I made it out of the MTC last Tuesday, so I've been on the field since Wednesday. After going out of the MTC, we (10 people all going on the Kumasi Mission) took an airplane over to Tama (tema? I don't remember) and then we got to meet the mission president and his wife. They took us over to the mission home, where we had a delicious dinner of chicken burgers. We spent the night there and had training in the morning the next day, where I got to meet my trainer. His name is Elder A---, and he is from Nigeria. I wish I could send you pictures, but I am in a local internet cafe and the computers are from the 1800's, so there's no USB port to plug into. When the two years are up, we'll have time to look through them all.
So where do I start? I have a piece of paper next to me with a list of everything that I want to say, but that might take more than 5 hours. There's no way to write that. I will be able to e-mail every week, but there's no guarantee because most of the time, the internet cafes don't even have service running to their computers. Everything runs so differently here, and the keyboards are different so it's a lot harder to type.
I appreciate all of the e-mails that have been sent, and I haven't been able to read them until just now. It is fun to be across the world and still be able to hear from you. To address your culture comment, I haven't felt too much, although the breastfeeding in the open still puts me into shock, and naked children running everywhere. The weather really isn't too hot here (oh, did I mention? My first transfer is here in M---). The town as a whole is pretty big area wise, but the buildings are all just one story. The sewage is all open and runs beside the streets in ditches. I've heard of horror stories where missionaries have fallen in at night, so I'm watching my every step.
There are cars EVERYWHERE, and they are all taxis. When you walk into the market, people all crowd around you saying "Obroni, obroni, taxi??" (White man, white man, taxi?) I just tell them Kajali (go take a bath) and they all laugh. I'm learning Twi cacracacra (small small, or bit by bit), so hopefully I'll be fluent by the time I get back.
My apartment is pretty small, but big enough to fit 4 people. The two other elders in my apartment are Elder R--- (American) and Elder O... I can't remember how you spell or say it, so I call him Elder O. The place is set apart from the rest of the town, so it is about a 20 minute walk to our proselyting area. The dirt piles onto my shoes so fast. I polish theme every morning, but by the end of the day, it looks like they're 20 years old. I feel like I've served my mission 10 times over. Back to the apartment: The doors all creak, the windows barely work, the power goes out almost every night, and that means that the water doesn't work. We do have filtered water and I haven't had any trouble getting it, although I'm also buying water off of the street from the water vendors. I know that it's probably sketchy, but I haven't had any problems so far. I am not skipping on my malaria medicine though; I'm not messing with malaria. Thankfully, I've only been bitten 3 times, and the mosquitos don't seem to like me as much here. There are plenty of spiders in our apartment, some scorpions (about 5 inches long each) and plenty of ants, but you know, this is Africa. You tough it out.
As for recipes, don't worry about sending them. We have plenty of vegetables over here, and the staple food is rice. I haven't even come across black beans yet, even when we were going through the market today. I have enough rice and spaghetti to feed me for two years though, and there's no way that I'll be going hungry.
Everyone here loves white people. I pass by kids every day, and no matter how far away you are, they'll say "Obroni coco mashieur!" and chant that over and over. It means White man fair skinned greetings! There is more to the chant, but I haven't figured it out yet. The kids (about 3 years old usually) will run up and hug my leg, and they'll hold out their hands to shake. Most of them are really grimy, but you shake them because they'll keep on following you. Either that, I say "Kojali!" to them, and they run away laughing. Some don't though, and just say "Obroni, kojali!” The best experience I've had though is when we were teaching an investigator yesterday. 4 houses are usually built around a main courtyard, so there are different families that gather there. While we were teaching him, two toddlers (boy and girl) came up to me as I was sitting and rested their elbows on both of my arms (which I was resting on my knees) and just looked at me. They kept on fluttering their eyes and were saying "Obroni" in small whispers. I had to shoo them away because we were trying to teach, but I wanted them to stay. You have to make sacrifices on the mission field.
We had a storm come through two days ago. The wind was super strong and we were in our apartment, so the wind blew through one side of the main room to the other (we have windows on both sides, and they don't shut) and the rain was pounding so hard outside. When Elder A--- and I went outside to go to a lesson, I felt like I had gained 400 pounds from all of the mud that accumulated to the bottom of my shoes. I felt like Frankenstein.
In my next e-mail, I'll talk about the area some more, but now I want to talk about my spiritual experiences.
We have had 20 lessons so far. In this area, the average is about 3 lessons per day, but my companion and I have been contacting and teaching like crazy. The days have gone by so fast. We have two investigators who are being baptized next week, and I was actually able to extend the invitation to the last one who accepted. We have about 10 different investigators right now, and they are all progressing really well. It's just keeping them committed that raises a problem usually.
We have one golden investigator. His name is A---, and we just met with him last Saturday for the first time. He was outside of his house pounding out some Fufu (a traditional food here) but he invited us into his "common room" as soon as we introduced ourselves. We started off with a prayer and started to talk about the nature of God, but he stopped us and said "I know God. I love God. I already know. My question is, why so many different churches? So many, but from same Bible?" We explained to him that we had to teach him about God before we moved on, so he agreed to listen. He called his son in, so we were able to talk to both of them about the Godhead and how God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings, and after giving a couple analogies, he told us "That make sense. That what I needed to hear. Thank you." Then, we went on to talk about how we are all his children, but he stopped us again and said "No, I know we his children. He loves us. But I want to know about prayer. How you pray if you a sinner? How you pray without making God mad?" We expounded upon prayer and how we could talk to God, and that he just wants to hear from us. I could feel the Spirit so strongly, and I could tell that he wanted to say something. Sure enough, when we invited him to church, he said "I will, but I have a feeling that you should know that I drink alcohol every day. Can you help?" I bore my testimony that through prayer and a steady desire to get rid of the habit, that he would be able to stop. He was crying when I told him, and he said "Thank you. I needed you two weeks ago, but you here now. This is God's time and blessing. Thank you." We set up another appointment with him, and I hope that he just keeps on progressing. He didn't show up to church, but they never do on the first time. It's just steady work.
There have been so many people who have cried when I bear my testimony. When people start to argue over a menial topic or just try to back away, I feel the Spirit strongly and I just bear my testimony to them. Whenever I have been prompted to do this, they just quiet down, start crying, nod their head, and allow us to continue teaching them. I have never felt the Spirit so strongly here than I ever have in my life. I mean, there is no way I can describe in words to you how it feels to teach these people. I am so glad that I decided to go on this mission. It is the best thing for me.
There have been so many wonderful experiences, but my time is almost up. I just want to close by saying that I appreciate the support from home. I haven't really been sad because I pray so often and am constantly feeling the comfort of the Spirit, and I know that this is where I am supposed to be. It was interesting at the mission home, because a new area had just opened so I was hoping that I would be called to it. However, I heard a voice in my head saying "This place is not for you. I have prepared a different people for you." Sure enough, I got called to M---, not the new place. Four other elders who I was with in the MTC got to go to the new area and are living in the same apartment with their trainers, but I know that this is the place where I should be. Personal revelation is powerful, especially when it is used for comfort. Yesterday, I was missing Matthew, but we went to a residence to pick up two boys (one age 10 and one age 6) so that we could bring them to church with us. I expected them to follow behind, but the 10 year old (his name is Fr---) immediately came up to me and held my hand. At that moment, I felt as if I had a brother again with me. I mean, I know that we're all brothers and sisters, but really, that was a special experience. Well, until next week. I love you guys.
(--- denotes edited names)