Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Crammed Like Sardines" - S.A. Education

 Wednesday, January 30, 2013, Article entitled,  Crammed Like Sardines on page 1-2 of The Herald.  "123 kids squeezed into one classroom due to teacher shortage."

In a damning indictment of the Eastern Cape Education Department, one primary school is Pearston has been forced to squash a staggering 123 young pupils into a single classroom because of the crippling teacher shortage.  The youngsters have spent the first two weeks crammed into the classroom in sweltering heat of up to 37 degrees C.  The school's single Grand 6 Class has 86 pupils and Grade 5 has 59.

Angry parents picketed outside the school on Monday morning, locking pupils and teachers out because "no learning was taking place anywhere as there are no teachers."  The town, situated between Graaff-Reinet and Somerset East, is about 160 km from Port Elizabeth.  Other schools around the province are in a similar predicament.  At Asherville and Spandau senior secondary schools parents have closed down the school in protest against the teacher shortage.  They also handed over a memorandum of complaints to they district director, only identified as N de Bruin. . .

According to the teacher allocation for this year, the school was meant to have 20 teachers.  But it is four short -- two for Grade 2, one for Grand 5 and one for Grade 6.  The provincial Education Department's termination of temporary teacher contracts--starting at the end of 2010-- sparked a number of court battles to get them reinstated.  This year, there are 4,000 fewer teachers in the province, resulting in a critical shortage of teachers in many schools. . .

As a no-fee school, Pearson Primary had to take from funds raised to by a school bus to pay the teacher's R5,000 monthly salary.  The school's only Grade 2 teacher, althea Speelman, had been teaching the 123 pupils on her own in a single class until parents or grandparents--one a retired teacher--volunteered to help.  She said the overcrowding had an impact on discipline and struggling pupils did not get the individual attention they deserstely needed.  "This is just too much and it is not fair to me and, more especially, the pupils.   I really wish those who decided to give fewer teachers and terminate the contract of temporary teachers could just see what they have left us with.  It's pathetic and totally unfair."

We are sending the above article to Jan Thorpe, a vice principal in Granite District.  Tom notes, "Education here is something else;  fifty, sixty, seventy students in a classroom in elementary school exists.  Teachers sometimes are not paid for 3 - 6 months.  Some keep teaching while  others walk off.  Public school have major problems--insufficient teachers, lack of text books, but the private schools are good where parents can afford to pay tuition like the students who go to Judge or Juan Diego in SLC.  All schools require uniforms.  The students here look real good.

This system is based on the European or British model.  The greatest challenges exist in public high schools that native Africans attend.  In order to graduate a student must pass all the subjects in their senior year above 35/100.  If a student has a 35% average he can graduate or Matric.  Even so at this low level less than 50% of the blacks ever graduate.  It is especially hard when these seniors have no text books and when teachers do not show up.  Their graduation scores follow these kids throughout their lives.  Even when they earn a higher degrees the scores can impact whether or not they get a job."

Neither Bulewa Kewuli or Amanda Ntlonjey who completed "Planning for Success" in Grahamstown Sunday passed their Matric.  Each failed two classes which they must retake in order to qualify for a PEF loan.  The Van Sickles,  senior employment missionaries in Port Elizabeth,  have 35 students  in retake classes so they can find jobs. 

Grahamstown - 150 Years Age

A History of the South African Mission – Period 1, 1852-1903 by Evan P. Wright, notes from page 177 through 221.

“Article from Cape Argus dated January 7, 1862:”

“Four preachers have just arrive in this colony from Utah with a view to promulgating Mormon doctrines and winning over converts to the Mormon faith.  Two of the preachers are natives of Grahamstown who have been dwellers in Utah, and who have returned to convert the colonial-born.  Their names are, “John Talbot and Henry Dikson.”

Dixon and Talbot were both born in Grahamstown and had many acquaintances there.  They had anticipated their labors with keen interest, but they found that their old friends and acquanitances wished to shun their company and were perfectly satisfied with their own view. They received little hospitality and very few people were prepared to listen to their message.  The elders posted notices announcing that they would preach in the Market Square on consecutive Sunday.  They had a small congregation each time but made very little headway.  Elder Talbot recorded in his journal, “A hardened set, the Grahamites.”

President Fortheringham, in commenting about Grahamstown, said that several elders had attempted to effect an opening there but had always failed.  In April he told them that if they saw fit, they should leave Grahamstown and wash their feet as a testimony against that city.  He told them that Brother Wiggill had stated there were many candidates for baptism up-country waiting for elders to arrive and he would like them to continue to new areas.

John Talbot visited Elans Post, Kat River, Kaffraria, Queenstown, Adelaide, and Burgersdrop.  He had to do most of his travelling by foot and often went hungry because of lack of hospitality.  He reported that throughout his travels he found the people very hardened and that they didn’t seem to care at all about the Gospel.

Dixon travelled extensively through Adelaide, Oliphants Hoek, Elands Post, Fort Jackson Fort White, King Williams Town, Berlin, etc.  In his journal he mentioned “Kaffir Country” as well as passing through numerous native stations.

