Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sick and Tired in Africa

By Greg:


When I started this blog, I determined that I would post what it is really like here in Africa.  That sometimes means posting some stuff the young Elders are told not to tell their mothers about.  I would not tell about this if my mother was still with us, it would worry her to death.  But as she has died, I am not worried about telling it, though I am worried about seeing her sooner than I had planned.

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Several post back I put a picture of my face and the staph infection that I had.  That really freaked a few people out.  It probably did not do a lot for the “Oh you will love Africa message” but it is real.  With the help of my Dermatologist son-in-law, Greg Jacobsen, in St. George, we have gotten a hold of this and I hope it is history.  Sorry if I don’t look that great, but this is the “after” photo of my face. He could not make me look better than I did before, that is the role of another type of skin doctor.


Each morning, except Sunday, we wake up at about 5:30 and are walking around the Temple Square by 6:00.  During one of the power outages I was walking down the stairs in the dark.  My phone has a flashlight “app” and as I was turning it on I saw I had an email.  So, yes, you can call me stupid at this point, I read the email while walking down the stairs in the dark.  Why would they put one more stair on that flight?  Down I went, twisting my ankle a bit and banging my knee on the stairs.  I was up like a gazelle (actually I have nothing in common with a gazelle) but after doing a quick inventory of all my parts, I turned on the flashlight app and made it out of the building.  But my knee was a little sore.


Monday was a national holiday.  I think it was an Africa-wide holiday.  It was African-union day.  The goal of many is to unite Africa into the “United States of Africa”.  Friday night I gave a group of nursing students from BYU a ride to their hostel.  Their other option was to take cabs.  There were 13 of them so I loaded them in our 7 passenger Ford Everest (like an Explorer) and drove them home safely.  On my return I encountered this really cool torch-light parade going down Independence Avenue. It was dark, but the lights from over a thousand torches were really something.  Of course, it stopped all the traffic and Debi was worried that I was lost or stolen.  I did not take the camera, and in my rush to save the “damsels in distress” I forgot to take my phone. 


As I said, Monday was a holiday and the office was closed.  After walking for an hour we then go swimming for an hour.  It is already pretty hot by 7:00.  I noticed that I was feeling strange.  A little weak and a bit faint.  I thought it was just that I had overdone it.  My knee also hurt.


After breakfast (we showered at the outdoor shower at the pool as our power was off) we dressed and prepared for the day, which was to include a couple’s get-together in the afternoon for a movie and some pizza, I asked Debi if she was cold.  The A/C was off, so why would she be cold?  I was, and then I took a heavy chill.  I wrapped up in blankets and tried to get warm.  It is amazing that we actually have some blankets in our apartment.


Debi took my temperature and it was 101+.  We were thinking Malaria.  But I did not have the other symptoms, headache, vomiting, aches and pains.  One of the first things is to start drinking lots of water, which I did.


We called in sick for the party and pizza.  The Area Medical Doctor, Elder Elmer and Elder Cooper, a Temple missionary, came to check on me and gave me a blessing.  Elder Elmer did not want to start the Malaria treatment without more symptoms.  I took some IB and made a bed on the couch.  When I am sick, and it is daytime, I feel better on the couch, for some odd reason. But at night, or when it is close to night, I am heading straight for the bed. My mother always did this as well.


I noticed some pain and difficulty urinating.  We immediately started thinking bladder infection.  The treatment: drink lots of fluid.  We have cranberry juice and so I downed a carton of it as well.  Then the tap shut off completely, not the usual water failure in the apartment, this was the tap inside of me!  If you have seen The Green Mile Tom Hanks and I were in the same predicament.  I wished John Coffey would come and heal me!


I took more IB to fight the fever, but by 1:30 am I was dying, or hoping to do so.  We called Elder Dr. Elmer again.  He is a wonderful man and an Internal Medicine Specialist with extra training in trauma and heart problems. We told him all the medicine we brought that our good Doctor Mansfield sent us with.  We were all starting to think Prostatitis, an infection of the Prostate.  But what I needed was relief from all the fluid buildup. I was in real trouble and like King Henry V who would have given his crown for a sword; I would have given my kingdom for a Catheter.  


