Monday, March 29, 2010

In Buduburam - covering Kasoa

Dear Friends and Family, March 29, 2010
Well, this past week has been a continuation of the previous. To be honest, there is just too much to do. The ward is doing a great job of finding people and being friendly, as we have had 10 people show up spontaneously (no previous missionary contact) these past two weeks. I have to get introduced to everyone, do my best to get numbers, set appointments and deal with my recent converts, who still look at me as their best friend now that Elder Be. is gone. I've really missed that kid. He was my first multi-transfer companion, and we really were a well-oiled machine in a lot of ways. Anyway, so that's been a TON of stress. We have one baptismal date family (mother-son) who has completely dropped off the map, as has one single sister. We can't find Janet! UGH! We are also in charge of Kasoa's baptisms. Buduburam won't have 7 baptisms, but our Buduburam companionship will baptize 10 or so. Plus, having an external District Leader is difficult, especially since we have to travel for district meetings.
I had a great split with the ZL, Elder Ke. He's from Botswana. Also, he is awesome. We went and taught one family, and it was like we'd been companions for weeks. It was a flawless lesson, and we were on the same page for everything. He is telling them to read a scripture. I'm already on that scripture… that kind of thing. We talked a lot about investigators we've loved. He pointed out how every once in awhile, you have that special investigator who, for whatever reason, just becomes really important to you. You just feel an almost desperation for them to get the point, like you are the only one who could teach them. Well, we found a pair of investigators like that. Lina and Benjamin. They are actually two Obrunies, one working in Accra, and one in Buduburam. They are only here for a few months, so it'll be a race against time. Lina is volunteering in the 1st counselor's orphanage. She attended Church at his invitation. Benjamin, we think, is her boyfriend. We gave them a Book of Mormon, and it was then that I realized this was really important. These are honest truth seekers, who just want to do the right thing. These are the EXACT people missionaries pray for!

I'm praying that President sends more missionaries to Buduburam, and that ward missionaries are called. We have a TON of people to teach and not enough hands. Elder Q. and I had an old-fashioned street meeting. We talked while people were playing drafts (similar but WAY more interesting than Checkers). Elder Q. fielded their questions like a champ! I don't know how successful it really was, but we had about 20 people recognizing that God really does love ALL His children, unconditionally, and is no respecter of persons. The doctrine of Universal Salvation is a HUGE testimony builder for me. We came away from it with 40 contacts, and a spiritual high that manifested itself as frequently reliving the moment even though it only happened 20 minutes ago. "Do you remember when he was like ____?" "And then you said this and it was like 'OHHHHH!'
I found one of Professor Bott's (my Mission Prep Teacher at BYU) book on the street, and immediately bought it. It's called "Serve With Honor". Best 4 cedis ever spent.
We had two really good lessons this week. We’ve learned that all the vocabulary and eloquence in the world are USELESS unless you are being understood. In one lesson, the simplicity of everything really struck me. Why did God stop talking to Man? Because no one was listening. Why did God break that silence? Because a simple, honest boy wanted nothing more than to follow and serve Him… because someone was finally listening. The Gospel NEEDS to be taught as simply and clearly as possible, even to those of us who already “understand” it. The other great lesson was last Sunday as I taught about the Atonement. I realized that it would be incorrect to pretend the Atonement was just in the Garden, or on the Cross. Christ's whole LIFE was the Atonement. Every action, lesson, choice was in preparation for that great and last moment. This is why His whole life, he said, "My hour is not yet come." He STILL could not take a break. He still had work to do. Only in one moment is that not true... on the cross, when he uttered that heart-breaking, terrible, and yet sublime phrase "It is finished." His whole life culminated on that single moment. The load of responsibility no longer burdened Him. The work, that last, GREAT sacrifice, was done.
Anyway... Well, there isn't much else to say. I've been noticing the hand of the Lord in my life more then ever. More and more, I've also realized I've done nothing to deserve it. I constantly feel like Elder Q. and I are on the verge of drowning in the amount of work we have to do, and always, ALWAYS, the Lord sends a windfall to get us through to next week. I promise, this is true in your lives, too. God loves all His children, which is evident in His INFINITE capacity to forgive. Always remember that, especially as Easter comes.
Elder Farnbach

