Sunday, July 29, 2012

New flat at 11 Stethen Place

Friday, July 27, 2012

     We found a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom townhouse last night.  It’s about the same size as the flat we now occupy, it’s in Lorraine, and only a mile from the other two senior couples.  Which will make coordinating area and leadership training dinners for the young  missionaries easier.  Lucky we arrived early for our 5:30 appointment.  Four other prospective renters came shortly after we got there.  Evidently 11 
Stethen Place had just been listed.  We had only a few minutes to make our decision.  The property compares favorably to the flats that the other two senior couples occupy and will work well for the couple that replaces us. So no more switching flats just before the new couple arrives leaving the least desirable property for them. Elders Critchfiled and Ssemanda arrived to collect their mail a few minutes after we got home last night.  They stayed for dinner and Elder Critchfield invited us to attend district meeting at 10:30 today.  
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Saturday, July 28, 2012
  Went to breakfast  at Whimpy’s this morning as there was nothing in the house to eat.  I expected to defrost the refrigerator and get ready to move.  However since Cape Town has paid our rent here thru  August 31st, they advised us to stay put.    Still Elder Oldham suggested that I call Talanna and explore the possibility of a refund.  Which I did.  But she was not willing. Legal work on the sale of this flat has been done and her buyers expects to close August 31st.   So we will move the last week in August.  Which works  for us.  We will have time to settle in before leaving for East London on September 1st.   

We went to district meeting. Elder Critchfield had organized a Jeopardy game.  The subjects: scriptures, general conference talks, local and current events, “missionary commitments” and questions from Preach My Gospel.   Elder Ssamana, from Kenya, ended up with the most points.  He really knows his scriptures and he's very bright. Team Stokoe lucked out when we got  500 points for knowing what Jeffery Holland’s analogy in his conference talk concerning people who takes offense at other’s good fortune represent. The answer: “It’s like drinking another bottle of pickle juice! “  Then we took the elders to lunch.  They are happy to see Phillip Clarke attending sacrament meeting.  They suggested we spend our down time working with less actives.  

 Elder Critchfield (who resembles Clark Kent) believes Tom and I relate better to these people than the young elders since we are closer to them in age.  He has made an appointment for us to visit a single sister next week.   The P.E. elders have given us contact information on a school teacher.  They hope we can provide some continuity as Elder Pack goes home on Wednesday and Elder Atkin will welcome two new elders on Wednesday and then work with them until he leaves in two weeks.  I asked Pack what he would be doing at this time next Friday.  He said, “Kissing my mom hello at the airport;  having dinner at CafĂ© Rio and then going to Eden with my family.  (It's near Pine View Resevoir north of Ogden.)

It’s rained on and off again all day. Tom is delighted that the Olympics is being broadcast on one of the three TV stations here.  He watched the opening ceremonies in the middle of the night and is happily settled in front of the TV watching a rugby game even as I write.  We are going to an activity in Port Elizabeth Ward at 5:00 p.m.  We will watch "The Home Teacher."  The Cleary Elders sponsor a movie in their ward on the first Friday of the month.  We set up our Eiki projector so they could show "The Other Side of Heaven."  Over 40 people came including less actives, investigators and the youth.  It really helps to have these kinds of church activities going on in a colored township where people have little or no money and must walk everywhere they go.

Finding a new Flat

Today we went looking at flats and found a large three bedroom flat called Kragga Gamma Retirement Village in Fernglen.  You must be at least 50 to rent there.  #77 is very nice, larger than where we are living now and the flat has plenty or storage space. Fernwood is a  rural area not too far from the P.E. airport which will facilitate our weekly mail run.  The complex is close to the N1 highway so it will be easier to get to wards and branches in the outlying areas.   It’s quite a distance from the other two missionary couples.  The  Taylors are going home soon.  We seldom see the Van Sickles since they travel with their responsibilities as Employment Specialists. 

