Far, Far Away on Africa's Plains...
Two American Holidays in South Africa - Thanksgiving and Christmas. One they don't celebrate and one they celebrate differently.
Christmas 2016Tzaneen, South Africa
Our Christmas this year was very different from any other. For one thing, it's the middle of the summer here and the temperature on Christmas was near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of below freezing in Utah. South Africans celebrate Christmas, but in a different format. The Afrikaners (original settlers from Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries) do give gifts and have Santa Claus, but the native black people do not have Santa, and if there are gifts, they are mostly new clothes for the children. They DO like to party, however, so that is the same. We were blessed to be a part of either planning, executing, supplementing or supporting six Christmas parties during December.
Christmas Eve with the EldersChristmas Eve was dedicated to providing a fine meal to 10 Elders serving missions in the Tzaneen District.
|Elders Matlanyane, Shorthill, Griffey, Molemo, Khapoche|
|Elders Masondo, Baldwin and Nielsen|
Games followed dinner:
|Elder Hammon observes Elders Masondo and Shorthill chess match|
Elders Mothlanjane (Santa), Matlanyane, Khopoche & Molemo
enjoy playing Pictionary. They also enjoyed Christmas Bingo.
|Elder Griffey ate too much|
Christmas DayOn Christmas Day we attended Sacrament Meeting in Lenyenye. The Sacrament program was the missionary farewell for Elder Humphrey, called to serve in the Zimbabwe mission. He leaves on December 29. He is spiritually deep and mature, will be a great missionary, but will be a loss to the branch while he is gone.
There wasn't any mention of the nativity during church service, which was different, and they only sang one Christmas hymn, "Joy to the World." We don't think they sing very many Christmas songs in Lenyenye or Motupa, from our experience this month. Interesting, though, is that at the first Sacrament Meeting in Lenyenye that we attended as new missionaries last February, they sang "Joy to the World." Weird!
After church we returned to the flat, being advised not be out and about too much during this holiday celebration that sometimes involves too much alcohol and sometimes violence. We waited for evening when we could FaceTime with the family (it would be Christmas morning to them). It was wonderful to get to see and talk with all of our children and grandchildren, regardless of where they are living - the miracle of modern technology.
|Our tree is courtesy of a prior missionary couple|
(It's amazing what a zoom lens will do!)
Christmas was very different this year for us. There were no presents at all, in the traditional sense. There were the true gifts of Christmas provided by the Savior and His gospel. When we are home next Christmas we hope to have less traditional gifts and more of the true gifts.
Actually we did receive two gifts this year: Hand-made Native African attire. Sister Kekana purchased the material and Sister Letsoalo did the sewing. They presented them to us for Christmas gifts. Elder Hall wore his to the party; Sister Hall wore hers to a Sunday service.
The season began with the church's #LIGHTtheWORLD campaign. Serve as Jesus served in 25 ways over 25 days.
This month as we visited the families we love so much, we shared the #LIGHTtheWORLD video with them, read the two key verses, discussed how we could follow the Savior's example, and then we presented our gift to them.
John 8:12 - Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Matthew 5:14, 16 - Ye are the light of the world... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.We become His light when we follow his example of service and good will.
|Winnie, Michael, Jane, Julia, Larato, Anna (ground)|
Julia's sister Anna is not a member, but she shed tears as we discussed the video and sang "Choose the Right" - a theme song for our Blazer Boys.
Donald's brother 'Boy' is investigating the church
He will be a member soon.
Brothers Bongane, Donald and Boy
Some said they would light the candle on Christmas Eve
Others said they would just keep it as is.
Motupa Christmas Party
Prepping the Christmas Meal
|Brother Sekgobela at the Braai|
|Chicken and Beef|
Fire for the PAP
(Finely ground corn maze like mashed potatoes)
Sister Grace (Primary President) stirs the PAP
(Not as easy as one might think)
|Bro. Sebetola (Group Leader) takes a turn|
On another fire Sisters Margaret and Julia prepare Chakalaka
(Very good baked beans and sauce)
|They love to sing - and a great turnout from the branch|
|Elder Mosondo gives the Christmas Speech|
Donald and Sakeo plan the games
(Outstanding Young Men!)
Don't Eat the Prophet
(or too many marsh mellows)
|Unwrapping the Chocolate with Gloves On|
|Donald's Made Up Scripture Relay game|
They said Elder Hall cheated
and disqualified his team
Donald got a real kick out of his own game!
