Monday, August 30, 2010

#52 - Showing the way to happiness

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 30, 2010

I have a little list of topics sitting in front of me that I want to talk about, so this may be a long one.
     This week was the best of my mission. I have felt the guiding hand of my Heavenly Father in even the way I think, and I am grateful for the opportunity I've had here in Ghana to learn and grow. I know that Heavenly Father knows and loves each one of His children individually, and that if we as missionaries will let Him, He will teach those children what they each need to know. As I said to my companion, I felt like a Spirit-guided bomb as lesson after lesson appeared to be right on target. One particular brother we've begun teaching is the exact kind of person the Gospel is calculated to help. The man is very intelligent, well-off... and he drinks himself stupid and smokes his life away. His dear friend was just like him, but joined the Church a year ago. We met this man, and invited him to Church. What blew him away most was seeing his old drinking buddy in a spot of honor, blessing the Sacrament. As we sat down with him for a lesson, though, he immediately expressed concerns about the Book of Mormon, saying that it seemed to him to be a fabrication, and he could never accept it. I know the Spirit was right there, because it just popped out of my mouth. "Brother Ay., I'm going to be honest with you. You are a smart man. You are one of the most intelligent people I've met. You're home is nice, and you are very well off. And if I'm not wrong, you are not happy." His face changed immediately. "I have to be honest with you, I've never been happy." "That's exactly what the Book of Mormon is for." He paused for a few moments... "Have you ever gone wayward?" "Not really" "Then my problem now is, you have no idea what my life is like." Enter Elder Ho. "Let's read Alma 7:11-12... You see, we really don't know what you are going through. But the Savior does. He has been where you are, and He can get you out again." Never have I seen a more wonderful example of a lost soul who wants to be found. This is the exact kind of person we were sent to help.
     We also had a mission tour this week, and I was interviewed by Elder O. He asked a lot of questions about what I felt like the future of the Church was here in Ghana, and if we were preparing our people to strengthen the Church. I smiled, as this has been a focus for Elder Ho. and me. I talked about how I've been assigned to this same stake nearly my whole mission, and it's been a great privilege to be able to keep an eye on those I've taught. Some have gone less active, but in general, the families have all stayed. The Church here in West Africa will blossom in ways I cannot even imagine, and it will bless the lives of thousands of my brothers and sisters here.
     It was during this interview that a thought came into my mind. It has really redefined how I look at this work. The Spirit whispered to me to remember that my own mother is a convert. I am so grateful for the missionaries who found and taught my mother. I am grateful for the powerful conversion it must have wrought, because I had long forgotten that my mother didn't grow up in the Church. As I look at my wonderful family, I know I will work my hardest to be that kind of missionary. My mother is the most converted person I know, and it has blessed my life, and the lives of my brothers, sister and father in ways we cannot really count.
     That's the other thing that has really been on my mind. Maybe I talked about it last week, but it came up again. How blessed am I, to have been allowed to make sacred covenants with my Heavenly Father? I am grateful for the Priesthood I hold, and for my Patriarchal blessing. Why have I been blessed so abundantly? If for one moment, you think I think I have earned it, you are terribly wrong. These are gifts I have done nothing to deserve, and they are gifts that my investigators have just as much right as me to have. God has sent me to take these blessings He freely gave me, and pay them forward. I will do all in my power to extend to all the same opportunity. At our Mission Tour, Elder Te. was allowed to bear his testimony, and he put words to my thoughts perfectly. "Nothing is more important to me then my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." This has popped up time and again in our lessons, and will be something of a motto for the rest of my life. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father to be where am I, to be sent to the family I was, and to know the things I know. This is where His children belong.
     We have begun working with one brother, Emmanuel. He saw a service project the Church was doing, and was interested. As we sat down to explain the Restoration to him, he said the most powerful thing I'd ever heard. His immediate concern was not for himself. He quietly said "... So many other people are being deceived." He then regaled the litany of things his friends had told them about the Church and the Book of Mormon. One reached so far as to say "They don't drink Coke." "... what does that have to do with anything?" Needless to say, he is showing one of the signs of true conversation: Concern for others.
     I've also seen the Lord guide us as we've sought to receive inspiration for our Zone members. As I sat counseling one on how to deal with his companion, ideas started coming to mind that I'd never had before. God truly does stand at the head of the Church, and He directs it's affairs through revelation.
     In a humorous note, we were given a ride with a member to church. She was horribly late, though, so we missed the Sacrament. As if this weren't sad enough, we walked in... and saw the First Counselor in the Area Presidency seated at the front. And he totally caught us. Ouch! The whole time he spoke, my companion and I winced. I think he realized the Spirit chastened us enough, though, because when we met him afterwords, he was all smiles. Elder Di. is a wonderful speaker, with a powerful testimony. I love hearing from him. We talked to him about our concerns, as so few of our investigators had come to church. It really devastated me. But even in that, I found a real blessing. As I thought on those feelings, it was different. At the beginning of my mission, I'd be upset, because this made my work infinitely more difficult, and I'd missed my goal for the week. This time, I was deeply saddened because I recognized all the blessings these people had missed, including hearing from a General Authority, and delaying their chance to make and keep sacred baptismal covenants with our Heavenly Father, especially as I considered the wonderful lessons Elder Ho. and I had taught this week. Nothing is more heartbreaking then watching someone feel the Spirit, and then turn away from those feelings. That, I think, is how a missionary should feel, and I'm starting to get there.
     We both suspect Elder Ho. will be leaving. I'm sad about that too. He has probably been one of my best companions, and we were perfectly unified in our goals, methods, and teaching. I never had a moments worry about him, and it is hard to imagine having another like him. But, he has been here 6 months, and other zones could definitely use his skills. Our zone has thrived under his leadership.
     I love you. I bear you my testimony that God loves you, and it is my prayer that He will richly bless you. He knows you personally, and has known you for as long as you've existed. Allow Him to lead you, and you will find happiness as only He knows how to bring.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, August 23, 2010

