Monday, December 27, 2010

#69 Last Chrismas on My Mission

Dear Friends and Family,                                      December 27, 2010

Well, another Christmas has come, and gone. I told Elder Do., "You know the best gift I got this Christmas?" "What?" "That next Christmas, I'll be at home!" Don't get me wrong. I love a lot of what I do here, but no one likes spending Christmas away from his family.
     We had our Christmas Dinner last pie and pork roast! The other missionaries in my zone complain the Terrys spoil us. I point out that mine is the only real bush territory (as no one speaks English, we don't have net cafes, etc.) and that we've totally earned it. We watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas. I'd never seen it before. What a beautiful little movie. Jimmy Stewart is the man.
     I learned an important lesson this week. I'd just read Pres. Eyring's talk about magnifying our callings. I spend so much time trying to manipulate, record, and innovate my way in to being a better missionary and mission leader. It's really so simple though. Just do what you've been called to do. You do not need to re-invent the wheel to magnify your calling. I'll give this example. Tuesday was very rough. Our first two lessons were with non-English speakers. Now, most of the time, it's just unfortunate and we try to smile and jimmy our limited Twi into a loose form of communication. They said rude things to us in Twi, hoping that I can't tell. It just put me in the foulest mood and ruined that whole day. I was not feeling charitable and it drove away the Spirit. I didn't want anything good for anyone we saw that whole day, especially not baptism. Wednesday, I resolved that I'd find someone interested that day. During the first lesson, that was my object. It just turned the whole day around. It sped by as lesson after lesson was noticeably spiritual. Why? Because that is what missionaries are called to do. We are here to baptize. It's that simple. As I attempted to fulfill my calling, the Lord supplemented my effort. People were provided. I was given what to say and when to say it. I felt a certain approval from my Heavenly Father. When I was not willing to do that, I received no such help.
      I was also able to go on splits with Elder Be. again. It's cute when they are so young on mission. ;) I made him eat nothing but fufu and some intestines. By the way, this is not torture. I eat that stuff all the time. It's a little chewy and it's covered with little beads that are called villi, which look a little sill-i, but act as little vents. [ a little School House Rock humor ] (We ran into some pretty German girls that day, giving us the eyes. They came up and started chatting us up. Elder Be. had no idea what to do. They seemed wounded when we didn't ask for their numbers. Sorry girls, I'm taken. Anxiously engaged in a good cause! Hahaha)
     Christmas proper was mostly spent visiting just a few Church leaders with the Terrys, in Santa hats we made by cutting some stockings that were left here. Then, we went to the Abu's where they fed us. Then we went to the Christmas Fireside. Or rather my companion did. I was out in the lobby calling my family! I love you!
     Soon is the year I go home. That just boggles my mind. Actually, what I am looking forward to most is my brother's mission call. Hurry up, Hans!
     Love you all! Take care, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year's!


    Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, December 20, 2010

#68 - Christmas early

Dear Friends and Family,                                 December 20, 2010

    Sorry, in the bush, we take whatever we can get when it comes to
the internet. We use the Family History Center. The net is really slow
today, but I'll do my best.

    I find it frustrating that every time I sit down to write, I
forget what I had been composing in my head throughout the week.
Normally I take better notes, but things have been really hectic.

    We had our Christmas Conference this past week. I saw a lot of
old missionary buddies, and got to spend a lot of time with my Zone
members as we all spent the night at the mission home. We did not get
to bed until around 3 that morning. It's okay though, as after the
Christmas party we had a 3 hour trip home. At the party, the North
Zone stole the show. About half the talents performed were from us.
Elder Bi. worked some guitar magic while we showed of some Obruny
native dance... the Boot Scootin' Boogie.... poorly choreographed, which
added to how fun it was. The amount of food there made me a bit sick
for the following two days, but all is well that ends well.

    Immediately after this, I had to go on splits into another
faux-bush area called Asamankese. These missionaries do not know what
bush means. If 85% of your people speak English and everyone has
electric light, it is not the bush. :) We held about 7 interviews with
some wonderful people. My very favorite was a sister named Mercy
S., who is 60, and barely literate. She was so enthusiastic though.
Me:"Do you believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God?"
Her: "YES!"
Me: "Why?"
Her: "Because he was a PROPHET!"

Elder Af. was pretty awesome too. The kid went to Stanford before his
mission and has been out about 6 months now. I don't know what it
is, but we get a lot of Islanders out here, and they immediately become
my people. Elder Tu., Elder Af.... I'm chill with the Nephites.

    Then I came back to Abomosu. Elder Bi. was like "I had no idea
what bush meant until I came here." Exactly, my friend. No area is
bush like Abomosu is bush. Not too much exciting happens/happened
here. We went to Kwabeng for church and I was invited to speak on the
Birth of Christ. It is frustrating to speak, though, because as soon
as they see I will not be speaking Twi, several of the people in the
back rows through up their arms and roll their eyes.

    As I was speaking, I realized a few really important things. I
was reminded of Nina, with her sign she puts up on Dec 26th "Only 364
days until Christmas". All the prophets throughout history had
looked forward to the Birth of Christ. Adam probably had a sign that
said "Only about 4000 years until Christmas." Interestingly enough, I
had never realized that the Star was never prophesied of in the Bible.
The Wise Men associated the Star with Christ why? No where (that we
have, mind you) is there such a prophesy... in the Bible. This comes
from the Book of Mormon. Another little proof there for you. I also
love what it says in 3 Nephi 1:17

"And the began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea,
in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west
to the east, both in the land north and in the land south..."

Really, every righteous, God-fearing soul at the time knew the great
importance of what was happening. It was the single most important
event in the history of the world, eclipsed only by a similar event 33
years later. I love the Savior and I love Christmas time.

    I received a package from Grammy consisting of entirely cinnamon
candies. These are my very favorite because no one in Africa, with
the exception of my companion, seems to like them.... not even the ants
or cockroaches (seriously, they are huge). I didn't remember to buy
food for Monday, so I've subsisted on tuna (thank you, Oma and Grandpa
Bill!) and Fire Twizzlers (thank you, Grammy and Papa!)

    I am excited to call home on Christmas. We only have one chip
this year. I'll send the number home as soon as I look it up, but
worst case scenario, I'll just flash the number and you can call back,
Mom and Dad. Or, I'll swing by later tonight with the number.

Just a few more months! This last one flew by. A lot of that is thanks to the
Terrys. Today, we'll be watching Johnny Lingo at their house.
Seriously, when they leave, I hope I get transfered.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, December 13, 2010

#67 - the Bush explained

Dear Friends and Family,                                                 December 13, 2010

Well, first full week in Abomosu. I'm away from my journal, but I'll try my best.

     This week, we had training in Koforidua. I finally met the whole North Zone. It's really quite an ordeal. We have 17 branches, and only 16 missionaries, so we are really spread out. Elder Do. and I are all by ourselves, and we are about 2 hours from the nearest companionship. It was nice to see, and in many cases, meet all of them. The Bush is a select group. Many missionaries disappear out there, and stay there for a long time.
     I had done this exact training and instruction before, but it is proof that repetition is the heart of learning. I gained a lot of insight into something that seems relatively monotonous. Really, the Gospel has no small doctrines, for "by small and simple means are great things brought to pass". Something as simple as getting to know our investigators became a bit of a journey into the concept of divine identity.
     After this, I had a split into Konongo. Konongo is the far-flung reach of our mission, but it's a relatively big town. They are over three branches. Elder Bo. has been there for 7 months. Elder Be. is being trained there. He's a cool kid, and he's the first missionary of his generation, so his parents send him a lot of candy. We binged a little. It was great. I saw someone with a Portland Marathon 2005 finisher shirt. As someone who ACTUALLY finished that race, I was slightly miffed that anyone would donate that shirt. Plus, it'd be a bit hot here... anyway, not to sound proud, but it really struck me how much I've changed and grown on mission. The elder I was with was just over a month old, and a lot of the things he really had to struggle to remember, I did naturally. This is not to say I am better, but rather it shows what Elder Scott was saying. I was worried that I really hadn't changed too much on my mission, (like a frog in boiling water, right?) but as I saw a sharp contrast, I saw that I was doing better than I realized. It was a wonderful feeling.
     We saw a lot of really great people, and extended a lot of dates. I know that Heavenly Father has put some of His greatest children in Africa to ready for those coming later. At the same time, it takes a lot of work. Elder Bi. has a branch in Oda that, upon being reminded that they are to speak English in their services instead of Twi, some members threw their temple recommends on the ground, and stormed out. When looking at Church History, this is Kirtland. People come in droves. People leave in droves. Leaders are refined in this crucible, and, not to be rude, but those who do not have deep roots, are scorched and offended.
     This Sunday, we worshipped in Asuom. I was invited to speak. "On what?" "You choose." This is the worse thing a missionary could hear. What on earth does that mean? However, I knew that the Spirit was there to direct the meeting, so I tried my best to listen for it. Ideas about Peter and the story of "Lovest thou me more than these?", and the unity that comes from the covenants we have all made, whether we are white or black, Nigerian or Ghanaian, tribes, creed, gender, it doesn't matter. I was the second speaker. The first speak spoke on the Gospel and baptism. I spoke on making covenants and being united by a love for the Lord, that we would sacrifice anything for, and the third speaker spoke on the Law of Consecration. I was so happy that I had picked up, at least a little, of what needed to be taught.
     The other thing that struck me was rooted in the principle that the study of doctrine changes behavior faster then the study of behavior changes behavior. Every branch we go to is discussing home teaching in their elder's quorum. Doesn't matter what we start with, it ends with everyone complaining that no one is doing it. Well, the answer is, we are studying behavior, and not doctrine. A few scriptures we read about diligence, and answering for the people we didn't teach, and the room got really quiet. Another scripture about the blessings of fulfilling our priesthood duties (The Oath and Covenant), and no one said anything again... until someone managed to make it about behavior again. People can argue with how YOU think a scripture should be applied, but NO ONE can argue with the doctrine itself.
     I love you. I'm excited for Christmas. I'm a little stressed out about just how difficult everything is going to be here in the bush, but I'm going to do all I can, and then leaving it to the Lord. I love the people of Africa, and will not give them anything less.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, December 6, 2010

