Friday, October 26, 2012

Ten Days of Rain

October 16, 2012


It's been raining the past three days and with the rain comes the African umbrella.  A few fortunate Africans have an umbrella, some have a jacket with a hood, but the most innovative and impromptu resource is the black, plastic garbage bag.  Worn like a poncho with holes for the head and arms, walking garbage bags are a common sight in the African rain.  For those who cannot afford an umbrella, a jacket with a hood, or a black garbage bag, getting soaked is the ultimate reward. It's probably a toss up as to which is the most popular: getting soaked, or the plastic garbage bag.  I must say it is a striking and decorative sight to see walking garbage bags in the rain.  It shows people are resourceful and creative.  So, I refer to such ingenuity as the "African umbrella."  When poverty reigns and the destitute have no access to umbrellas and hooded jackets, why not become a walking commercial for plastic garbage bags.  At least one can keep partially dry at minimal cost.

Not much going on at the moment other than Elders Sessemanda, Ingram and I dug and planted a vegetable garden at the "Frail Care Center" this morning.  At least one good deed for the day.  I listened to the BYU vs Washington State game on KSL.  Hope to catch the Notre Dame game this Saturday.  Cheers - as they say over here.

Elder S.   

Sister Stokoe to  Laraine Kent & Corinne Young
October 22, 2012


Today  our e-mail is up and running again.  Thanks for all the B.D. messages.   Laraine sent photos of the baby shower for Corrine and Neil.  Their baby is breach so little Annabell Jane will be delivered on Oct. 30th.  .  .   We enjoyed two taped sessions of  Conference yesterday but had to drive to the stake center through heavy rain.  There were small rivers running over roads and a few trees down.   The soil here is very sandy and the trees very tall.  When there is lots of wind they come down.  This would not happen if there were more clay in the soil.  There have been reports of golf-ball-size hail stone breaking car and house windows and flooding;  poor Blacks in the townships some of their shacks have been washed away.  I even feel bad for animals in the game parks.  

We have been very comfortable in our new flat but our young missionaries on Prospect Road had to spend the weekend bailing water out of the flat below them and placing towels on their window seals.  We took a shower curtain, lamps and other items over to them on Saturday.  Two more elders will join them during Wednesday transfers.  A brick wall went down and covered their drive way while they were at priesthood meeting Saturday night.  Their car would have been damaged had it been parked in the usual spot.   Other cars had to be dug out of the mud and debris.  We have been blessed in that the Bannister’s had two sets of bunk beds and bedding they wanted to sell as we are responsible for four of the young elders’ flats.   Lucky the Bannister’s had most everything we needed as they are emigrating to Canada in December.   Have a great week.  Love, Diane

Laraine Kent to Sister S. 

We had Stake Conference this weekend.  The visiting General Authority was Elder William Russell Walker.  Apparently he lives in the stake west of us.  We really enjoyed his comments on Saturday night as well as today.  President Monson assigned him to go to NYC last June for an interview with Barbra Walters.  She was doing a special on "What is Heaven?"  I remember seeing it and wondered if they would have a representative from the LDS church.  And...half way into the hour's presentation, here was the LDS view point.  Barbra was meeting with Elder Walker in the Manhattan church/temple building.  His explanation was very simple and good.  Elder Walker reported Barbra Walters commented she was an atheist, almost agnostic, but she wanted very much to believe what he had told her.  She went on to say he was very easy to understand, not like others she had interviewed.  He told her she would know it was the truth after she has passed on and could know he was right!

Questions had been turned in for last night's meeting and he took time to answer a few...

"If one visits another ward on the same Sunday, should sacrament again be taken?"  Of course!
"Why wasn't any of the first presidency at the Brigham City Temple dedication?"  President Monsen wanted it to be President Packer's day as it was his hometown.  
"Who signs the general authority's temple recommend?"  President Monsen.  He also signs the recommend of their wives.

Elder Walker noted President Monsen is 85 years old.  Thanks to Jon Huntsman he has use of his personal plane to travel around in.  The temple in Rome is due to be completed the summer of 2014.  President Monsen wants to attend that dedication.  President Monsen's oldest son went on his mission there. 

After the meeting we chatted with Dez and Robin Russell.  I asked if he had connections to Elder Walker?  (As during the meeting Elder Walker mentioned ties to Canada.)  Come to find out, Elder Walker is Robin's first cousin!  At that point Elder Walker came and joined our conversation!  Elder Walker had worked and served in Atlanta when Dale Murphy was playing baseball.  Every month, Dale Murphy would write out his tithing check in the amount of $25,000!  Elder Walker said recently someone had sent a check in a very plain envelope with the message, "To be used for the Tijuana Mexico temple building.  It was in the amount of one million dollars! 

We enjoyed Corrine's shower yesterday.  I'll attach a picture from the event, plus a picture of the  beautiful red tree in front of your house...the all colors are all so pretty right now.   So good talking and hearing from you.
Love, Laraine

To: from Elder Stokoe
Sent: Thursday, October 25, 2012 2:28:41 PM
Subject: RE:  computer/internet
Hi Corinne:

You are right, we have had virtually no Internet for a week and a half.  It just comes and goes.  It will be on for 3 minutes then off for half an hour, on for 2 minutes and off for 45 minutes and then not working for hours on end.  It’s been raining cats and dogs with massive flooding,  Finally, today, we had the sun shining all day long for the first time in almost 2 weeks.

Last week I went to the telephone company and requested they fix ou Internet and telephone. We’ve had no land line for almost 2 weeks.  The office ladies said a telephone technician would be sent to our house. Nothing happened.  So today I went to the telephone company again.  The director is a recent convert to the church.  I said to one of the ladies behind the counter, “Is Mr. Mchumu in?  Tell him his pastor is here to see him.”  She looked at my missionary badge, smiled and went back to his office.  I heard her say  “Your pastor is here to see you.”  I was admitted immediately.  Anyway, he got on the phone and made a couple of calls and said a technician would be out today.  Four hours later the technician arrived and now we have complete Internet and a working land line.   So from now on, whenever the phone and Internet go out, I am going straight to the top man.  I’ll say to one of the ladies behind the counter, “Is Mr. Mchumu in?  Tell him his pastor is here to see him.” And I will get immediate action. 

We had a nice party for Sister S. with 20 people total in attendance.  Our neighbors were impressed by the nine young missionaries.  They sang the mission theme song.  One woman said “What fine young men, so clean cut.  Such good looking nice young men.  Very impressive.”  When the young elders sing the mission song before non-members, or members, the light of Christ and the power of the priesthood shines through them.  The spirit of righteousness just beams from them.  We enjoy working with the young elders.  Well, this is it for now.

Elder S.     

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Education in the Eastern Cape

Notes from The Herald, Port Elizabeth.Newspaper, October 15, 2012, article: “70% pass rate ‘pie in sky’--Eastern Cape Education Department’s matric target unrealistic due to host of challenges.”

With just a week to go until the start of matrix exams, the Eastern Cape Education Department’s ambitious goal of a 70% matric pass rate this year has been slated as ‘pie in the sky.’  Last year, the Eastern Cape was the poorest-performing province with an alarming 58.1% pass rate for high school seniors, and education experts said this week a vast improvement in the pass mark was unrealistic.

But provincial education spokesman Mali Mtiman said projects such as winter school and other interventions would help matrics achieve last year’s national pass rate of 70.2%.  However, education specialists pegged a shortage of math and science teachers, under-qualified teachers in rural areas, the non-payment of temporary teachers, teacher absenteeism, book shortages and weak departmental administration as this year’s obstacles to a healthy performance by the class of 2012.

Federation Governing Bodies of South African Schools chief executive officer said there was “Absolutely no way” the province would achieve a 70% pass rate saying pupils were operating in an “unstable environment.” He blamed the provincial department’s weak administration and non-payment of some teachers as the main problem.  “If they get to 60% it will be a miracle,” he said.

“The very, very weak administration in education in the province is the most important thing against us.  Teachers, principals and school governing members are always anticipating the next disaster. . . If a teacher who does not know if she will be paid or if she will be transferred because she is an excess teacher, is in front of a class, this negativity will affect pupil performance.”

. . . “If the first 11 years of school are a mess, you can’t expect a 70% pass rate in Grade 12.”. . .  Professional development is part of any profession.  A lot of these teachers were trained before the end of apartheid and are badly trained. . . children arrive at high school under-prepared. . . They don’t know the basics of grammar and some can’t even spell, so I think the focus should be on improving primary school teaching, because that’s the foundation.”

