Monday, May 31, 2010

Elder Golden!!!

Dear Friends and Family, May 31, 2010

I am glad to report another wonderful week. This past week felt a lot like spinning our wheels, at first. We've been struggling to remember how to find people to teach, to be honest. We've been so focused on working with the people in our teaching pool for the last two transfers, and we've not been doing much to expand it. I mean, we are required to find a certain number of new investigators every week, but unless they volunteer to jump in the font, we didn't really have much of a chance to spend any time with them. All our leadership is worried about how we will fare next transfer, (mostly because they know their expectations have been strenuous), and it's really bothered me too. To be honest, we didn't really find anyone this week that is too interested in hearing our message. This added to my mental stress. Presidents always emphasizes continued, diligent service for the Lord. "We're trying to gradually increase the work, not shoot a rocket to the moon,"- a statement every Ghana, Accra missionary has pounded into them. So as it was time to set goals (as the transfer ended), I was really worried. I've never stepped my goal down before. On Sunday, a ton of past investigators whom we thought had given up decided to show up to Church. It was amazing. Again, I felt the Spirit reassuring me of what we were doing. I had put in the work this past week, but the agency of the people needed to be respected. God rewarded the work, just not the way I'd expected. I felt the Lord reassure me, there will be plenty of work to be done next transfer, too. Diligence would be rewarded, despite my weaknesses.
     This being said, I smell a transfer brewing. The Assistants constantly remind me to update my area book, to make sure Elder Q. knows the Camp very well, to coordinate with the Ward Mission Leaders in Kasoa (now TWO wards, by the way), to have a list of investigators for the soon-to-be Kasoa missionaries (don't tell anyone!) and to make sure Elder Q. can show them around Kasoa, too... all things that I could do if I was still going to be here. I've been in the camp for 6 months, so it wouldn't be surprising. Then again, Elder Q. and I joke frequently about President spending a great deal of his time attempting to thwart my information-gathering skills. Misinformation HAS been employed before. But it would make sense that I'll be moving next Wednesday (the 9th).
     Anyway, back to the week... we had a rare privilege this last week. Elder Q. spoke on Sunday... so did Elder Golden. Elder Christoffel Golder Jr., 1st counselor in the Area Presidency, and of the 70. You may remember him as the GUY WHO GAVE THE OPENING PRAYER AT THE CLOSING SESSION OF CONFERENCE. It was amazing. I really love Elder Golden. The man knows the Doctrine and Covenants like the back of his hand. This past time, he spoke a lot on the culture of the Gospel. It was amazing to see him boldly talk of the changes that need to occur. He spoke against the marriage traditions and funerals that, as he says, are "the reason Africa is poorer then it should be." First, he established to the people that he too is an African. "I was born in South Africa. My family has been there for 300 years. This is the only continent I've ever known." Then he continued to discuss that we are Latter-Day Saints first, everything else second. He also talked a lot about the blessings that come with that knowledge. "Imagine Ghana played Brazil in the World Cup in a few weeks -- we hope, right?" he joked. "Imagine the Lord said to Ghana 'Don't worry, you'll win that game, and Brazil can't do anything about it. They can put 50 men on the pitch.' ... This is the promise given to the Latter-Day Saints... Let us be cheerful! We've not lost the battle, we've won it!" Then we sang a hymn, #48 Glorious Things Are Said of Zion (Go read that after you finish!). I cannot believe I've never sung it before. He stopped us, as we sang, and said "Brothers and Sisters, this isn't a funeral! This song should be sung twice as fast as you are singing it. Let's try again." and then the congregation exploded. It was an amazing feeling as I stopped thinking about these people as Africans and more as fellow citizens with the Saints, and of the Household of God. This is as much Zion as my beloved Happy Valley. It also focused my mind on what Elder Q. and I were really doing here. Building Zion is the duty of EVERY latter-day saint. That will erode the barriers that exist in our minds between all aspects of the work of the Church. Missionary work isn't the duty of one group of people, nor is perfecting the saints, nor is redeeming the dead, nor is caring for the poor and needy. We tend to niche ourselves into one of those 4, I think. That is wrong. All of those are duties of citizens in Zion. Who doesn't want to be there, right? So do your part!
     The last thing I wanted to discuss is the Book of Mormon. This past week, the people we've been contacting have been much better versed in the anti-LDS material that is going around. Throughout the mission, Elders are complaining of this. The Office Elders were given a copy of an ancient book "The Kingdom of the Cults" of which Latter-Day Saints are supposedly included. (We looked over it to get a sense of the investigators mind-set. It was funny, the books biggest complaint is that the LDS lifestyle is enticing because it makes people family oriented, happy, and hard working. The author complains how hard it is to bash a Saint because "they can quote you into silence.") The hardest thing for Elder Q. and me is getting people just to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. For those of my friends who are not LDS, I wish to plead... a simple thing is simple to do! There is nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain from a certainty of the Book of Mormon's divinity. If the book is true, life becomes remarkably straight-forward. Everything is explained with a level of simplicity that is IMPOSSIBLE to misunderstand. The very plan of our loving Heavenly Father is unfolded to you in a way that brings purpose and comfort to "all men everywhere". The Savior's Spirit and presence can be felt as you turn its pages. I testify that it is the pure word of God, devoid of the ideas or interpretations of men, and invite you to find out the same.
I love you all very much. I've felt a growing mushiness as I think about each one of you. The most simple things bring to mind a lifetime of happy memories, and fill me with the faith of many, many more. Pray always, and remember the love of your Savior, Jesus Christ.
  Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sick For One Day #38

