Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happily "FOREVER" After !

I will begin this post with the end. 

 Santee Labala and Olwethu Ngcibi 
Sealed for time and all eternity in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple, October 22, 2014.

There were:
  • No engraved invitations sent
  • No bridal showers
  • No flowers (other than the beautiful roses blooming on the temple grounds)
  • No tuxedos
  • No bridesmaids
  • No receptions
  • No wedding breakfasts
  • No buffets or refreshments
  • No cute favors
  • No table decorations
  • And sadly, no family.  Each are the only members in their families.  

It was simply a beautiful day abounding in peace and love and hope and priceless covenants made.

Now for a short history.  Santee served as a missionary in the Cape Town South Africa Mission two years ago.  While there he served in the Port Alfred Branch for a period of time where he met Olwethu who was seventeen at the time.  He completed and served an honorable mission.  About a year after returning home to Botswana (about an eighteen hour drive from PA) they began corresponding.  Olwethu graduated from High School and went on to college.  There's was a long distance relationship that worked.  They had many obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is the traditions of their ancestors and the eight-cow wife bargaining.    Bottom line, these two amazing people, made the choice to follow the traditions of the church that they firmly testify of and be married for time and all eternity.  No family members attended from either side.  Olwethu's mother is a member but could not make the 13 hour bus drive.  

President Wheeler and I decided to fly to Johannesburg rather than make the 13 hours drive.  Olwethu took a bus from East London and Santee from Botswana.  We picked them up at the bus station which is a experience in and of itself.  Johannesburg has 5 million people.  The bus station is ENORMOUS.  

While waiting you can do a little shopping in an open air market.

You can even pick up a slab of lamb.

Finally at about 11:00 am the couple are united!

With no sleep (Olwethu rode the bus all night long) and adrenalin flowing, Olwethu was endowed on the 3:30 session.  Elder Carl B. Cook, who is our area president, and his lovely wife were able to attend the endowment session.  Santee was an A.P. while serving as a missionary in Cape Town, and did a mission tour with Elder Cook.  They have remained in contact ever since.  Santee is in the bishopric in the YSA ward in Botswana.

The wedding ceremony on Wednesday was lovely.  The bride and groom were glowing.  

Santee had six members of his ward in Botswana attend.  We did not get a picture of some of them.  These two mama's promised me that they would take good care of Olwethu when she moves to Botswana.  Olwethu must return to East London on Friday to complete her semester of college before moving to Botswana.  Both sides of the family will hold some kind of a traditional wedding ceremony for the bride and the groom.  Until that happens, neither of the families will recognize this wedding as official.  However, they know, and we know that in the eye's of the Lord it is official and binding for all eternity.  Santee and Olwethu Labala will be two stalwarts in the growth of the church in South Africa.  They are a setting a strong and bold example for the youth of the church to follow in this country that is steeped in traditions.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Johannesburg, Mandela, the Tree of Life, and REAL American Food!

President Wheeler and I are in Johannesburg.  We are here to attend a temple wedding!!! More on that later.  We had a little time between our flight landing and our scheduled time of arrival at the Temple and we decided to go to Mandela Square.  We were impressed as we saw this bigger than life statue of Nelson Mandela.  Right next to it was a sculpture of what we call "The Tree of Life".  Volumes of books have been written on this great man who is, like the statue you see, bigger than life.  He is revered by the people in South Africa regardless of color.  We believe as missionaries for Jesus Christ and we would not be seeing the success with the work here if it were not for this hero.  The work he did laid the foundation for the gospel of Jesus Christ (The Tree of Life) to be taught in Africa.

The statue is in a courtyard with shopping surrounding it on all four sides, thus forming a square.  We wandered through the shopping and felt like we were in America.  All kinds of American stores.  The Gap, Sketcher, Levi, Pac Sun, American Eagle, I-Mac, and many more.  Oh, but we hit the JACKPOT when we found this restaurant.  REAL AMERICAN FOOD.  Now, don't get me wrong.  We love everything about Africa, but I still have a hard time with the food here.  We poured over the menu!  What shall we choose.  Fajitas for President and a good ol' BBQ chicken sandwich for me with baked beans.  We slicked up our plates like we hadn't eaten for 12 months.  Oh wait!  We haven't eaten American food for twelve months.  It was a good way to celebrate our one year anniversary of entering the MTC.  Life is good.  

