Monday, July 25, 2011

#98 - Second to Last

Dear Family and Friends,                     July 25th, 2011

Things just keep ramping up to the big drop-off. I have expressly forbidden my district members from saying anything about Elder Farnbach, and going home. Our Zone Leaders like to trash on me a little bit, but it's all in the numbers. 35 lessons per week, every week, for 3 months. Feeling strong, punk? Call me trunky one more time.

We had just the most productive week ever this past week. I went on splits with Elder Ne., and came back to find that my son (trainee) had given 11 people baptismal dates. Way to go Elder Ni.! The district came out having found 60 new investigators. I wish I could explain to you just what Ghana and Ghanaians are really like. We are afraid to talk about God back home. Here, "by His grace" is the common answer to "How are you?". There stores are called "God is Good" Furniture, or "Only Jesus" in Stock. That last one makes me chuckle. I know I have said that before, but it's such a huge part of it. At first, I used to try and figure out someone's religious life by looking around their house when they invited me to sit. EVERYONE has a picture of the Savior here. Even some of the Muslims! These are people who wish to know their Heavenly Father. They want to do what is right. They have a lot of obstacles, but once a Ghanaian is convinced of the truth, they are firm in the faith.

I've also given a lot of thought to pride and education. We had an amazing contrasting experience. We were teaching a very educated, scripturally literate Nigerian named A. This man is so wrapped up in the most ridiculous of details that he cannot even bring himself to read the Book of Mormon. Nonsense about original Greek, baptism, the meaning of the Holy Ghost, things that I just feel could be so simple! Then you have K.. We have to really simplify our teaching, but it is amazing what he learns and puts together. The man has no real degree of education. His English is simple and stuttered. But he is light-years ahead when it comes to spiritual truth. He put together the Apostasy without us. He knows the process of praying for answers. And while A. is reading a book called "Tongues: Beyond the Upper Room", K. is enjoying the revelations found in the Book of Mormon.

Our converts in the branch are doing wonderfully. We just taught Francis to perform baptisms, as he was ordained recently. We hope to line one up for him soon to exercise the Priesthood he has been given. Davies, baptized LAST Saturday, was asked to teach part of an Elder's Quorum lesson one week later. John, baptized the 23rd, has been asked to share his testimony at Branch Conference in a few weeks. It is a joy to see my brothers and sisters grow in the Gospel. Truly, there isn't anything that makes us happier.

We have also been having great success in helping people overcome addictions. Why am I saying we? We have nothing to do with it. These men, good, stable fathers, are taking their lives seriously, and immersing themselves in the scriptures to try to fix their problems. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the source of spiritual power. I am grateful for Christ's sacrifice. If you truly understand that, you understand your purpose. I don't want to spoil anything, but I have been giving a lot of thought to the spiritual needs of man. I think really, we need two things. 1.) Identity, and 2.) Direction. If you have these two things, you can overcome anything. You will find great peace in the world. You will see challenges and joys in proper perspective.

In other news, the last three lessons in Elder's Quorum have been "Family Responsibilities" "Eternal Marriage" and a talk by Elder Scott... "The Blessings of Eternal Marriage". Hmmmm.

Talk to you next week! That's right. I will still be a missionary next week. And how I revel it that knowledge :)

