Monday, August 26, 2013

3 Months Out


I cannot believe that I have almost been out for three months already. Before my mission, the clock stayed at a steady 2 years, but now the time is actually ticking down. I won't even start to count how much time I have left, but I can say that my training will be over by this next Monday. I have heard that having a trainer is much different from having a regular companion, but I will just have to experience it for myself.
We extended a baptismal date to one of our investigators last week, but he said that he will have to think on it. He has attended church 2 times so far and has been showing great interest in it, but baptism is a big step for him right now. He knows that the teachings of the church are true, but I am not sure if he wants to make the commitment. Only time will tell. As we continue to teach him, I hope that he will feel the Spirit strongly and recognize that this is a choice that he needs to pray about. People always have a hard time deciding if they want to be baptized or not, but after they take the necessary steps, then everything moves forward from then on. The gate to the kingdom of Heaven truly is narrow, but that is why missionaries are all around the world helping people to find their way.
We had a special training meeting with the mission president last Thursday (Yawada), and we went through how to use members to find people to teach. From what you have been telling me, this is exactly what the Sister missionaries are practicing in our ward back home. As missionaries, we are supposed to go to the members and have them make a list of anyone that they know in the area. Then, we have them study the names and then pray to know who to have a gospel conversation with. Then, the members are the ones who will extend the invitation to their friend to hear from the missionaries, and then the missionaries come and teach. The people that we then teach are quality referrals, or people who are ready to hear the message of the gospel and are expecting the missionaries to teach them. The mission president showed us some mathematics, and we learned that 1/10 of the people that missionaries contact through their own efforts are baptized, while 1/3 people who are referred to us by the members are baptized. The difference is pretty staggering, especially in the number of lessons that have to be taught. In M--- however (as I said in my last e-mail), the members are scattered about and most of them live outside of our proselyting area. It is hard to work with them, but we are doing our best. Our investigator class was full again today, so I know that the members are trying harder to care for other people. Missionaries really can not do this work alone.
This last week was difficult towards the very end because of how much walking we had to do. To add to the walking, I have had a wracking cough since two weeks ago, so my throat has been pretty dry and sore. We tried to call people to teach them on Friday and Saturday, but all of our appointments fell through so we had to rely on our own contacting efforts. My calves are killing me at the moment even while I sit here typing to you, but nevertheless, the work still moves forward. I believe that we walk at least 5 miles each day on average, but I feel that we walked even more than that on Friday and Saturday. If I were to revise the song, "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission", I would replace the last line with "To walk and walk and teach as missionaries do." The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41).
I never know when I will e-mail each week because everything is always so unstable. Thankfully, we didn't have any trouble this morning traveling to Kumasi to withdraw our subsistence, so now we are here in Vodafone (it has both phone and internet services) e-mailing. Tonight we will be going to a Family Home Evening at a member's home because Elder Orianel is leaving for home next Monday. It is very bizarre to see Elders leaving for home every 6 weeks, especially because my time is still so far away, but everything comes and goes in its own season. I don't think about home when I involve myself in the work and I feel that Ghana is becoming home to me more and more each day. I am still learning the local language gradually here, and I feel that everything is moving along really smoothly. This is already the last week of my second transfer, so we will receive transfer news this Saturday. I have a feeling that I will be staying in M--- since Elder Ag--- has been here for 8 months, but then again, everything is based on continuing revelation. We will just have to wait and see.
The Ghana election petition is concluding this Thursday, so we might not proselyte. Street situations usually become pretty dangerous during these times, so we have to be careful. Already, locals have been telling me to stay in the apartment on that day, so we will keep our ears out for any news from the mission president or zone leaders.
As for other news, my hair was growing back to its normal state last week so I went to the barber again to buzz it (I didn't want to cut my own hair this time). My hair actually looks decent now, especially because the skin underneath isn't so white anymore. The sun doesn't bother me now, so I can tell that I am steadily adapting to the weather here. At the moment, we have overcast skies and light rainfall, but I have heard that it might change this Friday. As missionaries, we never listen to the radio or watch the news (or read it), but people tell us everything we need to know and we are always hearing it in the taxis or trow-trows. Truly though, my main focus is only on the people who we teach, so news isn't important to me at the moment.
I can't believe that people would turn down the opportunity to serve in Africa. I know that it can look like a daunting task at first glance, but it really isn't our own strength that we are supposed to rely on. If I was relying on my own strength and wasn't praying to the Lord every minute of the day, I know that this assignment would be impossible for me. Africa would definitely be a huge load for any person, but this is really the Lord's work. If I had turned down this chance to serve, I would not be progressing forward as I am now. I wish that more people would realize that the blessings they will receive are far more than the trials that they will have to face. We are meant to pass through the refining fire so that at the end of the day, we can be made into pure gold without impurities. I don't want to be a boy anymore. I want to be a man. I encourage everyone to pray about any mission calls they receive and then ask for strength to accept their assignment. The call to serve is truly a pearl of great price, but we should be willing to sell everything we have to obtain it.

