Monday, May 26, 2008


In Sacrament meeting this morning I sat on the stand because they needed me to play the piano. It was sweet to look into those black faces and feel their great spirits reaching out. The speaker talked about trials in life and how we can endure anything with the blessings the Gospel brings. He talked about being surrounded with the Holy Ghost and the ability to KNOW the Lord is with us when we are suffering. He knew what he was speaking about as his only son was shot 1 month ago and left a wife and baby. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time....a terrible tragedy.

I looked at the young returned missionary who married the woman of his dreams and then with joy they had their first baby. At 6 months the baby died of dehydration and about 4 months later the mother of the child died. I have often wondered if it was from a broken heart. I saw about 15 outstanding young women in their late 20's who want more than anything to marry, but the young men are hesitant. Most are very, very poor who are struggling to survive. Unemployment in SA is only about 45% which is excellent compared to our other countries, but it is a problem.

I looked at the only white woman in the ward who many years ago financially supported her boyfriend on his mission and when he got home, he dumped her. She has never married. She lives in her parents home all alone and can't afford to move out of the very unsafe area, but is a wonderful support and generous to help the members of that ward. There was a woman sitting there who lost her first husband to aids, joined the church and married in the temple, but has lost 2 babies, a sister, a brother and father to Aids. I know of one young woman who has been disowned and kicked out of her house because she joined the church. She is 16.

Many are soooo poor in that ward because they don't have enough to eat and certainly no heat in their homes on these cold winter days. Several are HIV positive and they will die because many can't get the drugs. Many in that ward are living in fear right now because of the riots going on all around and the killings and beatings against the refugees that have come into SA. Many in that ward are refugees from Congo, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and other places. The ones who have taken them in live in fear also. The streets are not safe in the area that ward is in, but this is a new threat as you have heard from the news.

My Dad always used to say, "I felt sorry for the man who had no shoes until I saw the man who had no feet." Always teaching me that when I feel sorry for myself I should look around and I will be more grateful for my blessings. There are many more stories that I didn't know about this morning as I looked into the eyes of those wonderful people, but what I saw also was love, devotion to the Gospel, scriptorians searching the scriptures during the meetings, an absolute silence and reverence during the meeting Sacrament, robust singing of the hymns and smiles and laughter when the moments were right. I go away more grateful for my family, my blessings, my husband and just my life. I need to be more grateful.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sabbath Day

It was a cold, rainy, winter day. It was the Sabbath and as we drove to the Johannesburg Ward, we could see many people walking to their various churches. This particular ward is located in a very poor area, and most of our members walk to church. We saw a few under umbrellas, and some with blankets around them, some with plastic covering their bodies and many with nothing to protect them from the elements. All were scurrying as fast as they could.
When we walked into the chapel, I could smell a very unpleasant odor. Bill went to the stand and I sat in the audience in the middle of the black members. (that is where I love to be) My nose told me that the smell was familiar but it was quite a few moments before I realized it was a direct result of wet clothes. Some had on wool and that was a distinct odor, but the combination of fabrics made a very impressionable odor. A man sat down next to me and he was completely drenched. I couldn't’t imagine how far he had walked to get there. He pulled a washcloth out of his pocket as soon as he got there and immediately started wiping his head. He continued to his shoulders chest, arms and neck. As he was doing this he was singing the opening song with great gusto and with a beautiful, beautiful voice. He wiped his legs on the front and back several times, then he put his hands to the side of his legs and wrung the moisture out of the cloth. Water dripped on the floor. Then with this now damp cloth he shined his shoes. He spread the cloth out on the floor (I guess to dry) and then looked at me with a look of accomplishment and readiness to start his worship. He smiled the most beautiful smile you can only find in Africa. He shook my hand and said, “Good morning, Sister Parmley!” When someone has so little and can be so happy, I hope that our hearts can be touched with gratitude with all that we have and with the desire to give a little more to those who have so much less.

