Sunday, 26 May 2013

Entry #29

Dear Family and Friends,

Another week has passed here in  ”paradise.”  We continue to be very busy as we open up areas in northern Ghana to missionary work.  We indicated in the past that we put missionaries in the city of Tamale – a fairly large city where we have never had missionaries.  We have had a couple of baptisms and are teaching a number of other investigators.  The missionary work is what you would have seen two centuries ago in the 1800’s with street contacting and teaching.  Meetings are set up at our rented chapels and invitations given, just as in the early days in the church.  In June we will be sending 8 missionaries to the city of Techiman.  By the end of June we will have eight missionaries in each city of Tamale and Techiman and will have 4 meeting houses in each city and 4 missionary apartments in each city.  We started with about 12 to 14 members of the church in each of these cities (generally associated with the universities in these cities) and the numbers are expected to increase quickly.  Needless to say, the movement into areas that we have never been in before and setting up meeting houses and missionary apartments is challenging, particularly with the way the Ghanaians do business.

Below is a picture of a sign out front of a place we have made a Saturday evening habit to visit.  Out of the entire city of Kumasi – a city of approximately 2 million people, this is the only place that we have found that is anything like American food and at the same time has cleanliness standards that gives you some degree of confidence that you will not pick up something that will make you sick.  We therefore meet the other senior couple in the mission most Saturday evenings for one of the few eating and restful pleasures available.  The place as noted in the picture is “Piri Piri” – a Lebanese owned restaurant, which is not high on d├ęcor, but the food is very good – excellent by Ghanaian standards.  It claims “fast food,” but you order it and wait about 30 minutes while they make it.  But, it’s worth it.

Also pictured below are some of the church members outside of the Asokwa Ward chapel.  The lady in the wheel chair is inspiring.  She trains rigorously for the Special Olympics and with the help of sponsors she has competed in various countries in the world, and apparently has been very successful.  She is a faithful church member and due to her training she has upper body muscles and a build that is most enviable.  We love to be around her because of her kind outlook towards life and her optimism and accomplishment with her handicap – a result of childhood polio.

The other little girl pictured below has become our little sweetheart.  She and her mother live across the street from us and she just can’t wait to come out in front of her house and wave hello to us.  She gets disappointed if we leave her presence.  She has a given name, but as is the custom here in Ghana you receive another name based on the day of the week you or born or your order in the family or if you are a twin.  She goes by Accria, since she was born on a Wednesday.

Due the threat of malaria, we are confined to our apartment most evenings.  (We have two or three missionaries with malaria almost all of the time).  With the evening time indoors we have put together the 1,000 piece puzzle that Trevor and Ashley sent for Christmas.  Never thought we (particularly Rodney) would have patience to accomplish such a feat.  As you can see from the completed puzzle below we were short 5 pieces at the end.  We think the shortage may be due to one of the little African boys that was intrigued by the puzzle one day and begin to stir up the puzzle and throw a few pieces.  Now, you notice how orderly the pieces are laid out?  Rodney sorted them into catagories so he could easily go through the different types.  Because he’s color blind to red and green, this helped him find the shapes he was looking for.  But, it was still a long process to finish the puzzle because the water was really the challenge.

The people here have a great respect for age and authority.  When they see us they say, “Hello, mommy and daddy.”  (Yes, our grey hair and wrinkles give us away.)  We become their mommy and daddy and they honor us even though they don’t know us.  At the post office, while Rodney was in getting the mail from the post office box for our mission, Mary Joyce climbed the stairs to wait for him.  At the top was a man sitting eating some food (with his hands, which is common).  She greeted him and he said, “Hello, mommy.  Please, have some food.”  He wanted to share his food with her out of respect.  That was very thoughtful.  Of course, she very politely declined.  We receive many courtesies because of their respect and friendliness.

Also, we have been told by many here that even when they are upset, they will never hit each other.  They just have a war of words not a physical war.  And we can attest to that.  When there is someone who is upset you should hear the people arguing!  Glad we aren’t in any of those because they get very heated.  Also, these people are very friendly and helpful with each other.  Frequently,  we will see a cab stopped in the road – he’s just saying hello to a guy walking bye.  Also, when there’s a traffic jam there will be many out trying to solve the problem.  We are always amused as we travel around.  They are good, humble Christian people.

