Monday, January 25, 2010

Bududuram #21 - January 25, 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

     First and foremost, I'm in the Celestial Kingdom. I can hear you asking now "Did Elder Farnbach get Translated? Hit by a Tro-Tro?" Well, in both cases, you'd be horribly wrong. It's MANGO SEASON!!! Man, that is seriously the best feeling. Everywhere I look...mangoes. Makes me wish I had a blender... [he used to make smoothies for a living]

     Now, on to more spiritual matters. This past week we had another baptism. 3 baptism Saturdays in as many weeks. Needless to say, it was incredibly stressful. Every baptism is stressful, because we worry if they going to show up on time. At all? Is the record done? Who will conduct? Anyway, it's easy to get caught up in the stress and forget we are saving people. Our last two have been really great. This last one was for 2 part-member families. It was only the baptizees, the missionaries, and the spouses, and it was wonderful. One had been who had been a member since back in 2004, and was endowed. Her children are all members, and now we've put a priesthood holder at the head of that family (John G.). They were holding hands, and Ma was leaning on Dad in his baptismal picture, which is a wonderful example/sad rarity in a culture that really doesn't promote much affection outside of sex :/
The other was actually someone I was teaching in Kasoa, and then I was transfered. The Buduburam elders found out this person actually lived in their boundaries (whoops!) and baptized him, so I started teaching his wife, S. Sarah is wonderful. She doesn't speak a LICK of English, so the bishop's wife would translate for us. We took Elder Bo., the only Ghanaian in our district, to teach the more sensitive matters, and he said "Why am I here? She already knows everything!" She would drop anything to allow for her full membership in the Church. At the sacrament meeting when she was confirmed, we realized that we didn't have her son's birthday on her record. We asked her, and she said she'd find out. At the end of sacrament meeting, she SPRINTED over to me, and grabbed me by the shoulders, (as I had forgotten, and was about to leave). In a thick accent, between pants, I heard "February 26th, 1984". It was a little ridiculous thing, but I felt how important it was to her that everything was done according to God's directions. I conducted the baptism, and then was asked to give the closing remarks. I spoke entirely about the temple, and about how there is only so far we can progress in the gospel alone. We need to be sealed to a worthy spouse.
     Elder Dickson, of the Area Presidency came and spoke to our mission. To be honest, I'd heard he was "kinda dull", especially after having had mind-blowing doctrinal discussions with Elder Cardon, the Area President. But Elder Dickson's instruction was AWESOME! I was asked to speak there as well. To be honest, I hadn't REALLY prepared... but I am realizing (not to toot my own horn) that I have a wonderful deposit of the "Words of Life", especially from these past few weeks. As I was assigned the topic of the Atonement, I was drawn to speak on Alma 7:11-12. I remembered when Elder Jones first showed me this scripture, but it became perfectly clear to me. Christ, suffered all our pains and sorrow, our challenges and sins. There is nowhere the sheep can get lost where Christ cannot rescue them. My favorite line (this whole talk was not from me, it just came as I spoke. It was a wonderful feeling) was "This applies to our investigators, because they need to know there is no where the they can stray that Christ does not know. More importantly, though, we need to remember this as missionaries. As we seek the lost sheep, we need to be led by the Shepherd who knows where they are." Elder Dickson then gave a wonderful discourse on "Becoming the Sons and Daughters of God" through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I wish I brought all my notes to the internet cafe, as it took up almost 3 pages in the Large Plates of Farnbach, but it helped me to realize so many things I can do to improve myself, my teaching, my companionship, and my stewardship. I bought another notebook so I can make notes about each investigator, so our Area Book can be immaculate. Our companionship studies have new meaning. We need to become the Sons of God, and for missionaries, that means becoming master teachers.
     We've already seen incredible improvement. To be honest, I know my way around the Bible. Not perfectly, but enough. I always loved that the Church had answers for everything, and loved to rely on huge piles of scriptural evidence that this could really be the only true Church. But this past few days, I've been doing my best to point people towards the Spirit. To let the Spirit speak for itself. I mean, if the biblical evidence were enough, these people would already be members. They already have the Bible. They know it. But as I read just a few passages from the Book of Mormon, and stopped relying on what I know, and more on the Spirit to do it's part, He never failed to impress.
     We've been trying to do that as a companionship as well. We went out to Awutu, and were led to contact a few homes in the hinterlands. There was actually nothing there, but we were led up into a high mountain. As we got there, we looked over the entire area of Awutu and Buduburam, and I remembered Ensign Peak, and how apostles would dedicate land for missionary work. Elder B. and I decided to get on our knees and offer up a prayer for the people of our area. We prayed that the Spirit would prepare the hearts of those we taught, and that we would be led to find those who needed us. It was a few days prior to the mission conference, and were it not for Elder Dickson's awesome talk, it WOULD have been the best day on mission. But seriously, Elder Dickson's talk blew my mind. It made me realize how much is done to strengthen us, and opened my mind as to how I need to organize our companionship efforts, and efforts with the ward members. I know the organization in this letter is suffering, but that's because I have SO MUCH I want to share!
     I've fallen in love with the Vision of the Tree of Life. It is a road map for believers, and a warning to those who reject the truth. I love the Book of Mormon for the same reason! Read it! Tons!
     As I look at all the changes in the Church, I cannot help but feel that something big is coming. This back-to-basics approach to so much, improved literacy programs, a new virtue for young women, and a fourth-fold mission... the Church is preparing for another crazy growth spurt. What are you doing to help the work along? To prepare? Do everything you can! Beg your Heavenly Father for inspiration daily!

