It is our P-day here in South Africa and thanks to the Bartholomews we have unlimited access to the internet for a couple days while they make a quick trip up to Swaziland.
I am going to try to catch up with some of the things that we have experienced since we came to Richards Bay about a month ago. I am not going to be very detailed but hopefully give you a flavor of our experiences in words and pictures.
In looking back over the last few posts on this blog I see that I have shown the boarding we lived in for the first two plus weeks. It was a great boarding and if it had been big for us and all the supplies the Hafens so generously left for us to us, we would have probably stayed there for the rest of our mission.
But we felt we wanted more room and I wanted a yard where I could do some gardening on our P-days and in the morning. Our quest was aided by our wonderful and long suffering realtor Rose. She showed us a number of places but as soon as we saw the 4 bedroom, two bath house in a subdivision or Richards Bay called Birdswood, we were sold. All we needed to do was come to an agreement with the owner about security – which Rose worked out – and got some furniture – the house was not furnished – we were able to move in. The first night we slept there was on April 30th which marked my 71st birthday. The new boarding was a great present.
As we shopped for furniture, bedding, pots and pans, and all the other things you need to have a home, we chuckled about it being like we were newly weds moving into our first home together. I should mention that 3 weeks after moving in we still find ourselves buying items we find we need. I am hoping that when it is time for us to leave South Africa there will be some couple to replace us who can enjoy the home we are leaving behind.
I don’t want any of our readers to think that while we have been moving, we have stopped doing missionary work. We did take two days off for the major move, but since then we have done things to the house around our work with the two wonderful branches that we are priviliged to serve.
The Port Durnford branch is a small branch that meets in a wood building that sits at the back of a members home. It has no electricty and it is air-conditioned by opening the windows and hoping that the wind will cool things down.
I should mention that one of the Lord’s tender mercies was sending us here at the start of the winter season. We have been told by all the elders, couple and members here that this is the hottest part of the mission in the summer. Temperatures get into the mid-40’s – that is C – which means somewhere near 110 degrees F – with very high humidity. I would guess it is like a very hot summer in New Orleans and other places in the South. It does not sound like it is going to be my favorite time of the year.
Port Durnford has an average attendance of about 45 and all of them live within a mile or two of the chapel. Other than the main Port Durnford road – which is paved but has so many potholes in some sections that it looks like it has been shelled during a war – all the roads in the area are sand. I should mention that there is no dirt in the Richards Bay area and I do mean zero. Someone recently told me that all of RB area is reclaimed swampland.
Just last Friday we went with the missionaries and the YM president to visit most of the PD members and almost got stuck in a large sand puddle (remember there is no dirt so I guess technically there can not be a mud puddle.) Luckily for the elders I was able to work the car out of the mess or they would have had to get very dirty trying extract us from our problem.
The Esikhawini branch is a series of mobile classroom/office buildings that are on permanent foundations. The branch has an average sacrament attendance of about 80 with it getting at times as high as 100. It is the largest branch in the district. The main things it is lacking is active Priesthood and training. The elders and members are working hard to bring more men and families into the Church and we hope to work on getting the leadership trained so if the day comes when there are no longer any missionary couples in the area, they are able to fully function. In the few weeks that we have been here, I would say that in 6 to 9 months the Esikhawini branch will be in a position to do just that.
The last month has been a training period for us. We had to learn where the chapels were, where to shop, and how to get from point A to point B without getting too lost. We have learned that the GPS is great for many things but can take us the long way around to some points. One day we tried to find the tuck shop where president Machaka of the PD branch had his business.
Sister Pier put in what we thought was his location in the GPS and ended up getting a wonderful tour of the sandy roads of Port Durnford. I finally said I had, had enough and looked for a decent road back to civilization. After touring some interesting places that we will probably never see again, we finally got back on the map we had brought with us and was able to make it back to known territory. Looking back we can laugh about it but at the time I must say that I did not find it funny at all.
I can not say that to this point we have been fully occupied with mission work. We do hold youth activities each week in both branches. We get 8 to 15 young people to the PD mutual and 12 to 20 to Esikhawini. We have started a youth choirs in both branches and Esikhawini’s is scheduled to sing in Sacrament meeting next Sunday – the 23rd.
We would like to get branch choirs started also. The people love to sing. Most of the time they do not know what all the words mean but they still sing them with great gusto and spirit.
I see that in one of my earlier posts I mentioned that Esikhawini has an area where the members can grow vegetables. There are two or three sisters who are there most days working on their plots. When we got here they were having a problem with the water pressure. There was not enough to run the sprinklers they have, so they had to fill a barrell and hand water all their plants.
After a number of visits to the municipality offices in Richards Bay I was able to get a crew out to find out what was the problem. It turned out that the line leading to the water meter was cracked so much of the pressure was being lost before it got to the meter.
The crew sent out to fix it used a big front end loader to dig up the pipe but after they made the repairs and were filling the hole back in they completely severed the line so we then had no pressure. Luckily I was there when this happened and was able to get them to stay and fix the problem. So now the sisters have plenty of pressure for the sprinklers and have abandoned their watering cans.
There is also a missionary story in this experience. I got to know the women who work in the office that handles the sewer and water service for the city. I ask one of them when their families came to Africa and if she had done any genealogy on them. It turned out that her mother was interested in genealogy and I suggested she tell her about Family Search.
I am going to stop at this point and send this post. I need a break before writing more and posting pictures.