Monday, December 27, 2010

#69 Last Chrismas on My Mission

Dear Friends and Family,                                      December 27, 2010

Well, another Christmas has come, and gone. I told Elder Do., "You know the best gift I got this Christmas?" "What?" "That next Christmas, I'll be at home!" Don't get me wrong. I love a lot of what I do here, but no one likes spending Christmas away from his family.
     We had our Christmas Dinner last pie and pork roast! The other missionaries in my zone complain the Terrys spoil us. I point out that mine is the only real bush territory (as no one speaks English, we don't have net cafes, etc.) and that we've totally earned it. We watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas. I'd never seen it before. What a beautiful little movie. Jimmy Stewart is the man.
     I learned an important lesson this week. I'd just read Pres. Eyring's talk about magnifying our callings. I spend so much time trying to manipulate, record, and innovate my way in to being a better missionary and mission leader. It's really so simple though. Just do what you've been called to do. You do not need to re-invent the wheel to magnify your calling. I'll give this example. Tuesday was very rough. Our first two lessons were with non-English speakers. Now, most of the time, it's just unfortunate and we try to smile and jimmy our limited Twi into a loose form of communication. They said rude things to us in Twi, hoping that I can't tell. It just put me in the foulest mood and ruined that whole day. I was not feeling charitable and it drove away the Spirit. I didn't want anything good for anyone we saw that whole day, especially not baptism. Wednesday, I resolved that I'd find someone interested that day. During the first lesson, that was my object. It just turned the whole day around. It sped by as lesson after lesson was noticeably spiritual. Why? Because that is what missionaries are called to do. We are here to baptize. It's that simple. As I attempted to fulfill my calling, the Lord supplemented my effort. People were provided. I was given what to say and when to say it. I felt a certain approval from my Heavenly Father. When I was not willing to do that, I received no such help.
      I was also able to go on splits with Elder Be. again. It's cute when they are so young on mission. ;) I made him eat nothing but fufu and some intestines. By the way, this is not torture. I eat that stuff all the time. It's a little chewy and it's covered with little beads that are called villi, which look a little sill-i, but act as little vents. [ a little School House Rock humor ] (We ran into some pretty German girls that day, giving us the eyes. They came up and started chatting us up. Elder Be. had no idea what to do. They seemed wounded when we didn't ask for their numbers. Sorry girls, I'm taken. Anxiously engaged in a good cause! Hahaha)
     Christmas proper was mostly spent visiting just a few Church leaders with the Terrys, in Santa hats we made by cutting some stockings that were left here. Then, we went to the Abu's where they fed us. Then we went to the Christmas Fireside. Or rather my companion did. I was out in the lobby calling my family! I love you!
     Soon is the year I go home. That just boggles my mind. Actually, what I am looking forward to most is my brother's mission call. Hurry up, Hans!
     Love you all! Take care, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year's!


    Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, December 20, 2010

#68 - Christmas early

Dear Friends and Family,                                 December 20, 2010

    Sorry, in the bush, we take whatever we can get when it comes to
the internet. We use the Family History Center. The net is really slow
today, but I'll do my best.

    I find it frustrating that every time I sit down to write, I
forget what I had been composing in my head throughout the week.
Normally I take better notes, but things have been really hectic.

    We had our Christmas Conference this past week. I saw a lot of
old missionary buddies, and got to spend a lot of time with my Zone
members as we all spent the night at the mission home. We did not get
to bed until around 3 that morning. It's okay though, as after the
Christmas party we had a 3 hour trip home. At the party, the North
Zone stole the show. About half the talents performed were from us.
Elder Bi. worked some guitar magic while we showed of some Obruny
native dance... the Boot Scootin' Boogie.... poorly choreographed, which
added to how fun it was. The amount of food there made me a bit sick
for the following two days, but all is well that ends well.

    Immediately after this, I had to go on splits into another
faux-bush area called Asamankese. These missionaries do not know what
bush means. If 85% of your people speak English and everyone has
electric light, it is not the bush. :) We held about 7 interviews with
some wonderful people. My very favorite was a sister named Mercy
S., who is 60, and barely literate. She was so enthusiastic though.
Me:"Do you believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God?"
Her: "YES!"
Me: "Why?"
Her: "Because he was a PROPHET!"