Grade 12 pupils at some schools had to endure textbook shortages in almost all subjects.  Jabavu High School principal Bonginkosi Gotyana said, “Students are unpredictable.  We ask them to attend after-school lessons but they run away.”  He did not want to comment on the Education Department.  “We are not relying on the department [anymore].  We have done our utmost to attain what we can with the little we get from the department.

Principal Llewelyn Tomelii said Duncan Village school had a shortage of Grade 12 math and science teachers, with teachers in these subjects in lower grades having to fill the gaps.  This means pupils in other grades suffer and it also overloads the teachers, who have an average of 50 students per class. . .

Provincial manager Abe Smith said, “The main problem is that teachers were not appointed and for long periods some children had no teacher in front of the class.  Also some textbooks were not delivered on time.  Our education department is one of the worst.  To achieve would mean that teachers would have to be in front of the classroom seven hours a day, five days a week, but in some areas teachers are only teaching for an average of three hours a day because of high absenteeism, especially on Mondays and pay day,” he said.

Van Vuuren also mentioned the shortage of teachers in critical subjects like math, science and languages in rural areas, book shortages and the appointment of incompetent principals as factors for a poor pass rate.  COPE provincial education spokeswoman Angela Woodhall said while schools with full education departments and good community support could reach a 70% pass rate. . . those with severe challenges of poor infrastructure, furniture and staff shortages may not even reach 58%.

The Herald, Tuesday, October 15, 2012 “Zuma must admit crisis – Some schools worse off than during apartheid.”

President Jacob Zuma must admit South Africa’s education system is in crisis, University of the Free State vice-chancellor professor Jonathan Jensen said yesterday.  He said some schools were worse off today than they were during apartheid.  He was backed by several school principals who met for a conference in Nelson Mandela Bay.  They agreed that things were only getting worse.

Principal Elroy Bosman, who has taught for 37 years, said: “Apartheid was wrong but  education [in townships and northern area schools] is now definitely worse than back in apartheid particularly in the Eastern Cape.  It’s a damn crisis.. .”  He said that the number of pupils writing matrix exams had dropped since 2008.  He said many matrics registered for the exams but then failed to show up to write them.

We have this nice development plan but it just makes assumptions  . . it lacks clarity.  The plan fails to address the plethora of problems  the grass-roots level.  People in South Africa are led by sentiment, . .  Students are going to school but are not being educated. . .  Bowman also attacked math literacy in high schools and the declining number of pupils opting to study mathematics.

Jensen said “The terrible education system had left South Africa in serious trouble.  We need to get people to believe in high-quality education or we are screwed.  If we do not get this right why bother.”  To admit to the crisis is one thing, they [the government ] must remedy it with a solution.  As proof of the crisis more than 90% of the school’s 243 Grade 8 pupils could not read or write properly.  Everybody is concerned about a good matric pass rate, but they need to look at the problems at primary schools.

Human resources was also a problem at the school:  “We can’t promote subjects like physical science because we have been without a teacher for six years.  We only have one qualified teacher to teach math and accounting for grates 10 to 12."

                                                 Education in South Africa
                                                           By T. Stokoe

     Our role in South Africa is to promote education and encourage young adults to enroll in classes leading to a diploma, certificate, license, or degree for a particular employable career.
There are challenges facing such accomplishment:

(1) Not all students have the academic qualifications to enroll in specific career oriented programs. Education in South Africa is plagued with problems.  For example: In the past academic standards were higher than today.  A passing grade of 60% in all subjects was mandatory. As the quality of education declined, so did the passing requirement. So many students could not meet the standard that it was continually lowered until today it is at 35%.
In order to graduate from high school a student must have at least 35/100 in all subject finals in order to graduate. Even with this low standard only 70.2% of the nation’s high school seniors graduate.  In the Eastern Cape, the eastern sector of the country, only 58.1% graduated in 2011.
     Why the terrible state in the public school system?  There are an inexhaustible number of problems:
#  Extremely inept government administration of education.
#  Corruption throughout the entire education system
#: Lack of education funds.
#  Siphoning of available funds by corrupt government and education administrative officials.
#  Lack of education responsibility and accountability.
#  Lack of qualified administrators and teachers.
#  Prevalence of the “rip off the system” attitude throughout the country.
#  Lack of schools.
#  Lack of committed and dedicated administrators and teachers many of whom don’t even show       up to work. Why?
#  Some have not received a pay check for as much as six months. Why?
#  Weak, under funded school districts and individual schools.  No money available. What little        money allocated by government legislation seldom reaches its destination.  Is stolen en route          down the pipeline.
#  Shortage of teachers and over crowded classrooms. Some classes have 50 plus students. With        so many in a class chaos can reign, discipline is minimal even non existent, and qualitative             teaching is very difficult. Consequently, learning is low.
#  A good number of teachers, qualified or partially qualified, quit the profession each year due to      the ongoing plague of problems.
#  Lack of textbooks and teaching materials. There are classes that never receive textbooks                 during a school year though money was supposedly allocated for them.
#  Many school buildings are in poor physical condition though there are some that are in                   good condition.
#  There are excellent principals and qualified teachers, but in the overall spectrum of the              education system, here are just not enough.
#  Quality education is lacking at all levels grade 1-12.
#  Students who did not graduate either quit high school or academically failed. A few could not be       bothered showing up for finals.
#  When after-school enrichment classes are made available, students don’t show up. Obviously, there is a lack of incentive, motivation, desire and commitment among some students.
(2)   With regard to post high school education, and beside the lack of qualifying academics to be admitted into vocational, technical, or university programs, there are more problems:

# One of them is in the outlying rural settlements there are no post high school institutions.  Those living in such communities desirous of higher education are either at an educational dead end, or need to move to a town where such learning is available.  Many cannot afford to move; they just don’t have the resources.

# Transport is a major problem in this country. There is a lack of it and there are those who can’t afford it where it exists. Why?  They don’t have a job and an income. National or private bus systems linking all cities, towns, and villages throughout the country, do not exist. There is a taxi system to a certain degree. Those who cannot afford transportation to and from schools of higher learning are stuck.    

# Money to pay for tuition, fees, and books is a problem. A student just can’t afford it and those that can are few and far between.  Academically, some may qualify for a bursary which can pay for tuition, books, and fees as well as transportation, room and board.  Those lucky few can move on to excellent jobs and salaries upon graduation.  Likewise, those who can afford to pay their own way.  But the vast majority can not do it.

# Employment is a major problem.  The unemployment rate in South Africa is staggering. Obtaining a job is a big challenge especially where certain skills, knowledge, academics, and certification is required.  Employment opportunities in rural areas are limited.  Even urban areas have their shortages and having skills and certification is not necessarily a guarantee for employment.

# Strikes have had a crippling effect upon the economy of the country.Where miners have obtained an 800% wage increase, other copy cat strikes have occurred in industry and commerce, national economic stability in the future is further jeopardized. Prices will rise all around and supply and demand can be “helter skelter”.

# Corruption, rampant and unabated, infiltrates from top to bottom in practically all phases of
government, enterprise, commerce, industry, manufacturing, education - you name it, it’s there.

# Private schools catering to the affordable provide the best education in the country. Standards are high with excellent administrators and teachers. There is ample funding, textbooks, materials and supplies, excellent curriculum, programs, activities, smaller classes averaging in the twenties to low thirties, and more well-rounded educated students due to receiving qualitative education throughout grades 1-12.

    They are disciplined maintained schools, organized and structured to meet the best demands of qualitative education. They function with authority, integrity, and honor having high expectations of students, their performance, and accomplishment.  There is consistency in the education system where qualitative, effective learning is accomplished. These private schools provide the highest caliber of education and are the exemplary-model schools of qualitative education in South Africa.    

The Herald, Thursday, October 18, 2012.  Opinion & analysis section article, “Basic school facilities needed.” by Precillar Moyo

In 2010 Newsweek ranked South Africa’s education system 97th out of 100 countries surveyed.  Interesting the country ranked 22nd for “economic dynamism”, but our poor education scored dragged us down to 82nd overall.

We can debate and question the value of these international rankings, but we know that the challenges faced by South African education are numerous.  A significant proportion of pupils come from non-supportive homes, the school environment lacks discipline, classrooms are overcrowded, many teachers lack skills and some lack professionalism, and the delivery of textbooks and workbooks is inefficient. . .

