Thursday, October 23, 2008

On our way to work each morning we drive past this beautiful Jacaranda tree with its myriad of violet colored flowers. It has been invaded by a bougenvillia bush that is much darker purple. Together they have engulfed and almost consumed the lonely street light. It is simply an amazing sight. These purple trees are all over the city. Some 30 or 40 years ago someone imported tens of thousands of these trees and we are now the beneficiaries of their vision. The streets are lined with these beautiful, stately trees. When the wind blows the beautiful flowers shower down on the street leaving a purple blanket everywhere.

Following our recent mission presidents seminar Pam put on the famous family chicken Bar-b-que for all the attendees, including Elder and Sister Holland. It was a highlight for everyone.

We were so blessed to be taught for 3 days by Elder & Sister Holland and Elder and Sister Snow. Serving in South Africa is an amazing experience. It never ceases to amaze me that we can watch general conference live via sattelite television and that we get to watch "Music and the Spoken Word" every Sunday evening live on BYU TV. We continue to learn what is really meant when we say that we enjoy a fullness of the gospel.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wild Things

We had a wonderful 3 days visiting Madikwe Game Reserve with 2 other couples from the Area Office.

Now this was a Bush Camp...meaning no electricity, no conveniences. We lived right in the game reserve with just a small electric wire for keeping the giraffes and elephants out.

The camp consists of an outdoor fire pit with braai grid; a “lapa”, or thatch-covered lounge area with couches, chairs, magazines; a dining hall (walls on two sides only) with attached kitchen; six living cabins; six showers with attached single loos, and that is about it. The shower/loo structure has a seven foot high wire-enclosed path (about 40 feet long – like a dog run) leading to the entrance in the event one happens to need to use the toilet at night and there are four-footed guests wandering about. Fortunately, the entrance to the wire enclosure was about 10 feet from the bottom step of our cabin. The anticipation of never knowing what would be waiting for us when we stepped out of the cabin in the night kept us vigilantly praying! The hostess, daughter of the owner, said that one time her father came out in the middle of the night and there were five lions waiting for him.

We arrived mid-day, and once we were settled in our cabins and had lunch we headed out for our first game drive. The cabins, approximately 15 feet square, with two twin beds pushed together, are built on stilts, presumable to allow the night wanderers a clear path through the camp. Two of the walls extend up to the canvass roof. The other two walls extend up only about three feet and the remainder of the wall is canvas to be opened during the day. At the top of the steps leading into the cabin is a gate to be fastened at night with the hope that any critter that wanted to get in bed or eat us would have to open before coming in. We fervently hoped that the beast would also have the courtesy to knock first.

We rode in big open land rovers with 2 experienced field guides who knew just where to go on the vast 150,000 acre reserve to find some of Africa's notorious wild animals. This reserve has 31 posh 5-star resorts and one bush camp. After 3 days of roughing it, we were still convinced that this was a great way to see the wilds of Africa. Save the resorts for the Carribean!

Once the sun went down the field guides used large spotlights to find animals. It got very cold and we were happy we layered ourselves with winter paraphenalia! We returned to a delicious hot meal cooked in potjie pots (like a cast iron Dutch oven). We talked around the campfire with the various other guests until we could stay awake no longer (about 9 pm).

We started early the next morning when it was VERY cold! After a couple of hours we got to stop for "tea", which in this case was hot chocolate. We were fortunate to find all the the "Big Five" - Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Leopard & Cape Buffalo. Our guides really did make sure we saw as many wild things as possible. Often times we could almost reach out and touch them...but not quite!

It was almost worth the trip alone to discover a way to have hot water in the bush using wood to heat it. It is modeled after an old Rhodesian water boiler, but in this case they call it a donkey boiler, because it looks like a donkey.

The water in the tank is heated with a fire below. When you want hot water you pour cold water into the funnel on the top. It goes to the bottom and displaced the hot water which comes out the spout at the top. To add to the charm we had a camp shower. We filled a special bucket in the shower stall with our warm water and then used a pulley to hoist it up high. Turn on the valve and the water comes through a showerhead at the bottom of the bucket. One bucket gave us a generous 5 minute shower! A treat in the bush! Needless to say, we chose the mid-afternoon when it was sunny and warm to enjoy our showers.

We hope to use both ideas in Zambia at the new Children's Resource Center.

