Our South African Journal

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We went to church on Sunday and it was so nice, because the Madadeni elders have their bakkie back they were able to get themselves to church. Always before Elder Hind would drop me at church and then go pick them up. It is nice not to worry about that anymore. When we got home that afternoon we were taking a nap when the Newcastle elders dropped by. Don’t they know that Sunday afternoons are for naps?

Elder Hind had to go to a meeting with the Branch President on Tuesday. They decided to do some visiting. They visited an old man that can't get out any more. This man is a former professional soccer player. He has had an interesting life. He has been a member for along time since before apartheid ended. This man had two old cars in his yard. One was an old Jaguar (1964) and an old BMW from the 60s. He told Elder Hind that the Jaguar still runs. Those of you that know Elder Hind know that he wanted to buy that car right then and there. Won't happen.

I stayed home to work on lessons and some other things. A young man came to our door and asked for money. This young man used to wash the former senior couples car and Elder Hind has paid him to wash our car a couple of times. I am usually a pretty soft touch for people wanting money but I didn’t want this kid to think if he came around when Elder Hind is not home that I would give him money. I asked him to come back when Elder Hind was home. He was very persistent and got a little angry because I wouldn’t give him anything. I finally had to shut and lock the door. It left me feeling a little uneasy. I called the Newcastle elders and asked them if they would like me to feed them lunch. They were just heading to their boarding so they were happy to come to my house instead. I called Elder Hind and he headed home also. From now on I will lock the gate when I am home alone.

We moved the Madadeni elders into their new flats this week. They did most of the work themselves using both of the bakkies. Elder Hind went with them for some of the work and I went over to supervise the hanging of the curtains. These elders went from tiny little apartments to great big spacious apartments. They are happy. I warned them that big apartments are more work to keep clean. Some of them don’t clean so it probably does not matter if the apartment is large or small. But they are enjoying having hot showers again.

We had Zone Training Meeting this week. The Zone Leaders introduced new Standards of Excellence for the elders. There is going to be more focus on families and on getting people to the temple. We made lunch for the 16 elders in our zone.

Those brownie looking things on the pan are Pioneer Woman's Texas Sheet Cake.
They turned out darker and more chocolaty because of the cocoa I use here.
They were still really good.

On Thursday we went out to Osizweni with the elders. They drove us around and we taught the lesson. The branch president asked us to help some members prepare for the temple. So we showed a video and went over some material from the Sunday School temple prep class. The president gave us a list of names to visit.  It was great. We did the same thing on Friday with the other Osizweni elders. What fun and wonderful days! 
This is an Osizweni kitten. He is named after an elder that recently went home.
His name is Tibbitts. 
While we were driving around Osizweni we saw a group of men tossing a huge piece of meat in the air with a tarp. I asked the elders what was going on. They told me it was part of ancestor worship. They were offering the animal to their ancestors. It was a giant piece of meat so it must have been a cow.

After a dry spell that lasted a couple of months we finally got rain this week. It really thundered and and the rain poured down. It kept us awake on Thursday night. It brought some cold temperatures with it but it also cleaned the air and dampened down the dust.

After teaching on Friday everyone came to our house for a 24th of July braai. It was late because the elders don’t take dinner breaks, they eat dinner at the end of the day. But we fired up our grill and had a good meal.
Our pioneer celebration
We went out to teach a family on Saturday night and when we got there the house was dark because the power was out. (load shedding) We started the lesson and eventually the lights came on so we were able to finish up with light.  I am so grateful for our tablets. They not only have all the church publications on them but they have light. So many times the homes we visit are very dimly lit or there is load shedding going on. We can always read because we have our tablets. Best investment we have made.

Family Home Evening by candlelight. That is Elder Welling doing the spooky face.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We went to two Sacrament Meetings on Sunday. Our own and then to Madadeni 2 because they were getting a new branch president. After church Elder Hind took me home because I really needed a nap after not sleeping well the night before. He drove back out to Madadeni to go visiting with the elders.

