Monday, 31 December 2012

Entry #19

It has been quite an interesting experience here in Africa during the Christmas season. While 60+% of the
population is Christian, there are limited signs or indications that it is Christmas. There are no Christmas lights and
only Christmas trees we see are a few in one of the stores we visit each week. The children are out of school for
approximately three weeks, and many roadside food stands and other businesses close for about a week. You hear
very little Christmas music and gift giving is very limited. I am sure that one of the reasons for the lack of Christmas
activity is the poverty and lack of resources of most individuals and families. Since they have never experienced
the wonderful life we are used to in America, they are relatively content – since they have never known anything

On Saturday, 22 December 2012, the mission brought all of the missionaries into Kumasi to one of the church
buildings in the city (Bantama Chapel) and put together a Christmas dinner for them along with a program and a
movie. (See pictures below) It was a fairly major undertaking, due to the circumstance that we have to operate
under here. Just getting 100 plus missionaries into the city from the remote areas of Ghana is no small task. It takes
3 or 4 hours by Tro Tro (small busses) for many to get here. We had two 50 gallon barrels made into a homemade
barbeque grills and grilled 100+ pieces of chicken and made potato salad, strawberry banana Jello with fruit
cocktail (yes, we found 16 boxes and 5 cans and bought them out), bean salad and rounded the meal off with some
homemade pastries, fan-ice (ice cream of sorts) and some carbonated drinks. The meal was generally appreciated
by most, but some of the Africans were not over thrilled with the beans, potato salad and Jello – American style
food. The program included Dad (Rodney) sharing a Christmas Message, followed by remarks from the Mission
President. A movie “Silent Night” was then shown and followed by a small gift packet made possible by some very
generous parents and young women groups from the United States. It still amazes us that many of the African
missionaries have little or no family support and accordingly never receive a package or even letters from home, so
the small gift packages were more than a welcome gift.

The holiday traffic congestion is a nightmare here. Traffic is always a challenge, but getting to and from places
during this time is unbelievable. Driving back from the Christmas Program it took almost an hour to go one mile.

On Christmas day we had the awesome privilege of having 10 of the missionaries (see pictures below) over for a
pancake breakfast (just by luck we found a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix and grabbed it – made pancakes real
fast) and a video (one of the Work and The Glory videos). When it was time to leave we sent them off with bags
full of chocolate chip and snicker doodle cookies. (Cooking with a gas canister is not the easiest so MJ had to watch
the cookies very carefully to be sure that they didn’t burn – most of them were okay.)The missionaries were so
appreciative to have a bit of home life on Christmas. In the late afternoon and early evening we then traveled to the
mission home and had the great opportunity of Skyping with the three Palmer families living in Utah – a nice follow
up to the Skyping session we had with all the families in Arizona on Thanksgiving Day. It is nice to have the feeling
of being with family, even when you are 7,000 miles away. It was great to realize that both family groups, those in
Utah and those in Arizona, were having their Christmas Eve Programs at the same time at night.

We also had a pleasant surprise on Christmas Eve when we heard the rattling at our metal gate at the door of our
place. A grandmother with three little girls (a church member who lives near us) came to sing a Christmas carol to
us. The three little girls are the ones that have basically adopted us as their grandparents and always sit by us at
church and also come to visit us occasionally at our apartment. Anyway they came in and sang a carol – not great
musicians with their limited English, but their heartfelt gift was deeply appreciated. They were in some Santa Claus
type costumes (the most we have seen here in Ghana) and shared their love. (See picture below).


Mom and Dad

In the midst of our Christmas festivities we had 10 new missionaries arrive – all but one was from an African nation.  Below is a picture of these recent arrivals with their trainer companion.

The Christmas Feast for the missionaries – Sister Holmes (mission president’s wife), Veronica (mission cook a returned missionary), Rodney, Bro. & Sis. Thayne, another senior couple in the mission and me behind the camera.
The missionaries are enjoying the food and associations. On the left is Kwaku Cooper, who helps with the facility and apartment management in the mission.

Our great missionaries! Unfortunately, some had to leave before we got the picture because of their travel distance.

These four sisters rode with us to the Christmas Program and meal on Saturday. They live just around the corner from us. Two are trainers for the other two. They are from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Nigeria, in order. They came over a week before and watched the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on our lap top.

This is what our Christmas looked like. We found the tree in the apartment where a senior couple lived but left 2 months ago, brought it over and hung candy canes on it, decorated around it with presents, cards and a homemade silver star at its top. Thank you all for remembering us at this time. It made our time here better, even though we were without our family and friends. We love you all.

