Our mornings are met with a not to bad blender and yummy fresh fruit. The pineapples here are amazing, and once you have them here you won't be satisfied again with any others. You can eat them hour after hour, and day after day without the acid taste stopping you. Now, the problem of what to eat with a package from America that we received from my sweet daughter Trish with Good N Plenty's in it. Moderation in all things! So, I'll open the candy and see how long they last. I so love the morning sun as it floods my kitchen each day. Thankful for so many choices!
Somehow on the day the Stokers (the ones on the far right) were leaving, we all arrived at the office at the same time. From the time we have been here, that has never happened before. I don't think it really was SOMEHOW, but Heavenly Father's tender mercies to send them off with a group embrace. Starting from the left the Panter's, the new couple taking the Stoker's place the Peck's, Smith's, Hill's, Bullocks's -minus his wife taking the picture, Watson's, Wilde -minus his loving wife taking the picture, Terry's and our beloved Stokers. What a beautiful morning, with the Temple in the background of our hearts, to say, Safe Journey!
This is a shot of Sister Stoker and myself as she was preparing to leave for home. It seems strange right now as those that we have become close to start to leave the mission and return back to their love ones. There is something about the first set of missionaries that welcomed you with open arms, the ones that showed you around, answered all your questions and just lived a few knocks away. I now go by their office and a new set of missionaries have come to take their place. But no one can really take her place because Sister and Elder Stoker were one of a kind. She had the bluest eyes that would listen without diverting her attention. It was as if you were the only one in the room. Her spirit radiated a gentleness that so many of us here felt. They have left a huge hole for us all to fill in their absence, but somehow her laughter and kindness will linger with all of us for a long time. I'm standing on my tippy toes and Sister Stoker is bending down so we can be the same height. I'm thankful that she just lives around the corner when we return home, because we really don't have to say Goodbye!!!!!! Safe journey my friend and remember be gentle with yourself!
This beautiful woman knew no English, but we were able to communicate with our hands and smiles. She is working in the bush in Abomosu with palm nuts. They process from harvesting the palm dates, to picking them off the stalks, to pressing them to cooking the oil to purify it. Another long and hard process that doesn't find her bitter, but thankful that she can work and earn a living for her family. If they had a small truck to transport the palm oil, they would make twice as much for their product.
On a hot day in Kumasi about a few weeks ago, I was able to go into a Cultural Center and see the process of dyeing batik. I marvel at this woman and how she stands all day over an open fire and sets the colors in a hot water bath. I don't think I really know what hard word is when I see how someone else is thankful to even have a hard days work to come to each day. She would be a woman that I would get behind her handcart!
Elder Terry's assignment here has a variety of components, but the chart above reflects the world wide effort to have at least one technology specialist in Stakes/Districts assigned and trained. Within a little over a month, Elder Terry's numbers shot up from a little over 28% to 80% for Ghana. Now, I would say that is remarkable. I would watch him day after day when we arrived working tirelessly to manage this one assignment. Everyone in the Area Office is astounded at how he was able to accomplish this in such a short period of time. Then, they haven't really gotten a chance to know him yet. Elder Terry was a bit disappointed that the United States beat him by 6%. Now, doesn't that tell you why he made such a remarkable difference!
After almost 4 months, the Literacy Program will be rolled out all across Ghana. That would be 22 Stakes with 176 units. It is an exciting day as I went and taught the first Stake in Tesano the other day. In the Leadership training, we discussed their leadership and follow up to ensure the program's success. This is Stake President Abeo and his Stake Relief Society President Alice. I'm privileged to stand beside such champions of His gospel here. They know their flock and were the first Stake in all of Ghana to receive training. The picture was taken at the end of our training meeting where we had all Bishops/District Presidents, Stake RS Presidency, Ward RS Presidency's in attendance. We had around 40 in attendance with some coming from long distances to attend. As I stood before them, I could feel their dedication and support in this effort to bring the words of Christ into all the homes within their Stake. As I attend what use to be the literacy classes here, my heart would break for those that had come to learn to read, write and understand His words. They would go to the chalkboard and struggle to write their name for the first time. I always feel a swell within my heart as they step back from the chalkboard and see their own name written by themselves for the first time. It is as if they are someone who graces this earth. I can't wait to come together and learn from each other in ways that will further the work of literacy in this great land.
