Hogsback Mountain

Hogsback Mountain
Hogsback Mountain Wilderness

Sunday, December 25, 2011

FAMILY MEMORIES...Jesse and Jennifer's Wedding

There are moments in life that will be forever etched in our memory.  Jesse and Jennifer's wedding is just such an event.  It was a sacred moment for our family to all be together in the San Diego Temple to witness Jesse's wedding to Jennifer Church on December 16.  Though it required that we leave our missionary work in South Africa, travel for two days and 11,000 miles to be in attendance, we wouldn't have missed it for the world. 

Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Fowers
As the children were growing and finding there paths in life, it was our prayer that they would each find their soul mate, honor their faith and become contributing citizens of the world.   There are not words to express our feelings of joy and sense of pride in the beautiful adults our children have become.  Nor can we put to words the happiness we feel that each has honored their heritage and found their personal testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Just the kids...

The Whole Gang...

We will head back to South Africa with our hearts filled with happy memories that will carry us through the next 12 months.

"The father (parents) of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: 
and he that begetteth a wise child(ren) shall have joy..." Psalms 23:24


Bonita, California Home

We have lived in many homes over our lifetime—some rather humble (or at least we thought so) and some quite grand.  They grew in size as our family and our income grew.  I am sure the Amy, Tim, Sarah and Brad can remember the time when they all shared one bedroom in the little white house in Hooper.  By the time Jesse left home for his mission, he had his choice of three different bedrooms.  Though I often voiced a prayer of gratitude for our home, I never truly appreciated the blessing of our beautiful homes until I served in South Africa.

During apartheid the Black African were separated from the white populations and were assigned to “Native Units” or townships according to their tribal heritage.  Up until 1994 when apartheid ended, the 20% white, Afrikaners population controlled 80% of the wealth and land, forcing the blacks out of their city centers into the countryside.  The effects of that political decision are evident throughout South Africa even today.  When you are in the large cities such as Cape Town or East London we feel as if we were touring a beautiful first-world country with modern buildings and four-lane freeways, until you enter the townships.

Mdantsane Township

Mdantsane is the second largest township in South Africa. The original inhabitants are people who were forcibly removed from what was known as East Bank in East London and has a population of about 175,000.  We are continually lost when driving there because there are no street signs, only house numbers, so sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack.   Only about half of the roads are paved, so during rainstorms it is treacherous driving there.

Typical  Township Home

Backyard Toilet

As missionaries, we have entered dozens of homes to reach out a hand of fellowship.  It is hard to describe what we see and feel in these humble homes.  The more affluent people have cinderblock homes that measure about 30 X 20 feet and are divided into four small rooms; living room, kitchen and 2 bedrooms.  The bathroom (or toilet as they call it here) is located in separate little “outhouse” in the back yard along with an attached cement sink in which the wash bodies, dishes and laundry.  Most cooking is done on a two-burner hot plate (no ovens) with not built in cabinets or counters.  Almost all have fridges and a few have portable washing machines.  Everyone dry their clothes on a line.

Family Garden

There are generally no yards, grass or flowers but a few have vegetable gardens.  Amazingly most have cell phones and many have flat screen TVs’ even in the humblest abodes.

The poorest folks would be considered squatters in the United States.  They find a little piece of land and scab together a little shanty that is generally made of timbers and scrap tin roofing material.  They are usually just a single room (although we have seen a two-story scanty) without even an outhouse.  I am not sure what they do for water or bathroom facilities.

Preparing Family Dinner

When we enter their homes…they feel very much like HOME.  They are most often warm and welcoming, offering us the best chairs in the house.  Sometimes if there are two facing couches in those tiny rooms our knees nearly touch those of the people sitting across from us.  Quite often the only chair is the edge of a bed or a bench.  My first few weeks in these homes, my brain would short-circuit and I was not very effective as it processed the poverty.  Now, I have come to understand that these small buildings are truly their homes.  They are comfortable and proud of what they have been able to provide for their families.  It is their place of refuge from the world and they are just as happy (or perhaps more so) than I am in my beautiful San Diego home.  I only hope that this experience has truly taught me that happiness is not bound to the things of this world.  May I always be grateful for my home wherever or whatever it may be.

Visiting Sister Asanda at her humble home.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Visiting an African Elementary School

As a career educator in California, there was a very specific line between church and state.  At no point in my career did I every step over that line to give any voice to my religious beliefs, knowing that it would be a career ending decision.  So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago, when we were invited to attend a school to teach gospel scriptures stories and offer a prayer for the children.  Recently, while visiting a Sister in the ward I discovered that she was a teacher, so from that point we chatted in "teacher-talk." That lead to the blessed opportunity to visit the Phakamile Junior Primary School (K-4grades) in Mdantsane, South Africa to teach and pray with the children.

 Welcome to Phakamile School

"Tell Me the Stories of Jesus..."

The Missionaries and the Children

Choir of Missionaries Singing Christmas Songs to the Children

461 Amazingly Well-Behaved Children

Presenting a picture of "Jesus and the Children" to Principal
The week before our official visit, we went to the school to meet the Principal and to set an appointment and have a tour of the school.  In the last few months we had driven by many schools (often they are so derelict that I wondered if they were abandoned), so I was very excited to see one from the inside.  We found the Principal in a tidy little office with a small table with only an attendance ledger--No computer, no office staff or even a counter.  After we chatted, she gave us a tour of her school, proudly showing us from class to class.  It was humbling to see...extreme overcrowding (38-60 students per classroom),  old chalkboards, few textbooks, narrow desks with benches that held 3-4 students each.  Everything we saw would have been trashed in 1950's in the United States.  