It was during the time that President Fortheringham and the other missionaries were laboring in South Africa that the name of the mission was changed from the Cape of Good Hope Mission to the South African Mission.

There was an awful drought in South Africa in 1862, followed by serious depression.  The elders had a difficult time because people were indifferent to their message because they were so concerned with the severe economic conditions.  The elders reported that the work was steadily, though slowly progressing, but that most of the members of the Church were anxious to take their departure from this ”Hottentot country” at as early a date as possible.

 It was reported that the Kaffirs could not raise anything because of the drought conditions and were stealing from the farmers for a living.  A native chief of one of the tribes told his people that if they would kill all their cattle and bury them their gods would raise up ten for each one killed.  This resulted in further aggravation of the famine conditions.  . .

South African Mission
Port Elizabeth, Cape of Good Hope
Dec. 15, 1862

President Cannon, Dear Brother. . .

Since I last wrote to you, I have been over 300 miles in the interior.  I visited a few scattered Saints on my journey, who are feeling well and anxious to depart from this Hottentot country as early  as possible.  It is a hard matter to travel in the interior of this colony at present.  The country is so dry and parched in most places that travelling is rendered almost impossible. . .  All business here appears to be at a standstill; provisions are at famine prices, and confidence in one another is very weak.  The flocks and herds are perishing and more or less, the fruits of the earth are being blasted, by the refreshing showers which are so much needed being with-held. …

I have just received a letter from Elder Talbot, who is in the interior.  He states that he has baptized five in the Winterberg district since I left.  He speaks of the shocking state of the country.  The drought still continues unbroken. . .  William Fortheringham.

In October of 1862 President Fotheringham left Port Elizabeth to visit the Saints in Winterberg, Kat River, Alexandria, Elands Post, Adelaide and Oliphants Hoek. . .Fotheringham made frequent visits to the other missionaries in their fields of labor and also visited the scattered Saints.

In 1863 the missionaries had to do considerable travelling since the town were from seventy to one hundred miles apart.  Most of the travelling was done by horseback.  The elders reported that often they and their animals had to go great distances without forage or water.  However, they said that “the Lord has blessed us in our travels so far, and we feel thankful for having the privilege of labouring for the benefit of fallen man.”

No official reasons were given by Church authorities in Salt Lake City or in England for closing the South African Mission in 1865.  Perhaps the chief reasons were because of the indifference of the local people, difficulties encountered by the missionaires, and because most of the faithful members of the Church had immigrated to Zion.  . . L.D.S. missionaries were to return to South Africa  in 1903 and thereby fulfill the prophesy made by Jesse Haven on May 23, 1853.

Jobs in South Africa

Today Kaia is working as a gardner for our Indian landlords, Edward and Lalita.  Kaia takes care of the church garden so we nominated him to replace their previous gardner.  When he started receiving social security he stopped showing up to work.  So before we went to P.E. on we told Lalita that we knew someone who would do a good job.  So she interviewed Kaya, hired him and he started working today.  He came at 8:00 a.m. and just left at 5:00 p.m. She asked how much to pay him.  I suggested 100 rand (or about $8.50) a day.  She said  that as she always provided two meals she would offer him 90 rand per day. I said that she and Kaia would have to sort that out as the owner of a laundry she knows more about wages in Grahamstown than I do.  Currently the farm workers in the Eastern Cape are striking for more money as I write.  They have been getting 70 rand per day and are asking for 150 per day.  We pay Jessica, our P.E. maid, 100 rand a day plus 20 for her bus fair.  We usually send her off with a sack of potatoes or other food as well.  Jessica works from 8:00 until 2:00 p.m.  It amazes me how little gardeners, domestics, and farm workers are paid. Still there is lots of unemployment and it's very hard for a person to find a job.  

Alan told us about a black man who worked on theThomas farm.  He earned very little.  Certainly not enough to support his wife and two daughters.  Alan said that when the family came to Grahamstown the man was always asking for a loan which he never paid back.  Sister Audery brought this family to church and they were all baptised.  The man was a very effective Elder's Quorum President until he was convicted of rape and thrown into jail.  His wife and daughters were then kicked off the farm.  They now live in a township shack near her parents home.  Alan suggested that some of the priesthood brethren might visit in jail as they had done a few months ago.   Alan did not know what motivated the rape as this man has a pretty wife and two little girls ages 4 and 6.  President Nye and some of the other branch members took cardboard and cow dung out to to the township and repaired the wife's shack.   Farm workers in the Eastern Cape are currently on strike.  They want their wages raised from 70 rand to 150 rand a day.    The farmers contend that 70 rand plus the food and lodging is more than fair.

