Our South African Journal

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Spring has come to the Highveld. We haven’t used our heater for a week or more. The grass is beginning to turn green and the flowers are blooming. We are looking forward to enjoying a new season here in South Africa.

Elder Menze completed his mission and went home last week. Our mini missionary also went home last week and will be leaving on his real mission in a couple of weeks. Monday we said good bye to Elder Ochaya. He has been in this zone for almost six months and is ready for a change. He is a great missionary, we will miss him.
Saying good bye to Elder Ochaya

Elder Benisson squeezing in, trying to get his share of the attention

On Tuesday we were assigned to help with transfers by driving Elder Ghartey to the mission office in Durban where he will be picked up by his new companion and then we will pick up another elder at the mission home and drop him off in Ladysmith. We were excited about this assignment because we haven’t been to Durban since we flew in to start our mission.

We began our adventure about 8am. It is about a 4 hour drive. We remember very little about the drive out of Durban 5 months ago so everything was new to us. We realized how high we really are as the road to Durban was almost completely downhill the whole way. It wasn’t long before our ears were popping. The weather got warmer and the hillsides greener. The last part of the drive is very beautiful.

When we got to the mission office we ran into Elder Holman who was loading things into his car. We were happy to see him. When a missionary leaves you never know if your paths will ever cross again. We were able to talk with him for a minute and give him a hug.

Elder Ghartey’s new companion was soon there to pick him up so we took them to the mall to buy them lunch and sent him on his way. Sniff!!

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Actually Elder Ghartey looks pretty happy.
We decided we could not come to Durban without seeing the Indian Ocean so we drove down to the beach and looked at the waves rolling in. We walked around a bit and ate lunch at a restaurant right on the beach. Seafood of course.
Our first view of the Indian Ocean
One of the many fancy seaside hotels

View from our table

It was hard to leave the beach but finally we drove to the Mission Home to retrieve Elder Chapo. Elder Clayton, a missionary that was in our zone when we first got here, came running out of the mission home and gave us a hug. It was good to see him and it is nice to know we are remembered with fondness.  A group of 16 greenies had just flown in from the Johannesburg MTC and were at the Mission Home receiving some orientation. They were fun to visit with. Elder Hind shot a few baskets with them. Then we grabbed Elder Chapo (he is not a greenie) and headed home.

We stopped in Ladysmith to drop our elder off and Sister Taylor invited us to stay and have dinner with them and the elders that had come to get Elder Chapo. We were introduced to Elder Bonner who is black and who we assumed was African until he spoke to us. When American English came out of his mouth we asked him where he is from. It seems he is from Utah valley. That showed us.

We were so exhausted by this time we were dreading the hour and fifteen minutes left in our drive home. Thankfully the Taylors offered us a bed for the night. We had nothing with us, not even a toothbrush, but we didn’t care. We fell into bed and slept soundly. The next morning we were ready to hit the road again and we were soon back home.

We had six students at our Eternal Marriage class this week. That is a really good number. We are so impressed with these young people. They are very anxious to learn more about the gospel and to live righteous lives. We had a great time in our class. We printed off some of the discussion points on colored cardstock and put them on the board. We noticed that several of the students took pictures of our display with their cell phones. What we think of as the usual they often see as extraordinary.

 By the way, nearly EVERYONE has cell phones, even poor people. They have plans where you can buy airtime a little at a time. You can buy air time at the grocery stores or the bank so you can buy what you have money for. Sometimes members will text us to call them because if we call them it doesn’t use their air time. It is not unusual for someone to call us and then run out of airtime while they are speaking to us. I guess there are no landlines in the townships or they are too expensive. If you don’t have a cell phone there are places where you can pay to use a cell phone.

We had been hoping to go on a temple trip with the Osizweni Branch on Saturday. We decided to check our temple recommends and discovered that I don’t have mine. Elder Hind usually carries my recommend but I think I must have left it in my temple bag on my last trip to the temple. Anyway it was a scramble to get one but fortunately missionaries only need one signature. We also needed permission to leave our mission (Johannesburg is not in our mission) from the Mission President and he needed to inform the Area Office that we would be out of mission.   Anyway we got everything taken care of including assurance from Renae in the Patrons Housing Office that she would provide us with a blanket so we could sleep on the temple lawn if she couldn’t get us a room. She and Elder Hind were kidding of course.

