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