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, July 18, 2011

#97 Serving the Lord

Dear Family and Friends,                              July 18, 2011

     What a wonderful week. I received some complaints over the brevity of last week's letter, and therefore remembered to bring my journal to supplement. The key thing that stuck out to me this week is the peace that comes from the Gospel. Joseph Smith said once that the major differences between our religion and any others could be summarized in the mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As my companion and I have tried to listen for the promptings of the Spirit, we have felt great happiness. It usually isn't something you notice, until you sit down at 9:00pm, look over the day, and get the feeling you saw everyone who needed to be seen, said what needed to be said, and heard a subtle whisper telling you "Well done, my good and faithful servant." It is an honor to serve the Lord. It is no secret that Elder Farnbach enjoys the idea of popularity and notoriety. But I would gladly trade being a king, a president, a rock star to be introduced by the Savior only as "My servant, Elder Farnbach"
     Funny stories: District meeting was the start of it this week. Elder Ba. raised his hand as we were discussing our investigators "What ever happened to America?" ... ... ... "What an inspired question!" Actually, it turns out there was an investigator named Amedika, and I just heard it wrong. It was a riot, though. I have such respect for the Senior couples. There is nothing LESS obligatory then serving a senior mission, and in GHANA? Wow. Then, we were fetching water for someone, and I was just joking around about how no one has gone down there to check the well in a long time. "You go first" said our new friend. "Don't worry, Bible says angels will catch you." Elder Ni. "No, DEVIL says angels will catch you!"
    We also had many opportunities to go by some recent converts. We have really focused on teaching those who have the potential to remain active (and avoid people with a lot of dependencies. The stuff about the Church in Ghana is pretty vicious, so SOME family member is going to be against it. If they happen to be paying your investigator's school fees, there is nothing you can do.) We have two 65+ year old guys who have just wonderful testimony. It really wasn't so much about teaching as just being there for them. One was a soldier who toured the Holy Land. He was just so happy to have someone listen, I think. Service doesn't have to be big, but it sure feels rewarding. With President Judd really emphasizing "Every interaction with a missionary should build faith," it helps focus your mind on opportunities to serve and bear testimony. Something simple like "Can I carry that water for you? We are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jesus went about doing good, and we are His servants."
     As we were out finding, we had two really great experiences. We walked into a compound to be greeted with "Good! You are here!" It was a wonderful Catholic family that Elder Ni. had contacted and made an appointment with that he forgot while we were on splits. But we happen to arrive when they were expecting us... We read from the Book of Mormon with them. People in Ghana do not particularly enjoy reading, but they do love the Savior. Once we share that the Book of Mormon is scripture, that it does not fight the Bible, and that it teaches about Jesus Christ, most of them are pretty accepting. I love that about Ghana. Back home, people get uncomfortable talking about these things. Here, in big letters, shops are named "By His Grace!" or "God is Good". Faith. The other great one was a man who is struggling with alcoholism. As we knocked on his door, and talked a little, we shared about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, he said "I have been praying about finding the true Church for three days... and here you are." He will need a lot of help. Alcohol is a strong addiction, and so easy to get in Ghana. But I know the Lord heals hearts and bodies as we repent.
     Maybe it is just the warm fuzzies I've been feeling all week, but Sunday, I realized our branch is really doing a great job. It is easy, coming from well-established Stakes of Zion, where you father's father's have all held callings, and you just kinda know what is going on, to be critical. But many of these people are new to the Church. They are anxious to serve, but there is just so much you don't think to teach! I was just soaking in the moment as I looked around at the clerk, busily taking roll, and the family history consultant passing out sheets, and the Branch Council meeting and discussing brothers and sisters who were struggling spiritually. The Church will always succeed as long as we are righteous and diligent. Our abilities may not be great, but they will be used, and by small and simple means are great things brought to pass.
     I will not fail these next two weeks. It does not yet feel like I am going home. I am doing everything in my power to live like a missionary to the last minute. I still worry about our people in August, just like Elder Hi. used to say "I don't know why I still care so much! I'm leaving!" But it is because when we serve, we truly love what we do. The world has us believe we have to go out and seek our self to find our self. In Ghana, they have a phrase I used to love, "God helps those who help themselves." I used to parrot this to try and get people off the idea of waiting for God to do something before they joined the Church. Instead, I have realized it is, "God helps those who help others." We serve to discover our abilities, our character, and our relationship to the Lord.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, July 11, 2011

#96 - Meeting the New Mission President

[ only two or three more possibly coming before he is home!!! ]

Dear Friends and Family,                                     July 11, 2011

First thing is first. President Judd is truly amazing. Now, I know there are some psychological phenomenons, for example, when a child loses a parent, and then the survivor gets re-married. The child feels guilt for liking the new one for fear that that somehow diminishes his love for the previous one. I loved President Smith. The man is my mission president. But also, President Judd is awesome. As we were having Zone Conference, he was introducing himself and getting to know all of us. "Now, Elder Farnbach doesn't know this, but he has helped Sister Judd and I a lot to prepare for our missions." Sister Judd- "We've been stalking his mission blog for months!" The rest of the conference, he was just letting me have it about finishing soon. "Elder Farnbach, how is your girlfriend?" "President, I don't have a girlfriend." "I know. Because I read your blog." or "Faith is how I met Sister Judd... Elder Farnbach, take notes." This man is clearly a psychology doctorate, because he read me like an open book. hahahaha Marriage - Talks - and Attention. You win, President Judd.

If I had written this letter on Saturday, it would've been a little depressing. We lost a lot of investigators that day, and no one wanted to listen to what we had to say. It was terribly disheartening, and Elder Ni. and I spent a lot of time on our knees that night. Imagine, then, our surprise when many, many investigators came to church. We have a new man coming, whose name is Ebenezer. He has told us numerous times that, while at a funeral, he realized he was not right with God, and that he doesn't have time to waste. He drinks pretty heavily, but I am confident he will do very well. He really seemed to enjoy church on Sunday. Church was the best it has even been. We had a wonderful lesson on family responsibilities. That is really the grand key of the Church.  The Church exists to support families. It strengthens each member, which strengthens the whole, which strengthens the Church... which strengthens each member of the family, which strengthens... etc. I cannot wait to have my own family!!

