Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Togo and Benin-Part One


By Debi:




They have this signs around to remind everyone
Greg and I have just spent the last four days in French speaking countries!  Even though I cannot speak French, I love to listen to it.  The French language is so romantic and beautiful. We visited Togo and Benin.  They are beautiful countries and the people were very kind to us. Even when we were stopped by the police to check our passports and driver’s licenses they were respectful and welcoming.


Greg and I are charged with the calling of training the Priesthood Brethren throughout all of the Africa West Area in auditing and taking care of the scared funds of the Church.  We have now been to every country that is in this Area.  With the new missions announced last weekend our area will open three new missions this July.  That means we will have more Assistant Area Auditors to train and more Priesthood leaders to train in Auditing and Finances. The Church is very mindful of how expensive it would be to expect us to pay for all of our own travel expenses.  We are so grateful that they reimburse us for our travel.


The scenery was beautiful and in some places breathtaking.  We crossed the mighty Volta River at the eastern side of Ghana.  This river is the main source of water and electrical power for much of the western area of Africa.  We also saw the great shipping area of Lome’, Togo.  We tried to take a picture of the ships out to sea waiting to come into port. There were hundreds of ships.  The shipping yards were huge.  Togo has a free port so many companies use this port.


The people in Togo and Benin grow beautiful gardens. They use the land that is between the road and the warehouses and factories.  They keep such beautiful gardens and they water them all by hand.  We saw men with watering cans walking up and down the rows watering their plants.     


Also, while driving through Togo we saw a beautiful sight with a river flowing right into the sea. It is a beautiful area with white sand beaches and fresh water running into the salt water.


As we were driving through Benin we passed a beautiful lake.  Out in the middle of the lake some people have built a community on stilts. They actual live on the lake.  They fish and crab out of the lake and provide for their families.  The people here in Africa work very hard to support their families.  


As we entered into the city of Cotonou, Benin, we were attacked by motorcycles.  They call them “Mottos”.  Everyone drives a motorcycle. The taxis are motorcycles, the family car is a motorcycle, and the bus system is a motorcycle.  The Church parking lot that we visited on Sunday had motorcycles in the parking lot.  There were only two cars, ours and the mission president’s car. 


We saw a family on one motto. They had a package, two little girls, the father, another little girl, and the mother with a package on her head.  They were so happy when they saw me taking their picture.  They all smiled and waved. They are happy!


We met President and Sister Weed from Fallon, Nevada in Cotonou, Benin.  President Weed is the Mission President for Benin and Togo.  He went to France on his mission when he was young.  They are half way through their mission and doing a great job.  We had one of our trainings in their home and we also used the mission office for our other training.  They were wonderful hosts and wonderful people who are dedicating their lives to the work of spreading the gospel.



Last but definitely not least, I want to tell you about Folly.  Folly is a church employee here in Accra.  He is a young man with a wonderful family.  He and his wife have four children and their story is one to be told.  Folly agreed to go with us to Benin for our training.  He is from Togo and speaks French fluently and he is also in the MSR department. He understands audits and the records part of the Church so he would be a great interpreter for our trainings.  He not only guided us through three different countries, helped us cross the very difficult borders between Ghana, Togo, and Benin, but he taught us a lot of the area’s history and the traditions of the people and about the geography.


