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)