Wednesday, September 26, 2012


      Today Sister S. rescued a beached baby stingray stranded upon the sand at the mouth of the Gonubie river where it flows into the sea.  Each morning we get our daily exercise by walking along the beach then up the river at low tide.  When the tide is out there’s a wide expanse of sand for about 200 yards upstream.  The river mouth is a blend of sea, river and sand.  At low tide, with the recession of the sea, there are small shallow pools of water scattered across the sand.  It was between two pools that she discovered the stranded stingray.  The helpless creature was trying to reach water but just couldn’t make it.  We looked at it for a few minutes, its nostrils flaring as it breathed, eyes opening and closing with tail flipping as it tried to move.  It was apparent unless it got into water it could perish.

      Sister S. said, “Why don’t you grab its tail and carry it into the water?”  Remembering Steve, the Australian animal dare devil who died from a sting ray wound inflicted by its tail into his heart, I was hesitant.  Sister S. ever the brave soul, daring, uninhibited, and missionary rescue minded, took off her sweater and wrapping it around her hand, grabbed the stingray’s tail,  carried it to a pool of water and like a discus thrower, chucked it in.  Now she can say,” I’ve done one good deed for the day.”

     We talked to an I.T. instructor on the beach who said that South Africa has a huge problem with infastructure.  Not a big surprise as I was able to pick up KSL's broadcast of the BYU-Utah football game over the internet but could not get the BYU-Utah State game here in Gonubie.

      This afternoon we are heading out to Umtata, one of the western frontier outposts.  We are going with Brother Gary human.  It’s a 3 & 1/2 hour drive.  It should be an interesting place to visit.

Elder S.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Are You A Nun?

We enjoy walking along the beach each morning in Goubie, East London.  A long board walk fronting the Indian Ocean  takes us to the Boating Club and then we walk beyond, along a wide river which flows into the lagoon.  If we continue on up river, we feel as if we are walking along into the jungle.  We usually walk  the Board Walk.  However, if we go in the opposite direction we will arrive at the place where two tides meet and an undertow throws up high waves.  This is the beginning of Shell Beach where we spent a morning last week collecting sea shells.  We went to breakfast at “Heavenly Pancake,” a beech front café were the “sweet pancakes” are more like our American crepes.

As we finished eating, a woman at the next table asked if we had enjoyed our breakfast?  Then she engaged us in conversation.  Noticing my badge she asked, “Are you a Nun?”

“No, I said.  I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In our church “Sister” is a title given to a female  missionary.  Male missionaries are called “Elders.”  We are missionaries--volunteers here in South Africa.  We are here to promote higher education for our youth.    The woman said she is a member of the Anglican Church and that she and her daughter had just been  discussing religion.  They had decided that all Christian churches are pretty much the same.

I disagreed.  I said that while all church believe in giving service and doing good, only our church has the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ.  That the Catholic church lost it’s  authority during the dark ages.  And since all the protestant churches are dissenters from the Catholic church, none of them can claim the divine authority needed to act in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Our church was restored by a prophet in 1830, and has the same authority as the church Christ established on the earth.  She was interested.  So I opened my purse and gave her a “pass along” card. I told her to call the number on the back to get a free DVD and some more information.

Understanding finally dawned.  Her face lit up, “Why you are the Mormons!” she said as she gave her daughter a high five. “But are you Mormons really Christians?”

I pointed to the picture of Christ emerging from the tomb on the front of the card and then to my missionary badge.  “Of course we are,” I said.   Mitt Romney, one of our members, is a candidate for President of the United States.  Our church believes in service and it’s love and service that can make a difference in the world.”


Friday, September 21, 2012

Inlinge Branch

     Yesterday we went to Inlinge with brother Gary Human to present a PEF Fireside to members of the Inlinge branch. After a three hour drive into the rural inner-country, passing miles of rolling hills and barren landscape, we turned onto a dirt road and traveling fifteen minutes arrived at our destination.

      I would describe Inlinge as an outpost on the western frontier. Having seen western movies you get the picture, except there is no hitching post, store, saloon or barn, just an isolated bowl embedded between surrounding hills. Upon the hillsides north, south, east and west are scattered houses comprising four villages. A few dwellings exist in the central flat land.

