Dear Family and Friends,
So, I've decided putting a subject will give you a sense of what exactly is going on. This was the first time we were allowed to go to the temple since the MTC. As we learned in Mission Prep, the Temple is like Mission Interviews, except with the Savior. The night before, I was pondering over my work so far. We left Kasoa at 4:30 to try to arrive at the mission home at 7:30. We made it in RECORD time, and got there an hour early, so we had a nice opportunity to chill with some other missionaries.
We first had our district interview. It was a wonderful lesson in Humility for Elder Farnbach. I was coming to report some serious bumper crops. We've always managed to get our contacting goal (President DEMANDS 140 contacts each week) and our New Investigator Goal (9) each week. We quite literally have more investigators then we can handle. We were not able to see everyone this week, which is mentally frustrating. I was coming to talk about our wonderful families who are getting ready to be baptized, and how well we were working as a companionship to manage each aspect of the "Bucket-to-Bucket" mentality President always teaches. But, as we were receiving instruction, and as I was preparing to go in for my personal interview with President, I got the most horrible sinking feeling in my stomach. The Spirit was very clear with me; I am not where I should be. In the interview, President was very direct with me on how I can improve. After some small questions, and looking over my planner and study (the President's challenge I mentioned earlier), he was able to discern a lot of weaknesses in my work. As I sat in the temple afterwards, I came to an important realization. I am not here to be better than the others have been. I'm not held up to a "Mission Average" standard. When push comes to shove, if I could be doing better, and am not, the Lord is not pleased. It is not enough to say "I'm doing everything well EXCEPT this, which is still a cut above everyone else.". It is those pet sins that will be read at Judgment Day. President was very good at saying " This is not to say you are doing poorly by any stretch. But we must do better. I'm very disappointed, Elder, but I don't want you to get down. I want it to drive you to improve." And to be honest, it did. In my prayers, I constantly ask the Lord to drag me to the depths of my humility. I expect rebukes time and again on this mission. As I read the stories of Nephi and the Brother of Jared, I'm struck by how low their opinions of themselves are. "Oh what a wretched man am I." And what about the 3 HOUR tongue-lashing the Lord gives the Brother of Jared? Didn't this guy move a mountain because of his faith? And SEE the Lord?
That's really interesting about the Church in Ghana. [ I told him that we learned from a Ghanaian man of another faith that our church was granted permission to be in Ghana because the first man to join our church was the brother of the then current President of Ghana. ] We just met with some members who joined before the Freeze, and they explained the whole situation. Because of the priesthood, even after the Church was allowed, Ghana was always leery of the Church. When the Church sent a ton of books over for the Church Libraries, the Ghanaian Government accused the Church of sending ammunition for a coup. For a few years, the Church was not allowed to meet or anything. The chapels were patrolled by soldiers and everything. There are plenty of stories of these men, walking into the chapel and lighting a cigarette, only to hear a voice shout, "People in this room do not smoke!" A lot of people stayed strong, but the persecution got really bad. One LDS surgeon was photographed walking out of surgery with blood on his face-mask, and the national newspapers printed that Mormons drink blood. Even though it was 20 years ago, we still have that problem.
One of our investigators boys got caned at school because the headmaster asked what religion all the students were, and he said, “LDS.” As the Headmaster assaulted the Church, the little 11 year old valiantly stated it wasn't true, and was whipped for it. He had told the boy previously that he would challenge the missionaries anytime. We initially were going to do our best to stay away, but Elder Hicks and I both agreed to give this boy a Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet with our number on it. If this were to come up again, he should just direct him to the pamphlet, and have the headmaster call us. I'm not here to contend, but if you, masquerading as a man of God (the man is also a pastor) will indoctrinate your students at school, and beat those who dare oppose you, you're going to stand judgment for it. Whether by stern rebuke from Elders Farnbach and H., or at the Last Day, when the boy stands before the Savior and bears witness against you.
What else happened this week... oh, of course, I got the package and mail! I dearly love you, Mommy, and everyone who has been writing! Unfortunately, we tried a new internet cafe today that won't let me send pictures. I will next week. They include a few of me, running my fingers through power bars, spam, drink mixes and candy. It was all perfect, Mom. The drink mixes and Spam were especially awesome. Cinnamon is ALWAYS appreciated, too :) My district all thinks I'm a health-nut, though. Everyone else gets packages full of candy. Elder Farnbach gets protein bars and South-Beach diet drink mixes? Hahaha BTW, what is the Garlic for? Anyway, the earliest letter from this set was sent Sept 13th. I still didn't get Marta's letter :/ and there are references in one “Dear Elder” from Kat Bennet to a letter I've not received yet, either. (I got two addendum's to a letter I've not received... haha). I would say, if Dear Elder is the only way you can really get time/afford letters to me, keep doing it, but if you can manage, hand written letters sent to the pouch via the PO Box in Salt Lake City may be more reliable.
As for Papa, I wrote him and Grammy a letter, and in it I've asked him to ask Dad for a blessing. I also sent a letter to Uncle Tracy and April. Claire still has a letter sitting in my bag, because I don't have her address [he has it as of today].
I'm going to send this, and look over the e-mails I've gotten to make sure I answer any other questions...
Other interesting things I've just remembered. I finally managed to check my weight on mission. I've gained 15 lbs. Yeah... I blame the fact that even though I bike everywhere, it is really a step down from the physical activity I had pre-mission...
This last week they had the Under 20 World Cup for Soccer, and Ghana won, beating Brazil. We made the mistake of attempting to teach a lesson during the game. EVERY time Ghana scored, the whole country erupted. We were in a sleepy little neighborhood, and yet you literally couldn't hear yourself talk for a good 3 minutes at a time when they scored. They would poke their heads out every time and say "Obruny! We score you!" Finally my companion stood up and said "Do we look Brazilian to you? " It was hilarious.
I just thought of something. For the Missionary Moms' list, I figured you'd want to know how different gears were holding up. First of all, of the three brands of shirts I have, the Tommy Travellers [ from Nordstrom's Rack ] hold up best. They get dirty a little easier then those Joseph and Feiss [ from Men's Warehouse ] ones, but they wash out better. The Nordstrom's shirt [ again from The Rack ] is probably the worst. It gets dirty easily, and does not wash out well at all. Elder Fisher's shirts, Stafford's High Performance wear, seam to holding up wonderfully, though Liberia camp is not nearly as dusty as Kasoa. [ We learned that Elder Farnbach's bishop commented to the missionaries that they aren't keeping their white shirts very white. He asked if they would like someone to show them how. I am not sure how white I could keep a shirt that I wear frequently, only wash on Mondays, and wash in a bucket, too boot. :) ]
The Zipper Belt from the Missionary Mall, even though it is 100% leather, is already experiencing some bad wear-and-tear. Elder Hicks is falling apart, badly, and will probably be unusable in a transfer. Mine is starting to show the same signs.
As Missionaries get more experienced here, they use smaller and smaller bags. Messenger bags are a clear favorite among those who have been in Ghana longer, and if they can carry your own scriptures, an extra BoM, and a few pamphlets, it is big enough.
The washboard I have is handy, but the wood is eroding slightly. Plastic or metal may handle better.
I miss you tons but always remember, I am doing important work, and will be home when it is done -
not one minute sooner, or later.