#66 - Relief Society / Understanding

Dear Family and Friends, December 6, 2010

     This week has been an... interesting one. I'm not sure where to begin. This assignment is a little frustrating because I feel like we are not in control of things for which we are accountable. For example, we have 5 branches that we are required to go and see, every week. In theory, though, we are only responsible for proselyting in Abomosu proper... This means that we are severely hampered in our ability to work. But we still have to accomplish the missions minimums each week. President has long stressed that my greatest weakness is planning and the Lord has placed me in the area where, without planning, I'll be cut to ribbons!

     The Bush also has strengthened my testimony of Relief Society. Because of the culture and nature of the villages, very few people have an opportunity go to high school here, and those that do tend to be the men. This is a crippling limitation. As the mothers don't have a chance to receive education, it perpetuates the cycle onto each and every generation. A major reason activity is so weak here is language, but language and reading is a problem because mothers don't have the chance to teach their children. Strong Relief Societies are the foundation which keep families active. I have only seen few occasions where a mother goes inactive and the family still remains strong.

     Other than that, not much is going on. I've been pondering a lot on the principles of Faith and Testimony. This is what came to mind. When Paul talks about people who are "ever learning, never knowing", he is referring to people who do not receive the witness of the Holy Ghost, confirming the truth of a principle. There are those who can read, study, and explain the mechanisms of the Plan of Salvation academically, but they don't really have an abiding testimony of its truthfulness. It makes sense, but it doesn't anchor them to the Gospel or drive them forward in spite of opposition. This studying, though, is what Alma is talking about... "Giving place for a portion of my words". We understand them enough to ponder on them and put them into practice, and as we do, THEN the Holy Ghost confirms the truth of it to us. That's what I think it means to understand them.

     As for a description of where I am staying and the Church buildings... the buildings here are very nice, as this was one of the first districts of the Church here. Hundreds flocked to the Church in those days, but the Freeze really hindered a lot of people. Our house is also one of the nicer ones I've been to. The screens are very good. However, our roof is absolutely invested with rats. They tend to leave us alone, but I suspect we have 3 major nests up there. We always have water, though, which is a nice change from Odorkor. The weather is cooler, but with no ocean nearby, we don't have as much wind, so it feels warmer to me.

     Other then that, everything is pretty okay. We have training this week, and then Christmas Conference next week. Christmas Conference means I can do my laundry in a washing machine. Nothing is nicer than machine washed socks and underwear.

Love you all!
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 29, 2010

#65 - Back in Abomosu!!

Dear Friends and Family,                                                            November 29, 2010

     This one will be very brief. I'll try to add more tomorrow night, as we will be in the mission home for Zone Leader's Council. I am back in Abomosu. I've been predicting/hoping for this transfer for about 4.5 months. With the way callings work in our mission, President is getting pretty predictable.

Anyway, I came out here, and most of the branch presidents and the like remembered me and I remembered them. Elder Bi., my dear friend/ District Leader extraordinaire, was transferred up with me, and will be one of my district leaders here, too. I'm very happy for it. The kid is like my most trusted sergeant. I don't have to worry about wherever he goes, because he'll make it great. I hope Heavenly Father feels that way about me.

Anyway, on the car ride up, as I was thinking about this assignment, I kept thinking about what President said when he transferred me. "I want you to use the experience you've gained throughout your mission to keep those 5 branches moving!" (I'm not attached to a branch, but a district) and it struck me... this is it! This is really what I've been put here to do. The Preach My Gospel videos point out that 18 months is the height of a missionary's time out there... and I am spending it here. I have served here before. I have learned to work with certain missionaries, who are here now with me. So many things have come together for me to be in Abomosu, right now.

Elder Do., my companion, and I have this vision of Abomosu being the next village of Anti-Nephi-Lehies. So that is our goal. And it started today, as we walked 4 long hours to haul one branch mission leader's cacao through the swampy, marshy, sweaty BUSH! I hated every minute of it at the time, but I'm glad we did it now. We are going to do service every Monday. No one speaks English. The members are having a hard time teaching because many of them don't speak English, so service is a good tool.

The Terrys [ senior missionary couple ] are wonderful. We had calamari..... today... in the bush. Sister Terry is amazing. We have to drive to and from the mission home a lot as zone leaders and again with Christmas coming up. They drive us up and down, 3.5-4 hours each way, no complaints. Plus, she's always handing snacks back to us. I love them so much. I hope to be that kind of example here.

I love you. I love missionary work. I love Abomosu! I love Heavenly Father, and I know He loves me, and you too! Take care of yourselves, and work very hard to do everything God has assigned you to.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 22, 2010

#64 - All Africa Stake Conference

Dear Friends and Family,                                           November 22, 2010

     This was a pretty awesome week we had this week. The best part was the All-Africa stake conference we had. But I'll come to that last.

     In our mission, there is very little to do on P-Days. I hear about people going fishing and to museums and waterfalls and stuff, and I get kind of jealous. Well, we didn't do anything awesome like that. But to us, awesome is a pizza place that opened up near the Chapel, and getting pizza with a nearby district. That was a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, the APs decided they needed to split with the other Odorkor companionship, and contributed nothing to the cost. Bad form, Assistants!

     We had another zone training that same day. I've really started to enjoy rubbing shoulders with all the missionaries in my zone. Mostly because most of them have been here as long as I have (6 months and counting!). It's wonderful, because it allows me to see their growth. As I've always said, this zone has the best missionaries in the field. I love it here, and even though the last weeks of the month are always stressful, I don't want to leave. I know my ward, my missionaries, my recent converts, and my investigators. We have one shining star, and a snowball affect starting, in those regards. Godfred, a recent convert, is now best friends with Francis, an investigator preparing for his baptism. We're going to start a Recent Convert Club, in a way, and just keep setting people up with these two. They are so wonderful! The thing that impresses me most is Godfred is trying to adapt to the culture of LDS life. This is not to say unimportant things like our peculiar lingo, or our apparent love for Jello (still couldn't tell you where that came from, btw) are the difference between a Church-goer and a true convert, but as Elder Oaks said in our conference (paraphrased, due to bad notes) "The culture of the Gospel is vital and conducive towards living the Gospel." Godfred took Francis to a YSA activity Saturday night. THAT is what I am talking about. Being a Latter-Day Saint is notoriously notable. I would guess most of my WLHS friends could tell a Latter-Day Saint on sight. It's an impossible secret to keep without compromising what we stand for!

      Well, it looks like we're going to talk about Conference now. I don't really have much else to talk about. Our Conference was presided over by President Packer, with Elder Oaks, Elder Golden, and Sister Dibb invited to speak. I was amazed at how accurate these men were about the problems facing the people of Africa. Truly, we have living Apostles and Prophets. Elder Oaks talked a great deal about the culture of the Church, the importance of tithing, and the need for stronger family relationships. Sister Dibb focused on the blessings of the temple, especially for the youth. Elder Golden talked about the importance of listening to, and following the Holy Ghost. President Packer summarized the whole thing with a general statement of love for the people of Africa. In a single generation, we've gone from a thousand members to 52 stakes, and 53 districts! 2/3 of the members here in Africa live in Ghana, Nigeria, DR Congo, and South Africa. The other 1/3 are spread over 13 other countries. I was amazed. The thing I took most from it is the real hope that the Gospel gives the nations of Africa. It is no secret that Africa has had number problems over the past few years, but as the Church becomes stronger, these problems will fade away. Elder Da. is convinced that the faithfulness of Ivorian members is what prevented the civil war there from destroying their country. A new Elder just came from Cote D'Ivoire, and he said things are better then they have been in a long time there.

     I love being here in Africa at a time when so much good can be done. I love the people here, and I know of their amazing capacity of good. I'm working as hard as I can to bring down the blessings of Heaven upon them. I love you all, too. I'm grateful for the love and support I have felt. I have 8 months left, and I will make every moment count. Then, I will come home as quickly as possible.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 15, 2010

#63 - Power Out or Internet Out - You can't have both

Dear Family and Friends,                                                     November 15, 2010

Good afternoon! This is much later then my normal letters, because we had a perfect storm of problems hit us on P-day. But more on that later.
Let's go in order, shall we?

