Sunday, August 24, 2014

24 August 2014


As an update to “Our Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary” blog, Angie is now ready to get back on the trail after having her wrist being screwed back together. The doctor was somewhat concerned as to whether he was going to get all of the bone pieces covered by the plate which had to be emplaced to stabilize the pieces. However, after the operation, he was pleased how well everything fit together.
Following the operation, a solid cast was placed on the arm with the promise that if all went well a soft cast could be put on giving her much more flexibility and mobility. Thankfully, that was able to be done. However, during that two week interim her husband once more became the beautician, manicurist, pedicurist, dresser and an assortment of other things. Other things like the ironing, cooking, dish washer, laundry man etc, are just routine for him so they have no need to be mentioned.
The healing process was made significantly more tolerable by flowers from Leland and Lisa. It was anticipated by them that the flowers would be delivered soon after she got out of the hospital, but they did not arrive for a week or more after she got home. Each day Lisa would email us to find out if they had arrived yet. Each day the answer was the same – no. On the phone with the flower company, she would  try to figure out where the flowers were. Each day she would get the same answer, “We call but no one answers the phone.” The answer was unacceptable as the phone for us is like another appendage of the body, it never leaves. “Check the number you have, is it the right one” she would inquire. Each time the number was verified to be the correct one. Angie suggested that she cancel the order and save the money. But Lisa is like a bulldog, once she grabs on she never lets go until the job is completed.
 Finally, the day came when the flowers arrived at our humble abode. I think it was much better timing than if they would have come when she got home. The day brightened up for her and the discomfort she felt was forgotten. Then came the oohing and smelling as she admired the flowers.
“I want my picture with them” she said.
“Why”, I inquired, “they are just flowers.”
“No, they are not, they came from the kids and I want my picture with them.”
Obedient as I am, I soon found the camera.    I often wonder how many millennia it will take for me to understand the thinking of a woman. However many it takes, I know that I will not be alone in this task. For example, during an all men’s class I happened to be involved in, the discussion was centered around how us men needed to be more involved in what our wives liked to do or the decisions they need to make. One brave soul spoke up and said “I am willing to do anything if I could just get out of going shopping with her. For instance,” he said, “we go grocery shopping and she asks if we should get this or that. I say if you think we need it go ahead and get it, you are the cook.”
“No I want your opinion” she retorts.
“Due to past experiences” he says, “I have learned to simply say yes.”
In almost one accord, everyone in the class expressed the same opinion.
So, Angie is back to being almost fully functional. She has about five more weeks of the soft cast and then it is just continuing to be careful. That will last until something “pretty” appears as she is ambling along and that step that should have been there has elusively slipped away.

Monday, August 18, 2014

17 August 2014


We met Eric one day while at East Cape Midland College helping a lady investigate one of their programs. When we concluded with our fact-finding-excursion, we asked her if she would like a ride back to KwaNobuhle; that question resulted in our first introduction to Eric who just happened to be walking down the hall past us when we asked the question. Upon hearing the question, he paused and asked, if we were going to KwaNobuhle, could he please have a ride?
Eric is not what I would call a handsome man but for some reason he captures ones attention through his demeanour, countenance, his mannerism;, I cannot put words to what it is. When he speaks it is with a clear and penetrating voice, neither is it raised nor soft and muffled, but rather in a manner that demonstrates confidence. When he speaks to you, his eyes are fixed on yours unlike many others in South Africa that came out of the Aparthied(?) era where a black man was not allowed to look directly at white man.
So after the few seconds that it took for me to evaluate his integrity, I responded that we would be glad to give him a ride. We first dropped off the lady at her place and then asked Eric where he would like us to take him. After a mile or two through the KwaNobuhle Township, he asked me to stop. I thought it was a strange place to stop because along the side of the car, a few feet removed from the street’s edge, was located a tin storage shed such as used to transport goods by ocean cargo ships. Located in front of the shed was a small table with 6 or 7 shoes on it.
“Is this where you live?” I asked. “We can take you to your home if you want us to.”
“This is where I live,” he responded with no additional elaboration.
“Are you a shoe repairman?” I asked, referring to the shoes on the table.
The man now had my attention. He was going to college which was at least 8 to 9 kilometers (5-6 miles) away from there. If that was indeed his home, it was sweltering hot in the summer and miserable in the winter. He obviously did not have a car for transport. And if those few shoes were his source of income, how did he survive? How could he afford to go to college? What was he studying? How could he afford food, and, and, and? So many questions tore through my mind but before I could ask them, He politely said “thanks for the ride,” and turned to leave. But before he could leave, I asked him, “Eric, do you have a church to go to?”
“Yes, I am a member of your church (he could see our missionary tags) but I haven’t been to church for a long time.”
“Do you know where the church building is located?” I inquired.
“No I don’t,” was his response.
I didn’t want to do too much prying into this stranger’s life when we had just met him but neither did I just want to just forget about him. So I asked, “Eric, would you mind if we asked the missionaries to come by and see you? Perhaps they could get the gospel light rekindled in you once more, would that be alright?”
“Yes, that would be ok.” was his answer.
Again, what impressed me was he never wavered from his gaze at me. There was no dodging the question, no attempt to be elusive, just short, concise, well formulated responses.
“I am just curious, Eric, how do you get to school” I asked?
I either walk or, if I make enough money repairing shoes, I take a taxi,” he answered.
Incredible, I thought. He walks to school and then obviously, walks back home. “How long does it take you to walk to school?” I asked.
In a short, straightforward manner he said, “Two hours.”
“How often do you have enough money to get a taxi?”
“Not often.”
That was the last time we saw Eric for a number of months. And then one Sunday we saw him at Church. It took awhile for him to register in my mind but as our eyes met, he beamed a smile and recognition was established. As we embraced, questions again flooded into my mind. I was happy to see him, to know that he was going to church, that he was still in the area and living. We talked briefly until I had to go to another meeting.
Shortly thereafter, the same lady who was instrumental in creating the opportunity for us to meet the first time, asked us to help her again with her registration at Eastern Cape College. Eric again was within hearing distance and asked if he could ride along as he had a couple things he wanted to do there.
The day dragged on much longer than anyone one thought it would but it allowed Angie and I to have an extended opportunity to speak with Eric – to learn his story. I wanted to know where he came from, why he was here, how he paid for his education and what his desires were. As the story unfolded, it was hard to imagine the determination, commitment and personal sacrifice to get himself to where he was. As I listened, the idea formulated in my mind to use him as a motivational speaker to the youth groups we work with to help them to understand the importance of getting the type of education they need to have to be successful in providing for themselves and their family beyond their school years.
We extended an invitation for him to go with us to our next presentation and he eagerly agreed. However, an unexpected school paper assignment pre-empted his ability to go so I asked if he would mind writing his story so that we could share it with the group. We have attached his story exactly as he presented it to us. We think that you, as we did, will marvel at what an individual can do if they really have the commitment to do it.