With kind regards,
Elder Twede

Monday, August 19, 2013

Late on Our End

Hello again,
I just finished reading all of my e-mails and want to express my gratitude for the thoughtful words of advice. As you encouraged me to read more from the Book of Mormon, I could tell that it was something that I really needed to do (and need to do). Don't get me wrong, we are constantly reading the Book of Mormon with our investigators and teaching from it (most especially when it comes to the great Plan of Salvation and child baptism) and we are always encouraging our investigators to read from it. If we make it an assignment for them to read from a chapter and they don't follow through, then we read it with them. In this way, I have read from 1 Nephi-2 Nephi more than 10 times. I definitely need to continue past it though, and I will start on it as soon as I get back to the apartment. This past week I read to 2 Kings, Romans 3, and I finished all of D&C, so my reading is progressing really well. As you said though, I need to focus on the Book of Mormon though so that I can root myself more firmly. The Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of this gospel. If the Bible was taken away, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would exist. If the Book of Mormon is taken away though, then it would never have started.
Mom, I can not tell whether I am losing or gaining weight. At one point, I thought I was starting to gain weight, but now it seems as if my pants are getting bigger. The only way I would be able to truly tell is if I had a scale, but I haven't seen one of those since the time I left the MTC. I personally like most of the food here so I eat whatever meals are offered by both members and non-members, and I have a good supply of food stored in the apartment. We just cooked some stew on Saturday from scratch using tomato paste, bell peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, and chicken (chicken is only $2.50 per pound or so) and we have plenty of rice to mix it with. Rice is a staple food here, so I haven't had a problem with eating at all.

As I promised, I will now talk about my companion since I have plenty of time. He has been a member since the day of his birth, but I don't know how old he is. He sticks with saying that he is 28 or 29 years old, so I have no idea if I will ever find it out. There was a time where he sort of fell away from the church because he left his family to live alone when he was 17 or 18. At that time, he found a job and worked as a drug prescriber, but a member of the church brought him back to the church. She (the member) walked into the drug store one day with a Book of Mormon in hand and asked my companion if he would be interested in joining the church, and he stated that he was already a member. She didn't believe him at first, but then he started to attend church, applied for his mission, and now he is already 7 months on his mission (and he hasn't transferred from this area yet! He has been here in Mampong since the start of his mission). From what Elder Ag--- has said, his family doesn't miss him and he doesn't miss his family, but I don't know if these are his true emotions. He comes from the Igbo tribe, and he lived in Port Harcourt for a while (I don't know if he was born there or not). He is very well versed in the Bible, and he has had 10 baptisms so far. All in all, he is a really good trainer and knows his Preach My Gospel, so I feel that I will be ready to train someone else as soon as my own training is done.
The branch I am in has been struggling for a while because the members live scattered out of our proselyting area. It is hard to find members to teach investigators with, but we as missionaries are doing everything we can to work hand in hand with them. Last week we emphasized the great importance that members have in building up the branch, and we finally saw people bring in friends to church this week. We have a separate class specifically set up for investigators, and it was actually full on Sunday. Missionary work is impossible without the help of the members, so we use them as much as we can.
As for my favorite scripture, it is Revelation 21:4. There is another scripture that has been on my mind though, so I would like to share it with you. Any time I read 2 Corinthians 12:2, I feel chills run down my spine. Its words are simple, but powerful. "I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven." Someday, I hope to attain to this same level of exaltation and hope that I can help others along to reach the same state. The scriptures say that salvation is personal, but I know that exaltation will always be a group effort. We can't receive exaltation if we only focus on ourselves. Charity is the pure love of Christ, and without it, there is no way that we could live in the presence of God.
My mind is opening more and more every day to the greatness of God, and I feel more and more grateful for this opportunity I have to be a servant of the Lord. His plan for us is truly the best plan, and it is only through his grace that we can brought back to live in His presence. Yes, we need to work to keep the commandments and come closer to Christ every day, but in the end, it is only through his grace that we are allowed to return to live with God. I can't even begin to imagine the great love that God and His Only Begotten Son have for each and every one of us. It is my prayer and desire to show my dedication and gratitude for His mercy through my daily conduct, righteous thoughts, and charitable efforts. Even if you aren't wearing a missionary tag on your shirt, seal the title on your heart. Remember, every member is a missionary.
Elder Twede