We went to the Cafe. I hear all sorts of great stories about what missionaries do on P-days. But not in Ghana. Great story, though. Someone attempted to pick my pocket. I watched him for about 15 seconds, slowly push my pocket open with one hand, and reach in with the other. As soon as the other hand was in, I confronted him. Amateur...

We went to the temple. What a wonderful relief. You really do leave the world when you go to the temple. My interview with President was also much-needed. There are few people I respect as much as I do President Smith. The man is just a pillar of spiritual strength.

Actually... I don't remember anything about Wednesday, other then District meeting...

Splits with Elder Jo. into his area. Man, I don't envy that kid. Not an easy area. He seems to be having a lot of the same struggles I do. I suspect the Lord was trying to solve my problem by getting me to solve his problem... which is also my problem. Clever, no? I think it is starting to work, at least.

The best day of my mission. Millicent Y. was FINALLY baptized. And I don't know what President Smith told her in her interview, but she hasn't been late to a meeting since. That baptism was also for Erabena, the daughter of our amazing Relief Society President Abena. It was a real ordeal, but I love Abena for it. She is really taken to the "Traditions of the Gospel" mentality. She made sure Erabena was baptized on her birthday, and then had a TON of food and cake for everyone who attended. Typical Mom/Ghana fashion, she brought the cake in, and immediately whirled on all of us. "Are you trying to spoil my angel's birthday? START SINGING!" It was the closest thing we've had to a ward social since I have come to Ghana. Really, activities are a great opportunity to help investigators feel like part of the Church. Do all you can, should someone new come, to welcome them, and make them feel included. They are our brothers and sisters, and for this "marvelous work", we could use all the hands we can get!

The most spiritual day of my mission. I'm not sure why, but we've been finding a lot of Franco-phones this past week. We had a return appointment with a sister named R., from Cote D'Ivoire, and a sister from Guinea/Senegal named A.. R. tried to bail out on us, so we started teaching A.. She's Muslim... but not really. Her family is. She goes to Christian church and prays like a Christian and believes in Jesus Christ. She just can't tell them yet. Anyway, as we taught her, people started coming out of the woodwork, including R.. As we talked, Elder Da. and I felt their wonderful desire to follow Christ, and serve God. As we did all we could to teach with the Spirit that lesson, that desire led them like moths to a flame. Except, we won't burn them. We gave them each a Book of Mormon and showed them everything we had talked about was contained in it's pages. The accepted immediately. "Only one hour? It should be more." "When are you coming again?" Oh, how I love my French brothers and sisters. The language never sounded more wonderful, and I understood more than I ever have. We also taught the St. family. They were great too. We've never managed to get them all at once, but again, we used the Book of Mormon. Because of all the children, we taught using only the pictures in the front. As I saw the whole family together, the Spirit was again strong. At the end, though Sister St. cannot speak English, she sent her daughter to buy Malts (a non-alcoholic barley drink), a real treat here in Ghana. Bro. St., the member, said "Mommy says, this time she likes the way you people teach." which made us happy... until we realized that this means we hadn't really had the Spirit with us before. Anyway, all in all Saturday was a great day.... .. Brother Mi. helped us teach Bro. Sa. Sh.. I love Bro M.. not a more enthusiastic soul in the world. In the end, he was like "Bro Sh. Just get baptized. I did, and I love it." It may have been what Sh. needs. Did I point out Sh. is an Ivorian too? Hence, God sending Elder Da. to Odorkor.

Sh. Came to church. That was it :(  I was discouraged, all day, but when we came back to the house, I felt a calm come over me. Things are going to be okay. We are doing great work. It will just take a little more time. It was perfect to read my Patriarchal Blessing again. "Remember, though, that they have their agency. Nevertheless, as you bear your testimony, you have fulfilled your obligation." I know these people will come. The Spirit was POWERFUL in our lessons. It's just a matter of time, now.

Now.... Monday.
Power out on the side of town that had internet. Internet was out on the side of the town with power... ARGH!

Training this week - Wednesday. Then Transfers (again?!) next week. Looking forward to that big Stake Conference next week.

I want you all to know, I know that Heavenly Father knows all His children. He cares for them, watches over them, and puts them in the situation most beneficial to their growth. He has orchestrated a grand plan, spanning thousands of years, so that you can be where you are, when you are. He has placed each of us with families to instruct and guide us, and given us the freedom to make choices. Our trials are our greatest blessings because no one feels good about accomplishing something easy! Hold fast to the rod. It is not possible to wait out the mists of darkness. Our only hope is to press out of them! Oh, and what marvelous light awaits us!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 8, 2010

#62 - General Conference

Dear Friends and Family,                                                       November 8, 2010

     First and foremost, this past week was General Conference! Now, normally, I try and turn this in to a bonanza with my investigators. In Ghana, we really like the idea of special church events and programs, and when you mention prophets and apostles, some people get really into it. Unfortunately, this has also caused a lot of investigators to be sick of all the false prophets they have seen, and have begun to have the opinion that all prophets are false. Bravo, Satan. Anyway, the other benefit was that in Buduburam (where I was 6 months ago...!) vans were provided to transport people to Conference. No such luck this time. 4 people came to church, which was an improvement on weeks past, to be fair, but not that extrrrrrrravaganza I was hoping for. Frank S's wife did not come, which made me sad, but ALL his children came. Yes, Frank! Samuel S., an investigator from long past, ran into us last week. As we left, he said "um... so when is the next baptism?" Both Elder Da. and I noted the humility in his voice. We are not sure, but we suspect when he stopped investigating the Church, when the Spirit answered his prayers and he decided not to act on that answer, he wasn't happy. It broke our hearts, because he truly is a great man, and we were so happy when he came to Conference. We watched the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning sessions. Elder Oak's talk on the two lines of communication to God was just what he needed, and he again expressed a desire to be baptized. We're handling it cautiously, because the minute he feels compelled, he doesn't want to. "Well... we are having one the 27th." He seems excited, and we'll see him this week. Did I mention he only speaks broken English and French? Another great investigator, named Francis, came for the first time today. He seemed to really enjoy it, but 4 hours of Conference is a lot to handle. He has a lot of past issues of which he wants to repent and the Book of Mormon has been a source of comfort and strength for him. What a blessing!
     I was also fortunate enough to go see Priesthood Session. All the talks were, of course, wonderful, and the generally missionary theme was much appreciated. The talk that struck me most was President Uchtdorf's. I felt humbled as I consider my own state. I am terribly sorry to all those I offended because of my pride. The idea that got me most is the possibility that there may be some who have chosen not to learn about the Restored gospel because of my actions and proud behavior. When I think of people I admire most, they are the most humble. I'm trying to be like Jesus... meek, humble and patient. Forgive me if, because of arrogance, I was sharp or demeaning. I will never do it again.
     I recently discovered the CD "Trek: a Nashville Tribute to the Pioneers". How I love our heritage! What powerful examples we have, and what a standard to live up to! It's affected how I view missionary work. I have an image of thousands of our African brothers and sisters, as their company prepares to leave for Zion. Handcarts heavy, but hearts hopeful, they press on to the Mountain of the Lord's house. I have been sent to this company, to pull with them, and bring them home. I love this work! I beg and implore you, watch for others who are making this journey. My favorite song on the album, "Fare Thee Well, Joshua" has these lines "There's children out there, following mothers -- Sisters walking next to brothers -- Fathers keeping those wagons going -- Everybody's got faith, they know you'll take My people home."
     What else... in local news, the Ivory Coast just had elections, ending the war they've been in. Elder Da. is very happy. We don't know who won yet, but the elections should have just concluded. He and Elder Za. in my zone are both Ivorians, and it's wonderful to see their country turn around.
     A new craze is sweeping Ghana. Telemundo! Don't ask me why, but they air the series one at a time. The most recent is something like "Don't mess with Angel" or something. Elder Da. studied a little Spanish, and tried to translate the name for me. At 8pm, Ghana shuts down, and everyone is glued to their TVs. It is kind of like Helaman Halls and the Office. Or maybe that was just my freshman ward.
     Transfers are coming too fast. Again, I'm praying to stay. A lot of people I know are starting to go home, including my former companion, Elder Ho.. I'll miss that guy.
     I didn't get to see all of Conference, but the 2.5 sessions I got to see seemed to focus a lot on Agency, following the Prophet, and Faith. I loved it. A thought came to me while Bishop Edgley was talking about faith and moving mountains. When trials come, it makes no sense to hunker down, set up camp, and pray that the Lord will blow the mists of darkness away. Instead, that is when we put two hands on the Iron Rod, and push out of that particularly bleak cloud!
     Take care, all. Love the Lord, and keep being amazing. I count it a special blessing to have so many role models among my friends and family.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 1, 2010

#61 - Ghana Census/God's Children

Dear Friends and Family,                                                 November 1, 2010

This week's letter would have been another frustrated one, had it not been a great deal of time to think and count my blessings this morning (The other elders really did a lot to clean up, so I didn't have to do it all).

