Wednesday, July 31, 2013

He's Alive

Dear everyone,
     I am still alive here in M---, and I am very sorry that I wasn't able to make contact earlier. Here is the excuse... The whole town was out of power for five days, so we never had the chance to e-mail. We even had a problem yesterday when we went to the internet cafes in town (and even when we traveled to Kumasi) but I will explain all of the troubles in due time. For now, let me move on.
     Directly after I e-mailed home two weeks ago, the week started to turn sour mostly due to the fact that my companion and I hit a little rough spot over something small and stupid, so we decided to have an emergency companion exchange. Elder R--- (the other American in the apartment) and I went out to proselyte together on Tuesday, and the day went by really quickly. We contacted 9 different people and taught 5 lessons, so everything went pretty well. I'm breezing over most of the details because I have a limited time to e-mail at the moment, but it sufficeth me to say that people were more eager to talk to mienu obronies (two white-men) than an African and an American. We had a whole drove of children following us at one time, and there was a moment when we held out our hands and they all reached for us. The children are always excited to see us, so we have to have long-suffering and patience with their chants and cries that will never die down. I have found that long-suffering is a Christ-like attribute that I really have to work on. Thankfully, my trainer and I made amends at the end of the day, and the following days only had small spots of contention that we solved during our companionship inventory on Friday. I wish I could say more about that week as there were a lot of growing experiences, but I have to move on to the most recent one.
     As I said, the whole town was out of power for five days. This means that we had to rely on our supply of water that we store in our refrigerator for just that type of scenario, and when that ran out we had to climb on top of the water tower to draw water up from it like a well. Trust me, it wasn't fun. I never thought that I would ever have to work to get water, just because it is so easily accessible in the US. Now, we had a really nice stew that was sitting in the refrigerator and would have fed us for two weeks (it was in a large pot) but it spoiled because it was not cold enough to stay fresh. The meat turned rancid and we had to throw it all away, which meant that we were literally throwing cash in the trash. That day wasn't a happy day. I started to dwell upon everything bad that was happening and I felt like going home, but then I started to pray. I prayed for strength to get through the week and I prayed that I would be able to have long-suffering, and then I started to read the scriptures. I made sure to have a constant prayer in my heart the next day and the day after, and then I started to become happy. Even though the power was out throughout the whole town, I could feel a power growing within me. There was no light around me, but a light was shining from within. I found that I was reading from the scriptures more and studying church doctrine (since I couldn't iron and do anything else at night) so I would be more prepared to teach our investigators. As I was reading, the thought came into my mind that even though the power was out, I still had the ability to read the words of God and His love for all of us on earth. I thought about how the products of men can never be relied on, but the things of God will always be there. Even though I can't rely on power here, I can always read the scriptures. Even though I can't rely on water, I can always pray. What a blessing that is, to know that God will always be there for us. This knowledge and insight that I had helped me to get through the rest of the week, and I grew in strength.
    On Sunday (I guess it was last week) we had another baptism. That means that I already have two baptisms! I can't believe that the work is going forward so well. Sometimes, it feels as if I have to be Superman to battle through the week, but when all is said and done I look back and say "Well, that was easy." Truly, if you just press forward and just focus on the time at hand, everything will start to work out. As you pray and keep a prayer in your heart, the trails that look like boulders in your path just turn to dust, and then all you have to do is blow it all away. The Lord will give you strength if only you make the first step to move forward. We can only move forward when we have faith. I have been using the following metaphor when teaching about faith. Faith is a man. When faith exercises, he grows stronger and can hold a heavier weight. If he is using the same weights each time and never changes his routine, then he stops growing. When faith stops exercising altogether, he becomes bedridden and it takes a lot of effort to get him moving again. Faith is an action, a force of power. When we read our scriptures, pray, obey the commandments, attend church, and strive to have a better outlook on life without complaining about our surrounding circumstances, we grow in faith. When we read the same scriptures each day and never try to go deeper in our studying, we stop growing. When we start to skip days and throw away these good habits altogether, then our faith becomes bedridden. I encourage everyone reading this to have the desire to grow, and then you will have the strength to carry heavier burdens.
     I used to think, "This mission is a hard thing," but I stopped thinking it after I remembered the complaints of Laman and Lemuel. Now I think, "This mission is easy with the Lord by my side." Truly, it is in our hands to make something hard or easy. If we try to rely on our own efforts and our own knowledge, we will constantly fall short and think that the task that is asked of us is impossible. However, when we pray and seek guidance from the Lord and show that we are willing to listen, we will be lifted up and He will carry us to the finish line. I am very grateful for this mission and for the trials that I have been forced to face, because it just means that I am being put through a refining fire. I love and embrace this gospel and the lessons that we learn as we hold strong to the word of God. As one of our investigators said, "Missionary work must be divine."
Elder Twede
(--- denotes edited names, … denotes edited personal content)

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