Monday, July 25, 2011

#98 - Second to Last

Dear Family and Friends,                     July 25th, 2011

Things just keep ramping up to the big drop-off. I have expressly forbidden my district members from saying anything about Elder Farnbach, and going home. Our Zone Leaders like to trash on me a little bit, but it's all in the numbers. 35 lessons per week, every week, for 3 months. Feeling strong, punk? Call me trunky one more time.

We had just the most productive week ever this past week. I went on splits with Elder Ne., and came back to find that my son (trainee) had given 11 people baptismal dates. Way to go Elder Ni.! The district came out having found 60 new investigators. I wish I could explain to you just what Ghana and Ghanaians are really like. We are afraid to talk about God back home. Here, "by His grace" is the common answer to "How are you?". There stores are called "God is Good" Furniture, or "Only Jesus" in Stock. That last one makes me chuckle. I know I have said that before, but it's such a huge part of it. At first, I used to try and figure out someone's religious life by looking around their house when they invited me to sit. EVERYONE has a picture of the Savior here. Even some of the Muslims! These are people who wish to know their Heavenly Father. They want to do what is right. They have a lot of obstacles, but once a Ghanaian is convinced of the truth, they are firm in the faith.

I've also given a lot of thought to pride and education. We had an amazing contrasting experience. We were teaching a very educated, scripturally literate Nigerian named A. This man is so wrapped up in the most ridiculous of details that he cannot even bring himself to read the Book of Mormon. Nonsense about original Greek, baptism, the meaning of the Holy Ghost, things that I just feel could be so simple! Then you have K.. We have to really simplify our teaching, but it is amazing what he learns and puts together. The man has no real degree of education. His English is simple and stuttered. But he is light-years ahead when it comes to spiritual truth. He put together the Apostasy without us. He knows the process of praying for answers. And while A. is reading a book called "Tongues: Beyond the Upper Room", K. is enjoying the revelations found in the Book of Mormon.

Our converts in the branch are doing wonderfully. We just taught Francis to perform baptisms, as he was ordained recently. We hope to line one up for him soon to exercise the Priesthood he has been given. Davies, baptized LAST Saturday, was asked to teach part of an Elder's Quorum lesson one week later. John, baptized the 23rd, has been asked to share his testimony at Branch Conference in a few weeks. It is a joy to see my brothers and sisters grow in the Gospel. Truly, there isn't anything that makes us happier.

We have also been having great success in helping people overcome addictions. Why am I saying we? We have nothing to do with it. These men, good, stable fathers, are taking their lives seriously, and immersing themselves in the scriptures to try to fix their problems. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the source of spiritual power. I am grateful for Christ's sacrifice. If you truly understand that, you understand your purpose. I don't want to spoil anything, but I have been giving a lot of thought to the spiritual needs of man. I think really, we need two things. 1.) Identity, and 2.) Direction. If you have these two things, you can overcome anything. You will find great peace in the world. You will see challenges and joys in proper perspective.

In other news, the last three lessons in Elder's Quorum have been "Family Responsibilities" "Eternal Marriage" and a talk by Elder Scott... "The Blessings of Eternal Marriage". Hmmmm.

Talk to you next week! That's right. I will still be a missionary next week. And how I revel it that knowledge :)

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, July 18, 2011

#97 Serving the Lord

Dear Family and Friends,                              July 18, 2011

     What a wonderful week. I received some complaints over the brevity of last week's letter, and therefore remembered to bring my journal to supplement. The key thing that stuck out to me this week is the peace that comes from the Gospel. Joseph Smith said once that the major differences between our religion and any others could be summarized in the mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As my companion and I have tried to listen for the promptings of the Spirit, we have felt great happiness. It usually isn't something you notice, until you sit down at 9:00pm, look over the day, and get the feeling you saw everyone who needed to be seen, said what needed to be said, and heard a subtle whisper telling you "Well done, my good and faithful servant." It is an honor to serve the Lord. It is no secret that Elder Farnbach enjoys the idea of popularity and notoriety. But I would gladly trade being a king, a president, a rock star to be introduced by the Savior only as "My servant, Elder Farnbach"
     Funny stories: District meeting was the start of it this week. Elder Ba. raised his hand as we were discussing our investigators "What ever happened to America?" ... ... ... "What an inspired question!" Actually, it turns out there was an investigator named Amedika, and I just heard it wrong. It was a riot, though. I have such respect for the Senior couples. There is nothing LESS obligatory then serving a senior mission, and in GHANA? Wow. Then, we were fetching water for someone, and I was just joking around about how no one has gone down there to check the well in a long time. "You go first" said our new friend. "Don't worry, Bible says angels will catch you." Elder Ni. "No, DEVIL says angels will catch you!"
    We also had many opportunities to go by some recent converts. We have really focused on teaching those who have the potential to remain active (and avoid people with a lot of dependencies. The stuff about the Church in Ghana is pretty vicious, so SOME family member is going to be against it. If they happen to be paying your investigator's school fees, there is nothing you can do.) We have two 65+ year old guys who have just wonderful testimony. It really wasn't so much about teaching as just being there for them. One was a soldier who toured the Holy Land. He was just so happy to have someone listen, I think. Service doesn't have to be big, but it sure feels rewarding. With President Judd really emphasizing "Every interaction with a missionary should build faith," it helps focus your mind on opportunities to serve and bear testimony. Something simple like "Can I carry that water for you? We are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jesus went about doing good, and we are His servants."
     As we were out finding, we had two really great experiences. We walked into a compound to be greeted with "Good! You are here!" It was a wonderful Catholic family that Elder Ni. had contacted and made an appointment with that he forgot while we were on splits. But we happen to arrive when they were expecting us... We read from the Book of Mormon with them. People in Ghana do not particularly enjoy reading, but they do love the Savior. Once we share that the Book of Mormon is scripture, that it does not fight the Bible, and that it teaches about Jesus Christ, most of them are pretty accepting. I love that about Ghana. Back home, people get uncomfortable talking about these things. Here, in big letters, shops are named "By His Grace!" or "God is Good". Faith. The other great one was a man who is struggling with alcoholism. As we knocked on his door, and talked a little, we shared about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, he said "I have been praying about finding the true Church for three days... and here you are." He will need a lot of help. Alcohol is a strong addiction, and so easy to get in Ghana. But I know the Lord heals hearts and bodies as we repent.
     Maybe it is just the warm fuzzies I've been feeling all week, but Sunday, I realized our branch is really doing a great job. It is easy, coming from well-established Stakes of Zion, where you father's father's have all held callings, and you just kinda know what is going on, to be critical. But many of these people are new to the Church. They are anxious to serve, but there is just so much you don't think to teach! I was just soaking in the moment as I looked around at the clerk, busily taking roll, and the family history consultant passing out sheets, and the Branch Council meeting and discussing brothers and sisters who were struggling spiritually. The Church will always succeed as long as we are righteous and diligent. Our abilities may not be great, but they will be used, and by small and simple means are great things brought to pass.
     I will not fail these next two weeks. It does not yet feel like I am going home. I am doing everything in my power to live like a missionary to the last minute. I still worry about our people in August, just like Elder Hi. used to say "I don't know why I still care so much! I'm leaving!" But it is because when we serve, we truly love what we do. The world has us believe we have to go out and seek our self to find our self. In Ghana, they have a phrase I used to love, "God helps those who help themselves." I used to parrot this to try and get people off the idea of waiting for God to do something before they joined the Church. Instead, I have realized it is, "God helps those who help others." We serve to discover our abilities, our character, and our relationship to the Lord.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, July 11, 2011

#96 - Meeting the New Mission President

[ only two or three more possibly coming before he is home!!! ]

Dear Friends and Family,                                     July 11, 2011

First thing is first. President Judd is truly amazing. Now, I know there are some psychological phenomenons, for example, when a child loses a parent, and then the survivor gets re-married. The child feels guilt for liking the new one for fear that that somehow diminishes his love for the previous one. I loved President Smith. The man is my mission president. But also, President Judd is awesome. As we were having Zone Conference, he was introducing himself and getting to know all of us. "Now, Elder Farnbach doesn't know this, but he has helped Sister Judd and I a lot to prepare for our missions." Sister Judd- "We've been stalking his mission blog for months!" The rest of the conference, he was just letting me have it about finishing soon. "Elder Farnbach, how is your girlfriend?" "President, I don't have a girlfriend." "I know. Because I read your blog." or "Faith is how I met Sister Judd... Elder Farnbach, take notes." This man is clearly a psychology doctorate, because he read me like an open book. hahahaha Marriage - Talks - and Attention. You win, President Judd.

