I have received the November update from Elder and Sister Moncur, serving in West Ghana Africa Mission. Below I have reprinted their email and photos, full of exciting experiences in the mission field. Each month seems to be a new adventure, with tales of vigilante justice, and of course the unusual traffic and driving conditions that exist there.
Prior West Africa Ghana Mission Posts you can visit are located here. Scroll down to see all six posts on this mission.
I don’t know too much about the Church or its history in Ghana. The Church website has some very interesting information. The Church first came to Ghana in the 1950′s in the form of missionary pamphlets, and grew rapidly from there. You can read a little about this history here.
There is now a Temple in Ghana, of which the Moncurs have spoken in this and previous emails. You can read about the Temple here. As I have said before, this must be a mission experience of a lifetime. Thanks to the Moncurs for sharing their emails and photos. The email follows below:
Dear family and friends,
So many interesting things happen that I can only report on our mission fragmentarily. Should I attempt to do otherwise, I would spend too much time writing, and you would soon tire of reading it. So I’ll limit my report to the few items that follow.
This morning (11-9-06) we woke up to a very loud commotion outside. There was a constant roar of yelling and shouting going on. I looked outside and saw a scene of complete bedlam. Hundreds and hundreds of people were in a frenzy, running up and down the street to our neighbor’s house where they gathered in mass. Here’s what happened.
Sometime during the night there were two home invasion robberies in the homes right next to ours. Eight or so suspects entered the homes, herded the occupants into rooms, and cleaned the houses out. I don’t know what happened to the occupants, but shots were fired during the robbery. The community somehow got wind of this and responded in mass. They left the villages and gathered around the victim’s houses forming a large crowd of excited people. Apparently they searched all over for the suspects. Some were armed with machetes and spears. This went on for hours (from about 2:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.) People were yelling and shouting and running all over the place, some dragging their machete’s on the ground for affect. Had they found the robbers they would have killed them on the spot, which happens here a lot. Recently we had a stoning near the temple of some criminal for some crime. We read about this in the paper all the time. Suspects commit a robbery and citizens in the area catch and kill them. We are thankful they didn’t chose our house. Your continued prayers for our safety are much appreciated.
We had a special “P” day worth noting. We, another senior couple and six missionaries toured a large dam at the Volta lake that generates electricity. A church member works there and showed us the inner workings. One of the most interesting parts was going down ten steep flights of stairs to the bottom of the dam. The journey down was dark, difficult, and miserably hot. As we went deeper and deeper into the dam, the conditions got worse and I imagined what descending into the bowels of hell might be like.
When we hit bottom it was wet and slippery. We went into a secluded cement chamber where water was gushing through a huge pipe under tremendous pressure, leading to the generator fins. There was a large steel door that looked worn and tired bolted onto the side of the pipe. Our guide said if the door failed the entire inside of the dam, a huge multi-floor area, would quickly flood. We went into a big, hot, circular room housing one of the huge generators. An open steel door revealed a large spinning steel shaft about three feet in diameter, and many feet long, which was the heart of the system. One could walk down a plank and actually touch the shaft if so inclined (of course you’d have to be crazy to do this.) It didn’t seem like we should have such close and unsupervised access to these enormous critical machines generating electricity for the entire country, and several other countries as well. I’m positive such access would never be granted in the U.S.
The tour was highly interesting but was not free. We were told at the entrance it would cost 5000 for each Ghanian, and 25,000 for each non-Ghanian. Even with this prejudicial pricing scheme, the tour was a bargain.
We made a brief stop at the water’s edge where little boys in small wooden home made boats were casting and pulling in nets. One offered to take us for a cruise but we declined. He promptly replied, “Are you afraid?,” no doubt trying to shame us into accepting his offer. It didn’t work.
Next we visited a large, complicated, walk through a monument, constructed by a man described as the senior prophet of the Muzama Disco Christo Church. The monument is supposed to represent heaven. It’s builder, Jenasman Kwadwo Amoaforo, now deceased, allegedly became a prophet when he claimed he was instructed by the holy spirit to heal a woman who had been pregnant for two years, or so the story goes. Then, if I understood it correctly, he claimed to fast for 2.7 years during which time he was given instructions on how to make the monument.
I met his wife, son, and the senior minister, who gave me the above information, and allowed us to walk through the monument, which encompassed about an acre and is impossible to described (see picture #17 below). We were forbidden to enter some sections without some sort of special cleansing. Although it was a bit confusing, and I could make little sense of it, I found the monument and it’s caretakers extremely interesting.