Indeed Equal Education is preparing campaigns on these other important question. . . But as I engage more with the infrastructure campaign I found it difficult to disentangle basic infrastructure neatly from school attendance, teacher morale, and underlying pursuit for the provision of quality education and equality in the education system. . .

Very few people will dispute the fact that a classroom with an appropriate teacher to pupil ratio and basic facilities will be better for teaching and learning than the rural classroom for the poorest among us.  However, this is not the reality for many poor schools in the country.

One example is Mwezeni Senior Primary School, a school in the Eastern Cape whose mud structures were damaged by storms early last year.  The school, alongside Equal Education is an applicant in the court case, to be heard on November 20, on the implications of inadequate infrastructure.

The school caters to 295 children from Grade R. To Grade 6.  Since the damage more than a year ago, 220 children have been taught outside.  During the rainy season these children simply do not attend school.  The remaining classrooms are overcrowded, roofs leak, are dark because of a lack of windows and there is a severe shortage of furniture.  Teacher moral has been affected and pupil absenteeism has increased.

Some 25 schools have filed affidavits in support of Equal education.  One is Samson Senior Primary School near Libode in the Eastern Cape.  The school does not have running water and is reliant on seasonal rain for water collected in tanks.  The nearest tap to the school is 5km away.  The lack of water affects pupils’ concentration, especially during the height of summer.

Milente Secondary School in Limpopo also does not have running water and often has to sacrifice the purchase of educational resources to pay for water delivery.

Sanitation is another question raised by the case.  At Lehlaba Primary School in Limpopo one pit latrine is used by 90 pupils.  Iqonce High School in King William’s Town has 254 pupils who share two toilets.  The impact is felt particularly by girls in puberty.  About one in 10 school-age girls do not attend school during their menstruation because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities. Sexual harassment in school toilets is also quite common, particularly when toilets are isolated and far from the social control of the school.  In most schools toilet paper is not provided.. . .  [And the list continues].

Equal Education does not believe that the crisis in education is only the responsibility of government.
Having regulation in place will mean that the public, parents, pupils and teachers will have a standard by which to measure school infrastructure, thereby building local accountability. . .  We all want a better South Africa so let us unite and join the call for the right to education, and the enactment of minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Saturday, October 15th

  We walked in the park this morning. Then visited Janette Lake.  Her daughter Bianca left on Thursday and is back in the bush as a dessert chef  for an upscale Safari Company.   Janette had received an e-mail and a photo from Jane Taylor of  her the new grand-baby. The Taylors had the flu when they left P.E. and as everyone in the mission field flies back through London now, it was a long flight for them after a stop over at the mission home.  Later, when  I had my hair done, I told Carmelita I would likely be going to Cape Town so did not make another appointments.  Actually I wanted to avoid another disastrous hair cut so will try another opperator.  

    I think our trip to Cape Town is off.  Tom called and offered our PEF services to Duncan McMillian, with Seminaries and Institutes after Khumbalani, our administrato, suggested we contact him.  But Brother McMillian said he did not know how he could use us.   No matter!  Sister Wood is hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for us seniors at the mission home so we will be back in Cape Town anyway.  As senior couples may take a ten day vacation from the mission, I’d love to go to Jerusalem over winter break.  School will be out then.  Everyone leaves town and most all our loans for the new year will be in process.

   I’m not happy about not being able to use Smilebox and since I will likely be transcribing a mission history as a  service project here, I bought a MacBook Pro Apple computer and a book entitled, “How to Do Everything Mac.” Elder Balmforth is coming by on Monday night with his companion for dinner and to set it up. Sister Fowler has a Mac.  She convinced me that after I master the Mac operating system, it’s easier to use than a P.C.   My son Matt owns a printing company and has been telling me that for years.

    This afternoon Cheryl, one of my neighbors, came by to collect my donation for charity and since I’m celebrating a birthday next week, I invited her to my party for the neighbors and some of our young elders on October 23.   She asked how old I was and was surprised to learn that I’m turning seventy-one.  She guessed I was about fifty-two.  Rose, my Thai massage therapist, thought both Tom and I were in our early fifties.  She was surprised when I told her Elder Stokoe just turned seventy-two,  “I would not have been so hard on him, bending him this way and that, had I known,” she confided.

      The last time she worked on Tom as he sat, she tried to lift him up by his arms with her knee in his back to crack his back saying, “Relax.” Apparently he didn’t relax enough so she said, “Give me your body. I want your body.”  She tried moving him and in the process they both fell over sideways laughing. Rose speaks broken English with a strong Thai accent. Tom gets a kick out of her choice of words.  Rose is the 38 year old owner of Sabine Thai Massage and she does really good work.  My hip flexer muscle is greatly improved.  She and her Afrikanse husband  are both devout Christians.  They read the Bible regularly.  I want to give each a Book of Mormon but one must be in Afrikanse and the other in Thai.  When we talked in P.E. Ward one of the elders told Elder Cowley that I was seventy.  “She looks good!” he said.   If sixty is the new forty then seventy must be the new fifty.

     Actually we are both in very good health. Tom has not had any problems with arrhythmia or gout.  However, we both have trouble remembering things like nouns and where we parked the car.  It takes both of us to be very effective in the mission.  And we can't remember where we put things but perhaps living in three different flats is part of the problem.  We eat lots of fish and have given up red meat.  It is rather tough and hamburger does not taste the same as it does at home.

     Tom is very good with African names.  Likely because of his Samoan. I can neither pronounce them nor remember them.  After being here for seven months I still have trouble pronouncing the wards out in the bush.

    Since returning from East London we have been attending the P.E. Ward and both bore our testimony in Lorraine thanking the Lord for being back in P.E.  We love this area, the people, the missionaries and are better able to do our assigned work.  We enjoyed two live General Conference telecasts.  The taped sessions of the general priesthood meeting will be shown on October 20.  And the other sessions we missed will be aired at the ward at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. next Sunday.  It was such a thrill for us to participate in conference, almost like being back in Salt Lake.

  Tuesday we are going next door to Lorraine Frail Care Center to help the Port Elizabeth Elders plant a vegetable garden.  Tom has been trying to find a rotor tiller to rent. But discovered that there are none to be had as this is a pick and shovel country. The rental agency knew of just two: one in Port Alfred. But it’s broken and parts are unavailable.  The manager said he knows of a farmer near here who owns one and promised to contact him. The problem is that South Africa does not import rotor tillers nor manufacture them.  There are too many people out of work and need this kind of employment.  Our young missionaries are willing to serve but those from Utah and Idaho are not too keen on digging up the grass with a picks and shovels.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

George & Jo Ann Billings - DRC Update

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has great potential to be interesting and exciting here in Kinshasa.  The City is hosting the 13th International Francophonie Summit beginning this Wednesday and ending next Sunday.  Francophone means French speaking and Francophonie is a term coined for an organization of French speaking countries.  There are 56 countries represented as members of the Fracophonie organization.  They hold an international summit every two years.  Representatives from most of these 56 countries, including some heads of state, will begin arriving here early in the week.   

We live near many of the residences for ambassadors from countries throughout the entire world.  Ambassador row is about four blocks away from our apartment.  Many of the Francophonie member countries have ambassadors who live on that row.  Security is being tightened up throughout the entire City but especially in the Gombe District where we live.  We have often seen truckloads of policemen patrolling the City.  They sit, back to back, four abreast, on benches positioned in the bed of the trucks.  They carry automatic rifles that look like AK 47(s).  This isn't new.  We have seen these trucks since the day we arrived.  What is new is that we see armed military men in camouflaged uniforms guarding every street corner and sometimes spaced about every 100 yards up and down the streets.  This is in addition to the four to eight policemen we normally see at all major intersections. 

There have been threats of peaceful demonstrations during the summit.  The major opposition party in the last Presidential election has announced that they will hold demonstrations denouncing the election results.  The U.S. Embassy has advised American citizens to take caution, avoid crowded areas, and stay away from sensitive governmental facilities during the summit.  There will likely be increased traffic congestion, road blocks, and checkpoints where they are not normally located.  We, as missionaries, have been asked to be safely at home before sundown while these events are taking place. 

So, for us, the interesting and exciting part of the week isn't witnessing or participating in the events.  What should be interesting and exciting is finding a way to do our work while tolerating the inconveniences of increased security. 

