Did you say Hedgehog?

March 27, 2017

Good afternoon/evening from Ghana!

So, it’s crazy story time! On Tuesday we were going to our chapel for a meeting, District council to be exact. As we rolled up we saw our Elders Quorum President chilling next to his motor-trike. We went over to talk to him. He was talking to my companion in Twi about something, and then I noticed what they were talking about. He had found a hedgehog the night before.

I understood that my Elders Quorum President was planning on eating him. Well, I couldn’t let that happen. So, I picked him up and my companion said that since he’s going home in 3 weeks, he would take him home. This is how we saved the life of an adorable hedgehog. The neat part about having him with us is that he’s nocturnal, so we never have to worry about him during the day. We just close him up into the main hall during the night and leave out some nuts and water. He really likes to just run around. That’s also really neat to watch. I’ve been in Tamale getting close to two transfers, now. I’m staying because my companion is going home and you really can’t white wash zone leaders. So I’m heading into ten months as a zone leader soon.

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Here is the adorable little hedgehog.

We had zone conference this past week and it was awesome! I think my favorite part was when I was in an interview with President Cosgrave. I trust that man so much, and I can tell that he trusts me too, so much so that when I say something, he knows I believe it with all my heart to be the truth.

Questions

What is the size of your branch in Tamale? The branch is a little bit bigger than just that, but pretty much everyone showed up for Grace’s baptism. We have a senior missionary couple here from Arkansas. Their names -Elder and Sister Renfroe. They know Elder Bednar personally and they’re awesome!

Is there any chance that you could be sent to an area where missionaries haven’t been there yet? It would be nice to open up a new area, but nowhere in Ghana has the church sent missionaries where members were not already there. Mostly for Wa and other places, it’s returned missionaries and others who were baptized in the south that go north for school and stay there after graduation. I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but if there are no members in a town, there’s no branch and no branch, no missionaries. That’s kinda the rule here.

Dad, I’m learning so much out here, especially about leadership. I’ve got about seven months left, and the only hard part about being here is just missing being with you and Mom. It comes in waves, definitely. But I’m so happy to be here in Ghana and also Tamale. It’s a super blessing to me, to you, and the family. I know that for sure.

Take care everyone,

Ben

Ticket to Ride

March 20, 2017

Last Week

Once a month we travel to Kumasi, like last week, to take care of leadership responsibilities. It takes 3 days; we leave on Wednesday, have meetings on Thursday, and come back on Friday. It’s 7 hours one-way and very bumpy. There isn’t much I can do during the trip because I get carsick. We ride, stop and eat, and continue. Most days I wish I had more time to work in my own area.

In addition, I watched “The Other Side of Heaven” with my district for an activity and it makes me super excited to get to work.

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An example of a Metro Bus (from Ghana News Agency).

Next Week

So this coming week should be great! We’ve got a lot of time to work and I want to keep busy! I feel like I’m making tons of progress personally, so I will keep doing the little things that help me grow stronger, and will continue doing the work I’ve been entrusted with. I know this is the truth, and as I help others find it, I also find my true self, which is sometimes the greatest discovery of all.

One Week Later

This week was pretty good. Things are going okay with the area, and I’m trying my best. With all the new techniques in human relations that I’ve been learning, I’ve been trying to get the perfect balance of things. As a leader it’s really hard to know when you’re pressing hard enough to help motivate people to do the right without nagging them, or when you’re pressing too hard. It’s the closest thing to raising a child I can imagine while here on a mission. I’m just trying to figure it all out. Hopefully with time I’ll get it all down.

One of the things that I’m figuring out is how to get along with children. First off, I’ve learned that I should treat them with as much respect as an adult: respect for their agency as well as their wellbeing. Secondly, I do everything in my power to earn their trust: with small children between the ages of 2-8 it’s somewhat easy, depending on the child. Then, after I’ve gained their trust, I see how open they are to learning new things. Most of the time, they seem to listen to me a lot. Especially when I’m not pushing them around, treating them as objects to be controlled. It’s made quite a difference. I’ve learned to appreciate and respect children more.

That’s the main thing for this week.

