Monday, September 27, 2010

# 56 Disappointing Week

Dear Friends and Family,                                                Sept. 27, 2010

     This week was one of disappointments. Baptism after baptism fell fell through throughout the Zone, for small reasons. One of the things I've come to realize is that 99% of all concerns missionaries face are not doctrinal. The doctrine of the Gospel is simple and makes sense. Dogmatic people may come along, but even the harshest concerns are resolved upon careful study and simplified teaching. What saddens missionaries the most are the dreaded social concerns. Sometimes these issues are hard for the obrunie missionaries to understand because the two cultures can be so vastly different. That, and as missionaries, we've given up basically all society in favor of the Gospel. This is where the members come in. I beg you, all who read this, offer a little time each week to help the missionaries. When we try to do it alone, we aren't nearly as successful.
     This past month would also be measured as a bit of a set-back to zone mentality. But in every challenge, you are given two options. You can lay down and die, or you can get something done. I have a lot of weaknesses, but one strength I've developed on my mission is being able to bounce back, and get to work. I'm excited to get going on this next month, and to leave old things in the past.
     Emmanuel is still pretty awesome, though there are now some complications and some business problems that may keep him from attending on Sundays :/
     Samuel S. is also starting to worry us. He recognizes that joining the Church means some major changes in his life, and he's worried about his ability to make them. I love that he has figured all this out and we are doing all we can to help him realize that these changes are worth it.
     Millicent and Mabel -- Millicent is having some problems that are strictly Ghanaian, and I don't know how to help her. My companion is also an incredibly westernized Ivorian, so we're having some difficulties working them out. Mabel is kind and sweet and wonderful, but is struggling with her ability to speak English and read. She can do it, but she has no confidence, and we cannot convince her children to practice with her. I love my family, and I'm grateful they were always there to support me.
     Kingsly seems to be very committed, continuing to come to church even after we caught him falling down drunk twice now. He seems to be on the up and up. Elder Da. and I both have grown to love this man, and are really praying that this month is his month.
     We have also started to try to work with our members more. Our Relief Society President is a really awesome worker even though she is 8.5 months pregnant. Some people come to church to be fed. Some come to feed. Whenever you are around Sister Ab., you feel spiritually satisfied.
     That's really it. My journal writing as suffered this past month. I'm striving to turn that around. I hope all is well at home. At the end of this next month, I will be in the single digits. [ for number of months until he comes home ] Time really flies as we try and do all that we can to magnify our callings. I'm giving it everything I have, which I'm discovering more and more is really not that much.
     Love you! I really hope to hear from many of you in the upcoming months.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, September 20, 2010

