Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekly Schedule

Thanks to everyone who has been following our blog and for all your wonderful comments - the invasion of the flying termites definitely generated the most responses so far! Many of you have asked about our daily/weekly schedule, so we thought we'd give an update of what we did this past week in Ho and throughout the our region.

We were called to be "member and leadership support" missionaries in the Ghana Accra Mission. We help support 3 branches and 2 groups in an area about a big as the distance between Provo and Logan, but with a lot less asphalt for the roads. We work a lot with the local church leaders in providing training and supporting them with their needs. This can be anything from teaching at a Sunday or mid-week activity or helping with a traditional Ghanaian funeral, which is where our truck comes in handy.

We picked up the casket and drove it to the church for a wonderful funeral ceremony

Teaching about modern-day prophets at a mid-week activity at the branch in Kpando

We also spend a lot of time with the local youth in formal activities like Family Home Evening, Young Men & Young Women night and teaching their classes at church. Informally, most of the youth stop by our house during the week to say hello and have something to eat. Unfortunately, many of the kids here come from broken homes and many of them don't have the money or the opportunity to have even one full meal a day, so we've become pretty adept at cranking out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or Nutella when the jelly runs out) when they come over. They're humble, polite and love to sing and learn about the gospel.

Each week we host about 20 youth at our house for Family Home Evening
Sarah working on Personal Progress with the young women in the Kpando branch. They'd never seen a selfie pole!
Each week we work more closely with one of the branches or groups by attending their church meetings with them on Sunday, teaching at mid-week, doing clean-up at the church building and meeting with the local branch presidency or group leadership. One of our favorite parts of the week is going on to visit the less-active members in each area. Some of them only speak the local Ewe dialect but they're so welcoming and happy to have us in their homes.

Going to visit the Ntifo family. We always bring a loaf of the local sweet bread with us.
This is Alphonse and his family. We've found that most Africans won't smile when you take their
picture even though they're such happy people
One of our favorite events last week was helping to coordinate a trip to the Accra Temple for members in the Ho and Tsito branches. They had 17 members going to the temple for the first time and many had never been inside before. One sister told Sarah that it felt like she had just entered heaven once she stepped inside. Their joy at being in the temple and the spirit we felt during that trip was as strong as we've ever felt.

We've been praying to know what the Lord would have us focus on during our year here in Ghana and, after the trip to the temple, we realized that we should do everything we can to help these local members receive the blessings of the temple. It's not easy for a Ghanian to come up with the money to cover the transport costs to Accra and to pay the food and lodging fees. As we drove back to Ho, we figured that it cost about $20 US to send an African member to the temple and we'd like to enlist your help in the goal we've set to take 100 adults and 150 youth to the temple during the year that we're here. Many of you have asked for ways that you could help while we're here. If you and your family would like to join us in reaching this goal, please send a check payable to John or Sarah Bodine at 44 North 1200 East in Lindon, UT. We're sorry that we don't have a more formal 501c corp or Go Fund Me account to make this happen in a more tax deductible manner, but we promise that 100% of the funds will be used to support these temple trips.  

The members from Ho and Tsito at the Ghana Accra Temple

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting Settled in Ho

We've lived in Ho for a whole week now and we're starting to get a feel for how everything works (or doesn't) around here. There aren't a lot of street signs and definitely no "grid" system like we're used to in Utah, but the people here are more than happy to jump in our truck or call a friend to show us where to go. Landmarks like billboards, large trees and even termite hives (more on that below) serve as perfect turn indicators. We've already perfected the African way of giving directions to our own house, letting visitors know to turn right at the cornfield after passing Renetta's fruit stand!

