Mission Application Photo

Mission Application Photo

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Out in the Bush


This week we were “out in the bush” on two occasions.  On Tuesday we were invited to attend a Zone Conference in Senchi, about 1 1/2 hrs. northeast from Accra, along with other senior missionaries.  This was to allow the young missionaries to meet together with the mission president and be instructed.  These missionaries did not have an opportunity to hear from Elder Rasband, the visiting apostle, who was in Accra last week.

In addition to gospel topics, one of our Assistants to the President, is from Ghana and gave a cultural lesson.  We learned:

….you greet people in a line going from right to left

….it is ok to tell a vendor that you are not buying it

….when you first meet someone and they are older, you can call them Grandma or Daddy, but you would only call them brother or sister when you are more acquainted with them


 A baboon along the road to Senchi.
 About 70 young missionaries gathered for the Zone Conference in Senchi.  Yes, it is a rented building and there is a wall dividing the main meeting area.
 You will note that the US Missionaries are all smiling.  The Africans, generally, do not smile for the camera much.

 These are the Taylors, a senior missionary couple, from Ogden, UT.  Their assignment is in the bush-KoforiduaThey have stayed with us when they come to Accra



After the conference, all the Senior couples and mission president met at the Royal Senchi Resort for lunch.  The setting is beautiful.


This boat was hauling logs along the  Volta River.


Road trip back to Accra.  These scenes are what we see and experience on this major highway.  It nearly always gives Stan a headache.



 Note the extra passenger on the top of this Tro Tro? (a goat!)

The view is often quite "interesting."  It is obvious how hot it is here all the time...notice the sweat line!!

 A market scene along the road.


We were also “out in the bush” for our Sunday worship in Mamfe, a community about 1 hr. 20 minutes directly north from Accra.  The 4 young missionaries are working diligently in a beautiful lush area in the hills on the edge of the city.  They have many people who are interested in the gospel, but the challenge is that most cannot afford the taxi fare to church and live too far away to walk.  We were impressed by the articulate branch president who spoke about Easter and also taught a combined relief society priesthood lesson.  There were several investigators who were also visiting.  Sometimes we had difficulty following the messages since there would be English and Twi spoken together.  After church there was a baptismal service for two young men who are 21 years old.


Photo taken from the top of the hills near Mamfe.  It is actually "cooler" in Mamfe.

 Saturday we attended a baptismal service in West Adenta, about forty minutes from our apartment. The baptismal font on the left of the building had a leak so they called a water company to come and fill up the font. 

This was the baptism service at the West Adenta Ward building

On our way back to Accra on Sunday, we gave 4 young adult members rides to their communities.  All had been members less than two years and are the only members in their family, except for the mother of one young man.  Three are in school and one is working in Accra. 

We also learned that when people say “Akwaaba” (welcome), you respond according to age.  So, if we want to communicate with someone younger, we would say “yen ea”.

During our travels this week, these are some of the signs we noted on vehicles, buildings and signs. They are appropriate for the Easter season, but are permanent all year:

Still Unshakeable Jesus

To God Be the Glory

Angelila Villa

God’s Favour

Enoch Fitting Shop

The Set Time Church (maybe in reference that Africans come when they please to church, etc.)

Oil Ministries with a picture of olive oil

Zion Enterprises

Blessed Assurance

Trust in God

Glorious Furniture

Let Us Pray

Life Assurance Ministries, amidst a pile of tires

Grace Enterprises

Rapture Mission Church

He is Mighty God

Trust in God Metal Works

God First

Uphold and Defend the Constitution (well, it is the political season here also!)

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, Keep Ghana Clean (wish people would pay attention to that admonition!)

We thought this was the best:  He died for me.  I must live for Him.


As mentioned previously, we have a generator here at the apartment as well as the mission office.  This week we did not have city power for over 24 hours at the mission office and the generator was on for almost that same amount of time at the apartment.  However, we didn’t notice that our neighbor’s city power did not resume operation like ours did. The neighbors had gone on a short get away after the Senchi Conference and were not home.   It was 20 hours before we realized nothing was running at their place and we called the electrician to get everything on again!  Fortunately, the refrigerator was still cold.  We now hope all the electrical issues are solved for our two apartments!


We are amazed at all the issues the mission president deals with constantly…helping companions get along, encouraging those who are struggling in a new culture, overseeing church administrative matters, checking on the progress of the mission office “annex” remodel, meeting with church members, assigning new missionaries coming to the mission, etc.  We try offer any assistance that we can so he can focus on only the matters he can handle.

This is Elder Smith, one our two "Office Elders."  He and Elder Morris are critical in helping President Heid run the mission.

