We left Port Alfred on Monday, May 2, 2016, and headed to
Port Elizabeth. The plan was to do some
family history research, ride elephants, and participate in a Schotia Safari.
We arrived at President and Sister Pershing’s apartment
and stayed for 2 nights.
On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, our plan was to travel to
Uitenhage, about a 45-minute drive from Port Elizabeth to go to the Department
of Human Affairs. The information that
was online about this office showed a form to fill out for copies of birth
certificates. We thought this was a good
start for a record of Martha Ann Gillson Hall, my Great Grandmother.
birth/christening record from 1849.
(There is some confusion on Family Search and histories I have in my
possession between birth year of 1849 or 1850, so I wanted to see if I could
find something to document the exact dates.)
We stood in line for about 2 hours and found out we had
filled out the form correctly and needed to go pay the cashier for the service
of obtaining a record to be processed.
The cashier told us we were probably wasting our time. She has been waiting what I believe she said
9 years for a 1983 family birth certificate, and still has not received it.
We knew that we had another option. The Uitenhage Methodist Church was our next
stop. The sign in front of the church
said the office was closed at 12:30 pm; we arrived around 1:30 pm. Randy called the phone number listed on the
sign and spoke with a woman who worked there that was just leaving the
office. She told us that the old records
had been moved to the Cory Library at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She
said she would go back into the office and send us an email with the
We traveled to Grahamstown and arrived at the Cory
Library. The librarian assisted us after we filled in a form documenting the
information we were there to research.
She went into the back file room and returned with the baptism book
covering the general time period we were after.
We flipped through the pages and found Martha Ann
Gillson’s christening record. We were
both excited. The copies of the entry
and book reference are attached below.
We were headed back to
Queenstown from Sada last night at dusk. We could see something up ahead in the
field. Just as we got there, a Kudu jumped the fence of some farmland at a full
gallop and came to a complete stop at the edge of the road. If he had continued
across the road at that exact time, we would have hit him. Another tender mercy
and blessing was afforded to us! See a picture of a Kudu below. He was at least
as big as a horse or elk.
It has been quite a while since I have posted anything in
our blog. I could say that we have been
very busy, which we have, I could say that I’ve been lazy, which I haven’t, or I
could say that I just didn’t take the time to sit down and write anything. The fact of the matter is, that in one way or
another all three of these reasons may apply at various times in the past. But now with this being the first day of the
new year, I am trying to set a goal for myself and keep this blog up-to-date on
a somewhat regular basis.
Since I last posted,
Kay has had surgery on her eye to repair her retina, which was successful. As we were preparing for her surgery we were
somewhat nervous, but I kept reminding myself that we were in South Africa
where the world’s first successful heart transplant took place. The surgery went great and her doctor, Dr. DeBoer
was very good and helped us gain confidence in the medical system here.
In November we drove to Port Alfred and celebrated
Thanksgiving with the other Senior Missionary Couples who are serving in the Eastern
Cape with us. We substituted some large
chickens for turkey and tried to duplicate the Thanksgiving meal as much as we
could with what is available here in the area.
And of course, Kay made one of her famous “Apple Pies”, which was to die
for,and a fruit salad to go along with the meal. All in all, the meal turned out good. The following day we all traveled up to the Kwantu
Game Park for a game drive. The weather
had turned cold that day and the animals had found shelter in order to get out
of the wind. This resulted in not being
able to find the Rhinos or the Hippos. They fed us a good meal after the drive which was nice and filling.
Two weeks after our trip to Port Alfred we were able to host
Elder Thayne and his parents, Tim and Roxanne, for the weekend. Elder Thayne had completed his mission and
his parents had traveled here to pick him up and tour the mission before
returning home. We got to know the
Thayne’s and hope to carry on our relationship with them after our mission is
Kay is still teaching keyboard lessons in Sada, Ilinge and
Queenstown and I am now teaching English classes in those same areas on the
same days that she teaches keyboard. Some
of my English students are progressing well and others still seem to have some difficulty
understanding the course. We took a
break from teaching these lessons for the month of December because school is
out here and most everyone is out of town on what they term “Holiday”. We will begin teaching again this coming week
and I have some new materials I am going to introduce into my English class
which I think is going to help out the students.