We send all of you our best wishes and offer continued prayers in your behalf with your families.  We were delighted to log on to Brooke’s missionary site and read the first letter she posted to the site.  We felt the spirit of her dedicated efforts there and pray for her success in learning Spanish.  With her spirit and devotion she not only will master the language, but will be one of the Lord’s choicest missionaries.  We were also jealous as we viewed the pictures of the family members that hiked to Fossil Creek.  We were also in awe at Jared’s exploit on Mt. Ranier.  We love hearing about the triathlons, half-marathons, Pat’s Run etc., but not eager to join the crowd at our age.  Also as we viewed the Clayton pictures of Disneyland it took our minds back a few decades when we were doing the same.  Then we look at the pictures of the little ones getting bigger in our absence and feel a twinge of homesickness and yearning to hold and squeeze them.  We will have to settle on doing the same for the little ones in Africa for now.

With love

Dad, Mom, Grandpa, Grandma, Rodney, Mary Joyce

Here is the menu for Piri Piri.  We really enjoy the fajita sandwich and the pizzas (chicken, all season or supreme, Mexican).  Their fried or grilled chicken with rice and cold slaw or chips (fries) and slaw are good too.  Have to be careful because they really like to spice things up here.  Piri piri is actually a very spicy pepper.

The restaurant.

In front of the Awokwa Chapel.  The black tank in the background is a poly tank that filters the water so it is drinkable.  Most of the taxis and tro tros have Christian sayings on them.  Many of their shops do too.  We are making a collection of some of those sayings.  The man hanging out the passenger side of the tro tro is the one who gets the fare.  He is always looking for someone and usually he yells to them to encourage them to ride with them.  As you drive along you always hear “honk, honk.”  That means, “ I’m coming, do you need a ride?”  Also, the people who are waiting for a tro tro or taxi have hand signals to tell where they want to go so maybe the tro tro or taxi won’t stop because they aren’t going that way.

Most of the taxis and tro tros have Christian sayings on them.  Many of their shops do too.  We are making a collection of some of those sayings.  The man hanging out the passenger side of the tro tro is the one who gets the fare.  He is always looking for someone and usually he yells to them to encourage them to ride with them.  As you drive along you always hear “honk, honk.”  That means, “ I’m coming, do you need a ride?”  Also, the people who are waiting for a tro tro or taxi have hand signals to tell where they want to go so maybe the tro tro or taxi won’t stop because they aren’t going that way.

Accria dressed for school.

The water is the hardest!
Notice all of the pieces are categorized by shape?  It really helped.

Is there ever any guarantee that all of the shapes will be in the box?  We are very proud of our accomplishment and didn’t think it would be done this fast.  It was a great project.  Now when we’re ready to box it up, we will leave it with the next senior couple to do.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Entry #28

Dear Family and Friends,

As mentioned in our recent letters we have a large number of missionaries arriving in the mission, including some of those that are responding to the lower age requirement.  We have three elders in the last group that were 18 years of age – soon to be 19.  We also are receiving an increased number from the United States – which likely are the ones that would be coming at an earlier age.  The African missionaries tend to be considerably older than the North Americans – even as old as 26, and even older for some of the sister missionaries.  We included some pictures below of our recent group that we picked up at the airport.  Needless to say the North Americans experience a significant culture shock in their first few days in Ghana.  Also included below is a picture of the load of furniture being taken to apartments for the new missionaries.  Kweku Dadzie-Cooper is in charge of this effort and we have learned to love and appreciate him, more than words can tell.  He and his wife are expecting their third boy in June.

We love these missionaries so much.  They are to be commended for their dedication and their faithful service.  They have treated us with the utmost respect and courtesy.  We have four sister missionaries living pretty close to where we live and they love to drop by frequently and just tell us how their day has gone.  We inserted pictures of a few of our special missionaries below.