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Officially" Training

Dear Friends and Family, March 22, 2010
Well, first, to introduce my trainee. His name is Elder Q., from Grapevine, Texas. He's 19, and loving the mish. To be honest, he's a lot like Hans. Well, that's not entirely true, but they have a lot of similar mannerisms. He's adjusting really well. It's a big assignment to start off (serving in the Camp), but he's been a champ about it. He eats the food, needs to slow down his speech, but all-in-all a good elder, which I really appreciate right now. Also, his brother was the drummer for the Rocket Summer. Which is awesome.
     We're still living in Kasoa, even though the area was shut down. President lost the place out in Buduburam, so we're still waiting for that to change. The last elders left this place a bit of a mess, so we've spent about an hour each night tidying it up a bit at a time. All jokes about shock aside, it has felt great and "adult" to just buck up and do something that needs to get done with the little time I have. That, and I've taken to doing everything for the companionship and missionary-wise at 10:30, and then having "me time" after the kids are asleep :P It isn't long, but a few moments to read and write in my journal. It has made me appreciate my mom a lot more. I remember how late she would stay up, and always wondering why she'd do that. Now I realize it's so she can get 15 minutes of "Mommy time".
     I've been put in charge of finishing the candidates in Kasoa. It's really killing me, to be honest. It's a lot of work to try and find 10 new people a week, contact 140, AND work with two areas. Yesterday, I went to Kasoa for some interviews and NONE of their people showed up. I also had to speak at their PEC and gently explain that they were being punished. It was a huge test of D&C leadership for me, because I was really ticked-off. But, I did my best to explain it in terms of "I'm not here to condemn, or explain, but rather find out what we can do from here." And I think it went really well. It helped that I've served here forever. The local leadership knows that I'm Kasoa-born, mission-wise, and 6 months of my time in Ghana has been here.
     Oh, because my district was shut down, I was released as District Leader. I know leadership positions aren't measures of worth or anything, but given the system we have of "no releases unless you mess up", it feels a lot like I did something wrong. This is frustrating because we had a stellar transfer last go-round. But, all these things shall give us experience, and shall be for my good. This is what I constantly remind myself. Downsides... I don't do interviews anymore. Those became my favorites. Really, you never love the people like when you are sitting there with God telling you how proud He is of the person opposite you. Also, I have to spend 1.5 hours round trip going to District Meeting when I'm already crunched for time between two areas.
     One of our investigators contracted Yellow Fever. But that's all fair. The Young Women are showing leaps and bounds in their missionary work. Next week, we are going to unofficially call one to be a secretary over missionary work.... to write down the names, numbers, and places of all the people they bring to church. We are going to do the same thing in Young Mens. The member missionary work is beginning to move, and it's exciting to think of what this sleeping giant could do.
     I took Elder Q. to the W.'s. I started with "Just remember, no matter how wonderful and strong the people you baptize are, they will never be as cool as these people" :P Syl did not fail to impress. We just gave them "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple" and he read the part about no man's priesthood being complete without the ordinances performed in the temple. He then asked Elder Q. how much he thought a temple cost to build, so he could begin saving to build one in Liberia and one in Sierra Leone. Then he kissed the picture of the temple on the front of the pamphlet. He's the MAN! I have other investigators, I promise, but this is the one with all the great stories!
     Thank you, Mom, for the Easter Package. Those poor Peeps... they put up a fight, but they didn't really make it. However, a spoon took care of that marshmallowy-mass. It was wonderful.
     Thank you, everyone, also, for all the letters I received. They were delivered with EXPERT timing! Sorry, Elder Q.'s good with pop-culture references, and they have thankfully worked their way back into my vocab.
     Take care, and know that you all rest gently on my mind. Any moment I have to myself, memories just float by. Things I didn't even know I remembered have come up on this mission. Like it says, the Spirit brings ALL (good) things to our remembrance. Love you! Oh, and Happy Birthday, Xan-man!!

