Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Light is On in the Dark Continent

Week of September 29 - October 6, 2013

I don’t remember where I first heard the term “The Dark Continent.” Perhaps it was in one of the old Tarzan movies. The term did not refer to the color of the skin of the original inhabitants. Rather, “Dark” referred to the fact that it was unknown, and was so impenetrable by European and Western exploration in general that the “darkness of the jungle and vastness of the continent was the reason Henry Stanley of “Dr. Livingston I presume…” fame first penned the term the “Dark Continent.”  

Further, the continent was also dark with the traditions of the past that were incongruous to western civilization and specifically to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That dark night has seen the dawn of glorious new light in the continent, countries and hearts of Africa. The day dawn is surely breaking and the clouds of night’s darkness are fleeing away. This is truly the day of gospel light removing the darkness from the minds and understanding of the people of Africa.
This week has been a continuation of preparations for the service and work with the Seminary and Institute teachers and Unit (Ward and Branch) leaders of the mission. There is so little of the area and so few of the people who we have reached, yet those who have been are clearly among the noble and great ones.

This week was transfers for the Elders and Sisters. Several went home and a few new ones came in. Couples rarely get transferred and we’re 99% certain we will be here in the same flat for the duration of our service here, even though our area covers the whole mission. We helped the Gublers with some Flat inspections in the Broadhurst area, although given the fact that most of them were in a state of shifts of residents, the inspection was just a visit to leave them cinnamon rolls Sister Gubler had made. It was good to get to know the sisters better.
We had four sisters over one evening for dinner. Then we had the two office Elders over. They brought a member friend that they had just been with to a lesson. We served the leftover spaghetti from the training - there was a lot. Needless to say the pot was licked clean. Elder Bonghani was very hungry. He is a small African Elder (exceptional faith and diligence)… certainly a budding great leader here.

On Tuesday we went to lunch with the Abrahams and Gublers. We went to the Game Mall and ate at Mug and Bean. The food was better than the last time we ate there and it was a pleasant lunch. Other than the KFC in the Mall, there really aren’t any fast food places here. After lunch they went back to the mission office to get ready for the transfer meeting. They gather the group of missionaries at the church to make the exchanges and to have a brief testimony meeting on transfer days. Sister Cloward and I had to go to the stationary store to pick up a few office items. When we came out, I went into the Mall restroom.

Mind you the stalls here, like in Europe, are closets with a floor to ceiling door - not the cubicles we have back in the states. All went fine until I went to leave and the small door handle that shut and locked the door came off in my hand. It was stripped and no matter how hard I tried, it would not release the locked door. Now that was a predicament! There Sister Cloward was out in the hall waiting for me, there I was, the only one in the large men’s bathroom, I mean small 2’x3’ commode room with no apparent way to get out. I am sure I must have felt like I was in spirit prison before the Master came to the rescue.

After several minutes of wishing I had a pocketknife or screwdriver or some other tool (a high speed grinder maybe?), I realized that all I had was my ministerial card, nametag and phone. So I called Elder Gubler who had just gotten back to the mission office (only five minutes away) and explained the situation. He graciously laughed and came to the rescue. I knew that by then Sister Cloward was worrying that maybe I had been mugged or worse (15 minutes and still waiting…). Then I thought maybe I could get someone’s attention by banging on the door. So I did - again and again. (However, I never heard the banging on the door and was really concerned about my hubby!)

Finally, someone came to my bathroom door. I could barely understand him, but he got the message and he was able to jerry the lock and let me out. Hallelujah! Free again! I had just walked out to both Sister Cloward’s and my relief when Elder Gubler got there. We had a good laugh and I determined to find a good gentleman’s pocketknife and to be sure to try the door before I used another public facility.

That afternoon the Gublers and Abrahams were at the transfer (we did not go). They had pizzas for the missionaries - ten pizzas to be exact and you can imagine how much the Elders left for the couples…yah right. So we got a call and quickly threw together a dinner for the six of us. They came over for the feed and a round of SM (Scripture Masters - our new version of Five Crowns with Seminary Scripture Mastery Scriptures). Abrahams are later-life converts with a great story about good friends and work associates who shared the gospel. It was a good visit to get to know them. Next week they will return the favor as we travel down to Mafikeng to meet with the S & I (Seminary and Institute) teachers and leaders of their Ward.

We continue to have major frustration with the Internet and communication system here. Our Internet speeds are typically - 678 png, .012mbs download and .09mbs upload. Every email, software upgrade and Google call effort is dropped again and again. We are grateful to have the resource, but it is usually more frustration than it is worth. The provided has promised to come by and see if there is anything they can do to get the speed up to the standard which is about 48 png, .42mbs down and .24mbs up. I suggested to our people at the Area in South Africa that they might see if any of President Monson’s pigeons were available for communications.

We went with the Gublers to a Braai (BBQ) at the Lobatse Ward (an hour south) with the young adults there. The Rands, the previous CES couple here, had acquired several weenie roasters and we took them to show the kids how to roast Viennas (“hot dogs,” but truly more like breakfast-size vienna sausages.) They usually put whatever they are roasting right on the wire screen over the fire. They don’t use briquettes. We had marshmallows (pretty much the same here as back home). And Sister Cloward and I had prepared some pineapple slices for roasting as well. They had a good time and in so many ways are just like teenagers at home. Yet in other ways, so very different. They have nothing, yet they have everything - even without graham crackers and chocolate bars for smores.

