Thursday, February 28, 2013

Service Project at the Thomas Farm

On the road to the farm in Grahamstown District

Everything must go in the Dispersal Sale including this bath tub

Elder Cobabe with Angora Goat - Wool is called "White gold

Elder Van Brughan with a Dorper Sheep

Cleaning out the shed

Mid Mission Report

 The PEF program has been transition since we arrived.  It will not be fully integrated with the new Self Reliance Program until we leave our mission in January, 2013 
Often I have found PEF work to be frustrating and unfulfilling for the following reasons:
1.  PEF is not well understood or supported by some priesthood leaders. 
2.  The educational system in South Africa negatively impacts many.
3.  Requiring PEF applicants to be “temple worthy” eliminates the majority.
4.  Transport is a problem.  It is difficult for a PEF applicant to collect verifications.

PEF Firesides:

On April 4, 2012 we met with the President Palmer of P.E. Stake and were told that they already had their program in place.   He suggested that we help out by holding a PEF fireside for all youth in the stake.  (Only one per year?)  We took our power point PEF orientation fireside to each of the buildings after contacting the bishop or branch president in charge.

We conducted a Fireside in Kwamaxaki, on April 22nd; at Kwanobuhle 1 & 2 on April 29th; in Uitenhage Branch on May 2nd; in Cleary Estate Branch on May 20th.  We followed up by contacting those called to teach the Planning for Success Workshop. We helped each unit get a workshop up and running.  We attended as many workshops as possible, bringing sandwiches and substituting as teachers if needed.

We presented a fireside in Grahamstown on June 2nd.  President Nye followed up with a Planning for Success class on June 28th,. Five students attended.  No one attended a second class held on July 5th perhaps because the Grahamstown Arts Festival opened offering temporary employment for some.  We presented a PEF Orientation Fireside in Knaisna on October 15th.  A “Planning for Success” teacher was called.  As none of the youth were age eligible, a workshop has not yet been held.   

We spent the month of September in the East London Stake presenting six firesides in wards, branches and in a youth activity there.  East London is on our PEF “to do” list.  We were well received by Brother Human and the leaders.  However, since Gary is paid by the church to promote PEF and process loans in East London, I felt that our being there was a duplication of effort.   Still Brother Human invited us back in November to train Planning for Success teachers and suggested that we return in March., 2013 to conduct more firesides.

In Summary

Approximately 25 people attended each of 12 firesides we presented in the P.E. area including youth, parents and leaders.  We also sat in on seven Planning for Success Workshop classes.  We brought refreshments and on occasion, substituted for teachers.  Over 600 people received information about PEF through our combined efforts with various priesthood leaders. 

“Planning for Success”

After the presentation of our PEF Fireside Orientation Firesides, we called upon Planning for Success Workshop instructors to start teaching their classes as soon as possible. Consequently, classes were held in Kwamagxani, Kwanobuhle 1 & 2, Uitenhage and in Cleary Estates, Port Elizabeth. No Firesides were held in Lorraine (no eligible youth) or in Port Elizabeth Ward. However, we did meet with several NYU students to discuss the possibility of securing PEF loans.

We presented a PEF Orientation Fireside in Grahamstown Branch on June 2nd.  President Nye followed up with Planning for Success Workshop, class number 1 on June 28th,.  Five students attended.  A second class was to be held on July 5th but no one showed up. Perhaps because of the Fine Arts Festival which was held then offering temporary employment for some.

We presented a PEF Orientation Fireside in Knaisna on October 15th.  A “Planning for Success” teacher was called though none of the youth qualified for PEF at the time. We have since received a request from a young man for a workshop there.  

In January, 2013, we taught a Planning for Success Workshop in Grahamstown.      However, neither of our two students passed Matric, and could not qualify for a PEF loan.  Amanda Ntlanjeni is taking classes to make up for those she had failed.