The Osizweni members all rode down together in a hired taxi (large van) Saturday morning and went back that same afternoon. We, however, are not so intrepid, so we drove down Friday and stayed in a tiny but nice room in the Temple Patrons Housing.


Johannesburg is a massive, sprawling and dangerous city about 3 ½ hours North of Newcastle. We were a little apprehensive about finding our way around there but Naggy Maggie (GPS) did not lead us astray.

Some of Johannesburg
When we got to the temple grounds we decided to visit Elder and Sister Clayton who are in the Area Offices on the grounds. Elder Hind had some more information for him on the branch audits he is helping with. They invited us to dinner as several of the senior couples in their apartment complex were having a potluck together.  There are 22 senior couples in their complex. About 12 couples were at the dinner with us. We had a wonderful time. We sat with a couple who were on their third mission so you can imagine our surprise when she told us she was afraid of an MLS mission. But we told her that as far as missionary work goes we don’t do anything much different than we did at home. We bear testimony, we speak in Sacrament Meeting, we teach lessons from the church manuals and materials, we visit with people in their homes, we support branch activities and members and we pass out Book of Mormons and pass a long cards which are always graciously received.

Playing a game after dinner
On Saturday morning we joined the Osizweni Branch in the temple. It was wonderful. They asked us to be the witness couple. I was a little hesitant because of my bad knee but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity. It went well and I was able to get up and down just fine.

Sister Taylor with the Osizweni Family History Consultant. She is fourteen.
The Taylors came up with some members of the Ezakheni Branch

We headed home after lunch and had an uneventful drive home. We were glad to sleep in our own bed that night. Wow, two road trips in one week. Next week is going to be boring!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It is always a race to get ready for church each Sunday. We have to be out of the house by 7:30 because we are 20 mins away from church and Elder Hind needs to be to the branch in time for meetings at 8:00am. Our branch starts at nine. We MUST eat some kind of breakfast because we never know when we will be able to eat again. We often have meetings and home visits after church so lunch can end up being more like dinner.

On this Sunday we had to get up even earlier because there are four of us to shower and get ready for the day. Elder and Sister Clayton spent the night in our spare bedroom. I got my shower in about 5:30am. Normally when I have company overnight I like to make something special for breakfast. Today everyone just had to settle for cereal and toast. I put a pot roast in the slow cooker. We found this nice rump roast at a butchery near our home so we bought it and put it in the freezer for a special occasion. The Clayton’s visit qualifies as a special occasion.

President Zackrison spoke in our Sacrament Meeting, along with Elder Ngulube one of our Madadeni missionaries. He is from Uganda. Elder Ngulube’s name means “little pig” so he starts his talk out with a folk tale about why pigs are dirty and will eat anything. That makes everyone laugh. He then ties that story into a gospel principal and quotes scriptures and references entirely from memory. President Z was amazed. Elder Ngulube just finished training and so he is still new but I think I see an apostle in the making.

During Sacrament Meeting Elder Clayton and Elder Hind met with the two branch presidents to teach them about branch finances and budgets. President Zackrison had interviews all day. We tried to get him and Sister Z to come to our house to eat but as soon as he was through with interviews he had to drive about 200 miles to another city to straighten out a problem there and then drive back to Newcastle tomorrow. He did ask us to feed the APs so we were happy to do that.

When we got home from church we put dinner together and had a nice visit over pot roast and mashed potatoes. Then the Claytons indicated that they love to play games. We brought out our Jenga game and had a couple of rounds of that. Then the Claytons brought out their Rumicube game. I think they came looking for victims and Elder Hind and I were lambs to the slaughter. We had fun anyway.

On Monday morning we hit the road early to join some other senior couples for a hike in the Drakensberg Mountains and lunch at the Witsieshoek Lodge. We haven’t seen most of these people since the couple’s retreat at the end of March. We met Elder and Sister Taylor in Ladysmith and then drove with them to Phuthaditijhaba, about two hours from Ladysmith. There we met up with Elder and Sister Woolston, (we flew over with them), Elder and Sister  Huls, and Elder and Sister Bird.
As we drove there it became apparent that we might not be able to do the hike we wanted. The weather was cold, cloudy and windy. The hike begins at a point that is 8200 ft above sea level. So we knew it was going to be cold but the wind and the possibility of rain was a concern.As we drove over a pass on the way to Phuthaditijahba the clouds were so low and dense the visibility was not good. When we met up with the other couples we followed them up the mountain.