Annabell, a branch member, was hospitalized for 3 weeks due to pregnancy complications. When she was released she went to her mother’s home in Osino, a village we are not familiar with. We (mom, Elder Frei, and Mercy, a branch member) wanted to visit her so we drove to Osino to find her. I had no idea where she was but decided to follow the Ghanian method of walking around and asking people where someone is. Even though asking for directions goes against my nature, I felt confident that this would work.
After asking about ten people, who had no idea where Anabell’s mother was, my companions began to scoff at my methods. They were quite verbal about this and, based on results, were wholly justified. I told these doubters that I had the scent and would soon find Anabell. After a few more failed attempts, I began to doubt myself, but I persisted inasmuch as my reputation was at stake.
We went from one end of the village to the other. Finally I came upon a man, who unlike the others, devoted himself completely to helping us. He ran up and down the street asking people if they knew the party we were looking for. Then he asked me to park the truck and follow him. By now I felt that I was on mission impossible, and I was tempted to give up, but I still had a faint glimmer of hope. After wandering down various alleys and byways, all the while being teased by my companions, suddenly out of a dark doorway emerged Anabel! Based on my chances of actually finding her, it was a minor miracle. We had a very nice visit and Anabel is doing much better.
Later that day we were looking for a member in Nkawkaw after a heavy rain. As we walked on rough, slippery terrain, I noticed that each step was getting harder and harder. As I looked at my feet I discovered about three pounds of mud attached to each shoe. This isn’t ordinary mud, it’s like red clay, that clings to your shoes like glue. We didn’t find the member, but found plenty of mud. We spent the next 10 minutes walking from puddle to puddle trying to wash the mud off our shoes.
Later that night, we had a birthday party for Sister Ennin, attended by the missionaries in our district. She has been serving in Nkawkaw as long as we have and is due for a transfer. Mom baked a delicious carrot cake and we gathered together at the Top Way hotel where the branch meets. As is often the case, the branch area had been rented to another group, in this case another church, so we went to the hotel restaurant and had our celebration there. It’s not really a restaurant; just a small area with several tables and a curtain separating it from the outside. It was really a delightful occasion and the missionaries, especially Sister Ennin, enjoyed it immensely.
Dr. Merrill is going home this month leaving all West Africa missionaries without a church doctor for two months. He has served five years and deserves a break. He already has another mission lined up in another part of the world and will leave for that in about six months. He will still be available by cell phone in the U.S., but it will not be the same as having him here. We are good friends with the Merrill’s and will miss them a lot.
While driving to Nkawkaw, I noticed a convoy of official vehicles approaching from the rear at a high rate of speed. This is a common occurrence as presidential types are being escorted from one area to another. I’ve made two observations. The first is these motorcades stop for no one. The second is they maintain the same high speed no matter what the road conditions or who’s in the way. When such a convoy is approaching it is wise to pull over immediately and get out of their way. The entire convoy, consisting of about two motorcycles with sirens blaring, one ambulance, and about 15 SUV’s raced by us at about 80 mph, and quickly disappeared into the dust ahead.
About 20 minutes later we saw the ambulance at the side of the road with major front end damage. Just ahead of that were six other convoy vehicles at the side of the road with front and rear end damage. Apparently one had stopped and triggered a chain reaction of rear end collisions. Two thoughts came to mind. The first was someone’s going to be fired, the other is maybe they’ll slow down now. About 10 minutes later they roared by us again at the same breakneck speed, although there were fewer vehicles in the convey and no ambulance.
We schedule two baptism services per month in our branch. 11 were baptized at our last one. The elders and sisters here are very busy. Our two sisters reported 1000 contacts in one week. Retention rate for the mission is about 84%. The branch’s weakness is leadership, and of course meeting facilities, or I should say lack of them. Most members in our district have only been in the church one or two years, or less and haven’t much experience. The need for training is constant and on going.
Our daily drive to Nkawkaw has become more cumbersome. Since we’ve been here they’ve been completely rebuilding the road. This involves long stops along the way where one side of the road waits for the other side to pass by. At first the stops were about 10 minutes. Now they’re up to about 30 or more. This adds an hour to our commute. There are now hundreds of hawkers at each stopping point. They surround the stopped vehicles in order to sell their wares. Shaking your head and saying no has little effect on them. They hold their ground until convinced there is no sale. At night it’s a bit strange. Eerie actually. When stopped the cars turn off their headlights, and we sit in complete darkness. Faces appear at the window and stare into the car, sometimes for a minute or more. At this point we keep the doors locked. Even during heavy rainfall the hawkers are there. Soaking wet they run from car to car, trying to make a sale. Most are women carrying heavy bowls on their heads. For this they receive pennies.
