August 2016 - a Month of Joyful Welcome and Sad Farewell
Three New Members of the ChurchThree people joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through baptism in Lenyenye and Motupa branches during the month of August. They have received a "new birth." They are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the Saints and of the household of God."
|Elder Burgess, Thalita, Elder Bagoole, Fina, Nico|
|Elder and Sister Hall, Thalita, Fina and Nico|
In Motupa, Sindy was baptized on August 21. She is the sister of Creselda, one of our star seminary students. She was baptized by Phetole, a priest, and another star seminary student, and this was the first time he has baptized anyone. He was perfect!
|Phetole and Sindy|
Julia's, Maite's and Anna's Mother Passed Away at Age 96Mmamatome Madintsi Selina Selematsela, mother to Julia (member), Maite (member), Anna, Sarah,(investigating) and Maria,(investigating) and grandmother (gogo) to Winnie, Lennix and others, and great grandmother to many, including members Lorato, Pontsho, Phetole, and Michael, passed away on August 24, 2016. Her funeral was held September 3, 2016, at the family homestead in Motupa, where she was also buried. She was 96 years old.
Ninety-six years is a very long life for anyone anywhere in the world, but very rare in South Africa. World Bank puts the life expectancy in South Africa as the lowest in the world, 56.10 years. (USA is 78.74, India 66.21). According to businesstech.co.za, it is much lower than that: men at 50.7 years and women, surprisingly, at only 48.7. So GoGo Selematsela lived twice as long as the life expectancy here.
This lady's posterity is joining the church in large numbers, and she will join too, now. Two more of her daughters (Sarah and Maria) are meeting with missionaries currently. Daughter Anna would be interested but she is fighting for her life battling TB. Granddaughter Winnie isn't currently interested because of the English barrier, but two of her children (Lorato and Michael) have become members and a third (Jane, aged 3) attends church each week. Maite's son Phetole is also a member.
|As Posted Last Time - Church Members descended from GoGo Selematsela|
The only photo we have of GoGo Selematsela was taken as the missionaries helped get her wheel chair down the steep slope leading to Julia's house about a week before her passing. We had taken her to the hospital, at Julia's request, because she was very sick. At the hospital they told Julia that GoGo was just suffering from extreme old age, and they sent her back home with us. In the car GoGo gave Sister Hall a handshake with the African thumb snap (reserved for friends) and a grin -- a memory that will live forever.
We had trouble getting her and the wheel chair down the steep slope, so we called in the elders who were doing service close by. They responded immediately. They also had trouble with the wheelchair, so Elder Hunt (Samoan) just picked her up out of the chair and carried her down! We shall never forget that scene!
l to r: Julia, Elder Griffey, Winnie, Elder Hunt, GoGo,
Elder Bagoole, Elder Hall, Elder Baldwin
Since coming to Africa we have attended three funerals. This one was more touching for us. Although GoGo was not a member, the church was heavily involved because of Julia and Maite.
The custom in South Africa is that the family gathers during the week before the funeral, which is nearly always held on a Saturday. Beginning about Wednesday prior, family and friends gather for songs and prayers each evening.
A funeral usually begins between 6:00 and 7:00 AM - probably to avoid the heat of the day. They typically last 3 to 6 hours in two parts: The first part is normally held beneath a circus type tent and includes speeches, condolences and reminiscences from family and friends, and sermons from at least one pastor. Singing, chanting and even a brass band is interspersed with the speeches. Unless you understand the native language, Sepedi, you won't understand much of what is said. Fortunately in funerals involving the church, some English is spoken. The LDS attendees will sing a few church hymns as part of the service, in English. This session can last up to 3 hours.
|After the chairs are taken you must stand for a very long time.|
The casket is then carried to the grave site, usually close by, and another session begins. The entourage follows the casket, with singing and brass band playing. The second session, one to two hours, includes more speeches and prayers and is directed more to the resting place, state of the soul of the departed, and family admonitions (at least that's what this one was). In this case the grave was dedicated by the Branch President and was a typical Mormon grave dedication. It was very beautifully done by President Matlou.
The casket is lowered into the grave and the grave is filled in by the men in attendance as the brass band plays. When the grave was completely covered the saints sang a couple hymns, and closed the session with "God Be with You Till We Meet Again." Elder Kuda from the Motupa group leadership offered a wonderful closing prayer.
|At the grave site after the second session -standing in line for the food|
Following the grave site service everyone gathers round for the food. The women begin preparing the meal around midnight, using very large cooking pots. No ham or "funeral potatoes" here but typical African fare of fried chicken, beef medallions (not sure if it's beef!), Pap (pronounced "pop" - a finely ground corn prepared similar to mashed potatoes), Chocaloca (very good baked beans), rolls, cabbage salad similar to coleslaw, and punch. The punch is flavored water - unfiltered water, so we pass on that.
|The women sit together and the men sit together, separately.|
|Support from the Motupa Group of the Tzaneen Branch|
|Support from the Elders|
|Friends of GoGo (middle is daughter Maite)|
|Daughter Anna (left)|
|Great Grandsons Michael, Pontsho, and Phatole|
|Julia offering a plate full|
|Julia and disabled son Stephen|
|Great granddaughter Mquata|
|Great granddaughters Jane and Lorato|
|Jane Steals the Show|
|Jane and Elder Hall|
Sister Hall - Only white face in the tent!