The Taylors will be replaced by the Shurbetts from St. George.  They fly off on September 24th and the Shurbetts will arrive before the end of September.  I talked to Janette about renting her two bedroom flat across the street.  She hopes to get a job in Cape Town and would like the security of renting to the church.  But it doesn’t look like she will be moving any time soon.   We are not worried about finding housing. The Lord will provide.  It really doesn’t much matter where we live since we  float among the wards and branches of P.E. stake when we aren’t in Knysna, Grahamstown or East London.

Elders Acton and Pack visited this morning.  I  made crepes and green smoothies from greens in my garden for them.  They invited us to attend an activity in P.E. ward at 5:00 p.m. Saturday night.  They are baptizing a family at 1:00 p.m in P.E. Ward.     It’s the first baptisms of a family--mom, dad and three young sons ageses 2, 4 and 8.   Too bad we have a planning for success class in Cleary at 12:30.  Critchfield and Ssamanda are baptizing a family of three in Lorraine Ward the following week which will bring the membership there up to 154.  

We are all going out to dinner with the Clarkes on Monday night since Elder Pack goes home on Wednesday.  Acton will also be leaving in two weeks.  Elder Pack has been getting letters from three girls in the Young Ambassadors.  We teased him about that.  Elder Acton  will be returning to Washington State where he plans to go to school,  rebuild his failed furniture repair business and marry his long time girl.  Two weeks ago he showed me a picture of her new baby girl saying, “this is my new baby .”  I made some inappropriate comments about “long distance fertilization” but he is very proud of little girl and looks forward to being her father.

Tom and Elder Taylor went to Stake Priesthood meeting last night while I visited Janette and reread Book One in the Chronicles Brothers Series, by Wendy Alec.  This is a series about three archangels, three brothers, one turned renegade.  I’ve been writing scriptures from the Book of Abraham in the margins of The Fall of Lucifer. The author's approach to the war in heaven is fascinating.  It includes a lot of references to DNA and science.  Mona Clark wrote and said her book club and our bible study ladies miss me.  So I sent her the "Acts of Faith" a fiction series based on incidents in the New Testament.    The first book is called, The Centurion’s Wife.   She can share these books with the sisters in bible study and her book club.

We have lots of down time during the week but are busy on weekends.  Sunday we are attending Sacrament meeting in Lorraine Ward at 8:00 a.m., then gospel doctrine class there.  At 10:00 a.m. we will attend Sacrament Meeting in P.E. ward with Acton and Pack.  Brother Clarke promised to attend.  At 12:30 we will be out in Cleary Branch for a "Planning for Success" class.  We always bring sandwiches to those classes.  At 7:00 p.m. there is a Youth Fireside at Kwa Magxaki Ward where Khumbulani, our boss from Johannesburg, will be speaking to the youth. 

Yesterday we went to Kragga Garma game reserve to see the wild life.  It was very muddy and we got stuck in the area where we saw the Rhinos on our last visit.  The dirt roads are all very muddy as it rained all day for three days in a row last week.  A Ranger had to come with his truck and two black workers to pull us out.  Elder Blake called us on our cell phone to get our address while we were riding around and viewing the animals.  He is sending us 300 copies of “Planning for Success.” He needed our physical address as the booklets needed to be delivered to us and signed for.  That was the only PEF work we had yesterday. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Miriam & Phillip Clarke