First, we became part of the Ghana Census, 2010. My companion decided that I was the head of the house. So now I am officially the head of a 2 bedroom apartment in Ghana. It took about 30 minutes, but it made me feel really adult. Yes, I'm 20. I speak English, and I've completed 2 years of university. I am not currently working, and am not married. Any other questions, Ghana?

I've been very impressed with how subtle the Spirit has been. I had to give instruction on teaching people, not lessons. As missionaries, sometimes we get this idea that if an investigator understands a pile of doctrine, he will join the Church and be baptized. This is just not the case. These are not robots to program with lessons 1 through 4. These are God's CHILDREN! They have fears, wants, needs, concerns, friends, family, connections, etc. I've had multiple occasions (like this morning) when I feel like I'm in a crappy mood, and then I take a minute to take stock, and the Spirit tells me everything is actually okay, and that I should be really happy. A split second later, I feel great! But if I wasn't listening, I never would have known how great everything is. Think about it, isn't everything great?

Our Relief Society President blessed her baby yesterday. In Ghana, every event has to either come with food or gifts. So she bought a mug with the baby's name, birth date, and the occasion printed on it... for everyone in the ward. Well, 6 for each family, actually. So now, I have one.

Our zone is really taking off, even if my individual companionship isn't flying. As Elder Da. and I put 5 hours into administrative work between last night and this morning, I felt like we were still doing a lot of good. We obtained a second white board, so I can keep the names, ages, and information for all 76 people our missionaries are working with throughout the zone. At the top, I felt impressed to write "These are God's children. Take care of them!" Now, I feel energized and excited for the following month.

Mabel was baptized this past week. FINALLY! Really though, that woman could be a RS president. Because of how hard things are economically in Ghana, a lot of people give up. Not Mabel. She opened a salt business... and started selling little ice creams and ice blocks out of her freezer. She's going to build that up into a cold store, a place where they sell meat. Every set-back just spawns another plan with her. I was very impressed. She's also able to understand things very quickly. We were worried at first because she couldn't read very well, but as she applied herself, she's become a real scripturian! Godfred is also very eager about helping us baptize his girlfriend. I love Godfred. He's just a go-getter. He was one of 4 members in our ward to volunteer with a Stop-Measles vaccination campaign the Church is doing down here. Our ward has a lot of really old, pioneer members, but it's the recent converts who really have the fire. Makes me wonder how I'll feel at home. Will I have the zeal I expect of members here? I pray so.

We spent the Sabbath at Bishop's. Normally, I try and proselyte that day too, but Bishop had a lot of little things to do, which slowed everything down. We went to track down a baptism who was never confirmed (Jackie!) and then we went to his place. His children were watching Old Testament DVDs, where someone basically went through the Old Testament reader for children. It was so simple, but so much of it is lost upon a lot of the "doctors of divinity" we end up teaching.

We received letters this week. I've come to the conclusion that Heavenly Father put me in a mission with a mail delay so I could rely on Him for when things go wrong. I got a lot of really awesome, supportive letters from dear friends, including Kyle's mom and Delynne. That was so wonderful! I truly have the greatest friends and family it the word.

Happy Halloween, everyone! I guess that's technically over now, but not by much! Also, yesterday marked 15 months... wow!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 25, 2010

#60 - Members help out

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                  October 25th, 2010

I'm not sure how to START this letter, but I know the gist of where it goes. Maybe in explaining it, a natural starting place will emerge.

     I've been saying for a little while that the past few weeks we have been trudging - much more centered on enduring than pressing forward. And that's when I realized, that kind of defeats the purpose. Opposition is there as something to push off of. Somewhere around Thursday night, that just kind of clicked. We were trudging around again after some appointments failed and I just kind of had had it, and started knocking every door I could see. We were led to many many of the most wonderful people I have ever met.
     The APs came on their first real 24 hour split with us. It was pretty okay. Most of the day was spent tracking down those people whom we had seen the day before.
      We had two lessons that really stick out in my mind. Abraham was one of those we contacted and he was easily the most skeptical. This manifested itself by subtly, calmly attempting to bash scriptures with us. To our credit, we did a pretty good job avoiding it. He asked, "What really is the summation of the message of this 'Latter-Day Saint' ministry?"... Elder Da. and I thought a minute. "The message is this. Christ came into the world to atone for our sins, giving us an opportunity to receive eternal life. We can only qualify for this through His Gospel: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by proper authority, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Because of wickedness, the authority needed for this process was lost. Though, God in His mercy has again restored it to the earth through the prophet, Joseph Smith, and this priesthood authority can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And everyone is invited to receive these blessings, especially you." He paused for a minute... and then proceeded to try and talk about priesthood and Melchizedek from Hebrews 7. We chased him down that lane for about two minutes, when the Spirit very clearly said to me "No! Don't fall for this. Go back to two seconds ago, where I was talking to him!" I just stopped and said "Brother Abraham, you've felt that what we are telling you is true, and I promise if you will go and pray about it tonight, you'll have those same feelings, just stronger." I'm hopeful for our next lesson, tomorrow night.
     The other really cool lesson we had was with Victoria S.. She is the wife of a recent convert, and she has just started investigating the Church herself. She doesn't speak English though, so we have to have members go with us. Our ward used to be notorious for a lack of member support, but in the past two weeks, 2 families and a bishopric member have come with us. It's amazing to see the sense of community that is building as we have aimed to involve members in our work. Victoria, I know, can feel the love as more and more friends appear daily. Members are coming out of the woodwork! And you should have listened to Brother Wood talk as we walked away from that lesson. "Wow! That was great! I'm going to call all of your investigators. That's how this should be!" Yes, Brother Wood. You get it!
     I have been praying for strength to be more diligent. Suddenly, our area book is spotless, our whiteboard up to date, and our apartment immaculate. But the real thing I've learned from all this is how I've been wasting the Lord's time doing anything less than this for the past few weeks. That's been the cause of a lot of personal sorrow, but I know as I repent, and redouble my commitment to do my best, I can be forgiven of it. THAT'S what the Atonement is all about. Never are we past the reach of His hand, and we can always take that hand and pull ourselves back up.
     Mail pick-ups and send-offs will be sparse for a little while, but the most it can take is a month. I am so grateful for all those who have taken a few moments to write me a letter. I have not lost a single letter my whole mission.
     We will watch conference not next week, but the following. OH! Also, President has revoked the rule that an investigator must come to church 4 times before they can be baptized. Now, it is 3. This has been the source of much excitement for the whole mission.
     Love ya!
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 18, 2010

# 59 - Transfers - No One In My Zone Moved

Dear Friends and Family, October 18, 2010

Well... I'm not sure how to put this week. It was pretty marginal the whole time, and then Sunday, nobody came to church. And by nobody, I mean none of our investigators. Bro. Markstaller put it best when he said, "The hardest times on a mission are when you don't feel like you are helping anybody." Did I mention we had 9 people who we really truly solidly thought would be there? This is probably the most work I've done with members, and I was so excited. Well, it didn't quite fly like I had hoped, but we've got to keep it up.

The Gospel is full of positive cycles, I've decided. Small and simple things bring great things to pass, because it just feeds upon itself. Take prayer, for example. When we pray with faith, our lives start going better, which makes us decide to pray more. This, I know, is a little contrary to the pride cycle we have found, but that is another force. When things get bad, Satan convinces us to pray less. Then things get worse, because we do not have the guidance of our Heavenly Father. Then we feel worse, and Satan tells us to pray even less. How backwards, and yet how true!

Godfred was baptized! I remember when we contacted that guy a few weeks ago, I did not think in a million years he would be serious. But as we taught our lessons, we just received this very clear, peaceful feeling. It was like everyone in Ghana turned off their amps for a few minutes and let us teach. By the end, he was just grinning and nodding his head the whole time. Then, he was baptized. It was so cool to see him just kind of blend into the congregation. Suddenly, he's on time, wearing a white shirt (still working on the tie) and oh, yeah, he's an ordained Priest! Too awesome.

We also baptized a young girl named Mary, who just moved in with our 2nd counselor. Well, “just” as in 2 months ago. She is 10. I gained a lot of respect for Brother Wo. from that. The first thing he did when she moved in was called her family and asked for permission for her to be taught the missionary lessons, and, if she so decided, be baptized. Rock on! And he's doing such a wonderful job teaching her. One thing I've really come to appreciate is the kind of character that can be developed from early exposure to the Restored Gospel. I'm always amazed by the change it can bring in people, and am hopeful for Ghana as more and more of their "Rising Generation" become bishops, RS presidents, missionaries, etc.

I went to Buduburam yesterday. Oh, how God loves Liberians! I was sad to note that I had a little more difficulty with the Liberian accent than I used to. It's been almost 6 months since I left! And almost a year since I first went! That means I've been out of my training area for a year now... I'm getting old. And in some little ways, I'm starting to feel it. Like I said, though, the goal is to get through this mission without anyone ever saying "Elder Farnbach? Great missionary, but TSEH, he's tired!” Anyway, we gave some interviews down there. I just remembered how grateful I am that I was able to be in the Refugee Camp for 6 good months! I loved the people there, and I've developed that love for everybody.

Oh, also, I saw two sheep be hit by cars while at the Camp. There was a bit of a metaphor. One ran across. Sheep naturally follow each other. So, another followed, and was hit badly. The third didn't know what to do, balancing the obvious danger with the desire to go where its friends went. Peer pressure? It was hit, too, but managed to get up and run off.

