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