Monday, April 28, 2014

More fun than a barrel of monkeys….I mean giraffe's!

And here is the barrel of monkey's that we took with us to Mansfield Park today.  Elder Wheeler, Elder Tonge, and Elder Stratton.  We took "Flat Stanley" along with us as his final field trip in Africa before sending him back to America.

Mansfield Park is a small game preserve just outside of Port Alfred.  We have been here six months and had not visited there.  The Elder's shamed us in to it today.  I'm so glad they did.  There is something about seeing these magnificent creations in their natural element that just makes you want to sing…"How Wonderous and Great, thy works God of Praise!" 

These majestic animals are 15 to 20 feet tall.  As we look at them the word "reverence" comes to mind. 
 This pack of zebra followed this big guy around like baby ducks following it's Moma!

 The highlight of the day was our search for Gambit.  We read the sign.  We were disobedient.  We broke the rules.  Don't tell President Wood!
 Meet Gambit.  Geoffrey from Toys 'R Us is no match for this gentle giant.

I finally got brave enough to touch him.  I can't say that I was afraid, but I can say that another living, moving, breathing object of this size is to say the least…intimidating!

President Wheeler introduces Flat Stanley to Gambit.  

Elder Tonge even took hold of his tail!  My hero!

With the Kowie River in the background we bid you farewell from South Africa.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

For Time and all Eternity...

I wanted to do a wordless post.  After all, does not the title of this post say it all?  Right now, my heart is bursting with joy.  Just a few words…
  • Covenants
  • Family
  • Ponder
  • Quiet
  • Peace
  • Sacrifice
  • Savior
  • Atonement
  • Knowledge
  • Solemn
  • Gift

Friday, April 25, 2014

Finding Joy in the Journey...

Our travels thus far in South Africa have taken us mostly along what is termed here the "Sunshine Coast".  These drives have provided us with some of the most breathtaking views we have ever known.  Mountains, water features, forests, jungles, oh my!  As we prepared for our 13 hour drive to Johannesburg we anticipated much of the same.  Not so!

First of all, why a trip to Johannesburg.  Pictured below is the Kondile Family.  Our  branch temple trip is scheduled for July.  As you can see Sister Kondile is expecting a baby girl in July and it would not be a good idea for her to make that trip so close to her delivery date.  We obtained the proper permission and all things worked out for us to take them this week in our little Chevy.  Sinomtha, Ibenathi, and Mzwabantu.  They are on their way to becoming a Forever Family.

"OZ" may have it's fields of poppies, but they are no match for these fields of sunflowers that we came across.  Acres and acres of them.  We were not able to cross the fence to get in to the fields to show how tall they are.  The stalks are at least 6 feet tall.

This was a cool bridge that we came upon.  Right in the middle of the highway all traffic must stop to cross this one-way directional bridge.  Can you imagine that on I-15?

And this little guy wins the prize for not once asking "Are we there yet".  He was a perfect traveler!

Willy James Wonka and the Service Project

James's third grade teacher gives each of the students the opportunity to do extra work to earn a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree and a Doctorate degree.  He's completed the first two, and is now working on the third, which requires him to complete a service project.  We were thinking of all the things he could do for a service project, when Grandma Wheeler emailed with the idea to help raise funds for the members of their branch in South Africa to go the temple.  The closest temple to Port Alfred is the Johannesburg temple, which is a 13 hour bus ride, which would cost $150 for each person (plus other expenses for the trip).  The average family in the area makes $200 per month, so they need a little help to achieve their goal.

When I was in high school, I was given the opportunity to travel to Europe.  I had to earn the money to do this, so we made 5,000 suckers and sold them at school and also sold See's Candies.  I thought about having James sell suckers.  But as the Easter season was upon us, I thought that chocolates would be a better fit.  So, I found a recipe for "Kool-Aid Truffles" on pinterest and thought, "anything with Kool-Aid in it has got to be easy." So, we tried out six flavors: cherry, orange, strawberry, lemon, berry and grape.  We packaged them like this:

But we sold them like this:

First I put James's picture on my Facebook page with a message he wrote:
To Centerville people:
Hello, my name is James Astling. I am doing a service project for my Grandparents who are serving an LDS mission in South Africa. Some of their branch members would like to go to the temple, but they don't have enough money to rent a bus for the 13 hour drive to the nearest temple. So, I am making chocolate cremes to sell for Easter baskets and sending the money to them. Each package is $3.00 and contains six chocolate cremes. The flavors are orange, black cherry, strawberry, mixed berry, grape and lemon. If you would like to purchase a package or many package, please post your request here. I will deliver them Thursday or Friday before Easter. We made a bunch but my brothers are buying a lot of them, so get them before they are gone!