Relief Society sisters all over the world love flowers and beautiful things. This is very true in Africa too. In one little branch none of the sisters had a flower garden, so in order to have flowers for Relief Society for all to enjoy, the instructions were given for everyone to pick one wild flower on the way to church, or to bring a plastic one from home. As they arrived in RS each sister added her contribution of one flower to the basket on the table. As the president thanked them, there was a feeling of joy and happiness for what they had collectively contributed. It wasn’t the perfect flower arrangement or even one that would catch your eye with the combination of colors, lengths, plastic and real, but it would be one that would touch your heart as you realized the effort and love those sisters had put into that arrangement to have a spot of beauty in that old, rented unclean school building. I thought it was the most beautiful bouquet I had ever seen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kenya and Tanzania

Sometimes we find out amazing things about our missionaries when we go on a mission tour. We have about 900 young missionaries in our area. This past week we were in Kenya and Tanzania. There are about 60-70 missionaries in these 2 countries with about 60 -70% being black. They come from all over Africa to serve as well as from Canada and the states. There was one missionary that is worth talking about.

He was from the DR Congo, in fact, from Kanaga. This is a city of about 2 million people. There is not a hotel there and this is the one place I did not go with Dad to visit a couple of years ago. He stayed in a brewery because there weren't any hotels. Some days he had water to shower and some days he didn't. They took there own food for survival....peanut butter, canned tuna, etc. It is very primitive, but even without full time missionaries the church is growing by leaps and bounds because of the efforts of the members.

This wonderful elder from Kanaga was told by his parents that he shouldn't go on a mission because he was too shy. His mother told him he would never be able to talk to anyone, let alone teach. Besides he only spoke French and was going to an English speaking mission. When we met him he was about 16 months into his mission. He was the zone leader of the 10 missionaries in Tanzania. This is a plane ride away from the mission office, so you know he was trusted with the leadership by his mission president because he was far from the office. Miracles happened with him. Within one month he was fluent in English. We know that the Africans are very talented with languages, but this was extra fast and then he was sent to Tanzania where they speak mostly Swahili and within a month he was fluent in that language. His shyness is GONE. He conducted the meeting; he mixed with the missionaries with gusto and with us also. He also decided he wanted to learn to play the piano. They don't have anyone who can play in Kanaga (in fact, they don't even have a piano in that district, but he wanted to play). He went to distribution and bought the "how to" program the church puts out. He asked the local branch president if he could borrow a keyboard from the church and he TAUGHT HIMSELF. He played for the meeting....not with one finger, but with both hands.
We are going to see that they have a piano by the time he returns home in August or September for the branch there in Kanaga so he can continue and so the people for the first time in Kanaga can sing with a piano. His parents won't know him. His life has changed forever in many ways. He talks to everyone, he teaches, he leads, he speaks 2 new languages, and he plays the piano. He says that they won't know him when he goes home. You would love him. I talked to him for about 15 minutes after the meetings and just loved every minute of the dialogue. He was not boastful, but humble, but yet full of life and animation. I had to really prod him to get him to talk, and the more he talked about his life and what he has accomplished in the past few months, the more I knew I was seeing a miracle. He knows it too and gives credit to the Highest.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

