We had a meeting with the senior couples, zone leaders and stake mission leader at Kwa Magxaki last night. It helped me understand what we are supposed to be doing. The meeting was on reactivation. We discussed what we could do to retain new members after they are baptized and how to keep returned missionaries engaged after they return. Most of our new members are young adults and our area leaders hope to get these young men out on missions as soon as possible. One recent example: In South London the missionaries met a young man with dred locks whose parents were dead. He was living with his grandmother. He started reading the Book of Mormon, cut his hair and started going out with the missionaries. It was the first time his life had purpose. He progressed, was baptized and began preparing for a mission which was an effort for an unemployed young man. A sister of the Fowlers heard about him and offered to pay for the mission. They sent money and he bought the first suit he had ever owned. Sister Fowers did not accompany him when he went shopping. He returned with an ill-fitting suit, black with white strips, it was baggy and looked like a “zoot suit”. But he was very proud of it and left for his mission in Zimbabwe on September 22nd.
Six young blacks from Kwa Nobuhle 1st Ward opened their mission calls yesterday. Only one had parents in attendance. All the others were from non- member families. Church policy requires that a young man applying to serve a mission must do everything himself—acquiring the money to get his pass port, seeing a doctor and the dentist and buy his own clothing. Since many are unemployed, this is tough.
Van Sickle has been employing these young men by having them painting Church chairs and doing other odd jobs. He drives them to appointments and I’m guessing, he’s probably buying some of their clothes. He and sister Van Sickle were present and filmed the opening of their mission calls. Most will serve here in Africa along with the White elders, which come from “the missionary factory,”-- Utah. Although we also have elders from England, New Zealand, Europe and Australia here.
The plan is that these first generation Africans will serve missions, return and take Institute classes where they will hopefully meet a young woman, get married, get training in a trade, and find a job that will enable them to be leaders in their wards in Africa. Consequently, we seniors have been called to support this plan by (1) teaching seminary and institute (2) helping them get out on missions (3) and as they return, offer them PEF loans. Finally we (4) assist them in locating good high paying jobs so they can help build up the church.
The brethren in S.L. would like them to do this on their own with minimal support from us senior missionaries. However this isn’t what’s happening. While a mission teaches them to study hard many fall back into old patterns when they return. When they can’t find work they often get discouraged. Many become inactive. This is sad because they are such fine young men and the countries badly needs young black leadership.
Ideally members should be doing this on their own. However we have discovered that isn’t what is happening. It’s hard to motivate those who have been raised in a culture of entitlement. Follow thru is also a big problem here. These young people have strong testimonies but many don’t understand the nuts and bolts of commitment, work ethic or follow through. Consequently we only have 20 PEF students in Port Elizabeth. There are only 10 in East London. This after PEF senior couples have been here for more than a decade.
Elder S. and I have been to every ward and branch in our area conducting PEF firesides. We have attended every “Planning for Success” class in our stake. But only one or two student attend all the four classes they need to apply for a loan. Of those who do, perhaps half will applying but not follow through. They need to be monitored and encouraged.
Example: Headman in Kwa Magxaki called and talked to Tom about his daughter who had applied for PEF several months ago. She did not fill out her online application correctly so Elder Webb in Johannesburg e-mailed her and told her to make two corrections. Evidently she did not get that e-mail. (Only one family in ten here in S.A. has a computer.) Her father Headman called Tom saying the school was asking for 1,000 rand to cover the tuition for the classes she was already taking. Tom told Headman that PEF will not pay for classes taken. Had she filled out the form correctly, PEF could pay for the classes beginning in Jan. But we can’t do anything about the classes she is in now. He told her father to call the stake president.
Looks like most students need mentors to take them through this process. Karin Van Teil, stake PEF director, says the bishop should be monitoring the students when they do start school and the ward should provide mentors for any that are failing. After being here for seven months we are finally getting on to this. However we find that very few students bother to apply for PEF Loans. It’s hard to motivate and encourage these young people. They begin the planning for success class but less than a handful following through which leaves us feeling like we are not doing a very good job. So we look for other areas where we can serve and try to keep busy. Love and Blessings, Sister S.