Monday, April 30, 2012

George Billings in the Democratic Republic of Congo

My sister Laraine is forwarding e-mail from her former boss George Billings, which I am posting here before my e-mail account bits the dust.  Tom's e-mail account just got hijacked.  It is now closed.  So I have posted some interesting accounts to my blog for safe keeping.  In Africa, nothing is certain. When things go badly people just shrug their shoulders and say, "This is Africa."  When I worked as an intern at KJazz the technicians would say "let it go!  s-it happens!"

George, your experience in the Congo parallel's our own here in South Africa with street vendors, overloaded taxis, people walking everywhere, even along major highways, and women carrying baskets on their head.  Villages in the Congo sound similar to our townships and shanties but are likely poorer.  One third of the people in S.A. are unemployed.  Half of the youth do not have jobs.  They are hungry, angry and prone to crime.  Here in S.A. one finds the very rich and the very poor.  Immigrants arrive daily from other African nations looking for a better life.  Afrikkaners complain that since the blacks took over immigration laws are not enforced.  Best wishes to your sister, my good friend Beth, and thanks for sharing your experiencs.

From: George Billings []
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2012 02:27 PM

You probably are aware that my wife and I are serving a mission in the Congo.  We are doing great.  The Congo is the poorest country in the entire world.  We came to try to make a little bit of a difference.  It is almost overwhelming.  Things are so different here.  There are thousands of people on foot on the streets all day every day.  They are so destitute that they are simply looking for someone to take pitty and help them out a little bit.  Street vendors are trying to sell anything you can think of.  They walk out into the middle of busy streets and put their merchandise right up against your window begging you to buy something.  Drivers do not obey any traffic rules.  You have to bully your way across intersections simply by pulling in front of oncoming traffic.  They have hundreds of old beatup Volkswagen buses they use for taxies.  They pack about 30 people into their taxies and the guy that takes the fare rides on the back bumper or he is standing up and hanging out the side door.  Women carry large loads of merchandise on their heads.  They have tremendous balance and their postures are perfect.  We've been out to villages where white people are rare.  Children will point at us and make amusing comments to one another.  They are, however, friendly.  The Church members are just as poor as anyone else but they are humble.  Every day is a new adventure for us and we are loving it.  I'm teaching a group of ten Congolese men Construction skills so they can build their own Churches. 

I hope this e-mail finds you and your family well.  Please write back if you get a chance.

Elder Billings.

Life in the DRC from George Billings

From: George Billings [
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 10:19 AM

Dear Friends,

We are at our apartment this evening and we have been thinking about the experiences that we had today. We would like to share them with all of you.
We were invited by another couple in our Mission to go out and visit an orphanage. This orphanage is located about 20 miles outside of downtown Kinshasa. We live where I would call downtown. The reason for them inviting us was because they have been there before and have a desire to help the lady who runs the orphanage to provide better conditions for the kids and there is a need to reconstruct much of the facility and the furnishings. They thought I may be able to help them fulfill their desire. To get to the orphanage we had to drive a short distance off the main highway on a dingy narrow path filled with potholes and crevices. On both sides of the path there were people displaying and selling various items of food. There was barely enough room for a vehicle to fit in between the food vendors and they weren't about to pull their displays back away from the path a few feet to let us pass through easily. But, we drove slowly and made it to our destination. When we got there we walked a short distance up a wet and narrow path adjacent to a ditch filled with dirty water to enter the grounds of the orphanage. When the children saw us coming they ran to meet us on the path. They each greeted all of us with a huge hug with joyous smiles on their faces. There we seventeen children. Eight girls and nine boys. Most of them were between the ages of three and seven. The kids held tight to our hands as we continued down the path and entered their compound. They were beautiful, adorable children who seemed very happy in spite of their circumstances.
Once we arrived we were first shown the sleeping rooms for the kids. All of the girls slept in one room and all of the boys slept together in another. Their rooms were dark and moist. There was a moldy, musty smell. There were no windows or for that matter any other form of ventilation. The rooms were about the size of a typical child’s bedroom in one of our homes in America. All of their beds were broken down except one bed in the girl’s room. All of the boys, and most of the girls, slept on floors that were half dirt and half concrete. There is no electricity and no plumbing in their entire compound.  We were then led to a building that served the purpose of classrooms for the children.  There was one room in this building that had a roof.  The others didn’t.  The roof over the one room was not tied down to the walls.  It was just sitting there.  A strong wind could easily remove it.  The benches in the classroom were old and rickety.  They were on the verge of collapsing.  The chalkboard is so worn that it is nearly unusable.  The rest of the classroom building is without a roof and the walls are slowing disintegrating.  Only somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of each wall is still standing.  The classroom building floors are all dirt.  After looking at and assessing what we could do with the classrooms we were led to the grounds where we were shown holes in the concrete block fences that the caretaker would like to have repaired.  Evidently, children are leaving through the holes and are becoming lost requiring extensive searches to be recovered.  On the grounds there was a young lady, about sixteen years old, cooking a pot of beans over an open fire.  The facility doesn’t have a kitchen.  In fact, there aren’t even tables for the children to sit at while they eat.  They either eat standing up or they sit on the ground.  They did have a few plastic stools on the premises. 
After touring the facility we were provided seating in some plastic chairs under the shade of a papaya tree.  There was a slight breeze but it was still very hot.  There, we discussed what we might be able to do to help.  There is an organization from America that is raising funds to renovate their building.  This organization’s intent is to raise enough funds that they can hire a contractor to do the renovation.  We have concerns that will never happen.  There is a lot of corruption.  Contractors have been known to start and never complete their projects.  With our own limited funds we thought that we could start by building some beds and tables.  This is something we can do off site and just, one day, haul them in and surprise the sweet caretaker and her kids.  We made no commitments while we were there because we don’t want to promise anything we can’t complete. We would like to do much more and maybe we can.  We have some ideas of how this could happen.  We’ll just have to see if we can get all of the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.  
These events promote much philosophical thought regarding the current status and the future of this society.  There is too much poverty.  People have nothing to do.  They have to eat and in order to eat they have to obtain food.  Food can either be bought, or it can be grown, or it can be stolen.  In order to buy food you have to have money.  In order to have money you have to have a job or you have to steal it or you have to steal something else and sell it.  There are hundreds and hundreds of orphans and thousands more who have just been abandoned.  If someone like this caretaker doesn’t take people in when they are young, and teach them how they should be, they could end up like the kids on the street who harassed us today.  What do we do about all of this?  We believe that the little bit that we are doing now will have a huge impact.  It must start somewhere.  The thought becomes less philosophical and more certain as we consider our own security in trying to help.  We learned of both a good place to be and a bad place to be at noon on Saturday.  We have to find secure ways of visiting places like this orphanage and offering a helping hand.  The incident with the cassava flour was our fault and it could have been handled a little bit better to defuse the rage.  The other incident wasn’t our fault it was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We will be much more cautious in the future.  This incident happened on a road that we have traveled several times before without incident.  Saturday is just not a good day to be there.  Also, when we travel that road again, we will take a Congolese who can communicate for us.    
We’re sorry that this message has been so long.  We just wanted you, who we also care about, to know of the experiences we are having on this side of the world.  Please take care of yourselves and your own.  Every life is precious.