If I had written this letter on Saturday, it would've been a little depressing. We lost a lot of investigators that day, and no one wanted to listen to what we had to say. It was terribly disheartening, and Elder Ni. and I spent a lot of time on our knees that night. Imagine, then, our surprise when many, many investigators came to church. We have a new man coming, whose name is Ebenezer. He has told us numerous times that, while at a funeral, he realized he was not right with God, and that he doesn't have time to waste. He drinks pretty heavily, but I am confident he will do very well. He really seemed to enjoy church on Sunday. Church was the best it has even been. We had a wonderful lesson on family responsibilities. That is really the grand key of the Church.  The Church exists to support families. It strengthens each member, which strengthens the whole, which strengthens the Church... which strengthens each member of the family, which strengthens... etc. I cannot wait to have my own family!!

The real great lesson this week was by President Judd, on Faith. We cannot have faith in things that are contrary to God's will. We must have perfect faith to be saved, according to 2 Nephi 9. We learn the will of God by revelation. We cannot be saved unless we have personal revelation. QED. I was just amazed at how easily that all fit together. Just goes to show, though, that we will never be smarter then the Prophets. It took me forever just to understand something that was revealed 200 years ago!

I love you all. This week just flew. President Judd asked me if I would extend 1 year. I said "In a heartbeat!" I know he wasn't serious, but serving the Lord means just that much to me. To my friends who are wondering or considering whether you should go, take it up with the Lord! I will not, have not ever regretted the choice to serve a mission.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, July 4, 2011

#95 - "I'm a Missionary!!"

Dear Everybody,                                                                                 July 4, 2011

    This week rivals the weeks I had with Elder Ho. where I just woke up every morning feeling like shouting, "I'm a MISSIONARY!!!" Something just clicked flawlessly this week, and I loved every possible minute of it. We found, not the mission's usual 10 new investigators, nor our goal of 11 new investigators... we found TWENTY-FIVE (you can't caps numbers, sadly) new investigators this week. Piles and piles of wonderful Ghanaian families. It's been great. Plus, we taught 38 lessons. It was like we went to sleep last Sunday, and just woke up this Sunday and said "Whoa. What did we just do?"

     We have a great family-to-be in John and Mary. John is from Nigeria, and he accidentally mis-dialed Mary on her phone. But they got to talking, and they liked each other, so he came to Ghana to ask her parents permission to marry her. Strange? Yes. But, the fact that they are going to be legally married is a big step, and we are all excited for it. Our lesson with them was kind of a soft Q&A about Church service. One neighbor started blasting music, so I went over and very authoritatively told him to turn it off, we are discussing the Gospel over here. John then asked about why we don't dance or clap at Church. "Why did we just ask our brother to turn down his music?" "Because it was... never mind. I'm clear. I understand now."
     The B.'s went through the less active lists, and rounded us up some families too. As we taught Osei, 53, he told us he had never been baptized. As we explained what we believe, he said "I'll be at Church tomorrow." And he was! Susannah, a sister who had been coming by herself for 4 weeks, then suddenly stopped, started telling her family members about the Church. When we finally stopped to see her, her father said, "I'm going to be at your Church next week." and her brother requested a copy of the Book of Mormon. Not bad for an 18 year old! To top it off, on the way to the Cafe today, someone stopped us "Hi! I'm a member from Ho branch. I gave a friend of mine a copy of the Family Proclamation, and she wants to meet you." Seriously, life does not get any better.

     I want to share a small story about just how selfless and wonderful Ghanaians are. We were out proselyting with our Executive Secretary, and he saw that my belt was a bit ragged. He didn't bring this up, but the next day, at Church, he said "Elder Farnbach! Here, I bought this for you." Elder Ni. joked "Man, in our countries, people wait until your birthday so they don't have to get you anything." I was touched at the simple kindness. This young man, 26, a return missionary himself, saw a need, and fixed it. What a great man.

     The lesson we had in Church this past week was about Faith, and I could easily summarize it like this.
1.) Faith comes first by hearing and learning
2.) Greater faith comes by doing
3.) Perfect knowledge comes by always doing
It's just that simple, really.

     We get to meet the new mission president this week. I'm very excited. I'll probably have to come up with a giant list of questions to prepare him for our final interview. "You didn't have the last two years to get to know me, so here is, in brief, what I'm expecting at this last interview. GET CRACKING!!" He sounds like a great man, though. Even talking to him on the phone for a minute, Elder Ne. was very impressed.

     I love the Lord. That's why I'm a missionary. Jesus is the Son of God. There is no greater peace then knowing you are doing what is right.

  Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 27, 2011

#94 - Broken Arrow P-Day

Dear Family and Friends,                                                              June 27, 2011

Wow, is it P-day again? Wait. Not only is it P-Day, it's BROKEN ARROW P-DAY!!! That's right. Last transfer calls on Tuesday. I don't have to put up with that nonsense any more. No more living in fear of packing up again and starting over... Except when I go home. Then to BYU 2.5 weeks later. HA!

This week was the beginning of what feels like a giant upswing in missionary work. I don't know why, but Elder Ni. and I have just been riding a wave of pumped-up that is infectious. Actually, I do know why. With our past struggles, we've really been praying and asking if there is something we are doing wrong, or if this was increased opposition because we were working so hard to do what is right. We lost our phone on Thursday, which was just added stress. Then, Friday, we found out. It's just opposition. Satan really over-played his game, because we met just a wave of crazies. Seriously, every turn. My favorite was the guy who pulled up behind me on his bike and followed me for a mile, asking me if I was a Jehovah's Witness or an American. If I was either, he said, he'd kill me. I know that really shouldn't be funny, but Elder Ni. and I just rode away in stitches.

That's actually when our week started improving. Contacts started calling US asking about what we teach. Not just contacts. Families. One guy even called and said "I'm a Restorationist myself, and I think this is what I'm looking for." Wow. Then, Brother Francis was baptized. After 30 something years of investigating the Church, he was baptized. What a cool experience. Sure, it was our only baptism that month... but what a baptism! We had 5 investigators there, which NEVER happens, and the branch had just got back from a temple trip, so everyone was in their nice Sunday clothes. I warned Elder Ni. he may have just peaked early, because it was the best baptism I've ever had.

I know that's really short. This week felt like it was only really 2 days long, anyway.

Spiritually speaking, I've been doing a very specific study of the Book of Mormon. One of the great problems we have here is that many people believe that Jesus Christ never built a church, and that He is independent of any Church. One man went so far as to tell me that the difference in (MAJOR) doctrines were merely cosmetic, and the Savior didn't mind. But a careful study of His ministry among the Nephites proves that Christ did indeed build a Church. He was VERY specific in many aspects of it, including the behavior of it's members, the method and authority for baptism, the authority to give the Holy Ghost, the organization and leadership of the Church, the Sacrament with it's accompanying meaning, method, and authority. He told the Nephites very clearly that to be gathered into "one fold" meant to be part of the Church. Christ merely established a branch of the Church He had already established in Jerusalem among the Nephites, and among the other lost sheep of the house of Israel. I love the Book of Mormon. I know it is true.

Mission runs short, and it just keeps running! Every minute, even second, must count!

I love you all!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 13, 2011

#93 - Last Interview with Pres. Smith

Dear Friends and Family,                                                              June 13, 2011

     I had one of my very last signs of the times this past week. We had our last interviews with President Smith! Wow... barring something strange happening with the transfers, I will not see my Mission President as such again :( I dearly love and respect President, and frankly, I will have no idea what to call him when I see him outside of the mission environment. He did ask that I keep him informed on my marriage, children, and graduation (in that order) hahahaha )

     His last interview was the best I've ever had. We talked about my progress on mission, about the future, about marriage (of course) and so many things. I loved his advice. "You tend to self-evaluate too much. Don't beat yourself up about what you are doing wrong, just fix it." This may become a mantra in life for me. As I've thought about, this is the whole point of the Atonement. Christ suffered and died so that we can stop worrying about old mistakes and spend all our energy on the future. Just repent, and move on! Everyone has things they wish they hadn't done. Nephi's soul-wrenched psalm is a great example... and he was Nephi! We must have hope if we are to truly have faith, and hope is the opposite of despair. That's what has kept me going these last few weeks. Things are very hard right now in our area. I do not know why, because my companion and I are working harder then ever. But, whereas I'd probably wring my hands raw earlier in my mission, I know that the Lord is mindful of our efforts. It is His plan and His goals I am trying to accomplish. We ask ourselves every companionship inventory "Did we do everything perfect this week?" Then answer is, of course, no. "Do we feel guilty and devoid of the Spirit as we ponder over it?" If the answer is “no,” then "Well, okay, good. It was acceptable this week. But we must do better!" As sad as I am that so many of our great investigators are struggling, I feel certain that Elder Ni. and I are not. We love the Lord. We want to do what is right. We work hard from day until night. We laugh, we smile, we improve, and it feels great.