    Last and not least, I heard from Elder Jones, Tyler Walker and Ion... sorry Ion, I just can't spell it from memory yet... it was wonderful to hear from my brothers like that! I also got that last letter from Oma and Grandpa Bill and the Farnbach Christmas team :P

    Love you all, very dearly. Things are going WONDERFULLY in Africa, and in Zion. I look forward to returning and taking up stewardship in my part of the vineyard, and working together with all of you. I'm becoming as effective as I can here to help there. God bless!

    Love, Elder Farnbach

Monday, January 18, 2010

Buduburam #20 - 1/18/2010

Dear Friends and Family,

So this week was another one. That sentence had another half, but I realized that sums it up nicely. We had another week this week. Kasoa district as a whole is hitting a rough patch on baptisms. Elder B. and I have started planning a line-up, a back-up line up, and a third string for this transfer, and for next. Well, we're already on our third-string to try and make our baptismal goal. Othello, who was supposed to be baptized last week, wasn't. His wife, who promised us she would come to his confirmation, instead told him that if he got baptized, she'd leave him. Her complaint was she doesn't think we are Christian. I can't imagine a more unchristian behavior. She goes to a different church.

The baptism itself was wonderful. No one showed up because the Kasoa bishop was completely against one of the people Elder Hi. and O. were baptizing. So, it was just the missionaries and the people getting baptized. I conducted, and it was just a very peaceful, wonderful experience. I've been having that all week. We taught an entire lesson on the principle of who God and Jesus Christ are, and I felt like I learned so much. Then, we sat through a lesson on the purpose of repentance. The new gospel principles manual is wonderful. I'm glad the Church is using it so widely now. I'd never even heard of it, and now I love it. The Church has so many books! Anyway, I've been enjoying peace these last two days, and I hope it lasts.

OH!! Last Monday, I opened the Liahona [church magazine] to find... MARK AND NATASHA SIMONSEN![Dad's cousins] It was so strange, because I had just fallen into a funk that night. Then, I saw two members of my eternal family, and it made me so happy! It was strange, because I'll be honest, I wouldn't say I'm particularly close with them (I blame lack of time.) I just wanted to shout and I couldn't stop beaming. I'd love to be able to write them a letter! Seriously, families have been the biggest revelation of this past week. We had one recent convert, Matilda, 19, who was in TEARS because her mother has basically abandoned her because she joined the Church. The very next lesson, we found a whole family, doing their dishes together, laughing and talking. That morning, we'd just read about Christ's instructions to missionaries. Well, it wasn't just the Son of Peace that was there. Daddy Peace, Auntie Peace and even some cousins were there. It's made me realize just how much I really love my family, and how wonderful it will be to see you all again.

We had a crazy freak-storm on Friday that timed itself perfectly. It came out of nowhere and lasted 2 hours... just enough time to drive us indoors (at the local American food, air-conditioned restaurant) and force us to watch the Ghana-Ivory Coast game. Ghana got killed, but we had pizza, so it's all good.