It has already been interesting to see all the preparations the City has made for the summit.  These preparations have been going on for months.  Streets have been torn up.  During the last week there has finally been a lot of pavement put down.  The main highway out to the airport is nearing completion.  Pavement has been put down, lane striping has been done, and there are even direction arrows for traffic flow on the pavement.  However, it seems that many of the drivers don't know what the direction arrows mean.  Or, if they do know, they don't care.  The City has removed many roadside shops that, over the years, have encroached on the right of ways for roads.  There are hundreds of people, wearing green vests, sweeping the streets.  Dirt, mud, and trash have been removed from the open storm drains that line the streets.  Planter strips along the main roads have been cleaned up and new grass has been planted.  There are even mounded flower beds in some of the planter strips.  Many shop owners have refinished their storefronts adjacent to streets.  Improvements are noticeable. 

Just a bunch of what is happening in Kinshasa.  Hope I haven't bored you too much.  I do hope all is going well for each of you.

With love,



Hi Family and Friends:

I thought I would add a bit to George's email because I don't usually send emails to everyone, but occasionally I will add some to his to give you a perspective from a female's point of view.

Every morning when I get up, I lift the mosquito netting and get out of bed. I do not bother to make the bed now, because mosquitos get under the net while I am making the bed and then I get bitten in the night. I turn the light on in every room as I go to check for cockroaches. I spray a roach killer around the edges of the rooms every 2 to 3 weeks. It works very well and a lot of the time the roaches we find are already dead. I also watch for the lizards. I think they are Gecko’s. I actually like to have them in the house because they eat the bugs and it’s fun to watch them run up the walls and across the ceiling. Once I took a shower with one hanging exactly over my head watching me. When I go to take a shower, I always unfold the shower curtain, because the smaller cockroaches like to hide in the shower curtains, or in the tub. I never walk barefoot in the apartment because even the dust that blows in can have hookworm or spores of other parasites that can get in my feet, so I don’t take the chance. I usually sleep in curlers at night because my curling iron has blown out 2 or 3 extension cords because of the difference in electricity. I dry my hair with the blow dryer when I shampoo, but I have to unplug the air conditioner to get enough power to make the blow dryer work. I look at my wardrobe and say, “What is the least amount of clothing I can wear today and still be decent?” It is always so hot and I don’t tolerate the heat well. I usually end up with a skirt and a white blouse. Before I leave for the day, I spray my legs with 100% DEET because in the church buildings where I work, the windows are usually open to let air in, and there are no screens, so mosquitos are lurking.

Meals are quite simple. George usually fixes breakfast while I get ready. We have scrambled eggs, or oatmeal, or corn flakes. Eggs are the cheapest so we two consume at least 30 eggs per week at different meals. Lunches are usually a peanut butter & jelly sandwich or tuna sandwich or a bowl of beans or homemade soup. We can buy beans at the open markets for very little money, so we have eaten a lot of beans here. Our main meat at supper time is chicken. From a little market run by some Lebanese men, we can buy 2 kg of boneless, skinless chicken breast, for $15.00 (the chicken being killed according to Islamic law by using a sharp knife – it says that on every package). We have had hamburger here, which is very, very lean but it tastes nothing like hamburger at home and is not very good. We have had a few beef steaks (expensive and kind of tough). We do occasionally buy some slices of ham and use those sparingly thru the month. That is very good, but very pricey. We make a lot of tuna fish gravy on toast, or chicken & rice soup. We have a lot of rice, usually with carrots, red and/or yellow peppers, and zucchini in it. Zucchini is very prevalent here, but only as big as a small cucumber. We also have coleslaw and a lot of fresh salad. We have fresh bananas, pineapples, and other tropical fruits.

Fresh vegetables are a lot of work. We usually buy vegetables from the open markets grown locally. All vegetables have to be washed in bleach water and rinsed in clear water. Imagine taking each whole head of lettuce and cabbage apart leaf by leaf and washing it and drying it before putting in the refrigerator. All vegetables and fruits are washed in this manner. Eggs also have to be washed in bleach water because they come directly from the farm yard without being cleaned. We always have to check carefully for blood spots and remove them. Almost all the eggs here have blood spots.
For baking, the flour is a project too. All the flour here has weevil, so when I buy a 10 lb bag, I put it in the freezer for 3 days to kill the weevil. Then I sift all the flour and throw the bugs out. In about a 1 ½ cup I will sometimes have 10 to 12 weevil and sometimes none at all.
Cooking is usually no problem, other than I have to convert to centigrade for baking. We try to keep food on hand we can eat without cooking because the electricity goes out frequently. We also store water in our apartment because often the water is on in the morning and at night, but not at all during the day.

One of the challenges a female faces here is the bathroom situation. There are almost no public restrooms. If we travel out and about, we usually have to find an LDS church house for a pit stop. Let me tell you about the public restrooms. Here is a typical situation: When we were to fly out of Lubumbashi, we were at the airport because our plane was to leave at 1:00. Then we were told 5:00 p.m. It finally left at 6:30 p.m. – typical. I couldn’t wait that long so I went to the rest room. Both men and women use the same bathroom and there are no locks on the door. I have been walked in on by men twice. There is not a seat to sit on, just a porcelain or tile hole in the ground. They used to flush but broke long ago, so just outside your door is a bucket of water, or maybe not. They provide no toilet tissue. There is no place to wash your hands. I always carry spare toilet paper and lots of germ-killing hand-wipes everywhere. Even in the LDS churches there is usually no toilet paper because people take it home with them.

Well that is enough from me for this letter.  A female's perspective is much different than a man's and I wanted the women to know what life here is like.  What an "Up" adventure - my very own "Paradise Falls".  We love and miss each of you and hope your lives are happy.

Love, JoAnn

Update from Brian

      Congratulations Brian on your ability to continue running marathons and success in your weight division.  You are such a great example of staying fit for the rest of us.  We have been very busy since returning to Port Elizabeth.  We attended the 8:00 a.m. sacrament meeting at Lorraine Ward Sunday and then returned to the Stake Center at 6:00 p.m. that night to watch General Conference.  Shortly after the live broadcast began the Richins arrived with seven of the elders from the town of George.  The Richins stayed with us until yesterday afternoon.  They helped host dinner for a training session for new missionaries Monday night and lunch for Zone Conference with President and Sister Wood  on Tuesday.  The four of us spent most of P day shopping and cooking.  I made potato salad and brownies, Sister Miriam brought cookies and we made pulled pork.  That took most of the day to prepare.  It’s so nice to have an extra bedroom.  We enjoyed the visit. Today have spent the morning washing their towels and bedding while Tom is out doing “Elder care.”  Our missionaries at Kablejous road have a plugged sink which he will try to fix and another needs a new tire for his bicycle.
     Being with Elder and Sister Wood, who  arrived on Tuesday, is always a treat when we have Zone Conference.  Sister Wood told me that her husband retired early so they could serve a  mission.  They were originally called as temple workers in Johannesburg but they were reassigned as President of the Cape Town Mission.  They come to Port Elizabeth every seven weeks for interviews and Zone Conference and we look forward to these visits which sometimes includes dinner at the Blue Wave restaurant down by the beach for us seniors. 

     Their A.P.s (Assistance to the President) conducted training at 9:00 a.m.  Elder Balmforth & Elder Madagascar (he has 16 letters in his name so Tom just calls him Elder Madagascar because that is where he comes from) presided and taught while president interviewed the George Elders.  Then the Port Elizabeth elders arrived for a combined meeting at 11:30 a.m. President’s lesson was on honesty.  He told of an  experience he had as a new young attorney.  He was representing a man in a divorce case.  His client owned the only pink pickup truck in Anchorage and it was parked in front of his office when a process server, representing the wife, arrived and asked if the man was in his office. President Wood  said “No.”  The server looked as if he did not believe him but left without serving the papers.

      This  bothered him so much that he immediately went and apologized to two secretaries that overheard the conversation.  He felt so bad that he called the stake president and offered to resign as his counselor.  He confessed this to his law partner who said he should have claimed “confidential client information.” The hardest call he had to make was to apologize to the process server. From that day forward he determined to tell the truth no matter what and he did this throughout the rest of his career.  He did not want to be a crooked lawyer. He gave us this test for truth:  1.  Is it the truth?  2.  Is it fair to all concerned.  3.  Will it build good will and friendship?  4.  Is it beneficial?

