Monday, December 30, 2013

Post Christmas

Dear Family,

     First, I will answer your question: "OK so if you could have a magic horn that could give you only one food or drink item but it could be unlimited what would it be?" 

     Answer: I would have to choose cold Root Beer, because I am always thirsty here in Ghana and they DO NOT HAVE ROOT BEER ANYWHERE. I can survive without having special foods from home (although I do miss it), but a magic horn with unlimited cold Root Beer would be really nice to have.

     It was really wonderful to talk with all of you back home. I am surprised at how much Adalie and Matthew have grown! I wonder how it will be 5 months from now.. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and I am glad that you had a fun time at the football game. If you think that San Francisco is crowded and smelly, just fly over here and tell me what you think again. Last Monday (I think I told this to you but I will retell it) I was in Kejetia and was going through the central market place, but there came a point where I was sandwiched between people from the front, back, and sides. I lifted my feet and traveled about 4 feet, just from them shuffling forward. Halfway through the crowd, I felt a large surge from the back and turned my head backwards to see a lot of people pushing. I felt another surge from the front and turned again to see a huge crowd coming at us as well. There were people with crates of live chickens on their heads and lots of pottery, and the next second everything was tumbling to the ground and people were shouting. I heard people behind me blaming the problem on the "Oburoni" (which now I know means foreigner, not just white man), and I couldn't do anything but shake my head. That same day coming home, we saw many trotros and trucks being piled onto by the people from town. One bus was being swarmed by more than 50 people, and one truck was loaded down so far the the back was touching the ground (there were at least 30 people scrunched together in the back alone). Christmastime here is crazy, and it even seems worse than Black Friday. People are just ruthless wherever you go, whether on the streets or in the shops, going to town or going home. I was glad that I made it home in one piece.

     After I called you and Skyped, I went to sleep and was awoken by my companion who was barking like a seal. It sounded like he had caught bronchitis in his sleep, and he also said he had a runny stomach and couldn't proselyte. From Thursday onward he was in bed, coughing and taking medicine and sleeping. To spend my time wisely, I read the scriptures, my PMG, and exercised when I became restless. I tried to take small naps here and there, but I eventually just became bored from all of the sitting around. We didn't proselyte for the whole week after Christmas Day, and I wanted to be doing something but couldn't because my companion was out of commission. During the few days that I spent in the apartment, I had a lot of time to think about my mission and what I expected to come from it. These are some of the thoughts I had.

     1) I want to be a good example to the companions that I have so that I will not be blamed for any negligence on their part if there is any, and for the sole sake of being a good companion

     2) I want to be patient with the people I meet and with the companions I receive so that I can learn tolerance and long-suffering

     3) I want to find people to teach and baptize so that the work of the Lord can progress ever onward

     4) I want to perfect myself everyday so that I will be worthy and ready for a wife when I come back home

     I had more thoughts on my mind than these few thoughts, but I want to share these ones with you. I wish I had more to talk about, but I think I related everything I wanted to over the phone. Thank you Dad for sending all of those pictures through e-mail, and I look forward to e-mailing you all next week after New Year's has passed. 2014 is right around the corner. Afehyapa, and afe nkometo ye. (Basically, Merry Christmas and a happy new year! : Literal translation: This year is over, and the new year is to come)



Elder Twede

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dec. 9, 2013 31 Lessons

Dear family,


     After reading through the e-mail that I just sent you, I realize that I left out some experiences that I had during the week. They aren't many, but they show the character of the people here. On Tuesday we went out of our apartment and proselyted around our area trying to find new people to teach. As we were passing a compound, we saw a lady pounding fufuo and decided to go and offer her our assistance. We walked over and offered to help, but she declined the offer and instead told us to sit down (in Twi: tenase). We sat down and were going to introduce ourselves to her, but she just brought out a stew that she had recently prepared and gave us the fufuo that she had just been pounding. We wanted to refuse, but people here get really offended if you don't accept their offers, so we ate everything that she gave us. We were then able to have a lesson with her about the gospel, and she was very pleased to hear the message. We found out that her name is A..., and that she was interested in meeting with us more. We contacted some more families within the compound and then went on our way. The next day we went by the same area with the intention of meeting with Amelia again, but instead we met up with her sister who's name is E.... E...doesn't speak much English, but she is very friendly to us and I try to communicate with her as much as I can in both Twi and English. She told us where her house was and told us to come by later in the evening, so after we had left and taught 7 lessons, we decided to drop by her actual house. Upon arriving, we were met with the scent of banku coming from the kitchen (she actually has a nice house with a kitchen, very abnormal) and we had a good stew to go with it that had steak and pork for meat. She told us that she wanted to feed us every evening and told us to come by everyday, so we told her we would. True to our word and her word, we have visited her every day and she has always had a meal ready for us. In addition to the food, she also has a baby that she has me care for when she is preparing the food. I have helped in the cooking and preparing process of the meals, but she mostly wants me to become familiar with her child. Her love for us really astounds me because she hasn't known us for long, and yet she trusts us enough to look after her baby and to feed us dinner every day.

