Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dec. 16-22, 2013


Let me say from the outset that Christmas here in South Africa is not the same as the Christmas we know of in North America and especially Montana. I often check the weather in Hamilton, Montana just to see what I am missing. Last week I missed 6 to 7 inches of snow, evening temperatures in the low teens and daytime temperatures in the mid-thirties. That sounds a lot like Christmas to me.

 However, here on the opposite side of the equator and Atlantic Ocean, things are slightly different. South Africa is just getting serious about summer time weather. The daytime temperatures hang around the mid-80s and the evenings temperatures are in the upper 60s. As far as the weather is concerned, you can see that there is little to complain about. The problem is, it is Christmas time and for us northerners it is as if somehow the calendar is trying to play a trick on us.

As far as the people and industry are concerned they too seem to be in a different seasonal orbit. Oh, there is an occasional Christmas tree in the mall and occasionally one may hear a seasonal Christmas song but the atmosphere of Jingle Bell Rock is definitely absent. We did see one Santa holding a black child but not one HO, HO did we hear. His enthusiasm was obviously stored in last year’s box, which was either AOL or permanently discharged. Part of the reason for the lack of Christmas atmosphere is that somewhere along the line the country has oriented itself so that during December and January it goes into vacation mode. The schools, universities and primary, are all closed. The work force is reduced to minimal staff and hence, service is at a snail’s pace on an exceptionally good day. However, the beaches, restaurants, resorts etc are all doing a booming business. People in these areas are like a milling herd (flock?) of chickens; all going somewhere but oblivious as to where.

Even the Pastors, Preachers, Bishops, ecclesiastical leaders in general, scratch their head in wonderment; it is the season to remember the birth of the Christ child but instead, for the people it the season to remember themselves – it is a time of merriment, parties, recreation, food, or just hanging out. It is as if they say, Christmas is great as long as it does not interfere with my fun and me.

On a slightly different note, last week we had the opportunity to provide meals for 36 missionaries and 4 adult couples. The Mission President wanted the main meal and setting to be something special to commemorate the Christmas season. So, of course, it was my bride’s delight to plan and decorate such a festivity. Bear in mind that there was no budget for decorations and fancy frills but she scrounged here and there to decorate the halls with festive cheer.  And the meal was so colorful with red and green stratified jello, pineapple glazed ham, potatoes and green and red vegetables. In addition, you should have seen the dessert – a 3”X4”X3” piece of chocolate cake decorated with Christmas color rossets crowned with a Maraschino cherry. Gift bags, secured with a raffia bow, greeted each missionary as they arrived at their place at the table. And, of course, the drink, served in clear glasses, was color coordinated with the meal. In order to grasp the elegance of the meal and atmosphere, you need to understand that this meal was not gotten by going through a buffet gauntlet, but rather an appropriately dressed server served each individual. Needless to say, the meal and setting was well done and well received. 



                               Festive setting

The desserts were well received!!!!

        The missionaries giving their
        "wish list" to Santa

As we are able to relax for a moment, we silently and verbally reflect on the true meaning of the Christmas season. A feeling of true gratitude envelops us as we contemplate the eternal gift of the Lord Jesus Christ given to us by our Heavenly Father. During these moments of pondering, we think about the gift that we can, in turn, give to Them – the only gift that will bring them eternal joy -- ourselves.
                                               Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Ice cream social with some of the missionaries

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Monday, December 9, 2013

25 Nov. - 8 Dec. 2013

                                                       The Church of Jesus Christ of
                                                           Latter Day Saints' temple
                                                          at Johannesburg, So Africa
We saw these two people standing in front of the temple and thought we needed their picture.

It seems as if during these past two weeks we have been caught up in a whirlwind, as it were. We drove to Cape Town to spend Thanksgiving with the Mission President and his wife and other senior missionaries, put on a Career Workshop for one of the units there, and then fly off to Johannesburg for a week of training in the area office. Finally we arrived back in Port Elizabeth last night only to leave again today to give a self-reliance presentation in Port Alfred (located about 2 hours to the east). Some times it feels good to just settle for awhile in our little abode away from home. But how great is it to be busy doing what we are doing in helping people change their lives and pull themselves out of poverty that has been what they have, in the past, woke up to every day of their lives; not only they but generations before them.            


