Monday, November 29, 2010

#65 - Back in Abomosu!!

Dear Friends and Family,                                                            November 29, 2010

     This one will be very brief. I'll try to add more tomorrow night, as we will be in the mission home for Zone Leader's Council. I am back in Abomosu. I've been predicting/hoping for this transfer for about 4.5 months. With the way callings work in our mission, President is getting pretty predictable.

Anyway, I came out here, and most of the branch presidents and the like remembered me and I remembered them. Elder Bi., my dear friend/ District Leader extraordinaire, was transferred up with me, and will be one of my district leaders here, too. I'm very happy for it. The kid is like my most trusted sergeant. I don't have to worry about wherever he goes, because he'll make it great. I hope Heavenly Father feels that way about me.

Anyway, on the car ride up, as I was thinking about this assignment, I kept thinking about what President said when he transferred me. "I want you to use the experience you've gained throughout your mission to keep those 5 branches moving!" (I'm not attached to a branch, but a district) and it struck me... this is it! This is really what I've been put here to do. The Preach My Gospel videos point out that 18 months is the height of a missionary's time out there... and I am spending it here. I have served here before. I have learned to work with certain missionaries, who are here now with me. So many things have come together for me to be in Abomosu, right now.

Elder Do., my companion, and I have this vision of Abomosu being the next village of Anti-Nephi-Lehies. So that is our goal. And it started today, as we walked 4 long hours to haul one branch mission leader's cacao through the swampy, marshy, sweaty BUSH! I hated every minute of it at the time, but I'm glad we did it now. We are going to do service every Monday. No one speaks English. The members are having a hard time teaching because many of them don't speak English, so service is a good tool.

The Terrys [ senior missionary couple ] are wonderful. We had calamari..... today... in the bush. Sister Terry is amazing. We have to drive to and from the mission home a lot as zone leaders and again with Christmas coming up. They drive us up and down, 3.5-4 hours each way, no complaints. Plus, she's always handing snacks back to us. I love them so much. I hope to be that kind of example here.

I love you. I love missionary work. I love Abomosu! I love Heavenly Father, and I know He loves me, and you too! Take care of yourselves, and work very hard to do everything God has assigned you to.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 22, 2010

#64 - All Africa Stake Conference

Dear Friends and Family,                                           November 22, 2010

     This was a pretty awesome week we had this week. The best part was the All-Africa stake conference we had. But I'll come to that last.

     In our mission, there is very little to do on P-Days. I hear about people going fishing and to museums and waterfalls and stuff, and I get kind of jealous. Well, we didn't do anything awesome like that. But to us, awesome is a pizza place that opened up near the Chapel, and getting pizza with a nearby district. That was a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, the APs decided they needed to split with the other Odorkor companionship, and contributed nothing to the cost. Bad form, Assistants!

     We had another zone training that same day. I've really started to enjoy rubbing shoulders with all the missionaries in my zone. Mostly because most of them have been here as long as I have (6 months and counting!). It's wonderful, because it allows me to see their growth. As I've always said, this zone has the best missionaries in the field. I love it here, and even though the last weeks of the month are always stressful, I don't want to leave. I know my ward, my missionaries, my recent converts, and my investigators. We have one shining star, and a snowball affect starting, in those regards. Godfred, a recent convert, is now best friends with Francis, an investigator preparing for his baptism. We're going to start a Recent Convert Club, in a way, and just keep setting people up with these two. They are so wonderful! The thing that impresses me most is Godfred is trying to adapt to the culture of LDS life. This is not to say unimportant things like our peculiar lingo, or our apparent love for Jello (still couldn't tell you where that came from, btw) are the difference between a Church-goer and a true convert, but as Elder Oaks said in our conference (paraphrased, due to bad notes) "The culture of the Gospel is vital and conducive towards living the Gospel." Godfred took Francis to a YSA activity Saturday night. THAT is what I am talking about. Being a Latter-Day Saint is notoriously notable. I would guess most of my WLHS friends could tell a Latter-Day Saint on sight. It's an impossible secret to keep without compromising what we stand for!