At correlation meeting last night Elder Stokoe was asked to visit the dying father of Elder Sibabalwe Ngqoyiya.  Siba's girlfriend confided that Elder Ngqoyiya had asked not be informed about any family problems that arise while he is serving his mission in Uganda.  (His family are not members.)   But Siba's mother has asked his girlfriend that she write and tell him that his dad has been in the hospital in P.E. since December 23  and will probably die.  When we visited this family back in December, I asked the mother if she had heard from her missionary son?  She indicated that he does not write often. I do not know what this is about as the grandmothers of the other two receive photos and letters on a regular basis and are proud of their elders.  Unlike the other two, Elder Siba's family live in a beautiful, well furnished western home while the others live in humble shacks.  We are looking forward to the blessings of little Annebelle Jane Stokoe, our newest grand daughter.    Love and Blessings,  Mom

Historic Day - Local Leadership Sustained

 Historic Day in Grahamstown Branch

Sunday was a historic day for the Grahamstown Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  For the first time the saints in this part of the vineyard will be led by an all local branch presidency.  On January 27th, Stephen I. Wood, President of the Cape Town mission, called Zukani Badaza, who has served as a counselor to three former branch presidents, to be branch president.  President Zukani called Kaia Ketani (left) to serve as his first counselor, and Solomon Nathan Johnson (right) as second counselor.  Elder Thomas Stokoe will serve as Executive Secretary and continue to commute between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth covering his Perpetual Education Fund responsibilities. Bulewa Kewuti (left) and Amanda Ntlanjeni (right) have completed the Planning for Success Workshop taught by Sister Stokoe and received the certificates of completion required to receive PEF loans.
Planning for Success Class

As it is the intent of the church to build the local leadership, the calling of Zukani Badaza as president was well received by the 134 members of the branch.  Sister Zukani is a member of the Relief Society Presidency and works extracting names for the Church History Department.  Nathan Johnson is a member of the academic community.  He teaches math and science at a local high school and is currently completing his master’s degree.   

Grahamstown Branch


In the Grahamstown branch it seems they have a tradition of announcing baptism dates over the pulpit but not the person's name.  The 1st counselor has announced for two Sundays now: "We will be having a baptism on Saturday the 2nd of February at 12 noon and invite everyone to come.  This is a special occasion and we invite you to come and support the person being baptized."  I asked, "How come the name is not announced?"  He said in the past when the name has been announced ahead of the baptism date the person has quit coming to church.  I asked why and he said they are embarrassed.  Why the embarrassment I do not know, unless it is harrassment or ridicule by non member family, friends, relatives or enemies of the church, or plain chickening out through peer pressure or otherwise.  The young woman (about age 21) has been attending church every Sunday since we moved here but yesterday she failed to show up. I wonder if it's because she is fearful her name will be announced over the pulpit being the baptism date is just two weeks away. Or, is it not announced to "protect" her. I really don't know. Anyway, once she is baptized what can the  preventive sources do?  The event has occured, she's a member. 

We have four missionaries currently serving from this branch who are the only members of the church in their families.  There are others in this branch who are also the only member of the church in their family. We have four young boys age 8-12 who are non members but attend every Sunday.  One had a white shirt but three did not, so I went to Woolworths and bought three white shirts.  Now they are wearing them to church.  Another young non member boy is showing up in a brown T shirt each Sunday.  I'll buy a white shirt for hiim.  In going over the branch directory I found an interesting name.  The name of this male is Sheriff -- Sheriff Johnson.  How about that?  A Black male by the name of Sheriff Johnson.  Also, we have a male high school teacher in the branch by the name of Solomon Nathan Johnson.  It seems the Johnsons get around.   Well, today is P Day and we have some business to take care of, some washing, and a bit of driving around for enjoyment and becoming more acquainted with the area.  Have a good day.

Elder S. 

Note:  The Seventh Day Adventist people who attended our Sacrament Meeting the day that Lional spoke want him back.  The missionaries report that since his talk they have been putting a lot of pressure on him to return.  But it's too late.  Lional is rock solid.  He has just been called into the Young Men's presidency.  Alan Bamford (pictured above) has accepted a call to teach the Elders Quorum.  He and Sister Audery Thomas are the only white members in the branch.  Alan was baptised in the 1980s and has a complete library of church history books in his flat.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Service Project at the Thomas Farm

Hello there:

The pace has picked up and we are busy going back and forth from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth attending to our responsibilities at both ends.  We are beginning to experience a few days beginning at dawn and ending at 9 pm. Yesterday, we went with our Grahamstown missionaries to a large farm about a 45 minute drive from Grahamstown.  The farm belonged to a member of the branch.  We travelled along a dirt road to the middle of no where, complete isolation, observing baboons along the way.  At the farm we engaged in service -farm work - loading a trailer behind a tractor with old currugated iron sheets and then loading and unloading it with bales of hay.  The bales we stacked, loose hay was swept into piles and stuffed in bags. It was a good workout with all sweating in the heat of the African day.  Lunch was provided: rice, peas, tossed salad, chicken/mushroom stew, and dessert.  We enjoyed the farm observing the shearing of sheep, seeing chickens and collecting eggs.  

