Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Finishing Strong!

We have just over a month before our mission is over and we head back to our home in the states. Our mission has been a life-changing experience, so it's with mixed emotions that we prepare to say goodbye to the amazing people of Ghana. Here's some of what we've been doing lately:

After our early-morning run to beat the heat, we try and do a few chores around our house before we head out for the day. Here Sarah is sweeping our dirt. None of the homes here have grass and the Ghanaians like keeping their living areas neat and clean and one way to do that is by sweeping the dirt each morning.

Most of our days are spent working in the villages with the local members. This is Elias Kotoku, President of the Kpando Branch. He's a professional fire fighter, one of my best buddies and one of the kindest men we've ever met. He also knows all the street vendors by name, so we always get the best prices and an extra scoop of beans when we order red/red.
Most of the villages around Ho have their own hand-drawn water pump that families can use for cooking and bathing. When it's too dry and the water isn't flowing, even the wells have a hard time storing water. As the villagers wait for water to be available, each family queues-up by setting their container around the pump.
Both the Sierra Leone and the Liberia Missions were without missionaries for the past year due to Ebola. As those areas recently opened back up, we had to say goodbye to four wonderful elders who were reassigned to Sierra Leone.

Sadly, we attended a funeral for a 13-year old girl who died of meningitis. One of the Ghanaian traditions is to remove the body from the casket and place it in a chair so that family and friends can pay their last respects. John was asked to speak and was able to share a message of hope that we'll all be together again as families, thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ.
President and Sister Heid were full-time educators before they were called to the Ghana Accra Mission. One of their mission goals is to have all the missionaries improve their English-language skills. Here, Sarah is working on the computer with one of our Nigerian elders to record and play back his voice as he reads through a selection of stories. They also practice their typing skills. The elders love and embrace the chance to work on the computer and improve their skills.

Thanks to a tri-zone conference, all the senior couples from our mission were able to get together for lunch. We love working with these amazing, talented and inspirational people. From L to R - Sanders, Bodine, Heid, Pace, and Taylors.
We woke up one morning to no running water. That's not new for us, but as we tracked down the problem, we found that the main pipe between our poly tank (our main water storage) and the house was broken. Believe it or not, we think one of the many passing goats ran into the pipe, breaking it, allowing all the water to drain out during the night.
One of our favorite activities lately has been taking the elders to teach in a small village outside of Kpando. Each week, as these valiant investigators hear or see our truck enter their village, they grab their scriptures and head to the one-room schoolhouse where the elders teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ. A truly spiritual place and opportunity.
We participated in and were judges for (well, at least John was) a stew cook-off in the Ho 1 Branch.
Stew is used in most meals and usually contains tomatoes, onions, fish and peppers. The men gave their
wives the night off and cooked their best stew for the competition. As you can see, the winners were
extremely proud of their achievements! Our stew included goat meat...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Happy 2016

The people of Ghana are a happy and welcoming people. Anytime we meet someone and say hello, it's fun to see their faces light up as they respond with their traditional greeting of, "you are welcome." Lately, with the start of the new year, anyone we greet also wishes us a heart-felt, "prosperous new year." So far, 2016 has been busy, beautiful and prosperous. Here's what we've been doing to start the year:

Because there isn't any rain during the Harmattan season, the air becomes very dry and hazy. This dries out
the local vegetation, which leads to a lot of brush fires. Most of these fires are set by hunters who are looking to
drive out and catch the "bush" meat so they can sell it along the roadway.
Many of the local fruits and vegetables are out of season during the Harmattan. Thankfully, tomatoes and mangos,
two of our favorites, are both coming back in season. We still have to soak them in a bleach bath
for two minutes before eating or cooking them, but it's worth the process as they're so fresh and delicious.
We kicked off the new year with a going away celebration at the Ghana MTC for President and Sister Robison (the outgoing MTC president), the Malmrose's (MTC nurse and office couple) and the Hill's (area medical doctor). We'll miss their smiling, happy personalities and dedication to their callings, and we'll be eternally grateful for their examples of loving, Christ-like service and their strong testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We were invited to attend a traditional engagement (wedding) ceremony for the Ansah family in Tsito, Ghana.  These are the parents of the bride and, like most of the attendees, they're wearing their local tribal colors and style of clothing. The groom's family must formally come and pay the bride price before the two families can agree on the marriage.