Folly came to Accra when he was about 24 years old.  He was single but he was engaged to get married to his fiancĂ© in Togo.  Folly is the oldest in his Father’s family.  He grew up in a very large village.  His father was the Chief and Folly was groomed and trained to become the next Chief after his father.  That makes Folly a prince. 
When Greg found this out he started bowing to him.
Folly came to Accra looking for an education and finding his way in the world.  He was questioning everything about his life.  One day on his way home from school he saw a building.  The building felt different to him and he didn’t know why.  Each evening on the way home from school he would stop in front of the building and just look at it.  He still didn’t speak much English and he didn’t know what the building was used for.  One day as he came to the building he saw people there.  He went in and learned that the building was a church and the missionaries started to teach him about the gospel. He was so touched by the spirit, the feelings he felt when they talked to him and with the building, he was willing to listen.  In just a short time Folly was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and he has never looked back.  Folly lost his position with his family and with his village.  It was a great disappointment to his father to lose his oldest son. It has been a great trial for Folly and for his family. But he has worked tirelessly in the Church.  He taught his wife and they were sealed in the Ghana Temple soon after it was dedicated.  Folly has been in a Bishopric, a Temple Ordinance Worker, and now he is the stake clerk.  Folly has been constantly worrying about supporting his family.  He has received a bachelor degree and has been hired by the Church to be the Physical Facilities manager for the countries of Benin and Togo.  His new job will start in April.  He and his family are very happy to be going home to their families and country and to have a very good job.  Folly hopes to teach his family about the Church.  He already has one brother that has joined.  Folly’s mother has seen the change in her sons and her heart is softened.  Folly’s father passed away a few years ago and Folly has done his Temple work for him.  The Church will be blessed to have their family back to help build the Kingdom in Togo.


We are so thankful for the wonderful example of the Saints in Africa.  They all have wonderful and inspiring stories.  Each have been tested, tried, and proven and they are strong to their testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

These are the missionaries and President Weed.  All of these Elders are assigned to the branch that we attended.  They hope to divide it soon, and someday make Benin a Stake of Zion.  Like everywhere, we love the missionaries and they seem so happy to see us.

I feel very humble to be here and to have these wonderful people surround me every day.

What a blessed opportunity!
We are going to use this trip for several blogs, so stay tuned.  Greg will do one soon about Togo and Benin.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Temple and Genealogy

By Debi

Debi is at the Stake Center on the second floor-temple in background
Genealogy, we are doing it!  Remember that Primary song.  Every time I start doing genealogy I sing that song in my head.

Greg and I have had a little down time while we are waiting for the audits to start coming in for the year end of 2012. 

We decided that we are missionaries to the living and to the dead.  We have spent the last two weeks working on our family genealogy.

The Church has a new program that is awesome. It is called Family Tree.  If you go on to the Family Search site, you can then go to the new Family Tree program.  The years of frustrating experiences of trying to straighten out all of the duplicates and mistakes are over.  This new program allows for editing of a family’s duplicates and inaccurate information.  It has been fun and exciting but also very addictive.  Once we start it is hard to stop for lunch or for the day. 

The very exciting experience we have had is that we have actual been able to find a few names on our family tree that need their temple work to be completed.  We are so thankful to be able to do the work for some of our ancestors.

Yesterday, Greg and I went to the Temple and he baptized me for four of my ancestors and 6 of his.  It was a very special experience.  I then went and did some of the other Temple work for Rebecca Ann Haws.  We have finally got the genealogy bug and we are happy about it.  I think it will be awesome that when someone sees where these people’s work was done it will say the Ghana Accra Temple!

When I was a young mother and I would hear all of the conference talks about doing genealogy and helping our kindred dead I always felt guilty.  I talked to my mom one day and she wisely told me during that time of my life I was doing the important work for the living, raising a family.  She told me that there is a time and a season for everything and there would be a time in my life that I would be able to do genealogy.  Well, the time is now and I am so thankful for this opportunity.  I hope my mom, who was a very dedicated genealogist for 40 years, would be proud of my first efforts. I can still see my mother in my mind’s eye sitting up late at night with all of her long family pedigree sheets spread out on the kitchen table.  As I have scrolled down the list of family names and looked at their temple work all finished with dates in the Ogden Temple I know that it is my mother’s work.  I have felt my mother’s love and dedication as I have followed her trial of work that she accomplished over the years.  I am sure that her family will always be grateful to her for her hard work and loving devotion.  Thanks to my mother for her example.

Genealogy, I am doing it! 


