Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Buduburam #25

Dear Friends, Family, and the Occasional Browsing Blogger, February 22, 2010

This week was a huge step up from last week. I can't say too much happened, but it was nice. I went on splits with Elder Mc, the former AP [ assistant to the President ]. He had been an AP since I arrived, and to be honest, he's like my on-mission hero. So, I was stoked to go on splits with him. I picked up some wonderful scriptures and analogies, but I didn't feel completely out-classed, so that was nice. We had a great lesson with the Ws. Elder Mineer, [ a friend from BYU ] in one of his letters, pointed out that they'd been instructed to dedicate the homes of anyone who so desired. Well, Elder Be. and I had done that, and then gave a blessing to Sis. W, because she had had a month-long headache. The lesson with Elder Mc basically turned into an hour-long testimony on their parts of the power of the Priesthood in their lives. I felt bad Elder Be. wasn't there, because man, it felt great! We tried to implement the advice Christ gave the Apostles. "Go into the house, bless the sick, bless the home, and share a small message." And BOOM! A family is baptized. Or rather, will be. J. needs an Abortion interview. But anyway, S. W. said, "I was struck by the quietness of it. They didn't come in, banging drums. It was reverent and calm." J said, "And since they gave me that blessing, from when they said 'amen' until now, my head has not hurt." S.W. "And they didn't go out into the streets with a megaphone shouting 'Oh! This woman! It was we! We healed her!' What they did was for the Lord, by His power, and they knew it." Seriously, I couldn't stop beaming. S.W. has been wanting to know EVERYTHING about the Priesthood, and one day said "Do you think it's possible that I could be a Melchizedek Priesthood holder?" We then explained what Joseph Smith said in the Doctrine and Covenants. Salvation is all about obtaining the Priesthood, (hence the highest order being marriage), and he would HAVE to to be saved. That's probably why he and A., another investigator of ours, went out and bought sodas right after S. was ordained. He was so happy, and he kept waving his Baptismal Certificate everywhere. It was wonderful.

We had Interviews at the Temple again. To be honest, I'd love to go into an interview with President completely calm. I mean, this time, I had more success to report. Our district is set to have more than 20 baptisms in a transfer. Elder Mc says his whole mission, that has never happened. And we are just a district of 4 missionaries. We are doing well. Elder Be. and I had a goal of 6 (which was crazy. Our zone leaders wanted us to lower it because we "didn't have the names for it." Well, first our DL [ District Leader ] did. Then our ZLs [ Zone Leaders ]did, then the APs did. They all thought it was impossible...), and now we are set to baptize 9! I mean, seriously, I wish I could for once feel great going into an interview. President is sort of intimidating. Anyway, then we went to the Temple, and I got super-charged again. Well, mentally... I ran into what Paul and Nephi both complain about. "Whenever I want to do good, THAT is when my weaknesses come up!" That Saturday, I was just super-sluggish. Luckily, Elder Be. worked like gang-busters. He alone contacted about 45 people!

Mail came on Friday. Thank you so much for the packages! I received one from Mommy and Daddy, Oma and Grandpa Bill, and Seth A. It had 20 stamps in it (thank goodness!) and some candy. The cinnamon candy... well, I have zero self control for all things cinnamon. The Good&Plenty were great, Mom! Also, I heard from Marta, Elder Decker, and Nina. Sister Ferguson's letter was hilarious, btw.

Elder Holland will be here on Wednesday, and President is coming to sit in on District meeting tomorrow... Elder Or. is hoping Elder Holland accompanies him... I doubt that will happen...

Anyway, love you all, very very much! Things are going well, and I'm really starting to hit my stride! As always, write MORE! :)
Elder Farnbach