So our African adventure continues with lots of interesting experiences sprinkled into our daily life of overseeing the many affairs of the Church in southern Africa. We wish you all could join us in all that we are doing... but since you are so far away, this blog will have to do!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Holiday with Birds

Today was a holiday for the birds.... we visited a bird garden and saw lots of colorful and interesting birds!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Greetings from Johannesburg

Where did the month of May go? And now we are ½ way through June and still we have been negligent in updating our blog. I guess with all of the skyping that goes on, updating the blog loses its urgency. The problem with that is it is impossible to remember what we have shared with each phone call.

Last October we had a cash offer for the house which was reasonably good but we didn’t feel good about accepting it so we countered and lost it. We felt directed to put it back on the market for the beginning of June. We received a more favorable offer this time, confirming our decision not to sell last fall and reinforcing the importance of following the promptings of the spirit. We are reminded of the importance of not only receiving direction but of following it. We should be closing before the 15th of July. It has been a somewhat emotional decision to make and the finality of selling, what has been home for the past 28 years, could have clouded our judgment if we would have let it.

We have simply been so busy every day that the emotions have had little time to affect us. It is so wonderful being so immersed in the work of spreading the gospel across this great continent. We are aware of many of the miracles that take place day after day, week after week, in the lives of both the missionaries and faithful “pioneer saints” in Africa.

We were able to spend a couple of days with Kathy and Phillip last month while they were on their way home from Zambia. We had a special “family night” and invited the other missionary couples to hear Kathy and Phillip speak about their work in Zambia and the making of “The Worth of a Soul” painting. It has been a wonderful project. The Area President’s wife, Shanna Parmley, has had a portrait size print framed for her residence and has placed one in the Patron Housing for all those who come to visit the temple to see and enjoy. As it gains in popularity we also pray that Mothers Without Borders will also gain in popularity and notoriety.

The end of May we also enjoyed the visit of Elder Russell M Nelson and his wife. We had numerous occasions to meet and talk with them. They are truly amazing and inspired leaders. We received wonderful instruction and counsel from Elder Nelson during his visit but it was the ride in the van, back to the airport, that he “reached out and touched us” the most deeply. He shared with us the occasion of Dad’s impending heart transplant when he gave dad a blessing. I am so proud to be the son of Richard Headlee. As we parted at the airport it was with a firm and loving embrace (hug) that Elder Nelson expressed his gratitude for our service and dedication. He is truly a “special witness.”

We are constantly reminded how small this world really is, and it is getting smaller as we travel faster and as communications continue to improve.

We are so proud of our children and how they pull together and help each other, especially before, during and after Chris and Amy’s wedding. One of the greatest blessings, so far for us in serving a mission, is witnessing the strength and cooperation exhibited by our children and their wonderful spouses. We truly feel our lives are blessed by each one of them.

Chris & Amy

Headlee siblings at
wedding for Chris & Amy

We know that William and Tabatha are in good hands with regards to their wedding arrangements. I am confident they will receive more advice than they need and I know that this experience will bind us all even closer together. We have come to realize that sacrifice, for us at this time in our lives, is giving up the hugs and kisses of our children and grandchildren. It is not being able to witness our children enter into eternal covenants. It is missing the excitement generated at a grandchild’s birthday celebration. Hopefully, for Pam, it won’t be missing the birth of too many grandchildren. -Mike

Animals abound in all shapes and sizes and degree of life here in Africa!

The perspective of the Church as seen from an area office…

One of the most interesting aspects of working in an area office is getting a glimpse of the Church as it operates world wide.

Before we came here we were like ants working in a little ant hill. We knew there are other ant hills out there, but our world was basically confined to a small area. Seeing the church from an area is like flying in a plane and being able to see thousands of ant hills at one time and seeing how they interact with each other. Now we get to see the whole picture.

It is amazing to see all the aspects and functions, the leadership and the various “arms” of the church. We work with other area missionaries who have responsibilities with welfare, humanitarian, employment, public affairs, legal, medical, Perpetual Education Fund, Church Education System &, missionary training. We see shipments of relief supplies being sent to areas where the church doesn’t yet have a presence in remote areas. We see missionaries coming to the area office for medical assistance so they can continue their missions without problems. We see church members being trained in how to get jobs. We receive missionary recommendations from 15 countries around southern Africa. As we read these recommendations we know that many of these young people have attended four years of seminary. When we attend church here we hear the testimonies of sincere members of the church who believe as we do. In translating Patriarchal blessings we see 12 tribes represented on this continent.

We have met an African area authority who has twelve children and whose wife goes to a well each day for water and carries it back to her home, which has a dirt floor and no electricity or running water. He is the only area authority with no car. He works in an area of Africa which is exploding with new members….committed members who are poor, but who pay tithing and whose greatest dream is to make a once-in-a-lifetime to a temple. 2500 are worthy and waiting.