Tomorrow we are going into Accra to see Elder Uchtdorf who is coming to speak to the missionaries. Elder Holland spoke to us in May. While there, I’ll try to send this email and a new batch of pictures, numbered 1 through 9. Hope you enjoy the pictures and I hope the downloading is not too time consuming. I sent them in groups of two to make them more manageable.
Hope all is well with all of you. I wish I could send more personal emails, but can never seem to find time. Bibi is much better at that than me.
Love and best wishes to you all,
The photos follow below. To conserve web space I’ve posted only smaller versions of the photos here. I would encourage you to visit my flickr page, and see the full sized versions. Again, these photos are just incredible. On flickr you can click on the photos to enlarge them, and then click on the “full size” icon on the top to see them in their full size.
While making our rounds we encountered this goat on top of a former taxi cab. I guess the view was just better from there. You can see how the cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon have disappeared. The jungle covers all things up eventually.
A “tipper” along the side of the road. This truck flipped over and landed on some little stores at the entrance to Nkawkaw. It was loaded with heavy steel coils visible on the left side of the truck. It is not known if the stores were occupied.
A family reunited after ten years! Millie in the red and yellow dress, is standing next to her mother with her hands on the brother she’d never seen before. The sister on her right was two when they were separated and didn’t remember her. Her other brother is on the far left. Everyone was happy today.
Walking through the jungle with a happy mother and daughter behind us. Millie, the daughter, said she wanted us to meet her mother. Little did we know they had been separated for ten years and this was to be a happy reunion. She also discovered a bother she had never seen pictured [above].
There are lots of different churches in Ghana, some with unusual names. This church is right next store to the Nkawkaw Elder’s apartment. It makes a lot of noise, especially on Sundays and during funerals.
These little kids were playing with bottle caps (on the ground front right) at the side of the road. They were filling them up with dirt from a small red can. Everyone with shoes wears flip flops. This is in Osino, a much smaller village than Nkawkaw.
Where the Nkawkaw elders live. The road there is pretty bad. The church pictured above is to the left out of sight.
Kwabana follows me around at church. He is not a member but comes every Sunday. He is speaking and hearing impaired, but he loves to be around the missionaries and he loves primary. He will scribble on a paper and then walk around the branch showing his art work to anyone who will look. Sometimes he mysteriously appears when we are visiting members, then chases the car when we leave. He pretty much roams around Nkawkaw with no supervision. I like his spunk and we have become good friends.
Nana Baah, age 76, is the second counselor in the Sunday School presidency. In his quest to find a church, he joined several, but none satisfied his needs. Eventually he started his own church, and broadcast sermons via radio. Finding that unsatisfactory, he said he took fifteen years off to think about it and in the end joined our church. He told me he is done searching. Prior to retirement, he traveled all over the world on various business ventures. He lives in one room of the compound in the background.
This tiny girl was entirely focused on her job of sweeping the small area where her mother sells plantain at the market. The Ghanians sweep the dirt around their homes, or the grass if they have it. She is the youngest and the most intense worker I’ve seen yet. She took her job so seriously she would not look up or be distracted, even when her picture was being taken. Her little broom is typical of those used in the villages, downsized to fit her small hand.
A little girl playing with her bowl at the market. As you can see the kids here are unbelievably cute.
I’ve written a lot about Fufu, so I thought you might want to see what it’s made from. The cassava root is heavy, tough and dense and must be pounded and pounded to make it soft. Here it is for sale along the side of the road along with garden eggs and peppers.
The grains of Ghana displayed outdoors in front of a small tidy store in Nkawkaw. This is where I buy the popcorn that we snack on between visits. The prices seem high until you realize that 5000 is about fifty cents. The corn, called maize, is a lot tougher than U.S. corn, and not as sweet. They sell corn on the cob everywhere, cooked on charcoal grills, served without salt or butter.
Our missionaries clowning at the side of the road on our trip to the dam. We dress casual on “P” day. From left to right, Elders Terangi and Gardener (they live next to us), Sisters Ennin and Odrou, EldersLaryea Akrong and Frei (they live in Nkawkaw). This is a really good group.
We found a nice spot by the river to eat our tuna fish sandwiches on our special “P” day outing. Africa is really beautiful.
This is part of the monument called “heaven” I couldn’t describe. You can see why.
Dinner time. Spoon feeding her little sister from a bowl behind her (not visible). In Ghana there are a lot of children taking care of children, including carrying them on their backs.