After our great p-day with the Dummers at the lion ranch, Tuesday was rather quiet. We spent part of the afternoon with the elders, president Kwaikwai and President Dunn at the office. President Dunn came over to have a second interview with one of the investigators so they could be baptized on Sunday. He also wanted to take new mission pictures of Mary and myself. In the evening we picked up my home teaching companion and went to visit our families. For some reason I did not take any pictures of the day
Starting on Wednesday morning at 7:00 the next five days was very busy. There was a Helping Hands project at the school where we hold church. The schools here have limited budget for repairs and cleaning. While we have rather nice toilets that we use, there are four other restrooms that the students use all the time and they were a mess. So we volunteered to clean and if necessary paint them.
This is the dedicated crew from the Potchefstroom branch that tackled four very filthy restrooms and left them clean and shiny. Mary spent much of her time running around the town picking up things we needed to do the work. I spent much of my time coordinating the work crews. I think I walked about 10 miles between the restrooms, storage rooms and the office. All I know for sure is that I was glad when the job was done.
The first pictures show the mess that we started with. Actually they looked much worse but you really had to be there to understand the difference 3 hours of hard work made. While the branch members were cleaning the restrooms, elders Perez and Lohmann were painting part of a ceiling in the classroom where we hold church on Sunday. It had fallen down and had been replaced the week before but the bare sheeting needed paint.
In the evening we attended the first of meetings for the funeral of a member’s mother. This was the fourth funeral we have been part of since we came 7 months ago. This one was different because for three nights there were one hour tent meetings where there is preaching and singing by family and friends. Since almost all of it was in Tswana or Xhosa, we could not understand much but we were there to support our sister.
On Thursday we took the elders up to visit sister Bobbi Swanepoel. It was Elder Lohmann’s last chance to see Parys and sister Bobbi. After a nice visit in her apartment and administering the sacrament, we went for a walk down by the Vaal River which boarders the complex.
The Vaal is about as low as it is going to get but in a few months it will overflow it’s banks.
We got home at 1:00 and I called Sister Renny, the sister who’s mother passed, because president Kwaikwai said she needed some help with some paperwork. When I called I found out that I was scheduled to be the main speaker at a memorial for her mother at the hospital where she worked for 32 years. So I hurriedly changed into a suit and managed to find the hospital. There were about 100 in the auditorium and you could tell they all really cared for their fellow worker. I think I gave a decent talk – especially since I basically did it off the cuff.
We then went directly to the office where I dropped off Mary so she could set up for her seminary class and picked up two investigator youth who have been attending. While Seminary was going on I went to the store to pick up some treats for the elders who’s flats we were going to inspect tomorrow. I got back in time to enjoy the last part of the Activity Night which included 3 investigators and one member. We dropped off those I had picked up earlier and went home. I called president Kwaikwai and told him to please apologize to sister Renny that we would not be attending the second night’s program. We just went home and collapsed.
Friday morning we left early to make our trip up to Vereeniging and inspected four flats. All of them were in very good shape – only mold in showers kept them from being perfect. The picture on the left is of elders Kalani and Siegel. On the right are the zone leaders elders George and Menendez.
Elders Mukasa and Whitesides. We then went to the Vereeniging chapel for zone meeting. Elders Menendez and George held the meeting in the relief society room instead of the chapel. They put the chairs in a semi-circle so everyone could see each other instead of staring at the back of each other’s heads like we would in the chapel. Elder Menendez said they got the idea from how President Dunn held his mission council meetings.
As the missionaries came in they walked around the circle greeting the rest of the Vaal Zone. the meeting was very informative and the lesson was on a talk by elder Callister called ‘The Consecrated Missionary’ that the ZLs had asked each missionary to read and come prepared to talk about. In the evening we went to the last of the tent meetings. The Church was represented by brother Simon and he shared the preaching with the pastor from the church where the deceased attended. The meeting was supposed to run one hour but we were told it would probably go on for 3…we left after 90 minutes. Once again everything was in the local language so while we enjoyed their singing we had no idea what it was about.
The next morning we were at office by 6 am to get ready for the funeral. We brought our sound system and a keyboard for Mary to play. One of the big part of a funeral here is feeding friends and family for two to three days. When I walked around to the back of the house I found the women of the family cooking huge pots of food that would be served when people came back from the cemetery. Just as a side note, later in the day I went back to pick up something we had left behind and saw a live goat tied up in the back yard. I am sure that it was going to be dinner for the family on Sunday.