Reactivating the Clarkes

   We enjoyed a busy weekend attending PEF classes in Cleary and Kwanobuhle on Saturday, visiting both Lorraine & P.E Ward on Sunday and hosting the Van Sickles, the Taylors and Janette Lake for dinner Sunday afternoon in honor of Sister Jane’s birthday.  It was also our 38th wedding anniversary.  Yesterday we celebrated with a two hour Thai couples massage. Rose Fourie and Num, who had done wonders to repair my sore hip flexer, worked on us both in the same room.  It was lots of fun.   Last night we visited the Clarkes again.  Phillip Clarke showed up at sacrament meeting on Sunday which was a miracle as he has not darkened the doorstep in 26 years.  It was also a miracle that we happened to be at Sacrament meeting in P.E. Ward.  We had planned to go to church in  Kwa Magxaki Ward so we could deliver the “Planning for Success” certificates.  However  Tom overshot the turnoff twice.  This has never happened before.  The first time we got off the freeway and circled back to the N 1  via a slip road.  Then Tom was distracted by a begger standing on the corner of the freeway, and turned when the GPS said turn right.  We found ourselves going the wrong way into oncoming traffic.  Tom needed to turn right into the left lane. Instead he turned right into the right lane.  He quickly corrected but missed the turn off once  again.  We were too late to go out to Kwa Magxaki.

  We decided to return to Lorraine and catch that Sunday School class.  This was a good plan as the ladies wanted to know how the donation to the newborns went.  I gave them a report and then  joined Tom for Sacrament in P.E. Ward which was just beginning.  What a wonderful meeting.  The last of three speaker was the President of the Johannesburg Temple.   He had come down to visit his daughter, the wife of Bishop Wade Van Rooyen.  After the meeting  I noticed Elder Pack waving and mouthing something pointing to the front.  Since I could not understand what he was saying, I made my way up thru the crowd  to the front of the chapel.  Elder Pack had a big smile  on his face.  He said:  “Brother Clarke is here.”  I saw him and gave him a big hug.   Miriam works on Sundays so she did not attend.

Tom and I along with Elders Pack and Acton stood at Brother Clarke’s side while the congregation filed out.  He knew some of  the people, including the Temple president but wondered why there were so few people at the meeting.  I explained that many members had moved to Australia, Germany and other areas in 1994 when aphartheid ended in S.A.   Many Afrikkaners feared black leadership and so emigrated.  Elder Pack wanted photos so we went outside.  Brother Clarke invited Tom and I to visit again on Monday night.
The Elders had a family getting ready for baptism so could not join us.

Miriam was very interested in our visit to the newborn unit at Dora Ngiza hospital.  She crochets and often makes things to donate.  The matron of the maternity ward at Dora Ngiza asked me for the pattern for baby  caps.  She wants all the nurses to knit for the newborns on  breaks.  She said they put premature babies into plastic bags but need something to cover their heads.  Her goal is to have 1,000 caps on hand for the babies as soon as possible.  Sister Clarke is very interested in helping.  Tom and Phillip spent the evening talking about sports and World War 11.   Phillip finally brought up the questions of polygamy.  He said that Christ taught one man should have only one wife.  So why did Brigham Young have 27 wives and why was polygamy practiced in the early days of the church?

I was in the Church historian’s office doing research on polygamy for my Master’s thesis in 1985.  That is until Jim Kimball, the church historian, called me into his office and suggested that I write on something else.  So I knew a lot about this.  I explained that Joseph Smith was commanded to practice polygamy.  It was not something he chose for personal reasons.  Heber Kimball almost left the church because of this doctrine until wife Vilate prayed and learned that it came from God.  It may have been partly to provide for women single, divorced and widowed who needed support and protection but more likely the purpose was to build a foundation of righteous leaders.  These were needed to grow the church from 6 members in 1830 to 6 million today.

Many of our leaders today including Mitt Romney, have ancestors that practiced “the principle.”  I told Brother Clarke that only 3% of the church leaders were “called” to take more than one wife.  That they could not do so if the first wife was opposed.  I gave him the example of  Inger Sward Johnson, my paternal great grandmother. Her husband was bishop of both Lake View and Vineyard Wards.  A convert from Norway, he stood 6’ 2” tall, and had served a mission there.  When a general authority suggested that he take another wife John went to Inger who was about 5’ 2”.  She said, “Why John, you can have as many wives as you want but I won’t be one of them.”  He never broached the subject  again.

