Saturday, September 10, 2016

3 New Births and a Funeral

August 2016 - a Month of Joyful Welcome and Sad Farewell

Three New Members of the Church

Three 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."

 In Lenyenye, Thalita (age 15) was baptized after attending church for several years. Her mother would not let her be baptized, but by some miracle, her mother relented and permitted the ordinance. She is very active, attends church and seminary and even comes to the YSA Family Home Evenings on Monday nights. She is a great addition to the kingdom.
Elder Burgess, Thalita, Elder Bagoole, Fina, Nico
 Sister Fina, wife of Brother Nico who was baptized in May, was also baptized on August 14. She is the one who told us back in March that she "is not ready" to learn about the gospel. Since Nico, who is blind, was baptized in May, Fina has been attending church with him and their 3 small children. She has felt the spirit and has been warmly fellowshipped by the members. When Elder Hall asked her if she felt pressured by her husband to get baptized she replied: "It's all true."  In her testimony following her baptism she said the church has already changed her life.
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 96

Mmamatome 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, 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.
Brass Band

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 Ancestors

Everyone 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!


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 Birth

One 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
They Work!

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.

Additional Assignments

We must have too much leisure time, as they have given us a couple new assignments:

Book of Mormon Requests

Requests for Books of Mormon (and Bibles) generated from members, pass-along cards, or the Mormon Channel worldwide, are entered into the church database and assigned to missionaries to respond. It is a wonderful program. But here in the remote area of northern South Africa the church does not have enough missionaries or church members to personally delver these requested items. So those referrals belonging to our area are sent to us on the computer, and Sister Hall makes a telephone call to each one to verify names and addresses.  Then she packages the items, together with our written testimonies, and we mail them out. It's too bad we don't have missionaries everywhere, because some of these people are very interested and want to have missionaries come. Once man is currently travelling 170 km each way to attend church and receive missionary lessons. For most people this is not possible.  But some day.....these Books of Mormon will result in a rich harvest for the Lord.


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. 

Thanks for all of the love, prayers and support we feel from our friends, family and loved ones at home.


  1. WE loved, loved, this! Thank you. We love all of the work you are doing. What a blessing you are!!! Hugs, The Campbells

  2. Great Job on your blog. You two are amazing!!

  3. I love all the posts. You are doing such a wonderful missionary service to the people in Africa. The people of Africa seem so loving and caring and happy.