   Elder Farnbach

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kasoa Shut Down

Dear Friends and Family, March 15, 2010

This week has been kind of stressful. On Wednesday, I found out I'll be training. We don't know who yet, but all the incoming elders are Americans, so it's definitely a non-native. At trainers' counsel, President emphasized heavily how much a trainer affects a missionary, and then how much a mission affects your life. I felt a tremendous responsibility and love for this greenie, even though I don't him yet. The whole time, though, I just wanted to cry. I felt my own weakness. It sounds ridiculous, but in that moment, I wanted nothing more then to be perfect, to give this new missionary the best possible chance to succeed, and to do my duty to my Heavenly Father. I knew that I would slide, and that I'd never measure up to what my Heavenly Father wishes me to do. I felt that feeling where I'd lost all desire to do evil, but to do good continually. All I wanted to do was be a good son. I also realized that one day, my mission would end, and one day, there would not be a "tomorrow" to be even better. I felt an absolute fear for the day when they will take this name tag from me.

Kasoa was just shut down, because they had another nightmare baptism. President just said he's done. He must really be upset, because Kasoa is dong well by the numbers. At Zone Conference, I took down the numbers. McCarthy Hill is averaging 4.6 baptisms a companionship (above mission average of 4.0 right now) but all the other companionships were in the mid-3s. The Kasoa area averaged... 10.5. Yeah. President is so mad. He's cutting the MOST fruitful area in the mission. I've been assigned to finish all the baptismal dates and progressings, and then never set foot in Kasoa again. So my mission has gone Kasoa, Abomosu, Buduburam, and back to Kasoa... oi... So, about the baptisms.... Kasoa was set to baptize 6 people, but the ward completely neglected to fill the font. Well, that day, the water to Kasoa was shut off, and the ward told Elder Bo. to delay it. We don't delay baptisms, especially not in this district, so we tried to truck them all down to Kaneshie, to baptize them there. The 1st counselor flipped out, and refused to allow it. So, President tried to call the Bishop. Bishop didn't pick up. Neither did the Stake President. So President called Elder Golden... of the Area Authority. Next step is... calling the Apostles in Salt Lake. It got serious, and President was just completely fed up.

Church was wonderful, though. We had a man come who is in charge of the Orphanage. He's a member pf the Church from the States, and he basically put us in our place. "Any reason these children aren't baptized yet, Elder?" We explained the situation, and he expressed his absolute commitment to these children. We gave him President's number. With any luck, we'll start having FHE [ Family Home Evening ] at the Orphanage, as well as Young Men's and Young Women's activities. Getting these children (who voluntarily come, FYI) to a full knowledge of the Gospel may just be what the ward needs to really strengthen everyone. I know the Lord knows what he is doing, but sometimes, I get discouraged how to get from "here" to "there" with the Church, you know? Seriously, though, it's going to be through the inspiration of leaders like President Smith, and President Ahogby (sic?) the Stake President. I trust these men completely. Elder Be. Spoke in Sacrament meeting, because he is leaving. Our recent converts came out of the woodwork. I never knew how much I love these people, but we have the best converts ever. OH! Also, I saw Bright! [ a man from West Linn, home ]

We sat in on Young Women's this last week, because we were asked to speak about missionary work a little. To be honest, at the beginning of the lesson, I was frustrated with them. They were not listening, and even actively rebelling, in a lot of cases. As it went on, though, as I tried to focus on who they are, I realized how much God loves his daughters. We had a great lesson about missionary work, and they all promised to bring one friend each to Church next week. We'll see how it goes!

We had the strangest experience with an investigator this week. He had a book from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that I didn't recognize. Then I saw the subtitle... (also known as the Strangites). I found a splinter group... in Ghana. Oh my gosh, it was the darkest feeling I ever felt flipping through that book. I watched them twist the Restoration, and the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants into this... well, evil evil mess. I know we are supposed to tolerate all religions, but I could just see this guy (the founder, not the investigator) when he first broke away. How could someone stare at the truth, KNOW the Prophet, Joseph Smith, and turn so far away like this?! Seriously, the difference was daylight and darkest night, as Moroni would say. We are trying to teach him, but he knows ALL the lessons. His only problem is he thinks James J. Strang was the priesthood successor of Joseph Smith, not Brigham Young. First time I'd ever had to bear testimony of Brigham Young, by the way.

