Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Saturday, February 15th, 2014.  Youth Conference was held in East London, sponsored by the East London Stake.  Technically, our branch is not part of this Stake, but they were kind enough to invite us to participate.  This was like Christmas for our youth!  We had all ten members of our branch attend as well as three investigators.  Remember, these are all first generation Mormons.  Most of them converts of less than two years.  When we were in the planning stages they asked President Wheeler how many youth would be there.  He stated that there would be approximately 200.  Their comment…"You mean 200 Mormons in one place."  This was also the first time they had seen a chapel.  Everything for them is a first.

This is the taxi that we chartered.  There were three adults (Brother Hola, Sister Van Rensburg, and the driver) and 13 youth that crammed in.  Can you say "clown car"! President Wheeler and I followed in our little Chevy!
 Yup!  All of this was in that!  See the boy that is the shortest one standing close to President.  His name is Silindolchie.  We can't pronounce his name, so he let's us call him Good Times, which is what is written on his shirt.  He owns two shirts.  This one and one other.  He is an investigator.  We don't know where his Dad is, and his mother is working in Port Elizabeth, so he lives with his Aunt.  Out of these 13 youth only two have a two-parent family.  That is another story.

 There was an opening exercises at which the Youth Theme for the year, "Come Unto Christ" was introduced, and then the games began.  Our Branch was in charge of Minute to Win It.  Nomvulla, from our branch was the overall winner stacking these seven high.  In Minute To Win It they had to stack golf balls.  Who knew.  You really can stack golf balls.  

 Crab Soccer.

 Temple Building.  Each team was given a supply of paper, cereal boxes, and tape to make a replica of a temple.  I wish I would have snapped a pix of the finished products.  They were pretty cool.
  I didn't catch the name of this game, but this one was a hit.  There were two teams.  Each team was assigned three colors of balls to gather from the playing field.  The players were blind-folded, and their team mates had to guide them to the correct balls.  All the while the opposing team was trying to lead them astray shouting the incorrect directions.
 Closing Excersises.  When I looked at these great kids, I couldn't help but sing in my head, Hope of Israel, Zion's Army, Children of the Promised Day!
Hope of Israel, rise in might
With the sword of truth and right;
Sound the war-cry, "Watch and pray!"
Vanquish ev'ry foe today.

Some say that it will take two to three generations of Africans to get the church to stand on it's own here.  Maybe they are right. Maybe they don't know these great kids like we do.  They are AWESOME!

Maybe 10% of the group were white.  The rest were colored (meaning part white) or black.

Ayandisiwa, Buoso, Ayabonga, Tania, Magret, and Chwyita.
Aren't they so cute!!!

This is for all my grandkids.   Brother Hola proved that it really can be done. Can you top him?
Our parting shot of the Stake Center in East London.  It was a great day!!!

Parking Police

President Wheeler and I rarely, if ever argue.  What's the point.  After all, we are married for Time and All Eternity, it is exhausting, and we know we are just going to kiss and make up so why bother.  You can say, however, that we have some friendly disagreements.  This is a picture of one of them.

This nice man is a parking attendant.  He and many others can be found all over town wherever there are parking spots.  Their job is to help you back out of your parking spot safely which in this town of crazy drivers is very helpful.  Also, they will watch your car to see that no one breaks in to it (which is a common occurrence in Africa).  Here is the point of contention.  They want a tip.  Usually five Rand which is equivalent to $ .50 USD.  I am more than happy to give the $ .50.  President Wheeler on the other hand…."I am not going to give someone $ .50 to help me back out my car from a parking place that I am perfectly capable of doing so myself!".  Me, "But, honey, it is cheap insurance for us to assure that no one steals anything while I am shopping".  He, "I really don't care…blah, blah, blah."  And so the disagreement pursues.  When they see us coming, if President Wheeler is driving they don't help us back out because they know he won't tip.  But if it is me, well I get all the attention and protection I need.

What is "Lying in a Manger?'

We arrived in South Africa the first part of November.  As we drove through Port Alfred we saw these mangers/cribs in front of most all of homes.  I thought…"how precious".  They must all be Christians and they have built little mangers to welcome the Christ Child.

It didn't take long to figure the REAL purpose of the Mangers.  They are garbage cribs.  I imagine they are built up off the ground to keep the critters out.  No big black garbage cans here.  On garbage pick-up day we usually see many people from the locations going through the bags in the cribs and scavenging for anything useful.  They will then put their treasures in a clean bag, balance them on their head and walk back to the location.