In 1847 when the Saints came west, Utah territory was a wild frontier.  Life on the edge of civilization was exactly what those hearty settlers made it.  There were no laws against having more than one wife.  The infant church needed lots of leaders.  Joseph Smith had read about this practice in the Old Testament.  When he asked, he writes that an angel with a drawn sword came to him and said either he practice the principle or forfeit his calling.  Polygamy was likely given as a commandment in an effort to raise up a righteous generation quickly.  It’s rather like the Perpetual Education Fund program today which provides opportunities for return missionaries in developing countries to better themselves so they can support their families and devote time to their callings in Africa, South America and other developing countries.

I explained that between 1847 and 1896 many children had been born and raised in righteous families.  Wilford Woodruff prayed about what to do in order for Utah to become a state.  The answer was to end polygamy which he did.    However some fundamentalists groups still practice polygamy today.  But these people are not part of the Mormon church.  This is why the church historian discouraged me from writing about polygamy in the 1980’s.  He said those who still practice polygam would use my thesis to justify their cause.  Consequently, I chose to write abouot the Mormon Waldensians.  The Clarkes are not pleased with President Zuma—their polygamist president—who has five wives and many out of wedlock children.  Two more prospective wives are awaiting their wedding days.  It appears that we are meeting the Clarkes and the elders next Monday for dinner as  Elder Pack goes home on Wednesday.

New subject:  Teen mothers.  When we went to the hospital I asked one of the nurses how many new mothers they had.  “Too many” she replied.  She was referring to the practice here of so many teens having babies.  Celeste Teixeira-Swiegelaar, from the P.E. ward  Relief Society, went with us to deliver the layettes.  She explained that part of the problem is a clash of ancient and modern cultures.  Many still feel the groom must provide lobola (bride price or dowry) to the bride’s family, and have a tribal ceremonial “marriage.”.  Many teens dream of a  traditional western wedding with a white dress, cake and all the trimmings costing thousands of Rand.  The 25% unemployment rate is mostly young people who cannot find jobs.  Many are poorly educated.  So when a girl gets pregnant often the boy disappears.  Consequently, the girls end up on welfare with 250 Rand each month per child and the babies are raised by grandparents, relatives and/or uneducated teen mothers.

Sorry but no more smileboxes!  The program has been corrupted and despite the best efforts of Janette and Elder Taylor, we have not been able to fix it.  Tom is exploring other picture options.  The only solution for fixing it seems to be buying another lap top or learning some another picture program.  Hope you are all enjoying Pioneer Day! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

News Release to "The Herald"

LDS Church Members Celebrate Nelson Mendela’s Birthday through service
Local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints celebrated Nelson Mendela’s birthday this week by hosting a party and providing gifts for patients at the Sybenham Retirement Village and by donating layettes for newborns at the Dora Ngiza hospital.  The layettes included baby blankets, hand knitted sweaters and hats, nappies and jumpers. 
Lorraine Ward Relief Society Sisters partnered with a young adult ward in Orem, Utah which funded the project in the U.S.  (The LDS Relief Society is the oldest women’s organization in America.)  The young adults in Orem learned about the need for such items from Sister Stokoe, a missionary in Port Elizabeth.  She told Everett Young, her brother-in-law, that some newborns were being taken home wrapped in newspaper.  The local sisters sponsored a project to make baby blankets for these children last year.  The members of Young’s Orem ward wanted to help.  They took up a collection and the money was presented to Janette Lake, president of the Lorraine Ward Relief Society, in April. 
Material was purchased and the kits were put together.  Celeste Teixeira-Swiegelaar reported that these items were sorely needed as the hospital was close to running out of blankets for new borns.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the sponsor of “Helping Hands,” an organization which holds a day of service throughout the world on August 18 each year.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gifts of Love

Layettes for New Borns

20 July, 2012 entry from Elder Stokoe's journal

Today, Everett Young and the Relief Society sisters of the Loraine Ward, Port Elizabeth made twenty-one mothers and new born babies appreciative and happy.  There will be no need to send these mothers home with their newborn babies wrapped in newspaper as is so often the case here in the poverty areas of South Africa, no need to worry whether they will survive in the cold, no need to worry they will be without clothing during the first few months of their lives.  These babies will be warm and cuddly wrapped in the “Everett Young-Loraine ward-Relief Society” baby clothes and blankets.