We have attended two conferences the past couple of weeks – The Ghana Kumasi Stake Conference – the only stake in our mission and the Sunyani District Conference (one of two districts in our mission).  We inserted a few pictures of the Ghana Kumasi Stake Conference below.  The stake center could not hold all of the attendees.  They filled the chapel and what would be the equivalent of a cultural hall, and then filled the corridors and still had hundreds sitting outside trying to hear the proceedings of the conference.  We estimate that they had 1,500 or 1,600.  It was a spiritual feast.  We have included below a summary of one of the experiences shared by the stake president.  The theme of the conference was “Forgive and Be Forgiven”

Stake Conference – Ghana Kumasi Stake – May 5, 2013 – President Richard Samche Remarks

The theme of the Stake Conference was “Forgive and be Forgiven” - President Samche related the story of a very young boy who in his childish play had damaged the paint on his father’s new and expensive car by writing or scratching the painted surface.  In anger the father lost his temper and hit the boy’s fingers to teach him never to do it again.  The injury to the young boy’s fingers was extensive and eventually required that the boy’s fingers be amputated.  A few years after this incident the young boy, not remembering, or not knowing, the cause of the amputation, ask his father why he had lost his fingers.  The father explained what had happened and then with a broken heart and great remorse the father attempted suicide, to escape the hurt he was feeling for the pain and damage he had inflicted upon his son.  His suicide attempt failed, but the father was taken to the hospital.  Upon being released from the hospital the young boy met his father outside of the hospital with a big sign he prepared which read, “I love you dad”-   a true model of forgiveness.

The week following the Ghana Kumasi Stake Conference (May 12, 2013) we traveled to Sunyani for their district conference.  Sunyani is a couple of hours north of Kumasi and is less crowded and a much cleaner city than Kumasi.  It was so pleasant to spend time with the wonderful people in the Sunyani area.  They were ever so kind to us.  Sister Palmer (Mom) played the organ (large keyboard) for them and they were most appreciative of her talents and the help to make the music so nice for the conference.

We threw in a couple of pictures of scenes along the way to Sunyani – we are most amused at the humble homes and the hundreds of antennae’s that reach into the sky in the densely populated areas.

As we write this letter we understand that Brooke (our granddaughter) is entering the Missionary Training Center in Provo.  It leaves a lump in our throat as we think about the next generation of the family beginning missionary service.  We have prayed for her and will continue to pray for her everyday – that she will have help mastering the Spanish language and that she will be strengthened in every way to be a great missionary.  There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that she will be the best.  The people of Santa Rosa are in for a great treat.  The family will likewise be the recipient of blessings that will flow from her service.  We love her.

We have watched with eagerness the various triathlons and other races that family members have participated in together.  We share their feats with the missionaries here and they are inspired by your togetherness and your accomplishments.  Needless to say we are more than proud of the accomplishments and goodness of all of you.  When we grow up we want to be like you.

Kweku and Benjamin with furniture for missionary apartments in the mission home parking lot – beds, chairs, tables, wardrobes (closets), stoves, etc…

Picking up missionaries from the Kumasi Airport – 14 arrivals on this day
Another photo shot at the airport showing the new missionaries arriving.  Their suit coats come off real fast because they are dying of the heat!

Missionaries arriving at the mission home – photo taken from second floor of mission home

Two of our favorite sister missionaries bidding farewell to each other on transfer day – Sister Ngwenya and Sister Modise.  (Plantain trees in the background.  Everyone has a cement wall & gate at their home.)          
Another photo of Sister Modise from South Africa and Sister Ngwenya from Zimbabwe

Ghana Kumasi Stake Conference – Kumasi, Ghana.  Windows open, fans on - - -

Picture taken of a dress a lady was wearing to Stake Conference – Pictures of all the presidents of the church

Sister Ngwenya, Sister Zeahn, Sister Osanebi and Sister Ogbonna in our home away from home.

Elder Anouman and Elder White – Two great missionaries serving in the northern city of Tamale in Ghana

A photo taken on our way to Sunyani – seldom see hills or mountains, so we had to take a picture
Another photo taken on the way to Sunyani.  Note the TV antennae’s on little poles sticking up from each of the little residences.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Entry #27

Dear family and friends,

We continue to be extremely busy with new missionaries coming to the mission in large groups. We had 14 new
missionaries come in earlier this week and will have 14 more coming in on the 11 th of June, and then more to
come in July and August. We are also seeing some of our great missionaries return home – 8 earlier this week and
there will be 6 in June. We really grow attached to these young men and women and hate to see them go. We
have particular heart ache as we watch the African young men and women return home, knowing they return to a
challenging family situation and even more challenging employment situations. As mentioned in earlier letters many of the African missionaries are the only members of their families that are members of the church and accordingly they have little or no family encouragement and support. The mission has really prepared these young Africans to be real contributors in the work place, as they return home, but unfortunately the job market for many of them is bleak and they will work at jobs that are far below their capabilities.