Our missionaries are doing all right, too. Actually, while Elder Da. and I struggled, the zone is probably the best it's looked in 6 months. It broke my heart to see McCarthy Hills struggle for so long. This week, however, they had 13 investigators at church (with McCarthy II beating the legendary Kasoa II by a significant margin!). This really lends itself to the point Pres. Monson was making. Elder Za. has been in that area for almost 10 months now. Many of our missionaries are getting old in their areas, and it generally has the same affect. "GET. ME. OUT!" Transfers shake things up, and make time go faster. But we are not here for ourselves, and just because we want to have some change in our lives is not reason enough to damage an area like a transfer invariably does. President has been doing this more and more (leaving missionaries in their areas for a long time), though we will see if that will continue. It does mean our Zone is due for a shake up by Christmas, though. Elder Bi., Elder Za., Elder Ki., Elder Jo., Elder Ac., Elder Ne. and I have all been here for 6 months or more.

As I was a little down during the week, I turned to old General Conference editions of the Liahona. How I miss President Hinckley! I could feel my attitude changing as the waves of continuous revelation poured over me. I found calm where I was flustered, and vision where I had previously put blinders. This work is so much bigger then the fact that Mabel and Millicent failed to come to church this week.

Letters --- Marta and Charlie both wrote me. How wonderful are high school friends! I also received pictures from Grammy. I'll probably run out of stamps as I intend to deluge the post office for Christmas.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 11, 2010

#58 - Bad Weather - 95 Year Old Convert

Dear Friends and Family, October 11, 2010

     Sorry the letter is late. We had a horrible storm last night, and it knocked out power on our whole side of the Greater Accra Region. Dansoman, Odorkor, McCarthy Hills, and Kasoa were all dark for about a day. Right now, I'm on a split in Dansoman with Elder Ki., a Ugandan who's just finishing his first transfer on his mission. This means I'm away from my notes, though, so I can't promise it will be as thorough as I'd planned.

     This past week, we've been killing ourselves in all the best ways. I had to instruct on the Doctrine of Christ: Our Missionary Purpose, and it's really has me fired up about missionary work. It showed the whole week. Wednesday, we received a referral from the Stake President. It was an old pioneer member family who left the Church before the June Revelation (That's what they call the Official Proclamation #2 here. I love that name!), so they were never baptized. Now, at 95, Emmanuel A. and his wife want to come back and be baptized. With this wonderful family, I felt a lot like the prodigal son's father. "Oh, come back! Thank goodness you are back! We've missed you so much!" I'm going to do everything we can so that these two can receive the full blessings of the Gospel and the Priesthood before they pass away. As they told their story, I was shocked by how much the early Ghana Church sounded like the early Church in America. William Johnson was organizing unofficial branches all over, and was viewed as the head of the Church while he was trying to get Salt Lake to send missionaries. He went to Cape Coast to start things up there, and another man came in and diverted about 70% of the members and formed a different church, slowly phasing out the Book of Mormon and anything about Joseph Smith. Emmanuel followed this group. As the Area Presidency was interviewing early members of the Church, this man's name kept coming up, so they found him. Elder Golden invited this man to a Stake Conference, and there, he decided he wanted to join the Church again. And I am to help!!

     We've also been doing our best to work with the members. We have a recent convert named Frank S., and we've started teaching his wife. She had some very good questions about Eternal Marriage, so we decided to bring Bro. and Sis. M., who are just preparing to get sealed in the temple. Sis. M. converted her husband, and he's a brilliant guy, who knew Frank's brother at school. It still turned out awesome. President said member involvement, or the lack thereof, is Ghana's greatest missionary challenge and any improvement is big improvement. So we'll keep trying. The Elder's Quorum 1st counselor, Dr. Ki.'s son, is giving an investigator a ride, so that is progress!

     I learned a lot from my instruction, but the biggest ideas I gained were about repentance and our unique message. Repentance is not an event, it is an attitude. As Dad said once, there is no tit-for-tat in the Atonement. One sin does not require one repentance. As Alma showed in Alma 36, repentance is how we can be made free from guilt and pain in the past. When we repent, we gain light and understanding about God's plan, which fills us with a desire to sin no more, and to help others experience these same blessings. Our repentance can be measured in part by our attitude towards the Sacrament. The bread and water represent Christ, and if we are lax in our participation of this ordinance, chances are we don't really care enough to repent. The other thing to remember is that part of repentance is enduring to the end. As Nephi tells us, this requires a love of God and of all mankind. If we are not doing all that we can to help others to receive the same blessings we have, we are not pressing forward, we are moving backward!

    Transfers are Wednesday. Tomorrow, we find out who leaves and where they are going. I am praying that I stay. I never want to leave Odorkor. Sis. A., our RS president, just had her baby. She drove herself to the hospital, and home... 3 days later. That woman is awesome.

     I'm not sure what else to say. Like I said, I'm away from my notes. I want you all to know that I love what I've been called here to do. Sometimes, my letters may seem preachy, but that's because I know that this is true. Everything I've been sent to teach, I know firmly is true. I would be selfish not to share this with everyone. Repentance is real. Jesus Christ made everything possible in His infinite Atonement, through much blood, sweat, and tears. Surely, we can all do our part in this great Latter-Day work!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 4, 2010

#57 - Zone Leader Work in Odorkor

Dear Friends and Family, October 4, 2010

     Well, this week, by the numbers, was pretty bad. But you know what? I loved every minute of it. It was a crazy Exchange-athon, with me splitting with 2 of the new trainees, and Elder On. Most of the missionaries I was with have been on their missions for less than 3 transfers. That being said, I was very impressed, especially with Elder Co. Elder Jo. is also doing a fantastic job in Odorkor II, and area that functions more like a European mission then a West African one. It's a little odd. I've been around Elder Jo. for about 5 months now even though we were only companions for 3 weeks. He's a cool kid and a killer good worker. As our DL, we've made him aware that he needs to fix every companionship in his district, which includes us! He's really taken to it. I respect him a lot.
President Smith came to do apartment inspections. Jump back 6 months - President did and inspection when our apartment was in shambles. He looked at it now, and first thing he said was "Elder Farnbach, you've grown up!" Now, to be fair, I've been noted for clean apartments in the past -- 5 times (on my mission... Tyler Walker, say nothing.), and it was a fluke that he caught us during that one bad time. But it's true. I feel like I've grown a lot from my mission.
     As I have focused less on numbers, and more on people, I've found that I love my time here a lot more. Go., a random contact, has decided to be baptized. We were worried about a girlfriend, but he said, "Actually, I don't know why, but we stopped sleeping together right after you started teaching me." That is the Spirit at work. It's the motivating force that drives us to do good. It gives us strength to make changes that we otherwise would never try to make. Ki. , our on again, off again drunk has been officially off alcohol for three weeks. He seems happier and his mind more clear. And, he notices it himself. I wish I could pretend we were awesome teachers, but really, it was just the Spirit, working a mighty change in his heart.
     We've also tried to work more with the members. Mi. is still having Ghana problems, so we sat her down with our Relief Society President (who is 8.5 months pregnant, by the way). I love Sister Ab. She really is wonderful. I can't say the problem is being solved over night, but I feel like it was a huge improvement over Elder Da. and I hammering on her to just pray. Our Elders’ Quorum just called a counselor and everyone seems to be paying more attention to doing missionary work.
My big fear now is that I'll be transferred… at all, I mean. I wouldn't mind finishing my mission here in Odorkor. I work with the Stake Presidency now, too, so a lot of good can be done. All my converts are here, in this stake. Wards are about to divide and buildings are going up all the time. The work is flying forward here in McCarthy Hills, and man, I just love being a part of it. I never want to leave.
     Not much else to say. I just love everything and everybody. Thank you to those who take their precious time to shoot me a letter. Life moves so fast. I'm staring down the barrel of single-digit months left! I'm terribly sorry if you have written me and I have not written back. Please, if this is the case, let me know.
Elder W. Farnbach
P.S We won't see Conference until November...