 We have also had many sick missionaries lately, some with just a temporary illness.  One elder was fine one moment and the next was being taken to the hospital for a kidney stone!!  There was a marked change in his appearance once he got relief!  We have an elder having digestive issues for a few weeks and really not able to function as a missionary.  He was still not better after having some tests and  following a strict diet at the mission home under the nurse and Sister Heid’s direction.  Finally, the church medical doctor felt it best he return back to the US for diagnosis and treatment.  Our neighbor, Elder Sanders, will be taking another long flight this week as his escort.

The mango trees are so pretty.  This does look tropical, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

WEEK SEVEN!!

This week we have been basking in the Spirit of Elder Rasband.  We talked last week about how nice it was to have an Apostle in our midst even if only a few hours.  It is mind boggling to think how seldom we have the chance to be personally in the presence of one of the General Authorities, given the size of the church and the nature of their responsibilities and duties.  It was really inspiring.  We will share a couple of his thoughts:

Elder Rasband emphasized that mission calls are done by revelation and to use our time wisely in the service of the Savior.  He recounted how as a young elder he was certain he would go to Germany as had his father, grandfather and uncle. He was upset that he was called to the Eastern States Mission in New York.  However, he wanted to change his attitude and randomly opened the scriptures to Doctrine & Covenants 100:2.  The scripture talked about listening to counsel, that there we many people in the regions about the eastern land, to come unto this place for the salvation of souls and to lift up his voice  He was comforted that New York was where he should serve.

Elder Rasband encouraged the missionaries to ask Heavenly Father “Why I am here?”  “What do you want me to learn?”  What can I learn from my missionary companion?  How can I develop Christ-like attributes of love, patience, overcoming lack of judgement or to develop a lack of contention? Elder Rasband suggested the missionaries read references in the scriptures related to Jesus Christ.  There are 57 topics listed in the Topical Guide about Jesus Christ.  The more you love Him, the more obedient you will become and you have a greater desire to serve Him.  It was wise counsel for all of us


About 40% of our missionaries missed Elder Rasband’s visit.  President Heid determined that his message and encouragement was of such importance that he called for a special conference this Tuesday for all the “Bush” Zones to gather in Kpong.  There he and the mission leadership will share and teach what they learned from Elder Rasband and the other leaders last week.   (There was also a two-day Mission Presidents’ Seminar with Elder Rasband here in Accra following the missionary meeting we attended.  There are about 14 missions in the West Africa Area, so their presidents and wives had addditional instruction.)   All of the Senior missionary couples are invited to attend in Kpong, so we will be on the road very early Tuesday morning.  It will be so good to mingle with the missionaries that we don’t get to see as often as those serving in Accra.

This week Nancy took a morning and travelled with a group of sisters to a “Bead Market.”  Below are a few pictures and explanations about her adventure.

 Glass bottles are crushed into a fine white powder, which is not sharp!!  Some beads are mixed with a colored powder and others are painted.

The glass is then heated in molds.

 Display of the varieties of the final product.

 The worker is using a car antenna to paint an individual design on each bead. Once the paint is on, the bead is fired for about 5 minutes in a "pizza oven".

 This is a close up version of the painted bead. The molds can be seen in the background.

 This reminded me of an old fashioned quilting bee, but the women were stringing beads.

 Old mirrors are crushed to make transparent beads.  They are washed off in water. Unfortunately, the photo of the finished product was blurry! 


Racks of beads on display. 
Some women got an entire sack full for 200 cedis...about $50 US!!

During the car ride, Nancy learned about some interesting projects being developed in Ghana.  A volunteer LDS couple from Arizona are here for six months to work with individuals in starting business so they might be self-reliant.  Some of the possibilities include:

                Raising chickens and selling eggs

                Teaching them to operate a machine that will produce black plastic bags (every vendor insists on giving you a bag for even one produce item!)

                Raising produce and selling different items than others in the community.  Sometimes there are 20 tomato vendors along the same street!!

One lady along for the tour, actually spent her childhood in Ghana.  She is from Scotland, but her dad was a contractor here in Ghana and now her husband works here for an international company.  She talked that not much has changed in 50 years.  There are issues with water, trash, making a living, etc. However, there is a concern that people are not preserving their traditions and instead are adopting western clothing, not learning crafts, etc.  As we were waiting for a stoplight, the hawkers weaved through the traffic selling their wares.  One was selling slingshots.  She commented that when she lived in the “bush”, they would take a slingshot and shoot the tails off of lizards for entertainment!


