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My First Book is Out!

1 July 2010

My first book is finally out!!! It’s taken about five years to write, revise, cleanup, format, edit, and publish, but Giraffe Tracks is available as of today! I’ll have it on its own webpage soon, but the webpage isn’t ready yet, so for now I’m linking to straight the store from my blog.

So far, it’s available in:

Softbound book

Hardbound book

PDF download

Kindle book

or you can Read a Sample

I was hoping to release the audio book at the same time as the book release, but couldn’t have it ready in time.

If there is a format that you would want to buy it in that is not listed above, let me know. I’d like people to be able to buy it in whatever format they want, even if it’s .doc, .jpg or even .mov (that would be interesting). If you’re willing to buy it in a certain format, I’ll make it in that format and sell it at the same price as any digital text format.

I’m publishing it through Willowrise Press, which is my family’s independent publishing company.

Anyway, please buy it!

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book, so you can get an idea what it’s about:

By the late 1990’s, South Africa was in the midst of heavy political and social turmoil. With the ending of Apartheid in 1994, which was a legalized system of racial segregation which heavily curtailed the rights of the black population, the country was left in a dangerously challenging situation. The white population, who had enjoyed relative wealth, government protection, and exclusive employment opportunities, were now forced to share those resources with the massive majority population of native black Africans.

Native Africans, who had been socially, economically, and physically oppressed for centuries, were now allowed to leave their reservation-like townships and come into the cities and suburbs. Having been held back for so long, black Africans continued to experience severe poverty. As new opportunities were thrown at them, poverty-driven crime rose to a frightening level, leaving sour feelings in the hearts of the country’s general population. It became a time of anger, reunion, bitter feelings, fear, and hope.

Giraffe Tracks is the true story of an LDS missionary serving in the Johannesburg, South Africa Mission only a few years after the ending of Apartheid. Using compelling stories, humor, and spiritual insight, the story demonstrates that even in a land overflowing with crime, poverty, and racial hatred, peace and joy can be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the powers of evil shake the foundations of human society, the truth and light carried in the testimonies of the Lord’s missionaries can change hearts, heal minds, and turn fear and hatred into faith and love.


The Jughead American Dream Burger

16 June 2010

The Jughead American Dream Burger

I have conquered the Jughead American Dream Burger – a one KG (2.2 point) hamburger with a side order of fries, and I ate it in thirty-five minutes. That weight didn’t include the weight of the bun or extra fillings of the burger, either. 2.2 pounds of pure lean beef. When they brought it out, I thought it took the term “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” to a new level. In this case, the burger itself was bigger than a good part of my abdomen, and the whole thing looked like a cake.

Pano’s Diner was a little restaurant owned by one of the local stake presidents, so we got free shakes whenever we came – which worked out nicely for washing down the Jughead American Dream Burger.

I’m almost ashamed to say I ate the thing. Two other missionaries had conquered it already, and I wanted to show them up. You might say I did, since it only took me a half hour, while it took them two or three hours to finish their burgers. But I’ve always recognized the fact that the faster you eat, the more you can eat. But more than that, anyone who could finish their burger in one sitting got a free shirt, and got to sign the wall of the restaurant. Who could pass up such an opportunity?

I still have the shirt, and it’s fun to explain to people how I got it.

What I generally fail to mention is the difficulty I had in keeping the stuff down. Numerous times I felt it almost coming up, and for many hours afterward, even most of the day, I was deathly thirsty. A couple of times I tried to drink, but even a sip nearly brought the load out. Also, it was probably the most money I spent on a meal in my whole mission.

In reflecting back on this, I thought about how much we gorge ourselves with the things of this life. We cram our stomachs with things that are not bad of themselves , but which crowd out time and energy for the essential things. We see the rewards that the world has to offer, and they look enticing to us. We work hard to obtain them, and get the reward – the chance to sign a wall and take home a free shirt that recognizes our accomplishment – or perhaps something more alluring, such as prominence, position, power, money, or popularity.

