Friday, July 31, 2015

Brother Hola Builds A House!

 They say a man's home is his castle.  Brother Hola has a new castle and his queen, Cynthia is thrilled!  We are so excited for their family!  The project began in September 2014 and after much effort and hours and hours of donated labor, blood, sweat and tears the project is complete.  The frame is sticks, the insulation is mud, and the outside has a layer of cement.  Cozy!   

The children's bedroom, complete with sleeping babies.  Three sons and one daughter share this room.

The master bedroom for the King and Queen!

The kitchen.

The laundry room.

The yard.

The neighborhood.

The neighbors.

And this has nothing to do about this post whatsoever, but I just thought it was an awesome creation.  It is bigger than life and made out of re-cycled cans!  Cool!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ten reasons why I love attending the temple in Johannesburg...

July 6th ~ 10th was the Port Alfred Branch Temple excursion.  As we begin to close some of the chapters of our African Adventure, this particular one was very sweet.  I will share with you a few of the reasons why we will always cherish this experience.  

#1.  The first reason is definitely our members.  We took six this year.  On the back row next to Elder Wheeler is Brother Canny Nobebe.  Canny served as First Counselor to then President Wheeler.  Brother Vivian Prince was attending for his first time.  Always a tender experience.  Left to right on the front row is Nomsa Nteyi, our RS President.  Sister Helen Dell, our Primary President, Ntombiyakhe Dayile, our YW President, and Sister Nompumelelo Vulindu, our Gospel Doctrine Teacher.  Elder Wheeler and I chose to fly to Joberg this year.  These stalwart souls boarded a bus on Monday at 5:00 pm and arrived at the temple the next morning at 10:00 am.  A seventeen hour bus ride!

#2.  We feel safe.  In a city of five million people, you can get a bit jittery.  There are two guarded gates that you pass through to arrive at housing.  These are some of our security friends that welcome us.

#3.  We feel connected and informed.  The Temple complex is also the location of the Africa Southeast Area Offices.  Every office of the church can be found here from finances, to technical support and on and on.  If we have questions, we know we can find an answer from someone here, and we have used this resource.  You can see the banners hanging in the parking lot.  They were having a fitness week with competitions between different offices.  It was fun to watch.

#4.  I feel the strength of Priesthood Leadership.  Elder Carl B. Cook, Elder Stanley G. Ellis, and Elder Kevin S. Hamilton along with their wives are all housed in this building on the complex.  

#5.  I feel like I am home.  LDS Distribution Center.  You just gotta love it!

#6.  I love meeting other members.  This is Sister Gorman.  She has been such a great help to us on all four of our temple trips.  Her job is like being the concierge at the tower of Babel.  Members from South Africa, The Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Namibia, Swaziland, and Tanzania.  Each of these countries speaking a different language.  If you ever questioned that this church is a church of miracles, then you haven't met Sister Gorman.  She should have wings and a halo!

I was particularly impressed this year as we worked in the Baptistry.  We had groups from the Congo, Madagascar, Cape Town, and Port Alfred.  It felt like Zion.  All served and helped each other with no regard for themselves.  It was just a "what can I do to help you" feeling.  Service at it's best.  Sister Dell and I were able to take with us 425 ordinances for her family.  I did baptisms for some of the sisters.  One brother from Cape Town was particularly emotional as he performed baptisms for some of the brethren whose names we brought.  He was unaware of who they were until that moment.  Very sweet. 

#7.  I feel comfort.  The church completed a new Temple Housing Unit just before we came on mission.  It was wonderful after a very full day of Family History and Temple work to retire to the peacefulness of the lovely accommodations there.  I will for now and forever more contribute to the Temple Fund of the church.  If each member of my family including us donated but $15.00 a month to the temple fund it could pay for one of our members to attend the temple each month.  I can give up Five Guys Burgers and Fries for that.

#8.  My tummy is happy.  The Temple just got a new chef.  Yippee!!!  She is awesome and so is her staff.  Three meals a day and they are yummy.

#9.  There is always a surprise!  The gardeners were clearing out  these pomegranate bushes.  What a treat.  He thought we were crazy snatching the fruit from the tree.

