About two months ago, one of our African friends from the Pimville Ward that we attend invited us to her home for lunch on a Sunday after church. Her name is Thoba Karl-Halla. She is a young widow, probably in her mid 40's. She and Sharon had formed a friendship as they attended Relief Society and gospel doctrine classes in the ward. As we became better acquainted, we learned that she is a very remarkable person.
Her mother is Julia Mavimbela, who was very much involved in the Soweto community back in the 70's during Apartheid. She organized 'Women for Peace', a group that 'aimed to form a peaceful transition to true democracy in South Africa'. She was one of very few black women to receive a college education and the first black female school principals in South Africa. She became a widow at a young age when her husband was killed in a car accident. She led an organization to help women "overcome illiteracy, crime, disease, unjust laws that make African women feel helpless and hopeless". She joined the church and was later called as a branch Relief Society president. She was Zulu, but she learned six other languages, besides Zulu. She was invited to BYU, and presented an award to for "outstanding contribution to a profession, a community, and to a religion". She passed away a few years ago when she was in her 80's, but still active in the church and her community.
Now back to Thoba Karl-Halla. She shared many experiences about her life and her mother's life. Her mother tried for 14 years to encourage Thoba to join the church by writing a letter to her every Sunday during those years, telling her what she had learned in church that Sunday. It just took her that long to gain a testimony, but she was finally baptized after she had a testimony of the gospel. Thoba is now an active member of the church and has held many callings in her ward. She shared with us some of the tragedies that she experienced. In a three year period, she lost her mother, her husband and a son. She told about her experience of seeking employment. After several interviews, without being hired, she decided to start her own business. She is now successful as an events planner here in Joburg. She is raising her grand daughter, Massie who is about 8 years old because Massie's mother had disowned her when she was born. Massie is an adorable, astute, and intelligent little girl who has also become our friend.
As Senior Missionary couples, we each have the opportunity to host Family Home Evening for our fellow missionary couples. Last evening it was our turn. We had invited Thoba to come and share her story about her mother and her conversion, which she graciously agreed to do. She gave a very inspiring and emotional account of her mothers accomplishments, which were many. She read some of her mothers journals which brought her stories to life. Someone asked about her views of Nelson Mandella as an African. Her short answer was "There would be no South Africa without Nelson Mandela and what he did for the people of South Africa". I will always remember her answer. I think what she said is typical of how the average South African feels about Nelson Mandela.
It was an interesting and spiritual Family Home Evening experience. We are grateful for these experiences and for the opportunities to meet people like Thoba and Massie.