Cape Town Visit

Since Cape Town Stake is also on our PEF "to do" list,  we scheduled an appointment and met with President Malvern Ceders, councilor in the stake over PEF in Cape Town on November 17th.   He told us that “the priesthood should drive this program but they don’t.  That a senior missionary couple cannot do it themselves.”   He told us PEF was implemented and he did not know how to use us. “ 

I shared these frustrations with our administrators Johannesburg during a February 6th Teleconference.  Brother Khumbulani called back to say,  “it hurt my heart”[to hear it.]  


In tracking seven Planning for Success Workshops we found that, on average, six students began the class but only one or two completed.   Of thirty-six students who certified and thus became eligible for PEF, five actually applied and received their loans.  One cancelled in favor of a government loan.  Five renewed to complete programs already in progress.

We have processed eleven loans as follows:

1.  Nomkhita Cakata  - Renewal - Healthcare/Medical/Social Services – NMU
2.  Bradley Jarome Chamberlin - Renewal – Electrical Engineering at NMU )
3.  Stuart Brian Chamberlin - Renewal Architectural Engineer at NMU)
4.  Mawethu Dlepu  - Three month program to certify for Fire Fighting.
5.  Anele Kondile – Four-year social work program at UNISA University.
6.  Unathi Mahaluba – Renewal for MBAY training – Computer Technician
7.  Lunga Maxongo – Renewal NMU Engineering: Electrical
8.   Noah Mkona – Driver’s License upgrade to Hazardous Chemical Driver – A six-month program.  (Through PEF change, driver’s school is no longer covered by PEF.)
9      Sanelisiwe Viwe Ntsetha Business & Economic Sciences at NMU – We spent a year trying to help her get a PEF.  However, after the church paid  8,300 rand for tuition she cancelled.  We are trying to get a refund.
10.  Nancy Nthabiseng Rasi – Renewal Capsicum Culinary Studio – catering
11Thozama Toise – Robin Trust School for training in Elderly Care - Nurse.

We have generated five new PEF loans and renewed six loans for continuing students.  (Four of which are completing university degrees which have been discontinued. PEF has also discontinued funding drivers licenses.   Elder S. spent many hours helping Michael Toise apply for a PEF to driving school. The application was turned down.  Toise then applied to upgrade his welding certificate but that request was also denied as none of the the welding schools in Uithenhage near the Toise home are government certified.

Our assignment in Grahamstown will come to an end next week.  I have been thinking about how I can feel more positive about PEF since that will be our primary responsibility now.  I called Elder Blake in Johannesburg, for advice.   He suggested we not conducted orientation fireside but present PEF informally in young adult Institute classes and other meetings.  Elder Blake explained the upcoming changes.

We loved doing working in Grahamstown Branch but realise that these people need a couple who can be here all the time.   We have enjoyed filling in until the Chases arrive.    It was a wonderful experience for us. To quote President Nye, "Many are called to the Cape Town South African Mission, but few are chosen to serve in Grahamstown." 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February Transfers

 It feels like we live in an alternate universe when we hear about the cold in Utah.  It's summer and hot here in South Africa.  We love being busy and feel that we are making a difference.   It's fun having a town house in Port Elizabeth and a country flat in Grahamstown.  We are back and forth between the two, sometimes three times a week.  Friday we attended district meeting with our Port Elizabeth missionaries and took them out and bought them lunch.  An hour later it was drove back to Grahamstown for Institute at 4:00 p.m. We arrived only a few minutes before the class began.   Elder S. had two meetings that lasted until after 9:00 p.m.  

As we forgot to pick up the elder's new credit cards we had to made a quit trip to P.E.  Sunday afternoon to collect them from the Sherberts before hosting a dinner for our missionaries and Brother Alan at 7:00 p.m.  We feed them every Sunday night at 7:00 and then we all share a spiritual thought.  

