Sunday, October 14, 2012

The hardest thing we have done so far!

By Greg:

The beach is lovely this time of year.

We have done some hard things on this mission, but the hardest thing we have done so far is what we are going to do next week.  We are going home.  No, we are not quitting or sick or dying.  We are going to Salt Lake to meet with all of the other Area Auditors from around the world for an annual training.  This is not the hard part.  THE HARD PART WILL BE GETTING ON THE PLANE AND LEAVING HOME AGAIN  AND COMING BACK HERE.  We are not sure who is responsible for this inflicted pain, but I am sure someday we will thank them for putting this obstacle in our path so we can grow by overcoming it.
The Buzzards are always waiting

 I still have buzzards circling above me most of the time. These were in a dead tree outside our window.  They are just waiting for me to slip and fall. I can almost hear them say to each other, “What do you want to do?”


We went to Cape Coast on Friday for a training session Saturday morning.  When the Europeans first came to this area, they set up shop in Cape Coast.  This was before Columbus sailed to America.  In fact, Chris was on one of the ships that came here, as a younger man.  They called this the Gold Coast because there was lots of gold.  Eventually they decided to deal in salves.  They build castles all along the coast and the biggest castle build just for selling slaves is in Cape Coast.  We did not go there, but they give tours.

This was not one of the main castles, but is high on a hill and is old
When the English finally took over in 1877, they moved the headquarters to Accra where it was considered not as hot and humid and subject to so many diseases.  Before then, the Dutch, Portuguese and Danes were also here.  They were all doing business in the “Triangle of Trade”.  They brought goods to Africa, Slaves to America, raw material (sugar, molasses, tobacco etc.) from America to Europe and then loading up with stuff to trade with in Africa and doing it again.  The Africans were the enslavers of their fellow and the sellers, the Dutch, English and Portuguese were the wholesale buyers and the plantations in the New World were the retail buyers.  Just a small fraction of the total slaves actually went to the United States.  This is a very sad tale.


We traveled to Cape Coast with three men, Arnold, Folly and William. They are all Africans of course and have other names.  They let us play one thousand questions with them all the way there and back.  Here is a sample of our questions:

Q. Are those leather chairs and couches for sale? A. Yes, would you like to stop and look at them?

Q. Do many African men have more than one wife? A. No, one is enough, not many but some do.  There is a saying, you can tell a man who has more than one wife because his clothes are never clean and he smells.

 Q. Why is there tension between African Americans and Africans?  A. We do not understand them; they have a good life in America, why are they always complaining.

Q. What is that lady doing.  A. Making gravel with a hammer.

Q. Why is she doing that? A. That is the business they are in.  They get big rocks and make smaller ones.

Q.  Do you eat rats and dogs? A. Dogs, sometimes, rats no.  We do eat grass-cutters; they are kind of like rats.

Q.  What is that? A. It is sugar cane.

Q.  What is that? A. It is fried plantains.

Q.  What is that? A. It is like a little fried cake.

Q.  What is that? A. It an ant hill.
(Okay, these really are ant hills.  They are all over the place.  In fact, Accra means ant hill.  These are about six feet high and sometimes they are hollowed out and used as cooking ovens after the ants are driven off)

Q. Who is going to win the election here? A. Over the last 20 years all of our presidents have been named John.

Q. Is there a John running? A. Yes, he will probably win.

Q. How many men are running for president? A. 36.

Q. Are there wild animals in Ghana? A. In the reserves.

Q. How much money do these people make (shop workers)? A. $1,500 US a year.

Q. Can educated people get jobs? A. Not easy right now.  Unemployment is high.

Q. Is traffic always this bad? A. No. sometimes it is worse.
This is a typicaL intersection.  There may or may not be lights or stop signs.  These folks do not understand the concept of taking turns, you go, then I go, the he goes.  No, it is if there is a slight opening I am going.  They honk their horn and go.  It is really like the bumper cars at Lagoon, except we are driving the Church's car and we don't want to bump anyone.
Q. Does everyone in Ghana have a cell phone?
A. It is estimated that 24 of the 25 million people in Ghana have cell phones.