Anyway, so I'm looking at a transfer, by myself with the new greenie, doing a TON of different things. I know this assignment is far beyond my abilities. It's just too much to do. And I know that these have all been designed to bring my closer to my Heavenly Father. Nothing has driven me to my knees like missionary work.
I love each and every one of you. I'm just now starting to get a sense how much Heavenly Father loves each of us, though, and I'm trying to love like that. Know that you are in my prayers. Know that I think of you often. Know that our Father loves you, too.

Elder Farnbach

Monday, March 8, 2010

#27 Still in Buduburam

Dear Friends and Family, March 8th, 2010

Well, considering that I sent an e-mail late last week, there isn't really anything new to report. I'm being moved out to Buduburam proper, as President has just found an apartment out there. It'll probably be just in time for transfers. We also know I'm definitely staying, and there is a good shot I'll be training. I don't particularly want to, but it would be a great opportunity to fight the "slipping" that generally tends to occur as time goes on. (things like leaving 15-20 minutes late, coming in early when late appointments fail, etc.)

I've been reading this wonderful book "My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth" that was part of the Church Curriculum during President Kimball's time. It's been incredibly eye opening. Surely, the Lord is involved in every stage of this Church. In an age where programs and departments and committees are viewed as solutions, the Church has remained remarkably simple. All the Divine Intelligence of the Cosmos has boiled down to 1.) Family Home Evening 2.) Home Teaching/Visiting Teaching 3.) PEC [ a priesthood meeting ] 4.) Ward Council and 5.) Missionary Coordination. Please, give me half a second, cause I just got excited about it again. These are in order of importance, in my mind, at least. A family becomes incredibly strong through effective, constant FHE. This strength is compounded as families overlap in the HT/VT programs. These are reported, overseen, and improved in PEC. All the auxiliaries, in their very structure, are devised to strengthen the original family unit, hence the distinction of child, youth, adult, and then Missionary Coordination brings in the new blood to be taken through this process. Anyone can make a system that functions. A good designer makes it in as few parts as possible. And God is the very best, let's be frank. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone home teaching here, and I guess that no one is having FHE. PEC and Ward Council, which we always have, now have nothing to strengthen! Why can God reach down from the Heavens and give us perfection, and still we stubbornly remain defiant ?!

I digress. We set a goal of 19 for this transfer as a district, which is completely unheard of for 4 missionaries. Elder Bo. and Elder O. are doing great work and are teaching 12 people. We have 7. Our ZLs were worried we were trying to grow too fast. It's my hope that we'll keep finding people to teach, transfer after transfer, and that the next missionary who comes will be looking at a well-oiled missionary machine in this ward. I've loved that aspect of being a DL. Elder McGrath said "19? You're kicking Kasoa's tail, Elder Farnbach." That was cool. On the other side, I've been having a lot of stress in interviews. I've had to say no 2 times so far, and have had to make some serious judgment calls that no 19 year old should have to make. Abortion, Adultery, Fornication... HELLO!! I'm an efraba (small boy). I don't know how to deal with this stuff! Clearly the Lord is behind this, because no other organization is built on the backs of teenagers.

OH! We just found out that Sis. Swary, our YW leader, was the missionary who baptized Elder Bo.'s parents 20 years ago!!! How cool is that? I can't imagine meeting a 2nd generation from the family you baptized, especially knowing he is serving a mission himself.

Not much else to say. We went to the beach today, which was not really worth it, because of the distance. I'm not traveling while in Kasoa any more. I'm always on the fringes of the mission.

President came to our Sacrament meeting. A man bore his testimony. Unfortunately, it was all "Praise the Lord! Amen, Hallelujah!!!" That was uncomfortable. The members love that stuff. They miss it from their old churches and have never really understood why we don't do it.

Anyway, I love you all very much. I've been thinking about everyone this past week, and I can't wait to share all my stories and experiences so far. But, I still have 11 planners [ pocket calendars that cover 6 weeks ] left to gather said experiences (almost single digits!!), and I want to have plenty.

Elder W. Farnbach

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Elder Be's Hospital Bed

#26 Malaria!!!

