Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating w/ Senior Missionaries in Abomosu

Elder Farnbach was in heaven because he was able to eat cheese for the first time in 4 months.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 16, 2009 #13

Dear Friends and Family,

Okay, so we may be able to come to the cafe 2 out of every 3 weeks. Every three weeks we HAVE to go to Koforidua for interviews/conference. We'll be able to do that, and it's only a 2 hour, 3 stop, 5 cedi trip to the cafe, so we'll do that one other week, I think. Abomosu is pretty awesome, lack of internet aside. We live in a HOUSE provided by Elder and Sister Abu, two pioneers of the Church.

It turns out Abomosu is one of the oldest places for the Church in Ghana. Elder Abu organized all the district himself a few decades ago, and it was basically as bad for him as it was Joseph Smith. Several times, militias armed with AK-47s harrassed him. He was falsely accused of selling Ghanaian gold and diamonds to the American missionaries that were here, and he was jailed, threatened, and extorted on numerous occasions. This is the same man who came down on our first day, told us we could eat anything on his farm, wanted to make sure we had mosquito nets, and sends dinner to us every night, because he is worried we'd be uncomfortable in the Bush.

I'm incredibly humbled to work with this man and his wife. They both have been through so much, and I get to help build the Church with them. As for our mission up here... more details are available. Elder Mensah and I have been assigned to the District, so we are in charge of orchestrating the missionary efforts of 5 branches. The District President is an RM, as are his counselors, and has been begging for missionaries for the last year, year and a half. They are incredibly willing to help. They've set us up with a meeting with ALL the Branch Presidents, Mission Leaders, and missionaries on Saturday.

If all goes well, the Bush will be open for missionary work, and not just one companionship, but many. This area will be a stake next year. That is the goal President Snith has set. He explained to us that we were sent because President Cardon, of the 70, has been pressuring him to send missionaries to work with the Branches. He was uncomfortable with neglecting what is supposed to be under President's direct guidance. The missionaries were originally pulled because, despite all the baptisms here, attendance did NOT grow. At all. We've been directed that the people we are baptizing are supposed to be fluent English speakers and readers. They are to be the core of new Stake Leadership up here.

I'm trying to be as humble about this as I can, but basically, Elder Mensah and I are setting up a whole Stake of Zion. If this fails, it will be closed for a long time. President has told us on more then one occasion that his choice of missionaries to send here took a LOT of prayer and fasting. Transfers normally are called for around 8, but we didn't hear until 9:30 because President wanted to be SURE. The most interesting aspect of this to me is that there is a Greenie among us. We all could have been sent a transfer earlier, if it was just our gifts that were needed. What part will Elder Withers play? I am anxious to see.

Elder Mensah and I have basically come up with the idea that the branch missionaries are going to be part of the Abomosu District Mission, under Elder Mensah. We are going to get them Preach My Gospel ready, because we can only spend one workday in each branch. When we come, we need a list of people to teach, times, and Branch Missionaries to work with us. When we are gone, they are to visit once or twice, and get them to Church. This is a mind-boggling level of work, and I'm incredibly excited for it.

As for Pposelyting, the towns shut down at 6, and no one gets home (from their farms) until like, 12:00 or 1. This will either be the greatest period of spiritual growth or stagnation on my mission. I study a LOT, but until we get the organization up, we really can't do much in the way of teaching. Going around Abomosu has been pretty ineffective, as no one speaks English. We focus mostly on the teachers.

Our house is nice, but the tap water is horrible, and the power goes out every time it rains, which is every day. I am happy to have dodged the Harmattan, though. Spiders about the size of my hand and fireflies are every where. And we have those ants I saw on National Geographic that form huge road-ways with big soldiers ants on either side that just devour anything that happens to fall in them. This is the coolest place on the mission, by far, and if the new couple (Elder and Sister Terry) have a washing machine and internet in their house (which is actually REALLY possible) then it will be PERFECT.

Oh, really quick last thing. Elder Mensah was trained by Elder Frei, whose little brother was Elder Jones' last companion, as far as I can tell from his letters. Crazy, huh?

I'll write some actual letters to make up the difference, but I love you all! Take care, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Elder Farnbach

P.S. don't forget to write!!! (Especially AAAAA and BBBBB, who STILL have not written me!! Alma 60:6, you two!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Isn't she adorable?!?

