Monday, January 31, 2011

# 74 Swinging on a Vine / Eaten Alive

Dear Friends and Family,                         January 31, 2011

Most of this week was spent on various splits, so it's a little hard
to keep in my head.

    Tuesday, I traveled for my first visit to Oda. Technically,
anything in the North Zone is "bush", but Oda has a bank and internet
cafes. Nothing bush about it. They also live in what was supposed to
be some Couple-Missionary housing, so the place is SUPER nice. I
wasn't there for more than 5 hours, though, as we had interviews to do
in Asamankese with... Elder Bi.! That kid is just a part of my
mission, I guess. He was dying of a cold, but we managed to see all
his people. What a wonderful teacher he must be, because they were
some of the best candidates I've seen. We spent the night there (in
Asamankese) with no fans and no nets, so I got eaten alive. The
following morning, I taught an old Chief named K.B.. He has
honest to goodness blue eyes, and he's a brilliant and kind man. He's
been reading the Book of Mormon and every cross reference, so he's
asked Elder Bi. to pick him up a Triple Combination [ Bible, Doctrine
and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price ]. He also invited his wife to
take the lessons. HIGH FIVE, CHIEF!

    Wednesday was spent coming back from that split. It's really far
apart. We're trying to get a car out here (We are hoping to convince
President Smith to LIKE the idea of a car out here), though the idea
of driving in Ghana scares the life out of me.

    Thursday, we had interviews. It was awesome. President gave
everyone in our Zone glowing reviews. I didn't even wince once during
my interview! As I thought about it, though, it's kind of amazing to
see all the things I do now that I struggled with so badly at the
beginning of my mission... like using a day-planner. I think I'll use
one at home now. Then, Elder Do. went to Konongo to do interviews
there, so I was able to spend time with one of our new greenies, Elder
He. He's a good missionary already, but it was kinda fun to get that
"greenie perspective"... stuff bothers him that USED to bother me,
but I've become accustomed to... like constant bugs. Hahaha. OH! And we had
two baptisms, Christian and Kingsley. It was a wonderful service,
and we are doing all we can to motivate the home teachers!

    Forget Friday. Not important.

    Saturday, we had a baptism AGAIN, this time for a sister named
Beatrice. We have a few return missionaries over in Kwabeng who want us to
baptize their girlfriends. Beatrice was first. She came late, though,
so had to wait an extra hour while a funeral service was held. It was
the first time I had ever been to an LDS funeral. I was impressed,
because funeral culture here is one of the greatest stumbling blocks.
That same day, we had 3 other funerals in town, to the tune of a lot
of alcohol, loud music, and general irreverence. But Seth, on
his death bed, pleaded for a low-key, quiet "Mormon" (this is the only
part of Ghana where people call us "Mormons") funeral. I am so glad
for our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. I know there is a definite
order and purpose to every stage of life. Death is as much a necessary
transition as birth is, and even though it is sad not to see a loved
one for so long, I know that we have hope in the Resurrection of
Christ. Most theological discussions could be settled when one
properly understands 1.) Who and What God is, 2.) What a Spirit is,
and 3.) Why we need a body. Everything else then becomes SO easy to
answer. Remember that, Hans, as you go to Argentina. It's tempting to
gloss over those things, as there is no real interview question for
them, but without it, nothing in the Church or Gospel makes much

    Sunday was spent traveling AGAIN, this time to Nkawkaw. Did I
mention we need a car? The closest companionship to us is still an
hour, hour and a half away! We went to church in Abomosu, and brought
a new couple. Solomon is less active, but when we talked to him,
he is eager to come back and wants us to teach his fiance. She also
asked us to teach her. Families are the backbone of the Church, and there is
nothing we can do without them. Solomon, interestingly, was a branch
missionary from the first time I was here, and one of the few who
would actually proselyte with us. Sad to hear he went less active, but
good to have him back!

