Monday, October 26, 2015

E-mail dated 10/26/15

Family and Friends,
Akwaabo! Thank you everyone for your emails and support this past week, I needed them! Elder Carlson and I were extremely busy as we were preparing for our baptism last Saturday, and because of all of your prayers, it was successful. 

The Lord blessed us with 11 baptisms this past week! I wish I could go through each one of their stories and tell you have they became converted, but I don't have enough time in the world! Here are their names:
Esther Parker
Uriah Sayou
Prince Somah
Bindu Smart
Korah Smart
Patience Smart
Emmanuel Ngorah
Armah Kanneh
Princess Cooper
Josephus Toman
Stephen Robertson
It was an amazing service and I'll send the pictures as soon as I can! I'll answer your questions now...

1.  Do you know why Elder Bednar is coming to your mission next week?  Will he be meeting with the missionaries?  How long will he be there?
He is coming to strengthen the saints in Liberia! He is in Accra right now for the mission president's seminar, and then he will fly here on Saturday. Also, he is going to be mic'd up and followed by a camera crew for a documentary about the Church in Liberia. He will speak to all the members in the country on Sunday morning, and then Sunday afternoon he is meeting with the leaders of the branches/districts and the missionaries are invited to attend! So I pray that I will be able to shake his hand. He will leave Sunday evening back to Utah after a 10 day adventure for him and his wife. 

2.  About how many lessons do you and Elder Carlson teach each day?  
It's usually around 6 or so. We consistently get 30-40 lessons a week. And that's not me trying to brag about numbers, because I could seriously sit down in a chair on a corner of a road and have 10 lessons in one day without approaching a single person. People are just dying to hear the gospel here.

3.  Is there strong Priesthood leadership in your branch?  I would assume that with so many wanting to join the church that leadership issues might be a problem.
Thankfully we have such great leadership here in the Paynesville Branch! Our branch president and his counselors are all return missionaries and they know how to get things done. Obviously there are some things that are different from back home that the leaders lack, but I have been blown away at how self-sufficient the Church is here compared to Cape Coast. It's been a big blessing. 

4.  Is there a good mix of adults, youth and children in your Branch?  

Yes, it's pretty balanced! There are a lot of Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the branch, which is a good indicator that the branch will split soon. I am also surprised at how many sisters in the branch are return missionaries as well. The children are plentiful as always.

5.  About how many miles does your Branch encompass?  It is a hardship for them to get to church on Sunday?
Our branches boundaries are unknown. My guess is that some members travel from 4-5 miles to get to Church, which is a big sacrifice financially. It's most hard when we have people dying to come to the chapel, but they can barely afford to eat the following day let alone pay the $1 for transportation. It's hard to see. 

6.  Do you have any idea about how much money people there earn working full time?  I am just curious if it is comparable to US wages.  I'm sure it is not.  Do you know of anyone who has a lot of money (like the guy you lived close to Ghana that was from Utah).
I'm not %100 certain, but judging from what I've seen so far, if a family makes $2,000 a year then they are doing really well. It's pretty hard knowing that my subsistence I pulled today is more than a family of 5 will have for the month. I haven't met any rich miners yet, but a woman in my branch is going to America this week, and she is dying to contact you Mom! She also knows the Peterson's (Eric's mission couples) really well. She owns an orphanage and a school and she is going to the states to work with some people to adopt her orphans.

7.  What was your biggest challenge this week?  Your sweetest success?
My biggest challenge this week was having to tell multiple people they could not be baptized. We had been teaching them for weeks, they have been coming to church for months, but they couldn't be baptized because they aren't legally married. To get a traditional marriage legalized, it costs $50 and they have to bring their birth certificates (which a lot of people don't have), so it is extremely difficult for them. I have heard of couples saving up for a year to get their marriage legalized so that they could be baptized, and I hope that happens to my candidates as well! My sweetest success was by far watching these amazing 11 people be baptized on Saturday. I think hearing their testimonies was probably the time in the service when I felt the spirit the most. It was so rewarding to see these people so happy. 

I love you all, thank you for everything you do for me!

Elder Degen

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