In 2007 my husband and I were assigned to the Ennerdale Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our time there exposed us to many choice people, but one became synonymous in our minds with service. Her name was Suzen Thandi Nkomo.
When we arrived, a missionary couple were also assigned to the branch. The sister was an accomplished organist, but their departure was imminent. Music is important to the people of Ennerdale and I worried about what would happen. The missionary sister started teaching Suzen, who, as far as I was aware, had nothing more than a desire to learn, and a love of music to help her on her way. By the time the couple left, Suzen was playing adequately for all the meetings. On many Sundays she would come to me at the end of the meetings, and ask, “Sister Gina, how was my playing?” Her happy smile testified that she was pleased with her accomplishment, but wanted my affirmation too.
Soon after our arrival, the branch started a welfare project in the form of a vegetable garden. Suzen approached the branch president, wanting to be involved. She asked if she could work in the garden to earn money for transport to church on a Sunday. The project paid a menial stipend generated by contracts for gardening services at various chapels. “Although the wages paid were insignificant, it gave some people their first opportunity to realise the blessing of paying tithing, grow produce that could sustain their families, and provide vegetables for NGOs in the community,” said the branch president. These included a Catholic Aids Orphanage and a home for disabled children. Soon Suzen headed up the project, spending most days at the chapel grounds.
She handled many projects through this program, arranging a wheel chair for a severely handicapped child, building a wall outside the home of his grandfather, building a home from scratch for a member, repairing another home, starting a garden at the SOS Children’s village to name some. The garden become so impressive that the Department of Agriculture sank a borehole and supplied seeds and compost. Why? “This is the only successful gardening project I have come across,” said the Regional Manager.
Suzen served the branch by doing her callings to the full extent of her large capacity. “When I first met her, she could barely speak English,” commented the branch president. She worked at her language skills, soon becoming more fluent in English. She was called as a Primary teacher, later as the Primary president. One day, a senior missionary couple attended the Primary Presentation in Ennerdale. The Elder said, “Before leaving the USA, I attended the Primary Presentation in my home ward. However, in all honesty, I have to say that this presentation was the finest I have ever witnessed.” Suzen’s commitment to the children of the branch ensured that they internalized important gospel principles as she helped them to write and learn their parts for that presentation.
When called as the Relief Society President she had no transport. Using the little she earned working on the welfare project, she visited every single sister in her branch, assessing their needs. These words are from her funeral programme:
“We miss you as our Relief Society President – those visits to our homes, the revival of the less active …”
In her home, she taught her children the gospel truths. Although terminally ill, she sent her eldest son, Mthandeni, on mission. He wrote from the mission field, “I’m glad that she encouraged me to come on mission and I love every moment of it.”
In another letter from Elder Nkomo he said, “He [Elder Ellis] mentioned the importance of temple ordinances. As he continued to talk about temples, couldn’t help but feel my eyes getting warm and the sudden poignant sensation that overcame me. A shower of thoughts about my Mom and the joy she felt when she went and came from the temple; she would ask me to prepare dinner and she would lie down to listen to hymns.”
This remarkable, quiet and humble woman touched so many lives. May her legacy live on.