Hey Family! I can't believe I've almost been out for 10 months already! I'm excited for the next 14 months and definitely excited to see all the additions of the nieces and nephews.
This week went great and far above what we thought we could do. Last week we had the tendency of leaving the apartment early and getting home a little earlier and it was really unproductive. No one is really around during the daytime but it's odd because normally in most area's people are in bed asleep by the time it gets dark which is around 7pm. [Give how close they are to the equator, the daylight span never changes] We decided to leave the apartment a little later and just have our lunch after our companion study so we get out about 12 noon and then finished by 9pm instead of 7-8. Not sure how but it changed everything for this week. We were teaching about 5 lessons a day (about 30 total for the week) and were able to contact more serious investigators. We have been spending way to long in lessons so we are both working on making our lessons under an hour. We like to spend time so that they can understand everything very well but it comes with disadvantages. We finished the week with 5 investigators with baptism dates, 6 investigators at church, 5 member present at lessons, and 5 New investigators. These are the focus key indicators in our mission and if we are able to accomplish 5 for each category each week then we achieve our mission standards, which is like a mission goal. While I was serving in the office I only really saw 3-4 companionship's accomplish this each week and those who did were in extremely good area's. Batsonaa is a pretty tough area, but this week we were able to see some really good people to whom we were led. We were also really blessed to have our investigators show up to church because normally they make the promise, but the church is to far for them to walk and they don't want to pay for the transport to get to the church.
We were able to extend baptism dates to 5 people this week, even though 4 of them were minors, who are children to recent converts. Even though they're children their parents know the importance for them to make the decision for them self. We've asked the parents not to force their kids to come to church but to choose for themselves if they would like to. We treat them like adults when we teach them even though the oldest is 15 and the youngest is 10. They all seem to enjoy church and want to be baptized. One of the children was saying how he liked church even before his mom was baptized 6 months ago and he thought she had to be baptized first.
I'm really starting to connect with the ward and our bishop as well. Our bishop wants to make sure that we are getting fed by members and trusts us that we'll make an impression and be able to get some referrals out of them. So far so good! One of the referrals is one of our baptism candidates! I'll talk more about all the people we are teaching individually next week but I just wanted to let you know more of a broad view for this week.
The beginning of the week was slow. All of our investigators were just not serious about keeping commitments. The frustrating things about Ghanaian's are that they will believe everything you teach them, but won't do anything about it. I think the funniest story I've heard yet has been about a couple missionaries who started to teach a pastor who just started his church and was growing his congregation. He was new and was still improving his knowledge of the bible, so he agreed to take lessons with the missionaries. They taught them everything they could and he believed it all, including the Book of Mormon. But instead of joining the church, he decided to just take all the beliefs and teach them to his own congregation! He will be preaching his sermon and quoting scriptures from the Book of Mormon! There is a Nigerian Pastor that goes by the name Pastor Chris, who was a member and went to BYU, who preaches to all of Africa using his own doctrine and doctrine of the Church. If you look him up I'm sure you'll find out a whole lot of things about him because he is FAMOUS here. Anyway I'm just trying to let you know I've been seeing a pattern with some people. My companion and I have been working hard with the members and it seems to be going well. We were given a referral from a member and it was their nanny who stays with them 24/7. We were able to teach her, and although she is holding onto beliefs of her old church still I can see her faith grow.
Another cool experience of the week was when a couple of our appointments fell through and so we decided to visit one of our investigators at a restaurant where she works. While we were talking to her, there were two women staring at us and when we were about to leave they called over the investigator and asked her to tell us to wait for them because they wanted to talk to us. I was thinking that they were probably wives of pastors and wanted to accuse us of teaching false doctrines, but instead they asked if they could learn more about our church! It was crazy. They were coming to us instead of us having to contact them. We still aren't sure how serious they'll be, but I'm hoping that since they came to us we'll be able to make them more interested!
Hey Everybody! I heard the big news of Lindsey and her new fat baby! Seems like all Smith babies are destined to be big! Congrats Lindsey and Collin for your new baby girl!
This week was a little slower then last week. We didn't have as many lessons and were only able to manage 20 lessons for the week I know that might sound like a lot, but out here it's really not very difficult. What we did have strength in is that we had two baptisms this week! Their names are Emmanuel and Jennifer and they are about 30 years old and are married with 3 children. I didn't really teach them the lessons since I just got here, but I was able to continue the teaching where Elder Falk left off. (Elder Falk is the person who replaced me in the office and I replaced him in Batsona). They are really awesome people and they feed us almost every time we go to their place. For work he is kind of a landscaper for nice buildings and such, but specializes in flowers. He first heard of the church because he knew how big a project the temple is. He tried to get the contract for the landscaping there but never got it. They were a referral from a recent convert in the area named Josephine. Josephine is kind of our go to person when our investigators aren't real serious. She leads us to a lot of serious investigators and we are really happy that she's so willing to help with the missionary work. The Batsona ward needs a lot of help and I'm hoping that she can set an example as such a new member to some of the older members.