Q. Do people get mortgages to buy homes? A. Some.

Q. What is the interest rate? A. 30%.

Q. Can a person own land? A. It is very hard.  Most of the land is owned by the old village chiefs.  You pay once for a 99 year lease.  Don’t worry what will happen in 99 years. Then you build your own house.

Q. Does the church own land? No. They also lease.

Q. How about the Temple. A. It is a lease.

Q. How old are you? A. William, 45; Arnold, 44 : Folly, 34.

Q. Did you have to pay your father-in-law to marry his daughter? A. No, it is not like that.  It is more like everyone in her family, including “Aunties” gave a list of things they wanted, and then you had to either get those presents or negotiate down the requests.  Have you seen the movie about the 10 cow wife?  You don’t want your wife to be just a horn and a tail.

Q. Are we there yet? A. No, not yet.


By Debi:


Our trip to Cape Coast took us 3 ½ hours to get there and it took us 4 ½ hours to get back.  Now that might not seem too long until you realize that it is 160 kilometers to Cape Coast which is about 100 miles and then you realize how bad the traffic is.  It is strange because not very many people can afford cars here but there are so many taxis and tro-tros that it really plugs up the roads.

 We tried to take some pictures on our way because this was the first time we have left the Accra area.  We met Pres. and Sister Shulz  Friday evening and we had dinner at a nice outdoor restaurant that was part of a hotel.  The food was excellent but it took a very long time to get it because they really only cook to order, so everything is freshly made.

 We slept at the mission home.  They have a very nice spare bedroom that they call the apostle room because Elder Holland has stayed there.  It was so nice to see the nice mission home. 

President and Sister Shulz are such good friends and were great hosts.  President Shulz is a fantastic mission president and is loved by all.

This is the mission president's home.

On the property is also a small building for their office and another small building that houses the AP’s apartment. We met the AP missionaries.  They were so great.  One is from Salt Lake.  His family is from Tonga and he wants to play football when he gets home.  He has made himself a homemade set of weights to work out with. The other missionary is from Kenya.  He is going home this Tuesday.  He is very excited but he feels very scared at the same time.  We asked him to meet and say hello to Pres. and Sister Broadbent when he gets home. 


This is the missionary apartment for the APs.  The other building is the office.

I think this is how Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble would also have gotten in shape for football.  This young Tongan pumped this cement like it was paper. 


We took a picture of a lizard in the mission home yard. (Sorry kids, we tried to see something wild but this was the best we could do)  There is lots of security for the property.  The gate and fence protect the outside and they have bars on all of the windows.  There is also a guard that is there on the property.



We went to a very nice church for the training in Cape Coast.  When we arrived we thought we were the only ones there because we had the only car in the parking lot.  When we came into the high council room there were already about 20 men there ready for the meeting.   They all came in taxis or tro-tros.  These good brethren spent about 6 hours of their Saturday for the training.
That is our car in the parking lot. 


After the meeting we went outside and we saw some young men playing basketball in the parking lot of the church.  Of course, Greg had to go and give them some pointers. (They were stepping on the wrong foot to make a lay-up)  After a few suggestions they started a little pick-up game.  They had a great time and Greg still can hold his own on the court.


In the back of the church there were some sisters preparing for a ward couples dinner that night.  They were pealing kasova (it is a root that they peel, pound and then make what they call foo-foo). They were also preparing fish to grill out in the open and to make soup that they dip the foo-foo in.  Greg told the sisters that they are all beautiful and that brought a lot of laughter.


We tried to catch a few scenes on the way home because there was still some daylight.  Ghana is a land of contrast, especially in the living conditions of the people.  We saw shanties along the shore of the ocean and we saw mansions on top of the hills.  We see very large stores in a three story building and then we see a little grass shack selling tomatoes or pineapple along the side of the road. We saw beautiful tropical trees and grass and whole towns with only cement buildings and dirt roads.  But the one thing that the people here in Ghana seem to possess is happiness and peace.  Almost all of Ghana is in church on Sunday.  They take care of their families and they have a strong desire for peace.