Ben

It’s Tamale Hot

March 13, 2017

This week was really interesting, filled with a lot of cleaning and preparing because it was transfer week. We got a new missionary in the apartment with the other companionship. He’s from Tonga and he’s straight out of the MTC. So those first few days, not a lot happened.

First Things First…What Happened With Grace?

Yes! Sister Grace’s baptism came on and it was the talk of the branch, let me tell you. Basically all the people we saw at the baptism were the same people in church the following day. It took her a lot of time to get here, but now she’s here and called to be the second counselor in the Relief Society presidency. She’s really powerful and moving forward. We had 5 baptisms (none from Bolga) this past week and 11 last month. That’s Tamale for you. (Below is a new photo from Tamale.)

Giving, Learning, and Growing

We have a security guard that just stays outside our apartment and I’ve started making him food and giving him water. I know he appreciates it and I always find a clean plate and spoon outside in the morning. It really helps him to feel happy and I feel happy in turn for giving it. I don’t give him food every time, but now we have a water bottle with his name on it, so it will be there for him every night.

Another thing, recently I’ve been reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and tying it straight to Christ-like leadership and missionary work and it’s really empowering. Seriously, I’ve only gotten through habit 1 and my perception about a lot of the things I deal with has dramatically changed. Isn’t this world wonderful? Isn’t this life of being able to grow and progress so great?

This and That

Tamale is crazy hot right now. Like I can’t stop sweating at night. After work outs when I leave the shower, I am still dripping with sweat. We have standing fans for some relief; they blow heat. They say that March and April are the hottest months. What can I say? It’s Tamale. Lots of times, people will mention the conditions by the name of the town like, “It’s Tamale hot today.” But then they say Bolga at this time is even hotter. Wow!

Well, you know how we talked about Honey Nut Cheerios last week? Well, I found some and bought them. There is a place in Tamale that is an “American store” and it’s super nice. The cereal cost 34 cedis. That’s relatively expensive…$7 American. But I ‘m in love. It was so worth it! I’m gonna buy Apple Jacks today. Ha ha. I have to buy milk in a box on the shelf. It seems weird to me, but it works. :d We have a refrigerator and I am so grateful. It is heaven! Cold water is the reason I’m alive.

For Grandpa, make sure you send my love to him! I love him so dearly. I hope to see him again.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Take care,

Ben

Grace and the Heat

March 6, 2017

Hope in Grace

Things were interesting and crazy this past week. Everything is really grand here.

The thing that I really can report on is the fact that I personally believe that we’re having a baptism this week (my companion is not so convinced). There is a woman who has been taught by missionaries for about 2-3 years now. Her name is Grace and she would give missionaries baptismal dates and come up with an excuse to cancel the day before the baptism. I’ve heard of missionaries going through ten dates in 18 weeks. The reason why I think she will carry through this time is because we backed off and told her when she is ready to come to us with a baptismal date. Two weeks later she did exactly that and is now super pumped, as am I. She’s crazy awesome and missionary minded.

No update on Wa as of now. I’ll probably get that in 2 weeks time.

I do want to share a very interesting experience though. This week I was visiting a family that we go to a lot and they just love us. They’re recent converts so we help them with writing talks, with family home evening, and just fellowshipping in general. Well, they have a small daughter of about 4-5 years old. I was playing with her and she was showing me drawings that she has made and different things like that. Well, all of a sudden my perspective changed and I saw myself playing with my own daughter in the future. I couldn’t stop thinking about that little experience for like 12 hours. Now I’m dedicated to prepare myself now to be the best father and husband ever. I know that’s a long way away, but you gotta start preparing sometime, right? I’m mainly working on Christlike attributes, but yeah, it was a really cool moment.

This and That

Your emails tell about your weather and it reminds me of Iowa! I miss it like crazy.  It’s now kicking up the heat here, getting even warmer and more humid. I was wrong about before. I sleep in 85-90 degree weather with high humidity. It starts to feel like a struggle to walk outside for more than three hours (we have to go back to walking because the sisters can use their bikes now).  The heat is getting really, really rough.  We’ll see how I can deal with it all. Behold the African sun…

 

 

In Tamale they drive a lot of these little, green tricycle-looking, motorcycle-things. It’s a public transportation and they’re actually really quite fun.

