We did not want to go to the South African and Indian Ocean Division (SID)—not because we don’t like them but because we have enough travel to do. However, Elder Ted Wilson reminds division presidents that they are also vice presidents of the General Conference and asked all division officers to visit two other divisions before 2020.
So Lionel Smith, Rod Brady and I visited SID during their mid-year Division meetings. They were standard meetings, laced with African humour, which made it interesting. Our favourite visits were to local churches, schools and public evangelistic programs, with good commentary from our hosts. At the three schools we visited in Zimbabwe, all had lady principals and were the best in the whole district. In Pretoria, South Africa, we saw the long-term vision of a local church coming into reality. They have a new facility—amongst new suburbs—that has a gym, a studio for DVD production, a Christian bookshop, a café, seminar room, a kitchen and pantry for the poor: an urban centre of influence. In Bulawayo we saw three public evangelistic meetings. Besides a bus driver and the conference president preaching, a lady with a voice to die for was preaching in a full tent pitched on a vacant block in a new suburb. Talk about enthusiasm. A Sabbath School class spent time checking on everyone and assigning people to contact those who were not there. Great care and nurture. I was impressed.
We had one day off with the SID secretary and saw cheetahs, rhinos, giraffe, zebra . . . even an elephant walked toward us on a road—we quickly found reverse and retreated at least 100 metres before the elephant walked off. I could feel my heart beat as this unfolded.
Cross-cultural and regional interaction brings learning and understanding—part of growing as a disciple of Jesus.