      We pulled up to a fenced property with a padlocked gate in which were located five portables, the kind you see behind a school that has insufficient classrooms. “Where’s the chapel?” Sister S. asked.. “This is it.” replied Brother Human. “We’ll wait here until the institute teacher arrives with the key.” I looked to the right of the property and observed seven men constructing a road with spade, pick and sledge hammer. A truckload of rocks and large boulders had been dumped nearby and the men were hand carrying them to the road and spreading them out. The sledgehammer was used to break the larger rocks into smaller pieces, the pick to form craters to implant the boulders, and the spade to even out the dirt and rocks. A very tedious way to construct a road but perhaps typical for isolated villages off the beaten path.

      The institute teacher arrived and after greeting and handshakes, she unlocked the gate and we drove in. The chapel in one of the portables was quite nice. Brother Human commented the branch membership was large enough to warrant ward status. We were expecting around 25 people to show up so I set up my power point presentation. When no one had shown by 3:30 p.m., the appointed hour to begin, I wandered outside exploring the compound.

      We commenced the presentation with two in the audience. By the time we finished there were twenty-four. Time is not of the essence in Africa and as long as you show up before “The End” flashes on the movie screen, you’re ok. It was good to see an audience interested in education and employment, and to answer their questions. We enjoyed our time with them.

      A drawback facing the people of Inlinge is the lack of post high school, educational institutions. Another, there are no sources of employment. It’s sort of a dead end unless the young adults leave and seek greener pastures elsewhere. Ilinge survives on government dole. And so the people tend their goats and sheep, cultivate a garden, and live the only life they know.

      Just as the wind blows across the prairie and spreads dust through a western frontier town, so did a breeze fan the dust bowl of Ilinge as we bade farewell to the branch members and headed down the dirt road. At least there is hope for a few through the Perpetual Education Fund of the Church.  Just how many will take advantage in Ilinge, remains to be seen.    Elder Stokoe

Zone Conference

Missionary Moments

 Silverdale School, Sept 17th & Zone Conference on Sept. 14th.

    Yesterday was special.  Elder McDonald’s parents arrived from the U.S. bearing gifts for a rural school out in the bush.  Silverdale Public is in what used to be the pineapple fields.  But  the Pineapple plant closed and everyone lost their jobs.  Ninety percent of the parents in that area are unemployed.  They survive by growing gardens and receiving small grants from the government.  This school reminded me of a school we visited when we took gifts to a school in the highlands of Peru.  The children were lined up in front of the school when we arrived.  They began singing when they saw us.  One of the songs was a prayer to God which they sing each morning before school begins. They sang with their eyes closed. 

     The McDonald family handed out school supplies which members of their ward had helped to provide.  The children also received eight soccer balls.  The kids were delighted and smiled their thanks.  Sister Fowers met Principal Mpinimc when she was at Phakamile Elementary exploring the possibility of setting up a computer lab.  He had asked if there was something the mission could do for his school as well.  Sister Luci mentioned this in an e-mail to the McDonald's.  When they came to pick up their son they brought four suitcases full of supplies.  We donated additional items for the teachers.  It felt so good.  Everyone at the school was so appreciative. I wish all of you could have been there. I  visited with Mveliswa Lungani, the administrative clerk.  He said “You are God’s hands.  You have blessed our lives.”  Mveliswa was raised in this community, attended school here and loves working with these children.  Although a Methodist, Principal Mpinimcis has taken some of our missionary lessons and has a Book of Mormon.  It was such a blessing to participate in this activity.  Elder McDonald is making a video and I took pictures for him.

     Friday we enjoyed Zone Conference at the Stake Center with the young missionaries last Friday.  They really strengthen our testimonies.  It’s such a blessing to be among them.  Many are new, only a week or two in the field.   But we know some of the others who were transferred from the Port Elizabeth area.  Singing the mission anthem with them is always such  a thrill.  

    Today we got a text message from our missionaries inviting us to go to Adoo Elephant Reserve with them on October 1st.  But alas, we are already scheduled to join the other seniors for a whale watching activity in Port Alfred. We missed the PEF Conference Call today as the Fowers land line was down.  Tonight our Telkom 3 G drive is working so I’m able to write this e-mail. Non functioning happens a lot here in Africa.  

