Saturday, March 28, 2015
When a box comes from America, you might as well say it's Christmas. Sister Stone sent us a box that had quite the adventure. After several attempts to pick it up, have the correct documents, correct copies and change it came home to our apartment. You honestly feel like it's Christmas Day, and at first you are afraid to open up the contents because you don't want them to go away. Well, that lasted a couple days of viewing and then the party begins. Thanks so Sister Stone for adding a great big smile to our hearts! Yes, that soft toilet tissue because she thought of everything!
The lady's picture is of the Postal Worker, and yes she didn't smile once, and even though I already had my name and address on the slip she was quite persistent that I write it all over again! You just have to smile no matter what!
Last weekend Elder Terry was in Nigeria and I was training in Cape Coast...not to be confused with the Country of Côte d'Ivoire, and we both had interesting but different experiences. When I picked him up from the airport, he was quiet and I mentioned that I would try to work my schedule so we could go together next time, and he said, "No you won't." Evidentially, it was a place currently that has an upcoming election that has the country on edge. So, I guess I can take traveling together to Nigeria off our schedule for awhile. We don't even have any white young or Senior missionaries in the country with threats of kidnapping. Best to be safe!
While mine was to a coastal town about 4 hours away from Accra, and the Gospel Literacy Teacher Training went very well. There are always so may details to prepare and have ready that by the time you arrive it is a relief to finally be there. The Stake building we trained in put the group of about 35 in the overflow of the chapel with all fans going on HIGH. I learned something very important that training...not to wear a flared skirt because you become Marilyn Monroe.
I did have time for an early Sabbath beach walk that the collection of shells became to many for my hands, and I managed to find this well torn carton to place my treasures in.
I AM POWERFUL was written by this beautiful sister in our literacy class on Sunday. As the classes are now being held in the Stakes that are trained it is with so much love I enter in and take a seat. In this particular class in Cape Coast, there were 5 students all women and ranging in age from 50-70. Part of the beginning lesson is to put I AM on the chalkboard and then you see what they add. It is very evident who are you beginners, because they are struggling to hold the pencil. While the woman you see a picture of is writing I AM POWERFULL. I love the moments that you are taken totally by surprise, and you have that eye contact that says YES! As we talked together about why she powerful, in her very little English, she expressed GOD KNOWS. Then, I look over and the teacher is helping the older sister hold the chalk and write the letter I. My heart always swells, and then I take a moment to cover up one of the L's in the sister's POWERFULL and simple teaching begins.
I'll try to get Elder Terry to write of his experience, but he didn't take one picture for many reasons!
IT SEEMS STRANGE to go to the airport with luggage in tow and board an airplane. The thought of us coming over 6 months ago flooded in, and then you buckle your seat belt and they say Côte d'Ivoire, and you are brought back to going to another country that you have never been before. Elder Terry is in a multi-stake training, and I'm excited to lay some preparatory work for the Gospel Literacy Program. Since this is a French speaking country, better brush up on bonjour!
Sunday, March 15, 2015
The woman next to her in the blue is an advanced beginner, and knows her pencil but is just now recognizing words. As we sat together after the literacy class in Relief Society, the lesson was on REPENTANCE and she wrote that word in her notebook. I asked her to find the word on the page in her manual and she was confused. I took her finger and traced along each line and stopped when we found the word. She continued down the page and found the word 4 more times. I took my hands and SHINED FOR HER. She reached over and gave me a heart filled hug and said very slowly...Thank you Sister Terry. Their is no language barrier when love is passed one to another. If everyone could come and sit next to these women, you would understand why AFRICA CHANGES YOU FOREVER. The world would be as He had created if we shined for one another.
THE PACK'S WERE OUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS here in Ghana, and they have finished their mission and returned home. I'm not liking saying these goodbyes, but take a smile within to know that they live in Alpine. It seems the biggest majority of Senior Missionaries here come out of Utah, and more around the Salt Lake area. So, we wish them a safe journey in all their travels as they enter back into America. I know for sure it will be much harder to re-enter than it was landing here in Ghana. We are so thankful that we don't even need to start processing that one! Elder Terry and I feel we have just started our engines. We are most grateful to Heavenly Father for sending them here, and having them as neighbors and friends. Knock knock....oh you aren't here!
YES, YOU CAN FIND GELATO RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER FROM OUR WORK HERE IN AFRICA....I remember the first time a Senior Missionary couple took us for a treat, and I walked in and couldn't make sense of such variety and choices. I'm still in shock each time we treat ourselves, and Elder Terry beats me to the counter to order his favorite Rum Raisin. I have to keep a napkin handy to wipe up when he drools so it doesn't get on the case. He will go through a mini withdrawal when we leave.