     Anyways, after our dinner with Sister E...on the first day, we walked outside into the courtyard and saw an older white man sticking his head over the top of the wall. E... told us that he was her adamfou (friend), and she called him over. We found out that his name was C..., and it became readily apparent to us that he was not completely there mentally. As we talked with him, he described sad experiences from his life (mostly about the death of relatives) and the pain that he feels every night before going to bed. We could tell that he had gone through many pains in his life and that his family had just sent him to Ghana to stay for a while (he didn't even know he would be here for a month. He was expecting them to pick him up the first week after he was dropped here), so we told him that we would visit him everyday so that he would have some company and wouldn't feel so lonely. We don't teach him much each time we visit because he is the type of spirit that won't be required to accept the message here on earth, but we have been comforting him as much as we can. He is supposed to be gone as of this morning, but we will drop by to see if he has made it home safely.

     Now I think I am completely finished. I always have more stories to tell, but I will just send them to you next week.



Elder Twede

Dear Family,


     Each week we find ourselves working harder than the last. Over the course of 5 days (I was sick in bed on Friday), we were able to have 31 total lessons, 12 new investigators, and 3 people with set baptismal dates. Under the new standard we are expected to have 38 total lessons and 14 new investigators, but the one missing day knocked our numbers down. I know that this week we will be able to accomplish our goal as we are willing to do the work. I really can not believe how well this work is progressing and how my potential is far more than what I thought it was initially. I still feel that I can do even better, so I will be excited to push myself and to see how much work I can actually do in the short course of a week. If there is one lesson that I am learning at this time, it is that I can do far more than I think I can, and I won't know what my potential is until I push myself. It really has been a growing experience for me, and I know that if I was not called to be in Ghana, I would not be learning the lessons that I need to learn.

     Is the ward really that big now? That sounds amazing to me, especially because I had not been seeing too many baptisms happening there before I left. Just yesterday my companion and I attended the end of the year ward council meeting and they discussed the numbers for the year and how they planned to improve this year. Apparently, there have been 52 baptisms in this ward alone for the past year, and they plan to have 70 baptisms in the ward for this upcoming year. The work that is done here is staggering, and it just is proof to me that this is truly the Lord's church on the earth today. I want to bring as many people as I can to the truth here in Ghana, and I know that I will be blessed by the Lord as I keep His commandments. Sometimes I sit down and refocus on my purpose as a missionary because it is easy to be caught up with everything during the week, so Monday is a day where I gather myself again and make sure that I am going on the right path. I want to be able to meet the expectations of the mission president and the expectations of the Lord, and the only way for me to do that is to commit myself more fully each week to the work. It isn't easy at times, but I am constantly learning how to become a better person and how to fulfill my purpose here.

     Apparently, my companion likes to sleepwalk and he talks in his sleep. These past two nights I have been a little freaked out because he just sits up in his bed and stares at where I am sleeping for 5 or 6 minutes, and then he lays back down and is totally asleep. I have had my camera by my bed so that I can record what he does, and when I showed him the footage in the morning, he couldn't remember doing anything like it at all. Two nights ago, he even got out of bed and walked out of the room, only to return 1 minute later and to sleep on the floor. He says that he has always been a sleepwalker, so I just need to get used to it. I'm sure that it will eventually become ordinary to me, but for now it puts me on edge because I know his mind isn't completely there when he sleepwalks.

     This past week I just completed the quad, meaning that I have read the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price (as well as the Articles of Faith) in 6 months. I had no idea that I would complete it so soon, but now I am going to be focusing even more on the Book of Mormon. We have a plan that our mission president gave to us so that we can read the Book of Mormon in three months (he just recently made it for us), so by the end of my mission I will have read it 7 times (just on mission) which will make it 11 times total for me. Three months is really just a short time, and I have a feeling that if I can stick to the Book of Mormon plan everyday, then I will be able to stick with the P90X plan ever day at home. Speaking of which, I forgot to say what I have been using for weights to exercise in the morning. Here in Ghana, it is almost impossible to find a set of metal weights that are made specifically for the purpose of lifting. Instead of using weights, we use car parts that resemble the shapes of dumbbells and a bench press. We don't have a bench press in our apartment right now, but we see people using the axles of cars all the time since there are so many of them lying around on the side of the road. Some places we pass are just piled high to the sky with car parts that aren't being used anymore, so the people here try to find use for them. I will have to take a picture of it sometime so you can have a better vision of what I am talking about.

