Monday, June 28, 2010

Transfer - Palooza

Dear Friends and Family, June 28, 2010

     Well, if it was two days ago, I would have told you we've been transferred to Korle-bu with Elder W [ from his hometown ] . I spent about a week there, doing nothing but finding amazing people with Elder Jo., and then on Saturday, President called to inform me that we were being transferred again. I have now been called as a Zone Leader in Odokor... McCarthy Hills Zone! My mission REVOLVES around this zone. As I've thought about it, even when I was sent to the Eastern region, I was always back in time for the transfer-ly Zone Conference.

     My new companion is Elder Ho., who was my former Zone Leader while I was in Buduburam. As Elder W. said "Oh look, ANOTHER American Companion for Elder Farnbach." He's legit. In the 2 days I've been here, we've become pretty tight. We have big dreams for this Zone, as we were both trained here, so it's going to be awesome.
     Because of all the transfers and everything, I don't really have that much to write... Nsawam was shut down. My understanding is/thoughts are the immigration thing turned out to be nothing, but President was happy to have an excuse to get us out of there. We went to the temple on Friday. I'd forgotten how much I loved it. The Lord knows I've been trying harder, because I just sat there and felt the happiest I have in a long time. Just smiles the whole time I was there. The interviews were mostly about obedience. Exact obedience. President asked us to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10. A lot of elders over-rated themselves. After you did, President explained that 10 was Jesus Christ, and 8 were the Sons of Mosiah. Oh... It's really frustrating that the thing that is holding this mission and the Church here back is simple obedience. Pay your tithing! Do your home teaching! Don't leave your companion! Hopefully, as a Zone Leader, I'll be able to help a little more, but this Zone is generally where President puts good missionaries. We don't get too many slackers out here.
       As for people we taught, Elder Ho. and I have been talking about really seeking out the elect. We found an AWESOME family of 8 in Korle-Bu. We taught the lesson, in which I learned a TON about repentance, and then we digressed onto the subject of natural disasters. Scriptures I didn't know I knew came to my mind, and we talked about how God, foreseeing these things, called upon Joseph Smith to restore the necessary knowledge so that man can make covenants with God to guarantee themselves peace, safety, and comfort. I showed a picture of Joseph Smith, and the eldest son said, "Wait... I thought that was John Taylor..." and then produced a Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor book... AWESOME!
     As we were teaching about repentance, I learned something. Repentance doesn't mean that the punishment goes away. Not by a long stretch. It just means it will be inflicted on Christ, and not ourselves. Now, Christ is willing to take it, so this should bar no one from repenting. But for those who think "lie a little, cheat a little, dig a pit for thy neighbor", it demonstrates a complete lack of concern or care for the Savior. As we minimize sin, we minimize suffering. Suffering, as we see in even the case of Adam and Even, stems from sin, whether it be our own or someone else's. The other thing I've really learned this week is from an Old Testament movie. At zone interviews, we talked about the biggest challenge we are facing is not major obedience, but minor. It is the simple commandments that make us trip up. We talked of the Israelites and the brass serpent, and Naaman, the captain of the Syrian Guard. This reminded me of the Elisha movie I watched when I was small. Naaman is so insulted and so upset over the simple thing he has been asked to do, that he'd rather have leprosy. His servant humbly chides "A simple thing is simple to do." [ ] This has become my new motto, for "[His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light". Obedience, by definition, is the easiest thing. My new favorite song is "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus"... because I am.
     There was something else, but I can't remember it. Don't worry, it's probably in my journal, or letters to President somewhere.
     Sorry we lost to Ghana [ in the World Cup ]. Believe me, no one regrets that more then I do. If someone else says "Obruny! We score you!", they will lose an arm. Plus, I was rooting for Germany anyway. When Ghana plays, we generally get told to stay in because it gets crazy out in the streets.
     Enjoy another wonderful day in paradise, and write to me about it from time to time ;)
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 21, 2010

#42 Moved to the Mission Home

Dear Mom and Dad and Friends and Family, June 21, 2010

So, this week was kind of agonizing. I'm not going to lie, our area is really just that difficult. It's been hit by a lot of problems. Elder Jo. and I basically sit down every day and say "Wow... nothing works." I let him continue his trainer's way for a little bit. Nothing. I tried a Book of Mormon flood like in Buduburam. Nothing. We tried incredibly direct commitments. Nope. We tried teaching the Restoration right away. No. Then we tried "gentle" things, like Prayer, and who Jesus Christ is... not really anything. It really zapped my zeal that week. Hilariously, today, in the Mission Home, we did a little study, and I have a lot of hope for our new idea... the Fall of Adam.