 #10.  I get to attend the temple with this tower of a man.  My eternal companion.  My friend through thick and thin.  Oh how we have grown and learned to love each other at a deeper level on mission.  It has been an honor to serve with him.  Our love truly is eternal.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Dell Family Chronicles…I have been bitten!

Meet my friend Helen Dell.  Isn't she beautiful.
Helen is a faithful member of the church, the only member in her family, our Branch Primary President at 71 years of age, a former nurse/midwife, never married, loves animals and communicates with them, a cancer survivor, struggles with heart problems and diabetes, has a memory as sharp as a tack, and is just an overall charming woman.  I love her dearly.

We had been on mission for about six months and we were preparing to go to the temple as a branch.  President Wheeler asked me if I could help some of the members with Family Search so as to take family names with us when we went.  As with most church callings, one accepts and then just tries to figure out what it is the Lord expects you to do.  About all I knew of the Family Search Program was how to log on and make a fan chart.  I began to learn.  And fast.  Helen approached me and asked if I would help her with her work.  I agreed and we began meeting every Wednesday.  Helen had served as a Family History missionary, but with the changes in the computer program she had not kept up with the latest.  Together we began to figure things out.  I would go to her house each week and we would work from a set of photocopied papers that she had in a binder.  The folder was very well laid out with names, birth years, some marriage years, death years but no particular days.  After many weeks of working with these papers I finally said to Helen, "Where did you get these papers from?"  Without a word, she got up from her chair and left the room.  When she came back in she handed me a 500 page book entitled "The Dell Family Chronicles" published in 1979 by Margareate Jeal.  I was astonished!  This book had dates, histories, pictures, charts, drawings, and more!  

Well, the rest is history.  Or should I say Family History.  We were maniacs.  I love puzzles and this was one big huge missing piece of the puzzle that leads to more puzzles and on and on.  The Dell Family was part of the 1820 Settlers that sailed from England with the promise of free land.  I was a woman possessed.  I told President Wheeler that I would like to be released from all my other callings so as to just work on this project.  He laughed.  I spent every spare minute I could working on her line.  Sometimes with Helen and sometimes not.  Unfortunately, Helen was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to go to the temple in 2014.  She has recouped and this year……read on!

 We were able to take 425 ordinances to the temple!!!

These three cute young men from a ward in Cape Town helped us with male baptisms.  I was able to do some of the baptisms for the women.  I will bring the rest of the ordinance cards to America and work on them from there.

The church has a wonderful Family Search library on the Temple Complex.  Elder and Sister Jarvi answered a slew of questions for me.  It was so fun to read the wills from all of Helen's family and to clear up some major discrepancies.  

I have photocopied the Dell Family Chronicles Book to take back with me to America.  I feel like I am an honorary member of her family.  I think I know more about her ancestors than I do my own.  I must fix that.  Working on Family history in South Africa is like working with a clean slate.  I could work for days to find one name on my line whereas here, since nothing has been done it is all new territory!  There are many, many reasons that the Lord put me in South Africa.  One of those reasons I know for a surety is to help this good woman connect her family for Time and for all Eternity.  Serving in this church is an honor.  Having so much fun in a calling is pure joy!

Monday, June 29, 2015

"P" Stands for P-day….but this Monday it was Pineapple Day!

If we get some time on P-day one of the things we like to do is to just start driving and if we see a road that is interesting we take it.  We drove towards Grahamstown and took a road that said it was to a game reserve.  Instead, we came across acres and acres of Pineapple Fields.  The Eastern Cape is the biggest pineapple producing region of South Africa.  We happened to hit it on harvest day.  Each pineapple is hand-picked.  The tops are taken off to use for planting.  

The pineapples are placed on this conveyor belt with the tops going on to another belt.

The variety growing on the Eastern Cape are called Cayenne.  They are sooooo delicious and so sweet.  

The pineapples are loaded in to crates and trucked off to Port Elizabeth to ship.  We bought seven pineapples from these kind gentlemen for $1.00.
The itty bitty baby pineapples.

The Moma Size Pineapples...

The Daddy Sized Pineapples...
We drove a little further and came across a bamboo farm.  Who knew….

Monday, June 22, 2015

An unexpected treat….