      Well, it looks like we're going to talk about Conference now. I don't really have much else to talk about. Our Conference was presided over by President Packer, with Elder Oaks, Elder Golden, and Sister Dibb invited to speak. I was amazed at how accurate these men were about the problems facing the people of Africa. Truly, we have living Apostles and Prophets. Elder Oaks talked a great deal about the culture of the Church, the importance of tithing, and the need for stronger family relationships. Sister Dibb focused on the blessings of the temple, especially for the youth. Elder Golden talked about the importance of listening to, and following the Holy Ghost. President Packer summarized the whole thing with a general statement of love for the people of Africa. In a single generation, we've gone from a thousand members to 52 stakes, and 53 districts! 2/3 of the members here in Africa live in Ghana, Nigeria, DR Congo, and South Africa. The other 1/3 are spread over 13 other countries. I was amazed. The thing I took most from it is the real hope that the Gospel gives the nations of Africa. It is no secret that Africa has had number problems over the past few years, but as the Church becomes stronger, these problems will fade away. Elder Da. is convinced that the faithfulness of Ivorian members is what prevented the civil war there from destroying their country. A new Elder just came from Cote D'Ivoire, and he said things are better then they have been in a long time there.

     I love being here in Africa at a time when so much good can be done. I love the people here, and I know of their amazing capacity of good. I'm working as hard as I can to bring down the blessings of Heaven upon them. I love you all, too. I'm grateful for the love and support I have felt. I have 8 months left, and I will make every moment count. Then, I will come home as quickly as possible.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 15, 2010

#63 - Power Out or Internet Out - You can't have both

Dear Family and Friends,                                                     November 15, 2010

Good afternoon! This is much later then my normal letters, because we had a perfect storm of problems hit us on P-day. But more on that later.
Let's go in order, shall we?

We went to the Cafe. I hear all sorts of great stories about what missionaries do on P-days. But not in Ghana. Great story, though. Someone attempted to pick my pocket. I watched him for about 15 seconds, slowly push my pocket open with one hand, and reach in with the other. As soon as the other hand was in, I confronted him. Amateur...

We went to the temple. What a wonderful relief. You really do leave the world when you go to the temple. My interview with President was also much-needed. There are few people I respect as much as I do President Smith. The man is just a pillar of spiritual strength.

Actually... I don't remember anything about Wednesday, other then District meeting...

Splits with Elder Jo. into his area. Man, I don't envy that kid. Not an easy area. He seems to be having a lot of the same struggles I do. I suspect the Lord was trying to solve my problem by getting me to solve his problem... which is also my problem. Clever, no? I think it is starting to work, at least.

The best day of my mission. Millicent Y. was FINALLY baptized. And I don't know what President Smith told her in her interview, but she hasn't been late to a meeting since. That baptism was also for Erabena, the daughter of our amazing Relief Society President Abena. It was a real ordeal, but I love Abena for it. She is really taken to the "Traditions of the Gospel" mentality. She made sure Erabena was baptized on her birthday, and then had a TON of food and cake for everyone who attended. Typical Mom/Ghana fashion, she brought the cake in, and immediately whirled on all of us. "Are you trying to spoil my angel's birthday? START SINGING!" It was the closest thing we've had to a ward social since I have come to Ghana. Really, activities are a great opportunity to help investigators feel like part of the Church. Do all you can, should someone new come, to welcome them, and make them feel included. They are our brothers and sisters, and for this "marvelous work", we could use all the hands we can get!

The most spiritual day of my mission. I'm not sure why, but we've been finding a lot of Franco-phones this past week. We had a return appointment with a sister named R., from Cote D'Ivoire, and a sister from Guinea/Senegal named A.. R. tried to bail out on us, so we started teaching A.. She's Muslim... but not really. Her family is. She goes to Christian church and prays like a Christian and believes in Jesus Christ. She just can't tell them yet. Anyway, as we taught her, people started coming out of the woodwork, including R.. As we talked, Elder Da. and I felt their wonderful desire to follow Christ, and serve God. As we did all we could to teach with the Spirit that lesson, that desire led them like moths to a flame. Except, we won't burn them. We gave them each a Book of Mormon and showed them everything we had talked about was contained in it's pages. The accepted immediately. "Only one hour? It should be more." "When are you coming again?" Oh, how I love my French brothers and sisters. The language never sounded more wonderful, and I understood more than I ever have. We also taught the St. family. They were great too. We've never managed to get them all at once, but again, we used the Book of Mormon. Because of all the children, we taught using only the pictures in the front. As I saw the whole family together, the Spirit was again strong. At the end, though Sister St. cannot speak English, she sent her daughter to buy Malts (a non-alcoholic barley drink), a real treat here in Ghana. Bro. St., the member, said "Mommy says, this time she likes the way you people teach." which made us happy... until we realized that this means we hadn't really had the Spirit with us before. Anyway, all in all Saturday was a great day.... .. Brother Mi. helped us teach Bro. Sa. Sh.. I love Bro M.. not a more enthusiastic soul in the world. In the end, he was like "Bro Sh. Just get baptized. I did, and I love it." It may have been what Sh. needs. Did I point out Sh. is an Ivorian too? Hence, God sending Elder Da. to Odorkor.