Oh yes, and I also had pizza! It was a spicy chicken pizza with mushrooms. It was my first time eating mushrooms! It was cake. 🙂

Mom, I was so happy when I messaged with you this week! I always get happy when I get to the Internet cafe!

Take care,

Elder Gilbert

White Shirts & Ties and Bolga

Feb 27, 2017

Going To Visit Bolgatanga

This week was really awesome. We ended up going to Bolgatanga to switch places with some other Elders for a short period of time (we call that going on exchanges). That place is super sweet. You can literally see the Spirit working in people who just come up and talk to us.

“We see your white shirt and tie uniform and we want to know what you do.”  

“We are missionaries. We share a message about Jesus Christ to help people come to know the truth about Him. Would you like to know more?”  

“Yes, very much. Where do you worship?”

It’s crazy how faithful and humble those people are up there. And it was super sweet to help out those Bolga Elders in teaching and other things. They’re really humble too and really obedient Elders. I’d say they’re just about perfect for Bolga. Also, I got to see my own hand in the transfers of missionaries. And I got to teach more missionaries and get taught by missionaries through exchanges… cuz those things are just huge learning processes. But for the most part things were just crazy busy and we hardly got any time in our own area this past week. Going to Bolga takes three days. I’ve got some photos.

 

2017 2 20 Bolga Chapel 1
Bolgatanga Chapel. It’s more like a series of rooms on the inside of a compound house on the 2nd floor.
2017 2 20 Bolga Chapel 2
Bolga Chapel
2017 2 20 Bolga Chapel 3
Bolga’s Baptizmal Font

Oh yes, I forgot to mention. When we were returning from Bolga, our car broke down about 15 minutes outside of Tamale and of course I had to get them photos.

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The road to Tamale, Elder Antwi, and me.
2017 2 20 Fifteen min out of Tamale
Welcome to Africa!
2017 2 20 the Road to Tamale
The road to Tamale.

Answers to Some Questions

What is a difference you have noticed in Tamale from other areas?  In Tamale there are a lot more whites than in Kumasi. Probably because the northern region is the poorest and a lot of people come for the Peace Corps and stuff like that.

What is the Church like in Wa?  Yeah, so Wa has about twelve members, four or so are Melchezidek Priesthood holders. I haven’t heard any update about their status as to whether they are a branch or a group yet. The Area Office was deciding that one, last I heard. I went to Bolga this past week. Both of those places are really prepared. Seriously, the Lord is working wonders up in the north of Ghana. It was awesome, seriously awesome to see the Lord’s hand so apparent.

What kind of animal life are you seeing in Tamale?  A lot of the same kind of stuff …a lot of goats, sheep and stuff. I’ve seen some ducks, chickens…oh, and a ton of cows that look sickly. I can count their ribs from a 40-yard distance.

2017 2 13 Cows on the highway
The cows of Tamale.

But in Bolga (I think I mentioned this before) there are a lot of pigs. The pigs are everywhere in Bolga. They’re like goats to Obuasi.

2017 2 20 Pigs in Bolga
The pigs of Bolga have longer snouts than American hogs.

It’s hard to believe that February is almost behind us. (Editorial note: yes, I’m that far behind…but I will catch up) Time has been moving super fast these past six weeks. Maybe it’s being in a new area or maybe it’s traveling around a lot, who knows. Other than that, I’ve just had some crazy awesome dreams! My imagination runs wild in the night.

Love to all,

Ben

 

Who Knew You Could Miss Cereal So Much

Feb 20, 2017

Wa is Opening

This past week we went to and from Kumasi and it was really, really neat. It was about a seven hour journey on the nicest Charter bus I’ve ever been on before. Big news in the mission! Wa (a town in Northwestern Ghana) just had their first Sacrament meeting on Sunday! The work is progressing and growing. I want to be one of the first missionaries to open Wa, so we’ll see when we get there! How neat would that be?

