Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Monday was our Christmas FHE.  We ate, sang carols and gifted each other with white elephant gifts. There were almost 60 of us involved. People liked my choices and I ended up opening 8 different presents because someone would take what I had unwrapped.  My favorite part of the evening was introducing the group to “In The Bleak Mid-winter” one of our families cherished carols.  

We laughed a lot in opening presents and taking from others.

Two bus loads of French patrons from Benin arrived at our building Monday evening. The first Stake was organized in that country in Sept.  of this year and over 100 came to the temple for 3 days. One sister who I worked with spoke Fang [combination of 3 dialects—none of them French].  She was very attentive but  did not understand any words although she knew what was happening. Two days later, when I worked with her again, I was amazed at how much she had improved—she could repeat almost all of the French words needed. Can you imagine the challenges of a  33 year-old stake president with the majority of his members being baptized in the last 3 years?
Friday, I was able to surprise our two full time laundresses with some Lindor chocolate.  Big smiles from them reaffirmed that small things can give joy to both the receiver and the giver.  Saturday, the two men who mop the floors in our building were just as appreciative.

Christmas eve we spent at the pool next to the residence of the Area Presidency and the Temple President. We grilled chicken, baked salmon, and gobbled home made french fries along with salads and desserts. I followed Pudges’ example and served fresh pineapple slush with Canada Dry.  It was lovely to be outside even though it was still close to 90 degrees F. and was very relaxing.  It culminated with Pres. Stanfill sharing his testimony.  He grew up in Montana and shares similar experience with ours in S. Alberta.  Tom and I were grateful to listen to Handel’s Messiah from Kings College Cambridge as we went to sleep.

Pool party for Christmas Eve

Notice the all-natural table decorations!

NZ Poi ball demonstration by Srs. Webster and Simpson

She's in shape!

Our first Siamese twin bananas

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Week Before Christmas, Dec. 18 2016

It has been a great week for us.  Christmas concerts, Christmas music at home, patrons from Togo and new missionaries to take care of.   The highlight was attending the Church employee devotional last Tuesday morning.  Elder Nash was the concluding speaker.  I wish all of you readers could have been there to feel the spirit.  Trying to recapture for you the power of that experience is not possible, but we will try to share as much as we can.

He spoke about peace.  That is a major concept in this part of the world, where we continue to have major civil conflicts today (see recent news about Gambia , South Sudan, and the DRC) and other civil wars are still in people’s recent memory.  

Isaiah: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called wonderful…..the prince of peace.”  He shared the story of Helaman’s letter to Moroni from Alma 58, where Helamen and his band of 2000 stripling warriors were in dire straits.  They were outnumbered by the enemy and running so short of provisions that they feared starvation.  In our terms, they lacked resources, faced overwhelming odds, and were doomed to failure and personal destruction.  In those difficult circumstances they poured out their souls in prayer to God, and “he did speak peace unto our souls”, which gave them faith and hope for deliverance.  “And we did take courage…and thus we did go forth…”  He will do the same for us.

After the crucifixion, with the body of Christ missing from the tomb, his disciples were gathered together with the doors shut for fear of the Jews.  Christ came and stood in their midst and said, ”Peace be unto you.”

Elder Nash shared a very personal experience of visiting a hospital room of a young woman who had died suddenly of an infection, and with her family present a prayer was offered.   Light and peace came and filled the room.  After that the family was still in mourning, but they were not grieving.

He read from Matthew 11.  “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you…and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  Peace is rest to the weary, worried soul.  His yoke that we take on us is the yoke of discipleship.  We are to look to help  others, and then we will find peace for ourselves.  

And from the gospel of John: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.”   We can receive His peace even when our environment is not peaceful, even when we are struggling, even when we face great difficulties.  And His peace brings with it faith and hope and courage to move ahead in our discipleship to help others.

May you have peace this Christmas as you celebrate His birth!

 Temple patrons from French-speaking Togo staying in our building. 
Sue is in her exercise clothes. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December 11, 2016

Last Sunday we went along with the temple president and matron to a district conference at Asamankese.  The conference was somewhat challenging for us since several participants spoke in Twi.  Pres. Simpson, the mission president, gave an inspired talk to close the meeting. He discussed the four things that the district needs do to qualify to become a stake within the coming year.  
A young girl at district conference

The journey itself was very interesting.  The 2 hour drive was through beautiful countryside, with some big hills.  The foliage could have been anywhere in Central America or the South Pacific.  We had rough gravel roads for about 1/4 of the trip.  The truly unique part was the enthusiastic political rally for the ruling party that we came upon as we traveled along.

A common mode of travel

Ghana held a presidential and parliamentary election this past Wednesday where the ruling party for the last seven years was defeated.  For many weeks we have heard the prayers by Ghanaians that this would be a peaceful election, whatever the outcome.  We also had warnings from US embassy email alert system about specific areas in Accra and elsewhere to avoid during the election day and until results were clear, so it was not without a bit of concern when we came across this demonstration.

There was danger that someone might fall off a truck or get hit by a passing vehicle, but otherwise it was just an exuberant display.  We almost captured the drums and horns in this video:

Prayers were answered in that things have been peaceful during and since the election.  We hope the transition will be the same.  The new president is to be inaugurated on Jan. 7.  

In the evening we enjoyed a progressive dinner at Alema Court with several missionary couples.  Our favorite part was the sharing of Christmas traditions and caroling.  Elder Peine told of Christmas as a child in Germany just after WWII and those who could sang along with Stille Nacht.  It was very touching.

A handwoven tablecloth

We found a walking stick (while we were walking, of course) and thought he deserved his photo here.  Sue had never seen one before.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Merry December! Dec 4, 2016

We had a marvelous Thanksgiving, found turkeys that cost 5$ a lb but everyone donated to the meat so it wouldn’t have to be chicken which we eat often. They were brined and delicious although not the perfect shape of those in America. The MTC cafeteria made us 20 lbs of mashed potatoes, and the 59 people who attended, brought vegetables, salads, stuffing,[my favorite with dried apricots and fresh cranberries and thyme], gravy, hot rolls and cranberry orange muffins. We are including a picture of the dessert table with many kinds of pie, fudge cake, banana cake and pumpkin bars.  I think everyone felt like it was Thanksgiving.
Last night was our Temple Christmas devotional which we have been practicing for. Tom accompanied the choir on the piano and organ for traditional carols and drums were added for our three African carols : 
OYE   sung in Fante  the title means  It is Good 
NYAME YE KESE sung in Twi and means God is Great  
JESU KA WO HO sung in Twi and means The Lord is with you

Elder Vern Stanfill of the Seventy was the guest speaker and gave a masterful talk of what Christmas and the atonement really mean. A gift was given to all the Temple workers—a kilo of rice and a liter of cooking oil. Everyone was delighted. Our President and his wife were delighted with how the evening went and how many attended. I spent some time taking pictures of our fellow workers. Most of them we only see in white. Their personalities definitely came out in their clothing.

The percussion section

The accompanist and conductor

Sister Antwi, assistant matron

Pres. and Sister Graham

Pres. Antwi

Pres.and Sister Assard

          We hope each of you enjoy your Christmas preparations!  We are looking forward to the broadcast from Salt Lake in the morning.  If we watch it live it will be 1 AM here.