Even though we still feel like we are in a very strange land, it is becoming more and more comfortable and more beautiful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Africa is a three story building

By Greg

Everywhere we go here in Ghana we notice that the buildings appear to be under construction.  I have given this a lot of thought and I think this is a metaphor for Ghana.


The ground floor of this building is occupied
They are building these buildings out of cement.  They want a solid structure.  They obviously do not have the capital to finish the buildings all at once.  But they have plans.  Almost every building appears to have the option of adding an additional level.


They have pretty much finished and occupied the ground floor with their shops, stores, offices and homes.  Of course, all around, behind and even to the side of these cement structures; there are shanties that are left over from the past.  These are occupied homes and shops as well.


It would appear that the people have hope.  They are planning for improvements.  The second floors will be better than the first.


See what the upper floors can become
When they have the capital, and the demand, and the infrastructure support, they will finish the second floor and then they can focus on the third floor.  I think this will happen in a relative short period.  When this happens this country will be transformed into a “third story” country.  Right now it is still a “ground floor” country.


The young Ghanaian who is currently playing football at BYU is the younger brother of some very fast running Africans (We understand the older ones were All-Americans).  These boys have returned to Ghana with master’s degrees in Economics and are claiming that Ghana will be like the US in 25 years!  That seems fantastic.  But consider this description of Senior Sister Miller just 28 years ago:


“Accra had no street lights.  The eerie glow of candles lit the stands of the peddlers who lined the streets with their wares of eggs, bread, fruit, and bolts of materials, nail polish, and Ghanaian jewelry.  The heat was unbearable by day, and we restlessly tossed on our beds at night, perspiring and listening to the ugly, annoying croaking of the frogs or the continual barking of dogs, and inhaling the strange odors of Ghanaian cooking…there were stores with nothing to sell, telephones that never rang, and electric lights that did not illuminate.”


I think you get the picture.  Then, there were no cars.  Now, the streets are packed.  Then there was no air conditioning, now most larger buildings are attempted to be cooled.  Then there was despair, now hope is everywhere.  Then education was a dream, now it is within the reach of most children and young adults.

Consider this: “Let faith rule the hearts of Thy Saints that they may contribute their tithes and offerings and be worthy of Thine outreaching hand in their behalf that they may be prospered in their labors, that their lands may be productive, and that the blessings of heaven may come down upon them in great measure, that they may be lifted from the scourge of poverty, that they may be looked upon as a favored people.”  This prayer was offered by President Hinckley on January 11, 2004 as he dedicated the Accra Ghana Temple and formally opened the second floor construction of this county (in my opinion).


By Debi:


Greg and I have had a debate on whether we can tell other peoples stories that we have heard from people here in Ghana.  We decided that if we heard the story from the very person that it is about, that we can retell it with confidence that it is true. Here is a story that we heard from the very man that it happened to.  We also decided that we would not use their name unless we have specifically have asked them if we can use their name.

Monday night at President Biellett’s (Temple President of the Ghana Temple) home,  we met a  man who has been a member of the church for about 25 years and he is now a temple worker.  When he first heard of the church he lived in a town just east of Cape Coast.  He was living a very riotous live and he had one of the few cars in the village.  He told his friend that he wanted to look for a church.  Another friend told him about the Mormon Church and asked him to come.  Each week he would go to the Church and learn and listen to the missionaries.  His friend didn’t want to join the Church because it was too hard but this man felt the spirit and completely changed his life.