Elder Af. was pretty awesome too. The kid went to Stanford before his
mission and has been out about 6 months now. I don't know what it
is, but we get a lot of Islanders out here, and they immediately become
my people. Elder Tu., Elder Af.... I'm chill with the Nephites.

    Then I came back to Abomosu. Elder Bi. was like "I had no idea
what bush meant until I came here." Exactly, my friend. No area is
bush like Abomosu is bush. Not too much exciting happens/happened
here. We went to Kwabeng for church and I was invited to speak on the
Birth of Christ. It is frustrating to speak, though, because as soon
as they see I will not be speaking Twi, several of the people in the
back rows through up their arms and roll their eyes.

    As I was speaking, I realized a few really important things. I
was reminded of Nina, with her sign she puts up on Dec 26th "Only 364
days until Christmas". All the prophets throughout history had
looked forward to the Birth of Christ. Adam probably had a sign that
said "Only about 4000 years until Christmas." Interestingly enough, I
had never realized that the Star was never prophesied of in the Bible.
The Wise Men associated the Star with Christ why? No where (that we
have, mind you) is there such a prophesy... in the Bible. This comes
from the Book of Mormon. Another little proof there for you. I also
love what it says in 3 Nephi 1:17

"And the began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea,
in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west
to the east, both in the land north and in the land south..."

Really, every righteous, God-fearing soul at the time knew the great
importance of what was happening. It was the single most important
event in the history of the world, eclipsed only by a similar event 33
years later. I love the Savior and I love Christmas time.

    I received a package from Grammy consisting of entirely cinnamon
candies. These are my very favorite because no one in Africa, with
the exception of my companion, seems to like them.... not even the ants
or cockroaches (seriously, they are huge). I didn't remember to buy
food for Monday, so I've subsisted on tuna (thank you, Oma and Grandpa
Bill!) and Fire Twizzlers (thank you, Grammy and Papa!)

    I am excited to call home on Christmas. We only have one chip
this year. I'll send the number home as soon as I look it up, but
worst case scenario, I'll just flash the number and you can call back,
Mom and Dad. Or, I'll swing by later tonight with the number.

Just a few more months! This last one flew by. A lot of that is thanks to the
Terrys. Today, we'll be watching Johnny Lingo at their house.
Seriously, when they leave, I hope I get transfered.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, December 13, 2010

#67 - the Bush explained

Dear Friends and Family,                                                 December 13, 2010

Well, first full week in Abomosu. I'm away from my journal, but I'll try my best.

     This week, we had training in Koforidua. I finally met the whole North Zone. It's really quite an ordeal. We have 17 branches, and only 16 missionaries, so we are really spread out. Elder Do. and I are all by ourselves, and we are about 2 hours from the nearest companionship. It was nice to see, and in many cases, meet all of them. The Bush is a select group. Many missionaries disappear out there, and stay there for a long time.
     I had done this exact training and instruction before, but it is proof that repetition is the heart of learning. I gained a lot of insight into something that seems relatively monotonous. Really, the Gospel has no small doctrines, for "by small and simple means are great things brought to pass". Something as simple as getting to know our investigators became a bit of a journey into the concept of divine identity.
     After this, I had a split into Konongo. Konongo is the far-flung reach of our mission, but it's a relatively big town. They are over three branches. Elder Bo. has been there for 7 months. Elder Be. is being trained there. He's a cool kid, and he's the first missionary of his generation, so his parents send him a lot of candy. We binged a little. It was great. I saw someone with a Portland Marathon 2005 finisher shirt. As someone who ACTUALLY finished that race, I was slightly miffed that anyone would donate that shirt. Plus, it'd be a bit hot here... anyway, not to sound proud, but it really struck me how much I've changed and grown on mission. The elder I was with was just over a month old, and a lot of the things he really had to struggle to remember, I did naturally. This is not to say I am better, but rather it shows what Elder Scott was saying. I was worried that I really hadn't changed too much on my mission, (like a frog in boiling water, right?) but as I saw a sharp contrast, I saw that I was doing better than I realized. It was a wonderful feeling.
     We saw a lot of really great people, and extended a lot of dates. I know that Heavenly Father has put some of His greatest children in Africa to ready for those coming later. At the same time, it takes a lot of work. Elder Bi. has a branch in Oda that, upon being reminded that they are to speak English in their services instead of Twi, some members threw their temple recommends on the ground, and stormed out. When looking at Church History, this is Kirtland. People come in droves. People leave in droves. Leaders are refined in this crucible, and, not to be rude, but those who do not have deep roots, are scorched and offended.
     This Sunday, we worshipped in Asuom. I was invited to speak. "On what?" "You choose." This is the worse thing a missionary could hear. What on earth does that mean? However, I knew that the Spirit was there to direct the meeting, so I tried my best to listen for it. Ideas about Peter and the story of "Lovest thou me more than these?", and the unity that comes from the covenants we have all made, whether we are white or black, Nigerian or Ghanaian, tribes, creed, gender, it doesn't matter. I was the second speaker. The first speak spoke on the Gospel and baptism. I spoke on making covenants and being united by a love for the Lord, that we would sacrifice anything for, and the third speaker spoke on the Law of Consecration. I was so happy that I had picked up, at least a little, of what needed to be taught.
     The other thing that struck me was rooted in the principle that the study of doctrine changes behavior faster then the study of behavior changes behavior. Every branch we go to is discussing home teaching in their elder's quorum. Doesn't matter what we start with, it ends with everyone complaining that no one is doing it. Well, the answer is, we are studying behavior, and not doctrine. A few scriptures we read about diligence, and answering for the people we didn't teach, and the room got really quiet. Another scripture about the blessings of fulfilling our priesthood duties (The Oath and Covenant), and no one said anything again... until someone managed to make it about behavior again. People can argue with how YOU think a scripture should be applied, but NO ONE can argue with the doctrine itself.
     I love you. I'm excited for Christmas. I'm a little stressed out about just how difficult everything is going to be here in the bush, but I'm going to do all I can, and then leaving it to the Lord. I love the people of Africa, and will not give them anything less.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, December 6, 2010

