I am currently serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Johannesburg, South Africa Mission! I plan to serve for two years before returning home to finish my education.

I am serving a mission because I know that God is our loving Father in Heaven. I have a testimony that he knows each of us personally and wants us to succeed. The gospel Jesus Christ leads to lasting happiness. The fullness of his Gospel exists on the Earth today and I want to help spread the joyous news!

If you are reading this and don't know for yourself I plead with you to learn more. You can gain a personal witness that the Gospel has been restored! Visiting http://mormon.org is a great way to start!

I miss you all and would love to hear from you! See you in two years!

Mopane Worms for Thanksgiving

Hey everyone!

I feel bad that I haven't really been answering your questions. I do mean to, but I always seem to run out of time.

Is it safe working in the townships?
Crime seems to be a pretty large concern but none of the missionaries here have had any problems. I feel pretty safe in the township, whites are afraid to get anywhere near them, but they aren't that bad, the people are generally friendly and open.

Can you understand the people? What do they speak?
Almost everyone can speak english, the few that can't are often little children or some of the elderly. The native language for most it Sotho, apparently each township has it's own dialect. The kids are also taught Afrikaans in the schools, but that lanuguage is only native for the Whites. There are many different accents, at first it was hard to understand people, but I think I've adjusted to it. Some people have a hard time understanding our accents, we have to speak very slowly and make sure to ask questions so that they understand. Many of the words used in the scriptures are new to them. The biggest challenge we run into is people being able to read effectively. Many people struggle to understand the words in the Book of Mormon, we have word help-guides that we often leave with people.

Where do you live? What is it like?
I live in a flat (apartment) 10 minutes outside of the township. It's in a security compound (similar to a gated community). I stay there with my companion and two other missionaries. We have 2 study rooms, a living room where our beds are, a kitchen, and two bathrooms. It's about the quality of a typical NJ apartment. Everything is in pretty good condition except my mattress - I can feel the springs poking into my side. It hasn't been too bad though, it stays pretty warm at night so normally I sleep on top of my duvet and it makes sleeping more bearable.

How many lessons do you teach each week?
We teach a lot! Our schedule normally gets booked about a week in advance. We can normally schedule 7 appointments in a day, most of the time 2 to 3 will fall through, but we always have people to check up on. We've never been stuck with nothing to do.

When is P-day? What do you do?
It's on monday. We clean the flat, go shopping, do other chores, email, sometimes meet up with some other elders to play some sports, do a service project, then go back and teach in the evening.

This week has been even better than the last! Things are really great! It crosses my mind several times a day that I am so blessed to be here. I am much more confident in talking to people, and I think I understand more about how I should be teaching. It's also nice that I'm beginning to see people more than once instead of a completely new family for each appointment.

So I'm sure that you are wondering about the subject by now. Yes, I had Mopane worms this week. A member family fed them to us, they built up to it the whole week. I even had a chance to see live ones at an investigator's house a few days before. They look exactly like the grubs Timon and Pumba ate in the Lion King. At full size they are a little longer than my middle finger and are about twice as thick. They are predominantly green with blue and yellow color patterns and have small spikes across their body. They have black or red heads. They shrink and turn grey when cooked, but still look very much like a grub. They don't taste that bad when you get over the fact that you are eating a bug, the texture is awful though. You can feel the spikes and legs rubbing against your tongue, they are gritty too... Luckily, they serve them with pap (it's like mashed poatoes, but made with corn, it's gritty and much more bland)

There have been a lot of great experiences this week, including a baptism, but the best by far was our opportunity to give a preisthood blessing. One of our investigators called and asked if we would come pray for her uncle who was very sick. She had only been taught twice so far, but her faith is really strong, she already knows the chruch is true. We followed her to her uncle's house and met with the family. We found out that the uncle has diabetes, but I don't think that was the only thing wrong. When we went into his room he was laying on the bed with a scorching fever, completely delirious. He was very thin. We explained that through the restored power of the priesthood that we could give him a blessing of healing and that through their faith he could be healed. We laid our hands on his head and gave him a blessing. During the blessing the spirit flooded the room, everyone was touched. After the blessing we stood in silence for several minutes, then left him to rest. Afterwards we said a prayer of thanks with the family. I don't know if that man is better yet, but I know that he will recover, I think the whole family knows it too. They invited us to come back whenever we are nearby. Sadly the uncle doesn't live in our area, but we passed his address to the missionaries there so they could stop by and check on them later in the week.

I know that the church is true and love being able to spread the message of the restoration! I know and have seen that its blessings are real! I love you all, thanks for the many letters!

