Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24, 2009

We thought it would be helpful to give a brief description of the work that goes on here and some of the things that we are involved with. There are so many opportunities to serve others here because there is so much need that exists. We will describe some situations to try and give some clarity to what exists. The unemployment here is about 40% and we are sure it is much higher in the townships than it is in the towns. We know of people that work and support all of their extended family, in some cases that is one person working and maybe 8 others that are dependent upon them for food, clothing, and basic needs. The vast majority of people are more than willing to work if they can find a job, even if it is menial labor. We know of one man that walks about 4 hours into the city to do yard work three days a week. One of the good things about South Africa is the willingness to take care of the extended family. In essence it functions like this: if one person has corn they all have corn.

We came across an orphanage where the woman who runs it sold all of her assets and bought a place out of town by a stream. She started taking in children that weren't wanted and basically trusts the Lord to supply her with the things that she needs. She has people just bring a child to her and hand it over the fence and she takes them in. She has about 8 children there currently as far as I could count. We go there weekly to help in any way that we can. Sometimes the government services will bring out a child that they can't care for but the funds that are provided are minimal and it doesn't even provide enough for food for the children. When she first bought the place she carried water from the stream for drinking and washing but gradually she has gotten running water and even propane heat that is used on the coldest nights. Some of the children were abused but she just loves them and takes care of them. Quite an example of service to others.

One young couple had their computer stolen out of their business and it was their source of income since they produced announcements, brochures, programs, etc. They didn't have the funds to purchase another PC.

The senior couples help missionaries get ready for their mission in ways they couldn't afford to do themselves. Like taking them to the dentist, doctor, filling out forms that are needed for a passport and many other kinds of things. I know of some that have outfitted them with the clothes that they will need on their missions.

It is a wonderful place to serve and help in any way that we can, in addition to the other responsibilities that we have.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8, 2009

We thought that we would try and describe what we do so you would have a greater appreciation for the work that is going on here. However, to do that we need to describe the living conditions of the people. We live in Newcastle which is a town of about 30,000 people. The homes are modest but nice and most homes are fortified in some way to protect against burglars. This generally includes walls with sharp pointed things on the top or fences in some cases having razor wire on top. Many in Newcastle have cars. Though there are some that have a lot of wealth, most are working to keep food on the table and pay for their homes. Most homes are fairly small (1,000 to 1,500 sq. ft). However, transportation is one of the main problems here. Since many do not have cars, there is a thriving “kombie” service and most people walk long distances to get where they need to go. Kombies are vans (or what we might call taxis) that stop and pick up people waiting along the road and charge them a fair. These are generally packed with 12 or more people in them. There is a large mixture of races in Newcastle consisting dominantly of Zulu, Indian, Africans, British, and Dutch. There are 11 different languages recognized in South Africa but the language of business and politics is English.

There are two townships outside of Newcastle with a total population of estimated 1,000,000 people. Very few of these people have cars. The homes vary from tin walled buildings to a very few large spacious homes. The vast majority of the population is Zulu. The townships are about 5 to 10 miles away from Newcastle. The majority of people use kombies for transportation or walk. Some ride bicycles. Cattle and dogs basically run free in the townships.

The people here are humble, warm, and open. We have grown to love them. Religion is openly discussed and we are stopped on the street and asked questions. An example of this was when we were leaving a store, one of the sales people walked up and asked us where they would find a scripture about hypocrisy in the Bible. He had been having a discussion with some of his friends and talked about a scripture that he remembered and his friends didn’t believe him and he wanted to show them. We asked if he had a Bible and he said that his mother did. We told him we would bring him a Bible and show him the scriptures so we got his telephone number to set up an appointment. Barb went back in and gave him a pamphlet on the Plan of Salvation that he gladly received.

We plan out our days but they seldom go as planned. We are called upon by missionaries to help with various activities. There are 12 missionaries (19 to 24 year old) that support Newcastle, the townships, and the surrounding area. There are two senior missionary couples though the other couple will be leaving in September and we don’t know if there will be another couple coming in). We do car inspections and apartment inspections once a month. We take the missionaries to the doctor, dentist, or optometrist as needed. We feed the missionaries about once every two weeks as a group and more often when they just drop in to take care of some business.

We assist the members in many ways. We train them in positions that they are called to. This is a district and so it is under the Mission President. They have a District presidency but not many are called to district positions under that. There are currently six branches and we are starting up Church in two new areas but they are dependent branches. We help to teach classes of speak in meetings. We assist with the PEF senior couple and the Church Employment Couple since we are a long ways from where they work (about 4 hour drive).

We help with audits, make deposits, assist with financial support where needed. Most people don’t have much money and so we help by purchasing supplies for Church events. There are lots of areas of needs that we find out about and assist where appropriate. These cannot be adequately described or communicated but there are always service opportunities that consume most of our days. We fix plumbing, electrical and other types of problems as they come up.

A new location that we are starting to hold meetings is in the town of Dundee. There are about 6 members in that area. We have a set of missionaries there and they have had meetings there for about 3 weeks. Last Sunday there were 34 in attendance with over 18 being investigators. We had a baptism there last Sunday as well.

Most of all, we love the people and the work. We originally thought it would be nice to show the people how the Church works in larger areas but we have come to believe it would be really nice to show the people back home how the Church works and the wonderful people get along here. We can't say enough about how strong their testimonies are, how loving they are with each other, how humble and happy they are even when they have so little. It must be seen and felt to truly understand.