The farm owners have interesting experiences:  During the night they have monkeys running back and forth across the roof of their house.  They even incapacitated an outside flood light attached to the roof.  The wife showed us one of ther sheds where the monkeys smashed bottles and scattered assorted items around leaving a mess.  They also raid the chicken coops and smash and eat the eggs.  Apparently, this kind of activity is a regular occurence and the monkeys are a nuisance. So in one of their sheds, enclosed with corrugated iron, the husband has made a couple of holes for gun barrels. Like a duck hunter in his hide-away, he waits in the shed and when monkeys appear he shoots one and they all scatter. The monkeys only appear at night so it has to be a moonlit night so he can see. But this does not deter them. They still run back and forth across the roof while the family is in bed, and likewise across the porch. At 2 am or 3 am large wild animals roam by their house even up to their porch (not lions but what lions would feed on).  

The elders wanted to go down to the river to bounce some stones across the water.  The husband said, "Watch out for the hippos. If you get between a hippo and the river, the hippo will charge you.  If the hippos are at the side of the river with their young one, you stay clear of them. They will go for you and they can run faster than you."  The wife told us more people get killed by hippos than crocodiles.  So the elders went off to skip their pebbles across the river.  Fortunately, it was a hot African day and the hippos were in the river staying cool with just their nostrils and eyes showing.

Getting back to loading old sheets of corrugated iron on to the trailer.  They were laying in grass next to a shed and nearby bushes and apparently had been lying there for a few years.  Before we started the job, the wife gave us a lecture on what might be underneath the pile - snakes.  She mentioned four kinds of snakes.  She said, "If you uncover a snake don't move.  Stay still.  The snake will move away from you.  Watch out for the puff adder.  If it rears up ready to strike move away quickly."  So we commenced the job.  No snakes  just a couple of rats, job completed, we moved on with the tractor and trailer. 

 It was an enjoyable day working and sweating in the hot African sun: We all wore hats, put on sun screen, stacked bales of hay, had a nice lunch, collected eggs, saw baboons, avoided hippos, overall a nice breather for the young elders from proselyting.  

Elder Stokoe 

Note from Sister S.

Last year the Rich and Audrey Thomas farm was composed of two farms of 630 hectares each.  A hectacres is equal to 10 acres.  So they were farming12,600 acres until half was   sold to a corporation interested in breeding buffalo and sable antelope.  (Sable antelopes sell for 100,000 rand each.)  The Thomas will sell the other half in March but will stay on as farm managers.     They have four children.  None wanted to farm.  Ross, their youngest, is preparing to serve a mission soon.  The others are all married and settled into careers.            
South African's call the prime sheep hair "white gold."
Audrey Thomas with mohair 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

E-Mail to Dean - Jan. 19th & E-mail on 26th

Thanks for keeping us up--dated and for forwarding the new drivers license and credit cards.  As special delivery takes longer than regular mail here, it's a good thing that you just sent them priority airmail. The Cape Town Mission Office sent out two license stickers for cars before the end of December, evidently special deliver. They arrived yesterday.  We were in Port Elizabeth Wednesday thru Friday paying bills and helping two PEF students.  We drove back to Grahamstown on Friday afternoon to attend a missionary correlation meeting and the Seminary and Institute orientation on Saturday.  I updated the ward bulletin board with photos of some branch activities and hung pictures of branch missionaries who are currently serving.    
We spent this afternoon cleaning the flat.   I transplanted some flowers into larger pots and trimmed a flowering tree which overhangs a walk that leads to the road where we often park.  I've been having to stoop under the heavy branches when I go up the path to open the gate.   As Edward and Lalita return from Australia tomorrow, I wanted that done before they got home.  
  Our flat is tucked away behind their big house but we have  to drive up a rather steep hill to get to the street.   Getting in and out of this driveway takes some skill but we like this flat because it's cool in the summer and will be warm in the winter.  It's located in a quiet neighbourhood.  There is very little traffic.  Our landlord hs not had a break in the 26 years he has lived here.  While several of our neighbours in P.E. had break ins during the Christmas holidays including Janette Lake who lost her lap top and some electronics.  There were no robberies at Stethan Place were our P.E. town house is located. Likely because it's an older community and less of a target. But some flats at "Versailles" where the Van Sickles live and  at "Turnberry" where the Sherberts stay, were hard hit. 

Tomorrow we are teaching another planning for success class and will feed the missionaries.  I had a turkey stored in the land lord's fridge which I expected to thaw out and use but when we went over to turn on their geezier (hot water heater) so they can shower, we found all the food in the freezer was thawing.  Don't know what's up with that.  Our turkey seemed okay but we could not take a chance on getting the elders sick so Tom gave it to a street musician.  We will serve spaghetti instead.  Thursday we are going back in Port Elizabeth for Zone Conference.  Thanks for keeping the home fires burning.  Love, Mom

January 26th Update:

Thanks for sending out the power cord.  I bought one the technician recommended but it does not work with my HP touch pad.  I will return it when we get back to P.E.  We had an incredible electric storm last night with lightening that looked like the 4th of July over Rice Eccles Stadium.  By the time we got home it was raining very hard and the electricity had gone out.  President Wood brought our mail when he came up.  One package contained the replacement credit cards you sent and the other was from John and Annette Johnson.  It contained, among other stuff, a packet of Bear River Minestrone Soup.  So I mixed up the soup before leaving at 5:30 p.m.  We returned late after taking some people back to the Township.  But the soup was still warm and tasted wonderful.   Perfect for a dark and stormy night.  Please thank them.  Today it's bright and sunny again.   Sorry about all the snow. Love, Mom

On 27 Jan 2013, at 4:29 AM, wrote:

If the car charger works for you it takes longer, 6 hours instead of 2, and you can get buy for a couple weeks great.  I  have 2 extra and will send one out on monday.  If the car charger does not charge than it is the cord.  It is a common one so just match it up.
  The round black fold up power charger is a special HP  charger and that is what  you probably need.  That is what I will send you on Monday.  If you can find one get it so you will have an extra.  If you need anything call before I ship Monday.  Take care!   Dean
-- Sent from my HP TouchPad

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sunday, January 13th

We had interesting meetings on Sunday  with several investigators attending all three meetings.  One was a former member of the S.A. defence department;  a  very articulate coloured and an active Seventh Day Adventist.  This man was invited by Lionel, one of the speakers who is a former member of that church.  Lional was baptised two years ago.  He gave an amazing talk.  In his youth Lional was a gang leader who broke into big houses but was caught and served 16 years in a local prison.  He ended the talk with a heart felt testimony on how joining the Mormon Church has changed his life.  Our missionaries have had follow up appointments with the investigators during the week.
There are many different denominations in Grahamstown.  The community boasts fifty-one church buildings including the Hindu Mandir Mosque located down the street from where we live where our Indian land lady worships.
Most of the new comers stayed to attend the Gospel Essentials class taught by our missionaries.  I was very proud of Elder Olyabo who kept saying, "You are all most welcome here.  Thank you for coming.  Please feel free to participate,"  and they did. 
 As we had been asked to teach a "Planning for Success" workshop, we had met with six people after church the previous Sunday.  These potential students asked that this workshops be held after the block so everyone could attend.  Tom made lunches as the participants would have to walk to church and stay for an extra hour and a half after the block.  Then walk home.  Only two girls came.  Neither was eligible for PEF as both had failed two classes and not graduated from high school.  PEF does not pay for Matrix makeup.  We suggested that they find out how much the tuition would be to retake the failed classes.  Perhaps we can help them find jobs to cover that cost.  If they get passing grades, they will be able to apply for PEF loans.  The girls are between 19 and 20 and both live at home.    We will try to help them but there isn't much we can do beyond encouraging them.
This is the fourth flat we have lived in since we arrived here in South Africa and the one with the best kitchen.  There is lots of nice cook wear, a large counter and easy to reach cupboards.  When the Elders were here for dinner that night we discovered that Sister Nye loved to cook and baked every day.  She took cookies to nonmembers, gave muffins to the owners of the bike repair shop and brought goodies to their meetings.  There is  a good stove.  The mission reimbursed us for an upgraded so now the refrigerator is large enough.
Elders Khumalo, Aya, Swenson, Olyabo, Stokoe, Alexander, Clark, and Von Brughan in Port Albert

The Elders washed and dried the dishes and then each of us shared an insight or a spiritual thought.  Then they invited us to join them on an excursion to Port Alfred for P Day as  Elders Alexander and Clark were proposing a visit to Mansfield Animal Park where there is a very friendly Giraffe that does not mind being petted by the visitors.  


Hello ye all:
Driving out of our gated community in Port Elizabeth last week I perceived a slender woman, perhaps 5' 6", walking along the roadside with a large television set on her head.  I started driving on my way to the grocery store but was so caught by the uniqueness of this sight, that I turned around and stopped alongside the woman.  The television was wrapped in brown paper tied with thin rope but you could tell by the shape of the "package" that it was definitely a television set.  She was holding onto the TV with one hand and in her other hand she was carrying a bag.  I said: "Is that a television set on your head?"  She said yes.  I said, "That looks real heavy. Where are you traveling to?"  She said she was going to catch a taxi down by Superspar.  I knew Superspar was one mile away so I said, "That's a long way to go with a television set on your head.  Come, I'll give you a ride to the taxi stand.  Bring the TV we'll put it in the car."  
I opened the trunk, she took the TV off her head and I grabbed it to lift into the trunk.  I was surprised at how heavy it was and how large. It wouldn't fit in the trunk.  I told her we would put it on the front seat on the passenger side.

