West Africa Ghana MissionBelow is the latest email news and photos from the West Africa Ghana Mission from Elder and Sister Moncur. As always it is a refreshing break to read about their Gospel experiences with the Ghana Saints and their lives. For previous West Africa Ghana posts, please click here, and scroll down:

Dear Friends,

There are many things to report on, and I try to chose things that I think are interesting, such as the funeral services provided for Agnes, a church member.

After her death, the branch was given the opportunity to conduct an LDS funeral, something they had never done before. None of her family were LDS, so like our branch members, none had ever gone to an LDS funeral. I was assigned to speak at the funeral.

On May 12, the funeral was held in an open compound in the mountains above Nkawkaw. More than 200 people attended; about half not members of our church.

To attend the funeral we got up at 3:45 a.m., and drove to the compound, about 75 kilometers away. Because we were without residence, we were staying with the Calls who formerly lived above us, but now reside in a remote village called Abomosu.

It was a long drive (this is a mission of long drives) and we had to be there at 6:00 a.m. Driving through Africa in the dark is a unique experience. People walking on the road are almost impossible to see, and everyone walks on the road. If you break down, the cell phones are entirely unreliable or inoperable in certain areas. Without visible landmarks, it is sometimes hard to figure out where you are.

Family members expressed their grief by gathering around Agnes and wailing and crying. Only the women did this. Most were dressed in the traditional black or red clothing. The funeral went well. The branch president did a superb job of conducting it. I was told afterwards that because of the funeral, many who attended gained a favorable impression of the church and stated they would come to our meetings.

It is hard to describe the sights and sounds of a Ghanian funeral; the grief is the same, but the traditions make it quite different than a typical U.S. funeral. Perhaps you can get a sense of this from the pictures below.

At our age and stage in life, we are often amazed at where we are and what we are doing, so different than our life in the U.S.

On Tuesday, May 14, at long last all the arrangements were in place for us to move from Anyinam to Nkawkaw. Our short stint of being vagabond missionaries was coming to a close. From Accra, we drove to Anyinam to meet the moving truck, which neither arrived or informed us it wasn’t coming. After a long wait, we learned the truck was “spoiled” (broken down). After a full day of moving things ourselves in our little truck, assisted by the Calls with their truck, we returned to Accra to collapse and make other arrangements to move the bigger furniture.

We retired for the night with a new move date of May 15. In the morning we were told that the move was cancelled due to driver related problems. After considerable effort, we got the move on again, and it was completed in one day. Members of the branch helped us at both ends.

We have entered a new era of electrical uncertainty. Ghana’s power comes from hydroelectricity. Because of low lake levels, we are told four of the five turbines at the dam are turned off. If the remaining one is shut down, Ghana will be in the dark. For this reason power is rationed throughout the country, and the allotments are getting smaller and smaller everyday. Where we live it is completely undependable. We are told on June first it will get worse and to store fuel at home and keep the truck tank full. There is no relief in sight and we will probably finish our mission under these conditions.

In addition to our missionary work, I am now serving as second counselor in the district presidency. There are seven branches in our district which was just created and covers a distance of 114 kilometers. By moving to Nkawkaw I thought our driving distances would be diminished. This may not be the case.

Love,

Elder Moncur

Photos follow:

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While singing church hymns, branch members carry the coffin from the compound to my truck . It was almost a sacred moment and very touching.

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Loading Agnes into the back of my truck for transportation to the burial site. All these men then climbed aboard with the coffin, which extended out the back of the truck bed. It didn’t seem possible that they would all fit–and they didn’t–but they rode in the back anyway. With the front of my truck pointing skyward, and the back dragging, we drove to the grave site.

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Covering the coffin with dirt. It was difficult to get to the grave inasmuch as the path was steep, narrow, completely surrounded by dense jungle, and blocked by numerous people who were burying other caskets. Funeral days are assigned by area, so many funerals occur on the same day in the same village or town. Awaiting this day, often the deceased must be kept in cold storage for a month or so which of course increases the expense. Our elders quorum president is the man with his hand raised carrying a green hymn book.

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Gathering at the cemetery for the burial. The grave-site is in the jungle on the side of the mountain on the right of this picture. At this point it is only accessible on foot. To get here, I had to drive through these people, who are on a small dirt road and are not paying any attention to a truck approaching from the rear. It always amazes me how more people aren’t hit by cars (including mine!) in Ghana. It’s almost as if some invisible force nudges them out of the way at the very last moment, much like surface tension keeps you from removing a speck of dirt floating in your glass by pushing it away from your spoon just as you get close to it. From here, the casket was carried to the grave site.

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Our people lining up to be presented to other mourners who have attended other funerals. Sister Moncur is standing near the rear of the line. People from many funerals gather together in a large open area and greet each other. We are following protocol by waiting for our arrival to be announced so we can be presented to the group at large, who are not visible in this picture. Tradition dictates that the men and women be separate in the line.

As you can see from their faces, people generally have a good time at this stage of the proceedings. After this stage, we walked over to the family compound to pay our respects. To save the family some of the funeral expense, our group declined the minerals (soft drinks) they offered, which they appreciated. Inasmuch as it was extremely hot, and we had been walking quite a distance, I was touched by this gesture of concern expressed by our branch members. Funerals here are quite costly and can and do cause considerable indebtedness.

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All our worldly possessions being loaded on a truck bound for Nkawkaw. Although it looks deceptively cool, it’s hot and humid. Mom, the master organizer is orchestrating the move. I am thankful to be relieved of this duty which I never enjoyed or was good at even in cool weather. We have said good-bye to the Anyinam compound where we lived for one year. We are now official residents of Nkawkaw.

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May 21. Our new home in Nkawkaw as seen from a field of maize in the foreground. It is much more house than we need, but was the only place the mission could find after a very long search. Getting power to the house took about six weeks, which delayed our move by that time. We were told however, that this was the fastest installation of electricity in Nkawkaw’s history, and some wait seven or eight months or longer. The rent, approximately $145 U.S. per month, is not excessive.