Wednesday, January 4, 2017

December in South Africa

We moved to a new boarding as our old one needed many repairs and the owner was not willing to make them.  Harvey Transport was a great deal. See below. Harvey is a very nice man whose physical problems of needing serious dental work and deodorant we willingly overlooked because of his price. Fortunately, we were only moving a short distance as his “moving van” was very open air. Harvey and his crew did not break one item so if you ever need to move in Newcastle, South Africa, I can give you Harvey’s phone number.

We have been spending a lot of time with Pres. Mashego, who is the district president. We are assisting him in instructing the branch presidents and other branch leaders on Church operations and principles. Some view the Church as a rich source of income.  They have so little and don’t realize that when they use tithing money improperly they are stealing from their fellow church members, but stealing sacred funds. We are trying to help Pres. Mashego untangle the various branches’ finances. We discovered recently that one church leader, who is in the process of building his house, is using the baptismal font as his bathtub, the office telephone for personal and long distance calls and the kitchen as his own.

We hold Family Home Evening at our boarding each week for the young adults in our area. We have from six to twenty each week. Different ones teach a lesson and we cover if the teacher does not show up. I am sure that the refreshments that we serve help to boost attendance.

For Thanksgiving we had ten elders for dinner. We tried to make it as much like home as possible, although half were not from the US.  We had turkey (2 skinny ones), mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, rolls, cranberries and apple pie (no pumpkins were available).

 Attending branch Christmas parties has been fun! Elwood has played Father Christmas at one party in Dundee and is repeating the performance next week in Madden.

One of the family problems here is “lobola”, which is the same as bride price in Nigeria. Many couples are not getting married because the man does not have the money to pay the bride’s family so they just live together. When children arrive the family does not approve of them living with the couple, since they are not married, so they are usually taken away and are raised by the “gogo” (grandmother). This is very common. Whoever raises a child in South Africa receives a subsidy from the government so that is another incentive for the gogo, who then has a little extra money to 
live on. See below for one gogo we visited with a future missionary grandson that lived 
with her for many years.

Getting called out of the congregation to give talks is still a little unnerving for us. A week ago after the sacrament the branch president announced that Sister Brown would be the first speaker. I know that I must have had a panicked look on my face, but so did Elwood when he was named as the concluding speaker with about two seconds notice. Being asked to teach Sunday School lessons is not quite as unsettling. They seem to think that the “white couples”, as we are called, are experts in speaking, teaching and advising. (We certainly have them fooled…Wait until they get to know us better!) Pres. Mashego says we are here to help perfect the saints. Now that Elwood is in the mission presidency they even expect more from us.

Just a couple of days ago Elwood was asked to attend a funeral. When he arrived he found that he was to preside as well as give the gospel talk and dedicate the grave. The pictures below are of the cemetery and the gravesite. It is Zulu tradition that after the casket is lowered, wood poles are placed across the top of the casket so that the deceased will not have his feelings hurt as the dirt is poured on top of the poles and not directly onto the casket.

Townships generally do not have restaurants, but they have tuck shops where people can buy food and other sundries. The name of the one below we found especially interesting.

We are having a wonderful experience here and are learning so much. We are able to give support, strengthen and teach people and learn so much from them. Our testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ grows each day. We love what we are doing.

We send our love to you and wish you a very Merry Christmas.