Transfers are week after next, and it's pretty hard to predict. I'll probably stay, because everyone thinks I'll be a trainer. At the same time, President threatened to close Kasoa down due to the local bishop. Because he didn't like one person the missionaries decided to baptize, and because of a few other people who have gone inactive, the bishop refused to confirm any of Elder Hi's and O.'s people. President went through the ROOF! Bless, the "problem" (She's wonderful, and it's so sad) was in tears because she always feared no one liked her. Never mind that she's been coming for 5 years... So that's really thrown all of this transfer into the air. Elder Hale, the couple missionary in charge of the office (basically presiding bishop of the mission) asked if he thought we would be safe in an apartment in Buduburam. I really don't want to live there...

I'm starting to hit a stride with writing in all my various journals, doing laundry etc. I'm setting a schedule that allows me to do a lot. It occurred to me yesterday that in a few years, I could be responsible for a wife and a kid... and that panicked me slightly. Don't think too far in advance is my advice.

Mail day is Thursday, and I hope to send a TON! (Also, receive a TON ;) )

Love you all very much! Seek Charity, and Peace will come. Then, life is easy.
Elder Farnbach

Monday, January 11, 2010

Buduburam #19 1/11/1010

Dear Family and Friends,

So this week has been another wonderful week in Buduburam. Or Budumburum. How people say is 50/50 in the town. Anyway... First and foremost, I made it back out to the bush again. We have one investigator who has been coming to church for about 2 months. We knew he lived far out, so we'd only taught him at the church. His baptism is this week, though, so we tried to go out to visit him at his home. Answer: Village. Seriously, it's like identical to Abomosu. Elder B. gets really excited every time I say we have to go out there. The man's name is Samuel T. He's pretty cool, and he understands remarkably fast. I think we've taught him 6 times and he knows EVERYTHING. He always insists on paying for our transport, which I really appreciate, too. It's little acts of kindness like that that make you love the people. We've gotten 3 free Tro-Tro rides back just from speaking some Twi with the Tro-Tro mates. They just laugh and laugh, and Elder B. and I can't help but smile. I think they've started to catch on though. One guy REFUSED to speak to us until we paid. Also, we had a member come to give us a ride... He also happened to be a member of PARLIAMENT. Yeah, we made sure to get his business card. Because he dropped us off in the bush, he said we may need to spend a little more to get a taxi to take us back home, and handed us 20 cedis! It's been wonderful. And people keep feeding us! Elder Fi. got NO FMs [ free meals ] in Buduburum, and we've had 5 so far.

President Smith looked over our Area Books last interviews, and said we were doing pretty well, especially for such a young companionship. It was helpful though. He said, "Elders, you don't know enough about these people for the Spirit to prompt you." He then pointed out we reported 34 new investigators for the last 3 weeks, and only had records for 9 of them. As is the nature of a mission, we can lose people as fast as we find others, but we still need to have records. That way, should one of us dislocate our jaw vomiting violently or something, the other can pray, and look over our former investigators, feeling out who we should see. President's new rule is, until they are baptized, we don't destroy ANY teaching records. "For as long as we've been in Buduburam, it should be a stack about waist high,"he said. We've been working really hard on learning more about our investigators. We've had two lessons where we just sit and talk, which was really awesome.

We had some really cool lessons this week, too. Last Monday night, I taught one investigator everything. Literally. Elder Hi. was doing an interview, and Charles was there. He always has a ton of questions, and to be honest, it's easy to lose control of the lessons if we aren't careful. He asked, "What is the doctrine of your Church?" What kind of organization can you possibly some up all it's beliefs in 45 minutes? I ended up reading the Articles of Faith with him, and then going through the 4 Gospel Principle lessons: The Restoration of the Gospel, the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Commandments.... every principle of every lesson. It gave me a wonderful appreciation for the wholeness or fullness of the Restored Gospel. In 45 minutes, we could talk a little about EVERYTHING we need to know to succeed in this life. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and he was so happy, he kissed it.

The interview was a success by the way. Matilda A., 19, is the newest member of the church as of yesterday. She's awesome. Her testimony is powerful, and she's the only member in her family. She feeds us every time we go over there, and it's never good :P One time we were walking that way, and Elder B. said, "She's going to feed us again, isn't she?" "I hope it's not Fanti Kenke," I said. "I hope it's not Banku," he said. Answer: It was both. Seriously though, we love Matilda, but we make a point of spending just enough time to teach a lesson and get out of there before she starts cooking.