     At the end of the meeting those elders leaving the field bore their testimony, we sang happy birthday to five missionaries celebrating birthdays this money (me included) and had a group picture which I hope to forward when I figure out how to access Sister Woods face book page.  They Tom and I and the Richins served lunch to everyone.  We cleaned up while the A.P. did training for our P.E. elders.  They the Richins went back to George, a four hour drive, with their missionaries. 
     I talked to President Wood about my concern for the elders who leave the mission field here in Africa that can’t find jobs.  He suggested that we talk to the bishops and ask them to let us know when the missionaries in their ward return.  Then we can contact them individually and help them explore their options.  Sister Wood keeps in contact with these young men via face book.  She reported that those who return in Africa get depressed as they spend months trying to find employment and are unsuccessful.  Many have tried to start their own businesses.  They all have 2 or 4 church callings but most get discouraged when they can’t find work.  For those who return to the U.S. they complain that their biggest problem is not having a church calling.    We love President and Sister Wood and always feel energized by attending Zone Conferences, enjoying their enthusiasm and hearing them talk.  Meanwhile our visit to East London is bearing fruit.  We have been asked to return to train the PEF teachers from Nov 7 – 11.  We are also exploring the possibility of presenting some firesides in Cape Town. 
    We love our new compound and feel secure here.  Several missionaries have experienced break ins in including the Van Sickles.  Someone went into their flat in the middle of the night while they were sleeping and stole all their computer equipment.  We hear that break-ins increase during October, November and December so thieves can get money to go home for Christmas.

  Love and Blessings,  Mom

From: []
Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 3:32 PM
Subject: Marathon


It’s been a little while, so I thought  I would update you on what’s happening here.   Dayna and I got back yesterday from the St. George marathon trip – we spent Friday and Saturday nights in St. George, and the marathon was Saturday morning.  I ended up running 3:29, which is slower than I I’ve done in past years, but still good enough for 6th in the weight division.  The interesting thing was that the last 8 miles were probably the easiest I’ve done in a marathon – go figure.  We went to Mesquite on Sunday to hang out by the Casa Blanca pool and did some gambling, which wasn’t not profitable this time around with losses of $150.

We are all back to work now, and it’s very busy here.  That’s probably a good thing as banking jobs appear to be diminishing overall.  Anyway, good luck with the work you are doing.  Love, Brian 

Update from Mattt

hello mum,

I got the pics you sent.  I usually have time to open 4 or 5 (even in the land of the speedy 4g Internet it still takes time to open each picture) I can image how long it takes to upload them in S.A.  I remember back 10 years ago I would have to send multiple emails, because I could only include 4 or 5 picture attachments before to server would dump the whole email because there were too many pics using up too much memory....

any way, sounds like things in rural Africa are going quite well.  It sounds like you visit some places that are a bit primitive.  Tom should be right at home, because of his Samoan upbringing he should be used to such conditions.

Things here in The U.S. have not changed much.  Myself and Cynthia are in California, and should return back to SLC in mid October.  The Geese are still here and the water is still wet...

I got news from Dan that we were awarded the African mining project in Mauritania.  apparently no Chinese firms were given the opportunity to bid.  We we only be be supplying the equipment.  The Africans will be supplying the labor.  Either Jim or Dan will have to go supervise the project for about 5 weeks.  I understand that the accommodations are pretty much a shipping container with electricity and air conditioning....

hope things continue to go well for you kids there,

yours sincerely,


     While trying to get these pics off, Tom succeeded in sending them to Dean's old account.  We don't know why.  Obviously we are still having e-mail problems with photos.  At least our Internet 3 G drive is working so Tom will get up tomorrow at 4:00 a.m. to listen to the BYU Game.  Yesterday Gary Human mentioned that the previous couple only covered Sada and Ilinge. He's been doing the other nine wards by himself.  No wonder he was so glad we came.  Tom and I have learned a lot about PEF by making the rounds with him.  Gary understands the culture here as he's a paid member and has been teaching institute classes for many years.  

    Gary is writing his doctor's thesis on asymmetrical war fare.  Symmetrical warfare (balanced) is like World War 1 and 2 where there is rules and everyone knows who the players are.  Asymmetircal (unbalanced) is like terrorism where there is a huge difference in technology, resources and the enemy can be anyone. I have just finished reading Benazir Bhutto's book "Reconciliation, Islam, Democracy and the West."   She finished writing it just before she was assassinated.  Buhuto returned to Pakistan and survived one suicide attack and then was killed in another on on December. 27, 2007, just before the election in which she likely would have become prime minister of Pakistan for the second time.  I gave the book  to Gary to read. Yesterday was a good day.  Just two more PEF Firesides before we can return  to P.E.  I miss Janette and the Taylors in P.E.  Love,  Mom

Update from Nikki

Support and encouragement from Nikki Stokoe,  our daughter-in-law

From: Nicole Stokoe []
Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 10:01 PM
To: Diane Stokoe
Subject: Re: Wednesday

Wow!!! Diane, that sounds scary!  Actually I have never felt unsafe in South Africa.  We were encouraged by church security to stay out of the townships after dark and we were told not to give anyone rides or hand out money.  We have bent this rule a bit to help our PEF students.

Do you think you guys are safe????  I think bad things happen in most large cities. Lorraine is a lot like Sandy.  Now that we live next to a park Tom and I have been walking together every morning.  This morning I walked to Turnburry but could not remember the code for the gate.  Luckily you can buzz any flat you want to visit and they can open the gate.  I was surprised to see that the people who bought Talanna’s flat have not yet moved in there.  They had insisted that it be vacated by August 31st.  Actually the town house we are in now is larger and much nicer than #17 Turnburry.  If we had not moved when we did we would not have all Tracy & Stanley’s beautiful furnishings.  We visited the Banisters on Tuesday evening to pick up the curtains.  Tracy’s maid had washed them and they were ready to hang.  The panels that hang in front of the sliding glass patio door and the windows in the living room requires a 13 foot pole.  So hanging them was too much for us.  We called a handy man to install the hardware.  He also planed the front door so  it opens and closes property now.  It used to stick.  We love this new flat.  It’s perfect.  The new paint matches all our new furnishings.  Even the curtains are the exact size for our windows.  Most rentals are painted white—like our first flat and the one where we stayed in Ganobie.  But white walls make me crazy. They remind me of a hospital or an institution.  Add locked doors, high fences and electric wire and it's not a good feeling.
The elders here are calling and inviting us to all the activities.  Balmforth is coming over this afternoon to check on church videos for their fireside on October 14th.   They asked Tom and I to help.  Everyone said they missed us.  We are attending the live conference sessions on Saturday and Sunday.  We will visit the Clarkes Tuesday evening.  Thanks for the update.  We love you and appreciate your support.  Love and Blessings, Sister S.
P.S.  I posted Elder Romney’s Sept. 30 Sacrament Meeting talk on the blog.  Too bad about the head on  car accident but the roads and construction in East London are the pits.  The young missionaries up there have crashed so many times  that president Wood had threatened to take away their cars and have them walk or ride public transport if they are not more careful.  Note that Romney is the tall elder in the Zone Conference picture on the blog.  He  is from Arizona.  The V on the blackboard is pointing directly at him.   .
Even if you don't feel that you are being productive at the moment, you are such a good example to my children as well as to my Tomsich family.  Your mission has inspired me to look into some charity work for the babies in Africa.  You will probably never know the ripple effects you will have on those around you.   So, I have been meaning to contact you about the email that you sent about the baby blankets.  I would love to organize something with my kids and friends to help these mothers and their new babies.  Can you help us?  (Tom responded in another e-mail.)

Sophies birthday was last week, she got an American girl doll that looks like her.  She loves it!  We were in Lake Powell.  The weather was great!  It was a lot of fun!  We love hearing about the kids. Please send us the web page where you have posted pictures.  Better yet, let’s Skye.  Now we are finally settled and our Internet is finally working, we can set a time and visit online.  We want to by skying with Neil and Corrine when their baby arrives next month..
Cole is in flag football, (Dave is his coach), he is also in soccer (and really good).  He is doing good in his new school.  Loves mathSophie LOVES preschool and her friends.  And Animals.  She wants to be a vet when she gets big and take care of sick animals.  She is such a little mommy.  Lola is delicious!  She has so much personality right now!  She is trying to imitate what we say and is starting to walk a little.
Well, I better get back to my house and groceries.
Love You

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Elder Romney's Talk - Sept. 30th

                                                         BY THEIR FRUITS
                                           By Elder Romney, Mesa, Arizona

     This speech was delivered by Elder Romney of Mesa, Arizona at a sacrament meeting on  September 30, 2012 in the Queenstown Ward, South Africa two weeks prior to his departure for home having completed a successful two year mission.  I was so impressed by his speech I asked him for a copy of it.  He gave me the actual transcript in his own handwriting that he used in the meeting.  He had gleaned information from a variety of sources, one in particular, a written speech he came across in Grahamstown. I think I may have heard this speech before either by Elder Holland or Elder Oaks.

