Sunday, October 15, 2017

October 15, 2017 A Cultural Evening

We had a cultural experience last night which enlarged our perspective of the people of Ghana. We purchased tickets to a high school musical production  [The Pirates of Penzance] held at  the National Theatre. Each ticket was 70 cedis which is about $16 and more than many Ghanaians can earn in a week. We had several questions about the cost and the production itself, but were interested in the Gilbert and Sullivan play as a diversion to our weekly responsibilities. About 12 missionary couples including the Temple President and the MTC President enjoyed the evening.

The National Theater
Three musicians statue

We arrived almost an hour early and chose to sit by a Ghanaian woman who told us her name was Tamara, that she had attended this high school and had been a chorus member when Penzance had last been put on in 1985. She shared that this school was considered the best in the country and was run by the government. I did not dare ask how you were allowed or chosen to attend.  She told us that the beautiful theatre had been built with a grant from the Chinese government in the early 90’s.  She also said that Nkrumah, the first President of independent Ghana, had attended that school as well as the past president and first lady of the country.  The previous first lady then arrived and sat about 5 rows in front of us.

Inside the theater - vibrant chair covers!  The 2nd balcony is out of view.
Tamara, who sang every word in the production
Cheerful alumni

We wondered if the theatre would be filled [2000-2500seats] but by 6:30 they were mostly taken and we were the only white people there. Then a school representative announced that we were waiting for the arrival of a special guest and then the play would begin. Within a few minutes, the current president of Ghana arrived with his wife and entourage of huge body guards.  We all stood as he entered and then sang the national anthem.

The operetta was done by a cast made up of alumni, with the choruses done by current students at the school.  The live orchestra was very good, as were the principals.  It was fairly standard Gilbert and Sullivan except that in some of the songs the words were changed to fit the current situation.  For example, in “I am the very model of a modern major general”, the words were changed to reflect some of the campaign slogans of the newly elected president.  There were other insertions that made the production relevant to Ghana and the audience loved it.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get all the cultural inside jokes but it was still very fun - a parody of a parody. 

The major general's daughters

After it was all finished, the MC came onstage to introduce the cast, and then invited the president to join them onstage for a photo-op.  Again wildly received by the audience!  After all that, the national anthem was sung enthusiastically, followed by the school song, done with equal gusto.

The whole evening was like joining a multi-class school reunion, campaign rally, musical production, and patriotic event all rolled into one.  It was a unique insight into this slice of the population, which we have not seen as a group before.  These were obviously people with means, committed to raising money for the school, proud of their country and its cultural heritage.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 8, 2017

We were inspired by the talks and music of General Conference last weekend and are looking forward to studying them over the next six months.  We invited a local sister to watch the sessions with us.  It was the first time she had seen a live broadcast and the first time she could watch all the sessions (except the Priesthood Session which aired here at midnight) in one weekend.  Most members here do not have the internet at home even if they are fortunate enough to have a computer.  The Saturday afternoon and Priesthood sessions were broadcast at the stake center on Sunday with some technical difficulties.

We were fortunate to watch the funeral services for Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve, on Friday evening.  His life was an example of devotion to building the Lord’s kingdom in spite of severe health challenges.  His wise and gentle counsel will be remembered.  

While working in the temple we occasionally have some amusing experiences, mostly due to the naiveté of the new patrons and the challenge of different languages.  For example, the president of the MTC, in preparing new missionaries for their temple experience, tells them that they will be ushered into a dressing room where they will change their clothes and put on the white clothing that they bring from the MTC.  As these missionaries arrive, they are usually taken into the waiting room before being brought in groups of four to the office for verification of their membership records, prior to being taken to the dressing rooms.

One morning this week, the first small group of male missionaries arrived and were asked to wait in the waiting room next to the recommend desk until the others in their group arrived.  This is the same room where our baptismal groups wait.  A few minutes later, the MTC leader heard a commotion from the brother at the recommend desk.  One of the missionaries had emerged from the waiting room, half dressed in his white clothes, and was asking in French where he could get his white slippers.  He was promptly sent back into the waiting room by the anxious, finger-pointing desk attendant who couldn’t speak any French.  The MTC leader was about to take the rest of the group, including sister missionaries, into the waiting room but as he opened the door he found four missionaries in various states of undress getting into their white clothing.  He quickly closed the door and recruited help from someone who spoke French to have the missionaries get back into their street clothes.  The new missionaries had just assumed that the waiting room was the dressing room, and that they should start changing.

Later this week we had a group of 12 unendowed elders with their two previously endowed but inexperienced escorts who went on a session.  Toward the end of the two hour experience, a worker realized that neither of the two escorts had been given a name slip of a deceased person to represent on the session.  They pointed to their escort badge, thinking that  it was all that was needed.  We realized that the brother at the door of the session room needed more instruction in checking to see that all who entered were properly prepared for the session.  Having large groups of inexperienced patrons is a challenge because we never know what they don’t know, or what they might do when not closely attended.

One morning early this week, Tom was exiting our apartment to go exercise.  In the hallway he met a boy who was about 4 years old.  The little boy looked up at him with a smile and pointed, saying “Prophet, prophet!”  We laughed a lot about that one!

Laughing is a very healthy outlet.  Fortunately we have been blessed with a sense of humor and can laugh often at our own foibles.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Help is on the way! October 1, 2017

This past week the new full-time temple staff (the assistant reorder, and the two clerks) were being trained by the recorder from S. Africa.  We have known two of the three since our arrival in Ghana and they will be very helpful workers in the office.  One starts officially on Tuesday while the other two start November 1, so we will still be needed to assist for a while.  As many questions came up about procedure and policy, typical in training situations, it became clear that with these full-time workers the temple will make great gains in consistency and stability, and we are excited for this new era to begin.

Sue had a wonderful experience this week.  In the group from Sierra Leone there was a man whose young wife had died a couple of years ago, to whom he wished to be sealed.  Sue represented her in an endowment session and also in the sealing session.  When we have groups that come from far way, we usually hold a group sealing session, rather than doing one couple at a time.  For that group we had six families, more than normal, and there were many jubilant smiles as they exited the sealing room together.

A tragic story also came from this group.  One young returned missionary came with his parents to be sealed to them.  He had been job-sharing in a factory with his cousin who was married and with his bride was expecting a baby in a few months.  The night of the terrible rains and mid slides in Sierra Leone, his cousin and pregnant wife were killed.  When one considers the wars, disease (Ebola), and other tragedies that these good people have endured, it makes us grateful that the Lord provides a way for families to be together forever.  

Today with our normal Sunday meetings canceled due to General Conference we had a pancake breakfast for the temple president and matron and the other three temple missionaries  besides ourselves.  One of the counselors in the presidency had given the matron a fruit (unnamed) which we were advised would taste good if we cut it open and ate it.  Many of you may recognize it.  We didn’t at first.  Here are some pictures:

This is of course a coco fruit, from which chocolate is derived.  The outside looks a bit like a squash and is very tough.  The inside is full of seeds joined in a gelatinous white mass in a clove shape.  If you suck the seeds they have a sweet citrusy flavor that doesn’t last long.  If you dry the seeds and take off the hulls you have the coco bean, which can then be ground into raw coco, very bitter but the base for chocolate.  You can see all three aspects here.

We really enjoyed the first session of conference yesterday afternoon and are looking forward to the rest later today.  Happy October!