Dear Friends and Family, March 3, 2010

Sorry for the delay. This letter has some semblance of organization, but it won't be chronological. These past few days (Sunday-Tuesday) I was sitting in the hospital with Elder Be., who had Malaria. That's why I wasn't online on Monday. It was a wonderful opportunity, though, for quiet reflection, away from real responsibility and concerns. I had a lot of chance to read, ponder, and just experience the Spirit. I don't want to sound preachy, but I feel particularly inspired to share one thing I learned. I've been reading the Teachings of the Presidents: David O. McKay. He has a wonderful chapter on unity, which has become a mental theme over these past few months. He said something to the effect of "There are plenty of good, noble, conscientiousness people in the world, who desire to improve the world. They have, however, no organizational impulse, no governing end-result to coordinate their efforts. We have. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is our job to preach it until all the Noble and Great enlist themselves in the greatest cause to roll forth in the history of the World." I have never seen that more manifest than these past few days. While in the hospital, we received numerous calls from our recent converts, wishing Elder Be. well, and telling us that they were praying for him. Of most particular impact was Syl, who called and told us that every day, his family was kneeling together to pray for Elder Be. He then passed the phone to Jebbeh, his wife, and Satta, his 12 year old daughter, who in turn expressed their sympathies and well-wishes. This family, teetering on divorce 3-4 weeks ago, all just entered into the waters of baptism. Syl baptized Satta and Jebbeh last Saturday. The leadership and recent converts of Buduburam, the good and noble, were finally unified in prayer for their dear elder, lying in his hospital bed, convinced he was going to die. Never before has the unifying power of the Gospel been so obvious to me. Elder Holland, when he addressed us, said that we [ missionaries ] "are the most prayed for people in the world." As I sat and marveled in that hospital room, my thoughts went back to the letters I'd received from Aunt Crystal and Uncle Matt, telling me that they pray for me every day. Mail was brought and a package from Uncle Michael and Aunt Laura came with Girl Scout cookies and their love. I reflected on my own family, whose prayers I was just now beginning to feel, and then the prayers of those, my dearest friends. Then, my mind was opened to the families all over the world, who plead with the Father on behalf of us small boys. The Gospel, through honest and sincere prayer, unifies the world.
Elder Holland taught some other wonderful principles in his talk. To be honest, it was odd. He seemed so... different than when he speaks in General Conference. There were some gems mixed in with the jokes. "The real danger of this mission is that it is just too easy, isn't it? Even a bad missionary will baptize. You don't KNOW what it's like to have to look for investigators! You'll start to think you can break the little rules. You'll get sloppy. And by all indications, you're still doing all right." The other great one was "This is your shot! You've been called to the apostleship! That's with a small 'a', of course, but that's why I can't feel too much sympathy for you. I'm the wrong guy to talk to about it being too hard! I can be sorry for you, if you want. Not much, but I can be! You get ONE shot at this! Don't waste it!" He then told a great story about each of his grandchildren, who think that missionaries walk on water. He said "Let them think that. If you won't do it for yourself, do it for Grandpa Holland. I don't want to have to explain to them, after they see you, that missionaries aren't normally like *that*."
The other big experience from this past week was the baptism. We baptized 5, Jebbeh and Satta W., Abraham and George S., and Hilton K.. Abraham is a good friend of Syl's, who we coincidentally began teaching at about the same time. Syl was able to baptize ALL of them! It was wonderful. I wish every Priesthood bearer in the Church felt that enthusiastic to exercise his Priesthood and do his duty.
I know the Lord remembers His children. I know that Christ stands at the head of this Church and this work, and that for those who are willing to put in just a little effort, they will find themselves laden with many sheaves.
I was especially happy to get handwritten letters from my dear little sister and Jessica Biancardi, as well as Uncle Michael's family, and Grammy, (thanks for the stamps and pictures!)
Take care, my dear friends. Mom gave me a list of people who said they have received letters from me lately. I notice that 3 or 4 of the letters I thought I sent haven't arrived at their destinations. I apologize. This Wednesday, I'll have finished replacements for those. I don't want anyone to think I have forgotten them, because I promise, those times I am not working, you all fill my thoughts. I love you, and I pray for you,
Elder Farnbach