These are our Christmas Eve visitors who live around the corner from us: Elizabeth and grandmother, Sis. Kontho, in the back and Joyce, Rodney and Lynette (and Mary Joyce behind the camera). They sang a few carols and we sent them home with some candy which they loved – they weren’t getting much so they were happy.

We had 10 over on Christmas morning. Where was the one lost missionary? Don’t know - - -

Eating pancakes with syrup with orange juice to drink - - -
Elders from Nigeria, Utah and Idaho.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Entry #18

Christmas is only a week or so away, but there is little here in Ghana to indicate that it is the Christmas season.
The weather of course is noticeably different with the 90 degree temperatures, but the Ghanaians have little or
no decorations and very little in the stores that indicate the season is upon us, as is the case in the United States.
The national cavalier attitude about Christmas carries over into the church somewhat as noted by very few of the
traditional Christmas carol and songs sung in the church meeting. The church people here won’t even see the First
Presidency’s Christmas Devotional unless the West Africa Area Office sends it and we aren’t aware of any attempts
to do so, which is too bad – it is so fantastic. There is limited reference to the Christmas season – perhaps that
will change come next week, which will be the last Sunday before Christmas. We have a few of the trappings of
Christmas in our humble apartment – a small little Christmas tree, some homemade signs and pictures we have
placed on the walls and a few gifts.

We are planning an all mission get-together for this coming Saturday, where we are bringing all of the missionaries
into Kumasi. It will take several hours for missionaries to get to Kumasi on Tro Tros (small buses), but the
missionaries will enjoy being together. We will meet from about 10 in the morning, after they all arrive, and will end
about 2 p.m., which will give the missionaries time to return to their remote areas before it is too dark. Travel after
dark in Ghana is very strongly discouraged. We will have a nice homemade dinner (nice by Ghanaians standards) at
one of the church buildings in the city (Bantama church building) along with a program that will probably include one
of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas performances. Of course on Christmas Day the missionaries will have
that traditional opportunity of calling their families; however this generally will not apply to the African missionaries
who in most cases do not have supportive families or whose parents and family do not have the capability of
receiving calls.

We continue to enjoy working with the food that we find here. Banana bread is the best – bananas are so plentiful
here. The next kinds are apple bread and carrot . MJ is trying to find recipes for cookies and sweets that she can
make here for Christmas to give as gifts. Finding ingredients is a challenge, but by a miracle we found sweetened
and condensed milk and got 4 cans of it. Now she could really use corn syrup and almond extract, but that probably
won’t happen. So, a few kinds of cookies and a few kinds of candies will have to do. We are trying to help with the
Christmas spirit.

We have 4 sister missionaries that live just a couple of blocks away from us, which we have really enjoyed. All of
the 12 sister missionaries here are from African nations. The church does not bring young ladies from non-African
nations to this area. These sisters are so faithful and dedicated and are excellent missionaries. We pamper them a
little bit since they are close to us and we can get them mail, supplies and other items rather easily. We have also
had the 4 closest to us over to watch the First Presidency Christmas devotional, which Rodney downloaded from
the church website. They had tears in their eyes before the program was over. One of the sisters (Sister Nwokeka)
returned home this week and her replacement will come in next week. We have attached a little biographical
information on her and her companion that Rodney put together if you want to read a little about her. Also below is
a picture we took of the 4 sisters, just prior to Sister Nwokeka’s departure.

There are 10 new missionaries coming to our mission next Tuesday evening – 6 of these missionaries will also be
sister missionaries. We’ve had to do quite a bit to prepare for their arrival. There are 2 elders leaving on Tuesday
morning – one going home to Bountiful and another going home to Denver.

We continue to be impressed with the African elders. Rodney puts together a picture with information about each
elder and sister, when he gets the chance because we are so inspired with their dedication and what they have done
with their life. These two elders have an impressive story so you may want to read a little bit about them as well. All
of the missionaries are inspirations to us, and this is some information on these two – also picture below.


Mom and Dad

Rodney, Sister Nwokeka, Sister Gogo, Sister Eubokodom, Sister Modise and Mary Joyce

 Rodney, Elder Anouman and Elder Ochieng

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Entry #17

It is hard to believe it is December when it is so very hot and humid (90 degrees and 90% humidity). We see pictures
of some of you in Utah playing in the snow and wonder what that white stuff is. We have ask a few Ghanaians if
they have ever seen snow and their response was “only in pictures”. We do have a little scrubby looking Christmas
Tree – an artificial one that is about 3 feet high that we found in one of the vacated missionary apartments and
they did sing a couple of Christmas songs in Sacrament Meeting today, so it does seem a little bit like the Christmas
season. Christmas is celebrated here but there isn’t as much hype and craziness – not so much emphasis on gifts –
more low keyed.

