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!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Make A Joyful Noise….

March 31:  It was 5th Sunday, and I was in charge of 3rd hour.  On the 24th I had given a talk in Sacrament Meeting on the hymns of the church, encouraging each member to come prepared to share a favorite hymn or preferably to select a new hymn to learn. In our branch, we have an organ that has a computer chip in it that plays a few hymns.  It was our hope to teach the members some new ones.   President and Sister Stapley were there visiting from our Mission Presidency and she can play the piano, so between the two of us we had accompaniment.  I gave a short tour through the hymnbook explaining how it is set up and then we sang.  Oh did we sing.  Now, you just must understand that this was one of those "had to be there" experiences to fully appreciate it.  A few chose hymns that were not familiar, but most chose hymns that they knew.  I'm telling you.  There is something about their diaphragms.  There were about forty members there and we just simply raised the roof.  It was AWESOME!!!!  We came to the end of the hour and closed with prayer.  After the prayer, no one moved.  They just kept singing.  One would shout out a hymn number and we sang, and sang, and sang for another 15 minutes.  I am attaching a picture of the white board I used for the lesson. I asked each member to write on the board why they loved the hymns and one by one each member came and made a statement.   I am so upset we did not record this. It was in the chapel so we did not.   I think I should have bent the rules for this one!!!

As The Branch Turns….

May 24th:  We show up at church and as usual during Sacrament meeting President Wheeler evaluates which teachers have showed up and which have not.  We were short our Youth Sunday School, Gospel Doctrine, Young Women's, and Young Men's.  We kind of look at each other and smile and know we are on board for teaching.  "As the Branch Turns".  We also had a new investigator attend.  After Sacrament Meeting, I took the new investigator around and settle her children in to Primary explaining about the different auxiliaries.  Dad went to the Gospel Principles class with the investigator because she could not be alone with the Elders and I went in to see what the Youth Sunday School class was doing while the counselors in the Branch Presidency handled Gospel Doctrine.  I was blown away by the youth.  They had gone in to the clerks office and pulled the Come Follow Me Manual and was well in to the lesson.  I quietly took my seat.  One of Young Men (Sonwambile) had selected the lesson and was teaching, while one of the YW (Bouso) was the scribe.  It was an amazing lesson.  They had written the scriptures on the board, and assigned each class member one of the scriptures to read and explain what that scripture meant.  They each took turns and each scripture lead to a discussion.  The lesson was on the Holy Ghost.  The last thing the "teacher" did was to have each of the members of the class share a time where they have listened to the Holy Ghost and heeded the counsel.  I will share Ayabonga Mgadi's reply.  Some background.  You have heard us talk about one of the great obstacles our members face in overcoming the unrighteous traditions of their Father's.  The Mgadi Family had held the previous week one of those traditions.  There is dancing, singing, ancestor worship, drinking, slaughtering of animals, and more.  They begin on the beach, move to the Kowie River and then go in to the Bush for more traditional 'stuff'.  Now listen to Ayabonga:

"Yo, Sister Wheeler.  I am so tired.  I stayed up until 3:00 am with the family singing and dancing and playing the drum.  They painted our faces with some kind of clay and at 3:00 am in the morning we were supposed to wash our face with Vodka.  I said to my father, I must run.  I can not do this."  My Father let me go to my room.  I went to sleep, but the Holy Spirit told me that I must get up and go to church and so I listened and I am here."

Let me mention that Ayabonga last weekend completed all of her requirements to receive her Young Women's Medallion.  She is the first from the Port Alfred Branch.

One more thing on the 24th.  I was teaching in Relief Society.  The YW did not have a leader, so I gave them the choice.  Do you want to combine with the RS or teach yourself.  "We want to teach our own lesson".  "O.K." said I with a pray in my heart that it would not turn in to a chat session.  After church I took the three Young Women that were there with me to deliver invitations for Personal Progress that was scheduled for Wednesday.  I asked how the lesson went.  "It was great Sister Wheeler.  We talked about following the Prophets and the discussion went to receiving our Patriarchal Blessings.  Ayabonga has received hers.  I want to prepare myself for a blessing."  President will work with Asemachle to have this happen in her life.