This is a very interesting architectural structure 
where we stayed in Johannesburg and where our
training was held. It was built in 1895 as a home
for a prominent citizen who had 5 titles in front
of his name.
For some that we work with, the training they get helps them see light that has never been so bright for them. However, as in any society, there are those that are given the same information, the same motivation and encouragement and the same promises that come with the exercise of determination and the light does not break through their self-imposed barrier to illuminate their mind. As a result, they leave the workshop with the mentality that nothing has nor will change. The concept of helping themselves is just not part of their character. And who is there to blame? Well they can, and rightfully so, blame their parents, the government and their cultural circumstance, but in the final analyses they have no one to blame but themselves. None of us were sent to this earth to fail; we were each given the skills and talents required to succeed in the environment we came into and it is up to us to utilize them to reap the bounties of the earth.

How about a couple of experiences that we had during our whirlwind adventure? Ok, thanks, I was going to anyway. On our way to Cape Town, we stayed at a B&B in Riversdale, a blimp in the road place and one of several dozen that we could have stayed at. The hostess noticed our missionary tags and asked if we were Christians? We have always taken for granted that since the tags identify us as missionaries of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” that it would clear that we were in fact Christians. However, since that is obviously not the case, we confirmed that indeed we were and she expressed how delighted that she was that we were. She explained that she and her husband had taken a trip to the Holy Land and how good they felt when they were there. She then stated that she knew we were Christians by our countenance, which we took as a great complement, and declared that she was going to give us a discount on our room because of it. We tried to decline the offer but she refused to back away. We told her why we were in South Africa and asked if she would be interested in another book that was a second witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. She was excited at the offer and we told her we would stop on our way back with one for her.

So on our way back to Port Elizabeth, we stopped to give her the promised book. We had no more than just sat down with her then in walks her husband. She exclaimed, “Why are you home, you never get home this early?” He explained that he had gotten his work done early and just decided to come home (we don’t consider that a coincidence).  He then proceeds to tell us about their trip to the Holy Land and inquired as to what our missionary work was about. That gave us the lead-in to tell about the Book of Mormon and briefly the doctrines of the Church. They both were so excited to hear about our beliefs of eternal marriage and families and we wished we could teach them everything but, of course, could not and departed with each couple expressing gratitude for meeting each other.

So on down the road we go and that night we stayed at another B&B where we also got to tell about the Book of Mormon to the owner who just happened to stop in during breakfast to say hello before leaving for work. He stated that he was dissatisfied with his church and was delighted to hear about a restored church with the correct doctrine. We look back in amazement of how the Lord guides us to those who desires to hear His message.

On the way back from Johannesburg, Angie got to play the role of a missionary to a young lady sitting next to her on the plane. Again, she began the conversation as she was curious about a book Angie was reading. So, Angie being the good girl she is, gave the girl a short history of the Church and got her name so that the missionaries could go and teach her more.

Those kinds of experiences make one over-look (I was going to say forget but that would be a lie) his/her tired posterior from sitting in a Nissan for numerous………… hours.

Times are exciting over here in Africa. I don’t have the capability to express adequately how fulfilling the work is. We are grateful for those of our family who support us being here.

While in Johannesburg, at the hotel we were staying in, there was a rock sculpture artist making elephants, giraffes, statues etc which of course did not escape the eye of my bride. I quickly hid our money, credit cards and any barter item in our possession, but in the end, with an arm load being carted off to our room, I had no choice but to pay. But they are so “cute” she says. “I can’t eat elephants made out of rock”, I respond. “You keep telling me you need to lose some weight, so you ought to thank me”, she replied. I mentally keep a running tally of all these “cute” items and what they weigh and wonder when it comes time to leave, which clothes I will have to leave to meet our luggage weight limit – I hope I am not left embarrassed.


           If you look closely you can see his
        work displayed behind us along the grass.

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