This coming Friday is General Election Day in Ghana, which is a holiday, and we are told that things can get a bit
tense because of the fervor the citizens have for their respective candidates. In church today they warned the
members to vote and not to linger around the polling place to help ensure their safety. I think we will have to be a
little extra careful on that day.

We enjoyed a skyping session with the Arizona Palmers on Thanksgiving Day with most all of the Arizona Palmers
present and may see if something can be worked out similarly at Christmas time with the Utah Palmers. It would be
nice but the with seven hour difference it might not work. We will see.

We have been doing a lot of traveling the last few weeks –most of it being over treacherous roads that are either dirt
roads or asphalt roads with pot holes that are as much as a foot deep. We traveled North to Sunyani for a branch
conference (3 hour drive one way), then drove to Bibiani a couple of weeks later for a branch conference. Bibiani
is southwest of Kumasi (2 hour drive one way). Then last week we drove to Accra (accent on the last a), the capital
city for Ghana, the location of the Church Area offices and of the Ghana Temple. That trip is 5 hours one way and
is through villages with narrow streets and rough roads with absolutely no signage for directions. It was like an
obstacle course for half of the trip – we were constantly dodging large and deep pot holes, other cars that were
dodging pot holes, people walking along the jungle lined roads and goats. The roads were narrow. . The other half
of the trip we had very nice roads – similar to those you would find in America. Thank goodness we made it there
and back with no real problems. When we left for Accra at 6am Monday, as we got into the jungle, it was really
quite awesome. The mist hung over the jungle and the clouds were low. It was quite magical.

We have the opportunity to speak to the branch members at these branch conferences and we provide training for
the branch presidencies, Elders Quorum, Relief Society, Primary, Young Men and Young Women. The members are
eager to learn and hang on every word of instruction that you give to them. They have amazingly strong testimonies
that they love to share. Rodney loves to play around with the small children after the meetings and they just love to
be chased by him. They always want to get in the vehicle and come home with us when we depart – of course we
have to help them exit the car before we take off.

The trip to Accra was particularly invigorating. We had arranged to stay at the ancillary building next to the Temple
and the West Africa Area office building. Because this is the only temple in West Africa, people come in busses from
many other countries to attend. As a result, they need a place to stay when they get there. The ancillary building is
like a hotel. It can have 6 individuals in each room (3 bunk beds) and has a bathroom with a shower. We had a room
to ourselves and had a great rest. There is also a large room that has a kitchen where groups can eat together. That
is all we needed to be comfortable.

It is such a change to enter the temple and feel of the peace and quiet atmosphere. The spirit we felt was so
uplifting and a welcome change of pace from our everyday duties. We went through a temple session at 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday morning and were privileged to be the witness couple in the session. In the group were the Cape Coast
Mission Pres. and his wife, their Missionary Assistants and two senior couples with the departing missionaries from
their mission. We know them because they took us up to our mission office and got us set up in Kumasi. It was a
fantastic reunion for us. There were about 50 or 60 in our session and all of the ordinance workers who officiated on
are session were Africans. Rarely do you see any non-African white members. While in Accra we were able to take

care of some mission business at the Africa West Area Offices and also able to visit the mission headquarters for the
Ghana Accra Mission. We also were able to shop for some things that we cannot obtain in Kumasi, which is always
nice. It was a fast trip – we left early Monday morning and were back in Kumasi Tuesday evening. It was a long trip,
but a welcome break.

Today is fast Sunday and we fasted for blessings for all members of the family with some special pleas for the Lord’s
favors for some family members that may need extra help, guidance and the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost.
One of the blessings we are again looking forward to is being with all of you in the temple again. We count the
greatest blessing that we have received in our life – the blessing of being in the temple with all of our children and
their spouses. There is no greater gift or blessing that you can provide us that would match this blessing. We look
forward to returning home and having that special opportunity again.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. We really enjoy your emails and pictures that you send. You keep us
going when you do that – makes the distance shorter. 

Love you all,

Mom and Dad 

Our apartment got a face lift – a new paint job! We live through the gate door that’s open and we go all the way to the back where plantain trees grow. There are 4 apartments – 2 on top, 2 on bottom. That is our car. Since this is the dryer season, everyone seems to be painting their places. Those palm trees are coconut trees. We love the coconuts!

On our way to Accra we were behind this truck – there must have been 50 people packed onto it! There is always something new to see along the road.

This lady was emerging from the jungle with a huge load on her head! Then she walked a long ways to the market. They are so strong – strong necks, backs and legs. This big load is not uncommon for the women to carry.

This is a jungle road to the capitol city, Accra.

 Here we are the Bibiani Chapel with Elder Alexander, a great missionary from New Zealand. The people here were so glad that we came and even gave us food when we left.

After the meetings at the Bibiani Chapel.