It is my wish to deliver this presentation personally but unfortunately I am not available today.  I came to South Africa in 2010 during the FIFA WORLD CUP to search for a job and to better my education.  After being in the country for three weeks, moving around, I found that there was a lot of opportunities and that I can better my life but I needed to go to school.

I am Eric Aboagye and I come from Ghana. I come from a family of 5 of which I am the only son, I live with my mother and 3 sisters. My father passed away last year. I grew up in an area where education is not the main priority for people but rather on  how to get money quickly.  There are many spots or drinking bars as well as criminal activities taking place there.  Most of the schools are private but I went to public school because it was the one that my family could afford.

When I came to South Africa, I did not have money, clothes to wear, no food, no place to stay and no qualification. But I thought to myself, that with all these problems and circumstances, I can better my life here because there are many opportunities.  I started repairing shoes to make money to survive. I then enrolled at Phaphani Abet Centre (Adult school) in 2011, after completing, I was awarded General Education and training Certificate (GETC).  I was the top achiever for the year and during our farewell year, I received 7 awards.  1st position in 4 subjects that is Ancillary Health care, life orientation, mathematical literacy, human and social science and 2nd position in two subjects that is travel and tourism, English first additional language. I was the top achiever for the year 2011.

Because of the confidence, determination, perseverance, focus, humbleness, faith and God Almighty, I know everything is possible in life.
The following year 2012, I enrolled at Eastcape Midlands College to continue my higher education. I was happy to study at the college.  I am doing office administration and I am in my final year.  My first year (level 2) I got 5 distinctions out of 7 subjects, My 2nd year(level 3) I got 4 distinctions and I am aiming for all 7 distinctions in my final year at college. I know I can do it because everything is possible. My objective is to go to university next year 2015 to continue my studies.

My vision is to get my PHD OR DOCTORATE DEGREE and to become a lecturer at the university.
I have managed to pay for my own expenses such as tuition fees, clothing, food etc with little money I earned from repairing shoes.  I only spent 2 to 3 hours at work every day after college. The road that I’m travelling is a rocky one but that’s life.  What keep me motivated is my long term vision and how much I really want it.

My brothers and sisters, your parents and families are here, there are many bursary and training opportunities from the government as well as the private sector. PEF at church is also there to assist you.  Take these opportunities to develop yourself because a chance comes but once.  Associate yourself with good and God-fearing people, have faith and humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.

My brothers and sisters take 100% of your life into your own hands by developing it through studying, learning skills as well as training because life is about you.  You can do it because the bible says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)

I am doing this and I’m moving forward.  You too can do it.

 Ask yourself where you want to be in 5 years time starting from today.
Thank you and God bless you all.

