Our South African Journal

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunday we had the adult and general sessions of District Conference. The conference was held in a large auditorium at the Khaselihle Primary school in Madadeni. The night before a member in the Newcastle branch asked us to drive her and her sister to the conference. We told her to be here early. In the morning we got up  and got ready and then waited for the members to come by. And we waited and we waited. We did not have their phone number so finally we had to leave or we would be late. We had to pick up the Madadeni walking elders and people were calling and asking for directions to the school and we were just trying to get there ourselves. It was a scramble. But we made it on time (just barely).

This is the hall that was rented for the Newcastle District Conference
The adult meeting was good, the choir sang beautifully, we received important instruction from our leaders and were spiritually fed and refreshed. There was an hour break between meetings. Because people travel so far and with so much difficulty no one goes home between meetings. We knew we wouldn’t have time to run home so we packed a picnic lunch for ourselves. We should have known that some of the missionaries wouldn’t remember to pack themselves a lunch. Fortunately we had just packed a loaf of bread and jars of peanut butter and jam. I told the missionaries that I would share my lunch with them but probably didn’t bring enough to fill them up. One of the missionaries said. “This is why we love you Sister Hind.” I would like to be loved for my wit, my intelligence, my spirituality, or my beauty. But I will settle for being loved for my food.

Sister Taylor and friends having a picnic between sessions.
Some of the missionaries and men enjoying the beautiful day.

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. It was nice to be outside enjoying the sun and visiting with our brothers and sisters.

The afternoon session was packed. It was a good meeting. President Z gave a great talk on the temple. Then the sound system went crazy for a few minutes. It was making noise and then it wouldn’t work at all. Finally they got it going again. President Ellis asked the congregation, “Do you want me to talk to you straight or do you want me to sugar coat my talk”. The congregation asked for straight talk. He was blunt but kindly as he taught them things they need to know. There are customs here that are not in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some people don’t seem to have a problem leaving these things behind, but others struggle to give them up. These are things that hold people back both spiritually and temporally.

At the close of the meeting the District President gave the beautiful flower arrangements that were on the stand to Sister Ellis, Sister Zackrison, Sister Taylor and Sister Hind. The arrangements were huge. Sister Taylor took hers apart and handed out flowers to all the sisters. I just gave the whole thing to one sister. It made her really happy.

After the meeting the District Relief Society President had all the fathers stand up and the missionaries passed out gift bags to them. The bags contained a pair of socks and some candy. Later I told President Z that if the RS was making such cute things then this was obviously a fully functioning district and it was time to become a stake.

Elder Hind with the Father's Day gift the Relief Society gave him.
After church we came home to get ready for our dinner. We knew we wouldn’t have a lot of time after church so we kept the menu simple. We served chicken alfredo, orange and strawberry salad, roasted green beans, and toasted rolls left over from yesterday’s lunch. Sister Ellis had told us to just serve leftovers so we did. We were going to make rolls. On request from Elder Hind, Sister Taylor brought her now famous carrot cake for dessert. We had a lovely visit and then said, “Good bye and good night.” It has been a hectic few days for those of us in the Newcastle District. However Elder and Sister Ellis and President and Sister Zackrison have been on the road and traveling from one meeting to another for several days. They must be very tired and ready to go home.

The District Presidency and two of their wives

We got the go ahead to start looking for new boardings for the Madadeni Elders. We have an empty flat here in Newcastle one companionship can use. It will need some cleaning and organizing and we will need to find a boarding for the other companionship. Here we go again. Moving the elders.

We got to do a little sight seeing this week.  We went to the Art Museum and we took pictures of the town hall. There is not a lot of historic buildings and such here in Newcastle so we don’t get to do much of this kind of thing. I did buy a lovely beaded necklace at the museum shop. It is really nice. Beautiful bead work is part of the culture here.

Town Hall
Art Museum

Everything I have done this week has been overshadowed by my concern for my younger sister who is in the hospital and is critically ill. I think about her all day, every day. I hate being so far away when she is so sick.  I hate being out of the loop. Her family and my other sisters have been valiant in keeping me informed but it is not the same as being at the hospital and holding her hand. She is in all my prayers. Please get well, Vonnie.

Yvonne with a grandchild

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Driving in South Africa by Elder Hind

I have been driving for many years now and feel that I am pretty good driver.  Well I guess that could be a problem here in South Africa.  The many year thing. After 50 years of driving on the right side of the road it takes a while for your brain to get used to driving on the left.  I have done this left side of the road thing once before in England about 15 years ago.

