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.