My guest post today is from Ayanda from Johannesburg, South Africa. I was so touched by her beautiful testimony and am so excited by how much the church is growing in her area. It is so beautiful to see how much the Lord loves all his children!
My name is Ayanda. I live in Johannesburg South Africa. I've been married for almost 8 months and I am very happy. Most of my family are members of the Church but my husband is the only member in his family.
1. What is the dominate belief system in your country? Do most people consider themselves to be "religious"? Are business and stores closed on Sunday? Do most people attend church?
Most South Africans are Christian and they tend to like attending Pentecostal churches (The ones that clap hands etc.) because those churches don't have strict principles to live by. All that's required is for one to come to church on Sunday and they can do anything else. They can drink and still be as worldly as they would like to be. Most people consider themselves religious and they attend church but they kind of have their feet on both sides. They believe that going to church justifies their other wrong doings.
2. How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If you are a convert please tell us a little about your conversion. If you were born in the church tell us a bit about your family and who was the first in your family to join the church.
I was raised in the church. My grandmother was taught by the missionaries in the late 80s. She was a mother of 9 children and had been searching for a church. She had been searching for a church and had been taught by missionaries from other churches. She came to a point where she stopped searching and stopped attending church. When the missionaries visited her she felt something different and she particularly loved the fact the they taught about the 3 degrees of glory (a principle that her grandmother had taught her). She joined the church and so did many of her children. Although some are not active. Some of us are enjoying the fruits of her decision.
3. What is the LDS church attendance like in your area?
We have seven stakes within the area that I live in. The are many wards and many branches on the verge of being split but the problem is the lack of worthy priesthood holders. In my ward there are a lot of families between the ages of 22-30. So we have a lot of young married couples, very few middle aged couples and about eight older couples. So as you can imagine there are a lot of young children. It is a wonderful place to be though because there's a lot of diversity, many different cultures.
4. How far away is the nearest temple? When was it built? How busy is it? Do most people in your country know about it? What are their feelings about it?
The nearest temple is about thirty minutes away. It caters for everyone in the South East Africa area (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar) to name just a few. The attendance during the week is not that good. The temple is mostly occupied by patrons from other countries. On the weekends though the temple is VERY busy and some sessions have to be split. The temple is only open in the afternoon on weekdays but because the the attendance is increasing, they're looking into having it operate in the mornings also. Most people love the temple but it seems as if those who live further away seem to appreciate it more. Our leaders constantly give us counsel to attend as often as we can and there seems to be an improvement as a result of that.
5. What sort of reaction do you get from most people when they find out you are Mormon? Are people familiar with the church? Do you often have to defend or explain your beliefs?
I feel like I ALWAYS have to defend my beliefs. Most people who are not members of the church have only heard bad things about the church. A very good friend of mine is not talking to me anymore because of all the things she's seen on TV. She heard that the prophet abuses children :( It's sad that they don't give the church a chance. They just believe whatever they hear.
6. How is missionary work in your country? Would you say that it is difficult or easy for missionaries to find people to teach? How often do you have a new baptism? What are the greatest barriers to missionary work in your country?
Missionary work is flourishing despite the negativity that people have about the church. Many families are being brought into the gospel and they always seem so happy. There was a baptism recently in my ward and the couple had been living together for a long time. After hearing about the gospel they got married and they are very well integrated into the church. I can say that the only barriers to missionary work are the misconceptions about the church from the media.
7. How many families do you know (LDS or not) who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
A lot of families are beginning to have less and less children and they are becoming more and more spread out. If a person has more than four children, they're considered as a big family. If a person has more than four children and they're about a year or two apart, they're most probably a Mormon family.
8. How many sisters do you visit teach? Do you have to travel far to reach them? What have been some of your best visiting teaching experiences?
I visit teach 4 families. The furthest is twenty minutes away and she is a very faithful sister. She has three children and she used to walk about for about two hours or more every Sunday morning to get to church. She gets a ride to church now but the fact that she walked that far with her children was a great testimony builder for me.
9. What are the greatest challenges the sisters in your Relief Society are facing?
A lot of the sisters are very faithful in the church. They attend the temple regularly, they serve diligently and they are so kind. The greatest challenge is that their husbands are not as faithful as they are. They are either partly active, less active, or not members at all. That is the greatest challenge and it is what weighs upon the minds and hearts of the leaders-- having the fathers of the families be just as faithful as the mothers.
10. What is the greatest blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life?
The greatest blessing that I have had is to be married in the temple. I am so grateful to have a worthy Priesthood holder in my home. I know that whenever I need a blessing He will be there. He is not only a blessing to me but to my family. Although many of us are members of the church, many of us are women and to have a Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the family is an incredible blessing. Being married has brought me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment in my life. I'm happy because I know that Heavenly Father loves his daughters and blesses them with the Priesthood.
Thank you so much Ayanda!
Thank you so much Ayanda!