Brother Edward and sonsMy blogging time has dimished of late. I’m set for three trials between now and March, so my ability to do anything but prepare for trials is pretty slim; however, I did get a Ghana Mission update. I have made the time to get this post up, because, at least to me these emails are a reality check of what is real, what is important, and what truly has priority not just for time, but for eternity. This email from the Moncurs is filled with incredible stories from the West Africa Ghana Mission. It is also filled with some very moving photos. The email follows below, and the photos after that:

Dear family and friends,

All is well in Ghana and we hope all is well at home.

We are still going through the Harmattan winds which blow very, very, fine sand (like chalk dust, only brown) from the Sahara desert over Western Africa. This unique but irritating condition lasts about two months. The sand gets into everything, including our lungs and eyes. After our morning walk my black shoes are completely brown. Keeping them clean is almost a lost cause.

This is a time of burning. Fields, foliage and trash are burned everywhere, before the rain starts. Our branch is next to the town dump which is constantly smoldering, and never seems to go out. At times ashes rain down on us throughout our meetings.

The one advantage of the Harmattan is that it brings cooler temperatures. The sand blocks out the sun making it about 20 degrees cooler.

The pictures below illustrate the affect of the Harmattan.

Pre-Harmattan conditions. Clear, hot, green and humid.

Same mountain during the Harmattan. Dry, brown, cooler, and barely visible. What you’re seeing isn’t fog, it’s dust.

We spend much of our time visiting members in remote places. While walking through the jungle I am constantly amazed that we are constantly walking through the jungle!

When the visit’s over, people will walk a long distance with us back to our truck. They all do it. It’s a nice custom. During our visits they shake hands with us lots of times. They are really glad to see us. We always feel welcome.

I am starting another temple preparation class soon. From the first two classes 18 members went to the temple, and 10 more are scheduled to go soon. Physically getting to the temple here is not easy. The main mode of transportation is the tro tro which is a van that is not air conditioned and grossly overloaded. People are sandwiched in like sardines. Imagine a mini-van with about 25 passengers in it and you have your average tro tro. Round trip is 280 kilometers. It makes for a long, hot, uncomfortable ride.

We are truly enjoying our time in Ghana, and the unique experience it offers us. Had we not gone on a mission, we would never have known how much we missed.

We are approaching the half way mark of our mission. Although I look forward to the reunion at the end of our mission, I will be truly sad to leave the people of Ghana.

Below are the photos. I’ve also posted them on my flickr page. Please remember to double click on the photos and then on the “all sizes” icon above to see the photos in their orginal size, which is really where they are best viewed.

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Pre-Harmattan conditions. Clear, hot, green and humid

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Same mountain during the Harmattan. Dry, brown, cooler, and barely visible. What you’re seeing isn’t fog, it’s dust.

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Good stuff Bibi prepared for our mission Christmas party. These were a hit. They disappeared in seconds when the missionaries were turned loose. If you want to see huge quantities of food disappear instantly, offer it to missionaries. They are always hungry. There is never hesitation or polite refusals; just the sound gulping and rapid swallowing.

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In spite of opposition from her parents and pastor, who told her there were evil spirits in the baptismal waters used by Mormons, Grace, age 21, was baptized about six months ago. Shortly thereafter, she succumbed to parental and pastoral (former) pressure and stopped coming to church. In Ghana parents have great leverage over their children because when they become adults, they can not afford to move out and therefore, without some intervening factor like marriage, must stay with their parents.

All the six missionaries in our district stayed in contact with Grace on a regular basis, but she resisted and her return to activity seemed highly unlikely. Then, unexpectedly, Grace returned and accepted a calling to teach primary. Here she is standing and teaching her first lesson, which is also the first time she has taught anywhere, or spoken in public. We were very pleased and proud of her.

In the far background, just past Grace’s right shoulder, our mission president, President Gay, is conducting an interview (only part of his head is visible). We have no rooms at the branch and privacy, as you can see, is quite impossible. Somehow it all works!

The faded dancing figures on the wall at the left makes for an interesting back drop for our meetings. Efforts to paint over them have not been successful. I think the paint here is mostly water.

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A common sight in our travels. We see many like this fellow wherever we go. Poverty is rampant. There are no welfare safety nets in Ghana. Note the number of bracelets he’s wearing.

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A typical rural gas station. No credit cards here. Most of Ghana is rural with an occasional city here and there. I try to keep the tank more than half full so I won’t have to fill up at one of these stations. I doubt if there’s much quality control here. In the cities and bigger towns you can usually find Shell and/or Goil stations.

Recently I couldn’t find diesel fuel anywhere, and we worried about getting home. All the stations in Accra seemed to be out. After some frantic searching I finally found a station that had some. Currently diesel is about $3.00 a gallon. Gasoline, slightly more. All stations charge exactly the same price no matter where you are. It’s set by the government. Village stations also sell kerosene for lamps used to light up the houses at night. Most villages have no power. You see people standing in long lines holding yellow plastic containers, waiting to buy kerosene.

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This is Edward and his two boys at church. His father was British, his mother Ghanian. He is the sole caregiver for his two sons, but has a serious medical problem and severe pain. He walks to church with his boys, sometimes doubling over with pain. Nevertheless he seldom misses Sunday.

Ed has had four corrective abdominal surgeries and needs a fifth to resolve the problem. After the fourth, which was successful, he was left untended in a hospital bed, and could get nothing to drink. There was no call button for the nurse, and there was no nurse to call. He struggled to get up to find water, and fell down which undid the surgery.

Ed has no resources other than a miniscule pension that is barely enough to feed his family. He could never afford to have the surgery. We’ve been able to arrange funding through church fast offerings and private donations to cover the cost of his operation. This life prolonging procedure will only cost $700, which is much, much less than would charged in the U.S. When we told him this he was literally
overwhelmed with gratitude. His boys, are pretty happy too.

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We went to this village to find a woman and child who appeared extremely undernourished when we saw them earlier in the day. We found them and gave them some rice and beans and seasoning, which should feed them for a week. Normally the hill in the background would be a luscious shade of green, as would the trees in the foreground. The sky would be a vibrant shade of blue. As you can see, the Harmattan dust has dulled the sky and made the foliage look drab.

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Many houses in Ghana are built out of solid prefab cement blocks, one piled on top of the other, all held together by cement. There is no reinforcement of any kind. Often the name of the maker is molded into the block. I especially liked the blocks used to build this house.

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Cattle have the right-a-way in Ghana. You just have to work your way through them nice and slow.