West Africa Ghana MissionI have received the latest West Africa Ghana Mission update email from the Moncurs. The email and photos are replete with their latest adventures and excitement that only West African Ghana can provide. It is sobering to read of a people so focused on the tasks of daily survival, not at all concerned about the distractions with which we here in the talkative well fed West are obsessed. The email and finally the photos follow below the jump–enjoy.

For the previous posts in this series, please click here, and then scroll down to read and view all prior emails and photos:



September 4, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

On Thursday I had a dead battery and could not start the truck. Since immobility in the jungle has little to recommend it, I had to get this fixed right away.

Since AAA, or anything like unto it doesn’t exist here, I recruited mom to push the truck backwards out of the garage onto a small ramp that I hoped I could coast down, “pop” the clutch, and start the truck. I couldn’t help her because someone had to steer and do the clutch work, and Mom wasn’t familiar with the procedure. Try as she would, Mom couldn’t budge the truck so I went to plan “B” which was to hire a small boy and a man to push the truck down the ramp. That didn’t work either.

Plan “C” involved getting a man to come over in a taxi with a battery and jumpstart mine. Since the battery the man brought with him was dead, this didn’t work either. He went away and returned a short while later with a stronger battery that worked. I was mobile again.

I went to a place called the Battery Doctor, to get a recharge. I asked the man there how much it would cost and he said he couldn’t tell me until after the job was finished, as if, until then, the cost of recharging the battery simply could not be determined. I told him to go ahead and ended up paying seven dollars. Not a bad deal.

While the battery was being recharged, an elderly woman approached me and proposed marriage. To sweeten the deal, she said she would sweep my house. I politely declined her offer.

Next three little girls approached me, one carrying a baby. Everywhere we go we are a curiosity factor, especially with children. Kids chase us, touch us, and say over and over, “Obrunie, obrunie (white man, white man). Even though I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, these little girls chattered at me non stop. Although I don’t know why, they must have found me sufficiently amusing and hung around me until I left.

One girl had some biscuits wrapped in cellophane. This was probably their lunch, and perhaps breakfast too. She gave one to each girl, and to my surprise, each broke off a piece and handed it to me. I declined their touching offers, especially since food for them is probably scarce. There is poor in Nkawkaw and extremely poor and these girls were in the latter category.

Later two women came to the work area carrying what amounted to a small portable restaurant on their heads (steaming bowls of rice, plates, spoons, and plastic bags). They set everything down on the ground, and started preparing meals of rice, beans, and sauce which they sold to the people in the area. They did a brisk business. The food smelled good and I was a hungered, but we are cautioned never to buy food from street venders.

I gave Michael, our branch mission leader and my companion at the moment, a small sum to buy each of the little girls lunch. Although they had no idea where it came from, these girls, who were so willing to share their widow’s mite, deserved a proper meal.

A picture of the girls is included. One is holding the crackers in her mouth soon to be distributed. Although not obvious in the photo, the girl holding the baby and the baby both have tribal scars on their cheeks, given at birth to identify them with a particular tribe. I think you can see them if you look hard enough or enlarge the picture if that’s possible. Marking children in this manner is still practiced in the north and elsewhere as well. You see a lot of it and soon get to the point where you no longer notice it.

Much of our time now is spent conducting district business and traveling to various branches for conferences and training. We are still working with the Nkawkaw branch preparing members to go to the temple, and being escorts for them when they do.

Our power and water situation has improved, at least temporarily. We have power more often than not, and our underground reservoir is full from the torrential rains we are having. The down side is it’s wet and muddy almost all the time, and driving on unpaved roads can be a real challenge. Sometimes I have to plow through stretches of mud and muck that a full grown tank might hesitate to go through. After a days driving, my white truck is often almost completely brown from the mud.

Village life goes on as usual and isn’t much different than it was 100 or more years ago. There are no frills in the village. Villagers use kerosene for light, wells for water, and charcoal for cooking. Accept for the kerosene, which many do without, they are not dependant on the outside world for their immediate needs. The state of the world’s economy, global warming, animal rights, and other such matters are of little or no concern to them, if they are aware of them at all. They are concerned with more immediate matters such as eating today, eating tomorrow, finding rent money which must be paid two to three years in advance, financing their kids education, and affording traditional and rather elaborate funerals that are paid for by short term loans which they hope will be offset by donations from attendees. Funerals are one of the major businesses in the villages. A whole industry has been developed around them.

I look forward to seeing you all in the near future. We could not have asked for more support from people at home, for which we will be eternally grateful. In many cases, you have made the difference between going without, and having what we needed to make things work. Certain things are simply not available in the villages, and things sent to us from the U.S. have literally saved us on many occasions. See you in 52 days.

The rest of this report is told in the pictures I’ve sent which much more than words, give you a real flavor of our life in Ghana.


Elder Moncur

The photos, incredible as usual, follow:

Weeding demo

Weeding demo – Taken moments before I strained my back giving a weeding demonstration with a cutlass. The demonstration wasn’t entirely serious but the back pain was. In the future I’ll leave the weeding to younger people. Personally, I prefer my riding lawn mower at home with cup holders.

Washing clothes

Washing clothes – Helping Sister Amankaw with the laundry. I really wasn’t much help but it’s the thought that counts!

Visiting the sick

Visiting the sick – Mom with women in the branch on their way to visit a very sick boy in the hospital after church. Francis, age 10, was stricken with a mysterious illness that prevents him from unbending his legs without extreme pain; he can not walk or stand up properly. After repeated attempts we can’t find out what’s wrong with him, but it appears very serious. Things like this are heartbreaking. The small village hospital was ill equipped, unsanitary, and generally dismal.

Sharing food

Sharing food – Little girls who offered me food.

Perilous journey

Perilous journey – This man seated outside a taxi, holding on to who knows what is a common sight on village roads. The taxi was not going slow and was weaving around pot holes with no regard to the safety of its external passenger. I hope he got a reduced fare.

Kids at work

Kids at work – Village kids fetching water for their home. The heaviness of the load is not reflected in their happy expressions. These kids are used to carrying heavy objects on their heads.

Goats are good

Goats are good – Who needs a lawn mower? Not with these guys around. These goats are dining at the Abomosu branch, and as our church sign says, they are welcome!

Better days

Better days – Remember Caplen and his boys? He is the man I wrote about sometime ago who is the sole caretaker of his two young sons and had a life threatening condition that was corrected by surgery paid for by donated funds. Had he died his boys would have become orphans. Here he is almost fully recovered and enjoying playing with his sons. My mother sent bottles of bubbles for the children in the branch. As you can see in the photo, they were a hit.