George Billings

This is Africa

      After the meeting with President Wood and the Elders for training on April 20, we have been more diligent with our scripture study.  We are reading “The Life and Teaching of Jesus & His Apostles”  and hope that by being obedient we will be blessed to know what to do.  However this is Africa -- nothing is certain here.

Fire Side:   The Fireside in Kwamagxaki on April 22 was a success.   Tom gave an awesome presentation.  We gave the workshop teacher 15 student manuals rather than just five.   We came home to an e-mail from  Catherine in Knysna Branch, near George, asking for PEF training.  (She has not been called to work with PEF.)   However, she did schedule a PEF fireside for us in March.  Then cancelled it.   Tom suggested we could do a fireside for her on any weekend in May.   Catherine answered that she did not want our Fireside only workshop training.  (She received manuals from the Smiths, a senior missionary couple, who have since been transferred.)   Tom answered that we received our training in SLC and in Johannesburg and that we must follow the PEF program as outlined.  He advised her to talk the branch president when he returns from holiday in the U.S. sometime in June.

Educational Opportunities     Elder Van S. tells us he can get students good jobs and an education paid for by the state, if we help them pass their Matric (graduation) exams.  The colored teacher Tom sat by when we went to ABBA told him that he spent many hours after school helping the kids in the black township finish assignment and with tutoring, they succeed.  (See Tom's e-mail on Education.)  We are both prepared to do whatever is necessary to help kids--black, white, or colored-- in whatever way we can.  However we were told in PEF training to only work through the priesthood.  Most of the white Afrikkans leadership here believe that the black kids expect a free ride and are not smart enough to succeed in school.  Van S. met with President W. about his plan for tutoring young LDS black kids in the townships.  The only outcome of that meeting was that W. wants us to help sell tickets and house the BYU Young Ambassadors when they come to P.E.on May 15.  The other senior couples have room but we don't.

New Flat:  Yesterday Cape Town called.  The mission office has approved our moving next door to Flat # 17.  They are aware that our landlord refuses to make improvements.  The mission office needs to know what our new rent will be.  The flat next door has 3 bedrooms and is the nicest in our compound.  I talked to our neighbor who hopes to move to a small farm on June 1st. Talanna  told me that she had met with the buyers who expected to rent #17 to us.  The husband is ready to sign but the wife wants to close in July.  (Our lease here ends on June 1st) Talanna's offer on a small lease hold expires on April 30th while the paperwork has sat on a desk somewhere in Cape Town for two weeks waiting for an official stamp.

Sharing the Gospel:  People notice our badges and ask what we are doing here in Africa.  Tom talks to them about the gospel and takes referrals.  We talk to a young Afrikkan by the name of Jacobus Johannes, who works at the pharmacy in Kings Court where I go to get my hair done.  He just had his third discussion.  He said he found the information about “David Smith, in the 1820’s was very interesting.”  Jacobus a quiet sincere young man who meets with the missionaries regularly now.

        Elders Penman and Elder Doxie invited us to meet with Zina, an investigator on April 24.  This  attractive 20 year old is a black model.  Her mother Peace, and sister Beauty also sat in along with Zina's little son Gift.  (It is typical for young black girls to have an out-of-wedlock child by they time they reach 20.)  The Elders gave a a wonderful discussion and bore heart felt testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel.  We enjoyed being with them and hope to visit the family again.  The women live next door to one of the high councilman in P.E. stake.  They seemed sincerely interested in learning more about our church.

Port Elizabeth Harbor & Nelson Mendela Art Gallery

Food for Missionaries & Education - April 20th

Subject: Prep. Food for missionaries & Education
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 12:01:36 -0600


After preparing a luncheon for 24 missionaries and a breakfast this morning for 14, I have an idea Everett of what you must go through to feed your entire ward, except you are on a large scale and we have been on a smaller scale and you are more often.  But I've enjoyed preparing meals for the young elders to include the mission president and his wife.  This is something we will be doing every 6 weeks. Obnoxious birds are flying over the house.  They are twice the size of seagulls, have a long beak, and a very loud grating squawk.  Wherever they fly, they squawk.  They fly every day over our compound commencing at 5:30 am, sporadically during the day, and again at dusk.  I understand they are a protected species otherwise I think they would be a good target to shoot just like duck hunters back home.

It's surprising how close you can get to wild animals in the animal parks.  We have been real close to giraffes, zebras, elephants, warthogs, the African buffalo, and a deer-like animal named a bontebok with a white face and and white legs below the knees.  Of course, you are not allowed out of your car.  I saw elephants coming toward us along a trail leading toward the waterhole.  So I parked our car about 8' from the trail.  They passed right by in front of the car.  The fact that we were there didn't even phase them let alone cause them to circle away from the car.  We have enjoyed the animal parks and have visited three so far.

In one park, we were driving slowly along a dirt road and came face to face with a giraffe.  We stopped a few feet in front of him and gaped at him.  He was huge.  We kept thinking he would move off the road into the bush, but no, he was going no where.  He just stood there.  So after about 5 minute standoff, we drove around him and went on our way.  The giraffes are magnificent creatures.   There seem to be 2 species - tall and taller; the tall being slightly brown and the taller being lighter in color.  The same with zebras.

It seems almost every neighbor in this compound has a small terrior dog that is constantly barking.  When I walk around the compound in the mornings, about a 220 yard lap, 4 to a mile, I cause the dogs to bark. So  my walk is an interesting one accompanied to the sound of barking dogs on the ground and squawking birds flying over head.

The Afrikaan whites have some interesting ways of saying things. For example: We went to a nursery to get flowers to plant by our front door.  The owner came up to me and said, "Can I help you with anything?' I said no, we are just browsing.  "If you need anything, just give a shout."he said. I thought that was quite unique and very "British-like."  I still have trouble understanding some of the white Afrikaans with real thick accents when speaking on the telephone.  True, they are speaking English, but the accent is so strong, it's really hard to understand them.  I do better when we talk face to face.  The same applies to some of the Blacks.  I went into a store the other day and asked a Black man where I would find reams of paper for a computer.  and I couldn't understand one word he was saying. He probably saw the confused look on my face and led me to the paper.

