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!


  1. Sister Wheeler,

    My name is Scott Ahlstrom and I served as the Branch President in Port Alfred in 2008 as part of my missionary assignment. Tonight, I had the impression to check in on Helen Dell so I Google, "Helen Dell, Port Alfred, South Africa LDS." Your blog post showed up and once I started reading, my heart was overjoyed to hear this news. I was very close to the Mgadi family, Sister Dell, and President Neku.

    Thank you so much for your service. Please reach out to me when you return home to the states. My email address is

    Scott Ahlstrom

  2. My name is Chris Heaton, I like Scott served in Port Alfred. My first area in my mission was here (August 2005). When I served there was only a couple members and we were a "twig" of the Gramstolen Branch. It's great to see the growth of this branch and to see and hear about Sister Dell. Thanks for sharing.
    Chris Heaton