Elder Kola and Mike

We are living on a continent where there are rampant problems unlike anything we have ever been exposed to. We see disease, racial violence and crime “up close and personal.” The reality of what life is like for so many millions around the world is very sobering. It is amazing to see how so many survive amidst political terrorism, poverty, xenophobia and economic chaos. And yet they do survive. Most find some joy in their lives, even when they have lost loved ones to disease, even when they are hungry and even when they live under a cruel dictator’s rule. To balance all of the hardship that we see is an inspiring show of humility, dedication to be righteous and hope. Living around these good people makes us love Africa.

I visited the Baragwanath Hospital, the largest hospital in the world, with Sister Parmley and some of the area sisters to deliver little blankets and hats for the babies in the Ceserean ward.

Before we left on a mission we both shared a real sense of need for more missionary couples. Now that we are here and see all workings of the church in this continent we realize that this need is indeed critical. There are mission presidents everywhere that are begging for the talents and assistance that a couple could contribute. If you could interview the couples as they returned home after serving in Africa, you would know that their mission was a life-changing experience that they will treasure into the eternities.

So…our time is flying by as we serve in the Africa Southeast Area office. It is rewarding and enjoyable to help in some small way to move the good works of the Church forward as the Gospel grows in this part of the Kingdom. We appreciate the support and love we feel from friends and family at home. We want you all to come see this for yourselves! -Pam

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Photos from our mission

Surprise at the MTC

We were delighted to be greated at the MTC by President and Sister Brienholt, the mission president that Mike served as counselor to in the NY Rochester mission. He is a counselor to the MTC president.

The MTC was really a great experience. We enjoyed meeting other couples leaving on missions throughout the world and made some friends in just one week. The food seems to be famous. It was plentiful and good, but one week of it was enough.

We studied "Preach My Gospel" and learned how to introduce the gospel to others. It was a very good experience which we would recommend to all! It was fun to live in the same place where our 3 sons and 4 sons-in-law lived as they prepared to enter the mission field.

This is the main room of our apartment. It is very spacious and suitable for us here. We work so much that it doesn't seem like we have much time here at the apartment. We are a quick 1.5 mile drive from the "office" which is the area complex of the Africa Southeast area office, the presidency office, the Johannesburg temple and the distribution center.

The temple is just about a 2 minute walk from our office in the "White House" where we work. This old mansion was converted into 3 living apartments for the area presidency and their offices (and ours) on the main floor.

We are "district" leaders for the area senior missionary couples. They have weekly family home evenings together and we all live in the same apartment complex. This makes for becoming good friends with many other missionary couples.

We have figured out a way to have a big screen in our livingroom with a minimal amount of equipment ... we have a projector, a small speaker, a portable dvd player and a Tvisto (hard drive which stores 80 movies.

Friday, April 18, 2008

We are in South Africa!


Our “flat” is on the 2nd floor of a 6 story building. It is approximately 975 sq ft, consisting of a large bedroom, an office (or 2nd bedroom), a large dining and living room area, a modest and very functional kitchen, a toilet room, a bathing room with sink, and a dressing area. We have an under counter clothes washer and dryer in the kitchen, along with a modest sized refrigerator, microwave, and a regular sized range with oven. As busy as we have been during our first 10 days here we have mostly eaten out in one of the plethora of local restaurants in the mall immediately across the street from our building. This kind of puts Pam out of her normal element. She has been able to cook on Sundays and we try to entertain some of the other missionaries serving here with us in the Area Offices.

We were able to visit South Africa last January and managed to bring many of our possession from Lusaka and leave them in Johannesburg. With our video projector we were able to enjoy General Conference as a “big screen experience.” We also have enough movies on DVD’s to last us for the 23 months of “family nights at the movies” we will be enjoying here.


As it happens we find shopping quite convenient to where we live. There is a mall just across the street from our apartment complex. Here the malls contain every kind of store there is. There are lots and lots of malls and they are all top notch, very modern and always full of people. You do not find strip malls or individual stores as much. The dumb thing is that the malls all close at 6:00pm. That is a pain if you work 8 to 5. The restaurants are open later and our mall has a movie theatre with 4 screens. It is interesting to go grocery shopping and then push your shopping cart across the street into your lobby, up the elevator, through the halls down to your apartment right to your door. They come and collect the carts daily to take back to the store. Prices of groceries are quite comparable to the US. Some things like bread and vegetables and fruits are cheaper.


