Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunday, 23 September

     Today we traveled to Mdansante, a 45 minute drive from Gonubie where we are currently staying, to attend the Mdansante 3rd Ward at 9 am and Mdansante 2nd ward at 1 pm.  There were 3 White young missionaries, 5 Black missionaries, and ourselves.  After the meetings we journeyed through Mdansante and were surprised at how sprawling it is, practically a thriving rural Metropolis.

     Apparently before the Blacks took control of the government in 1994 the Whites relocated thousands of Blacks inhabiting areas close to White settlements and shipped them off to Mdansante. The government built hundreds of homes for them to live in each 20' x 20'. The houses were blocked into villages with each village identified as NU and a number 1-17.  NU stands for “Native Unit.” Today we were in the village of NU 13 where the Mdansante 2nd and 3rd ward chapel is located. Since the community began, more and more houses have been added so that now, Mdansante blends as one continuous sprawling community stretching for several miles.

     I should use the term kilometers as nobody uses the term miles in this country nor feet or inches.  They are on the metric system here. Feet and inches is replaced with centimeters and meters, petrol is in liters, mileage is in kilometers, and weight is not pounds but kilos.   

     Speakers at sacrament meetings in South Africa are outstanding.  By far the majority give wonderful doctrine oriented speeches.  Today a woman was one of three speakers in Mdansante 2nd ward and her speech was absolutely marvelous.  I thought she was a returned missionary or a university teacher she was simply outstanding.  After the meeting I asked her if she was a returned missionary and she laughed and said that this coming Tuesday she would be a member in the Church for two years. I saw her scriptures and they looked like they had been used daily for the past 20 years. She currently teaches seminary.

   We are off the internet and don’t know for sure when we will be back on but will forward this as soon as we’re back on.  Sister S. just ate her first MacDonald hamburger since being in Africa and thought it tasted good.  She’s tired of fish and chips, chicken and mushroom pies, chicken,  pizza, and chop suey.  She wants a change.  She does, however, enjoy salads at the “Spur Restaurant.” This restaurant has gone bonkers over the native American Indian so the whole chain of Spur restaurants is decked out with Indian folklore, paintings, and pictures.  Every hour on the hour the employees don Indian outfits and do a war dance throughout the restaurant. It’s interesting to see how the American Indian is such a hit.

          Perhaps the identification with the American Indian is strong here because it was the Whiteman who invaded and took over Indian land just as the Whiteman did the same to Blacks in South Africa. The Indians were suppressed and viewed as low-caste inhabitants as were the Blacks here.

       It’s surprising how well the English language is spoken by Blacks in this country.  Even young kids in elementary school can speak English. The older folks have strong accents but the young adults and teenagers speak very clearly, a tribute to learning English in school at an early age.     

      On Saturday we went to the Lion Park in East London.  We enjoyed it and saw some animals we had not seen before.  If we could ever get  Smile Box up and running again we could share some photos.  But Smile Box has died on this computer and we can’t resurrect it.

     We have one more week here in East London before we head back to Port Elizabeth via Port Alfred where we will go whale watching as part of our next senior couples’ activity.  In August it was Zip Line through the jungle.  In June we went on the Pumba Animal Park Safari.

     Last week we attended  a high school vocal concert which reminded me of our ones at Skyline except this was “Africanized” which made it very interesting.  Last Thursday we went to a lecture/media presentation on the evolution of the musical in Hollywood movies.  It was great. I totally enjoyed it.  The lecturer  was a retired university professor. This Thursday we will attend a high school dance concert.

   No, we are not shirking our missionary duty.  We are engaged in it according to the demand.
In economics the law of supply and demand determine how much action is needed.  The PEF students are the demand and we are the supply. When the demand is low the supply is low, so the supply attends lion parks, concerts, and lectures, even movies.  If we were golfers we would play golf, tennis if tennis players.

      We go around the Eastern Cape of Africa giving PEF Orientation Firesides and encourage students to seek education, get PEF loans, and embark upon a career.  We counsel students.  This is what we supply.  Then it’s up to them to make the move. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. At this point it’s up to them.  They have to make the move to help themselves.  They fill out the loan application and submit it on the computer to Johannesburg and Salt Lake City and await approval.

      Once Salt Lake approves a loan, then the student demand increases and so does our supply increase. Next Phase two kicks in. The student has seven specific things to accomplish before Salt Lake can cut the check and send it to his/her school. We help the student achieve those  things and then send the documents off to Salt Lake via computer.  The Church cuts the check and sends it off to the school. The student registers and commences classes. I won’t go into detail on what those items are or this could be a two page essay.  But that’s how it works.

As to what else we do?  :
#  We attend district meetings and zone meetings,
#  Accompany the young missionaries to visit  members, teach investigators the gospel, and help reactivate.
#  We provide lunch once a month for 16-48 missionaries at zone conference
#  We participate with wards and young missionaries in visiting old folks homes
#  Participate in gardening projects for an orphanage and old folks home
#  Shop for the young missionaries according to what they need
#  Pick up the mail from the airport on Thursdays and deliver it to the missionaries.  To reach outlying missionaries is an 80 mile round trip.
#  In Port Elizabeth rotate to 7 units (wards and branches) on behalf of PEF and students.
#  In East London visit 11 units (wards and branches) on behalf of PEF.
#. Throw in the branches at Grahamstown and Knysna and that gives us 20 units or wards and branches to cover.  And we have yet to hit Capetown, the second largest city in South Africa.
# It’s up to the bishops and branch presidents to call teachers to teach the PEF mandatory Workshop called “Planning for Success” in their respective units. There are 4 classes in order to complete the Workshop. In Port Elizabeth if a teacher can’t teach a class on a particular day, we fill in.  If a student misses one class out of four and the teacher can’t conduct a makeup session, we do it.

     Now all this may sound like we are as busy as can be but really we are not. We have all kinds of free time.  Some of this is once a week stuff or once a month stuff. By next Sunday we will have given PEF Firesides to all 20 units in East London.  However unless a student applies for loans, we are literally marking time until they file the application and the loan is approved. 

    I’ve detailed here what we are doing on this mission but don’t think we are inundated with all kinds of work.  Not so. The real bees in the hive, the true workers, are the young proselyting elders. These are the people who make it happen. Whether they have zero baptisms, one, or multiple, the domino effects of contact, through time, brings multitudes into the gospel. We derive great joy in working with these young elders.
     Testimonial:  Brother and Sister Clarke were inactive for 26 years. Missionaries visited them off and on over this period of time. Two months ago we sat with Elder Pack and Elder Acton in the Clarke’s living room.  These two fine young missionaries extended the invitation to them to come to church again. They consented and have been coming ever since.    

     Testimonial:  As we sat in the living room of the stake patriarch in Port Elizabeth.  He told Sister S. and  I  it took visits by six sets of missionaries over a period of years before he was baptized. Since then he has been a bishop, a stake president, and the temple president in Johannesburg.

     I feel good about our sons and their mission contributions.  For here in the trenches, I observe first hand the fruits of missionary labor. And though our sons may never fully realize the impact of their service in this life, the life hereafter will reveal countless blessings as a result of their labor.  
       Well, it has been a good Sunday. We met with a bishop, 2 counselors from separate wards, a Planning for Success teacher, counseled 2 PEF students, and mingled with the saints, perhaps doing 1/50th of what Everett does every Sunday. (Except we drove 90 miles round trip)

Until we meet again via the written word, Aloha.

Elder Stokoe


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