Now, why am I in the mission home? Well, 9:00, Saturday night, someone who claimed to be from Immigration came around and started asking about our residence permits and things, and I immediately pointed them in the direction of the Hammer that is President Smith. 5 minutes later, I received a call. "Elder Farnbach, I just got a call from someone from Immigration. I think it's nothing, but I'm not comfortable with things like this. Pack up and the Hales will bring you to the mission home tomorrow after Church." Okay, no problem. Even now, President says we'll be resolved and back there or reassigned by tonight. I'm not worried.

Anyway, back to the week. I went on a split with Elder E. We had a nice long chat, getting to know each other, and then I brought it on to the subject of his obedience. I told him that I wasn't going to baby-sit him. I told him that he come out a year ago November, and that's a lot of experience that I hope to draw on as a District Leader in turning this area around. I asked how I should correct him, should I feel the need to. ---- Back up, this was after my first awesome tactic. We received a lot of instruction based on how to make District meetings more effective, and I'm really pushing to develop the gift of being quick to observe. So, I had an agenda for the meeting, and the topic was obedience. I felt incredibly clever as I had Elder E. role play how to talk to a disobedient missionary who came in late, with the offender being his companion, Elder K. The zone leaders came to our meeting, so they watched as the "problem" companionship chastised themselves for me. Then I let them know that if that's they way they think it should be done, that's the way I'll do it. ---- Back to my split with Elder E. He committed to helping me as we worked together as the leadership of Nsawam, and I hope to see him fulfill that commitment. We discussed long-term goals for Nsawam. We want the District to baptize 10 in a transfer before we are transferred. We've been asked to report on splits to the APs. As we talked, I let them know that I used their counsel on doing a written outline of my split before, and it really helped Elder E and me stay on the same page. I was commended for being the only elder to use that counsel, "and just a DL, too!"... what does that mean? Hahaha!! But seriously, it's the little commandments that'll trip you up, not the big ones. Quick to observe. I want to be like Peter, who received a commandment, and did it.

I also went on splits with Elder R., my zone leader. It was hilarious because we are constantly being compared throughout our missions. The former APs told me Elder M. [ his first companion and trainer ] didn't like me because I was like Elder R., whom he also trained, and they fought. Then he noticed we both have canned Red Feather butter from our parents. And the same... well, I can't remember, but I remember it was ridiculous. Anyway, we had a really long chat about the Church in Ghana. It came down to the missionaries need to do more to help establish the Church, and complain less about the membership. I'll be frank. Membership support and understanding even, is pretty thin. But then, 60% of these people are pretty fresh. Maybe the missionaries should have prepared them better for the huge culture shift? So that is our other big revelation. Missionaries don't just baptize, according to Preach My Gospel. We establish the Church. That's our job.

Well, my studies yielded a lot of little results, and I don't have time to elaborate. Needless to say, I'm gaining a greater appreciation for the plan of redemption. Redemption from what? From the Fall of Adam, and out lost and fallen natures. I'm just going to say it straight... no matter how good we try to be, man CANNOT get by on his merits, "but for the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins" Alma 22:14. This plan was established from the foundations of the world, and made known unto man as he called upon the Father in the name of Christ. To carry it out, the Lord called men after the order of the priesthood, to teach His children these things, that they might be saved. As the 3rd Article of Faith states, mankind is saved only upon obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The Lord, in all ages, organized His children and servants into a Church, so that the conditions of repentance could be brought about. The Book of Mormon is the greatest single source of understanding available for principles and particulars of God's plan, and should be near and dear to our hearts. To those who have not, I re-issue my plea: Read the Book of Mormon. Start today. I recommend the Book of Alma, chapters 7, 11-13 and 2 Nephi 2 to start. This goes specifically to my own family, Farnbachs and Skowhedes alike.

I want to write another paragraph about the Hales, because they deserve it, but I don't have time. They are a senior couple in our mission, and Elder Hale is the 2nd counselor in Nsawam. Words cannot express how much I look up to them.

I love you all very dearly. I'm honored to serve as one of those called to teach God's children, that they might be saved. I am humbled to know that God trusts imperfect me to do something so important.


Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 14, 2010

Now in Nsawam - Two Missionaries in Jail!

Dear Friends and Family, June 14, 2010

Well, first things first. This was going to be a rather jovial letter, but something serious happened, so we'll get that done. Two Missionaries, Elder K. (my former ZL) and Elder Om. (my mission half-brother), (both good friends of mine) were thrown in prison. We don't know why, but we have been instructed by President to remember them in our prayers. This was just today.

