Monday, April 29, 2013

Ward Conference

As Motherwell is part of Kwamagxahi Ward the church paid to transport all the members of our group to the beautiful Kwamagxahi chapel for ward conference yesterday.  It's pretty exciting to see black Africans assuming leadership responsibilities here.  This makes sense as most of our new converts are from the townships.  Blacks and coloureds now make up the church membership in all the outlying wards and branches. P.E. and Lorraine Wards are still mostly white although both have a few black members like two of my institute students, Dent and Nozubko, who attend Nelson Mandela University.   It is interesting to look up at the new stake presidency as they sit on the stand and see a black, a brown and President Parker, a white.  President Neko is the first black to serve as president of Port Elizabeth Stake  And it was exciting to be in Grahamstown when the first all black branch presidency was called to serve in January. 

The theme for our ward conference was "keeping the commandments."  Bishop Khanya Nqisha,  a handsome, highly educated and well spoken young black, talked about returning from his mission with a plan to attend school for three years before getting married.  Then he met his wife.  As he wanted to remain chase and not be tempted beyond his ability to resist, he proposed.  She accepted his proposal even though he was a poor struggling student.  Bishop Nqisha testified that by keeping the commandments things always work out.  

President Neko identified three commandments he wanted the people of Port Elizabeth stake to work on--pay your tithing, observe the word or wisdom and live the law of chastity.  These are difficult commandments for Africans as they run contrary to common practice here.  Many people are poor, uneducated and often unemployed.  The tradition in the black township is to drink,  fornicate and live off the government dole.  Rape, crime and teen pregnancy is rampant.  Unwed mothers get 250 Rand per child month per month.  Marriage is uncommon.  Many youth and even older couples simply live together.  Those who join the church have access to wholesome activities such as seminary and institute.  They are taught gospel standards and are supported by loving leaders.  Many young blacks are now serving missions.  There are over 20 serving from Kwanoble Ward in countries all over Africa.  Married couples are encouraged to go to the temple.  A temple trip to Johannesburg costs for 800 Rand per person.   Every ward and branch in the stake has a temple trip scheduled.  President Neko promised the saints here that if they kept the commandments they will be happy and prosperous and generations yet to come will be blessed. 

I was one of two white women in attendance and was called upon to give the opening prayer in the Sunday School class.   The lesson was on temple work.  One women shared a remarkable experience she had while doing work for a woman born in the 1800's.   The life of the woman flashed before her and she saw her as a baby, a youth, as a bride and then as an old woman.  The ordinance worker saw everything that she saw as well.  The stake relief society president gave an outstanding lesson.  She much be a teacher.  It's always a joy to attend Relief Society in Kwamagxahi Ward. The sisters there have such beautiful singing voices there.  They remind me of the Polynesian Choir.   These sisters also like to hug and kiss like the Polynesians do.  They laugh a lot, have beautiful teeth and are always very warm and friendly.      When we drive through the townships everyone is out walking and visiting.  It reminds Tom of life in Western Samoa fifty years ago.

Friday we collected the Toises from Kwanobule and drove them to P.E.  Charlene needed a hepatitis B shot in order to certify as a nurse and she did not have160 Rand.  Michael and their youngest daughter jumped in and came along.  There was also a problem with Charlene's registration at the school.  The tuition was 3,000 Rand which PEF paid.  Then the school decided they needed another 180 Rand which Tom was prepared to pay himself.  However, Charlene is such a good student and has encouraged others to register, they decided to cancel the outstanding balance.  Charlene is very excited about her program and cannot wait to begin working as a nurse.  However when we took them home they mentioned that the bishop could no longer pay their rent so they would likely be moving. 

After we dropped them off we went to the market and Tom bought them 800 Rand worth of groceries and other staples.  Evidently the ward has exceeded their welfare budget.  As Church Policy is not to give anyone money Tom offered to drive Michael around to look for a welding job as he already has a welding certificate.  However, Michael declined explaining he had to tend their youngest daughter until Charlene completed her nursing program.  Michael has also received a PEF to pay for a 10 day welding certification.  There are often problems that crop up with the various schools so it's essential to have a PEF couple on site to follow through.

The Toises in front of Nursing School doorway

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