We are in "Seven" Heaven!

That is correct.  Seven new members have been baptized in the last month.  

First came the baptism of all four of Nonzame Kafrijte's children who were of age.  The youngest is in Elder Branch's arms and is three years old.  I must also mention here how blessed we are to have Elder Prisbrey and Elder Branch.  They are dynamite Elders.  Obedient and faithful.  

This past Sunday we added three more members.  Two girls who are YSA age.  Memory Chinoyere and Praise Nyemba.  The young many is Siphosethu Jawuka.  He is 17 years old.  The highlight of the day for me was in the chapel as we were singing the closing song, "Count Your Many Blessings".  I was leading and looked down at Praise.  If I had just given her a million dollars, I don't think her smile could have gotten any bigger.  These girls are golden.  They practically taught the lessons to the Elders.  The Elders would give them an assignment and the next week when they came, the girls gave the lesson to the Elder's and they just fine-tuned what the spirit was manifesting to them.

Siphosethu with his mother and baby sister.  President Merrill, our Mission President has asked the missionaries to make sure that the parents understand the commitment that is required with membership in our church.  She is thrilled for her son.  We'll see if she will follow in "His" footsteps.

Memory on the left with Praise on the right and their sister Agnes in the middle who came for support and is also taking the lessons. Our Elders are BUSY!

While all of the ordinances are taking place our dedicated RS Presidency are in the kitchen  fixing a light luncheon for all the members.  We hold our baptisms directly after the three hour block, which makes for some hungry members.  From right to left are Nomsa, Elizah, Sinomtha, and Monica.  We love these good sisters.

Zion is growing in Port Alfred!

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I love them.  Every one.  The women of Africa!

A side note.  They are genius.  Having a bad hair day.  Just wrap a scarf around your head and you are good to go.  

Random Ramblings….

This post consists of randomness.  Things I want to remember about Africa.  You may or may not want to read on.  The choice is yours.

Peddie Soccor Team
While attending a funeral in a remote town of South Africa, called Peddie, I captured a picture of these boys playing soccer.  Notice the ball.  It is handmade by these awesome boys.  They take grocery sacks and roll them together to form the ball.  No bounce to it, the shape is a little off, but it works just dandy!

Milk crates are used for the goals and let the game begin!

Shaw Park Elementary School Library
President Wheeler and I drove to Shaw Park Elementary School to talk with the Principal there to set up a service project.  Shaw Park is a "Farm School".  Enrollment is around 175 from K - 6.  Located 30 minutes away from the closest town, on a dirt road, it operates solely off of grants and big hearted donations.  Some monies are collected from tuition.  "Some"  meaning very little.

While waiting for our appointment I took a tour of the library.  Since the last four years of employment for me were at Bowler Elementary in the library, I am always interested in books.  Especially Children's books.  The following two pictures are it.  The sum total of their library.  It is very well-maintained and orderly, but very scant.  The first picture is the non-fiction books.  The next is fiction.

Imagine my surprise when I found the "Hardy Boys Series".  If anyone reading this blog works at Bowler Elementary, will you please show this to Mr. Hardy.  No "Diary of a Wimpy Kid", "Percy Jackson", or "Peter and the Starcatchers".  Oh "If I were a rich man", I would buy this school books!  If Mr. Hardy sees this post, have him look closely.  He will recognize some of the sets in the non-fiction section.

And now, drumroll please!!!  I can not tell you how excited I get when I find American Products.  When I saw this I just froze.  I think I stood for five minutes and just stared.  I am surprised security didn't come and ask if I was O.K.  This is the first package of Hershey Kisses I have seen in South Africa.  Here is the kicker.  Check out the price.  In American dollars that is about $6.00.  The package you see doesn't indicate it, but there are roughly 24 kisses in this package.  Did I buy?  Not on your life.  I was so excited.  There were three varieties.  Oreo, plain milk chocolate, and chocolate with almonds.  I'm going back to "Super Spar" (the name of the grocery store) stare some more.

Juicy Fruit!