We arose early this morning, drove to the home of sister Celeste Teixeira-Swiegelaar, a dietitian and the Loraine Ward Relief Society sister, and followed her to the Dora Nginza hospital.  Upon arrival at the hospital gate, we were met by security guards who searched the trunk of our car then waved us on to the premises. Two boxes of baby blankets and clothing, neatly bundled and carefully packaged with a picture of Christ and scriptural message, were carried to the second floor of the maternity ward.

We were met by one of the floor nurses who led us down a corridor to the office of the Matron of the Maternity Ward, Mrs. Alice Enid Geduld.  A gentle lady, humble and soft spoken, she welcomed us and expressed appreciation for the kind gesture.  Sister Stokoe and Celeste informed her this was a gift for the newborns and their mothers from the Relief Society of the Loraine ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The matron obtained pen and paper for the mothers to sign for the gifts, then instructed one of her assistant nurses to take us to meet the mothers.  The matron wanted Celeste, Sister Stokoe and Brother Stokoe to deliver them personally to the mothers to assure they were received.

Each of the twenty-one mothers were spoken to by Celeste and Sister Stokoe and given a package for their newborn baby.  Brother Stokoe was the silent gift-box carrier and photographer taking photos of all twenty-one mothers as they received their gifts. Sister Stokoe asked each mother her name, if the baby was a boy or a girl, and the baby’s name. There were expressions of gratitude and smiles as packages were opened and the contents viewed. Then Sister Stokoe asked mother number twenty-one if she had a boy or girl.  She replied, “Two.” She had twins.  With tears in her eyes she accepted her package.  

It was a good morning, a gratifying morning. The hymn, “Have I done any good in the world today, have I helped any one in need...” was never more meaningful and apparent than in that maternity ward with twenty-one mothers. We learned from the head matron that there were one hundred mothers with new born babies currently in the hospital. At least twenty-one of them will not go home wrapped in newspaper.      

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sacrament Meeting in Cleary Branch

 From Tom's Mission Journal - July 15, 2012

Today we attended Cleary Branch sacrament service. This is a colored ward where thick accents prevail and communication  in the English language is not always precise due to the choice of words and the language barrier.

Gareth Pullen, who has been a member about one year, is the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency.  I appreciate and enjoy him.  He presided at the meeting and commenced: “Brothers and sisters, welcome to our sacrament meeting.  He then went over some items of business then said, “Brothers and sisters, we have three speakers today: Elder Wolfgram, Elder Tukuafu and the third speaker is the stake speaker who did not want.  So the branch president just slipped me a piece of paper that said: “You will be the third speaker.”  So brothers and sisters, I will be the third speaker.”

After the sacrament was passed Elder Wolfgram spoke about commitment.  He was  followed by Elder Tukuafu, who talked about faith.  Then it was Brother Pullen’s turn.  He stood at the pulpit and said (and this is what I think is choice):

“Brothers and sisters, I stand before you as the third speaker because I do not know where the stake speaker is.  I have my Liahona but I cannot see him, and there is an article in it which I read at 5 a.m. this morning.  But I forgot to bring my glasses to read so I will give my talk on adversity.”