    Today, we went to this place called an Arborterum, which I think
should REALLY be Arbortoreum... It was a cool place to learn about
plant life in Ghana. I SWUNG ON A VINE! I tried to climb it, but 18
months of missionary work, eating nothing but starch and oil has
really decimated my physical condition. It was funny. When the guide
realized we were "pastors", he kept trying to tell us about Biblical
things found in the park. "Moses built the Ark out of this wood." "He
came all the way to Ghana?" - Elder Terry. "This tree gives us Myrrh".
As I understood, and as confirmed by Wikipedia, Myrrh comes from a
thorny bush. That's okay, though, because he gave us Africa
Sweetberries. They are the single greatest fruit ever. They themselves
are pretty good, and they make anything you eat afterward REALLY
sweet. Best oranges I ever had, for example.

    Tomorrow, we go down for ZLC [zone leader conference ]. I love these meetings,
and I love washing with the washing machine! It's nice to have a few minutes to
relax and reflect. You just really don't get those unless you make
them, I think. But evaluation and reflection are one eternal round, I
think. As we ponder our weaknesses and improvements, we end up with
less of them. Take time to reflect!

Elder W. Farnbach.

P.S 18 months today. Woot-YEAH!

Monday, January 24, 2011

#73 Pie!

Dear Family and Friends, January 24, 2011

First and foremost, a HUGE congratulations to Hans Farnbach, for his
call to the Argentina Resistencia Mission. Way to go, Hans.
We know you'll make us proud. I am also glad you'll be
home for Mother's Day, as that is the only time we'll get to talk
for 4 years (2 for me, 2 for him).

Alright, now that that's aside, let's talk about this past week.

    Wednesday, we had to go down early with the Terry's to Accra,
because we had a mission conference with Elder Sitati the following
day, and there is just no way we could get there in the morning if we
left Thursday. It's always a little strange having a day on your
mission where you don't really have any missionary work to do. In
fact, it felt just a little off. We were crammed in the back of their
car with the Konongo Elders, and Elder He. (a greenie) and I
talked about food the whole time. Then, the Terry's had some shopping
to do, so we were inside an honest-to-goodness MALL for about an hour
and a half! That was the most surreal experience in my life. That
night, we stayed up late with our zone members and the other missionaries
I hadn't seen in a while, as Elder Bi. had arranged for us to buy a
ton of pie at said mall and we binged a little. Reminded me of
wrestling in High School... or immediately after, rather.
    Thursday was a great conference with Elder Sitati. That man is
just a legend to us here in Africa. He and his wife are just so
wonderful to be around. And he interviewed me after the conference! I
forgot about that. Having been in Abomosu the week prior, he was
interested to get my thoughts on "The Bush", and gave me a lot of
great counsel and things to think about. I told him Hans was going on
a mission, and he asked what sort of advice would I give him. Hans, be
sure to read this.
    The greatest missionary prep you can be doing has very little to
do with the scriptures or the missionary lessons. Frankly, they are
rather easy to learn, as you've been learning them for 19 years. The
most difficult and worthwhile thing to learn before your mission can
be found in Chapter 6 of Preach My Gospel. The more Christlike you can
be, the better. The amount of time you can spend learning to be like
Christ, practicing His attributes, especially charity and love, is most important. It is
much much harder when you are crammed in the back of some dusty, beat-up, tro-tro,
where the driver insists on going over EVERY hole in the road, and
when people are selling you food with maggots in it. Much much better
would it be to already be like the Savior BEFORE you come out.
    Oh, and then after the interview, I got to sit and talk with
President while Elder Do. also had his interview. Elder Terry
joked that missionaries always talk about food. Well, talking to
President Smith, I was telling about Elder Ho., the picture he sent
of him with his girlfriend, and how I couldn't tell which he
talked about more, the girlfriend or chocolate milk. President
confessed that the thing he's looking forward to most is a "nice,
huge steak". I laughed at the idea that President might be just a
little trunky himself! (He's been in Ghana for 4 years now! 2 as a
senior missionary couple and then immediately as Mission President)
    Saturday, we had organized a branch missionary training for all
the missionaries in the district. It was awesome. We made it a point
of making it as hands-off as possible. One branch mission leader
instructed on "Our Missionary Purpose" and the other spoke on "How My
Calling Affects the Work of the Lord in My Branch" We rounded off the
whole thing by inviting these missionaries to share their own
conversion stories and share what blessings the Gospel has given
them. It was a powerful experience. I know these young men were saved
by the Lord to come to Africa at this time, to prepare this great land
for the Restored Gospel, and the coming of Christ.
    Sunday was a branch conference in Asuom. Afterwards, the District Presidency sat
down with all the branch missionaries (and us) and gave them another
great pep talk. 8 were there, from a small branch of 40. We're hoping
for big things, that's for sure. Sunday also, Daniel O. and Kwesi
A. didn't come to Church, so we have to delay their
baptisms. :( On the bright side, though, we started teaching his
father. I'm not sure why the idea of another book of scripture is so
hard to take, but after about 30 minutes of every metaphor we could
think of ("God gave you two hands, right? Does that mean the right
isn't good? NO! But thank goodness we have two, and not just one!"), I
think he finally started to understand. Friends, the Book of Mormon is
true. Read it. Allow for even the possibility that it might be real,
and then carefully observe how you feel while reading it.
    As Sunday numbers came around, I became a little discouraged. As
I thought back on the scriptures I realized something. Relying solely
upon the merits of Christ is the only way not to go insane in the
Church. We have an attitude of "Everything is My Fault". I think
that's healthy and stems from our understanding of agency. No matter
how bad something is, you can do something to make it better. When
someone else is mostly at fault, it is still your job to apologize.
Agency. Anyway, this has an interesting side-note, which means that
whenever things are still bad, one could easily blame himself. But if
we rely on the merits of Christ, we give our best effort, but realize
at the end of the day, He could do it better, and that God knows that,
and will cut us a little slack, so we can too. This also demonstrates
the tremendously fine balance the Gospel has. You can't NOT try due to
this doctrine without being in the wrong, but you shouldn't kick
yourself TOO MUCH either. There are about a thousand examples of this
(Everyone should work hard and take care of themself. Also, we have an
amazing humanitarian program. Balance), but at the end of the day, it
just proves the Church is true. Christ built it. He leads it today,
and therefore the doctrine is just as perfect as He is.

