Sunday, November 29, 2015

On Poverty and Happiness

Excerpt of Letter From Dad

...we enjoyed Thanksgiving. I hope that you got to have a small celebration .  It is a good time to think about everything we are thankful for.  We all live in such abundance.  I suspect that has never been more clear to you than it is now.  I bet you have seen real poverty for the first time in your life.  I also suspect that you have seen those with truly little who are nevertheless happy.  It is a great opportunity to learn that we can be happy even when we have little, and that we should be so grateful for our abundance.

Brigham's Reply

It sounds like a great Thanksgiving. We had Zone Training Thursday in Nungua. Luckily that is where one of the really nice malls is so we went and enjoyed a little bit.

The interesting thing about poverty here is that I am actually in one of the richest areas of the mission. There are many houses that are nicer than ours yet there is still so much poverty. My favorite person to teach if the poorest by far. But she is also the happiest and such a delight to be around. Its really sad when people say, "I want to be baptized this month rather than getting traditionally married and getting baptized next month because God could take my life at anytime." We don't think about that back home. Here they know that their situations are sometimes dire, but they still love God and are as happy as can be.

This week seemed to be a pretty bland week.  Unfortunately the missionary work slowed down a bit after our 2 baptisms last week.  Elder Ojaide and I did not seem to be together as much as we usually are because he had some Zone Leader duties to attend to.  As a result I had more opportunities to lead lessons.

I am getting more comfortable and enjoy leading and directing the lessons as well as talking to people.  I have found a natural cycle of my progress.  I have periods where I feel like I am ineffective and don't teach lessons well.  I humble myself and I have desire to learn more and become better.  As a result I pick up on things and have learned many important teaching skills.  I feel like I am teaching well and have things figured out. Then God always has a way to humble me and remind me that I don't know everything. In fact I know very little and I am "weak and simple."  So I have to humble myself again and learn more.

This cycle is something that is very interesting to me because it resembles closely the pride cycle found so often in the Book of Mormon.  I am working at always keeping myself humble and desiring to learn more, to find my weaknesses and make them strengths. I am grateful to learn things for myself.  I have always been someone that learns better from doing and experimenting, and learning from my mistakes, rather than watching other people do things.

Sounds like things are going well at home. All the Americans in our apartment die when we think about cold and snow and temple square lights. It is all of our first winter out here and we are all missing our traditional Christmas. We are getting excited here for Christmas. I am planning ways to make Christmas fun. Enjoy the beginning of the Christmas Season! Love you all.

Elder Shelton

Monday, November 16, 2015

Two Baptisms!

Dear Family,

Brigham's First Baptisms
This week has been an interesting week. Elder Ojaide had to go do a bunch of exchanges this week so I was with Elder Johnson for a lot of this week. He is a fairly new missionary as well so it was interesting to be able to step up and take a bigger role in the missionary work. As I did I discovered some things I am good at as well as many things I am not good at. A big chunk of our time was spent preparing G and A for baptism. Everything went according to our plan and they were baptized Sunday. I had the opportunity to baptize them as well as 2 other people that the sisters in our ward had been teaching. It was a really great experience. I pray that it meant as much to them as it did to me. The service was great and Pres. and Sis. Heid showed up unexpectedly.

Other than that not much else took place this week. Although we did have a combined zone activity again today that was really fun. As well as transfers tomorrow, I will still be in Tema with Elder Ojaide, Elder Buys and Elder Johnson will stay here as well. I completely forgot it was Thanksgiving this week. Elder Ojaide and I will celebrate somehow this week small.

Mom's Questions:
How many cedis do you get a month to use? 360
And what besides food do you have to pay for? Washing supplies, apartment items, transportation.
Seems like you are growing and learning a lot. What did you learn this week?I learned that showing gratitude first before looking at the negatives makes everything better.
How are things going with Elder O? How long has he been out? He has been out for 1 year 6 months. Things are going fine.
Does he have family in the church? All of his family is. He only has 1 sister.
Nigeria is a pretty dangerous place isn't it? No, very safe. Many people say it is dangerous but Elder Ojaide would say there are only a couple of people who do very bad things and everybody hears about that. There is the Boko Haram there which everyone is afraid of but they pose really no threats.
What is your address; I'd like to try to Google Earth it and see where you live. Sorry mom, there aren't addresses in Ghana. I would say I am at community 9 hospital road, across the new pharmacy.
I'm so glad the bishop has been so good to you. Have you eaten in his home, or other members? Or do you mostly eat at home? Do you just buy prepared food off the street or take it home to prepare?
I have only eaten in members homes twice. Mostly eat and cook at home by myself. I have made homemade chicken noodle soup, teryiaki rice, and lettuce wraps this last week.
 Do you shop in "grocery stores", or is it markets and shops along the street where you have the meat market, vegetable market, bakery, ect? I have been to one grocery store and it took us an hour to get there. I like to go to the market but we only go when we have time on P-day which is never. There are provisional shops run by women that are everywhere and that is where we buy most of our stuff.
I love hearing about the strangest thing you saw during the week. I'm sure as time goes on there will be less and less that seems strange to you. What was strange this week? Last week we were teaching somebody about obeying the law and a guy came and peed right in front of us into the gutter. It happens quite a bit.
What is something that is different or unexpected about Africa than what you thought before you got there?It is much more city like than I would have thought.