Dear Friends and Family,                                                                                  May 24, 2010

    We figured out the Ms ARE actually married (after a call to the Liberian Mission President), and Sister O. P. was totally ready to be baptized. We also realized that Helena and Mary's family has some people who we let slip to the back of our minds. -- We talk about good stewardship a lot in this mission. For senior companions, that means leaving an area better then you found it. I set a goal with Elder B. when I first arrived here that this area will find 10 new investigators per week and have 10 baptisms per transfer before I leave. I came with 8 and 5. I can say that we have achieved that goal in Buduburam. We've been finding 10 new people per week since Elder B. and I started, but the last two transfers have only made it to 9 baptisms each. This one... we will finally reached our goal (maybe even 11!). Second, I've been reading a lot about Ammon, and trying to keep a good, proper attitude about the work out here. As I thought about it, a significant portion of the ward is full of recent converts of mine. Now, is it numbers that make me happy? No. The fact that my converts have all attended the temple, that Helena is receiving her patriarchal blessing, that the Ms constantly refer to this as "our Church"... that's why I'm so happy. Also, because I'm not worried about their ability to endure.
    That being said, this past week was also very difficult on me. I was very sick on Thursday. We finished our split with the assistants, and I was dying. My fever was around 102 and I couldn't really walk around very much. I was feeling very weak, and my joints hurt a little bit. This was just after the zone leaders informed me it was our job to push as hard as we can. That following morning, I was praying with all my might that Heavenly Father would just make this go away and let me go back to work. Then, I remembered Elder Oaks talk, and that the will of the Lord trumps whatever I was hoping. That's when my prayer changed. I tried to listen for God's will, and the words came. "Give me the strength to accomplish what I need to, then I'll come home." Immediately, the Spirit testified that that was the will of God, and that there was a lesson to be learned in this. So I listened again. I was struck as I pondered those words again. This was what the Savior was asking in Gethsemane. I can only imagine the pain that wracked Him as He pled "Father, don't make me do this any more. Give me just enough strength to finish, then let me come home. I want to be finished." Tears came to my eyes as I realized the incredible debt I owed my Savior, and what He had to endure. One little weird flu (side note, still Malaria free after 10 months!) and I was out of commission. I don't wish to feel even a percentage of what He must've felt.
    I taught Sunday school. It was all about Christ's Church in ancient times. Really, though, we spent most of our time ,making one thing very clear. The Church, the TRUE Church is governed by Revelation. False Churches are governed only by their interpretation of the Bible. It finally got so extreme that I had to pose the question "What if someone burned all the Bibles? What do we do?" I was so happy to see my brothers and sisters learn. As I asked "What have we come to understand today?" a dear sister said "That the Church is for God, not for the Bible." This is a HUGE step for Ghana. Here, without exaggeration, I can say the Bible is an object of worship. People spend a lot of time inviting people from various churches to "help them study the Bible." Elder Q. and I have found success turning that around. We tell people from the get-go "We are here to help others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the Restored Gospel, through Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the End." No one is then caught off-guard when we invite them to change. To the missionaries who may read this, I testify, be bold. You will be surprised how many people will accept that invitation much earlier then you think.
    I love you all very much. I know that it is only through the Doctrine of Christ that full happiness comes. That is why I wish it for my brothers and sisters here, and especially, for each and every one of you.
Elder W. Farnbach