Two of our branches, Kpando and Hohoe, recently received their computers. Over the past two weeks, we've added metal bars over the doors and windows to secure the rooms where the computers will be, setup each computer and provided training on the church's MLS system. Here, the Kpando branch presidency is trying out their new logins and passwords. 

Whenever you have islanders in your zone, they're typically asked to cook a pig to be eaten after zone training. Elder Lino (center - Tonga), Elder Afoa (left - Samoan via Australia) and Elder Olchewski (right - West Jordan, Utah - uh, not an islander) get ready to serve the roasted pig. As you can guess, the zone loved it and ate every last piece, even the ears.

The entire Ho Zone - including the elders from Aflao - after zone training. These are amazing young men and
wonderful teachers. During the training, the taught about making and keeping commitments, having unity
and teaching repentance and baptizing converts. 

It was Rebecca's 17th birthday this month and she was able to celebrate with her mom (back from Kumasi)
and sisters Bella and Happy.
We spent a day with the Kpando Relief Society President (Linda - 3rd from the left) going around and
visiting the sisters from her branch. Most homes don't have a traditional address, so it's always helpful
when you can connect with the missionaries and they can show you where to go. Here we're visiting Elizabeth and John (2nd and 3rd from right) with Elder Olchewski and Elder Afoa.
The new year started well with a trip to the Ghana, Accra temple with the Hohoe branch. Nearly their entire branch was able to attend and the branch president and his wife were sealed to their children for all eternity. What a blessing to have a temple here in Ghana.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Holidays In Ho

Happy holidays from Africa. We hope you've been enjoying time with family, holiday traditions, and cold, snowy weather (yes, we're actually missing the snow right about now)! It's been a lot simpler, less hectic Christmas season for us here in Ho and we've enjoyed focusing our time and attention on being with our Ghanaian family and friends and the eternal gifts that come thanks to the birth of our Savior. Here's some of what we've been doing this holiday season:

One of the best gifts was the arrival of two of our daughters - Tash and Hillary - and our grandson Krew.
It was so nice to be with them again, and their 11 suitcases. Thanks to all those who worked
so tirelessly to send donations, school bags and humanitarian kits to be used here in Ghana.
Thanks to Zack Thacker's Eagle project, we were able to deliver 50 school kits to the Almighty
Preparatory Academy in Tsito, Ghana. When the headmistress announced that each child
would receive their own bag full of pencils, paper, scissors, crayons and other school supplies, the kids danced
and sang with joy. They also loved playing and talking with Krew, who they called Komla, meaning Tuesday born. 
Our kids were really taken aback by the heat and humidity in Ghana. Luckily, we took a break one day and hiked the Wli Falls, the largest waterfall in Ghana. The mist from the falls reaches all the way into the surrounding jungle, so we were able to cool off once we got close. All of the local kids wanted us to take their picture with Krew.
Between zone conferences, district councils, a Christmas devotional, and Christmas eve breakfast at our
house, we've been able to spend a lot of time with the awesome missionaries from the Ho zone. 
We have the opportunity to participate in a lot of service and humanitarian projects that support the local communities. Here we helped hand out thousands of eye glasses to local Ghanains after doctors from Utah screened their eyes and provided a prescription. Each participant was able to choose two pair of eye glasses from the over 6,000 that were donated. We've also helped on dental, medical and maturation programs as well as teaching English, genealogy and audit training.  
We had an incredible experience as we worked with the young women from our home ward back in Utah to
help send 70 youth from the Ho district to the Ghana Accra Temple. What a wonderful example of following
the 2015 youth theme of "Embarking in the Service" of others. If you're interested in seeing more of this activity,
you can check out the video on Youtube entitled "From Lindon to Ghana to the Temple."
Each of the young women from Utah attended the temple recently and wrote about what the temple
means to them. We shared these letters with their "pen-pal" here in Ghana. The youth here were so excited
 to "meet" their new pen-pal and to write back about their experience at the temple as well. 

