I’m out of training which means that I’ve officially been on mission for 3 months!
This week was also weird because I was in a three-some companionship due to an emergency transfer that happened last week. We combined two areas and it wasn’t easy because both of the areas are geographically very big.
My new companion, Elder Ripplinger, is an American, very hardworking, and it’s his last transfer before he goes home. I hope to learn a lot from his example of obedience and hard work.
We are teaching a woman who has been learning with us for over six months. She has had a hard time progressing, but she doesn’t want us to stop coming over and teaching her. She’s also what we call “Menti Broffel” which means “I don’t speak english.” So after transfers we’ll have 2 Americans and we’ll definitely need a member to go with us if we want to teach her anything in Twi.
We’re also teaching a very nice young man who is progressing. He has talked a lot about really searching for the truth and he’s been to a lot of different churches and pastors and such. If he continues to keep commitments, he’ll probably be baptized this coming month. He’s really cool! He has a very nice style that I appreciate very much.
Well that’s it for this week. I’m working hard on improving myself. Sometimes I get frustrated as we all know that I can, but I take a breather, say a prayer, and continue on.
Life is going by quicker and quicker. I can’t believe I’ve already been here for nearly 3 months, but still every day I realize that my time here is short. I want to keep up the days that I work hard and work even harder on the days that I fall short. I have a goal to be more like Nephi so I will just “go and do” and keep doing my best.
Missionary work is not easy, especially after dark. It makes it a lot harder to navigate the town and it is especially hard to make appointments work. Contacting is near impossible after 6:30pm because everybody goes to bed around 8 pm. So I have a bit more study time in the evenings. I have a new slogan: “Come what may and love it!”
My mom asked me about buying food. We use the barter system a lot and I have to go to different places for different products. Many times, because I am not a native, they try to overcharge me.
So Twi is very hard. Sometimes it hardly makes any sense, but I am trying very hard to learn. It means a lot to the Ghanian people!
Here is a sample of the language:
Sample text in Twi
A cow was grazing in a field of grass. This field was near a pond which was full of frogs. When the frogs saw him some of them exclaimed, “This fellow is extremely big.” Just as they said this, one of the frogs remarked, “I can blow myself up as big as this cow.” No sooner had he said it, than he began to blow himself up, and he went on blowing until he burst.
And since my companion is Ghanian, we do teach in Twi. The entire church service is pretty much in Twi in the Asuo Yeboah wards. It’s hard to keep focused during Sunday meetings when I understand very little of what’s being said. But I’m still trying to learn it on my own.
Also since last transfers came, we have a new elder that loves to cook, I’ve kinda halted my learning of how to cook. I still know what I know, but I’m not really learning anything new. He makes me over-eat a lot. At one point after a big lunch and 2 surprise free meals, I went back to the apartment and weighed over 145 lbs.
This week I started doing something that President Cosgrave challenged all the missionaries in Kumasi to do starting the 1st of January. And that is to take a fresh copy of the Book of Mormon and take a colored pencil, pencil or pen and highlight it’s witness of Jesus Christ. I happily took this challenge and I love the results from it.
I decided to use…
red for the names of Jesus Christ,
orange for quotations from Christ, and
blue for prophecies about Christ.
I also write in the margin and in the back insights that I grab from really studying this holy book of scripture. In turn I challenge all of my family and friends who are members to seek a fresh copy and start doing something similar. And for my friends who aren’t members, try it with the Bible! Your witness and testimony that Jesus Christ lives will grow!
After I finish with the Book of Mormon, I hope to try it with the Bible as well.
Something interesting is that I often find myself saying to the other missionaries in the apartment that music is my weakness. And because music is my weakness Heavenly Father sent me to West Africa, where music is Everywhere. To quote Elder Bbosa in the apartment, it is a test to be in the world but not of the world.
My email would be longer, but I sent a long personal one to my dear mother.
I was so happy to be able to talk to my family this Christmas! I made a couple people cry and I feel bad, but I’m sure they were tears of joy. In all honesty, this Christmas was one of the best, if not the best I’ve ever had. The gifts I received had so much thought in them and the kind words that came with them were just as great. I received a bunch of paper snow flakes from home and I even made it snow in my apartment room Christmas morning! What great fun!
… & Polygamy in Ghana!
Little disclaimer: Polygamy is legal in Ghana, but not allowed in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
My companion and I went to visit a member who hadn’t been coming to church for a couple Sundays because he wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this man at one point had 7 wives. He was taught the Gospel and divorced 6 so that he could be baptized. But before that, he had children with all 7 wives. Now this man, is not a small-family type. He is the father of 64 children.