She lifted the TV, I opened the front door and she maneuvered the TV onto the front seat.  Upon looking closely at her I realized for the first time she had grey hair and was probably a grandmother in her seventies.  At least she looked like it.  She got into the back seat and we drove toward the Superspar.  I asked her how far she had come carrying the TV on her head.  She said she came from Montmedy Road which is at least a half mile away.  Depending on her exact point of origin on that long Montmedy road, she could have been carrying the TV on her head for a mile.  I asked if she had always carried things on her head.  She replied, "Ever since I was a young girl."  "Do you wear something on your head to protect it?"  I asked.  "No, just my hair."  I was amazed that a petite slender woman like Nicole Young, but taller, could carry such a heavy and awkward load on her head.  I asked her if she had any grand children.  She said, "Yes, many."  We arrived at the taxi stand, she grabbed the TV from the front seat and said, "Thank you.  May God bless you."  Then she entered the taxi van with her TV set.
I have seen many a woman carrying things on their heads walking along crowded streets and country roads, but never a petite Nicole Young physique in the form of a seventy year old grey-haired grandmother, carrying a large heavy television set balanced on her head walking along a country road.
I am glad that I stopped that day and gave that grandmother a ride, afterall, my mother was seventy once.  And my dear wife is now seventy-one, but some how, I can't quite picture her walking 2 miles with a large heavy televsion set balanced upon her head.  May you all remain light headed and not heavy headed with the burdens of life.  But should you ever should feel dark and dreary, try walking with a large heavy television set balanced on your head for two miles.  There is always someone somewhere who carries a larger burden than each one of us.
Elder S.


Have anyone of you ever been to a fairly large shopping mall with hundreds of shoppers, observers, hang arounds, workers: clerks, baggers, sales personnel, shopping cart gatherers, sweepers, cleaners, window washers, wipers, cooks, bakers, servers, waiters, waitresses, delivery persons, cashiers, shelf stockers, service personnel, supervisors, managers, sidewalk vendors, security guards and untold gatherers, wanderers, conversationally-engaged-stand-arounders and sit-arounders - all speaking a foreign language, all skin colored Black, and you are the one and only white person among six hundred to a thousand of them?  I have, today, here in Africa.  My purpose for going there?  To find and purchase 2 reams of computer printer paper which I did at Shoprite.

How does a white person from the U.S.feel about such an environment?  Having been here going on 11 months, it's no big deal, I am used to it and really don't think about it at all.  I don't feel threatened, don't feel insecure, I am among people doing the same thing I am doing and that is shopping, even if it is the Black concentrated area of town. Shopping is a common purpose, a common bond.  If some one wants to conk me on the head and take my groceries while I am walking to my car so what?  I can always buy some more whereas that poor soul is obviously in dire need and can't afford anything. Being ripped off in broad daylight can happen any where in the world. I find the Blacks in the malls, and on the streets willing to help, to give directions, even go out of their way to be helpful.  They are polite and respectful.  Even when I give beggars something (not money because it is against mission rules) they say thank you, or thank you very much.  Some even bow and say, "Thank you, sir," or "Thank you boss," or "Thank you father," even "Thank you master."

I don't like hearing them say master as it conjures up memories of the slave trade and plantation owners in American history.  However, I have been addressed as "master" on occasion. Perhaps it is a carry over from the past servitude and apartheid days in this country.  Anyway, the one hour safety lecture we received in the MTC is well founded and as long as mission rules are obeyed, one can feel safe with confidence.  Anyway, just a little food for thought today from someone living in Africa.

Elder S.          


Driving through the countryside in South Africa is an interesting experience. Whenever we drive from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown we see monkeys crossing the road in front of us. There have been times when I have braked to avoid running over one and have swerved slightly to avoid one. Yesterday, I swerved to miss a tortoise crossing the road. On occasion we see a monkey at the roadside looking as if he wants to cross the road. He either darts across the road at full speed or stays still.

Usually it’s goats that align the road, are standing on it or crossing. In the townships donkeys roam free but they have learned to keep to the sides of the road. Here in Grahamstown cows have free range throughout the town and have the right of way. Drivers pause to let cows cross the streets or slowly drive around or through them. It’s an interesting experience making way for cows. I asked a Xosha African, "Who owns the cows roaming in the township?" He said they belong to certain families. I asked, "Doesn’t one ever get butchered by someone in the night?"  He said no. Such a thief would be killed, so it doesn’t happen. 

The Xosha people have respect for cattle and ownership as do other tribes. 
In the townships there are many dogs, most of them skinny through malnourishment. In fact, most Colored and White Afrikanse families own a dog for protection. Besides a dog, there are iron bars on their windows and iron bars on front and back doors. The homes of these people are quite fortified. In a way, it’s almost like the wild west days in America, as depicted by Hollywood movies, where homesteaders break a window in their log cabin to shoot at attacking Indians or bad guys. The gated communities are surrounded by 7-8' brick walls with five strands of electric wire running atop, a warning to intruders: "Stay out, or be electrocuted!" However, despite these precautions, break-ins are common, usually when the owners are away.  

It’s surprising to me the number of White Afrikaans who go barefoot in the stores and on the streets, especially young kids, teenagers, and even adults. I have yet to see a single Black African walk barefoot down town in stores or on streets. You would think it would be the other way round, but this is not the case.

The African women have wonderful hairdos, many intricate styles, even with teenage girls and younger. I have asked women how long it took to do their hair and answers ranged from two hours to half a day. With little girls it can take longer as they can’t sit still for long and need breaks to run around and play.