Sh. Came to church. That was it :(  I was discouraged, all day, but when we came back to the house, I felt a calm come over me. Things are going to be okay. We are doing great work. It will just take a little more time. It was perfect to read my Patriarchal Blessing again. "Remember, though, that they have their agency. Nevertheless, as you bear your testimony, you have fulfilled your obligation." I know these people will come. The Spirit was POWERFUL in our lessons. It's just a matter of time, now.

Now.... Monday.
Power out on the side of town that had internet. Internet was out on the side of the town with power... ARGH!

Training this week - Wednesday. Then Transfers (again?!) next week. Looking forward to that big Stake Conference next week.

I want you all to know, I know that Heavenly Father knows all His children. He cares for them, watches over them, and puts them in the situation most beneficial to their growth. He has orchestrated a grand plan, spanning thousands of years, so that you can be where you are, when you are. He has placed each of us with families to instruct and guide us, and given us the freedom to make choices. Our trials are our greatest blessings because no one feels good about accomplishing something easy! Hold fast to the rod. It is not possible to wait out the mists of darkness. Our only hope is to press out of them! Oh, and what marvelous light awaits us!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 8, 2010

#62 - General Conference

Dear Friends and Family,                                                       November 8, 2010

     First and foremost, this past week was General Conference! Now, normally, I try and turn this in to a bonanza with my investigators. In Ghana, we really like the idea of special church events and programs, and when you mention prophets and apostles, some people get really into it. Unfortunately, this has also caused a lot of investigators to be sick of all the false prophets they have seen, and have begun to have the opinion that all prophets are false. Bravo, Satan. Anyway, the other benefit was that in Buduburam (where I was 6 months ago...!) vans were provided to transport people to Conference. No such luck this time. 4 people came to church, which was an improvement on weeks past, to be fair, but not that extrrrrrrravaganza I was hoping for. Frank S's wife did not come, which made me sad, but ALL his children came. Yes, Frank! Samuel S., an investigator from long past, ran into us last week. As we left, he said "um... so when is the next baptism?" Both Elder Da. and I noted the humility in his voice. We are not sure, but we suspect when he stopped investigating the Church, when the Spirit answered his prayers and he decided not to act on that answer, he wasn't happy. It broke our hearts, because he truly is a great man, and we were so happy when he came to Conference. We watched the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning sessions. Elder Oak's talk on the two lines of communication to God was just what he needed, and he again expressed a desire to be baptized. We're handling it cautiously, because the minute he feels compelled, he doesn't want to. "Well... we are having one the 27th." He seems excited, and we'll see him this week. Did I mention he only speaks broken English and French? Another great investigator, named Francis, came for the first time today. He seemed to really enjoy it, but 4 hours of Conference is a lot to handle. He has a lot of past issues of which he wants to repent and the Book of Mormon has been a source of comfort and strength for him. What a blessing!
     I was also fortunate enough to go see Priesthood Session. All the talks were, of course, wonderful, and the generally missionary theme was much appreciated. The talk that struck me most was President Uchtdorf's. I felt humbled as I consider my own state. I am terribly sorry to all those I offended because of my pride. The idea that got me most is the possibility that there may be some who have chosen not to learn about the Restored gospel because of my actions and proud behavior. When I think of people I admire most, they are the most humble. I'm trying to be like Jesus... meek, humble and patient. Forgive me if, because of arrogance, I was sharp or demeaning. I will never do it again.
     I recently discovered the CD "Trek: a Nashville Tribute to the Pioneers". How I love our heritage! What powerful examples we have, and what a standard to live up to! It's affected how I view missionary work. I have an image of thousands of our African brothers and sisters, as their company prepares to leave for Zion. Handcarts heavy, but hearts hopeful, they press on to the Mountain of the Lord's house. I have been sent to this company, to pull with them, and bring them home. I love this work! I beg and implore you, watch for others who are making this journey. My favorite song on the album, "Fare Thee Well, Joshua" has these lines "There's children out there, following mothers -- Sisters walking next to brothers -- Fathers keeping those wagons going -- Everybody's got faith, they know you'll take My people home."
     What else... in local news, the Ivory Coast just had elections, ending the war they've been in. Elder Da. is very happy. We don't know who won yet, but the elections should have just concluded. He and Elder Za. in my zone are both Ivorians, and it's wonderful to see their country turn around.
     A new craze is sweeping Ghana. Telemundo! Don't ask me why, but they air the series one at a time. The most recent is something like "Don't mess with Angel" or something. Elder Da. studied a little Spanish, and tried to translate the name for me. At 8pm, Ghana shuts down, and everyone is glued to their TVs. It is kind of like Helaman Halls and the Office. Or maybe that was just my freshman ward.
     Transfers are coming too fast. Again, I'm praying to stay. A lot of people I know are starting to go home, including my former companion, Elder Ho.. I'll miss that guy.
     I didn't get to see all of Conference, but the 2.5 sessions I got to see seemed to focus a lot on Agency, following the Prophet, and Faith. I loved it. A thought came to me while Bishop Edgley was talking about faith and moving mountains. When trials come, it makes no sense to hunker down, set up camp, and pray that the Lord will blow the mists of darkness away. Instead, that is when we put two hands on the Iron Rod, and push out of that particularly bleak cloud!
     Take care, all. Love the Lord, and keep being amazing. I count it a special blessing to have so many role models among my friends and family.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, November 1, 2010