He and his wife were baptized and have been sealed in the temple and they have remained active for 25 years. The one catch to the story is that his father was the King of the village.  The man was in line to be the next king.  When his father died the men in the village planned to kidnap him and force him to denounce the Church and break the covenants that he made in the Temple.  His wife got word of the whole affair and told him.  He immediately got in his little car and drove as fast as he could to another city named Kumasi.  He remained in hiding for six months.  Eventually the men in the village decided to make a cousin the king and allowed the man to return to his family and home.  This is what this Priesthood Brother said last Monday night, “I would rather be a Deacon in God’s true Church than be a King here on Earth.”  He then bore a beautiful testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel and the blessings he and his family have received.


We are so blessed to be here in Africa.  We hear experiences like this almost every day. 

Not only are the people full of hope but they are also very spiritual and very humble.  The Lord is blessing them with experiences that give them strength and understanding of the Lord’s plan for them. Even though there is so much true poverty the people seem to not worry so much about their worldly possessions and more about their spiritual possessions.

There is a beautiful three part video the Church has produced with people telling their stories.  Here is the link:> prophets and apostles>previously published>July 2012>emerging with faith in Africa-Mahmud’s Story.

Mahmud works in our building on the same floor as we are on.  He currently works in the real estate section finding buildings to rent for the one or two new units they are adding each month!

The wife of President Prince has a shop that makes bags and all the sisters know her.  He is the one who read the Book of Mormon in one of the other segements. 

 I hope you enjoy the video and think of us when you see the pictures of Ghana because that is what we are seeing every day.



Sunday, October 7, 2012

By Satellite Transmission

By Greg

It is true, we take our pills everyday
When I was a boy, my Dad, my brothers and I would go to the Ogden Tabernacle and sit with all the other brethren there and “listen” to General Priesthood meeting as it was “piped into the building on a closed circuit telephone line.”
Later, they always welcomed those who were receiving this "by satellite transmission".

We have come a long way since then.  We joined the other couples in the conference room in the administration building and watched the first two sessions of conference.  We saw the first one live from 4 to 6 and the second one from 8 to 10 pm.  We did not stay up to watch priesthood.  When they welcomed those who tuned in on the internet, we felt welcomed.


Elder Robert C. Gay, who spoke Saturday afternoon, was a former president here in Accra.  We all enjoyed his comments about Ghana.  He is also a former partner of Mitt Romney and a supporter of a foundation that is doing good things here.

A small biscuit for some wonderful children
I ran out of suckers and so I had to find something else to give the children.   I gave some of them a biscuit.  Now that sounds like feeding a dog but they call crackers and cookies biscuits.  Some of our fellow senior couples told me that I should not do that because it creates a dependent class of children and also some of the kids were actually going up and down the halls knocking on doors like it was Halloween.  I felt bad for causing trouble, but I felt worse feeling that I had lost my connection with the children. 


After several hours I came to the determination that I would set the standard and if others could not meet it, well, I am sorry.  I bought 10 more strips of 7 suckers and I am armed and ready for the children.  As they talked about children in conference I thought, “Suffer them to come unto me."
These children are from one family that was sealed this week.  They are from Kumasi.  The boys are named Brigham Young, (J) Ruben Clark, Benjamin (Steed) and Elisa (Snow) Bououchouchoo, or something like that.  They sang “I am a child of God” for me and then I gave them a biscuit.  I knew the tune but the words were a bit different, espeically the little one who was saying what he thought the words were.  I hope that they have fond memories of the day their family became eternal and the big white headed white Elder who gave them candy and biscuits.

When we came home from shopping, we again were loaded down.  Debi had this goal to carry all our stuff in one trip.  Two men, older Africans, who had been to the temple but were waiting for their ride back home, came to our aid.  They carried the basket of fruit and vegetables (not on their head, however) and lightened our load.  As we walked up the stairs I looked at their shoes and noticed that they were really worn out and one of the brothers did not have any socks.  When we got to our room I told them to wait. 

Mr. Mac sold me the wrong socks.  They are not the normal “gold toe” socks that I am used to.  They are also one size too small.  I had three pair that I had not worn.  So I gave them each a new pair of socks.  They made a temple with their hands, bowed and thanked me.  That was nice.  But as they walked down the hall I heard one of them say to the other, “See brother, if you are willing to help others, Jesus Christ will bless you.” What a blessing it is to help others and see Jesus get the credit, which he so deserves!