It was a very long night!  In the morning we did what we had hoped we would never have to do, go to an African Hospital.  It was actually a clinic, and it exceeded our expectations as a medical facility. We first took a number, which was not the normal African way.  We had number 23 and they were on 12.  We arrived at about 8:00.  When our number came up they said, “Have you been here before?” “No.” “We are sorry, we thought you had, take this paper and fill it out and return it to us.” We did and then we waited while they made up my chart.  When they finally called us for the chart, they were on number 47.  We then had to pay the fee for registration and pre-pay the fee to see a doctor.  We gladly paid.  We were then taken to the “Temperature Room” where we waited our turn based on the order my chart was on the pile.  When they called me, they weighed me (I must have had 10 pounds of fluids) and took my blood pressure and my temperature, then they gave another number card.  I was now 13.  I was told to go down the sidewalk to waiting room number 1.  The Clinic was a campus with open courtyards between all the many buildings.  They were on number 6 and it was now 10:30.  When they called number 13 it was 12:30 and I was in real trouble, having not urinated since the night before.


I was very happy to meet the doctor who sat at a desk with a nurse there to aid her.  She was the first person to ask me what was wrong.  I could have died by now.  There was no triage program.  She was all over the problem, and I am so grateful for her.  After lots of questions, she took me behind her to her exam room and examined my abdomen. She then filled out lab orders that looked similar to those in use in the US.  They sent Debi back to the cashier and pharmacy to purchase the supplies needed and pay the fees.  They took me across the courtyard to another building and room. There was no phone communication between offices.  Everything was done by a courier person.  Also there were not computers at all.


We had to buy our own catheter before they could “install” it.  They did begin an IV and gave me some medication in the IV.  There were four women in my room (workers) and they had me take all my clothes off and lie down on the table.  They then covered me with a blanket.  When Debi arrived with the catheter, a male attendant came and inserted the catheter while the women nurse held part of me still.  The relief was quick and worth the pain I felt while it was inserted.


The interesting thing (as if all of this is not interesting) was that Debi then had to take the blood and urine samples to the Lab herself and pay for the Lab fees.  Good thing we brought a fist full of money.  They do not take credit cards.


I got a pain pill and started to relax.  At 3:30 the Professor arrived.  I called him Doctor, and he corrected me and said he was a Professor, which I realized is a step or two up from a Doctor.  He is an Urologist.  He took over my case with a fury.  When he found that I had had this before, and that I also had a history of Kidney Stones, he ordered more tests.  He wanted a CT scan of my abdomen and an ultrasound of my prostate.  He did his own exam and was even more concerned.


When a specialist is concerned, that is the good and the bad part:  Bad, because if he is concerned, it is serious; Good, because if he is concerned enough, he will see it resolved.  I got home at about 6:00, very tired, with the catheter still in, and thanks to Debi, we had a couple of fresh bags.


We had some dinner. I had not eaten all day, or really drank anything.  After dinner I was gone.  Debi sat down and mapped out the treatment plan and all the medication.  She also e-mailed Doctor Mansfield what was happening and also called and reported to Elder Elmer.


At about 1:30 I woke in a chill.  I started shaking so hard.  I could not even call Debi’s name to wake her.  I thought, “If I were on the Willie handcart trek, I would be dead by morning!” She woke and put all the blankets on me and gave me some IB and held onto me so tight.  I was burning up but I felt so cold.  Actually I was so hot (not the kind of HOT I wished I was).  Finally I calmed down and eventually went to sleep.


The next time I woke I was all wet.  My clothes, the sheets and pillow were wet with sweat.  I had to change and put towels under me so we would not have to change the bedding.


In the morning we went back for the CT scan.  We did not have to do the registration again, and Debi had paid the day before, but we had to wait our turn.  They took us back, but then they delayed us because they had a sedated baby that they needed to do first.  We were happy to wait.  The look on the young mother’s face was one of total fear.  When the baby came out it was alert and everyone seemed more relaxed. It is so frightening to see a really sick infant, anywhere, but it must be so much more of a concern here where the result is usually not good.


