The visit of a prominent black South African woman to Utah gave representatives from Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations an opportunity to find out about the situation of black members in Africa, said Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women General President.
"Julia Mavimbela is a great lady, with some special insights about concerns in today's world," observed Sister Kapp. "When we're united in a common cause - that of concern and commitment to children, youths and sisters of the Church - sisterhood reaches beyond culture, color, and country."Sister Kapp was joined by Relief Society General Pres. Barbara W. Winder and Betty Jo Jepson, first counselor in the Primary General presidency.
Sister Mavimbela, 71, joined the Church seven years ago, after meeting two missionaries who were helping in a clean-up effort outside a boys club in Soweto, a township just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. "They were white boys cleaning up in a black township," she explained. "That was not a common sight."
Sister Mavimbela greeted the two missionaries and they returned the greeting. Although she was slightly taken aback "because I hadn't had a lot of association with white people," Sister Mavimbela agreed to an appointment. The elders arrived promptly, taught the first discussion, scheduled a second meeting and introduced Sister Mavimbela to two sister missionaries.
Sister Mavimbela was baptized and is now president of the Soweto Branch Relief Society, a calling that she balances with several other responsibilities she has undertaken in her efforts for a better life for her people.
Sister Mavimbela's desire to help her people began at a young age. In the late 1930s, she was able to obtain an education that was available to few black women and eventually became one of the first black women principals in the Transvaal Province. Through the years, she has started a women's club, a youth group, and been president of the Transvaal Region of the National Council of African Women. She taught organic gardening to youngsters and their parents, succeeding in creating gardens in areas no larger than doorways.
Sister Mavimbela was also a founder-member and co-national president of Women for Peace, an organization of all races with a membership of more than 15,000 women.
And Sister Mavimbela is a missionary. Everywhere she goes, she shares the gospel. "When she walked off the plane in Salt Lake City, she had a whole list of names of people that she'd collected during the flight," said a friend who met her during her recent trip to Utah.
"Sharing the gospel has become second nature to me," declared Sister Mavimbela. "I pray daily to the Lord that we can all become members of His Church."