The chickens and goats like to take the road to our house as well
We arrived in Ho during the rainy season which helps to cool down the always-hot temperatures, but it also brings other challenges. The rain falls torrentially for an hour or two and quickly floods most of the main roads and makes the dirt ones somewhat impassable. When it rains hard and long enough, the water also floods the termite hills, driving them out of their hives to guess where - yes, our home. We found this out the hard way after a downpour the other night left the flying termites looking for a home. The power was out (more on that phenomena below) and when we started the generator to get the lights back on, our well-light interior must have looked like the perfect party place for our flying friends. In a scene out of Hitchcock's The Birds, hundreds of termites came flying through the one-inch crack under our front door. And two brooms, a mop and some high-pictched screaming are no match for flying termites! Luckily, we had all 14 elders from our zone over for a birthday party and Elder Ehiozuwa, who's from Nigeria, knew what to do, since these types of termites are a delicacy in his country. We turned off all the lights in the house, set his flashlight on the ground and, lo and behold, all the termites flocked to the light like ants to a picnic. Elder Ehiozuwa then filled a gallon-sized ziplock with the tasty treats and took them home for midnight snack.

The 22-foot tall termite hill at the end of our road. We think this is where most of our party-crashers came from.
There's never been a bigger need for the "zip" in Ziplock bags - thanks Elder Ehiozuwa!
One of the other major changes we're still adjusting to is how frequently the power is out in our area. Based on what we've read, Ghana only has 25% of the power it needs to run their country. Most areas have a 24/12 schedule of "light-off" meaning that each 12-hour blackout period is followed by 24-hours of power. So far, we've been in Ho for nine days and we've experienced light off six times. While the generator helps, it's too loud to run at night, so we've resorted to propping-up our, battery-powered, hand-held fans in order to circulate a little air as we try to sleep. 

We'd turn on a light for a better picture but there wasn't any power! 2:00 am fan wars are the best!

Even with these challenges we wouldn't want to be any other place. We have learned first hand that the the Lord answers our prayers, calms our fears and anxieties, and gives us the guidance and inspiration we need to fulfill our callings as full-time missionaries. He wants all of us to rely on Him more fully in everything we do and especially through the challenges, heartaches and dilemmas of everyday life. He loves us unconditionally and wants us to do the same in our families, with our friends and neighbors and wherever we may be throughout the world. 

Say "ekwaba" to Elorm, one of our new friends from the Ho 1st Branch.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

We Made it to Ho!

After the MTC, we spent a few days living at the mission home working with President and Sister Heid and the office elders to get everything ready to head up to Ho. We were having a little trouble setting up our local phones but, after a few calls to AT&T, everything is working fine. Sarah kept her US-based number and phone and I unlocked my old iPhone 4 and got a new SIM card from a local provider called MTN. I told the missionaries that Apple decided to go "retro" with it's latest version 7 and that I was sporting the newest and hottest technology (they didn't believe me). We also have been riding shotgun with the Sander's, an amazing senior couple from Salt Lake that handle all the medical and fix-it related issues in the mission. Believe me, their phones never stop ringing, but they're two of the most positive and upbeat people we've met and they're wonderfully sweet and helpful with the missionaries. One of their best assets is they know how to find all the American stores in Accra and we were able to stock up on some recognizable brands. The Sander's will be traveling with us to Ho to help us get settled into our new house and area.

Elder and Sister Sanders with a pickup full of stuff for us and the local missionaries

We stayed at the mission home an extra day in order to help with transfers and to see the new elders from our zone in the MTC. The place was a buzz of well-coordinated activity, meetings and training. And it was so great to see the our MTC elders again - they're ready to be in the field!

The "transfer tent" is setup in the courtyard of the mission home and is the center of coordination for missionaries

The second part of transfers is a wonderful lunch and devotional for those missionaries who are heading home. What an amazing spirit as these elders and sisters testified of the growth they've experienced over the past two years and how the Ghana Accra mission is the one true mission in the church. We were humbled and strengthened by their incredible testimonies and know that they will do great things as they return to Nigeria, the DRC, Australia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa and the United States. Each missionary receives a local "scarf" as a reminder of their mission, but the memories of the lives they've changed will last them into eternity.

After the meetings, we packed up ours and the missionaries luggage and started towards Ho. Depending on traffic, and there's always traffic, the trip from Accra to Ho can take anywhere between 4-6 hours. Since most areas don't have street lights (or sporadic power - more on that later), we wanted to get there before dark. We had three elders riding with us who will be serving in the Volta region as well. They provided some great insights and stories about the people of Ghana and how we can best serve. They also kept telling us about (and buying) all the local foods they think Sister Bodine should try while we're in Africa. So far, she hasn't yet had the desire to try Fufu, Banku or Groundnut soup. 

