Monday night we enjoyed a Mexican dinner at the Fower's flat. They have served as the senior couple in this area for over a year. They are very busy. They have 48 elders who live in 18 different flats from Queenstown to Mthatha, an area of about 200 miles. They inspect the flats every seven week, just before transfers. They meet the incoming elders at the airport with brown bag lunches. They provide food for zone conferences. Sister Lucy cuts the elder's hair. Elder F. is in the area presidency. He conducts priesthood interviews from Grahamstown to Port Alfred. They designed a “finding the lost sheep” program and have updated the records in their ward. Mdantsane 1st ward actually has 479 members rather than 729 on record. Some move out when they found jobs, others died, a few embraced sanora (witchcraft.)
While visiting townships they have found members with pressing needs: a door that needed to be replaced so one person does not have to stay home while other family members attend church. They have repaired leaking roofs, replaced broken toilet and updated showers and outhouses. Sister F.'s hobby is making furniture. Brother F. is a handyman. So they are putting their skills to good use in the townships.
When we told them we were driving 100 miles to Ilinge to deliver Planning for Success” booklets, they asked if we would drive an unemployed “contractor” to Stutterheim so he could shop for some lumber, doors and windows to enlarge his house and then drop him off in the township on the way home. The man has fifteen family members living in his small home. Of course we agreed.
We had offered to teach one workshop in Ilinge but as know one called to schedule us we decided to deliver the books and supplies. Then we returned to Stutterhem to collected the good brother. Tom asked if he had gotten the quotes he needed for remodeling. (As he is unemployed, the Fowers were planning to ask his bishop to fund that project.) He said that as he is not licensed, he cannot get anything from the warehouse there. It would help to have a drivers license but had failed the first test and money he saved for the retake had been stolen. He wondered if he could get a PEF loan for 2,000 rand in order to go to Johannesburg and get his contractors licence. We explained that PEF is for people under 34. That fifty-six-year-olds don't qualify.
Wednesday morning we walked on the beach as that about the only thing to do here in East London. In the afternoon we met up Gary Human and followed him to Mthatha, a distance of about 150 miles. There were lots of winding roads and hair pin curves, construction, and heavy traffic. Also animals and people walking along the highway. I was pleased we were following Gary’s baakie (truck). Elder S. is a speed demon. He loves to pass everything on the road disregarding caution signs and white lines that indicate it's not safe to pass. I find this rather frightening. But I’ve stopped telling him to slow down. I just close my eyes and pray that we will arrive safely.
We arrived at Mthatha and checked in at the White House—a B & B and then went to the church, a converted hotel in the middle of a town next to two bars. We presented the Fireside to ten people including the branch president, Preisdient Mbilase, who is a black attorney and Lindile Dwakaza, his first counselor, and eight of their young adults. It went rather well. However, I note that only two loans have been processed in this branch since the inception of PEF. At the conclusion Gary admonished those who attended, “I need to know how many of you want to attend the planning for success workshop. It’s a long way to come for know-shows!”
At breakfast the next morning I asked Gary what needed to change so we could be of more help to the people. He said that there is a feeling of entitlement in South Africa. That the blacks were put down for so many years that now that they know lot’s about civil rights but they don't know much about their responsibility. Most expect to have things just handed to them. Many have little concept of commitment or what it takes to plan and follow through. He said that both he and his wife got their jobs be volunteering but that this is something that the most would not do.
This morning we went to the Stake House to join the young Elders in their district meeting. As they had not yet arrived, we talked to the Employment Specialist until the meeting started. After two years in the stake center the East London Employment Center was being transferred out to Mdantsane--near all the townships. I asked about his most successful experience as Employment Specialist. He said one day six young people came to the employment center. However only three utilized computers and did research. The others were friends who came along just to visit.
I told him that we are PEF missionaries and have been a bit discouraged as we have made an effort to bring our program to East London but have not had much success. He confided that he and his wife were called two years ago to man the employment center. They began by offering help two mornings each week. However when known one showed up they only come in Friday mornings now when the Family History Center is open. So his wife works on her family history and he sits around for three hours. Tom asked how many people they had actually served in the past two years? “ Eight,” he answered. “Just eight?” I was shocked. Maybe our generating just twoPEF loans in six months is not so bad. The employment specialists launched into a discussion that basically validated what President Wayman and Gary Human both told us about black mentality. So are we doing any good? Who knows?