We have two more baptisms coming up this weekend, Samuel and Othello. Samuel, we worry about, because we just found out he might not be in any ward or branch boundaries. Last time that happened, President said they couldn't be baptized. Priesthood Keys are THAT important. Othello, we also worry about, because his wife is constantly trying to cut him off at the knees. Seriously. Supportive families make ALL the difference.

Then, the week after, we set to baptize a man named John G., whose family have all been members since 2004. He's the father and he figured it's time he gets seriously. It's wonderful when his wife always sits in and testifies for us. Her understanding isn't great, but she knows truth when she hears it. Every time we come, we find them reading the Book of Mormon together to prepare for our lesson. The Spirit is automatically there. Last time, we taught about repentance, and it was so cool. I learned a ton, and I was the one "teaching". Repentance IS Mosiah 3:19. I'd never thought of it before, but it all clicked there. Elder B. has been reading the Teachings of Joseph, and he hits great nuggets from time to time, too. If we want to be where God is, we need to be like God is. That is, by definition, repentance. It does not mean saying sorry every time you do something wrong. It means turning your heart and mind to the ways and mind of God. It means giving your Celestial Spirit full mastery over your Telestial body. When we do this, then we can truly say we've repented. We also taught about the Restoration in Investigators class, and had some pretty profound realizations there. What is a Church, really? It is the GOVERNMENT or KINGDOM of Heaven. The priesthood authority is how God designates who can do what in His Kingdom, and Baptism is how we become full citizens. Which means Elder B. and I, as humbly as I can put it, admit people into the Kingdom of Heaven. That is a HUGE responsibility, and that is why President has stressed stewardship lately. "You are responsible for EVERY PERSON in your geographical area." I've been way better at my Area Book since, and I keep multiple records. I have one book for just meetings and instruction and interviews, one for personal study, a journal, 17 planners, and an Area Book. I meticulously organize and date all my mail now. If God is going to read from the Book of Life, I want to be the one deciding what stays in and what goes out.

As to what you said last week, Dad, I really try and talk about our investigators, but I realized something, reading about other missions. We just have too many people! President HATES when we have more than 5 or 6 recent convert lessons, and we are NEVER supposed to go teach inactives. We see a person maybe 12-15 times, baptize them, and then trust our ward to take them from there. We can't visit too much, because as soon as someone is baptized, we have another 4 or 5 coming down the pipe.

Buduburam itself is kinda a ghetto. Well, it's a refugee camp, to be honest. There are HUGE rivers of just FILTH from all the shanties, and it can reek horribly. Liberian English is also the MOST difficult to understand. Imagine French meets Ebonics. It's kinda strange, though. You'll see a family, living in just one tiny room, unable to find water to wash with, playing X-box together. A lot of things just don't quite fit. President is considering putting an apartment out in the town part of it, but I'm praying I'm long gone before that happens. There is no food or market there, and power is hard to come by. We'll see...

The Chapel is rented, but the Ward is really mixed. We have some POWERFUL members there, and some who look at it like "their Church" with no understanding as to what that means. Last week, the Elders' Quorum got together to start doing better to look after each other. "When you get a contract to build something, call members to help you! We all need to be working together to build Utah here!" Then they chewed out their High Councilor for allowing the Area to send someone from Accra and paying him to clean the building, when plenty of Buduburumians(sp?) don't have jobs.  I loved it. Utah isn't Zion, but it's really a miracle to think of how the Church functions when it's in full force. Always remember how blessed you are to have home teachers, even if they don't come all the time, and to have all your young men given the priesthood, all your youth baptized etc. etc. A lot of that just isn't here yet.

Anyway, I've written a lot, and it's probably starting to bore a lot of you. Thanks for putting up with it ;)
I love you all very much. As I've come to realize, it is only the will and power of God that I'll allow to come between us. But, as Joseph Smith said, at some point in our lives, we all must make a sacrifice as great as Abraham's. Whether that is now or later, I don't know, but my heart longs to be home with those I love and care about. I have work to do here, though, and will not come home until it is finished.