Getting in on the "right" side

Trying to get in on the wrong side
Not only do you drive on the left side of the road but the steering wheel in on the right side of the car. That takes some getting used to also. The problem both Sister Hind and I have is we are always getting in the wrong side of the car. When I make this mistake I tell Sister Hind I was just being a gentlemen and opening the door for her. When she goes to the driver’s side to get in we both just laugh.  Sister Hind is my navigator, and controls the GPS.  I just don’t know what we would do without Naggy Maggie (the GPS not Sister Hind). She gets us to places we could never find on our own. In the townships you can’t find places by address you have to use coordinates and even that might not work. It is always an adventure when you try to find a house in the townships.

The steering wheel is in the wrong place!
Our sweet ride
At times I am grateful for the small 4 cylinder Nissan car we have.  Easy on gas and does great on the narrow roads.  There are times it would nice to have a truck or what they call a bakkie. Because we do things like moving missionaries, doing branch clean-up, and more importantly driving around on the dirt roads in the townships.
Elder Tibbitts in his bakkie. He is going home to Kaysville in about a week. He is a bit of a ham.

Missionary Bakkie, Elder Hind covets this
There are plenty of traffic police here in Newcastle.  I have been pulled over 3 times in 3 months. One time, for no reason I could think of, I was asked for my driver’s license. The police officer gave me a questionable look and said, “Where is Utah?”  So I said, “Western United States.” He said nothing and gave me back my license and I was on my way.

The second time I was pulled over for going 13K over the limit.  I think she saw my name badge (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and decided to let me go. That is what we call here in the mission a “tender mercy”.

The third time I was pulled over was so the officer could check all my lights and such. Passed Passed and Passed, I just had a hard time understanding his hand signals.  When he asked for my driver license I received the same look as I did from police officer number one.  He looked me in the eye and asked, “Where did you buy this license?”, and I said,” Walmart”.  I think he was joking so I was going ask him if he would like me to get him one.  No, No better not.

The only old American car we have seen here
One of the hardest parts about driving here is pedestrians on the road.  A lot of people here do not have vehicles so they walk or they take taxis or buses. There are not many sidewalks around town so they walk on the side of the roads and sometimes in the middle of the roads. When nightfall come its even scarier because people often wear dark clothes.  So you have to be alert and aware.

This is a Taxi

They are everywhere
Taxis are all over the place and they are always in a big hurry. It is the only form of mass transportation around here. They often drive over the speed limit, stop in the traffic lanes to pick up passengers, try to pass everyone on the road and are generally just very aggressive drivers. The taxis are not the familiar 4 door sedan we see back home but are small to large size mini vans. I guess they call them taxis because people on the side of the road hold up a finger or wave them down when they need a ride. They are always packed with people.  If the missionaries do not have their own vehicle this is what they use when it is too far to walk. They have buses here but I don't think they run regular routes like they do in the US.

Taxi drivers are aggressive drivers but are friendly people

They like to get their picture taken. I told this guy I was going to make him famous.

I can say the only time I might have a problem in driving is when I am distracted, like finding a destination, or when Sister Hind wants me to hold her hand. 

The End

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Whew!!! I am glad this week is over. It has been a crazy busy week. It has also been a wonderful week. But I am glad it is over and we can get back to normal. We had Zone Conference this week and also District Conference with all the usual meetings and trainings plus a couple of fireside meetings. And we were in charge of three different meals. Zone Conference lunch, Saturday leadership lunch, and Sunday dinner.

A member of the District Presidency asked us to go with him to visit his grandmother after church. He also took us to see three other gogos (grandmothers). We enjoyed visiting with these wonderful ladies in their humble homes. A couple of them asked for blessings. We said prayers with the others. Not all were members but all of them were sweet and welcoming. They are all in their eighties and don’t get out much anymore. I am going to have to bake them some bread or cakes. I don’t think the men live very long here. There are many widows but very few old men. I think it is a combination of smoking, drinking, fighting, and AIDS. In Zulu culture the women do most of the work. I think it helps them live longer.

We had our carpets professionally cleaned on Monday. The previous couple left us a note apologizing for not getting them cleaned before they left. They had just run out of time. The carpets didn’t bother me too much so I figured I would get them cleaned sometime down the road. And then we got word that we would be entertaining a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and his wife, the mission president and his wife, the district presidency and their wives and the other senior missionary couple in our home. So I got busy and planned a menu for dinner on Sunday the 21st and got my carpets cleaned.