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Buduburam #24

Dear Family and Friends, February 15, 2010

Well, after the great week we had last week, this week was a bit of a disappointment. Nothing particularly awesome in our lessons this week, other then I've really been focusing on teaching the Pre-Mortal Existence. I know there is no "most important" gospel doctrine (correction, besides the Atonement), but Elder Packer taught something really important in PMG [ Preach My Gospel ]. When we teach the Gospel, we aren't really teaching, but reminding the Spirit of the person involved. I think our best shot at reminding someone is to bring up the details of what was going on right before the veil as best as possible. Plus, the amount of work and care that has been put into "the Plan" is awe-inspiring. It's been incredibly difficult and inspiring as my companion and I have discussed the nature of our Spirits.
     We had one lesson with a man name Abraham, who is very bright, and his son, who is not. To be honest, nothing was clicking that lesson. I had just studied it that morning, but I'd not organized it into a lesson yet. They were able to explain it when I asked them, but there was a kinda "... whaaat?" look on Abraham's face the whole time. We taught the same lesson to a man named Alexander, and it all came together then. It was awesome. Scriptures and explanations just came so natural! He asked "What is Salvation?" and my companion turned to me like "... oh shoot!" and then out of nowhere I reached into my pocket. "Well, what is the opposite of Salvation?" "Damnation" "What does that mean?" "Well... I'm not sure" Out comes one cedi from my pocket. There is a picture of a dam on the cedi. It was awesome. "Damnation means a stop of our progress. Progress and Salvation are the same thing." It was SWEET!
     Then, on Sunday, in Priesthood, we talked about Christ. "Why did we need a Savior? Why couldn't we suffer for our own sins?" Someone guessed and then it came to me. "Let's think of sin like a REALLY deep hole. If you are in a really deep hole, and I am in another really deep hole. Can I get you out?" "No." "Well, so we need someone who isn't in that deep hole. Someone who didn't sin." That became the metaphor everyone referenced the REST of the lesson. It's been funny, but I really feel like I've improved drastically as a teacher these past 6 months. I was able to go on splits with Elder Or. The kid knows his stuff, but not how to teach it, yet. It was just so funny for me to think (this is going to sound rude, but I don't mean it to be) "Was I really like that 6 months ago?" We all have grown and have learned so much.
     The Pre-mortal life has been the topic, as I said, that has been dominating discussion in our district. I think we do ourself a great disservice as Latter-Day Saints telling ourselves that sinning is "easy" or "natural". As "Following Christ" put it, our bodies, our carnal selves have no sense of right and wrong. They don't detect light and truth, any more then a thermometer detects nuclear radiation, or a Geiger counter measures temperature. They work on the sense of "pleasure or pain", which is where Satan gets his power. Rarely, if ever, can he make sin look morally right under any amount of scrutiny, but he can make it seem pleasurable very easily. Sin is only "easy" if your body is in control. But we are just as much Spirit as we are Body. Our Celestial Spirits NATURALLY gravitate towards Truth and Light, but in a world with so little Spiritual interaction, the Body tends to dominate the Spirit easily. This is why daily prayer, service, righteous living, and scripture study are so important. This is how we exercise our Spirit, and subject the Flesh to the Spirit. By doing that, Sin actually becomes DIFFICULT, because our governing Spirit naturally recoils. "What are you DOING?!"
     The real disappointment this week was a FREAK rainstorm Saturday night that flooded the streets. We baptized 12 on Saturday (as a district, but still!), but only two were confirmed on Sunday. That is DISMAL. Even now, I fully expect President to call me to get an assessment on the situation. Or maybe during interviews on Friday (side note, we will be at the Accra Temple! :D). Most of our investigators came late, if at all. We had to explain to Syl and Lucy that the Devil will be working overtime on them this week, as half-baptized, they are clearly the people he will lose next, so he's going to try and drag them back in. This added pressure is not mitigated by the Spirit at ALL!
     The only other big thing is I've started a financial journal for the District and for myself. I want to practice my basic book-keeping, and I figure it'll be a great exercise in accountability and stewardship, and will be a great talent to have for later in life.
     Oh, and Sunday, we had an AMAZING talk by our 1st Counselor. It was all about providing in the Lord's way. He spoke against people who come to Bishop, but refuse his counsel. "I came for money, not advice!" He also pointed out, in the story of Gideon, that sometimes God doesn't allow the easy route so He can show us His power in life. "The Church is not the solution, it is a method. GOD is the Solution." He also savagely attacked Liberians, who say "I'm in a strange land. I can't work. I'm a refugee. Life is unfair." Elder Be. looked at me and said "There went half our investigators." To be honest though, sometimes we take the truth to be hard. Work is the FIRST blessing we received when Adam and Eve left the Garden, and from the Doctrine & Covenants, we learn idlers are pretty much out of luck.

     We are still praying to complete our goal, but as a District, we could easily exceed by 5, which would be wonderful. Elder Be. is convinced he'll be leaving at the end, so we figured this would be a sweet send-off. My MTC mates are really coming into our own right now, and I think the mission is going to see some great results. God really pulled out all the stops for Ghana in sending these, my Brothers :)

     I love you all. I've been thinking about each of you (and I mean each of you!) this week. Aunt Crystal and Oma should be receiving letters this week, and I have until Friday to write more... and then, until the 24th, and then until Conference, 2 weeks later. Don't worry. Mail will be sent, (except I'm running out of stamps!) With how frequent the mail days are recently, I might have my first mail day with NO mail on mission (hint: don't let that happen!)

     Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, February 8, 2010

Buduburum Still - Letter #23

Dear Family and Friends,

I think this letter will be fairly short this week. I don't know why, but it's just a prediction.

Did I mention Elder Holland is coming the 24th of February? Every missionary I've talked to said "Finally! We NEVER get Apostles here!" I'm stoked!

We had my first leadership training meeting. Did I mention I love meetings? Actually, to be honest, because of my companions, I've been to a leadership training meeting for all but one transfer of my mission (and if I don't screw up, I'll always be in these meetings). Ours was on 1.) Exercising authority in the Lord's way and 2.) Return and Report, and everything that could possibly do with it. Some great quotes we heard:
"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates." - President Monson

"When we deal in generalities, we rarely succeed. When we deal in specifics we rarely fail." - President Monson

No wonder some Latter-Day Saints make such great businessmen!

I view this as license for implementing some managerial accounting. We went over in detail the reporting system of the Church, and the importance of PPIs. [ personal priesthood interviews ] They are more then just worthiness checks, they are opportunities to account to the Lord on our stewardship. As such, I'm now expected to do PPIs. You don't think Christ had built thousands of worlds before this one? And yet, the process was still a.) specific assignment from God b.) accepting the assignment c.) executing the assignment d.) report on assignment. Teaching is woven into every aspect of the Plan, and the Church. If you are going to a meeting and fail to learn, you are failing in your stewardship. I say that with ALL seriousness. I've found in every meeting, if I listen well, and prepare well, answers to my questions come. Not necessarily from what is taught, but in that it creates an environment of inspiration. Inspiration is God, giving us an assignment. As such, He expects a report. Hence, constant PPIs.

President Smith also mentioned a story pertaining to President David O. McKay. When in a meeting, a brother failed to produce a report he was asked to bring. President McKay stopped, pointed at the man and said "Brother ______, the Church and the Work of the Lord are riding on your shoulders. It is not acceptable to fail." At the end of the meeting, he was reportedly "kicking chairs out of the way" to get to this brother. Upon reaching him, he promptly hugged him, and told him how much he loved him, and how much confidence both he and the Lord had in him. It was similar to a quote I heard:

"The most effective way to get someone to change is to give them a responsibility and tell them you trust them."

Stewardship and accountability are my new favorite principles in the Church. It is directly related to be anxiously engaged in a good cause. See "Work" in the new Gospel Principles manual. It's amazing. Also, did I mention the picture next to eternal marriage is of the Ghana, Accra temple?

I also had to do 7 interviews this week. Elder Bo. and the new Elder, Elder Or., are working their tails off. We saw rapid improvement ourselves. We double our investigators at Church, baptismal dates, and progressing investigators over the past week. Elder Or. and Elder B. went on splits, so I employed the above mentioned quote. They came back with 10 lessons taught... what studs! Elder Mc., our Zone Leader, was thoroughly impressed. But it is not enough. Buduburam holds the in-mission record for baptisms in a transfer: 21. We can beat it. I know it!

As to your question, Dad, we have a few families we are teaching. Syl, Jebbeh, and Settah W. Syl is a doctor who was also a commander in the Liberian military. Man, it gave us a scare many times (As he was explaining it, he was really hush-hush, and always reassured us "But don't worry, I never shed innocent blood!"... GAH!). He loves the Church, and was the one who came to me in Church and said "Can we meet 4 or 5 times a week until I can get baptized?"... um... yes! His wife, when we read a few passages from the Book of Mormon, dropped everything and started coming to Church a week later. He always refers to the Church as "The Restored Truth." as in "Now that I've found the Restored Truth..." "But that was before I came in contact with the Restored Truth." He is also always talking about "Is it possible that I can attain the Melchizedek Priesthood?" He loves the very idea of it. When we explained baptism for the Dead he fell silent for a second, and then, almost breathlessly said "... Praise be to my God..." it was on of the best moments I've ever had. Two days later, one hour after a lesson we had we got a call from Jebbeh "please come now"... They were going to get a divorce. WHAT?! It broke our hearts. We talked to them a little, and then got President involved. They are working it out now, so we are hoping to see some improvement soon. I mean, Syl has managed to put 200 former child soldiers through school (Carrie Van D. would LOVE this guy!), and made them upstanding members of society... surely he can fix his own darn marriage!