The last line is very true.  Spencer, D.J. and James started buying quite a few.  Spencer took to buying a few after every meal!

The recipe is really very easy, but the amount was overwhelming!  I received 124 orders just from my Facebook post. Then we decided to announce it to the Relief Society women in our ward.  James went into their class and they clipped a microphone on his shirt, then he read the paragraph he put on Facebook.  Mark went in with James, and he said all the women were goo-goo-eyed and ready to give James whatever he wanted.  We sent around a sign-up sheet and received 165 more orders.  As word got around we received more orders, for a grand total of 324 orders/bags.  Which means we made around 2,000 chocolates over two weeks time!

Here are the ingredients for the second batch (so double this amount for 2,000 chocolates):

Our first batch, just the Astling family worked together to make over a few days:

We rolled the chocolate creme centers then dipped them in chocolate and put sprinkles on top to differentiate the flavors.

But as our orders grew, people offered to help us - and boy am I glad they did!
 James, D.J., Bitsy Tullis, Sarah Tullis and Spencer, who looks like he is bowing to Sarah.  They rolled two double batches in one hour!

 For Family Home Evening Night on a Monday, Jason, Trevor and Zach Smith, and Tiffin Tullis came to help.

On the next Tuesday night, our neighbor Carla Henricksen came over to dip and wrap:

Then Paulina Smith came over later to help package:

Thursday and Friday before Easter, some of the neighborhood kids came over to help deliver and collect funds in three neighborhoods.  I organized all the packages (packed in brown paper bags with names and amounts written on them) in neighborhoods, kept the back and side door open in the van as we slowly drove through the neighborhoods.  The kids thought they were so cool with their legs hanging out the back.  That's about as cool as a mini van can get.
Sara and Bitsy Tullis helped again, and Nate Tullis the second day, along with Jack and Allie Pierce and Jacob Adams.  Even though my ears are still ringing from the noise, I was very grateful for their help.  We finished most deliveries in three hours between the two days.

 When James and I were making the last deliveries, he asked me how much we had made.  I told him that I will tell him, but not to tell others because it's such a special project.  He wasn't expecting how much I told him, and when I looked back at him sitting in his seat, he was crying.  I asked if he was ok, and he said, "I'm ok mom, I'm just really happy for the people in South Africa!"  We both held each other and cried over the generosity of those who were involved and thanked each other for working so hard.

This was such a wonderful experience to have during the two weeks prior to Easter.  Helping people along in their spiritual journey to become closer to Christ, who we celebrate during the Easter season, was a highlight of the year and our lives.  I was impressed with James, who didn't complain at all about all the work that was involved.  He was a good worker and seemed to understand the importance of this cause, as did all who were involved.  The timing for this project was perfect for Easter and even more perfect because when we go to South Africa those branch members who will go to the temple, will just have returned right before we get there and meet them!

Band of Brothers (and Sisters)

The Three Musketeers had the slogan "All for one…and one for all"  This band of brothers and sisters is the epitome of that message.  There is a bond that exists among these youth that "waxes strong".  The baptism of Silindokuhle Passe illustrates.
 In this picture Silindokuhle is crouched down holding a hymnbook.  His journey towards baptism has been long.  He is the first in his family to take the missionary lessons.  He is 15 and needs the permission of parents to be baptized.  That permission came very slowly. After months of teaching his mother noticed the remarkable changes in his life and realized that it was the gospel that had changed her son from a life that was headed in a direction that was less than desirable to a life of happiness.  After a very long wait, and being surrounded by his brothers and sisters in the branch his baptism day came.

 He was baptized by Nkosikhona Maata.  Nkosikhona was recently baptized himself.  Notice the smile on his face.  It speaks volumes.  Because Silindokuhle's name has been hard for us and the other missionaries to pronounce we often call him Good Times.  This nickname was given to him by the Elders from a shirt that he wears with that lettering on it.  It fits this group of youth perfectly.  When they are together they see to it that their time is Good.  
 Good Times smile can light up a room.  Below he is standing next to his mother.  This story does not just end with Silindokuhle's  baptism.  Because of the changes she has seen in her sons life, she is now taking the missionary lessons and progressing well.  The missionaries are also teaching her significant other that is pictured below (Pierre).  Pierre is a former member of the Jehovah Witness Church.  He read the Book of Mormon in two weeks, and is now reading the Doctrine and Covenants along with a study guide.  Hopefully, this story is "To Be Continued".

At Silindokuhle's baptism, his friends were there with Ayabonga giving the opening prayer, Sibongiseni giving a talk on baptism, and Bouso offering the closing prayer.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Field Trip...

