Monday, July 27, 2015

Two Month Anniversary

In some ways it seems as though we've been gone for a long time and in others it feels like we left just yesterday. We miss our family and friends immensely but we know we're doing exactly what the Lord would have us do at this time in our lives. We're still adjusting to a completely different lifestyle, but we're grateful for new opportunities that help us grow and learn such valuable, eternal lessons like faith, hope and charity.

We recently spent a few days at a local hospital with one of the missionaries in our area. Unfortunately, malaria is still rampant in this area of the world and, even though the missionaries take medicine every day, most of them end up learning about this parasite the hard way. Sarah and I take our Doxy pills with every breakfast and we pray that we don't have to spend any time in the local hospitals - it was a very sobering and eye-opening experience.

Elder Marsh was admitted but then wasn't checked on for over 24-hours

The admittance and diagnostic process took so long that the blood lab and the pharmacy had closed for the night, even though we arrived mid-afternoon. Knowing what it's like to have a missionary in the field, Sarah went into mom mode and had the hospital staff doing everything they could for this poor elder. They ended up giving us the blood samples to take over to the lab and had us pick up our own medicines from the pharmacy.

Yes, it took a full box of medicine to treat Elder Marsh. After 3-days of care(?) and seven IV's, we pulled him out of Ho and drove him to one of the larger hospitals in Accra.

In between trips to the hospital, we've been able to attend a few of the quarterly zone conferences and monthly zone meetings. This is when all the missionaries in a zone get together for training, teaching, interviews and food (and there's always a whole lot of food). The missionaries love to see and catch up with old companions and roommates and we enjoy seeing how much they love and miss each other.

On top of the training, there are a lot of smiles, laughter and even some good-natured noogies!
Once the meetings are over, the bank is open. We provide reimbursement for monies the elders have spent for travel, power (when it's on), water and even bicycle repairs. Every penny of these sacred missionary funds are accounted for.

We spent 4 days at the mission home in Accra working on transfers as 20 missionaries left (after completing their 2 years here in Ghana) and 23 new missionaries arrived. It's a bittersweet time when these spiritual warriors head home to resume the lives they left behind to serve the Lord, but the excitement and eagerness of their replacements warms our hearts.

Sixteen of the new missionaries arrived from the Provo MTC a bit jet lagged but eager to find their companion and head to their new areas. We also had elders/sister from Zambia, Nigeria and Australia in this MTC group.

We continue to put a lot of kilometers on our truck as we visit each of the branches and groups in our area. We've attended a number of baptisms, firesides, and leadership meetings lately in an effort to get to know these humble and wonderful people better. They live hard and burdened lives but the message of the restored gospel gives them faith and hope to carry on and endure to the end.

These great missionaries taught this gentleman the gospel in sign language. The portable font
gets a lot of use in the branches and groups.

Thanks to some wonderful friends back home (thanks Charole and Lynne) we received a shipment of young women medallions and personal progress books. The young women of the Tsito Branch felt like Christmas came in July as they've been working to qualify for their awards. The love and live the gospel!

Every Saturday we have a group of local kids over to our house. Most of them come from tough family situations and are living on their own. We have them wash the car, weed and sweep the dirt around our house in order to earn some money for food the next week. Sarah washes all their clothes and school uniforms and they iron their church shirts so they're ready for Sunday meetings.

We always have the cleanest truck in town!

While we were in Accra last week, the mission president asked us to head to the market in Jamestown (the largest and therefore the craziest market in the city) and buy 25 white shirts. We took two of the African missionaries with us so that they could bargain in the local languages. Thanks to their hard work, we were able to get 25 new white shirts for 230 Ghana Cedis - that's under $3 per shirt in US dollars.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Another Great Week in Ho!

It's been another busy week here in Ho and the heat, thunderstorms and "light off" have been our constant companions. We did a bit of traveling last week going from Accra, the southernmost point in the mission, to Hohoe, which is the farthest north, putting almost 800 kilometers on our truck. Sarah keeps our daily calendar in pencil because the schedule can change on an hourly basis and we've learned that being flexible is a necessary trait for all missionaries.

Sarah's excellent organizational skills come in handy as do lots and lots of post-it notes!
At the start of each week, we work together on a short message that we can share with the people we meet and the less-active members from each branch that we've been asked to visit. Last week we shared a thought on "being of good cheer"and read a scripture in John 16:33 that helps us put our trust in Jesus Christ.

It's not always easy finding some of the homes as there aren't street addresses or house numbers
We helped with another funeral last week and our truck was used as a hearse again. The tradition here is to hold the funeral on a weekend and sometimes it takes a few weeks before the family can all travel to where they're holding the funeral. The families wear mainly black if the deceased was older and passed on after living a fulfilled life. They'll wear mainly red if the funeral is for a younger person who left this life too soon. We've enjoyed sharing the message of God's plan of salvation with those in mourning and that we'll have the chance to be together with our loved ones once this life is over. 

We've been helping some of the youth with their English literacy and have been providing computer training to some of the adults. We love to see the joy on their faces as they learn something new and they share what they learned with others. 

This is our good friend Christian Dikro. He just finished writing a letter to his daughter who's away at school and I showed him how to add a picture of himself to the letter. He was overjoyed to send it to her!
We were busy most of the day on Saturday, but we were able to have the missionaries over for pizza and ice cream that night to celebrate the 4th of July holiday. Being away from home and living outside of the United States has deepened our love for our country and the many conveniences we are blessed to have. We pray for and are thankful for all those who have served or are currently serving to keep our country free.

Ghanaians love America and this store hung the flags together on Independence Day.

The missionaries at our house celebrating the 4th of July with pizza, ice cream and a good game of golf. Just a tip for future missionaries - the elders from the Sudan and Nigeria love to look at their cards!