Any given day you can see some of the most interesting things the street hawkers are selling as you drive down the road. They cross-cross the busy traffic with their goods in their hands. We see TV antennas, blow up pool toys, magazines, clothes, food, fruit, electrical plugs, kleenex and any variety of store items. It is a bit tricky to seal a deal, because once the traffic starts to move so does the hawker. You make the deal and have your money ready to hand off and the goods sometimes are thrown into the car. I admire their willingness to work all day amidst all the traffic and confusion. Many a day I come home and have done a good bit of my shopping. Many know your car and we are getting to know their names. Even if you don't buy from them that day, they still have a smile to give you.
Elmina Castle takes you back to the origins of slave trade, and as you enter the castle and see and hear the horrific stories of how men and women were treated it is as if someone has stabbed you in the heart. On our visit there, Elder Terry is standing at the "Gate of No Return". This is the last gate and look at their country before the slaves were put on ships to cross the ocean. I'm thankful for historians that we can travel back in time to see man's inhumanity to mankind. May it be a sacred lesson that we are all Heavenly Father's children, and look upon each other as brothers and sisters who we have the privilege to love!
One day as I was driving and dead stopped in traffic this huge truck here started to roll back, and when he finally stopped I could reach out and touch the body of his truck. You might think that when we are driving here that we drive the same way as we do in America. I would have to say that isn't even close to being true. It can be a bit unnerving at first, and then you learn how to play the game. Don't look when they are squeezing in, horns are their polite way of letting you know they are coming into your lane, motorbikes can do anything they want, and that includes running red lights, cars without a scrape of some kind are rare and you have to put on a little more aggressive behavior if you are going to get any where. My major concern is if I will be able to get Elder Terry out of this mode of driving when we return home. I would suggest giving him a few months to acclimate back to driving the American way.
Everyday on our way home we pass this sidewalk hardware store. Each day he painstakingly puts out each item, and again in the evening he loads it back up into containers. I need to take packing tips from him, because he can fit more things in a container than you could believe. It's these views that capture my thoughts as we drive back and forth to work each day. I'm thankful that Elder Terry gets to see them as well when I take my turn behind the wheel. If you are driving here you are not sightseeing for sure. I would say his inventory is amazing wouldn't you?
I'm always amazed at the colors, sights and sounds that are outside our window each and every day. Most of the time the pictures roll past before we can retrieve our camera. Then there are those days that you have it sitting on your lap, and you see a world of resourcefulness. They don't need a Maytag dryer! All they need is a metal fence by the road and the constant sunshine that bathes this country in the perfect weather to dry anything. I want the uncommon to remain uncommon within me. Life's pace here is one that I hope to not rush and take in deeply so when I return home I'll hang my clothes out to dry as well.
On a recent trip to Cape Coast we were staying at a hotel that was steps away from the ocean. One morning Elder Terry went along the beach to find his treasures and came back with shells and the remains of someone's doll. I was just glad that he didn't start chanting as he showed it to me. He is always up for an adventure anywhere he goes!
I love my sabbath's in this great land of Ghana. You find that their testimonies and prayers are praise rather than just thankfulness. I remember we tell our teams that we take over to Africa with my non profit organization that, "If you are in the presence of an Africa always ask them to pray". Indeed it is true here because they pray will heart intentions. I listen carefully with each prayer that is said so I can somehow catch their words and praise Him as they do. Elder Holland said once that if everyone could attend a sacrament meeting in Africa they would never be the same again. Amen!