    On October 2nd we received a text message asking us to "pray for Elder Romney and his companion."  They were involved in a serious head on traffic accident.  Today we heard that both are doing well and are expected to make complete recoveries.  There are hundreds of miles of highway and dirt roads.  Many not in good repair.  There is also a lot of construction.  There have been many accidents involving our young elders throughout this 200 mile area.

     By their fruits ye shall know them.  These few words spoken by Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, are just as meaningful to us, as when the Savior spoke them nearly 2,000 years ago.  The Savior was warning his disciples, even us today, that we should beware of false prophets.

     He said by their fruits, or in other words, who they are, how they act, and by what they bring forth, ye shall know whether or not they are a true prophet of God.  Just as God called prophets in the Old Testament times, he too calls prophets in modern times.  An Old Testament scripture says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.”

      We also learn from the scriptures that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He gave his children prophets in the Old Testament.  Why then would he not give us one today?  Doesn’t God love us just as much as he loved them?

     There is a reason why Jesus, over and over again, warns us about false prophets, because he knew more prophets would be called, his warnings would have been unnecessary if God was going to stop calling prophets.  So just like Adam, Noah, Moses and Abraham God has again reached out to his children in love, and in the year 1820 he did just that.

     God called a young man named Joseph Smith to open the last dispensation and to show the world that he had called a prophet.  God gave Joseph Smith a fruit, or convincing evidence, that he had called a prophet in our day.  That fruit is known as the Book of Mormon.

      Attached to the Book is a Promise: That anyone who reads, ponders and prays about it will know that it is true by the Holy Ghost. So if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was called as a prophet.  Our Church either falls or stands with the Book of Mormon.  The book is either true or not true, there is no in between.  The enemies of the Church understand this so clearly.  This is why they go through such great lengths to disprove the Book of Mormon for if it can be discredited, the prophet Joseph Smith goes with it.  So does our chain of Priesthood Keys, and Revelation, and the Restored Church.

     But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon is true, and millions have now testified that they know it is indeed true, then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.
     For nearly the past 200 years, men have been trying to prove the Book of Mormon to be false, but they had no success.  So here is a challenge if someone you know claims that the Book of Mormon is false.  They are basically saying that Joseph Smith just made it up, just created a story.

     So if the Book of Mormon was written by a common man, then it can be duplicated right?  Because what is produced by one man, can be duplicated by another.  And so here is a list of conditions that Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon under.  So the challenge is to see if you, or anyone else could duplicate the book under the following conditions:

# You are 23 years old, and you are a farm boy who has only had 3 years of formal education.
# This book you are going to write must be written on what you now know.
# There are no libraries, no internet, and no google.  You can’t do any research of any kind.
# Your book must be 531 pages long and over 300,000 words in length covering 2,600 years of history.

# It must describe and contain a history of 2 distinct and separate nations
# And describe their religious, economical, political, and social cultures.
# And must describe their clothing, crops, customs, types of government, money and traditions.

# You must invent 280 new names that are culturally correct
# Write 54 chapters on wars
# 21 historical chapters
# 55 chapters on visions and prophecies
# 71 chapters on doctrine

# And 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ
# And must fulfill many Bible prophecies
# All of this while making sure there are no contradictions of any kind.

# It must all agree with the Bible.
# # Oh, and one last thing – you must do it all, not in the comfort of your own home, but under the most trying of circumstances which include:

# Being driven from your own home several times
# And receiving constant threats upon your life.
# And finally, all this must be done in 60 days.

But that’s not all:
# After you write this book in 60 days, you must publish it and give it to the entire world, now for free.
# Then convince over 50,000 missionaries to give up 2 years of their life to go around the world and give the book away for free.                                                             
# Then you gain no wealth or money from this book.
# But instead, watch those who follow you be hated, beaten, torched and killed.
# Then yourself give up your own life
# And your brother’s life for this book.

# And that is the challenge, a challenge of duplication, an impossible challenge that cannot be done because there is no other answer than that it came forth by the gift and power of God.

# As another testament of Jesus Christ, on average every 1.6 verses, Jesus Christ is mentioned.

     I testify and bear you my witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that it is true.  I know if we allow it to, it can be the foundation of our testimony, a foundation on if we build, we will not fall.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  

October 2nd - Home in Port Elizabeth

    A police helicopter has been flying around above the field next door all morning.  I went out, met my new neighbors, and asked what was going on.  Pete said, “The police are probably tracking car-jackers or thieves who are hiding in the woods next to our compound.”  About that time a couple of police officers ran by the brick fence behind our town houses.  Cheryl filled me in on all the recent area robberies and suggested that I keep my security gates locked.  Stethen Place is enclosed by a six foot brick wall with five strands of electrified wire running on top. But my neighbors are not satisfied.  They feel too many people have the code to the electronic gate.  “Anybody can just walk through before the gate closes.”

     Cheryl loves Port Elizabeth and Lorraine is a beautiful upscale community.  However many Afrikanners feel that the quality of  life has gone down hill since the blacks came to power in 1994.  Cheryl says that when these lawbreakers are finally caught they just get a slap on the wrist and are never severely punished.  Many are simply released. Others receive an early parole which contributes to the lawlessness.  They were accosted on a walk when they lived in Johannesburg.  Cheryl described a recent crime where a man who had just been paroled raped a 83 year old woman at knife point.  "I do not understand that kind of violence," I said.  Cheryl thinks it’s because the blacks are angry about being put down for so many years.  "It’s a power thing," she said.  "They are trying get even for years of white suppression."  

   Thursday morning a petrol truck was bombed on the N6 between East London and Stutterheim.  (We saw the road damage when we drove to Queenstown on Sunday.)  The bombing happened on the fourth day of a nationwide strike by 20,000 workers in the road freight transport industry.  The miners struck last month and got a 800% increase in wages.  So the transport drivers want more money.   They think demonstrations and violence will get them what they want.  Gary feels that such heavy increases will eventually have an adverse effect on South Africa’s entire economy.  

   We drove to  Mthatha last Wednesday and stayed there overnight there.  We had no trouble finding gas on our way home the next morning.  However the district leaders were stranded that afternoon when stations run out of petrol.  The news reported bombings and demonstrations in Cape Town last night.   We found one station without petrol on our return to P.E. but made it back without incident.

   However my last week in East London was rather depressing.  It was hard to be enthusiastic and try to help when there is such a need and only 30 PEF loans here since the program began.  We were welcomed in East London.  The stake presidency gave us their support.  Gary accompanied to us most of the PEF firesides.  However he did not accompany us to Queenstown.  We were on our own.  I had to go and round up kids after the block as none of the leaders attended the fireside.  As we were leaving, Tom located the ward clerk who had stayed to lock up the building.  He asked why so few young adults had attended.  “They have heard it all  before,” he responded.

     Evidently Gary promotes PEF when he makes the rounds doing  seminary and institute work.  We saw one PEF flyer on a bulletin board out in Sada listing the Miller’s as the PEFcouple.  They have been gone for many years.  Tom  feels really good about East London Stake as we covered all eleven units.  They all have teachers and planning for success booklets. 

   The activity in Port Alfred was fun.  We enjoyed collecting shells on the beach but the only whale I saw was a tail disappearing into the surf.  We had a nice dinner hosted by the Richins and then we all sat around  the Stumms beautiful sea side flat visiting.  I listened to the accounts of service that all the other seniors were doing.  Sister Fowler talked about her close relationship with Elder and Sister Wood and the area presidency.  They loved spending time with  Elder Hartman Rector, a noted psychologist from Sandy, who has written several books including one on color coding personalities.  The Fowers said they do not know how they will cover everything before they leave in January.  By the time we got home I was so depressed I could not go to sleep because we had so little success to report.  I have not sent anything for publication in the Willow Creek Ward Newsletter because we were told at the MTC not to say anything negative and we don't want to discourage others from going on a senior mission.  I stayed awake for several hours that night feeling like a complete failure.  I could not understanding why the Lord would call such an “unprofitable servant” to this part of His vineyard. 

  Finally I got up and went into the spare bedroom and closed the door as I did not want to wake Tom with my tears.  When I laid down all the negative energy just dissolved as I looked around and realized that  I had done one good thing here.  Because of the problems with the flat we occupied when we first arrived we have been able to supply a beautiful, comfortable boarding for the PEF couple who come after us. 

