Thursday, August 16, 2012

April 2012

We are still catching up our Blog and this posting will feature some of the highlights of the month of April

Ezakheni Building w/Elder Miller
The Ezakheni branch meets in an old slaughter house owned by the city. The city lets the church use it at no cost, just to have it occupied. We went there to interview a brother to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and to be called and sustained as Elder’s Quorum president.  He was a member of 6 months.  At 9:00 am, only the 1st counselor and his family plus the brother to be interviewed were at church. We started somewhere around 9:20 with about 40 people. By the time sacrament meeting ended we had about 90 people, including 6 investigators. Note the baptismal font in the rear of the chapel area. It’s a big fiberglass font or small pool.
Baptismal font in Ezakheni
Zwane family
Priesthood mtg in only availabel space
Interview room and Utilities
Priesthood meeting was held outside. The Relief Society and Young Women shared the chapel in different corners.  Elder Miller conducted interviews for priesthood advancements and temple recommends in this room.

As we exited the building after services, the young women were singing hymns as families gathered to walk home. We also had a cow grazing right next to our car.  Cows, goats and chickens roam most everywhere in the townships and along the roads and open land.
Unlikely church attendee
Ezakheni youth singing after church
We spent two days in April shopping with Renee Sabisa to outfit her for her mission to Uganda. She entered the MTC in Johannesburg on April 19, six weeks sooner than expected. Her mother does not have the money at this time, so we bought her luggage, camera, clothing, shoes and etc. We went to the new mall in town, but then we went to some shops in a shady part of downtown that we may not have gone into if we were alone. It was quite an experience.
Lunch after a day of shopping
Sabisa Family- Renee is in the center
Elder Jenks from the Osizweni District asked us excitedly, “Do you want to come to FHE with us?”  “Yes” was our immediate reply.  We had been hoping for a chance to visit some families living in the townships.  Being our first visit inside an African family’s home added more than normal excitement.  Osizweni is a township about 25-30 kilometers from Newcastle.  The country government set up townships where the citizens with little money or possessions could homestead.  Leaving about 6:00 pm, we drove Elders Jenks and Masvaya to the humble home.  It was getting dark and hard to see being that there were no street lights out there.  As we turned off the paved road onto a bumpy dirt road we spied the small home with a light on above the door.  After parking out front in the mowed weeds, we entered the home.  Upon entering we could see throughout the home.  A tiny kitchen/dining area adjacent to a small living room.  Two small bedrooms had openings into the living room with a section of fabric over each opening creating some privacy.  One room for the two kids, a 2 yr old boy and 6 year old girl.  The ‘master’ was the other room.  Escorted to a loveseat and couch snuggled tightly around a coffee table we got to know each other.
Sister Khumalo felt a need for religion in her life.  She didn’t want the flashy or demanding preachers, but something different, however she didn’t know what.  Each Sunday morning she watched a neighbor woman walking to church meetings just down the street in the school.  Finally she decided, “I’m going to follow that woman to church today.”  After getting herself ready, she walked to the school yard.  With more than one group there for church, she was unsure which one to attend.  She stood outside of the door.  The meeting was ‘Fast and Testimony’.  After encouragement, she stepped inside and sat towards the back.  The meeting was really strange to her, yet she stayed and felt something different.  Desiring to head home after the meeting, she was coaxed into staying for Sunday School.  The Spirit was present, she was touched and she accepted to receive lessons from the Elders.  Brother Khumalo came along more towards the end of her lessons.  She felt they both needed to be informed and involved.  As the missionaries taught him, he was receptive.  His prayer to God, asking if the church was true, came with a confirmation but also a tender feeling that he was speaking with a Father.  He had missed his earthly father his entire life.
Elder Jenks in Khumalo kitchen

The Elders, Jenks and Masvaya, gave a short lesson and we played short videos from our laptop.  It was getting late and time for dinner.  Sister Khumalo was striving so hard to ensure we were pleased.  Simple and tasty, steamed bread was the delicious beginning.  She set to rise in the sun during the day, then cooked on top of the ‘stove’.  The stove being a couple of hot plates on top of a small oven, looking like a microwave oven, only slightly smaller.  Tripe with beans as a sauce rounded out the dinner.  The sauce was spicy, and tasty.  Guests used the large plates, attractive but not matching.  She and her kids ate out of bowls, after all of us had been fed and she was sure that we had eaten enough.  We have to watch the Elders to make sure they don’t overeat.

Khumalo family with you know who
Picture time was next, then off to bed.  Sharing testimonies and life’s experiences had brought us closer together than we had imagined.  The kids were cute, but a little shy for pictures.  Legend has it here among some of the people, that when one’s picture is taken, it takes part of their spirit from them.

What a great experience for us.  Humbling and strengthening.  We developed a quick love for the Khumalo family and their beauty as a family.  Afterwards, the Elders mentioned that they were one of the ‘best off’ families in the area.  Not remembering beforehand, but realizing afterwards, that I had set Sister Khumalo apart as a Primary Teacher the prior week.  We had not extra rooms at the school, so the branch president and I stepped a little ways away and set her and another sister apart on a porch of the school.  She spoke so softly that I didn’t fully understand her name (on the third request), so the branch president said her name for me when I set her apart.  To complete our visit, we created a family picture for them and framed it, having not seen any pictures in the home.  Wrapped it up with little ribbon as a package, the Elders delivered it to the family for us.  We were told that Sister Khumalo was teary eyed as she unwrapped the gift.  She not only loved the picture, but it was the first wrapped present she had ever received.

We decided to take a trip into the Drakenberg mountains. As we turned off the road to head up the first valley, the road got rough and somewhat narrow. It is more one large lane than two. We drove through hills and past villages. In the villages, the people don’t have stores. We passed trucks stopped on the side of the road with 20-50 people gathered around and getting either bread or basic food items. Every so often a huge bag of maize meal or corn meal in a 100 pound sack was on the side of the road. I think the people came and shared it. We drove until we ran out of paved road and into the hills. The mountains are different yet beautiful. You can see the small groups of family houses on the hillsides. The life is rural, slow paced, agricultural, and family based. It was nice to see the people of South Africa.
shopping in the savannah
Drakensberg mtns - cattle grazing below

Family groups on a hillside
Goat herder high in the Drakensbergs

Off the beaten path
Rugged peaks of the Drakensberg mtns


  1. What a beautiful people and beautiful country. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We love seeing the pictures and hearing about the great adventures that you are experiencing in Africa. Keep it up.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing. I LOVE it. I love all the stories and having some of your experience feel real hear. It is fun to share in your adventure a bit.