Monday we inspected two Grahamstown flats.  Then we picked up Aya. There was an accident on the N2 which delayed us but we arrived in Port Elizabeth about 1:00 p.m. and had lunch at "Fish Tails" in Sunridge Park.  Aya's watch had broken so Tom bought him another at Walmar Mall.  Since it was P-day we considered seeing a movie but we were all rather tired so came home and napped. At 6:30 we drove Aya to the flat on Nugget to stay with Elder's Hixson and Knoni who serve in Cleary Branch.  Elder Knoni was in Grahamstown when Aya was preparing for his mission and they often went on splits together.  They are fast friends.  Tomorrow morning we will collect Aya and put him on a plane for Cape Town where he will be set apart for his mission to Johannesburg.

This morning we inspected our four flats here in P.E.  Transfers are tomorrow.  Elder Cobabe who has been serving in Cleary Estates will come to Grahamstow to replace Elder Olyabo who has been transferred to Kwanobuthle in P.E.   Cobabe is a hard worker and we are glad to have him in Grahamstown.  Elder Critchfield will fly to Cape Town where he will meet  his parents.  They will tour the mission and go to Addo Elephant Park and then on to Kruger Game Reserve near Johannesburg before returning home to Springville.  Elder Swenson is being transfered to Cape Town.

Aya will be set apart by President Wood before flying to Johannesburg.  He is such a devout, hard working young Elder.  His family are such an asset to the Branch.  His parents divorced when Aya was seven.  Sister Ketani and her twins were baptised in 2011.  Wendy, an older daughter, joined the church in December.  She has no husband but her little son was named and blessed at that time.   Aya has befriended five young neighbor boys who cannot be baptised because none of their parent are members. They come to church every Sunday and attend all the activities walking 45 minutes each way.   President Wood advised the missionaries not to baptise any of them unless an adult member of the family joins as well.   Wendy the oldest sister was baptised in December.  She talked on prayer at Aya's farewell on Sunday.   Bulelwa Kentani, Aya's twin sister, completed my planning for success workshop.  She is preparing for her mission and attends Institute.  

Saturday Elder Stokoe and the new branch presidency will attend a quarterly audio followed by leadership training in the afternoon on Saturday.  We are returning to P.E. next Monday for a dinner with the Boyces (who replaced the Fowers), the Sherberts and the Van Sickles.  

Valentine's Dance

Feb. 16th

I just finish making potato salad for the Valentine’s party today.  Tom struggled with bundling and getting the PEF documents sent off to Jo Burg until Gary Laake arrived yesterday morning to restore the icon that had disappeared from the church's computer screen.  Gary also got our  wireless Internet system working at Stethan Place.  We told Gary we were sorry to hear that his truck was broken into and all his electronic equipment stolen in December.  Gary said that the chief of police told him that robberies had doubled in the P.E. area in the last several  months.  A drug cartel is running a gang of thieves.  They steal things and truck them to Cape Town where they are sold in second hand stores.  Another truck transports the goods stolen in Cape Town to the Eastern Cape.  Consequently it’s impossible to recover anything.  

The economy is bad and there are many who can’t find work that are resorting to crime.  With food, gas and electric prices going up, some become desperate and drug cartels are take advantage of the situation.  They hire people to steal and give them a daily quota.  Many Afrikaners feel the situation is getting worse.    Poachers are killing rino's and selling their horns in Asia.  They are more valuable per ounce than gold.  We’ve lost 86 rinos since the beginning of the year.  Most killed in Kruger—a huge game reserve near Johannesburg.  

Farmers like the Thomas are selling out now that the government is considering “land reform.”    When we did service at the Thomas farm on Tuesday I asked Chris which African country has been the most successful in transferring power to the black people.   He said, “None of them.”   Chris said that he was selling out because it was getting too expensive to pay his workers, manage the farm and feed and protect his stock.   For three years he made no money because 3 hyena's were killing his sheep and often a poacher takes animals. 

One of his neighbours noticed a police officer loading one of his sheep into the patrol car.  He followed the man to the police station and stood guard over the patrol car until he could get another officer to verify that the policeman had stolen the animal.  The farmer lodged a case against the patrol man.

