Friday, May 28, 2010

No Danger Music! -gfh

We travel to the temple or Area Office at least once a week. Along the route we travel through heavy construction with barriers and dodge large construction equipment. The foot traffic can be just as dangerous as the road takes us through the middle of Johannesburg University Campus. There is a billboard along the way that has a very timely message. It reads in very large letters filling up the enitre billboard "The Problem With Life is there is no Danger Music". It makes me think of the movies like "Jaws" or "Indiana Jones" or any suspenseful movie and how the audience knows there's danger coming by the music. This message seems very appropriate for Jahannesburg,South Africa, which I have mentioned before, is not for sissies! But how grateful I am that we don't have to go through life with no danger music to warn us. The Holy Ghost actually sends us the sweetest music to give us warning and peace if we follow his promptings. That is part of the message that we are here to share. (and I didn't notice what that billboard was actually selling!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baptism in South Africa -gfh

The Church is growing rapidly here in South Africa! Our Area is the highest baptizing Area in the church. An interesting statistic is that 42% of the new members are in the Young Single Adult age group of 18-30 years. This is a dynamic group of young people who are the future of the church!
In our Ennerdale Branch during the last two months we have had (and will have next week) eight baptisms four of which are YSA. It is a delight to attend the baptisms! There is a feeling of excitement and energy that is softened by The Spirit. The African people show great enthusiasm and "get involved" in what is taking place. So as this tendency is softened a little there is still expressions of excitement that we normally don't see in The Church in the states i.e. some cheers as the baptism is completed sucessfully after the second try.
The Ennerdale Branch has a baptismal font outside. It does have a heater however which makes things more comfortable. I'm including some pictures to help you "get the picture".

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hakuna Matata -gfh

I stagger out of bed nearly every morning at 5:00AM to ride the stationary exercise bike. I open the curtains so I can look out over the city lights from our little flat on the hill. As the beads of sweat start to glisten the sun starts to rise and the African sky becomes a glorious glow of orange! I am reminded of the beginning scene of the "Lion King" movie when the sun suddenly bursts upon the day! The scripture from Psalms 118:24 comes to mind: "This is the day which the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." What a wonderful way to start the day! The Swahili also say it well "Hakuna Matata"

Skin That Cracks! -gfh

I marvel at the beautifully smooth wrinkle free skin of the black African women! It definitely is an envy! It is difficult to tell how old they are. But I have heard that we older white skinned American women are a fascination to the black African women as well. They wonder why our skin "cracks" as we get old. Me, too!

Pictures from our "Street Meeting" in Dobsonville -gfh

We set up plastic crates on the corner at the market and starting singing hymns.

..and then "we worked the crowd"

For more pictures go to side bar SnapFish Album

What's In A Name? -gfh

We are finding names interesting here in South Africa. First of all, the youth are very respectful and call us "Mam & Sir". There are kids playing around our flat often when we come home and they always say "How are you MamnSir?" just like it is one word. Then a surprise is how we are called Momma and Daddy. And again they run the two words together like "mommadaddy" One day one of the missionaries was talking about a woman in his area and referred to her as "a black Momma". I thought that was disrespectful at the time and now I realize that is just a term that is used by everyone. I hear all the time from another adult talking to me "yes,momma" or "sure, momma" etc.
The given names are beautiful. In fact, sometimes the name is "Beautiful". Other examples are names of people we've met such as: Precious,Bright,Pride,Delight,Witness, Rejoice,Innocent, Memory, Happiness, Progress, Justice, Blessing, Gift,knowledge, and a favorite, Hilarious. And the name of a referral who called in to the office was Lovers. Okay.
One of our elders name was changed and misspelled when his ID papers were filled out by someone else. The spelling of both his given and his surnames were misspelled. His surname is no longer spelled the same way as his fathers and his middle name was completely changed. His middle name is Andrews and it was changed to Anyway. Now the sad thing is that he has to go by these name changes because they are on his ID card. Maybe someday he'll be able to correct them. Who knows.
We've also had a challenge with the missionaries going by a different name than their surname. We'll get the application from Salt Lake with one surname and then when they arrive and the name tag has been delivered we find that they want to go by a different name...maybe their given name or middle name.

Names have been an interesting part of our South Africa experience so far and I haven't even mentioned the problem we have pronoucing them correctly! One of our missionary names is "Randriampamonjisoa". Give it a try.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Life is earnest, life is real! . . . rh

I’ve been wanting to post here to tell everyone some of the great things that have been going on here in our mission. Not this last week, but the week before, we had a couples’ conference for all of the senior couples serving. Everyone came to Johannesburg for three days. We had training from President Poulsen, shared ideas amongst ourselves about the things we all are doing, received uplifting messages from the former president of the Zimbabwe mission and his wife, had dinner and a fireside with the Area President and his wife, and finished up by having a temple session together. It was a great three days, even though we came back to work with extra things piled up on our desks.

Saturday morning, the office couples along with about eight missionaries from the Soweto Zone and two elders still in the MTC had a street meeting in an open air market in Dobsonville. We sang hymns and four of the elders gave short presentations on the restoration, the Plan of Salvation, etc. We only got a few people to stop and listen to us, but we probably gave out 100 pass-along cards to folks in the market after we were through. What a great experience!

Today in our meetings, we heard from Elder Jackson Mkabela, one of the Area Seventy sustained just weeks ago in general conference. The brethren were especially blessed as the Elders’ Quorum President yielded the meeting to Elder Mkabela and he taught us some of the things he received in the training meetings that precede general conference. He has been a member for 17 years and about 8 weeks ago was released as president of the Soweto Stake. He is a powerful teacher and we were blessed to have this opportunity to hear him.

My favorite boss, George Sheppard, used to comment when he was having a tough day or we were behind in some important project, “Life is earnest, life is real!” Well, today, that is surely true. Right after our meetings were over at the Ennerdale Branch, we received word that our son-in-law, Gary Hatch, had died suddenly earlier in the morning. He is only 45 and has been an inspiration to me and to many others over the years. He has worked with countless scouts either as their scoutmaster or advisor to their Deacons’ Quorums. He was a counselor and then a Bishop for a BYU ward. He has influenced hundreds of students at ASU and BYU in his academic career. But most of all, he is AnneMarie’s husband and father to Aubrey, Carson and Maren. I will miss him greatly even though I know that we will hook up again in a few years when it is my turn to die.

I remember many years ago when AnneMarie broke her arm. I sat outside the treatment room while the doctors worked on her. She screamed in pain and I would have gladly traded places with her and taken the pain on myself. I cried like a baby that day. I have since remarked more than once that it is harder for me to see my children and grandchildren in pain than for me to go through it myself. This time the pain is greater than any experienced by my offspring to date and I still feel the same way. This pain in my heart is worse than any I have felt in a long time. I cried like a baby again today and probably will more than once in the future. This time, the whole thing is compounded by the distance between us. All those years ago, I could take her in my arms and comfort her but today and for several more months we are half a world apart.

I can totally relate to her pain, having lost my spouse nearly nine years ago. But more than that, I know the loneliness she faces. While the pain of the loneliness is not as acute as the death of a loved one, it goes on and on. It is an unwelcome companion and a reminder of the lost spouse every day. I will be praying earnestly for AnneMarie, Aubrey, Carson and Maren and I hope all who read this will find a place in their prayers for them, too.