Monday, April 27, 2015

E-mail dated 4/27/15

Family and Friends,
Akwaabo! Good afternoon everyone! Thank you for your emails and words of encouragement this week. I was happy to hear that it's warming up in Utah and that everyone is slowly getting ready for summer! It sounds like everything is well and school is almost coming to an end. That's exciting! I'm looking forward to hearing about all the fun things that are about to happen. Keep me updated!

As for me, my week was a crazy one! It's going to take a minute to explain everything, but I'm going to try. So on Wednesday our district went to one of our recently discovered member's orphanage! He runs it by himself and he has about 4 orphans that he houses and takes as his own. We traveled for about 20 minutes north to get to his village and then we all helped weed his farm and plant coconut trees! It was a really cool service activity and I got some sweet pictures. I will try and attach one with the children! The rest of the weekdays were pretty normal, but on Sunday it was a different story. We had a district conference in Praso (about 2 1/2 hours away) and the branch hired one tro for the branch. Needless to say, there are plenty members and there wasn't enough room for the missionaries. We called President Stevenson to see what to do and he told us to find any tro we could and pay the guy as much as he wanted! So, all 8 of the missionaries hired our own car and made it to Praso for 300 cedis! They held the conference at a really nice school called the Forever Young School (apparently it's sponsored by Steve Young, but I don't know if that's true...). There were a lot of people there, and it was amazing to see the Priesthood advancement by some of the Dunkwa members, inculding my recent convert, Sarfo! He admitted to me that he is planning to go on a mission and I can't even describe to you how happy I was. Also, Abigail was in Kumasi (about 5 hours away from Praso) on Saturday evening, but she slept at the tro station, woke up, and caught a car straight to the conference. We were amazed at her commitment! The Lord really blessed Elder Loader and I this week, as we were able to put in 62(!) proselyting hours in the past 7 days. The average for the mission is 45. We are working well together and are really excited at the progress we are making!

I do have an amazing story to tell for this week though. I don't know if I have mentioned Brother Essien to you before, but he has become one of Elder Loader and I's favorite people in Ghana. He is the chef of the white guy who lives next to us and he has an incredible life story. He is a Ghanaian and was born close to Kojokrom (my first zone) and his mother lives in Eshiem. I knew her very well when I was there as she was the relief society president and easily the most powerful member in the village. When brother Essien got older, he went on his mission to the Ghana Accra Mission, which at that time (1993?) encompassed all of Ghana. He served for 3 years because of a shortage of missionaries and he went out un-endowed because there wasn't a temple in West Africa at the time! He had amazing success though as he baptized 211 people. I can't even imagine. He came home a powerful return missionary and began looking for a way to get money to go to school. He got cheated by a man who promised to help him and so he decided he would make his own way. He went down to Tema with a few other Ghanaians and stowed away on a ship going to Morocco. They traveled for over a week and when all of the stow-away's were getting out, they got caught and put in prison for 3 days by the Spanish government. They all were put back on a ship to Africa and they went back the way they came. As they sailed back home, the ship didn't stop in Ghana, but it went straight to Nigeria! All of the Ghanaians were stranded in a foreign country without a single penny to their names. Brother Essien split off from the others and went his own way, and as he was walking away from the port, he felt prompted to talk to a man  getting out of his car at a nearby parking lot. He told the man he was LDS and amazingly the man was a member. Brother Essien told the man his story and the man gave him some money to get to the Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission home. When he got there, the mission president didn't believe his story at all, but when he met the AP's one of them happened to be his convert from Ghana! So the mission president gave him money to stay with a member nearby and off he went. His first Sunday in his new branch, he met the two missionaries serving there and guess what? They were both his recent converts from his mission! They somehow directed him to a member who could find him a job. He wound up at the doors of the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and he miraculously got a job as a security guard at the embassy. As he made friends with the diplomats there, one of the wives helped him fulfill his interest of cooking and sent him to cooking school as a part time job while he worked at the embassy. When he graduated, he was hired as a cook for one of the embassy workers and he soon found a wife and gave birth to 3 children. Sadly, the wife left him, and him and his children moved back to Ghana because he found a job in Dunkwa through the Embassy. When he got to Dunkwa, he got a hold of President Schulz' number and after a year or so, missionaries were finally sent up here last November. He remains one of the most powerful members I have ever met in my life and his family is amazing. His 15 year old daughter gave a talk in the district conference yesterday. He is planning to move to the U.S. in the coming years, and I would be thrilled if I met up with him later in life. I love the Essien's!

Sorry that story was really long... I'll now answer your questions!

1) I still talk with a few of my high school friends, but it's mainly Kyle! I receive his emails every week and I love seeing how he's doing in Paraguay. As for the others, I hear about them through other people or on their blogs!

2) Rainy season has started. It rains every day in the evening without fail. I thought the rainy season would be cooler, but I was wrong! It just makes it more humid!

3) District Conference was great. I think I already explained that one... But yes, the envelope did arrive with the debit card and IDL safely inside! Thank you so much. Sorry for the trouble that I caused. I'll give the license to the Hanlon's tomorrow and it will go to the mission home and never be used. 

4) One of our members is a police man and he is awesome. The police honestly don't do too much though... I'll tell everyone some crazy stories when I get home. To be brief, the police accept bribes of any amount, so they are pretty lax on some things.

5) I have not seen a single movie theater in Ghana. I don't think they have any... There are some American movies though that have been pirated from China that make their way to the streets! That's close to a movie theater, right?

6) I'm gathering a list of things that I need and I will try and send you what I have so far next week! Thank you so much.
Well, I thinks that's everything for this week. I hope that everyone stays safe and sound. Enjoy your week!

 I love you all.
Elder Degen

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