dsc02025.jpgHello everyone, I’ve received the most recent installment of email stories and photographs from the Moncurs, currently serving in the West Africa Ghana Mission. As usual the email and photos are thought provoking, and extremely interesting. You will read stories and see photos about the Ghanantan Robbers, crooked government officials, a grateful hosptial staff, and the very moving history of a slave castle–all in one email. As I read these emails, each time I focus on how abundantly blessed we are. I look forward to the next batch of emails, as this next month will bring Christmas–once I suspect will leave a lasting impression. I recall my first Christmas as a missionary in South America, decades ago now, as though it were last year.

The email follows, with the photos after that. I know that the Moncurs do stop by and read these posts when time permits. If you know them (or even if you don’t) and want to leave them a message of encouragement, feel free to do so in the comments.

Dear family and friends. Hope all is well. Here is an update on our activities in Ghana.

On behalf of the church we presented this autoclave instrument sterilizer to the staff of the Kwahu Government Hospital in the Kwahu Region of Ghana. I’m shaking hands with the hospital administrator, directly above me is our branch president, Isaac Boateng. They were most grateful for this badly needed donation. The church is hugely involved in humanitarian projects in Africa.

Philip, a journalist who came with us to record the event, explained the meaning of Kwahu to me as follows. Long ago two tribes were at war and one fled up the mountain above Nkawkaw. The mountain tribe warned the rival tribe that all who followed would die. This warning was expressed in the word Kwahu, which roughly means “Come and you will die.” I thought it quite odd that a hospital would be named “Come and you will die.”

Kwahu Hospital staff receiving an autoclave donated by the church. (See photo section below).

Due to the hardships of serving in Africa, the mission president permits and encourages senior couple missionaries to get together for occasional outings. In November four couples, including us, visited a slave castle in Cape Coast. There are seven senior couples in the mission. Four in Ghana, one going to Liberia, and two in Sierra Leon. Ghana is the most stable of these three countries.

On the way to the castle I was stopped by the police for entering a “presidential” lane. The officer, sporting a fully automatic machine gun (they all have them) said I would have to go to headquarters which means a long delay and a large fine ($100 to $500 U.S., a fortune in Ghana). The presidential lane was about 100 yards long, and suddenly appeared in the middle of the two lane highway. There was absolutely nothing to distinguish it from a non-presidential lane. It was there for the sole purpose of allowing the president to bypass a traffic check point should he happen to be passing by. After discovering our missionary status, the officer apparently had a change of heart and let us go—but not before making me back up 100 yards through traffic, a somewhat perilous journey, to get out of the presidential lane, and back into the ordinary people lane.

The slave castle was highly interesting and entirely grim. There are a string of slave castles on Ghana’s coast and Elmina, the one we visited, Elmina, is the largest. It was built by the Portuguese in 1481, and was used to house Africans brought from the villages to become slaves. Over the next 400 years or so, 60 million Africans met their fate going to, or at these slave castles. 20 million died on the way, 20 million died at the castles from mistreatment, and 20 million were shipped all over the world as slaves.

The Elmina slave castle on the coast of Ghana. More on this terrible place, including pictures of the inside in separate emails.

Recently we were informed that our house was on the list of targets for a home invasion robbery. As previously reported, two houses were hit, and ours was targeted next but we were spared when the villagers responded in mass looking for the robbers, which scared them away. We hope they won’t be back and as always, truly appreciate your prayers for our safety.

More recently we have been informed that there are car jackings on the road we travel on twice daily at the point where traffic is stopped for road construction. Since they happen mostly at night, we’ll have to try to get home before nightfall, which occurs shortly after 6:00 p.m. No matter what month, it is completely dark by 6:30 p.m. in Ghana. There is no daylight savings time adjustment.

About two weeks ago the rain abruptly stopped and the Hamattam season started. During the Hamattam, hot winds from the Sahara Desert blow all across western Africa for about two months and makes it hot, dusty, and dry. The dust is extremely fine and gets into everything, including your throat. Many people are coughing, including Bibi and I. On our way to Accra today for mission business, I was stopped again by the police. As soon as I pulled over, five stern faced officers approached the car, one holding a radar gun that read 64 kilometers, or about 40 MPH. As a prelude to the expected bride, the officer said “This is how fast you were going.” The officer standing next to him read aloud from my name tag, “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” As soon as he said that they all, as if on cue, turned and walked away.

Since pictures are worth thousands of words, I’ll stop here and send my latest batch of pictures. For ease of downloading, they are sent two at a time, by separately numbered emails.

You are in my thoughts and prayers,

Elder Moncur

Below are the photos. I have posted them here in a medium format. Feel free to visit my flickr page and view them in their full size.

Kwahu Hospital staff receiving an autoclave donated by the church. On behalf of the church we presented this autoclave instrument sterilizer to the staff of the Kwahu Government Hospital in the Kwahu Region of Ghana. I’m shaking hands with the hospital administrator, directly above me is our branch president, Isaac Boateng. They were most grateful for this badly needed donation.

The Elmina slave castle on the coast of Ghana. More on this terrible place, including pictures of the inside in separate emails.

The view from the slave castle. Boats came in from the right of this inlet (out of view) and picked up the slaves.

The senior couple missionaries of the Ghana Accra Mission at the Elmina slave castle in Cape Coast. Front row L to R: Elder and Sister Call who live above us. Elder and Sister Grey, assigned about 3 1/2 hours from us. Back row: Elder and Sister Moncur and Sister and Elder Sudweeks. All couples are assigned to live in villages.

Slaves from a large enclosure on the other side of the wall, came through this door into this holding room called “The room of no return.” Once in this room there was no going back. Next step was the slave boat waiting to take them to Europe, and later on to the U.S

The slaves that were deemed trouble makers at Elmina slave castle were put into this horrible cell with the skull and crossbones over the entrance, never to come out alive again. They were given no food or water and died in the cell and were left there for a period of time. When new comers came they had to share the cell with the corpses for an undetermined period of time.

Our guide locked us in the cell while he stayed outside. It was beyond uncomfortable being locked in this cell. I can’t imagine what these prisoners, with no hope whatsoever, went through. The window next to the cell door, was part of another cell reserved for guards who misbehaved. They, of course, were let out after a brief stay. The death cell had no windows and was completely dark.

Elder Uchtdorf arrives and starts making the rounds. Sister Gay, the mission president’s wife is at the far right. Sister Uchtdorf is at the far left.

Our elders waiting for Elder Uchtdorf. He was scheduled to come to the stake center at the temple and speak to us. As you can see they were in a good mood. Elder Uchtdort went down the line and shook hands with each one.

For the previous updates on this mission, please see here, and scroll down to reveiw updates dating back to June 2006.