I went in for the CT.  They have a 2 year old General Electric machine that “is very expensive” but extremely up to date.  They did not buy it used.  It was in a very clean room, but the actual buildings are about 25 years old.


Tomorrow we will go back in the afternoon and pick up the results and pre-pay the Professor’s fee and see him again.  We are hoping for some good news.  In-between pain pills I feel pretty good.


I am so grateful for everyone’s concerns and prayers.  I am especially thankful for Debi’s watchful care and concern.  All of our family knows she is a diligent assistant medical advisor/follower-of-the-treatment-plan person.


My African friends are also very concerned.  I missed the Open House last night and we had a crowd.  Our Brother Paul can think of nothing else but to pray for me.  The other missionaries are so kind and concerned. My name has been added to the “sick and the afflicted” list in the Temple and it is humbling to feel the love and concern of my fellow laborers. 


Sorry, this is not my normal post.  But the good news is that I am saving money on my car insurance!  My cars are parked and in the garage, so the insurance is very low.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Aburi Gardens and electricity (or the lack thereof)


This week we have had to deal with some minor inconveniences.  When we were first called to Africa, we thought we would be living in a hut with a dirt floor and using a bucket for a toilet, so it seems a bit shallow to complain about not having running water, electricity and air conditioning. 


The Temple compound is serviced by the government power company.  But that is not reliable.  There is also a public water system, but it is also unreliable.  The Church drilled a deep “bore hole” and has an electric pump that gets us water, thus, no electricity, no water.  We do not drink the water from the taps, we have Voltic Natural Mineral Water in big jugs that go on top of a dispenser that also cools and heats it.  This is wonderful.


The Church has two huge back-up generators to use in case of failure in the Government system.  These are just outside our window.  When the power goes off, one of the generators automatically (this is the way it was described in the General Electric brochure that they read before they bought these) take over and no one should even notice.  If the first generator fails, the second one stands ready, like the second counselor, to step in.  The office, the ancillary building, and especially the temple, should never be without power.  That is the theory.  This is what they call redundancy.


Well, the plan is not working.  Some time ago, the second counselor, the back-up to the back-up, developed a problem and needed a new part and there is only one of them on the planet and it is in England and England wrote off this colony in the 1960s.  The Government system had a major cable failure (imagine that?) and so we were totally relying on the first-back up, but we all know that when the first counselor is totally in charge he usually cannot take the pressure, and so the first-back up broke.  Call England!  Send someone fast!


After a couple of days, and of course no one can do any work, and the temple had to shut down, they moved in two smaller units from somewhere.  This often happens when the leadership all go south, the brethren are forced to import leaders from another area.  We are holding our breath.


When we lose power, we also lose the internet.  I am sure Wilford Woodruff also worried about such things.


Sister Haws sustained a non-debilitating injury recently.  Jack and Jill were going up the hill and we spilled a pale of water and Jill came tumbling after.  Actually, she was not feeling well and fainted and Jack (me) was not going up the hill at all, I was in bed asleep.  She chipped her front tooth so now when we come home some people might say, “Sister Haws, you have changed!” She is a good sport about it and is not in pain.  One of the Senior Elders is a dentist and he has looked at it and thinks she can wait to have it fixed if we ever go home.


I had another session with my boys.  This time I taught them to “line-up” before giving them a biscuit (their word for cookies and crackers).  We had a second discussion and they are coming along about as well as most investigators.


Our friend that was baptized in December, Paul, received the Priesthood last Sunday.  Now he is a Priest he can baptize his own contacts.  I gave him my (now his) line-of-authority on a card with our picture and he is using that as his Church ID card and ministerial certificate.  He is a great missionary and is directly responsible for 4 baptisms and at least 6 more contacts.


Paul’s first baptism, Sunday, was ordained last week.  He is actively bringing investigators as well.  Sunday has borne his testimony twice.  These two men are amazing and are our friends.

 This is Elder Smith who baptized Sunday because Paul was not yet a Priest.

