Missionaries build home for family in southern Africa

Elizabeth Simelane's mud and stick house on a steep mountainside in this southern Africa nation has been replaced by a new home - thanks to missionaries from the South Africa Johannesburg Mission.

Doing the work themselves, the elders laid the foundation, made the bricks and built the structure, all of which took several months during a hot African summer. They began work in November 1997 and finished this April. (Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere.) In addition, the missionaries laid a 1,500-foot water line into the home - making the house the only one on the hill to have indoor water."It was with much satisfaction and happiness I saw the completion of the house," wrote Elder John Justesen of Manti, Utah, who has since gone home, in a letter to the Church News. "We truly learned the meaning of service and love for our neighbor. We did more than build a house, we built memories that will last an eternity."

As a result of their service, Elizabeth Simelane is taking the discussions and is planning to be baptized. Her daughter, Winile Diamini, who lives with her, is a member of the Mbabane Ward of the Benoni South Africa Stake. Swaziland is flanked by South Africa on three sides and by Mozambique on the east. Mbabane is the administrative capital and the largest town. When the service project was done, Swaziland was in the borders of the Johannesburg mission. As of July 1, Swaziland became part of the South Africa Durban Mission.

According to Sister Diamini, heavy rains in October 1997 caused their mud and stick house to partially cave in. "It was going to be difficult to rebuild the house in a short period of time," she wrote to the Church News.

Because they were short on funds, the mother and daughter continued to use what was left of the structure as a shelter. "It was like sleeping under a tree. The door could not be shut, so the cold wind would come in. Rain would go right through the house," the mother added.

About that time, Elder Mike Hatch of Logan, Utah, serving a full-time mission with his wife, Donna, went home teaching at the Simelane/Diamini home - or what was left of it. Upon seeing their living conditions, he began planning the service project and received the necessary city building permits. As each missionary is required to spend from four to 10 hours each week providing service to the community, he sought the services of Elders Shane Walton of Calgary, Alberta; Christopher Junkin of Ogden, Utah; Nathan Gresko of Prescott, Ariz.; and Jacob Paul of San Antonio, Texas; who were serving locally at the time. Soon Elder Justesen was transferred to the area and joined the project, and later, Elders Scott Boucha of Sandy, Utah; Percival Ray Bridges of Marshall, Va.; and Daniel Daley of Bend, Ore. After Elder and Sister Hatch were transferred in March, they were replaced by Elder and Sister Robert and Saralyn Brunson of Sutter Creek, Calif.

"I had had some experience building before my mission but never with brick and never with such limited tools," Elder Justesen wrote. "We were able to rent a concrete mixer to make the task a bit easier. Just finding sand and gravel and getting it to the site was an experience in and of itself."

They cleared away what was left of the old house and began with the new. Because the house is on the side of the hill, the mixer had to be placed on the top of hill. The elders cleared a path through weeds so they could use wheelbarrows to carry concrete to the site for the foundation. Early each morning for a couple of hours a day, the missionaries gathered to work, then spent the rest of the day doing regular missionary work - keeping in line with mission rules.

Sisters Simelane and Diamini helped by carrying water in five-gallon jugs on their heads from a natural spring 400 feet away.

After the foundation was complete, the elders then began making the bricks from mud at the site and cement. "A member's husband who is a contractor donated one of his workers to help us start the brick and get us squared off. We were then left to finish the wall ourselves. Soon we became pro-brick-layers, as we called ourselves. It's amazing how fast you learn to do something if you have to do it," Elder Justesen related.

Helping with the brick laying were former Bishop Malaza and a member, Banele Mthethwa. Soon the walls were up, the roof was put on, and windows and doors were installed. "We were able to learn some of the skills of a glazier as we installed the glass and sealed each pane with glaziers putty," wrote Elder Brunson. "The doors had to be cut down in order to make them fit, and without electricity on the site this was difficult. However, Elders Bridges and Boucha were able to finally get the doors in using only a few tools that were available."

With the completion of the home, the elders completed the water line into the house. "Elizabeth and Winile would no longer have to carry their water long distances up the mountain in five-gallon plastic containers balanced on their heads. The completion of this task brought to a reality Elder Hatch's dream," Elder Brunson explained.

Sister Diamini expressed her joy in moving into her new home and of the results of the gospel and the service project in her life. "Although people of my area were criticizing me about my religion, now the light is starting to shine. They even told me that the Church is really true. Now my mum is about to be baptized, not because they have built the house. She has prayed to God. The actions of Church members, visiting teaching and home teaching show that the Church is true.

"The day we moved to our new home tears of joy and surprise ran over my cheeks. I have a testimony of home teaching because today I live in a beautiful big house which was built through home teaching."

Sister Simelane added, "I'm so thankful for God and Him sending the Latter-day Saints."

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