Friday, November 15, 2013

12 November 2013

I want to start this week’s blog update with a couple of stories that have had an impact on my life. While in Cape Town, I had the opportunity to attend a Sunday meeting with 5-6 other men. The individual conducting the meeting was a black doctor from Uganda. At the beginning of the meeting another man, just making conversation, asked him how his week was? The gentleman paused for a moment and said it was a stressful week but one that turned out well. He then related the following story:  A young, mid-twenties, man who was big, strong and in good physical condition fell unconscious in his mother’s home. The ambulance was called and he was taken to the hospital. The medical staff there worked on the man for a couple of days trying to revive him and diagnosis his problem with no success – he was totally unconscious throughout this time. The man’s heart beat was extremely slow and his blood pressure was low but they could not determine the reason for either. They then called the doctor (the person telling this story) who evidently is a heart specialist to solicit his help. He responded immediately, but after reviewing all the records and tests preformed and consulting with the other doctors, he could not determine the man’s problem either. He said he was greatly puzzled and decided he needed to go ponder the case and pray about it (Which he said was not common for him to do). During his prayer, it came to him that he should do some additional blood work. which he did. They found that the man’s lungs were completely full of pneumonia but he had no symptoms of it.

The doctor asked his mother if she did not notice him being sick. She said no, he always went to work and when he got home he said he was tired but that was all. The doctor explained that the man was so large and strong that his body was able to fight the disease until he just collapsed.

In order to catch the full impact of this story you have to have the picture of a very humble, refined looking man in his early sixties in your mind who was speaking in a calm, low voice, giving no credit to himself, but rather all the time giving credit to God for His guidance.

While emotionally I was moved as he told this story, I was more greatly impacted a few moments later as he continued. After pausing for a few moments, collecting his composure, he indicated how grateful he was that the missionaries had found him and his family years ago in Uganda. He said, “Now we are sealed in the temple and I know that we will always be together.” How he loved his family and was so thankful for them and for the knowledge that they will always be together as a family.

As I looked at him during all this time, I could see his cheeks began to glisten as tears seeped from his eyes. What I witnessed had impact on my soul but what I felt, had even more of an impact on me for I knew what he was saying was true and came from the very depths of his heart. I rejoiced as I sat there and marveled at how the gospel is able to touch people’s lives no matter where they live, who they are, their skin color or anything else; they are all Heavenly Father’s children and He cares for them equally. I am not able to express in words adequately what a profound gratitude I had for the privilege of being present in that meeting.

The next story involves an elderly lady who attended one of our Self-Employment Workshops. To understand the significance of this story you also must know a little bit about the lady. She does not know when she was born, she has been told either 1911 or 1914. On the church records she is listed as dead. I don’t believe either of those dates are correct and by my estimate, she is in her mid to late 80s. She lives in one of the Townships about 2 miles from the church building. She does not drive and walks to and from church unless some kind soul gives her a ride. She is faithfully there, never missing a meeting. She just recently came home from serving a 3 yearTemple Mission in Johannesburg, South Africa. She learned to speak English while serving in the temple. While at the temple, she said, they asked her to assist in a session that required the French language. She told them, “but I don’t speak French”; they said that is alright you will do fine. She went and said she understood everything and was able accomplish her duties.

And now, she comes to us wanting to start her own business. The business she wants is to make bead necklaces, bracelets, belts, ties, wedding dresses etc. When the class began she brought some samples of her work – Angie could not resist and bought a necklace.  She cannot read nor write so she asked us to help her out in doing what was necessary in getting started. One of the things we stress in the class is that they need to work carefully through their desired business finances to make sure it is a viable venture. Since she did not have the technical ability to work through finance statements, budgets or profit and loss statements, etc, we sat down with her and asked her the questions so we could do it for her. About a third of the way through the process I suggested that we did not have to continue. The lady may not have the technical skills to fill out forms but there was no question she understood finances and what it took to be profitable. It was hilarious to hear her answers and how she arrived at the asking price for her products. I even tried to trip her up and that went no where. If one could follow her convoluted path from beginning to end, it was rational (well perhaps that is stretching it some) and very clear in her mind. I gave up.