African News

I've been trying to take a closer look at life around me. After being here 3 1/2 years it is easy to take all the sights, smells, people and things for granted. I love these countries. I love the street vendors who are literally trying to put food on the table as they sell their product. They smile and try to cajole me into buying their product. I don't need spark plugs, newspapers, garbage bags, or maps, etc. I only need two pair of sunglasses. I have enough trouble finding one pair. Yet, I love the vendors. They are energetic, always polite and will grin from ear to ear if I simply smile at them. There is one man named Moki who just tickles me. He is always on the same corner doing his thing. I NEVER buy a magazine from him but from time to time I give him something.....apples, cookies, or even half of a soft drink. Each time he acts as if I have given him $100. He is just as gracious when I give him nothing. I've given him a Book of Mormon, but I suspect he can't read. He is a refugee from Zimbabwe which is very common.
I love the trees and flowers. I love the birds and the magnificent animals we are privileged to see. I love the bold, loud lightening storms.
I love the gardeners who work on the grounds of the area office. There are 3 of them and every day I see them and hear them whistling and doing their thing. They carry groceries for me and clip things from the gardens for my creations. Yesterday my doorbell rang and these 3 handsome young men were at my door grinning from ear to ear. They were carrying seven 8-10 foot papyrus stems from the pond. They thought it was time I had new ones. I love it.
I love our nine guards who take care of us. There are 3 on duty around the clock. Each day as I come and go they greet me. There are 9 and now 6 have joined the church. The other day very shy Malvin stopped me to actually bear his testimony in a sweet quiet way. He told me he and his wife and children love the church. It has changed his life and he is soon going to start school to help him get a better job. They make about $12 a day.
Of course, the most wonderful of all are the people. There is a group here from Chulyu, Kenya right now who have come to the temple. That is a huge sacrifice. They have nothing and have traveled 5 1/2 hours by air to get here and had to travel by combi (van with 24 people) about 5 hours to Nairobi to catch the plane. Yesterday I recognized the counselor in the District Primary who is here. She jumped in my car and I drove her 1/2 block to the temple and we hugged and I wept as I knew how hard it was for her to come. She is loving the experience. She can speak English now and she is the teacher who taught 8 woman to read last year. She is still teaching the literacy class and right now she has 10 women taking it. Can you imagine the impact on the lives of those families who now have a Mother who can read the scriptures and can read a Sunday school manual or teach Primary now because they can read the manual. It is a miracle. She is a miracle. I ask her about the impact the upheaval in Kenya is having on her life. She said, "Heavenly Father is taking care of us and we are prepared." I don't know exactly what she meant by being prepared because I KNOW how little they have. When she went to get out of the car, she didn't know how to open the door. She probably has never been in a car before.
I am always uplifted by these wonderful, humble people. Even in the orphanages where I go, I am uplifted because the children have 2 meals a day and they have a roof over their heads and they have people to care for them. I have learned to look at the good that is going on. It would be too easy to look at just the needs and the hard things. This is a good lesson that I have learned from my wonderful black friends. Every day is a gift, and looking for the wonderful things around us and the good in life is a choice even when life is very difficult. I continue to be blessed and I have learned that everyday is a gift and one to be enjoyed and savored.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Animal Adventures