(But you had to cheat to win)
Elder Hall teaches the game of Rummikub
They also love the game of Uno
Beloved Motupa Saints
(She is taking the Missionary Lessons)
|Love the Christmas Hair Styles|
(Crescelda's sister - newly baptized)
Boy Mathipa and nephew
(He is taking the Missionary Lessons)
Lenyenye Christmas Party
The party in Lenyenye began in the chapel with a program about Christ. This was followed by food and games, as usual.
|Bowls and Bowls of PAP|
Nthabeseng and Margaret Molele
|Margaret Molele dishes the Vorst|
|Tumelo and the last scoop of PAP|
|Humphrey and Kebelo|
|Kebelo and ?|
|Brother James joined the church in the 1990's|
|Khetso and Joseph|
|Sisters Sara and ?|
|Thabo - Uncle of the Triplets|
If there's food, the Elders show up! Some of them were crashing the party, as they don't all serve in Lenyenye.
|Elders Molemo, Mahathajane, Hammon|
|Elders Shorthill and Molemo|
|Elder Griffey with investigator Filipie|
Lenyenye Institute Christmas Party
The Young Single Adults who are also Institute students, including some who were home for the holidays from colleges they attend elsewhere, enjoyed the Christmas activity that included a detailed, verse by verse analysis of the nativity story from Luke 2 and Matthew 1, followed by games. We love the strength of the church here presently, but it will be remarkably strong as these young people complete their educations, start families, and become pillars in the branches where they will stay.
The relay race was exciting. Two teams competed to see who could get the most mini-marshmallows into the bucket, using straws and sucking actions.
Watching: Lottie, Mpho, John, Brian, Austin, Margaret, Khetso, Temelo, Humphrey, Leslie
Sucking: Nthabeseng, Judas
Tzaneen Branch Christmas PartyWith no photos to prove we were there, we stumbled into the Tzaneen Branch Christmas party when we went to the Tzaneen Chruch to use the internet. The Tzaneen party included a program in which District President Manzini told the Christmas story focusing on Mary and Elizabeth - a nice twist. Then they had the food typical of the other branch parties we attended.
Zone Conference and Christmas Devotional and BraaiThe December Zone Conference in Polokwane was followed by a Christmas Devotional, followed by a Braai (BBQ) prepared by the elders themselves.
|Elders Iremea, Sudbury (ZL) and Lybe (AP)|
|Elder Nielsen explains the White Elephant Gift Exchange|
Some Elders didn't like their chosen White Elephant Gifts
but no one would steal them, either
Baptism for the Dead Trip
December 7, 2016
Johannesburg TempleAfter four months of planning and preparation, 15 youth and young single adults, and two adult leaders, were able to go to the Johannesburg temple and do baptisms for the dead on December 7, 2016. We hope it was an experience they will cherish for the rest of their lives, as only two of the 15 had been able to do baptisms for the dead previously, and who knows when they will get the next opportunity. The biggest obstacle is the cost of transport. The transport was made possible this time thanks to contributions from others, including our Sandy neighbors Dean and Marla Webb. The youth were required to earn and contribute one third of the cost.
Back row: Brother James (Leader), Judas, Delna, Austin, John, Molatelo (Lottie), Humphrey, Judith, Maripa
Front row: Hazel, Nthabeseng, Margaret, Thalita, Thatoe, Sophie, Dimpho, Mpho (leader)
l to r: Judith, Sophie, Austin, Dimpho, Delna, Tathoe, Margaret, Thalita, Judas, Hazel, Mpho,
Lottie, Nthabaseng, John, Maipa, Humphrey
|Delna (investigator) and Sister Hall|
|Lottie and Tathoe|
|Lottie and Tathoe|
|Elder Hall and Thalita|
|Beautiful Temple Grounds|
|Can you spell "LOVE"?|
Hazel - a poor girl who comes to everything
and somehow got a new hair do and outfit
for the special occasion
The youth performed 70 baptisms, some for ancestors that they had submitted.
After the baptisms, two senior missionary couples prepared and served a wonderful roast beef sandwich lunch to the group. The meal was provided by our friends, the Lombardi's from Sandy, who returned home last month. Even though we live only a few miles apart in Sandy, we didn't meet until we came on mission. As with the other senior couples we have met and served with, they are now lifelong friends. We are grateful to these three couples!
Elder (Dr.) and Sister Jubber - Area Medical Advisor
The other couple (Broadbents) left before we could get a picture
(Sister Broadbent in the background)
|We are happy because they are happy!|
November 30, 2016On November 30, 2016, the missionaries in our zone met with Elder and Sister Ellis of the Area Presidency, accompanied by President and Sister Chadambuka. Elder Ellis provided training for all of the missionaries and then gave a special session for the three senior couples serving here.
Just two thoughts from the many that Elder Ellis left us with:
A quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "We need to do the Lord's work, in the Lord's way, according to the Lord's will, and in the Lord's time."
The example of the original apostles, when Jesus said that one of them would betray him. Instead of saying "Is it him?" they rather said "Is it I?" And in that way we need to govern our own lives.
