On June 18, at our Sons of the Utah Pioneers monthly dinner meeting, the guest speakers were Alan and Linda Turner. They reported on their mission to Zimbabwe, Africa, from September 2007 to March 2009. The challenges were many they reported, but the rewards and enjoyment they felt from serving was evident during their presentation.
Jay Taggart introduced them, and made it as short as possible considering the many and varied experiences that Alan has had throughout his life. This includes 37 years as a professional teacher at both the high school as well as college level. He also served for over 30 years in the military with most of his career associated with the Air Force, where he retired as a major. His service in the church also involved many different callings at both the ward and stake level. To top his experience off, one cannot forget the 40 plus years he served as a scouting leader. Positions included unit, district and also council level. Jay reported that Alan is the recipient of both the scouting District Award of Merit as well as the Silver Beaver award.
Linda started off by indicating how they were supposed to receive a call to serve in the Independence Missouri Visitors Center with President/Director Robert Poll, but were called to the Harare, Zimbabwe Mission where they were over all the humanitarian efforts for Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. She also described how they loved the people, how beautiful the country is, and how they were greeted with beautiful purple Jacaranda trees that lined the runway as they arrived at 6 a.m. at the Harare Airport. She described the ideal climate where the low was around 53 degrees and a high in the mid 80s year around, quite a change from living in Mountain Green.
Alan then reported on many different areas they were responsible for and some of the experiences they had while there. Challenges included a lack of food, which they were able to “make a plan” to get around. Being able to stand in a bread line for 45 minutes and still not be able to get a single loaf of bread was another. The same thing happened while trying to obtain milk. He even related spending from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in a line or queue, but was still unable to get petrol, or gas, for his pickup truck.
Due to the hyper inflation of around 7 percent per minute, this presented a major challenge as well. He reported that they would not exchange American dollars on a Friday because by Monday it would only be worth about half of what it was on Friday. Again, they just had to work around these challenges.
When they were called, they were told to find a need, then work to fulfill that need. This is what they did, giving away many wheelchairs to needy individuals from a young mother who had been carrying her 8-year-old daughter on her back since birth and was thrilled to finally have what he called mobility, to four 80-plus-year-old ladies who were given a well deserved wheelchair as well. He related several experiences where they gave away others as well.
Another item they gave away was long bars of what he called “Green Bar Soap.” These were not available to the people, because of the 95 percent unemployment, so they gave away lots of these bars. They also gave these and other items as well due to the fact that if a person was able to work, they did so for around $5 US per month.
In addition, during the election time, many people had their blankets either stolen or burned as encouragement to vote for the existing president. He related that without any blankets, the people would suffer even though the temperatures only got down to the low 50s. This was because they weren’t used to the lower temperatures without some kind of protection. He said that they gave away over 4,000 blankets to members as well as non-members of the church.
He then read part of a poem that he wrote regarding their mission. In this he stated that they had many challenges, but didn’t regret going at all. He also described some of the things they did while there.
After the talks were over, he showed many pictures that helped explain the things that they had talked about. These were very enlightening, as was the entire presentation.