    We will leave with Gary Human at 1:30 p.m. Sep. 26 for a PEF Fireside in Umtata. It’s a 3 hour drive.  
Lucky Cape Town approved our buying 4 new tires today. We’ve had two flats in the last few days and will need to cover many more miles so it’s good to be safe.  Love and Blessings,  Sister S.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Schools & PEF in East London

Sent: Saturday, September 15, 2012 10:09:39 AM

     Bernie, the caretaker here, does not work on Saturdays, so no Zumba this morning for me.  We went for a stroll along the Board Walk which fronts the Ocean and collected shells along the beach.  Genobie is a retirement town located at the end of a peninsula.  The main road ends at the beach front.  We haven't done this since we were in Mazatlan.  When it started to rain we went shopping and bought papaya for breakfast.  After breakfast I had my hair done as we are presenting a PEF fireside for six wards before the world- wide young adult fireside tomorrow.    It's a blessing to be able to cover all East London's wards and branches before the end of the month.  
     I'm able to access the Internet today because Tom purchased yet another 3G card which seems to working.  He's delighted as we need the internet to do our PEF work and he hopes to catch the BYU/Utah game at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  The Fowers took us to a government primary school yesterday.  Sister Luci is a gifted administrator who set up three Charter schools in California before she retired.  Now she is helping Phakamile School in NU 18 set up a computer lap.  There are over 600 students in the school and at least 45 children in every class.  The kids are so starved for affection that they just mob you when you show them any attention.  The teachers here are underpaid and overwhelmed.  In some schools they have not been paid since January.  Textbooks often do not arrive until months after school has started and supplies are practically non existent. 

      Brother and Sister Fowers volunteered and taught English at Phakamile when they first arrived in East London.  They believed they could help the teachers by modeling good teaching practices.  But the teachers just disappeared when they took over the classes so the Fowers became discouraged and looked for other ways to help schools.  Now they spend most of their time here doing missionary support and helping people in the townships upgrade homes. 

     Visiting an elementary school was quite an experience. What we found was that this is not education, it's warehousing kids.  There is probably 3 hours a day of instruction, if that.   
There are so many kids in every class that not much learning can take place.  Yet the children are expected to pass state tests in order to Matric.  Most white kids attend private schools and do fine but the Blacks often drop out before they graduate.  This prevents them from getting a good job.  The youth here feel hopeless and helpless and many turn to crime.

     We met a a 33-year old returned missionary when we presented a fireside in Sada who qualifies for a PEF loan to get a driver's license which he can get in a few weeks. But instead he returned to this rural community and has since been unemployed.  Gary Human feels that PEF can be a blessing.  
But the young adults here must understand the program, explore their options and apply for a loan.  That's our job -- actually it's our only job.  We are busy on weekends but  Monday through Friday there is lots of down time.  Still we have come to realize that nothing happens here in Africa until the PEF couple arrives, conducts firesides, prompts leaders to call the work shop teachers, and help the students to apply.  Most of priesthood leaders, like Everett Young,  are so busy with their many responsibilities, they put PEF on the back burner.  

     On a more positive note we love supporting  the young missionaries by inspecting their flats, and attending their Zone and District Conferences. Which is why Kevin Frere in Port Elizabeth Ward, said that the LaPray's served two "Golf Missions."   It's a good thing I like to read and usually finish one book each week.  Meanwhile I've come to realize that nothing would happen in Africa without a senior couple specifically assigned to PEF.  When we finally have a student apply it takes a lot of time and effort just to get their paper work in so their loan can be approved.

      In an effort to find things to do we have found Hemmingway's Mall, a very upscale mall here in East London where we have seen a couple of good movies.  Tom is able to keep up with high school football with our on again, off again, internet service.  The weather changes every day.  It was very hot a couple of days ago, then it started to rain and there has been lots of wind.  I keep thinking that spring is around the corner and the weather will clear up but that's not the case.

