I’ve received another incredible email update from the Moncurs, serving their fellow man, and their God over in the West Africa Ghana Mission. Reading these emails, and thinking back to my own mission years in South America puts modern day life here in the well fed and talkative west into some much needed perspective. I’ve posted the email below. After the email are 14 photographs of mission life in West Africa Ghana Mission. I’ve also posted on this same mission here, here, here, and here. The photos posted at the end are reduced in size. The full sized photos are even more incredible, and you can see them here.
Dear family and friends,
The new couple, the Calls from Pocatello, Idaho, moved in above us last week. Their apartment was burglarized a few days later. While we were all at church, suspects pulled the razor wire down, climbed over the wall, borrowed our ladder, climbed up to the second floor ledge, and made entry through the locked balcony door by using keys they had stolen the day before when they were working in the Calls’ apartment. They really didn’t need the keys since the second floor has unbarred louvered windows. Entry is as easy as cutting the screen, reaching through and removing the louvered windows which slip easily from their flimsy holders. It could have been our house instead of theirs. Our sense of safety has been shaken somewhat, but life goes on.
On preparation day we had four elders over for dinner and a movie. They watched “Luther” which makes an excellent case for the need for a restoration. We enjoy their company and I think the feeling is mutual. They are a great bunch, and are always hungry.
Ghanians tell it like it is. Elder Gardner, from Ghana, politely told us he didn’t like the delicious pasta mom made. Several hours after dinner, the Calls invited us for another dinner, which the elders eagerly accepted. After eating some delicious enchiladas, Elder Gardner informed the host he didn’t like them. Ghanians prefer Ghanian food to American (or Mexican) and they’re simply honest about it.
Attendance at the branch has gone up since our arrival. We started with about 80 members, and are now up to 146, with about 17% less active. We still meet on the hotel roof. The members really have a good attitude about their meeting place. When it rains they just quietly move their bench to a spot where the canopy doesn’t leak and the meeting goes on.
The other day the elders text messaged me to call them right away. They were at a new member’s house and there was a domestic problem they didn’t feel equipped to handle. Getting to their location is the worst drive in the mission. And it is worse than that when it is raining which it does almost every day. You drive in places that tanks fear to tread. There are step hills and gullies, all dirt of course, and all covered with ruts, and mud. Ghana is a place of mud. These roads are really more suitable for goats than cars. I have learned how to do this. I get a running start at the bottom of the hills. I point the truck at the top and then go up the hill as fast as possible. We rocket to the top. It’s truly a white knuckle experience and you hope that you have sufficient forward motion to propel you over the ruts, holes, rocks and mud on the way up. At one point there’s a small home made bridge over a creek. I race over it so it won’t have time to collapse before I get to the other side.
When we arrived Elder Lyee Akron looked at us and said, “I’m only 23 and I don’t know about these things.” (Many of the elders in Ghana start their missions when they are over 21.)) I noticed he was wearing the BYU hat I gave him some time ago. I said, “Are you taking good care of my hat?” He replied, “Yes, your hat likes me better than you.” He is so funny and has a great sense of humor. We like him a lot.
In places we are surrounded by poverty that makes Sally Struthers’ children in South America seem well off. At times we truly marvel at where we are and what we’re doing. 6 months ago I wouldn’t have imagined I would be living like this or thought it was possible. Now it all seems normal.
It’s hard to describe where we go making our rounds. We walk through uneven, narrow, muddy passages that are all but impassable. We drive daily under conditions that seem impossible. In town, if you have an inch clearance on either side of your car, you are expected to go boldly forth. If you don’t there’s an uproar from the cars behind you. People spring up from all over and start directing you into these impossible spaces, as if you had all the room in the world. The other
day a very small boy started to direct me. He was about five. Realizing he had no idea what he was doing I paid no attention to him.
I see big trucks making their way through spaces where there is no visible space. This isn’t some occasional occurrence; it’s on going day in and day out. You can’t hesitate when driving here. You have to pick your spot and go for it. It always involves cutting someone off, otherwise you would never get anywhere. I’ve gotten good at this.
I am getting quite tan. I try to stay out of the sun but at times it’s just not possible. The sun is simply brutal over here. The moment you’re exposed to direct sunlight, it’s like a weight pushing you down. To stay focused, you have to push thoughts about how hot you are out of your mind. They come back too easily. You’ve got to find shade immediately or sooner. We have been blessed with cooler than normal weather. For this we are grateful.
Tonight there are 12 missionaries staying on our property (Sunday). Six came from the villages. Four more will come tomorrow, and we will all head to Accra for zone interviews. Tuesday morning the zone will go to the temple together. We are looking forward to this. We have a slight problem in that we’re about out of water, and have no power. When this happens we open all the windows to get air movement. With twelve elders right next to our window, it will be a noisy night. We won’t be able to order water until Wednesday, with delivery hopefully on Thursday so conservation is the word of the day.