Monday, August 12, 2013

Daily Life

Hello Family!
You want to hear about my daily life? Let me start with when we wake up. At 6:30 my alarm goes off and I switch it off immediately so that I can have a personal prayer. Then I either read from Jesus the Christ, work out, or read from the Bible. At 7:00, I take a freezing shower (when power is out, we have to dump buckets of water on our heads), sweep under my desk, iron my shirt and tie for the day, and wash any plates or pots that are in the sink. At 7:30, I start boiling Good Morning Oats. I add sugar and some chocolate mix to make it taste good and finish eating by 8:00, at which time I go to my desk and open personal study time with a prayer. I haven't been reading from the Book of Mormon too much because we are supposed to study according to our investigators' concerns, so I find myself reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament for the most part. I have many scriptures memorized because we have some pastors that we are teaching at the moment, so we help to explain New Testament scriptures for them. One issue we run into quite often is this topic: speaking with tongues. Here in Ghana, people go to religious school to learn how to speak in tongues. When walking back from our proselyting area to go to our apartment, we hear many people saying "Bababababbarabarabobababab... Ahwoababababbaabrababaaba," and this will go on for hours. This is how they pray. There is a common belief that God will only listen to you if you "speak to Him in tongues," so we always have to explain the true interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12 to our investigators. The New Testament has so many doctrines that no one outside of our church understands, so we are always explaining and expounding the scriptures to them. As of now, I have read from Genesis-1 Samuel 15, from St Matthew-Acts of the Apostles, and 1 Nephi-Jacob. I try to study one book from the Old Testament (because there are some Muslims here to teach) before I move on to one book in the New Testament, and I study from the Book of Mormon when I have extra time. Apostle Paul is swiftly becoming my favorite apostle though because of his undying faith, his ability to speak many languages, and his desire to serve the Lord without fear of death.
After personal study is companionship study (9:00), where my companion and I study lessons from Preach My Gospel (PMG). I know how to teach lesson 1 and lesson 3 really well (from Chapter 3 in PMG), but am still only halfway confident in teaching lesson 2 in full. Thankfully, my companion and I are always switching off during the lesson, so we have never said something wrong or had awkward pauses where we don't know what to say. Teaching from PMG is a lot harder then just memorizing lessons word for word. We are instructed to just use it as a guide, to make sure we hit the points that are mentioned but to use our own words and scriptures to expound. Thankfully, my trainer knows how to do this almost perfectly, so I am learning quickly.
At 10:00 we have extra companionship study time (if you are not training, you leave the apartment at 10) and use the time to follow a training guide that we have. My companion can not believe that we are almost done with this transfer already, and pretty soon I won't be a true "Greeny" anymore! Anyways, at 11:00 we are out of our apartment proselyting. We always fill up our planners with investigators that we call in the morning to confirm appointments, but the lessons fall through quite frequently. If this happens, we use the time to street contact new people. If we get a little hungry, we go to a small roadside stand that sells bread cakes and usually buy one or two for 50 peswes-1 Cidi (25-50 cents). The sun has not really been out as of late, so we are thankful for the cloud cover. It always looks like it is about to rain, but it never happens. We proselyte and teach until 7:00 PM when it gets dark (we can't teach investigators at this time due to lack of light and safety reasons), so we get the apartment around 7:30 and cook dinner. Sometimes I have rice and stew, but most often I find myself eating fried indo-mei with eggs (fried top-ramen with eggs). Then I use the remaining time to write in my journal and study the scriptures, and then I prepare for bed at 10:00. By 10:30, I have already said my prayers and fallen asleep, only to repeat the routine when I wake up. Sometimes my legs are sore from all of the walking we do, but I am getting used to it. The terrain here is really rocky and killed my feet in the beginning, so I am glad that my shoes are broken in now.
I don't have time to talk about my companion right now, so expect that information to come next week. Both of our baptisms fell through this week because our investigators came in contact with Anti-Mormon pamphlets again and are shaky in faith, so we will continue to work with them. It's one thing for them to say that they want to be baptized, but it's another to see them actually walk into the waters of baptism and then be confirmed a member of the church the following week. As each week goes by, I realize even more why missionary work is divine, and my testimony strengthens even more every day. Be expecting another e-mail next week.
Elder Twede
Dear Family,