# 51 - Listening intently -- food that hurts :)

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 23, 2010

     Well, we went through a lightening fast pride cycle. That's the best way to put it. Last week, we came off an awesome week, with tons of great people and lessons, and our zone flying high. So we became a little lax on some things last week. Nothing shattering, mind you... or so we thought. A lot of people didn't come to church, and our zone as a whole took a quick down-hill ride. So, we're going back and doing what we did that awesome week over again, and begging the Lord to forgive us our pride.
     This Saturday was when it all came to a head. One investigator we both thought was awesome showed up to our baptism (not his, thankfully) completely hammered. He was falling-down drunk, for lack of a better term. This was as he was walking up and we were telling the other missionaries how awesome he was. Oi... That night, I spent a lot of time worrying. Really, all my worries stem from how well I'm doing, and how well I could be doing. Brigham Young said that the sin that will cling most to the posterity of Adam is that they didn't do as well as they should, and my greatest fear is I'll serve, and when I go to the temple, the Lord shows me all he'd expected of me, and I find myself coming up short. But as I spent all Saturday night stewing and churning over that, the Spirit calmly pointed out that it is for that exact purpose that Christ atoned for us. He makes up the difference between what we could have done if we performed perfectly, and what we fumbled through. My worries, though neither invalid nor purposeless, were swallowed up in the hope that comes from our Savior. I need to do the best I can, but I also need to forgive myself and rely solely upon the merits of He who is mighty to save.
      It was also in this furnace of adversity that I started to really listen for the quiet promptings of the Spirit. We teach, over and over, the gentle promptings and whispers of the Spirit, and I'd realized that I haven't been as attentive as I should. Saturday and Sunday was spent quietly meditating for the sake of listening. Oh, it was worth it. I love music and company, letters and administrative work, but I put all those things aside for a few hours and just calmly listened. Even though I'm still prone to worry, I feel better. I felt the calm reassurance that everything will be okay. That is what faith feels like, I think. When we are down, we should seek the Lord, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, that's what will come.
     Two sisters came to Church LAST week that are awesome. Mabel and Millicent. They've been pondering joining the Church for 10 years. Not sure what changed their minds thus far... actually, I do. The Spirit prompted them to come to Church. But what THEY think it was, I'm not sure yet. Collins and Frank were both baptized. Collins has been amazing, and was almost late because he was in Accra buying white shirts, as he would be made part of the Priesthood on Sunday. There is a guy who understands. And Frank... well, Frank was the first man Elder Ho. and I contacted together. We had to go very slow with him, and frankly, neither of us thought we'd be the one to baptize him. But last Sunday, the Spirit prompted us to see if he wanted to be baptized that week. What? Well, he did. We went, and the first thing he talked about was how much he loved the Book of Mormon, and how he couldn't understand how anyone would think badly of it. It was the seeds of a testimony we saw there, and we realized why the Spirit invited us to water them. (Oh puns...) Their baptism was one of the most spiritual I've had all mission. I'll confess, with all the rushing around we have to do, it is easy to get caught up in the work (physical labor) of the actual baptism. But not this one!
     We had interviews this last week. I love talking to President. It was awesome, except... it was the first mail day I didn't have any letters... :(  We are also having a mission tour this week. Some Area 70 is coming. I don't know his name, but it'll be good. I'm also going on Splits with McCarthy Hills district leader, Elder B Bi.. Man, that kid is awesome. He played guitar for Synthesis.( BYU's wicked sweet Jazz band).
     The members fed us quite a bit this week. Banku and peppay (hot peppers) for like, 4 meals. In Ghana, men don't cry, but I bawled like a little baby. I don't get why people like food that hurts. It's like eating a huge plate of ribs and then asking to be punch in the mouth repeatedly. Why would I do that?
     On a much more spiritual note, I've been reading a lot by Brigham Young lately. My favorite thing he said can basically be summed up as "We're not preparing FOR Zion. We're preparing Zion." Let's stop waiting for God to do things for us. We cannot ask God to do anything we ourselves are not fully willing to do. We need to do anything and everything we can to bring such a desire to pass. Elder Be. loved to say "Pray like everything depends on the Lord. Work like everything depends on you.” This, coupled with repentance, turning our desires to the Lord's, will bring about the paradise everyone talks about. That's really what it will take, and that's why it's taking so long, I've decided. To paraphrase Kenny Chesney's latest cover - Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to do anything for it now.
     We're having lunch with a member from the States, so this e-mail may be a little short. I'm excited, though. Chicken and french fries!
     Love you all!
     Elder W. Farnbach


