Monday, October 28, 2013

The Light is in Their Eyes

Week of October 7-13

This week we learned more about the light of the body being the eyes and that if you know what to look for, you can see the light or,  absence of it in the eyes of those we meet with. This is a wonderful tool and a joy to see those whose eyes and lives are filled with new light.

Monday was spent frustrating, moreover the inadequacy of the Internet service here generally and from our provider specifically. We had technicians here for a couple of hours and they finally concluded that an engineer would need to come and realign the little dish and reset the settings. We sighed and suggested that that happen Wednesday afternoon because we were not available until then.

Tuesday we traveled down to Mafikeng across the Botswana border to South Africa. There we met with the Abrahams, the Member Support missionary couple there. It was a delightful visit with them. They are from St. George, although they are originally from Southern California where, later in life, they and their family joined the church. That conversion story was in itself a real treat to hear.

The real treat however, was their introduction to us of sister Mercy. She is a Zimbabwean saint, member of 17 years, married in the temple to a doctor (who can’t get work in his country, but can’t leave either.) Sister Mercy has a degree in what we would call Physical Therapy. She uses a tapping process to realign the body, similar to what a chiropractor might do with spine manipulation. There is no question that she has the gift of healing.

She lives in one side of a tiny cement block and tin garage, perhaps 7 feet by ten feet. No real door, no indoor plumbing, only recently did Elder Abraham set up an electric line and light in the place. She has only a small bed, tiny table and a few books. No running water, no bathroom, no fridge, no closet, no cupboard, no windows - nothing.

Yet, people send drivers from all over the country and South Africa to bring her, or they come to her, to be able to get pregnant. She has a powerful gift of using this realigning energy from tapping to help women get pregnant. She also does many other amazing techniques that have wonderful healing results.

She had two children of her own, living with her husband in Zimbabwe. Plus she has 10 other children who have come to her from family and friends who have died. She is providing for in their home and education with all the little money she gets from her services here in Mafikeng.

She is a true Saint. I had the impression to offer a special blessing, which she eagerly accepted. The blessing was from Heaven and we all wept at her promised gifts and support from on high. She has recently been called to teach the YSA group in the Branch (5 to 8 students). Meeting her, seeing her living conditions, learning about her life, conversion and testimony were humbling beyond description. But mostly what we found was the sparkle of gospel light in her eyes. Her very life defines humility, dedication and service. Oh how guilty I feel when I see the likes of Sister Mercy.

Then the Abrahams took us to the church for us to attend the Seminary class and to teach the Inservice lesson. A street preacher met us at the gate of the compound where the church has rented some space for church.  His name was preacher Peter. He was there for a handout, not for a bash. Sister Abraham invited him to join us for the class (she had better second thoughts but it was too late to un-invite him).

The teacher of the Institute class is a 19-year-old handsome young man who is very intelligent and has amazing skill with the students. His name is Nelson Hlophe. He lives in a tiny block house, no water, no electricity and he is raising his 16-year-old brother on his own. They have an older brother who is serving a mission. As soon as he returns home, Nelson will go on his mission and the older brother will carry on with the raising of the younger brother.  Then he too will then leave for a mission when Nelson is back. How? With incredible sacrifice, determination and some help from the church and members, themselves who are poorer than the church mice, that join them each Sunday.

Once again, the light in Nelson’s and his student’s eyes was telling and humbling. After the class, Peter left after requesting some assistance from Elder Abraham, who gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. Then we taught the Inservice lesson and Sister Cloward coordinated the attendance rolls and records so we can check on the qualifications for the four students who will graduate. The Institute teacher was a member of the Branch Presidency and is now the Elder’s Quorum President, single, but does have a car - one of the only two or three in the Branch who does.

We left the lesson and watched sister Mercy, brother Diphala and Nelson and his brother leave, I marveled at their diligence and commitment. I had seen how far they had to walk to the hovels where the stayed (they don’t call it their home - only “where they stay.”) Oh what a lesson, what an example, what faithfulness. No wonder their eyes twinkle and their laughter is so contagious. They truly prove that “less is more!”

We had dinner at a quiet little place that was tucked away in the housing area of the town. It was called “The Ferns.” It is not advertised and is sort of a private dinner place for locals (mostly white people). We had reservations and were ushered in through a labyrinth of overgrown plants, walk and hallways to a private room and table. That could have handled a dozen people. The Abrahams had not eaten there either. We were in for a real treat.

Sister Abraham ordered the Kingkilp (ocean fish) Brother Abraham, Sister Cloward and I ordered the fillet. In a few minutes the waiter came back apologizing that they only had two fillets. I offered to have the T-bone.