We hurried back to Grahamstown and got there in time to unpack the car and get over to the church before institute started.  Luckily all the text books had arrived.  I had left mine back in P.E.  Only four students showed up; both Iviwe Maphiry and Aviwe Petsha were new.  Don’t know what happened to all the others.  The class went well.  Tom dropped me off home so he could go shopping with the branch presidency.  The president walks.  First counsellor Kahya rides a bicycle.  Solomon Nathan Johnson, the second counsellor, has a car but does not have money for gas as he has not been paid for over a year.  Evidently the school has  scraped together a little money to keep him going while others who have not been paid left. 

     The ward mission leader was a “no show" again last night.  When the missionaries arrived to pick him up he was not at home.  They held correlation meeting without him. I asked Tom how things went but he did not know as the presidency met to discuss a possible new building.  Church official in Cape Town requested that specification be forwarded even though we don’t have enough priesthood to justify a new building.  However something needs to be done.   We are losing members because of the long distance they must walk.   Some have been mugged while walking to or from meetings.  One university student told Tom her cell phone and purse were stolen as she walked to the church.   

Elder Balmforth and his companion were robbed while teaching an investigator in a Cape Town township.  Two men walked in to the woman’s shack saying they wanted to joined the discussion.  Then, thinking the elders had valuables, they held them up and took their cell phones and the key to their car.   President Wood transferred them the next day.

 This has been Satan’s territory for thousands of years.   Perhaps with the positive influence of the church, things will change.  Tom feels that crime happens all over the world and not only in South Africa.   We are careful and have never felt threatened.   I must close now as it's time to leave for the activity.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day 2013

    We are back in P.E. today trying solve some PEF problems.  Tom said,  "We need our son Brian!  He knows more about processing loans than we do!"  We failed to get some documents signed when we were here last.  Michael Tosie's application to Driver's Licence School was denied.  PEF has dropped the program.   Today we have some soft wear problems.  Gary Laak will come at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow to help.

    We arrived in P.E. Sunday afternoon during a huge thunderstorm which knocked out many of the electronic gates here including the one at Stethan Place.   Our neighbour Peter Clark, handles such problems.  He reported that he is waiting for parts.  His wife is having trouble sleeping at night knowing that our gate is wide open.  We enjoyed Sister Sherbert Valentine's Party. She served chicken cardon blu, salad, mashed potatoes and cheese cake.  It is good to get together with the two P.E. couples each month. I'll host a dinner in March.  Alan Balmford's feeds our missionaries when we are out of town on Sunday night.
   Monday we stopped at the Stake Centre to pick up Evan Wright's book, "Part 2 of the Cape Town Mission History" from the library.  Sister Ek gave me keys and the code to the security system in the building.  But the electronic gate there only opened 4 feet.  Just wide enough to walk thru it.  Tom set off the security alarm in the building when we finally got into the building.  When the armed guard arrive, we explained what happened and showed him the gate problem.  But another company was responsible for that. While waiting for the gate repairman the security guard asked Tom about our church.  This man lives in Motherwell and is not happy with the church he has been attending.  He said all they do there is fight and argue.*  Tom quoted a scripture, "Mine house is a house of order" and told him about our church.  The man was interested.  So I gave him a pass along card and Elder S. took his cell number and referred him to the missionaries.  Brother Filifili has just been called to lead a group of  30 in Motherwell.  Four young missionaries have been assigned to open up this township. 

The gate repairman arrived.  Security left and Tom opened up the building.  But had to call Bishop Spear to locate the circuit breaker.   The repairman switched out the battery in the gate and took the old one out to be recharged.  Now that gate opens and closes properly and President Neko will not have to deal with that problem.  As Monday is our p-day, we went to Walmar Mall and saw "Argo."  We saw the movie "Lincoln" last week.  Both are excellent.  

