Our South African Journal

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 14-20, 2016

President Thompson left Durban early Sunday morning in order to be in Osizweni in time for their 9am Sacrament meeting. He called for a sustaining vote for some prospective elders and then ordained them after the meeting.

Then he followed us to Madadeni to participate in the installation of a new Branch Presidency. After doing all that he headed back to Durban because he had more meetings there. That is dedication. I know the branches were happy to have him come.

Madadeni Branch 1 presidency

On Monday the elders had a Zone Activity. They wanted to hike in the Drakensburg. So we met them at the Monk’s Cowl trail head. Elder Hind hiked with them and I stayed back at the lodge with a good book. I am too slow to hike with a bunch of energetic young men and I had done part of this hike before.

On Tuesday, Elder Hind hobbled around most of the day. He really paid the price for trying to keep up with those guys. However, he took comfort in the fact that most of them were hobbling around too.

We had to say good bye to Elder Adams. He has been a great Zone Leader but now has been asked to be an AP.

We had to teach our Seminary and Institute classes on Tuesday and then we drove to Ladysmith to meet the new senior couple there. They are the Rhodes and they are going to be great missionaries. We love them already. We took them to dinner and we talked our heads off for about 3 hours. It is good to have someone to share the load.

We had boarding checks this week. Yuck! I am sorry but some of these missionaries are little piggys.
We met the Rhodes at a missionary boarding so we could walk them through their first boarding check. When we got there the missionaries had made us sandwiches and a drink. They had soft music playing and candle light. They even had little paper umbrellas in the drinks. So cute and funny. On top of that the apartment was very clean.  Elder Diehl and Elder Baumgartner rock! We felt bad because we didn’t take a picture.

We taught our last Seminary and Institute classes on Friday. The Rhodes came so we could show them what to do and turn the classes over to them. After class the kids insisted on sharing their testimonies and saying nice things about us. We love them! It is hard to say good-bye.

We did Mormon Helping Hands on Saturday. We went to the Senior Center in Madadeni and cleaned the inside and pulled weeds in their garden outside. We had a great turn out and it was a lot of fun. The day started out a cool and it rained slightly but as the morning wore on it got warmer and sunny.

In the afternoon we went to the missionary boarding two doors down from us and did some cleaning outside and in the storage room attached to the garage. This boarding has been getting junkier and junkier. We wanted to get together with all the missionaries to clean it but we haven’t been able to schedule it. So today, since we were still in our service clothes, we decided to do it all by ourselves. We bagged up about 10 bags of trash and put it out for the garbage men. There is still some junk there that will have to loaded in a bakkie and taken to the dump. But it looks a whole lot better! We came home and took showers to wash off the plague and hantra virus. Just kidding, but it felt like it was a possibility.

We ended the day with transfer news. The mission is short of missionaries so they are closing the Newcastle area for one transfer. So we are losing those two missionaries. The Zone Leaders have always been the Osizweni missionaries but now the Zone Leaders will be the Dundee missionaries. They have changed the boundaries of the zone to include some other districts. We don't know what all the changes are but we will probably find out soon. This is what happens when you get a new Mission President.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 7- 13, 2016

After church we went to see President Nkosi at the hospital. They had him on oxygen but he seems a little better. After visiting with him we went out to the cottage meeting and then finally home. The elders came over in the evening and we had a nice devotional and talked about all our tender mercies.

We have been preparing for a Single Adult Conference on Tuesday, the 9th of August. The person in charge asked us to be the keynote speakers and told us we needed to take up an hour of the conference. Just for fun we decided to do a Power Point presentation. We have never done one before. We had it ready by Monday so we decided to do a practice run for Family Home Evening. We knew our FHE group would not be at the conference because they are Young Single Adults and our upcoming activity was for the 30 and over singles. Anyway our YSAs seemed to like it.

We went to the Newcastle chapel to do a test run on the presentation with the projector and the sound. We got it all figured out and were ready to go on Tuesday. We laugh at ourselves because we have learned so much on our mission. It is never too late to learn new things and try something different.

Elder Hind setting up the projector for our Power Point presentation

We had a great time at the Single Adult conference. The people in charge put an enormous amount of work into the activity. Our presentation and talks focused on the idea that people need to keep on learning and progressing and serving no matter what their circumstances are. We used images and videos from the church website and also a bunch of our own pictures. We gave short talks as part of the presentation and we also did a Mormon Bingo game and gave out candy bars for prizes.