     For other things this week... we have one investigator named Gabriel. He is an interesting case for me, because he is the first Ghanaian agnostic I have ever met. "My relationship with God is good, but as for church and those things... I don't really care." When we explained to him about the Plan of Salvation "Well, if I end up in a grave forever, or living in Heaven somewhere, I should just be a good person." Hmmm... This man is a truly good man, but it was just a little difficult to figure out what was motivating him. We then asked him about his beliefs. You see, Brother Gabriel's legs do not function. He walks on crutches everywhere. "God could heal me right now, and I could still be a nobody. My goal is to be the person I'm supposed to be, regardless of how my challenges are. All these 'miracle' churches have everyone believing, unless you are 'whole' you can't be anything."  Bingo! As we read Ether 12:27 with him, he suddenly became very interested in what we have to teach. One great song a companion of mine had in the mission field went something like this :
     "I know it hurts, but child
      it's just best if you pull through
      Cause the pain will go away some day,
      but the strength will stay with you"
Bro Gabriel will have his legs on the Resurrection Day. Of this I am sure. But more important, he will have the compassion developed over a life-time of seeings others struggle with problems he used to have. He will have the determination he developed from always fighting uphill. He will have the courage he gained facing life's problems head on. So, between me and Gabriel, who is really the blessed one?

     I am not trunky, but I do look forward to being home. One of my investigators recently had a baby. The day before, we felt impressed to give his wife a blessing... or rather, HE felt impressed that we should give his wife a blessing. Pretty good for a man who has never been to church yet! That night, she gave birth. The baby was HUGE(!) something like 4.4 kilos, and she came out in less then 4 hours. Wow. It got me thinking about all my friends who have had children or are getting married. What a blessing to share in life's milestones with people you care about! How comforting to know that these sacred relationships can be preserved beyond the grave! I am grateful to Heavenly Father for such a wonderful plan. I know God lives. I know He loves His children. I am humbled to be an ambassador of that love to the people of Ghana. My time grows very short, and as much as I tease the two very very young missionaries in my district (How long have you been out? Wow! That's how many weeks I have left!), I do not yet feel like I have finished everything. I will not cut my mission short even one week. I am currently teaching 35 lessons a week for the past 4 weeks. I will continue that pace until the very moment He says "the Work is done".

     I love you all very much.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, June 6, 2011

#92 - "All Now Rejoice"

Dear Friends and Family, Family and Friends, June 6, 2011

     We've been in the rainy season lately. It's like Oregon weather every day. When it pours, other missionaries go in. Elder Ni. and I have decided, that is the time to show our testimonies. Plus, it helps every time before we set off into the storm that Elder Ni. yells "It's HERO TIME!"
     This week has been one giant learning experience. My companion and I are really putting the pedal to the medal, averaging around 35 lessons a week since we started. One giant problem though... no one is coming to church! It was a great experience for me, though. I'm glad to be serving with Elder Ni.. He really is a buoy when I otherwise would be falling to pieces. Let me explain before I get overly dramatic. I am not upset because poor numbers may reflect a poor missionary. This is not a matter of glory anymore. Frankly, I'm about to finish, and Elder Farnbach's legacy on the Ghana Accra mission will probably float away in a matter of months. But it pains me to struggle so because I know that what we teach is the key to and source of eternal happiness, and if no one is listening, they are only hurting themselves.
     At the same time, Elder Ni. rightly pointed out that, while we may not be having a lot of external measurable success, the Lord has a purpose for all of this, and it is best if we just continue to work towards that purpose. "This might just be the rest of your mission" he said, "but if you learn the lesson from it, it is not wasted." What a blessing to a stress-case like me!
     We did have many times this week where we felt led by the Spirit. To get to our main area from our apartment, we pass a little back-road. That day, I felt led to knock on a giant compound house that I have passed a dozen times. When we came to the door, a university student answered. "Wait a minute... are you Latter-Day Saints?"
"Yes. Yes we are."
"I was just assigned to do a presentation on you for a class. One minute." He went back into his room to bring out his printed-out notes.
Now, normally I get a little uneasy when someone studies us from the Internet, but it's usually nothing new. After asking a few questions about the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, and of course, Polygamy, we noticed that the topic kept coming back to constant revelation.
"Everything in the Church, from the calling of leadership to the practices on Sunday is led by Revelation," we said. The weirdest question was "How do you know who to teach?" The answer was "Let's read about Nephi and Laban. 'I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand whither I should go'". It was weird, but then the Spirit filled in the gaps when we asked to have another appointment. "This is the only day I was going to be here," he said.
"Interesting how this is the day, then, I felt impressed to knock on your door," I said. This story really sums up my week. We didn't get a return appointment. In the narrow, this lesson accomplished nothing. But we answered a prompting and did what God asked us to do. Whether or not that means another baptism for us is not the point. We do not get the results we want doing the Lord's work. We get the results He wants. I wish I could understand and see that better, but every time I get discouraged, it is because I forget that point.
     The next day, still distraught at our recent dry-spell, I was singing to my self on my bike ride. For some strange reason, I got all choked up at the words, "All now rejoice, the long night is o'er." I had not felt particularly emotional any other time that day. But the Lord was telling me that, even if I wasn't having the success I wanted, the magnitude of the message I deliver should be enough to make me happy. How grateful I am, to live in a time where the light of the Gospel is on the earth. I love my Heavenly Father, and want to do His will.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, May 30, 2011

#91 Effiduase / Led By the Spirit

Dear Family and Friends,                                     May 30, 2011

Where did this last month go? I was just filling out my planner and I told my companion "We are on monthly planners in this mission, so in two days we'll be switching to a new one." ... pause... DOUBLE TAKE! May is over?! Wow. That was amazingly quick.

We're still working very hard here in Effiduase, but I wish I could say it was just a tour-de-force for a going home missionary, working magic and miracles, much to the amazement of a hardworking, awe-struck greenie. Sadly, this is not the case. Things are going slowly, but surely. "The work is the smallest it will ever be" and "it will start slowly, like an acorn." These are my hopes. The Effiduase branch members are great people. I love being around them. The last sets of missionaries baptized mostly people 16-20, and so they are working hard to accommodate all these youngsters. We are working to find families who will lay down roots in the gospel for generations.

We ran into my first Baptist in Ghana. It's strange to me that a country with such religious diversity wouldn't have many Baptists. This man was from South Carolina. Well, he was visiting his home, Ghana, from there. We talked briefly about the ministry and life of Christ, and the ideas of grace, works, justice, and mercy. He asked what the purpose of the Atonement was if we have to be baptized. "I thought Jesus said 'It is finished.' How can we pretend anything we do can compare with what He did?" As we explained, I felt a greater appreciation for my Savior. Christ suffered those things to give us the option to repent and be made clean. Because of His sacrifice, we never have to feel like we've done something TOO atrocious to be forgiven. The Atonement is a source of hope, because as you push through this life, trying as best you can to be clean, you WILL fall short. This would make it so easy to get discouraged, and quit, because you start this race knowing you'll come short. But because of Jesus Christ, we know we CAN succeed. We CAN be made clean, and washed free of all guilt and sorrow. I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I am grateful for all He has done for us.

The most interesting part is, in his opinion, this man thought they greatest thing Christ ever did was His training of the Apostles. "He could essentially be in 13, and then later 12 places at once. And He was perfectly consistent in His teaching, because none of the Apostles ever attempted to change or adulterate His teachings." I was intrigued at this thinking. No man, however educated, will perfectly remember even the details of a story he told 50 years after he told it. So how could the mortal ministry of Christ have been so effective, as to keep the Apostles and, as this man insinuated, Christianity, on a perfect course for 2000 years? We explained then, and I testify now, that this was not through the faculties of the human mind. Christ, even after His death was in constant communication with His Apostles. When this communication ceased, Christianity began it's descent into total apostasy. While Priesthood authority was lost the minute the last Apostle died, the teachings of Christ may have continued in purity for a few years... until little by little, men's interpretations scattered the early church into many many denominations. But the message I share as a missionary is that in 1820, Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father called a Prophet. 12 Apostles were called, and the pure doctrine and practices of the Church were re-established. Today, we have a living Prophet and 12 Apostles. I know this is true. I remember the witness of the Spirit in my heart when President Monson was sustained as the President of the Church, and Prophet on the earth today.