The wonderful(?) smells of the local foods are still with us in our truck
The Volta Region, with the large Volta River and Volta Lake creates an amazingly green tropical jungle. The scenery as we drove to Kpando and Hohoe to drop off some elders was both majestic and beautiful. We also got our first opportunity to cross the Volta River on the ferry. Anyone who has seen the movie Freetown has see the ferry to Ho. The ferry ride costs 8 cedis, about two dollars, and there's more street vendors than you can count. We did meet a member named Messi who sold us some sweet bread but the best part was the FanIce - a wonderfully sweet ice cream that everyone was able to enjoy.

Waiting for the ferry and just before we spotted the ice cream vendor!

This is a perfect picture of driving in the Volta Region. Beautiful jungle, dirt roads and lots and lots of potholes

Monday, June 8, 2015

Our time at the Ghana MTC came to a close last week and we sadly but fondly said goodbye (for now) to all the wonderful friends we came to know and love during our week there. We'd especially like to thank the Robison's and Malmrose's for being such amazing teachers, examples and friends. Every couple should have an opportunity to spend a week together as companions at the MTC. Not only will your love and affection for each other grow, but your testimony of the gospel and your love for our Savior will be put back at the center of your lives. May God be with these great leaders and missionaries until we meet them again.

Elder Curtis (West Africa Area President) and his wife came to the MTC for a devotional and wanted a picture with all the missionaries.
We went out driving through Tema again, this time to get our non-citizen cards. We're learning that you have to be both an offensive and defensive driver at the same time (not so easy to do) and that you have to keep your head on a swivel to avoid hitting or being hit by a taxi, tro-tro (taxi vans), motorcycles, jaywalkers, hawkers (those who sell things right on the street), goats, chickens, cows and even the occasional grass-cutter (you don't even want to know)!

We've spent the last few days at the Ghana Accra mission home and have had such a wonderful time getting to know President and Sister Heid, who are such amazing and wonderful people. Being with them has felt like being with our family and friends back home. We were even able to play a little badminton and golf in the courtyard of the mission home. Sarah's running group will be happy to know that she was able to log a few miles on the roads and in the pool with Sister Heid the other day. Thankfully, she was also able to find some wonderful pizza and chocolate shakes in downtown Accra, fully redeeming our earlier mistake of trying the local, frozen pizza!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

We had a chance to leave the MTC for an hour to go to the local mall and pick up a few things. The currency here in Ghana are called cedis and the exchange rate is 4 cedis for 1 US dollar - a pretty good value for us. The grocery store had a lot of what we're used to in the states, including a few of our favorites as the pictures prove below.

What wasn't quite the same were the frozen pizzas we decided to cook up for lunch one day. If it doesn't say DiGiorno's....
Some of the other senior couples in the area have promised to take us to the best pizza place in Accra after we visit the temple tomorrow and we can't wait!

On the way back to the MTC, President Robison and the Malmroses took us by their favorite local outdoor market. The fruit here is fresh and amazingly sweet and we stocked up on a few mangos and lemons for later. You have to give all the fruits and vegetables a quick bleach bath, but it's worth it!

We had a nice surprise when our mission president, President Heid and his wife, stopped by to introduce themselves and to meet the missionaries that will be serving with them in the Accra mission. All of the sisters below and most of these elders will be serving together - what an amazing group of talented, humble and spiritual young women and men!

Little did we know, but President Heid also wanted to take us out driving to test out our new international drivers licenses. He shared his wisdom and guidance for learning how to drive like a local in a few short words, including, "stay alert, never flinch and gun it" if we remember correctly. He proved an excellent teacher as we both made it through the 5 Circles of Death without a scratch on our new set of wheels. We also got to visit some of the local ward and branch buildings including a brand new chapel near Bethlehem.

But nothing beats being back at the MTC and the spirit we feel at this great building. We have loved our time here and the personal growth and learning we've been able to experience. And we can't forget the singing! Here's how the French Elders and Sisters from the Congo perform Israel, Israel God is Calling. We wish you could all be here to hear it live!