     Meanwhile we have gone to the East London Museum twice and seen a museum with farm equipment which reminded me of what dad used to use.  There was also a gypsy caravan, some old buggies and oxen drawn wagons there.  We drove to King Edward Town to see a Missionary Museum which was advertised as being open.  However it was locked up tight.  The gate was padlocked and no one answered when we called the number posted on the gate. 
You cannot function in South Africa without a cell phone as you must call to access homes and businesses in gated communities

    Saturday night we attended Sterling High School's Vocal Celebration at the Guild Theater. This production restored my faith in public education here in South Africa.  I sat by a Black math teacher whose daughter was in the performance.  She said that Sterling is a public high school that has achieved high marks in both academics and athletics.  Black, White and Colored students attend without cost and many participated in this production.  The choirs were led by a young White African woman. The white male drama teacher sang a number from Les Miserables.  This is the third high school production we have seen and all of them were very good.


                                                                 Today I was Mobbed

     I do not claim to be a rock star, a movie star, or a star of any kind, but the moment I raised my camera to take a photo of half a dozen little 1st graders on the playground of Phakamile Primary School N.U. (Native Unit 1) in East London, I became the dazzling idol of over fifty screaming school children rushing toward me to be in the photo.  I was like a magnet drawing iron filings, the object of a swarm of  angry bees, and a cornfield to a host of invading locusts - I was mobbed.
     Yes, I was mobbed, totally mobbed like I have never been mobbed before in my life.  Swarmed over like an army of ants attacking an invading trespasser. Rushed upon like a huge tidal wave or a charging herd of wild buffalo pounding across the prairie. I was enveloped by a horde of screaming, laughing, hysterical 1st graders all anxious to be included in the magic eye of the camera.  

       I only intended taking a photo of a few kids playing in the dirt, but my camera triggered an onslaught of rushing little people that grew in seconds to a monstrous tsunami. The impact of this charge by 50-70 little Black children knocked me backwards several steps and in seconds I was surrounded by a sea of bubbling humanity. Little Black hands tugging, pushing, pulling, reaching, caressing white arms they may have never seen nor felt before. Smiling faces, voices ringing with laughter, the innocence of youth pitched with excitement, in awe of a Whiteman and his camera taking their picture.

      The onrush of these delightful, enthusiastic little Black children screaming, smiling, giggling, was amazing. So obligingly I clicked away with the camera accommodating their insatiable appetite for being in a photo, ‘til time for class called them away.

        I have been on stage and received the applause for actors in a cast, and experienced  compliments from members of an appreciative audience. But never have I been afforded the luxury of screaming, frenzied fans rushing at me on the stage of their playground, playing the role of a Whiteman holding a camera. Thus is was on a sunny day in Africa, I became a star.

Elder T. Stokoe




Friday, September 7, 2012

Assignment in East London

Glad we felt impressed to spend September in East London.  Brother Human just confirmed our PEF Fireside schedule and other assignments:

From:   Gary Human (
Sent: Thu 9/06/12 11:06 AM

Dear Bishops in the north, President Mbilase, and President Mjiba

Please read this letter that I sent to the Southern Unit bishops today. .  The satellite fireside with Elder Holland falls away but the PEF part remains.  The wards and branches outside East London will have these PEF firesides at their own chapels.  This will allow us to have a much better attendance at the PEF firesides.  If parents, including our YSA who have non-member parents would like to attend they are welcome.  It will also save the stake taxi transportation money.  The fireside is about an hour long.

The dates and details are as follows:
1.       Sada Ward:                           Saturday, 8 September                 2.00 pm
2.       KWT Ward                           Sunday, 9 September                    After Church services
3.       Ilinge Branch                          Wednesday, 19 September         3.30 pm
4.       Mthatha Branch                      Wednesday, 26 September         6.30 pm
5.       Queenstown Ward                 Sunday, 30 September                  After Church services

Respectfully yours

Gary Human  

From: Gary Human []
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2012 12:19 PM
To: Kevin Kaschula (
Cc: Duane D. J. Bell (; Elder and Sister Stokoe (
Subject: YSA "BIG FIRESIDE" Sunday 16 SEPTEMBER 2012

Dear Bishop

September is a strategic month each year in gearing up to meet medium and long range welfare goals.  How so?  This is the month that we need to get our YSA really focused on their plans for a secure and prosperous future (LDS values oriented).  To this end the September “BIG FIRESIDE” will include a great presentation on the need for education / vocational training for our South African job market and Perpetual Education Fund as a (final choice) funding option. 