Not much is going on in other news. We had another baptism, this time for a young man named Aaron L.. We've really made a point of asking our converts to bear their testimonies after they are baptized. It is always wonderful. Many of our investigators have come to a full understanding of the doctrine we teach, but sadly, more than I would like have decided they just don't think they can handle it all. They are afraid of the changes that will come. Choose faith, not fear! But it was this week that I remembered my Patriarchal Blessing says of my mission: "Remember, though, that they have their agency. But in bearing your testimony, you fulfill your obligation." I always thought this meant I'd be going to a difficult mission. HA! Then I got called to Ghana. But now, in these last few months, I'm learning to seek Heavenly Father's opinion of my efforts, and not just the obvious, external honors. I have felt many times that, while far from perfect, I am doing my duty. I know that, because I feel the Spirit take stress, fear, and doubt from my heart. It is a blessing to feel the Spirit of God.

I love you all. I'm excited to hear about Elder H. Farnbach in the MTC. I always wanted to go to the Provo one. He will be a great missionary.

Elder Farnbach

Monday, May 23, 2011

# 90 Brother Enters MTC / Koforidua's Conference

Dear Family and Friends,                                               May 23, 2011

PAUSE: First, welcome to the work, Elder Hans Farnbach. Enjoy the Provo MTC. Write and tell me about it, as I have not/probably will not ever go there.

     This week has been truly amazing. I have felt the Spirit of the Lord testifying through me to many, many people. In the last two weeks, we have found just shy of 40 new investigators, many of which are in families. The real secret to all of this has been Elder Nic. and I are taking obedience to a new extreme, and have viewed our responsibility less as "teaching" the Gospel, but more of testifying of the Savior. As missionaries, we become so focused on the idea of understanding the doctrine. If the investigator just knew the doctrine, he would of course make the choice to be baptized and enter the gates of the Kingdom of God. But this is maybe only 20% of the battle. In this mission, we refer to concerns that prevent investigators from making this choice as either "Social" concerns (Friends and family pressure, uncomfortable changing social environments, having the right clothes etc) or "Doctrinal" concerns (We don't need modern prophets, anyone can baptize, there was no Apostasy, etc). Really, though, the concerns are Understanding and Belief. I can give a great summary of the beliefs and practices of many major religions, even if I myself do not hold them. All the doctrinal understanding in the world is USELESS if one does not BELIEVE said doctrine. So, as a missionary, my calling is not just to be a gospel TEACHER but a gospel WITNESS. As I teach, I've made a special point of sharing how I came to believe these things, and just how much I do believe them. I was promised in my Patriarchal Blessing that if I was diligent in my scripture studies, I would be able to humbly bear my testimony to those I have been called to serve. I have felt the greatest joys sharing my testimony with the people of Ghana.
     We had District Conference this week. I came here just in time to catch Koforidua's conference. The place was totally packed! Elder Nic. and I were slightly discouraged at first. We had gone out 1 hour before to round up investigators. The ones that said "We're coming" took their time... so 30 minutes before, we went out again. Only 2 people of ours came. But I was still pretty hopeful, though at the time I wasn't sure why. It was a real treat singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" with a huge group of Ghanaians. At the end of the conference, about a million investigators whom I did NOT know approached me and asked to be baptized. I know that Heavenly Father was mindful of just how hard Elder Nic. and I are working. We give out the Book of Mormon like candy, and share our testimonies of it as often as we can. I know it came from God. I know it is revelation, given in our days. It is proof of the Divinity of this great Latter Day work.
     I had to go on splits immediately after church, so my greeny/son had to go be in charge. When I asked about the day, his splits companion said, "I've never taught so many lessons on a Sunday!" Imagine what a proud papa I was when he came in that day having taught 6 lessons! We have a great family we are teaching, Ebenezer and Vida. The only concern we have is Vida is expecting, and once she gives birth, tradition prevents her from going to church for 3 months. She can go anywhere else, just not to church. Oi vey. So we are hoping to baptize them before she has her baby. The other great family we are teaching is a father, mother, and a university student daughter. It's amazing how easy the lessons just flow as we pray and plan and practice to teach people. We've been praying for this family all week and we hope to get them to church next week. They really seem to like the Book of Mormon. I am grateful for the teachings of Christ it contains. Anyone who is familiar with the Savior will recognize His voice in it's pages. It is a powerful witness of Him.
     I am grateful for the atoning sacrifice of the Savior. I am grateful for the chance He gives us to return back into Father's presence, clothed in flesh. I am humbled to have been born into the gospel and be blessed with such a great family. I am especially thankful to serve as a missionary and extend these blessings to others. I know my brother will be a wonderful missionary, too.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, May 16, 2011

# 89 - Leaving Abomosu / Terrys Going Home

Dear Family and Friends,                                   May 16, 2011

     This week was a little bit crazy. Because I got transferred. I didn't really think that would happen. Even when I found out I was training, I still didn't really put that together with "transfer". This will be my last time packing before I go home.

Sad things:
     Leaving Abomosu. I don't tell people when I am getting transferred. I just leave a message with the missionary who stays for anyone who asks. It's important to me that my investigators and converts do not think I'm an indispensable part of the Church. So I quietly disappear, and assure them that the Lord has called me somewhere else, and that as long as the next guy has "Elder" in front of his name, he can do the job just as well as I can, so they shouldn't worry.
     The Terry's left. Oh, I love the Terrys. They were my longest-running companions, really. I had 5 transfers with them, and love them dearly. They were such a powerful example of what two people, living righteously, could do. They just reached out and built that district, changing it into somewhere everyone loved to be. We made sure to eat with them on Monday, and then Monday night, we went and burned a pair of pants, a shirt, and the tie that Elder Terry wore every day on this mission. Sister Terry lit it. It made a hilarious video. Which, maybe I can attach.

Happy things:
     I am now living in Effiduase, a suburb of Koforidua. I'm the district leader, so I still get to go on splits with the Zone Leaders... in Abomosu. So, I'm not really gone. The area has waterfalls and the bead market. And B. Fosters Bread, which is highly sought after around the mission. We have two other elders living with us, Elder Op. and Elder Ne.. It's going to be a pretty obedient, hardworking, no-stress apartment.
     My trainee... shown above as the baptist. Welcome to the field, Elder Ni.! He's 20, and from Australia, but he is Filipino. It's going to be awesome. He's a little quiet. Clearly, the Lord knows I can ride a bike. But really, I told him that training him is the last thing I'm going to do, so we'll go big, then I'll go home.

     I wish I had more missionary things to talk about, but when you whitewash an area, you don't really know anything. We found 23 investigators in 4 days, though, so I know this will be a great area. We also found 4 families that we are really hopeful for. As we were joking about training and our mission families, it occurred to me that (this isn't doctrinal, mind you) perhaps my children have been allowed to watch my mission. As they are making their last preparations to come, I'd hope that they'd be proud of the kind of missionary their father was. As we are extending dates, we already have given some for the last week of June. It occurred to me "That's just a few weeks before I go home," Then I got really terrified. I like being a missionary. As I'm training, I feel like I'm just getting good at it! I love every day I get to serve, and I look forward to doing it well this next few weeks.

Elder W. Farnbach

P.S Not being a Zone Leader means less frequent mail :(

Monday, May 9, 2011

#88 - Leaving Abomosu / The Terrys Leave

Dear Family and Friends,                                 May 9, 2011

Well, this week was really fast. I had 3 full days of meetings. Why so
many meetings?

Because I'm training.

I don't know where, I don't know who (We have one new missionary from Nigeria, one
from Sierra Leone, one from South Africa, one from Ethiopia, and a
Filipino from Australia coming. No Americans.), but I was asked to
train. I'm torn between being really excited and really worried. On
the one hand, training is an invitation to be perfect. President
Smith, in our training meeting, put a lot of emphasis on trainers.
"I'm trusting you with one of my children!" he pointed out. I'm
excited to finish out with a bang, on fire, at the top of my game. On
the other hand, and I hope my new trainee is a hard worker. He has no idea what he
is doing, which is fine, but this leads some missionaries to just
quit. And frankly, I'm just not sure I'll have the patience for that
as the weeks hit single digits. [until he comes home!!!]