I couldn't resist buying this wall hanging and having my picture taken with the artist who created it.

The artist's name is Merriam. Here are some more of her rugs and wall hangings.

We stopped at a couple of places to enjoy the view and talk with the people selling things on the roadside. When we got to the lodge we walked around and enjoyed the various viewpoints. However it was decided that the day was not good for this kind of hike. Most of the time the weather is nice here so it was bad luck to have a day like this come up when we wanted to hike.
Sentinel Peak on a clear day.

Sentinel Peak on the day we were there.
These chain ladders are part of the hike we were going to take. When I say "we" I really
mean Elder Hind. There is no way I would climb those ladders.

Some of our fellow senior missionaries

We are told that in the summer this all looks like a green carpet. We will have to come back.
We looked at the rooms they have there at the lodge in case we want to do an over nighter there sometime. We had a good lunch and some fun conversation. I get hungry for good conversation with someone above the age of 19. We love our missionaries but they are kids. We enjoy our visits with the members here but they don’t always understand us and we don’t always understand them. Anyway we had fun just talking. Elder Hind was very disappointed about not hiking so we will probably come back another time.

I am standing in front of some of the rooms in the lodge.
A shallow cave on the side of the road
These kids were selling bottles of colored sand and pretty rocks
We didn't buy anything but we gave them our snacks and some money

On Tuesday we finally had our delayed training from President Z. He also was able to finish up the interviews with the missionaries. We were in charge of lunch so we went to Nandos and bought everyone, chicken and chips.

On Wednesday we taught our first Preparing for Eternal Marriage Institute class. We only had two students but we hope to have more next week. We had a good time teaching the class because the small numbers made for a fun and informal atmosphere.

Saturday we went to help give the chapel a good cleaning.

Elder Ghartey photo bombing a picture of Elder Hind vacuuming

Young Women cleaning the chapel windows

The elders cleaning the classroom windows

A gogo scrubbing the trash cans

Elder Hind picking up trash

There are no pictures of Sister Hind working but she cleaned the kitchen. After she had one of the young men sweep the dead cockroaches out of the cupboards.

Saturday evening all the missionaries came to our house for a BBQ and transfer news. There was some interesting stuff. We lost 4 elders and are only getting two back because they decided to take out a companionship. Now Osizweni will only have two elders working there instead of 4. We are losing Elder Menze, Elder Ghartey, Elder Ochaya and our mini missionary. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

We had to scrape frost off our windshield on Sunday morning. We have had to do that several times this winter.  Kind of reminded us of home. Only we usually did not have to do that in August.  We went to the YSA Sunday School class today in order to drum up business for our Institute class, 
“Preparing for Eternal Marriage”. A lot of people signed up but whether they will actually come is a big question. They are all so busy with school and jobs. Time will tell.

We were sad to hear that a member in our branch had passed away. We drove her home from church just last week. She was an elderly lady and she died in her sleep during the week. She is a pioneer church member, and beloved in the community. She will be missed.

On Monday we met with some people from the Area office in Johannesburg that are in charge of construction of the church buildings. They want to build a chapel in Osizweni. The branch out there currently meets in a school on Sundays. The chapel they will build is called a Speed Space because it is made up of portable buildings. It is quick to put up and relatively inexpensive. The area people want us to be involved because they need someone local to help with the project. It is going to be an interesting experience because the people from the Area Office have been trying to call and email the Osizweni municipality for weeks to talk about electricity and water hook ups and no one answers the phone or responds to the emails. We went out there with them and met with the principal of the school the church is leasing the land from. The principal gave us the name and number of a council member that can help us. The Area Office has been trying to reach her and can’t get a hold of her. I have a feeling this is not going to be a fun project.