By Greg:

We are studying the life of Lorenzo Snow this year in Priesthood and Relief Society.  I have done significant research on this great man.  In the early 1870s he went with a small group of people on a world trip that took them to Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle-east.  I have even thought about retracing their steps someday.  They published their letters (his sister Eliza R. Snow also was in the group and was quite the writer) in a book called Correspondence from the Palestine Tourists. One of the interesting things is that President Snow later was the President of the Salt Lake Temple and also the President of the Church.  I understand that he actually had an apartment in the Temple.

Well, other than President Snow, I don’t think there are many people who live or have lived closer to a temple than we have here in Ghana.  We live just a few hundred feet from the Accra Ghana Temple.

When I was a new missionary in Alabama-Florida, in 1971 to 1973, the Church had just announced and was building the Ogden Temple.  The folks down South were not that happy that another Utah temple was being built while they needed one.  When the Washington D.C. temple was announced, they were very happy.

All my adult life I have been just a bit more than 10 miles from a temple; now, just a few hundred feet.

People from all over West Africa come here.  The Church has built a hotel type building, called the Ancillary Building.  They have many apartments, which is where we live (even though we are temporarily living off campus while repairs are being made—but we will return in a few weeks).  Also, there are lots of rooms that have many bunk beds.  There is a common restroom and laundry on each floor, and there is a big lunch room where the people can make their food and eat it.  This is where a lot of the smells come from as they cook up whatever they are going to eat.

The groups come in waves.  They come on buses.  They travel day and night and they have to carry their own food.  When they arrive they are tired, hungry and sometimes really dirty.  They want to go to the temple so much that most clean up as best they can and go right to the temple.  Others arrive the night before and get up early and clean their clothes and themselves and then go to the temple.

We usually go to a temple session on Fridays at 4:30 and stay for a sealing session at 6:30. Usually, one of the Area Presidency presides.  This is mainly for the Area Missionary couples.  The names have always been provided by the Senior Couples.

As Debi said, we have had some down time. I decided, after looking at the family tree program, to perform an “audit” of my family tree. I have worksheets, diagrams, and flowcharts.  I am combining families, deleting duplicates and joining people together that I hope really want to be together.  It is like a major jigsaw puzzle.  This is right up my alley.

We have a saying that we use when we train priesthood leaders about records.  “If it is not recorded, it did not happen!”  This is true in family history.  If there is no record of an ordinance, then we must do it, or it did not happen.  Unfortunately, much duplication has and will continue to occur.  But, hopefully, with the work we are doing, much of the duplication will come to an end and real family history research will continue to occur.

As I said, some of the people come to the temple without the benefit of being able to cleanup properly.  In the baptism area, we noted that there are showers available.  We followed a large group from Abomosu and the water was a little cloudy.  Debi almost went and got her pool test slips to test the water.

We were told something kind of funny.  The temple is carefully monitored by Church headquarters.  Of course, they do not want to deviate from the approved plan.  But, given the local condition, they wanted to provide a foot washing area near the baptismal font.  The people here have dirty feet, and many come needing a foot wash.  Well, washing feet may have another meaning to some, so it took a meeting or two in Salt Lake before they agreed to allow the Accra Ghana Temple to put out some tubs with soap and water. 

We are traveling tomorrow to the last two countries we have not visited, Benin and Togo.  We will have more to report next week.

I am sure that we are all cousins.  Especially after looking up the family tree.  So cousin, be happy and visit a temple.
P.S.  Directions to the Area Office and Temple from the Airport.  Exit the Airport going west until you reach Independence Avenue.  Turn left at the intersection/light and travel south until you cross the Ako Adjei exchange.  This is the intersection of Ring Road and Independence.  This is a three level intersection, the middle level is a round-about.  You will be on the top, just keep going. The Temple is ahead on the right, just after the Barclay sign.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Our new apartment and other things

By Debi:


We are on the top floor on the corner-the Pent House!
We have been in a new apartment and we haven’t really said much about it.  We moved out of our apartment in the building by the Temple about 4 weeks ago.  They are redoing the air conditioning and the water system.  They have been working on the building ever since we arrived here in Accra, but our floor was the last to have the repairs.