On the 17th of April we had a glimpse of America when the BYU-Idaho group came to Kumasi, Ghana and presented
a musical program. It was a real treat to see and hear them – several from Arizona. The program consisted of the
BYU-Idaho group and also a local African group. The music was fantastic and it was well received by the Ghanaian
public. Unfortunately many of the BYU-Idaho group were not prepared for the heat & humidity and the food
situation and therefore a sizeable number took sick during their tour – which included three or four cities in Ghana.
(See pictures below)

Medical care is so inferior to what we are used to in the United States. Many of the members, as well as a number
of our missionaries need glasses, but have never been able to have eye exams and appropriate glasses. A senior
couple that returned home late last year sent over 50 pairs of glasses with various prescriptions. The Branch
Presidents were in for a leadership meeting a couple of weeks ago and the main attraction were the eye glasses,
which many were in need of. The picture below shows them gathering around a table trying on the glasses – many
of them needing some prescription glasses. Those needing the glasses were able to find one with a prescription
relatively close to their need. They were as happy as a child in a candy store.

Last Saturday – April 27th we represented the mission president at the baptism of one of the tribal chief in the
Ashanti Region of Ghana. Rodney spoke at the baptism and Mary Joyce shared her testimony as well. The Elders
sang a couple of numbers as part of the baptismal service and they sounded powerful and had a great spirit about
them. The tribal chief that was baptized was Nana Effeh Akobeahene – He turned 90 Years old 22 November 2012
(His titles include “True Elder Ankobeahene” – “Chief of village near Konongo – Village of Patriensa”). His wife is
Nana Serwah Akobeahene – 65 years of age.

Seven were baptized on this beautiful Saturday morning at the Konongo church building. In addition to Nana Effeh
and Nana Serwah, there were 2 young adult men and 2 sisters and 1 young girl that were also baptized.

Brother Nana Effeh indicated that he served for 18 years in Accra (the Capital of Ghana) as a director for the state
and now is retired in his home town of Patriensa. He has a cousin who was a member of the church who introduced
him to the church while he resided in Accra. Several sets of missionaries met with him and his wife. Elder Jarwee
indicated that a turning point in Brother Effeh’s conversion was the discussion of the plan of salvation and the state
of man after this life and in particular the spirit world. Brother Effeh said he wanted more than anything to share the
gospel and quoted the Savior’s admonition to go ye into all the world and teach and baptize. He indicated he had a
dream wherein he lived another 30 years, so he said he wanted to spend the rest of his life sharing the gospel. He
said I am going to live another 30 years – which would make him 120 years old. (See pictures below)


Mom and Dad

 Ghanaian group performing in the same program with BYU-Idaho group

BYU – Idaho Group – the young man on the bongo drum was incredible. They gave a very
impressive performance to an auditorium filled with Ghanaians. No air conditioning in the building and it was very warm. Unfortunately the drummer was very sick after the performance. I think it was probably heat exhaustion.

We are amused at the number of cooler water bottles this man can get into his car – these are all full of water. He supplies the mission home. He serves as a bishop in one of the wards in the Kumasi Stake

Branch Presidents referred to above – trying on the eyeglasses.

African ladies walking down the street in front of the Mission Home – they are just returning home after a funeral. They attended a funeral for a young person so they wore black and white. If it had been an older person they would have worn all black.

African Relief Society sisters from the Daban Group (a group that is part of the Asokwa Ward). The sister in
the middle in the back was our teacher.

Typical street vendor with fresh vegetables. We buy our vegetables at similar vendors along the street and then bath the vegetables in a bleach solution.
They are big on religious slogans on their taxis and other vehicles

This little restaurant is our favorite. You will usually find us here on Saturday evenings – great pizza. Notice the “fast food” on there. Well, you order then they make it – not really fast. But it’s quite good.

Sister Palmer, Sister Nana Serah Akobeahene, Brother Nana Effeh Akobeahene, Elder Palmer

Mowing the grass in front of the Konongo church building with a cutlass knife – common scene in Ghana

Elders along with some of the individuals being baptized arriving for the baptism

Full group being baptized at Konongo, along with some of the missionaries.

Nana Effeh Akobeahene – Age 90 being baptized by Elder Hunt.

Elders singing a special number at the baptismal service.

The three girls that live near us that consider us as their grandparents – Lynette, Joyce and Elizabeth. We always take them home after our Sunday meetings.