The PEF presentation will be made (power point) by Elder and Sister Stokoe, the Cape Town Mission couple dedicated to providing that service throughout the mission.  They’re a great missionary couple.  Both come from educators backgrounds and will make a difference in the lives of  your YSA regarding getting going and getting qualified, certified, and competitive in the SA job-market.  The national statistics that 70% of black South African women are unemployed is alarming, as are all the other stats including BEE and so forth – but here’s another reality:  There are so many unclaimed jobs for qualified people in certain sectors that these many of these posts are left unmanned or require the services of foreigners with those qualifications to staff them.  There is plenty of work in several sectors for people with qualifications.  If you have no qualifications you are classed as a labourer – and that’s where the huge unemployment in South Africa exists.  We are in position to help our people rise above this situation of hopeless and debilitating poverty.

When Elder and Sister Stokoe are done, all of us will sit back and be edified by listening to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland who will address all the YSA of the Church.  What a spiritual treat for all of us.  Then into the cultural hall for the “Munch and Mingle” session (refreshments).

To get optimum value out of this semi-annual “BIG FIRESIDE”, please pay close attention to the following points:
1.       ALL YSA and matrics are asked to attend.
2.       If there are young marrieds who need to get qualified (or get better qualified) extend a special invitation to them to attend as your ‘special guests’ as well.
3.       Thank you for attending with your YSA.  If you cannot, invite a counselor to attend as the bishopric representative.
4.       Thank you for meeting with the YSA to make sure they can all travel out to Nu 13 and be seated before 4.15 pm starting time.  Scheduled to close at 6.00 pm (with some additional time for “Munch and Mingle”).
5.       Elder and Sister Stokoe are visiting in our stake for the whole month of September and if you’d like to have them speak in your ward this month, or meet with your members, I’m sure they’d be very willing to oblige:  Call them and see if they can accommodate your request.  Make a note of their number:  083 272 1202 ( or

. . .  Elder and Sister Stokoe will be pleased to help your newly called ward Welfare Specialist to be effective in presenting the Planning for Success  workshops. 

Every person who wishes to access the PEF will have to complete the Planning for Success course before submitting their application.  Thanks for giving the “BIG FIRESIDE” a big push in your meeting announcements and various encouragements.

Respectfully yours

Gary Human

September 4 - East London

   We are in a nice flat overlooking a valley in the Hazy Ridge Retirement Center at #9 Swallow Lane in Gonubie, East London, South Africa.  President and Sister Woods stay in this “visitors flat” when they visit here.  There are 60 units in this nicely landscaped gated community.  I practice Zumba in the recreation center which is through our back gate next to the swimming pool and a barbeque.  Brother and Sister Fowers are down the street in flat #54.  The ocean is just a couple of miles away and there are beautiful beaches where you can collects lots of shells.  We went to dinner with the Fowers Monday night.  When they asked about our agenda, I explained that we had not booked anything but hoped to present PEF Orientation Firesides in all 11 units during the month of September.    

     Yesterday we had a 10:00 meeting with Brother Gary Human, the PEF Director in the East London Stake who is also 1st Councilor in the Stake Presidency.  He also serves as the Director of Seminaries and Institutes for the stake.  We met with him and his secretary Merita Chamberlain.  We know her two sons who are attending Nelson Mendela University as they are also in P.E. ward.  Gary was delighted that we will be here for the stake’s youth conference which will be held on September 16th.  He asked us to speak on the importance of getting a good education .   Gary handed  us a stake calendar and then, very enthusiastically, scheduled PEF firesides in all the wards and branches during the month of September.  The last will be held in Queenstown on September 30th.   What a blessing to have his help.  He will be attending most of them with us    

     On October 1st we will go to Port Alfred for whale watching, another senior missionary activity, and then we can call Cape Town to see if they need help with the PEF program there.  I understand the work load picks up in November as our students begin to reapply for funds for another year of study.  We have also been asked to train the PEF teachers here so Elder S. has been reworking his Power Point Presentation to include additional information.  That’s our update.  Sister S.       

Tom's E-mail,  Subject: Hair

Hi Corinne & Laraine:

Regarding hair:  Sister S. and I got our Hair cut 4 days ago.  She was trimmed and I was butchered.  We told the hair stylist we like it long, just trim a little.  As a result Sister S. now looks like a French poodle and I look like I did the day I entered the Army and received the 10 second buzz.  If Ron’s hair can grow back after chemotherapy then ours can grow back after two months. 