Sounds like you are having a great time back home. Soak up the cold weather for me. Have a great Thanksgiving. Its a perfect time to realize how much we are all blessed. We are blessed more than you know. I will be thinking about you and I love you.

Elder Shelton
Brig Has Always Adored the Kids!

Brigham's District
Zone Activity

Monday, November 9, 2015

Baptisms Coming and More About Goats

Dear Family,

We have had a good week this week, I won't mention numbers or Josh will die. But we are planning on having 2 baptisms this week. The first is a Sister A______. She was a member referral and is now living with Bishop Mensah and has progressed well through all of the lessons. The second we are baptizing is Brother G_____. We found him in our area book and finally had the opportunity to meet him and he has a great desire to get baptized and has a great motivation to do baptisms for the dead for his ancestors. I never realized how much baptisms for the dead means for some of these people. I have always had temples all around me and had an opportunity to go do work for the dead all of the time. Brother G's desire to do baptisms for the dead has made me realize how important and significant temple work is. He wants his ancestors to have and accept the gospel and those ordinances so much, it touches my heart. He asked if he could do anything specific so his ancestors would accept the ordinances. It is truly a blessing to have temples all over the world.

This week I had the opportunity to visit some of the really good members of the church. Christmas is around the corner so I have been thinking about how different this Christmas will be away from home. I remembered something President Crandall told me before I left. He said, "There will be times where you will miss your family. You are being called to be a part of other families now. Those are the families you will be serving." This week I have felt part of different families in the ward. It has been such a blessing to have such loving families to serve around. Bishop Mensah and his family have already had a great influence on me. I can feel that love that comes from families from them. Bishp Mensah is incredible by the way. He is about 30, has 3 kids under the age of 4, works at the MTC training the teachers, and is in college. He has an incredibly busy life but is one of those people who seems to take time with everyone to make them feel important. He is a blessing in my life.

This week I have learned many things. I have learned the importance and how to teach in unity better. I also learned the importance of not giving up on people. I was concerned that we were spending too much time on people that we would need to put too much work into, to get them to be baptized. Elder Ojaide told me of some experiences he has had of people changing their lives completely because of the gospel. My heart was softened as I realized that God doesn't give up on people, so why should I be so quick to do so? I hope I can be the means of helping even one person see the effects of the atonement in their life.

Answering mom's questions:
When you talk about marriages, what is knocking? Man does the knocking meaning he goes to the woman's parents and asks what the bride price will be. It sometimes takes years to pay the bride price so they are legally wed when knocking has been done. The Church is actually trying to do away with it.

Are you starting to adjust to the new culture? Yep, funny story: Usually people are scared at night when a black person is in a dark alley with them and such. The other day I saw a white person and I got that same kind of nervousness. It was kind of funny.

How is the power- still 24 on 12 off, or the other way around? They just take and give whenever. It usually is close to 24 on 12 off but we never know when it will be on or off which is the most frustrating part.

What were you most grateful for this week? Our trip to shoprite today so I could buy ground-beef. I wanted to buy cheese but a block was 100 cedis (about $26 American dollars). In all actuality though I was grateful for the knowledge I gained this week. I am also grateful for good members.

Again, the strangest thing you saw this week? I saw a goat get run over by a car the other week, get up, shake it off and keep going on.

I am sorry mom I am not sending pictures. We are told not to proselyte with a camera so I don't know when I would take pictures.  I am starting to feel the pain of no snow. Especially for Christmas. I was telling this boy in our ward about what are Christmases are like and about playing in the snow. He was so excited it was cute. I love you all. Have a good week.

Elder Shelton

Goat Liver Isn't My Favorite Food

Dear Family,

This week has been a good week. Tuesday we had a district meeting and President Heid and his wife came. It was incredibly spiritual. Elder Francisco, my District Leader, went home to Angola today. In the district meeting President asked him to talk about his mission a little bit. He spoke no English when he got here and it was hard for him to learn. He came from a place where the church is not plenty and his family aren't all members. He bore one of the most solemn spiritual testimonies I have heard. It was sad to see such a great missionary go. Sister Heid talked about how one of her grandchild's friend committed suicide. She reminded us how important it is to be a friend to all and it was something that really struck my heart. It was a really good meeting.

The work here in Tema doesn't seem to be easy. We have 4 investigators with baptismal dates but hope to pick up the slack this week and have a lot more. People are happy to listen to us and even to read the things we give them. The hard part is in getting them to believe that this church is the only church on this earth with a fullness  of the truth. They believe in the Book of Mormon and accept what we say but don't come to church because they are either busy or going to their own church. People love to talk to us about religion, they just aren't willing to change even if they know it is the truth. People are stuck on little things as well. One day I had to answer 3 different times in 3 different lessons why we worship on Sunday. Its great though that people are receptive.