Life has been very very busy for us since arriving back in Johannesburg in August after a wonderful July vacation. We have traveled a great deal and taught and trained and visited and we’ve had seminars and conferences and retreats and of course we have done a great deal of entertaining. We have the couple missionaries for dinner as they come and go and visitors from Salt Lake or whomever. We love what we do and we have had some incredible experiences, but with great anticipation we decided to take a few days off (actually it was a Christmas present to each other) to go on a game drive which is one of our very favorite things to do here in Africa .
Early morning last week we left with Dr. Thomas (area physician) and his wife and President Bowden (Johannesburg Mission President) and his wife for the Mala Mala Game Reserve in Sabi Sands. It is about a 5 hour drive but one with incredible sights to see on the way.
It is quite an exciting thing to see a beautiful leopard lounging on a termite mound scanning the area for breakfast. We watched her leap off this 8 foot mound to stroll through the bush. We followed her until she found a beautiful mopani tree to climb. She gracefully leaped several feet and then climbed a few branches to plop down with legs straddling the thick branch. She was there for a long nap. We watched her with open awe; she is one of the most beautiful animals in the bush and one who doesn’t often show herself, so this was an incredible treat. We saw the big five which are elephant, cape buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard. We saw many other specimens of nature which fascinate us. The rhino was wallowing in mud, which is something we have never seen before. He would root around and then plop down in the mud and roll back and forth. He would snort and blow and he was just having a great time. We were only about 10 feet away from him so we had the smells, the snorts and grunts and the whole wonderful view. After about 15 minutes, he jumped up and rambled off at quite a quick pace. They are surprisingly fast for such a huge animal. We were glad his vision was poor as he isn’t an animal to trifle with. We, of course saw hundreds of agile impalas running and leaping and playing. There were dozens of new babies in every herd and they are adorable, especially in such large numbers. The second day it drizzled and rained all day, but we are avid viewers and we weren’t slowed down by inclement weather. We had gone to the safari with sunglasses, hats sunscreens, cropped pants and short sleeved tee shirts only to find ourselves in the rain and very chilly in the middle of the summer, but the guides gave us raingear and out we went to find those beautiful creatures that God created. The rivers and streams were deep but we plowed through at least 20 that day with water spraying us, hanging on for dear life and laughing as we went. We mowed down trees following the animals and searched diligently to see what we could find. We saw another leopard the second day. This was a cub waiting in the bush while momma caught an impala and pulled it high up a tree. It was an amazing sight to see how high that leopard can carry his kill to protect it from other animals. We saw two impala hanging in the trees that day. The elephants are wonderful to watch as they eat and eat and push trees over and as they scratch their rear ends on a tree. We could watch them for hours. We saw several giraffes gracefully walking and striding on their way from treetop to treetop. They are majestic as they walk and they are also very curious as they careen their necks to look at us. Watching a giraffe splay his legs so he can get low enough to get a drink is a sight to behold. We like to analyze the stripes on a zebra. Sometimes they are black with white stripes and sometimes the opposite. These beautiful creatures were mostly brown, black and white. Did you know that a mother zebra will only let her new baby look at her for the first three weeks of it’s life so it will learn to identify his mother by the stripe pattern? Every pattern on each zebra is different, just fingerprints are never alike. They run together and also are fun to watch. We love their crew cuts. We were close to 5 at one lodge (Blyde River Canyon Lodge for those who know), in fact so close that we could have touched them. We are bush savy enough to know that isn’t safe. The lions we saw were up on rocks sleeping which they do 18 hours a day. They are magnificent creatures. They looked so innocent way up above us on those huge boulders. The rocks were probably 30-40 feet high. We were right below them and could see them breathing and twitching and brushing off the flies. There have been many times on other drives that we have been 2 feet away from them in our open landrover. It is an exciting adventure to be on. The kudus were beautiful and quite plentiful in comparison in this park. We saw several huge magnificent males with their curled horns. Some of those horns were 4 feet long with beautiful curves and twists. They are a little skittish so you have to slowly drive upon them. We saw waterbucks wandering around and baboons frolicking on the roads and in trees. The herd of cape buffalo we saw was about 450 in number and we know they are kind of cows, but they too are fun to see. The males have huge helmut like crowns on their heads which they butt each other with. We saw several doing that, but mostly they just chewed their cuds with slow precision. We were 2-3 feet from them as we sat for minutes watching them. They too are amazing and actually very dangerous if they get riled. The hippos stayed in the water which is natural in the daytime. We only saw one crocodile this time and even they have a certain kind of beauty. The brown spotted hyenas were visible too this time. We saw one chasing playfully some impalas. It was funny as he rarely attacks. He simply lets other animals kill and then they scavenge.
On some rocks we saw up close and personal a family of klipspringers. They are a tiny antelope with padded hoofs that enable them to jump from rock to rock. Amazing!!
The birds in Africa are both beautiful and ugly, but we love them all. The different kinds of frogs are numerous and even though we only saw one, we heard the most beautiful chorus of them singing and chirping and calling their mates. After dark our guide turned off his engine so we could hear the cacophony of sounds. Believe it or not it sounded like a beautiful symphony.
The sights and sounds of Africa are glorious. Heavenly Father has created a multitude of creatures that we love to watch. We came home exhausted but renewed and feeling very blessed that we have the unique opportunity to see all of these wonderful creations. Africa is a land of great diversity in landscape, animals, people, sounds, and sights and truly we find every day a great adventure of some kind. My heart simply fills with joy as I think of all the wonderful experiences we continue to have. It is impossible to write about most experiences, but as we carry these things in our hearts we marvel … everything.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mission Tour in Zimbabwe