The T-bone was thin but well prepared with a side of tiny baked potato and a little minced Rape (chard). But the fillets (cut lengthways rather than across???) was amazingly good. I got one bite from Sister Cloward, so I could verify just how wonderful it was. The whole setting was a delightful experience for all of us. But…

I could see how uncomfortable we all were having that dinner knowing what our students of the day were likely having, or not. And therein is the difficulty we have in being surrounded by a society with such divergent wealth and poverty. It is very difficult for couple missionaries (and the younger ones too) to follow the counsel to not give money or more resources to the members.

We all understand the rationale - we can not rescue them and take them out of poverty by giving them money. But we can help them to have the knowledge and spirit that can take the poverty out of them. However, the difficulty here in Africa is so very complex. It takes in so many different nations with such diverse culture and such terrible poverty and political upheaval. Truly the future of the nations here is in the hand of the Lord to work his miracles to get the light into the minds and hearts of Africans who can lead their countries and people to choices and conditions that can improve their lives.

It seems that each place, branch, ward and group we visit and try to leave with better understanding and more effective teaching skills ends up teaching us a lot more than we do them.

We stayed that night at a hotel - very expensive! It was nice, a mid-range place by U.S. standards. However, it was obvious that it catered to the more elite of the country and area. We won’t stay there again. We did that time because the Abrahams had set it up for us and it was where the mission president stays when he goes there. Because it is South Africa there and security is a really big deal, they wanted us to be in a compound area. Wherever possible we’ll try to arrange our affairs and meetings there next time in time to get us back home to our flat (2-21/2 hours --- across and through the border crossing process).

On our way out the next morning, we drove through a small game preserve on the outskirts of town. It reminded me of a drive out through the flat and brushy area south of Tintic and Eureka. But only slight undulation to the terrain. We encountered Redbok (a horse-like horned deer/elk like critter), lots of Zebra, impala, jackal, Caped Water Buffalo, Wildebeasts, Giraffes and the prize was a female white rhino and her calf. I tried to get the car to where we could catch them crossing in front of us. All I got was a picture of them at a distance from the rear. HUGE behind! It had to be 6 to 61/2 feet across the back end. The horn was 18 to 20 inches in length and they trotted along like a Sherman tank. That was an awsome thing to see.

We got back a little after noon and expected the Internet guys to follow through with the promise to return to get things fixed. No such luck. Sister Cloward continues to remind me “Honey, remember, we are in Africa and Botswana and people don’t do things the way you expect.” Well these guys don’t, but I have seen some amazing young and not-so-young people here who do. The difference seems to have something to do with the light, or lack of it, in their eyes.

Oh well, there was Wednesday to try again. No such luck. Oh they did come, but they couldn’t fix the problem. It seems the whole country is so over jamming the few copper lines that carry the Internet that about the best speed they can get is 1.5 Down and .35 Up. The real problem is the quality of the carriage of the signal. That is where and why we have such a difficult time connecting or even sending an email.  I suspect that this battle is going to take more time and teach more patience, (I have decided that is the word people use to describe the exasperation of frustration over idiotic situations). “Yes dear, I know, it does no good to complain.” --- yah I know, but...

We met Wednesday night with brother Caiphus who is the single 31 year old Stake Music Chairman. Sister Cloward was asked by the Stake President to help him with a choir for the first Sake conference that will be conducted on November 2. She has a lot to do to get some of the Branches ready to contribute some voices. Caiphus is sharp and would really like to get married. Our story encouraged him to be more bold in his courting. I think we’ll have a great friendship with him.

Thursday was filled with more Internet research and frustration and a bit of coordination with the Gublers for getting a new car that we would take up to Francistown on Friday. Then Sister Cloward got together with the other Sister missionaries and Sister Gubler and Sister Wilson (mission President’s wife) to watch the DVD of the Women’s Conference. Sister Cloward had started a Pumpkin Surprise (without pumpkin -- not available here). So we used Butternut Squash which they have a plenty. She left it cooking and about the time the conference watching was over I was to take it over to the Gubler’s flat (about 15K away). One of the AP’s was here with me while his companion and Elder Gubler were down to the City water district trying to work out the water bills for all the missionaries, mission office and mission home.

Just as we were getting the desert in the car it started to rain. Now mind you they haven’t seen anything but a light sprinkle or two in over a year. Suddenly the sky was full of lightning (different than what you see in the valleys there. It was quite a show as torrents of rain fell for about 30-40 minutes. It had been 100ยบ outside, but when we got out of the car at Gublers it was hailing and we got drenched in the quick run in with eh Butternut Surprize (that I had accidently let burn on the bottom - we are still trying to figure out cenagrade conversions and timing of our tiny electric oven). I’ll, we’ll get it better next time.

Friday we drove up to Francistown bringing the new replacement car for the Sister missionaries. It was a little white Hyundai 2i. Sister Cloward (I am still getting used to calling her that) drove the Aveo and I drove the Hyndai after an interesting false start.