(Women must cover their heads; men must wear jackets)
Honoring AncestorsEveryone knows about the ancient Egyptian custom of honoring their departed ancestors (think pyramids). The tradition continues -- the people in South Africa spend much money on tombstones even if they can only afford a small house to live in.
A house picked at random, typical of many.
Tombstones behind the house honoring departed ancestors.
|The Soda Pop bottle filled with water keeps the dogs away...|
...they swear it works!
POSTSCRIPT:Just as we were ready to publish this post we received word that our dear friend Sister Esther Lefa has also just passed away. Another funeral coming up next Saturday.
l to r: Elder Hall (shadow), Sister Hall, Esther Lefa, granddaughter Muso
To know her is to love her...
We know her...
We love her...
We are very sad.
Another New BirthOne of Sister Hall's piano students, Susan, aged 15, just delivered a beautiful little daughter into the world. So one soul leaves mortality and enters the spirit world while another leaves the spirit world and enters mortality. Susan was the victim of an very unfortunate incident, but she is happy, and things will work out -- they always do work out here -- this is Africa!
|Bringing Susan, her mom and baby home from the hospital|
|Sister Hall in her element|
She has already resumed her schooling and will soon resume her piano training.
Making Your Own Fun
The children here are very fortunate if they have both a father and a mother. Most are raised by a single parent, almost always the mother. In many instances the children are raised by a relative: grandmother, aunt, etc. In some instances they have guardians only, hence the "orphanage" day-care center where we serve for an hour every week. They are fortunate still if they have enough food to keep them satisfied. Nevertheless they live happily:
|Always bare feet - some of those weeds have thorns!|
|Soccer anywhere, anytime, any age.|
"Piggy back" rides are always fun
How much fun can you have with an old tire?
Singing and Dancing at the Orphanage
Playing Soccer at the Orphanage
|Elder Hall scoops ice cream cones at the Orphanage|
|Many of the children had never had an ice cream cone,|
and didn't really know what to do with it!
Having basically nothing that money can buy, they use their ingenuity to invent their own toys:
|Homemade handle bars for an old scooter|
|Homemade Wire Trucks and Cars|
|Is that an airplane?|
|Who needs hula skirts when you can make them with plastic bags?|
|Not sure what this is.|
|Old milk cartons and plastic caps make great toys.|
These kids have nothing, but they are happy!
Welcome to the Wrightsons!
In August we welcomed the arrival of Elder and Sister Wrightson from Idaho Falls, Idaho. They join us and Elder and Sister Hawkins, also from Idaho, as Senior Couple Missionaries in the Botswana/Namibia mission.
|Elders and Sisters Hall, Wrightson, and Hawkins|
Since we lived in Idaho Falls in the late 1970's we thought the Wrightsons' might know some people or places we knew when we lived there. It's a small world after all - turns out the Wrightsons worked with Elder Hall at Rogers Foods potato company from 1977-79! Indeed we do have people and places in common! Now we have a missionary experience together.
Elder and Sister Wrightson recently returned from serving a mission in the Czech Republic, and when they saw there was a need for couple missionaries here in Africa they signed up.
We haven't heard of any additional couples in the pipeline at this time. So we remain at 3 couples in the Botswana/Namibia Mission.
Where have all the couples gone, long time passing ....?
YSA FHE Update
The Monday night Family Home Evening with the Young Single Adults in Lenyenye continues to thrive. Last week we had the most attendees ever, 16 not including us and the four missionaries. We feel they are really starting bond with each other.
The lessons they teach each other are very inspirational, and they have so much fun doing the activities afterward.
We must have too much leisure time, as they have given us a couple new assignments:
Book of Mormon Requests
In the past the senior couple elders performed the financial audits each February and August. Since the Campbells and Gublers went home, the assignment naturally fell to Elder Hall. So during the month of August he received personalized training in performing audits, then together with another local member newly assigned to the District Audit committee he audited all 6 branches of the church here in the Tzaneen District. It was a good experience for him, even though it required several trips over the mountain to Polokwane and Mokopane. It was time consuming, but necessary to ensure that the Lord's money is taken care of properly.