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!

Christmas Crackers and Cow Tongue


It was great talking to the family on Friday, though now I feel like there's not much left for me to say.

I tried to upload my pictures to photo bucket using a card reader, but my SD card is formated wrong, I'll have to try next week using a cable from the camera. If that doesn't work I'll have to attempt mailing them.

Soon after talking, Elder Robinson and I went to with the other missionaries in out flat to their Branch President's house. We ate christmas dinner with them! They knew that we normally eat turkey on Christmas so they cooked a small one especially for us. It wasn't the main dish though, apparently they don't eat turkey very often out here, it was the Branch President's second time cooking turkey. They had several other meats, the main one being cow tongue. They had tons! It was thinly sliced, but when she told us it was tongue we all saw the resemblance. It wasn't that bad though, it was hard to classify the taste. I'd say it tasted similar to bologna. Of course they served it with cool drink. They had Christmas Crackers too! I was surprised that none of the other three missionaries had seen them before. After we had been stuffed with food they got out a crate that had been filled to the brim with sweets. I was already feeling sick from all the cool drink. After passing around at least a dozen bags of sugar coated wine gums and banana flavored marshmallows they decided it was time for desert. They then proceeded to serve a delicious custard candy nut jello salad - I wish that I had been able to enjoy it, instead I was trying my hardest not to die. After I had taken a few bites the mother came around and scooped ice cream into my bowl... I'm pretty sure that I am diabetic now. I was so glad to get home, lay down and settle to the refreshing taste of water.

Oh, just two days ago I found out that Elder Robinson is being transfered to Botswana. I was still getting lost in New Jersey after living there for 6 years. I've been here six weeks and now I have to run the area. These next few weeks are going to be very long. Elder Robinson is excited though, he says he feels like a great burden had been lifted. So many people in this area come so close to baptism, but almost all trip over some obstacle and can't seem to pick themselves back up.

This sunday we had a baptism, there were supposed to be two. Ayesha Manyathella and Solomon Desonto, but a problem came up in Solomon's family and he's been out of town. Ayesha's baptism was sweet though! It went really well, she bore a her testimony and told about how she decided to move her baptism forward two weeks. She said that she knew the church was true and that she needed to be baptised, she thought about the savior and how he didn't shirk or delay his Atonement for us, and that she wasn't going to shirk or delay her opportunity to follow him.

I love you all, and wish you a happy new year!
Elder Halterman

A Nice Exchange

Hey Everyone!

Everything is going really well! This week has been really good!

First, about letters, I can only really write them on P-day, but even then I don't have much time. We wont' be proselyting on Christmas or New Years, so I'll have some time then to write a few letters.

DearElder letters - It would be great if you can put your return address and date you sent it, otherwise it's somewhat confusing and I don't always have an address to send back to.

This week was a huge success! I've been most excited that Solomon, a father we've been teaching, was finally able to quit smoking! We had been fasting with him two weeks ago and it really helped. He's going to be baptized next Sunday! We have 3 others that will hopefully be baptized the same day, a mother and two of her daughters. They all have firm testimonies, stronger than many of the members, Sherifa, the Mother, just has some family problems that have been weighing pretty heavily on her.

We had a fantastic baptism this Sunday for an Young Woman named Ursula. Sherifa and her family attended. The speakers were really good, the first two were recent converts and very close friends to Ursula, one of them was baptized the week I came. Then Elder Robinson, a branch missionary named Karrabo, and I sang "Come thou Fount of Every Blessing". After the actual baptism Ursala bore her testimony, it was really moving. She talked about her struggle before she knew about the church, and that she had been blaming God for many of the problems in her family, but once she came to church and learned about the restored gospel everything changed. She told how she now had a new family, a family in the church, and how it had helped change her life. I think the testimony especially touched Sherifa, it seemed to address the exact concerns that she had. It was amazing how everything tied together so perfectly!

Even after 4 weeks I really feel a close connection to the ward. I've felt the same thing Ursula was talking about. It's amazing how the gospel unites people. I can't wait for each Sunday to see everyone at church.