The children here are among the cutest I’ve ever seen. They are friendly and well behaved. The other day we were visiting a family and a child, about two, who I don’t really know ran up to me and hugged my legs. She had a huge smile and acted like I was her very best friend. Inside the house this little girl sat on Bibi’s lap and when it came time to go, she screamed and screamed when she was put down. We could still hear her crying, and see her reaching out for us as we drove away.
The next day at church the parents of this same little girl told me that her sister, age three, wanted me to pick her up too. She wanted her turn. The sister then promptly marched up with up-stretched arms and I picked her up. She smiled from ear to ear and acted like I was a long lost friend. These kids reach right into your heart.
I don’t have time for much more but I’m sending seven sets of two pictures each via seven emails numbered 1 through 7, showing various scenes from our mission life. They will follow this email. I sent them two at a time so it wouldn’t take so long to download. I hope they make it through. We miss you greatly and appreciate all your prayers and help.
Lunch at the area office cafeteria which is located directly across from the temple. Sister Ennin and I (at my right) are sharing a plate of banku. They eat this with their hands, but I used a spoon. Moments later I got with the program and used my hands. The big bowl on the table is full of water to rinse your hand in. At the far left is Millie who was endowed and sealed today to Willie at my left. Next is Sister Odrou, then Christina who received her endowment today.
Gathering together at the temple for endowments and sealings. The Owusu family, Willie and Millie, and Chrisina are pictured along with Bibi and I and the sister missionaries who are dressed like twins. Rita Owusu, in the black and white dress behind Sister Ennin (the shorter of the two sister missionaries), is the girl we helped get into nursing school with donated money. School is the only way to escape the cycle of poverty here. Brother Owusu, third from the left, was the former branch president. Doris, his wife, is third from the right. Willie (the tallest one) and Millie are roughly in the middle. Christina, 4th from the left is a single woman who works for the secondary school. This was a great day for us and these members. Donated money helped make it happen.
This is where the branch meets. Sacrament meeting is held under the canopy at the left. Primary is held by the table in the background. We had a fireside scheduled and this is what greeted us when we got there. This frequently happens. The hotel manager rents out our space to non-church groups and we can’t go ahead with our activity. This was some kind of “naming” ceremony. They were dancing to very loud music. Some branch members got into a big argument with these people over who was entitled to the space. Each time I got things calmed down, someone else would step in and flare things up again. I finally solved the problem by paying the group $5.00 to go away. They were very happy with this arrangement and promptly left. Some even said they would come to our church. None did. I’ve spend a good deal of time trying to find another meeting place but this is a very difficult process, and I’ve had no luck so far.
A clean, well stocked, well organized store at the market in Anyinam, the village we live in. What you see is the entire store. The girl consented to the picture but was too shy to look at the camera.
The elder’s weight room in their apartment. Each rock is about fifty pounds.
Me and Michael, the branch mission leader taking a rest. I often wear a hat due to the intense sun. I’m getting my shoes shined and I’m in stocking feet. The shine cost ten cents. Michael works with us everyday.
The bats of Accra coming out at dusk. Thankfully they seem to stay in Accra.
Typical Nkawkaw street scene. Note the overloaded truck. Imagine this thing tipping over, which we see frequently. The car turning left is one of the numberless tiny taxies that are everywhere. The blue truck with the cab tilted forward is one of the countless breakdowns which are repaired in the middle of the street where the breakdown occurs. You will see men lying under the trucks with their legs extended out into the roadway. Definitely don’t try that at home!
The streets of Nkawkaw at an intersection leading to the market. Intersections are called “junctions.” Imagine making a right turn into this. We do everyday and I try very hard not to hit anyone. Somehow it works. If you look closely, you’ll see cars mingling with these people. Note the majestic cliffs in the background. It’s raining on the mountain. We do our shopping here and have become quite good at finding what we need, as long as we don’t need much.
The banana bread class taught by……Sister Moncur. Margaret, far right with the blue apron, actually has bread making machines and a huge oven. She has a bread making business. Unfortunately most of her big machines were rendered useless do to improper wiring which burned out all the motors. The women loved the class and we served the bread at a branch fireside that night. It was a hit!
Me teaching the sisters how to bake banana bread, or was I just watching Bibi teach them? You be the judge.
Our go anywhere, dodge anything truck. The mighty Toyoto Hilux at rest. We are at a member’s house for a bread making class. Behind the truck is an open air jungle saw mill.
These little guys from the village must have smelled the bread. They spoke no English but it was clear what they wanted. How could we refuse them! We are at a member’s house making banana bread as a relief society activity.
The gospel doctrine class at our branch is receiving family history training from Elder Borden, from the area office. President Gunnell, the temple president is front left. He and his wife came for a visit. He is going home in a few days. The youth Sunday School class meets behind the blue plywood partition in the back left. The gospel principles class meets behind another partition on the right (hard to see). Next to that, behind another partition, we hold our teacher development class. The primary meets behind the camera, behind another blue partition. We have 42 children in the primary, 12 who are in the nursery. Next to my children and grandchildren, (and the children of our friends of course) Ghanian children are the cutest kids I’ve ever seen. Bibi and I are in there somewhere.