Now, this does mean I will probably leave Abomosu, and that just
breaks my heart. Boy, I love this place. Sometimes, things are hard,
but in the villages, you can find families. You can find people who do
an honest day's work, and who want to do the right thing. Some of the
leaders out here are the greatest people you could hope to meet, and
you are really close to Ghana Church History in these villages.

The Terrys leave on Thursday. In a way, they were my longest-running
companions. I had 5 transfers with them, 1 early on and 4 after I
became an "experienced" missionary. I love Elder and Sister Terry. I
wish all of you could see the massive difference in the Saints and the
Church here because of their dedicated 18 month mission. If you are a
little older and worried you can't make much of a difference, serve a
mission. It is just amazing. The whole district is just in tears. Fast
and Testimony meeting was all about them. I'm sad to go, but I'm happy
to leave with them. It just wouldn't be the same without them.

I'm hoping these pictures make it. My favorite is the little boy,
grinning like Matt Sullivan, and the sweet little girl with the knife.
It's a village, after all.

Love you lots! Happy Mother's day!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, May 2, 2011

#87 - 21st Birthday / General Conference

Dear Family and Friends,                                         May 2, 2011

Man, what a great week. I loved it. Wonderful lessons, followed
by 4 sessions of Conference. And then I opened my birthday package,
and found a Captain America t-shirt. Life is good.

I think I will depart from my usual Monday to Sunday list, and
just talk events. I have been wrestling with the Lord on a great
number of subjects, and I feel like this week was a great outpouring
of the Spirit. We had some wonderful lessons, especially with a new
family. William O., first of all, has great taste in names. He is,
according to our Branch Council, a big-wig in the Church of Christ,
which, by the way, prints an old version of the Book of Mormon and
calls it the Nephite record. Who knew? Anyway, even though his English
isn't PERFECT, it was amazing how quickly he grasped the concepts we
were teaching about. "So, the real thing is, who is having those keys
now, now?" at the conclusion of our first lesson. Yes, Bro O., that is the question! We went back and explained the Restoration, and the Book of Mormon. "Bro O., do you have any questions?"
"I think all I need to know is about this book." Right again! The best part was his closing prayer, where he said, "Father, I want to know about this strange book my elders have brought." Really, though, that's the best. Give me a man who is skeptical, guarded, and honest, over someone who
doesn't really care enough to discern truth from error. Anyone who
honestly reads the Book of Mormon and takes the time to pray about
it, will know it is true.

In Institute, we talked a lot about the dedication of the
Kirtland Temple. Temples are a remarkable thing. As I read through the
dedicatory prayer, I realized the things that are so vital to the Lord
(as He revealed it.) The prayer included a great deal about missionary
work and of the gathering of scattered Israel, including the Jews,
having a chance to go back to their homeland. It also talked about the
nations of the world becoming peaceful and abiding by the principles
of Divinity. All leaders would do well to follow the example of the
King of Heaven and Earth. It made me think of our brothers and sisters
in Ivory Coast. They are so faithful attending the temple. It is their
faith that will bring stability to that nation. I pray they may have a
temple there. It is in the temple we leave the world completely
behind. You are in the Heavenly Embassy, as it were. We make sacred
covenants that bind together families, across generations. It is ONLY
this power that could take imperfect individuals, and organize them
into a truly eternally happy unit.

Conference. Was. Awesome. We have an investigator named Isaac who
is having some serious questions about if the Church is true. We
invited him to see President Monson and the living apostles speak. Oh,
the Spirit at Conference. You just feel part of a really big family.
You all saw it a long time ago, but I didn't. But I also felt like
every Saint in the world was watching it with me, so that was really
cool. They sang all my favorite hymns, INCLUDING the last verse of
Hymn 85, How Firm a Foundation! Well, Isaac came late, so he missed
President Monson speaking. I was happy when he asked ,"Wait, isn't the
Prophet going to speak?" Don't come late next time, Isaac. (He came for
the Saturday sessions). But really, I remember when I first gained a
true spiritual witness that we have a prophet on the earth today. It
was during the Solemn Assembly, when we sustained President Monson as
the new prophet. I told all our investigators that, if they really
listened and pondered whether to raise their hands or not, Heavenly
Father would tell them if President Monson is a prophet. We'll see how
that goes as we visit them. I also really liked Elder Christofferson's
talk. Things have not been going well lately, and I realized that it's
a really blessing. When we are being chastised, it is in fact, an
invitation to be made better. When trials come say, "Good! I am SO
ready to repent!"

Well, gosh, I could just go on an on. My studies have felt
remarkably insightful, and I feel the Spirit speaking through me as I
teach, because I learn so much from my own mouth. But that would make
for a really dull letter, I imagine.

I spent my birthday watching Conference. WONDERFUL! Also, today,
I went to a farm and saw a cobra. I wish I could explain just how
terrified people in Ghana are of snakes. But not like, run away
scared. They see a snake and they want to hunt that thing down. I've
seen taxis swerve WAY off the road just to run over a snake. I learned
from Elder Jones that, if someone angrily asks you what you are doing
on their land, just say you saw a snake, and they will immediately be
distracted. "Which way did it go?" "The opposite way I am walking."

I love you all. Thank you for the birthday wishes. It just
occurred to me that most of my friends have or will graduate shortly.
Wow. Couple that with Elder Scott's talk, and sometimes I feel like
I'm running late on life.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, April 25, 2011

#86 Easter

Dear Family,                         April 25, 2011

     Well, this week was pretty cool. Nothing of note really happened. Just a lot of meetings. Is anyone else really impressed with the new Handbook of Instructions? I know I am. We've been part of a LOT of branch council meetings up here in the bush to train leaders on missionary work, and it's just a great experience every time. I steal a copy of book 2 every chance I get and read those first chapters. Councils govern the Church. As started in... Heaven? ...when God made the Grand Council to decide the fate of His Spirit children. That being said, take these things very seriously.
      We've been working our tail ends off, and things haven't been going 100% awesome. In fact, a lot of missionaries have been getting down right discouraged. I was starting to feel like that when, on EASTER Sunday, NO ONE came to Church. Easter is a HUGE party week here in Ghana (and I didn't get to sleep because of the crazy parties going on around our apartment.) But, when we got to Sunday School, the branch president in Sankubanase pulled us aside and said we had an investigator. His name is Samson, and he's a police inspector. We read a little with him from the Book of Mormon about Easter time (namely, 3 Nephi 8 and 9) and then ask him what he would do if the things in the Book of Mormon were true. "I should be baptized, then." YES!!!! So we immediately gave him a baptismal date. Elder Dominic and I talked about it later and we both felt like the Lord was saying, "You are working hard, but your investigators have their agency, and aren't using it well. So, here is Samson."
      The other really cool thing that happened was today, we went to go watch para-gliders for my BIRTHDAY. Well, it's not my birthday, but there would be no para-gliders on the Monday after my birthday. It was weird seeing so many white people. But man, I loved the idea of paragliding. I, to this day, have not been able to figure out how people who travel so much when they are young do so, but I think I'd like to pick up a hobby like paragliding and run all over the world finding new things to jump off.
      Of course, all my reflections have been about the Savior recently. The Atonement is such an infinite thing that I've all but given up trying to understand it. But I like what the Savior says about it in 3 Nephi 9. "17 And as many as have received me, to them have I agiven to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me bredemption cometh, and cin me is the dlaw of Moses fulfilled." Really, the Atonement was to give us all the necessary tools and helps to fulfill our divine nature. He, being so many greater then we, reached down and condescended to lift us to where He is. This came with a terrible price, but one He was able and willing to pay. I love my Savior for this, and will do all I can to help others become fully converted from Fallen Men to Sons (and Daughters) of God. I love being a missionary.
Happy Easter!
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, April 18, 2011

#85 - Free At Last! / District Conference

Dear Family and Friends, April 18, 2011

     First, I'd like to add to the reports given by Sister Terry. Elder Ke. and Elder Om. are free. Ghanaian justice being what is it, the prosecution has appeal rights to a finding of not-guilty. What? But I doubt they'll try it. One friend very wisely pointed out that, while the original trial was widely publicized, the overturn will not be. Why? Because it doesn't make us look bad, and therefore is uninteresting. They called us on Friday night, and we talked. Elder Om. has been reassigned to the Sierra Leone, Freetown mission. He is currently requesting up to 10 months be added to his mission, so that he could spend 24 months proselyting, as he agreed to do. What a stud!