Oh. Here was another cool thing that happened. As we were walking by the mosques in our area, they were doing the call to prayer for the evening, around 6:00pm. There were two mosques... and they were harmonizing! It was awesome. I'd always heard that the call to prayer was a beautiful thing, but in most single mosque areas, they just were just sounds (since I don't speak the language). But here, they worked together. It was really cool.

Oh... another addendum. I realized something vital. I love the Church, and everything the Gospel gives me. I love my temple recommend. I love knowing my family is sealed together forever, which is really the source of all hope for the future. I'm grateful for the privilege  to hold the Priesthood, and preach the Gospel. I love my Patriarchal blessing, and the source of personal revelation that it is. I'm glad Heavenly Father lets me pray and talk to Him wherever, whenever. I love the Covenants I've been allowed to make, and am humbled, because I know nothing I've done makes me more deserving of them then my investigators. My goal is now to be an instrument in God's hand to extend those same blessings and privileges to as many as will receive them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

#50!!!!! -- interviews in Buduburam

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 16, 2010

... this week was awesome. Just awesome. It started when Elder Ho. and I sat down last Sunday, and we basically said "Look, it's tough right now. Our area is suffering, and we're wearing down. We can either a.) die, or b.) work." We opted for the second. We made a big list of things we don't do well and can improve on. Then we made a list of ways we can fix them. Then, I made a giant T-chart of the whole thing. I have grown powerful in the ways of T-charts and whiteboards. Our whiteboard was beautifully overhauled as well, which allows me to see not only the numbers, but the names of all the people each companionship are set to baptize. Our area book is perfectly up-to-date, and our zone has never been stronger. We are doing in 4 weeks what we used to do in 6.
     The other big difference is, even though we were overhauling ourselves, we also recognized that it wouldn't be the difference between success and failure. We kneeled in prayer and we told the Lord that we've been struggling, and we know it's our own fault. We told Him that we were sorry for failing to counsel with Him, and that we really need His help this week. That's really what did it.
     We set a goal of having 5 new faces at Church this Sunday. We pushed out lesson after lesson, contact after contact, and every day we'd say, "Holy heck, that was awesome!" Then we'd sit down to do our planning, and the effort would just hit us all at once. We'd promptly pray, and go to sleep. The week ended with us having 8 new people at church, including Gladys and her son, Sammy AND her sister. It was awesome, seeing the Lord bless us for just a little hard work. The real trick is, if it only happens once, it was the exception, not the norm. If we don't repeat, it means nothing.
     THEN, Elder Be., the District Leader in my beloved Kasoa district, called and said he had too many interviews to do, and needed us to come do some in Buduburam... Well, he twisted my arm! I was able to go down and see the Swary's who are still amazing, and managed to bump into almost all my families there. So far, so good. Mary F. is struggling a little, but all in all, they really hard holding strong! We spent the rest of Sunday there because Elder Ki. and Elder Ev. are doing some great work, and it took all day. We arrived home just in time to report our numbers, and promptly crash.
     We've been working a lot more as a mission and as missionaries world wide to read and use the Book of Mormon. I bear testimony that it truly is God's word. It is a powerful reminder that God is mindful of all His children, wherever they are in the world. It is a record of scripture written chiefly for our day, and is a pure vehicle for the Spirit. No one who is academically, spiritually or intellectually honest can overlook the Book of Mormon without reading it, and accounting for it's origins.
     We also have been emphasizing the power of personal prayer. What a blessing to be able to speak to the greatest being in the universe, anytime, any where, without appointment!
     I've also noticed this past week the subtle hand of the Lord as I have gone about my studies. These new principles are things that I have been studying and working on for a while now, even before it was revealed to us. Not that I am boasting, rather just the opposite. What I thought were really good ideas are really just revealed principles by God. Dang. Here I was thinking I was the clever one. It did feel good, though, knowing that my companion and I are just as entitled to revelation as even Church Leaders, though in a much smaller sphere.