What was most inspiring about the meeting was that these speakers, who had not been given assigned topics, presented a most touching meeting.  It was what the members of the branch needed to hear.  Elder Wolfgram said that his family was a Polynesian family that lived in a poor neighborhood in Salt Lake.  He had a sister who was unemployed, a sister who was ill, his mother had cancer, and his father lost his job.  But they were faithful in paying tithing and attended church. The stress generated by trying circumstances caused his parents to separate.  He loved his parents and felt sad about the separation so he knelt in prayer and prayed to the Lord. After the prayer he felt comforted. Shortly thereafter his parents reconciled and the family was united again which was the answer to his heart-felt prayer.  As there is lots of unemployment in Cleary Branch and families struggle, Elder Wolfgram’s story touched many.

Elder Tukuafu’s talk was on forgiveness. He said that back home in Arizona where he lived there were snakes. He then proceeded to tell a story. A group of young adults were on a church outing when a young man was bitten by a rattle snake. His friends could do two things: forgive the snake and take him immediately to the hospital or seek revenge upon the snake by finding and killing it.  They opted for revenge, found the rattler and killed it. Due to the fact that the young man did not get to the hospital in time to receive the anecdote to counteract the poison, he lost his leg. It’s important in life not to seek revenge but be forgiving.  When we can forgive we can feel better. The healing power of forgiveness is the Savior’s anecdote.    

Brother Pullen’s talk emphasized both these gospel principles.  Not knowing that he was to be the third speakers he selected an article that complimented and enhanced the elder's talks.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grahamstown Branch

14 in Cleary Branch registers for PEF Workshop

Today Joshua Mosia, 1st counselor and a former pastor, registered 14 youth for the Planning for Success Class at Cleary Estates Branch.  They will begin on Saturday, July 21st, at 10:00 a.m.  Although most of these kids are still in high school and not eligible for PEF loans, we are pleased to have so many taking the class.  The most students we have had register for a Planning for Success class to date, has been in Kwamagxaki Ward. Seven attended the first class, only four completed and just one has applied for a PEF loan.  Sister Mendu, a college teacher in Uitenhage branch, began the workshop with just one student, Katherine Castelyn, who hoped to become a ballet teacher.  But she withdrew when she discovered her program would cost 40,000 rand rather than 4,000 rand.

Knysna Branch is 146 miles from Port Elizabeth. Catherine is the Young Women's president and Branch Employment Specialist there.  She sponsored our fireside last Sunday.  We were pleased to encourage the youth of Knysna branch to be thinking about their future.  But we only found one girl  eligible for a loan. 

We attended two Planning for Success classes in Grahamstown where President Nye teaches these classes.  Grahamstown is 72 miles from Port Elizabeth.  The branch meets in a converted mansion. Baptisms are done in the swimming pool. Now that school is back in session we can schedule a fireside and set up a workshop for Port Elizabeth Ward--the last unit we need to cover in P.E. Stake.  We will then spend two or three weeks in East London, a distance of about 150 miles, where there are 14 wards and/or branches that need PEF firesides and related services.  Port Alfred is also in our assigned area.  However in talking to branch president Stumm, we have discovered there are only a few youth in his branch and none eligible for PEF.

Do You Train "Planning for Success" Teachers?


Thanks for your assistance and arranging the Fireside session.  We appreciate the attendance.  The interest and support was good.  Regarding your questions:

(1)  To date, we have had no need to train Planning for Success teachers as the teachers called by bishops and branch presidents have been qualified teachers.  I must say their choices have been most inspired.  Some have Bachelor degrees, others several years of university attendance, one is a corporate executive, another a civil engineer, a third an industrial supervisor and former pastor, the branch president teaching a class is a retired teacher with a Master's degree, and the sole woman is a college teacher of science and math.  Sitting in classes taught by these teachers has been a delight.  The teaching without question has truly been excellent.  Their text has been the Planning for Success teacher's guide and the student workbook.  Consequently, there has been no need for us to teach teachers how to teach.

Whomever president Atkinson calls to teach the Plannning for Success workshop will be a capable and educated person fully competent, otherwise he wouldn't call this person to teach the workshop in the first place.  Hence, we are not planning on coming to Knysna to teach such a teacher how to teach. This teacher would follow the teacher's guide and student workbook.

