Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year

New Years’ Eve Day 2014
Tema New Town Service Project
        What a wonderful way to end the old year and to help someone get ready for the New Year. This is one of those stories that really must be taken in and digested. It is the story of one life that exemplifies the spirit of love, hardship, faith and the resilience of the human spirit if it is given the opportunity to grow.
         Tema New Town is right on the water and is the shipping port that serves Ghana. You see the usual shipping containers and cranes in the area and many freighters out in the harbor waiting to come into port. Near the harbor the town is terribly poor. Most of the people are fishermen that live between the road and the ocean. You can see the many shacks with TV antennas. Though this may seem odd you realize that they really have nothing here. Some TV seems a small pleasure when you think of all that we have. There are these great piles of wood all along the street. The wood is used to smoke the fish. Most all of the fish that is purchased here in Ghana is smoked so that it is preserved as no one has refrigeration. The whole fish is then used in soups and stews.

Silos at the Port of Tema

The piles of wood are all trucked in.

A sea of antennas on the way to the sea.

The silver is the fish drying in the sun.

Houses to the sea.

         The efforts of the Elders and Sisters in this area were to thoroughly clean the small chapel and to lay a water pipe for a school. The Branch President, President Asuma, is the owner of the school that needed the water pipe connection. The city would be closing down the school if it did not get water to the school. The plan was to dig a trench from the front of the school to the very back of the school, 267 feet. There they would hook on to the neighbors’ pipe and set a meter to pay for the water that was used by the school. This all sounds good except for the fact that this part of the town has had no water for two months. It made it a lot easier to lay and hook up the pipe because there was no water running through it. This school is beyond humble in every way. 

Cleaning the baptismal font
Cleaning the field next to the church with cutlasses (machetes).

It is awful with the bad air that they burn everything.

The best room in the school.

Another classroom

And another

The bathrooms. Two toilets, one door.

Recognize the hat?

Not rakes but brooms.

Elder Crisp is from Mesa.

The Principle's office

         What makes this story unique is the story of President Asuma. He is a very good looking man; he has a wife and four children and was sealed recently to his family in the Ghana Temple. At the sealing the Sealer reminded his children that in the next life their father would be a whole perfect being. You see President Asuma must walk on his hands because his legs are very crippled. When he “walks” his legs go up his back. It does your heart good to see him interacting with the elders who were digging and because his upper body strength is so good he took some turns himself with a pick ax. I have mentioned before that we see many, many crippled beggars on the streets. Perhaps their families deserted them when they were only infants. It seems to have been a general custom. President Asuma’s family loved him enough to raise him and instill in him the knowledge that he could do anything in life that he wanted to. He is well educated and has opened a school in this very poor and deprived area. It is amazing.
         There is another point to this wonderful story. Many of the senior couples travel out of Accra every Sunday to teach or support the various wards and branches. Sometimes they might be somewhere just by “accident”. Such was the case for Elder Parke. He and Sister Parke serve as Temple missionaries. Elder and Sister Parke were at the Tema New Town Branch when President Asuma was called to be the branch President.
         As Elder Parke sat there he pondered how he might help this brother 
be  able to serve easier. Elder Parke’s lifetime career has been spent in construction. With that background he came up with the idea for the stairs to the height of the specially sized podium.  President Asuma climbs the stairs on his hands and slides the top over behind the podium whenever he needs to conduct during the meetings and then slides it back when others have their turns at the same podium.
This is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and a blessing for how it serves.

         It may be assumed that Elder Parke was not there accidentally that Sunday. It was one of those divinely inspired happenings. The reason is that the members of the Stake Presidency said afterwards that they had been praying for something to happen that would make it easier for this good man to be able to serve. Our Heavenly Father works through the helping hands and willing hearts and minds of others.

Random service across from the school. Getting some children to help. They wanted to be invited to help.

Packing out some trash.

Washing hands of the helping hands.

A good motto for the New Year

The future.

We should all be inspired.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Boa


         The end of November took us to Kpong, another couple of hours drive to the North. This Sunday was an all Africa Stake Conference. Kpong is a District not a Stake so there are branches not wards but no difference the conference was the same. The conference had been prerecorded in Salt Lake and then DVDs were sent to every building on the continent of Africa. What a great experience to hear from Elder Gay; so much of what he said related to the self-reliance program and it's great importance. Elder Bednar and President Uchtdorf also spoke, each in turn giving his message on the importance of self-reliance. There was no doubt as to the theme.

        We were packed in like sardines. The chapel was full, every classroom, and a single row of chairs down the hallway.
        The best part of the morning was that Barry got to personally deliver three missionary calls to three young men. They will each be serving a mission, in three different missions in Nigeria. The families met with the Branch President and opened their calls. When the meeting started, after the opening song and prayer there was a choir of  about 40 youth that sang, then Barry and I got to bear our testimonies and then there were the testimonies of the three new missionaries.

         After conference I had an interesting experience. I have for the most part learned to feel fairly comfortable around most of the people here but I will admit that sometimes you feel that little hesitation. I try to tell myself that everything will be fine. Still, you have to realize this is quite different and that "us white folk" do stick out. Anyway, I was standing outside the church after conference and talking to some of the members and some of the Elders when this man approached and wanted to shake hands. I thought that he was a member, anyway he had on a white shirt. I mustered up my courage and shook his hand, feeling a little uneasy but not wanting to offend him.

        Soon he was out in the middle of the grass ranting on about how awful the Church and its members were and what was going to happen to all of us. Then out of the plastic grocery sack he was carrying he produced a very large Boa Constrictor. You realize I shook hands with him when he was holding that bag in his other hand. It was something that was unreal when you think about it. The Ghanaians are usually terribly afraid of snakes but I guess everyone knew this crazy person and therefore just ignored him. He was asked to leave the grounds but didn't so he failed to make any real impact.
        Happy pictures:
Elder Bautner

Typical village house were Elders Hatch and Payne serve. They love to take the kids fishing on the Volta.

Elders Payne and Hatch