Monday, October 25, 2010

#60 - Members help out

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                  October 25th, 2010

I'm not sure how to START this letter, but I know the gist of where it goes. Maybe in explaining it, a natural starting place will emerge.

     I've been saying for a little while that the past few weeks we have been trudging - much more centered on enduring than pressing forward. And that's when I realized, that kind of defeats the purpose. Opposition is there as something to push off of. Somewhere around Thursday night, that just kind of clicked. We were trudging around again after some appointments failed and I just kind of had had it, and started knocking every door I could see. We were led to many many of the most wonderful people I have ever met.
     The APs came on their first real 24 hour split with us. It was pretty okay. Most of the day was spent tracking down those people whom we had seen the day before.
      We had two lessons that really stick out in my mind. Abraham was one of those we contacted and he was easily the most skeptical. This manifested itself by subtly, calmly attempting to bash scriptures with us. To our credit, we did a pretty good job avoiding it. He asked, "What really is the summation of the message of this 'Latter-Day Saint' ministry?"... Elder Da. and I thought a minute. "The message is this. Christ came into the world to atone for our sins, giving us an opportunity to receive eternal life. We can only qualify for this through His Gospel: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by proper authority, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Because of wickedness, the authority needed for this process was lost. Though, God in His mercy has again restored it to the earth through the prophet, Joseph Smith, and this priesthood authority can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And everyone is invited to receive these blessings, especially you." He paused for a minute... and then proceeded to try and talk about priesthood and Melchizedek from Hebrews 7. We chased him down that lane for about two minutes, when the Spirit very clearly said to me "No! Don't fall for this. Go back to two seconds ago, where I was talking to him!" I just stopped and said "Brother Abraham, you've felt that what we are telling you is true, and I promise if you will go and pray about it tonight, you'll have those same feelings, just stronger." I'm hopeful for our next lesson, tomorrow night.
     The other really cool lesson we had was with Victoria S.. She is the wife of a recent convert, and she has just started investigating the Church herself. She doesn't speak English though, so we have to have members go with us. Our ward used to be notorious for a lack of member support, but in the past two weeks, 2 families and a bishopric member have come with us. It's amazing to see the sense of community that is building as we have aimed to involve members in our work. Victoria, I know, can feel the love as more and more friends appear daily. Members are coming out of the woodwork! And you should have listened to Brother Wood talk as we walked away from that lesson. "Wow! That was great! I'm going to call all of your investigators. That's how this should be!" Yes, Brother Wood. You get it!
     I have been praying for strength to be more diligent. Suddenly, our area book is spotless, our whiteboard up to date, and our apartment immaculate. But the real thing I've learned from all this is how I've been wasting the Lord's time doing anything less than this for the past few weeks. That's been the cause of a lot of personal sorrow, but I know as I repent, and redouble my commitment to do my best, I can be forgiven of it. THAT'S what the Atonement is all about. Never are we past the reach of His hand, and we can always take that hand and pull ourselves back up.
     Mail pick-ups and send-offs will be sparse for a little while, but the most it can take is a month. I am so grateful for all those who have taken a few moments to write me a letter. I have not lost a single letter my whole mission.
     We will watch conference not next week, but the following. OH! Also, President has revoked the rule that an investigator must come to church 4 times before they can be baptized. Now, it is 3. This has been the source of much excitement for the whole mission.
     Love ya!
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 18, 2010

# 59 - Transfers - No One In My Zone Moved

Dear Friends and Family, October 18, 2010

Well... I'm not sure how to put this week. It was pretty marginal the whole time, and then Sunday, nobody came to church. And by nobody, I mean none of our investigators. Bro. Markstaller put it best when he said, "The hardest times on a mission are when you don't feel like you are helping anybody." Did I mention we had 9 people who we really truly solidly thought would be there? This is probably the most work I've done with members, and I was so excited. Well, it didn't quite fly like I had hoped, but we've got to keep it up.

The Gospel is full of positive cycles, I've decided. Small and simple things bring great things to pass, because it just feeds upon itself. Take prayer, for example. When we pray with faith, our lives start going better, which makes us decide to pray more. This, I know, is a little contrary to the pride cycle we have found, but that is another force. When things get bad, Satan convinces us to pray less. Then things get worse, because we do not have the guidance of our Heavenly Father. Then we feel worse, and Satan tells us to pray even less. How backwards, and yet how true!

Godfred was baptized! I remember when we contacted that guy a few weeks ago, I did not think in a million years he would be serious. But as we taught our lessons, we just received this very clear, peaceful feeling. It was like everyone in Ghana turned off their amps for a few minutes and let us teach. By the end, he was just grinning and nodding his head the whole time. Then, he was baptized. It was so cool to see him just kind of blend into the congregation. Suddenly, he's on time, wearing a white shirt (still working on the tie) and oh, yeah, he's an ordained Priest! Too awesome.