     This last week was pretty dry in terms of the amount of lessons taught. Even after all of our proselyting and planning efforts, we ended the week with only 14 lessons total, the smallest amount that I have seen since the beginning of my mission. Nonetheless, my spirit is light because two people have committed to being baptized this upcoming Sunday! The Lord really has prepared people to hear the message that we have of His restored gospel, and all we have to do is find those who have been humbled and teach them how to come unto Christ. I am truly grateful for the divine hand that directs our efforts, and I am thankful for all of the prayers that are being offered back home.
Heavenly Father really guides us to people who are ready to hear our message. Last week while we were proselyting, a young man approached us and expressed his desire to worship with us in our church. He lives in a town named Obwase that is pretty far from here and he is visiting his family for a while. Last Sunday, he attended church with us and we learned that he wasn't a member but had heard a lot about Mormons. He had been worshiping in many different churches but hadn't found one that matched his views, so he finally decided to try this church out. We set up a lesson with him last Wednesday and taught him from lesson 1, and he loved what we taught. He expressed his desire to become a missionary, but he said he would be leaving on Thursday and would have to listen to the elders in his own town. On Thursday we received a call from him, telling us that his brother had fallen into a boiling pot of stew and was in the hospital, so all of the money he would be using for transport was gone. We have taught him a couple of lessons since then, and it sounds like he will still be here in time for the baptism next week and confirmation as well. If he went back to Obwase, I'm not sure how everything would have worked out for him. We feel very sorry for his brother, but at the same time it gives us time to teach and bring another person into the fold.
Another investigator who we haven't been teaching (the past missionaries dropped her a while back) called us and said that she wanted to be baptized. She attended all of the meetings last week and attended church this week, and she understands every lesson and has been able to show us that she really wants to be a member. Apparently, she was indoctrinated by anti-Mormons when the past missionaries were teaching her and she stopped progressing, but certain circumstances led her to have a desire to contact us and find out the truth about the church. We were able to address her concerns and questions, and now she feels that she is ready to be baptized this upcoming Sunday. As we taught her a lesson last week, we noticed that she was reading from the edition of the Bible that is produced by the church, and every single page was marked. We asked her who it belonged to, and she said that her brother had used it on his mission but that he was no longer around. The next day, we asked more about her brother and discovered that after he returned home from his mission, he was walking down the street right outside of their house and encountered a drunk man holding a broken bottle. The RM's neck was cut by the bottle and he drowned in his own blood. How tragic! Now, the girl has a strong desire to become a member just like her brother, and it is very apparent that the Lord cares for her and wants her to come closer to Him.
I thank everyone for the prayers and I can feel them helping me along. I had a lot of time to study the scriptures last week, and I am learning so many things. So far, my favorite passages have been those of Micah the prophet because of his eloquence, style of writing, and the visual imagery he uses to get across his message. I have also been reading Proverbs a lot, and I am understanding the importance of wisdom and treasuring up the words of life that are written in the scriptures. The more I stay here, the more I understand about how important it is to be educated. As my companion puts it, if you are not educated in the world that we live in today, then you are a dead man walking among the living. I feel that I should have tried harder when I was attending school back in the US, but I know that I would never have recognized the importance if I didn't come here to Africa to serve my mission. The Lord sends us to where we need to be, and I can already see the reason why I have been sent here. I might not see the whole reason, but it is being revealed to me bit by bit.
To those who are thinking about going on a mission but aren't too sure yet: Just do it. Pray with all of your heart, and then prepare your papers so that you can already be on the path. You will grow so much, even just within the first month. It may be hard, but it is the right thing to do. You will be blessed as you follow the will of the Lord and obey his commandments, and you will feel His influence in your life more fully. I pray that you can come to know of the importance of missionary work and have the same testimony that I have, if not better. When you follow His word, He will bless you.
With love,
Elder Twede