We are now in East London for a month.  I signed up for a radio/internet connection using the little thumb drive you affix to the laptop.  If it works then you will receive this e-mail.  Let me know if you receive this then I’ll know we can communicate.  Aloha, Elder Stokoe, the Semi-Bald Eagle.

Stake Conference - September 2nd

    We just returned from Stake Conference where Elder Dubei of the Seventy announced our new stake presidency.  President Palmer, now released, is the son of a white Afrikanner who was converted to the gospel thirty years ago.  He has led the stake for the past thirteen years. The new stake president is President Neku, a Black who served as his second counselor.

    President Neku has a young family.  His daughter is about two.  He pointed out that we have a multicultural stake and that we should focus on loving each other as well as loving our nonmember neighbors.  We should be doing temple work as we preach the gospel and strengthen our families.
His first counselor is Elder Parker, a White Afrikanner from P.E. Ward who has served as bishop. 
His second counselor is a Brown of Indian descent, from Cleary Branch.  Elder Dubei is a Black from Zimbabwe who was called to the Area Presidency when he was made a Seventy at April Conference, 2012.  He is a former bishop and stake president.

The Fowers are the missionary couple from East London .  They drove down for conference and we will be staying in their guest flat during the month of September.  We spent the evening packing.  The lady next door has agreed to water my flowers while we are gone.  She was rather horrified when I told her another missionary couple will be staying in our flat from September 22nd and 23rd. Guess this is not normally done here.

    The Zone Conference was most inspiring.  President Wood explained the origin of the term “mantle of  authority”. It’s from 2nd Kings, Chapter 2.  President Cook asked all the bishops and wives in the stake to come up and stand before the congregation.  He pointed out that like the new stake president, some are young. The oldest was President Bray who is the Bishop of Utenhage Ward and is in his eighties. White Afrikanner bishops lead the Lorraine and Port Elizabeth Ward--Bishop Spear and Bishop Van Rooyen.   We were touched by a comment which was made by the new stake president.  He said, “If the gospel can turn a poor black boy from a township in Port Elizabeth into the president of a stake, then it has to be true.”


August 28th & 29th

Thursday evening we had dinner at the Blue Water Café on the waterfront with President & Sister  Wood and Elder & Sister Cook who is in charge of Africa South East Area including all 35 countries.  Also the Taylors, Richins and Van Sickles attended.  The Cooks know Lowell and Tammy Snow who also served in that position.  Also the Cook’s daughter married to a former Skyline football player. Elder Cook was president over the New Zealand Mission from 2005-2008 and in 2011 he was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy.  They have five children, are based in Johannesburg, and have a home in Ogden.    

The Cooks tour countries in their assigned area, attend zone conferences, and access the needs of the people here in Africa.  Almost half of the membership in Africa are young single adults.  It was interesting to look at our PEF assignment through Elder Cook's perspective.  I can see now why so much emphasis in being placed on helping the young African returning missionaries get further education.  It leads to better employment, self reliance, and leadership positions in the civilian arena as well as within the Church.  Increased focus on institute and seminary attendance by young adults is encouraged being these young people will be the Church leaders of tomorrow.

Zone Conference, August 29th

In Zone Conference Elder Cook talked about Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord sets up the organization of the church in 1835.  It describes an organization that has served the Church since that day and is going forth as outlined today.  We were told that the Lord knows each of us and that we are here for a reason.  After moving into this flat I can testify of that.  It’s so good to have enough room to do our job and be able to find what we need.  Must close for now to go to my hair appointment. 

 President and Sister Wood talked about tithing.  The Woods both began investigating the church in their late teens.  Mark wanted to join but his parents insisted that he wait until he turned twenty-one. He paid his tithing for three years before he got  baptized.  His father had planned to pay for his education. Mark had a free ride through law school until he told his dad he was going on a mission.  He said his father “went ballistic and disowned him financially.” Mark cashed in 1,400 shares of stock that his grandfather had left him, and paid his tithing. He had some money saved but was short $1,000 for his mission. He was too new in the Church to realize that the ward would help.