(2)  Concerning the sister interested in hospitality:  Unfortunately, it will not be endorsed by the PEF Committee. As for the other sister, depending on employment desired and the extent of the program, will determine the Committee's decision.

(3)  Yes, after the Planning for Success workshop is completed then the PEF loan application is initiated.  Attendance at all four sessions is required plus the research and homework.

Thanks again for your help.

Elder and Sister Stokoe   

Friday, July 13, 2012

Old Technology & New Flat

     Elder Taylor is here this morning setting up our new fax/printer. Before we left for Grahamstown he suggested that we replace it because it’s old, out-of-date and hard to use.  It prints but we have yet to be able to send a fax.  Tom has been going to “Post Net” to fax our month-end reports to Cape Town. He goes next door to the Taylor’s each time he needs to process a PEF application.  We spent $369.74 and bought a new fax/printer as we will likely be moving August 31st. The Taylors go home on October 1st so we won't be able to depend on his help.  He was the I.T. specialist at his high school in Wyoming where he also taught office practice.  He is a gifted techie and can make anything work.  We cannot.  Elder Stokoe and I had yet another meltdown over technology a few days ago and even thought about coming home until Elder Taylor came to our rescue.  He took time to explain how the Internet works here in Africa and assured us that we can be successful in our PEF assignment.  It was a relief to learn that we are not complete idiots. 

    The pipes (a technology term describing the transfer of packets of data like water running through your plumbing system) are 1/4th of what they are in the U.S.  There are too many packets of information pushing thru the small pipes here in Africa. Consequently the packets (ie: e-mail and data) get backed up.  Delivery stops or is delayed. Although providers here in P.E. advertise high speed internet, it’s just not so. Delivery is the problem. Everything slows down including the softwear programs on our private lap top. Routers must be rebooted frequently. (Ours was down for 3 days at Easter before we learned it just needed to be rebooted.) Electric storms and other problems knock out the server here in P.E. and old hardware compounds the problem.  ie:  Makro  has a contract with Costco to buy whatever electronics are not sold in the U.S. Consequently what we find for sale here in Africa is old and out- dated. Example:  Our 3G wireless card which we took to Grahamstown is so old that it would not work on our lap top. So we took the card back to Vodocom.  We were told that we must buy a different card to access Internet when we go on the road because ours runs on Windows 7.  

      I just got an error message saying my battery is low but my lap top has been plugged into an outlet all morning.   I asked Elder T about it.   “Is your outlet turned on?” he wondered.  It was not.  So I flipped the switch.  In S.A. you must turn the switch on to use an individual outlet.  When things don't work I wonder, "Is it the hardware, softwear, the connection or is the Internet down?"

     Too bad we did not request a new cell phone when we were offered one in Johannesburg. Ours would not turn off when it rang during our the meeting.  It took three elders to get it on vibration and we have not been able to do that since.  Kumbalani offered us a new cell that day but Tom said "no" thinking he simply did not know how to use it.  Lucky PEF  paid for our new washer.  It would not rinse. So we gave it to the elders who did not have one.  When I asked them how they liked it. Elder Atkin's said: “It has a mind of its own.”

      We left flat #16  because we thought the church was being ripped off with a long term rental contract with no repair service. Renting Talana’s flat after the lease on #16 expired has given us time to find something more suitable.  We knew that the sale on this flat would happen  this summer but understood that the buyer would need to retire and sell her home in Johannesburg before taking possession.  That situation has since changed.  Consequently we must vacate on  August 31.