 We left for Grahamstown early Tuesday as the elders had scheduled a service project at  the Thomas farm which will be sold next month.   Because of three previous car accidents, our missionaries cannot travel into the veld without us.   On the way the AP's called to informed us that our missionaries were supposed to be in East London for a Zone Conference that night.  We left the farm at 2:00 p.m. in order to make the meeting but have scheduled two more days to finish up at the farm.

Tuesday night we attended a branch correlation meeting that lasted from 5:30 until 8:00 p.m.  Then the presidency visited the branch mission leader who has been AWOL for several weeks.  He promised to show up Friday and conduct the missionary correlation meeting.   The presidency gave this man's sister a priesthood blessing as she is having health issues.

The Valentine's Dance on Saturday is being held in order to help our young adults hook up.   President Bazada wants both his unmarried counsellors to attend the dance.  Khaya was scheduled to work until I talked to my land lady who is very particular about her garden.  She likes being on hand when Khaya works but is only here on Saturday.  Since Lalita had seen his picture with the new presidency in the Grahamstown newspaper, she knew about his new responsibilities and agreed to have him come on Monday.  I explained that we are trying to build leadership in Africa.  Tom and I went to Mackro and purchased baked beans, fruit mix, melee, powder for drinks and all the paper products we need for the party.  President Bazada is a sound engineer and he will take care of the music.  Nathan Johnson and Tish will emcee.   The dance begins at noon.   

The presidency, Tom and Alan Blamford visited  Brother Badaza at the jail on Saturday.  He is now a cook and eats better.   Alan reported that he looks good.  This man is teaching the gospel to his fellow inmates and needs some church material.  He will be up for parole in 18 months.  He asked if Sister Audrey Thomas could pick up his wife and two daughters and take them to church on occasion..    We will be back in Grahamstown Friday afternoon for Institute and missionary correlation meeting at 7:30 p.m.  We were sad to hear that Oscar Pistorius, our S.A. runner.  He participated in the London Olympics.  Evidently he shot and killed his girl friend early this morning.  

*P.S.  Article in the Herald on Feb. 18th, entitled "Unholy dispute."  The legal wrangle over the control and name of the Motherwell Presbyterian Church of Africa is among a recent string of church feudes to hit media headlines.  The Motherwell church has been embroiled in a six-year legal battle over control of the church . . . The stand-off resulted in police being summoned to the Motherwell church when a riot ensued. . ."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Neil's New Job

Mom and Dad,

I took a job offer yesterday from another medical device company named Zimmer. I will be selling biologic products and total joints that are used in orthopedic reconstruction surgery. It has been a long time coming and I am glad to finally make a change. 

It is awesome to see all of the things that Dad said in the blessings he gave me before you guys left come to life. It will be a secure position that will allow Corrine to stay home with the baby. They have products that will be fun to sell and I will be working with a great team of guys. I'm excited about the new opportunity. Also, it will be a Salt Lake territory so I won't have to drive as much. Thanks for all of your service, we are reaping the rewards of what you are doing in Africa. God definitely hears our prayers and answers them in his own time. Thanks for you do. 

Much love,


On 14 Feb 2013, at 11:02 AM, Diane Stokoe <> wrote:

Congratulations!  Your prayers for a job in the SLC area have been answered.  I felt bad about our PEF assignment and being in "the flat that know body wanted."  Little did I realise that in the course of finding another, the mission would be blessed with furnishings for four other boardings including bunk beds for the elders. Nor could I have foreseen that the flat at Versailles would be burglarised.  Or that we would be eventually be assigned to help out in Grahamstown.  "The Lord moves in a mysterious way."  Keep up the good work and Happy Valentine's Day.  Love, Mom   

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 8th - Institute and Missionary Correlation

I was surprised that so many students showed up to register for Institute.  I condensed the first three lessons into one so we are now in line with all the other classes church wide.  Good news, "The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles" is the text book.  I took this class from LeAnn Meads and Judy Smith and brought the book with me.  It's excellent. 
Nauvoo Badaza and daughter

The nine students who registered include Aviwe Petsha who teaches a 12-17 Sunday School class;  Thembakazi Kabane, (YSA president and Gospel Doctrine Teacher);  Ayabwlela Kewuti, (Young Men's President); his twin sister Bulelwa Kewitti, who is  preparing to serve a mission.  Amanda Ntlanjeni (Branch Missionary), Nkosikhena Mali (Branch Missionary), Siphokazi Mazimba, (Relief Society President), Claudia Sheriff (Teaches Seminary);  Nauvoo Badaza, wife of President Badaza.  She is pictured above. 

