dsc02438.JPGAs America, and probably much of the West, obsesses over glamour idols, their life styles, deaths, and questions of paternity, the Work of God carries on in the far reaches of the planet without fanfare, pomp or circumstance, and in the midst of people focused on just living from day to day. Elder and Sister Moncur have provided their most recent update from the West Africa Ghana Mission, with more striking stories from West Africa, including photos. So take a moment from the cacophony of celebrity, and contemplate the impact of the Gospel of Christ in the lives of the least of these we call our brethren:

Dear family and friends,

We just went over the “hump,” otherwise known as the half way mark. Can this be possible? Our mission is half over!

Our mission continues to be busy, spiritual, challenging, and rewarding. Currently we are in the process of looking for new living quarters in Nkawkaw. This is easier said than done. Nkawkaw is a confusing place. It has a small central business area, and then meanders outward with small pockets of residential scattered throughout the jungle, often difficult to get to.

Other than word of mouth, it is hardly possible to find places for rent. There are no signs, advertisements, or realtors. You can’t just look for a house with any realistic chance of finding one. It is even very difficult to find a single room in a compound. Our branch president did for months without any success.

We continue to work with the branch. Training is given on a very basic level. But that’s enough. We are seeing good results. I’ve
often thought that everything we need to know to gain salvation is taught in primary.

Many are illiterate in the villages, mostly the women. Many women work the streets selling fruits, vegetables, water and other items, carried on their heads, or displayed on the ground in small market stalls. Their customers are mostly passing vehicles, which they often chase down, transact, and make change, while the vehicles are still moving. Don’t try this at home! It is hard, hot, dangerous work, done mostly by women. I’m told that men who carry bowls on their heads are mocked by other men. Women really are the backbone of the families here. Without them, (which is true anywhere) nothing much would work.

Jonathan, a young man we are preparing to go on a mission, tells us that it brings tears to his eyes thinking of his mother working the streets at this time of her life–in her forties. He says after his mission, he wants to do well at school so he can find a good job and provide relief for her. It is very touching to hear him express his concerns for his mother. His father, a teacher, actually the head master at a school, does not make enough to support his family without his mother’s contribution. For being head master he makes one dollar more a month than a teacher. He knows this isn’t fair, but can still laugh about it when he talks about it.

Even though there is much destitution here, people are still friendly, helpful, hopeful, and happy. Not all, but most. There is a lot of smiling going on here even though there may not be much to smile about, at least from the point of view of most Americans. The two pictures below testify of this. I send pictures two at a time in separate numbered emails to shorten down loading time. Including this email there are five sets. Hope you enjoy them. They tell more about Ghana then words can express.

With love to all,

Elder Moncur

Below are the photos with this email. As always, remember to click on the photos to veiw in full sized fomat:

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This is the first time I’ve seen school children assisted across the street. The crossing guard is holding up a red piece of paper to alert drivers to stop. Kids pretty much get to and from school on their own, and we often see very small children walking without supervision along the side of very busy highways. I cringe when I see this; it’s sort of like seeing little kids walking on the freeway. You don’t see many parents in this picture, and most of the children are quite young.

School uniforms are very common in Ghana. Almost all the children wear them, which of course adds to the expense of education. This area and these children are quite well off as evidenced by the presence of back packs, regular shoes (instead of flip flops), and lunch boxes, a bit of an anomaly in Ghana. This is not a village area, where children are not so well equipped and cross streets at their own risk. The picture could have been taken in the U.S.!

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This small truck driving through Accra contains full sized cattle, horns and all, somehow crammed into the bed. The only way I could tell if they were alive was seeing an occasional eye blink or ear wiggle.

This takes place on Independence Ave, the street the temple is on. Sometimes it is clear of traffic, at other times it may take more than a hour to go a few miles. The beggar at the left of the truck is a common sight. They dodge traffic all day, and into the night, while asking for money.

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Trucks like this, adorned with religious sayings, are all over Ghana. The entire gospel message could be boiled down to the two word sermon appearing on this truck.

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Elder Thompson laughing at the sight of his companion Elder Edwards, carrying the trash can to the water station (it is an unusual sight!) Elder Thompson will be transferred out of our district on 2-7-07. It is sad to see these elders go. We get quite attached to them, and they to us.

Elder Edwards has had some very unique experiences on his mission. While serving in Sierra Leon, he was riding on the back of a taxi. The taxies there are motorcycles. Another taxi lost control, fell over and skidded on it’s side directly at and collided with Elder Edwards’ taxi, causing Elder Edwards to do a summersault in the air. He sailed right over the collision site and landed completely unharmed on his feet some distance away. He said he felt the presence of angels while airborne.