     Mail was wonderful this week. I guess last DearElders were backed up, because I had so many this time around. I do so love hearing from you all, and the other missionaries in the field. I promise, though, I am still hard at work, and loving every minute of it. I'll be home as soon as I am done, and not a minute sooner.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, August 9, 2010

#49 - Conviction

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 9, 2010

     Well, this past week has been the hardest of my mission, bar none. Elder Ke. and Elder Om. (the one hit by a car earlier in my mission) were unjustly convicted, Elder Ke. for 7 years, Elder Om. for 10. There will be an appeal, but the justices are literally on vacation, and will not reconvene until October. Words cannot describe how upset I am. It is a reminder of just how much public opinion really is against us here. The Church is still very young, and many have no concept of who we are outside of the gossip, ….and the rumors are horrible. It sounds like a sick joke, but people really do believe we drink blood and practice all sorts of evil rituals. They blatantly ignore the conspicuously large "Jesus Christ" on our sign-boards and name tags. I know it was the Savior who built this Church, and the Savior who sent me to Ghana though, and I'm here to find the people who are willing to look past all the confusion and lies and allow the Spirit to touch their hearts and minds. Really, there is no greater joy then finding that great Truth and Rock to which we can anchor our lives.
     Elder Ho. and I have been, justifiably but unacceptably, down these past few days, and we are on a real push to change that. As Zone Leaders, we look like the kings right now with our zone members resembling the sons of Mosiah (two of them are now in jail, for example) but personally, we're struggling a little bit. Gladys, our dear sweet Liberian awesome sister, is experiencing the pressures and persecutions that naturally come when you look like your moving forward. It's really tearing her up, and us to. It's frustrating to me that her husband (who hasn't seen her in two years, mind you) feels entitled to direct which church she wishes to attend. HEAVEN FORBID she becomes a "Mormon". Oi vey...
Our new apartment is very nice, visibly speaking, but amenities-wise is pretty miserable, adding to our foul moods. We haven't had steady water since we arrived there and we've lost the natural air-condition that came with living 3 stories up. All of Saturday (aside from a Baptism!) was spent sweeping, mopping, and then moving, then sweeping, mopping, and moving. It was not a happy time. Luckily, we'll be going to ShopRite today with the extra money we found while cleaning to buy some jelly to go with Delynne's peanut butter and hopefully bratwurst and other goodies (they have something like Violet Crumbles here, except with REAL HONEYCOMB!) [ his favorite candy bar ]
     Also, Baptism. Felix A. and his awesome daughter Miriam are now the newest members of the Church! Miriam is 11 and brilliant. Felix is now tasked with helping his family understand and find what he has found. I'm hopeful, for sure.
     A lot of our lessons this week focused on how feeling the Spirit feels. I have about a billion scripture references saying the same things. “A still, small voice, mild but piercing, accompanied by a burning in the bosom.” You know what I find amazing, though. With so many of Christ's post-risen teachings focusing on the importance of the Holy Ghost, it's mission, and the blessings that accompany it, you would THINK that more than just a few scriptures in the Bible would tell you how to know when you are feeling it, ESPECIALLY since we are taught that Christ is manifest to the Gentiles (AKA most of us) through the Holy Ghost. Alas, that isn't the case. 99% of all the scriptures I found were contained in modern day revelation (the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants). One story that came to mind was about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This teaches us an important principle: the Adversary's best attack is prevention. If you NEVER have felt the promptings and whisperings of the Spirit, it is infinitely easier to keep you in the dark. To that end, much of how to recognize these feelings is inexplicably missing from the Holy Bible. I wish to bear my testimony on the matter. The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, a person without a body, that God has sent to be a messenger and teacher to us. He will lead and guide us to "all truth" and "bring all things to [our] remembrance." He is a foretaste and an earnest of what the wonderful feelings of Heaven will be like, and that his guidance and companionship are to be sought for earnestly, with great effort.
      I love you all dearly, and have never felt so blessed to have such wonderful friends and family in my life as I have this past week. Take care of yourselves, stay out of the sun (oh wait, that's just me) and enjoy every minute of your life!
   Elder Farnbach