Last night as we were watching a concert performance by "ABBA", I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me.  He was a retired school teacher of 30 years and had retired a year ago.  He told me some pretty bizarre high school stories.  He taught Black students who lived in the black townships and shanties. He said he had taught 9 classes a day with a class room average of 58 students per class. It was a challenge and even more so with the invasion of gangsters into the school.  School security police plus teachers had to unite to repel the gangsters and chain all the doors leading into the school.  School fights were a daily occurrence to include in the classrooms.  His knees were rather shot from his rugby playing days so he used a cane to help him get around.  When the students entered the classroom they were extremely noisy and boisterous.  To get their attention and shut them up he would take his cane and strongly wham it on the desks of seated students.  He said it was tough and you had to be tough.  He said some teachers lasted only one day, some one hour, and others not even one minute. There was a constant exodus of teachers, the Board of Education did nothing, the Department of Education did nothing,  the school system is chaotic, and there are some in the population who cannot read or write.

150,000 students needed to be bused to and from school.  150,000 have to walk.  There is no transportation available to resolve the problems, there are not enough schools, classrooms, buildings, teachers, equipment, supplies and money.  The government is lacking in support and cannot resolve all the existing problems, there are just too many.  This teacher survived 30 years of teaching high school because he was determined, cared about students and their education, was tough, committed, understood the mentality of these students, families, and communities, and could stand up to problems and their challenges.  In other words, he had double thick skin and a burning desire to endure to the end.

He wanted to teach shop, became qualified, and added shop classes to his his exisiting schedule. He taught technology, theory and skills associated with woodwork construction. He said he never had a single student fail to graduate from high school in the industrial arts program.  His wood shop classes averaged 22 students per class.   Students would get behind in their work. He would motivate and encourage them.  When some failed to show up in his classes he would go on his motor cycle to their homes and get them to show up, even bring them to school on his motor cycle.

At the end of the school year in this education system, which is similar to the British system we had in Samoa, students have to take a big exam in all their classes which is a summation of what each course covered the entire year.  There are 7 classes.  To "matric" or graduate from high school, you have to have passing marks in all 7 classes.  If you are shy by 2 points in passing one class, but you pass the other 6, you fail the entire school year and have to repeat all 7 classes again and your entire senior school year.  Then you would need to pass all 7 classes at the end of the next year in order to graduate or "matric" from high school.

To make "borderline" students complete the required work in industrial arts so they could qualify to take the upcoming "Matric" exam, he would go to their homes, pick them up on his motor cycle at dusk, take them to his wood shop at school, and work with then until 3 a.m in the morning.  He would make them complete their mandatory projects and help them with their final preparation for the big industrial arts exam culminating the school year.  It was this dedication and commitment to student success, that not one of his students ever failed the "matric" exam in 25 years.   I marveled at what this teacher shared with me.  What an outstanding  teacher!

Well, so much for my education treatise today.  Have a happy day.

Elder S.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Police - April 13th

Subject: Police
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2012 17:08:08 -0600

The police here function or don't function on an interesting level.  They do not come to car accidents.  If you are involved in a car accident and no one in both parties is injured, the drivers take each other's name, address, phone number, and name of insurance company (if the other driver has one).  Then, if you feel it is worth your time and effort, you proceed to the police station and report your side of the story.  The other driver will do likewise.  The police will then proceed to do nothing.  No ticket is issued, no blame is assessed, you are left to work it out among yourselves. The only action that will be taken against a driver is if he has no license.  He will then have to pay a fine.

Now a certain number of drivers in this country don't have driver's licenses nor automobile insurance and therein lies a problem. Example: Brother and sister Taylor, a missionary couple from Cokeville, Wyoming who live 3 houses away from us, were rear ended 2 weeks before we arrived in Port Elizabeth.  The driver of the truck that hit them had no license nor insurance.  The police did nothing except levy a fine to the driver without a license.  The fact that he had no insurance was not an issue of police concern.  Insurance is a matter of protection of self and one's own automobile. It is a private choice and a private concern.  If insurance is mandated at all by the government, it is grossly ignored by a multitude of automobile owners and drivers, and ignored by police in cases of accident, assessment of blame, and order to fix the other driver's car.The car was towed to a garage to be fixed.  It was salvageable.  

In the meantime, Elder & Sister Taylor had to rent a car at their own expense to continue with their daily missionary work.  The Church's insurance on their rear ended vehicle covered the repair work, not a rental car. It took the garage 3 weeks to fix the car.  The rental price per day for the rental car to include insurance was $58 U.S. dollars. 21 days X $58 = $1,218 U.S. dollars.  The no license, no insurance driver never had to contribute a penny.  His truck suffered no damage.  He was free of all responsibility, free from non- existent police action, and free from insurance claim. This is how things function here. 

They say that Blacks walking along the side of roads at times get killed by motorists. In the case of serious injury or fatality, if notified, the police show up. Yesterday, we passed an accident where a motor cyclist was hit by a car.  The police showed up. What will happen, if anything, who knows.  In the case of pedestrians killed on the roadside I am informed that the general rule of thumb is, "The pedestrian should not have been walking on the road.  He should have been several feet off to the side.  Hence, it is the pedestrian's own fault." Automobiles do take precedence on roads and in parking lots and some Blacks do walk on the actual roadside itself as opposed to a few feet off. I have had to slow down and be careful at times passing pedestrians simultaneous as an approaching car. Whatever else the police do or don't do I do not know.  But, as  you mentioned Everett, the police or fire truck going to shanty town would have some problems.

I keep thinking I am going to run out of "differences" perceived in life here.  But being we have only been here 4 weeks, differences are obvious in comparison to things back home. I have yet to see chewing gum here or anyone chewing it and U.S. kids, without question, are constantly eating candy compared to kids here. By the way, I have talked to one policeman here.  He stopped us on the highway and asked if we had any firearms in the boot.  I said, "No, we are missionaries and have come in peace." He replied, "Then say a prayer for us."  Well, having seen how or how not the police function here, perhaps I will.  It's 1 a.m. bedtime.  Goodnight.

Elder S.   

The Post Net - April 5th

Subject: The Post Net, Part 2 -- the epilogue
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2012 09:24:59 -0600
Talking with Johannesburg Headquarters on the phone this morning I was reminded to get my gas expense receipts in as soon as possible, preferably today.  They were already late 5 days as I couldn't run them off out of excel being rather inept in the usage of this program.  However, somehow in my fumbling early this morning, I pressed the right keys and the computer spewed out 2 copies and I was able to complete the forms listing the expenses for March.  Johannesburg informed me to send them by registered mail or overnight mail right away as it could take 3 weeks to arrive from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg- a 13 hour drive.  

So off I went to the Post Net.  "I would like to post a registered letter to Johannesburg, I said.  "That will cost 80 Rand." the clerk replied.  "And when will it arrive in Johannesburg?" I asked.  "Sometime during the latter part of next week." he said. (Today is Thursday, by the way) "And what if I sent it overnight express?"  "That will cost 150 rand," He said.  "And when will it arrive in Johannesburg?" I asked.  "Sometime during the latter part of next week, " he replied.  "So, correct me if I'm wrong.  Overnight express mail will arrive sometime in the latter part of next week?"  "Yes, that's right."  "But it's overnight express." I said. "Shouldn't it arrive tomorrow?"  "No, it will arrive in 2 weeks." "But you just said it will arrive the latter part of next week."  "Tomorrow is a public holiday," he said. "It will take 2 weeks."  "What say I send it registered mail?" I said.  "It will still take 2 weeks."  "So there is really no difference between registered mail and overnight express mail?"  "Eighty Rand,"  he said.  "So, in your opinion, what's my best option?"  "Don't send mail the day before a public holiday."