Elder Hind with some Osizweni school children

The practice here is to have memorials or “mournings”, every day after someone dies, until the funeral. These usually consist of visits to the family by small groups of people or a large more formal gathering at the church or mortuary. One night we went to the house of the sister in law of the woman from our branch who had passed away. There were about 15 of us from the branch including a couple of the young missionaries. These “mournings” consist of condolences, prayers, songs and testimonies or sometimes periods of complete silence. It was really a sweet experience. Of course our favorite part was the singing. And “Nearer, My God to Thee” sung in Zulu was the highlight.

I have been trying my hand at some Indian food. I really like it and I want to get good at making a couple of different dishes. The problem is they use so many different spices in just one dish. So when I decided I wanted to make “Butter Chicken” I found a spice mix for it. That way I didn’t have to buy a half a dozen different spices. Good idea, right?? Wrong!!! I forgot to take into account that Indian curry can be very hot. So when I made up this recipe I found it way too hot. Even Elder Hind who can tolerate spicy foods better than me, found his nose and eyes running about half way through his bowl of curry. The next day I had some missionaries come by and I offered to feed them my left over curry. I warned them it was spicy.  Two said it was just right, one ate it and suffered because he was either too polite or too hungry to pass it up, and one couldn’t eat it at all. Oh, well! Back to the drawing board.

Missionaries eating my too hot curry. Notice the pitcher of water.

We had to run our mini missionary (a young man serving temporarily until his official mission) to his nearby home town so that he can get his temple recommend from his branch president so it can be signed by President Z while he is town this week end. Any way, we have never been to Ezakheni, the Taylors usually look after things there. So we were happy to go and have a look around. Ezakheni is a township just outside Ladysmith. It is about 120ks from Newcastle. We think the chapel there is the best one in the district. Of course we haven’t seen the Dundee chapel yet so we could be wrong.

Ezakheni Chapel and Flowers in the garden there.
The Ezakheni threesome with our mini missionary. He is the one in the jacket.

We didn't actually eat here so we can't say if the food was first class or not.

The residents of Ezakheni were not happy when they found out the taxi (mini bus) drivers wanted to
raise their rates for a ride from Ezakheni to Ladysmith so they filled the streets of the town
with large rocks and boulders. They were cleared away by the time we got there.

We met with a brother in Madadeni who is helping the family of the woman that passed away. This sister had left specific instructions that she have a strict Mormon funeral  Sometimes non member families will change things to suit them. Fortunately this woman has a lot of members in her family so there is no resistance to her wishes.  He just wanted to make sure that they were in line with the handbook. It sounded like everything is good to go. There will still be a giant feast after the funeral because that is a tradition here and the family pays for the food. It does not come out of the branch budget. I was invited to go with some of the Relief Society to wash and dress the body. That is also a tradition. They all sang hymns as they lovingly served this good sister one last time. They were so anxious that the funeral home attendants not see her in her temple robes that they even insisted on lifting the body into the casket themselves. I explained that it was ok to let the attendants help but they wanted to do it themselves. There is more than one viewing and they are all done before she is dressed in her robes. When they were finished they sealed the coffin and no one views the body again.

We went to another memorial on Friday evening. There were several speakers and more music. I brought some cake and sandwiches to be served after the meeting. I was amazed when I walked into the church kitchen and it was filled with food and huge cooking pots. They have begun preparing the funeral feast. When I walked outside a huge tent had been erected on the church lawn. The chapel is too small to accommodate the number of people they will be feeding afterward. Even people who didn’t know her will show up for the feast.

We were not able to attend the funeral and I feel really bad about that but it simply couldn’t be helped. The mission president had scheduled meetings and interviews for Saturday and the rest of the week end and his schedule simple couldn’t be changed. He is on the road constantly in order to visit with the missionaries and spend some time teaching them. He also has ecclesiastical responsibilities (for the two districts in the mission) as well as missionary responsibilities, so he has a very heavy load. 

Elder and Sister Clayton from the Africa Southeast Area Office came down from Johannesburg on Saturday to meet with President Z and to train some of the branch presidents and Elder Hind on branch budgeting and finances. We all went out to dinner that night and had some interesting discussions and a good time. The Claytons came to our boarding and spent two nights in our spare bedroom.
I had to buy new bedding for our spare bedroom. I bought new pillows after I took this picture.
The old ones were just too flat.
Us with the Claytons who are missionaries from the Area Office in Johannesburg.
He is an auditor for the area.

We were glad to fall into bed Saturday night. It has been a crazy, busy week.