Boyd K. Packer
We dedicated our Family Home Evening to President Packer who passed away last week. We watched the video, “Spiritual Crocodiles” that is based on a talk he gave back in the 70s. Then we played Jenga. I had numbers on some of the blocks that corresponded with parts of a talk given by Elder Packer. So if they removed that block they had to read a section of his talk. Everyone really liked it and had fun. I made fry bread for refreshments. The elder from New Mexico especially appreciated that.

Some of our Family Home Evening YSAs

We had our DDM in our home this week so I could make lunch for the elders in the Madadeni District. After we had our meeting I was just serving lunch when the Newcastle District elders all showed up. Some were polite enough to leave after taking care of what ever made them come by. But some were bold enough to stay and eat even if they were not invited.


We finally, after 3 months, got the bakkie back. I can’t believe how long the repairs took. However it does look great. This will change our mission. Having another car in our area will save some wear and tear on our car and lower our gasoline expenditures. Gas costs around $5 a gallon here. Elder Hind drove the bakkie out to pick up the Madadeni elders. They were not expecting it. They were like little kids at Christmas. Elder Hind made the driving elder drive around so he could see how good he is. He passed the test. Now they can move into the Newcastle flats.
Some very happy young men
A couple of weeks ago when we were out in Osisweni I notice some signs with a hand painted picture of a chicken on them. These were usually hanging on the gate or fence of the house. I asked the elders what the sign said and they told me it said “We sell chickens”. I told the elders that I wanted one. They are just such great examples of the local folk art. One of the elders told me that I could probably have one made for me. I told him I didn’t want a new one made for me. I wanted one that was actually used to sell chickens and that had hung on a fence in the weather and was a little beat up. Well guess what, they bought one for me! A member had one and they weren’t selling chickens anymore. I am going to hang it on the wall here and then it is going to hang on the wall of my kitchen when I get home. I am so excited.

I love this!
On the same day I got the chicken sign I bought a big tea pot I saw in a shop down town. We were picking up a little more fabric for the crazy quilts and I spotted this big yellow enamel wear tea pot in a shop window. I told Elder Hind that it would make a great hot chocolate pot when we go camping. So we bought it. Now that I have it I am not sure I can bring myself to take it camping. It may just have a life of leisure sitting on my kitchen counter, brightening up my day and reminding me of Africa.

The Osisweni Branch is planning a temple trip in August. The temple is a 4 hour drive from here. The branches here hire a van to drive them to the temple. We want to go but the mission president will be in town that day and we have meetings. Anyway we have been asked by the Osisweni Branch President to visit everyone that has signed up to go and give them a temple preparation lesson and answer their questions. Most of them are not going for the first time but they don’t go often so they need all the training and preparation we can give them. The elders will take us around in the township because we wouldn’t be able to find these people on our own.

I had a Young Women's activity on Saturday. We are still working on our crazy quilts. They are coming along nicely.

The crazy quilts are getting crazier!
I think mine is done.

 On Saturday night we went out to visit one of our favorite families.We had a nice Family Home Evening. We had a lesson and played a game and then they served us Rooibos and cake. One of the little girls painted a picture for me.

The little girl in the pink is the one that painted the picture for me

Monday, July 13, 2015

A couple of Sundays ago we went out to visit some Gogos (grandmothers) in Madadeni with a member. One was the member's actual grandmother who raised him.  She told us she loves cake. So this Sunday we went to her home and brought her a cake. It was a good excuse to visit her. She was happy. We were happy too.

This lady will turn 90 this year
With her great granddaughter
This is transfer week again. We can’t believe how fast the time goes. In addition to Elder Tibbitts, who already left for home, we are losing Elder Martin, Elder Olouch, and Elder Mogomotsi. Transfers are hard because we get attached to these guys and then they leave us. It also makes us aware of how quickly our time on this mission is going by.

For Family Home Evening this week we had all the departing elders bear their testimonies. We are amazed at the strength of their testimonies, and depth of their gospel knowledge. They will be missed.

Elder Mogomotsi, Elder Olouch, and Elder Martin
On Tuesday we went to the bus stop in Newcastle (which happens to be the Shell gas station) to drop off Elder Martin and Olouch and to pick up Elder Jase and Mvinqi. 
The elders saying goodbye to each other.

We are with Elder Ochaya and Elder Olouch. 