Monday, September 27, 2010

# 56 Disappointing Week

Dear Friends and Family,                                                Sept. 27, 2010

     This week was one of disappointments. Baptism after baptism fell fell through throughout the Zone, for small reasons. One of the things I've come to realize is that 99% of all concerns missionaries face are not doctrinal. The doctrine of the Gospel is simple and makes sense. Dogmatic people may come along, but even the harshest concerns are resolved upon careful study and simplified teaching. What saddens missionaries the most are the dreaded social concerns. Sometimes these issues are hard for the obrunie missionaries to understand because the two cultures can be so vastly different. That, and as missionaries, we've given up basically all society in favor of the Gospel. This is where the members come in. I beg you, all who read this, offer a little time each week to help the missionaries. When we try to do it alone, we aren't nearly as successful.
     This past month would also be measured as a bit of a set-back to zone mentality. But in every challenge, you are given two options. You can lay down and die, or you can get something done. I have a lot of weaknesses, but one strength I've developed on my mission is being able to bounce back, and get to work. I'm excited to get going on this next month, and to leave old things in the past.
     Emmanuel is still pretty awesome, though there are now some complications and some business problems that may keep him from attending on Sundays :/
     Samuel S. is also starting to worry us. He recognizes that joining the Church means some major changes in his life, and he's worried about his ability to make them. I love that he has figured all this out and we are doing all we can to help him realize that these changes are worth it.
     Millicent and Mabel -- Millicent is having some problems that are strictly Ghanaian, and I don't know how to help her. My companion is also an incredibly westernized Ivorian, so we're having some difficulties working them out. Mabel is kind and sweet and wonderful, but is struggling with her ability to speak English and read. She can do it, but she has no confidence, and we cannot convince her children to practice with her. I love my family, and I'm grateful they were always there to support me.
     Kingsly seems to be very committed, continuing to come to church even after we caught him falling down drunk twice now. He seems to be on the up and up. Elder Da. and I both have grown to love this man, and are really praying that this month is his month.
     We have also started to try to work with our members more. Our Relief Society President is a really awesome worker even though she is 8.5 months pregnant. Some people come to church to be fed. Some come to feed. Whenever you are around Sister Ab., you feel spiritually satisfied.
     That's really it. My journal writing as suffered this past month. I'm striving to turn that around. I hope all is well at home. At the end of this next month, I will be in the single digits. [ for number of months until he comes home ] Time really flies as we try and do all that we can to magnify our callings. I'm giving it everything I have, which I'm discovering more and more is really not that much.
     Love you! I really hope to hear from many of you in the upcoming months.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, September 20, 2010

#55 - The 90 and 9 are at church

Dear Friends and Family, September 20, 2010

This past week... We had President come to our district meeting on Tuesday, and it was a wonderful experience. I would by lying if I said I was 100% comfortable whenever President is around, but it's always a wonderfully spiritual experience. Nothing focuses the mind like a deadly weapon being trained on you, so they say... Anyway, he looked at our numbers and cut right to the heart of the whole matter. "You are teaching plenty each week, but no one seems to be going anywhere." He then helped us see the difference between working hard and working effectively. We killed ourselves, working until 9:30 (sometimes, we come in a little late, even) but if people are not learning, converting, and making covenants with Heavenly Father, 35 lessons per week doesn't mean much. This was later confirmed by the Spirit, though I'll come to that later.
     Our greatest challenge in the Ghana Accra mission is a terrible rift that has formed between the members and the missionaries. The missionaries look at members and think "I've just given up 2 years of school, friends, education, family and LIFE, and you can't give up a few hours to help me teach!" and the members think "I have a job to do, a calling, 5 mouths to feed, a social life... you just expect me to drop whatever I'm doing to come teach someone I don't even know?" Neither argument is unfair, to be honest. This is the general rift everywhere. How to overcome this? Well, someone has to bow to the other, and the only person we control is ourselves. I'm attempting to humble myself, and try to build a relationship with our bishop. I've also been informed I need to be meeting with the Stake President every month. This last Saturday, we met with him, and it took up a lot of time, but at daily planning that night the Spirit confirmed to me that we had succeeded that day, and that we are laying the foundation for a great work. Other cool things I've learned: One of my recent converts in Kasoa is now the Relief Society President!! I was so happy to see Sis. Qu. there. Also, Elder Me. [his companion in Abomosu ]is now Brother Me., and is the Ward Mission Leader in Dansoman, one of the wards in my zone. It was cool/ a little strange to see him again, post mission.
     We had an insightful leadership training on the importance of coming to church. Wait... that was last week. Uh-oh, my mind is getting all blurry. Did I talk about church? Maybe I did, but it's been coming to my mind more and more this week. The Savior gives a wonderful parable about the ninety and nine, and the one. Where does the Savior put the ninety and nine? In church, with his Relief Society Presidents, Bishops, Elders Quorums, Home Teachers, etc. President put it best when he said "Many people go to church to be fed. It is a place of safety from the cares of the world. It is a refuge. But those who truly understand, also go to church with the goal of feeding others." Really, I love to be at church. I love being in the classes and seeing the leaders tend the flocks. I was just at a stake leadership training. That's really an ordeal. I never fully appreciated how much work (unpaid work, even) is done to "keep [us] in the right way".
     What else... Let's talk about some investigators. We've been teaching a man named Emmanuel for a while now. He saw a service project of the Church and became curious. This man was given a Book of Mormon a few weeks ago and is just now finishing 2 Nephi. It's amazing to watch the Spirit teach this man. We were teaching him about Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Priesthood and he said, "Does this have anything to do with the Mount of Transfiguration?" ... High five, Emmanuel! He'll be baptized the 16th, if all goes well. We've also been teaching an Ivorian named Samuel S. He was going to be baptized this Saturday, but he wants a little more time to know if it was true. As we were leaving, it came into my mind to point out something. Though we can teach him in English, he responds best in French (because his English is mostly a Nigerian form of Pigeon). He also understands better in French. Is it any coincidence that, of the 3 French speakers in this mission, (and, to add, only one was eligible to be made my companion, anyway) Elder Da. is sent to be my companion RIGHT as we contact this Ivorian man? Absolutely not. Heavenly Father wants Samuel to know what we can teach, so badly that He is willing to rearrange a whole mission to make it happen. Brother S. smiled. I know he knows everything we teach him is true, he just doesn't know he knows yet.
     Not much else going on. I'm going on Splits with Elder Bi. again. I love that kid. I love my zone members and I hope not to be transferred any time soon. Mentally, I'm already in November (September being almost over, and everyone who is going to be baptized in October is found already, so it's November time!), though, so I'm not quite sure what's going on right now. I've lost count of how many transfers I've been out, and I'm loving my mission.
     Take care! Happy Birthday to all September people!
   Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zone Leader Stress - #54

Dear Family and Friends, September 13, 2010

Another week has come and gone. I wish I could say this one was a fast one, but I have learned a great many things about myself:
1.) I stress easily. As a Zone Leader, I am close enough to inherit every problem every companionship has, but far enough away that I cannot really do anything about it. I would say I've become pretty good about managing many different activities at a time (No one laugh. You haven't seen me for over a year.), but it also makes it possible to stress about a dozen things at once.
2.) When I stress, I need other people to stress. This is ironic, because when other people stress, I'm generally able to calm myself so they can realize how stressed they really are, and make efforts to calm themselves down. But when I'm stressing, and no one else is stressing, I assume that they clearly do not grasp the gravity of the situation, and stress more noticeably to help them understand. Elder Da. is incredibly laid back, and everything is met by a very calm, French-accented "Don' worry" (Not “don't”, “Don'”) He is new at being a Zone Leader, so I forgive him. :) Everyone knows that in order to do this job, you should be a stress case. Right?
3.) I do not delegate well. Well, this is not entirely true, but my companion and I haven't quite hit a rhythm yet. This really means I'm not sure how much work I can ask him to do yet. Don't worry. I expect this to be solved this week.

I feel as though I've been caught up too much in the administrative aspects of missionary work, and I'm missing the bigger picture. I'm working to realize exactly what "salvation" really means. At the root, when people have no desire to hear our message, it's either because a.) They believe that they have already received salvation, or b.) They don't care. This second one sounds harsh, but I don't mean it to be. I'm of the opinion that Ghana is experiencing a kind of religious dilution, so much so that someone tried to tell me that Islam and Christianity are really the same religion. It is like when we repeat words over and over, they lose all meaning. Think of when you are walking on the streets. "Afternoon, how are you?" Who doesn't say "Fine"? But has that exchange given you any real information? Not at all, because the word has become a reflex, having no real attachment to meaning. Thousands of revivals (and I mean thousands) occur here each week. 21 day Power Crusade, 40 Day Fast and Prayer, 6 day Holy Ghost Fire Praise and Worship services are norms, and we are looked at as strange for not having them. This is where the restored gospel should come in, but Satan has made it seem like so much white noise. Which was exactly his point, I think.

I've also been looking over the Apostasy, which I think should be a cure for this attitude. "Clearly, I am NOT saved" should be the result of such lesson. How true is it! I don't even necessarily mean higher doctrines, such as temple ordinances, eternal progression, and the like. Simple simple things, like the Gospel consisting of faith, repentance, baptism by proper authority, and receiving the Holy Ghost are completely missing. A great deal of lessons we give come around to an indignation that the Church doesn't speak in tongues or use drums. It's very easy to lose sight of the "weightier matters of the Law".

The other thing we've really been teaching this week is Revelation. I know I talk about this all the time in these letters, but a simple question came to my mind that makes this very easy to explain. Peter is in front of you, and you have his epistles in the Bible. Problems arise. Where do you go? 99% of people say "Peter." Why? "Because he is getting the answer straight from God." Bingo! I'm very grateful for the knowledge we have of the priesthood and continuous revelation. How blessed are we to hear from the Lord constantly, especially this upcoming October!

We've really had a difficult time with our investigators recently, but our shining star is a young girl named Jackie. She has been coming to the church for over a year now, but there has always been difficulty having her commit enough to be baptized. This Sunday really locked it up in our minds, though, as she drove from Domei (phonetic spelling there) a small town near Nsawam, to come to church to be interviewed for her baptism. That's over an hour in Tro-Tros. Power commitment for an 18 year old girl!