We also baptized a young girl named Mary, who just moved in with our 2nd counselor. Well, “just” as in 2 months ago. She is 10. I gained a lot of respect for Brother Wo. from that. The first thing he did when she moved in was called her family and asked for permission for her to be taught the missionary lessons, and, if she so decided, be baptized. Rock on! And he's doing such a wonderful job teaching her. One thing I've really come to appreciate is the kind of character that can be developed from early exposure to the Restored Gospel. I'm always amazed by the change it can bring in people, and am hopeful for Ghana as more and more of their "Rising Generation" become bishops, RS presidents, missionaries, etc.

I went to Buduburam yesterday. Oh, how God loves Liberians! I was sad to note that I had a little more difficulty with the Liberian accent than I used to. It's been almost 6 months since I left! And almost a year since I first went! That means I've been out of my training area for a year now... I'm getting old. And in some little ways, I'm starting to feel it. Like I said, though, the goal is to get through this mission without anyone ever saying "Elder Farnbach? Great missionary, but TSEH, he's tired!” Anyway, we gave some interviews down there. I just remembered how grateful I am that I was able to be in the Refugee Camp for 6 good months! I loved the people there, and I've developed that love for everybody.

Oh, also, I saw two sheep be hit by cars while at the Camp. There was a bit of a metaphor. One ran across. Sheep naturally follow each other. So, another followed, and was hit badly. The third didn't know what to do, balancing the obvious danger with the desire to go where its friends went. Peer pressure? It was hit, too, but managed to get up and run off.

Our missionaries are doing all right, too. Actually, while Elder Da. and I struggled, the zone is probably the best it's looked in 6 months. It broke my heart to see McCarthy Hills struggle for so long. This week, however, they had 13 investigators at church (with McCarthy II beating the legendary Kasoa II by a significant margin!). This really lends itself to the point Pres. Monson was making. Elder Za. has been in that area for almost 10 months now. Many of our missionaries are getting old in their areas, and it generally has the same affect. "GET. ME. OUT!" Transfers shake things up, and make time go faster. But we are not here for ourselves, and just because we want to have some change in our lives is not reason enough to damage an area like a transfer invariably does. President has been doing this more and more (leaving missionaries in their areas for a long time), though we will see if that will continue. It does mean our Zone is due for a shake up by Christmas, though. Elder Bi., Elder Za., Elder Ki., Elder Jo., Elder Ac., Elder Ne. and I have all been here for 6 months or more.

As I was a little down during the week, I turned to old General Conference editions of the Liahona. How I miss President Hinckley! I could feel my attitude changing as the waves of continuous revelation poured over me. I found calm where I was flustered, and vision where I had previously put blinders. This work is so much bigger then the fact that Mabel and Millicent failed to come to church this week.

Letters --- Marta and Charlie both wrote me. How wonderful are high school friends! I also received pictures from Grammy. I'll probably run out of stamps as I intend to deluge the post office for Christmas.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 11, 2010

#58 - Bad Weather - 95 Year Old Convert

Dear Friends and Family, October 11, 2010

     Sorry the letter is late. We had a horrible storm last night, and it knocked out power on our whole side of the Greater Accra Region. Dansoman, Odorkor, McCarthy Hills, and Kasoa were all dark for about a day. Right now, I'm on a split in Dansoman with Elder Ki., a Ugandan who's just finishing his first transfer on his mission. This means I'm away from my notes, though, so I can't promise it will be as thorough as I'd planned.

     This past week, we've been killing ourselves in all the best ways. I had to instruct on the Doctrine of Christ: Our Missionary Purpose, and it's really has me fired up about missionary work. It showed the whole week. Wednesday, we received a referral from the Stake President. It was an old pioneer member family who left the Church before the June Revelation (That's what they call the Official Proclamation #2 here. I love that name!), so they were never baptized. Now, at 95, Emmanuel A. and his wife want to come back and be baptized. With this wonderful family, I felt a lot like the prodigal son's father. "Oh, come back! Thank goodness you are back! We've missed you so much!" I'm going to do everything we can so that these two can receive the full blessings of the Gospel and the Priesthood before they pass away. As they told their story, I was shocked by how much the early Ghana Church sounded like the early Church in America. William Johnson was organizing unofficial branches all over, and was viewed as the head of the Church while he was trying to get Salt Lake to send missionaries. He went to Cape Coast to start things up there, and another man came in and diverted about 70% of the members and formed a different church, slowly phasing out the Book of Mormon and anything about Joseph Smith. Emmanuel followed this group. As the Area Presidency was interviewing early members of the Church, this man's name kept coming up, so they found him. Elder Golden invited this man to a Stake Conference, and there, he decided he wanted to join the Church again. And I am to help!!