All in all, this Christmas was fantastic. I got to talk to lots of people that I love and it was truly wonderful.
So this week was a bit slow, but I’ve been getting more adjusted to the work each day! We’ve faced a lot of disappointment with investigators not progressing and different things like that. However, just as I’ve said before, I’m getting more and more used to Ghana each day!
My hand washing skills are improving and my hand is finally tough enough to handle the scrubbing! I haven’t been sending photo’s home of my wounds from washing, but believe me, they happen. My cooking skills are improving and I’ll be able to stomach anything when I get back. I really will want to cook a nice Ghanian meal for my family on Christmas 2017. And just as I tweeted before I left, I really want to just grow out my facial hair for that Christmas as well. I’ll have 2 months to do it, so I think it’ll be good!
Speaking of which, I’m already starting to notice the physical changes that come with simply aging. I have been getting more facial hair that grows more quickly and I bet I’ll have grown a couple inches by the time I get back. For example, where I used to only need to shave once every 4 days, I’m now getting down to every other day. It’s obviously not to that of Nolan or Will Teubel caliber, but I’m sure by the time I get back it will be!
I’m also very excited for Christmas this Friday! I’ll be very happy to continue Christmas Traditions on Thursday of Reading Luke 2 and watching Joy to the World. We have a copy of it at the apartment. I’ll also be very happy to get to call home, something that I’ll only be able to do 4 times across the whole 2 years! Family is so dear to me and I cherish the opportunity to be able to talk to them.
With Christmas coming this week, I want to say that I know that Christ lives. That he is the reason why we celebrate and we should try to emulate what he would want of us. We should always strive to be more like Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, everybody who has faith in Christ and wants to be more like him is a very good thing. No matter what we’ve done, we can always turn to The Savior of the world and he will still love us.
So normally I write super long emails for this blog and spend hardly anytime on individual emails sent to me. This week I will try my best to spend more time with those people who take time to write me and I will write them. I will talk about a couple interesting things that happened this week though.
This is my apartment building
Corn in Ghana Too.
This is the view from my apartment
This is a photo of Elder Gilbert in a corn field, the view from his apartment, and his apartment building.
Here’s something interesting: So for every taxi and other public transportation, they have these window stickers that have something gospel-related on them. Some in English, some in Twi. Most say things like “Jesus loves you” but others might say “Repent or be damned.” Even a member who drives a taxi has “Priesthood” on the back of his. I got pretty used to it early on but sometimes they stick out with a new message. This week I saw one that said “I love my wife” and I bursted out laughing when I saw it.
A Nice Teaching Experience
I also had a nice spiritual experience with a woman while out on Saturday. We were helping a man fetch water before we started teaching him, and as we were at a well, a woman came out a near by house and asked us “So what does your church believe?” Since it was so much like highschool, I started to answer like High schooler Ben Gilbert and not Missionary Elder Gilbert. It quickly turned into an arguement as she questioned our beliefs and we tried very hard to answer her. Eventually we left to teach the young man with a promise we would come back to teach her. She left us with “Do your homework and them come back” As we were walking back to the young man’s house, my companion said “Don’t do that again” “Do what?” “Try to prove yourself. The Spirit wasn’t there and you weren’t teaching her anything”
When we went back, we opened with a prayer and instead of trying to pull out scriptures, we bore our simple testimonies over and over. Halfway through the lesson, everything changed. The malice was gone and she was asking for our help to explain to her friends who questioned her beliefs. She even asked us to come back again next week. I was so surprised! Truthfully, without the Spirit, I can’t do anything. Because I don’t convert people, The Spirit does.
I won’t tell all of this experience, but I have strengthened my testimony of prayer this past week. Let me tell you, all of you, member of my church or not, Prayer works. Heavenly Father literally listens to your individual prayer and wants to answer you. And he does. He truly answers prayer.
And so, November is gone and December is here! Kind of hard to imagine I’ve already been out for a month, but I’ve heard that the time goes by so much slower when you’re in your first 3 months, so I think the time is just gonna fly!
News About This and That
December Weather and Christmas: So a few interesting things about December and Christmas time in Ghana. The weather does change -not to snow, but to a dry season called Hamatan (ha-ma-TAHN). It comes from the Sahara so it’s basically really dry and like a desert. I was also kinda allergic to it at the start, but it hasn’t even hit full swing of the dry season. Right now it’s cool in the morning and hot in mid day. Although in some days, there is a dense fog that covers the sun, so it stays fairly pleasant all day! Who knew!
Christmas time is a time of fireworks. I hear them all the time, especially at night. It surprises me a lot.