Our Stake President, President X., is the most awesome person ever. He is just an understanding, caring, powerful leader. At 4' 8", 180 pounds, it's hilarious and awe inspiring all at the same time.

Love you all! Being a Zone Leader really speeds my mission up because my thoughts are already on next week, and October. I feel like I could go home any day now, and work my tail off accordingly. Take care, and tell Grandpa Bill to get better soon!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book of Mormon in Twi

#53 - Ivorian Companion

Dear Friends and Family, Sept. 6, 2010

I'm not sure I have too much to talk about this week. It passed rather quickly. Elder Ho. was transferred, like I said, and my new companion is from the Ivory Coast. His name is Elder Da., and he's pretty awesome. I was worried about having had only obruny companions the last 9 months, and suddenly having a native one, but I've enjoyed it. Elder Ho. and I were synced up on everything, and it's been a bit of a speed-bump not having that, but Elder Da. is very humble, and quick to adjust to me. :) I'm working on moving his way a little bit, and we've hit a nice rhythm now. Our focus is especially on being bold, which isn't so much opening our mouths for us, but simplifying the doctrines to the point of a 2 minute, single-point wallop that will help people understand why we are coming to them. It's helped a lot, even in the little time we've been here together. He's a workhorse, too. We had two half-days this week, what with transfers and ZL Council, but we still managed to power out 32 lessons. We also set a ton of dates and are staring down the barrel of an awesome next two months.

I had to give instruction at Zone Leaders Council. They gave me 2 hours notice, but it still went well. I'm amazed at how subtle revelation really is. These last two months, everything on which President decides to instruct has been revealed to us as a weakness two weeks earlier. I'd already been working on how to teach my zone members what the problems we were facing and how to handle them, and suddenly, it's the topic for my ZLC instruction. Poor Elder Da., after being a ZL for just one day, had to instruct too!

Roughly half our zone is training, so we have a lot of fresh faces. Elder Co. (Texas) and Elder Ha. (Washington) are our new obrunies, and Elder Wi. (I think South Africa) and Elder Ki. (Uganda). I saw Elder Co. on his first Sunday... I was never like that, I'm sure. Poor little greeny. He has no idea... hahaha. Anyway, one district is all training, so we are keeping an eye on all of them. So far, so good.

We've been working with some wonderful people. I know that President really receives inspiration on where to send people, because out of nowhere, a bunch of French speakers showed up. Hello Ivorian companion! Plus, I'm surprised by how much I remember and understand between their body language and their French. Apparently, my accent is impeccable. But seriously, they are awesome. Samuel, for example, can't believe how simple the Gospel really is. He was in shock when we told him he could ask God what really was going on. He was even suspicious, but when he prayed, we asked him, "So... how do you feel about the Book of Mormon?" Samuel:"Well..." "If someone asked you what it was, you'd say??" Samuel: "God's word" "See how easy that was?" "... Zut Alors!" And then one sister was really reluctant to listen to us teach anything more then generic Bible study. "You go pray and ask God if He wants you to listen to us." A day later, we received a call. "Elders, can you come?" Us:"Well, we're busy right now so..." Her:"Please, just anytime you are free, I'll make time." Awesome!

We are also working on helping the ward realize the importance of teaching their children. The Book of Mormon is full of references to the duties of parents for their children We found how far we have to go when the 2nd counselor said he had a 10 year old he wants us to baptize.

Oh! At transfers, I received some unexpected letters. I heard from Marie and NATE STOUT! Also, I received that letter about making a box oven. I am working on where to find tinfoil. Probably ShopRite. What will I ever do without ShopRite?

Also, lots of my friends are having birthdays. September is a fairly big month, so it seems. I'd love to write and say "Happy Birthday!" but I don't know where to send it. Just a little FYI for anyone with a September birthday. :P

Love you all!
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, August 30, 2010

#52 - Showing the way to happiness

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 30, 2010

I have a little list of topics sitting in front of me that I want to talk about, so this may be a long one.
     This week was the best of my mission. I have felt the guiding hand of my Heavenly Father in even the way I think, and I am grateful for the opportunity I've had here in Ghana to learn and grow. I know that Heavenly Father knows and loves each one of His children individually, and that if we as missionaries will let Him, He will teach those children what they each need to know. As I said to my companion, I felt like a Spirit-guided bomb as lesson after lesson appeared to be right on target. One particular brother we've begun teaching is the exact kind of person the Gospel is calculated to help. The man is very intelligent, well-off... and he drinks himself stupid and smokes his life away. His dear friend was just like him, but joined the Church a year ago. We met this man, and invited him to Church. What blew him away most was seeing his old drinking buddy in a spot of honor, blessing the Sacrament. As we sat down with him for a lesson, though, he immediately expressed concerns about the Book of Mormon, saying that it seemed to him to be a fabrication, and he could never accept it. I know the Spirit was right there, because it just popped out of my mouth. "Brother Ay., I'm going to be honest with you. You are a smart man. You are one of the most intelligent people I've met. You're home is nice, and you are very well off. And if I'm not wrong, you are not happy." His face changed immediately. "I have to be honest with you, I've never been happy." "That's exactly what the Book of Mormon is for." He paused for a few moments... "Have you ever gone wayward?" "Not really" "Then my problem now is, you have no idea what my life is like." Enter Elder Ho. "Let's read Alma 7:11-12... You see, we really don't know what you are going through. But the Savior does. He has been where you are, and He can get you out again." Never have I seen a more wonderful example of a lost soul who wants to be found. This is the exact kind of person we were sent to help.
     We also had a mission tour this week, and I was interviewed by Elder O. He asked a lot of questions about what I felt like the future of the Church was here in Ghana, and if we were preparing our people to strengthen the Church. I smiled, as this has been a focus for Elder Ho. and me. I talked about how I've been assigned to this same stake nearly my whole mission, and it's been a great privilege to be able to keep an eye on those I've taught. Some have gone less active, but in general, the families have all stayed. The Church here in West Africa will blossom in ways I cannot even imagine, and it will bless the lives of thousands of my brothers and sisters here.
     It was during this interview that a thought came into my mind. It has really redefined how I look at this work. The Spirit whispered to me to remember that my own mother is a convert. I am so grateful for the missionaries who found and taught my mother. I am grateful for the powerful conversion it must have wrought, because I had long forgotten that my mother didn't grow up in the Church. As I look at my wonderful family, I know I will work my hardest to be that kind of missionary. My mother is the most converted person I know, and it has blessed my life, and the lives of my brothers, sister and father in ways we cannot really count.
     That's the other thing that has really been on my mind. Maybe I talked about it last week, but it came up again. How blessed am I, to have been allowed to make sacred covenants with my Heavenly Father? I am grateful for the Priesthood I hold, and for my Patriarchal blessing. Why have I been blessed so abundantly? If for one moment, you think I think I have earned it, you are terribly wrong. These are gifts I have done nothing to deserve, and they are gifts that my investigators have just as much right as me to have. God has sent me to take these blessings He freely gave me, and pay them forward. I will do all in my power to extend to all the same opportunity. At our Mission Tour, Elder Te. was allowed to bear his testimony, and he put words to my thoughts perfectly. "Nothing is more important to me then my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." This has popped up time and again in our lessons, and will be something of a motto for the rest of my life. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father to be where am I, to be sent to the family I was, and to know the things I know. This is where His children belong.
     We have begun working with one brother, Emmanuel. He saw a service project the Church was doing, and was interested. As we sat down to explain the Restoration to him, he said the most powerful thing I'd ever heard. His immediate concern was not for himself. He quietly said "... So many other people are being deceived." He then regaled the litany of things his friends had told them about the Church and the Book of Mormon. One reached so far as to say "They don't drink Coke." "... what does that have to do with anything?" Needless to say, he is showing one of the signs of true conversation: Concern for others.
     I've also seen the Lord guide us as we've sought to receive inspiration for our Zone members. As I sat counseling one on how to deal with his companion, ideas started coming to mind that I'd never had before. God truly does stand at the head of the Church, and He directs it's affairs through revelation.
     In a humorous note, we were given a ride with a member to church. She was horribly late, though, so we missed the Sacrament. As if this weren't sad enough, we walked in... and saw the First Counselor in the Area Presidency seated at the front. And he totally caught us. Ouch! The whole time he spoke, my companion and I winced. I think he realized the Spirit chastened us enough, though, because when we met him afterwords, he was all smiles. Elder Di. is a wonderful speaker, with a powerful testimony. I love hearing from him. We talked to him about our concerns, as so few of our investigators had come to church. It really devastated me. But even in that, I found a real blessing. As I thought on those feelings, it was different. At the beginning of my mission, I'd be upset, because this made my work infinitely more difficult, and I'd missed my goal for the week. This time, I was deeply saddened because I recognized all the blessings these people had missed, including hearing from a General Authority, and delaying their chance to make and keep sacred baptismal covenants with our Heavenly Father, especially as I considered the wonderful lessons Elder Ho. and I had taught this week. Nothing is more heartbreaking then watching someone feel the Spirit, and then turn away from those feelings. That, I think, is how a missionary should feel, and I'm starting to get there.
     We both suspect Elder Ho. will be leaving. I'm sad about that too. He has probably been one of my best companions, and we were perfectly unified in our goals, methods, and teaching. I never had a moments worry about him, and it is hard to imagine having another like him. But, he has been here 6 months, and other zones could definitely use his skills. Our zone has thrived under his leadership.
     I love you. I bear you my testimony that God loves you, and it is my prayer that He will richly bless you. He knows you personally, and has known you for as long as you've existed. Allow Him to lead you, and you will find happiness as only He knows how to bring.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, August 23, 2010