Well, it has been a nice day at our zone conference and we did have a good Chinese luncheon for 24 missionaries.  That's one good thing that can take place before a public holiday - and it won't take 2 weeks to get home. 

Elder S   


"Skill Shortage + Employment Opportunities = Success

 Notes of meeting with President W
on Tuesday, April, 11, 2012

                                “Skill shortage + Employment Opportunities = Success”

            The end of apartheid brought a serious brain drain to Port Elizabeth and every where else in South Africa. There is serious shortage of skilled workers here. Many teachers, doctors, engineers and other whites have move to Canada, New Zealand and Australia.  When apartheid ended white people left this country in droves.  Some affluent blacks moved into the Lorraine area.  Both P.E. wards lost lots of members.  Membership in Lorraine Ward is now 150.  Less than 50 people attend regularly.

            A senior couple came to P.E. three years ago.  They went all over the stake helping students apply for PEF loans.  Many kids had no idea what they wanted to do.  They got PEF loans and took the classes that friends had recommended.  Many dropped out.  Those who graduated could not  fine jobs.  Many did not repay their loans and stopped attending church because they were embarrassed about defaulting.  The stake has more defaults than the other stakes.  They finds embarrassing.  

            P.E. has a program in place now to prevent this from happening again.  President W. works closely with a committee that approves PEF loans.   Bishops are willing to have us present PEF firesides.  Otherwise the stake or Johannesberg will take care of everything.  Sister V  has been called to supervise the  “Planning for Success” teachers.  She has been very busy working in her husband’s business and  has not done anything since being called.  All the teachers have been called and there is one for each building.  The stake would just like us to conduct the PEF Firesides as everything else is in place.  Consequently our only responsibility we have is the firesides each year in P.E., Grahamstown, Port Alfred,  and George, collect paperwork and close out the loans.  
President W’s assessment of the situation:

            The youth in black townships have unrealistic expectations about what kind of jobs they can get.  They all want to go to college and get white collar jobs.  They expect to have things just handed to them and do not want to get their hands dirty.  They are lazy and have little direction or motivation. 

          Many people in Kwanobuhle 1 and 2 need work badly.  Brother V., employment specialist, may be helping them out there.  Pres. W. feels that the  blacks could advance under the present government easier than the whites can but the blacks are lazy and seldom follow thru.  He claims reverse discrimination against whites.  Says that a white man is passed over in favor of a black.  Case in point:  His highly skilled brother cannot find a job.  Whenever his brother applies for a job it's the black, less skilled applicant that is hired.  (Our neighbor, the police man, verified this.  Said he is still on entry level after 10 years in the P.E. police force.)

            General Motors left P.E and moved their plant because the employees demanded high wages and more benefits.  Technical skills are needed but black youths in local townships all want white collar jobs.  But this is not where the demand lies.  Sister K. has two catalogues of trade schools where students may attend to qualify for the jobs available in P.E. now.  The Blacks in the townships may go to the nearby Volkswagon plant and wait for day work which earns them 10 Rand daily.  (a little over $1.00).  Not much but more than paying for a taxi to bring them to P.E.

            President P. suggested that we direct our efforts toward helping blacks qualify for bursaries which do not need to be repaid.  These government scholarships go to bright students so they can attend a university without cost.  Blacks are admitted into medical school with a significantly lower score on entrance exams than the whites under the Affirmative Action so many blacks cannot succeed at the University level.  President P. thinks Tom and I should look for bursary candidates and then help them to apply and get admitted to programs.  But then there is still the problem of getting to class as it's too far to walk and they cannot afford transport.  This is interesting information from the stake we serve considering we are PEF missionaries with a mandate to promote that program.  

 Sister S. Notes, 
  Tom spent weeks putting his PEF Power Point Fireside presentation together and it crashed twice. Elder Sutherland and Critchfield came over to help.  Southerland's father owns a computer company.  He was able to post my Smileboxes to this blog but could not find Tom's Presentations.  Looks like we will have to call Gary Laaks from the stake again.  (He owns a computer company and has been here twice resolving our problems without compensation.)   Internet was down for three days over the Easter Weekend.  I told Tom I did not think they could justify billing us for service since it's down so often. Is there something we don't know?  The Elders stopped in again and we learned that we need to reboot our router when it goes out, usually after a storm.  Tom has finally figured out how to use our cell phone.  I'm still have problems getting it to lock so I can answer a call. Our Fax machine will send but we cannot receive.  (Laak discovered that one problem was the new phone which was defective and had to be taken back.)  The fax is still not work properly.  

On April 30th we discovered that Tom's e-mail account had been hijacked.  Before it was closed,  I retrieve all his e-mail to my brother-in-law Everett Young and posted it to the for safe keeping.  After a sincere prayer, Elder Stokoe finally got his Power Point Presentation up and running and we have done three PEF Firesides and sat in on one "Planning for Success" Workshop.   We have two more workshops each week through the month of May.  We do not teach any classes, only assist and answer questions.  Since all the students come hungry after a day of working,school walking several miles to the church Tom has decided his role here is to feed them. He is planning on egg sandwiches for the workshops on Thursday and Friday.

It bothers Tom to tell people that only "temple worthy" people can qualify for a PEF loan.  Many are poor and unemployed.  President Wood cannot divide the huge black wards in the Townships because of a lack of Melchizedek priesthood holders and the people do not pay tithing.  Many are uneducated and have no way to improve their situation.  One third of the people in South Africa are unemployed.  Over half the youth are without jobs and could not sustain themselves if they were given a PEF loan as it covers only books and tuition.  Some  students stopped attending and dropped out because they could not get to school.  Since we were called to serve here,  It looks like my role is cheerleaders.  To love and encourage.  I thought I would come to South Africa and be "Casandra Barbe" by volunteering for everything.  I've since discovered that I'm Carol Jarvis -- trying to uplift, encourage, and support.

Grocery Stores & Drivers - April 12

Subject: Grocery Stores & Drivers
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2012 09:52:59 -0600

Visiting the Pick 'n Save grocery store is an interesting experience.  After 4 weeks in Africa I can summarize my perceptions:
(1)  The white Afrikaans are intent shoppers.  Other than the old folks in their upper 70's and 80's, the average shopper is moving busily from aisle to aisle, item to item, at "I'm in a hurry." pace.  Their philosophy seems to be, "If you are in the way of my shopping cart - move."   

(2)  All the workers are native Africans. They are polite and courteous.  When I pass through the cash register I say "Thank you." in their native language and they smile. 