#66 - Relief Society / Understanding

Dear Family and Friends, December 6, 2010

     This week has been an... interesting one. I'm not sure where to begin. This assignment is a little frustrating because I feel like we are not in control of things for which we are accountable. For example, we have 5 branches that we are required to go and see, every week. In theory, though, we are only responsible for proselyting in Abomosu proper... This means that we are severely hampered in our ability to work. But we still have to accomplish the missions minimums each week. President has long stressed that my greatest weakness is planning and the Lord has placed me in the area where, without planning, I'll be cut to ribbons!

     The Bush also has strengthened my testimony of Relief Society. Because of the culture and nature of the villages, very few people have an opportunity go to high school here, and those that do tend to be the men. This is a crippling limitation. As the mothers don't have a chance to receive education, it perpetuates the cycle onto each and every generation. A major reason activity is so weak here is language, but language and reading is a problem because mothers don't have the chance to teach their children. Strong Relief Societies are the foundation which keep families active. I have only seen few occasions where a mother goes inactive and the family still remains strong.

     Other than that, not much is going on. I've been pondering a lot on the principles of Faith and Testimony. This is what came to mind. When Paul talks about people who are "ever learning, never knowing", he is referring to people who do not receive the witness of the Holy Ghost, confirming the truth of a principle. There are those who can read, study, and explain the mechanisms of the Plan of Salvation academically, but they don't really have an abiding testimony of its truthfulness. It makes sense, but it doesn't anchor them to the Gospel or drive them forward in spite of opposition. This studying, though, is what Alma is talking about... "Giving place for a portion of my words". We understand them enough to ponder on them and put them into practice, and as we do, THEN the Holy Ghost confirms the truth of it to us. That's what I think it means to understand them.

     As for a description of where I am staying and the Church buildings... the buildings here are very nice, as this was one of the first districts of the Church here. Hundreds flocked to the Church in those days, but the Freeze really hindered a lot of people. Our house is also one of the nicer ones I've been to. The screens are very good. However, our roof is absolutely invested with rats. They tend to leave us alone, but I suspect we have 3 major nests up there. We always have water, though, which is a nice change from Odorkor. The weather is cooler, but with no ocean nearby, we don't have as much wind, so it feels warmer to me.

     Other then that, everything is pretty okay. We have training this week, and then Christmas Conference next week. Christmas Conference means I can do my laundry in a washing machine. Nothing is nicer than machine washed socks and underwear.

Love you all!
Elder W. Farnbach