      It’s afternoon now and Elder Taylor has spent five hours setting up our new fax/printer and connecting our computers to the wireless system. It’s important that all these problems be resolved soon.  The Taylors go home October 1st and we must be able to run this equipment to process our PEF loans.   My Smilebox software is also down. I havn't been able to make any Smileboxes because the softwear continually updates and the program will not open.  Evidently the program has been corrupted. I'll add the Grahamstown creations to the sidebar if I can get Smilebox up and working again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

PEF Fireside saved by Traffic Control Officer

Miracle at Knynsa


 I just posted George Billing’s photos about graduation in the DRC. Last night I sorted out our Grahamstown Art Festival photos for smile boxes. Wish I’d videoed some of the native dances. We were not allowed to take any indoor pictures during the musicals, plays and other productions. Posting still pictures of native dances certainly won’t give you a feel for what we experienced. Today is P Day and we are doing our month-end paperwork. We have lots of catching up to do after being gone for ten days.

We were greatly blessed in Knysna yesterday. We had prayed that angels would attend us and that the fireside would go well. We had directions to the branch, but not an address. Catherine had sent instructions in an e-mail and since our Fireside had been scheduled immediately after the block her cell phone was turned off and we could not reach her. Since we had never been to Knynsa we gave ourselves plenty of time.

We arrived an hour early but could not find the rented building. After driving around through all the Oyster Festival traffic we stopped at a gas station to ask for help. Tom talked to a traffic officer who was there getting gas. He explained that we were LDS missionaries scheduled to address a meeting but could not find the building. The officer took a look at our directions and then said “Follow me.” We did - straight down the middle of main street against oncoming traffic. Boy were the Africanners mad. One guy in a blue SUV swore at the officer. We swerved around and through all the traffic.

The traffic officer took us up on a hill overlooking the city. Tom called the Richin’s who are stationed in George and knew the location of the branch. Elder Richins said, "It's just below where you are at the end of the strip mall." Tom could just make out “Jesus Christ” on the side of a building. It was yellow and brown; not blue and white. Our directions instructed us to look for a blue and white building beyond a water wheel.

We arrived with our police escort at 12:10. The PEF fireside began at 12:15. I ad-libbed while Tom set up the Eiki projector for the power point presentation. Attendance was good. All the youth 12 and over along with the Branch President and some parents attended. It would have been a disappointment for everyone if we had not shown up. The efforts of the leaders who organized this fireside would have been wasted without the help of the traffic control officer who spent an hour helping us find the right place. We left our flat in Port Elizabeth at 8:30 am, drove 146 miles to Knynsa and returned at 5:30 pm thankful that our morning prayer had been answered.

George & Joann Billings in the DRC

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Graduation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Dear Family and Friends,

We have finished the first phase of training (12 weeks) for our first group of students. Last night was a graduation ceremony where certificates were awarded. Along with our students there were two other groups who received completion certificates. One group had just completed electrical training at a local vocational school and the other group received training similar to ours at a construction site.  There were a total of forty recipients. One of the attached photos shows all forty students seated in the choir seats in the local chapel where the ceremony was held. In addition to being recognized as graduates they were the choir for the ceremony. True to the nature of the Congolese people they sang with loud volume and enthusiasm.  One would have to be here and experience it to fully appreciate the musical gusto that these people possess...

Graduation talks were graduation talks. Much was said but few of the words will be remembered. What will be remembered is that there were sincere expressions of appreciation by each of the student speakers and it was clear that they were speaking for their entire constituency. Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City helped JoAnn to produce some beautiful completion certificates. The certificates were written in English on one side and re-written in French on the reverse side. It was a delight to witness facial expressions as each student received his certificate. An added bonus was that students were congratulated by Brother Georges Bonnet as timing was such that he was in town for the ceremony.  The Office of Temporal Affairs put icing on the cake when they surprisingly presented each student with sets of tools for them to use in performing their freshly acquired skills. . .

The support that couples have for other couples is awesome. The support we have from Salt Lake is also awesome. We recognize that we are all in this together. We share this with all of you because, when we say that we are all in it together, you are included. What we have said here in words doesn't compare with what you can see in the pictures if you look closely.  With love,

Elder and Sister Billings