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