Monday, September 14, 2015

12,000 Kilometers and Just Getting Started

Thanks to our handy truck (a 4-wheel drive Nissan) we've been able to criss-cross a larger part of the Volta region as we get to know the amazing people of Ghana. It seems like each day brings a new cultural experience and a new opportunity to serve, and we're grateful to see the Lord's hand in the miracles that happen each day.

Our truck has been a huge blessing and has gotten us up, over and through every obstacle we've put in its way.
The streets here are very narrow with more taxis, tro-tro buses and potholes than you can count,
but everyone seems to give us a wide berth and we've yet to end up in one of the drainage ditches that line every street.
We keep praying for safe drivers (us included)!
We travel to Accra a few times a month for meetings, transfers, departures and the temple. The trip can take anywhere from 3 hours (on a good day) to 5 hours if the wait is long at the ferry or traffic is bad in Accra, which it always is. While we're there, we always stop at the "American" stores to stock up and resupply on some of the brands we miss from back home.

Froot Loops, Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs - oh my! The options are limited and expensive
but nothing says home like a stale box of Frosted Flakes. Sarah even found some Bath & Body lotion
in a scent called Ghanaian Geisha, but we left that on the shelf.
Transfers occur every six weeks and bring a measure of happiness and sadness as strong missionaries head
home after serving valiantly for two years. These are 4 elders from our Ho zone. The second from the left
is Elder Ravia from Fiji who's headed to serve the remaining 3-months of his mission in the Liberia, Monrovia
mission. They haven't had any full-time missionaries there since the Ebola breakout over a year ago and he's
going to train all the new missionaries that arrive there soon. Elder Ravia started his mission in Sierra Leon and was transferred to Ghana when his first area was closed due to Ebola. Three countries in two years - what an example!
We continue to see miracles happen all around us and love the experiences and perspectives we're learning as we go. 

On Saturday we were able to attend the baptisms of seven new members of the Ho 1st Branch. What a wonderful spirit as two husbands from the branch baptized their wives into the church and 5 other youth and young adults from the area.
We attended the local Kente Festival this week which celebrates the rich tradition and culture of the Ewe tribe in Togo and Ghana. This area is know for it's fine artistry, colorful Kente weavings and fierce warriors. These are the Queen Mothers from each of the local tribes who have come to celebrate and be honored at the festival.

A huge blessing for us this week as the mission installed a new solar-powered battery system at our house. We even had "light off" the night it was installed and were able to test the system immediately. It ran our lights, refrigerator and air conditioner for a full 10 hours! Hooray for solar power and no more generator! Special thanks to President Heid who is always looking for ways to upgrade the missionary's apartments and living conditions, even senior couples!
We had two days of District Conference last week with a zone training afterwards, so all 18 elders in our zone were in town for a couple of days. Add the AP's and the office elders as well and you know there was a lot of teaching, learning, food and fun going on. We love these missionaries! 

While major food consumption always tops the list as a favorite for missionaries, weighing each other, and subsequently teasing each other mercilessly about the gains and losses, comes in a close second.
District Training and the Ho 2 Branch. Just like herding cats in the states, they call it herding chickens here in Ghana, and we still missed getting all the elders in the pictures. There are 7 countries represented in this picture!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Busy, busy, busy...

We love being here in Ghana and are thankful that each day brings new opportunities to work alongside the wonderful people here in Western Africa. A quote from Elder Dickson, who served as the area president here, best sums up what we've learned from them; "they have little of what matters least and a lot of what matters most." We feel humbled and blessed to be amongst these great people and are grateful for their examples of love, service and a dedication to living Christ-like lives. The pictures we take and share on our blog can never fully convey the whole story or depth of what we're experiencing, but we hope you enjoy seeing a little bit of everyday life for a senior missionary couple. Here's some of what we've been up to these last two weeks:

Donne, wearing the #3 jersey, was one of the first people we met here in Ho. His mother moved away three
years ago and Donne and his sister have been working together to raise their family. We've been driving
Donne and his father out to the village where their mother lives in order to provide them with some family time.
 What a blessing to have seen them reunite all together back in Ho this week! In the picture
above, Donne is teaching a Family Home Evening lesson to his whole family outside their home. 
The church held an All-Africa Service Day where members throughout the continent spent the
day serving in their local communities.  In Ho, over 100 people from the Ho 1 and Ho 2 branches
worked together to help fix one of the worst roads in the city. What hard workers!
Working with 5 branches and 14 missionaries in our zone means we're blessed to be able to attend a number of baptisms each week. These wonderful, life-changing events are filled with the most peaceful spirit. The elders use either a portable font that can travel between locations while some of the buildings have outdoor fonts like this one.
We spent three days at the District Youth Camp with 61 amazing young women and young men from our area. We rented a facility at St. Paul's Senior High School where the kids were called on a "mini" mission. This year's theme was "Embark" which is taken from a scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants 4:2 - "Oh ye that embark in the service of your God, see that ye do so with all your heart, might, mind and strength." What a great goal for us all. Truly amazing kids.
We were also asked to speak at another youth camp, this time in front of 500 junior high students.
We talked about finding hope and happiness through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that the
decisions they make today will determine their destinies down the road. They gave us a "Yevu" cheer at the end! 
We've been holding missionary firesides throughout our area where the members invite their family and friends to join us for an evening of fun, facts and food. We've been showing a video about the church pioneers here in Ghana, sharing a message about reaching out to those in need and feasting on local foods like banku with stew, jollof rice and malt drinks. 
One of our favorite activities is when we get to go with the missionaries on their teaching appointments. The spirit is always strong as the testify of God's plan of salvation to humble and happy families here in Ghana. We trekked through a village to meet with Anthony and Elizabeth and their young son Miracle (she was told that she'd never have children, hence the little boy's descriptive name). 
Speaking of missionaries, here's our favorite. The one on the left is our son and youngest child Elder Bodine, who is currently serving his mission in Cuernavaca, Mexico. We miss him tremendously but we wouldn't want him to be any other place. We absolutely love having this shared experience and to see his joy in serving others. 
While traveling up north this week we saw a sign for a local restaurant that we hadn't seen before, so we decided to give it a try. Even at under $3 a bowl, we decided to head home and snack on our crackers and cheese (we think the rabbits here are so skinny that they only come with one "B"). Let us know if you want us to order you something!