God Bless!
-Elder Farnbach

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thanks BYU Engineering

January 4, 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, this last week has been up and down. Inheriting an area is a world of frustration, because the previous Senior sets the goals, and then coasts the last week, knowing he is going to be leaving, so I get to pick up the pieces. We've discovered a critical flaw in our current system. Our goal is 5 baptisms. People need to come to Church 4 times before they can be baptized. Meaning, I'm stuck with the crop of progressing investigators I'm handed to accomplish a goal I didn't set. We've been battling to get these people ready, but two have already stopped, and we don't have many options to replace them. I know these are people, not numbers, and that is one bane I'm discovering being "responsible"... I worry so much about numbers and not enough about the people.

In a related note, I've been awed by the power of the priesthood. Elder B and I were teaching this girl who is completely ready to be baptized, except for a concern or two. As we were teaching, I realized she needed a blessing of comfort. I don't think this even occurred to me... Priesthood power can bless non-members too, beyond just sickness! I know that SEEMS obvious, but how many times have we thought about giving a blessing to a non-member? But it helped me to realize the importance of always staying worthy, which is really what I want to stress to all my priesthood brethren. What kind of base and selfish scuz-of-a-man can recognize this gift, and actively ignore it? "I know I have the blessing of calling down the VERY POWERS OF HEAVEN on the heads of those I care about, but right now, I'd like to watch this pornographic movie..." We don't always realize what our actions say, but that is exactly what it means when a Melchizedek Priesthood holder decides to sin. He forfeits the ability to aid his friends and family with Divine authority.

This was never made more obvious then when Elder O. was struck by a car last week. I say car, but in all honesty, it was a truck. Like, a TRUCK! Anyway, he was thrown about 30 feet, and was knocked completely unconcious. Elder H. gave him a blessing, and then rushed him to the hospital. BTW the "hospitals" here are absolute JOKES. The doctors and nurses put him on a bed, hooked him up to a glucose/saline drip, and left him there... Anyway, he experienced some serious memory problems. He remembered most of the elders, and that he was on a mission, but he couldn't remember where he was, or when he was born. He asked every two minutes what happened, and sincerely thought he was in Nigeria. The VERY NEXT DAY, he was up and proselyting again. Yeah, if you are looking for miracles, it doesn't get much more obvious then that. President came to take him to an actual hospital, but he pointed out that in his 3 years in Ghana, NO missionary had been hit by a car. Side note, the driver was drunk, and when we took him to the police, the cop literally took him outside, and open-palmed SLAPPED him. It echoed. It was odd to see this.

This week-end, if all goes well, the girl mentioned above will be baptized, and I can begin stressing less about this area... for 3 weeks. Then I get to stress again :)

New Year's Day was nothing special. Just another excuse for people to get drunk. I'll be honest, I've never smelled alcohol before my mission. Now, I'm VERY familiar with it. For fun, when a drunk contacts US, we teach him a principle or two, and then give them the other missionaries phone number... ha! good times, good times. We also discovered Mighty bars, also known as cheap knock-off Milky Way bars. Half as good, twice as expensive, and still TOTALLY worth it.

Elder B. is doing alright. He's moving past any thoughts of going home. He has an MTC mate from his home stake, just like me, and now he is focused on keeping that guy here. Elder L. is having a tough time. Anyway, what else...? Oh, Elder B. still struggles with the local food. Seriously, I wanted to give him an academy award for his performance eating Banku. ;) BTW, the story about Elder A. you heard, Mom, is true. He frequently talks other missionaries out of their belongings. The mission reimburses us for bike lights, and everyone was told they could buy lights that cost 6 cedis. Elder A. hadn't bought his yet, but he told the office he needed 6 cedis. He then went and bought a 2 cedi light, and pocketed the difference. Frustrating in the extreme. To be fair, many African elders, though, save as much of their allowance money as possible, and send it home...

Last week, the letters that came in were wonderful. My friends, you have no idea the pure joy a letter brings this missionary! The next mail day is this Friday, which will be nice, because it is also my first interview with President as a senior... which frightens me. Don't get me wrong, I work hard, but President is all business. ALL business.

To my SPAC friends, I heard Chicago's "Fight for Your Honor" and was immediately reminded of Van-dances. My companion thought I was a little crazy... Anyway... OH! The Ghana Accra stakes are coming together to do a Dance Festival soon!!! I hope the missionaries get to be there, like they did when our region put on a dance festival.

I love you all very dearly. Remember, nothing but the will of God could separate me from you, my dear friends and family. But, the Lord has spoken, and I'll do everything in my power to obey.

Elder Farnbach