After a few months in the mission field, his mother began sending him $20 a month.  She said, “Don’t tell your dad.”  Then  Elder Ezra Taft Benson arrived in Fairbanks to attend a conference.  It was his practice to visit community leaders. Mark's father was a community leader and a prominent judge. He visited Mark's father not knowing he had a son on a mission. They talked for three hours about politics and community affairs but nothing about religion. Two weeks later Mark’s dad sent money for Christmas and told Mark to buy a new suit.  Then he began sending monthly checks.  By then Mark’s inheritance had completely run out.  When he returned from his mission, his father relented and agreed to pay all his tuition so he could finish law school.

Sister Wood talked about a blessing received after they got married.  Even though his tuition was paid, she had to work to pay for their food and  rent.  She found a job in a college town in upstate New Your where they had moved.  As newlyweds they just got by.  When she was six months pregnant the company she worked for downsized and she lost her  job. They needed $88 a month to get by. So they prayed. The next day the bishop called and told her he needed to hire a cook for the soup kitchen the ward supported.  He asked her if she would take the job. It was the only paid position. She received $88 a month and was able to work there until the day before their son was born. The Woods told the young missionaries to stay active by paying their tithing. 

Brother Cook:  "Our people will only walk out of poverty and overcome their challenges if they pay their tithing, render service and become more self-reliant.  Where you put your money is where your heart is.  The law of tithing is an eternal principle.  See Malachi 3:8-10 which was given 400 years before Christ was born after the Jews returned from captivity.  This is not about money. The law of tithing is about obedience.  It’s a standing law forever.  See D & C 119; 1-4.   Elder Van Sickle reports that those who pay their tithing, even from what small amounts they make at odd jobs, are the ones that he is able to find jobs for."  There were 10 young men from the Kwanobuhle Wards who were there painting tables and chairs at the stake center so they could earn money to go on missions.  Two articles were handed out:  Dallin H. Oaks General Conference talk on April 1994 on Tithing.  Also Carl B. Pratt’s talk, “The Lord’s Richest Blessings,” from April 2011 General Conference.
  We visited the Taylors last night.  They bore their testimonies in Zone Conference along with all the other missionaries who are going home. They said it will be hard to leave.  We are looking forward to Stake Conference tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sacrament Meeting Talks on August 26th

Greetings on this Sabbath Day from South Africa:

 Today was a good day. Last Thursday evening the Port Elizabeth ward invited us to speak on “The Parable of Talents.” We appreciated the opportunity being we have never spoken in sacrament meeting since our farewell in Sandy last February. It was neat to address a congregation from the pulpit. It felt good to look down from the pulpit, see the faces of the members, and share principles of the gospel as taught by the Savior. Sister S. did an excellent job applying principles in the parable to everyday life.

 My address was centered on analysis and doctrine. At the conclusion of sacrament meeting one of the brothers whom we have been visiting in his home over the past six weeks said to me. “I could tell you enjoyed being up there.” I replied, “Yes, I feel right at home. It’s the school teacher in me.” The truth is I could enjoy speaking in sacrament meeting every Sunday. I came to Africa prepared with 17 speeches of which the Parable of Talents was not one of them.

 Now I have 18 and if I am called to speak on adversity, adding Mark Kent’s speech would give me 19. It’s really fun to be at the pulpit. I miss the Utah Polynesian Choir and speaking from the pulpit in wards from Payson in the south to Bountiful in the north. So if the choir performed 12 times September through May, I got to speak 12 times in Sacrament meeting. It was fun and I enjoyed it and I appreciate the directors of the choir giving me the opportunity.

 As soon as sacrament meeting was over we left for Kwamagxaki ward to deliver some volleyball equipment and give the elders stationed there new petrol credit cards. Then on to Cleary ward to attend a 1:30 pm fireside on how ward members can be involved in missionary work. Then back home and preparing dinner for a birthday celebration for Sister Van Sickle. We hosted the Van Sickles and Taylors. The dinner was good – lasagna, green tossed salad, bread, and strawberry shortcake. Later Elders Balmforth and Cowey came over and gave their report on finding a new family to teach which was exciting news. The gospel is true and we are enjoying being here. We are settled in our new flat which is really nice. We have been blessed to find this 3 bedroom place and to obtain nice furniture thanks to the Bannister family emigrating to Canada. It has been a good day.