Group picture with new missionaries. They are the ones with hands in the air.

You can't see it but this bus pulls a trailer that holds the luggage.
We spent some time this week working on getting the electricity turned on in the Phoenix Flat. Everything we do is twice as hard as it should be because we don’t know what we are doing and we don’t know how things work here. We are getting better and more patient than we used to be. We will be moving some of the Madadeni elders into that flat in a week or two. We have another flat that the church has leased that is standing empty right now. We need to get that one cleaned and ready to go. 
We also spent some time looking for some fabric and sewing supplies. I have some here in this boarding but I need a little more. I have decided to do crazy quilt samplers for the Young Women Faith value. These girls do not have a lot of resources so I had to rack my brain to come up with something they can do. A simple hand sown quilt sampler should work. I called them crazy quilts because I am pretty sure they are going to be crazy.

We also went and bought a couple of bikes for the Osizweni walking elders. They are pretty nice but we will see how they hold up being thrown in the back of the bakkie every day and be driven on the dirt roads of the township.  

On Friday we drove down to Ladysmith to pick up some mail and some supplies. The Taylors have been to Durban this week so they picked up the missionary's mail and some supplies we needed. We also brought a mission call for a young women in Madadeni 2. This transfer we got a mini missionary. This is a young man waiting for a mission call who came up here to Newcastle to work with the elders for one transfer. (six weeks) The Taylors sent some things that he needed with us. He is from their area so he is not far from home right now.

Elder Hind enjoying the not so beautiful scenery

The dry winter landscape around Ladysmith

Looking down into the town of Ladysmith
Among the things we picked up were some chocolate chips, cocoa, and real brown sugar. Yay!  When traveling through Durban Elder and Sister Taylor stopped at a store called Bake-A-Ton which carries bulk baking supplies. These things are hard to find in Newcastle and expensive so the Taylors were kind enough to bring some to us. Can’t wait to make some real chocolate chip cookies.

On Saturday we drove out to Madadeni for my Young Women activity. We had a good turn out and the girls seem to enjoy working on this project. One of the possible Faith projects suggested was to create something that expresses their faith. They will be able to hang these quilt samplers on their walls at home and have them as a reminder to strengthen their faith. They also are learning fabric, needlework and scissor skills. We are going to meet again next week and continue to work on them.

Yep, I was right, they are going to be crazy.

After the YW activity we delivered a mission call letter to a very excited young woman. She has been called to Zimbabwe.

On Saturday afternoon I baked chocolate chip cookies. They are the best cookies I have made since coming here. I don’t have my Mormon Cookbook here so I had to find a cookie recipe on Pinterest.  I gave some to the missionaries and then took some to a family we visited in the evening.

a street in Madadeni

Thursday, July 9, 2015

We attended two Sacrament Meetings, Madadeni 1 and Madadeni 2 this Sunday. Madadeni 2 had some visitors from the Area Office that were participating in a meeting with the Madadeni 2 leadership after church. That meant that I got to sit and wait for Elder Hind while he was in his meeting. I think I had to wait about 3 hours or so. It was made bearable by the fact that one of the wives of the men in the meeting was stuck waiting with me. So we had a good chat. She is a missionary in the Area Office in Johannesburg so we traded mission stories and family stories.
It was also made bearable by the fact that the Madadeni 1 Branch Relief Society was serving treats to the fathers in the ward (a belated offering because we had District Conference on Father’s Day). Anyway they served us some of the treats so we didn’t starve to death waiting. I was glad to get home and take a nice Sunday nap.

We had FHE on Monday and used the opportunity to let Elder Tibbitts bear his testimony to the FHE group and to the other missionaries. He will be leaving to go home on Friday. He has been a great missionary and just an all around nice kid. The other missionaries love him and we do too.

Trying to get a picture with Elder Tibbitts. Try number one.
 Try number two.
Don't you get the feeling someone is not getting enough attention?

Elder Hind had meetings one day so I stayed home and baked and cleaned and worked on my Young Women’s lessons. I like baking the quick breads because they are easy and they can be frozen. Then I always have an offering when I go visit. I tried a lemon bread this time. It is so good. I will try it with cranberries or blueberries some time. Any way you can find the recipe on my Breads board on Pinterest if you want to make it.

