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