Jane Garden, who is from Scotland, but lived in Ghana as a child.  Her husband is retiring so they return to Scotland this week.


Today we were not assigned a particular Ward or Branch to visit, so we just picked the Teshie 2nd Ward.  They meet in a chapel about 30 minutes to the east of our location, not far from the beach.  As we drove along the road toward Teshie, we thought what a waste it is that no one has developed the area for tourism.  There are large sandy beaches littered with little plastic bags.  We also understand that the water is heavily polluted.  But really, if they spent some time and effort on cleanup, it would be a fantastic tourist destination.


LDS Chapel in Teshie.
It looks calm and peaceful, but there is a long street of market vendors directly outside the church gate.  Plus there is another church next door.  Since no one has AC in their buildings, the windows are open.  On Sunday the noise from the amplifiers from the nearby church are very loud and make it difficult to hear inside the building even with a microphone in the chapel.

At the Ward we were warmly welcomed, (this is reference to an attitude not the weather.  It is always warm here), and introduced to the congregation.  The talks today were focused on the Anniversary of the Relief Society.  Members of the Ward Relief Society presidency were the speakers and were very articulate and powerful.  It is clear when a young woman has served a mission in her strength of testimony and ability to share it with others.  We were very impressed.

Before the meeting two gentleman approached us and we were reminded that we had met them several weeks ago; one at another Ward meeting, (La Ward), and the other at the Area Office.  One was the first counselor in the Stake Presidency and the other a High Counselor.  The High Counselor, Brother Abbey, has yet to turn 30 years of age.    He introduced Stan to Richard, who he explained, was the reason he was where he is today.  Richard had extended a hand of fellowship in a difficult time in Bro Abbey’s life.  Because of that, Brother Abbey’s life changed so that he was able to serve a mission and marry his bride in the Temple.  When Stan asked Richard if he had served a mission, he said no.  Stan reminded him that that was not exactly true.   He was a true missionary to Brother Abbey.   

On another note, we did do a few interesting things this week.  We had to deliver a few payments for mission expenses, so we explored a few grocery stores that are not normally part of our shopping routine.   Nancy promptly purchased the item in the photo below.  It was like discovering GOLD for a baker like her.  Stan is looking forward to many batches of cookies and goodies.


This was a great find, but at a price.  Over $20 US!!


 The roof is being repaired on a portion of the mission home plus there are some small additions on the back side to the missionary apartment and bunk house.  Unfortunately, someone did not get the "memo' to cover everything in storage.  We had a deluge thunderstorm one evening, so clean-up was needed.  Elder Sanders, a former EMT, is directly behind the blue garbage can. Sister Bodine, a senior missionary from the "bush", is helping as well as Elder Kufutu, a strong Tongan from California, who is one of the Mission President's assistants.  We were in the office in our church clothes, so we were exempt from helping!


The roof is finally on!

This week we got two new appliances in our apartment.  We originally had a small refrigerator and very small washer.  Now we have all the comforts of home!!



Al the bank this week, I started talking more with the customers.  There was a sign that boasts a 21% rate.  I asked a gentleman if that was the savings rate because I was going transfer a bunch of money from the US to Ghana, if that was the case.  He said no, that was the interest rate for a loan.  He said that for a loan in America he knows that everyone would be aghast, but to the Ghanaians, it’s not so bad.  They have been experiencing wide swings in their currency, so that is why it is so high.  Since we have been here, however, we have not heard much about it and the exchange rate has been stable.

With regard to savings rate, we did find this advertisement along our walking/jogging route.  It still might be worth transferring our savings to Ghana…if we could get our money out when we leave!!


On Friday we joined other Senior Couples at the temple to do sealing ordinances.  It is always nice to spend time thinking about the covenants we have made with our spouses and feel the spirit as we do service for someone else.  Afterward we went to yet another nice place for dinner.  This one is called Sunshine Salads.  It was quite good.  Afterward we walked across the street for a gelato at Pinocchio’s.







Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tro Tros, Sierra Leone and More


This week began with the arrival of 4 missionaries from the field to the mission home.  They had been selected and called by an apostle, to end their service in the Ghana Accra Mission and become missionaries of the Sierra Leone Mission.  The Sierra Leone Mission was closed due to the Ebola outbreak and is now reopening, so several missions in Africa are sending some missionaries to help staff their mission.   I thought about these four Americans a lot and wondered how they were doing with this change to their mission experience.  I remember how it was serving as an “Austrian Missionary.”  Over a short period of time, you develop a deep commitment to the country and your fellow missionaries.  I thought how I would feel if I had received a call to serve in Germany half way through my mission experience.  I think it would be very difficult for me.  I loved my mission and everything about it, and especially the people.  Leaving that prematurely would have been hard for me.  And so, I wondered if they might be having some difficulty. 