Staying in Shape

Anyway, I’m just happy. I even started exercising a lot more seriously this week because we have extra time due to a missionary worldwide schedule change that basically ensures that I exercise! I have gone on a couple runs with another Elder, but if he’s too tired for a run I usually do stations and jump rope! Ain’t life grand? I’m getting pumped for upcoming track season and want to start training for my own future career. Love it! Just, love it! 😀

We had quite the adventure today! For P-day (a day we get to prepare for the week by shopping, laundry, email home, etc.) we had a zone activity where the Bolga Elders came down to Tamale. We helped with their travel costs so that we could all play football (soccer) together and have a good time! We played four games with mixed teams. Every time, like most times, I improved as the game went on and I didn’t get tired very easily. It was on a concrete platform as big as indoor soccer with posts that were proportional to the pitch. At first we played 8 v 8, but later in the last two games it dropped down to 6 v 6. Man, it was so much fun! And here is the kicker, each game lasted for about one hour each. I played Soccer none stop for FOUR hours, mom! And you know me, I was the one running around the most. I even scored a goal! I had a couple more really good attempts and a few assists, but I’m progressing! Yay progression!

On a side note… Mom, you said you were eating Honey Nut Cheerios in your email and Ohhhh buddy, I miss Honey Nut Cheerios! I’m telling you- the most exciting part about being a leader in this mission is when we go for our monthly leadership meeting in Kumasi. Those that stay over like myself get fed breakfast by the Mission President’s wife. It normally consists of juice and cold cereal and it is incredible! Who knew that Fruity Pebbles would become such a hot commodity between missionaries. We are practically shoving to get to those rainbow colored miracles!

Life is going great. I’m always super happy to email on Mondays!

Love with all of my might,

Ben

2017 2 13 Chillin with people cooking2017 2 13 Pounding dried Okro

This is a picture is of me pounding dried Okro. It’s like a vegetable that they use in making specific soups and stews, but I’ve only seen it black and pounded like this in Tamale. Even my companion who is from Cape Coast hasn’t seen it like this. We’ve been doing a lot of service with just helping people to cook and laughing with them and they really love and respect us after we do that. (Especially me being a white man) Normally the okro is green but here it was black and dried, as you can see inside.  Okro. I think it’s native to Ghana. It’s slimy on the inside.

Some notes about a package that Elder Gilbert sent home:

Okay for starters, I’m so glad you got my package! The note was an Elder who spent like 2 dollars worth on packing tape alone and just wrapped the whole box while I was showering after packing it all inside myself. He’s just funny. His name is Elder Porter and he and I made the American Christmas dinner together so we’re good buds. They ended up cutting open the box to inspect the contents anyway… Oh well!

The 3 people stand is made from one piece of wood and represents Unity. It goes with the bowl to help it stand up and I’m sure it signifies that with unity great things can be accomplished. The symbols on the side have great meaning. The one you have seen on the bowl and some of the masks is Gye Nyame or Accept God. It’s a religious symbol signifying the need of God in our lives. It’s the one that almost looks like 2 yin yangs back to back. The Elephant is significant of good luck, especially with its trunk up in the air.

 

My New Area: Tamale

Jan 30, 2017

The Weather and Family Culture

So Tamale.

It feels like I’ve stepped into a completely different mission. It’s dry heat, and that is super weird to me. Other than vacations, I’ve never really experienced dry heat. Yes, I’m still in Ghana; yes, I still feel the heat (and even more so here because of it’s location), but it’s way different.

One thing that is different is the culture. I get to teach a lot more families rather than just single people out of a family. And that is way sweet! All the other missionaries tell me that their favorite area is Tamale despite the challenges (like the sun and a ton of Islam). I would ask them why, and they would just say because of everything. Now I can see it.

My Area is in the more-northern part of Tamale, and my branch is named Kanvilli. The branch is about 30 members or less. There is one Zone in Tamale and three Districts (mission-organization-wise). Within the Zone, there are ten companionships, including myself. The Church is 1 District and 5 Branches, even though it goes up to Bolgatanga (about 3-4 hours north of Tamale). But Bolga is growing like a wild fire.