Because there is lunch and some meetings planned at Madadeni Chapel on Saturday as part of the District Conference we wanted to make sure the chapel and grounds were looking nice. We went there on Tuesday and Wednesday to spiffy up the grounds and to make sure the chapel looked good. We had some members and some of the missionaries help us.

There was a Young Single Adult activity going on at the same time so we concentrated most of our work outside. At one point we popped in to watch some traditional Zulu dancing that was part of the program. We love to see anything that shows the culture of the people in this area.  It was so much fun. The dancers were young girls and they were so cute and talented. They spotted Elder Hind right away and kind of singled him out while they danced. That made every one laugh.

We celebrated Elder Hind’s birthday this week. We went out to eat at an Indian restaurant called “Food Garden.” They not only had Indian food but they had Chinese food. Elder Hind had a chicken and shrimp chow Mein.  It did not seem very Chinese to me but it was very good. I had “bunny chow” which is an iconic African/Indian dish. I had heard a lot about it so I had to give it a try. It is a half a loaf of bread set on its end and hollowed out. It is then filled with a chicken and potato curry. I ordered it mild but it was still a bit spicy for me. The menu said it came with sour milk. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be drinking that. But the sour milk came in a small dish and tasted like an herbed sour cream. It is a little thinner than sour cream but it tasted good with the hot curry.

Elder Hind's good but not so Chinese chow mein 

Bunny Chow   I could not eat all that bread
After dinner I had the nearby missionaries come by for cake and ice cream when they were done for the day.

Celebrating Elder Hind's birthday. Some elders can't resist hamming it up when a camera is pointed at them.

We had to order pizzas and make cupcakes for Zone Conference, shop for the food for the Saturday lunch with the Branch and District presidencies, Elder and Sister Ellis and President and Sister Zackrison. We also had to shop for the Sunday night dinner at our home.

Thursday was the beginning of all the activities for Zone Conference and District Conference. We made a green salad and then drove down to Ladysmith to have dinner with the Taylors, Ellis, and Zackrisons. It was nice to meet Elder and Sister Ellis, they are wonderful, kind and smart. They have 9 children and 30 grandchildren so they are our kind of people. It was a very nice evening. I have to admit I was a little nervous driving home at night. It is about an hour and a half drive but the road is good and we weren’t too tired so it was a good drive.

Zone Conference was Friday morning. Elder and Sister Ellis and President and Sister Zackrison all participated in teaching the missionaries. We had some good lessons. Sister Ellis told us that her family has matching t-shirts and a family cheer. F-A-I-T-H, F-A-I-T-H, F-A-I-T-H, faith, faith, faith!!! I think I need to think of a family cheer for my family. We served lunch to everyone after the meeting. We ordered 18 pizzas from a local pizza place. The missionaries love pizza. We had cupcakes, brownies and ice cream for dessert. As you can tell we made no effort to serve a nutritious meal, just things the missionaries like.

Elder Hind and I received mission pins because we had birthdays in the last 3 months.
This is not a good picture which is too bad because this is a really pretty pin.
Elder Hind is not in this Zone Conference picture because he is taking the picture.

Friday evening we had a fireside out in Osizweni. When we got to the “Chapel” which is a room in a school there were no working light bulbs in the room. So we had to move everything to a room that had about 4 out of eight bulbs working. Ahhh….life in the townships. They had some people share their conversion stories. One lady said she was looking for a church to join and came to our church a few times. She didn’t like it because it was just too quiet. (No hand clapping and movement). But she realized that it was in our church that she felt the spirit of the Lord. These Saints may not clap hands and dance but they can sing out. It is a thrill to be in their meetings and hear them sing.

Ready for the Saturday lunch
Sister Taylor and I waiting to serve lunch. This week I sometimes wondered am I a missionary or a caterer?
On Saturday we got up early to prepare the lunch food. Then we went to Madadeni chapel to set up it up for the local and visiting leadership lunch. Everything went well. So two meals down, one to go. We had Priesthood and Auxiliary training meetings following lunch. And then we had a fireside that evening. It has been a good day. There is a lot of teaching going on but it is all needed. They don’t have the communication resources that we have in the States so everything is taught in person.