Elder Halterman

Greetings from Mamelodi!

Hey Everyone!

So I'm sure you know by now, I'm in my first area! Transfers were last Wednesday. When we left the MTC we had several classes about driving, health, safety, and a few other things. We then had pizza (the pizza is good thanks to one factor - Chutney, I'll have to explain later, but it's nothing like NY stuff) and met the trainers. Afterwards we went to transfer meeting. The people leaving bore their testimonies, then the president called us (the new Greenies) up and gave us our assignments. Apparently it's a tradition for the trainer to put on a scene when his name is called. My trainer had parted his hair funny, and had old sweater under his suit coat, when he stood up his old trainer helped him take of his jacket and they both stuck on fake mustaches. They then went up and stuck one on me and lead me back to where their district was sitting. After transfers we drove for an hour to Mamelodi then started to work.

Mamelodi is what South Africans call a township. It's hard to describe one if you've never seen one before. It's where all the Blacks were forced to live during the time of apartheid. When driving into town I saw a row upon row of these tiny homes, all exactly the same, each smaller than a single car garage. I pointed them out to my trainer and he explained that those were the nice homes. They are homes built by the government to help get people out of the squatter camps, the people who live there are the lucky ones. A few minuets later we drove by a squatter camp, it was huge. An on-stretching field full of makeshift shacks. I'll have to send some pictures once I can burn them to a DVD. The town area is better, but still very impoverished, few homes have more than a few small rooms.

The area has been awesome though! Elder Robinson and his last companion worked really hard and have lots of investigators, when his companion was transferred they were just beginning to see the success. They had near 25 baptisms scheduled for the first 3 weeks of this transfer, sadly most have been pushed back or fallen through. It has meant that I've had many chances to teach. The experiences have been awesome! Each day is crammed with appointments, normally 2 or 3 fall through, but we always have people to visit.

I am one of the lucky ones to be in a biking area! (We do have access to a car twice a week if we need it) The first two days I was in the area it was raining. Most roads are paved, but many are covered with more than an inch of dirt. Both days we got completely drenched. We were covered in mud too, since the bikes kick up a lot of mud. I think I'm going to wear through my clothes pretty quickly. It's supposed to only be like this during the spring (the rainy season), otherwise it's normally pretty dry. The landscape is really pretty, there are lots of trees and many hills. The sunsets are spectacular!

I'm pretty sure we're the only whites in the township. It makes us stand out. Most are afraid to enter the townships. We get huge crowds of kids cheering after us wherever we go. It's really fun to greet people while we ride, we get lots of puzzled looks. 

I'm sorry that I don't get time to answer more questions. I have tons more to tell but I'm out of time. I'll have to start sending letters to fill in the gaps. We've had some amazing lessons, my trainer and a ward missionary got into a nasty bike crash (they're both okay) and we've done some other jobs that I didn't expect, like emptying the baptismal font with buckets. I'll have to elaborate later.

I love you all, things are really great here! I can already see how mission is going to be the time of my life! Thank you so much for your messages, they really brighten my week.

Love Elder Halterman

A Safe Arrival

In a recent email President David E. Poulson writes:
"I am pleased to inform you that Elder Halterman has completed his training at the Missionary Training Center and appears happy and well. We are now delighted to have him serving with us in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. [He] will serve initially in the Mamelodi Area of the Pretoria Zone. His companion and trainer is Elder Robinson from California, USA."

October 31st, 2009

October 31st, 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

I arrived at the Johannesburg MTC safely. This is my third day here. The MTC is great! We have 17 Elders and 2 Sisters. My companion's name is Elder Onsongo, he's from Kenya. He's fluent in Swahili and English. He joined the church just over a year ago, and brought the gospel to his family and has now come out to serve a mission. He knows a lot about the gospel. He and I have been called as the first assistants to the MTC president it's really neat to be able to work so closely with him and his wife. My companion and I get to visit with him each morning for a planning meeting. The coolest part is the end of each meeting when he asks us what we learned from our morning scripture study. He has lots of deep insights and comparisons.
It was pretty rough adjusting to the time difference. I think it's only 8 hours, not 12. I think I was only able to sleep 7 hours total within the first 3 days!
There's so much I wish I could write, I'm sure that I've hardly answered any of your questions yet I am almost out of time. I want everyone to know that I'm safe, extremely busy, and that I'm having a great time. I know that this is where the Lord wants me to be. I am so glad that I have this chance to take part in his work!
Love,Elder Halterman