Tuesday, December 7, 2010

With Gratitude in Our Hearts

Serving here in South Africa continues to be a learning experience for us. On November 13th we were asked to speak at a District YSA Fireside. We attended the planning meeting, prepared our talks and helped publicize the fireside throughout the district. We arrived early and greeted the young people as they arrived, mostly via taxi. We had a good attendance. At the conclusion of the talks a question and answer session was held and during this part of the meeting, the YSA president approached us and asked where we had put the refreshments. We were stunned! No one had informed us that the senior couple always brings the refreshments. We were in a township and all the stores were closed. So we had to beg forgiveness. It was most embarrassing. We are trying to help them understand that we are here to train and lend support, not do everything. We are willing to help but we need them to ask for the help.

The following day, Sunday, there were several baptismal services. We attended the service in Richards Bay as we had worked with the Elders and the investigator, Prince.
Elder Mwita in sweater, next to him, Prince and Elder Shumway in suit
On Monday, the 15th, we had a zone activity with the Elders. We went to the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi game park. Our friend, Steve Killick, helped with transport. With our pass and his pass we were able to take all the Elders into the park at no cost. We had lunch at Hilltop, a beautiful restaurant in the park. Everyone had a great time.
Steve Killick and us

Our stripling warriors of Richards Bay
Elders Jensen, Ndhlovu, Meistre, Mwita, Hall, Rainibe, Shannon, Ssesanga, Shumway, Denning

Anyone for a swim with this crocodile?

Check out the horn on this rhino!

On Saturday, the 20th, we had a District Relief Society Conference. Our theme was “Feed My Sheep”. We had a luncheon, served by Elders Nuzman, Shumway and Mwita. In the meeting that followed a sister from each branch told of a visiting teaching experience. One of the RS Presidents told how to be a better visiting teacher. We concluded by watching Sister Barbara Thompson’s talk on visiting teaching from this year’s Relief Society Women’s Broadcast. We had worked very hard to make it a beautiful event and were pleased to have nearly sixty in attendance. But wearing too many hats that day, the one that was forgotten, was the photographer. So you can’t see the beautifully decorated tables and the happy faces. I should have delegated that to someone else.

Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated here in Africa but we had a dinner on Friday with all ten of our Elders. We even found turkey and cranberry sauce! The stores are stocking up for Christmas. We served turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie. The Elders brought side dishes and dessert. A big hit was Elder Shumway’s fruit salad! Everyone expressed gratitude for our many blessings.
They were thankful, but mostly hungry!
On Saturday we headed for the Kosi Bay area, where a small group hold church. (Kosi Bay is located 3 ½ hours north of here, about ten minutes from the Mozambique border.) Brother Iris Ohite and his wife escaped from the DRC (Congo), joined the Church in Tanzania and are now residing in the township, KwaNgwanase. Brother Iris, the Presiding Elder, has a tailor shop and presently the group is meeting in his shop. There is one other priesthood member who serves as his counselor. Our Elders go there once every six weeks to teach the investigators. There were twenty-three in attendance – eight adult members, three of whom were visitors, four adult investigators and the rest were youth and children. We had purchased a CD player to aid them in singing the hymns. Brother Iris had hymns playing early Sunday morning and a young man, a peace corp volunteer serving in a remote area, was in town, heard the music and joined us. He is from Oklahoma and is a member. Brother Iris is in the process of building a cinderblock building so that they can meet there for church. He is truly a man of faith. His goal is to return to the Congo but he wants to leave the group in Kosi Bay with a place in which to meet.
Brother Iris' tailor shop

Max Avery (peace corp volunteer), Elder Nuzman, Elder Iris and a young woman setting up for church

Most of the group

Elder Nuzman and Elder Iris in front of the "future church"
While we were in Kosi Bay we stayed at the Maputaland Lodge.  Our room was the end unit next to the driveway and a bamboo fence.  About 10:30 PM drums, chanting, shouting and dancing began on the other side of the fence.  This continued all night long until 5:30 AM!  It was some kind of celebration honoring their Zulu ancestors.  We didn't realize that a cemetary was on the other side of the fence.  Our sleep was somewhat disturbed.  At one point I awoke with visions of cauldrons of water boiling and us on the menu.
Actually we were in no danger. This township is more what you would expect to see in Africa.  As we left Kosi Bay and were heading toward the N2 (the main highway) we found giraffe in the field next to the road. There were zebra off in the distance as well.

One block off the main street they were doing their laundry.

Our lodgings.  Note the white dog that befriended us.
The dark coloring on this giraffe is beautiful.
December 2nd was transfer day.  We said goodbye to Elders Shumway, Ssesanga, Meistre and Ndhlovu.
They were here when we first arrived.  They taught us so many things.  We will miss them so much! We are welcoming Elders Adams (from Las Vegas, NV), Tualufo (from Mozambique), Castleberry (from Salem,UT) and Fisher (from West Valley City, UT).
Goodbye Elder Ssesanga and Elder Shumway!
The weather continues to be pleasant. When it rains, it cools things off. It is hard to realize that Christmas will come in the summer here.

We thought you might find the following pictures of interest:
A hibiscus tree in Nseleni

A snail African style  -  escargot anyone?

A new meaning of hands free
At the Boardwalk Mall in Richards Bay.  Women carry all kinds of things on their heads.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Have we been here three months already?