(3)  When you buy vegetables, you tear off a plastic paper bag and place your vegetables inside.  Then you proceed to the "Weigh-In station."  "The weigh-In lady weighs your bag of vegetables and affixes a price tag.  The bag is now ready for the cashier.

(4)  The Deli is most interesting.  It's somewhat comparable to our Delis back home except there are more sausages of several kind; baked, fried and stewed chicken; several curries;  lamb, beef, and chicken stew; macaroni and potato salads, and many other dishes.  The one that caught my eye today was "Garlic Snails."  I have already mentioned to you "Monkey Kidneys." I saw a menu at the restaurant in one of the animal parks we visited that said, "Rhino burgers." I don't know if the content was rhino or it referred to the size of the burger. Anyway, there is always something of interest to see each day in Africa.

(5)  So far, I have only seen 3 people smoke and that was 3 native Africans sitting on the back of a truck we were following.  One would puff a few times then pass it to the next, who would take a few puffs, then pass it on to the third.  Either they were smoking "weed" or they couldn't afford a pack of cigarettes.

(6)  Parking lot driving? Very interesting.  The drivers are white AfriKaans.  The native Africans walk every where.  It is ,"Get out of my way pedestrian or I'll mow you down."  There's little courtesy for pedestrians walking through the parking lot to the store or back to their cars. They speed through parking lots.  It's, "I own the parking lot and I'll drive at whatever speed I want."  I observed a white lady enter the parking lot from an adjacent road.  The traffic was backed up in an aisle 4 cars deep as a car up front was about to back up and leave.  She waited 6 seconds then started laying on the horn.  I said to myself, "Lady, be patient."  The drivers here seem to drive fast.  

(7)  The people here are friendly both Afrikaans and the native Africans. We have enjoyed meeting them and visiting various areas.

(8)  The majority of parking lots have native Africans pointing to an open parking space and guiding you as you back out.  You give them 2-3 Rand which is about 25 - 37 cents. This is how the parking assistants make a living - your charitable donation for their service.

(9)  Naturally in any culture people are used to the food and drink they grow up on in their native lands.  So it is an adjustment for us to assimilate the tastes of things here.
Our  "No" list or "Not going to eat that again includes.": canned peas, corn, corned beef; hot dogs, chicken pie and for Diane - Kentucky fried chicken, but KFC was fine for me.   We're eliminating some of the drinks: pineapple and mango so far.  Guava is good.  Anyway, the "sorting procedure" will continue.

(10)  Well, 2 of the young missionaries are coming over for dinner so it's time for me to go and cook.  Sister S is in cooking retirement.  Until next time.

Elder S.


Sunday Conference Broadcast - April 15th

Subject: Sunday
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2012 09:01:00 -0600
Today, Sunday we saw two recorded sessions of General Conference. We saw a recording of priesthood session last night at 6 pm and 2 sessions last weekend.  So we have seen 5 sessions total - 4 recorded and one live.  Most inspirational and uplifting.  I especially enjoyed today Elder Holland's speech on the parable of the laborers -those who worked the full day and those who worked the last hour and all enjoyed the same blessing of pay.  The speech was outstanding.

We will have been in Port Elizabeth exactly 4 weeks tomorrow, Monday.  In that period of time I have seen 3 white boys on the side of streets.  The rest have been Black and once in a while an isolated Brown. The people here are friendly and helpful.  They will go the extra mile to help with road instructions so you can find your destination. We are gradually tuning into the local accents though comprehending on the telephone is a different story. The neighbors in the compound are becoming aware of me as I walk around the circle for exercise in the mornings.  When I first started they drove by me headed to the main gate and work. Now they wave. We are enjoying being here.  With time on hand we are considering taking up golf.  Sister S. could improve her swing and so could I.  She has only golfed once in her life and I about 5 times.  We will check out the local golf course and see what's what.  It has been a pleasant Sunday and other than Sister S. having a cold we are enjoying the sunshine.

Elder S.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Underway with our PEF Responsibilities

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This is Elder Stokoe and I at our First PEF Fireside.  The blessing was that he got his Presentation going.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Articles from the Daily Sun on April 16, 2012

Summary of articles from local newspaper

Cover Story:  “Where Teaching is impossible. . . 3 Classes, ONE ROOM”   Three teachers using three different languages all talk at once as they teach different subjects to the 80 grade three pupils who are crammed into one classroom.  But the Senianya Primary School in Rooiboklaagte, Mpumalanga, is not even on the list of 94 schools identified by the national education department as needing urgent help.  While each teacher speaks a different language 80 little kids, desperate to learn something, were facing in different directions trying to pick up some scraps of knowledge.  But provincial education spokesman Jasper Zwane said they were not even aware of the problem because they hadn’t received a report from the school’s governing body.  “They must write a report.  That’s the only way we can know,” he said.  The teachers were too frightened of being victimized by the provincial education authorities to talk to Daily Sun.  There should be three classrooms for grade R, not one.  Grade R is most critical phase where kids need to get full attention and this situation is not good.  The Mpumalanga Department of Education was informed about the problem at the school but has done nothing about it.   (Front page photo shows a very crowded classroom.)

“Zuma Ties the Knot–Again” President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, 70, will marry for the sixth time this coming weekend.  After he marries Bongi Ngema he will have four current wives.  One wife committed suicide in 2000.  He was divorced by another in 1998.  Zuma is legally married to Sizakele, Nompumelelo Ntili and Thobeka, who are all South Africa’s first ladies and taken care of by the state and taxpayers. . .  Waiting in the queue to marry the president is Sonono Khoza, who has a child by him.  Wife number eight will be Swaziland’s princess Sebentile for whom Zuma paid lobola (bride price) for in 2002.  Some countrymen supported him.  Others think it is a bad idea: Smanga Mpanza: “As long as he is doing it the right way, I don’t see any problem.”  Kamohelo: “Polygamy is a sin, so Mr. President is offending God’s law.”  Matodzi Jason: “He’s an African man.  If he can support them, why not?”

“60 schoolkids saved from this coffin on wheels!”  Traffic officer stopped a taxi that was designed to carry 16 passengers.  They found many school kids crammed inside.  And as the pupils got out of the taxi, the cops counted them one by one...they totaled 60!  The steering mechanism and breaks were in very bad shape.  The tires were worn out.  And one of the kids told Daily Sun they paid R150 a month for transport! The Toyota Siyaya was stopped on Blood River Road near Polokwane.  The driver, who is also a Teacher, was arrested and locked up.  Cops organized other taxis to take the school kids to their home.  Transporting
school children has been in the news since the term began on April 10th.  Providers had not been paid so 15,000 school children who were normally provided with transport, had to walk until cheques were issued.

“Malema will carry on!”  (p. 2)  Malema will continue talking and acting as president of the ANC Youth League!  This despite the ANCV’s national Disciplinary Committee decided to suspend him and barred him from organisational activity.  The league concluded that Malema should continue as its president because the decision of the disciplinary committee wasn’t officially communicated to ANCL. 