President Kwaikwai conducted the funeral service which is held at the home under the tent shown in the picture a few rows above. A number of family and friends spoke, there was lots of group singing – most of it semi-spontaneous and three LDS hymns which Mary played. She also played for about 30 minutes before it started at 7:00 am. I got to speak about the plan of salvation and president Kwaikwai spoke about the restoration. There was a pastor scheduled to speak but since the service was under the Church he only gave the opening prayer. He is a very nice man and very dedicated to work – he would be a great asset if he would join the restored Church.
After the two hour service, there is the trip to the cemetery. This was a different one from the other funerals we attended. I found out it was an older cemetery. Like most cemeteries here it was very busy. There were at least four other burials either going on or set up for later.
The set up a shade and some nice chairs that are for the women – Mary got to sit.
The funeral service also provides cold drinks for the women and anyone else who wants some.
I got to dedicate the grave and then the family drops a handful of dirt on the casket before the men start to fill it in with shovels. After they have worked at it for a while, a big cat comes up and fills in the rest of the dirt that had been excavated. The picture on the right is the daughter – sister Renny – putting in the first handful. A number of the members of the branch came and supported their sister member.
Eunice Motha was just a couple of months past her 54th birthday when she passed after a long illness. After the funeral we went back to the home and had lunch. As we walked away to head back to our flat we passed this gate that I found very beautiful. As I mentioned before the gates in the township tend to be more interesting and beautiful than those in the city itself.
I saw this female and male red headed finch in the backyard. They look like they are carved instead of living. It was nice of them to pose. We went home and I changed into older clothes so we could go back to the office to help set up the font for the baptisms the next day. Before we could do that we needed to repair a lot of holes – most small but one big one – in the font. The lump in the middle of the plastic is elder Perez who fixed the inside while I fixed the outside. He could see the small holes because the light came into his dark cave. Brother David – who was to be baptized the next day – is the one kneeling and brother Johannes – who is the branch mission leader is on the stool. We brought our new hose pipe to be used to fill the font. While we were doing this Mary was giving a piano lesson.Once again we were happy to see the end of a long day.
It turned out that the woman who usually cleans each Saturday could not get in because she did not have taxi money. Due to a number of circumstances she had not got paid on Friday by the school. So while the font was filling a couple of the priesthood cleaned and mopped the chapel area. Then the elders started setting up for our Sunday meetings.
Unfortunately I think elder Lohmann did too much and he was pretty much dragging by the end of the day. But he did not complain…we are going to miss him when he goes home in two weeks.
In the evening we were happy to get a call from our friend and neighbor from Provo Lynn Wardle. He is in Potchefstroom as a guest of the university to take part in a conference on family law. He was kind enough to bring a small suitcase of goodies from home.
Sunday we were out of the flat by 6:45 so we could pick up Lynn and another member who is visiting from Pretoria on the way into the church. While I helped get every ready for the block meeting, Mary did her normal routine of picking up members and investigators. Lynn dug right in and helped.
Since brother Omphile had to go to school, president Kwaikwai asked me to conduct sacrament. I asked Lynn to share his testimony. Mary gave her third talk on conference and its importance to her. Since there was still 10 minutes left, I then called on president Kwaikwai to speak. He has an amazing memory and is a very spiritual speaker. For Sunday School I taught the last lesson of the temple preparation class while Mary played for the Primary. I conducted Priesthood while president Kwaikwai held interviews.
After the block meeting we held the baptismal service for four wonderful people. The picture on the left – sisters Dorcas and Mthabiseng who were to be baptized by Bongani Buta who came back from Pretoria. President Kwaikwai was to baptize brother Menzi and David. The picture on the right has elders Lohmann and Perez flanking the four.
The water is unheated and a real shock for all who enter the water. But even with the cold water there were lots of smiles. I just noticed that I managed to get Mary in one of the pictures.
After the baptisms they were confirmed and received the Holy Ghost. Then the font had to be emptied and the chapel converted back into a class room for Monday’s school. While Lynn and I helped the elders and others do this, Mary took people back to their homes. We had everything cleaned up and put away and Mary had not come back. Everyone left except our guest from Pretoria, sister Una – shown with us above, Lynn and myself. I started getting worried because Mary usually was over due from her first trip as we sat and waited out front of the school. Mary had not take the phone so I could not find out where she was. I checked to see if the people she took made it home and they had. When she finally made it back to the school, she told us that she had taken the group of students home. She had met them as they were walking to the taxi stand and had not thought to call me to tell me why she had not come back to school right away.
I think Lynn will be going home on Tuesday with great memories of the Potchefstroom branch. He got to help set up church – which reminded him of his days as a missionary in the Philippines – help with the font, speak in church, watch four baptisms and participate in four confirmations.
So as you can see it really has been a very busy week for Elder and Sister Pier in South Africa and we would not change it for the world. Well I would have liked more than an hour to prepare my talk for the memorial but I trusted the Lord to help me and he did.