Elder Stokoe

An E-mail from Laraine Kent quoting a work mate at Salt Lake Community College:

When I got to work this morning, Rosemary Bingham said to me, “I missed your brother-in-law this past weekend!”  How did that happen, I replied.  Rosemary always attends the Skyline High School football games with her husband, the principal.  As the game began, she missed your announcement.  She said the new person was just not Tom!

Fame-the Musical & Education in S.A.


 We enjoyed “Fame” last night. It’s a musical I once considered doing but opted for Grease” instead. The directors did a good job. The show was effectively staged and tuned up. It featured a cast of around forty. The hall in which it was presented was beautifully decorated by a professional company. The lighting was very good and they ran 20 wireless mikes which is challenging to do. I asked the director several questions and got answers. They don’t have a drama teacher, nor a dance teacher, just a music teacher who directed the musical. He has had theater experience and directed a lot of revues and assorted shows. They don’t have a costume room, no workshop to build scenery, no lights and no wireless mikes so they rent. For the few lights they had they certainly did a good job lighting the show. The school owned one spotlight and they rented a second. They had a backdrop and it looked good with the word “FAME” up high in the center. Scenery was wheeled in and out. Upstage they had a platform that went across the entire back of the stage with a couple of stairs left and right leading down to the stage. It was practical and worked well for them.

The acting was good, choreography good, and singing fine. The majority of the cast were Afrikaans with a few Colored and Blacks. We were pleased to see a high school show. The director said high schools do a musical every two years (whether all of them do a musical I don’t know) and directors from different schools share props etc. which is what we do back home.

 I sat next to an 8th grade boy and asked him a lot of questions about school. They have 4 quarters a year with a 2-3 week break in between. There is no summer break like in the U.S. It’s year-round-school. Their school had a studentbody of 1,000. Each grade has 5 student leaders with one selected to be the Executive Leader and one an Associate Leader plus a faculty advisor. A Faculty Executive is in charge of all the leaders of grades and is very strict according to this boy. They have 2 assemblies per week, one on Monday and the other on Friday. Each is 45 minutes long. They commence each assembly with a hymn followed by prayer. The boy showed me his hymn book. “Onward Christian Soldiers” was one of the hymns. Then the students split to different sites according to their religion. The Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and one other group go to their respective locations for religious study. I found this information very interesting.

The students are impeccably dressed and are well behaved. In fact, the director didn’t even have to address the audience prior to curtain to turn off all cell phones and no texting allowed. It’s an automatic accepted protocol. In the U.S. directors start with an announcement to turn off all cell phones and no texting during the show and students still don’t obey. There are those who text regardless; you can see the lit phones. I noticed the same thing at the movies in the U.S. even with adults. The 8th grader told me about class projects and that all tests are written essays. There’s no multiple choice, matching, fill in the blanks, and true or false. I’ve heard the same from Black students at their schools. In preparation for a test a review is conducted. The same as the U.S. Then the teacher will write on the board around 15 essay questions and say,” Five of these essay questions will constitute the test. So in order to do well each student must prepare to answer all 15 essay questions. Each essay is worth 20 points. At the end of the school year there is a comprehensive test covering everything studied during the school year, a comprehensive test for each subject. They have seven subjects so seven comprehensive tests. They are given 2 hours to complete a test. If they fail one out of seven tests, they have to repeat the entire school year. So someone could be an 8th grader or an 11th grader for 2-3 years in a row until they can pass 7/7 subjects and move up to the next grade. I had the same system in Samoa.

 The news lately has featured corruption in education. Television and newspapers have pinpointed this as a major problem. There are schools in South Africa who have not received any textbooks for students. There are thousands of students who have had no text books for 8 months. The higher ups in the Education Department ripped off funds. Two weeks ago an allotment of text books were discovered in a warehouse. They had been sitting there for who knows how long. They were mixed in with illegal contraband, theft, and smuggling items ripped off from somewhere. There are teachers who have not been paid for six months but are still teaching out of loyalty to students. Funds were allotted to upgrade certain schools but the upgrading has not occurred and the funds have disappeared. Yesterday in the newspaper, a school was closed down as being unsafe with the roof on the verge of collapsing and classrooms being canvas covering a few poles. Education here in S.A. is based on the English System.

 Elder S.