I just finished reading An Inconvenient Youth, the biography of  Julius Malema by Fiona Forde.  She concludes, “Malema has very little life experience and way too much power; a lethal mix that has completely gone to his 30-year-old head.”  A fatherless boy, born and raised in a township, Malema never completed high school.  His current popularity comes from organizing “service delivery protests’ while taking bribes, payoffs and gifts from companies hoping to secure government contracts.  Forde notes that there is a vacuum in African National Congress leadership today.   Malema has risen to power by providing hasty solutions to complex problems.  “There will come a time when people will stop depending on the state and try to access the wealth and the land themselves.  And who will they turn to?  Malema!  And that’s what makes Malema what he is: a man with an uncanny ability to read the socio-economic conditions around him; a man that can empathize with the people’s  hardships (p. 244)  while positioning himself to become the next president of South Africa.

“Malema is a threat” (p. 30)  Following his remarks equating President Jacob Zuma to a dictator, I had to asked myself two things.  Firstly, what role does Julius Malema play in the ANC besides creating divisions within and outside?  Secondly, what about the corruption allegations and the fact that he is under investigation.  Malema is not only a threat to the nation’s stability, but also to the survival of the ANC. quote by Ramohale Rabothata Limpopo

“Tricked and Trapped!”  They thought they were signing for ownership of their RDP houses.  But they were actually signing them away!  And now, the 400 families in the Sol Plaatje squatter camp in Roodepoort, west of Joburg, will live in dusty shacks without running water or electricity.  Today, the houses meant for them are crumbling and squatters are living in them.  The problem came after residents signed documents of satisfaction.  They didn’t understand what they were signing and the documents said the houses were finished to their satisfaction.  The municipality could then pay the contractor.  The contractor did not even fit windows or doors in some of the houses.  Others have no toilets. . .  Corruption Watch executives director David Lewis said they have received many complaints about the RDP houses.  He said the culprits should be dismissed from their jobs and never be allowed to work in the public service again.

“Battle over houses turns Ugly” Some people claim that RDP houses meant for flood victims are being sold to family and friends of a development forum.  Three houses belonging to forum members were burnt down on Thursday in Chatty near Booysen Park, Port Elizabeth.  Angry people marched to Councillor Bhungane’s office to demand the removal of the forum, but the councillor wasn’t there.. The councillor’s supporters and flood victims fought with knives, axes and pangas.  An Eastern Capes local official said: “I don’t understand why people are fighting.  There is massive service delivery taking place here.”

“We are Living Like Pigs” We are sick and tired of waiting.  Our main priority is to get electricity and replace the bucket system with flushing toilets but our municipality is unwilling to meet our demands.  For a month our buckets have not been collected.  Electricity was supposed to be installed last year but we are still in the dark.  In order to get light we have to rely on illegal connections.  Enough is enough!  We want service delivery.  Anna Nel, (59) told Daily Sun: “I have been here for 15 years but I still live like a pig.  When it’s wet I have to walk in the mud.  At night I live in the dark like a wild animal.  At election time the politicians come along and promise us a better life but once they are in office our living conditions get worse.”  Ward Councillor Sandar Fillis said: “People are angry with the company installing electricity in the area.  They say it’s too slow.  But the companies are busy on site putting in infrastructure to build houses for them.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Sunday

Painting of the Resurrection, click here to view.
Easter dinner with Sister Ek. Miles and the 
Lorraine Missionaries, Elder Critchfield,
and Elder Sutherland.
 The Painting of the Resurrection  is awesome!
Click link below the picture to view.
The Resurrection

This is tremendous!!!!
The Resurrection is a 12’ x 40’ mural, oil on canvas.
It is a depiction of the moment of Jesus emerging from the tomb.
This mural was commissioned by the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas , Texas .

Ntsetha Sanelisime of Kwa Magxai Ward

Elder Stokoe is pictured with Ntsetha Sanelisime, a PEF applicant, who we met after the Easter program in  Kwa Magxai Ward.  We also met Bishop Khanya Nqisha and  Brother Luvuyo Ntshebe who teaches the Planning for Success Workshop and consequently, was able to schedule a Fireside in  Kwa Nobuhle. The choir presented an Easter Program which included music and the spoken word.  It reminded us of our Utah Polynesian Choir presentations.  The voices were beautiful and the program  inspirational.  That afternoon Sister Pearl Ek of Lorraine Ward, invited Tom and I to dinner along with Elders Sutherland and Elder Critchfield (picture above.)  Later the Elders returned to our flat where Elder Sutherland was able to help me post all the Smileboxes I've made since arriving  in South Africa.


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Afrikaaners (Pale Natives) of South Africa

Pale Native - "Memories of a Renegade Reporter"  Excerpts from a book by
Max Du Preez who reviews the history of his Afrikanns ancestors

In 1834 when slavery was abolished in South Africa there were 36,169 slaves in the country.  That represented a large chunk of the total population living in the Cape Colony in that period.  Between 1652 and 1807 about 60,000 slaves were brought to the Cape.   Hermann Gilimomee records in “The Afrikaners, Biography of a People: “Negative views of blacks. . . were part of the identity map of burghers (Afrikaaners)  well before they met the blacks on the frontier... Before they met the Xhosa.  Isolation on farms produced a phobia against blacks.”

George W. Bush while visiting Goree Island said during his African tour in July 2003: “At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold.  Human beings were delivered and sorted, and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return.  One of the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history.”

Most white men in the colony owned slaves: two-thirds of the burghers in Cape Town and three-quarters of the farmers in the districts of Stellenbosch and Drakenstein owned slaves by 1795.  It was the custom to have slave women wet-nurse the white babies.  Giliomee reports speculation that this intimate relationship between white boys and slave women, ‘could in later life, find expression in [white men] being more at ease with black women and even preferring sex with them than with white women.’

The first documented marriage between a white man and a Khoikhoi woman took place in 1664.  A Danish soldier and medic employed by the Dutch East India Company who arrived in the Cape in 1695 married Eva, a Khoi woman who spoke Dutch and Portuguese.

In 1669 Arnoldus Willemxz married Angela of Bengal. (Black women only had one name.)   She became the matriarch of all Bassdons in South Africa and many other Afrikaans families.  There are also marriage between freed slaves and white women on record.  Marrying a white man was the easiest way for a slave woman to obtain her freedom and improve her social and material position.  But she had to become a Christian first.  Intermarriages can also be traced through the registers of christened children.  Jan Herfst (Herbst) baptized his son Johannes in 1685.  The mother was an African slave, Celilia of Angola.  He later had another child with Lijsbeth of Bengal, whose mother was an African slave from Guinea.  All these descendants became part of white society.

Armosyn Claasz of the Cape (slaves born in the Cape were referred to as ‘van de Caap’) was born in 1661 in VOC’s slave lodge.  Her mother was an African slave.  In 1688 she had a son, Claas Jonasz.  Most of his descendants became part of the white society – the Afrikaner families Brits, Van Deventer, Slabbert, Fischer and Carstens count among them.

