Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy as a pig in a pothole...

Never wrestle a pig.  You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

It has been an interesting week for me.  I've had a few experiences where I thought, "This isn't going to end well."  But then, amazingly, things worked out and everything is OK.  I know it won't be like that every time, but I was grateful that this week had happy endings.  Unfortunately, these experiences will never make the blog because they are too personal, but we are participating in some pretty cool stuff.

On Monday, it was time for another haircut.  I've been going to a local barber who assured me the first time that he could cut obroni hair.  I didn't give him much rope and so I had to go back again a week later.  That time, I let him go and so it had been four weeks since my last haircut.  (I don't know if I've just realized that it is never going to be Aubrey at the Ritz or if I've become less vain, but now I just turn him loose.)  I pay him extra since I'm an unusual head around these parts, and I think he likes to make sure I get my money's worth.

When we drove up to the barbershop, Sister Stevenson said, "You go ahead. I'm going to visit with these people."  Each time we have been there, we have parked near a little shop and have said hi to the folks there -- usually a grandmother, a few adults and some kids.  So I felt pretty good about leaving her out there and went in alone for the shearing.  When I came out, I found her teaching the kids patty-cake while the adults were reading missionary tracts.  There is a church building right around the corner from them, so we invited them to church and said we would check back with them when were in the neighborhood again.  I like being companions with Sister Stevenson.

She always seems to attract a crowd of children.  It is awesome.

We have 15 new missionaries coming on Tuesday, so that means we have 15 new trainers.  We gathered the trainers together on Friday for orientation.  This is such an important leadership calling in the mission.  For the next twelve weeks, they will help get a new missionary settled into the work, the culture and the calling. They help set the tone of the mission well beyond their term of their service.  We have 12 Elders and 3 Sisters coming this time.

 Sister Udoh and Sister Izidor helping with lunch preparations.

I was in Axim again this week doing interviews.  I forgot to take pictures of the missionaries, but I sure remembered the camera when I saw this beach!


There is a very nice hotel with little "hut" rooms overlooking the beach.  We might have to do an overnighter in Axim one of these days.

Here are some other missionaries from my travels this week:

Elders Moffitt and Halterman at our front gate (They live down the street.) 

Elders Nakedi and Doggett and one of their investigators in Assin Foso.

 Elders Iwuji and Bannerman in Kissi.

 This is the meetinghouse for the Kissi Branch.  The open walls were nice today because it was overcast and there was a breeze.  I don't know how I will like it in a few months when the hot season hits.  

I'm still making my way around to the nine mission branches.  I think I only have one now that I haven't been to on Sunday -- Tarkwa.  Scheduled to be there in two weeks.

Date Night -- "Pizza" and Brownies with the Ivies and the Miles:

Creatures of the Week:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fufu at the Mission Home Means Goodbye

This week we sent 12 wonderful missionaries home with our love and thanks.  This was a unique group in that every one of them had served as leaders in the mission, so we had gotten to know them very quickly. Included in this group was Elder James, who served as one of my Assistants and was so helpful in getting us settled in.  We will miss all of them dearly.  We celebrated their success and sent them off with our blessing.

If it is this hard to send them off after only six weeks, I'm afraid I will be in real trouble in a couple of years. By the way, the drive to Accra was delightful as always (sarcasm).

With twelve missionaries leaving and no one to replace them until September 3rd, we had to do a creative transfer.  Initially, we wanted to bring in young men and women from the wards to serve a "mini mission", but the Liberia / Sierra Leone transfers made that more complicated than I was prepared for.  In hindsight, I wish we would have figured it out.  However, rather than close down areas for two weeks, we have created threesomes to cover adjoining areas.  Many of the missionaries are arranging for members to go out teaching with them in order to see everyone they need to.  It may slow us down a little, but it will go by fast.  We have 15 brand new missionaries coming soon.

My new Assistant is Elder Omokoh.  (He is the one that is not Elder Cavaness).  He is from Benin City, Nigeria and I have already called him a genius several times.

On Wednesday, I went out to Assin Foso and taught with Elders Collins and Ekpo.  Then, I met with President Fokuo, the stake president out there.  I noticed as I drove into town that he has a street named after him.  I came to find out that in addition to being a successful businessman, he is the former mayor of Assin Foso.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to set apart Elder Arthur-Young as a full time missionary to serve in the Nigeria Lagos Mission.  I didn't have any trouble remembering his name because of the big accounting firm and I remarked that it was too bad it wasn't his family business.  He didn't get it, but still seemed to like me.  He is a third generation member of the Church in Ghana and his grandparents were among the early members baptized (they are called "Pioneers" here).  Like many of the very well prepared missionaries we send out, he has spent much of his time since high school teaching with the full-time missionaries.  We will miss his help here, but know he will be a great blessing in Nigeria.