November 9, 2009 #12

Dear Family and Friends,
So this week has been pretty crazy. On Monday, because of problems with the power, we were not able to watch conference like we'd hoped, but we managed to see Elder Holland's AWESOME talk. I taught nothing but the Book of Mormon for a whole week. We also had some amazing instruction by our ZLs, APs and President at Zone Conference. Elder Southwick (ZL) gave an awesome instruction on simplifying the Plan of Salvation into the two laws of judgment: Justice and Mercy. It was mind-opening. Elder McGrath, the senior AP, also gave a great instruction on the same topic, but with regards to the use of Agency. God wants us to be free. Satan wants us to be in bondage, but tempts us to "prove" our freedom, ultimately leading us into captivity. It was very similar to Elder Oaks "Love of God, Law of God" idea. (the ONE talk we saw at Church.) President also gave another powerful instruction on the Book of Mormon. "Anyone who is intellectually and morally honest CANNOT overlook the Book of Mormon until they've read it."

President actually asked the zone to lower their goals because we did so well. We got 97% of our baptism goal as a mission, which is 25% more then usual... and as a zone we did 42 baptisms. Our goal went up to 52, and I still think we could have done it. Kasoa 1 is going for another strong 8.

Our ward is moving towards getting a Ward Mission Plan together. If anyone wants to send me a letter what those are supposed to look/be like, that would be great. I've never seen one, and unfortunately, neither has our bishop.

We had an awesome lesson with Peter A. Our District Instruction was all about just listening, and not worrying about what you will teach. As we talked to him, we saw the real depth of his financial problems, and how it's affecting his family. He's been missing Church to take small jobs to make a few cedis to feed them. As I listened though, I had the distinct, specific impression that if Peter would just show his faith, come to Church the next two weeks, and be baptized, this would go away. I don't just mean the general "Do the right thing and God will bless you", I mean "Elder Farnbach, Peter needs to come to church, so I can take care of this problem."

The Q. family has also been doing fantastic. We had to push their baptism back, to beyond when I would be here, sadly, but it's because the father wants to be baptized with his children, who were always at school during our lessons.

Frank A., was just baptized him on Saturday. He's the coolest kid (he's 26, actually...). Also, he gave us President Mill's (the president of Ghana) cell-phone number. We'll be placing a Book of Mormon shortly. I am not even kidding.

We also have one family that I really love. Mary A. It's so sad. She's been coming to church for 4 months and desperately working on her English and reading so she can be baptized... except we just found out her abusive husband has a second wife. She CANNOT be baptized until he splits with one.

All right, now for the big news. I've been transferred. I'm opening a new area in the BUSH. It's a place called Abomosu. Most of my ward right now doesn't know where that is. I have been told by the APs that I will have to become fluent in Twi, and that my companion and I will be the only ones out there. Also, my Senior Companion will also be the Zone Leader. The advantages... it's out in the mountains, so the Harmattan* won't hit me. Downsides: No internet for the next 4.5-6 months. I'll really need the letters, everyone :/

This whole transfer will be crazy. All but 13 of the 60 companionships are being changed. 7 new areas are being opened. The missionary work here is exploding! Elder Hicks, Elder Fisher, Elder Bills and I celebrated by going to a LEGIT restaurant out in Liberia Camp called TripleX. I had a cheeseburger and fries. It was awesome!! Then, we went down and played on one of those merry-go-rounds the BYU engineers built to generate electricity for the schools and orphanages. I'll have some pictures and videos of that soon. (on his facebook page)

OH! Mail Day! I finally got Marta's letter, and with any luck, I'll shoot off a response on Transfer day.

Love you all very much! Wish me luck!

Elder Farnbach

* Harmattan

The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March (winter).

On its passage over the desert it picks up fine dust particles (between 0.5 and 10 micrometers)

In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog. The effect caused by the dust and sand stirred by these winds is known as the Harmattan haze, and costs airlines millions of dollars in canceled and diverted flights each year. The interaction of the Harmattan with monsoon winds can cause tornadoes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

November 2, 2009 #11

Dear Family and Friends,
So this last week has been kind of interesting. Last week, we were not able to visit everyone we wanted to. We were crammed for time, even teaching 30 lessons. This week, appointment after appointment failed. We had to stop visiting a huge number of investigators. Time after time, people have begged us to come to their house, but refuse to even visit the church. Everyone seems to think that our sole purpose as missionaries is to hold Bible studies. One woman asked how she could get really good at "Quotations", and then seemed really disappointed when I said "Have you READ the Bible before?" There are no short-cuts to the gospel, plain and simple. I invited her to read, even just 5 minutes every day, and she would understand what was all those street preachers were yelling over their megaphones. No dice. We told her we would not be able to come back until she started coming to church. She then asked when we would be coming back... Oi...