One reason for the unexpectedly high number of marriages between white settlers and slaves was that there was a serious shortage of white women at  in those early years.   Apart from the French Huguenots in Holland and Germany, whites who arrived from 1688 came from poor, struggling families and were not highly educated.  Membership in a Christian church made assimilation into European society much easier. However Muslims and Hindus were shunned.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the pattern was firmly established in the Cape Colony: white meant dominant and prosperous, dark meant inferior and poor.  This pattern was strengthened even more under British rule, and remained valid in the whole of South Africa  for two centuries.

Hypocrisy became a pattern that stuck.  Just after 1700, a group of Stellenbosh farmers complained to the authorities that they felt threatened by the non-white groups in the colony.  They stated in a petition: Khoikhoi would attack ‘the Christians’ at the slightest opportunity and expressed their disgust at the number of racially mixed marriages concluding that ‘Ham’s blood was not to be trusted.'  One of the petitioners was Willem Mensing who could not keep his hands of black Tryntije, and even had a baby with her.  Another was father Marguerite, a prominent Huguenot, who at that stage was already the grandfather of several ‘mestico’children.’

Professor Hesse found that there were more than 1,200 marriages between white and black or people of mixed blood between 1652 and 1800.  He calculates that Afrikaners have at least 7.2 percent ‘non-white’ blood in their veins.  His breakdown of Afrikaner genes by 1837 looks like this: Dutch 35.5 per cent; German 34.4; French 13.9; Asian/African/Kihoi 7.2; British 2.6%.

It is easy to demonstrate how supremely ridiculous race is as a way of separating people.  Culture and language make sense, yes, but race is nonsense . . . We should also remember that our ancestors arrived in the Cape 350 years or so ago with the views on race and class prevalent in Europe at that time.  The Afrikaners did not invent racism; they just perfected it.

The French and German parts of my family lost their mother tongue within two generations, and soon they were speaking a simplified, creole version of Dutch that had developed among the slaves and servants, later called Afrikaans. My Du Preez, Saayman and Kruger forefathers were among those who became freeburghers, [frontier farmers] and most of them moved toward the eastern Cape as agricultural land in the district around Cape Town became scarcer.  They resented the Dutch Colonial authorities; after 1795 they hated the British colonial authorities even more.

The land was beautiful and the land was good.  Returning to Europe never even entered their minds.  They had no sense that they were invading other nations’ land, and it never occurred to them that perhaps they had no right to be there.  This was the way of the world in the eighteenth century.  They saw themselves as frontiersmen, as pioneers taming a  new corner of the world. .  The Khoikhoi could muster very little resistance, and the Bushmen who did, simply got shot.  The Xhosa people saw a strange, pale people who showed no respect but had firearms and who came to steal the land they had used for centuries.  They did not understand each other, so they feared each other.  The next few decades saw incessant conflicts between the two groups, then known as the Kaffir Wars, today called the Frontier Wars.  The scene was now set for the conflict between white and black that has still not been resolved completely.

Around 1835 many of the white farmers on the eastern frontier decided to escape the jurisdiction of the British and seek greener pastures.  They trekked north and east, into the land of the Zulu, the Sotho, the Tswana, the Pedi and the Venda, conquering and occupying land as far as they went.  They did not see themselves as colonists, but as indigenous people expanding their sphere of influence and economic activity.  The black groups saw them simply as foreign invaders.

The Great Trek became a migration of a violent boorish group of white supremacists who refused to accept the efforts of the British colonial authorities to curtail their abuse of the indigenous people.  They stole land as far as they went and subjugated every tribe they came across, in the process destabilizing ancient cultures and populations.  However oversimplified that is, and however offensive that may sound to my Afrikaner ears, there is some truth to it.  The men who planned the Trek certainly did not have any grand ideas about nationalism or the founding of a new nation.

They were indeed racist: they saw themselves as the carriers of a superior, Western Christian culture and the local people as primitive heathens.  And yes, they did despise the British, believing that they favored the Koikhoi, the slaves and the Xhosa over the trekboers.  They were angry that slavery had been abolished, and yes, they stole all the land they could get their hands on.

As an Afrikaner, I have to face all these facts about my forefathers.  At this point in history, I cannot merely justify their actions as the behavior of a strange group of pale-faced people who came from Europe.  Their sins are being visited upon me still today. . . Perhaps, in mitigation, I should plead that this was the mid-nineteenth century, not the twenty-first.  Shaka and Mzilikazi and other African chiefs and kings of the time were an equally rough bunch, land grabbing and cattle theft were the order of the day.. .

On 19 August 1953 South African high commissioner to the United Kingdom Dr. Al Geyer declared: ‘South Africa is no more the original home of its black African’s, the Bantu, than of its white Africans.  Both races went there as colonists and, what is more, as practically contemporary colonists.  In some part the Bantu arrived first, in other parts the Europeans were first comers.”

South Africa today is a living miracle. A hundred, two hundred years from now history students will be amazed at how a society had managed to overcome an ideology as vicious as apartheid without fighting a civil war, and building a stable society on its ashes.  I feel blessed to have experienced  how my nation successfully overthrew a race-based autocracy, replacing it with a proper democracy and with a magnificent constitution.  I feel privileged to have been an actor in the grand play that was the creation of the New South Africa.

I sometimes worry about the terrible poverty so many of our people still suffer, and about the naked greed and self-indulgence of our new rulers and our new elite.  I worry about violent crime and corruption, and old and new racism.  I’ve been called many names in my life.  I call myself a native of Africa: pale, but no less native.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Die Boek van Mormon"

My notes from an article written by John M. Pontius, a former missionary to South Africa. Mynhad translated the Book of Mormon into Afrikaans.  This article was mentioned during testimony our meeting. The Professor, a nonmember, spoke at Stake Conference in Johannesburg on May 14, 1972

Mynhardt said that he had been given the gift of languages in his youth.  He was fluent in English, Afrikaans, Hebrew and Egyptian as well as many other languages.  A devout Christian, he prayed and asked God to give him some task, a divinely important task, that would justify his receiving such a special gift from God. Shortly thereafter he was visited by a group of Mormon leaders who sought to commission him to translate the Book of Mormon from English into Afrikaans.  He knew the book from his religious studies but did not want to get involved realizing that by translating it he would likely get into trouble with his university which was owned by the Dutch Reformed Church.  However, after praying about the matter he decided to accept the commission.

“I never begin translating a book at the beginning.  Writing styles usually change through a book, and become more consistent towards the middle.  So I opened to a random place in the middle and began translating.  I was startled by the obvious fact that the Book of Mormon was not authored in English.  It became immediately apparent that I was reading a translation into English from some other language.

