Monday, November 22, 2010

Spiritually Fed & Frustrated -gfh

This weekend gave us an interesting combination of being spiritually fed and being frustrated.
Saturday was our turn for the Worldwide Leadership broadcast on the new church handbooks. We loved it! I am so grateful for the inspiration and leadership of our prophet and apostles! There is always a focus on love and the individual and helping the individual and families received exaltation. Even tho I'm not really in a leadership capacity our branch president gave me one of the new handbooks. It is very inspiring to read through it.
Almost immediately following the broadcast was our Saturday evening session of Stake Conference. Speakers on the family and withstanding the temptations of the world and strengthening individual testimonies cemented the purpose of the church and those things learned in the Leadership Broadcast.
Sunday morning was Salt Lake broadcast of stake conference for 17 countries in Africa including 52 stakes and 53 districts!This was the BIG ONE that I really look forward to. It's kind of like General Conference all over again but with counsel very specific for Africa.
HOWEVER this is where the frustration comes in. For the last couple of weeks there has been a flyer posted on the bulletin board at the stake building about a big bike race scheduled for the Sunday of Stake Conference. Elder H and I chatted about it. Thought what great fun that would be ...never mind that we don't race and that we don't ride on Sundays...but we're all for bike events! And we noticed that a large part of the route was in the area of the stake center.
We left plenty early for conference Sunday Morning...but not early enough as it turned out and we should have done some pre planning. After two hours of maneuvering and strategizing and map consulting and a determined GoGo (our GPS) insisting that she knew the way and continually finding ourselves facing orange cones with fast and flashy cyclists whizzing past, we realised we couldn't get there from anywhere! We could see the black and white checkered flag on the GPS map but we couldn't maneuver ourselves in anyway to get past that main bike route. It was like being on the wrong side of the river with the bridge out! We thought about parking the car and walking the 2kms left to our destination but one doesn't just abandon one's car in an unknown neighborhood here in South Africa. We thought later that our journey would have made a great video with an aerial view showing us trying to conquer the maze but constantly finding a dead end. We knew we were sooo close. We started out certain that we could overcome...but finally realized that the bike race had won and we would be spiritually frustrated instead of spiritually fed that day.
We returned home and watched the DVD "Joseph Smith, Prophet of The Restoration" to try to satisfy our appetite.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kiss Your Church Librarian

The next time you waltz up to your church building library to pick up pencils, paper, white board markers,chalk, pictures or even sign out the TV/DVD player give you librarian a big kiss! Our Ennerdale Branch has no such thing. No colored paper!no paper! no chalk! no pictures! no DVDs! and certainly no TV/DVD players! There is too great a risk of things being stolen. Our branch does have a TV/DVD player BUT it is not kept on the premises and it is used only for showing the Conference DVDs. The young missionaries assigned to the branch keep it in their flat so it certainly is not available for use in classes. Just think of the wonderful resources you have available just by "signing up" for them and then try to understand what is not available to a good deal of the church in South Africa and in other parts of the world.
Sunday night we were at a "REAL" church building for the rebroadcast of Elder Ballard's CES talk and the young man in charge went to what looked like a huge vault, put in the key and turned the lever to reveal the building library. It was seriously fortified! Elder H and I went over to check out the library at the stake building next door to the mission office and found the same thing. The picture above might not give you a true picture of how extraordinary that library door is. Probably designed to withstand a blast of dynamite. Well, there certainly are treasures inside!!

Primary Program -gfh

Two Sundays ago was the Primary Sacrament meeting program in Ennerdale. Susan is the Primary President and she has been very stressed about it. She went to the temple on Saturday to find some peace and reassurance. Susan also plays the keyboard for our sacrament meetings. She has been taught by two or three previous senior couple sisters and is now on her own as she can play better than I can.
The program was beautiful! Whenever children sing the hymns and primary songs The Spirit is so sweet. About ten minutes into the program Sister Norma's boy, Gift, started throwing up right there on the stand. Very smoothly and discreetly his mother went up and got him, then Sister Grace went up and removed the chair that had vomit all over it and soon returned with a bucket of water and a towel and started scrubbing the floor. Alicia, Sister Nomvula's little girl, was sitting right next to Gift and was scooting over as far as she could to the child next to her and glancing cautiously at the mess on the floor. NOW the AMAZING part was that the program continued on without a hiccup! Every child knew his/her lines and most of them had several parts. The children knew the hymns and sang so beautifully! One would never have known that there had been a "distraction". I have heard the primary songs sung for years BUT NEVER have I been so impressed with the sweet messages for ALL of our Heavenly Father's children as I listened to these beautiful black African children singing with their enchanting accents.
Sister Norma took her little family home and since she is the Gospel Doctrine teacher someone had to teach her lesson. The manual was passed back to Elder Henrichsen and he took it with a smile.
So, that's the latest exciting news about our branch in Ennerdale.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guess What's In The Box! -gfh