The real great lesson this week was by President Judd, on Faith. We cannot have faith in things that are contrary to God's will. We must have perfect faith to be saved, according to 2 Nephi 9. We learn the will of God by revelation. We cannot be saved unless we have personal revelation. QED. I was just amazed at how easily that all fit together. Just goes to show, though, that we will never be smarter then the Prophets. It took me forever just to understand something that was revealed 200 years ago!

I love you all. This week just flew. President Judd asked me if I would extend 1 year. I said "In a heartbeat!" I know he wasn't serious, but serving the Lord means just that much to me. To my friends who are wondering or considering whether you should go, take it up with the Lord! I will not, have not ever regretted the choice to serve a mission.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, July 4, 2011

#95 - "I'm a Missionary!!"

Dear Everybody,                                                                                 July 4, 2011

    This week rivals the weeks I had with Elder Ho. where I just woke up every morning feeling like shouting, "I'm a MISSIONARY!!!" Something just clicked flawlessly this week, and I loved every possible minute of it. We found, not the mission's usual 10 new investigators, nor our goal of 11 new investigators... we found TWENTY-FIVE (you can't caps numbers, sadly) new investigators this week. Piles and piles of wonderful Ghanaian families. It's been great. Plus, we taught 38 lessons. It was like we went to sleep last Sunday, and just woke up this Sunday and said "Whoa. What did we just do?"

     We have a great family-to-be in John and Mary. John is from Nigeria, and he accidentally mis-dialed Mary on her phone. But they got to talking, and they liked each other, so he came to Ghana to ask her parents permission to marry her. Strange? Yes. But, the fact that they are going to be legally married is a big step, and we are all excited for it. Our lesson with them was kind of a soft Q&A about Church service. One neighbor started blasting music, so I went over and very authoritatively told him to turn it off, we are discussing the Gospel over here. John then asked about why we don't dance or clap at Church. "Why did we just ask our brother to turn down his music?" "Because it was... never mind. I'm clear. I understand now."
     The B.'s went through the less active lists, and rounded us up some families too. As we taught Osei, 53, he told us he had never been baptized. As we explained what we believe, he said "I'll be at Church tomorrow." And he was! Susannah, a sister who had been coming by herself for 4 weeks, then suddenly stopped, started telling her family members about the Church. When we finally stopped to see her, her father said, "I'm going to be at your Church next week." and her brother requested a copy of the Book of Mormon. Not bad for an 18 year old! To top it off, on the way to the Cafe today, someone stopped us "Hi! I'm a member from Ho branch. I gave a friend of mine a copy of the Family Proclamation, and she wants to meet you." Seriously, life does not get any better.

     I want to share a small story about just how selfless and wonderful Ghanaians are. We were out proselyting with our Executive Secretary, and he saw that my belt was a bit ragged. He didn't bring this up, but the next day, at Church, he said "Elder Farnbach! Here, I bought this for you." Elder Ni. joked "Man, in our countries, people wait until your birthday so they don't have to get you anything." I was touched at the simple kindness. This young man, 26, a return missionary himself, saw a need, and fixed it. What a great man.

     The lesson we had in Church this past week was about Faith, and I could easily summarize it like this.
1.) Faith comes first by hearing and learning
2.) Greater faith comes by doing
3.) Perfect knowledge comes by always doing
It's just that simple, really.

     We get to meet the new mission president this week. I'm very excited. I'll probably have to come up with a giant list of questions to prepare him for our final interview. "You didn't have the last two years to get to know me, so here is, in brief, what I'm expecting at this last interview. GET CRACKING!!" He sounds like a great man, though. Even talking to him on the phone for a minute, Elder Ne. was very impressed.

     I love the Lord. That's why I'm a missionary. Jesus is the Son of God. There is no greater peace then knowing you are doing what is right.

  Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 27, 2011

#94 - Broken Arrow P-Day

Dear Family and Friends,                                                              June 27, 2011

Wow, is it P-day again? Wait. Not only is it P-Day, it's BROKEN ARROW P-DAY!!! That's right. Last transfer calls on Tuesday. I don't have to put up with that nonsense any more. No more living in fear of packing up again and starting over... Except when I go home. Then to BYU 2.5 weeks later. HA!