The sentence structure was wrong for native English.  The word choice was wrong as were many phrases.  How many times has an Englishman said or written, ‘And it came to pass?’  When I realized this I know that I had to find the original language, and translate it back into the original language, or a similar language to the original, and then proceed to translate that into Afrikaans.  I tried half a dozen languages.  None accommodated the strange sentence structure found in the Book of Mormon.

I finally tried Egyptian, and to my complete surprise, I found it translated flawlessly into Egyptian.  Not modern, but ancient Egyptian.  I found that some nouns where missing from Egyptian, so I added Hebrew because both languages existed in the same place anciently.

I had no idea at that time why the Book of Mormon was written in Egyptian, but I can tell you without any doubt, that this book was at one point written entirely in Egyptian.  Imagine my utter astonishment when I turned to chapter one verse one and began my actual translation and came to verse two, where Nephi describes that he was writing in the language of the Egyptians, with the learning of the Jews.

I knew by the second verse that this was no ordinary book, that it was not the writing of Joseph Smith, but that it was of ancient origin and was in fact scripture.  I could have saved myself months of work if I had just begun at the beginning.  I am one of the few people in the world that is fluent in ancient Egyptian.  I am perhaps the only person fluent in ancient Egyptian who is also fluent in Afrikaans and English.  And I know for a fact that I am the only person alive who could have translated this book first into Egyptian, and then into Afrikaans.  If your church ever needs an Egyptian translation of the Book of Mormon it is sitting in my office as we speak.

I do not know what Joseph Smith was before he translated this book and I do not know what he was afterwards, but when he translated he was a prophet of God.  He could have been nothing else.  No person in 1827 could have done what he did.  The science did not exist.  The knowledge of ancient Egyptian did not exist.  The knowledge of those ancient times and people did not exist.

I will keep promoting this book as scripture for the remainder of my life.  Simply because it is scripture and I know it.  I haven’t studied your doctrine or your history since Joseph Smith.  The only thing I know about the Mormon religion is that you have authentic scripture in the Book of Mormon, that your church was begun by a living prophet of God and that all the world should embrace the Book of Mormon as scripture.  It simply cannot be denied.”

It was an electric moment.  Some people wept.  Some had waited a lifetime to read the Book of Mormon in Afrikaans.  Many people had learned English for the sole purpose of reading the scriptures.  The Spirit bore testimony that day through the words of Professor Mynhardt that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Senior Couples Day - April 1, 2012

We met all the Senior Missionary Couples in our Zone today at the Seaview Lion Park

1.  East London - Brother and Sister Fowers – Recent service project was to cover a dirt floor with cow dung and use dung mixed with clay to fill in holes in the walls & roof.  They let it dry and then paint over everything.  They participated in another activity to line the walls of a one room shack with cardboard.  The woman was most appreciative.  Maxiulie is a youth and recent convert preparing to serve a mission.  He lives in a one room shack with his mother.  It has no stove nor running water.  Sister Fowers is helping him earn money for his pass port and he is blossoming.  She has taught him to make muffins in her oven to sell to his friends and others.  She provides the chocolate chips and all the other ingredients.

2.  Grahamstown - Brother and Sister Nye a senior couple from Oklahoma.  She is a former elementary school principal.  Recently here children collected books and school supplies, brought them here and donated them to a needy school.  She said three women administrators came from the district office wearing diamond rings and lots of gold bracelets.  (See newspaper article in blog.) Everyone deferred to them.  Parents and students were all very appreciative.  Mothers danced around with the boxes on their head.  Brother Nye is former bishop who believes the Xhosha should give up their tribal traditions including circumcism. I disagreed citing Nelson Mandela, a Xhosha, who counts his years as a man from the date of his circumcise ceremony.  I pointed out that Xhosa men cannot marry, inherit property or become tribal leaders if they have not gone through this ceremony.  Van Sickel described how the young men in his ward arrived to greet others who had just completed their initiation activities.  He said there was none of the traditional drinking when the Mormons came to participate. Young men are taught to be good Christians as part of the ceremony.  Also the Xhosha did not want to offend their Mormon guests.The Nye’s will sponsor a Fireside on a Saturday afternoon between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.  However there are no immediate  PEF applicants.  Area historian Alan Banford, a member who will show us around when we come.  We will see the 100 year old cathedral in Grahamstown.

3.  Port Alfred - Elder & Sister Stems will replace the Robinsons who are leaving in May.   Brother Robinson is the branch president.  They live in a beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean where they can see whales.  Port Alfred is a black community comprised of about 50,000 people.  This is an area of vacation and retirement homes.  Unemployment among LDS members is a huge problem.  There are jobs for domestics and gardners.  There are 55 members in their branch.  Many are in need of food and employment.  They are open to scheduling a PEF fireside.

4.  George - We met Elder & Sister Richins in the MTC and arrived in Africa with them.  They replaced the Smiths who were transferred to Nimibia.  We have scheduled a fireside at Knysna at 4:30 on Sunday, April 22nd.  We will join them in catering the Zone Conference luncheon for the young elders and President Wood on  April 5th.  Shortly thereafter the fireside at Knysna was cancelled.  So we scheduled one at Kwa Magxaik in the P.E. Stake for that day.

5.  Kwa Nobuhie Ward, P.E.  - The Van Sickels -- Employment Specialists --do not seem to be doing much with Employment but instead have adopted Bishop Mahaloubai’s ward of 698 black members.  There is 25% unemployment here in South Africa.  Evidently Van Sickel hoped to serve in the churches’s humanitarian department developing water projects since he owns an installation company.  Shortly after he arrived he proposed a project in Illigandy to improve their water delivery system.  Illigandy is a former determent camp. The  four wells drilled there in 1987 are failing and the old pipes need to be incased in copper or they will eventually collapse.  As the water level drops, the township only get’s water two hours a day.  Van Sickel offered to fund this project himself if the church would agree to do the legal work for him and the residents pay a tiny fee to keep things going.  Johannesburg declined saying that those people already had water, they missed the application deadline and areas have no running water at all.  Van Sickel claims that leaders in Johannesburg did not understand his proposal.  He is a nice man but  not a good communicator.   I asked if he had written up his proposal?  He said “No but I've sent pictures.”  My feeling is that this is a worthy project that needs a good  advocate.

6.  Port Elizabeth Area seminary and institute missionaries - Elder and Sister Taylor are very busy assisting and teaching classes.  They just finished showing the "Ten Commandments" to the  institute students.  After which they served refreshments and held some discussions.  They are also mentoring a young widow with two children on Monday evenings to help her become a more effective institute teacher.

7.  Zone PEF Coordinators.  Elder Stokoe and I will set up Fire Sides with these couples and our priesthood leaders and workshop teachers in the Port Elizabeth Stake.  The Firesides cannot begin until mid April when second  terms begins and students return from holiday.  These Firesides must be concluded by June 22nd in order to give the applicants enough time for their applications to be processed and the money dispersed to colleges and trade schools for their tuition before the beginning of the next school year in 2013.