    Last night we visited the Sherberts; the couple who replaced the Taylors.  They mentioned how much they both enjoyed staying in our beautiful flat while the Taylors were getting ready to leave.  I explained that it was thanks to the Banister’s decision to emigrate to Canada that we ended up with all the nice furniture, curtains and pictures.  Brother S. said he also returned from the senior couple’s activity feeling somewhat depressed.  Sister S. understood and reassured us that mission assignments are different and it’s not productive to compare ourselves with others.

    The Sherburts had had a really bad day and appreciated our visit. Sister S. had been  sick.  Their cell phone died.  Their automatic garage door opener had stopped working.  They had just returned from teaching an institute class for one of their instructors.  These people are mission veterans.  They sent two years teaching English in China and have served two missions in Romania yet they too were rather discouraged.  They were told that 48% of the missionaries called to Africa decline the call.  But those who come frequently  extend or return to serve a second mission here.  They were pleased to have us stop by.  They said our visit cheered them up.  We invited them to join us for dinner and movie night in Cleary Branch on Friday evening.
    Elder S. just called to check in.  He is spending the day driving the Toise’s around to open a bank account and collect the material they need to apply for their PEF loans.  Michael  wants to be a welder.  Charlene wants to be a nurse.  Both took the “Planning for Success Class” we taught at Kwa Nobuhle 1st Ward.  They have two young daughters and neither are employed.  They must have show 100 rand a month to qualify for PEF.  Today they have no money for a taxi or train and would have had to walk about 25 miles around P.E. collecting documentation had Tom not decided to drive them around today.  Oh well, the longest journey begins with the first step.

   I like this quote from  Present Hinckley: "It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is.  It all works out.  don't worry--I say that to myself every morning.  It will all work out.  if you do your best, it will all work out.  Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future.  The Lord will not forsake us. . .  if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of his blessings, He will hear our prayers."   

September 24th - 28th

    Monday night we enjoyed a Mexican dinner at the Fower's flat.  They have served as the senior couple in this area for over a year.  They are very busy.  They have 48 elders who live in 18 different flats from Queenstown to Mthatha, an area of about 200 miles. They inspect the flats every seven week, just before transfers.  They meet the incoming elders at the airport with brown bag lunches. They  provide food for zone conferences. Sister Lucy cuts the elder's hair.   Elder F. is in the area presidency.  He conducts priesthood interviews from Grahamstown to Port Alfred.  They designed a “finding the lost sheep” program and have updated the records in their ward.  Mdantsane 1st ward actually has 479 members rather than 729 on record.  Some move out when they found jobs, others died,  a few embraced sanora  (witchcraft.)  

   While visiting townships they have found members with pressing needs:  a door that needed to be replaced so one person does not have to stay home while other family members attend church.  They have repaired leaking roofs,  replaced broken toilet and updated showers and outhouses.   Sister F.'s hobby is making furniture.  Brother F. is a handyman.  So they are putting their skills to good use in the townships.

    When we told them we were driving 100 miles to Ilinge  to deliver Planning for Success” booklets, they asked if we would drive an unemployed “contractor”  to Stutterheim so he could shop for some lumber, doors and windows  to enlarge his house and then drop him off in the township on the way home.   The man has fifteen family members living in his small home.  Of course we agreed. 

    We had offered to teach one workshop in Ilinge but as know one called to schedule us we decided to deliver the books and supplies.   Then we returned to Stutterhem to collected the good brother.  Tom asked if he had gotten the quotes he needed for remodeling.  (As he is unemployed, the Fowers were planning to ask his bishop to fund that project.)  He said that as he is not licensed, he cannot get anything from the warehouse there.  It would help to have a drivers license but had failed the first test and money he saved for the retake had been stolen.  He wondered if he could get a PEF loan for 2,000 rand in order to go to Johannesburg and get his  contractors licence.  We explained that PEF is for people under 34.  That fifty-six-year-olds don't qualify.
   Wednesday morning we walked on the beach as that about the only thing to do here in East London.  In the afternoon we met up Gary Human and followed him to Mthatha, a distance of about 150 miles.  There were lots of winding roads and hair pin curves, construction, and heavy traffic. Also animals and people walking along the highway.  I was pleased we were following Gary’s baakie (truck). Elder S. is a speed demon.  He loves to pass everything on the road disregarding caution signs and white lines that indicate it's not safe to pass.   I find this rather frightening.  But I’ve stopped telling him to slow down.  I just close my eyes and pray that we will arrive safely.  
     We arrived at Mthatha and checked in at the White House—a B & B and then went to the church, a converted hotel in the middle of a town next to two bars.  We presented the Fireside to ten people including the branch president, Preisdient Mbilase, who is a black attorney and Lindile Dwakaza, his first counselor, and eight of their young adults.  It went rather well.  However, I note that only two loans have been processed in this branch since the inception of PEF.  At the conclusion Gary admonished those who attended,  “I need to know how many of you want to attend  the planning for success workshop.  It’s a long way to come for know-shows!” 

    At breakfast the next morning I asked Gary what needed to change so we could be of more help to the people.  He said that there is a feeling of entitlement in South Africa.  That the blacks were put down for so many years that now that they know lot’s about civil rights but they don't know much about their responsibility.  Most expect to have things just handed to them.  Many have little concept of commitment or what it takes to plan and follow through.  He said that both he and his wife got their jobs be volunteering but that this is something that the most would not do.

  This morning we went to the Stake House to join the young Elders in their district meeting.  As they had not yet arrived, we talked to the Employment Specialist until the meeting started.  After two years in the stake center the East London Employment Center was being transferred out to Mdantsane--near all the townships.  I asked about his most successful experience as Employment Specialist.  He said one day six young people came to the employment center.  However only three utilized computers and did research.  The others were friends who came along just to visit. 

   I told him that we are PEF missionaries and have been a bit discouraged as we have made an effort to bring our program to East London but have not had much success.  He confided that he and his wife were called two years ago to man the employment center.  They began by offering help two mornings each week.  However when known one showed up they only come in Friday mornings now when the Family History Center is open.  So his wife works on her family history and he sits around for three hours.  Tom asked how many people they had actually served in the past two years? “ Eight,” he answered.  “Just eight?” I  was shocked.   Maybe our generating just twoPEF  loans in six months is not so bad.  The employment specialists launched into a discussion that basically validated what President Wayman and Gary Human both told us about black mentality.  So are we doing any good?  Who knows?  

Pot Hole Adventure

   It was a long tedious journey with brother Gary Human to include 28 kilometers of severe road construction and  3 plus hours of driving – one way.  Gary led out in his pickup truck and we followed. This was our farthest adventure to date and it turned out not to be the little hick outpost we anticipated but a thriving populous town.  We were quite surprised by the jammed streets, the open air markets, heavy traffic, the existence of a university, and people teeming all over the place downtown. It’s a sprawling rural town with settlements stretching for a few miles, almost like the settlement of Mdansante I described previously but Mdansante doesn’t have the town size to match this one.

        Driving around this town, through its streets, roads and alleys was a wonderful, obstacle course adventure and a driving range test for anyone interested in obtaining a driver’s license. You have heard of “Dodge Ball,” well this was “Pot Hole Dodge” and in some spots, “Crater Dodge” and for the totally inept driver, “the Dodge-less hole of no return.”  This last hole would take a tow truck to extricate a vehicle.  Hand dug  3’ ditches aligned streets, and pot holes dogged the paved roads  virtually like a checkers’ board.  A homeless person might search for hub caps to make a few Rand (bucks).  Driving ranged from stand still, crawling, to 5-10 mph, to 15-20 with meandering all over the roads.  At one point I got confused in the dark, and in the process of playing “Pothole Dodge”, steered into oncoming traffic to the ire and condemnation of Africans uttering a stream of non-comprehensible lingo.  If they saw the color of my skin then it was probably “Kill the Whiteman.”  It was an interesting experience and my most memorable driving one to date.

     We now have claim to having slept in the “The White House.”  Being that our journey would be long and the road hazardous at night, brother Gary Human decided we would stay overnight in Mthatha and booked us at a bed and breakfast called “The White House”.  The house is white with attached white buildings and a  total of thirty rooms.  It was comfortable and quite nice.