Everyone who attended Institute at 4:00 p.m. stayed to attend missionary correlation at 7:30 However our four missionaries did not show.  Elder S. called them. They said that since the Branch Mission Leader in charge of the meeting, had gone inactive, they were not coming.  Elder Stokoe told them, in know uncertain terms, to get over to the church. That we never cancel meetings because someone has gone inactive.  There were were eight people there waiting for the meeting to begin.  

Elder Stokoe started the meeting on time and conducted.  He led the music and called upon me to give the opening prayer.  He talked on what we had learned at Zone meeting that morning.   The missionaries finally arrived. It was the largest missionary correlation meeting we have held to date.   We learned that the press release on our new Branch Presidency had appeared in the newspaper.  Lionel said people had been asking about the church.  Hopefully lots of investigators will attend the Valentines Dance at noon next Saturday as the time and address of the church appeared in the article.  

Baby Blessing

Dear Diane,

Good afternoon!  I’ve been going to e-mail you a report about the family gathering Sunday.  As I am finally caught up at work so will do so now.

Neil gave a beautiful naming and blessing of little Annabelle Jane Stokoe.  I’m sorry we didn’t plan ahead and have the speaker on Everett’s cell phone (which was in his pocket) turned on so you could hear the blessing.  The thing that stood out in my mind was that he blessed his daughter to have a good relationship with her mother.  That was when he got rather emotional.  

The testimonies that followed were very good.  Corrine bore hers near the beginning of the meeting. She mentioned that she was grateful for the gospel, the Priesthood and for her family.  She said, " Heavenly Father knows me and answers my prayers." She wanted her young women to know that she has a testimony and concluded, “Because of the atonement, we don't need to carry the burdens of yesterday any longer."

Several testimonies later Neil got up,  “Usually, when one is going to bless their baby they worry about the baby crying, I have been more worried that I was going to cry!  I did lose if for a bit so I need to work on that.”  He said Heavenly Father will help us understand the things that are important.  "The Lord’s hand has been in my life and as I look back I can see where Heavenly Father has really blessed me.   God has a plan for each of us.  He has given us the tools we need through his atonement to live our lives."  Neil said that he is grateful for the Book of Mormon, the church and for his family.”  (I did take a few notes during the meeting.)

There was one other testimony that I thought you would have really liked; the woman teaches history and social studies at Hill Crest High School.   She was able to travel with 29 students to Washington DC to witness the inauguration of the President.  She testified that the men who wrote the constitution were inspired.  That the gospel was restored through men such as Martin Luther who fought for and brought on the restoration.  She was grateful to be a first generation Mormon and to be live in an area where people are safe.

The after the baby blessing we went to a lunch Neil and Corrine's home where lunch was served.  She and her mom were busy in the kitchen.  There was a delicious pasta salad, fruit plates, warm crusant sandwiches, cupcakes and a nice drink and/or water.

Everett had his heart procedure this morning.  Corinne called about noon saying he had one stint replaced and the new stint is a newer model.  (They are always researching and updating stints for this kind  of procedure.)  Everett will be in the hospital overnight to be monitored.  Nicole and Indi had spent the morning at the hospital with Corinne.

Ron still has his cold and is not feeling that well.  I am encouraging him to go to our doctor.  