While these rewards are not always inherently bad, our pursuit of them may cost us more than we are willing to admit. They may cost time, means, or energy, when those things could have been used to build the Lord’s kingdom and our families. If eating a certain thing makes it impossible to drink water, it is better not to eat it. Our families need water, our callings need water, our testimonies need water, but if our lives are too full of unnecessary secular “hamburger,” we may not have room for them.

Also, carrying that hamburger the rest of the day was difficult, which brings to mind the Savior’s promise that if we take His burden upon us, we will find it much lighter than the burden we place on ourselves. It’s hard to keep sin down and hidden. It usually comes up, and when it does, we are humiliated and ashamed. But Christ can remove sin from our hearts. His burden costs us so much less than the price we pay for our own burdens and sins.

Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking the way is too hard or too straight, but if we look closely, we find that it is our attempts to stay on our own paths while following Christ that makes it so difficult.

Besides, we can see the immediate rewards of our hamburger paths, while the rewards of the Spirit can seem very slow in coming, if we see them at all. Yet the spiritual rewards for taking Christ’s burden on us are of far greater, even infinite value.

Rare and Awesome Video of South African Missionary Work!

11 June 2010

This video is a RARE and AWESOME find for me! I bumped across this on the Internet one day and was absolutely floored to find that it is a video by a missionary in my first area within a year of the time I was there (this video was taken in 1999). Plus this guy’s companion was my third companion, Elder Horrocks. His apartment was my apartment. If you want a taste of mission life in a city area of South Africa, this here is the source! And I know most of these people! Even the Keyden kids. They were the funnest bunch of kids. Don’t you love their accents?

Africa: A Capella

8 June 2010

This is awesome. Perpetuum Jazzile has demonstrated a way to imitate rain – A Capella.

The Divine Call of a Missionary

3 June 2010

Ever wonder how mission calls take place? What is the process by which the brethren seek revelation for each missionary being sent? Brother Ronald A. Rasband shared this process in Priesthood Conference in April.


With the encouragement and permission of President Henry B. Eyring, I would like to relate to you an experience, very special to me, which I had with him several years ago when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Each Apostle holds the keys of the kingdom and exercises them at the direction and assignment of the President of the Church. Elder Eyring was assigning missionaries to their fields of labor, and as part of my training, I was invited to observe.

I joined Elder Eyring early one morning in a room where several large computer screens had been prepared for the session. There was also a staff member from the Missionary Department who had been assigned to assist us that day.

First, we knelt together in prayer. I remember Elder Eyring using very sincere words, asking the Lord to bless him to know “perfectly” where the missionaries should be assigned. The word “perfectly” said much about the faith that Elder Eyring exhibited that day.

As the process began, a picture of the missionary to be assigned would come up on one of the computer screens. As each picture appeared, to me it was as if the missionary were in the room with us. Elder Eyring would then greet the missionary with his kind and endearing voice: “Good morning, Elder Reier or Sister Yang. How are you today?”

He told me that in his own mind he liked to think of where the missionaries would conclude their mission. This would aid him to know where they were to be assigned. Elder Eyring would then study the comments from the bishops and stake presidents, medical notes, and other issues relating to each missionary.

He then referred to another screen which displayed areas and missions across the world. Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labor.

From others of the Twelve, I have learned that this general method is typical each week as Apostles of the Lord assign scores of missionaries to serve throughout the world.

Having served as a missionary in my own country in the Eastern States Mission a number of years ago, I was deeply moved by this experience. Also, having served as a mission president, I was grateful for a further witness in my heart that the missionaries I had received in New York City were sent to me by revelation.

After assigning a few missionaries, Elder Eyring turned to me as he pondered one particular missionary and said, “So, Brother Rasband, where do you think this missionary should go?” I was startled! I quietly suggested to Elder Eyring that I did not know and that I did not know I could know! He looked at me directly and simply said, “Brother Rasband, pay closer attention and you too can know!” With that, I pulled my chair a little closer to Elder Eyring and the computer screen, and I did pay much closer attention!

A couple of other times as the process moved along, Elder Eyring would turn to me and say, “Well, Brother Rasband, where do you feel this missionary should go?” I would name a particular mission, and Elder Eyring would look at me thoughtfully and say, “No, that’s not it!” He would then continue to assign the missionaries where he had felt prompted.