During December, we have continued to visit 2 less active families in the Ilinge Ward each week and Kay taught her YW lesson in Sada. We attended Zone Conference on December 18 in East London with about 48 Elder Missionaries, President and Sister Merrill (the SACTM Mission President and his wife), and President and Sister Stapley (one of the Mission President's counselors and his wife). We joined in the festivities to help celebrate Christmas with the Sada Ward on December 23. They had a cute Primary children portrayal of the birth of the Savior and some yummy chicken and salads afterwards. We hosted some of the Elder Missionaries to Skype with their friends/families on Christmas Day and they enjoyed some of our Christmas goody plates.
Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, Kay and I finally drove
through the Game Reserve that borders our home.
The cost is only 35 Rand, about $2.25 U.S. equivalent. We drove our own vehicle through the park and
the time it takes is about 2 ½ hours. It
was well worth the time. We were able to
get up close and personal with a herd of Giraffe. We stopped to take pictures of the herd and
the big male crossed the road about 75 feet in front of us. He was huge and it was exciting to witness
him and the herd so close to us. As we
traveled along the road we came by a very large water hole about 300 yards away
and noticed 3 large Rhinos standing in the water at the far end, cooling
themselves off as the temp was about 100-plus degrees. We also were able to view most all of the
animals that are contained within the reserve.
All in all, it was a good time.
Another thing I have decided to do, is at the end of each
blog entry I want to post a spiritual thought or message. I hope that those who read this blog may be
touched by the Spirit and they share in our experiences.
A couple of weeks ago I was reading a “Christmas Message” by
Clayton M. Christensen, titled “He Did It”.
In the message he tells about a dream he had about the “Pre-existence”
and the council that was held to decide which plan we wanted to follow. His dream goes as follows:
“I was at the meeting when God announced
his plan, and then Satan announced an alternative plan. And God said that he
would implement his plan. I
remember we felt a real worry in all our minds because the question was, “That’s
a great idea to send us to Earth, to experience the options of choosing right
and wrong.” Our concern was, “What will happen if we don’t choose the right?”
Then in my dream I saw one man amongst
us — Jesus Christ — who stood up and said, “Send me!” He explained that, if we
sin, it will be okay because, he said, “I will go, and I will live the perfect
life, and, at the end of my life, I will take upon myself the suffering that
all your sins might have created.”
I saw my friends and family were
relieved the Savior would do that for us. But then in a similar way, I began to
feel apprehension. “This is a great deal for us, but what’s going to happen if
the Savior comes down to Earth, and he doesn’t live a perfect life? And what
would happen if, when he comes to the end of his life, he decides not to go
through with it and decides not to take our suffering upon himself, onto his
shoulders. What’s going to happen to us then?”
Then I saw in my dream the Savior standing
up again, and with the kindest, gentlest voice I can imagine, he said to us, “It’s
okay. I will do what I have promised I would do. And if you’ll only accept me,
I will do what I planned to do right now. I will do what I said I would do. And
your responsibility will be to accept me.”
I remember the feeling in my heart, in this dream, at that time, that what
he asked me to do was to have faith in him that he would do what he promised to
Then in my dream I saw that the meeting
finished, and everybody went to do whatever was on his or her agenda. I looked,
and there was the Savior standing alone. I realized that he was the only man
who stood and offered himself to be the sacrifice for the rest of us, and he
was standing there alone. I thought to myself, “What can I do to thank him?
Should I go shake his hand and say, ‘Thanks’?” I realized that the way I can
say thanks to the man whose sacrifice would give me eternal life would be if I
can stand next to him and commit that I will do everything I can to help God’s
plan work, and he can trust me, that that I will do what I have committed to
do. And then my dream ended.
Brother Christensen says that this dream changed his life
because it has helped him to frame the
commitment he has to the Savior, that he will do everything
he can to bring souls unto him.
He thinks of this dream over and over again, each year at
Christmas. Everybody you meet or know
actually accepted Christ once, when they were at that meeting in heaven. We have all accepted Jesus Christ and
expressed our faith in him the he would do exactly what he promised he would
We are now here on this earth. The Savior fulfilled his promise to us. Do we have the faith to believe in him and
that he did it for our benefit?
