One thing we are learning on this mission is flexibility. Every six weeks there is a Transfer. The arrivals used to be on Wednesday: Pick up at Airport, orientation, dinner and sleep at the Mission Home bunkhouse. Transfers were on Thursday when everyone who was moving did their move. Thursday night those going home had dinner and were in the bunkhouse overnight at the Mission Home. Then they would fly out on Friday.
Departures are still on Friday--usually. "Left-over" companions move in with others for the weekend. But now because of COVID-test flight rules and less-frequent good connections, arrivals are now on Saturday. Orientation and dinner in the Mission Home are on Saturday night. Elders hang around Durban with other Elders all day Sunday for Church so as not to have to travel on Sunday. Monday is thus Transfer Day. It stretches a two-day process out to four days and complicates a lot of things.
We have lists of who is coming and when, way ahead. Elders generally get their Call Letter (telling them where and when they are going) four to six months ahead. Lots of time for planning, right? We wish!
Sue keeps a spreadsheet of all this. She needs to know who has received their Welcome Letter, with information about what to bring. She also needs to know who has sent back needed information about driving record, etc.
Just for fun, here is the spreadsheet for the last few months. (Thanks to G-Sheets version history.) We were originally supposed to have ten new Elders arrive on 15 May. But no one actually came! Hence the title to this week's blog. (Sue is a big Agatha Christie fan, and that is also the title of one of her most famous books.)
March 1: a good big group coming in May! A few unknowns, and just one in June.
May 7: We are down to just one Elder coming on May 15. But several of the others now have visas and will come on 26 June. There is a three-week lead time between getting visa and being able to come. And we have a whole new group coming on June 1. Two are South African, so will come to our office to do their three-week Missionary Training on-line before really starting with the official group on 26 June. Two others are from Kenya and Uganda, where they have been serving in their home country until their South African visas come through. Most of those coming to us from the USA are also serving in other USA missions while waiting for visas.
May 11: Our one last hope for an Elder arriving this Transfer did not happen. He got his one-dose COVID vaccine on 10 May, but he is not allowed to travel for seven days after that. He is now coming with the big group in June. Since we had no one going home this Transfer Period, there was no Transfer at all. Everyone is staying where they live now with their current companions.
This all turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. One Elder from the Durban area came home from his mission on Wednesday morning. His mother and sister picked him up from the Durban airport about 8 AM and brought him to the Mission Office about 9 AM for his exit interview and official release from President Lines. The family was glad to be back together after two years. The Elder spent about 30 minutes with President Lines while the mom and sister waited in the office. She said the cousins were all excited and texting her about when he would be home. It is so wonderful to see these young people when they come home from their missions. They have grown in so many ways. They have learned a pattern of Christ-like love and service that will serve them well their whole lives.