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...