This Sunday was missionary Sunday. They have missionary Sunday every 2nd week of the month, and it's where missionaries will give talks and all the meetings will be focused on missionary work. I didn't know about this since I'm new and our ward mission leader told me Saturday night that I would be speaking and let me choose my own topic. I decided that I would not stress over it that night and get a good night's rest and hopefully the Lord would guide me on what I should speak on the next morning. I woke up and no luck... I got to church and still had no idea what to talk about. It wasn't until 10 minutes before I was to get up to talk that I decided I would talk about Saul who later changes his name to Paul. The good thing about being a missionary is that you're always reading the scriptures so I already knew all the scriptures pertaining to Paul and his conversion story. I continued to talk about how we can all be like Paul. We repent, and start preaching the word of God. I gave some small words of advice as well and told them that if they want to be able to preach the Gospel that they have to start small and study their scriptures. I gave them the scripture D&C 11:21 (I think) where it says ''first seek to obtain my word and then to declare my word.' Anyway I was really impressed that I was able to speak for 10 minutes without having anything prepared and I feel like I was really speaking what the Holy Ghost wanted me to say.
After sacrament I was told that I was to teach the primary class which was really fun. We talked about Alma the younger and how we can repent. After this class we started going into priesthood exercises and we were called on again to teach the whole primary class. We taught them about how we can follow the example of Jesus Christ in our lives. We had some of the kids come up to the board and I traced their hands and wrote inside something they can do to follow the example of Jesus Christ. It was a fun class! and the kids are SMART! I went in thinking they didn't know anything but they know almost everything!
Hope everything went well this week and hoped that conference was good! I've heard some good things so I'm downloading some of the talks now so I can listen to them later.
My first week in Batsonaa has been really good! The first couple of days were really hot and I was sweating like crazy. I've been used to A/C so much that I haven't had to worry about the heat to much. It kind of sucks because our room has no airflow so it's always hot and the fans that my companion and I have both suck really bad, you can't feel anything. I've had to wash my sheets a couple of times since I sweat at night pretty bad, but thats just something I'll have to live with. Some sad news is that my camera is dead now. It won't work at all and I'm deeming it useless. I've asked some senior couples to keep their eye out for me so hopefully soon I can get one.
This week was really nice to just go out and teach people without having to worry about problems throughout the mission. Although I did receive a lot of calls throughout the week from my replacement Elder Falk on how to do some things and Also from other missionaries calling to make sure of some things. We were able to have about 30 lessons this week which is pretty good and we also had 8 member present lessons which is really good as well. We're planning on baptizing 2 people. We've taught them a couple of times and they're both really cool. It's a married couple and their names are Emmanuel and Jennifer. We are trying to get some more serious people to teach but a lot of them seem to just like our company and don't have much interest in coming to church. Elder Eli relates really well with the people and I can see him learning and applying the scriptures more and more each lesson. As of now I don't really feel like the senior companion because he has such a desire to lead, I give him council at times, but he's been leading out most of the lesson's and is trying to get me to know the area as soon as possible. The ward was really cool and Saturday we went to a woman's house that is very wealthy. It was her birthday and I guess she's the wife of an old mission president in Nigeria. Walking to her house I really felt like I was in America. It was a gated community and there were no open gutters and all the houses had yards and lawns, it was quite a sight!
Elder Eli is still doing good! To give more information on him, He is an awesome cook. He doesn't really know how to make american or european food very well but the African food he makes is freaking amazing. We've kind of made it a tradition in our apartment for all of us to pitch in to buy food and then have Eli cook it all for us. It's going pretty good so far! He's also phenomenal at Soccer. He was playing for a local team back home but had to stop because of a shoulder injury. We played today in Klagon with some other elders and he was dominating everyone. I'm not bad compared to most of the Americans but I suck compared to the Africans.
To answer some questions: Mondays will continue to be P-Day for me, I'm able to talk to all immediate family members for mothers day so I'll call all of you! I'm not sure if I'll be able to skype yet but I wouldn't count on it. The people I teach aren't very educated. I'm used to it so I don't see them as uneducated as much but for you guys to picture it better then yes they are very uneducated. We don't really teach anyone wealthy. It happens every once in a while but it's rare. I haven't been sick yet either.
We haven't had light off this week! [They haven't lost electricity] This is normal though ever since Christmas because of the election this year. The president is hoping to get reelected and he wants the people happy so lights off has become rare ever since christmas time.