Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 2017

This is a typical roadside scene as we drive through Kwazulu-Natal (our mission area).

After attending Richard’s Bay District Conference we drove up the coast to St. Lucia where we had a boat tour to view the hippos and crocodiles. Turns out this is the best time of year to go when the hippos are most active. (The movement of the crocodiles told us that they were either dead or fake! They didn’t move at all.) We are holding a hippo tooth in the pictures. Elwood decided he needed an implant and chose a hippo tooth for dramatic effect.

These were the scenes we observed as we traveled down the river…hippos and crocodiles in their natural environment.

We continued up the coast, drove through a game preserve on our way to Cape Vidal and observed a number of other animals. These included cape buffalo, the magnificent kudu antelope, a zebra family, the always impressive rhino and the rare daytime sighting of a hyena.

This is a sign posted as a warning because in the evenings these animals may be seen wandering the streets.

A night out of extravagant dining…calories galore!

This is a view of Ghost Mountain, which plays a significant role in the culture of the region. Tradition says it is a great, strange and haunted mountain. On top is a rudely shaped resemblance of a woman. At regular intervals over the years, strange lights and flickering fires are seen among the fissures and cliffs of the summit. Weird noises and strange sounds are also heard precipitating Zulu superstitions.

These pictures were taken at a branch sponsored areawide marriage conference at which we spoke. Decorations were done by a member whose daughter is in the catering business.

This is the Ezakheni Chapel where Newcastle District held part of the district conference. Since the district is so large (over 100 kilometers separate the two locations) and travel is difficult, conference is held in two parts with the same message given in both locations. The theme of the conference was taken from the Book of Mormon (Helaman 5:12): “ And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall be upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

We had the privilege of preparing 8 brethren to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and have them sustained at district conference. It was Elwood’s honor to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood on four of them and ordain them to the office of Elder.

These beautiful iconic acacia trees are seen throughout South Africa…

We are continuing to enjoy our mission and being able to assist in the work of the Lord. It is very rewarding to be assisting in the progress being made.

Love to you all.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Long overdue catch up!

Dear All,

Life is wonderful for us and full of rewarding experiences. Each day is very different. We hope you get a glimpse of what we do by this update.

Our training goal is that when we leave we will not be needed or missed. We continue to travel conducting mission and district business and training such as assisting the district president in choosing talks from April 2017 General Conference for the “Teaching For Our Time” lessons. Other lessons we taught include how to prepare people to receive the Mechizedek Priesthood as well as how to conduct priesthood and quorum meetings on Sunday. We are still working with branch presidents individually to help them develop branch budgets. How to administer church welfare is another needed topic because many have the attitude that the Church has unlimited funds to give to whomever wants anything. We showed district president how to schedule district council speakers and helped him choose topics that were needed and included the area initiatives. As a new branch was organized we supported (and prodded) physical facility people from the Durban office to deal with the many details. We know this is all very mundane, but basic training is what we have been asked to do as these concepts had not been taught or practiced before.

We have had many highlights. Sister Mlambo, district Young Women president and wife of one of the branch presidents, set an excellent example for all women by completing her bachelor’s degree to become a teacher. She did this at home in a period of only 5 years. People, including her extended family, discouraged her at every turn (“Women don’t need an education!”) but she persevered. Elwood interviewed a young woman who had an extremely difficult life, who had no hope and who tried to block out her terrible experiences by taking drugs. She met and was taught the gospel by the missionaries, turned her life around and has now been baptized.  We helped a young couple get married without lubola (bride price).

We attended a traditional Zulu wedding. One of the sons of an Afrikaans branch president married a Zulu young lady. It was a cultural experience right out of National Geographic. It was located at the isolated farm of the groom’s parents in an open field.  Many men were dressed in  tribal warrior costumes and the women dancers wore only beads around their neck and a short skirt.  (Shireen will be editing the pictures so that they are G-rated.)