The weather here has been nothing short of spectacular ever since we have arrived. We are entering the winter season just as you, in north America, are emerging from it. It cools down nicely at night and during the day the temperatures average between 55 and 65 degrees. There is lots of sunshine every day. The roses are still blooming and I believe they cut the grass year round. The apples and grapes here are wonderful and make for an even more enjoyable “fall season.” (A photo of the lawn and fountains outside our office is included.)

Other missionary couples – making friends

The area office complex here consists of a large old mansion which is the area presidency’s office and housing for up to 3 couples (the general authorities). The office overlooks Johannesburg with a beautiful lawn and landscaping. There is also a very large office complex which also includes patron housing for those traveling a long way to the temple. It houses a distribution center and area offices for every facet of church administration: Perpetual Education Fund, Public Affairs, Humanitarian Services, Employment Services, CES, Church Legal Dept, Welfare Services, Auditing, Travel Services, Membership record Unit, Supply Services and Physical Facilities. Most people working here are church employees. There are senior missionary couples assigned to most of these departments. We have 13 couples who serve in this area office. Most live in our apartment complex. They have a Family Home Evening 2 or 3 times a month. So, you can imagine that many lasting friendships come from serving and living near each other.

Watching General Conference

It was a bit challenging to stay up until midnight in order to watch the afternoon sessions of General Conference live but it was worth it. We never cease to be amazed at the “spiritual feast” that is provided every 6 months. We are so grateful be worthy to participate in the full blessings of the restored gospel. Elder Russell M. Nelson reminded us that salvation is an individual, personal gift, and that exaltation is a family affair. To our wonderful and supportive children we ask that you go to the temple regularly and remember there to pray for us as well as all of the missionaries serving throughout the world. (53,686 of them) We feel your strength and faith and pray for you daily.

Participating in a Solemn Assembly

Sitting in our “flat” in Johannesburg, South Africa this evening, I was touched as we participated in the Solemn Assembly session of General Conference. We are so grateful to be serving as missionaries. We were humbled to be given the opportunity to stand and sustain President Monson here, more than 10,000 miles from Salt Lake City, along with our brothers and sisters all over the world. We truly are blessed to be led by a modern day Prophets. We marvel in the simplicity of their teachings. We rejoice in their proclamations and testimonies of Jesus Christ. We find peace in knowing that they speak for God, as did the prophets of ancient times.

The Johannesburg Temple

The temple is 2 kilometers from where we live but less than 200 meters from where we work. From our office the temple is a brisk, gently uphill walk that takes less than 3 minutes. The walk, on a cobble stone and brick road, takes us through approximately 5 acres of beautifully maintained gardens, water features and waterfalls. From our office we enter the grounds through an underground parking facility located directly underneath the temple. It is like no other parking facility we have ever seen. Simply put, it is immaculate. Entering the temple through the front foyer presents one with the same feeling of magnificence that is experienced when entering into any temple. It is no different when entering from the parking garage directly under the temple.

Giant palm trees, and the large, dense green foliage create an atmosphere akin to what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden. This is truly a welcoming and inviting island of peace and tranquility, in an otherwise oft troubled and confused world. (photo attached)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Notes from Zambia....(this time from Mike)

31 JAN 2008

RAIN, that is the order of the day. It often rains in the morning, sometimes in the late evenings and at least once during the night. A meteorologist has a very easy job here in Zambia. There is a 100% chance of rain every day during the months of December and January. In February the daily chance of rain drops to 75%, to 60% in March and finally less than 40% in April. A very boring job July – October with less than a 1% chance of rain and sunny. There is about a 15 degree temperature change during any given day. When we wake up to 60 degrees we can plan on 75 by mid afternoon. 65 in the morning means 80 before we go to bed that night. In October we wake up to 82 degrees… you do the math. Temperature-wise spring is nice but only ducks and crocodiles enjoy this much rain.

STUCK IN THE MUD. With this much rain, traveling to the farm is a real challenge. Even the main road out of the city is beginning to suffer significant water damage and is growing new potholes every day. A 32 kilometer drive that takes about 25 minutes during the dry season can take up to an hour now in the rain. The first 31½ K’s are predictable but the last 500 meters is an adventure every day. Monday was the last day we will attempt to take the Canter (Mitsubishi 2 ½ ton flat bed, dual rear wheels) until the rains cease. There were ten of us pushing, in the mud and water, on level ground, to keep the vehicle moving forward. 20 minutes and 400 meters later we were at the road.
Tuesday we took delivery of a 1997 Nissan Hard body 4X4 quad cab, pick up truck, called a “van” here in Africa. (The vehicle we know as a minivan is referred to as a minibus here.) It is still an adventure getting to the building site but so far this week we have not needed to exit the vehicle to push.