# 51 - Listening intently -- food that hurts :)

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 23, 2010

     Well, we went through a lightening fast pride cycle. That's the best way to put it. Last week, we came off an awesome week, with tons of great people and lessons, and our zone flying high. So we became a little lax on some things last week. Nothing shattering, mind you... or so we thought. A lot of people didn't come to church, and our zone as a whole took a quick down-hill ride. So, we're going back and doing what we did that awesome week over again, and begging the Lord to forgive us our pride.
     This Saturday was when it all came to a head. One investigator we both thought was awesome showed up to our baptism (not his, thankfully) completely hammered. He was falling-down drunk, for lack of a better term. This was as he was walking up and we were telling the other missionaries how awesome he was. Oi... That night, I spent a lot of time worrying. Really, all my worries stem from how well I'm doing, and how well I could be doing. Brigham Young said that the sin that will cling most to the posterity of Adam is that they didn't do as well as they should, and my greatest fear is I'll serve, and when I go to the temple, the Lord shows me all he'd expected of me, and I find myself coming up short. But as I spent all Saturday night stewing and churning over that, the Spirit calmly pointed out that it is for that exact purpose that Christ atoned for us. He makes up the difference between what we could have done if we performed perfectly, and what we fumbled through. My worries, though neither invalid nor purposeless, were swallowed up in the hope that comes from our Savior. I need to do the best I can, but I also need to forgive myself and rely solely upon the merits of He who is mighty to save.
      It was also in this furnace of adversity that I started to really listen for the quiet promptings of the Spirit. We teach, over and over, the gentle promptings and whispers of the Spirit, and I'd realized that I haven't been as attentive as I should. Saturday and Sunday was spent quietly meditating for the sake of listening. Oh, it was worth it. I love music and company, letters and administrative work, but I put all those things aside for a few hours and just calmly listened. Even though I'm still prone to worry, I feel better. I felt the calm reassurance that everything will be okay. That is what faith feels like, I think. When we are down, we should seek the Lord, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, that's what will come.
     Two sisters came to Church LAST week that are awesome. Mabel and Millicent. They've been pondering joining the Church for 10 years. Not sure what changed their minds thus far... actually, I do. The Spirit prompted them to come to Church. But what THEY think it was, I'm not sure yet. Collins and Frank were both baptized. Collins has been amazing, and was almost late because he was in Accra buying white shirts, as he would be made part of the Priesthood on Sunday. There is a guy who understands. And Frank... well, Frank was the first man Elder Ho. and I contacted together. We had to go very slow with him, and frankly, neither of us thought we'd be the one to baptize him. But last Sunday, the Spirit prompted us to see if he wanted to be baptized that week. What? Well, he did. We went, and the first thing he talked about was how much he loved the Book of Mormon, and how he couldn't understand how anyone would think badly of it. It was the seeds of a testimony we saw there, and we realized why the Spirit invited us to water them. (Oh puns...) Their baptism was one of the most spiritual I've had all mission. I'll confess, with all the rushing around we have to do, it is easy to get caught up in the work (physical labor) of the actual baptism. But not this one!
     We had interviews this last week. I love talking to President. It was awesome, except... it was the first mail day I didn't have any letters... :(  We are also having a mission tour this week. Some Area 70 is coming. I don't know his name, but it'll be good. I'm also going on Splits with McCarthy Hills district leader, Elder B Bi.. Man, that kid is awesome. He played guitar for Synthesis.( BYU's wicked sweet Jazz band).
     The members fed us quite a bit this week. Banku and peppay (hot peppers) for like, 4 meals. In Ghana, men don't cry, but I bawled like a little baby. I don't get why people like food that hurts. It's like eating a huge plate of ribs and then asking to be punch in the mouth repeatedly. Why would I do that?
     On a much more spiritual note, I've been reading a lot by Brigham Young lately. My favorite thing he said can basically be summed up as "We're not preparing FOR Zion. We're preparing Zion." Let's stop waiting for God to do things for us. We cannot ask God to do anything we ourselves are not fully willing to do. We need to do anything and everything we can to bring such a desire to pass. Elder Be. loved to say "Pray like everything depends on the Lord. Work like everything depends on you.” This, coupled with repentance, turning our desires to the Lord's, will bring about the paradise everyone talks about. That's really what it will take, and that's why it's taking so long, I've decided. To paraphrase Kenny Chesney's latest cover - Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to do anything for it now.
     We're having lunch with a member from the States, so this e-mail may be a little short. I'm excited, though. Chicken and french fries!
     Love you all!
     Elder W. Farnbach


Oh. Here was another cool thing that happened. As we were walking by the mosques in our area, they were doing the call to prayer for the evening, around 6:00pm. There were two mosques... and they were harmonizing! It was awesome. I'd always heard that the call to prayer was a beautiful thing, but in most single mosque areas, they just were just sounds (since I don't speak the language). But here, they worked together. It was really cool.

Oh... another addendum. I realized something vital. I love the Church, and everything the Gospel gives me. I love my temple recommend. I love knowing my family is sealed together forever, which is really the source of all hope for the future. I'm grateful for the privilege  to hold the Priesthood, and preach the Gospel. I love my Patriarchal blessing, and the source of personal revelation that it is. I'm glad Heavenly Father lets me pray and talk to Him wherever, whenever. I love the Covenants I've been allowed to make, and am humbled, because I know nothing I've done makes me more deserving of them then my investigators. My goal is now to be an instrument in God's hand to extend those same blessings and privileges to as many as will receive them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

#50!!!!! -- interviews in Buduburam

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 16, 2010

... this week was awesome. Just awesome. It started when Elder Ho. and I sat down last Sunday, and we basically said "Look, it's tough right now. Our area is suffering, and we're wearing down. We can either a.) die, or b.) work." We opted for the second. We made a big list of things we don't do well and can improve on. Then we made a list of ways we can fix them. Then, I made a giant T-chart of the whole thing. I have grown powerful in the ways of T-charts and whiteboards. Our whiteboard was beautifully overhauled as well, which allows me to see not only the numbers, but the names of all the people each companionship are set to baptize. Our area book is perfectly up-to-date, and our zone has never been stronger. We are doing in 4 weeks what we used to do in 6.
     The other big difference is, even though we were overhauling ourselves, we also recognized that it wouldn't be the difference between success and failure. We kneeled in prayer and we told the Lord that we've been struggling, and we know it's our own fault. We told Him that we were sorry for failing to counsel with Him, and that we really need His help this week. That's really what did it.
     We set a goal of having 5 new faces at Church this Sunday. We pushed out lesson after lesson, contact after contact, and every day we'd say, "Holy heck, that was awesome!" Then we'd sit down to do our planning, and the effort would just hit us all at once. We'd promptly pray, and go to sleep. The week ended with us having 8 new people at church, including Gladys and her son, Sammy AND her sister. It was awesome, seeing the Lord bless us for just a little hard work. The real trick is, if it only happens once, it was the exception, not the norm. If we don't repeat, it means nothing.
     THEN, Elder Be., the District Leader in my beloved Kasoa district, called and said he had too many interviews to do, and needed us to come do some in Buduburam... Well, he twisted my arm! I was able to go down and see the Swary's who are still amazing, and managed to bump into almost all my families there. So far, so good. Mary F. is struggling a little, but all in all, they really hard holding strong! We spent the rest of Sunday there because Elder Ki. and Elder Ev. are doing some great work, and it took all day. We arrived home just in time to report our numbers, and promptly crash.
     We've been working a lot more as a mission and as missionaries world wide to read and use the Book of Mormon. I bear testimony that it truly is God's word. It is a powerful reminder that God is mindful of all His children, wherever they are in the world. It is a record of scripture written chiefly for our day, and is a pure vehicle for the Spirit. No one who is academically, spiritually or intellectually honest can overlook the Book of Mormon without reading it, and accounting for it's origins.
     We also have been emphasizing the power of personal prayer. What a blessing to be able to speak to the greatest being in the universe, anytime, any where, without appointment!
     I've also noticed this past week the subtle hand of the Lord as I have gone about my studies. These new principles are things that I have been studying and working on for a while now, even before it was revealed to us. Not that I am boasting, rather just the opposite. What I thought were really good ideas are really just revealed principles by God. Dang. Here I was thinking I was the clever one. It did feel good, though, knowing that my companion and I are just as entitled to revelation as even Church Leaders, though in a much smaller sphere.
     Mail was wonderful this week. I guess last DearElders were backed up, because I had so many this time around. I do so love hearing from you all, and the other missionaries in the field. I promise, though, I am still hard at work, and loving every minute of it. I'll be home as soon as I am done, and not a minute sooner.
Elder W. Farnbach