My granddaughter, Tessa Watson, asked me to participate in a school project with her called "Flat Stanley".  You can read about the project here Flat Stanley Project.
We have had great fun taking Flat Stanley to see the sights in South Africa.  Today we made a special trip to a school and met students and teachers who attend and work at one of the oldest schools in South Africa.  

Welcome to Shaw Park Primary School.  As you can see, this is a very old school founded in 1880.  Shaw Park is what they call in Africa a "Farm School" since it is located on rich beautiful farmland.  The drive there is about 15 minutes from the main highway on a dirt road complete with what seemed like thousands of potholes.  Because of the thick growth, it is hard to see homes, but they do exist and children live in them and thus a school.  The school offers boarding for some of the teachers so they do not have to make the 40 minute drive each day, one way,  from Port Alfred.  FYI, the flower on the logo is the National flower of South Africa  flower called King Protea.

This is Africa's version of "morning muster".  Notice all of the white faces at this school.  Farm schools accept students by application, are privately funded, have little or no violence, offer small classes, set a high standard of achievement, and teach in the English language and not the tribal Xhosa (pronounced Kosa) language.  Public schools in Africa have class sizes of up to 60 students per class and set as a passing grade 30%.  Let your imagination roam as you can imagine all the other problems that accompany those standards.

Bouso is will be eight years old on May 7th.  She is a member of our Branch that attends Shaw Park.  She was able to secure a Bursarie (scholarship) to attend from the Johnson & Johnson Company.  Thank you America and the Principal at the school !!!

Each day it is a students job to clean off the chalkboard.  Bet you haven't seen one of these for awhile.

Grade Two at Shaw Park Elementary. 

The Principal is on the left with her some of her staff.

This is the custodian at Shaw Park.  She is standing in the library.  There are a few books on one other wall and that is it.  I nearly cried when I saw this library. We are so blessed in America.   If anyone from Bowler Elementary reads this will you please show this picture to Mr. Hardy and Mrs. Millington.

Playground equipment.
Lunchroom…yup…outdoors!  I am not sure but I think it comes complete with monkeys. (and I don't mean the human ones)
These are the transports that are used each day to carry the students.  Our little Bouso catches the transport at 7:10 every morning and arrives home around 3:30.  The Principal drives one of the transports everyday from Port Alfred.

And here is what I think is one of the best parts of this school.  There is a church on site.  They are not afraid to talk about God at this school.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Because I Have Been Given Much...

Look at my cute grandsons.  We mentioned that we were struggling finding enough funds to take our members to the temple in July.  They came up with this great idea.  I think they have done very well.  Do you blame them.  Could any Grandma resist those blue eyes?
 Hello, my name is James Astling. I am doing a service project for my Grandparents who are serving an LDS mission in South Africa. Some of their branch members would like to go to the temple, but they don't have enough money to rent a bus for the 13 hour drive to the nearest temple. So, I am making chocolate cremes to sell for Easter baskets and sending the money to them. Each package is $3.00 and contains six chocolate cremes. The flavors are orange, black cherry, strawberry, mixed berry, grape and lemon. If you would like to purchase a package or many package, please post your request here. I will deliver them Thursday or Friday before Easter. We made a bunch but my brothers are buying a lot of them, so get them before they are gone!
 Rolling the dough.  From left to right, James, Spencer, and D.J.
James is the mastermind.  He will also get credit at school for completing a service project.    I will list some of the obstacles that our members are up against as they try to save money for a temple trip.  
  • Port Alfred is a 13 hour drive from the Johannesburg Temple.
  • We have 73 members in our branch.  Out of those members only four own cars.
  • We will take a fourteen passenger taxi from here to Grahamstown (a 45 minute drive) and then catch the bus from there.
  • The medium monthly salary for a family in our branch is $300.00.
  • If, with the help from the Saints in America, we could take 20 members.  This would be HUGE!!!  
  • Two families are working towards being sealed. (7) Two sisters will receive their own endowment.(2)  Five who will be returning for only the second time in their life, and five youth.  (10)  We are planning on 20.  If it works out we can take more, we will !!!
  • The cost to get to the temple is $150.00 per person.  (this cost does not include garments/temple clothing)
  • If more than one family member would like to go….well do the math.
  • We are currently working with the youth to go to the temple to do baptisms.
  • The branch has introduced the new program on called "My Family" to ready names for temple work
  • Fundraising here is nearly impossible.  It is all they can do to feed, clothe, and house their families.  They have NOTHING to sale at a garage sale.  We had a death in our branch two weeks ago.  We took up a collection to help with funeral costs.  The average donation was $ .50.
  • Financial sacrifice on their part will also be required.  They must do their part.