     We've also been doing our best to work with the members. We have a recent convert named Frank S., and we've started teaching his wife. She had some very good questions about Eternal Marriage, so we decided to bring Bro. and Sis. M., who are just preparing to get sealed in the temple. Sis. M. converted her husband, and he's a brilliant guy, who knew Frank's brother at school. It still turned out awesome. President said member involvement, or the lack thereof, is Ghana's greatest missionary challenge and any improvement is big improvement. So we'll keep trying. The Elder's Quorum 1st counselor, Dr. Ki.'s son, is giving an investigator a ride, so that is progress!

     I learned a lot from my instruction, but the biggest ideas I gained were about repentance and our unique message. Repentance is not an event, it is an attitude. As Dad said once, there is no tit-for-tat in the Atonement. One sin does not require one repentance. As Alma showed in Alma 36, repentance is how we can be made free from guilt and pain in the past. When we repent, we gain light and understanding about God's plan, which fills us with a desire to sin no more, and to help others experience these same blessings. Our repentance can be measured in part by our attitude towards the Sacrament. The bread and water represent Christ, and if we are lax in our participation of this ordinance, chances are we don't really care enough to repent. The other thing to remember is that part of repentance is enduring to the end. As Nephi tells us, this requires a love of God and of all mankind. If we are not doing all that we can to help others to receive the same blessings we have, we are not pressing forward, we are moving backward!

    Transfers are Wednesday. Tomorrow, we find out who leaves and where they are going. I am praying that I stay. I never want to leave Odorkor. Sis. A., our RS president, just had her baby. She drove herself to the hospital, and home... 3 days later. That woman is awesome.

     I'm not sure what else to say. Like I said, I'm away from my notes. I want you all to know that I love what I've been called here to do. Sometimes, my letters may seem preachy, but that's because I know that this is true. Everything I've been sent to teach, I know firmly is true. I would be selfish not to share this with everyone. Repentance is real. Jesus Christ made everything possible in His infinite Atonement, through much blood, sweat, and tears. Surely, we can all do our part in this great Latter-Day work!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, October 4, 2010

#57 - Zone Leader Work in Odorkor

Dear Friends and Family, October 4, 2010

     Well, this week, by the numbers, was pretty bad. But you know what? I loved every minute of it. It was a crazy Exchange-athon, with me splitting with 2 of the new trainees, and Elder On. Most of the missionaries I was with have been on their missions for less than 3 transfers. That being said, I was very impressed, especially with Elder Co. Elder Jo. is also doing a fantastic job in Odorkor II, and area that functions more like a European mission then a West African one. It's a little odd. I've been around Elder Jo. for about 5 months now even though we were only companions for 3 weeks. He's a cool kid and a killer good worker. As our DL, we've made him aware that he needs to fix every companionship in his district, which includes us! He's really taken to it. I respect him a lot.
President Smith came to do apartment inspections. Jump back 6 months - President did and inspection when our apartment was in shambles. He looked at it now, and first thing he said was "Elder Farnbach, you've grown up!" Now, to be fair, I've been noted for clean apartments in the past -- 5 times (on my mission... Tyler Walker, say nothing.), and it was a fluke that he caught us during that one bad time. But it's true. I feel like I've grown a lot from my mission.
     As I have focused less on numbers, and more on people, I've found that I love my time here a lot more. Go., a random contact, has decided to be baptized. We were worried about a girlfriend, but he said, "Actually, I don't know why, but we stopped sleeping together right after you started teaching me." That is the Spirit at work. It's the motivating force that drives us to do good. It gives us strength to make changes that we otherwise would never try to make. Ki. , our on again, off again drunk has been officially off alcohol for three weeks. He seems happier and his mind more clear. And, he notices it himself. I wish I could pretend we were awesome teachers, but really, it was just the Spirit, working a mighty change in his heart.
     We've also tried to work more with the members. Mi. is still having Ghana problems, so we sat her down with our Relief Society President (who is 8.5 months pregnant, by the way). I love Sister Ab. She really is wonderful. I can't say the problem is being solved over night, but I feel like it was a huge improvement over Elder Da. and I hammering on her to just pray. Our Elders’ Quorum just called a counselor and everyone seems to be paying more attention to doing missionary work.
My big fear now is that I'll be transferred… at all, I mean. I wouldn't mind finishing my mission here in Odorkor. I work with the Stake Presidency now, too, so a lot of good can be done. All my converts are here, in this stake. Wards are about to divide and buildings are going up all the time. The work is flying forward here in McCarthy Hills, and man, I just love being a part of it. I never want to leave.
     Not much else to say. I just love everything and everybody. Thank you to those who take their precious time to shoot me a letter. Life moves so fast. I'm staring down the barrel of single-digit months left! I'm terribly sorry if you have written me and I have not written back. Please, if this is the case, let me know.
Elder W. Farnbach
P.S We won't see Conference until November...