Interesting things: I have made several kids cry because I am white. Goat liver isn't my favorite food. Everyone wants me to take them to America. They have a U.S. Visa lottery here. One of the hardest things I have to deal with here is refusing to give struggling people money. Every day someone will come up to us because I am white and have a name tag on. They are in dire situations and I feel so bad that I can't do anything to help. It is hard to walk away from someone like that who really needs help and knows you are good, christian people.

Answers to Mom's questions:
Are you getting used to the food and what is swallow food that you mentioned last week? I don't eat Ghanaian food much so no. Swallow is a food group here. Fufu is a swallow. They are like doughs that you swallow and dont chew.

Are you getting used to the heat and humidity yet? Yeah its not too bad.

What is Accra like? A lot like a big city but streets have markets and people weave through the cars at stoplights to sell stuff.

What kinds of homes do you teach in? Some you look around and could be in the U.S. Usually though we teach outside. Some people live in little huts with tin roofs. They all have power when it is on though.

What are some of their customs? Marriage is very different here. Bride price and such.

Is using your left hand a bad thing in the city like we read about before you left home? Yes using left is bad. I have had people call me out on that.

I love all of you. Sounds like you are having fun at home. Keep putting yourselves out there!

Elder Shelton

Monday, November 2, 2015

Answered Prayer

Dear Family,
This week was filled with some incredible experiences. Thursday Elder Bednar was in town. Unfortunately we did not have a mission conference with him. He did have a member fireside though. We were invited to go as long as we had an investigator or recent convert with us. The plan was to meet one of our recent converts at the chapel at 3:00 where there would be a van to take to the ward in Accra. (The fireside was at the stake center next to the temple)

So we start the day off teaching. We have an appointment at 1:00. We are teaching 2 friends whose names are M_____ and G_____. We start talking and Elder Ojaide keeps talking. There were many times I felt the lesson could have ended but Elder Ojaide likes to talk long. It took forever and now we are going to miss the bus to go see Elder Bednar. We get on our bikes and I say, "We need to get to the chapel now." He says he wants to go back to the apartment and shower to look good for Elder Bednar. I told him we weren't going to see him because we were going to miss the bus. He insists that we wont miss it. On our way home we run into the recent convert that said he would go to the fireside and we find out he can't go anymore. So we start to go home and Elder Ojaide is still planning to take a shower, and go to the chapel, and find some investigator that will go with us even though it is now past the time we were to meet. We get home and he jumps in the shower. I am super frustrated because we wont get to see Elder Bednar and Elder Ojaide wants me to find someone to take so we can go. Everyone else in the Zone seems to have ample investigators that want to go but we cant find any. In my frustration and anger I kneel down to say a prayer. As I get up from my prayer I flip open the area book and call the first person I see, which was a recent convert named Ben that we have never contacted. I called him and he said he was in Accra close to the Chapel and he would love to go and we should meet him there. It was incredible. One in a million chance. Incredible to see prayers answered. We rush over to the Church where, of course, the bus has left. We found this guy at the church who was also going to the fireside and he helped us find our way there via packed trotro. We got there and Ben actually showed up!

It was incredible to listen to Elder Bednar. He did a Q and A the entire time and it was so cool. One 9 year old asked how he could better prepare to serve a mission. Elder Bednar called him up to the podium and had some of the mission presidents say different things like read the Book of Mormon. Elder Bednar gave the last answer and said, "The best thing you can do to prepare for your mission is to keep that smile on your face." I loved that answer and it was so true. During Elder Bednar's last testimony the rain starts to come down like I have never seen it before. The meeting was so cool. We eventually found our ward's van and crammed into it. There were like 30 soaking wet people in a van made for 15. It was an incredible experience.

On Saturday we attended a baptism in the morning. We got there and I was asked to be the witness which I thought was really cool. I felt honored to be asked to do it. Later that night the Sister missionaries who serve in our ward also had a baptism. When we get there they asked me to do the baptism. So I got to baptize two people. It was really a privilege to get to do it. The hardest part was figuring out how to say their names correctly. It was incredible to see the smile on their faces as I baptized them. I also realized how incredible it is to hold the priesthood power of God to perform such a sacred and important ordinance.

Funny story of the week: Lasagna is both Elder Johnson's and my favorite food. One night we just started talking about Costco lasagna and describing it and how much we missed it. We were both in tears by the end of it because we miss it so much. Not much variety in flavor of food here. I miss cheese and meat so much. The food here is really spicy and I cry every time I eat a spicy meal. Swallow foods are still not easy to keep from unswallowing. Its not really all that bad though. I get by with bread.

I love you all so much. I hope you had a happy Halloween. I missed it here. Have a good week.
Elder Shelton

I got an email and picture this week from a mom of a missionary in Ghana. She was with her family in Ghana to pick up her son from his mission. While out and about touring the area they came across some missionaries. She said, "I couldn't help but take a picture of these two awesome Missionaries doing the work of the Lord. Hey moms… They are doing fantastic! And, the new one is adjusting well." It was a fun email to get, especially since Brigham hasn't sent a picture since he's been out in the field.