On Saturday and Sunday, Sister Stevenson and I were in Proso.  There is a Member District there that the mission president presides over.  On Saturday afternoon, I interviewed twelve people for temple recommends (5 for the first time).  Then I had a coordination meeting with the District Presidency and the Praso Zone Leaders.  Following that meeting, Sister Stevenson and I went out and taught with Elders Darlington and Iwuchukwu.  We had a wonderful evening with them.  We had delightful lessons with two of their investigators who are looking forward to baptism in the next week (Sister Stevenson even sang "The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock" for one of them.)  At the end of the evening, we met with a couple where the husband had been a member for some time but the wife had waited for several years.  Finally, the time was right for her and she was baptized a few weeks ago.  It was really sweet to sit out in the yard with them in the dark with the frogs croaking in the background and hear them speak of what a great blessing their membership in the Church has been.  I love that.

We stayed overnight at the empty Missionary Couples House in Praso.  Luckily, it won't be empty after September because WE ARE GETTING A NEW COUPLE!!!!!!  Senior missionary couples are worth their weight in gold.  We love the Julanders, the Ivies and the Miles and we are looking forward to welcoming the Seaders (Humanitarian) and the Hanlons.

The Praso Senior Couple's Home

Elders McKeon and Ormond -- Praso Zone Leaders

Finally, we rounded out our trip to Praso, by attending the Sunday services at the Hemang Branch.  I had the opportunity to set apart a new branch president and give him some initial training together with President Asamoah and President Johnson.  We also got to visit with the missionaries in Hemang.

Elders Meleni, Wright, Chishinji and Egunza, together with a young man who will be baptized on Saturday.

After the Church meetings, I asked President Johnson if he would take me to see the grave of his father, Billy Johnson.  Brother Johnson became converted to the restored Gospel by reading the Book of Mormon many years before the Church was organized in Western Africa.  While he waited for the Church to come, Brother Johnson shared his new faith with just about everyone he met.  By the time the first missionaries came to Ghana, there were already congregations formed and studying the teachings of the Book of Mormon -- waiting patiently for baptism.  Billy Johnson was first and I think his son was 11th.  I knew of that story long before I knew there was a Ghana and so when we got the call to come here and I found out the this is where that had all happened, I hoped I would meet Billy Johnson.  Unfortunately, he passed away in 2012, but he has left a wonderful legacy.  I'm glad to call his son a friend.

Date Night at the Castle Restaurant:

Creature of the Week:  (I know it's getting lame, but we are not seeing many exciting creatures.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Did I Mention We Love Cape Coast?

We spent most of the week in Accra for the Africa West Area Seminar for New Mission Presidents.  We joined five other couples for training from the Area Presidency.  I was glad that I only had to unlearn a handful of things...Nothing to get sent home over.

We stayed in a nice hotel and enjoyed a lot of very good food, but Accra is so big and crowded compared to Cape Coast that I was very very very glad that we are serving where we are.  The traffic on Monday as we were driving in was soooooo crazy -- plus, of course I got lost, so that made it even more frustrating.

Once we got there, we had a very enjoyable time.  See:

Dinner at the hotel.

The Accra, Ghana Temple

 This is the "White House" of Ghana -- the presidential palace.

This is a good friend of Marti Bowles from the Westlake Ward back home.  He must have been on strict orders from Marti to find us because we weren't in the door at the Church Office five minutes and he introduced himself and wanted a picture.  He works for the Church in Accra.  Marti spent some time in Ghana and had assured us we would love it.  She was right.

One other nice bit of news from the trip to Accra was...

Our group in Dunkwa was approved to start meeting weekly.  As soon as we find housing, we will assign four missionaries to work up there.  That will be exciting.

When we arrived home, we immediately had to start working on the missionary transfers coming up next week.

Date Night:  We had dinner with Elder and Sister Miles, our new Senior Couple in the office.  They were transferred from Liberia and will be a great help to us.  Unfortunately, we tried a new restaurant that ended up being a little scary.  I don't think they had had a customer in a few weeks.  We asked for menus and they didn't have any.  We asked what they had and they said chicken and rice.  We decided to have chicken and rice and then waited 40 minutes for them to catch the chicken.  It was scrawny from being chased for so long -- but the Miles are good sports and we had an enjoyable evening.  Nobody got giardia so it was win-win.

Elder and Sister Miles.

Saturday, we participated in the All Africa Day of Service.  There were several projects in our mission.  Sister Stevenson and I attended the one in Yamoransa which consisted of pouring concrete for the second floor of a neighborhood school.  We have some hard-working missionaries and members in this mission.  I was very impressed.

 These guys worked with me on the dirt pile.  I used a shovel to loosen the dirt underneath, then they pounded the hard top with rocks to get it to cave in.  (Others were using a pick, but we did what we could with what we had.)

Sister Stevenson doing what she does best.

Creature of the Week:

We've been told there is a monkey living in the trees behind where Elder and Sister Miles will be living, so we are hoping to have a more exciting creature of the week soon.