 There is also a general election here.  Many days there are marches and bands.  The theme is peace.  They want peace more than anything.  We saw a man at the intersection near the mall.  He looked like a super hero.  He is a political advertisement.  If you look closely, he only has on a pair of underpants.  They rest is his skin, painted of course.

When we went to the conference the elevator did not work.  This is not the same one we were locked in.  Brother Houssian (Ho-Zion) was so sad.  He just cannot do stairs, especially four flights.  We said, “Hey, let’s carry you up.” So we did.  Elder Klein and I did a Boy Scout chair and carried this man up four flights.  It was more than we had bargained for and I am feeling it in my back today, but we made it.  Luckily the elevator was being worked on and it was fixed to go down and for the second session.



By Debi: 

We have had a very eventful week and once again we have seen new things and experienced Ghana in some ways for the very first time.

This is the famous table that we "found".  We also found the white board, the file cabinet"and a couple of chairs.
We have worked very hard in the office.  Greg prepared a letter and some reports for all of the Stake/District Presidents in the Africa West Area.  There are 72 and that is a lot of letters and reports.  Greg is a very visual person.  Actual both of us are.  When we first arrived here in Ghana we couldn’t even find a paper calendar that we could hang on the wall.  We almost felt lost because we didn’t even know what day it was.  Well, we got to work and tried to get everything either written in our records binder or Greg has put the information on our wall.  It is now our wall of fame.  We have pictures of the Area Presidency, Area Seventies, and the Mission Presidents.  We also have their areas printed next to their pictures.  We even have maps to show us their assigned areas that they cover.  It has taken Greg a lot of extra time but both of us feel like we know a little better what is going on and we recognized names and places better too.



We received our vehicle that we will be using while we are here in Ghana. It is a Ford Everest with four wheel drive.  We are excited but feel a little guilty because it is a very nice vehicle.  The nice thing is it will keep us safe while we drive on the very rough roads here.

Yesterday as we were out shopping for our food I took a picture of the one grocery store that we go to.  It is very busy on Saturdays.  We notice that a lot of people who are not from Ghana shop at this particular store.  It is right in the Mall.  We have also found several other stores that we like to visit.  This is Shoprite.  It has almost everything we want, even though some things cost a lot.


As we were driving around yesterday I saw two signs on the back of the Tro-Tros that I really liked.  One said “Every problem has an expiration date!” and the other said “Satan hands off, I am sold to Christ.”

If we could all take these sayings into our lives, it would serve us well.  We also saw the name of a hairdresser shop.  I just had to take a picture.  This is just a sample of all of the names the people in Ghana name their businesses,  “The Anointed Hands”. 

Today we visited a branch out in the Mamprobi area.  The branch President, Pres. Arnold Odonkor, works in the Church office building and he invited us to come and visit with his clerks today after church.  The Temple President, Pres. Breillatt and his wife came with us.  They go and visit a different ward almost every week.  They have been here at the Ghana Temple for 3 years.  They are going home in just a couple of weeks. They are wonderful people and we have enjoyed getting to know them. They are from Chicago and they are excited to go home to their family. 


We had a wonderful visit with the branch and this was our first Fast and Testimony meeting here in Africa.  The members are so strong and they bore such beautiful testimonies.  The Branch President has 5 children.  His three daughters are very educated and beautiful.  The one in College is studying to be a lawyer and her emphasis is in civil rights and domestic violence.


We have been nothing but impressed with the strength of the members here.  They are valiant in their testimonies and are so anxious to learn and understand the workings of the Church.


We are so blessed also this weekend because we have been able to watch Conference live from the Church office building here on our Temple square.  We are going to go in just a little while and watch the two sessions today.


Maybe for just a few hours I will know that I am watching, listening, and seeing the same things as my loved ones at home,  truly a modern day miracle.


The Church is true and the Gospel is true.  Love, Debi