Monday, December 10, 2012

New Assignment - December 10, 2012

When we were in Cape Town President Wood asked us to attend church in Grahamstown yesterday.  As the Nyes are going home, yesterday (December 2nd) was their last Sunday.   I thought the Pres. wanted some senior couples on hand to see them off.  We left Port Elizabeth early, thinking the road was still washed out but the bypass was opened Saturday so we arrived rather early.  Sister Nye invited me to go along with her to pick up Evelyn, a coloured woman and Romeo, her four-month old son.  On the way there I had the strongest impression that President Wood was going to call us to cover the branch until the next senior couple arrives.  When we returned I was escorted into an office where Pres. Wood was talking to Elder S.   He asked me how I liked Grahamstown?   "It's one of my favourite places,"  I replied.  "That makes this a lot easier," President Wood replied.  And then extended a call to have us move up to Grahamstown at least until the end of January and help lead the branch.

President Nye, Khaya, Elders Quorum President with Sister Nye
Grahamstown is a community steeped in history.  The English Settlers arrived there in 1820.  It's a college town and hosts a Fine Arts Festival.   He asked Elder Stokoe to assist the first counsellor until a new branch presidency can be called. For the next six week and perhaps beyond.  Gramstown Branch is a mostly black.  As far as I can tell only Alan Bamford and the Thomas family are white.  Alan is seventy-seven.   He a gifted guide and historian.   We have been planning to go up there sometime in the near future for a guided tour.  Ninety people--both members and non members attended the Nye's farewell party Saturday.  Most of this branch, like others in the mission is comprised of young unmarried adults. 

President Wood asked at the Couples Conference last week how things were going with PEF?  I said, “If we worked for a bank we would be fired!   We have generated only a few loans since we arrived.” We have found satisfaction working with our young Elders doing missionary work.   Elders Pack and Acton saved us when we arrived.  They invited us to everything.   President Wood said he had prayed about the matter of the Neys replacement and felt impressed to call us to this work.  However as we were assigned to PEF he had to get clearance from Elder Cook of the area presidency in order to extend the call. 

We are expected to help host Christmas Dinner for Zone Conference in P.E. on December 15th along with the Van Sickles and Shurberts.   We will drive back and forth to P.E. for the next two weeks and will continue to cover PEF from Grahamstown.  That will not take much time as we have had only had two loans application in November.  Luckily Janette Lake was able to help us scan and bundle paperwork for Jo Berg.   Before those application our last loans were in July July and Elder Taylor was able to help.  We are still having trouble with the PEF software.

As for the PEF program itself our experience here has not been very good.  We have discovered that PEF is not really a good fit here.  We met with President Malvern Cedras when we were in Cape Town.  The information he gave us was similar to what we heard when we arrived in P.E. and also Bishop Bray's advice.  President Cedras said that until the local leadership buys into the program we are spinning our wheels and will not be able to make much of a difference.   The home teachers and visiting teachers should be assessing the needs and reporting to the ward council.  That rather than providing welfare the leadership should focus should be on self reliance.  That this should be a ground roots program.  This information squares with Elder Suarez's recent message to the youth.   

Last night P.E.'s three senior couples met to discuss assignments for the Elder's Christmas Party.  We learned from Elder Van Sickles that our project, getting Michael and Charlene Toies PEF loans is doomed.  Michael has been given many opportunities for employment but always fails to follows through. Bishop Mahaluba bought him a weed eater so he could mow lawns to support his wife and two young daughters but he returned it.  Elder V. got him a job interview.  He failed to show.  PEF requires that the applicant make 50 rand a month.  Elder Stokoe drove them all over Port Elizabeth to collect documentations but neither has submitted applications.  We had hoped that PEF could help this family but it's not happening.    

 Johannesburg has finally approved Headman’s daughter Sanililsiwe's loan  even thought the requirements have changed and the church no longer funds four year program.  Only short term loans are granted for certificates that will result in a job.   We almost missed a conference call with Johannesburg while waiting at the church for Sanililsiwe to bring the list of classes she will be taking next year.     She gave us a packet on Sunday but included a bill for last years tuition rather than a quote for 2013.  It's constant frustration trying to help.  (Sanililsiwe's PEF loan was later approved.  However she got word that her application for a government loan was also approved so she will use that instead.)

We spent Saturday morning inspecting the elders flats.  We have not done this for a couple of months as we’ve been in East London during October and November doing firesides and PEF training.  We discovered mold at the Elder's flat on Nugget so we bought Mold and Mildew cleaner and told them to take care it.   Hopefully that will be done before transfers on Wednesday when all flats and cars must must be cleaned and in good condition.  

We three senior couples met last night to discuss what we will be serving for Christmas dinner after their training at 1:30 on Dec. 14th.  We decided on roast, ham, potatoes and gravy.  There will be a movie in the afternoon and games then pizza, soft drinks, brownies and ice cream.  We are serving 48 and the mission pays for everything,  but we must prepare and/or order the food.  I do not know what East London is doing for our Grahamstown Elders but I know we will also be hosting our four elders on Christmas Day.

Next Saturday and Sunday we will be back in Grahamstown to cover our assignment.  We will be staying in Alan's retirement community on Dec. 8th and 11th until the Grahamstown flat is ready on the 15th.  We have been asked to drive a car to East London tomorrow and will need to be back in Grahamstown for a Branch Presidency meeting at 5:30 p.m.

The car we are delivering replaces one that was hit head on between Queenstown and East London in an accident with the Kings security guard last month.  (There is a king for every tribe in S.A. and each normally travels with an entourage.)  Evidently the guards ignored the white caution lines, and speeded over the hill in a Mercedes.  He hit three cars—including one that the one that our elders were in.  They were returning from a district conference in East London.   Elder Romney had just put a pillow behind his head.   His companion had adjusted his seat moving it forward.  This protected his legs.  Neither sustained serious injury.  However, all four cars were totalled.   The two elders were laid up at the Fowers flat for a couple of weeks.  Elder Romney had to have dental work done when he returned home.  He left on schedule the week after the accident.  They are both doing well now.    By the way,  our cousin Elder Kevin Farley will be released this Wednesday.  No word yet if John and Nancy are coming to collect him.  I guess my cousin John Farley can't get away from his dental practice.

Elder Van Sickle has struggled with hives for months now.   As the employment specialists for the area he is under a lots of stress but has been able to get a lot of young men on missions.    Elder Sherbert thinks Elder V's problem is stress related.  He just arrived in the car we are driving to East London tomorrow so I will close.  This will be the longest drive I have I have made since arriving in South Africa -- about four hours.  We will leave early to avoid the heavy morning traffic.