After the braai they went inside the building and I did a short talk about who would be first at the Savior’s feet, would be last in line. I tied it in with striving to get to the temple with all of their friends. It was a “Scoutmaster's MInute” to give a spiritual tone and purpose to the gathering, rather than just to get together for fun. The stake presidency is striving to insert gospel purpose, principles and doctrinal reminders in all the activities.

On Thursday we met with President Makweni, Bro Rwada, and the Stake Young Men’s and Young Women’s presidents (married couple with a young baby) to consider the Seminary graduation and other youth-focused issues and calendaring considerations. It was clear that the President (2nd Counselor) was trying to use the training on working through counsels. Meet, delegate and call for reporting and consideration for further action and planning details. It is the right way to go - but the delay in making decisions and getting the go ahead was a bit frustrating to the attendees. The big question that needs a response from the stake president has to do with a simple change in the date for Seminary graduation.

They want to get the parents and family members of the graduates out to the event. However, the plan was a quick little program and a quick walk across the stage to get a certificate. Many of these are first generation members with non-member parents. However, even with that they get more (and that is mighty few) of the non-member parents to attend, than the member parents. I tried to impress them with the concept that we look at graduation as the “END” (end result of having completed the four years of classes), but that it can also be a powerful “MEANS” to creating interest and desire to attend and graduate on the part of younger youth who see the significance and grandness of the event.

This whole concept of learning to see the means in everything is a powerful concept. The Elders and Sisters see being here as the “END” to the preparation and anticipation of serving their mission. Yet from a higher and broader perspective, their missions are more of a means for training and preparation in their own lives. It is a great “MEANS” for personal and gospel  experiences that will prepare them for future callings and life challenges. I have come to see everything as a means to greater ends that may be beyond us to comprehend or appreciate in the present moment - we tend to see what we do as the end of the current moment, calling, challenge or action.

Saturday, Sister Wilson and the Gublers convinced President to take a P-day and leave the white shirt behind (not the name tag) and spend the morning visiting the small animal preserve about 15-20 minutes from our flat. We went along in the mission van. The Reserve is about a 50-acre fenced area of dry, flat brushy terrain. You can drive through and see some of the animals of the region. We saw warthogs, lots of monkeys, zebras, impalas, gazelles, ostriches and several other small animals and a variety of birds. 

We would have seen more birds, but the drought doesn’t help bring them here now. The drought is a national emergency. Rationing is now going to be 2-3 times a week from the 2-a-wk we are already experiencing. They cut the water off in various Phases (large neighborhood areas) for several hours (8+ where we live) at a time. That’s a bit of a pit for bathroom, bathing and other water need issues of the day.

Anyway, we stopped in the Reserve in a small brushy area where there were some little concrete tables and taught the Wilsons how to play Scripture Masters for a while. The game was interrupted by the constant visits of monkeys looking for a handout and by an enormous ostrich, which at times I could literally reach out and touch. It was a fun outing and I am sure we will see some of the other Animal Reserves in some of the other areas we work in - including one in Mafikeng next week.

Today because the Internet is too slow to stream conference without undue frustration at the lag in pic/voice, the Stake did not try to host a live broadcast of General Conference. Rather, they will show it on DVD in each Unit in two weeks after the disks are available. So Sister Cloward and I attended the Broadhurst Ward for Fast and Testimony meeting. The Bishop invited two new missionaries to introduce themselves and bear their testimonies and then asked a sweet sister who had just returned from serving in the Johannesburg Temple as a missionary to bear her testimony. It was so powerful and moving to hear her testimony and faith.

She is the mother of the 32-year-old stake president. The mother who told her son he was no longer a member of the family when he joined the church. She then reiterated that rejection when he turned a full-ride scholarship at the college to serve a mission in Cape Town. She and her daughter rejected him, the church and turned their backs on him for causing so much contention and frustration in the family. He went anyway. Nine months into his mission, with no contact with his family, his mother called to inform him that she had just been baptized. His sister too found the light and left her darkness behind.

That story of President Clement Motswogothata, [Mot.swo.ho.tata], his mother and the incredible journey, service and leadership here in the Church in Botswana is a powerful story and prefixing metaphor of many lives that have, are and will be the product of the gospel light removing the [spiritual] darkness from this people, nation and continent. I hope to help him write his story and testimony about “Who is Really in Charge in the Church – in his life.” The message applies to all the lives and service of those He has reserved and raised up for this time of enlightenment in Africa.

Once again, we thrilled at the privilege of being here now to see the light and to be able to help to pull back the shades in even a little way. We sincerely invite other couples whom would like to join us here as Sr. Missionary couples to work with the branches and wards, to let us know of your interest. President Wilson would love to talk with you about the opportunity and need and to connect you with the missionary committee to discuss the possibilities of bringing your light to add to the brightness of the Lord’s work here.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad you are cooking for and feeding people along with your teaching, training, testifying, traveling, gardening and playing the equivalent of '5 Crowns'! You are so good at all of it. I will drink some extra H2O and think of you and pray for the end of the drought for all of Africa (The drought of water, as well as couple missionaries, and any remaining darkness in the nation!)