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