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