Update: we saw Eric at church today where he told us that he got a letter informing him that he will be receiving an award for being among the top 10 nationally in scholastic achievement. He will be presented his award in October.
 I am caught in amazement each time I review his story.  Here is a man who got up one morning, pulled on his boots and struck out for a land over 1,000 miles away from his home not knowing what was at the end of the road for him. He only knew he wanted to provide a better life for his mother and siblings. By gathering up a few broken down shoes, he began to climb out of his hole of darkness, constantly grasping for the light he could see somewhere on the horizon. Here is a man who has achieved what he has - what others in a much more affluent circumstance and better education opportunities have not - without any family support or financial assistance. He is quite a man. I wonder, what gives individuals like Eric the drive, the determination, the vision to reach for the stars and not stop?
There is a statement that I have read and reread many times that I think answers, at least in part, that question. “The learning process is endless. We must read, we must observe, we must assimilate, and we must ponder that to which we expose our minds. I believe in the evolution of the mind, the heart, and soul of humanity. I believe in improvement. I believe in growth. There is nothing quite as invigorating as being able to evaluate and then solve a difficult problem, to grapple with something that seems almost unsolvable and then find a resolution.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)
Individuals like Eric have, consciously or unconsciously, uncaged the drive to conquer the seemingly unconquerable. Does everyone have that ability stored up within their makeup? I think they do. However, many have neither the desire nor the determination necessary to do so. There are others who are “…incapable of dictating and devising for themselves; they are not able to develop the talents and ability that are within them.”  It is this last group that each of us have the responsibility to “teach them how to live.” (Brigham Young)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

10 August 2014

The sun had just risen above the horizon as we were headed north on R75 towards Uitenhage, South Africa. The few wispy clouds in the broad, expansive and inviting sky, exhibited a faint pink hue which invited a peaceful tranquillity to your soul.
Behind us the city of Port Elizabeth was just beginning its new day. And the two-lane road that paralleled us to the east, was packed with south bound traffic carrying yawning, sleepy-eyed and coffee slurping people who were, assuredly and half-heartedly, contemplating the day ahead of them. They had just left their family, who were themselves most likely scurrying about as their new day dawned. Many of their children, who they had just left, were now walking, running, jumping in a playful way on both sides of the highway. They were an attractive bunch all dressed in their school uniforms; the girls in maroon dresses and a white blouse while the boys wore blue trousers, white shirts and blue blazers. 


Adults were also walking along the highway. Some walked as with purpose as if they had a specific destination to reach, while others, if they too had a destination in mind, showed less determination to reach it. Some of the adults were running as if they were in training for an upcoming marathon event. These observances were not uncommon to witness; there is, in that area, a particularly long, continuous slope with an approximately 8 to 10 % grade where it is common to see individuals running up it; Never running down it but rather always up it.
We, ourselves, were caught up in the process of contemplating the day ahead of us as we casually observed all these things. No particular thing stood out or registered in our minds as we had seen this scenario many times as we headed to an assignment. Ahead about a ¼ of a mile, I noticed a police vehicle parked tangentially off the highway. This observance too never signalled to me anything out of the ordinary, police vehicles were often seen rambling here and there or parked in random locations. To the left was located one of the local townships and to the right, a small shopping center.
Immediately, to my left, I noticed two men running. These men, although they were running fast, were not the marathon type. They ran as if they were not sure where to go, dodging here and there. And, although I never paid much attention to it at the time, but as I reflect back, they acted as if they were trying to evade something. Their body language suggested that they were searching for something or were desperate or trapped. Their dress was not indicative of anything. They both wore dungarees and a white T-shirt with some sort of writing or symbol on it – the same as countless others wear daily.
It was only after hearing the sharp whap-whap-whap sound in rapid succession that I became alert to the fact that something out of the ordinary was taking place. Simultaneously, Angie and I looked at each other and asked, were those gun shots that we just heard?
At that moment, my eyes fixed on a police officer running on the opposite side of the highway from his vehicle but on the same side as the two men. The officer was about 300 feet behind the men and had his pistol in his hand. He definitely was not a marathon runner. He was on the short side and way too much out of shape to pose much of a threat of physically apprehending the two men ahead of him. Thus, he resorted to relying on firing his pistol to persuade the two to stop. I don’t know if the two men, trying to escape him, mentally evaluated the situation or not, but had they done so, I suppose that any fear that may have been instilled in them by the gun shots would have quickly dissipated as they considered the accuracy of this highly out of shape man, who was puffing and wheezing and firing his pistol which was bobbing around like a cork in the ocean during a hurricane, while he was running.  
Whether the men were apprehended or not, I do not know as we continued our own pursuit down the road soon forgetting the mini-drama behind us. However, reflecting back on the event, my mind wanders down many paths as I consider the two men. For instance, did they have families at home? Why were they running? Did they attempt to rob a store/somebody? Were they hardened criminals or just someone caught up in a moment of weakness? Were they scared or unintimidated, bold, cocky, thinking about how they were going to be able to boastfully tell their story to others of how they evaded a police officer that was shooting at them? Were they repentful, wishing they had the ability to turn back the clock and wipe out their actions of a few moments before?
In each of our lives, we have many choices of paths to follow. However, we are the only ones that can choose which one we will take. Will that choice be based on immediate gratification or will our decision be based upon things that will bring us eternal joy?  “All of life is a journey which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.”
“The future lies before you, like paths of pure white snow. Be careful how you tread it, for every step will show.”
(the quotes are from anonymous authors)