Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013

September 22-30, 2013

We have had a busy and a good week here in South Africa. Probably the highlight of the week was our attendance of the Port Elizabeth Zone Conference. For those of you who don’t comprehend that lingo, zone conferences are meetings in which all the local church missionaries and their Mission President meet together for reporting and training.

The majority of the meeting was conducted by the young missionaries themselves and what a marvelous job they did. You have to remember that these are young men 18 to 21 years of age; Young men who have had no professional training in how to conduct meetings, to train others, to motivate and inspire their peers to go do what the Lord has called them to do. It was one of the best orchestrated and articulated meetings I have attended. At times they made you laugh and at others times they caused the eyes to moisten. Their conviction and resolve to go and do would have made any CEO envious and wondrous of how to generate the same in his employees.

At the close of the meeting I stood and told them that for 40+ years I have been among and involved with church and corporate leaders, but I could honestly say I don’t recall that I have ever been among a finer group – a more inspiring group, than I am today.

As we witnessed that meeting I could not help but think of our own grandchildren who some day will be where these young men are today, doing the same thing, in just as an impressive and inspiring way.  I could see them clearly in my mind’s eye.

Other than that meeting we have been able to continue working with those who are trying to find work or in other ways improve their standard of living. Perhaps a success story will impart to you why we find joy in our opportunity to be here. In the workshops we do, we teach the students the importance of being assertive, confident in themselves, and determined. These people, for the most part, lack the confidence necessary to succeed or excel. They have been poor and done without for so long that anything beyond what they have seems unattainable. Yesterday, one of the former students, who has a menial job, asked us to come and talk to him about a matter. The first thing he wanted to share with us was an experience he had the previous day. He said he decided to do what we taught in the class. (He stated in the class that he wanted to be a safety manager.) So he went to his boss and told him that he wanted to become a safety manager and explained that he “had” (not, “thought he had”) the ability to become one. His boss said, “What a coincidence, we were just discussing this morning in our meeting that we needed to have one. Fill out this application and we will consider you.” At the end of work that day his supervisor informed him that he had the job and would start it on Monday. Furthermore, the company will pay for his additional training.

The man was so grateful for our help and quick to acknowledge the Lord’s help. We stress in the class that the Lord has not sent anyone here to fail, but to succeed. The Lord has stated that there is ample for everyone but we have to do things in His own way and if we do, we can not fail. The man was electrified. He saw for the first time that he would be able to provide for his family; that some day he would be able to own his own house; he could send his children to school; his wife could go to school; his whole world was transformed over night. One of the amazing things about that experience was that he barely got done telling us his story before he moved on to talk about that he could now reach out and help others in need.

We have included a few pictures that indicate the culture, environment and talent here in South Africa.

One object that has had our curiosity since being here is these poles with horns attached to them. One day we saw a large group participating in a gathering at this home with the horns (I did not take a picture of them while they were gathered for fear I would be the next item on the pole). I spoke to one of the church members and inquired about the horns. He explained that the poles were sacrifice poles and that they (those who have the poles) believe that they have, at times, communication with their dead relatives. When one has such a visit, he is required to sacrifice an animal and attach his horns to the post as a reminder of the occasion. They are also required to pour a can of beer in a bowel and place it and a package of cigarettes at the base of the pole for the dead person’s gratification. So, I asked, why the big crowd? He explained that the recipient of the vision invites his friends to share the experience with him as a testimony to them of his vision. They, of course, are more than grateful to be able to attest to the experience because they get to feast upon the carcass of the critter whose horns are now upon the post. My question, of which I was not able to get an answer to, was where the visionary got the money for the sacrifice?

The highway department here in South Africa has found a method in which to keep the roadsides trimmed by other than mechanical means.

The cows are also found mowing the grass along the road and throughout the communities.


A sales yard is established wherever it is convenient and you do not have to listen to an auctioneer.

The winter gardens are just being harvested now. Along the roads the natives sell their produce fresh from their garden. Local markets also sell fresh produce brought in by the local gardeners. It is amazing how little they get for their labors.

 Here a lady is beginning her day by sweeping around the entrance to her home. Note that where she is sweeping is dirt but she wants to keep it tidy.


                                           These pictures are typical of the shanty towns near here.

We dropped off this pair of Elders for an appointment they had at this home. (Their bicycles were in the shop being fixed this day).

 This man demonstrates his artistic talents at a local beach.