An unexpected surprise was had when Riley and Kaye were visiting.  We wanted to pet Gambit the giraffe, but the park was closed for a private function.  We drove to Bathurst and came across the St. John's church named after St. John the Evangelist.  
The first meeting was held in 1838 after ten years of construction.  Through the years it had been used as a military post for many of the 1820 Settler wars as well as a shelter for the whites seeking refuge from the Xhosa tribes. 

Hanging in the church are the simple and uncompromising Stations of the Cross.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

History in the making….

June 14, 2015 was an historic day for the Port Alfred, South Africa Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Our branch was officially absorbed in to the Port Elizabeth Stake and is no longer a branch of the Cape Town South Africa Mission. Most importantly, for the first time in our history we will now have local leadership rather than a Missionary Couple. From L to R: President Merrill (Cape Town SA Mission President, Patrick Nteyi (Elders Quorum First Counselor), Ncebazakhe Hola (Elder's Quorum President), Sinethemba Neku (PE Stake President), Canny Nobebe (1st Couns. Branch Pres.), Herman Van Theil (PE Stake High Counselor), Mzwabantu Kondile (PA Branch Pres.), Paul Van Theil (PE Stake 2nd Counselor), Vuivuysile Matshotyana (PA Branch 2nd Counselor), Elder Paul Wheeler (newly released Branch Pres.) Zion is growing in South Africa!

President Wheeler's last official order of business was to present Ayabonga Mgadi her Young Womanhood Recognition.  Aya is the first girl to achieve this great honor in the Port Alfred Branch.  Her mother, Patience Mgadi, is presenting her with the medallion while Ntombiyakhe Dayile, the YW President, is watching.  
Aya then bore her testimony of how working in this program has strengthened her testimony and given her direction in her life.
The meeting started about 20 minutes late.  President Neku was still doing interviews, as he had traveled two hours from Port Elizabeth that morning to be with us.  When the business portion of the meeting began, President Merrill released President Paul Jay Wheeler and then presented the Port Alfred Branch to become part of the Port Elizabeth Stake.  From that point on President Neku presided.  
Making the change in the Branch Presidency had been a very well-kept secret.  The members were all very aware that The Wheeler's would be returning to America soon, and assumed that a new missionary couple would be called and put in place as the new Branch President.  I was sitting on the stand and could see the look of shock on their faces as the name of Mzwabantu Kondile (pictured below) was presented as the new Branch President in Port Alfred.  After the Sacrament, President Neku requested that we open the meeting up for testimonies.  Our meeting was "A Spirit of God Like A Fire Is Burning" meeting.  One by one, members came up and pledged their support to President Kondile and thanked President Wheeler for his loving service.  One Sister said, "I am just so excited, I can't stop shaking".  One of their own is their new leader.  They will definitely experience some growing pains, but the Lord has prepared this people for great things.  They are now just a handful of Saints, but one day they will be a ward and then a Stake.  History in the making.

Just one last picture.  Notice in the picture the two Priests who are blessing the Sacrament.  Sonwambile Magawu (left) is leaning back on his chair.  When President Neku came in and took his place on the stand he leaned back in his chair to get a good look at him.  In his mind I am sure he was saying, "Yup.  He really is black.  He is one of us."  He rolled his chair back on to all fours and about one minute later did the same thing.  Yes, Sonwambile.  You have one of your own as your Priesthood leader.  This is the Lord's church and he is directing this work.  I was behind Sonwambile and tapped him on the shoulder to let him know that this is the man that would interview him for his mission.  

 And these are "A Few of My Favorite Things" from the meeting….
Sister Helen Dell was present when the Port Alfred Branch was first organized.  There were only three members present.  We have over 80 now!  She openly wept at the news!  

Liyema Mgawu was welcomed in to Young Womens and given her torch necklace and Personal Progress Book.

 Youth Sunday School Class.  Professor Riley Nelson was there to tell them what life at BYU was like!

 Our Primary Class was small on Sunday but look at these great kids.

Could you find a happier group of Young Women in all of the church????

A sweet and tender mercy was to have Paul's sister Kaye and her amazing husband Riley join us for this memorable event.  They even helped us clean the church on Sunday.  We love them so much and were thrilled they could share this day with us!