As we were nearing the completion of that assignment meeting, a picture of a certain missionary appeared on the screen. I had the strongest prompting, the strongest of the morning, that the missionary we had before us was to be assigned to Japan. I did not know that Elder Eyring was going to ask me on this one, but amazingly he did. I rather tentatively and humbly said to him, “Japan?” Elder Eyring responded immediately, “Yes, let’s go there.” And up on the computer screen the missions of Japan appeared. I instantly knew that the missionary was to go to the Japan Sapporo Mission.

Elder Eyring did not ask me the exact name of the mission, but he did assign that missionary to the Japan Sapporo Mission.

Privately in my heart I was deeply touched and sincerely grateful to the Lord for allowing me to experience the prompting to know where that missionary should go.

At the end of the meeting Elder Eyring bore his witness to me of the love of the Savior, which He has for each missionary assigned to go out into the world and preach the restored gospel. He said that it is by the great love of the Savior that His servants know where these wonderful young men and women, senior missionaries, and senior couple missionaries are to serve. I had a further witness that morning that every missionary called in this Church, and assigned or reassigned to a particular mission, is called by revelation from the Lord God Almighty through one of these, His servants.

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

28 May 2010

Photo by Brad Ruggles on flickr

Our house in Botswana was surrounded by houses with families of small children who would often come visit and play in our yard. One day a bunch of these kids were in the yard (probably nine or ten – we seemed to attract kids whenever we were home), and they were getting a little bit rambunctious. I was beginning to worry that someone might either get hurt or break something, so I ran and grabbed a pen and paper, then came outside and said, “Hey! Do you guys want to learn a new song?”

Of course they all responded enthusiastically.

“Ok, but you’re going to have to help me learn the words so we can sing it in Setswana, too!” Then I got out my paper and pen and asked, “How do you say ‘Head’ in Setswana?”

“Tlhogo!” they all shouted.

“And how do you say, ‘shoulders’?”




“What about ‘toes’?”


In English, none of the words to the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” are more than two syllables. In Setswana, none of them were less than two syllables. In fact, Setswana doubled the total number of syllables in the whole song. Man, I thought to myself, how on earth am I going to make these fit the rhythm?

Then we went through the remaining words – eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. I decided before trying it in Setswana, I’d teach them the English version of “Head, shoulders, Knees and Toes.” They got a big kick out of the song.

Then the real show began.

“Now let’s sing it in Setswana!” I said.

Getting out my piece of paper, we began to sing:

Tlhogo, magetla, lengole, menwana, lengole, menwana, lengole menwana! Tlogo, magetla, lengole, menwana, Matla, Tsebe, Molomo, Nko!”

Before we could get through the song for the first time, we were rolling all over the porch with laughter. They thought it was the funniest thing in the world to hear a Magua singing in Setswana, and I thought it was the funniest thing to sing such a simple song with so many syllables. After singing it a number of times over, I had it memorized, and sang it many times thereafter to the kids, and they laughed hysterically every time.

I later discovered that the words they gave me were all singular form – shoulder, knee, toe. But making them plural would add more syllables, so I kept it as it was.

Keeping Up With The Jones’s

22 May 2010

I found an awesome blog by a family with a missionary who is presently in the Johannesburg mission. Their blog is called, Keeping Up With the Jones’s, which is an awesome name, since their last name is Jones. They post on the blog their letters back and forth, and a lot of the questions are about South Africa, mission life, and basically everything the Called to Serve in Africa blog is about. Here’s a taste of some of his pictures – South Africa today! Anyway, I highly recommend you check out their blog.

A guy selling clown stuff.
A kid blowing in the Vuvuzela (not spelled right)
Township kids with homemade toy.

Lions n Tigers n Birds OH MY!

An African Game preserve. The Soccer 2010 water tower. MTC companions that he flew with to Africa. The first young man he taught and baptized, well watched be baptized. Standing out and inside the Temple grounds of Johannesburg South Africa. He loves every minuet of it to.

So go check it out!