     We went to the temple this week. I was really needing it. President talks about using these opportunities as a chance to recharge. Having gone nearly 5 months without a temple trip, I realized exactly how low my batteries were when I first came in. What a relief, then, to be there! The session was packed, as other missionaries had pointed out theirs had been earlier in the week. Why? Well, interesting story. Things in the Ivory Coast have gotten worse. While the former president has been captured, his supporters are fighting worse than before. The mission home in Cote D'Ivoire has been completely ransacked, with all the computers and vans being taken. Missionary work has been suspended, and all native missionaries have been sent home (earlier, the non-natives had been reassigned). The border is completely closed, which is where the real beauty of this story comes in. The temple sessions have been packed because a group of Ivorians had come over before the border was closed to visit the temple. Even with the conflict, the Ivorian saints had been regulars at the temple. Now, they are stuck over here. I don't know anything about their living arrangements, but they are now spending all their time doing Temple work. What a blessing it must be, in a time of turmoil, to be constantly in the most peaceful place on earth. I know the work they are doing there will bless their homeland.

     The other really great experience was the District Conference. Now, I love conferences as much as the next guy, but sometimes, they just seem a little dull. Not this one. Part of it was that 6 of the 8 speakers were finishing their assignments, 2 on that day, soon. This would be the last Abomosu District conference for President and Sister Smith, Elder and Sister Terry, and Elder and Sister Ab. (in their function as full time missionaries). There was a wonderful spirit about the chapel. A LOT of work had been done to invite friends, and prominent members of the community. Every one had come prepared to listen divine instruction, and the Lord rewarded that. Elder and Sister Ab. shone as bright examples of the Ghanaian saints. They are people of faith, of understanding, working hard to share a beautiful thing with their people. Elder and Sister Terry, seasoned Africa missionaries, bore simple testimony of this work, and all the saints responded. The congregation was invited to raise their hands if the Terrys had visited them in the homes. Every hand was up. Amazing what good two people can do. Then it was President and Sister Smith. They have spent the last 5 years in Ghana. They know and love the people of Ghana more than you could imagine. President talked of his first Sacrament meeting in Ghana, surrounded by people who looked nothing like him who could not understand him. He said the Spirit of God whispered to him, "These are your brothers and sisters. Love them and serve them." He then talked about what he has learned in Ghana. The point that stuck out to me most was the great faith inherent in the people. Anyone will tell you, I love my country. But I began to realize, as President pointed out, the Lord is withdrawing His spirit from our land. As we continue to reject Him, and trample His laws, He allows us to go. Not so in Ghana. The people here love God. They seek after Him. Missionaries back home can go a few weeks without a serious lesson, or a new investigator. President pointed out, on his mission, he went 12 weeks with only a single lesson. Here, I can find 10 new investigators every week. The Spirit of God is being poured out on Africa, and this continent will find peace as it accepts the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. More temples will be built, conflicts will calm down, and Africa will be a mighty land in the near future. I intend to come back, many times if possible. Then he pointed out the great lesson I loved. It may sound offensive to those who were not there, but if you knew President Smith, and were in attendance, you would know it was not. He pointed out that the great hold-up in the Church in Africa is the people have not yet fully understood what sacrifice means. "Many of you think that living in Africa, in poverty, while others abroad enjoy luxury is your sacrifice. It is not." This is true for all of us. We tend to think it is enough, like the Dragon boy in the Voyage of the Dawntreader. The Lord knows our capacity, and requires 100% of it. It is not ours to dictate how much we must give of ourselves. This does not mean money or material things, or time, or talent. This encompasses our whole selves. We sacrifice to obtain better things. It will hurt, but we will grow to receive a fullness of all that God has and is only when we give up all that we are.
     Elder Onelu, the Area 70 from Ivory Coast, then spoke to us. I don't have much time to summarize it, but he spoke at length concerning the many traditions in Africa. He brought his family with him. They were a wonderful example of how a family should be. He encouraged the saints to lay the foundation of the Church in Ghana, and to establish righteous traditions in their families. It was just great to have an African concluding speaker. Sometimes I worry people get the idea this is a white-man's church. It is not. It is the Lord's church. It administers the Law of the Kingdom, the laws by which one may progress to eternal life.
     Many investigators were present, and we've been working to get members excited about missionary work. Two of our converts were asked to usher, and you should have seen how they beamed. The priesthood and auxiliary leaders would proudly bring our investigators to us. "See! Our brother is here." "Did you see my family here?" It was wonderful! The Queen Mothers of Abomosu and Asunafo were there, and the one from Asunafo asked to be baptized. (The Queen Mother is sort of a hard concept to explain. It is not the chief's wife, or even family. The Village Elders select a Queen Mother as a sort of judge and peace keeper in the town, and she selects the Chief. When he dies, she selects the next. When she dies, the Elders again pick a new Queen Mother) We're going to read of all the kings in the Book of Mormon with her. She's a wonderful lady.
     I love Africa. I love the African saints. I am deeply saddened, knowing that I must leave soon. I do not know when, but I will come back. I wish you all could meet these wonderful people, in this tiny village.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, April 11, 2011

#84 Look and Act Like Wheat

Dear Family and Friends,                                             April 11, 2011

This week was another really good one. We've got plenty of families to work with, the Branch leaders are up and excited to work, I'm not sick, and we worked on a farm today.
 I'm really trying to think of this week, though... One thing that really stuck out to me was, most of our lessons were out of the Book of Mormon. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read the Book of Mormon. I will be personally asking everyone to read it when I come home, especially if they have not. It does contain God's word. It answers all the great questions we have. It satisfies our soul, and opens a line of communication between us and God, as we ponder that maybe, just maybe, He loves ALL of us, and not just one nation, one time. What really brought this up was, I had my FIRST lesson with a militant atheist this week. It's the kind of thing missionaries dread, but I've been preparing for it my whole life.
 "Religious people are delusional." (This man has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, he claimed, and he enough of  vocab to back that up.)
"Really? What do you believe in?"
"I'm a Darwinist."
"Oh. Modern Cell Theory states that all living cells come from other living cells. How does Darwinism answer that?
"Well, there are gaps in the Theory."
"And there hasn't been a single Macro-Evolutionary fossil record discovered. You still accept this theory?"
"I'm not challenging you. My point is, there is a certain element of 'you just believe it', even if  your understanding is imperfect. That is Faith. The evidence we have of our message     is not the same kind as you would look for in a lab, but it is there. Let me give you a Book of Mormon, and you go find out for yourself."
"Why not? I'd love to enrich my library."
"Well, it's more than that. I hope we've established that we are neither delusional nor ignorant. Nothing in the whole world stands as evidence that there is no God."
"I wish I had your optimism."

I really, truly felt like we helped him. The best part was, after he had spent some time putting down the man sitting next to him, our investigator, for believing in God, he left. Our investigator then immediately said "I feel so sorry for that man."

The other lesson we really like what with a man named Isaac. He is 25, and he's been confused about religion his whole life. He knows a lot of the things he is doing are not right, but he doesn't know what he SHOULD be doing. As we explain the Priesthood and Gospel dispensations, he had a really hard time accepting the notion of "One True Church." And you know what? All the metaphors, examples, arguments I had didn't do anything. We then just simply had to ask him to pray to ask God himself. And that is true of all of us. Enos shows us that, even with the Prophet living in his house, more was required - divine communication. We are invited to ask for ourselves, and we must, because nothing else will stand the trials of this life.

I had another cool lesson today, too. While on the farm, I was "weeding" - attacking everything with a machete. Unfortunately, some of the crops were with the weeds, and they looked similar. Sound familiar? But I realized this. If you are wheat, you better look and act like wheat. And you had better not be surrounded by a bunch of tares, because those harvesting angels might not notice you. This is, of course, way too simple, but it just occurred to me how important that what we are on the inside matches what we do on the outside. I've never accepted this notion of saved merely by Grace. The things Jesus asks us to do are WAY too much work to have Him say, "But really, all you have to do is say you believe in me." "Take up your cross." "Deny yourself" "A broken heart and contrite spirit". This is work, and it is the greatest work we can ever do.

We continued our hot streak. We've had a baptism (at least one) every week for the past 5 weeks. This week looks good. Next week looks good. We just have to find someone for the 30th...

Thursday, we will go to the temple. Supposedly, that will be the trial day, but I'm not hopeful. It's been 3 times since "the last time". But, if it happens and the missionaries are released, maybe we'll be the first to see Elder Ke and Elder Om..

