Today has been a beautiful day, a special day, a Sunday of cheerful gospelness - our second day permanently back in Port Elizabeth. Yesterday, the return day, was a good day too: We attended the Stake Conference
couples meeting, attended by some 70 couples Black, Brown, and White. The theme of the occasion was "Harmony in Marriage." Our stake patriarch and his wife were joint speakers at the podium and their presentation was hilarious. They shared memories from fifty-five years of marriage. He was attracted to her beautiful blue eyes. She was attracted to his red sports car but hated his favourite shirt. Frieda still has beautiful eyes. The sports car is gone but he still has his ugly shirt. They were married in an Afrikaans ceremony but he did not speak Afrikaans. Frieda had to poke him in the ribs when it was time to say "Ya." Bundy still claims he did not know what he agreed to. Frieda explained that men use half the words that women do. By the time they get home from work they have used up most of their daily quota of words while women are just getting started. Celebrate the differences. Enjoy your marriage. Never to let yur kids get between you and your spouse. The kids will leave to live their own lives. Bundy claimed he deserves a metal. Frieda said she deserves a monument.
I think this is the most I have smiled and laughed since coming to South Africa. Fifty-six years of marriage from courtship, marriage, children, work, bishop, stake president, temple president, to stake patriarch it was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining journey through bumps and smooth sailing. They were wonderful, absolutely great and their recommendations and spiritual counsel was most significant, meaningful, and applicable. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed them. Next up at the podium was a Black counselor in the Area Presidency, the keynote speaker, who further elaborated on harmony in the marriage. We were well nourished spiritually and temporally and it was enjoyable being among many couples we knew from throughout the stake - a reunion in a way after a three month absence in Grahamstown. The meeting concluded with this comment by the stake president: "Brothers and Sisters, we have refreshments in the cultural hall, and brethren, inasmuch as we have been counseled to respect, love and honor our wives, all the men are to serve the wives."
Well, as soon as the word Amen was pronounced people stood and mingled greeting one another, smiling and laughing cheerfully, some standing, lingering while others headed for the refreshments. Sister S. and I were among the greeters and lingerers. As we went through the door into the cultural hall there was a line of people on each side of the serving tables getting food buffet style. And would you believe it? They were all women and they were piling up their plates like Polynesians - mini mountains of food! The men didn't have a chance to serve the women. The women helped themselves so much that 1/3rd of all present got no food - the women hogged it all. At least we got a drink.
Sister S. and I smiled at each other and said, "This is Africa."
So today, Sunday, was a neat day. I got up at 3 am and updated my PEF handouts for teachers, students, and bishops. This would be a day to go to Kwanobuchle 1st and 2nd wards and solicit potential students for the PEF program. It would be a day out in the boonies some 40 miles away. 1st ward at 9 am, 2nd ward at 11 am and both shared the same building. I was running late and we left home after 8:30 am. I said to Sister S., "I hope today they start on Africa time or we will be late." Thank goodness they did. We arrived, the bishop was at the door ready to go up and start the meeting. I gave him my announcement for all interested in a PEF loan for school meet Elder and Sister Stokoe at the back of the chapel after sacrament meeting. After the meeting some college age students came to us and eleven indicated interest. We got their names, phone number and email addresses. Then we gave orientation to a young woman desirous of attending flight attendant school and we gave PEF orientation to the new stake PEF director.
Next, we went to the 2nd ward sacrament meeting that had already started. It was fast and testimony day. Sister S. went to the front and gave the bishop the paper with my announcement asking those interested in a PEF loan to meet with us at the back of the chapel after sacrament meeting. The bishop would announce it before the closing prayer. Now this is where I was most spiritually touched and moved: The teenage boys in this ward rotated up to the choir seats - 16 boys - with no less than 8 sitting in the choir seats at any given time, to bear their testimonies. As they rotated one after another to the podium, the majority smiling, speaking in both English and Xosa, I couldn't help but think what a terrific potential band of missionaries. You could feel the goodness emanating from them, the gospel spirit, the meaningfulness of the gospel to them. I was so impressed and deeply moved that those moments of 16 boys bearing their testimonies was the spiritual highlight of my day. Afterward, three college age students came to us interested in PEF and we got their names and phone numbers. Fourteen total for the day. Now the next step and question is -- will they all show up for the required Planning for Success Workshop? We'll find out in three weeks when it begins.
One more thing we did yesterday. We went with 2 of our missionaries to our garden at the Old Folks Frail Center, did some gardening and picked some vegetables. Then we went into a large room or hall where some 20 plus old folks or patients were sitting. These folks are handicapped either physically, mentally, or both. The ages vary from the thirties to the nineties. Elder Slabbert is an excellent pianist and brought some music to play on the piano to entertain them. I entered the room, shook the hands of 3 patients near me and sat down. Elder Slabbert prepared to play the piano. The scriptures talk of Christ-like love. I was about to see Christ-like love truly and honestly shown. Elder Strauss, with the love of Christ smiling on his warm, radiant and friendly young face, went around the room, shook hands, greeted, conversed, and embraced every single patient in the room - the gnarled bodies, the disfigured faces, the eyeless, the limbless, the deformed, bent and crooked-broken bodies, the withered and shrunken - he hugged them all, he loved them all, he was truly an angel of Christ-like love. Elder Slabbert played music; Sister S. danced with a female patient who wanted to dance. I marvelled at the music, the Christ-like love of Elder Strauss, and my dear wife cheering up a patient. It was a beautiful day and today is a beautiful day. The question is: What can I do to contribute to a beautiful day tomorrow.
With much aloha,