BAREFOOT CAR WASH. You would be amused to see our vehicle once we have driven through the new land and arrive back on the main road after the day’s work. We stop along side the road and take advantage of the numerous small streams of rain water to rinse off the ‘van’. Often we just drive into the middle of the stream, take off shoes and socks, roll up the jeans and start splashing the vehicle. It is a humorous sight, grown men acting like schoolboys on their way home from school. (You know what I mean, if there is a puddle it is meant to be explored.) By the time we are on our way again, about 20 minutes, there is no evidence of our most recent adventure.

BART & MARILYN DAHNEKE. Imagine our surprise after returning to church with the Lusaka Branch after a 2 month absence only to find our friends from Palmyra NY in Zambia for an extended visit. They are here staying with their daughter Rachel who is married to a foreign services officer currently assigned to the U S Embassy here in Lusaka. The young couple is a powerful example to the Latter-day Saints in the Lusaka District.

ELECTRICITY has become a necessity for most of us and we have experienced a storm related power outage once in a great while. Now try and imagine living your life, preparing for the day, cooking, washing clothes, watching TV and never knowing when the power is going to go off or when it will magically reappear. We are living in Lusaka, the capitol city of Zambia, and it is a rare day that the power is not lost for a period of 15 minutes to as long as 10 hours. It can be very frustrating trying to do email or checking things out on the internet and have the power go out. Yes, our laptops have battery power but the internet connection is lost and sometimes takes hours to restore once the power has returned. Just one of the things we take for granted at home in the US!

LAUNDRY is a real challenge during the rainy season. Our clothes are all washed by hand wrung out by hand and hung up in the rain or 85% humidity to dry. After hanging all day everything, including underwear, is ironed with a hot iron to get dry enough to put away. It takes most of the day to complete this otherwise simple task. Our housekeeper, Catherine, will spend 6-7 hours doing 5 days worth of laundry. I do sympathize with the women in the villages and compounds who must walk, sometimes as far as a kilometer, to get water for drinking, cooking, bathing and laundry. I wonder how much water we would use if we were required to carry it even 50 feet from a well to our house. The thought of running water, inside our homes, that is suitable for drinking makes me grateful for this most basic necessity of life.

PAM’S COOKING and companionship makes living in a 3rd world country bearable if not enjoyable. It’s amazing how far out of our ‘comfort zone’ we can go when there is the familiarity of food and conversation at the end of the day. We are separated by days of travel from every thing dear and familiar to us. We are discovering that it is important to really get to know our ‘eternal companion’ better.

The news of PRESIDENT GORDON B HINKLEY reached us here in Zambia in less than 2 hours after his passing. The marvels of modern communication never ceases to amaze us. We were greatly influenced by his teachings and example of friendshipping. His vision of the Church’s expansion was remarkable. We are comforted in his joy in being reunited with his eternal companion.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Our Return to Zambia

We have been in Zambia only six days. Time seems to pass at a different rate now… a bit slower. I guess that is because it takes so long to accomplish things here. It is hard to get used to the change of pace. We seem to always be rushing around at home and here we just plod along.

For the first four days here we didn’t see any sun. It was cloudy, dark and cool as it rained a lot. From what everyone says the whole month of January has been like that. Many crops have been washed away or rotted in the ground. It gives you a different concept of a “rainy season.” Last year we experienced cloudbursts often daily, but with sunshine in between. The sun finally came out yesterday and we have enjoyed very beautiful weather. Zambia is really green from all the moisture. Such a contrast to the total brown dryness we see from May until December. If you could just spread some of the rains out over the dry season it would really change things here…but then weather is something we cannot control. It is so constant here that even with gray clouds in July the people say with perfect knowledge it will not rain. Sometime in early April the faucets in the sky are turned off until late in the year and NEVER even leak a bit! When they eventually do turn on, it is as if you used a power sprayer instead of a garden sprinkler!

So the first order of business is to get vehicles in safe working order. One side affect of the rains is a worsening of the roads. Pot holes are everywhere and you must proceed very carefully down the streets. Out in the rural areas the result is mud…lots of it. Bald tires don’t move a vehicle very far in mud! Unfortunately, in the midst of a project, if the roads are too muddy, then the trucks can’t come in and do the work…hence the rainy season can bring a construction project to a complete halt. The brickmaking project requires the truck for the moving and screening of the dirt. Mud does not screen very well and is VERY heavy to move! The water tower project got started, but when the truck got stuck, so did the progress. In spite of all of our efforts to be efficient and accomplish our goals within a certain time period, we still are at the mercy of Mother Nature!