 This post will consist of randomness.  Mostly things I want to remember about Africa.  Read on if you like.  While at Zone Conference last week, President and I went for a lovely morning walk.  I am always amazed at what I see growing here.  Anyone up for a fresh mango.  They are almost ready to harvest.   
I had just been to the market to pick up these freshly picked pineapples.  Sister Thomas is holding one to show how large they are.  I purchased 20 pineapples for $7.00.  Thirty five cents each.  And, oh man, they are so good.  Most of the native Africans here cut the top off, grab a spoon and just go for it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lebola ~ or ~ Bride Price ~ or ~ Eight Cow Wife!

Drum Roll Please! 
 We are so happy to announce the marriage of Santee Labola and Olewthu Nycibi in the Johannesburg Temple on October 22nd.  
Are they not a darling couple!!!

Lebola has been settled and the Bride Price determined!

We have been so nervous wondering if the families would settle and the marriage could really take place.  The Xhosa tradition and custom is such that a man pays the family of his fiancee for her hand in marriage.  The primary purpose of lobola is to build relations between the respective families.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we do not encourage this tradition, however, out of respect for their ancestors Santee went ahead with negotiations.  

Santee was a missionary here in Port Alfred.  He met Olewthu while serving here.  He returned home to Botswana, they started communicating and the rest is history.  They are an amazing couple.  Santee serves in the Bishopric in his ward in Botswana.  Olewthu is in school in East London.

President Wheeler was invited to participate in the negotiations.  He drove with Santee and his Uncle who had traveled over 1200 kilometers from Botswana and also Brother Kondile, our Elder's Quorum President, who helped with translation.  Originally lobolo payment was in cattle as cattle were the primary symbol of wealth in African society.  In this situation, they determine the price of what one head of cattle would be and then take the money in cash.  So, if the price of one cow is $500 and you are an eight cow wife, you must come up with $4,000 american dollars.  Unfortunately, what began as a uniting of two families has turned a bit greedy.  Thus, our churches indifference with lobola.  If the brides family demands a high price, the groom must go far in to debt before he is even married to win his bride over.

At the beginning of negotiations, introductions were made, an offering of two bottles of Bourbon, a bottle of Whiskey, a pack of tobacco, some sugar and some rice were placed on the table.  The bride and groom are not allowed in negotiations.  It takes place between the Elders of the families and in this case President Wheeler was permitted in the room.  Often the meetings can go on for weeks, with a discussion taking place, the concerned parties separating to consider the offer and then returning for more negotiations.  Because of the distance, it was made clear that a final decision must be made at this meeting.  Back and forth the families went until all were satisfied.  I am not permitted to share with you on this public blog what the Bride Price was.  All I can tell you is that our little branch is going to have a first.  A temple marriage.  Not a sealing after a civil ceremony, but a couple who have committed to keeping and honoring the covenants they have made so far and will now take those choices to a higher level.  Halelujah!  It is a good day in the Port Alfred Branch.

I dare you to try this the next time you eat out!

Stay with me on this post.  I promise it will make sense in the end.
Elder's love to eat.  I love to cook.  It is a perfect combination.  Most often the eating takes place at our Flat.  Today was different.  Read on.

Today we took Elder Branch and Elder Prisbrey to Fish River Sun to Breakfast.  We have eaten at many breakfast buffets in our lives, but you have never lived until you have watched these two boys put away food at the Wahoo Restaurant Breakfast Buffet.  I stopped counting after Elder Branch had two omelets and five fried eggs.  That did not count the fruit, meat, pastries and juice.  I know.  It sort of made me sick too.  

But here comes the best part.  As we were eating, we heard the "Help" burst out in to singing "Happy Birthday".  This was not the American version of 'Happy Birthday To You.'  It was African style!  It was amazing.  We grabbed our cameras and headed to that area of the restaurant, only to miss it.  I was feeling sad and asked if they would not sing for us.  One of the girls said, "Only for birthdays madam".  I tried again.  "We would love to".  So here is the kitchen help at Fish River Sun singing impromptu a song whose lyrics mean "May our two worlds come together in Peace."  So the next time you are at Applebees, hey, round up the kitchen staff and let 'er rip.  One thing I love about the African's when they sing is that they are always moving' to to music!