The Church has rented a nice apartment for us not far from the Temple.  As the crow flies it is only a couple of blocks but as the car drives it is much farther.  Everything here is like a one way street because they put islands in the middle of the roads.  So we have to drive down the road and around a round-about and then back up the road. 

We drive through a gate and under our apartment and park in a court yard.  It has 24 hour security guards.

The apartment itself is nice.  We have a front room with a desk and a pretty nice TV.  It also has a little half bath just off of the front room.  The toilet is up on a throne and it is very small. 
The kitchen looks pretty nice but when I am actually cooking it presents some challenges. 
The water in our apartment is not filtered at all.  So I have to boil all of the water or get water out of the water cooler that we brought over from our other apartment.  The fridge is like a small camper fridge and the oven is so small that a casserole dish or a cookie sheet does not fit in it.  So there are pros and cons.  The pro is that I don’t have to worry about cooking very much.  The con is that I can’t cook very much! Ha Ha!


The other bathroom is nice but there isn’t a door on the bathroom and it is pretty much open to the rest of the apartment.  The master bedroom is very large and the bed is a very big king size bed.  We have air conditioning and that feels good at night while we are sleeping. 

One very nice thing about our apartment is that we have large windows that we can see the city and the ocean from our apartment.  I feel a little sad because the view is obscured by the dust and sand in the air.  I can barely see that the ocean is out there.  If the air would clear, I think we would have a great view. 


Yesterday we went to a baptism in our Ofankor ward.  Four people were baptized.  I played the piano for the meeting and Greg helped in confirming them a member of the church today in Sacrament Meeting.  We have had some very wonderful experiences with watching people coming into the Church.  What a blessing to be here in Africa.    


Also, yesterday we were driving down the street and we saw several funerals.  Every weekend we see people going and coming from funerals.  We see parks or restaurants or convention halls being used for funerals.  It seems that Saturday is the funeral day.  As we were driving down the road we saw a hearse.  It was the most ornate hearse or car I have ever seen.  We couldn’t believe the elaborate work on the car.  The people here take their funerals very serious.  The funerals last several days and they cost thousands of dollars.  Sometimes people are in debt for the rest of their lives.


One of the main roads in Accra is Independence Avenue.  That is the road the Temple Square is on.  We drive on this road every day.  It is also the road that we take to the Mall on Saturdays to do our shopping.  Every time we drive towards the Mall we see what you would think was a flock of birds.  But if you look very closely, you can see that it isn’t birds but they are bats.  Big Bats!  I am not sure why they fly in the day.  I thought bats came out only at night.  They live in big trees that are right by the road.  There are thousands of them.  It kind of freaks me out but the people walking and working around the area don’t even pay any attention to them.


Some of our family members are very afraid of bats from our Lake Powell days.  I am glad that none of my children are here to see the bats.


Well, the adventure continues.  We are getting ready to travel to Cotonou, Benin.  It is a French speaking country.  It is between Ghana and Nigeria.  We are leaving next week.  We will take pictures and report our findings when we get back.


We are so thankful for this opportunity to be on this mission and we feel so blessed to have the comforts that the Church makes sure we have. Also, the members here take such good care of us.  The African people are so faithful in the Church and their testimonies burn bright.  It is a privilege to be with them.


By Greg:


We live in an area called OSU.  Our apartment is called the Maxwell Court.  It is almost half way between two chapels (one on temple square and the other is a rental).  For those who use Google Earth, the coordinates are between 5 34.047 N and 0 11.626 West (Temple Square) and 5 34.017 North and 0 11.621 West.  As you can see, we are very close to the prime meridian and the equator.  The Tema MTC is east of here at 5 39.551 North and 0.00.943 West.  South of Tema, out in the ocean is 0 00/0 00!