On the way to Aburi we noticed that we had a low tire.  We pulled over to a place that had a bunch of old tires and a man came and pulled out a nail from our tire and inserted a “plug” and pumped us up and we gave him 10 GHC (about $5) and we were on our way.

 It was good to have Elder Miles along, just in case, he oversaw the repair.


Africa is an interesting place.  This Aburi Gardens, that Debi is going to talk about, was a beautiful retreat under the English.  It has not been maintained at the same level since, but they talk about restoration.  For some unknown reason, in the midst of all these beautiful trees, they have this “crashed and burned” old helicopter.  I don’t understand what the message is, but the kids like to play on it and even Senior Elders think it looks fun.


I am always thinking about my grandsons when we go on these adventures and so I took some pictures of the wildlife in the area for them.



By Debi:


We had a wonderful visit with our missionary friends from Hooper, the Miles.  They are beginning to be one of our regulars on our blog.  We posted pictures of them when they first came to Africa.  We then spent four days with them in Liberia and posted more pictures of them during our visit.



Last week they came into Accra for a training with the Kleins (the Kleins are the senior couple over Humanitarian projects).  We spent a beautiful afternoon with the Kleins and the Miles at the Aburi Botanical Gardens.  The Gardens are just northwest from Accra up in the mountains (they look like hills to us).  It is amazingly green and there are beautiful views of the City of Accra.

 This is Elder Klein.


We took some pictures of some awesome trees.  Some of them are thought to be hundreds of years old.  They are so huge that in some of the pictures we look like ants. 


This is a very interesting tree!
This tree has some vines hanging that we thought looked like Hawaiian Leis.
This tree has spikes-maybe to keep the rats from climbing?

One of the trees died and they were going to cut it down.  A wood carver in the area asked if he could carve figures into the wood instead of cutting it down.  He has been working on these beautiful carvings for several years.  He plans to be finished by the end of this year.

As we were walking around the gardens we saw several local women walking on a path.  One woman was pregnant and carrying a two year old on her back.  She told us that she was carrying a “double load”!  She was very happy to let us take her picture.  I wished we could give people a copy of the picture.  We did show her the picture on our camera.  They love that.
After we left the Aburi gardens the Kleins took us to a very beautiful country club.  Yes, there are some very nice places here in Ghana.  If you look hard enough, I guess you can find nice places where ever you are in the world.  We stopped and had lunch and spent a very pleasant time looking over the pool and out over the valley. We loved the pool.  Even though it looks like you could swim over the edge there is a barrier just below the pool.

We had a wonderful day with the Kleins and the Miles.  The Miles are now back in Liberia doing a great a work.  We feel very fortunate to have spent a few hours with them.  We really didn’t think we would see each other again until we were back in Hooper.


We had the best Open House last Wednesday evening.  We had 7 investigators come to learn about the Church.  We were in a little bit of a panic because the power was out and the building was dark.  The emergency lights were on and Greg was able to take them on a tour of the building and show them our displays in the half light.  They also walked out and looked at the Temple and talked about the blessings of the temple.  Just when we needed it the power came on.  We quickly set up the movie, “The Restoration”, and were able to show the investigators the 20 minute video of the Joseph Smith story.
After the movie was over the power went out again.  We said good bye to everyone and loaded up our open house paraphernalia and headed back to the office.  We put the supplies away in the dark and came back to a dark and very hot apartment.  We had a little miracle that night.




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

YA and Temple Villas-Children

By Greg:


It’s been a quiet week here in West Africa.


The balloons were pretty--not the correct way to do lanes though!
Last week we dedicated the Temple Villas on Monday.  There was a very nice program that included the Area Office Choir, balloons on the pool, talks, prayers and even a ribbon cutting.  This is a very wonderful addition to the Temple Compound and is a comfortable home for the Area Presidency, the Temple President, the DTA, and the Executive Secretary couple.  We even had a light buffet. 