I don’t get to speak Twi as much, which bugs me; and I really overestimated the number of Muslims in my particular area (although Tamale is the Muslim capital of Ghana). I know there are parts where a ton of Muslims live, but my Area goes to the parts where it is predominately Christian.

Facilities are still nice, even though everyone believes Tamale is the size of a village. It’s probably better than Obuasi by size, population and availability of stuff.

Yeah! Tamale is really cool. I just gotta drink water a little more often and i’m okay! Yeah! Seriously, I just gotta get adjusted fast because it really does feel like I’ve stepped out of one mission and into another.

Transportation

We came to Tamale by bus on Thursday. Normally it takes about 7-8 hours, but our driver got us there in 6 cuz he was crazy and passed people like it was nothing. I will still need to go to Kumasi once a month. As a zone leader it is required to go there once a month.

Everyone uses motorcycles here, so they altered the roads to better suit motorcycles and bicycles. So we ride bikes! It’s actually really, really cool. We visit other missionaries either with the bikes that we ride or with public transportation. Which is fun! I’m including a picture of said bike.

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My Sweet Ride!!

My New Companion

My new companion is Elder Antwi. He’s a Ghanaian and my 7th companion, of which he is the 4th Ghanaian. He has been in Tamale for 6 weeks before I came. I’m like half training him. I’ll just be rounding out the rough parts because normally people are trained as Zone leaders for 12 weeks. He only has 11 weeks until he goes home.  I’ve been getting along great with him; He’s really funny and we work well together.

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My new companion, Elder Antwi.

 

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Elder Amponsah and Elder Wilson, both from Ghana. They were transferred with me from Obuasi. I love these guys!

This and That

Last week I taught the Elder’s quorum class, but yesterday I taught the Gospel Doctrine class. Guess what?! I’m the Gospel Doctrine teacher in my branch! They just started the D&C curriculum yesterday so I’m behind you a couple of weeks. I kinda gave an introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and let people know how to understand it and all scriptures through understanding context, through understanding content, and through application.

Say hello to all my siblings! After that tell them that I need to see their faces as well as their loving words! I miss them, paaa! 🙂

Don’t worry Mom, there is never a day where I don’t strive for exact obedience. I try so hard! 😀   I gotta honor that promise to you and the Lord, right? I still remember promising you exact obedience right before leaving. I shall honor it for the rest of my life.  Recently, I’ve started looking over weaknesses and faults to be more friendly and happy with people. If I had a mentality like I did a year ago, it probably wouldn’t work well, but thankfully I’m progressing!

A Week Later

Feb 6, 2017

The area is slow going, but I’m getting more used to it. I think that over time I’ve been getting better at memorizing areas and finding where I’m going only after going there about 5 times, even if I’ve never seen anywhere before (like when they landed me in Tamale and had absolutely no bearings or directions anywhere). I really wasn’t good at it before at all… so improvement!

The bikes are a blessing. More than I thought they would be. I like biking more than walking by far. At first I was nervous because riding bikes meant traversing traffic, which I don’t know how much I can really emphasize that this place is absolutely crazy when it comes to traffic.

traffic-in-tamale.jpg
An example of traffic in Tamale. From Independent Travelers.

Speaking of which! My companion had a crash this past week. It was dark, and he was in front of me. We were going fast on the road because there were no cars for some small time; and when we noticed the cars catching up to us, we were heading back to the side walk/road, which is meant for the bicycles. As we were going, we saw a pothole, which we both swerved to miss (him, then me), but before I knew it my companion was tumbling head over handlebars. Good thing I noticed and didn’t run him over. What he hit to make him tumble was a half-crumbled stone pillar that stops cars from coming over into that side lane meant for bicycles. It wasn’t too bad, just a couple cuts on his hands, but it was crazy, still.

Other than that, proselyting is starting to get normal. I’m adjusting fast to Tamale, just that it’s dryer than Tuscon, Arizona and the sun is making me three shades darker. I’ve gone from a tan white-person to a very fair black-person. But everyone still sees me as an Obronin. Actually, in the language up here, they call me a Slaminga (slah-MING-gah), meaning white person.

