Monthly Archives: April 2009

A Short Note from Durban

Just a quick note from Durban where we are going to a 2 zone conference tomorrow.

We had an adventurous week with everything from having a wreck, to having our battery die, to getting a new boarding where we will stay until we are moved to another area or finish our mission.

Today we filled our first food order, had lunch with all the missionaries in the zone to celebrate elder Makono’s birthday and then drove to Durban. We first went to the mission home where we traded in our damaged car for a new one that looks just like the old one. It had been turned in by the Uffens who went home last week. We also took care of some other business and then follwed the Bartholomews to the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed for a few days when we first got to Durban.

Tonight we will go to dinner with all the couples and tomorrow we will go to zone conference in the morning before heading back to Richards Bay. It takes about 2 hours to travel to Durban from Richards Bay.

More later…hopefully.

First Week in Richards Bay

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From Left to Right – Mary inside the Port Durnsford chapel, Sister Hafen with Fufu, Sister Hafen taking picture of youth with the Port Durnsford chapel behind them, Sister Khumalo watering the garden at the Esikhawini chapel. There are four or five women who raise part of their food supply there. Sister Khumalo told me that their family saves quite a bit of money by growing a garden.

Our second week started with a bang – really!

Even though it was raining all day yesterday and today, we were enjoying getting acquainted with the area and starting to get to work.

This morning – Tuesday that is – we went over and looked in on the elder’s boarding that  was being cleaned. It is a very nice place and is bigger than our current boarding. There was a large crew in cleaning the wall and everywhere else. It was wise to have professionals do this because there was black dust everywhere.

We then went and looked at used furniture and put some on hold. We got our hair cut – I was rather shaggy after 3 month – and then went home for lunch. After lunch we headed out to do more errands and then to Esikaweni to get some things laminated and to talk to president Machaka of the Port Durnsford branch.

Up until the time we got all this done and was heading out of Esikalweni to go home everything was wonderful – even the rain was good because it kept things nice and cool.

We were just about 1K from Esikaweni when two high school aged young women who were standing on the shoulder of the road, walked out in front of our car. It came as a complete surprise because the people of South Africa are very careful about walking out into traffic because they will get run over. What made this even more surprising is that I saw them look right at us but they still started across the lanes.

Luckily I was paying close attention – I always worry about hitting some walking along the road – and was able to stop before hitting them. Unfortunately driver behind me was not quite as alert and slammed into the back of our car. But I am not sure even being alert would have helped because everything was so unexpected.

To make a rather long story short, there was major damage done to the rear end of our car and to the front of his borrowed car. The couple in the car was very nice and it is a shame that it happened to them.  We exchanged information and – after tying down the boot lid with my tie – we drove back to Richards Bay and got two estimates from panel beating shops.

The only good thing about any of this is that no one was injured and the two young ladies will be more careful about looking more carefully before crossing a busy road.

Pictures to follow later!

Richards Bay – Our Boarding

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Our new boarding in Richards Bay. On the far right is the jungle that comes right up to the yard on one side.

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This male monkey really did not like me sitting outside near where his group wanted to come. He first got in the tree just in front of me and shook it and screamed at me. When that did not move me he jumped on the roof and looked down. I decided I really did not want him in my lap – he must have weighed 20 – 25 pounds – so I went in and he happily left.

1st Post from Richards Bay

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.

Misc Pictures of the Week

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Along one of the dirt roads we drove through hundred of yards of huge Cosmos. Some of the plants were over 7 feet tall. The pictures can not really do the scene justice. So even a humble homestead such as that in the picture on the right has this beautiful garden around it.

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We have been trying to remember to take this picture of our Happy Valley Hotel sign. It is right where we turn off the main road for our boarding. When we drive past it for the last time on Monday, we will Be Missing it Already also. I thought the sign for the car shower instead of a car wash was an attention getter. On Friday we drove past the major wreck we have seen. There was another car off the road to our left. It did not look like anyone was really seriously hurt. The last picture is a set of concrete towers that seem to be part of a hotel or guest house near our boarding that always draws our attention as we drive past.

And that is it from Swaziland

Pictures from our last week – animals and missionaries

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A couple of pictures taken at Milwane Reserve. The large alpha male wildebeest watching out for danger. We have seen the zebra with the deformed back each time we have been through the reserve.

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Our last week here included helping prepare a house of a member to be painted, helping to harvest corn, and our last district meeting with six amazing and dedicated missionaries. Elder Nkele with the crutches does not let them slow him down when it comes to working. Standing from L to R – Elders Dumingu, Katende, Wright, Eddy and Murch. Like us elders Dumingu and Murch were born in Swaziland – that is this is there first area of service.

Execution Point

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The picture on the left is the point taken from the maize field where we were helping harvest the crop. The next one shows two of the elders going down one hill before going up the rocks to the top of the point. I made it to the top fairly easily but the trip back seemed to take forever. The last picture shows one of the great views from the top.

People Pictures

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The Mthethwa family are members of the Mbabane branch and Sister Mthethwa is in Mary’s Literacy class. She invited us over just to talk and her sons and a friends were on there way to a YSA activity. YSA are very active in the Swaziland branches. The middle picture was take at Nathi’s little store – I thought the gogo and baby in the wheel barrow was worth a picture. The lady with the large melon or squash on her head had been walking without holding on at all. I think here she was afraid of being bumped and losing her load.