This is Brother Gregory Dunn and his wife, Shannon.  Brother Dunn is the DTA (Director for Temporal Affairs) for West Africa.  He is in charge of all the buildings, land, employees and all things temporal.  He is a great man with so much responsibility.  We work closely with him as he is part of the Area Audit Committee.  He was formerly the Head of Security for the entire Church, so we also listen closely to his counsel and advice.

Last Tuesday we went to Tantra Hills for our weekly piano lessons. Debi now has four students.  We meet them at the church and she teaches them on the church keyboard.  They are coming along, but it is hard for them to practice at home because the power fails so much, but we told them their keyboard uses batteries.  Perhaps that will solve that problem. 


Debi is also the ward organist in the Jamestown Branch that we attend.  The Africans love to sing, but many of them do not know the fine points of leading the singing.  They especially do not get the upswing that starts most of the hymns.  They also sing some of the songs their own way, and hold some notes longer and others that should be longer, shorter.  In reality the congregation leads the singing and the leader and the organist try to stay with them.  It stresses her out a bit, but I think it is quite amusing.


I have a couple of hours each week of free time while she teaches her lessons.  Sometimes I take work to do, or something to read. I am reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln and so last week I thought I would park the car in the shade of the building, roll the windows down and read about the American Civil War from Lincoln’s point of view.  Well, that was not to happen.


Most of the Church-built buildings are also a compound with a masonry wall around the perimeter.  They all seem to have a basketball standard in the parking lot (they call it the car park).  Well, the neighborhood kids think it is their playground.  There is a metal gate, and although it is usually closed, is not locked.  We open it and drive in and park.  The neighborhood kids walk in and play soccer, basketball or an assortment of other games.  They also fight.


This day, the older boys were being mean to some of the little ones.  The oldest was 13 and the youngest was probably 2.  There was absolutely no adult supervision, except me.  So I gathered them all together and asked, “Do you know what this building is?” “Yes, it is a church.” “Do you know that it is dedicated to God?  Do you know what that means?”  “Yes, it is holy.”  “Good.  So we cannot fight and be mean in a holy place or God will not be happy, right?”  “Right.”  Now, these were neighborhood kids, not church members.


I gathered them closer and had them all put their hands in the circle like we were a basketball team about to take the floor.  “One, two, three…BE NICE!” We all cheered.


I then returned to my car and they all followed me, of course.  So we sat down in the shade and I asked if they wanted me to tell them a story.  “YES!” I told them a modified Goldilocks and the three bears.  The porridge was changed to fufu and goat soup, and I tried to modify the bears, but they got it OK and especially liked when the little bear went “Wa, Wa Wa!” I then told them about Kentucky and his super-dog, Lad.  They loved it when Lad saved the drowning girl in the lake, and also when he rescued the little boy from the crocodile (at home it was a wolf).  Then I decided to tell them a true story.


I got out a pamphlet and showed them the pictures, children love to see pictures of the stories.  This story was about a boy, “about the same age as this boy” pointing to the oldest.  He lived in America.  He is a prophet.  “Do you know what a prophet is?” “Yes.” One said, Moses, another, Noah, another, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Another said Muhammad.  “What makes them a prophet?” “They talk to God (or in Muhammad’s case, Allah).  Yes.  Let me tell you about a boy who talked with God.


Then I told them about the gold plates and the angel.  They loved it. 


I then told them that God loved each one of them and that they could talk to God anytime they wanted or when they needed help.  I explained how to pray to God.  After talking about that I had them all kneel and we said a pray together.  They kneeled, folded their arms, and a couple of them were saying amens as I said the prayer.  I thought about how Jesus must have felt as he prayed to the Father for the children.


We then got up and did some exercises.  It was hard getting them to “line up”.  This is a concept that seems foreign to them.  We first exercised our fingers.  They all had a hard time getting their two fingers to divide from their other two and do the Vulcan Sign from Star trek.  We tried to roll our tongues.  We did arm stretches, leg raises and turning around.


I thought they deserved a treat so we marched out to the street and down the road to a little shop that sold stuff.  It was quite the sight.  There were 30 children.  I bought them all water.  Here drinking water comes in bottles or bags (like a CapriSun but without a straw).  They bite off a corner and suck out the water.  Then they throw the plastic on the ground.  “No, no” I said.  Put in the garbage.  “What is garbage?”