The tables were beautifully decorated. They had borrowed wedding decorations from someone’s relative that is in the wedding d├ęcor business. They had hot Milo and scones at the beginning and then served a very nice lunch at the end. They also had a speaker come and talk about self reliance and the issues of being single. It was a great activity.

Beautiful table decorations

President and Sister Ngbane

with Sister Letuma
On Wednesday we had to make a run down to Ezakheni because we had been given some mail for a girl there that has been called on a mission to Uganda. This packet was from the Uganda mission so we were anxious for her to get it right away. We drove down there and gave it to her and then drove back. Two hundred and forty Ks round trip. This is why we are anxious for the Rhodes to get here. They are replacing the Taylors and will be here soon. We did not know how urgent this packet was so we didn’t dare wait.

On the way down we came across a huge grass fire. These are common in the winter here because it is so dry and because farmers burn their fields to get ready for spring planting. This seemed to be a deliberately set fire because we saw a man with a tank truck and hose watching it. The winter air always smells and looks smoky.

Fire on the way down to Ezakheni
Blackened fields on the way home

On Friday, we went with the Madadeni 3 missionaries to teach a family. This is a family we have been working with for a while now. We love them!

On Saturday we had District Training. At the beginning of the meeting President Mashego asked me to conduct the Primary and Young Women’s training. Yeah I had about 5 minutes to prepare a 45 minute class. It is times like this that I am grateful for my faithful side kick. No, not Elder Hind, my other faithful sidekick, my Samsung Tab 3. Let me pause now to sing an ode to my tablet. I could not have done this mission without it.

My tablet is just like me, her cover is a little tattered and frayed and her battery does not hold a charge as long as it used to. But like me, it just keeps plugging away.

One reason I depend on her is because she has the Gospel Library. So on Saturday when I had to do some last minute training I simply found Handbook 2: Administering the Church on my tablet. There I found the basics for both the YW program and the Primary. After we had discussed all the important things someone asked me if I had any ideas for Young Women. I just punched the Pinterest app and told them to where to find lots of ideas. I warned them that most of the ideas were probably not very practical for them but they would find some useful things.

If I am asked to speak in Sacrament meeting at the last minute I have lots of things on my tablet that can be used in a talk. I have learned to annotate and tag scriptures on my tablet. So I have many scriptures annotated with accompanying comments by General Authorities. I can easily make a talk out of those.

Probably the most important quality of my tablet is the fact that it is readable even in low light. We teach in many homes that are not well enough lit to allow me to read normal print much less my compact quad.

I have also used my tablet to show videos during lessons, check out books from the Salt Lake County library, or buy them on Amazon, we use my tablet to play Heads Up during FHE, I put together jig saw puzzles on it when I am bored and take pictures with it when my camera is not available. It also contains my planner and calendar and keeps me organized. In addition I have downloaded all the church hymns and Primary songs on to my tablet so I can play music anywhere we need to sing a hymn.

And finally I use it to show pictures of my grandchildren.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

July 31 – Aug 6

We spoke in the Newcastle Branch today. Elder Hind had to sustain and set apart a Seminary teacher. When we got there the Branch President asked us to speak. We have an emergency speaking system so we are always prepared.

After that meeting we went out to Madadeni and attended church there. Then we went to see President Nkosi, the president to the Madadeni 1 branch. He has been very ill and has not been able to attend meetings. When we got to his house a lot of branch members were there talking to him and singing to him. We were told he is getting better. I sure hope so.

After we left there we went to the cottage meeting at Sister Madi’s. We were happy to tell them that all the paper work and maps are into the Southeast Africa Area offices. Then they have to go to Salt Lake for final approval. We don’t know how long before we will hear about Madadeni 3 Branch. It probably won’t happen while we are here. However, we have done everything we can to get this ball rolling and all we can do is wait.

Monday was spent in anticipation of the birth of our newest granddaughter. I waited up to hear about her arrival but I didn't hear anything so I went to bed. I had just settled into bed and the phone rang. She is here all safe and sound. Her name is Caroline.

They had municipal elections this Wednesday all over South Africa. We had a list of about 4 errands to run but we found out that nearly everything was closed because election days are national holidays here. Thank goodness the grocery stores stayed open.

We passed a nearby voting place and noticed that there is no law against campaigning outside a polling place. In fact, there was one group that was passing out free food to the voters.