We are close to the Parliament, which is just south of us.  The Temple is on Independence Avenue.  The other north south road, which is east of us, is Oxford.  Both Independence and Oxford go south to the ocean.  There is a KFC on Oxford!

The big building is the parliment building.

Yesterday Debi wanted to go to the beach and walk, rather than walk around the neighborhood.  We have had a security warning from the US Embassy.  The OSU area is where a lot of “abrunies” (white people) live. Over the last couple of weeks, several have been assaulted by people on motorcycles. The common thing is they were out in the dark, they were alone, they had expensive electronics, and they were white.  We are careful. We don’t walk in the morning until it is light, and we do not take electronics with us.  No missionaries were attacked.


We walked along the beach.  Ghana is in the semi-finals of the African Nations cup.  I don’t know how the game turned out yesterday.  So there were hundreds of young men on the beach doing “Rocky Balboa” type training.  They were also playing soccer with pretty ragged balls.


The thing that is so sad is how dirty the beach is.  There were many women on the beach raking up garbage in little piles.  Most of the garbage is plastic.  The other women come with big pans and pick up the garbage.  The problem is:  What do they do with it now?  They either carry it up the hill and dump it (right where it will wash back into the sea on a high surf) or they dump it in a trash dumpster that never seems to get emptied.


We watched many men labor very hard pulling in a fish net.  They had two long ropes and men on each rope.  We walked down the beach and when we came back I went to see how many fish they brought in.  It was so sad.  Their net had three or four fish, but was loaded with garbage.  They just cleaned out the net and some men in a boat took it out for another try.


We met with the security personnel again.  We wanted to walk to this white castle. Well, that is the president’s home and the beach in front of it is off limits.  We tried to drive to it once and met a man with a machine gun.  The same man, or his brother, waved us down and forbade us to trespass.  We wondered why that beach seemed so clean and empty!

 The tall building off in the distance is the castle.

This morning we got out of the shower and looked out of our window.  We are in the “pent house” and can see a lot of the city.  Well this morning there was a huge fire.  We thought a building was on fire, or a car was on fire, but no one on the street seemed too concerned.  Soon it died down and the smoke cleared.

We are excited because this week Elder Quintin Cook, of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, will be here for an Area visit.  We hope to see him at least once.  Everyone has been working so hard to get ready for him.  They had a group of members washing the fence infront of the Temple.  This is vey special for them.

We are having a bit of down time.  We are inbetween audit cycles.  We have been doing some family history.  Debi has actually found some undone work.  I am off on some far extended family cleaning up duplications.  It is rather fun, I must say.

I have also discovered Youtube.  I have been playing some of the "music of my life" in the mornings.  Sorry, I can only listen to the Tab Choir for so long.  I have found some renewed energy, which I am grateful for.  It is amazing what a little Frankie Vallalli and the 4 seasons can do!

Best wishes to all and Happy Valentine'd Day to all the girls I love!  You know who you are.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stick to the task!

By Greg:

When I was a young missionary I learned the following poem:

Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Beginners are many, but enders are few.

Honor, Power, Place and Praise
Will come, in time, to the one who stays.

Stick to your task till it sticks to you;
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too;

For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life's victories, after a while.


We have now been here as missionaries for 5 months.  We have 18 more months to go.  We decided that if we had signed up for an 18 month mission, we would just be starting.  A new couple, Elder and Sister Peterson from Gilbert, Arizona, arrived this week for their 18 month mission.  We will go home with them!

We have had a slow down in our work.  We have also been sick the past couple of weeks.

We have moved into a new apartment for a couple of months while our apartment in the Ancillary Building next to the Temple is being remodeled and new mechanical systems are installed.

We have started doing some other things, like family history and genealogy.  We have been thinking about "Pioneers".