The water cost about one dime so I saw that they had a jar of gum balls.  They were about a nickel in US money (10 Ghana Peseos).  I bought thirty.  We marched back to the Church and I tried to distribute the gum in the midst of the Children of Ghana’s riot of May 2013!  They all are sure that everyone will get one but them.  I wonder how many times that must have happened.  Well, some wanted two, so we examined their tongues and mouths to be sure they had not already eaten one.  Whew!  The things I get myself into!


One more thing.  We helped Elder and Sister Peterson from Gilbert, Arizona, with a Young Adult activity on Saturday.  This was a leadership training for YA youth leaders from all over the area.  We taught them how to have activities and play games.  Debi and I did a game where they stick their noses in Vaseline and then attempt to pick up cotton balls and move them to another bowl, all without hands.  It was boys against girls.  It was so funny.


I then suggested we do it again, but with one modification.  The boys would pick up the cotton balls with their noses and then transfer them to the girl’s noses.  I had Sister Haws help me demonstrate.  The boys all shouted for joy and the girls literally ran away.  I guess this was too “intimate” for them.  We did it again the same way as at first.


It is really sad that the young people here are not marrying.  They are afraid.  It costs money for the “bride price” (aka Johnny Lingo’s eight cows) and it is expensive to live.  So many young adults are single and want to marry, but are not.  We are trying to help them move along.



Of course, no activity is complete without refreshments!

By Debi:

Next to the country of Ghana is the country of Cote d’Ivoire or as many of us know it, The Ivory Coast.  Ghana use to be called The Gold Coast.  Both countries were colonies of European nations and now have their liberty. Ivory Coast is French speaking.


Thirty years ago two people fell in love in Germany and where married.  The man, Elder Assard was from the Ivory Coast and Sister Assard was from Germany.  Even though they met with much persecution they still moved forward in their lives.  Sister Assard’s sister found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and introduced her sister, Sister Assard, to the Church.  She joined the Church and hoped someday her husband would join her.  After four years he did join the Church with a fervent testimony.  He felt such a strong feeling to go back to his homeland and take the Church to his family and fellow countrymen.  So they did return.


Thirty years later and years of dedicating their lives to the Church in Cote d’Ivoire they are now here serving a temple mission in the Ghana Temple.  Elder Assard is very much needed to be a French speaking sealer in the Temple.  They are both a blessing to the work here as Sister Assard also helps with the French speaking members who come to the temple.

Monday night we had a Family Home Evening at the Temple President’s home.  Elder Assard was asked to explain the journey of the members of the Church to travel to the Ghana Temple.  It was so interesting and very inspiring that I thought I would tell of their journey.

They prepare for months by saving their money and doing their family history long before they leave for the temple.  The members reserve a bus to bring them all to Ghana.  They board the bus at 4:00 in the morning and start traveling towards the border.  It really isn’t that far it only takes them about 4 hours to get to the border. The hard part is getting through the border.  They spend about 3 hours getting out of their country and 3 more hours trying to cross into Ghana.  They each have to pay money, and have their entire luggage checked and then pay some more money to finally get through.  So after 10 hours of all of the members being pushed tight on a bus with many little children they start their travels again through Ghana towards the Temple.  Then the 15 check points start.  Each time they are stopped they have to have everything checked again and pay more “fines”.  They arrive in Accra, Ghana at the Temple sight around 8:00 pm.

After a 16 strenuous hours they have arrived at the Temple.  They will spend the next 4 or 5 days working in the Temple almost nonstop to do the work for their loved ones who have passed on.  They stay here at the Ancillary Building.

After Elder Assard described this ordeal several people also added their stories.  Sister Houssian explained that Cote d’Ivoire members are number one per member to submit and do the work for their own families in the whole Church throughout the world. That is an amazing fact.

