Lost during turmoil, faithful Church group continues its activity

For 18 months, a thriving Sunday School group of women and children here was lost to its parent branch during political turmoil. But undaunted, the members taught each other from an old Gospel Principles manual and even kept meticulous records of each weekly meeting.

In addition, in the 18-month interim when there was no contact from outside, Marie Legwabe, the 75-year-old widow of who had been the only priesthood holder in the group, organized the women and children to construct a structure in which to hold meetings.This was the condition - and the faith - in which these members were found in July by full-time missionaries.

The group of about 40 was made up entirely of women and children after the lone adult priesthood holder, George Legwabe, a man in his 80s, died in 1992. The only other priesthood holder was a youth who had since moved away.

The Zebediela group, established in a small section of a large township about 40 miles from the parent Pietersburg Branch, Tzaneen District, was created in 1985 following the work of a missionary couple. Meetings were held under the leadership of the missionary couple until 1987 when they were transferred.

Missionaries occasionally visited the group from 1987 until 1992, when political disruptions led to missionaries being restricted from working in the area. Local branch and district leadership had changed, and knowledge of the group was evidently lost. However, members continued meeting each Sunday. Sister Legwabe, the matriarch of the group, kept the group going, and Salina Kekana, a woman in her 30s, taught the lessons and kept the minutes.

Answering the need for a structure in which to meet, Sister Legwabe made bricks and began a building. No mortar was used, but the members of the Sunday School group carefully placed a double row of bricks. Tree limbs were wired in for support, and a corrugated tin roof was put in place and held with blocks and rocks. The completed building was sturdier than expected.

"During a storm, a wind came and everyone was sure the building would crumble and be destroyed," Sister Legwabe told missionaries. "But with prayers and faith, the little structure stayed together. We know without a doubt that it was preserved for our people."

Earlier this year, restrictions in the area were lifted, and a pair of missionaries visited the area in July. One of the members of the Sunday School group saw Elder Joshua J. Divine and his companion in a nearby shopping center. She informed him that she was a member of the same Church, and their group had been waiting a long time for someone to come to their village and teach them. Elder Divine learned of the location of the Sunday meeting, and notified the Pietersburg Branch president, Elder C. H. "Cass" Meyer, serving with his wife, Rose, from Calgary, Alberta. The following Sunday, the Meyers visited the group.

"They had already had their Sunday School in the morning, but they were so excited to have the sacrament that they began to gather their little flock together," said Elder Meyer. "Within 45 minutes, 34 people assembled to have their first sacrament meeting in over a year and a half.

"It was one of the most spiritual experiences we've had," he said. "Those people are so sincere. They just love to have us come. The members have great faith in prayers and blessings."

At the meeting, Elder Meyer promised the members that they would again have weekly sacrament meetings. In addition, three young women who had attended for many months were baptized.

"Few people have been so dedicated as these," said Elder Meyer. "They live in extreme and adverse conditions but are rich in things of the Spirit."

He reported that he later met with the chief of the village and was given land where a more substantial building could be built.

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