We have Zone Conference this week in Pinetown. The missionaries are concerned about using their allotment of Ks for traveling this far. If they use them for Zone Conference they may end up walking the last couple of weeks of the month. Most of our missionaries don’t live in their areas so they have to be able to drive to their teaching areas.

So the Mission Office decided to hire a van and driver to take them to Pinetown. The missionaries weren’t sure they would like it but we think they ended up enjoying the experience. The Mission Office was happy because it saved Ks and gas. Elder Hind was the one that had to find the van and driver but with the help of President Mashego he was able to get it done.

We drove down early in the morning and then after the meeting we spent the night with Elder and Sister Stevenson. They don’t seem to mind and it saves us staying at a B&B. The next morning, we went to a shop that sells pictures of African cows. I bought some. After all, I see a lot more Zulu cows than elephants or giraffes.

The Newcastle Zone missionaries in their taxi

Elder Larsen is heading home the next day.

Sunrise over Pinetown
Taken from our bedroom window at the Stevenson's apartment - 13th floor

The snow capped Drakensburg Mountains in the distance
We had to hurry home from Durban in order to get to Dundee in time to teach our Seminary and Institute classes. It made for a long day.

The Dundee elders goofing around with one of  our Institute students.
 He is also a prospective missionary waiting for his call

On Saturday I had a Personal Progress activity at the branch. Did not have a great turn out but the girls that came got some work done. Elder Hind entertained himself by letting a little girl play on his tablet. It was funny because she kept talking to him in Zulu and he kept talking to her in English but they somehow managed to communicate.

After the Personal Progress activity we went to see President Nkosi who is now in the hospital. He has had a stroke. We were alarmed to see how bad he is looking. However, he did know who we were. After visiting with him we dropped by to see his wife. She is very worried about him.

In the evening we had a Family Home Evening with one of our favorite families. We taught a lesson and then we taught them to play “It Came to Pass”. We don't do as much visiting as we used to do because we do so much more administrative stuff. So happy to spend time with this family.

July 24 -30

We are deep into winter here and it is so cold. Our kids make fun of us because we complain about the cold when it gets up into the 60s during the day. Occasionally even into the 70s. The problem is our house does not have central heating so although it is close to the same size as our house in Salt Lake the only heating we have are a couple of space heaters. The house gets very cold at night (the outside temperature goes down into the 30s and 40s) and then never really warms up. It is often a relief to go outside and feel the warm sunshine. We took a temperature reading in our bathroom in the morning, it was 50 degrees. Stepping out of the shower in the morning is an act of courage. We wear our hoodies around the house. When the members ask us if it gets cold where we are from we tell them it gets a lot colder at home BUT our houses are warm. The Newcastle and Madadeni chapels are pretty warm but the other chapels are cold. Even on mild days I need to wear a sweater or a shawl.
The weather has not been mild the last couple of days. A cold rainstorm moved in over the weekend and lingered for 3 days. It was good because there is a drought here so every drop of rain is needed but it is c-c-c-cold.

It rained all Saturday night so we woke up to a soggy world Sunday morning. We were still at the DeKlerk’s farm and we were a little concerned about the dirt road we had to negotiate in order to get to church. The DeKlerks left at 6am in order to get to church by 9am. We left at seven-thirty because our church didn’t start until 11am. We were fish tailing up some steep, slippery, muddy parts but we made it out ok. We were worried that if we got stuck we would never get out on our own. Then Sister DeKlerk messaged us her son’s phone number in case we got stuck so that was good to know. We got to church with a very muddy car, but we got there safe and sound.

These pictures were taken on our drive from the farm
I would have taken more but I was too busy being scared

It was still cold and rainy on Monday but we hope drier weather is coming because we are freezing all the time. We miss our furnace! The good news is that Elder Hind is finally completely well and feeling his old self.

We love teaching our Seminary and Institute class in Dundee. The drive takes about 45 minutes and we do it twice a week. But what really takes up our time is studying for these lessons. The Old Testament can be a real challenge to teach.  

Our students outside the Dundee Chapel
 We got to the Dundee chapel this week we noticed the security alarm was going off. We are not sure what happened. There were some students waiting outside so I don’t know if they had done something that set it off or Elder Hind could have set if off by accidentally touching the keypad on the set of keys he has. Anyway within a couple of minutes an armed security guard showed up. He was very nice and even let me take a picture of him with Elder Hind.

