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Teaching in Africa

28 April 2010

I loved African sunsets, because they always had that celebrated red-orange – almost gold color, and the closer the sun got to the horizon, the bolder the glow became.  Soon the color of the atmosphere resembled the bronze redness of the soil, and it was as if dust was rising into the sky, giving the sun its deep impressive hue.  As light faded into evening each day, people would put away their chores, and twilight initiated the social time for the community.

People of all ages could be seen moving about, and the town became alive with activity.  This was prime teaching time, as well as the best time to contact people on the streets.  I had Elder Horrocks teach me some basic Setswana words, and we would walk or ride our bikes up and down the streets saying, “Dumela, ra!” or “Dumela ma!”  We even used some of the street language for the young men we’d pass.  “Eta, majita!” which might be comparable in our language to something like, “Sup, dude?”
I tried to learn as much of the basic conversational language as possible, and it was fun to have a short chat with people in their own language, though neither of us knew much more than a few phrases.

Since there was no time for deep language study, I made sure to keep a notebook with the words I learned.  I made sure especially to learn phrases that would surprise people to hear me say.  Since it was so uncommon for a white person to speak an African language, their reaction often included shock and laughter.
Here are some samples of conversations that were fairly typical on the streets:

We are walking down the street and encounter a couple of older ladies.

Us: “Dumelang bo me!” (Hello, ma’am -in plural form)

Ladies: “Ijo!  O bua Setswana?” (Wow!  You speak Setswana?)

Us: “E! Re bua Setswana Tata!” (Yes! We speak Setswana a lot!)

Ladies: “O ruta keng Setswana?” (Who taught you Setswana?)

Us: “Botlhe batho” (All people)

Ladies: “What are you doing here?”

Us: “Re barumua ba Modimo” (We’re messengers from God)

And then in English we would explain the message.


We are walking down the street, and some young people walk by.

Us: “Dumelang!”

Them: “Dumelang!”

Us: “Lakai?” (How are you?)

Them: “Reteng!  Lakai?” (We’re fine, how are you?)

Us: “Reteng!” (We’re fine)

They laugh.

Us: “O tsegang?” (What are you laughing at?”)

More laughter.

Them: “Ga o itsi Setswana?” (You know Setswana?)

Us: “E!” (Yes!)

Them “How!” (As an exclamation of surprise, not a question)

Us: “Sala Sinhle!” (stay well)

Them: “Sala gahle!” (go well)

Another example:

Riding our bikes, we pass a group of little kids.

Them: “Magua, magua!” (White people, white people!)

Us: “O se compitsa magua!  Re Motswana!” (Don’t call us magua!  We’re natives of Botswana!)
Street contacting in Botswana usually proved to be a fairly effective way to find more people to teach, and a good part of our teaching took place in the evening.  It got dark early in Botswana at this time of year, since they had no daylight savings time, and many homes were without electricity.  When this was the case, we would teach either by candle-light or paraffin lamp.
There’s a unique feeling that comes of sharing the gospel by fire-light.  Perhaps it is because throughout history this was how the gospel was taught.  Electric lighting is a new invention.  In Christ’s time, and even in Joseph Smith’s time, the gospel would have been taught by fire or lamp.

I remember being filled with a sense of wonder while teaching in those circumstances.  Here I was, in one of the most remote areas of the world, speaking to complete strangers, teaching the most important message in the whole world by the light of a single candle; without electricity, without the conveniences we have in America, and in some cases to people without formal education.  Yet these beautiful people were receiving the most important lesson in the history of the world – the message of Jesus Christ.
Stricken by such poverty that they couldn’t even afford to send their children to school, yet those who accepted the gospel had more than the richest and most schooled people in the world who don’t accept it.  These people were a testimony to the fact that if you have the gospel and live by it, you have all you need.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. lillypad73 permalink
    29 April 2010 9:13 am

    A single candle in the night
    Provided the light that I might teach
    Deep in Africa I gained insight
    Of how far the gospel now does reach

    In this humble home far away
    To a people lacking so much
    I brought God’s riches…we did pray
    Words brightened, hearts were touched

    Accepting the message…are the meek
    Soon to rise up as a tender seed
    Having found heavenly treasure man’s to seek
    Truly, what more could a home need?

  2. 29 April 2010 12:41 pm


    That’s beautiful! It reflects perfectly what I felt while teaching on my mission. I wish I could write poetry like that! Wow!

    Chas (Thabo)

  3. lillypad73 permalink
    29 April 2010 9:20 pm

    Passing on a single candle…
    For sight to ponder in the night
    How the word of God… given to handle
    Brightly warms us with love and light

    Thank you Chas- Like me, I’m sure you have many visitors
    You are doing a great thing- very inspiring

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