It is my wish that each of us at the beginning of this new
year would take time to look into ourselves and think about our relationship
with our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. What are we willing to do in order to fulfill
our commitment to them? What can we do
to help others understand the commitment that they made in that meeting long
ago and help them to do what they need to do in order to be able to return to
Heavenly Father? I bear you my testimony
that Christ has fulfilled his promise to us, all we need to do is to fulfill our
promise to him, Amen.
May this New Year be a time for you and your family to come
together and be happy.
I apologize for the delay since our last blog entry. Things have been a little busy with the
mission activity and some personal items.
The Mission is going very well. My English class has added another student,
making my class size now four students. Sister
Farnsworth has added another Keyboard student, bringing her total of students
now at around 15, depending on who shows up and school holidays. Also the Elders are continuing to teach and
preach the gospel.
We are currently on the fourth week of the latest transfer
for the missionaries. On the last
transfer we lost missionaries and only received 4 in return. The reason for this is that right now the
mission is not receiving as many Elders in as it needs in order to replace the ones
who are leaving at the end of their allotted time to serve. Also some of the African Elders who are
scheduled to serve in the mission are still waiting for visas and other
paperwork to come through so they can come into the country. The forecast for elders to come into the
mission over the next few months is promising, again depending on paperwork
approval for the South African Government.
The pair of missionaries which were not replaced here in our Zone were
the walking/biking Elders here in Queenstown.
The Zone leaders added their area to the one not replaced and now have
more than enough to keep them busy.
On this past mission transfer, we lost one of our Zone
Leaders: Elder Stegelmeier from Idaho.
This was hard for me to get a grip on because he is an exceptional young
man and a great example of what a missionary is all about. During the three months that we were able to
work with him, we got very close and I felt like he was one of my sons. The one redeeming factor is that he lives in
Preston, Idaho, and will be somewhat close to where we live in Utah. Also he wants to get together after we are
home and possibly go fishing in Idaho. We
will look forward to that.
Since the last blog update, Sister Farnsworth had to have
surgery on her right eye. Her vision in
her right eye became distorted and wasn’t clear anymore. We saw an eye doctor in East London concerning
this problem and he told us that was the result of something called a “Macular
Pucker,” which needed to be taken care of, the sooner the better for her. The surgery was done on July 28th
and all went well. We will be returning
for a follow up visit on her eye on Aug 28th. So far things seem to be progressing well.
Yesterday, August 14th, Bishop Xalabile form the Sada Ward
had his son return home from completing his mission. Today, Saturday, the ward is having a
celebration for him. Tonight they are having
another party and serving a lot of food.
If we can complete the keyboard lessons which are scheduled for today in
time, we hope to be able to attend. Curious
to see what the menu holds.
Monday morning, August 17th, we will be in East
London to go on a tour of the Mercedes Benz factory down there. We are looking forward to the tour and hope
that we might be able to get a few pictures to post in the future.
We hope that all is going well for all of you in your
lives. Please keep us in your prayers
and if you get a chance to write drop us a line or two, (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since our last post so we
will catch up on all the things that we have been doing since then. The lunch for the Zone Training went very
well. The main course was pizza from a
place called “Dagwoods.” They are the
closest thing to the type of pizza that we are used to eating back home. Their pizza is baked in brick ovens and their
sauce is more Italian than the other pizza places around here. We ended up getting 6 large pizzas to feed
everyone. Sister Farnsworth made “Homemade”
breadsticks; then we served a veggie tray, bottled water and Red Velvet Cake
for dessert. Everyone went away happy
Lately we have been very busy, involved with the everyday
activities of our mission.Sister
Farnsworth, teaching keyboard and me teaching English, and the two of us
working with the missionaries when we are available.The keyboard students are progressing very
well, and we have had a few more start learning from us.The English class is a work in progress.Between some sickness and a lot of funerals, I
have ended up with only 1 student attending.I do remember that the Lord has counseled us that with patience and long
suffering we will be blessed in the end.I am hoping that that applies to me trying to teach this weekly class.
On July 2nd and 3rd, we drove down to Grahamstown
and Port Alfred for a “Senior Retreat.”On
Thursday, July 2nd, we attended an Arts Festival held annually in
Grahamstown.We walked around the
vendors booths and had lunch.I was able
to pick up a nice walking stick that I can use when we do our daily walks.Its basic use is to keep the stray dogs and
any other creatures away from us when we are walking.Some of the farmers around here use sticks
like this to herd their cows, goats and sheep.Mine is only for our walks. We
also toured the “St Michael and St George Church” in Grahamstown.The construction of this church started in
1814, and picked up momentum in 1828, but because of money and other problems,
it wasn’t finished until 1954 (yes, in the 20th Century).The reason that they have two names attached to
the church is because they couldn’t agree on which name to call it so they
ended compromising and called it The St Michael and St George Church.