Originally she was to drive the new car. We did start out that way, but after just 20K she called me on the cell phone in the Aveo and asked if I had seen the helicopter go over? I responded no and that I didn’t hear it either. In a couple of minutes after passing the last roundabout when she increased her speed up toward the 120K posted limit she called again. It seems that the helicopter was not above the car, it was the car! It was making a horrific sound and shaking like it was going to “fly” apart.

We pulled over and traded cars. About the time I got it up to 80-90K it did the same thing to me. We pulled over and called Eder Gubler, the fleet manager. He had us meet him back at town and brought us another new car identical to the other one. We started out again and as we hit 90K Sister Cloward called again informing me that this was doing the same thing. We traded cars again and sure enough, at about 85K the car went into helicopter mode. I decided to push it up a little more. I got the heli-car up to 140K and heard a little pop sound and the noise stopped. It didn’t happen again for all five more hours of driving, most of the time at 120K.

We later determined that the noise was a vibration and harmonics from the plastic under panel of the cars. The pop must had been a rivet or something that made the airflow produce the vibration. Both cars now seem okay. Sister Cloward is okay to. Given her helicopter ride with Thayne (after his water skiing accident) she was not interested in another one.

We finally arrived in Francistown just after dark. The Davis’ are a delightful young couple (about our age) from Cache Valley where he has been in the car dealership business all his life. They have a wonderful flat that the Mission President can use when he comes up to hold meetings, interviews and he and his wife can stay in the second bedroom. That bedroom has a king bed that was nearly as wonderful as our own at home. We stayed with them two nights.

Elder Davis had a brief meeting at the church with the Branch President just before we went to the dinner at a place right across from the church called Barbara’s restaurant. At one time years back it was surrounded by a golf course. But draughts and budgets have now allowed the course to return to its native brush. There we met President Majofi from  Zimbabwe. He survives in a tiny hovel like the one sister Mercy in Mafikeng. He has no work, no income and survives by raising a small garden at the Davis home and getting whatever he can from odd jobs. He cannot officially work in the country. He has an emergency at home in Zimbabwe so he will not be at church Sunday. How he is going to get there we don’t know - no car, no money, only faith and a little help from Heaven and Heaven’s helpers.

At church we also met the newest member of at he Branch a brother Hassin. He has been investigating the church for seven years. His wife and two young children are members, but only just recently did he humble himself enough to pray about the church. His powerful answer came like most testimonies. It came as a washing of peace and calm from the spirit. He recognized the difference in his feelings and he allowed that spirit to lead him. He has a great testimony and his eyes are alight with the truth he has embraced. I fully expect that he will be the Branch President one day. They are looking forward to being sealed with their children a year from now. I hope we are able to join them for that sacred occasion.

The purpose of the trip was to do an Inservice Training for the new Seminary and Institute teachers. That was the primary agenda for Saturday morning.

We had dinner that night  at an interesting little restaurant that was owned and run by a German woman named Barbara (late 50’s). She was the owner, cook and socializer for her guests. She also had a glass of wine in her hand all the time. She came and sat next to me to take our orders. She rattled off as many other items she had available as she had on the menu itself (and that was a good many). I asked her if she would just fix me something she loved to cook. Her eyes sparkled and she smiled at the prospect of surprising me. She was already a few sheets to the wind, so I wasn’t sure what I was in for.

Sister Cloward had a Hake fillet (a local ocean fish) with mashed potatoes. I ended up with a small piece of beef in a sort of egg batter with minced onions. It was very similar to how I sometimes prepare venison. Okay, not great, but the food was only part of the deal. She sat at the table and talked until past our curfew. She simply would not let us go. She would have talked all night about a few gospel concepts I passed her way, but we promised to return the next time we were there and take up the conversation again.

We left not sure if she would remember the discussion or gospel principles or not the next morning. Her eyes had been full of self assured opinion about the nature of deity or prime order and how she was not coming back to the same body. Her eyes were clouded by the alcohol as was her thinking. However, I think she has had a hard life and that she may actually have a desire to hear the truth. We’ll see. I only hope that next time she will be able to visit under the influence of the spirit not the alcohol. But, the spirit was not in her eyes that night - they were dark.

The next morning we went to the church for the inservice lesson and met brother Olifile Moumakwa and sister Prudence Bakoko. Brother Olifile (O.lee.fee.lay) is a fifty plus single man, well educated, convert of three years and was endowed in the temple a year ago. A former Catholic, studied at Commonwealth College in Richmond VA. He is a very bright and faithful member and a great teacher. Sister Bakoko is a lovely wife and mother of two of the absolutely most beautiful young children (girl 4 and boy almost 3). Her husband is the 2nd Counselor in the Branch Presidency. They are a wonderful family. Both brother Olifile’s and the Bakoko’s testimonies and conversion stories are amazing and testify to the Lord’s moving in mysterious ways to answer seeking minds and hearts.