Bernice I wish I had your color....Now, I understand why they think sister missionaries dress so bland here. The colors and fabric they have here in Ghana are breathtaking. This is Bernice and I've fallen in love with her ever giving heart. She has a sewing shop here and I love when she takes me to the market and I pick out fabric, she helps me design the clothing and then she comes back with such creations. On this day, she was so excited for me to try this dress on I put it on over my other clothes. She is a Godly woman who is about doing good in her country with many iniatives. She is especially instrumental with girls with their monthly cycle, spiritual growth, physical safety and empowerment. I'm exhausted when I follow her for only a day, because she is networked with so may others just being God's hands. She loves this gospel and lives it everyday. I'm eternally grateful that a loving Heavenly Father dropped Bernice right in the middle of my world. I can't wait to put my badge on this creation....now if I could get her skin color it would make it even more beautiful.
TEACHER TRAINING.... I'm continually surprised by the tremendous dedication of those that hold teacher or leadership callings here in Ghana. The 2nd phase of our Gospel Literacy Program is a 5 hour training on Saturdays by Stake. They come by foot, public transport, cars that the batteries die and even bicycle. True dedication to their responsibilities of those they watch over. The room is packed and along the walls with those hungry to learn. Sister Heckel is fulfilling her life long dream to teach adult literacy on a multi-country basis. As you can see in this picture, you need to watch your step so you don't trip on the wee ones. Sister Call is in the background soaking in all the training so we can be teacher trainers as well. We have worked 5 months to be at this point, and it feels wonderful!
ELDER TERRY.....Two weeks ago we drove to a small Branch that is about a 3 and a half hour drive from Accra. On Sunday we attended Sacrament Meeting, and I met with the Branch Clerks to assess their technical needs and teach them more directly.
One of the Branch Clerks in that group is named Wisdom Oforikumah (He's also the Branch Executive Secretary). While Wisdom is only 18 years old and somewhat quiet, he is a spiritual giant. At the end of our session, I invited him to come to Accra where I could provide him with additional training and give him a PC cable that his Branch needed. Given the distance and cost I didn't really think he would come there.
The following Wednesday he called me to ask when would be a good time to visit and without much thought I told him that next Tuesday at 9 am would be a good time for me. In other words, I spaced on how far away away he was. He ended up not making it to the office till noon. When I took him to my office, he mentioned that he was sorry for being late. He had left at 5 am but traffic had been much worse than he expected. That's when I realized just how far he had come! He had spent all that time and money taking a number of different taxis and buses to come and visit me!
In my office, I provided him with some technical documents and chatted with him about his schooling and career plans. Turns out he's still in high school and wants to be an electrician someday. The first thing he wants to do when he graduates in April is put his paperwork in to go on a mission. His attitude and quiet demeanor just touched my heart. At the end of our discussion, I asked him to go up another flight of stairs to our storage room where I could get him the PC cable. We ran into our Area Doctor and he asked Wisdom how his foot was doing. That's when I looked down to see his horribly deformed club foot! Dr. Hill explained to me that Wisdom had come to him the month before to ask if the doctors could amputate his foot and replace it with a prosthesis – so he could go on a mission! Dr. Hill had told him no, there would be no amputation because at Wisdom's age that would probably bring on even more complications! But he also told him he could go on a mission anyway! I didn't know what to say, but it was clear looking at Wisdom's beaming face that he liked the doctor's answer!
When Wisdom left my office, I went out to take a walk around the Temple and get my wits about me. I tried to imagine what this young man must be going through – he was actually willing to amputate his foot because he thought it would prevent him from going on a mission! He had spent over six hours on an arduous journey to come and visit me and he had just left to make the same journey home! He serves two important callings for his Branch and now wants to serve the Lord full time! He's dealt with his club foot and more all his life!
All to say, I've had quite a few experiences like this. I just hope I can measure up to what many of the Ghanian Saints have here. In the meantime, I'm keeping Wisdom in my prayers!
Sunday, March 8, 2015
IT'S FINALLY ARRIVED....We are starting to roll out Phase II of our Gospel Literacy Program with the teacher training. It was a 5 hour training that will reap blessing in the lives of the students who are waiting to be taught. Sister and Elder Heckel have joined us, and she is an adult literacy specialist with years and years of training. I knew Sister Heckel many years ago when I volunteered with Reach the Children, and she came to teach us about her methods and community development. For them to be on the ground here in the Africa West Area took many miracles in itself, and I look forward to learn from the firehouse of her experience. This was our training in Tema with teachers and Stake and Ward Relief Society Presidents. Anita in the last picture is the Stake Relief Society President that shines with her caring spirit for her sisters. I feel it is such a honor to stand with these great Saints in this spirit filled land of Ghana.
GHANA'S INDEPENDENCE DAY....Year number 58th for Ghana and it's independence. It was very interesting being with 1,000's of those celebrating. You could say that it wasn't hard to find each other when we were separated. All the marching bands, the dancing, the tanks, the fly overs and customary dignitaries made for a culture day that included us for a moment.
WHO'S COOKING IN THE KITCHEN... Okay, we use the word loosely when you go out to eat at some eating establishments as you can see in the picture. The gentleman in the first picture is making egg roll wrappers at a Thai resturant we were eating at. We were saying our goodbyes to the couple at the end of the table the Packs. They are literally our next door neighbors in our apartment complex. I'm not sure how I'm liking this saying goodbyes, and it has cause me to sit within and learn to say those words more than a few times here. We have missionaries that we work with starting to go home, and we try to let them go gracefully. Many, including the Packs, won't be far away when we come home because they live in the greater Salt Lake area. The Packs will return to Alpine, and it is a blessing that we once again can be kinda neighbors in America.