In March we went to the Drakensburg School where we were treated to a performance of the world famous Drakensburg Boys Choir. Fabulous! The school is next to the beautiful central Drakensburg mountain range.  After an overnight stay at a local B and B we were treated to a falconry, birds of prey exhibition.

Towards the end of April we participated in a senior missionary couple conference/retreat at Ghost Mountain, which is about 4 hours north of Durban. We went on two game drives and visited a contemporary Zulu village where we found many traditional Zulu practices exist. The game drives were not very exciting, but it was wonderful to be out in the bush. We saw several species of antelope, cape buffalo, zebra, giraffes, a rhino and many interesting birds.

After the conference and mission presidency meeting we drove to Durban. Early the next morning we joined another missionary couple (the Woods) and drove out to see the  progress of the temple and then went for a walk along the beach at the Indian Ocean. The water is warm, even in the winter. Later we went to the only Mexican restaurant we know in South Africa (Four 15 Restaurant). We not only ate a huge lunch, but ordered takeout food that lasted us for three meals.

People seem to die at a much younger age than in the US. As it was in Nigeria, some of our young missionaries’ parents die while their sons (no sister missionaries in this mission) are serving on a mission. This Is heartbreaking. We recently assisted in helping a young missionary plan a memorial service for his recently deceased mother. All the missionaries in this area gathered at our apartment for a very touching service.

We were asked to assist the district president in starting the negotiation of (bride price) with the families of the prospective bride and groom. The bride’s family was asking for what would be equivalent to about $7000! The groom is deaf and unable to speak and is only marginally employed. He may not earn this money in his life. The bride’s family encouraged this couple to live together until he can afford to pay lobola. There was a plaque on the wall that read, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Elwood addressed this saying by stating that the Zulu traditions were sweeping the Lord out of their house by demanding lobola as having children out of marriage was not the Lord’s way. A few days later the family agreed to no lobola and will permit the couple to be married.

Portia, a young single mother of two boys, who we have been teaching, was given a given a small government built house. She had been living in a tin shack under very humble conditions for over seven years. We helped her move in and did some landscape work for her along with two young missionaries.

Another situation involved meeting with grandparents (Ugogo and Umkhulu) who have a tense relationship with their three grandchildren. The parents of the children have died and the 13-year-old lives with her two twenty something siblings. She is not cared for and often wanders the neighborhood asking for food. This situation is not yet resolved.

We continue to meet people who are curious about what we do. We are able to get their contact information and pass it on to the young missionaries.

Experiences with missionaries are both fun and challenging. One of our dear elders had 3 automobile accidents in a one month period…and he was not even cleared to drive. Turns out that when you make a U-turn in front of an oncoming vehicle that it will probably hit you. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

We are still hiking. Since it is winter it is cold and foggy most mornings, but it reaches the high 70s most days.

We are reading the Book of Mormon together and have a greater understanding and appreciation as we contemplate and discuss concepts. We encourage all to follow the prophet’s admonition to make the reading, studying, and pondering of this book part of your daily life.

We love you all.

The Browns

 Mexican restaurant in Durban

Animal drive at retreat 
At the beach - Indian Ocean

At Zulu village
Boys choir after performance 
Cooking at Zulu wedding
 Durban Temple

Elwood and President Mashego in Dundee with Brother in Dundee (in the middle) 
Falconry show 
 Game drive breakfast
Herd of Cape Buffalo  
 Zulu wedding

 Groom at wedding 

Wedding participant 
Zulu wedding maid of honor and daughter
Kids in the neighborhood 
Love seeing interesting signs
Missionary U-turn 
Muslim mosque in Newcastle
Ayala antelope seen on retreat 
Portia happy to have a home of her own 
Portia's new house 
Portia's shack 
Rourke Drift - site of one of the Zulu-English battles 
Service project with missionaries at Portia's house 

 Visited Zulu village at retreat