Anyway, love you! Next time we talk, I'll have just 6 months left! I
intend to finish on a sprint!

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, January 17, 2011

#72 Cinnamon Toast Crunch / Answered Prayers

Dear Friends and Family,                  January 17, 2011

I just want to start off this letter by bearing testimony on the power
of prayer. This week was a little rough in so many ways, but right
around Sunday, I felt an overwhelming confirmation that Heavenly
Father knows me, He loves me, and He will always be there to help me.
It is easy to settle into routines when it comes to missionary
work. In our mission, we have some minimum standards. With these sort of
goals, it becomes easy to look at things like check-marks on a list.
You suffer through a crummy lesson and you say, "Only xx number more to go."
You half-heartedly go through a script - "We're missionaries from the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Have you seen us before?
That's right, on the bicycles." And when you finish, you make a dot in
your planner that says you only have to do that XX more times today.
At the end of the week, you count the dots, lessons, new
investigators, and you say "I'm an excellent missionary." This sort of
humdrum just sucks everything out of you, especially when you are then
forced to ask yourself "Then why don't I FEEL like an excellent
missionary?". The answer is because that routine has never yielded
excellence, least of all when it comes to the Lord's work. Though we
take the Sacrament every week, it should never be something you do
because you've always done it. The temple, even if you have been a
thousand times, should always cause reflection. Persistent effort,
searching, hungering and thirsting after righteousness are what yield
excellence in the eyes of God.
    As I realized the spiritually-dead state I had fallen into, it
took, of course, more work to get out. This can be summarized in an
example with my current companion. We turn our phone on silent when we
go into lessons. Now, this can take many, many different buttons, but
I have arranged it in such a way that it will only take 2. My
companion does not do it this way. Every time HE puts the phone on
silent, I explain it to him again. "Why do you do it THAT way? It's so
much easier THIS way. I arranged it THIS way to be easier for us,
specifically so we would not have to do it THAT way." I imagine this
is how the Lord feels about each of us, especially me. The way to
start this turn around, I've realized, is to say "I'm sorry. I was
wrong. My way was wrong, and I don't know how to fix it." I have
prayed specifically to overcome each and every problem for a while
now. This week was like the Lord said "Son, I have heard your
prayers, and I'm going to answer each and every one of them,
specifically, and you will know that I am God, and your Father."
Sunday is just when I realized that He'd done it.
    As I prayed to have better feelings, God sent President Smith and Elder Sitati, of the 70, to our
Sacrament yesterday, to bear testimony of just how active the Lord is
in the lives of His African Children. "Christ is on this continent,"
said President Smith. "He is concerned with the well being of His
brothers and sisters here. He has heard the prayers that stem from
your humble circumstances, and He is answering them." Elder Sitati,
probably one of the GREATEST converts of Africa, gave a powerful talk
on the need to give up our old lives and take up new lives as
disciples of Christ. As I ponder on this, I think this is the part of
Christianity that is missing in many lives. We love the ideas of Christ.
"Love everybody!" we cheer. "Do good!" we cry. "Forsake sin, and never
tolerate it!"  ... whoa. That sounds kind of hard... But if we do not,
if we are not that force for good in the community, if we do not
invite people to change their lives and follow the principles of
Christ, then what was the point of adding "the Salt of the Earth" to
this particular dish? Christians love everyone, and serve everyone, as
Christ did. The way we show this love is to invite everyone to live
higher, more righteous lives, not by merely patting them on the back. The
great example in my mind is when He cleansed the Temple. So anyway,
that got me fired up about teaching people, not lessons. I sincerely
want to help people.
    The other answer came as a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a 12
page letter from two of my dearest friends, reserved by God and an
overloaded postal service for an hour of need. Thank you, Dylan and
    Sunday, it was my companion's turn to write reports, so I had 3 hours
to just sit and revel as I pondered my own fallen nature, and all the
blessings that I received during the week, that I was only now
realizing. I think I understand what this means a little better. I do
not believe most people consciously rebel against God. I believe that
we are just slow to remember all the little blessings Heavenly Father
has given us, and quick to cry that we have been abandoned as we taste
the bitter fruits of our own choices - that God has forgotten us, when
He merely allows us to see the direction our own path is taking us.
    I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father. I am grateful to know
the Savior. I know He lives. I will do better as His representative to
the people of Ghana.
Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, January 10, 2011

