Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Stack of Plastic Chairs

I think a while ago, I might have said something about an institute class that we visited in downtown Joburg. The neighborhood is Hillsborough which is one of the poorest areas in the city, and other missionary couples we talk to are surprised that we work there. The apartment building was old and run down, the halls dark, the elevator tiny and was the room we entered was front room, bedroom and playroom. The class and the students, however, were amazing. The kids participated with thoughtful responses and quoted from memory not only scriptures, but church leaders. The instructor could have been transported to any institute program in the world and been considered excellent. There were about sixteen students and three plastic chairs so the kids all sat against the bed or up against the wall as the class proceeded. When my husband and I talked afterwards, he asked if we should try to get some chairs for the class, but I thought not because I didn't want them to think that what they had was in anyway lacking. That was several weeks ago, and this past week we spoke in the sacrament meeting of that ward. The teacher of that class came up to the stand before the meeting started and said, "Elder and Sister Davie, I've been praying that you would be here today. My class has added another three students and as you know there is no place for anyone to sit. I was wondering if we can get a few chairs." We assured him that we could and this week we delivered a stack of about 15 inexpensive plastic chairs. He and the young man who met us at the car as we delivered them couldn't have been more grateful if a truck from Ethan Allen had pulled up. We are just constantly being humbled by these good people who, with so little, do so much and are grateful for the smallest support.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reports (etc.)!

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post and that’s because for this is the time of the month that we gather and record attendance and assignment reports. When they are finally all assembled (not an easy task) I start inputting for the 25 or so programs that we coordinate here in Johannesburg. I have also been helping with the reports for the Botswana Stake and the Botswana/Namibia mission since they presently have no coordinator in the Botswana mission. Picking up reports, making calls or sending multiple texts and emails requesting them can be challenging and sitting at a computer filling in spaces is not the most rewarding part of our mission but we recognize that it is part of the total effort to strengthen the young people of the Johannesburg mission. As I’m clicking away, I remind myself that if a seminary or institute student goes through the effort that they need to get to a class, especially here, then they deserve to have their attendance recorded and eventually be rewarded with seminary graduation or with a certificate for institute. I like a quote by Elder Henry B. Eyring when he said  “Never, never underestimate the spiritual value of doing temporal things well for those whom you serve.” That same attitude could be applied to other areas of our life—often mechanical, routine activities are necessary to accomplish meaningful goals like raising family—the big picture may be developing happy, contributing adults but part of that effort includes doing the laundry :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

South African Goes to the Polls

Today is voting day in South Africa so another holiday of course (sometime I’ll write a post about the number of public holidays in South Africa!) If it were election day in America, we would be deciding between the Democrats, the Republicans and maybe the Independents. Here people have their choice of candidates from the ANC or African National Congress; the ACDA or African Christian  Democratic Party, The APC or African People’s Convention, the AZAPO or Azanian People’s Organization; COPE or Congress of the People,  the DA or Democratic Alliance; The FF+ or Freedom Front+; the MF or Minority Front; the ID of Independent Democrats; The IFP or Inkatha Freedom Party; the PAC or Pan Africanist Congress; the SACP or South African Communist Party; the UCDP or United Christian Democratic Party or the UDM or United Democratic Movement. Those are just the parties that are represented in the South African Congress. If a voter can’t make up their mind from among those, there are another 70 or so parties that are registered and active but not yet represented in congress. We are told that the sheer number of parties is a problem because the votes are so split (you think? J) You would wonder how a decision is ever reached unless you look at the seats in congress. From the latest information I could find, the ANC or African National Congress has about 70% of the seats in congress with the other 30% being divided among all of the other 14 or so parties. The DA, which is the closest contender, has only about 16%. As you might guess, the majority party has traditionally been the black party, which would be expected since the black population far outnumbers the whites. The DA has been traditionally the white Afrikaans party, but both parties through times have been astute enough to gather members and supporters of all ethnicities, so now, at least in theory, it has become more a contest of political ideals than races. We have seen political advertisements showing people of all ethnicities. Interestingly, one of the faces looks very much like a slightly older version of Sarah Palin and I have read a commentary comparing her to Palin in other unflattering ways. 
As the parties have been vying for voters, among the tactics used have been threats and intimidation with demonstrations and even some rioting leading up to voting day. Because of that, we are having an at home day, not wanting to get in the middle of any political squabbles. Hopefully there will also be great celebrations, since this is the 20th anniversary the end of apartheid and the beginning of democracy where of all people being able to vote in the country.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Johannesburg Botanical Garden

Today we decided to take a “P” day (preparation day) but we didn’t really prepare for anything. We just went and played for the day with some other senior couples. We went to the Johannesburg Botanical Garden, which is a big park right in the middle of the city. Since it was a weekday and not really the garden time of the year, we had the park almost to ourselves. Most of the area is quite informal and in the more formal part, the roses are almost gone. They had a few pieces of rustic art that were nice and it was fun just to walk around and enjoy the pretty autumn day (here in our part of the world J)