On Saturday my idea of a exemplary missionary completely changed. I went on exchanges with Elder Niced from Australia. He taught with such power and clarity. When he taught the plan of salvation it felt like it was completely new to me. He explained everything so well that I couldn't help but think of the elegance of Heavenly Father's plan for us. He's really good at asking thought provoking questions and teaching with examples and stories. What's more he lives up to the highest standard of a missionary I've seen. He's constantly looks for chances to serve those around him. He's done a really good job of developing Christ-like love. I'm trying to set a course so that I can learn to serve like he does.

Several people have asked me what advice I would give to prepare for a mission. The best I can say is to learn to love the scriptures. Soon after coming out to the field I realized that two hours of scripture study each day is barely sufficient. Our mission president said that our study plan for the next two years should first focus on studying Preach My Gospel and the Book of Mormon, then if we need more to go on to the New Testament. Elder Niced said that throughout your whole mission you will wish you had more time to study, but that you'll have to wait till you get home for that. My advice would be to fast and pray for a desire to study the scriptures. Learn to apply what you learn in both your life and in teaching. Your investigators need you to know and love the scriptures. Take advantage of the time you have to prepare.

Everything is going well here. Yesterday we had two meal appointments within 3 hours of each other. We were stuffed! It was terrible trying to ride bikes after that. There's so much that I wish I could include in these emails.

I love you all,

Elder Halterman

Mission Life- Uncensored

Hey Everyone!

Some concerns have been voiced that I am censoring my emails since, aside from my springy mattress, I haven't written about the bad side of being a missionary. Honestly there's been little to hold back, missionary work is awesome, but rest assured that this email will be censorship free.

To balance the scales here are a few of the rough patches:
Two weeks ago I was sick, It lasted for three days. I think I caught it cleaning out stagnant water from the baptismal font when the pump was broken. It wasn't too bad though, just energy draining.

In South Africa it's almost a joke to drink water. People serve us either juice or "cool drink". Cool drink is just another name for soda. We drink a ton! I hardly touched soda back in the states, in fact I quite loved water - I still do. Cool drink quenches thirst really well, but I was so thankful when a recent convert ran out of soda the other day and served us ice water instead. I think my stomach has growled and turned more out here than it has in my entire life.

A few days ago I got a mosquito bite on my left hand. I think it's the first one I've had. It was a tiny bug, but the bite swelled up and stayed that way for 2 days! Don't worry though, I don't have malaria or west nile, I just had a chubby hand for a few days.

In other news, I found out that I've lost 15 pounds! In the MTC I was basically eating 4 meals a day. I eat a ton out here too, I went through 15 eggs and two loaves of bread this week! (I finally figured out why the bread in our house seemed to disappear). I thought I had gained some weight, and that would have been great, I've been looking to go up to 185, but now I'm around 162. Don't worry though, I'm still really healthy.

Yesterday (Sunday the 13th Dec) I felt the starkest contrast of emotions I think I've ever felt. In the morning we biked by the homes of several investigators to walk with them to church. We were concerned for each family, these people had received a testimony, but they were letting life get in the way of eternal life. They'd been struggling to read and come to church. These families had promised that they'd let nothing get in their way, and one family planned to stay for the baptism afterwards. We had agreed to come by in the morning and walk with them, we went by two families, and had a ward missionary go by the others. For one reason or another none of them came.

We were disappointed, but we still had nine investigators at church. During sacrament meeting I really felt the spirit, and when I was sitting in our gospel principals class I looked around and noticed that I was surrounded by people who I knew and had been closely working with - people who were excited to take hold of the gospel and were changing their lives. I was overwhelmed with love and joy. I began to understand how Alma felt when he rejoiced in the success that the Lord had blessed him and his brethren with. The day continued, we had a fantastic baptism - it was for Laybo Seketa, the young man that I talked about last week. I was one of the speakers, and once again felt overwhelmed with joy to see him baptized and his mother there watching.