But most often we see garbage just laying around.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


This is an absolutely terrible picture.  I tried to fix the zombie eyes but couldn't figure it out.  Just imagine the most beautiful dark eyes you have ever looked in to, and adjust this pix in your mind.  This is our seminary group.  Fourteen were there last night.  Yea!

It is nearly 11:00 pm, which for me is way past bedtime, but I have to get this off my mind and on paper so I can sleep.  The "subject" of this e-mail could be "I'm dreaming of a Stake Center" or "It's all in the perspective".  Let me just share with you my Seminary experience from this evening.  

Let me begin by sharing with you an experience I had while I was serving as a missionary for the 12-step program.  Each Tuesday evening we met at the Stake Center in the Primary Room which was also used as a seminary room.  Every Tuesday when we would go to set up, there was a note from the seminary teacher that "encouraged" us to leave the room exactly as we found it.  We did the best we could, but evidently it was never quite up to par because the note kept appearing each week.  Let me tell you about my night in Seminary as compared to the "Wasatch Front" Seminary classes. 

We hold our seminary each Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m.  There are thirteen students enrolled.  We meet in a member's home (the Mgadi's) in the township.  The room we meet in is about as big as a nice size master bath in America.  In that room is a LARGE sofa, love seat, two arm chairs, a coffee table, a TV and a bookcase.  Each student brings with them a tote bag that has their scriptures, seminary manual, and scripture journals.  I bring a whiteboard, posters, laptop, speakers, manuals, binders, handouts, and other paraphernalia.  Now the real fun begins.  Since seminary starts at 6:00 pm, we leave home at 5:00 pm since we are the taxi to get all of the students to the Mgadi home.  There are NO teenage drivers in South Africa.  There are only four members that even own cars in the branch, and one of those cars only works if we push it backwards to start it.  Some of the students can walk to the Mgadi's.  The rest we pick up.  Now, keep in mind that the car we drive is small. It is similar to a Chevy Sonic.   No soccer Mom vans in this mission.  We make two runs to get everyone there.  The first run had four in the backseat, President Wheeler was driving, I was shotgun with one student on my lap.  He dropped us all off and then made a second run.  

We arrive at the Mgadi's and the house is locked.  We wait for a few minutes and consider holding seminary in the driveway, when at 6:15 someone shows up to let us in.  By then three of the girls have walked down the road to try and get another investigator to see if he is coming.  We also had someone out front playing Regae music while we are trying to sing Scripture Power.  At 6:30, all the students are finally there.  Only nine show up.  I am re-outlining my lesson in my head to try and get the most important things in, at which point, from comments from the students, I realize they are not grasping the roll of "home-study".  So I chuck the lesson and review with them how the scripture journals work and what their roll is in studying at home each week.  I look at the clock and it is 6:55.  The Mgadi's are now home after working a 12-hour day and looking at us like, "Are you done yet".  I summarize Nephi 1-4 in five minutes, quickly give them a challenge to start Scripture Mastery, and tell them to start on Unit three for next week.  Since they did not understand what they were supposed to do for Unit One and Two, I would just give them credit for those two units and let them start with three. This is what they say to me, "Oh no Sister Wheeler.  We want to do all of the units."  I look at them and say…"I just love you guys" and with tears in my eyes we say a closing prayer and hug.  

President Wheeler shows up and begins the taxi process of driving kids home.  I wait with the second batch of kids and visit with the wonderful Mgadi family who is probably wondering if we will ever leave.  

So tonight I am dreaming about the Primary/Seminary room at the Stake Center.  I picture the lovely little tables, with the names of the students on them and their scriptures and hymnbooks stacked nicely on each place. Oh, and the whiteboard.  I would kill for a full-size whiteboard. Students who just have to walk across the street and have "Released Time".  I think of the piano in the corner and the hymnbooks and the lovely charts and posters and displays of prophets, apostles, the tree of life and other Pinteresty things on the wall and I say to myself…Really…the chairs are not put back correctly.  Perspective.  I am gaining a greater one.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I Scream…You Scream

When we see fields and fields of these all over South Africa...

We think of this! 

 Ice Cream.Thinking is all we do.  Now I'm not just talking about some Meadow Gold, but I'm talking Nelson's Frozen Custard, Cold Stone, Blue Bunny, Dreyers, or Bryers, (oh I must stop or I will cry).  You would think with all of the Dairy Cattle that graze the beautiful grasslands of Africa that they would have an abundance of ice cream.  Not so.
Imagine our joy when we found this Frozen Yogurt store in Port Elizabeth at the Boardwalk. Oh yea!!!  We savored every last little marshmallow, nut, fruit combo we could stuff in.  The picture is a bit blurry, but President Wheeler is pointing to the spot on the sign where it states that this is the first Frozen Yogurt Store in South Africa.  There is hope!