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Still in Kasoa - #37

Dear Family and Friends, May 18, 2010

Well, these past few days have been infinitely more interesting then the whole last week. If I wrote this letter yesterday, it would be incredibly exciting. If I wrote this letter 4 hours ago, it'd be really depressing. Right now, it's... faithful.

So on Sunday, we had Stake Conference late in the day. Elder Q. and I decided to go on another round-up to gather everyone. It was our biggest Sunday yet with 16 investigators coming to church. That's flashing a bit ahead, but it was cool.

Last week, Elder Q. and I were noticing that, besides the people who are about to be baptized, we really aren't teaching anyone that we're particularly focused on. No one was jumping out at us, so we started to look around. As we passed some people we had decided to ease up on, to our surprise, they were sitting on their front porch (that's not at all the right terminology for Camp, but it's all I've got), reading their Book of Mormon with their neighbor. I was never happier. We'd spent the whole rest of the week looking for people to teach, and had no results. However, he very day we took it into prayer, it was like, cloudy, with a chance of investigators. That same woman, Catherine, ended up bringing 5 friends to stake conference with her! She is truly amazing!

Anyway, so we went on a round-up. We managed to gather a huge number of people. The ward provided buses to take people to conference. We brought our people to join the members standing around.

As we arrived, we ran into some more investigators, the Me. family. Little Jo Jr... he's five, and the brightest kid ever. He knows the whole Joseph Smith story. During the last lesson, he ran off with a Joseph Smith Pamphlet, only to come back... "Daddy, that's God, right?" (pointing to the First Vision) "Yes, son." (Jo Jr. excitedly runs off to show his friends God.) Every time we see him, he rushes us. I picked him up and started to carry him, and then his sister Victoria, who is seven, grabbed my hand. It was amazing. I was reminded of all the times Christ spent time with the little children. I swear, I must've looked like one of the pictures. I'm not saying that to boast, mind you. I just mean, any time you can see yourself doing what the Savior did, you should feel happy. The conference ended up being really awesome. Lots of talk about the importance of the Book of Mormon (thanks to President Smith, who is the man.) And then the Stake President went off about condoms for about 15 minutes, which was awkward, even if the point he was making was good.

The coolest part, though, was the feel. I spend a lot of time thinking how this is almost a different Church. Not really, I mean, but it is "The Developing Church"... It doesn't feel the same. At the Stake Conference, however, it was like being home. I saw a bunch of brethren, including some from my ward, receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is a real live stake of Zion we have here! The most surreal moment was when the choir sang "High On The Mountain Top". I just wanted to jump on my feet and say "You are who this song is about!" These are the people who are standing up and saying "We'll now go up, and serve the Lord, obey His truth and learn His word!" That was awesome.

Monday was a freak rainstorm that knocked out power in Ghana, hence the lateness of this letter.

Today was a lot of bad news. We found out Teh, our awesome investigator, will be leaving before his baptism. He'll be back in a month, which means I'll probably still be here, but still... Then, the Me.s confessed that they weren't “full” married. Man, it broke my heart to explain to them that that means they have to postpone their baptism. Dad was heartbroken, and so was Mom. We discussed their options, and expressed our love and support. We all came out of it feeling good.

Like I said, 4 hours ago, I was having a rough day. But, I think this is God's way of telling me to focus on different people. I know that those who need to be moved are strong enough that it'll happen next transfer, and that took a lot of edge off of it. Plus, Elder Y. and I sifted through the Buduburam teaching pool, and turned up two people we'd overlooked. We extended them dates. And you know what? It's possible. I feel really good about it. I think that's faith. Faith is the quiet assurance that we are doing the right thing.