This is one of two large boxes that came with our warehouse order this week. Can you guess what is in it?
This ONE box contains ONE copy of The Book Of Mormon in braille! There are six volumes like the one showing in the picture that make up the complete Book of Mormon. These two copies(two large boxes) were ordered by two different missionaries who each have a blind investigator. How cool is this!!

Curious about the price? Nothing to the mission or the investigator but the price on the invoice is R10. That equals about $1.50. Isn't that the cost of a soft copy of the Book of Mormon? By the way, the braille copy only comes in English.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Standing Tall -gfh

I am so far behind on posting on our blog but this is something that just occurred yesterday and I wanted to share this story.
Elder Oketa is a giant of a missionary in so many ways! He is kind, spiritual and gracious. He is a great teacher and trainer. He is obedient and humble.. And he stands about 6ft 5inches with a disarming smile that is so sincere you just want to hug him...well, at least, I do.
Here is his story:
When he was a seven year old in Uganda he was playing outside with his little cousin. It started to rain but they ignored it. The rain came down harder and harder so they went into an abandoned mine for shelter and found a little cave to play in and wait out the storm. The rains continued until there was so much moisture that the cave collapsed and they were buried alive. Elder Oketa and his little cousin were totally trapped and packed in the heavy wet dirt. They were trapped for two days. Elder Oketa held on to his little cousins hand and knew somehow that he had died. It was a miracle that the searchers knew where to dig and finally uncovered Elder Oketa and his little cousin.
Because of the way Elder Oketa's foot and leg had been packed by the heavy wet dirt his foot was twisted and he could not walk. He spent three months in the hospital and there were plans to amputate his leg. We might say that if he had lived in a more medically advanced country surgery could have been done for him that would have corrected his problem.
Elder Oketa is now 27 years old and stands about 6 ft 5 inches. He is a very handsome young man but has deformed leg, a grotesquely twisted foot and his body twists and tips as he walks with a severe limp. If you look closely at his left foot & leg in one of the pictures you will notice the deformity.
Our President has the biggest heart in the world and when he met Elder Oketa and heard the story he said "Let's do what we can to help". At this time surgery is not an option but orthopedics are. So after seven months waiting for the construction of his new orthopedic pair of shoes they arrived yesterday. Now he stands even taller, his smile is even bigger and if he focuses on his walk no one will notice his limp. I expect that there will be some aches and pains as his body adjusts to this after so many years but I think it will be worth it.
This moment when he put the shoes on for the first time brought tears to all of our eyes...even his young companion Elder Alder.I captured the moment in pictures with his permission.
Sister Watts works with the missionary medical concerns so she and Elder Oketa have become very close.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Have You Ever Been Chased by an Elephant? -gfh

Well we have! Last month we went with the other office couple, Elder and Sister Watts, and drove 3 1/2 hours up north to the Madikwe Game Reserve. It is the fourth largest reserve in South Africa, 75,000hectares in "rugged and with an untouched beauty"! Quite so! The reserve offers the Magnificent Seven (that's the Big Five plus the endangered wild dog and cheetah which we didn't see.) All the other predators beautiful birds (about 340 species). The northern border is Botswana. Would love to have gone across for a visit but we didn't have the time.
The office was basically closed but the phones were manned by Sister Poulsen, President Poulsen's wife, and by Sister Bailey our CDE (convert data entry) missionary. We are soooo grateful to them for making this much needed get away possible.
We stayed at Mosetlha Bush Camp which has "Get the Dust Of Africa On Your Feet" as its slogan. And that proved to be very true. The rains hadn't started yet and all was very hot and dusty BUT it was AFRICA!
President Poulsen says that the Mosetlha Bush camp is the best way to see Africa! The camp is unfenced and rustic and accommodates only 16 people at a time. We stayed in raised wooden cabins with open sides ,oil lamps, safari showers and meals prepared on the open fire. No electricity or running water in the camp. The water is trucked in. Here is a picture of our water source

The safari shower is a bucket with a spicket on a pulley and the water is heated by a donkey boiler.

