Wednesday, March 4, 2015

E-mail dated 3/3/15

Mom and Family,
Akwaaba! Another week has passed, and this one was one of the busiest of my entire mission! Also one of the greatest as well :) Thank you all for you emails and the news that you sent me! It sounds like Murray played a crazy game in the state tournament and that everyone seemed to be talking about it. I wish I could have viewed the links! Tell Sunday that I still love him. I was also glad to hear that Gram's surgery went well and that everyone is happy and healthy!
I can't believe that February is over already, it truly feels like it just barely started. It's amazing what happens when you are busy with the Lord's work! This week was no different as we were overwhelmed with things to do in preparation for the baptism and the organization of the branch. We saw our baptismal candidates everyday this week and were able to finish all the lessons with all of them. They were all very prepared and our new candidate, Matilda Twumasi, easily passed her baptismal interview (that occurred the morning of the baptism!). The week began to get crazy on Friday as we had to put together our portable font with bolts and screws and then we had to find a way to fill it. One of our members hired 3 women to tote water on their heads from a well to fill the font, so we left early in the morning after we assembled it to work on the Takyi's house in my area. We used shovels and picks to excavate dirt around his foundation as we have been doing for the past month or so and on Friday we worked for about 4 hours there. When we finished, we went back to the chapel around 2 in the afternoon to see if the font was filled. The women had been working nonstop, fetching water from a well 10 minutes away and carrying 40 liters each on their heads. In 6 hours, the font was barely halfway full. We began helping them fetch the water, but our efforts didn't contribute very much, so we took a different approach. We had to have a lot of faith and told the lazy landlord that he needed to fix the water this very second. He grudgingly agreed and finally got the water pump working that he put in almost two months ago. Thank goodness!! The women were relieved and so were we. Everything was set for the next day.
On Saturday morning, the elders in my apartment all woke up early to clean the chapel in preparation for the service later that morning. We do this every Saturday morning for church on Sundays as well. After cleaning and meeting the other elders, we came back to our apartment, got ready and went back to the chapel around 10. When we got there President Stevenson had arrived to witness the baptism. Slowly the chapel began to fill and all of our candidates arrived. Sarfo and Matilda both quickly got dressed in their white baptismal clothes, but Augustina was beginning to very nervous when she got there. She said she didn't feel like she could be baptized because she is pregnant, but we reassured her it was nothing to worry about. We had the women in our group talk to her as well as President Stevenson. She came to a decision that she would like to be baptized after she delivers in June. We of course honored her decision and she still witnessed the others be baptized. I was sad to see her sit out, but it's okay! It was amazing to see Sarfo and Matilda receive their ordinance of salvation. It's hard to describe how happy you feel when someone you have come to love makes a big decision like that in their lives! To celebrate the collective 6 people we baptized as a district, President Stevenson took all the missionaries out to eat (Ironically at the restaurant where we used to hold church). We all enjoyed our rice and stew and talking with president!
The following day we were privileged to be in attendance as President Stevenson and the Praso District president organized the first branch in Dunkwa-on-Offin! We had over 130 people in attendance and we held an inspiring two hour service to commemorate the occasion. After the service we all took our first picture as a branch and it has to be my favorite picture of my mission so far. I hope you received all the pictures that I sent yesterday! Mission President and the District President then set apart all those that were called to the presidency and gave them all the keys necessary to salvation. How great is that blessing to have here in this small town in Ghana! I cannot even express my gratitude to the Lord for the way he has prepared this area. I am no longer serving in a group, but now officially as a recognized branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Wow.
And then yesterday the elders in my apartment climbed a large mountain in Dunkwa that overlooks the whole city, but that seems like a minor event compared to the other things that happened this weekend! Sorry for not emailing yesterday, but the power was out and we had to be to a Family Home Evening. So now I can answer your questions! Once again they wouldn't copy for some reason...
1) Hmmm.. I have really been thinking hard of things that I need, but I haven't been able to think of anything! I know whatever you put in there is exactly what I need :) Thank you so much!
2) Lessons can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Most lessons typically last between 45 minutes to an hour as we have to teach the material slowly so that people can fully understand it. We usually have around 6 lessons planned each day and the Lord typically allows us to be able to meet that goal.
3) In Africa, everything is within walking distance. We only use public transportation when we are going in and out of the main part of town, so we walk to and back from our areas each day. I honestly have no idea how far we walk each day... If I had to guess it's at least 4 miles or so. My feet definitely get a workout!
4) Nope, no change in the weather this week as it continues to be hot, humid and dusty. Small rain one day but not anything large at all. I can't wait for it to cool down during rainy season soon!
5) The biggest challenge for me personally right now is the language as I am struggling to learn it. It's not easy to sit idly by as Elder Bannerman speaks to everyone and I can't understand what they are saying. We are given no resources to learn Twi and even Elder Curtis has asked us to preach the gospel in the English language, so he even discouraged us to deeply learn it. It's not easy at all, but I am finding ways to overcome it!
6) Yes, there are many people that struggle with drinking and smoking, but mainly drinking! Alcohol is cheap and many people are addicted to it. Weed is also a problem.

7) Wow, I have been gone almost 200 days? I never would have even thought that. Times goes by very fast here, but I can admit that there is never a day that goes by that I don't think of home. But not in a longing way, but more of a motivation! When I think of the many blessings that I have at home and the joy that God has given to me, how can I not share that with others? I have become very settled here on my mission though, and it is sometimes weird to think that I have a nice house and American food at home. I love the Ghana culture so much and especially the people, when I wake up in the mornings I truthfully feel like I have lived here my whole life. It's so strange and hard to explain!
8) Yes, I am perfectly healthy!
Thank you all so much for you emails and support! I hope to hear from you all next week. I love you!
Elder Gavin Degen

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