President's instruction at interviews focused on 2 Nephi 31. You see, Christ has only one doctrine. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. That is the "us" portion of the Gospel. The Atonement was His part. We need to learn about it, appreciate it, and strive to emulate His life, but ultimately, repentance and baptism is what He told us to do.

On a separate note, not related to the above mentioned content, I want to say something that has been wearing on my mind. A lot of people we see have problems with the law of chastity. Now, today, we have this notion of "modern women" or "modern man". More and more, monogamy and abstinence are mocked, belittled, and trodden under foot. There is great unhappiness in these paths. A lot of the problems that plague Africa right now (and I don't just mean AIDS) stem from this wide-spread promiscuity. This will not limit itself to this blessed land (and for those of you who don't know, God loves Africa). These problems will continue to sweep and destroy all who decide to engage in them. Satan's greatest weapon in these days is the destruction of Virtue. Now, many would defend this position. I'm not here to debate. This is not a question of convincing people. This is a question of happiness and misery. Do you want to rationalize, and continue to face these problems, or do you wish to change? I plead, with every bit of tender feeling a dear friend, brother, and son can summon: Do not fall victim. Do not engage in these behaviors. Do what is right, let those consequences follow.

Elder W. Farnbach

P.S The Office Elders failed to bring mail to interviews... it's been a little rough on me. Now it will be 6 weeks total without mail.

[ Elder Farnbach's mom's PPS - He has not moved out to the apartment in the Camp yet. They are having difficulties with power being connected to it. ]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moving to Buduburam

Dear Family and Friends, May 10, 2010

Well, I called home yesterday, so I'm not entirely sure what to write about.

We've been working with a wonderful family, the Ms. The father is a journalist and the mother is a Baptist. They've been remarkably accepting. I've gained an appreciation for the cause-effect nature of the Gospel. Especially with the dad, we've focused on D&C 130:20-21. If you want the blessings of eternal life, live the conditions. If you want to get a job, live the Lord's principles for finding work. If you want to develop a particular virtue, there are principles for that too. To me, this brings a tremendous amount of order to the Plan.

We had a conversation with one girl, Lina, from Germany. She pointed out it seems foolish to think God thinks or acts like a man, if He is supposed to be so much higher. At first, this seemed like an excellent point. But then, we need to remember that God's whole purpose is the immortality and eternal life of man. Clearly, something needs to be communicated to said man, if he is going to be able to make choices. God, with infinite reason and understanding, would by definition be able to put said instructions into a form that man would be able to understand, recognize, and then act upon. If not, why bother talking to man at all?

We've also been working with one man, named T. T instinctively understands the gospel. He's not really a part of any church because he was bothered by this notion of "Blessing" and "Prosperity". "If we are not obeying our earthly fathers, we don't expect things. If we are sinning, it doesn't make sense that God would still bless us." Can I get an 'amen'? He just has a bit of a problem with the Word of Wisdom... and the Law of Chastity. But what gave me up is when he pointed out "The last time I did those things, I felt really empty. Whenever you guys come around, I feel... full... again. I hope you're getting me." We explained to him that that is the Spirit he was feeling. God promised the Spirit as an "earnest" or a foretaste of eternal happiness. How much more should we be seeking these feelings?! I can't remember if I said it last week, but I've noticed that 99% of the commandments are just about keeping us spiritually sensitive.

We should be moving out to Buduburam Friday this week. That's the unofficial word on the official Elder Farnbach information network, a system of APs, ZLs and Office Elders that keep the news flowing to this poor missionary out in the boonies. Seriously, the nearest companionship is an hour away. Many jokes are made about us being the last desperate outpost in a never-ending war on sin. We are winning, by the way.

Also, transfers aren't for forever, but the speculation is that Kasoa is being opened up again. This is dangerous news, because that means they could leave me here another transfer to orient the new elders. I love Buduburam and all, but... man, I've been in Kasoa for 9 months already. It would be nice to have other elders in my apartment.