We will try very hard not to do this again as I think the church gets charged
every time a security guard has to come to the chapel

I like to take pictures when we are driving home from  Dundee
This is a little grainy but I like the monochromatic look showing the land forms
And the cooling towers in the foreground 

And of course one more of my sunset pictures

Monday, August 8, 2016

July 17 -23

Whew!! Well, the Newcastle District Conference came and went and we all survived. We worked so hard to make this happen and Elder Hind has been so sick. But we prayed hard and the Lord blessed us with many tender mercies. We had a good conference.

We got up early again Sunday morning and picked up the District Presidency and drove down to Ezakheni again. We know this road well. We only have two meetings today. The general session in Ezakheni and the general session in Madadeni. The session in Ezkheni only involves two branches but they had a good turn out and we enjoyed it very much. After the meeting I passed out sack lunches to all the leadership that was heading for the next meeting in Madadeni.

The Madadeni general session was held in a rented hall at a school. It involves 5 branches so there is not room in any to the chapels to hold that big of a crowd. We put the missionaries in charge of setting up the hall; setting up the chairs, bringing the electric piano from the Madadeni chapel and the pulpit from the Osizweni chapel and setting up the sound system. They were great. They did a good job and everything was ready to go when we got there. The Lord is watching over us.

President Thompson greeting the elders

The hall we rented for conference
President Thompson, Elder Mabaya, Sister Thompson

 President Thompson, Elder Sorensen, President Mashego

President Nkosi and Brother Mlambo
I was so touched by the Newcastle Choir. They always do an excellent job. Sister Ngubane is their director and she knows music.  They showed up on Sunday with lovely turquoise dresses. Even the men had matching ties. They looked and sounded beautiful.

We had talks from the leadership and some young people and they also called on a couple of people to bear their testimonies. It was all great.

Elder and Sister Sorenson (office couple) came at the end of the meeting to pick up Elder Mabaya and take him to Durban to catch a plane home. President and Sister Thompson and their daughter Nichole came to our house for dinner. They are great people. President Thompson insisted on mashing the potatoes. He did a great job. After these last couple of hectic days, it was nice to just sit and visit and get to know them.

We are so glad District Conference is over.

On Monday we dropped by the Newcastle chapel and visited with Sister Thompson and the missionaries for a few minutes. President Thompson was interviewing the missionaries.

We went out with President Mashego to try to find the boundary of Madadeni 3. We found some road names and some coordinates and the president kept us oriented on our map. We were able to send that to the area offices. Now we will just have to wait and see.

President DeKlerk is president of the Dundee Branch. He and his wife have been after us to come and visit their farm. They live about about 220ks from Dundee. We realized that if we didn’t set a date we would not go. We looked at our calendar and decided the week end of July 22-24 would work. The fact that our 46th wedding anniversary was the 23rd gave us a reason to take off for a couple of days.
We met Sister DeKlerk in Vryheid, a town about 1 hour from their farm. We followed her out to the farm. The last 16 miles to their farm was on a dirt road and the last couple of miles were on a pretty rough road.

Their farm is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It is closer to the coast and in a valley so the weather there is much warmer than Newcastle or Dundee. I forget how many hectares they own but their land does include the mountain sides on either side of the valley. They grow bananas, mangos, and tomatoes. They are experimenting with some Macadamia trees. They also have a large herd of cattle. In addition to their agricultural endeavors they also run a small shop that sells basic supplies to the surrounding Zulu community. They are very hard workers.

DeKlerk's store

View from their front door

In addition to working hard in their shop and on their farm they work very hard for their little branch in Dundee. They drive 2 ½ hours to church and back every Sunday and sometimes during the week. They really look after the people in their branch. It is a blessing to have them in the district.

They built their own house with cement blocks that they made themselves from the sand in a nearby river. After their house was nearly completed it was set on fire by a disgruntled neighbor 4 years ago. They are still in the process of rebuilding. They have a few rooms finished. We stayed in a large bedroom with beautiful modern bathroom. It was very pleasant and comfortable. We toured the farm, were fed very well (Sister DeKlerk is an accomplished cook) and had a wonderful visit. We had our first experience eating crumpets for breakfast. And the braai they put on for us was amazing.

A rainstorm moved in Saturday night and it was very welcome as this area has been experiencing a serious drought. It was good to hear the rain falling on the DeKlerk’s farm. They deserve every drop.