It was interesting, actually. I had to teach about Adam and Eve and Church that Sunday, and it ended up being all about "It is not good for man to be alone." I didn't intend to focus on that, but it just sort of happened. Syl then pointed out "It was only when they were separated that temptations started to come." to which I wanted to say "So... it makes you NOT WANT TO GET A DIVORCE, RIGHT?!"

We got a Ward Mission Leader. He's very young, and I scared the heck out of him as I explained what his calling entailed. His is one of the most important callings, and I know he can do it.

The last thing... Elder Or... the kid is from Utah and you ALL know his house. It is Troy's house from High School Musical. Yep. Anyway, he's legit, except he plays Football for Utah... He loves to write little poems, which are always really cool. It's great to see the difference 6 months on mission makes. Was I ever really a greenie? ;) Elder Bo. (my MTC mate) and I just laugh about it all the time.

Alright, well, I love you, and have nothing more to write. Take care! Always strive to improve on your stewardships, and build your talents, so God can use you always.
Elder Farnbach

Monday, February 1, 2010

Buduburam #22

Dear Friends and Family February 1, 2010

Remember how the Celestial Kingdom has 3 degrees? Well, I just moved up. They built a Shoprite in our Zone, aka Obrunyfoodmart. Unfortunately, we weren't able to go today because the tolls went from 4 peswas (cents, basically) to 1 cedi (dollars). Also, the Tro-Tro union is on strike. I hate unions, to be honest.

On that note, more frustration with callings and ward organization. The bishop has the same 5 people do everything, so no one is learning or growing with callings. The young womens' president is also teaching Sunday School, as is her second counselor. So are the missionaries. We don't have a Sunday School president that I can notice. Frankly, in the States, we don't realize how blessed we are with respect to the Church. To watch an inspired institution struggle so makes me so angry. God laid out the scheme SO PLAINLY. JUST DO YOUR JOBS!!!! And while I can identify where every single problem in the ward is, I can do nothing about it, because I have no priesthood keys. Frustration.

Elder B. and I have continued to ramp up our efforts to bring Buduburam back to it's former glory. This area holds the single-transfer record of 21 baptisms, but it's been continually falling for the last 6 transfers. The missionary before me set a goal of 8, then 6, then 5, then 5. Steady decrease means poor planning and execution. We've ramped back up to 6, with a goal of being back up to 8 next transfer. We've been studying, recording, applying, and evaluating like mad-men. On Saturday, we had the first real day where we went home completely exhausted (plus, I got the flu from Elder B. a few days before...) and feeling completely vindicated. We did EVERYTHING we could. We thought we nailed it... until Church. Only 12 on the 17 we were hoping on showed up. It is a 33% increase, but Elder B. and I were devastated. Hopefully we'll find out tonight or tomorrow about transfers, but I'd rather have Elder B. stay then get a 5th companion. I'd rather leave Buduburum then either, but still...

Other then that, there really isn't any news... I feel bad about this, now. I know I'm normally able to give a huge, detailed re....
We're going to be visited by a General Authority in a few weeks...



Elder Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve!!!

Life rocks.

President came on a surprise inspection on Thursday and told us all about it. He also gave us instruction. It was really encouraging. He said "Your district is set to average 6 baptisms per companionship per transfer... If every district in the mission would do that, we'd have around 400 baptisms per transfer." I'd also point out, every missionary would go home with 102 baptisms if we could get up to 6 per companionship per transfer.

I received Oma's letter. I love hearing from the extended family! (HINT HINT)

One of my MTC mates went home with a mystery disease. I'm guessing based on the symptoms, menengitis. Scary. We all miss Elder Toldstrup. He was the man :/

We had to come in early yesterday because the African Cup of Nations game was at 4 o'clock, Ghana vs. Egypt. President thought there might be a riot, so all missionaries were told "If I call and you are not in your apartment by 4, you are going home." It didn't seem like anything happened, but we follow our priesthood leaders. It was strange. Everyone in our neighborhood is Muslim, so they wanted Ghana to lose to Egypt. It drove Elder Bo. nuts.

Oh, and I hit my 6-month mark yesterday. Crazy, I know!

Love you all, and from the looks of it, I'll be home soon!

Elder W. Farnbach