On Monday, October 4th, we went on a game drive. Brother Killick from the Richards Bay Branch wanted to take us. He is an amazing man but that is a whole other story. It was a wonderful preparation day. He took us to the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Game Park. Brother Killick has a LandRover and it can go anywhere; what an exciting day! We saw lots of wildlife as you can see from the pictures. We had a great lunch at the Lodge.

Capetown Buffalo

Pregnant zebra with bird on its back

Male Nyala

More nyalas seen out the window of the lodge

Male Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey


Young Zebras
Baby Giraffe

White Rhinos
White Rhino with baby

Warthogs have to kneel to eat off the ground
We have fought ants for some time, thousands and thousands of them coming from everywhere, walls , windows, tile floors and we were fighting a losing battle. We called an exterminator and had the place sprayed and it is so nice to be bug free.

October 9th we had the funeral of Thandeka Shandu, a young 22 year old sister, who passed away from TB. She was the only member in her family. Her adopted gogo (grandma) belongs to another faith but wanted the branch to handle the services with a few deviations. We let them know how we would need to handle it and they agreed. The services went well and afterward they did a few Zulu traditions that were very interesting. Clyde was privileged to dedicate the grave. After the grave dedication, men from the family, friends and neighbors lowered the casket into the hole which they had dug by hand previously. One of the men jumped down into the hole and started laying small logs side by side across the casket and then another layer across the other direction. When that was completed, he climbed out and they all took turns filling in the hole with the soil (mostly sand) until they made a large mound. As the men were doing this the women were singing beautiful Zulu hymns. The cemetery was very humble.

Nseleni Cemetery

The resting place of Thandeka Shandu
 October 16th Clyde transported two Branch Presidents and one of the counselors in the District Presidency to Durban, 2 ½ hours away, early in the morning. The Mission Presidency, the Stake and District Presidencies, Bishops and Branch Presidents from the whole mission met together with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy and Elder F. Michael Watson from the Africa SE Area Presidency for leadership training. What an experience it was to be taught by an Apostle of the Lord and other Church Authorities! Elder Holland shook hands and spoke with each person who attended.

Following the meeting, Clyde drove back to Richards Bay, dropping off his passengers along the way just in time to pick up Yvonne and drive all the way back to Durban in the pouring rain. By now it was dark and we had to find our way to a B&B, Little Haven, in Durban, a sprawling city of about six million. Our gps took us to the wrong area of the city, but after some tense moments, we finally found our way. Little Haven is very charming and Grace Rawlings is a gracious hostess but when we arrived she informed us that her husband, Brother Vic Rawlings, had passed away unexpectedly two days before. Her children were there helping her keep things going.

"Little Haven" Bed and Breakfast

Clyde and Grace Rawlings' dog
The amazing African Weaver building a nest
Sunday morning all the missionaries had an early morning meeting with Elder Holland. As the missionaries say, “He spoke with fire”! Again Elder Holland shook hands and spoke to everyone present. He reached up and stroked my cheek and said how appreciative the Brethren are for the service of the Senior Missionaries. I was touched. We later attended a Stake Conference in Durban, where we listened to him again.

We stayed another night and the weather was beautiful so we spent our preparation day seeing some of Durban, Sea World aquarium and dolphinarium. All in all, it was a wonderful weekend!

Durban on the Indian Ocean
Yvonne at Ushaka Beach
Can you tell it is a little windy?
Beautiful fish at the aquarium
Large sea turtle

Great dolphin show
Tuesday we were back in the saddle, doing boarding inspections and car inspections for all ten Elders before transfer day. We had to say good-bye to Elder Skinner and we welcomed Elder Hall, a greenie from Pretoria, SA.

Saying good-bye to Elder Skinner who was transferred to Durban
Saturday, October 23rd we had a braai (SA version of a barbecue) with the Port Durnford Branch. About seventy people attended. It was the first time we have ever eaten steak, beef sausage and salad without utensils or napkins. The food was delicious! We made two batches of brownies and three loaves of banana bread and it was gone in a flash.

Some of the children of the Port Durnford Branch
Branch President Vezi preparing the beef sausage

Clyde, Sister Chirwa and Sister Vezi
Our boarding is often being used for district and zone development meetings. Sometimes we order pizza (10 large for all 10 Elders) for lunch following the meetings.

On Halloween Sunday we had the Elders for dinner. We couldn’t really party but we had the African Elders experience trick-or-treating to various rooms in our house where the American Elders handed out the treats. It was fun for everyone.

Our Ngwelezane Seminary class

Some members of our English class
Agnes Chirwa, and Thandile Nzama
 We are involved in missionary work in case you think all we do is party. We are now teaching Seminary in two branches, an English class and a temple prep class. We are often asked to speak in Sacrament meetings and teach Priesthood or Relief Society lessons, sometimes without prior notice. We are preparing three young men to go to the temple in December. We have been given permission to be their escorts. We are planning a second temple prep class and another English class in January. We sometimes are asked to help the Elders with discussions with their investigators. We are also constantly shopping for items for the Elders boardings, taking bikes to be repaired and paying for such things as driving lessons for which we are later reimbursed.

Time is now going very fast and we love every minute. We continue to be best friends forever!

Following are pictures you might find interesting:

Looking out over the pulp tree forests coming out of Nseleni.
These trees are cut down about every eight years and new ones are planted.
Sand roads in Port Durnford when it rains
You think you have seen potholes!
This was 4 PM in a rainstorm on our way home.

The Richards Bay Chapel
This is our Nissan Tiida.
A blue-headed lizzard on our gate.

Being on the east coast of Africa we don't have sunsets
over the Indian Ocean but we do have beautiful  sunsets.