Later that day we had an appointment with the Serreo family, one of the families we had stopped by to walk with to church. The father hadn't read or been to church in 3 weeks, even with our repeated visits. He knew it was true, he's just too busy. Elder Robinson and I were at a lost for what to say. We were both searching for something, some way to tell them how important this gospel is. I was on the brink of tears at several points. They talked most of the time, we addressed a few concerns. They saw that we were upset though. They're an awesome family, but there's little more we can do for them...

Overall things are great! I love missionary work! As the Savior promised, It's hard, but it's worth it!

I love hearing from everyone. I'm glad things are going well!
Love Elder Halterman

The Runaway Investigator

Hey Everyone! Everything is going really well!

So I have a few more questions to answer:

What is Chutney, and what about it can possibley make non-NY pizza taste good?
Chutney is like a mix between barbecue sauce and peach jam... It's hard to describe, it's like a ketchup in that it's eaten with almost anything. At the MTC I think we went through at least a bottle a day. It's pretty sweet, they put it on pizza like they sometimes do with barbecue sauce in the states. It made the pizza pretty good.

How big is your Branch/Ward? Do you have a building? Does it rely on local leadership or mainly on the missionaries?
I work in a brach, we have about 200 members, but many are less active. Normally we have 100-150 in attendance. We meet in a small chapel that was built 20 years ago. A strange thing about chapels here, they all have vaults where the library would normally be. Even with the vault, the computer in our chapel has been stolen twice. Someone went through the ceiling tiles... The leadership in our branch is really strong, Elder Robinson says it's the strongest he's seen in a township branch. We have quite a few return missionaries. I wouldn't be surprised to see our branch become a ward while I'm here.

Have you seen any cool wildlife?
I haven't seen any of the typical African Animals, but I do see a lot of strange chickens, goats, and cows in the township. Most are wild and eat garbage that piles up in the area. I saw one cow that looked more like a camel than a cow, it had a huge hump above it's neck. I do see a lot of lizards though.

Things in Mamelodi are going really well, we have twenty people with set baptismal dates, and a large pool of other investigators to teach. This week we began teaching eight more! The hardest task is getting the people we teach to come to church, this week the attendance was especially low, we had nine (normally it's over 20, and even that should be much higher).

We have a baptism coming up this Sunday. It's for a boy named Laybo Seketa. He's 16 and has been coming to church for a while. He lives with his family Stoffel Park. Stoffel Park is a huge stretch of land at the base of a several large hills. The developers sell small plots of land to people who are then free to do whatever they want with the land. It's a place where people are pretty industrious, they live in tin shacks, the roads are made of dirt, there are pipes for water every 100 meters or so. There's no electricity, but some people have generators.

Anyway, Labo's interview for baptism was on Saturday. We went up to his house with the Zone leaders and found that he'd just had a falling out with his parents while they were mixing cement to lay around the house. Laybo had run up into the mountain. We went with his father and older brother to search for him. We went way up into the mountain when his brother whistled to us and began running. We were running up the hill for almost 30min before we found Laybo walking back with his brother. It was an amazing view though! I could see clear across the valley. I felt like I was in the Lion King, the mountain was covered in rocks, bushes, shrubs and small trees.

We had the interview up in the mountain, then went back with Laybo and helped mix cement with him until they were done. It's Laybo's birthday next week, we're planning to bring a lunch and have a lesson with him up in the mountain.

I've had so manny more great experiences, I wish I had more time to tell you about them. Being a missionary is fantastic! It's amazing to be able to look people in the eyes and promise them that what you are sharing is true. I wish more people would realize how important message really is! It's devastating to come back to a person's house and find out that they haven't been reading from the Book of Mormon or that they haven't asked God if our message is true. On the flip side, it brings the greatest of joy to hear an investigator tell you they've been reading and their feelings as they read, or to see an investigator walk through the entrance to our church building with his entire family! Being a missionary is awesome! I'm so grateful that I have this chance to share the message of the Restoration of the Gospel! I love you all and can't wait to write again soon!

Thanks for all your prayers!
Elder Halterman