Monthly Archives: May 2009

Various Pictures


Today – May 18 – we spent part of our P-day exploring the harbor area of Richards Bay. We had lunch at a nice restaurant at the edge of a small boat harbor. It reminded us of when we lived in Redondo. The beach near the harbor is not very wide and today the only people we saw there were people surf fishing. Watching the breakers roll toward shore again took us back to Southern California.


Last Friday we went around Port Durnford and visited the members. One of our stops was a homestead where either 4 or 5 generations of a family live. The matriarch of the family is 97 years old and full of life. I have a video of her dancing for us. I bet she was a wild young lady who could dance all night. The homestead was humble but each small house was neat and all of the trim on the house was the same rich orange. The gogo was sitting outside on the blanket you can see in the background enjoying the sun.port-durnford-may-2009-road-from-chirwa-homestead.JPGport-durnford-may-2009-chirwa-family-2.JPG

This picture shows the ‘road’ going away from the Chirwa homestead. It seems to me to be like the track the pioneers made as they passed over the praire in the summer of 1847. Sister Chirwa is the excellent Relief Society president for the Port Durnford branch. This shows her with some of her children and grandchildren.



These are pictures taken on the last night the Hafens were in South Africa. The next day they drove to Durban and started their trip home. The picture on the left show the Hafens in the red shirts and the Bartholomews. What a pleasure it is to serve with wonderful couples such as these. They were the perfect couples to take a new district with 5 small twigs – they were not big enough to be called branches – and nurture them through the first year.

Only those couples who have served missions know how special the young elders are. Both in Indonesia and here in South Africa we have seen them go out and work day after day without a complaint. You have to sit on them to get them to stay in bed when they are running a fever and hurt all over – they do not want to miss a day of service.

They go out in the rain and mud, they walk the streets of the cities and townships when it is 100 plus degrees and the humidity is about the same. They teach with love and the spirit. They bear their testimonies of the truthfulness of the restoration, the atonement, and the other gospel truths. Yet with all of this they are still 19-24 year old young men and love to get together and play soccer, paintball, and eat ice cream.

We are truly blessed to serve with such wonderful couples and elders. We will miss being with them when we finally hang up our name tags for the last time.

Umfolozi Game Reserve

About an hours drive from Richards Bay is a couple of excellent game reserves. For our P-day last week we went with the Bartholomews and the elders from this zone to one of them. Here are some of the pictures…


The caution sign for the Big 5 – we only saw two of them this trip. The black wildebeest was just off the road and we did not bother him at all. We saw two large herds of water buffalo but neither let us get too close. However a giraffe decided that he wanted to use the road and walked right towards the cars. This picture does not indicate how big these animals really are. The big ones look like they could just step right over a car with no effort.


I finally was able to get a good shot of a beautiful guinea fowl. The warthog is definitely in pig heaven. These rhinos look peacesful but one of them made a move towards the cars and we all held our breath. We came across these zebras on our way out. They trotted along the roadside so they could get a good look at the strange creatures in the cans.


If you look really closely, you will see 8 strange animals in this tree. We were told not to feed the animals but we just could not resist feeding this group.

Our New Boarding…

Here are some pictures of our new boarding including a truck full of furniture that came out of a missionary boarding to get us started.


Our boarding is in the Birdswood sub-division where all the streets have something to do with birds. We live at #1 Hornbill. We have a large living room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and a dining room. We have made one of the bedroom and part of another our office. Some day we hope to have our phone and internet there.

The picture of the front door does not show my start at gardening in South Africa. I have planted 5 coleus and 3 New Guinea  impatians under that tree. In the backyard I have planted a small but beautiful bouganvillea and an orange honeysuckle. Hopefully in 6 months or so they will be much larger – especially the coleus. Due to the weather, most plants grow all year round.

Thanks to elder and sister Bartholomew

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.

We were ‘that close!’

I know what Maxwell Smart often felt like. This morning – Wednesday – we were scheduled to finally get our DSL line so we could get on the internet. When the installer arrived he looked around and found that there had never been a phone in the boarding. 

If they had above ground phone lines this would not have been a big problem because they would have just strung a line to the house. However Birdswood – that is the name of our sub-division – is a modern place with below ground utilities.  This means that while the phone company will run a line to their junction box, it is the owner who must run conduit from the junction box to where they want the phone to enter the house.

So since there was no conduit, we did not get our phone line and therefore no internet. Hopefully this problem will be solved by next week and the very nice service man said he would come back as soon as we call him to say we are ready for him. Until then we will check our e-mail courtesy of our dear friends elder and sister Bartholomew who are looking after the new kids on the block.

I should mention that as of today we have been in Richards Bay for a full month. We have become so comfortable here in that time that it seems like we have been here much longer. We love working with the two branches we are assigned and the wonderful members who are so willing to learn and to serve.

Thanks to all of those who regularly send us e-mail about what is going on in families and our home ward.