Tuesday, May 27, 2014

We knew this time would come, but its now difficult to accept and as we wind down on our Mission experience we reflect on all these treasures that will be forever burned in our memories.  We have absolutely loved every minute of this adventure.  We love this beautiful country, it's people and the feelings we have of being in the service of our Savior.  Our knowledge and testimonies have grown and we are even more convinced of the truth and its blessings. 

Let us share just a couple of pictures and experiences we have enjoyed in this last month. 

Attached is a picture of Elder and Sister Boyce with our little 91 year old Sister Peggy from East London 3rd Ward.  Sister Peggy has been a member since 1952 and from the onset of her membership she has been hosting and feeding the missionaries here in East London.  She has them over to her home each Monday evening for food and a Family Home Evening.  She has been doing this each week for 62 years. Needless to say, she has seen her fair share of missionaries as they serve in this area.  She is so sweet and charming and so kind and gracious to all those who pass within the walls of her home.  Besides feeding the missionaries, she also sews and takes care of all there split out pants, rips in their shirts, holes in their socks and everything they wear that needs to be altered.  She even takes their pants in when they have lost weight, but more often lets them out when they gain weight. We are sure her eternal reward is pretty well guaranteed.

We enjoyed our 2nd Mothers Day with the Elders.  We had about 20 Elders to our home and they had the opportunity to call or Skype their mothers and families.  Each Elder had about 40 minutes to talk.  We had 4 devices so they could talk to their families.   It was quite a challenge to find private locations for each of the Elders to talk to their families. Our flat only has 2 bedrooms, a great room, bathroom and garage.  We used each of these stations to make sure the Elders were able to talk privately to their moms and families.   The Elders loved being together, eating (naturally) and talking to families back home.  At nights end we were exhausted!  Here are some photos of the fun day!

The above picture is of Elder Steele.  He is from Nephi and is a great Elder.  In the past 6 months we have had 3 Elders who have been bitten by spiders.  The African Sac Spider that usually will bite in the evening while they are sleeping.  The venom of this spider is similar to that of the Brown Recluse (called the Violin Spider over here)  as it will deteriorate the flesh. (But on a much smaller scale). Elder Steele was one of these elders and was bitten between two of his toes.   The morning after he was bitten he woke up and couldn't even walk. The infection went up his leg.   He didn't know what was happening to him and noticed all the swelling and infection around his toe.  He said he had a hole where he was bitten that was large enough to put a Q-tip swab end entirely in it.  He immediately started putting some anti-biotic cream on the bite (some that he had brought from the States).  The wound began to heal.  After about two weeks, he decided to tell his family about his experience.  We went to see him about this time and he showed us the scare and how it was healing.    We could tell by the size of the healing wound that the hole was substantial!  We have bug and spider spray that needs to be applied in their flats very often to eliminate these spiders, fleas, bed bugs, roaches, flies and mosquito's.
Elder 2 was bitten on his arm and  it left a huge hole in his arm that needed 3 weeks to heal.  Elder 3 was bitten on his elbow, but we were able to treat him quickly and the infection only lasted a couple of weeks. 
Elder Maciver from Yorkshire, England.  Below Elder Kaufusi (sitting in the bathroom).  He's from Salt Lake.

Some of the greatest experiences we have is actively proselyting the gospel.  Sharing and inviting is truly a blessing.   We have had many experiences teaching people the message of truth.  Generally we find and then turn these great contacts over to the full time missionaries who teach them the lessons.  Often we fellowship and join them as they teach.  Testifying and sharing personal experiences helps touch their hearts and instills a desire for more learning.   One young man, Lamla Mafundityala, is an incredible 18 year old. His brother Luvuyo is a member and currently serving a mission in Ghana.  Before he left on his mission, he tried to get his brother to listen and accept the message of the Restored Gospel.  He was not really interested and did not progress.  Many sets of Elders tried to teach him and nourish the seed, but he did not act.  Luvuyo challenged us to visit him to see what a couple of old people could to do to spark his interest again. We met with him and shared our testimony and message.   We read from the Book of Mormon and committed him to get back on track. The seed started to germinate again and he committed to read, pray and attend church.  A great ending to the story - he was baptized yesterday!!  It was a wonderful, spiritual event as he bore his testimony following his baptism.  He will now prepare himself to receive the Priesthood and start his efforts in preparing himself over the next year to go on a mission like his older brother.  These are some of the treats of serving here and are really the most rewarding things we do.

 Recently we concluded all the Mission Branch Conferences.   We as a Mission Presidency, along with our wife's, train the branch leadership on Saturday and Sunday.  These branch conferences are patterned after the Ward Conferences.  We have Priesthood leadership (This usually involves most of the men in the branch) and also relief society, primary and young women leadership training.  Its a special experience and we love the association we have with these wonderful 'hungering and thirsting' members.  This year our conference was based on the scripture in Matthew 11:28-30.  All of us  that labor and are heavy laden, need to take upon ourselves the yoke of the Savior and he will give us rest.   Here in South Africa many are heavy laden with adversity and trials.  We try to help them understand that they can gain rest from their problems as they trust in the Lord and his Atonement.  Besides these trials in there lives (really in all of our lives), these two women are definitely 'heavy laden' with these burdens they carry on their heads.   These bundles weigh about 80lbs.  They must have very strong neck muscles and their balance is incredible.
We wanted to have a final lunch with all the Elders in our zones. (Except the Queenstown zone) So after their zone conference we took them to their favorite Chinese Restaurant here in East London.  We fed 32 young men lunch. Oh, how we love these guys, they are incredible servants of the Savior and we have become close friends with each of them.  Following the lunch they all stood and sang the mission song to us.  It brought some tears and was very special. Here is a short video of their singing. All those in the restaurant listening were pretty impressed.

One of the families we talked about in one of our previous blogs is the Gqola family.  They have now been members almost a year and have progressed in their gospel learning and development.  Ayanda is now serving in the Young Men's Presidency and Jackie is teaching Gospel Doctrine.  They are preparing to go to the Temple and be sealed as a forever family.  Siyanda (their 11 year old son) is preparing to receive the Priesthood in December.   Kelly their young daughter is 7 years old and will be baptized on June 14th.  We unfortunately will miss this event, but Jackie requested a picture of the projected upcoming baptism.  Ayanda (who will be baptizing Kelly) and Kelly were dressed in their 'whites' so we could get a picture before we leave.  So these following picture is in anticipation of the upcoming baptism on June 14th.  
We had the opportunity of having Brett and Mindy come to South Africa and visit us last week.  What a great experience is was with them.  They loved with the beauty of this country and meeting these wonderful people.  We saw many sights, animals, and they even attended church with us. (The Bishop invited them to share their testimony in Sacrament meeting)  I think their eyes were opened to how most of the people in the world live and how truly blessed we are.   We were able to go to dinner with Brett and Mindy, Our Bishop Mahlangabesa, President Mangwane (Stake Presidency) and Brother Mahlangabesa (High Council).  We had a wonderful evening.

  What a ride this has been.  We have learned so much and grown so much.  This mission has made us want to be better and strive for more perfection in our lives.  It has brought us closer to our Savior Jesus Christ and His teachings.  We have learned how to be more charitable and to love everyone as we serve them.  It has been amazing.    We will share  our mission experience on June 29th at 11:00 am in the Sunset 8th Ward (On South Dixie Drive next to the fire station in St. George).

We love you all and again appreciate all your kindness, love and especially your prayers.

Ren and Debbie