We recently experienced a change in our local weather. Every December starts the Harmattan season,
when strong northern winds blow sands from the Saharan Desert all over Western Africa. Here in Ghana,
the sands make everything look hazy and dusty while blocking out the stronger rays of the sun,
making the temperatures a bit more mild. It's cooled things down to a balmy 91 degrees today.
The Harmattan winds blow fine sand and dirt through every crack and gap in our house. This is what our mop looks like after cleaning a 4 x 4 foot section of our bedroom floor.
The cooler temperatures have also brought out more creepy-crawlers, as Sarah learned the hard way. These infected, toxic spider bites on her leg (and one more on her neck) made life miserable for almost 2 weeks. Thanks to quick response of our mission nurse and the area medical doctor, she was able to quickly get on some strong antibiotics.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Joys of Service

One of our favorite parts of being a full-time missionary is getting to know the people we serve with in and around Ho. They fill our days with joy and love.

Most senior high school students live and board right on campus. We love to go see them on visiting days to find out how they're doing and to bring them a little treat, which is usually biscuits and a local malt drink.

The youth know the sound of our truck and are often waiting for us when we get home. We love their
happy smilies and their love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brother Dikro is a member of the Ho 1st branch and one of the finest tailors in town. He's sewn us scripture bags, a purse and even a new pair of pants. He's also always working with the missionaries to make sure they look their best.
Brother Ankra lives in Tsito and is a barber and a basket weaver. He and his wife Josephine have 6 children and we always stop to visit them when we're in town because they make us feel so welcome and special.

Sister Atando lives in Ho and sells popcorn, ground nuts and water in a busy part of town.
She's always thinking of new business ideas and we love when she goes back
to her hometown to buy fresh bananas, which we make into the best smoothies.

Young kids are pretty inquisitive about senior missionary couples and tend to gather around us whenever we sit down. We had taken some pictures of them and they laughed and laughed when they saw themselves on our camera.

It takes a lot of work (and strength) to make some of the main dishes here in Ghana. Sarah is pounding cassava into a dough that will be used to make Fufu, which is then served with soup. 

Sarah has a calling in the District Young Women's Presidency and loves working with and training the local leaders. 

Edith always waves us down when we pass by so that she can tell us that she loves and misses us!

Congratulations to our friends on the recent addition of a baby girl to their family.
And she came out with more hair than John!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Faith in Every Footstep

Each week here in Ghana brings different adventures and new opportunities to serve and grow. Many of these experiences are brand new to us, so relying on the Lord to guide us as we go has been a wonderful learning experience. Here are a few of the things that have kept us busy these past few weeks:

We've been helping many of the youth get ready for school. Here we're shopping in the outdoor market for food and other provisions, since most of the students board at the school and won't come home until Christmas.

I'll never be part Ghanaian if I can't learn to balance anything on my head!

This is Faith's dorm room at school that she shares with 25 other girls from here school. She's
wearing the uniform of her school in the color that indicates that she's
 in form 3 or the final year at senior high school.

Each student has to bring their own tank of gas to use for cooking at the school. It took almost an hour to get through the line and, at 95+ degrees and almost 100% humidity, our sweat could have probably filled up the tank.

Meeting up with the missionaries usually entails finding something to eat. The elders know that Sarah is a little more hesitant when it comes to trying the local foods, but they always seem to get Elder Bodine to try something new.

Sarah has been meeting with all the young women in our area to take them through their Personal Progress booklet. This is Veronica from Kpando who was baptized 4 months ago. She's already completed most of her value experiences and she will be receiving her medallion in the next few months.

We do a lot of teaching at mid-week activities where the local branch members get together to study the scriptures and learn more about the gospel. Here are some members from Kpando "holding fast to the iron rod."

A big part of what we do each day is spending time with the families from the 5 branches where we serve. They always welcome us with open arms and bright smiles and we love the friendships we've made with these loving people. 
Here are the elders from the Ho Zone after zone training. These are 18 of the finest young men and we feel blessed and privileged to work with them on a daily basis. What amazing examples of faith, obedience and sacrifice.

A few weeks ago, the Hohoe Group was made into a Branch. The church is growing quickly here in
Western Africa and we were humbled to be present on this historic day.