#55 - The 90 and 9 are at church

Dear Friends and Family, September 20, 2010

This past week... We had President come to our district meeting on Tuesday, and it was a wonderful experience. I would by lying if I said I was 100% comfortable whenever President is around, but it's always a wonderfully spiritual experience. Nothing focuses the mind like a deadly weapon being trained on you, so they say... Anyway, he looked at our numbers and cut right to the heart of the whole matter. "You are teaching plenty each week, but no one seems to be going anywhere." He then helped us see the difference between working hard and working effectively. We killed ourselves, working until 9:30 (sometimes, we come in a little late, even) but if people are not learning, converting, and making covenants with Heavenly Father, 35 lessons per week doesn't mean much. This was later confirmed by the Spirit, though I'll come to that later.
     Our greatest challenge in the Ghana Accra mission is a terrible rift that has formed between the members and the missionaries. The missionaries look at members and think "I've just given up 2 years of school, friends, education, family and LIFE, and you can't give up a few hours to help me teach!" and the members think "I have a job to do, a calling, 5 mouths to feed, a social life... you just expect me to drop whatever I'm doing to come teach someone I don't even know?" Neither argument is unfair, to be honest. This is the general rift everywhere. How to overcome this? Well, someone has to bow to the other, and the only person we control is ourselves. I'm attempting to humble myself, and try to build a relationship with our bishop. I've also been informed I need to be meeting with the Stake President every month. This last Saturday, we met with him, and it took up a lot of time, but at daily planning that night the Spirit confirmed to me that we had succeeded that day, and that we are laying the foundation for a great work. Other cool things I've learned: One of my recent converts in Kasoa is now the Relief Society President!! I was so happy to see Sis. Qu. there. Also, Elder Me. [his companion in Abomosu ]is now Brother Me., and is the Ward Mission Leader in Dansoman, one of the wards in my zone. It was cool/ a little strange to see him again, post mission.
     We had an insightful leadership training on the importance of coming to church. Wait... that was last week. Uh-oh, my mind is getting all blurry. Did I talk about church? Maybe I did, but it's been coming to my mind more and more this week. The Savior gives a wonderful parable about the ninety and nine, and the one. Where does the Savior put the ninety and nine? In church, with his Relief Society Presidents, Bishops, Elders Quorums, Home Teachers, etc. President put it best when he said "Many people go to church to be fed. It is a place of safety from the cares of the world. It is a refuge. But those who truly understand, also go to church with the goal of feeding others." Really, I love to be at church. I love being in the classes and seeing the leaders tend the flocks. I was just at a stake leadership training. That's really an ordeal. I never fully appreciated how much work (unpaid work, even) is done to "keep [us] in the right way".
     What else... Let's talk about some investigators. We've been teaching a man named Emmanuel for a while now. He saw a service project of the Church and became curious. This man was given a Book of Mormon a few weeks ago and is just now finishing 2 Nephi. It's amazing to watch the Spirit teach this man. We were teaching him about Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Priesthood and he said, "Does this have anything to do with the Mount of Transfiguration?" ... High five, Emmanuel! He'll be baptized the 16th, if all goes well. We've also been teaching an Ivorian named Samuel S. He was going to be baptized this Saturday, but he wants a little more time to know if it was true. As we were leaving, it came into my mind to point out something. Though we can teach him in English, he responds best in French (because his English is mostly a Nigerian form of Pigeon). He also understands better in French. Is it any coincidence that, of the 3 French speakers in this mission, (and, to add, only one was eligible to be made my companion, anyway) Elder Da. is sent to be my companion RIGHT as we contact this Ivorian man? Absolutely not. Heavenly Father wants Samuel to know what we can teach, so badly that He is willing to rearrange a whole mission to make it happen. Brother S. smiled. I know he knows everything we teach him is true, he just doesn't know he knows yet.
     Not much else going on. I'm going on Splits with Elder Bi. again. I love that kid. I love my zone members and I hope not to be transferred any time soon. Mentally, I'm already in November (September being almost over, and everyone who is going to be baptized in October is found already, so it's November time!), though, so I'm not quite sure what's going on right now. I've lost count of how many transfers I've been out, and I'm loving my mission.
     Take care! Happy Birthday to all September people!
   Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, September 13, 2010

Zone Leader Stress - #54

Dear Family and Friends, September 13, 2010

Another week has come and gone. I wish I could say this one was a fast one, but I have learned a great many things about myself:
1.) I stress easily. As a Zone Leader, I am close enough to inherit every problem every companionship has, but far enough away that I cannot really do anything about it. I would say I've become pretty good about managing many different activities at a time (No one laugh. You haven't seen me for over a year.), but it also makes it possible to stress about a dozen things at once.
2.) When I stress, I need other people to stress. This is ironic, because when other people stress, I'm generally able to calm myself so they can realize how stressed they really are, and make efforts to calm themselves down. But when I'm stressing, and no one else is stressing, I assume that they clearly do not grasp the gravity of the situation, and stress more noticeably to help them understand. Elder Da. is incredibly laid back, and everything is met by a very calm, French-accented "Don' worry" (Not “don't”, “Don'”) He is new at being a Zone Leader, so I forgive him. :) Everyone knows that in order to do this job, you should be a stress case. Right?
3.) I do not delegate well. Well, this is not entirely true, but my companion and I haven't quite hit a rhythm yet. This really means I'm not sure how much work I can ask him to do yet. Don't worry. I expect this to be solved this week.

I feel as though I've been caught up too much in the administrative aspects of missionary work, and I'm missing the bigger picture. I'm working to realize exactly what "salvation" really means. At the root, when people have no desire to hear our message, it's either because a.) They believe that they have already received salvation, or b.) They don't care. This second one sounds harsh, but I don't mean it to be. I'm of the opinion that Ghana is experiencing a kind of religious dilution, so much so that someone tried to tell me that Islam and Christianity are really the same religion. It is like when we repeat words over and over, they lose all meaning. Think of when you are walking on the streets. "Afternoon, how are you?" Who doesn't say "Fine"? But has that exchange given you any real information? Not at all, because the word has become a reflex, having no real attachment to meaning. Thousands of revivals (and I mean thousands) occur here each week. 21 day Power Crusade, 40 Day Fast and Prayer, 6 day Holy Ghost Fire Praise and Worship services are norms, and we are looked at as strange for not having them. This is where the restored gospel should come in, but Satan has made it seem like so much white noise. Which was exactly his point, I think.

I've also been looking over the Apostasy, which I think should be a cure for this attitude. "Clearly, I am NOT saved" should be the result of such lesson. How true is it! I don't even necessarily mean higher doctrines, such as temple ordinances, eternal progression, and the like. Simple simple things, like the Gospel consisting of faith, repentance, baptism by proper authority, and receiving the Holy Ghost are completely missing. A great deal of lessons we give come around to an indignation that the Church doesn't speak in tongues or use drums. It's very easy to lose sight of the "weightier matters of the Law".