We had a great lesson the Abrahamic Covenant yesterday at church. A lot of speculation goes into this... the Abrahamic Covenant is that Abraham received all the ordinances of the Gospel, the Priesthood and that this would be open to his children too. This means baptism, confirmation, endowment, and eternal marriage, and the Melchizedek Priesthood. Isn't that really simple? The Gospel is just that, though. Line upon line, step by step, it's really easy to understand. As a missionary, I'm really beginning to appreciate this. I think it was Harold B. Lee who said we must teach the Gospel in more then just a way that can be understood, but in a way no one can MISunderstand. As we've tried to keep it simple, we've realized it's already been made simple for us. Curse generations of know-it-alls and theologian theories!

Anyway, I wish I had more to write about, but like I said, I called yesterday, so... Love you all! Also, I fixed my voice recorder. At least, I think so...

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, May 3, 2010

Priesthood Session!!! -- #35

Dear Friends and Family, May 3, 2010

So, Dad complained last week's letter was too short. This one should be long. In fact, I'm worried about how long it may be, but we'll see.

This past week started off different then any on my mission, as the APs came for Splits. Elder Barnard is probably as much of a mission-hero for me as Elder McGrath was, so it was a rare treat. A lot of what our split centered around is good planning. Buduburam is notorious for large teaching pools, so most of our instruction had to do with how to balance those people, and not lose anyone due to poor time-management. It paid off this week in spades. We taught 32 lessons, with TWO very light days (explanations later, don't worry, I wasn't just slacking), and had 7 new investigators at church (people who came for the first time after they had been taught). We were asked to report on our planning on Sunday night, and I could see the benefits from just one week of application. Stretched over this transfer, it should prove miraculous.

(I wrote a list in my planner of things I wanted to address. Give me a moment to consult it.)

Well, from that Tuesday up to Friday, nothing really happened - nothing monumental, anyway. We found out Friday that Bishop would be showing Priesthood Session at the Chapel instead of asking everyone to go to Kaneshie. Elder Q. and I both felt impressed to get all our male investigators we could to attend, especially the fathers. Saturday, for that reason, was very light. We spent about an hour for a Priesthood Round-up. One story in particular stands out. We've been trying to get Jacob F., Helena's husband and Mary's father, to attend Church. We went on Friday night and told him to be ready. He informed us he would be traveling that day, and promptly left to get ready. He said he was sorry, but so does everyone. I felt very impressed, though, that he would be there. He NEEDED to be there. So we talked to the whole family about preparing for Daddy. Mom washed his shirt for him, the younger boys washed and ironed their own clothes to be ready to go, polished his shoes, etc. Then, Elder Q. and I kneeled with the family to pray that Heavenly Father would make a way for Dad to be home in time, and by doing, would start Jacob on a path that would allow this family to experience the blessings of the Priesthood. We prayed that he would honor the preparation the family had made, and get Jacob home safely and quickly to allow him to come. I felt in my heart the calm that this would DEFINITELY happen. We came by, having warned and rounded up ALL the other men we could, and... he wasn't there. But, we called, and prayed, and he came! We brought him in to the chapel to Bro. Swary, who is now the High Councilor, but also the man who had been assigned to fellowship him. You've never seen a better smile, I promise. This same idea was made incredibly manifest in Elder Oak's talk. We need to pray to KNOW God's will, and then prepare for it to happen. Then it can happen. It was like God gave us the object lesson, THEN had an Apostle point it out to us.

We also had a new investigator family, the Ma. family. We contacted them last week, and did everything we could to get them to come to church. We've also been striving to teach them little by little, instead of big chunks at a time. We know they'll be a great family. We talked to them about Conference, then about Prophets. We asked them if they find out that President Monson is really a prophet, what would they do? They said they would become members of the Church, and asked how to do that. We explained that they would then need to be baptized. Like every time, the idea of "re-baptism" was a point of concern. As we taught about the Book of Mormon, we pointed out how it corrects and clarifies false traditions of men. Momma Ma., very humbly, pointed out if Jesus says that if 3 Nephi 11:23-26 is how we need to be baptized, clearly they need to be baptized again. WINNER!

Elder Golden (who gave the opening prayer for Sunday afternoon session, btw) always stresses to us missionaries that we cannot help everyone, and the Lord knows it. He has given us a pattern of who to look for: The Noble, the Rich, and the Wise, and then the definitions of what that means in Africa.