Brother Dunn, who is the Director of Temporal Affairs for the Church here, also told of his experience with the members in Ivory Coast.  After the terrible civil war that they experienced he went into the country to determine the damage to the Church buildings and see what was needed to be done.  He went to one Church site and the members were staying on the property.  They were all gathered around a map and having a meeting.  He thought they were trying to decide where they could go to build back their lives and start anew.  When he asked them what they were doing they said that they were planning a Temple trip as soon as possible.  Brother Dunn was shocked and asked them why they weren’t trying to find a place to live.  The members responded that they knew if they were faithful and went to the Temple to do their work the Lord would bless them and provide for their needs!


The people in Cote d’Ivoire are amazing members.  Their testimonies are strong.  They have been tested with many trials and they are truly pioneers in every sense of the word.  Even though they didn’t live in the 1800’s like the pioneers of America they are the pioneer members of west Africa.
We are all hoping and praying that one day there will be a temple in Cote d'Ivoire.


Now, Greg and I live just a few paces from the Temple. We will never live this close to a Temple again.  Yes, we are taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  We have been bitten by the genealogy bug and are doing a lot of work for our family that are on the other side.  I hope that we all will realize that what the Prophet Joseph Smith said is so true that if a religion does not have the power to require the sacrifice of all things it does not have the power to save you.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Baptisms and Temple Square


Debi wants me to start out with something clever to get her over her writers block.  This week, as most weeks, we got up early in the morning and exercised.  We saw some very unique birds.  Now this picture does not do this beautiful bird justice.  It had red wings and very colorful headdress.  But it did not want to fly and expose its wings for the picture.  Suffice it to say, it was beautiful.


The Accra Mall is very modern in every way
Also, at the mall there are real restrooms for both men and women.  Inside the men’s is a sign stating the rules.  Okay, now I have said something clever, Debi can begin.


By Debi:


Thanks to Greg for his cleverness.  I hope the sign in the restroom didn’t ruin the mood. There are some pretty great signs in this country.


We have had a very special weekend.  Two women received baptism.  Alita (above) was baptized yesterday and Vincentia (below) was baptized today.  Both of these women have come to our Open house several times.  They have been our special investigators who have really touched our hearts. We love the missionaries.  They are so good, and they take such good care of their investigators.  They come to our open house each week, and bring people, so we are really getting to know them well.

Vincentia is between the two Elders standing

Alita is a young adult who has been meeting with the missionaries that are the Assistants to the President.  They are great missionaries and Alita is very ready and she bore a very strong testimony after her baptism. At Alita’s baptism one of the sisters, Sister Mensah, from the ward also bore her testimony.  When Sister Mensah was baptized twenty years ago she was a young woman living with her aunt.  Her aunt told her when she left the house that if she went through with the baptism, she would no longer have a place to live and no longer have a family. Well, twenty years later Sister Mensah is still strong in the gospel and she is so thankful for the great blessing in her life of being a member of the Church.  She encouraged Alita to stay strong no matter what obstacles come in her life.  She promised her that the Gospel is true and this is the Church of Jesus Christ and this is the right place to be at the right time. What a great testimony! (Alita is on the right, Sister Mensah is on the left, and the Relief Society president, who is very pregnant, is in the middle).


When Vincentia came to the open house about 6 weeks ago she was very excited about the Church and the gospel.  I took her on a tour of the building and we visited the baptismal font.  I explained to her the importance of baptism and having the proper authority, the Priesthood, to perform baptisms.  I also bore my testimony that just as Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist by immersion we also follow His example and are baptized just as Jesus was baptized so long ago.


When I finished Vincentia asked me when she could be baptized and she wanted to know how to join the Church.

Elder Haws and I introduced her to the young Elders who also help us with the Open House. They have been teaching her for the last 5 weeks and she was baptized today after Church.

She was a little frightened of the water and her foot came up a couple of times.  It is hard because the people who are afraid of the water are the ones that usually have to try several times. The font is behind the two wood doors.  Elder Beaufeaux is leading the singing.


Many people here in Africa have never been under water before.  They bath with a bucket full of water and that is about all of the water they use.   Vincentia was just beaming after it was all over and she will be a great member of the Church.  She has a strong testimony of the Gospel.