We just returned from a Mission Tour in Zimbabwe and we are even more grateful for our lovely home in Johannesburg and our abundance of food, water and all the necessities of life. We were gone for several days and this trip entailed much driving from city to city to meet with the various zones. We flew to Harare, drove to Mutare, Bulawayo, and Gueru which took many hours. We were in an eleven or twelve passenger van carrying the mission president and his wife, the two assistants and the two of us. We carried IN the van 5 huge plastic containers that carried gasoline. Every time we went over a bump or around a big curve we could hear the sloshing. The assistants would fill the tank when needed as there wasn't any gas in the service stations. They have coupons for gas that could be filled in Harare. We also carried about 8-10 empty gasoline containers to give to the missionaries with cars so they could have emergency gas. It was quite a sight to see more people walking on the streets than ever before. Gas is scarce, expensive and therefore the combis (taxis) were also scarce and expensive. There were many, many places on the highways where 50 to one hundred people were sitting on the ground waiting for transportation. They all had bags, and suitcases and children and many possessions hoping to go someplace....where, I don't know. The grocery shelves are almost completely empty. Many of the missionaries, president and wife and couples have not had chicken or beef for weeks. Bread and milk, eggs, cheese, etc is just not available. Their rice supplies are very low and they seem to be living on macaroni with some sauce they make and the missionaries are using LOTS ot ketchup. Some areas have peanut butter and those cute missionaries put it on pasta with honey if they can't get bread. They are NOT complaining. They are working hard doing missionary work and aren't bothered or worried about what they don't have. They make the most of what they do have. The mission president is watching his flock very carefully. As we speak a van full of rice, toilet paper, oil and many other things are being driven from Zambia (which is in their mission) to all the missionaries. All of them have a emergency supply of food that they are not allowed to touch unless given direction by the MP. They have plenty of water and they have charcoal to cook on because the electricity goes off all the time. I must say that we came away inspired by the way these missionaries are just rolling with life. They are, I think the happiest missionaries I have ever seen. They love what they are doing, they are working hard, and they are succeeding in all areas. Baptism rate is high. You should hear them sing. We had a special musical number in every zone that would bring tears to our eyes. We laughed with them also and just had an inspiring tour.
One zone had arranged for 2 women to cook and serve the lunch, but they left Zimbabwe on the spur of the moment, so the missionaries cooked the meal. It was soooo cute. One companionship cooked beets and sliced them very thin and pickled them. Another companionship made a "HUGE" sheet cake without some major ingredients. I can't remember what it was, but it was delicious. Another com. made a huge potato salad. I think they had enough to fill a half bushel basket. It was delicious.....and they said their arms about fell off from peeling the potatoes. Another companionship had a pasta dish with chicken in it. They had bought a live chicken....killed it....plucked it....cooked it.... shredded it and made a great pasta dish....mostly pasta, but it was good too. It was the sweetest meal we had because it was made with loving hands......inexperienced hands, but hands that were willing. It was very touching. You should have seen how the food was piled on the elder's plates. In every zone, they plates were 4-6 inches high. The LOVED the food and really appreciated it. Do we appreciate enough what we have? They were just full of smiles and laughter during lunch and it was a joy to see.
It was a blessing to be with all of the elders and the outstanding mission president and his wife and to bask in their joy of serving. We are blessed to be in this land. It is a privilege.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hospital Experience in Soweto