At one of the Sunday services, this group of children was part of the program.  They love any opportunity to have their picture taken.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

21 September 2013

September 13-21, 2013

Hello to you all. The pace has accelerated here in South Africa as we have begun working with those to whom we were sent, those who are in need and want to become self-reliant. To those of you who may not immediately grasp the impact of this term, the goal/objective of everyone should be to provide for their own needs. To some, this is common place and fairly easily accomplishable. However, to those who have not, either in terms of material things, education or vision of their God- given abilities, it is not. To many who are impoverished, the task of providing for their daily needs consumes their every thought, their time and energy.

I don’t believe that a menu of chicken heads and feet are necessarily the chosen diet which many of these people have each day. However, when one is in a pure survival mode, that which is the least of, becomes delectable. Our job is to not only help them to understand they can also feast upon the other parts of the chicken but how they may accomplish it. As we have worked with these people it has become vividly clear they are neither ignorant nor indolent. Many of them are extremely bright and quick to grasp the concept that a new light shines before them. They want to reach and grab ahold of the light but don’t know how. Thus, comes the second part of our assignment, to show them how to accomplish this new found desire.

You more than likely have heard the saying, “"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime" (There are a number of variations of that saying but they all arrive at the same place). Our objective, after turning on the light, is to teach them how to fish. If you think deeply enough about that objective, you will come to understand that there are a number of ways to tackle it but in all cases you have to find a pond with fish in it to begin with. And you also have to understand that in order for one to become self-reliant he/she has to be intimately involved in the struggle.  A quote by Elder Maxwell, I think illuminates the concept, "Is not our struggling amid suffering and chastening in a way like the efforts of the baby chicken still in the egg? It must painfully and patiently make its own way out of the shell. To help the chick by breaking the egg for it could be to kill it. Unless it struggles itself to break outside its initial constraints, it may not have the strength to survive thereafter.” Indeed it is tempting to break the shell for those that are struggling but we have seen many times the harm that will cause. Throughout the world those who have received dole come to perceive it as an entitlement and are offended when it ceases to be handed out.

An example of “teaching one to fish” is the following: If, for example, the typical meal for a given family you are teaching is indeed chicken heads and feet, show them that if they sacrifice and eat only the heads or the feet and save that which they would have spent on the other delectable, they soon would have enough money saved to buy a chicken. Sacrifice again and they can buy their chicken a mate and soon they will have many chickens. These chickens can supply them with eggs to sell. On special occasions they can eat one of their chickens but they will need to control that desire so that they don’t destroy their means of income. As their business continues to grow they will have to reach out to those around them to help run the business thereby providing them employment. Soon these newly employed individuals will see their own light shining before them and search for their own pond in which to fish.

 The work is exciting and so rewarding. These two pictures are of those who have attended our “teaching-how-to-fish” workshops.


This couple has found their own pond as they work in their garden and provide fresh vegetables to those in the community.

We were also able to attend two different baptismal services. These are not individuals who have the sheep mentality of following the leader on unknown paths but rather individuals who are ready and willing to share that knowledge recently acquired through the power of the Holy Ghost. And you should hear them sing; they don’t need a piano or organ, but with great clarity and gusto they sing with great sincerity and feeling.

Here are a couple of pictures showing those who were recently baptized.

As always, Angie has been on the prowl for new and exhilarating wild kingdom adventures. We took a couple of hours this past week to visit a Cheetah “farm” which also housed a pair of lions. The sign over the entrance did not give one much of a sense of comfort and made one wonder if the suggestion given by the guide that we would be able to pet the cats was given as humor. However, Angie decided that if she stuck her arm that had the metal plate in it through the cage, the cats may not be able to bite it off. She started off with a timid pet of the smaller Cheetahs but, with the success of retaining her hand, moved on to larger prey. The unusual flowering cacti along the path to the cats provided an added reward to the visit.










One has to admire the frugality of the government here in South Africa. Tractor mounted mowers to mow along the highways have not been seen. Instead, goats and cows are the accepted method of grass cutting; and, by the way, they also have the right-of-way. 

Occasionally, they may even pause to slurp up any standing water that may be on the road oblivious to the traffic.

  One of the largest employing industries in the area is Volkswagen. This picture shows just a part of their vast plant here that manufactures approximately 680 of the Polo model per day. Amazingly, it is the only model made here; all the other models found here are imported. On the flip side, those made here are exported to many countries on this side of the Atlantic.





Other businesses are not quite so elaborate but do serve an important role.





