Lost in Richards Bay
We left our lovely Ezulwini valley boarding early Monday morning and headed out for our new assignment in Richards Bay. We decided to take the scenic route – or at least a different route – and due to road work on the main road from Piet Retief to the coast it took an extra 2 ½ hours. The road work restricted traffic to one way for much of the distance which meant that we would go for a few kilometers and then we would wait for 20 – 30 minutes while the traffic going the other way would come through.
I must say that I got rather impatient but when looking at the backed up traffic going the other way I felt like we were blessed. It was the last day of a four day holiday and people who vacationed on the coast and were heading back to Joburg and Pretoria were backed up for many kilometers at each of the 5 or 6 one way sections. I would imagine they had waits of one to two hours at each of the stops. I am sure they were not happy campers when they got home.
When we got to Richards Bay we called the Bartholomews and elders B and Hafen came out to the McDonalds and guided us to our new boarding. We were able to move right in – that is we were able to clean out the car – and then go to dinner on the pier with the other couples.
Our new boarding is a neat two bedroom with a small kitchen, living/dining room, two bedrooms and a nice bath. It is very secure and the rent includes utilities, TV, and maid service for the week days. It is in a very nice neighborhood that is close to a couple of small strip malls and not too far from a full size mall. We do not have a veranda here but we do have a small patio that looks out on what can be best described as a jungle. We have a large troop of resident monkeys that often wander across our roof early in the morning.
We will be working with two small branches – well one actually is a branch and the other is more like a twig. Esikhawini branch is well organized with an average attendance of about 90 and they meet in 4 office trailers that have been permanently installed on some church owned property in the township.
Port Dursnford – pronounced by everyone as Dunsford – is a small branch with an average attendance of about 35 that meet in a good sized wood building at the back of a member’s homestead. It has no electricity and their bathroom is a portable plastic one like you find at job sites.
We spent most of the week just getting settled in and going around with the Hafens to get to know the areas where we will work. On Tuesday there was DDM at the Hafens where we got to meet the missionaries serving in our area. We are once again working with elder Makono who left Swaziland just 5 weeks ago and works in Esikhawini. He and his companion are on bikes. I must say that it was one of the best DDMs we have been to either in Swaziland or Indonesia.
On Wednesday we went exploring and tried to go to the Port Durnsford PEC but got completely lost. The problem was that we did not know for sure which was the branch president’s location. We put in the one we thought it was and ended up going on dirt roads to some very interesting places. We got enough lost that we could not get back to the area we knew so we ended up taking a nice tour of some interesting places before finally getting back to a major road and headed home. I must confess I am rather impatient when lost and I am sure that Mary did not have the best time being with me on this expedition. (We weren’t really lost, lost. We had the GPS on and were following it’s directions on how to get home. We just weren’t sure exactly where we were at the moment.—Mom) I did not do what elder Wirthlin suggested in one of his last conference talks and laugh at the problem while in the middle of it. But once it was done I certainly could.
Thursday was spent with the Hafens out visiting members while they tried to cram 18 months of knowledge into us in 2 hours. They have been great missionaries and have brought stability and unity to the small branches. They were here when the district was created and had to nurse them along as they learned to crawl and then walk.
After lunch we went with them to see a young woman in the government hospital. I was prepared to have a terrible experience there but it turned out to be a very neat and well run place where the patients seemed to get good care. The strange thing is that visiting hour is just that – one hour. We then went to Port Durnford for what would be considered Mutual in the states. It seems to be mainly a chance for the youth to gather for an hour, have and activity and a treat. We got to participate and get to know the youth a little. They gave the Hafens nice going away presents, we took some pictures and then left to visit some members in the area.
One of them lived out at a homestead that we reached by following what could best be described as a track across fields that I would never go on if it had rained in the last couple of days. There were times when I was not sure that there were tracks to follow but elder Hafen never faltered. They took us there to meet the Port Durnsford RS president. While there, the sun sat and we drove out in thick darkness.
In some areas the road from Esikhawini to Port Durnsford looks like it has been bombed. There are huge potholes its whole length. I guess no one out there has enough political clout to get it fixed. It will be interesting to drive it a couple of times a week.
Friday we met another couple of hours with the Hafens before going out and looking at houses to rent. We would really like to find a larger place to live so we could spread everything out. Rose Van Der Merwe, a local realtor, took us around to a number of places and we found a really nice 4 bedroom 2 ½ bath place that would be perfect except it is unfurnished. It is also a little further from our branches than our current boarding but not much. It is closer to the Richard Bay chapel. We will need to think and pray about it before we decide to move there.
In the afternoon we drove to the Esikhawini chapel to join in their youth activity time. There were about twice as many youth there as there was in Port Durnsford. The Hafens had the same activity as yesterday but this time we broke into teams. There were 6 in my team and two of them were very sharp so it went well. After the activity the Hafens came up with a game so they could give away a lot of goodies. As the meeting was coming to a close, the youth presented the Hafens with a large table cloth on which each youth had written a personal thank you message. It was easy to see how much the Hafens were touched by this. They will go home with great memories of the love they found here in South Africa.
Our Saturday got changed when the morning Seminary event at the Richards Bay was cancelled. So we did some shopping and then just kind of hung around until the afternoon when we went to the beach for an outing with the Richards Bay branch. It was like returning to my roots in California with a long wide beach, people on boards – also kayaks, and sand castles. We had a fun afternoon of activities while getting to know most of the members of the branch. Although the chapel is the closest to our boarding we will not get there very often for church. However we will go there for district meetings once they get us involved in the district.
Our first Sunday in Richards Bay was spent at the Esikhawini branch because that is where the Hafens went and we wanted them to introduce us to the branch. It turned out that they were very busy so we did our own introductions including introducing ourselves and bearing our testimonies. I keep praying that I will be able to remember the names of the members and pronounce them correctly. Thankfully Mary does a very good job at this so at least one of us appears to have a brain in their head.
The meetings were all good, especially the Sunday School class and the PH class. We got to meet the branch president and counselor, a number of the men, and a couple of the youth that we met on Friday. I think that this branch is not going to need a lot of our time. But as we sat in the meetings I wrote down some things I think we can do to help the branch. We can help form a choir, Mary can teach piano- they have no one to play the piano. And we can hold literacy classes because I know some of the men and women do not really understand what is being taught because it is in English. This is great for us and those who are fluent – which is the majority – but it must be frustrating for the members who can read the words but do not understand what they mean.
In the evening all the elders in the zone came over to the Hafens to have dinner – a tradition here – and to send in their reports. The Bartholomews and the Hafens provided most of the food and we provided ice cream for dessert. Before the missionaries left we took lots of ‘last time’ pictures for the Hafens’ book of rememberance.
The Hafens are a great couple and they will be missed. We are not going to try to replace them but to build on the amazing work they have done with the two branches.
So went the first week in our new area. Someone today suggested that while we were born in Swaziland, we have been re-born in Richards Bay.