     I have been transferred. It was a little sad, since I've spent 6 months in Buduburam. I didn't have the heart to go around and tell everybody, but we did go see Sister S. She's a strong return-missionary, she and her husband both. They are the kind of people we need at the foundation of the Church, anywhere. Anyway, I was transferred to Nsawam. It's a few hours from the mission home, so I'm again in the bush, but it's a nicer bush. We have a weight-room and a sweet cafe. It'll be okay, but I had serious whiplash from how different/hard the work is here. In Buduburam, it rains investigators. Here, it rains a lot, and there are still NO investigators. We had to pull teeth to give lessons, even with people that are supposedly going to be baptized. I've taken over for a missionary who was going home, and sick for the last 2 weeks, so it's pretty much ground-zero. That is not his fault, mind you. Malaria is harsh. But it does add to my stress level a little. That, and I am again the District Leader, with the 2 most DISOBEDIENT elders in the mission as the other companionship. I mean, that's what I've been told...... by the mission president. It's a little difficult for me not to kick in the door, guns blazing, but I'd like to think this is the Lord's way of teaching me proper leadership, D&C 121 style. Elder Jo., my companion, is awesome. He was in the MTC the same time as Elder Qu., my trainee, and he's amazingly obedient. He was trained by Elder Mc., so it's to be expected, and it's nice. The area book is flawless and his planning skills rock, so I expect to learn a lot.
  Now, like I said, the work is difficult. This is the part of the mission that used to be two wards, until a bishop messed up, and now it's just one branch. This has really pressed Elder Jo. and me to spend a lot of time on our knees, asking the Lord to show us the right people. We've found a couple. We started teaching the chief of the village, which is awesome. As we studied how to work a "hard" area from the Book of Mormon, we read a lot about Ammon. We also met a woman named D. Everyone here requires you to chase them down. We had to go by her place 4 times to have her to sit down with us, but when she did, it was very spiritual. The topic really hung on to the idea that the Gospel is a family affair. Heavenly Father, His Son, Jesus Christ (our elder brother), and Elder Jo. and I (her brothers) were all working together so our sister could have eternal life. She became very accepting, and the Spirit bore unforgettable testimony to me that this woman really is my sister, and that she should be as important to me as she is to her Heavenly Father. I know that Nsawam will be tough, but I feel in my bones that Elder Jo. and I can turn it around. Elder Jo. is a little pessimistic, but I'm a little crazy, so it balances out, I'm sure.
Elder Jo. is sweet. He's a lot like I imagine working with Elder Kyle Jones would be. Very humble, not going to cause problems, but very obedient, and striving to set a good example and learn everything he can. He went to BYU. He also skipped a grade, so we really get along. We're going to work our tail-ends off and blow some minds. Elder Mc. told Elder Jo. that Kasoa district was doing some miracles, so it was cool to hear that those older work-horses notice how hard I worked. I've learned the gospel is about doing, so I'm working extra hard to SHOW my testimony, and not just say things. I hope it is working!
The other cool thing is Kasoa was re-opened, and President sent a veritable DREAM TEAM into that place. I was mad to slave out there, 3 months by myself, and then be transferred before it became awesome, but it's okay. Elder Ki., a good friend and MTC mate, took over for me, and I made sure to set him up with a nice transfer, so he can't blame ME for anything. ;) Elder Qu. is still there, so it'll be a good chance for him to step up and be senior until Elder Ki. gets a grasp of everything. Elder Ba., the former AP, is training as the District Leader in Kasoa, and Elder Ne. (my MTC, Elder Wardle's MTC companion) and Elder Ed. (Elder Qu's MTC and all around work-horse) are Kasoa 2. It's going to be off the HOOK! They'll have that place back into shape in no time.
  I just wanted to take a second to bear testimony of the absolute divinity of the Book of Mormon. We asked for 2 cases, so we can just flood this place with it. I know the words contained in the Book of Mormon are the words of Christ. It pulls us closer to God and fills our minds with virtuous thoughts. I know it is the key to our message, and the foundation of our claims. I love it, and invite all, member or non-member, to read and pray about it.
   Love you all. We will be receiving mail every week because the office couple is also the 2nd counselor in the branch presidency here. I'm always happy when the Spirit (and my mail) reminds me of how wonderful my life is, because of the people in it.

   Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 7, 2010

Intellect/ Spirituaility #40

Dear Friends and Family,                                                                                                                                                                                 June 7th, 2010

I want to start this e-mail with a few quotes/talks I've found going through old Conference editions I've discovered as I've packed things. Not that I'm sure of a transfer, but technically, we should be moving on Transfer day either way, and I've only packed things I don't use regularly. Anyway,
"The Future is as bright as your faith!"- President Monson
"I am a nobody... if [I] ever forget it, the Lord will remind [me] of it instantly, and it will not be pleasant." - President Packer
"None but fools will trifle with the souls of men" - Joseph Smith
"I am reverent, for reverence is love" Primary song
"Sunday Will Come" - Elder Wirthlin (I highly recommend this talk!)
"Let Us Be Men" - Elder Christoffersen (the best talk ever)
"Discipleship" - President Faust (also awesome)
I love the Conference editions. I hope to collect a stack of them when I get back home. How blessed are we to have living Prophets and Apostles to fill us full of insight into the mind of our Heavenly Father?!