You never quite know when you go to a new resturant what you will see. The man making the wrappers would use his ungloved right hand and dip it in a bowl of dough and then drop it on the grill and pull the excess dough off leaving a very thin piece of batter like a crepe. I don't think they have health and sanitation regulations here. As you can see from the picture, we have learned to look past so many things and eat anyway with no idea what's happening in the kitchen. It's best that way!
YOU GOT MAIL....I was sitting in my office this week and a young man came in and said, "Sister Terry you have mail". Well, you can imagine how that felt in my heart. It seems that email, FaceTime, Facebook and messaging has taken the forefront of our communications back home. There is something very tangible in ones heart when you can see the written word from another when you are so far away. To see Sister Terry written in my grandchildren's handwriting took my heart on a journey that I didn't expect. Even now, I have to pause to place myself in the innocence of them missing us. It was a beautiful moment to sit beside them and wipe away my tears, and then pass the letters on to Elder Terry and have him bow his head in missing as well. What balm and beauty the word LOVE, in all its forms, gives us to reach across miles and shorten any distance between two granddaughters that made that day and moment in our hearts!
HO A LAND THAT CAPTURES YOUR HEART.....In an area north of Accra, we were able to go and spend a weekend among the saints there. The area is called Ho, and it is the birthplace of the beautiful Kente cloth that is woven here. We were privileged to go with Elder Vinson, of the Area Presidency and his wife, to this beautiful area that almost has stopped time. We had a gentleman, a former bishop Emanuel, come with us to show us the backroads of his community. We were driving down the road at one point were we literally had Ghana on one side and Togo on the other side of the road. Elder Terry is convinced that Elder Vinson swerved in the road and went into Togo. Emanuel took us in the hidden areas where kente cloth was being weaved, clay pots were being made by hand, celebrations of schools, yarn being dyed for cloth and the branches welcoming us with such giant spirits. We feel so blessed to be in this land where their culture meets our minds and hearts with such awe and amazement. Notice in the picture of the woman making the pot that they don't bend their knees. How can they do this for hours year after year? And that is leaves that she is using to smooth the pot. I'm just wondering who will be carrying these priceless treasures home.
Same smiles....This is a picture of Elder Terry and myself within the first week we arrived. I look at this picture and understand so much more than I could of possibly even started to comprehend when we first arrived. Believe it or not we are a few days away from being here 6 months, and I can't believe that time has gone so very fast. Elder Terry for the next 6 weeks will be going to Nigeria, Benin and Ivory Coast for his assignment. My assignment will keep me here except for the Ivory Coast. It is strange to be going in opposite directions most of our days, but our office we are side by side and have so many moments where we look at each other and try to wipe the stun look off our faces. We feel as if the Lord has given us the first months of our mission to grasps tiny, large and very important concepts involved in our mission. We never truly know what will happen in a day as there are so many variables here, but we have proven that our smiles never change and our love continues to grow that He would give us this opportunity to serve Him in such a choice land. SO THANKFUL THAT WE STILL HAVE A YEAR TO REALLY ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES!
More than plastic bags and boxes.....This is Elder and Sister Call who are working closely with me in rolling out the Gospel Literacy Initiative here in Ghana. We have prayed, surveyed, observed, written, been guided and felt all doors open unto us in our assignment. As we have taken on this enormous undertaking, we have felt an outpouring of His spirit knowing it is not us moving this work forward. We are standing in the supply room where we have all the curriculum, student supplies and training ready to roll forth for our next phase which is the Teacher Training. There are 22 Stakes/Districts with 180 units in Ghana and they will received 4 phases of training.....Phase I Leadership in 6 Stakes is complete. When we do our math we don't know how it will be completed as they want us to be ready for other countries in West Africa. I stopped doing the math because I know that loaves and fishes under His blessing can multiply in ways that we cannot possible comprehend. It feels so good to have all His work coming into the field now, and seeing so many desperate to receive it.
WITHIN JUST A FEW STEPS.....Standing in the outside foyer of the Christiansborg Stake Center on the Temple grounds affords you this view. In the distance is the area office where we find ourselves spending much of our time in preparations for our assignments. Their is the distinct feeling as you are walking the grounds here that we are so truly blessed, loved and ever so close to the learning of His holy house. We do not take it lightly that many travel very long distances to come and enter. We see bus loads from other countries enter with smiles upon their faces prepared to enter and receive further light and knowledge. We as missionaries have the opportunity to do temple sessions, and every Friday one of the Area Presidents performs sealings, and we all come to kneel across the altar for our beloved brothers and sisters. When you hear their names, it is as if generations come forth to witness the the long awaited sealing powers upon the earth. What a sacred opportunity we have to share such an intimate view of this gospel.