#61 - Ghana Census/God's Children

Dear Friends and Family,                                                 November 1, 2010

This week's letter would have been another frustrated one, had it not been a great deal of time to think and count my blessings this morning (The other elders really did a lot to clean up, so I didn't have to do it all).

First, we became part of the Ghana Census, 2010. My companion decided that I was the head of the house. So now I am officially the head of a 2 bedroom apartment in Ghana. It took about 30 minutes, but it made me feel really adult. Yes, I'm 20. I speak English, and I've completed 2 years of university. I am not currently working, and am not married. Any other questions, Ghana?

I've been very impressed with how subtle the Spirit has been. I had to give instruction on teaching people, not lessons. As missionaries, sometimes we get this idea that if an investigator understands a pile of doctrine, he will join the Church and be baptized. This is just not the case. These are not robots to program with lessons 1 through 4. These are God's CHILDREN! They have fears, wants, needs, concerns, friends, family, connections, etc. I've had multiple occasions (like this morning) when I feel like I'm in a crappy mood, and then I take a minute to take stock, and the Spirit tells me everything is actually okay, and that I should be really happy. A split second later, I feel great! But if I wasn't listening, I never would have known how great everything is. Think about it, isn't everything great?

Our Relief Society President blessed her baby yesterday. In Ghana, every event has to either come with food or gifts. So she bought a mug with the baby's name, birth date, and the occasion printed on it... for everyone in the ward. Well, 6 for each family, actually. So now, I have one.

Our zone is really taking off, even if my individual companionship isn't flying. As Elder Da. and I put 5 hours into administrative work between last night and this morning, I felt like we were still doing a lot of good. We obtained a second white board, so I can keep the names, ages, and information for all 76 people our missionaries are working with throughout the zone. At the top, I felt impressed to write "These are God's children. Take care of them!" Now, I feel energized and excited for the following month.

Mabel was baptized this past week. FINALLY! Really though, that woman could be a RS president. Because of how hard things are economically in Ghana, a lot of people give up. Not Mabel. She opened a salt business... and started selling little ice creams and ice blocks out of her freezer. She's going to build that up into a cold store, a place where they sell meat. Every set-back just spawns another plan with her. I was very impressed. She's also able to understand things very quickly. We were worried at first because she couldn't read very well, but as she applied herself, she's become a real scripturian! Godfred is also very eager about helping us baptize his girlfriend. I love Godfred. He's just a go-getter. He was one of 4 members in our ward to volunteer with a Stop-Measles vaccination campaign the Church is doing down here. Our ward has a lot of really old, pioneer members, but it's the recent converts who really have the fire. Makes me wonder how I'll feel at home. Will I have the zeal I expect of members here? I pray so.

We spent the Sabbath at Bishop's. Normally, I try and proselyte that day too, but Bishop had a lot of little things to do, which slowed everything down. We went to track down a baptism who was never confirmed (Jackie!) and then we went to his place. His children were watching Old Testament DVDs, where someone basically went through the Old Testament reader for children. It was so simple, but so much of it is lost upon a lot of the "doctors of divinity" we end up teaching.

We received letters this week. I've come to the conclusion that Heavenly Father put me in a mission with a mail delay so I could rely on Him for when things go wrong. I got a lot of really awesome, supportive letters from dear friends, including Kyle's mom and Delynne. That was so wonderful! I truly have the greatest friends and family it the word.

Happy Halloween, everyone! I guess that's technically over now, but not by much! Also, yesterday marked 15 months... wow!

Elder W. Farnbach