And did you catch that it is "unfenced"? There is an electrical wire about six feet off the ground that surrounds the camp and is to keep out the really BIG animals like elephants and giraffes. All others are welcome to come and roam. During the night sounds of Africa can be heard very close by and foot prints are often seen in the camp the morning. We were told that just the week before a lion walked thru the dining area at night. One is cautioned about going out at night to use the Loo because of possible night visitors. The path to the loo was highly fenced and our cabin was right next to the gate. However, there was a chamber pot provided in our cabin if one was feeling timid about a night walk.

The cabins are uniquely set up so that lions, etc won't be able to share your cabin with you.

Two Safari rides are offered each day. Each ride is about four hours long. The morning starts with a wake up call at 5:30 and guests are expected to be ready for the first ride of the day by 6:00AM. I'm an early riser so 5:30 was no problem but leaving without breakfast was a challenge. If one got up quickly enough there was a chance to get hot chocolate and rusks before leaving and then about 2 1/2 hours into the drive we stopped for more hot chocolate and rusks. (rusks are very very hard crunchy cookie biscuits kind of lie biscotti that are meant to be dunked in tea or coffer and are delicious in hot chocolate! Elder H has developed quite a taste for them and bought some after we got back. We returned from our drive about 10:00 and had breakfast waiting. Then time for a safari shower and a nap and then lunch and a nap AND then the evening drive started at 4:00 and went till about 8:30.

We stopped again during the evening drive for cold drink (that's what soda is called here) and chips & dip.
Let me introduce Johnny, our Game Drive Guide. When we first met him we were impressed by his modest friendly nature. A very unassuming fellow and at that time we didn't really appreciate his ability or his responsibility. He has been a game guide for eight years and really knows his stuff. While driving the game vehicle along dusty bumpy roads/no roads, he is constantly looking out for signs of game. He would hang his head over the side slowing down looking for tracks in the dust and then follow the clues. As it got dark he turned on a spotlight and scanned the bush while driving. Suddenly he would stop and say "Look! There is a "such&such" in that tree out there" We'd all strain our eyes to see what he was seeing. Sometimes we could and sometimes we couldn't. Once it was a small bright red bird in the bushes. When we found it we marveled at Johnny's visual acuity. Sometimes it was a big gray shadow that turned out to be an elephant walking along side the path or hyenas or jackals running through the bush.
Now, look at the picture again. Notice the unzipped rifle case just in front? The guides are trained to use that if necessary. They are trained at 30 meters, 20 meters, 10 meters. It is used only as the last resort. The game guides are very concerned about the lives of the animals as well as for the lives of the people in the trucks. We were strongly instructed to stay seated in the truck. If we remained seated and inside the truck the animals perceived us as just a large animal.
Now this is where being chased by an elephant comes in......
On one of the night drives we were rumbling along in the dark with Johnny's spot light scanning here and there when we went around a corner and there in the spot light in front of us was an angry bull elephant. His ears were flapping and he was snorting and running towards us. In what seemed like one move, Johnny leaned over the side, directed his spotlight directly behind us, shifted into reverse and revved back up the bumpy dirt road full speed. He didn't pause to consider and he didn't even look back at the elephant. He had a responsibility for the lives in that truck. It was all very exciting..especially to talk about now. But at the moment it was scary! It seemed unreal. All was black except for the light showing the HUGE grey elephant charging at us. Like maybe it was projected on an IMAX screen for the benefit of the tourists. OF course the elephant gets bigger each time the story is told but hey, He was really big!
We truly had a wonderful R&R at Mosethla Bush Camp. We recommend it highly for a real South African Bush veld experience! Come see us and we'll take you there.

Below you will find lots of Safari pictures. You may say you've seen enough African wildlife on our blog BUT try to imagine being here and being chased by an elephant! WOW!

A herd of elephants tramping through the bush

This is a termite mound! They are everywhere!

And very early one morning we went to what I called "the valley of the baboons"

This is Mike and Christine.They saved up their money for two years and are doing a one year around the world honeymoon!

There are many many more pictures we could share. But I hope this gives you an idea. Many times the animals were so close it was a little unnerving. The animals in the reserve are not fed. It is strictly survival of the fittest!

As the sun set on the bushveld we marveled at the beauty of South Africa and how blessed we are to be here! Sala Kahle!

A Water Pool -gfh

You've probably seen one of these several times but I'll bet never in South Africa! :-) This is a picture of the sun with a rainbow ring around it. One of the African men in the parking lot said that in his language it is called "A Water Pool" and it means that rain is coming. Elder H said that it is caused by water crystals in the clouds. I googled it. "Mr. Jeopardy Whiz King" is right again! Pretty amazing to see!