Their eyes literally sparkle like the children as they tell how the light of the gospel came into the lives and hearts. The lesson was good and the spirit was rich as we explored teaching in the Lord’s way to help their students find the truth in the principles and doctrines they were discovering in the scriptures.

We taught them how the new S & I teaching process is to “read the scriptures sequentially” and how the teacher can help them “discover the context” or setting of the story they are reading, “how to find the content” (who, what, where, when and why). Then how to ask questions to help guide the students to “find the principles and doctrines” that are included in the verses and chapters they are reading.

They were excited to understand how they as teachers could help “expand the students understanding and insight for application of the principles and doctrines in their own lives.” Then finally we discussed how effective teaching leads to a clear desire and “commitment to incorporate the principles and doctrines into their lives” to live and be “Like That.”

Again, these great saint’s eyes sparkled at their own discovery of how they can become more effective teachers. And what a sacred trust to teach the youth in the church is for them.

While we were teaching Sister Bakoko’s children and husband were busy cleaning the building for church the next day. You will see in the pictures of this delightful little girl and little boy that their eyes dance with joy of life and love. They like so many young people, especially children, here as just full of joy and gladness. Even in their dark little eyes you can see the light of love.

I couldn’t help but compare the lack of light in our dinner host’s eyes the night before and the eyes of these faithful members and children at the training and at church the next morning. There are several scriptures that relate to the eye as the light of the body and that the light chaseth darkness away. We saw the truth of that concept that night and several more times the next day in church.

We delivered the new car to the Sisters and met the Elders who are serving there. They are a long way from the mission HQ and some of them are very young (green), but they seem to be committed to the work and love the people.

That night Elder Davis had made arrangements for us to have dinner at a private game preserve about 50K north of town. We drove up about 4:30 PM and arrived just before dark. As we drove in we saw several different animals. This place was also a golf course (if you can call it that). But it certainly had its own dry, dry, dry beauty.

As we arrived we gave the cook our order (fish, chicken or beef). Judy had fish, Sister Davis the chicken and Elder Davis and I the rump beef. It would be ready at 6 PM. That gave us a half hour to ride around the course and see the animals from the old safari type truck they had.

We saw a lot of giraffes, and a number of different deer family animals. We enjoyed the ride and animals, but mostly we just really enjoyed being with the Davis’s. They felt like life-long friends. We look forward to being with them again next month.

The food was good and the dessert that came with the meal was a piece of heavy dark cake covered with a wonderful apricot custard. Sister Cloward got the recipe - it really was that good.

On the way out we ran into several more giraffes and I tried to get a shot of them with the camera. Alas, I could see the twinkle in their eyes from the reflection of the headlights, but the little flash could not reach out and capture the moment the way it really was.

Early the next morning early we went to the Francistown Branch for church and the Davis’ had to go to the Gerald group where they are assigned. So we bid them farewell until next time. Church was again a delightful adventure with lots of sparkles in the dark eyes of the children and members. There wasn’t enough room for everybody at sacrament meeting to sit. Even sliding over and sharing seats. They will have to address the lack of chapel space sooner than later as they grow.

Sister Cloward helped a couple of the youth with the player keyboard and after sacrament meeting I helped brother Bakoko set apart his wife to the Seminary Teacher calling and another young sister as the Branch Music director. Sorry, the names are a challenge to say, let alone remember.

After church we headed back on the long drive home to Gaborone. On the way we passed the Tropic of Capricorn and a lot of little huts where the families were gathering and selling bundles of thatch (weedy grass to use on the roofs and for fences of other little huts and compounds. They also were making and selling little brooms and bundles of firewood.

Once again the contrast, poverty, ingenuity, determination and just sheer ability to survive was a lesson and an amazing experience to witness in the life of people whom I know the Lord loves and who he expects us to bring the light of the gospel truths to their eyes, ears and hearts too. I just don’t quite know how he is going to work all that out we such weak vessels as I.

The lesson of the week? First - Simply, in the darkest of eyes and lives there is room for light. Once received, the light will carry them out of darkness and poverty. Second, Oh how very much we have and how very much we want these brothers and sisters to have all that we have - spiritually and temporally. How very much we want to see the day when their is “no poor among them.”

To those other senior couples who could consider a Senior Service Mission now, we encourage you to touch base with us so we can help you understand why and how a Botswana mission could be a great opportunity for you. For those who are not yet thinking it is time we invite you to reconsider and really ask - “Could it be?”

If you have the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your life and your eyes, you too could help to bring that to Africa and share it with these wonderful people who are so ready and anxious for the light of truth - and for you to bring it.

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