone to mend properly. In two weeks she returns for x-rays to determine if there is enough mending to remove the sling and start physical therapy. She is able to continue her office work by using a wireless keyboard on her lap, allowing for less movement of the shoulder area.

Elder Nielsen was inundated with requests from the area office in Johannesburg for mission financial information to complete year-end reports. He is finally becoming a little more comfortable with all the financial demands of operating the Lord's Mission here in this part of South Africa.

The mail delivery began to improve just a few days before Christmas when the strike was officially over, and the anxious missionaries finally started to get some of their mail. Elder Nielsen was responsible to pick up the mail from the post office. Several times the back seat and the trunk of the car were full of Christmas packages. Some of the missionaries are STILL enjoying a second Christmas as packages continue to trickle in.

Just before Christmas we were able to travel to the Johannesburg Temple, with our son JD and grandson Kyle, where our grandson was able to receive his endowments prior to leaving in mid February for his mission call to Cleveland Ohio, Spanish speaking, with prior language training in Mexico City. Upon entering the Temple, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the Temple President, who was expecting us. He personally took care of all of Kyle's needs and made it a wonderful experience for him. Just a note: we were able to see the original painting of the South African sister kneeling in prayer, a copy of which hangs in the Ogden Temple. It was very inspiring to us.

We have been assigned to meet with the Molweni Group, which has been struggling for years to be made a branch. Their attendance has been quite sporadic. Sister Nielsen has been working with the Primary which includes children from age 2 up to 12, which all meet together in one class. Some Sundays she has 2 or 3 children, but today hit a high of 14 and she was elated. Zulu is the native language learned in their home, with English being their 2nd language. A young adult sister assigned to do Sharing Time, adds the Zulu translation to Sister Nielsen's lessons. The children are very loving and accepting of us as Senior Missionaries. Its amazing to hear their young testimonies and their understanding of the Gospel at such a young age. The spirituality of their testimony meetings here is amazing, with the youth bearing very heart-felt and knowledgeable testimonies. Last week a counselor in the Stake Presidency announced in Sacrament Meeting that the request that they officially be made a branch has been sent to the Area Presidency for approval. We were elated to hear this news.
The spiritual "highs" continue to keep us uplifted, knowing we are doing the Lord's work -- things such as meeting the member from South Africa who had just helped complete the translation of the Doctrine and Covenants into Zulu, and was submitting it for publication. These experiences help us to know that "now is the time for South Africa." The Spirit of the Lord is hastening the work in this part of His vineyard. The members are anxiously awaiting the announcement of the location of the Durban, South Africa Temple. Our Mission President feels that the ground-breaking ceremony will probably occur before the end of our mission. This will make it possible for many more members to attend the temple. At present, it is approximately an 8 hour drive one way to the Johannesburg Temple.

We love our mission and know that this is where the Lord wants us to be, at this time in our lives. We appreciate your love, concern and prayers for us both.