     These past few weeks have been a great example of President Packer's quote up there. Last week, especially, Elder Q. and I felt like we had a lot of lessons that didn't pan out the way they should have. As we sat down and talked about it, we realized we've been a little prideful.... well, a lot prideful. Getting a shout-out at Zone Conference for our efforts last transfer didn't help. Anyway, it hasn't been that we sit around telling everyone what awesome missionaries we are. Rather, it was manifest in our teachings. We've been too intellectually centered. We have not been relying on the Spirit, but rather our own brains. Which is why last week failed so miserably. Not to say that the Gospel can't make sense intellectually, but rather that it just doesn't penetrate that way. As we taught a well-to-do doctor, it came out of my mouth (meaning, I don't remember planning on saying it) that his intellect was getting in the way of the Lord. God does appeal to the intelligentsia in His methods because that's just not going to help all His of children. The Spirit and prayer are for everyone, even the illiterate and ignorant. It is the spiritual, and not the rational that God asks us to rely on.
     This leads to a powerful scripture I found in the Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 32:5. The context is this – It is just after Nephi has made clear the Doctrine of Christ, which concludes with the importance of enduring to the end. Nephi, with prophetic insight, realizes the next question is "Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are tangible things. How do I endure to the end?"
2 Nephi 32:5
" For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do."

This is why the guidance of the Spirit and relying on the Lord is so important. God cannot flesh out His will for each of His children in the scriptures. There are billions of us!! Instead, we are invited to "ask, seek, and knock" to know what we must do to endure. Now, to do this requires personal righteousness. As Elder Q. and I recognized our weaknesses and attempted to correct them, we realized the Lord has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. One man who was investigating the Church in Liberia, but lost contact when he moved here, sprinted over to us. "My people! I've found you!" One sister walked by later, and in the middle of a lesson with someone else, asked "Excuse me. How can I find the real Church from the Bible?" A member appeared during a lesson, and realizing we were teaching his cousin, immediately testified and resolved the investigators concern. The Lord has blessed us as we remember that we are “nobody".

Striving to act upon the will of God, and repenting as quickly as possible, THAT is personal righteousness. This was especially evident as President Smith talked to us last Zone Conference. "I start to receive promptings for what is to be taught here about 10-12 weeks out," he said, "and the Spirit has been persistent in saying 'Your missionaries are doing well, but they would do so much more if they would strive to be more obedient!'" Obedience is synonymous with personal righteousness. It is what is required in order to handle the powers of heaven. We then received a thorough instruction on Christ. What is it that made Him our Savior? Was He created better than us?

Wow, this is going to get disorganized, but it's relevant. This also connects to the fact that most people we taught this week were intellectuals who struggled with the concept of Spirit, and Soul.

Christ was the firstborn of the Father. This does not refer to His status as Only Begotten, but rather, in the spiritual sense. We all were created spiritually before we were born. We lived with God before our birth on this earth. Christ was the first created by Father.  If we were to go back into our spiritual memories, there would never be a time we could find without Christ. Now, this being said, the means by which God created Christ was not different than you or I. His status as Firstborn did not give Him any edge. His greatness and glory stem solely for His obedience to the will of the Father. Indeed, in His existence, He never once went contrary to God. As he obeyed the direction of God, this gave Him greater glory and power, as God's commandments are just directions down this path. We loved and revered Christ as our older brother. His obedience prepared and qualified Him to be sent as our Savior and Redeemer. Throughout His mortal life, He never deviated from His course. I say His, because under the direction of the Father, He authored and set in motion the plan of salvation. The atonement was as much His desire as it was Heavenly Father's. Anyway, in His perfect life, it was His humility and deference to the commandments of God that gave Him power to perform miracles, to heal the sick, and ultimately, break the bands of death.

This reflects 3 important aspects of my testimony. I know that we are spiritually the children of a loving Heavenly Father. I know He will lead and guide those who wish to be. I know that Christ, our eldest brother, lived a perfect life, and ultimately suffered for our sins, opening the path to overcome spiritual death. He died on the Cross and rose the third day, giving us the gift of immortality. And I know it is through humble obedience to the Lord that we can claim these blessings for ourselves.

Now, as the last thing I learned this week, I add this. Our testimonies are nothing without action. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, our testimonies are lifeless shells if shared only on the first Sunday of the month. I hope that to the people of the Buduburam ward, as well as you, my dear friends and family, that my testimony is evident in what I DO, and not just in what I say.

Elder W. Farnbach