There are African women who are beautifully dressed in bright colored dresses. You see them every day in town, many with head wraps, fabric hats, and headdresses. Some wear elaborate woven hats with beadwork attached. They are quite striking in appearance. 
One thing that is picturesque are the uniforms worn by members of African churches. Each church has its own uniform. There is a street in the Grahamstown township called Church Street because it is aligned with five different churches: Apostolic, Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, and Seven Day Adventist. As I drive along this street on Sundays I see members emerging from their churches wearing their respective church uniform. It’s an attractive sight.

Women wear long dresses or skirts, blouses and hats. Men wear shirts and ties and some wear coats. Boys and girls wear assorted Sunday best. Despite poverty and living in shacks and small sub standard cubicle houses, efforts to look their best for church are most commendable. The pastor is dressed in a suit; some pastors wear a robe.  One church, and I’m not sure their denomination, the women wear blue and white dresses with a blue nurses hat. Another denomination the women wear red dresses with a hat. There’s one church with women wearing brown skirts, white blouses and assorted hats. There’s also a church where women have a small short cape attached to their uniform somewhat resembling a sailor. These church goers look good and spiffy and are a nice sight to see on the streets on Sundays. 

South Africa is a very interesting country. I like it here. There’s all kinds of food in the grocery stores, the fruit juices are excellent with many varieties, the bakeries are excellent, and there are several kinds of meat reflecting the different African animals. Of course the animal parks are always worth a visit, and being Port Elizabeth is by the sea, there is ample seafood. The culture is interesting, and just as Ron enjoys driving his UTA bus in Utah, I enjoy driving our 2011 Nissan Tida all over the place. As for our Church, the work goes forward, the young missionaries are very dedicated, and the members of wards and branches are warm and friendly. It’s enjoyable to mingle with them and contribute to the Lord’s work.
                                                                                                                                          Aloha,Elder S

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Update from George & JoAnn Billings in the Congo

Dear Family and Friends,

Elder Billings students in the Democratic Republic of  Congo
On Christmas day we had several of our students over for dinner.  Some brought their wives, others brought their girl friends, and others came alone.  We prepared most of the dinner but counted on them to supply some of their own dishes.  I started picking people up at 12:30 p.m.  When I arrived at the pickup point there were only two people.  I thought we were going to have a dismal turnout as we had expected around 30 people.  I waited for 1/2 hour and three others arrived.  I  took them to the apartment and went back in hopes that more had shown up.  There were a couple of others at that time.  I waited again for1/2 hour and three others showed up.  They became the next trip to the apartment.  Then, I started getting calls wanting me to go to different locations and get people.  I made at least four more trips to different parts of the City in the next two hours until I was confident that everyone who was coming had arrived.  No one came on their own.  They had either walked or taken a taxi to the location where they wanted to be picked up.  Only two of the guests brought something for the dinner.  They had brought beans and the ingredients they needed to prepare them.  When we saw the beans we knew that dinner was a little bit away as beans take some time to soften up and cook.  Due to the beans the dinner was delayed for three hours.  We pretty much had an American Christmas dinner and we had plenty of food.  Although there was nothing left when they got done.

I have attached three photos of the Christmas celebration.  As you can
see by the photos it wasn't exactly a white Christmas.  One photo is of us and all of the guests except the one who took the picture.
Another photo is of the two who cooked the beans.  The third photo is of a couple who were married three days later.  We were invited to the wedding on their marriage date and to a reception on January 4th.  We
weren't able to make it to the wedding itself but we did make it to the reception.

It was our intention to learn about Christmas traditions in the Congo. Some of them talked about how they spent Christmas with their families but there really wasn't much of anything that we would consider different or unusual.  There aren't a lot of decorations and there isn't much in the line of gift giving.  They did bring us a gift however.  It is a musical instrument carved out of wood.  The carving is quite detailed.  It is a bosomy pregnant women with two heads.  I think it is going to take me awhile to figure out the significance.  They did explain a little bit about it but all of the commotion of the party distracted attention and I can't remember what they said.  I'll have to ask again when I get some time.

 The two other pictures I have attached are of the wedding.  The first is of the beautiful bride.  The reception definitely was done in
Congolese tradition.  We were invited for a 7:00 p.m. reception.  We arrived about 10 minutes early and we were the first ones there.  We were escorted to a waiting room and other guests began to trickle in.
At about 8:45 p.m. there were about 20 of us in the waiting room and
we were called out, couple by couple, and escorted to our assigned table.  After we were seated many more guests continued to trickle in.  There were around 150 guests by the time things really got started.  The bride and groom didn't arrive until about 9:30 p.m.  They had a  grand entrance as they were escorted by a couple they had chosen to  advise them about marriage.  That is their custom.  They choose a couple who has been married for some time and who they trust.  In the  marriage process they are accompanied by this couple and receive advise.  The couple is seated at either side of them during the reception.  