Sadly we did not get to watch General Conference, and frankly, I'm kinda steamed about it. For whatever reason, they announced no power from 10-5 in Kasoa over the radio for the day we were supposed to watch. We had a day's notice, so we called the 2nd counselor, and told him. He assured us he would take care of it. We still managed to contact a recent covert, and they said if we needed, we could use their generator. That night, we called the 2nd counselor "We already have one." "Are you sure? We've got someone willing to help" "It's okay, we've got it."
Sunday: No generator. The power goes off at 10, like we said, and they scrambled and rented a generator that was too small. Then they tried to power the TV alone (no one got a projector either), and blew it out. Great.... So we got the DVDs, and we'll be chipping away at it with our investigators over the week. We may even get to see Priesthood session. Here is hoping anyway. (PS, Elder H. has been here for two General Conference weekends and has yet to see either.)

Transfers are coming up. On Saturday we find out. With any luck, I'll have one more transfer here in Kasoa. Elder H. and I have been solid companions, and we've another 8-14 baptisms, especially the Q. family (Teacher). The man has already started paying tithing and fast offerings. We've given each of the children a Book of Mormon, and his sister-in-law came to church with her fast offering all set in an envelope, and THEN asked us to explain what it was. What faith!
On the other side, the A. family is within the danger-drop zone. They've not come to church for almost 4 weeks, even though we go every Saturday night to remind them. I'm starting to understand how the Lord of the Vineyard felt in Jacob 5:41. What more could we have done? The only way we'll find relief is if the answer is "Nothing."

Zone conference is coming up soon, and we'll be getting mail that day! Always always my favorite part of the month. Hopefully I'll be getting that letter from Elder Jones. I'd hate to be chastised again :P

As for the Atacks, I can't even imagine how that must feel. I'm praying constantly for her. Yes, a brain tumor is horrible, but how blessed are we that it isn't inherently inoperable? This could be taken care of in a way that it may be completely forgotten and unnoticed. I'll tell you, that's not how it would be down here. Tell the Atacks that they are in my prayers.

Handwritten letters [I asked if he wished I wrote more of them.]... on the one hand, I would love to get a ton of handwritten letters, but I understand how difficult it may be to find time. If possible, I would love them. If not, Dear Elders are nice. You may check with other elders, but I think our mission homes all print them, and ours for whatever reason uses paper that is too large, and so it prints a small paragraph on the back.

I've also been reading the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It helps so much, because a lot of the questions he was asking and answering were products of his time and the situation in which he was in, which as Dad and I talk about, is really similar to the religious atmosphere here in Ghana. I can also tell the difference between my studies when I DO and when I don't have the Spirit with me.

OH! Speaking of, we are teaching someone from another religion. It's fascinating to watch the gospel click and make sense to him, and then his past beliefs have to fight it. "This makes perfect sense... and is completely contrary to everything I believed!!" He assuaged his conscience by giving us literally 7 copies of his religious materials, which we read, and read back to him. Seriously, Hans, try to find the Day of Defense. It is handy, but more so, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

So I've written a fair amount of letters, and I will have a few more I'll be writing before Wednesday. I'll probably send off about 8 this week. I hope to be able to write back to everyone when I have more time.

Love you all!

Elder Farnbach

PS You should really try to find that “Joseph, a Nashville Tribute” album. There are a few songs I REALLY love on it. My favorite is called American Dreams. The line that strikes me "Somewhere there's a prophet, in a place they call Kirtland, and he's building a temple to worship my God."
As you listen, you can hear the almost exhausting sense of joy the person is feeling. I wish everyone had that zeal. The heavens really ARE open again, and the phrase "My God" has such an awesome meaning to it. He is. Simply put, the Lord is not just God. I chose him. Many people worship money, or the Bible, their jobs, their cars, what have you. The Lord is My God. I want everyone to say that to themselves as they think about prayer, faith, repentance, worship and church. Why are you at church? I go to worship MY God.