My Great-grandmother, Martha Barrett Haws, was born in 1859 in England.  Her family joined the Church and when she was 16 her family migrated to the US and Utah.  She was one of the youngest daughters of William Barrett and Phoebe Colbourn (her father was William Colbourn-we have a grandson named William Coburn!).  Martha was a twin.  Her sister Mary missed the boat and the family left without her.  She stayed back to get married in England and her and her husband eventually migrated to Utah, but not for many years.  It must have been hard for Martha to leave her twin sister and travel to Utah.

Soon after she arrived she met and married William Wallace Haws.  He was 40 (she was 16) and she became his second wife.  They eventually left Provo and lived in Arizona and then in the Colonies of Old Mexico.  She had 9 children including my Grandfather, Joseph Forest Haws.  Her two youngest daughters were also twins, and she named them Mary and Martha as well.

I have been thinking about her this week.  She left England and became a "pioneer" in the West and in the Church.  She help build the Church.  After her husband died in Mexico, and the Mexican Revolution of 1911, she went back to Utah where she died of a brain tumor in 1916.  She was 57.

She had a hard life.

We have met some dear friends here who are temple missionaries from Cote d'Ivorie.  Elder and Sister Assard are truly "Pioneers" as well.

Elder and Sister Assard
Elder Assard, as a young man,  left Ivory Coast for Europe to attend University.  He became an engineer and eventually got a very good job with Mercedes-Benz.  After a time, he met Sister Assard. When they met and married in Germany it was at great risk, but they were in love and both committed to each other.

Sister Assard's sister introduced her to the Church but Brother Assard was not interest at first.  She was baptized in Germany.  After a time he became interested, read the Book of Mormon and was baptized, also in Germany.

Eventually, they  determined that they should return to Ivory Coast, the country of Brother Assard, and take the gospel to that country.  At the time, there were no members in Ivory Coast!

They sold everything and left beautiful Germany, its rivers and streams, its beauty and improvements, and set up their home in Ivory Coast.  The Ivorians speak native languages and French.  Sister Assard spoke German.  Brother Assard spoke French, German, English and native.  It was very hard for Sister Assard.  She spoke a different language, she was a white woman married to an African man, and she was a total stranger in a strange land.

After some time they met another family with a similar story.  Two became four, then eight, then twenty then many.  Elder Assard became the branch president, then the district president, then the Stake President, then Patriarch, then temple sealer.  He and his wife are on a temple mission where he is a sealer and with his French language is very needed.  Sister Assard is now struggling to learn English, but she is doing very well.

At a meeting that was held in President Curtis' home, we watched a video the Church has produced about the Assards and the beginning of the Church in Cote d'Ivoire and we were amazed that these people were sitting in the same room with us, and they have lived this amazing life.

Today, there is a Mission in Cote d'Ivoire, 5 Stakes and 1 District.  There are a total of 57 units of the Church in this country.  This is the result of two people giving their lives to God.  Their home, which in the beginning was also a chapel, is now designated as a Church Historic site in Africa.  

They have 2 children.  Their son-in-law is now the Stake President.  Their daughter told him she would only marry in the Temple, so he checked it out, and is now a Church leader and her husband.

There are so many stories to tell, but I thought this one was very special and we know these people and they are our friends.

One more thing.  It has been a challenge for the first generation of Church Pioneers.  Many of their children have gone to the US either for the Church or for school.  Many have married Americans and are living in the US.  We were searching for one of our friends on the Church Directory of Leaders and we found his son, who has the same name, and the son is a Stake President in Virgina. 

There is something to following personal opportunity, but there is something else to staying in your home country and building the Church.  We think the second generation, many of whom have been missionaries and are marrying in the Temple (a lot are marrying Returned Missionaries) and a great number of them are benefiting from the Church's Perpetual Education Fund, are making good lives in Africa, building the Church, and becoming the next wave of leaders.  They are truly going to make a difference.

Grandma Martha left England to build the Church in Utah and the West.  We benefited from her move.  Many others have given up lands and homes and families.  But it is important that others "stay" and "stick to the task till it sticks to you" for as the poem says, "out of the bend, the sweat, and the smile, will come life's victory after a while!"