     One thing that I miss about M... is the opportunity to teach in church. Here in K..., there are plenty of members to teach the classes and everything is organized well, so there is no need for the missionaries to teach any class. That was probably my favorite part about the church services in M... because I delighted in seeing the people in the class grow in knowledge. Here, I sit with the members but I can't participate too well because all they speak is Twi, and I haven't learned it completely in order to communicate fluently. Sometimes I get bored because I can't do anything, but I do my best to stay there in mind. If I start to float off, I just refocus and try to make out what the people are saying. I can pick out many of the words and get a general idea of what they are talking about, but many of the finer details slip past me. I think that these exercises will help me to understand Twi even more, but at the moment I wish they would just talk in English, because that is the language of the mission (and it is declared to be the official language of Ghana, although the people here either don't know it or don't want it).

     Truthfully, I took everything at home for granted, and it has only been here in Ghana that I have realized how blessed we are. Sometimes I look at the labor that people perform here and imagine how life would be like if it was a part of my own. I know that I am living here for two years, and yet I still feel like an outsider because I know that there will be a time when I will leave here to go back home. I am not looking to that time right now because I am still too young on my mission, but it is always there in the future. I just hope that I can do everything I can here to enjoy my time as a missionary and to do my best to help the people who will stay here. I want to help in the work of building the stakes of Zion, and the only way to do this is to build up the people here in Ghana. I will also do my best to continue the work when I get back home because I know that I will be expected to be as a light to all those around me.

     Well, I didn't see any questions that you wanted me to answer, so I will just leave you with a scripture reference. As I was reading the New Testament, I came across a scripture that I had to read twice before I could understand what was being said. In John 3:12-13, it reads "12) If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13) And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." Now, this was Christ speaking to Nicodemus, and he was telling Nicodemus that he could not understand things of the spirit because he could not even understand things of the earth. To prove his point, Christ taught a principle in verse 13 that is only easy to understand if you have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the picture: Christ is on the earth in this passage, and he is talking about the Son of man which came down from heaven, who is now in heaven. As I was reading this, my understanding was opened and I realized that Christ was talking about His Father, or our Heavenly Father. I couldn't believe that it was right there before my eyes, especially in the New Testament. Obviously, Nicodemus didn't understand what Christ was teaching him at this point, but it is our duty to search the scriptures and understand them fully. I just wanted to share this passage with you, even if you have already come across it before. There are other things that I am learning as I go, so I will send more of my insights to you in the upcoming week.

     I love all of you and I pray for you every day. Sometimes I feel like I am repeating myself when I say this in my e-mail, but it is truth and I want you to know it. I am glad to hear that the ward is swiftly expanding, and I know that the work will continue to go forward with much power as everybody does their part. I wish you all a good week, and I want to remind you that there are only 16 more days until I call home. From what I know at this point, I will be calling home on Christmas day, so be expecting a call on the 25. We will have time to plan the time to call next week or even the week after, so let me know when you think everybody will be in the house. As for charges, don't worry about the computer thing because the mission reimburses each missionary for the time that they call home. I am looking forward to the time that I will actually be able to hear all of your voices.


Much love to you all,

Elder Twede


Nov. 25, 2013 6 Months

Dear family,


     ...It has already been 6 months since the time that I left home, which means that I am 1/4 of the way through my mission. Look at how fast time goes by. I have served with two companions, and now I am serving with my third (who just finished his training). So many things have happened in just a short amount of time, and I can tell that my personality is slowly changing (as well as my speech.. that's just what happens). Did you know that even though this mission is an "English speaking mission," the people here in Ghana Kumasi don't want to speak it, even if they know it well? There are plenty of people who we come across who understand English perfectly and can speak it well, but they choose to speak in Twi instead. This is a problem throughout the whole mission, and the missionaries suffer because of it. Thankfully, I was able to learn a moderate amount of Twi in Mampong (where the problem is REALLY prevalent) and I am doing well in breaking down my English into forms that they can understand. For example, if you say "How has your day been?" they will just look at you blankly. If you change it and say "How has been your day?" they will answer you without hesitation. It is really screwing with my grammar, but it is the only way to communicate with the people. Language really is a barrier here, but we just do our best with what we have.