After the fair, we drove down to Port Alfred to the boarding
of the Wheelers to finish out the day.We had dinner and then Joined with President Merrill, our Mission
President, for some discussion about the Mission.The next morning, we had a pot-luck
breakfast.After breakfast we got
together for pictures on the balcony of the Wheeler’s apartment and then had
more discussion about the Mission and what was coming up in the future.Afterwards we had a 3-hour drive back to
Queenstown and crashed for the night.A side
note to this trip: on the way home, we saw a family of baboons running across
the highway.We couldn’t stop to take
pictures but at least we got to see them.One more item off of the bucket list.
On Father’s Day, I ended up having to give an impromptu talk
in the Sada Ward.The reason was because
the main speaker for that meeting didn’t come to church that day.I found out about my assignment just as the Sacrament
meeting was beginning.Talk about having
to rely on the Spirit.I survived, gave
a 20-minute talk, and received many positive comments after the meeting.This was a very humbling experience, but it helped
me to grow a couple of inches taller that day.
We are working with two Less-Active Members in the Illinge
Ward: Sister Ganelo and Brother Mase’.We had a good initial visit with both of them at their homes and invited
them to come out to church the following Sunday.They both said that they would each attend
but Brother Mase’ had one stipulation.He said he would only come if Sister Farnsworth and I would be there because
he wanted to attend church with the Prophet and his wife.Our fellowshipper/interpreter, a young man
named Junior, told us later that Brother Mase’ thought that I was the Prophet
and Sister Farnsworth was the wife of the Prophet.This was probably because the only
missionaries that he had associated with were the Elders of the mission and was
not aware that there were senior missionaries like us working alongside the
Elders.We rearranged our schedule to
attend the Illinge Ward that Sunday, but Brother Mase’ ended up not coming.On the other hand, Sister Ganelo did come to
church that Sunday and bore her testimony as it was Fast Sunday, so there was a
reward in our efforts after all.The Bishop
was very surprised to see her in attendance and asked us what we did to get her
to come out.We told him that we had
just invited her to attend and that she said she would be there.He thanked us and is happy that we are
working with his ward.
We had to take another trip to East London last Monday to
see the eye doctor for Sister Farnsworth.Her right eye has been bothering her again and her vision in that eye
has started to distort.The doctor told
us that she has a “macular pucker” and the only way to correct it and save her
vision is to perform surgery.This
surgery will take place on Tuesday, July 28, in East London.This is done as “Same Day Surgery.”We will have a follow-up the next morning
with the doctor in his office.If all
goes well, we will be headed back to Queenstown on Wednesday afternoon.
This coming Wednesday, July 22, is transfer day here in our
mission.In our Zone, we will be losing 4
elders and receiving only 2 in return.One
of our Zone Leaders will be returning home from his mission after serving 2
great years serving the Lord.Another Elder,
Elder Kjeldsen, is being transferred.The two Queenstown Elders, Elder Mohale and Elder Ntuli, are being
transferred and not being replaced.The
elders coming into the mission have slowed down right now, so President Merrill
has had to trim down on 3 of the Zones to fill in where it is needed.It is with sadness in our hearts that we say
goodbye to these Elders, and it is with joy in our hearts that we welcome the
two new Elders who are coming into our Zone.This means that, in addition to our current responsibilities, we will
probably be helping assist with the elders as we may be needed for the time
being.Exciting times in the Mission.
In previous posts, we have stated how cold it is in the
Queenstown area right now, but to add a little more spice to the mixture, we
had a few days of nice balmy weather followed by a major cold front which is
over us right now.Two nights ago we had
a monsoon rain that lasted pretty much all night.Yesterday coming back from Illinge, we
noticed that in the top of the mountains surrounding outside of Queenstown,
they were capped with a blanket of snow.That’s right, real white snow.I
guess that causes havoc for the baboons…lol.Now we are faced with south winds coming out of those same mountains
which are very cold.Can’t wait for
October and December, let’s get our spring and summer coming. Also, because of the cold, we haven’t been
able to do our morning walks and our golf game is suffering as well.Oh well, we will have to find something else
to do for our “P-Days” until it gets warmer.