Monday, August 2, 2010

# 48

Dear Friends and Family, Aug. 2, 2010

     This last week, I can honestly say, we worked our tails off. We had a huge break on Friday, with a 6 hour training meeting, and then Elder Ho. had to stick around with the attorney to go over his testimony, but if you take that out, we didn't really ease up this week. We got really tired of proselyting the same old area over and over, so we went up to Deseret Hospital... Dr. K's hospital. I just had a great feeling about the idea of proselyting in a place called "Deseret"... and low and behold, it was indeed awesome. We were knocking on doors all over town for a good 2 hours and nothing was jumping out at us. As we were getting discouraged, Elder Ho. said "There is a reason we have been knocking for two hours. We just gotta find it." Then, we got to Sister Gladys' place. Gladys is a Liberian, who has always held a special place in Elder Farnbach's heart. I know of myself just how much Heavenly Father loves His Liberian children! We began teaching her just a little about the Book of Mormon, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and she seemed very excited. The Spirit was definitely there. As we left that place, we both said "and THERE it is!" On our second visit, she agreed to be baptized. Liberians! I tell ya!
     The fun didn't stop there, though. We went up to find Collins, a brother who just came to Church on his own. "I've passed these buildings for a year and a half, and it was always in my heart to come here."... so I whipped out 2 Nephi 33:1 "...the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men." So we explained to him that it wasn't his own mind, but rather the Holy Ghost leading him to the Church. He agreed to be baptized, too! Second case of awesome.
     THEN Aaron K. gave us another referral (by the way, I hope you all sit down, make a list, a prepare to refer someone to the missionaries. It takes a huge load off us with the whole knocking-doors thing.), which NEVER happens, and another random person just showed up to church (and to make it better, his sister is a member!). We'd been fasting and praying and working so that the Lord would lead us to people looking for Him. I'm glad to report, so far, so good!
     There were a TON of Obrunies at church on Sunday. Elder Ho. and I had no idea what to do with ourselves, to be honest. They were here from Weber State to do some medical service stuff. They rushed us and our "White Anxiety" kicked in like crazy. I noticed this about 3 months ago... I don't know how to be around people from the US any more. You folks are just weird, that's all :)
     Elder Ho. is off testifying today, so I'm on three-way splits. When he gets back, we're going to ShopRite for Bratwurst and Malts (Malt is actually Malta, a non-alcoholic barley-flavored soda. Weird? -for you Obrunies, maybe.)
     I ran into Elder Be. while I was tracting around Cantoments (President put me on splits while Elder Ho. was with the attorney). Man, it was good to see that kid! Like I always say, I'm a proud papa. And, I met my grandson! He's from Zimbabwe.
     We had to adjust over to the new monthly system that the missionaries around the world are using, so we've just begun getting trained on that. I can say that our new teaching method emphasizes listening to the Spirit way more then ever before. It feels so wonderful having the Gift of the Holy Ghost. What a blessing to have the promise of communication, protection and guidance from God at all times and all things and all places. Paul says that the Holy Ghost is an earnest, or foretaste, of the way Heaven feels. I've made it my personal goal to be "quick to observe" His promptings, and receive light upon light, "revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal." (D&C 42:61)
     I love you! I'm terribly surprised by how fast this last year has gone. Elder Ho. says the next one will be even faster. Let's find out!
 Elder W. Farnbach