Under the Boardwalk...

We traveled to Port Elizabeth on our P-Day Monday to meet the new couple missionary, Elder and Sister Silcock, that arrived from Burley Idaho to serve in the Motherwell Branch. Port Elizabeth is one of the largest cities in South Africa.  It was founded as a town in 1820 to house British Settlers.  It is now a major Seaport.  We met for lunch at a little Chinese Restaurant at "The Boardwalk".  This was our first Chinese since we arrived.  More on that later.

From left to right are the Silcocks, the Blatters, and you know who.  The Silcocks have been assigned to a branch that was organized in August with only eight members.  Last Sunday, they had 102 members there!  The counselor in the Branch Presidency is 17 years old!

Sister Blatter ordered some kind of Pork dish.  When it came it looked like a plate of worms.  I ordered Chinese stir-fried vegetables and got a plate of bok-choy.  We pooled our food, gave Sister Blatter some veggies to go along with her Pork, and I ate what President Wheeler did not.  Eating is South Africa is always an adventure!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Port Alfred Chapel

If you are attending church in Port Alfred, South Africa, this is where you would be for Sacrament Meeting.  This Is our Chapel.  Our building was previously a home.  The owners opened a Picture Framing Shop and added this portion on to the front.  If you are standing at the pulpit, the Sacrament Table is on the right of the podium.

This is what you would see if you were standing at the podium, looking toward the back of the chapel. Notice the whiteboard.  There are accordion doors that are shut after Sacrament Meeting that divides the chapel in two.  Gospel Doctrine is taught at the back of the chapel, and Gospel Essentials is taught by the missionaries in the front portion.  

This cozy little room is the Relief Society Room/Youth Sunday School Room.  I love the cozy Fireplace.

Our Young Womens Room, used exclusively for them!

This is our Primary Room.  This room can get a little crowded.  We have converted a room in the shop out back to be another classroom for the Valiant Primary Class.  We used it for the first time last Sunday.  It was Heaven to be able to separate the younger children from the older.  We would love to have a nursery room.  Only in our dreams.

This is maybe what you would call a multi-purpose room.  This is the foyer outside of the Branch President's Office.  It is sort of the library/gathering area/multimedia area/Aaronic Priesthood meeting room.

Branch President's Office.  If you are sitting in the President's chair, you would see a door that leads to the Clerk's office.

I think you all know what this room is.  The Custodial Closet is also in the kitchen.

This is our lovely backyard.  You can see Brother Hola's garden in the distance.  There is also a workshop off to the left that President Stumm set up and organized.  This little building has two rooms.  One of which was just converted to the Valiant classroom!  YEA!!!

Our Baptismal Font.  It is housed under a lovely little canopy.

View from the front.  We are blessed to have this wonderful facility!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Charity Never Faileth

On the left is Sister Helen Dell.  On the right is Sister Ruth Cockbain.  These two wonderful women were released from the Relief Society Presidency in the Port Alfred Branch after over five years of service.  

Now meet our new Relief Society Presidency.  From left to right.  President, Sister Nomsa Nteyi.  Second Counselor, Sister Sinomtha Kondile, First Counselor, Sister Elizah Ngcibi-Nobebe.  The new Secretary (Sister Noivnthando Donile) was unable to be here today due to a death in the family.  This is the first Relief Society presidency that are all from the Xhosa tribe.  Sister Kondile is holding Sister Nteyi little girl Alunamda.
Today in Fast and Testimony meeting Nomsa bore her testimony.  I will share with you some of her remarks.  She talked about her baptism in 2009.  A few months after her baptism her mother passed away.  She expressed a few other struggles she had after joining the church.  She then paid tribute to Sister Cockbain and Sister Dell.  She said, "It was your hands (speaking of Sister Dell and Sister Cockbain) that lifted me, comforted me, and often fed me.  It was your hands that tutored me and trained me to be able to serve in the position that I have been called to today.  You were my mothers"  

And that my friends is Relief Society in Action.  Faith, Family, and Relief. ,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bowls…Look out Pickleball!

We have seen these Bowling Clubs all over South Africa.  We finally got some pictures of a few teams playing.  Bowls or lawn bowls is a sport in which the objective is to roll biases (the balls are not completely round) balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called a "jack".  It is played outdoors on finely manicured lawns.  I think we need to add a few years on and we will be eligible.   

This gentleman was so good to explain the game to us.  We should have given him a pass-along card!