Until our next post, May the Lord Bless You and Keep you,
and May Your Path Be On The Straight and Narrow Way.
It’s been a good week this past week. On Monday, June 15 it was our usual “P”
day. We cleaned the apartment as usual,
got cleaned up and dressed and went to a restaurant called “Spurs” for
lunch. We try to make this where we have
a late lunch/dinner on Mondays because we can get the “Monday Special”, a ¼ lb.
cheese burger, fries, (they call them chips), and deep fried shredded
onions. The nice thing about this
special is that on Mondays is buy one and get one free. Just a chance to save some money.
Usually when we arrive on Mondays it is usually just after
the lunch rush and it’s not too crowded.
But today it was really busy. We
didn’t know why but found out later that all the schools were closed, and all
the families decided to go to Spurs for lunch.
Also everyone was ordering the same thing “The Monday Special”. Luckily, Spurs had anticipated this and we
were able to get our usual without any problem.
Tuesday was a National Holiday, “Youth Day.” I guess that the schools were closed on
Monday so that everyone could have a 4-day weekend. There were different celebrations going on
all around South Africa in celebration of this holiday. One of the celebrations here in Queenstown
was a lot of soccer games happening around town. In one of the games the local
Methodist Church challenged the Mormons to a soccer match, for bragging rights
I guess. The game was played in the
morning and included four of the missionaries here in Queenstown. It was a hard fought game but the Mormons
came out on top and won the game. So
they now have the bragging rights for the next year.
All of the missionaries here in Queenstown, including Sister
Farnsworth and myself, were invited to Sister Peter’s home for a special
lunch. Sister Peter is a member of the
Queenstown ward and usually works during the week, but with the holiday she had
a day off. She wanted to feed the
missionaries. She feels that they have
sacrificed so much to give up their time to serve the Lord and leave their
homes and families to help others find the gospel. She said this one way she can say thank you
to them. The meal was very good. It was
chicken wings with rice which had a special cheese sauce on it. Dessert was bananas.
On Wednesday we made our weekly journey to Sada to teach our
keyboard students. After keyboard we met
with Brother Jaantjie so that we could go with him for home teaching. Our home teaching family was with a less
active sister, Sister Noconda. I guess
one of the reasons that she is less active is because of her husband. Her husband is a Jehovah’s Witness and does
not want us to teach his family, who are all members of the LDS Church, in his
home. He said he doesn’t force his
religion on them and doesn’t want us to preach to him.
We honored his request and made an appointment with Sister
Noconda to meet with her on the following Wednesday to home teach her and her
daughters. We told her we could meet
with her at the church or at Brother Jaantjie’s home, whichever was more
convenient. We were able to meet with
her yesterday, Wednesday, June 24, at Brother Jaantjie’s home. We had a good lesson on enduring to the
end. Also we were asked if we could help
one of her daughters to learn to play the piano.
Friday of last week was our normal keyboard and English
class in Illinge. Saturday Sister
Farnsworth taught keyboard in Queenstown and I was able to attend the Stake
Priesthood meeting in the same building.
The meeting was being sent to Queenstown by internet from East
London. The priesthood meeting was very
good; the speakers focused on home teaching and missionary work. The Stake President, President Bell, spoke on
both points. What was special was when
he talked about missionary work he talked about the need for young elders and
sisters but about the need for senior missionaries to serve the Lord. The challenge he made for senior couples to
consider and plan to serve were almost exactly what Sister Farnsworth and I heard
in or own Stake Conference almost 3 years ago.
Tomorrow, Friday, is Zone Training for the Elders in the
Queenstown Zone. President Merrill has
assigned the Zone Leaders to take charge of the training this time and teach
the Elders. This is a lot of
responsibility for these young men but I know they are up to the
challenge. The part we will play in this
effort is to provide lunch for 18 missionaries.
This is our first large meal like this but it will be done with
style. We have most of it already put
together as I am typing this blog. Pictures
Tonight, we have been invited to eat dinner at Bishop Vali’s
again; we have been told that the menu might include Ox Tail. That will be interesting.