Guest Blogger Julianne Brown Clegg lives in Lehi, Utah. She is the mother of 6. Tanner is her oldest and first missionary out. Julianne works as an aid at an elementary school. She loves to read every missionary blog she can find. Julianne served a mission in California, San Bernardino 20+ years ago.
My son, Elder Tanner Clegg, has been serving in the South Africa, Johannesburg Mission, for 6 months. Growing up, soccer was a huge part of his life. When he received his call, he googled what the main religion in South Africa is and one site said "Sports.... it brings us together." He was excited to go to a country where he thought he would be playing soccer in the streets with kids. It's true. He loves playing with the kids...but it's not how he played in Lehi. There's no matching game shirts or underarmour material or nike shorts. There are no nike balls or bright colored cleats, socks, and shin guards. The kids and youth congregate with a ball made of tied together rags or plastic bags. They make a goal post out of a random piece of wood or something already sticking out of the ground. The field is not nice grass or artificial turf...it's uneven dirt with clumps and rocks, or more recently, it's mud.
Johannesburg has had a postal strike (which just ended) for 4 months. The MP emailed families and told us to put money in their accounts instead of trying to send Christmas packages. Grandma & Grandpa put $100 in Tanner's account and told him about it in his email on the Monday before Christmas. I told Tanner to go buy himself something and he said "I can't, not when those around me have so little." So, he and his companion Elder Savage, went to a little store and bought out all the soccer balls.
He said: "I dumped like 1000 rand ($100) on little soccer balls, i bought like 19 of them and am giving like 5 to the ward, and the others just writing our numbers and a little message saying like “Jesus Christ can make us smile every day, find out how by calling ________” type-thing. I'm just gonna drive out to the poorest areas tomorrow. "
Because they had a busy Christmas day planned, they chose to give them out on a rainy Christmas Eve afternoon.
His words from his blog are:
"Christmas Eve was the best. My grandma sent some money this side so we went and bought out all the soccer balls from this store. We drove out and just gave them to little kids who looked like they needed some love on Christmas.(tannercleggsouthafrica.blogspot.com)"
Tanner told us about it on our Christmas Skype. It made all of us happy for those kids to get balls...a luxury they don't get very often. He has told us over and over about their poverty and their needs and how he just wants to give them the clothes off his back. In fact, he did do that about a month ago. He said there is a man known for always being the "naked drunk". Many have offered him clothes, but he is not interested. My son happened to luck out. Tanner took his nice new pajama pants from JCPenny, and the man accepted them, and has been seen wearing them.
He also teaches a young boy who reminds Tanner of his little brother Max who he baptized 2 years ago when he turned 8. So, Max decided to send some of his own shirts to the kid who's name is Austyn. My son would tell us how Austyn wears the same Mickey Mouse t-shirt each week to church. So, Max sent him some of his shirts from his closet. And it's fun to see Austyn in the shirts.
I love being a MM and watching my son grow. He's always had a generous heart and I knew when he left that he would probably come home with nothing. Mostly because he loses everything. So, it makes me happy to see him give it all away, instead of losing it all. I know all of our kids are learning these amazing life lessons and are doing great things! And President Hollands talk "Are We Not All Beggars" couldn't hit closer to home for all these young missionaries.
PLEASE NOTE: Before organizing a project similar to this, please consult with the Mission President and receive permission from the proper Priesthood Authority. In some areas of the world gift giving by the missionaries is not permit for various reason.