Yet, so many things were exactly what I had experienced in schools back home.  The children were happy and excited, the rooms were colorful and decorated to invite learning, most children had uniforms and the teachers were enthusiastic and dedicated.  We ended our time there with a song sung to us by the kids--"I Know Jesus Loves Me".  I could hardly hold back the tears as they sang. It was a blessing to spent the day with the children!

67 Third Grade Students in a Single Classroom
Early Morning 1st Grade Writing Practice

Happy Children

Monday, November 28, 2011

Senior Safari Adventure

The day after Thanksgiving, while the rest of the United States was at the Black Friday sales, the Fowers were on the most amazing Safari Adventure. Along with three other senior missionary couples we toured Addo Elephant National Park and the Schotia Private Game Reserve.  We had amazing "close-up" encounters with animals in the their natural habitat.  We were so close to these beautiful creatures that we were able to see their markings and watch their behaviors.  A day to remember!

Take a picture tour with us...

Seniors' Safari Adventure

Elephant...up close and personal!

Brothers Wrestling

Big Bull Elephant wandering out of the bush.


Dazzle of Zebras

Female Lion 

Grandma and Mama with 3-Week Old Cubs

Big Daddy Lion


Giraffe at Sunset

Rhinos...Bonnie and Clyde

Mama Monkey with baby clinging to under belly.


Warthog...the face only a mother could love.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Amazing Tender Mercies in SA

Mdantsane is a very large township near East London in which we do most of our work.  We spend a great deal of time there visiting new members or looking those who have lost the flame of their faith.  We have learned to be comfortable in the web of streets (none have street signs) and often walk into unexpected surprises.  Recently, we were looking for a less active member and opened the gate to a pre-school (they call them a "creche" here).  The children came running and swarmed around me.  It made me feel so much at home to spend a few minutes with these children, but it grieves me to see the conditions in which they play.
Mdantsane Neighborhood Creche

Last week we were able to craft a handrail out of an old broke bed for Brother and Sister Magibisela.  They recently joined the church and are rather frail so they needed support getting up and down the stairs in their home.  It was tons of fun to get our hands dirty with a bit of sawdust and some woodworking.  Keep in mind that these people lived with the tyranny of apartheid and yet we have become sweet friends within the frame of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Handrail for the Magibisela's

Occasionally we have the opportunity to participate with a group of Young Single Adults who meet for a family home evening.  We had challenged them to a game of scripture trivia and they certainly held their own. We had a wonderful evening filled with laughter and fellowship.  Several of these young people join us during our evening visits and are always willing support our efforts.  Since they are about the age of our kids, we treat them like they were one of our own.
Family Home Evening with our adopted Kids

The most amazing thing happened to Elder Fowers this past week.  He had gone on an errand to King William's Town (about 45k) to deliver some furniture and I had stayed home recovering from a procedure on my shoulder.  While there, he decided to drop by an old, unkept cemetery located near the center of town.  The center piece of this cemetery was a large monument to the soldiers who had died in the Frontier Wars.  As he was casually looking down the list of names, out jumped the name..."J. Fowers" who had died in battle 23 March 1852.  Now, in Utah Fowers is a pretty common name, but no other place that we have lived have we ever run into another Fowers. He took a double take and couldn't believe what he was seeing.  Could it be that we are not the first Fowers to set foot on the soil of South Africa?  He has been earnestly researching trying to figure out how that "J. Fowers" links with our J. (Clarke) Fowers. 

Elder J. Fowers finds long, lost relative...J. Fowers

First Fowers in South Africa?
This is how we often end our day--viewing another beautiful sunset out of our patio window in Gonubie, South Africa.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Anxiously Engaged

One of our joyful duties here in South Africa, is to something we call “Elder Care”…no, not that kind of Elder, but rather the young missionaries who serve in our area who all have the title of Elder.  We provide a variety of support services to keep them going;  such as inspecting their flats (apartments) and teaching them how to kill the black mold that is growing in their showers,  giving haircuts, providing an occasional home-cooked breakfast, keeping their cars running, attend District Meetings or sometimes just giving a bit of emotional support or encouragement.  We have responsibility for 48 Elders in the East London area and we have grown to love and admire these valiant young men.

East London Zone Breakfast at our Gonubie Flat

Mdantsane District Meeting
As a member of the missionary Presidency, Elder Fowers has the responsibility to watch over small branches that are in the far reaches of the mission.  Last week we visited King William's Town to check on the Elders. We recently drove to the beautiful beach community of Knysna (525 kilometers or about a seven hour drive for our home) to provide training and support for that branch. The blessing of these road trips is that we get to see even more of the natural wonders of South Africa and meet the faithful and determined Saints in these outposts.

Visit to King Williams Town Chapel 

Suspension Bridge over Storm River Gorge
(The highest bungee jump in the world!)

Knysna, overlooking "The Heads" at Sunset

The South Africa Cape Town Mission is far flung and so is the SACTM Presidency.  We serve in East London (eastern edge of the mission), President Ladle and his wife serve in Namibia (northwestern end of the mission) and President Wood and his wife serve in Cape Town which is somewhere in the middle.  With about 1,600 kilometers in between, the leadership of the mission seldom meet together.  Recently we all gathered in Cape Town for a three-day Presidency meeting to define the vision and goals of the mission.  After our extensive meetings, we took a p-day together and visited Robbens Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years in prison.  It was sobering to consider his sacrifice and nobility that lead to the abolishment of apartheid.

SACTM Mission Presidency
Nelson Mandela's Cell on Robbens Island
View of Table Mountain from Robbens Island
There is so much more to share and tell, but this will have to do for now.  Until next time... love from South Africa!