They arrived Sunday afternoon and evening from various locations in the mission.  We had only a few minutes to meet them and learn about them.  All had been away from home 7-8 months.  They had endured much and worked through their challenges.  I was a little surprised that they had no real concerns about entering a new country and beginning a new mission experience.  This was reinforced Monday evening during a “departure devotional” held in the mission home.  The president spoke first to them and shared some about the reasons they were chosen.  He said that the Lord had made it very clear who should be the four missionaries going to Sierra Leone.   He expressed his confidence in them and praised them for their faithfulness and diligence.  Sister Heid also shared the confidence she had in them that she was sending them forth as a mother sends forth her sons.

Each missionary also shared a few thoughts and their testimony.  It was clear to me, also, why they were chosen for this special assignment.  For being young nineteen year-old missionaries, they demonstrated a surprising level of spiritual maturity.  I could only wipe away the tears thinking of 4 sets of parents who were not able to hear them share their feelings about Jesus Christ and representing Him to the people of Ghana.  The personal growth and progress evident in their words would create a confidence for their parents that their sons were becoming the kind of men and servants they would hope and desire them to become.  I felt it to be a privilege to associate with them even for only a few hours.

We have included a few pictures of our “special” Sierra Leone missionaries. 

Elder Grant, Elder Saunders, Elder O'Very and Elder Smith with President and Sister Heid.


In only a few minutes, Elder Saunders and I discovered that we had common ancestry.  My Grandmother, Mom’s side, was a Saunders.  Our common grandfather (great, great, great or great, great) was William Gimbert Saunders, who joined the church in England and then immigrated to Utah.  Below is a photo of Elder Saunders and Elder Pace – Cousin missionaries.



The Sierra Leone Mission President sent a special welcome letter to those four missionaries.  He explained how excited the church members were to again have missionaries to help them teach the gospel.  In spite of the fact that Ebola had caused the closure of the mission for over a year, 1,000 people were baptized during that time because the members “stepped up” and shared their feelings about the gospel with their friends.

Driving in Ghana and Accra is a “real” experience.  Our predecessors explained it this way.  “It is basically a game of chicken.”  Although it is an anxiety-laden activity, we are starting to understand the “order” within the chaos and finding how we can fit into it.

As we are driving, our main focus is on the TRO TRO drivers.  They weave in and out, stop at any time and at any place and don’t seem to abide by any common sense driving practices.  Most of the TRO TROs are beat up and barely together.  They spew dark clouds of smoke and don’t have any working head lights OR taillights.  But, they reign supreme when you talk about public transportation.  Tonight we were driving home from a social with some other senior missionary couples.  There was a Tro Tro being pushed along the four lane highway….in the inside lane.  A policeman passed the group and never offered any assistance.

In Ghana and neighboring countries Tro Tros are privately owned minibus “shared” taxis that travel fixed routes, leaving when filled to capacity.  While there are tTo Tro stations, these vehicles for hire can also be boarded anywhere along the route.  Operated by a driver and a conductor (who collects money, shouts out the destination, and can also be called a "mate"), many are decorated with slogans and sayings, often religious.  Few operate on Sundays.  Used by 70% of Ghanaian commuters, Tro Tros are the most popular form of transport for work and shopping in the country as of 2010. Large buses also provide public transport in Accra, Ghana, as of 2008 but may be used by fewer people.


 This TroTro actually looks a lot better than most.  It still has hubcaps and isn't smoking.



As already mentioned, most Tro Tros have religious statements or phrases on the back.  Others you might see..."Christ is King," "Give Jesus your Heart," etc. 

We thought this right of way sign was interesting.  We don't know if Ghanaians understand what it means.  Then again, we are not sure we know what it means.  One thing we do know, the sign does NOT alter behavior.

Nancy attended a District missionary meeting with Zone Leaders (young missionaries who supervise a certain number of missionaries in their area). They conduct the meeting, share spiritual messages, etc. This week they were sharing the news that President Heid has gotten permission to increase the missionary monthly “allowance” or “subsistence” payment by $10 US!!  Food and other items have gone up in the last few months….utility rates have doubled!!  Even though most US missionaries and their parents pay $400 per month into church headquarters for their “support”, the church takes an average of what is needed for housing, utilities, etc. in each mission and any excess is used for missions that are more expensive.  Most Africans could not afford to pay anything like the $400 US so they contribute what they can.