I’ll attach pictures of the day.  It was fun skyping with you and Tom during the luncheon!   Love, Laraine

Feb. 6th & 7th - PEF Evaluation

We returned to P.E. for 3 days to process PEF applications and two renewals.  Both Toise's have been approved for loans.  Tom is with them getting their paperwork signed.  He spent three hours at the bank waiting for Sister Thomdaza Toise yesterday to set up a new account.  Evidently the bank cancelled her old account since she had not used it for some time.  Sister T. waited in one line to deposit 50 Rand only to discover that her account had been shut down.  So she went upstairs to open a new account and had to wait for another 45 minutes there.  Then came down stairs and waited in another line to deposit the money.  Tom noticed that her nursing school had failed to write her name on the tuition quote.  Knowing that JoBurg would insist that her name appear on the quote, he drove to the nursing school.  There are only three openings left for classes that begin in March.  Since it's first come, first served and Sister T. had not taken the English proficiency test, Tom left this morning at 6:00 a.m. to take her back to the college.  Michael, her husband, has not completed his on-line application as the computer at the ward is down. So they will do that while Sister T. takes her test.  Normally all this is done by the students. Tom simply has them sign paperwork.  However the Toise's have no transport so it's more efficient to simply drive them to places they need to go. Last night Elder S. processed renewals for Stuart & Bradley Chamberlain.  As the 2013 school year has begun we have more PEF work with several inquires, a few application and renewals.  

Yesterday we had a conference call with our bosses in Jo Berg and the PEF couples throughout the region.    When asked how things were going in Port Elizabeth, I  followed President Woods advice and told them.   I said that when we arrived in Port Elizabeth in March the school year had already begun and there was very little for us to do. The stake president told us that "they already had their program in place." He had assigned teachers in all the ward to teach the workshops.  He suggested that we could cover the firesides throughout the stake--approximately seven each year.  We assisted with the workshops as needed but that did not keep us very busy.  Consequently we were putting in about 7 hours a week rather than the 35 required for full time senior service.  

We did every thing that was expected of us including traveling to Knysna and Grahamstown. Since there are no young adults in the George or Port Alfred we did not do firesides in those branches.   We spent the month of September presenting firesides in the East London Stake before we discovered that the church is paying Brother Gary Human and Malita Chamberlain, to run the program up there.  When we met with the Cape Town Stake President in November, we were told they "did not know how they could use us."  Consequently from March through the end of November, we put in very few hours doing PEF.  Even with service projects and Elder care, this is far short of the time normally assigned most senior couples.  I said that we had only generated a hand full of PEF loans and that if we were working for a bank we would be fired.  Brother Khumbalani thanked me and explained that the PEF program is in transition.  About that time we could hear hammering in the back ground. Khumbalani asked Mendela what was happening?  So I piped up and said, "It's Salt Lake remodelling the PEF program.  Everyone laughed.

Brother K called the next morning to confide that my report had "hurt his heart."   He had not known.  Tom told him that we are busy now and enjoy fulfilling both our PEF assignment and the member service work in Grahamstown.  I am glad I followed the advise of President Wood.  He told me to speak up.  Our mission president is a retired judge.   A defence attorney taught him to "Have a firm grip on the obvious and then, make the obvious clear!"     

Feb. 7 - 8, Zone Meeting & Elder Care

Tom feels we have been neglecting our Port Elizabeth elders so we will attend Zone Meeting with them on Friday.  They continue to do community service by taking care of the garden at the Lorraine Frail Care Center.  We have stopped by there a couple of times.  The first time I chided the kitchen staff for not harvesting the produce--the lettuce and greens were going to waste and this is supposed to be a joint project.   I told the caretakers they needed to check on the garden regularly.  The last time we stopped by all the melons were dead.  They had not been watered, despite the fact that I had spent 300 rand on a a spray nozzle and the connectors needed for the hose the Bannisters donated.   We discovered that someone had  cheerfully "harvested" our new nozzle so we will have to purchase another one.   Still our faithful elders continue to weed and keep up the garden there.