To Mom: Hearing your report about the family makes me want to join you so badly. I want to be there for the children. I want to go back to being Uncle Ben, the dairy guy at HyVee. I want so badly to be with you again. And I know that I will! Even if I die tomorrow, I will. That knowledge of the Plan of Salvation helps me understand my purpose in life and on my mission. So I will press forward with a steadfastness, Mother. I’m not perfect, but I’m keeping that mentality of not giving an inch towards tiredness, and I just keep pushing as much as I can. I’ll keep on keeping on. I hope that it’s an okay report! I love you so much, and I will be your ray of Sunshine from Tamale, because I get enough sun… I need to share it with everyone. 🙂

Another Week Later – Wa

Feb 13, 2017

Just some interesting stuff: This past week we went to and from Kumasi and it was really, really neat. It was about a 7-hour journey on the nicest charter bus I’ve ever been on before. Other than that, the only news I can give real quick is about Wa. They just had their first Sacrament meeting Sunday! The work is progressing and growing. I want to be one of the first missionaries to open Wa. We’ll see when we get there though! How neat would that be? 😀

Map of Ghana - Wa

That’s all for now,

Elder Gilbert

 

Early January

January, 2017

This week was pretty great!

So let me start off by saying that indeed I am leaving this blessed land of Obuasi. I love, love, love it here so much and yet I must go. Guess where I’m going? Tamale. (TAH-mah-leh) It’s not (tah-MAH-lee)

Ghana map

My last Sunday was filled with mixed emotions. I had many people shake my hand and say, “Oh I’m going to miss you.” One man even told me that he will never forget me. It was hard, but on this last Sunday during my talk, I spoke of my first testimony that I gained in the Hill Cumorah Visitor’s Center. I nearly cried as I reminisced in front of my people. I hope that my testimony stands as a witness forever to them that indeed, Christ is the Son of God and He lives today.

 

So while it’s been sad with all the goodbyes, it will be nice to have a change of scenery after being in Obuasi for 7 months. I’ll be going to the hottest part of Ghana in the hottest part of the year. Wish me luck on this new adventure! I’ll be continuing my assignment as a zone leader up there.  Guess I just gotta do all that I can to maintain the Spirit in the Islamic Capital of Ghana. Don’t worry about me! It’s really nice up there so I hear. I’ll be glad to meet the wonderful people.

As far as weather is concerned, Y’know, it’s supposed to be dry season, but it rained in Kumasi yesterday. We felt the humidity and the cool breeze in the night from that rain that came from Kumasi because I’m still in Obuasi, about 1.5 hours south of Kumasi. Looks like we don’t get a dry season this year. Bummer. As I think about that, it really is strange, because nothing like global warming would even slightly affect that to my knowledge. It comes from the change of winds and everything. And just like winter comes from the north in the US, the dryness of the desert comes from the north of Africa to Ghana. I dunno, maybe the whole world is just gonna crash into the sun in a couple months!

I think I miss frigidness of Iowa, but I’m not 100% sure… I’ve gotten quite used to the heat of the African sun! Sweating is nothing anymore.

This and That, Shout-Outs, Changes, and Thanks

This week I bought a goat skin shoulder bag for proselyting. It was so sweet for the first couple hours… It was like goat fur and everything. It looks awesome and it fits scriptures and 2 copies of the Book of Mormon as well as pamphlets. The only downside is that it is breaking down fast. I was so disappointed. The bag looks super sweet, but I guess I’ll be sending it home this coming week along with some other trinkets and an SD card of pictures!

Yay Saylor and Katie and Grayson moving back to Iowa! Tell Saylor that I’m coming as the new Africa tree this year. Yup, I will be the Africa tree.  By the way Mom, I still absolutely loved that you did that for me (keeping the Christmas tree up and decorating it differently for every month). I was so happy all the days leading up to my mission. 🙂

One other thing is that one day this past week I was looking at myself for about 5 minutes in the mirror and just observing how I’ve changed in my face and everything. I was calling myself by my name, Ben. But it sounded strange to me almost. Oh well, I’ll adjust fast when the need arises, but for now I am Elder Gilbert! 😀

Keep me in your prayers! Cuz I feel it when you do. Thank you for sustaining me in my calling as a missionary and helping me to achieve Heavenly Father’s plan for his children.