We had boarding and cars check this week. I only found one refrigerator with bugs in it. I didn't pass out treats this time. After all they should be able to do some things without being bribed.

Checking Elder Martin's refrigerator
We had one of the most amazing days of our mission on Thursday. We went out with the Osizweni missionaries for the entire day. We visited with returning less active members, new members and some stalwart members. We packed our lunch and ate it in the elder’s bakkie which was parked under a big tree in a member’s yard. It was fun and interesting and inspiring. We came home dusty and tired but happy. We wish we could do it every day however we are not 19 years olds so we would give out pretty quickly. But we want to do it more often.

Many women use blankets to tie their babies to their backs

Taking a break for lunch
The Madadeni and Newcastle districts were going to an all you can eat pizza place for dinner and asked us if we would like to come along. We had a good time watching the elders stuff themselves with pizza. I think Elder Welling was the winner of the eating contest.

Happiness is all you can eat pizza

We checked Facebook when we got home and noticed that there was a private message waiting for us. We have been worrying about my sister all week and her family has been trying to keep us informed. The message said that Yvonne was going to have exploratory surgery. I did not like the sound of that. A few minutes later we got a call from another sister telling us that they were calling the family together because they didn’t think Yvonne was going to live much longer. A short time later we got a call from our daughter telling us that Yvonne had died. After that we just sat there for a long time and cried. Finally we went to bed but neither of us could sleep that night.

In the morning we spent some time with the elders as they prepared to send Elder Tibbitts home. I didn’t tell them I had just lost my sister. I didn’t want to put a damper on their activities. And frankly I don’t think they would know how to act if I told them. They are 19 years old boys, their life experiences and their social graces are still somewhat limited. I did not want to submit myself to their awkward condolences.  Elder Hind has been my angel. He has held me in his arms and cried with me and prayed with me. He has cleaned house and made me lunch and dinner. I so grateful for him. The next few day are going to be tough.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


This week I lost my beloved younger sister. I am devastated. I still can’t believe she is gone. I think that because I am so far away it has made acceptance difficult. Losing a sister is no small thing. You share your DNA, your parents, your childhood, your memories, your clothes, your bedroom, your friends, all the ups and downs of your life. When you get married, she gets married. When you have babies, she has babies. When you cry, she cries. When you laugh, she laughs. When you grow older, she grows older. When you have grandbabies, she has grandbabies. When you lose your parents, she loses her parents. Then suddenly she is gone and so a part of what you are is gone.

Yvonne and most of her siblings
I feel frustrated that I am so far away at this time. I knew there was a possibility I could lose a loved one while I was on my mission but I thought it was only a very slight possibility. I can go home and then come back if I want to, but the plane ride is expensive and exhausting, I don’t feel I can do it. Besides Yvonne is not at home anymore.

Yvonne loved her family. She adored her husband and her children and her grandchildren. They were the center of her world. She loved her extended family too. She loved to get together with her sisters and brothers and she loved her nieces and nephews. Her home was a second home to some of them. In the last few months she spent some of her time visiting and supporting a disabled sister.

Yvonne loved reading, and crafts, needle work and music. She loved the out of doors. She loved to wear jewelry. Whenever I picture her in my mind, she is wearing earrings. She loved animals. Oh my, how she loved animals. She loved cats, she thought they were wonderful creatures. She loved dogs, to her they were just furry people.

Yvonne and Richard were almost as excited about our mission as we were. I know they were our faithful followers on this blog. When I talked to Yvonne’s daughter on the phone yesterday she told me that Yvonne always wanted to see Africa. I don’t know exactly how heaven works but I just know that if Yvonne still wants to see Africa she can see Africa. She isn’t that far away.

When Jesus told his disciples “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” that is simply the truth. Because I believe that Jesus is the “is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.” Mosiah 16:9
I am comforted just as Jesus promised.  I miss her and I grieve for her. I wanted to continue to grow old with her; I wanted her to continue to be there for her family. But I know I will see her again someday. I know that the vital part of who she is lives on.

I don’t know what they wear in Heaven but whatever it is, Yvonne’s will be lavender.