The other thing we've really been teaching this week is Revelation. I know I talk about this all the time in these letters, but a simple question came to my mind that makes this very easy to explain. Peter is in front of you, and you have his epistles in the Bible. Problems arise. Where do you go? 99% of people say "Peter." Why? "Because he is getting the answer straight from God." Bingo! I'm very grateful for the knowledge we have of the priesthood and continuous revelation. How blessed are we to hear from the Lord constantly, especially this upcoming October!

We've really had a difficult time with our investigators recently, but our shining star is a young girl named Jackie. She has been coming to the church for over a year now, but there has always been difficulty having her commit enough to be baptized. This Sunday really locked it up in our minds, though, as she drove from Domei (phonetic spelling there) a small town near Nsawam, to come to church to be interviewed for her baptism. That's over an hour in Tro-Tros. Power commitment for an 18 year old girl!

Our Stake President, President X., is the most awesome person ever. He is just an understanding, caring, powerful leader. At 4' 8", 180 pounds, it's hilarious and awe inspiring all at the same time.

Love you all! Being a Zone Leader really speeds my mission up because my thoughts are already on next week, and October. I feel like I could go home any day now, and work my tail off accordingly. Take care, and tell Grandpa Bill to get better soon!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book of Mormon in Twi

#53 - Ivorian Companion

Dear Friends and Family, Sept. 6, 2010

I'm not sure I have too much to talk about this week. It passed rather quickly. Elder Ho. was transferred, like I said, and my new companion is from the Ivory Coast. His name is Elder Da., and he's pretty awesome. I was worried about having had only obruny companions the last 9 months, and suddenly having a native one, but I've enjoyed it. Elder Ho. and I were synced up on everything, and it's been a bit of a speed-bump not having that, but Elder Da. is very humble, and quick to adjust to me. :) I'm working on moving his way a little bit, and we've hit a nice rhythm now. Our focus is especially on being bold, which isn't so much opening our mouths for us, but simplifying the doctrines to the point of a 2 minute, single-point wallop that will help people understand why we are coming to them. It's helped a lot, even in the little time we've been here together. He's a workhorse, too. We had two half-days this week, what with transfers and ZL Council, but we still managed to power out 32 lessons. We also set a ton of dates and are staring down the barrel of an awesome next two months.

I had to give instruction at Zone Leaders Council. They gave me 2 hours notice, but it still went well. I'm amazed at how subtle revelation really is. These last two months, everything on which President decides to instruct has been revealed to us as a weakness two weeks earlier. I'd already been working on how to teach my zone members what the problems we were facing and how to handle them, and suddenly, it's the topic for my ZLC instruction. Poor Elder Da., after being a ZL for just one day, had to instruct too!

Roughly half our zone is training, so we have a lot of fresh faces. Elder Co. (Texas) and Elder Ha. (Washington) are our new obrunies, and Elder Wi. (I think South Africa) and Elder Ki. (Uganda). I saw Elder Co. on his first Sunday... I was never like that, I'm sure. Poor little greeny. He has no idea... hahaha. Anyway, one district is all training, so we are keeping an eye on all of them. So far, so good.

We've been working with some wonderful people. I know that President really receives inspiration on where to send people, because out of nowhere, a bunch of French speakers showed up. Hello Ivorian companion! Plus, I'm surprised by how much I remember and understand between their body language and their French. Apparently, my accent is impeccable. But seriously, they are awesome. Samuel, for example, can't believe how simple the Gospel really is. He was in shock when we told him he could ask God what really was going on. He was even suspicious, but when he prayed, we asked him, "So... how do you feel about the Book of Mormon?" Samuel:"Well..." "If someone asked you what it was, you'd say??" Samuel: "God's word" "See how easy that was?" "... Zut Alors!" And then one sister was really reluctant to listen to us teach anything more then generic Bible study. "You go pray and ask God if He wants you to listen to us." A day later, we received a call. "Elders, can you come?" Us:"Well, we're busy right now so..." Her:"Please, just anytime you are free, I'll make time." Awesome!

We are also working on helping the ward realize the importance of teaching their children. The Book of Mormon is full of references to the duties of parents for their children We found how far we have to go when the 2nd counselor said he had a 10 year old he wants us to baptize.

Oh! At transfers, I received some unexpected letters. I heard from Marie and NATE STOUT! Also, I received that letter about making a box oven. I am working on where to find tinfoil. Probably ShopRite. What will I ever do without ShopRite?

Also, lots of my friends are having birthdays. September is a fairly big month, so it seems. I'd love to write and say "Happy Birthday!" but I don't know where to send it. Just a little FYI for anyone with a September birthday. :P

Love you all!
Elder W. Farnbach