Elder Gilbert

2017

January 2017

My Testimony Has Been Strengthened

Last week was awesome! Two people were baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday. One of them was in our area and the other was in my old area, so both were technically mine, if you count it that way. But it was truly awesome! I loved it and both of these men are super powerful. Both have been making amazing changes in their lives and it was amazing that Thomas chose me to baptize him! I love him so much. He gives me hugs, which is unheard of in Ghana! Man to man hugs? No way!

Seriously, both of these men have been making huge changes in their lives and they are doing amazing. I have no doubt that they will both aid the great work of the Salvation of souls. One is already inviting six of his friends and family to investigate the church and the other separated himself from all of his druggie, drinking, bad-influence friends. So there’s that. But seriously, I’ve never seen the gospel of Jesus Christ enter into someone’s heart so strongly and change every aspect of their lives as it did to these men.

Because of this, my testimony has been strengthened.

I also gave a priesthood blessing to a man and due to his faith, a miracle was worked in his life. That is also a testimony builder.

Tales of New Years, Old Problems, and Timeless Beauty

New Year’s celebration in Ghana is mostly fireworks: 6am, 4pm, 2pm, 8pm, 2am… you name it. Every time is fireworks time. Oh yeah and basically everyone goes to church for the crossover of the New Year so that “If Christ comes at this time, He will see them in church.”  Yup, that’s how it goes.

Today was wonderful! Seriously, everything was great but one part. I’ll mention the bad before the good by asking the question. Why do I care so much when people are upset with me? Being people, we go through life and it is impossible not to offend others. So why do I care so much even if it is something small? Maybe because I truly see it as not a small thing if they don’t see it as a small thing. I don’t know. I can’t completely focus though because of this that’s going on in my zone. Oh well.

So now for the good! Yay, the good!

Let’s start with the fact that today was the most awesomest, powerful P-Day activity that I think I’ve ever had as a missionary. We went to some waterfalls but not just any waterfalls, Nyamkomasu Falls. It’s in a park that is only 5% developed for people to come and go through. It wasn’t as fun because it’s been very dry. (We technically just started the Dry season) But it was awesome! It felt like Palisades Keppler but in Africa and even less developed. The park has tons of rubber trees (Who knew rubber comes from trees?) And we were shown how to harvest the rubber. A man had these special tools and cut a very shallow strip from the bark and it came out like white sap. You guessed it! It’s super elastic and stretchy. I have some from another missionary who picked it off the tree.

2017 1 2 Ben hiking at Nyamkomasu Falls

Overall, It was fun because of the exploring and I must say that if my future wife isn’t adventurous then I’m gonna suffer…

 

So I’m sending pictures of that! In the midst of the near vertical inclines of a mountain, I lost my tag, which was picked up by a member of the other group that was also touring it. Seriously awesome trip, though.

2017 1 2 The view through the trees

That’s all for this week!

Elder Gilbert

Christmas in Ghana

** Editor’s note: This is a bit late, but enjoy looking back at Christmas with Ben.

Christ is the Reason

I recently forgot that there are indeed plenty of people in the USA that don’t believe in God. It’s been so foreign to me to think about because everyone in Ghana believes in either God or Allah. I haven’t really found one person who professes a sincere disbelief in God and Christ. So, I will go to The Book of Mormon. I love the way that The Book of Mormon explains this in 2 Nephi 2:13 and Alma 30:44. I love 2 Nephi because it’s giving a logical pattern of reasoning as to why there is a God: if there is no x, there is no y and ifthere is no y, there is no z. Sometimes after reading that passage I read it backwards justto see the whole thing. It then becomes, if there is z, then there is y. If there is y, there is x.

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.”      2 Nephi 2:13

This is a similar explanation that Alma makes. Alma is speaking with an Anti Christ, who is seeking for a sign that God exists. Alma explains so well that because we, the world beneath us and the stars above us, all exist, therefore there is a God.

