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(Photo of a newly sealed Ghana family–proudly featuring a beaming father, two beautiful children, and from the looks of the photograph, a Mother who “knows.”)

I have received, what may very well be my last email from the Moncurs, currently serving as missionaries in West Africa, Ghana. Their latest email and photos follow below the jump. I will miss hearing about their daily labors amongst the Ghana Saints. I will miss hearing about the lives of the Ghana Saints and seeing them in the photos. One of my greatest sense of loss will the be perspective they bring to my all too often careful and troubled life, here in the talkative and well fed West.

And, while it will be good to see the Moncurs again and hear of their experiences with the Ghana Saints, I will miss the update on those saints. I’m sure it will be very difficult for the Moncurs to sing that last farewell hymn in Sacrament meeting in a few short Sundays–God Be With You, Till We Meet Again.

Dear family and friends,

Our time is short and this may be my last email and pictures from Ghana. I measure time here by the passage of Sundays and there are only three left. We’ll leave on October 25, via Delta non-stop to New York. Then on to L.A., then home. I get chills when I think about the pending reunion with family and friends.

Each day continues to bring interesting experiences, sometimes humorous. Recently I was talking with a branch member at our home. At the end of our conversation he said: “It’s always good to talk to elderly people.”

On another occasion, we were feeding four young men we are working with to get them on missions. After eating, I got up and started to stack the dishes in order to clear the table. Jonathan, one of the young men, jumped up and grabbed the dishes out of my hands. He said, “No, no, no, I’ll do it.” Mom told him Elder Moncur always helps clean up at home. Jonathan declared with great solemnity, “It is an abomination for grandpa to clear the table!” You can’t help but love these people.

They won’t let me carry anything. I was carrying two trash bags outside and two of the young men jumped up from a bench on our front porch and grabbed the bags from my hands. In the beginning of the mission I resisted this. There were things I just didn’t want to let go of. Things I didn’t want misplaced. But with the passage of time, I realized that they were upset if they couldn’t carry my stuff so I just gave in.

Ghanians are concerned about your comfort. They always want me to sit down. They don’t like me to stand up. Sometimes I just want to stand up, but someone always gets a bench or small stool or plastic chair and insists that I sit down. They are very considerate. Another nice custom is when you leave they escort you to our car; no matter how far away it’s parked, even when they’re sick.

Much of our time is spent visiting sick members. We visited Francis today, the little boy who was stricken with a mysterious illness about two months ago, rendering him unable to walk or straighten his legs. Hoping to find him better I was disappointed.

We found Francis lying on a couch with full casts on both legs extending from his toes to his hips. One foot was bent at an odd angle inward, held in that position by the cast, which seemed odd and was hard to look at. The parents had no idea what was wrong with him, but it was obvious he had a serious affliction, and was literally wilting away. Why he had the casts on I have no idea, nor did the parents. Perhaps it was to keep the tendons from shriveling up while his legs were bent. Doctors here simply don’t tell people what’s wrong with them, do not appreciate questions, and patients don’t ask them. Often the very sick are sent home with the explanation that there’s nothing wrong with them.

On previous visits Francis talked quite freely but on this one he would not utter a sound. He just looked at us with a blank stare—a hint of fear in his eyes. I am not optimistic about his condition improving or him ever walking again if he survives.

I’ve pretty much lost track of what’s going on in the U.S. We occasionally hear the news when we’re close enough to Accra to get the BBC radio signal. When we do, there’s not much said about the United States, mostly news about Africa. It seems that there’s always something terrible going on somewhere in Africa (Nigeria, Darfor and Sudan at the moment), but Ghana remains quite stable.

Around the end of June, the weather improved. Daily cloud cover keeps it from getting too hot, although as soon as the sun peaks through it heats up instantly. This dramatic improvement was unexpected and a great relief considering we are five degrees from the equator, and last year it was extremely hot all the time.

Sudden storms occur frequently. Angry, dark, almost black clouds will suddenly appear and roll across the sky accompanied by strong winds and up to a 20 degree temperature drop, often bringing heavy rainfall. Occasionally these clouds sport numerous small tendrils pointing downward, reminding me of pictures I’ve seen of the beginnings of tornadoes.

Following heavy rainfall there was widespread destruction in the north and throughout West Africa due to flooding. Crops were ruined, houses destroyed, and hundreds of thousands left homeless. In our the Nkawkaw area, farms were destroyed and three houses washed away. Many houses are made out of mud and sticks, and are extremely susceptible to destruction by flooding.

Michael, our branch mission leader, just came by the house to help translate a lesson I’m giving. He had a huge smile on his face as he handed me a plastic bag full of some sort of very large vegetable. About 6 or 8 months ago he removed a seed from the remains of a discarded squash that was in our trash. He took it home, planted it, and now presented me with the harvest. Mom cooked the squash, added butter and pepper, and the class enjoyed it after the lesson. It really was good!

The Mouse Takes All. It looks like the mouse we share our kitchen with is the victor. For months I’ve been trying to catch him with homemade traps made out of cardboard and thick glue. He simply swaggers onto the cardboard, eats the bait and walks off, apparently immune to the sticky glue. This morning I finally gave up and declared the mouse the victor. His residency in the house is now uncontested, and his lot in life will even improve in time. The Calls, who were scheduled to move to our house when we left, went home early due to a serious eye problem Elder Call had that can not be treated here. When we go home our Nkawkaw house will be vacant for some time, and the mouse will inherit everything.

We continue to work with the members and branch leaders on a daily basis. The work is fulfilling, uplifting, and rewarding. Branch members have included us into their lives, and they have become part of ours.

I won’t miss the mouse, the lights off, the pot holes, and a few other things minor irritations, but I surely will miss the people who we have come to love. The hardest thing about saying good-bye will be that we, who have become so close, will probably never see each other again. My extreme dislike of such finality is the main reason the gospel appeals to me so much. By providing for eternal togetherness, the savings ordinances of the gospel preserve relationships that are far too precious to be lost at death. This is the only outcome of life of interest to me, and we delight in helping those we work with discover, works towards, and achieve that goal. It has been a privilege and honor to be a part of it.

See you soon. We will be coming home in 21 days but who’s counting!


Elder Moncur

Copy of Pictures 9-17-07 001

Volcano? No, just the gorgeous view from our porch.

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Many things are carried on the head leaving hands free to carry other objects. This parcel is at least three feet high.

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Our most recent family at the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity. Total time in the church? Exactly one year.

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You see a lot of tro tros and you see a lot of taxies, but you seldom see a taxi in a tro tro. How did they get that thing in there?

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The Nkawkaw train station has seen better days. The smile on this lady’s face, and the smiles you see everywhere, is evidence that you don’t have to have things to be happy.

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Some of my pictures look posed but I’m really working here. Well, sort of working.

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Goats on the roof of tro tros, a common sight. I don’t know how they stay up there.

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District meeting at our house always includes snacks. We love these elders.

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Our latest trip to the temple with the endowed members of the branch. Leaving these people is too hard to think about.

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Getting the branch president ready to go in the temple. Adjusting each other’s ties has become a private joke between us.

For prior posts of the West Africa Ghana Missions updated, click this link and then scroll down to see them all.