     By the way, I received my package on Friday, which was also the day that I had to visit the hospital, or "FirstCare." My experience there was an interesting one, and I have a feeling that everything I go through here will just be another story to tell to my kids. On Thursday, I sent the pictures of my eye to Sister Holmes and I received a call Friday morning telling me to contact the AP's so that they could take me straight to FirstCare. I called the AP's, and then my companion and I drove in a trotro to D... where they picked us up in their van. (they are the only missionaries with a car in Kumasi). When we arrived at the hospital, I went up to the desk and gave them the information they needed (which they keep in many folders of paper, not computers) and then I sat down for 2 hours waiting for a doctor to actually show up (there wasn't even a line of people waiting, the doctor just wasn't there). When she arrived, I went into her office and she gave me a diagnosis of herpes at first. I couldn't believe it, so I told her that I was allergic to spider bites and she said it must be a hyper-allergic reaction. She told me what drugs to take and directed me to the chemist who gave me the drugs and told me to go to another doctor who would give me an injection. As you know, I hate needles so I wasn't enthusiastic about getting an injection, especially if it's in a different country other than my own. When I went to the doctor, I found him flirting with one of the nurses, and he didn't even stop when I gave him the try of needles and drugs that had been prepared by the chemist. He told me to take a seat, and then he got out a plastic tube and told me to hold out my right arm. He told me to clench my hand into a fist, and then he tied the tube around my wrist so that the blood veins would pop up. He then gave the girl the needle, and instructed her on how to do the injection. The first time she put the needle in, she didn't even put it in the right direction. She had to take it out and re-position the needle, and she failed the second time. She tried again for a third time, and then when she tried to give me the injection, the skin just started to swell up because the fluid wasn't going into my bloodstream. The male doctor decided to take it from her at that point, and he took out the needle and went to my left hand instead. Thankfully, he only had to take two tries with my left hand before he put the needle in correctly, and the medication went through me with no problem. I really can't stand needles, and this experience didn't help me at all.

     As you said, the area that I am in is bigger than M..., and it is a part of Kumasi. Instead of 4 or 2 elders in the apartment, there are 6 missionaries total. That means that the supplies in the package you sent were a little short, but I just gave the presents secretly to the first elders who arrived at the apartment on Friday night. Thank you for everything that was included in the package; we have really been enjoying everything and we will soon be decorating for Christmas. Anyways, this area is far bigger than M..., and I am not sure if I like it better or if I like M... more. You see, the weather is a lot hotter here, and there is never any wind that comes through. As for people to teach, there are many people that we can contact and teach lessons to, but the hard part is finding people who are seriously interested or people who will progress. Elder Adams and I were able to teach 20 lessons in 3 days (since Friday was taken up by my trip to the hospital), but I still miss the people who I was teaching in M.... Even though they speak more English here and there are more lessons to teach, it doesn't feel the same as where I just came from. I know that it will just take a little time for me to adjust, so in the meantime, I am doing my best to enjoy the area. 

     There are a couple families here who I contacted with Elder A-- on Saturday, and they both fed us to large meals of fufuo and banku, after which we couldn't eat anything else because our stomachs were so full. They are both wonderful families (with many children in each), so I hope that they will also progress in the gospel. There might be 1 baptism this week and another next week, so we will see what happens as we meet with the potential members and see if they feel prepared and ready for baptism. 

     I am now serving in a ward, which feels very different from the branch I just came from. I don't have the responsibility of teaching the investigator's class (gospel principles) anymore, I don't have to worry about giving a talk in church, and all of the ward activities are handled by the members. It gives me the time to focus more on the people we teach and the families within the ward, and I am grateful for the change of pace in the work. I know that every area I go to will be different from the last, so I just have to learn how to enjoy the new places that I am set in. As an afterthought, there was a lady in church who heard me singing and told the choir director that I could help him with the ward choir because "[I have] a wonderful voice." I don't think that there will ever be a time when my talent is not being used. I wish I could put the sheet music that you sent into good use, but we don't have a keyboard in the apartment anymore and they already have someone who plays the keyboard well in the ward. I will see what I can do about it though.

     As usual, this is the part where I answer your questions. Here we go:

1) As stated in the above text, there are six elders in the apartment (six total in the area)

2) Basically, we have every single faith known to man here in Ghana. If I was to give one religion that I see everywhere here though, it would have to be MOGPA (Moments of Glory Prayer Army). It is a religion that was formed here in Ghana, so of course it is the most popular among the people. They preach that there is no power in the priesthood, which makes our work as missionaries even more difficult. We have even had a few people tell us that they won't go to any church unless they see miracles happen, like they see in MOGPA meetings. It is a little frustrating at times, but we do our best to explain what we know to be true. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, we give them the correct principles and then they are left to govern themselves.

3) As for holidays, I haven't noticed too many at all. The only thing that comes close to holidays are the funerals that are held every single day. The funerals here are like parties, where every member of the extended family comes and gathers to remember the recently deceased. Sometimes, there are more than 300 people present (all extended family) and there can be more than 10 funerals going on in one day. They blast music as loud as they can, and they just dance and talk about the times they spent with the person who died. This lasts for more than 4 hours, so the city is never quiet.

     By the way, I am slowly becoming a good cook, and I am learning more recipes every day. I have made crepes already, and now I am going to try to make a pan-baked pizza. Wish me luck.

     As always, I send my love to you all and hope that you have a good week. It looks like you are all having fun. Matthew, stop growing! You're almost as tall as dad! Adalie, keep doing your best in school. This is the time to get everything ready for college/university. I love everyone of you.



Elder Twede