Our dear friend Paul is still out there preaching and bringing friends to the Open House and to the Church on Sunday. We have now baptized 3 of Paul’s friends and in two weeks we will baptize Charlotte who Paul “witnessed to about 5 weeks ago”. 


Elder Haws thinks Paul and Vincentia would make a good couple.  Right now he is the only one that thinks that, however.

Today at Church we introduced Paul to Elder Curtis. Elder Curtis is the second counselor in the Area Presidency.  We have told Elder Curtis about Paul and his conversion story and his strong desire to preach the gospel.  Elder Curtis told Paul that he is like the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Paul was smiling from ear to ear. 


It is amazing to me to see Paul’s burning testimony and his desire to share the gospel with all who will listen.  The question I have to ask myself and maybe you will want to ask yourself, “Do I have that burning testimony and desire to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with my family, my friends, and with all those who want to know the truth but do not know where to find it.”


Paul is my inspiration and best of all he is my friend. 


By Greg:


Today for church we watched two sessions of General Conference.  We saw the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning sessions.  These happen to be the ones that several people talked about West Africa.  It was in the Chapel of the Stake Center that is here on the Temple Compound.


When we arrived the brethren were setting up the TV to watch.  This is the unit we use for our open house so I helped them get all the wires plugged into the right machines.  I offered to set up my computer and projector, but they said the TV was OK.


Well the sound from the TV was not OK.  So they tried to rig a microphone to project the sound.  They did not have all the parts for the microphone stand.  It just was not working, so I ran home to our apartment (when I say ran, I mean ran) and got my trusty roll of duct tape.  So, as you can see, duct tape solves all problems.


For the second session I set up the computer and projector, but we had to hang these heavy curtains to darken the room.  It took some effort, but together with the brethren we were able to watch both sessions.


Elder Cook, who was here a couple of months ago, spoke of coming to Christ one by one.  This is an individual effort.  We can attest to this as we are seeing single people come to our open house and joining the Church.  We hope they do not stay single, but find companions who share their feelings.


We went shopping yesterday and when we arrived home the elevator did not work (imagine that?) and so a group of young women from Tema helped us carry all our groceries to our room.  We are on the third level which is the 2nd floor.  I rewarded them with suckers.  They are so beautiful and special; I hope this picture conveys how happy they are to be in the Church and how happy they are to serve and to come to the temple.  I carry our fruit basket on my head, and the women get such a kick out of it.  The men, on the other hand, look at me like I am setting a bad example and soon their women will expect them to start carrying more of the load.


While I am on the Temple Compound, this week they are dedicating the new Area Presidencies’ residence that some are calling The Temple View Villas.  These are six apartments that house the Area Presidency, the DTA, the Temple President, and the missionary couple, The Fitzgerald’s, who are the Executive Secretary to the Area Presidency.


They built a beautiful swimming pool and have invited the missionary couples who live in the Ancillary Building to use it.  Nearly every morning, after walking around the temple, we go swimming.  We swim laps and it has made us feel so much better.  Debi tests the water, and so far it meets her standards.  From the pool we see the Angel Moroni.  What a dream place to live.


The Temple is the center of the compound.


To the north is the Church Office Building and the Ancillary building.  This building is mainly for temple patrons, but a few of us couples also live here permanently.  To the south is the Stake Center.


The road is on the east.  The Temple View Villas have another access and are in the south west corner.  They have their own guardhouse and guards.  In fact, their building is very secure.  The outside doors are like bank vault doors.


Farther to the south, and outside the original wall, is a big field that has large trees and a walking path.  This was once a residential area for the English.  This is where they are going to build several new buildings to house the Ghana MTC.  Currently the MTC is in Tema, about 30 Km away.


So we walk about 100 feet to work, 100 yards to Church, 100 feet to the temple, 200 yards to the pool.  But we have a car so that we can get around.  What a life!  I never dreamed it would be like this, but outside the compound it isn’t like this. The people of Ghana have so little, but are so happy.  It is our desire and our constant prayer that we, and the Church headquarters, will be a "beacon of light" to a darken world and others will see this light and be drawn to it.