More recently, while assigned to Ghana, Elder Edwards was riding his bike when his shoe fell off. He immediately reached down to retrieve it and felt something swish over his head. When he looked up he saw a large bull dozer on a trailer that just passed by. He saw the the blade of the tractor was sticking out well past the side of the trailor, and it was this that had passed directly over his head. Had
he not ducked down to retrieve his shoe at that exact moment the blade would have hit him on his head.

Shortly after that, while on his bicycle, he was hit by a car and sustained only minor injuries. I am absolutely convinced angels are assigned to protect the missionaries in Ghana. When President Gay was set apart as mission president, he was promised that he would lose no
missionaries. So far, after 2 1/2 years, and after many close calls, including a serious accident President Gay was in, that promise has been true.

Regarding President Gay’s accident, here’s what happened. He and his two assistants were traveling in a pick up truck driven by a senior missionary in Sierra Leon. The truck went out of control and rolled over several times. Other than a badly chewed up arm, received by President Gay, there were no serious injuries. A truck came by and took them into a town where they cleaned up and continued on their way. They missed none of the meetings they were scheduled to attend. One of the first things you notice about President Gay when you meet him is the huge scar that covers most of his forearm.

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Water is a big concern in Ghana. It is distributed several different ways. Here Elder Thompson assists a young lady put a heavy bowl of water on her head which she has just filled, from the local water facet behind her. There was a small fee for the water. She will carry the bowl back to her house.

Water is sold on the streets everywhere in small plastic sachets, for about 3 cents a piece. Women carry the sachets on their heads and sell to passing tro tros, trucks, and buses. Thousands, (possibly millions) are sold everyday, and the plastic containers litter the streets up and down the highways and byways. We sometimes see small boys running around collecting them to sell to gardeners who fill them with dirt and plant seedlings in them.

We are told never to drink from the sachets, due to the possibility of contamination on the surface of the plastic from people who handle them prior to sale. Nevertheless, thirsty missionaries buy and drink from them all the time. Dehydration is a real threat here and the heat, plus the exertion of walking or riding their bikes makes them very thirsty.

You can buy this water everywhere. Although I’ve never done it, you bite off a corner of the sachet, spit it out, and drink from the resulting opening. It is your mouth making contact with the sachet, not the water. that is the greatest concern.

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Last month I reported on Caplen, the man who needs surgery to correct a painful and life threatening condition. He is scheduled to have in on February 19. Here he is on February 6, with his boys and Elder Thompson, from Ghana, and Elder Edwards, from New Zealand. More on Elder Edwards follows.

We got Caplen a large trash can to fill up with water so he would not have to carry buckets from the faucet to his house, an ordeal that could make his condition seriously worse. The amount of water to fill this trash can would normally cost 5 cents, not a small amount for Caplen. When we went to pay the man who sells the water he said it was free and Caplen could get water anytime he wanted for free. He also agreed to come and worship with us on Sunday.

The elders carried the container back to Caplen’s house (actually one small room in a compound) which was no small feat; even half filled with water it was very heavy. I tried to help them until my back started going out. Now Caplen has a good supply of water right at his front door, and free access to more when needed.

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I’ve never known where the water came from until I accidently came across this packaging station, in the middle of a village, in the middle of the jungle, which had surprisingly quite modern equipment in it. Here one man prepares to load plastic into the machine which injects water (hopefully filtered) and separates the plastic into individual sachets which then drop into a bowl. The other man puts the sachets into larger plastic bags for transport. The operation was completely mechanized and did not appear unsanitary. Based on frequency of use, there must be hundreds if not thousands of such packaging locations in the country.

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People who make and sell bread like this woman, come to this small shack to make their dough. A small fee is charged for use of the mixer. They pour the ingredients into the tub and the big noisy machine in the back mixes it into bread dough. They put it into their container, take it home and bake the bread. The kneading machine runs on gasoline and emits a slow but loud ker thump ker thump sound. The exhaust pipe is routed through the wall.

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This man was simply delighted to have his picture taken. His face lit up when he saw his image on the screen, probably a first for him. He is a tailor, and from the looks of it, likes his job. You can sometimes tell how a person lived their live by their facial expressions. Although I don’t know him, I think this man lived a good life. Alterations here cost next to nothing and are done on the spot. The machine is powered by foot pedals, no electricity here.

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PARTING SHOT. Although a bit out of focus, this picture gives you an idea of our traffic conditions as we pull out of our driveway. It is the road to Nkawkaw that we drive on everyday. A partial view of the black sign on the right edge of the photo marks our driveway. Our house is about 100 feet to the right of the sign. The traffic noise is really loud. Getting out of our driveway can be a bit tricky. Getting
in is even worse.

To see all the West Ghana Africa Mission posts, please click on this link, and then scroll down.