Last night we had Correlation Meeting with four branch fellow-shippers and our four Grahamstown elders. The fellow-shippers called about 6:55. They wanted us to come and unlock the church. The meeting started at 7:00 but our young missionaries were not there. Most members are recent converts. It was difficult for us to find an opening hymn that everyone knew. We finally decided on "Praise to the Man," which most everyone knew. Then we had an opening prayer and the spiritual thought. Our four young elders finally arrived at 7:30 apologising for being late. I've been after these elders since we arrived to get to meetings on time. Arriving late does not set a good example for others.At Elder Stokoes prompting, First Councellor Brother Budaza asked everyone at our first Sacrament meeting in January to please be on time. The missionaries were very late on December 16 our arriving at 9:15. If some can walk forty-five minutes from the township and get to to church on time, the elders, who live just a few blocks away, should be able to do it.
The Elders discussed the people they are teaching and suggested ways the branch can support the effort. Only one companionship here has a car. The other two elders are on bikes. Fellow-shippers often accompany them. The branch used to own two bikes for these fellow-shippers but one broken down and the other was stolen. Our Elder's bikes are in need of repair but the bike shop is closed until tomorrow.
I asked the elders if they had an ongoing service project? Elder Swensen explained that their service project was going out to visit the Thomas family where they were always fed a couple of meals. I said, "Wow! you just visit and eat? That is quite the service project!" Swensen explained that sometimes they did some service but mostly they visited, hung out and ate. Audrey Thomas is a counselor in the Relief Society Presidency. She is a fifth generation Mormon and is married to a non-member. They live half an out of the city out on a small farm. As she does not drive, her husband only allows her to come to church twice each month. She and son Ross, attends the first two Sundays each month. Audery, Ross, Alan Bamford, two of our elders and the two of us are the only white people in the Branch.
I suggested that we take on a second service project. I'd like to plant a garden at Alan's Retirement Center. Then we could share produce with the people who live there and still have enough left for people in the branch. There is a very large weeded section secured behind a gate that was once was a vegetable garden at Brookshore but has not been kept up. The soil is rich but the weeds grow fast. Such a project would insure fresh vegetable for the people who lived in the centre and the branch members who help with the garden could take some of the produce home with them. Lionel, a recent convert said, "That would be great. I'd love to help with the garden and it would help me as well. Sometimes I don't have anything to eat!" Alan Blamford would help manage the garden and he could help divide the vegetables. This would give him something to do and branch members would be visiting him on a regular basis.
Elder Khumalo complained that he had broken both his name plates. So Elder Stokoe suggested that he get a piece of cardboard, write his name on it and hang it around his neck like the homeless people do. "Okay! I'll do it," he said not realising that Elder S. was just kidding. Luckily we managed to glue the plates back together so Elder Khumalo will not have to wait six weeks to get replacements from the missionary training centre in Johannesburg.
We discussed the Elder's investigators. One young man who comes to church with his brother has a drinking problem. The last time the Elders visited him they had to lift him off the floor, clean him up and put him to bed. Alcoholism is rampant in South Africa. Frequently those who does not drink are looked down on, even ostracised and belittled. Drugs and alcohol constitute a huge problem on S.A.'s highways. People die when they walk drunk along the road and most traffic accidents involve drunk and/or unlicensed drivers. By January 9th the holiday death count has risen to1,050 including three cyclists. South Africa is currently in morning for a 26 year old member of the cycling team who participated in the Summer Olympics. He died on Sunday. The athlete was killed by a taxi driver who made an illegal right turn in heavy traffic and did not see him.
Our missionaries were teaching a Methodist deacon (about age 50) who seemed very interested. However when they went to visit him a few days ago, he was not there. They found instead a letter wishing them well but asking them not to return as his pastor does not want him talking to them. They are having good success with the young people here.
We took the fellow-shippers back to the townships. It was so dark that we had a hard time finding our way around. It's a good thing we had a GPS or we would not have been able to get home. When we dropped Lionel off he said one our fellow-shippers who had attended was on weed. He often smells of marijuana. But as the young man comes to church regularly Lional did not want to say anything to him. Keeping the Word of Wisdom is a big problem for members in Africa. The Henderson's, an office couple in Cape Town, have started a 12 step program at Marshall's Plane and have had some success. Drugs and Alcoholism are huge problems in South Africa and prevent many from getting baptised and progressing.
On Saturday we went to the elder's flats to update their water purification systems. Elder Stokoe has switched out seven now including the five he changed when we were in P.E. The missionaries on African Street are having problems with flees. So I took all their bedding home to wash and told them to clean and vacuum. Then we went to two different pharmacies to buy flee spray but there was only one can in the entire town. We printed off directions from mission headquarter on how to get rid of flees. It's a matter of keeping everything clean and vacuuming all the carpeting each month. They are lucky to have a nice large carpeted flat but they are not doing a good job of keeping it clean.
I've followed the tradition of our predecessors and having been feeding the Elders at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday night. The Elders always do the dishes and share a spiritual thought. Tomorrow I'm preparing Sister Stumm's thyme and parsley chicken over rice. Hope the rice turns out. We have had no luck cooking it since we arrived here. I told Sister Stumm and discovered that I need to use 2 12 cups with one cup of rice. At home I use 1 1/2 cups of water for each cup of rice. We will also have watermelon, carrot cake and ice cream. We will eat 2:00 p.m. as the car elders are driving Elder Van Brughan and Elder Olyabo to P.E. to catch a flight to Cape Town for training. They will be back in P.E. on Tuesday. Elder Stokoe and I will pick them up and we will drive them back to Grahamstown.
Most morning we walk on the Grahams College Cricket Field here. Grahamstown is in a bowel. That field is only one of the level areas where we can exercise without climbing up and down several hills.
Good news! When we arrived at church this morning the elders were there to greet us. They also arrived on time for dinner. We are very proud of them as they seem to have turned over a new leaf - a good way to start the New Year!