This week was the beginning of what feels like a giant upswing in missionary work. I don't know why, but Elder Ni. and I have just been riding a wave of pumped-up that is infectious. Actually, I do know why. With our past struggles, we've really been praying and asking if there is something we are doing wrong, or if this was increased opposition because we were working so hard to do what is right. We lost our phone on Thursday, which was just added stress. Then, Friday, we found out. It's just opposition. Satan really over-played his game, because we met just a wave of crazies. Seriously, every turn. My favorite was the guy who pulled up behind me on his bike and followed me for a mile, asking me if I was a Jehovah's Witness or an American. If I was either, he said, he'd kill me. I know that really shouldn't be funny, but Elder Ni. and I just rode away in stitches.

That's actually when our week started improving. Contacts started calling US asking about what we teach. Not just contacts. Families. One guy even called and said "I'm a Restorationist myself, and I think this is what I'm looking for." Wow. Then, Brother Francis was baptized. After 30 something years of investigating the Church, he was baptized. What a cool experience. Sure, it was our only baptism that month... but what a baptism! We had 5 investigators there, which NEVER happens, and the branch had just got back from a temple trip, so everyone was in their nice Sunday clothes. I warned Elder Ni. he may have just peaked early, because it was the best baptism I've ever had.

I know that's really short. This week felt like it was only really 2 days long, anyway.

Spiritually speaking, I've been doing a very specific study of the Book of Mormon. One of the great problems we have here is that many people believe that Jesus Christ never built a church, and that He is independent of any Church. One man went so far as to tell me that the difference in (MAJOR) doctrines were merely cosmetic, and the Savior didn't mind. But a careful study of His ministry among the Nephites proves that Christ did indeed build a Church. He was VERY specific in many aspects of it, including the behavior of it's members, the method and authority for baptism, the authority to give the Holy Ghost, the organization and leadership of the Church, the Sacrament with it's accompanying meaning, method, and authority. He told the Nephites very clearly that to be gathered into "one fold" meant to be part of the Church. Christ merely established a branch of the Church He had already established in Jerusalem among the Nephites, and among the other lost sheep of the house of Israel. I love the Book of Mormon. I know it is true.

Mission runs short, and it just keeps running! Every minute, even second, must count!

I love you all!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 13, 2011

#93 - Last Interview with Pres. Smith

Dear Friends and Family,                                                              June 13, 2011

     I had one of my very last signs of the times this past week. We had our last interviews with President Smith! Wow... barring something strange happening with the transfers, I will not see my Mission President as such again :( I dearly love and respect President, and frankly, I will have no idea what to call him when I see him outside of the mission environment. He did ask that I keep him informed on my marriage, children, and graduation (in that order) hahahaha )

     His last interview was the best I've ever had. We talked about my progress on mission, about the future, about marriage (of course) and so many things. I loved his advice. "You tend to self-evaluate too much. Don't beat yourself up about what you are doing wrong, just fix it." This may become a mantra in life for me. As I've thought about, this is the whole point of the Atonement. Christ suffered and died so that we can stop worrying about old mistakes and spend all our energy on the future. Just repent, and move on! Everyone has things they wish they hadn't done. Nephi's soul-wrenched psalm is a great example... and he was Nephi! We must have hope if we are to truly have faith, and hope is the opposite of despair. That's what has kept me going these last few weeks. Things are very hard right now in our area. I do not know why, because my companion and I are working harder then ever. But, whereas I'd probably wring my hands raw earlier in my mission, I know that the Lord is mindful of our efforts. It is His plan and His goals I am trying to accomplish. We ask ourselves every companionship inventory "Did we do everything perfect this week?" Then answer is, of course, no. "Do we feel guilty and devoid of the Spirit as we ponder over it?" If the answer is “no,” then "Well, okay, good. It was acceptable this week. But we must do better!" As sad as I am that so many of our great investigators are struggling, I feel certain that Elder Ni. and I are not. We love the Lord. We want to do what is right. We work hard from day until night. We laugh, we smile, we improve, and it feels great.

     For other things this week... we have one investigator named Gabriel. He is an interesting case for me, because he is the first Ghanaian agnostic I have ever met. "My relationship with God is good, but as for church and those things... I don't really care." When we explained to him about the Plan of Salvation "Well, if I end up in a grave forever, or living in Heaven somewhere, I should just be a good person." Hmmm... This man is a truly good man, but it was just a little difficult to figure out what was motivating him. We then asked him about his beliefs. You see, Brother Gabriel's legs do not function. He walks on crutches everywhere. "God could heal me right now, and I could still be a nobody. My goal is to be the person I'm supposed to be, regardless of how my challenges are. All these 'miracle' churches have everyone believing, unless you are 'whole' you can't be anything."  Bingo! As we read Ether 12:27 with him, he suddenly became very interested in what we have to teach. One great song a companion of mine had in the mission field went something like this :
     "I know it hurts, but child
      it's just best if you pull through
      Cause the pain will go away some day,
      but the strength will stay with you"
Bro Gabriel will have his legs on the Resurrection Day. Of this I am sure. But more important, he will have the compassion developed over a life-time of seeings others struggle with problems he used to have. He will have the determination he developed from always fighting uphill. He will have the courage he gained facing life's problems head on. So, between me and Gabriel, who is really the blessed one?