Counsel given to the senior couples: Help people in the Lord's way, otherwise we do more harm than good. We see many needs here on mission, and we know that we have the means and capability to solve those problems; but doing so makes the members dependent instead of independent. He said we should work ourselves out of a job, teaching the members to do it themselves. They can do it all, Elder Ellis said.
Thanksgiving in Africa
Africans do not celebrate Thanksgiving - it's an American Holiday. So the American couples had to do our own, and introduce our non-American mission president and his wife to the tradition. They actually liked it very much and hope to continue in the years to come - but it will have to be someone else as none of these couples will be here next year.
|Sister Hall's Turkey Cheeseball|
|Elder Hall's Turkey (Pear) place setting|
|The dinner was held at the Mission President's home in Pretoria|
Family Home Evenings
The FHE in Lenyenye has gone so well and blossomed, with an average attendance of 15 to 20, that we started one in Tickyline. Tickyline is a suburb of Lenyenye and part of the branch, but the distance from the chapel is so far away that the Tickyline members are not able to attend the Monday night FHE. So in order for us to be able to attend both, we hold the Tickyline FHE on Tuesday evening.
Margaret, ?, Pres. Molele, Elder Molemo, ?, Austin, Tumelo, 3 Neighbor boys,
Ntabeseng, ?, Sister Hall, Elder Shorthill,
With no church to meet in we meet at the home of President Molele, who is Second Counselor in the District Presidency and a former Branch President. We meet outdoors. It has started with a small attendance, as did Lenyenye, but it will hopefully grow.
These three boys "dropped in" from walking the street
The one on the right wouldn't uncover his face for a photo
Elder Hall got him to laugh and drop his guard
They were invited back but have not returned
|As in Lenyenye, the support of the Elders is very helpful|
Motupa "Blazer Boys"
When we were resuming the Seminary classes in Motupa after a school break we began having several youth attend who were not old enough for Seminary. And the age discrepancy was 11 year olds up to 18 year olds. So we "dis-invited" the younger ones from attending Seminary but Sister Hall created a class for them, to teach them the Artcles of Faith. They are all boys, so we dub them our "Blazer Boys" and the goal is for them to earn their Faith in God awards. We meet with them once a week and Sister Hall teaches.
Regular attenders: Pontsho and Michael
Others attend less regularly
"I bless the rains down in Africa"In the last blog post we mentioned that Africa is in a three year drought cycle and the water situation (lack of water) is becoming desperate. We pled for prayers for rain in South Africa. From mid-November to the present it has rained nearly every day. Some of the rains have been very heavy. It is interesting for us to note that as mighty and powerful as man thinks he is, and how advanced, we are still totally dependent upon God for everything, including such a little thing like water!
The rains are a blessing, but the already difficult roads
become nearly impossible due to the mud.
Phalaborwa Book of Mormon Project
Back in April, 2016, on a "Senior Couples Retreat" and game drive in Kruger National Park, we met a man named Sammie. He was our tour guide. He seemed interested in our missionary work so Sister Hawkins left him with a Book of Mormon. Over the following months Sammie kept calling the mission office asking for additional copies, eventually asking for more and more. So we delivered a case of Books of Mormon to him in early October while visiting Kruger Park with Tracy.
The Hawkins asked him what he was doing with them - supposedly he wanted to give them out to guests on game drives. But it turns out that he was giving them to members of his church that he attends in a village close to Phalaborwa. Then in late October he called the Hawkins and asked if they would come to Phalaborwa and teach him and his church about the Book of Mormon. They had been meeting together and studying it, including their Pastor.
Phalaborwa is a town that is a little over an hours' drive from Tzaneen, but nearly five hours from Pretoria. So the Hawkins asked us to go with them on Sunday, October 30, and we attended their church service.
It is a non-denominational church started by a pastor from the Mpumalanga area. The village, and therefore the members, are a mixture of refugees from a prior civil war in Mozambique and local native South Africans. They speak three different languages, English being one of them for some, but none of them speak the Sepedi language of the people we work with in Lenyenye and Motupa. So English is the common denominator.
Their current church is half building and half lean-to tent, as shown. By the time the service began all of the chairs were filled.
Then each of us took about 15 minutes to tell our part of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Elder Hawkins did a great job with an overall description of the restoration.
|Considering What Was Being Said|
At the end of the service the Pastor said we will not be allowed to return to America but must remain forever in South Africa to teach them more! He also remarked about how refreshingly strange it is that white people would come to a black village - as the black people always run away from white people and white people won't have anything to do with black people. We assured him that "all are alike unto God."
Following the service they all wanted pictures with the white missionaries.
He said this is a busy time for them, but after the first of the year he would contact us about another teaching visit. The first of the year has arrived, so we will see where this goes from here.
And so as the first of the year has arrived:
WE WISH YOU ALL THE BEST IN THE NEW YEAR!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS!
WE LOVE YOU!