The one stumbling block she had was the means and knowledge of how to market her wares. So Angie made her business cards for her to hand out and posters to hang up in the local businesses (One is attached). I inquired if she had food and about her home. She said she sleeps on the ground in her house, i.e., no bed – remember she is 80+ years old, but she says that is ok as that is where she needs to be to say her prayers anyway. Concerning food, that is no problem; she sometimes doesn’t have anything to eat but she doesn’t worry because God takes care of her – she has many blessings she says.

She gave Angie two necklaces for her kindness. She wants no handouts but will accept donations so we “tipped” her for letting us help her with her business plan. 

This past weekend we got invited to go to Grahamstown to do a Career Workshop. As the town is one of the oldest in South Africa, we decided to do a little sightseeing and do a little research about the town. Below are a few pictures and some historical notes of the area.


Town Hall built in 1812

 Grahamstown is a city in the Eastern Cape Providence of the Republic of South Africa. As of 2011 the population of the city (including townships) was 67,264, of whom 78.9% described themselves as "Black African", 11.3% as "Coloured" and 8.4% as "White".
Located some 130 km from Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown is also the seat of Rhodes University and a diocese of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
Grahamstown was founded in 1812 as a military outpost by Lieutenant-Colonel John Grahams as part of the effort to secure the eastern frontier of British influence in the then Cape Colony against the Xhosa, whose lands lay just to the east. The military outpost was named Fort Selwyn. A museum has been built at the site portraying the history of the outpost.

Fort Selwyn

On 22 April 1819 a large number of Xhosa warriors, under the leadership of Nxele (or Makana), launched an attack against the British colonial forces. This was one of countless attacks launched on the nascent colony by the marauding Xhosas. The Xhosas, with a force of 10 000 troops, were unable to overpower the colonial garrison of some 300 men. Nxele surrendered, was taken captive and imprisoned on Robben Island. On Christmas Day, 1819 he tried to escape, and drowned.
During the 1820s Grahamstown grew as many settlers and their families left farming to establish themselves in more secure trades. In 1833 Grahamstown was described as having "two or three English merchants of considerable wealth, but scarcely any society in the ordinary sense of the word. The Public Library is a wretched affair." As of 1833, it was estimated that the population of Grahamstown was approximately 6,000. In a few decades it became the Cape Colony's largest city after Cape Town. It was traditionally the capital and cultural centre of the Albany area, a former traditionally English-speaking district with a distinctive local culture.
In 1872, the Cape Government Railways began construction of the railway line linking Grahamstown to Port Alfred on the coast and to the developing national railway network inland. This was completed and opened on 3 September 1879.
In 1904 Rhodes University College was established in Grahamstown through a grant from the Rhodes Trust. In 1951 it became a fully-fledged University. Today it provides world-class tertiary education in a wide range of disciplines to over 6,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.
During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Grahamstown was an accommodation point for all matches played in Port Elizabeth. 

Church Square

 St. Michael and St. George Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown. Grahamstown also has Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Ethiopian Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Pinkster Protestante, Dutch Reformed (Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk), Charismatic, Apostolic and Pentecostal churches. There are also meeting places for Hindus, Scientologists, Quakers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Muslims.

For historic reasons, particularly the vibrancy of evangelism during Grahamstown's heyday, the City is home to more than forty religious buildings, and the nickname the "City of Saints" has become attached to Grahamstown. However, there is another story which may be the source of this nickname.
It is said that, in about 1846, there were Royal Engineers stationed in Grahamstown who were in need of building tools. They sent a message to Cape Town requesting a vice to be Stores. A reply came back, 'Buy vice locally'. The response was, 'No vice in Grahamstown.’



 Grahamstown is home to the oldest surviving independent newspaper in South Africa. Named the Grocott's Mail, it was founded in 1870 by the Grocott family, and bought out a pre-existing newspaper called the Grahamstown Journal, dating from 1831. Robert Godlonton, a previous owner of the Journal had used it and his other papers to oppose Stockenstrom’s treaty system and advocated seizing more land from the Xhosa.It is Rhodes University, and still retains its name.

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