We contacted them to find out if there was anything they needed.  We purchased the items and handed them out before Zone meeting began.  Luckily all eight were there.  We enjoyed getting acquainted to the new elders.  Elder Critchfield and Elder Vernon conducted.  They brought greetings from President Wood. If we truly desire to serve what are we willing to give up?  Are we serving with our whole might, mind, and strength?  We left at 12:00 noon in order to pack up, have lunch and get to Grahamstown to teach Institute at 4:00 p.m.

We had asked Alan Bamford, a branch member,  to take care of the four Grahamstown elders in our absence.  He is doing a good job.  When Tom delivered someone to the  township he discovered that a wallet had been left in the car.  So he took it back to the township and gave it to the parents of the man he had just delivered there.  Turns out it was not his wallent but Elder Von Brughan's.  The missionary had left it in our car while doing service at the Thomas farm.  The missionaries kept calling but the man never answered.  Alan contacted the man's employer and he brought the wallet back.  Everything was there including Van Brughan's driver's license, his money and his credit cards. 

We will return to Grahamstown on Friday as I am teaching Institute at 4:00 p.m. and there is a missionary correlation meeting at 7:30. The big problem is that the Elder's Quorum president who normally conducts that meeting has gone inactive.  He has not been attending any meetings.   He told the missionaries that he is moving to Port Alfred but they keep seeing him around town.  Saturday the presidency is going to visit Brother Bazada, a member who is in jail.  

Tom reports that he works in the prison kitchen.  He will be up for parole in18 months.  His wife and daughters, ages 5 and 12, live an hour and a half walk from the church building and so are unable to attend.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Baptism - February 2, 2013

We are very busy with PEF work and so travel back and forth between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth at least once each week.  We returned to Grahamstown on Saturday to attend the baptism of Miliswa Mapapu in the branch swimming pool.    It was a very hot day.  Miliswa, her father and little brother had walked from the township which took them about 45 minutes to get to our building on Bennett Street.  As Miliswa is a minor she had to wait for permission from her parents before she could enter the waters of baptism.  The elders have been teaching her for some time and Miliswa has been attending church regularly.

 Aya conducted the meeting and Elder Khumalo spoke on the importance of baptism by immersion by one who has authority.  Elder Swenson talked on the importance of the Holy Ghost.   Miliswa was confirmed and welcomed into the branch the the next day, Feb. 3rd, by President Badaza.   While driving back to our flat, Elder Stokoe and I noticed Miliswa and her father walking home to the township.  Her father had his suit coat up over his head for protection against the hot summer African sun.  So we offered them a ride.   

The family lives just around the corner from “Church Street,”  where ten other Christian denominations have buildings.  As our branch is across the valley in an upscale neighbourhood, it takes most members an hour and a half to walk to and from the building each time they attend a meeting or activity.   Obviously it would be much easier for them to simply attend churches in their own neighborhoods.  What commitment and dedication the people demonstrate.   What sacrifices they make.  They are so humble and teachable.  They are an inspiration to us North Americans. 

We have been driving the new branch president and wife home from various meetings.  He does not have a car.  Often the meetings go late into the night.  Kaya, the first counsellor, rides his bike.  Solomon Johnson, the second counsellor,  lives in town. He is the only member of the presidency that owns a car. If we had more Melchidezek priesthood holders in the branch we would qualify to become a ward and be eligible for our own building.  However, there are only two active married couples in the branch and not many priesthood holders.  Our four Grahamstown missionaries  keep things moving along.  Aya has been helping the missionaries but he leaves for his mission in Johannesburg Feb. 20th.  Bulewa, his twin sister, is also preparing to serve a mission.  Which will make 6 missionaries for little Grahamstown Branch.  The church covers all their expenses when they are in the field but each must pay for his own passport, clothes, medical exams and any other expenses they incur before entering the MTC.

Our membership now numbers 135.   We usually have about 30 members and/or investigators attending each Sacrament meeting.    There are many less actives on record; some for a very good reason, they have to work.  For others, it's a matter of choice.  A few have returned to their former churches.  In March we are having a “Finding the lost Sheep” activity.  We will go out to the townships and look for people of record who never attend.