Easter in Africa
Happy Easter Morning! Even though it is hot here every day, I am envisioning a beautiful spring morning back in Utah. I love Easter morning and I hope you are all enjoying this day.
Greg and I have been reading Jesus the Christ the last couple of weeks building up to this Resurrection morning. What a disheartening time and what a glorious time. Our hearts have been so touched by the last week of the Savior’s life here on the earth. I am so thankful for our Savior and I pray that I will always be true to Him.
Last week we saw a little school having a Palm Sunday parade. We could hear the drums and the trumpets and wondered what all the noise was about. We ran out to the street to be greeted by these beautiful little children all carrying palm branches and marching down the street. They were singing a song and waving their branches. They were so happy to have me take their pictures. We later found out that this is a tradition for the schools and churches here in Ghana to celebrate Palm Sunday with parades and carrying palm branches. I loved it. I have thought a lot about that. I should be more in tune to the events of the Easter Season.
I have had a couple of skirts made with African material. I also had a dress made and I am wearing it for my Easter Dress. It is very fun to have a new dress. Thanks to Greg for insisting that I get some new clothes.
Greg and I had to go to a training in a little village about two hours away yesterday. I wanted to practice the songs that I am playing in Sacrament meeting today (I am becoming the Ward Organist). As I began playing the keyboard all of the young women that were cleaning the building came into the chapel and gathered around the keyboard. For the next hour and a half I played while they sang. They would call out their favorite hymn and then I would play it while they all sang. I finally had to tell them that my hands where too tired. I didn’t really get to practice the hymns I needed to practice but I am so thankful to have this special experience with these young women. They are so sweet and love the gospel. They asked me when I would come back. Sadly, I told them that I probably would not be back. That made them and me very sad.
My heart is full this morning and I pray that we will all keep the Savior’s sacrifice and love for us foremost in our hearts and minds. Have a beautiful Easter!
Easter is a big deal here. Both Friday and Monday are national holidays and the offices and businesses are closed. The Church Office Building was also closed. We took Friday as our P-day as we were going to Asamankese on Saturday. This was quite the drive on very bad roads.
Dying is a big business in Africa. This is a typical cemetery. It is very expensive to have a loved one die, but it will all be ok in the ressurection. I hope they know that.
Last weekend we also drove to Kumasi to meet with our Assistant Area Auditor. This is the second time we have been there. We stayed at a nice hotel again, called the Golden Tulip. As we were checking in we saw the Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Holmes. We invited ourselves to have dinner with them. They are a delightful couple from South Africa. Sister Holmes was quick to point out to us that coming to West Africa was for them as different as it was for us, coming from the US. They did not have much contact with this type of Africa in their home area. He wanted a steak and ordered one off the menu. We have been reluctant to eat “meat” but he said his was wonderful. We eat a lot of chicken and some pork.
We took a different route to Kumasi this time. We found a real rest stop with a store, a resturant and even more important, real bathrooms. We had to pay to use them, but it was a pleasure. Also, we had to pass throught New York.
The couples here get together from time to time and the favorite activity seems to be going out to dinner. We try to find places. We have found a restaurant called El Paso. It is a Mexican Restaurant and the chef is actually from Mexico. The rice was African, but the other food was pretty Mexican.
We moved back to the Temple compound. We did not move back into our same apartment, however. The Church completed a condo building on the compound with 6 condos. They house the Area Presidency, the Area DTA (Director for Temporal Affairs-a Church employee but the manager of all things Temporal-he is like the Presiding Bishop for the Area and is the employer of all employees-his name is Gregory Dunn and he is a wonderful man—he was formerly the head of all Church security so he knows all the top Church leaders—but his is also very concerned about our safety—he is one of our best friends), the Temple President and wife and the Executive Secretary to the Area Presidency and wife (Elder and Sister Fitzgerald—a missionary couple). So we got the larger apartment that the Executive Secretary had before. The kitchen is bigger and we are very comfortable here.
One of the really nice things is they built a swimming pool with the Temple View Villas and we are allowed to use it. We will take pictures of it but the other couples at the other sight have a pool and now we have one too. Debi and I have swam every morning this week. We walk for a hour around the grounds from 6-7 and then swim laps from 7-8. We get to the office at 9. This is going to make us feel better. The young missionaries cannot swim, but we have this blessing. Debi brought a pool chemical test kit, so we can monitor the water.
On the road to Kumasi we saw these boys selling something. We stopped and looked and they were selling snails. These snails were huge and they cook them in soup and eat it with Fufu which is a doughy substance made from the root of a certain tree like plant called casava. The women pound the heck out of it with a big long stick, and them they soak it in the soup and eat it with their hands. It is sort of like bread dough, and it sticks to your insides and has lots of calories, so it is a mainstay of their diet. These snails were alive!
We continue to have our open houses. Our friend Paul brought his friend Sunday. Sunday has been baptized. Sunday brought his friend, Knumase and he was baptized last Sunday. We have others coming that are meeting with the Elders. The baptism rate here in this area is about 2.5 people per missionary per month! They have a baptism in our Ward every Sunday after Church. In Liberia, where Elder Widdison (and Elder and Sister Miles) from our home ward are serving, the baptism rate is even higher. The wonderful thing is that they stay active at a very high rate.
I have said this before, but in the first six months that we were here they added over 50 new units, mostly branches. There are a lot of new leaders and they all need training. We are pleased that the submission of our audits for the year end 2012 (which the deadline is today) exceeds the rate of the mid-year 2012. In fact, we may actually have close to 100% received on time. This is a direct reflection of the training we have been doing and the efforts of our 13 Assistant Area Auditors. We love these men and they are working so hard in their respective areas.
One more thing I want to say this week. We feel so blessed in so many ways. When we started to think about going on a mission we identified 27 major obstacles that stood in our way. One by one these issues were resolved, but a few of them remained. In fact, the first on our list was a major business loan that we had. Also we were named in a major lawsuit that was a result of my position on a board of directors at a bank that was seized by the FDIC. We prayed and fasted many days that these issues would be resolved. The year I was teaching at BYU we spent a lot of time fasting and praying and attending the Provo Temple seeking guidance and blessings from Heaven.
This is a case of the first shall be last, I guess, because just this week we received a full and complete release from all deficiencies on our loan, which included a forgiveness of interest and penalties that could have been assessed (we paid 100% of the principal). The law suit was finally resolved while we were in the MTC, but not until we had made a leap of faith. We acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our lives, and are witnesses of his love and mercy. We could give more details, but needless to say, these 27 issues have all been resolved in a miraculous manner.