Sometimes workers can not afford to pay for travel to work and wait along the road for someone to offer them a ride; others simply join them in hopes someone will pick them up to do odd jobs.



Here is an example of entrepreneurship. The ride may get a little breezy, and wet and cold at times but it is better than walking.


This is simply to illustrate who has to do the work over here.   (Not true, I do work too.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

31 August 2013

August 31, 2013
Angie, who has the spiritual insight in this companionship, has suggested that perhaps a few words that reflect that we do more than go on sightseeing trips would be appropriate lest some get the idea we have forgotten what we are here to do. The truth of the matter is that our manager has not fully taken off our leash and muzzle and allowed us to hold the workshops and training we want to do with the natives; hopefully that will get resolved next week. But we have had the opportunity to meet with a number of leaders and units to wave our flag stating “here we are”.  Another handicap here is that 95% of all meetings are held on Saturday and Sunday, during the day, since most refuse to be out and about after dark for fear of being molested in some form. We do see a great need for the work we hope to do and are anxious to get at it. (Hope this straightens out any misconception that may have been conjured up in any of your minds).

September 1, 2013
Last night was a stressful one for us here in the mission field. About 9:30 PM, we received a call from a member of the KwaNabuhle 2nd Ward, (located in one of the township wards about 40 miles from Port Elizabeth) whose car was stalled on the highway somewhere between Port Elizabeth and his home. He apologized for calling but had tried everyone else he knew and could get no help and did not know where else to turn. He wanted to know if I had a tow rope and could come and pull him to his home or some place where the car would be safe. I did not have a tow rope but offered to take him and his passenger’s home where he could hopefully find someone who could help him. He said thanks but that would not work because if he left the car for 10 minutes there would not be anything left to come back to.

You have to remember that the very fact he was from a township means he has very little money and therefore, to call a tow truck was not an option for him. To even own a car sets him apart from 95% of the others there so he is an industrious man, one who strives to provide for his own needs and does not lay around expecting the government to take care of him. But now he was in a bind; he could not get help to tow his car and he could not leave it to find help. We felt helpless as we contemplated his dilemma. After some prayerful thought, we suggested that he call the Elders that lived near his town with the hope they could get someone to help him. We still don’t know what he managed to do but he was in church today, although we did not get to talk to him.

Today we attended another ward (the KwaNabuhle 1st Ward) to teach about the principle of Self-Reliance. Can you imagine talking to a group of people who live in nothing more than a shack, 75% of which are unemployed and wonder from day to day what they will do next? And then here comes two white folk from America, all dressed up in their finest, telling them that they need to be self-reliant. We wondered what they were thinking as the lesson was being presented.

We started the meeting by talking about the principles of the gospel, the commandments and promises associated with obedience to eternal laws. As the meeting progressed, we learned what they thought and we were amazed. One gentleman asked, “If someone was not able to provide for his and his families needs, does that mean he was not obedient and therefore God was punishing him?” I turned the question over to the audience to see what their answer would be and there was not one comment made that was in the least way negative or condemning. They, instead, talked about the need to be patient, humble, charitable, faithful and to trust the Lord. We needed to stop taking such responses in order to conclude the presentation. It was an out pouring of humility and trust in the Lord.

We told them that we were there to try and help them become self-reliant and invited them to leave their names and phone number so that we could get back with them to teach them skills and techniques that would assist them in getting a job – the response was great and we left grateful to have been in their presence today.

As we had not as yet taken the opportunity to see downtown Port Elizabeth, we decided to spend a couple of hours on this blustery Sunday afternoon to explore this part of the city. As we progressed west of the apartment, we first came to the industrial portion of the city which borders the port area. Large cargo ships were anchored a short distance from the docks waiting to either unload their cargo or pick up a load. It has not yet been determined what the main commodities of interest are here but one thing is apparent as you travel either in town or on the highways, there is not an abundance of truck transportation. So how & what kind of commodities are distributed is a little perplexing.

 Continuing to the west, we entered into the downtown area which contains some beautiful architecture which we attempted to capture in the accompanying pictures.


 Further to the west is found the up-scale residences and resort areas.

 Large, extensive beaches with elaborate parks bordering them are established between the resorts/residences and the ocean. As we sat taking in the scenic view overlooking the ocean, we saw a phenomenon I had not seen before; large waves were coming onshore but, at the same time, there was a strong wind blowing offshore which plucked the crest of the waves, blowing a mist of water in reverse of their travel.


So goes another day of spiritual growth and adventure in South Africa.