Love you all. I know God wants me in Africa right now. I will do all I can to serve faithfully, because I know this Church is true. There is a God. He loves us, and does everything for us. I know Jesus Christ is the Savior. He marked the path to happiness. Please, just follow it.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, April 4, 2011

#83 The Dreaded "M" Word

Dear Family and Friends,                                      April 4, 2011

I spent half of this week, lying on my back, absolutely hating
everything. I was joking with Elder Do. that malaria has some
unknown side effects that I will make millions documenting, including
the shortening of one's fuse.
It started Sunday night when my fever shot up to around 103 and stayed
there. Monday, I had a terrible fever, but was chipper the whole day.
Not sure why, but I was the smiliest I've been in a while. Then,
Tuesday morning... oh my gosh. I tried to go out and proselyte. Not
going to happen. When I called Sis. Smith, she told me to just bite the
bullet and take the malaria meds. I had resisted once before, out of
pride (and I was RIGHT, by the way), and so she was pretty adamant.
Tuesday, I spent asleep. Wednesday, I spent asleep. Thursday, I was
about 88%... just well enough to have to take a nasty, rickety Tro-Tro
to the mission home.

Zone Leader's Council was informative. One thing we do there is set
our goals for the upcoming month. President pointed out that, even
though we had about 200 more people with a Baptismal Date (people who
have heard our message, and agreed to be baptized), our Mission's
overall goal was LOWER. Why? Because last month, we experienced some
challenges, and NO missionary wants to miss his goals twice. So, even
though this month looks WAY better than last month, everyone just sees
his last failure, and acts accordingly. I think we do this all the
time, with too much focus on the path, and not enough hope in the
future. Because sometimes, the future is a terrifying thing. I'm
sitting down with a list of majors on Mondays now because I'm
supposed to have a future. But the whole point of what we teach is
that if you do what is right, the future works out for itself. "Take
no thought of tomorrow... sufficient to the day is the evil thereof",

The only real full day of preachin' and teachin' and workin' as
missionaries do was Saturday, and that was in a rougher area. Just a
word of advice to all the wards back home. Maybe, after you have a
really good relationship with your missionaries, ask them how the
mission honestly perceives your unit. If I was a bishop, or an elders'
quorum president, or even just a member, I'd love to have the
missionaries at their little secret meetings say things like, "Man!
Your going to that place? Sweet. I'd kill to go there." and not
"If I have to spend another day in that area, I will punch myself."

Sunday, we had a cool baptism for a sister in Sankubanase. We decided
to have it right after church. It was awesome to have the entire
congregation attend one of our baptisms. This sister was baptized by
her husband, with the entire branch there. It was a great feeling,
welcoming someone all together into the family.

President called us on Sunday. No matter how long I serve, leader or
not, numbers look good or not, that will always terrify me. We were
sitting in a lesson when "Pres. Smith" shows up on the phone. "You
take it," I say to Elder Do., and quickly go back to teaching. He
came back. "President says to call him back when we can be on speaker
phone." Oh no... That's never happened before.
-Ring ring... ring ring...-
"Hi! President Smith.”
“ Are you both there?"
*gulp* “Yes President," I said.
"Just finished reading both your letters. I'm very impressed with you
          two. You're doing great work. Make sure you teach
          the other missionaries in your Zone to do those things, okay?"
“Yes, President".
"Alright. Thank you!"
... few seconds... *Gasping for air* "We're alive!!" hahahaha. I love
President, but I thought I'd share a small missionary moment there, as
I really didn't have anything else this week to talk about.

Elder Ke. and Elder Om. had their trial moved again. THIS Thursday
should be it, though.

As Dad likes to say "Never let not having anything to say stop you
from writing a huge letter." Mission accomplished.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, March 28, 2011

#82 - Best Week Ever / Jenga

Dear Family and Friends,                               March 28, 2011

This was the best. Week. Ever. Started pretty innocuously enough, but
it just kept rolling on until things turned great.

    Monday, for the first time ever, the Assistants came up on splits
with us. It was pretty nice to go into two areas at the same time.
Elder Do. went to a inactive village called Sankubanase,
and I stayed here in Abomosu proper. It's interesting. I was worried
lately that we'd pretty well fished these places out, and was dreading
next month. This week, however, we found a whopping 19 new investigators.
And I guess we were just living right, because I felt guided in my
teaching and my proselyting more then ever before. Every night this
whole week, I'd get home, plan, say my prayers, and then flop onto my
bed and say "My life is just so awesome I don't know what to do with
myself!" Then, we played Jenga. I don't know why Elder Ga. had Jenga,
but it was way more fun then I ever remember it being. We all got
pretty good at it, until we had one game where there was literally no
more blocks to move... and it was Elder Bo.'s turn. Sweet.

    This week, I really learned what Elder Ballard means when he says
"Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a source of spiritual power
that gives you and me the assurance that we have nothing to fear from
the journey." I felt a real power working with us as we went out and
tried to be as perfect as possible all day. Mountains of work were
accomplished, more then I'd ever imagined we could do. I was happy every
minute of every day, even when investigators didn't want to come along
for the ride. And we did all this with a baptism AND two meetings this

Agnes O. was baptized along with her son. I was the baptist again.
I was so happy to baptize this wonderful, faithful lady AND her son!
Yay families! Best part? We found two NEW families this week, too.

    We've also been working a lot to motivate all the members around
us. Again, as we tried to do our best, miracles happened. Hint to
missionaries, if you have stubborn members, LOOK LIKE you are being
helpful. Make it obvious. I like the example of the unjust judge. Be persistent, and
things happen. When auxiliary leaders don't come to your meetings, go
to their house and say "Oh, I know how terribly busy you are. Here, we
simplified the meeting, and will now be having a 15 minute
coordination with you!" Do this around 8:00, so that next time,
they'll know better. Now, I may be sounding negative, so let me point
out the positives. Both of them greeted ALL the investigators who came
to Church Sunday. Our RS president has asked that we take her to each
home so the presidency can visit them. WOW! And we had a branch
missionary training. With 5 branches, and little work being done, we
made them all report on what they've accomplished in the last 3
months. Then we taught about accountability. Some of them were clearly
embarrassed, and we pointed out that it is probably how they'd feel
when Christ asked them about their stewardship. As I read 3 Nephi 11,
I was impressed that the first thing Christ did was introduce Himself,
and then gave a stewardship report. "I have suffered the will of the
Father in all things." I think this was His way of saying "And when
you and I meet, I'll ask you about the same thing."

    The District PEC was cool too. We are gearing up for a district
conference, and I'm really excited. Those meetings used to be everyone
getting together and complaining about challenges in their callings.
Only bad was discussed. But using the training given in the Worldwide
handbook training, it was a great, spiritual experience. I feel like
wonders are happening in the Abomosu District. I love being here, and
I love EVERY MINUTE of it!

    The other great thing I learned this week is the power of true,
sincere prayer. I love the phrase "my soul hungered". It just tells me
that, what I can see, taste, hear and smell cannot constitute faith.
No amount of external testimony will satisfy the heart. Faith comes
from talking to God, and having Him talk to you! It is a very real
thing. True, sincere prayer probably contains little that you've said
before, and probably less of what is said in "official prayers"
(Sacrament meetings, classes, etc.). It is true, open communication
with God, and it does no good to hide anything, as He knows it

     Sunday was spent in Asuom. The meeting was a little frustrating,
but the lesson was okay. I feel like I learned something important.
Yokes are placed when someone wants work done. The difference between
a "yoke" and a "burden", in my mind at least, is that a yoke
accomplishes something. Do we think that the experience of testifying
before Caesar was easy for Paul? Yet he was sent to do it, and
therefore had the Lord's help. Compare that to the woman at the
Pharisee's feast. The terrible burden of immorality was upon her, and
she put it on herself. It served no useful purpose, and therefore, she
was not entitled to the Lord's help to carry it. Only when she had
repented did that burden come off.

    I love you all. I love missionary work. I love Ghanaians. They
are beautiful, blessed people.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, March 21, 2011

#81 Shallow Water Baptisms

Dear Family and Friends,                      March 21, 2011

Slow week. Really slow. And kind of gradual. Like a downhill. Those are my
thoughts. When things are getting a little easy, you know you are NOT
going up.

Whatever sickness I had, passed again pretty quickly. Just a question
of not eating for about a day and a half to let my stomach fix
whatever was wrong.