#71 - Harvesting Bananas

Dear friends and family, January 10, 2010

(I had just written a wonderful e-mail, and g-mail ate it)

This past week has really flown by. We didn't have any meetings or
anything, which are usually what makes time go quickly, but it freed us
up to do things, like missionary work :)  We taught a lot more then we
normally do, we involved members better then ever before, and we taught
some of our branch missionaries. Hopefully, they'll stay fired up for the next few months.

We taught the Ye.'s again. We still count bottles every time we go
by as they are still working on their commitment not to sell alcohol
anymore. Anyway, we had a wonderful kneeling prayer
with them, and it was a truly sublime experience...a father, pleading
for the blessings of heaven upon his wife and children. Truly great.
They didn't come to church this week, but if they are kneeling in
prayer every day, it will be a big step up.

We also taught a man name Kwesi. He was a referral. A
self-referral, if such a thing exists. He's been praying for a long
time concerning which Church he should be part of. On one occasion, a
voice told him to "go with the Latter-Day Saints.” A few days later,
as he was praying, he saw a finger write "The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints" on the wall and immediately decided that's
where he needed to be. He found a friend whom he knew as a member and
had him bring the missionaries. A prepared man, in every way.

Transfers were a bear. We have two new trainees and Elder K. came. He
replaced me in Buduburam. Now he's here. I'm excited. It's like the
Lord is giving me all my old troops back! Why a bear, then? Splits
that day involved 3 tro-tro rides, spanning 3 hours, on dusty roads...
then we had to repeat the same trip back! Nothing makes me so grateful
to live in a country where we can drive ourselves. This is a
remarkable blessings we totally take for granted.

We went to the farms today. Elder Abu's farms. I learned how to harvest
bananas, plantains, and yams. Banana sap is the most disgusting gunk
in the world. It felt no remorse as I chopped the trees down.
See, they only produce fruit once, so you harvest it, cut it down, and
the roots send up a new one in a few months. The trees are pitifully
weak, so I reached the point where I could slice through one in one fell swoop.
Then they dripped that vile sap in my hair. It's still there. I'll
need to shower a dozen times to get it out. It was nice to work physically.

I wish I had time to write more. I love you all very dearly, and I am
doing my best to serve faithfully. I know this is the most important
thing I could be doing now.