* The Rich- Those who can support themselves financially, without outside help
* The Wise- Those who can read and write in English, who can understand and express themselves
* The Noble- Those who are willing to overlook tradition, and lay down their lives for the Gospel of Christ

The Ma.s are clearly the Noble we are here to seek.

I received a lot of personal inspiration at Conference, and found a lot of things to help me teach. I especially liked Elder Packer's address about the Power of the Priesthood vs. the Authority of the Priesthood. As he did that, we realized we needed to start looking at our male investigators like new Priesthood recruits in God's forces, and not just people to baptize. This meant instructing them well, even before baptism, of what it means to be a Latter-Day-Saint husband and father, and what they needed to work towards. "Our path of duty is keeping our covenants in our daily life."

I also LOVED Sister Beck's talk. My favorite line was something to the effect of "As we strive to live the principles of the Gospel, we will often face disappointment, but we will never be disappointed in ourselves." This applied, I think directly, to developing Christlike attributes. Diligence and Patience are two of the Christlike attributes identified in PMG. I thought President Uchtdorf's talk was particularly amazing, bound to go down as a Gospel Classic. Christlike patience is not passive, it is actively preparing for the future we hope for. President Smith also pointed out that planning is a process of revelation.

I think if my mission has taught me nothing else, it is the importance of Personal Revelation. Again, much of conference was centered on that. It even came up in one of our lessons on the Word of Wisdom. So much of the commandments is about keeping us spiritually sensitive and alert, able to receive instruction for on High. By avoiding things that are mentally loud, like addictions to things like alcohol, coffee and tea, we can hear the quiet whisper of the Still, Small Voice – which is a gift we want, I know. This conference, the most powerful whisper I've had my whole mission was as the Choir sang "How Firm a Foundation". Anyone in the mission could tell you I complain that we don't sing the other verses often enough, and as they started, I whispered "Oh, sing the last verse!". As they did, I knew that the Lord was mindful of me, just as surely as if the Conductor had turned and said "This one's for you, Elder Farnbach!" Did it matter that the conference was pre-recorded, its outcome already set? No! The Lord had heard that whispered desire of my heart a month ago, and set in motion ways to accomplish it. African men don't generally cry, so the investigators with me became concerned as the tears streamed down my face, but I knew that God remembered his son, trying his darnedest to serve Him here in Ghana.

The other thing that really stuck out to me was the emphasis on the Ordinances of the Gospel. I know, to my non-member friends, I'm probably a little preachy, but that's what I do here, so bear with me. Love is a powerful force. I think it fair to say that no one would accuse Elder Farnbach of down-playing or diminishing the power and importance of Love. But never, in the history of the world, has Love reunited a family separated by Death. The only thing that has the power to bind in Eternity, and reunite us with those we care about is the Priesthood of God. It is applied through the ordinances of the Gospel, and it is realized long after everything else passes away. It is the "welding link" that keeps us connected, and the Holy Spirit of Promise that we can rely on when we mourn.

It just occurred to me I've neglected my birthday. On Saturday, Helena's family all sang happy birthday to me and gave me the most touching gifts. In Ghana, they don't have much, so gifts mean all that much more. We had sparkling pineapple juice and a little corn-bready cake. I also received the coolest card I've ever seen. Ghana knows how to do cards. Then, we went and got Daddy to Priesthood session. It was a wonderful birthday. Mom, we're waiting until we can show the little Muslim kids in our neighborhood the Menthos thing, so we haven't done that yet, and the moisture in the air ruined the sparks (from the wintergreen lifesavers), but thank you so much for the packages. I loved them :) I especially loved to read all the messages on my pillowcase. I'm afraid to sleep on it for fear of damaging it!

Love you all. I wrote an unprecedented number of letters last week, and am trying to keep up that pace. Elder Kim, the OM, has been persuaded to spend a few Mondays here every once in a while, so I can get mail in and out more often this transfer. I will try and use this six weeks to develop a good relationship with his junior, so that he'll do the same thing for me when Elder Kim leaves... and then again... and again...


Elder Farnbach, who is now 20...