Tuesday, we had a baptism for two small children whose parents just
never got around to baptizing them. Thankfully, that's not most of
what we do anymore, but Elder Do. said that's what it was like
before I arrived. It was nice, as we insisted the father's were the
ones to perform the baptisms. President Deho gave a
wonderful welcome to them. President Deho is the branch president in
Asunafo branch. Generally, our branch presidents are all pretty

Wednesday, we had to go on splits with the Konongo elders, so I spent
some more time with Elder He... and we had ANOTHER baptism,
this time for Ko. Ye. It was a little frustrating as we had to
wait for hours to get the font water up to knee level, but he put up with it
like a champ. [The power has been out in the area for awhile. This makes water
difficult to come by. ] We've invented a new baptism method. I think it'll
really catch on, like the Fosbury Flop. The baptist is kneeling and the candidate is
sitting down. The baptism goes on as usual, but this time, the water
is only about a foot deep. Think of all the water we'd save!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we were out of travel money, and low on
subsistence funds, so we spent the whole time in Abomosu. It really is a
tiny place. I'm pretty sure we knocked on every door. As President Monson
would say "Great! Now just teach and baptize them!" Working on it. We
had a great lesson with an Elder from another church. We'd just
listened to Elder LeGrand Richards' "Missionary Experiences" talk,
about how you NEVER have to argue if you just learn how to tell our
story. Things became a little tense when we talked about the Priesthood,
but we really emphasized that it is not the Bible that determines the
truth. God has not, ever, in the history of the world, decided to lead
His people with a book, no matter how inspired. The Exodus had Moses,
the Meridian of time had Christ, and the last days had Joseph Smith.
The only time the Children of Israel were led by the written word was
when they were in a state of apostasy, after Malachi, and before

Transfers are coming up. Maybe it's a sign that I'm going home soon,
but I'm really not even thinking about it. I suspect I'll finish in
this village anyway. Maybe the fact that I am TOTALLY SICK OF FUFU is
a sign, too. I am really loving everything else, though. And I am
totally safe. The rest of the world is falling apart, but Ghana is
still Ghana. Plus, I've become pretty deft with a cutlass these past
few weeks, so if any nonsense comes up, I should be okay. Elder Do. grew up
in a barracks and the Terry's have a generator. We'll be fine.

Love you all,
Elder W. Farnbach

P.S Elder Ke. and Elder Om. have their final trial on the 30th.
Prosecution, according to reports, has all but given up. Please pray and fast for them.

P.P.S My 21st Birthday is also my 21st month on mission. Golden
Mission Birthday!

Monday, March 14, 2011

#80 Lost Camera

Dear Family and Friends,                              March 14, 2011

Well, I imagine today's letter will be a little bit short. I'm not
feeling too well again and need to sleep. It's just a
repeat-performance of last time, so I'll be up and going by tomorrow.
Don't worry.

    This last week was kinda stressful. We maintain a rigorous split
schedule, and try to go every week (though President just told us we
don't have to split anymore as it costs too much money). This week, we
went to Asamankese. On the way, I lost my camera (Dear Mommy, before
you worry, read the rest of the e-mail) AND I ripped my pants.
Frankly, I just came home from that split angry and upset. When we
realized the camera was gone, I had given up on it. But, Elder Do.
luckily had the ticket from the tro-tro we rode. This is the ONLY
tro-tro we ride that issues tickets, mind you. The ticket gave the
license number of the vehicle, and we got in touch with the station
master to get his route and phone number. We had sat in the front, and
I had figured the driver would be the first to see it. We called him,
and he HAD it! So, the next time he was in Asamankese, the Elders
there got in touch with him, and recovered it. Seriously, that's one
of those tender mercies that God gives. Do I NEED a camera on a
mission? No. There is nothing necessary about it. But Heavenly Father,
knowing I'd been taking some great pictures, and knowing that I wanted
to have some memories to show my kids, allowed me to be in the PERFECT
circumstance to make up for my carelessness.

    We also had Zone Conference this week. It was basically a giant
pump-up session, as a lot of missionaries have been feeling a little
run-down lately. It was all about having faith in our companions and
our areas. I taught the one about our areas. Frankly, as I look
back, I've served in all the best areas of this mission. I'll fight to
the death any missionary who says they have been more blessed in their
assignments than I have. I just hope that means I've been doing a good
job in them. What a blessing to know that Heavenly Father is SO
concerned with the welfare of His children, that He personally
hand-picks where each of the now 53,000 missionaries in the world
serves, right down to the immediate geographical area! President Smith
added that doing transfers takes him weeks, because he wants everyone
to be in just the right place. He held out some index cards he carries
in his pocket to mark his impressions. Then, he said "I've already
figured out two Elder's assignments just from looking at you in this
room." Hahaha wow. From then on, we joked about "President's writing
again! I swear, he just looked at you. Man, where do you think you're

    The other big thing that happened was we had another baptism.
S. and J. S. is the wife of a less-active that I think
we just successfully re-activated. J. was on of those guys that
just kinda fell into the water. He readily accepted everything, and my
favorite part was when he showed up to his interview all dressed up in
a white shirt and slacks. The guy just gets it!

    I can't really imagine what else to write... I love you all very
much. I'm amazed how fast everything is going, and can't really
imagine being home soon. I love the people of Ghana, and sometimes
it's hard to imagine not being around them all the time.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, March 7, 2011

#79 You know what hurts? Snake bites.

Not that I got one. I just figured they probably hurt a lot.
Sorry, but there really is nothing interesting about this week, and
I've been saving that little throw-away joke for a while now.

Dear Family and Friends, 

Most of why this week was dull was ZLC. We lose two days of work when we have one.
Like I've said, I do love it, especially now that more and more
of my pals are being called as Zone Leaders (Elder Bi, Elder Tu,
Elder Be, Elder Da, etc), but it does eat up a lot of valuable
time. The instruction we have to give is literally the exact same
instruction I gave to the ZLC 6 months ago. I check my notes. Identical.
Which just means we didn't get it right the first time. President asked us
to LOWER our goal. He's pretty good about being stretch, but
realistic. To be honest though, this is probably the strongest month I
have even seen a Zone have. We have some really awesome missionaries
here, who are giving it everything they got.

    We have finally ironed out all the details about S and her
marital situation. I don't know if I have ever fully explained
marriage in Ghana. There are two kinds of marriage that are legally
recognized. There is traditional marriage, which is just a consent
between the parents of the two individuals. Usually, this is secured
by a "bride price". I have no idea how this can be considered binding,
because there is no evidence of the agreement. What prevents a parent
from taking the goods in the bride price, letting it stand for a few
months, and then claiming it was never done? Nothing! That's what!
Then there is the legal, or court marriage. Both individuals sign a
piece of paper, with one witness each, at a registered building, which
is then hung for 21 days. If there are no complaints, the marriage is
binding, and the paper becomes a license. This service is TOTALLY
FREE. This leads to a lot of frustrations to missionaries because it
really can be just that easy. Instead, most people prefer to go
through the arduous process of first "knocking", which is usually done
with a bottle of schnapps, and somewhere around 20 cedis, when you
meet the family. Supposedly, this is to let them know you wish to be
dating, but it has come to mean securing permission to live together.
Oi vey. Well, this means that people living together cannot be
baptized unless 1.) The parents assure that the two are married, or 2.)
they go and do a free, easy, binding, court marriage.
S is with a less active member and we convinced him to do what
he needs to do to get married to her so that they can stop living in
sin, and so that she can be baptized, which she reminds us she wants
frequently. Finally, Branch President called S's mom, and the
mother said yes, her daughter is married, so we'll baptize her this
week. YAY!

    The other cool thing that happened this week is we got to go to a
birthday party for Sister A. and Sister Terry. You do not see many
people back in the states dancing once they are over 40, especially in
non-formal settings. We had the District Presidency, Branch President,
and Elder A. and his wife and half the town (the A's are REALLY
popular) out there shaking it. Man, it was wonderful. I took some
photos, and no, I did not dance. I cannot imagine dancing with this
little black name tag on my suit. I met Stephen A. Jr. and his wife. She's from
Montana. Their little girl Rayna is the most adorable little girl in the world.
We were leaving, and she came waddling over. "Elder? What's your name?"
She couldn't have been more the 4 or 5. She's been around missionaries her
whole life, as that family always looks out for the missionaries in their area.
She has come to know that missionaries are ALWAYS her friends.

    I love being on a mission.

Elder W. Farnbach