The Food and Cooking: So I’ve been learning how to cook with rice. I can make a breakfast meal thats sweet (rice porridge), and a lunch/dinner food that is savory (rice and tomato stew). Basically, rice is heavenly. I can do it all on a gas stove as well. I can also fry chicken, plantain and some other foods. I can boil yam, which is pretty much like a giant potato. Very filling. I’m progressing as a chef! My companion, Elder Anderson, is impressed with how quickly I pick up on cooking. I either get it right my first time or only have to go through one failure before getting it right. Maybe that should be my career when I get back, a Chef!
Cutting My Own Hair: Also, I cut my hair with the electric clippers this week, all by myself! It’s a bit uneven so I have to scissor it myself from time to time, but because it’s shorter, a lot of people say that I look younger. But Africans can’t tell ages of White people very easily. I’ve been told I look as young as 15 or 14 and as old as 26. Every time I tell them I’m 19 and everytime they are surprised.
Update on the Mice: So we kept up the glue trap from last week. We’ve killed a total of 9 mice. My companion forced me to kill one. Not fun, but part of the experience I guess.
Exchanges: I went on exchanges (switching companions for a day) this week with the Zone leaders and the one I went with told me he was impressed with how far I’ve already come in just 1 month. He said that my heart is in the right place and that I’m already pretty familiar with the lessons. He was very encouraging! But I know that I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be. I have two things that I keep thinking:
Dream big: start small. (The dream is complete consecration)
Make the decision today to be better.
All in all, I know that if I keep working hard, I can be the missionary I want to be.
Lastly, I would like to say that I know that Christ lives. During this Christmas season, please turn your attention to him, for he is the real reason that we celebrate on the 25th. He performed many wonderful things for so many people, but most importantly, he suffered and died for every single person on this earth. Through him and only him can we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. I know that if we turn to him in repentance and righteousness, we will be blessed with a happier life. As we turn our hearts to the Savior, his love will reflect off of us to others that we can help and love as well. Always be on the lookout for someone who needs a helping hand or a smile and a wave to brighten their day. Picking someone out and calling them by name and saying hello to them day after day for a week straight makes a difference. Believe me, they will smile when they see you as you enthusiastically smile and wave. I know that as we love our family and spend time with them, our relationships will grow stronger and that this Christmas season will mean so much more.
The first is that we have had traces of mice in the apartment. Droppings in weird places like my closet and things like that. The funny part is that when my companion, Elder Anderson, told me about it, I thought he was joking and just trying to freak me out. But sure enough, when we bought a glue trap and set it, we caught a mouse. Then we set it again and caught a second mouse. We have caught and killed a total of 3 mice with one trap. The African missionaries laugh at me when I say that I kinda feel bad when I see the mouse struggling futilely against a lethal adhesive. But honestly, it’s hard not to when the mouse looks so scared and helpless.
Another thing that happened this week is that I learned that I really don’t like hand washing! It’s time consuming and leaves blisters all over my hands if I’m not careful (which me being new with it I’m not very careful).
Also, an interesting fact is that there is a KFC not too far from my area! On Mondays sometimes we go out as a district for and it’s super good! Not surprisingly it’s very different from American KFC.
Next, on Thursday, I could hardly believe that it was Thanksgiving. The funny part about it is that we fasted that day as well. A holiday where I usually sleep, eat and be in a warm house with family while it has been a cold, if not snowy day was spent in exactly the opposite way. Except for the warm house part. The apartment is always hot.
…and of The Pope
Also I found out this week that I saw the Pope.
Now this is an interesting tale, so buckle up.
So after leaving the MTC about 3 weeks ago, we were at the Accra Airport to board a plane to Kumasi and then later arrive at the mission home. Church missionary standard is to be at the airport at least an hour before we need to board, and so we spent time just sitting and waiting close to the windows to outside. As I was waiting, I saw an old man who was wearing all white in clothing that I normally see the Pope wear who was hurried from the airport doors to a nice van with an escort and everything. As I was watch the situation unfold, I pointed out to the person next to me, “Hey I think thats the Pope.” But we quickly dismissed it because why would the Pope be in Africa, let alone Ghana? But this week I found out that he really was in Ghana! I think he’s been taking a tour to a lot of African nations and Ghana was a stop for him. So I was less than 50 feet away from the Pope at one point! How neat!
However the funny part is that the other missionaries and I were more excited about the group of 9 missionaries we saw that were going home that were waving to us.
And so that was the majority of the week! That and I’m spending a lot of free time studying like after eating during the hour for lunch and dinner. I’ve finished Our Search for Happiness by Elder M. Russel Ballard. What a wonderful read!