Today was another remarkable and memorable day in South Africa . I went on an errand of “good works” with 4 other friends, one senior missionary, one African director of an orphanage, one South African who volunteers many hours to charity and one 23 year old African who works two weeks a month at Oprah’s school. We went the largest hospital in the world which is located in Soweto . The name of it is Baragwanath Hospital and it occupies 173 acres with 3200 beds. Our purpose was to deliver 50 hats made by a young woman in the Alamo II Ward in California and fifty homemade baby blankets made by her mother. We also had 80 newborn kits that we picked up at the church warehouse to deliver to these new mothers.
As long as I live I will never forget the visuals I saw that day with babies everywhere and mothers half dressed everywhere and truly almost total silence. We only heard at the most 3 babies cry.
We drove about 20 minutes from where I live to this HUGE hospital. We were directed to pull into the emergency vehicle lane where we would unload our treasures onto several small trolleys. We had two cars and an ambulance could not have gone where it needed to go if one had appeared but because we came bearing gifts that seemed to have priority. There were 5 of us who would give these things out and there were five workers from the hospital who would guard what we had so that things would not disappear as we were busy handing clothing, hats and blankets out. The five workers were all in uniforms and the hospital itself was very clean. As we walked through the door, the first thing we saw was between 40 and 50 women sitting in chairs that were lined up like you would see in a church meeting. All of these women were in labor and were waiting to see the doctor to see if they could be admitted. As we started to pass our gifts to them, they broke into huge smiles inspite of their pain and were thrilled and they waved and smiled and said thank you over and over again. An amazing sight.!!!
As we walked down the halls, the director of the maternity wards told us that 70 babies had been delivered in the past 18 hours. They have 151 beds and all were full. The women are allowed to stay 6 hours after birth if there weren’t any complications. If they had a cesarean section, then they could stay longer, and if there were any problems with their health or the baby’s health then they could stay overnight. Many AIDS babies are delivered there, many were premature and they have many deaths of these babies everyday. We met 3 women who had lost their babies, but were in the regular maternity wards with all the mothers and their babies. Two of them simply had tears running down their faces, but they didn’t make a sound. My heart ached to see them looking at the other mothers with their babies and their arms were empty.
We went into about ½ of the maternity wards. I will never forget what I saw. There are not enough hospital gowns for the mothers, so at least half and probably more of the women were wrapped in bed sheets. Some of the sheets were around their shoulders, but many were like a strapless dress, twisted and tucked. Many had blood on their sheets or their gowns. Many had their breast exposed….they were just in all stages of undress. We even saw one woman totally naked sitting on a small stool. Some were walking very slowly because they had just given birth. Some still didn’t know whether they had a boy or a girl because they hadn’t seen their baby yet. We saw 2 sets of triplets and 2 sets of twins. We found out that everyday they find babies outside of the hospital who have been abandoned. They are on the steps, in the bushes or by the dumpster.
The babies were everywhere sort of lined up in their portable plastic bins. In each bin was a paper 8 ½ X 11 with the name of the mother and all of her information. There were so many bins of babies that we wondered if they mixed up babies everyday. There were no name tags on the babies or the mothers. There was a room for premature babies; there was a room for babies with jaundice; there were isolation rooms with babies in these bins; there was a room for sick babies which I assumed were babies that were HIV positive. I’ve never seen so many black babies in my life and they were all beautiful. They just didn’t cry which was amazing to me. The babies were in some blankets that belonged to the hospital, and some were in old twin size blankets from home, I guess. We were told that some babies go home in newspaper or plastic because they have nothing.
We gave our meager gifts, and we didn’t make a dent. Tomorrow 70 more babies will be born. It was thrilling to see the joy as we gave out what we did. It was hard to know that many of those babies will die from AIDS or malnutrition or dehydration. It was understandable to see some mothers try to come back for more, saying they didn’t get anything. It was heart warming to know that about 80 babies would have 2 things to take home, but it was heartbreaking knowing that the hole is so large and the needs so great that we can’t make a dent. I think that Mother Teresa’s philosophy is the best to think about which is that if we can help one person at a time, we can make a difference. The Savior has taught us also to reach out to the one. We reached out to many today, because a sweet young woman from California cared enough to do something, and the wonderful RS sisters put those newborn kits together someplace in an Enrichment meeting. I don’t think any of the givers really had any idea what this gift would mean to these mothers and babies. We were the heroes as we gave out these gifts, but it is the ones at home who really should be here to deliver these lovely things and to see the joy and the appreciation. I am blessed to have been there to be part of this. I want to do more. I want to solve the problems, but I know that won’t be possible. … we do what we can and pray that our minutes of service are enough to bring joy to a few souls.

Hospital Photos

Babies being Treated for Jaundice

Photos from Soweto Hospital

Mothers in Afterbirth attire
There are babies in there