“But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”   Alma 30:44

I will support this reasoning with the very instance of the Big Bang Theory (weird that I’m using the Big Bang Theory to prove God, right?)  Well, hear me out. Imagine the instance of this theory: two heavily massed objects run into each other and Bam! We got the universe!  …What?

That’s like saying that a printing press exploded and amidst the contents of the things in the blast, we find a letter perfect Oxford English Dictionary sitting nicely on top.

Okay, it is possible, but it can’t be random. It would have to be coordinated in some way. I can see it being used by God as a method to create the universe. Remember, God uses Science too.

I can understand when people have an emotional loss and they begin to question and doubt; I’ve been there before. I’ve had doubts, but what we believe doesn’t change reality: God has a better plan for us. Perhaps that loss is to strengthen you to be able to help others with their losses, or it could be to help you rely on Him more. Or perhaps Godjust didn’t intervene but allowed everything to run it’s course. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you. In fact, He loves you more than you have ever felt, more than you can ever know in this life.

I know that God lives and that as we enter into this Christmas season, we should all be mindful that it truly is because of the Almighty Son of the Almighty God that we are celebrating. I know Christ lives and it’s because of His sacrifice that we even know Him. We need to keep this in mind as we celebrate with our families.

A Package for Christmas from Home

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I’m so glad that I got two padded envelopes from home! I set up the Christmas tree and put my presents under it. I love my family!  This is what Christmas in Ghana looks like for me. And of course all the paper snowflakes on the walls.

 

The Holy Ghost Teaches

The other thing that I wanted to talk about is that I had a testimony builder yesterday. A man had a question about Faith and we taught him much concerning this. This man is very powerful and very receptive. He had been making plenty of changes in his life. As we read Ether 12:6 from the Book of Mormon about not receiving a witness until after the trial of your faith, he began to tear up. It was slow at first, but as we went through the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ and said the closing prayer, this man was really crying. I gave him a hug (which is abnormal in Ghanaian culture, but he readily accepted it) and he said “Please pray for me. I know I’m a sinner, but I’m trying and I will get through this.”

This man, Thomas, is turning away from Alcohol and a bad group of friends to learn about the gospel and he has a baptismal date for the 31st of this month (December). He is working hard towards it. He told us that he’s been listening and eagerly learning with us, but yesterday was the very first day that he felt the Spirit deep within him telling him that this is true. That is the power that the Holy Ghost has. The Holy Ghost touched Thomas’s heart in a way that I could not, nor ever will be able to. For that I’m grateful to My Heavenly Father for blessing him and me.

“I’ll go where you want me to go Dear Lord,   I’ll say what you want me to say,   I’ll be who you want me to be.”

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Friends and Missionaries after church.

This and That

Saturday was the elections in Ghana. It’s a big deal here too.

The Christmas Call:  Are we 5 or 6 hours difference? It changes all the time so I don’t know… But the answer is… We shall Skype! On Christmas Eve! If for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, I’ll call on Christmas (always need a backup plan). It will be around 6pmstart time for me. I’ll be coming straight out of a lesson and eating a big bowl of fufu, so I’ll be ready.

Mom and Dad met a Ghanaian Sister Missionary at Temple Square in SLC:  All of that sounds absolutely wonderful! What was the Ghanaian Sister’s name? Fufu is their favorite food so I’m sure she would miss it a lot. But everyone will ask her what things she experienced in America; I know for sure. I don’t know of a day when I havent heard someone asking me to take them to America. Even small children will call it after you along your way. They’re infatuated with America. I wonder if it’s what she really thought it would be like!

Katie and Saylor Move to Iowa: Yay Saylor and Katie! It will be so exciting to have them so close! I’m sure that they will love it. Will they move to CR or MV or anywhere else? Now I really need to get accepted to BYU straight out of mission, that way I can be close to both Brian and Michael and not be a loner in Rexburg. Here’s a not so secret secret! Both Brian and Michael would be willing for me to move in with them after my mission is complete. I love my brothers 😀

I can’t tell you how much I feel like I’ve grown out here in Ghana.

With all my heart,
Elder Gilbert