The other announcement was trying to help the missionaries be responsible when something breaks….a phone goes through the wash, etc.  They will now have to contribute some money for replacement.  They also are getting some additional money each month to help purchase cleaning supplies.  The mission nurse is concerned that too many missionaries are having some stomach issues because they are not cleaning their dishes and fruits and veggies properly, especially using some bleach.

Stan had another banking experience this week.  Stan went to the bank on Tuesday, after a national holiday on Monday.  He knew it would be busy, but when you have to replenish the cash, you have to go.  Most vendors at our office want to be paid in cash!!  When he arrived at the bank, there were twenty people and one teller!!  He found out that once you give the teller your transaction, you have to get back in “que” to receive the money!!  When he moved up seats in the “que”, he remarked to the gentleman next to him, that he really didn’t understand the  'system."  The group around him laughed and said they didn’t understand it either!!!

Then we had surges of power and outages on Friday.  (Again, we have a generator at the office).  We decided to head for the grocery store and purchase some supplies for the mission office.  The store was having electrical issues and was not open.  So, we went to the bank.  They said they were not operating either, although we saw employees using computers and the lights were on.  Just as we were leaving, an employee came rushing to us and said they could help us.  Even though we were the only customers in the bank, it still took at 15 minutes to cash two checks, but we were very grateful that we did not have to return for a few days!!  We just wish we understood the entire banking process here!!


The store was back open on Saturday and Stan was pleased to find a large assortment of cheese.  That was a rare find in China, so we are grateful that it is available here in Africa.

Saturday night we had the Heids to dinner at our apartment.  Poor President had been dealing with an African missionary who was having extreme mental anxiety.  (We are so grateful a mental health profession is now here for the next 18 months).  Anyway, we now know that it is likely that he will return home, at least until he get some help and is healthy enough to return.  We were thankful that President and Sister Heid could spare a few hours to eat with us, play a game and have a few laughs. 

Sunday we were invited to attend church where the temple is located, just a few blocks from our apartment.  When church starts, the person conducting always welcomes everyone and the congregation verbally responds, “Good Morning”.  If you meet someone new, they say, “You’re welcome”, meaning that they are glad to meet you. 

  

This building is the Stake Center just across from the Temple.  It really is a nice setting.

One of our office missionaries spoke in Sacrament meeting this Sunday.  (Elder Morris is usually featured in our blog eating something!!)  It was great to see him in this role, as most of the time he is helping us get out of computer difficulties!!  He talked about the contrast between David in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament.  David was a “chosen vessel of the Lord”, but allowed lust and pride to get in his way.  (Remember the story of Bathsheba and then murdering her husband?)  Paul, originally called Saul, persecuted Christians until he received a vision and changed his ways to preach the gospel.  Elder Morris suggested we all have the potential to be like Paul and do much good in the world.

One other young man in church spoke about the desire to share the gospel.  He shared an example to illustrate motivation.  A person sought an elderly man’s advice about choosing a career.  The elderly gentleman had him go underwater and hold his breath.  When he came up gasping for air, the elderly gentleman explained that when you desire something as much as air, then you have motivation!


After Sacrament meeting, this is what you see as you exit the Stake building. 


We decided we needed a "selfie" in front of the Temple.  You can't tell that it feels like a 150 degrees standing there, even with a warm breeze!!.



Friday evening we spent in the temple with other senior missionaries.  It was great doing some work and enjoying the peace found in the House of the Lord at the same time.

We have been communicated with some friends, the Worthens, from our days in Arizona.  They are currently serving a mission in Guatemala.  They sent an email this week asking about Dr. Anderson, who is from a small town in Alaska, was in the MTC with us and is the West Africa Area medical doctor for several missions.  Apparently the Worthern’s daughter, Kaye, has a very good friend, Pepper, in that same town in Alaska.  Dr. Anderson helped Pepper and her husband have three test tube babies!! When we asked Dr. Anderson about Pepper, he knew her immediately.  Another small world connection!!  We also found out that Dr. Anderson has run the Iditarod several times.  The last time was 1993 and at that time it cost about $40-50K personally to do the race and care and train the dogs.  He promised us that he will do a presentation for the senior couples about his experience.

On Monday, March 14, we were invited to attend a special Missionary meeting.  Elder Ronald A. Rasband , (member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles), was in town for Africa West Area meetings and a Mission President's Seminar.  He also wanted to meet with all the missionaries in the Accra area. It was a wonderful 2-hour meeting.

If you enlarge this picture, you will see Elder Rasband addressing all the missionaries.  We loved his positive and encouraging remarks.  His wife also spoke.  They were so "down-to-earth" and personable.  They both greeted and shook hands with everyone.