I’m Going There Someday

I just returned from a beautiful trip to the Jo’burg to attend the temple with my branch.  It was a perfect (but too short) trip to celebrate my halfway point of service.  I felt peace and an incredible love for those around me. Check out some pictures HERE

South Africa LDS Temple

happy family

The Johannesburg Temple is a haven in the middle of a pretty rough neighborhood of South Africa.  It reminded me of the words of Pres. Thomas S. Monson in this past general conference.

My brothers and sisters, temples are more than stone and mortar. They are filled with faith and fasting. They are built of trials and testimonies. They are sanctified by sacrifice and service…Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.

When i returned back from my trip, I realized that Zaza, the cat, is mos def preggers.  So soon enough I will have a house full of kittens!  yikes!

Will You Come Again?

In the beginning of March, my mom (!) and one of my friends, Emily, came to visit me in Botswana. I’ll admit, I was nervous to have people come and visit me, I didn’t know if it would impress them or if Botswana was even worth the trouble.  I know it is, but I’ve been here for awhile.  But I am happy to report that they LOVED it, wished they could have stayed longer and tried to convince me to take Zaza back to America (it turns out Zaza is the world’s best cat!).  We had a lot of really fun, neat adventures.  We went on safari in Kasane.  We went to a bush bbq in Nata with my local friends.  We went to Victoria Falls.  We had a bbq in the middle of a valley while elephants and hyenas were making their way to the watering hole. We waded in the Makgadikgadi salt pans, which is my backyard.  We saw lions, elephants, rhinos, hippos, kudu, birds, crocodile, zebra, giraffe, so many animals!

on safari

sunset on the chobe

Victoria Falls, Zim

Nata Bird Sanctuary

My favorite part of the trip was introducing them to people and places that haven meant a lot to me over the past.  I took my mom to Molepolole where we sat and chated with Sis. K and family (or otherwise known as the nicest woman in Africa.)  And afternoon having a wonderful afternoon of sitting, eating, painting fingernails and laughing, we went and visited my old host family and then some members of the branch of the LDS church in Moleps.  So much love and goodness.  Molepolole was so good to me and it will forever hold a dear place in my heart.

mom with Sis K

Host siblings

I realize that a very significant part of my experience here that I cherish is my involvement with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  My testimony and membership to the LDS faith has changed since being here and I like to think it has deepened.  It has not been easy to be in a place that is far from a house of worship, the nearest building being Francistown (180K south) or Kasane (300K north).  This distance, makes me connection to the sabbath day service and the connection with people more meaningful and rich.  For most of my life I have lived in areas with well-established branchs or wards and members.  This is not the case in Botswana.  In Kasane, the 10 members meet in someone’s house.  And in Francistown, we meet in a converted house with a large lawn.  Sunday school, young women’s, and priesthood are all held in group circles on the lawn in the backyard.  These realities have become so important to me and it has been so wonderful to show my mother and Emily these small, but important details of my life in Botswana.

covering our heads for a memorial

This was my first set of visitors, but I’m looking forward to the others… whoever those might be.  Come!

I belong to…

When I joined the Peace Corps, I didn’t know how often I would be able to attend a congregation with people that shared my beliefs.  As a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this small piece of information was very important to me.  But I was willing to sacrifice going steadily to church for two years, on account that joining the Peace Corps was based on a belief in God and the principles that come from this faith in a loving Heavenly Father.  I was excited for the opportunity to strengthen my testimony, excited to test my faith.

But how lucky I am to be placed in Nata, where there is a branch is in Francistown, only 180km away.  It’s still far, taking about two and a half hours by bus, but it’s near enough where I can just go for the day then come back.  Unfortunately, I am not able to go every weekend, but the few times I have gone I have left feeling edified and restored.  Because of the scarcity of my visits, I feel an overwhelming source of comfort from the congregation.  I know when I was able to go to every Sunday, I did not have the same amount of appreciation.  It’s a beautiful experience.  Plus, most of these members are new to the gospel, having only recently been baptized, and so it’s a special experience to witness the growth and change that comes to a person and branch when they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and take on many of the responsibilities of caring for his flock.

I wish I had a calling, I wish I could go to the baptisms, and visit members during the week.  I wish I didn’t have to rush away after church, but that I could sit, have lunch with the couple missionaries.  But for all that it’s not, it really is great.  Particularly, this past Sunday was filled with a beautiful spirit.  I felt ample amounts of love for and from people, but once it was over I had to run to catch my ride and that was hard to separate myself from such a wonderful environment.

How thankful I am to have the knowledge of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, to have a Heavenly Father who loves me and all of his children.  Can I leave you with one of my favorite scriptures?

“For God hath no given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.  Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” 2 Tim 1:7-8