     I am not trunky, but I do look forward to being home. One of my investigators recently had a baby. The day before, we felt impressed to give his wife a blessing... or rather, HE felt impressed that we should give his wife a blessing. Pretty good for a man who has never been to church yet! That night, she gave birth. The baby was HUGE(!) something like 4.4 kilos, and she came out in less then 4 hours. Wow. It got me thinking about all my friends who have had children or are getting married. What a blessing to share in life's milestones with people you care about! How comforting to know that these sacred relationships can be preserved beyond the grave! I am grateful to Heavenly Father for such a wonderful plan. I know God lives. I know He loves His children. I am humbled to be an ambassador of that love to the people of Ghana. My time grows very short, and as much as I tease the two very very young missionaries in my district (How long have you been out? Wow! That's how many weeks I have left!), I do not yet feel like I have finished everything. I will not cut my mission short even one week. I am currently teaching 35 lessons a week for the past 4 weeks. I will continue that pace until the very moment He says "the Work is done".

     I love you all very much.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 6, 2011

#92 - "All Now Rejoice"

Dear Friends and Family, Family and Friends, June 6, 2011

     We've been in the rainy season lately. It's like Oregon weather every day. When it pours, other missionaries go in. Elder Ni. and I have decided, that is the time to show our testimonies. Plus, it helps every time before we set off into the storm that Elder Ni. yells "It's HERO TIME!"
     This week has been one giant learning experience. My companion and I are really putting the pedal to the medal, averaging around 35 lessons a week since we started. One giant problem though... no one is coming to church! It was a great experience for me, though. I'm glad to be serving with Elder Ni.. He really is a buoy when I otherwise would be falling to pieces. Let me explain before I get overly dramatic. I am not upset because poor numbers may reflect a poor missionary. This is not a matter of glory anymore. Frankly, I'm about to finish, and Elder Farnbach's legacy on the Ghana Accra mission will probably float away in a matter of months. But it pains me to struggle so because I know that what we teach is the key to and source of eternal happiness, and if no one is listening, they are only hurting themselves.
     At the same time, Elder Ni. rightly pointed out that, while we may not be having a lot of external measurable success, the Lord has a purpose for all of this, and it is best if we just continue to work towards that purpose. "This might just be the rest of your mission" he said, "but if you learn the lesson from it, it is not wasted." What a blessing to a stress-case like me!
     We did have many times this week where we felt led by the Spirit. To get to our main area from our apartment, we pass a little back-road. That day, I felt led to knock on a giant compound house that I have passed a dozen times. When we came to the door, a university student answered. "Wait a minute... are you Latter-Day Saints?"
"Yes. Yes we are."
"I was just assigned to do a presentation on you for a class. One minute." He went back into his room to bring out his printed-out notes.
Now, normally I get a little uneasy when someone studies us from the Internet, but it's usually nothing new. After asking a few questions about the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, and of course, Polygamy, we noticed that the topic kept coming back to constant revelation.
"Everything in the Church, from the calling of leadership to the practices on Sunday is led by Revelation," we said. The weirdest question was "How do you know who to teach?" The answer was "Let's read about Nephi and Laban. 'I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand whither I should go'". It was weird, but then the Spirit filled in the gaps when we asked to have another appointment. "This is the only day I was going to be here," he said.
"Interesting how this is the day, then, I felt impressed to knock on your door," I said. This story really sums up my week. We didn't get a return appointment. In the narrow, this lesson accomplished nothing. But we answered a prompting and did what God asked us to do. Whether or not that means another baptism for us is not the point. We do not get the results we want doing the Lord's work. We get the results He wants. I wish I could understand and see that better, but every time I get discouraged, it is because I forget that point.
     The next day, still distraught at our recent dry-spell, I was singing to my self on my bike ride. For some strange reason, I got all choked up at the words, "All now rejoice, the long night is o'er." I had not felt particularly emotional any other time that day. But the Lord was telling me that, even if I wasn't having the success I wanted, the magnitude of the message I deliver should be enough to make me happy. How grateful I am, to live in a time where the light of the Gospel is on the earth. I love my Heavenly Father, and want to do His will.
Elder W. Farnbach