During the entrance music is played and they proceed to their seating area with a slow rhythmic dance step.  After they are seated each of the wedding party are formally introduced.  Then it becomes time for gift giving.  First the family of the bride are called upon to bring their gifts.  Each gift is personally given to the bride and groom.  The bride's family is followed by the groom's family and then friends and other acquaintances.  After the gift giving it is time to eat.  There is a complete meal prepared and it is Congolese all the way.  I can't name all the foods but they were interesting.  I was served a piece of fish and all I got was the head.  Fish head is a delicacy.  It was a delicacy that I just couldn't  bring myself to eat however.  I pawned it off on another guest at our table and watched him devour it with expressions of culinary delight.Then it became time for dancing.  It was getting late and we decided it was time to go.  It was midnight and we had been their for five hours.  Besides that I was getting uncomfortable about maybe having to dance and I don't dance.  When we got up to go the groom immediately stood and asked us to pose with them for photos.  We were some of the first of the guests to leave.  We were told that the dancing goes on until 5:00 a.m.  People stay all night because it is dangerous for them to travel in the dark hours of the night, so they just dance and visit all night.

Dear Family & Friends:

I thought I would add a bit to George's email.  Christmas & New Year's gave George a breather from teaching. For the past 2 months, George has been teaching 2 classes a day, starting at 7:30 a.m. and arriving home about 6:00 at night.  That is a long day to be working construction in this heat.  Since our office is in our home, that has left me home alone except for the 1/2 hour George is here for lunch.Our power source is not stable; we usually have low power and therefore no internet for half to two thirds of each day.  During those times I cannot send my work to Salt Lake and receive their input.  I am also isolated from the outside world.  I cannot leave the apartment alone because it is not safe to walk alone about the city.George has the truck, so I have no means of transportation.  I told George I feel like I'm under house arrest.  A lot of the work requires both George and I to work together, such as writing tests and evaluations.  I could not do it without him here and he has been too exhausted in the evenings to work on bookwork.  Things are looking brighter, however.  On the 20th, Bro. Bonnet will be in town and we will re-evaluate our teaching schedule and training of additional teachers.   Changes will be made to improve the program.  Already it has been approved to have wireless anywhere internet put on my computer so I can travel to the sites with George, and do some of my work there.  (There are rented meetinghouses next to both sites.) That will allow us to be together and give me more of a chance to be with the students.   It is most rewarding to be with these young men and see the hope in their faces as they learn an occupation that will help change their lives for the good.

Additionally, we will be moving to the apartment building where the other couple missionaries are housed at the end of this month.  We will be on the 5th floor in an apartment that has a huge expanse of windows on two corner walls.  It is a spectacular view of the city and the Congo River.  Below is the biggest plaza in town, with a statue, a large fountain, and lots of benches.  Many people gather there daily.If there is any excitement in the city, it usually starts there.  I will love having the view, and also to see the sun rise each morning
over the Congo River.  This is also a much more secure building.  Before one can drive in to park, security guards check under the hood, and all underneath the truck with detectors for bombs, etc.  The building was part of the American Embassy buildings and is very sturdily built.  It is surrounded by thick cement walls with razor wire at the top.  I think with the trouble going on in the Eastern Congo, the President felt it was better to have all couple missionaries together in the same secure location.  (It is also located on a direct route to the airport.)  President Jameson receives security reports frequently and the Church is very committed to keeping the missionaries safe.  We have never yet felt unsafe.

This next week, I also have a chance to start working half a day with the PEF (Perpetual Education Fund) department.  The missionary couple serving there has been reassigned to South Africa due to health issues, and so the two young Congolese returned missionaries who were volunteering have had to carry on with the work.   Both of these young men have interpreted for me when I have taught Family History training programs.  I will enjoy working with them.  There are many young men and women who take advantage of this program to pursue higher education degrees, and I will get to assist them in that.  Someone from South Africa will come to train me at the end of January.   I look forward to this work.  No more house arrest!!! I will be working with the Construction program for half a day, PEF for half a day, and Family History on weekends.

One of our great joys continues to be visiting the wards of George's students, going to church with them and their family, and taking pictures afterwards.  Since pictures are a rare possession here, we usually print up about 8 pictures and give to the student of him and
his family.  It has been so fun to drive all over this city, up steep mountain roads, roads half washed out with rain, and roads hardly wide enough for a car to travel.  We know this city very well now, and don't worry about getting lost anymore.  The students are so excited
to see us, to think that someone would think enough of them to come and see them at their ward.  You can only imagine how insignificant they feel in a city of 14 million people.

This mission has been a great adventure and a great blessing in our lives.  How we love these Congolese people.  George can communicate very well with the people now.  He even knows quite a few Lingala and Swahili words.  I continue to struggle but I am now able to talk
somewhat with our students.  They are very understanding and try to speak slowly and use words they know I am familiar with.  I still study French every day learning new words.  I intend to speak it before I come home.  At this New Year's time, we look forward to
another great year of our "Up" adventure.

At this time of year, we appreciate the love and friendship from our dear family and friends.  We hope your lives are full of joy and happiness.  We wish you a wonderful new year!

George & JoAnn Billings