 Tomorrow is District Conference and another busy day. It is good to be busy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Say hello to Nephi
We have been asked to speak in other branches these past two weeks so it has been awhile since we were in our home branch Madadeni 1. When we went to church Sunday everyone asked where we had been and they told us we were missed. It is nice to be missed.

 I worked with the YW today trying to help them understand “Personal Progress” and getting them motivated to work on it. I have been working on it myself. I enjoy the time I spend on it. I warned our Family Home Evening group that they will be subjected to my Personal Progress efforts.

Madadeni Young Women
There was a child baptized this Sunday. It made us think of our grandchildren that are being baptized this year. There are five of them. We got to see one of them baptized before we left but we will miss the other four baptisms. We love our eight year olds and are so proud of them.

We went for a walk on Monday morning and decided to take a little different route. Elder Hind was just a little ahead of me as we were passing a primary school. All of a sudden two little girls came running up to him and threw their arms around him. My first thought was “Those are some really friendly kids.” Then a couple of seconds later I realized we knew them. We visit them often. They are from the family that did that nice braai for us a couple of weeks ago. I never realized they went to school so close to us because they live about 25 minutes from here. They were so excited to see us and they are so cute. We were happy to run into them. That put our day off to a good start.

The rest of the day was just one of those days that we spend trying to solve problems for the missionaries, or the young people in the branches that are trying to get out on missions. We were making phone calls, emailing and scanning all morning.  We had Family Home Evening that night. Elder Hind gave a lesson on building on the rock of faith. I made caramel dip for apples. That was a new treat to some of the people but they loved it.

The newest missionary from Madadeni 1, heading to Johannesburg this week
Tuesday was baking day. I love to have something to give people when we visit. I know it is not necessary but I just enjoy doing it. So I baked Lion House whole wheat bread and some apple cinnamon bread. (I needed to use some apples left over from FHE). We went out to Osizweni to pick up the walking elders and I brought a loaf to give to a sister out there.

Lion House Whole Wheat bread and Apple quick bread
We had Zone Training Meeting this week. There were new elders to meet from the southern part of our zone. (Dundee, Ezakheni, and Ladysmith) The Zone Leaders are hard workers and good teachers. We are grateful for their instruction and help. We served the missionaries lunch after it was over. Then Elder Hind had to take off to a Branch Presidency meeting.

The Newcastle Zone - Aren't they a handsome bunch? I sure love them all,
especially the old, gray haired one.

That evening we got a call from the four Madadeni missionaries. Their whole complex was without power. It was not load shedding, it was a problem in the complex. They told us they were freezing and hungry. What could we say?  Well we could have said, “Eat some bread and go to bed in your coats”. Some missionaries have experiences like that but we felt bad for them. These are walking elders. They spend all day out walking. They come home cold, hungry and tired. They should be able to eat a hot meal and crawl into a warm bed at the end the day. We called the Zone Leaders and told them we were bringing the Madadeni District into Newcastle. Elder Hind bought them all McDonald’s meals and dropped them off at the Newcastle elders boarding. Slumber party!!

 The next morning we told them to come to our house for breakfast so the Newcastle elders wouldn’t have to feed them. (We are only two doors down from them). I made a huge batch of pancake batter and then worried that I had made too much. Ha! You would think I had learned by now there is no such thing as “too much” when it comes to missionaries and food.

Elder Hind took the Madadeni elders out to their area in the morning and they still did not have electricity or water.  He called the office and told them his concerns. That evening we were asked to go out and pick the elders up and bring them into Newcastle again. They did get the water turned on sometime during the day but still no electricity. We are getting a little sick of this apartment complex. Well, as frustrating as it is for us it has got to be worse for the elders that live there. It is too bad because the actual apartments are good, they have security and it is right in the area where they work.
After two nights the electricity was restored and they were able to stay at their own boarding. However neither companionship has hot water available yet.

The Taylors (senior couple in Ladysmith) invited us to a training and lunch they were putting on in Madadeni for the Seminary and Institute teachers. We are never one to turn down a free lunch so we went and had a great time. We watched a talk given by Elder Holland to the Seminary and Institute teachers in the church. I could listen to that guy all day! What an inspiring teacher he is!

The elders can never resist striking a goofy pose when we are taking pictures

The Taylors worked hard to make this a nice event
This is the combination Relief Society/ kitchen/ sacrament prep room
That evening we visited with some members in their home, gave some blessings and had a nice time. Visiting with members and investigators is our favorite thing to do.