Elder W. Farnbach

Monday, January 3, 2011

# 70 New Years and a spider bite

Dear Friends and Family,                                                              January 3rd, 2011

     Well, another week has flown by. Oh thank Heaven, it's 2011! New Year's is a HUGE deal in Ghana, and by huge deal, I mean that whole villages shut down to celebrate. Really, it takes two days. First, they call it 31st December, so they can party. Then the 1st is New Year's... so they can party. Did I mention I had never smelled alcohol before my mission? Now I know what it smells like. Vividly.
     This week was special, because we had to have ZLC [ zone leader conference ]early. It was also special because Elder Sitati of the 70/area presidency was there. What a great experience. I asked him, what was the secret to his conversion? He laid it out pretty easily. He referred us all to Alma 32, talking about a faith experiment. The answer to conversion is merely doing what the Lord has asked. If you will pray morning and night, read your scriptures, attend your meetings, redeem your dead, fulfill your calling, and pay your tithing, you WILL be converted. No doubts, no questions, just fact.
     Unfortunately, whenever we have ZLC, we basically lose two days of work, because we so far out into the bush. It really cuts into having much to say.
     We have been finding a lot of families lately, and it's been a real blessing. We have the Dziadzorwos (figure that out, I dare you. Ewes have the hardest names.), the Y.s, the Do.s, and the Fr.s. One of the families was supposed to be baptized in October, but the dad disappeared into the western region to harvest cocoa. He turned up in December, so we pre-interviewed him and figured that he was still ready to baptize. "I'll be here until the 10th," he said. So we put his baptism on the 1st. On Wednesday we called and he repeated, "I'm here until the 10th." On Friday, he was to be interviewed for real... but was nowhere to be found. "He's gone to harvest cocoa in the Western Region!" GAH! But, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as now that he's gone, his wife has turned up, and we've started teaching her as well. She doesn't speak English, but her children and husband do, so they can all be baptized together. The father of another of the families is an elder in the Church of Pentecost, but he was the only one of his family who came to church this past week. I'm hopeful.
     We also have been trying to do our part to serve the members. We talked to the branch president in Asuom, and Elder Do. was prompted to ask if anyone needed our help. That was not what we were there for, mind you. The President had a friend whom we wanted him to pick up for church on Sunday. But, in answer to the question, he led us to the former branch president, who led us to Daniel O.. Daniel had been to church twice. "What is the book of Moses? I can't find that in my Bible." We read the section in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8, about the role of a seer. Joseph Smith revealed certain things that have been written, and hidden... like the Book of Moses. It's proof that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by one holding the Priesthood authority of God? "Yes!" Seriously, it goes just like that. When the Spirit is there, you find those people who are prepared, and missionary work is just a miracle. That's all.
     In the long walk between these houses, I was pondering the concept of "treasures in Heaven". I've always wondered what that really meant. As I pondered on it, I was looking over my mission and all the wonderful people I have met and have been privileged to serve. It occurred to me that the phrase "treasures in heaven" could not possibly mean anything physical. Joseph Smith points out that the same society that we enjoy here, exists there. A life-time of good deeds, selfless service, and sacrifice will yield billions of cherished friendships and wonderful shared memories. These are as eternal as the beings who wrought them, and are, in my opinion, what MUST be meant by "treasures in Heaven". So, no fast cars, piles of gold coins and jewels, or anything like that. Who needs them, anyway?
     The other thing is, we met Ebenezar, a less-active member who left the Church over the doctrines of Eternal Marriage and baptism for the dead. So, basically, everything that distinguishes our Church from everyone else's. It was sad, but I felt my testimony grow as I bore it to him. He's a good man, and the Lord needs all His Priesthood bearers to work. – By the way, welcome to the team, Hans. Thank you for living worthy of the Melchizedek Priesthood. You are such a blessing to our family.

     Love you all. Transfers are soon, but I'm not going anywhere....for a long time. Have a wonderful New Year. 2011 has so many possibilities and blessings for all of us. Especially you!

Elder W. Farnbach

(A spider bit me and gave me a nasty little red welt under my arm. I think he got the worst of it, though, as I was disgustingly sweaty that day.)