     After checking into our bed and breakfast upon arrival, we followed Gary to the chapel.  By now it was getting dark.  After a fifteen minute pot hole drive, Gary slowed down as we passed four adjacent taverns with Africans drinking beer out front.  Adjacent to the four taverns was a rented building with a sign on it, “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  Sister S. said, “Oh, no.” We turned in.  Loud chatter, laughter and clanging of bottles filled the air as we unloaded our bags with our power point presentation and entered the building.  Apparently Land for purchase is hard to come by and the Church is yet to locate land for a future chapel.  A building was needed within reach of branch members and this was one of the few available.   

     There were 12 present including Gary, the branch president, elder’s quorum president and us.  Seven would-be students is encouraging if all pursue a PEF loan for education.  At least there is a university in the town they could attend.  After the presentation, we packed up, and potholed to a downtown restaurant called “Mike’s” to eat dinner.  We could hardly hear each other speak as the groups of Africans were extremely loud, noisy, rambunctious, laughing and shouting as they ate.  After dinner we potholed back to the bed and breakfast. This morning we returned.  So that’s our 24 hour adventure.  Tonight we are going to a high school dance concert.  Have a happy day all.

Elder S.


Sunday, 23 September

     Today we traveled to Mdansante, a 45 minute drive from Gonubie where we are currently staying, to attend the Mdansante 3rd Ward at 9 am and Mdansante 2nd ward at 1 pm.  There were 3 White young missionaries, 5 Black missionaries, and ourselves.  After the meetings we journeyed through Mdansante and were surprised at how sprawling it is, practically a thriving rural Metropolis.

     Apparently before the Blacks took control of the government in 1994 the Whites relocated thousands of Blacks inhabiting areas close to White settlements and shipped them off to Mdansante. The government built hundreds of homes for them to live in each 20' x 20'. The houses were blocked into villages with each village identified as NU and a number 1-17.  NU stands for “Native Unit.” Today we were in the village of NU 13 where the Mdansante 2nd and 3rd ward chapel is located. Since the community began, more and more houses have been added so that now, Mdansante blends as one continuous sprawling community stretching for several miles.

     I should use the term kilometers as nobody uses the term miles in this country nor feet or inches.  They are on the metric system here. Feet and inches is replaced with centimeters and meters, petrol is in liters, mileage is in kilometers, and weight is not pounds but kilos.   

     Speakers at sacrament meetings in South Africa are outstanding.  By far the majority give wonderful doctrine oriented speeches.  Today a woman was one of three speakers in Mdansante 2nd ward and her speech was absolutely marvelous.  I thought she was a returned missionary or a university teacher she was simply outstanding.  After the meeting I asked her if she was a returned missionary and she laughed and said that this coming Tuesday she would be a member in the Church for two years. I saw her scriptures and they looked like they had been used daily for the past 20 years. She currently teaches seminary.

   We are off the internet and don’t know for sure when we will be back on but will forward this as soon as we’re back on.  Sister S. just ate her first MacDonald hamburger since being in Africa and thought it tasted good.  She’s tired of fish and chips, chicken and mushroom pies, chicken,  pizza, and chop suey.  She wants a change.  She does, however, enjoy salads at the “Spur Restaurant.” This restaurant has gone bonkers over the native American Indian so the whole chain of Spur restaurants is decked out with Indian folklore, paintings, and pictures.  Every hour on the hour the employees don Indian outfits and do a war dance throughout the restaurant. It’s interesting to see how the American Indian is such a hit.

          Perhaps the identification with the American Indian is strong here because it was the Whiteman who invaded and took over Indian land just as the Whiteman did the same to Blacks in South Africa. The Indians were suppressed and viewed as low-caste inhabitants as were the Blacks here.

       It’s surprising how well the English language is spoken by Blacks in this country.  Even young kids in elementary school can speak English. The older folks have strong accents but the young adults and teenagers speak very clearly, a tribute to learning English in school at an early age.     

      On Saturday we went to the Lion Park in East London.  We enjoyed it and saw some animals we had not seen before.  If we could ever get  Smile Box up and running again we could share some photos.  But Smile Box has died on this computer and we can’t resurrect it.

     We have one more week here in East London before we head back to Port Elizabeth via Port Alfred where we will go whale watching as part of our next senior couples’ activity.  In August it was Zip Line through the jungle.  In June we went on the Pumba Animal Park Safari.

     Last week we attended  a high school vocal concert which reminded me of our ones at Skyline except this was “Africanized” which made it very interesting.  Last Thursday we went to a lecture/media presentation on the evolution of the musical in Hollywood movies.  It was great. I totally enjoyed it.  The lecturer  was a retired university professor. This Thursday we will attend a high school dance concert.

   No, we are not shirking our missionary duty.  We are engaged in it according to the demand.
In economics the law of supply and demand determine how much action is needed.  The PEF students are the demand and we are the supply. When the demand is low the supply is low, so the supply attends lion parks, concerts, and lectures, even movies.  If we were golfers we would play golf, tennis if tennis players.

      We go around the Eastern Cape of Africa giving PEF Orientation Firesides and encourage students to seek education, get PEF loans, and embark upon a career.  We counsel students.  This is what we supply.  Then it’s up to them to make the move. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. At this point it’s up to them.  They have to make the move to help themselves.  They fill out the loan application and submit it on the computer to Johannesburg and Salt Lake City and await approval.

      Once Salt Lake approves a loan, then the student demand increases and so does our supply increase. Next Phase two kicks in. The student has seven specific things to accomplish before Salt Lake can cut the check and send it to his/her school. We help the student achieve those  things and then send the documents off to Salt Lake via computer.  The Church cuts the check and sends it off to the school. The student registers and commences classes. I won’t go into detail on what those items are or this could be a two page essay.  But that’s how it works.

As to what else we do?  :
#  We attend district meetings and zone meetings,
#  Accompany the young missionaries to visit  members, teach investigators the gospel, and help reactivate.
#  We provide lunch once a month for 16-48 missionaries at zone conference
#  We participate with wards and young missionaries in visiting old folks homes
#  Participate in gardening projects for an orphanage and old folks home
#  Shop for the young missionaries according to what they need
#  Pick up the mail from the airport on Thursdays and deliver it to the missionaries.  To reach outlying missionaries is an 80 mile round trip.
#  In Port Elizabeth rotate to 7 units (wards and branches) on behalf of PEF and students.
#  In East London visit 11 units (wards and branches) on behalf of PEF.
#. Throw in the branches at Grahamstown and Knysna and that gives us 20 units or wards and branches to cover.  And we have yet to hit Capetown, the second largest city in South Africa.
# It’s up to the bishops and branch presidents to call teachers to teach the PEF mandatory Workshop called “Planning for Success” in their respective units. There are 4 classes in order to complete the Workshop. In Port Elizabeth if a teacher can’t teach a class on a particular day, we fill in.  If a student misses one class out of four and the teacher can’t conduct a makeup session, we do it.

     Now all this may sound like we are as busy as can be but really we are not. We have all kinds of free time.  Some of this is once a week stuff or once a month stuff. By next Sunday we will have given PEF Firesides to all 20 units in East London.  However unless a student applies for loans, we are literally marking time until they file the application and the loan is approved. 

    I’ve detailed here what we are doing on this mission but don’t think we are inundated with all kinds of work.  Not so. The real bees in the hive, the true workers, are the young proselyting elders. These are the people who make it happen. Whether they have zero baptisms, one, or multiple, the domino effects of contact, through time, brings multitudes into the gospel. We derive great joy in working with these young elders.
     Testimonial:  Brother and Sister Clarke were inactive for 26 years. Missionaries visited them off and on over this period of time. Two months ago we sat with Elder Pack and Elder Acton in the Clarke’s living room.  These two fine young missionaries extended the invitation to them to come to church again. They consented and have been coming ever since.    

     Testimonial:  As we sat in the living room of the stake patriarch in Port Elizabeth.  He told Sister S. and  I  it took visits by six sets of missionaries over a period of years before he was baptized. Since then he has been a bishop, a stake president, and the temple president in Johannesburg.

     I feel good about our sons and their mission contributions.  For here in the trenches, I observe first hand the fruits of missionary labor. And though our sons may never fully realize the impact of their service in this life, the life hereafter will reveal countless blessings as a result of their labor.  
       Well, it has been a good Sunday. We met with a bishop, 2 counselors from separate wards, a Planning for Success teacher, counseled 2 PEF students, and mingled with the saints, perhaps doing 1/50th of what Everett does every Sunday. (Except we drove 90 miles round trip)

Until we meet again via the written word, Aloha.

Elder Stokoe