Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not Easy but Divine - August 26, 2013

Hey Family and Friends,

Another week in Kasoa is done and gone. Lots of fun on Tuesday as me and Lilo went around to our recent converts and a few selected ward members to say goodbye. It was then that I realized I was actually happy it wasn't me who was leaving. I guess I might actually enjoy these extended time here in Kasoa.
  Wednesday we traveled to a stake center in the Tesano part of Accra to pick up the greenies. We had a lot of fun beforehand seeing some of the other elders there for the transfers. So many missionaries are now younger than me and the ones above keep going home, I'm starting to feel like the mission is moving along.
  My new 'son' is Elder Schoessow, who is from Orange Co. California. I have really enjoyed the Cali elders so far so I was excited to hear he was from there. He is a smart kid and is very interested in learning the culture. This seems like it will be a lot less stressful then last time, which is a relief because with so many 18yr old missionaries coming out I know a lot of the elders are worried about who is coming. But who are we to judge and E. Schoessow is ready to be a missionary so I think Ashtown is going to benefit greatly. Also seeing the new guys made all the older guys realize we don't have white shirts. :)
   Thursday we got right into the work seeing the people that me and Lilo had left and also clearing our vineyard as to have more room to plant anew. Friday I went to do baptism interviews for the other missionaries, this has been my first test as a District leader, then I paid our power bill, the second test, yeah it’s a tough job.
   Funny thing happened while we were teaching a referral at the Obeng's school. Sister Obeng told me the youngest girl in the family, Comfort who is my best friend,  has not baptized, and is 9! So there is a baptism right there for us which I'm happy for, but I’m still in shock about how many times this active family has not brought this to my attention. So Sunday I went to the Primary to find out if there were others like her. There is so far one more and possibly two other ones.
  Saturday we were invited (forced) to go to the Elder's Quorum activities where we spent 5 hours learning about fire safety- then had a baptism right after, so it was still a productive meeting. Then Sister Obeng took us back to her place for Elder Schoessow’s first FuFu dinner -for the first time he did very well and finished the meal.
   Now I'm just going to go get ready for my first District meeting which is tomorrow. There are 6 elders here all living in my apartment. Me and my comp for Ashtown 1, then Palentonga and Udoh for Ashtown 2, and Elder Joseph and Thomas for Kasoa 2a. We are supposed to be Ashtown district, but I have unofficially renamed us: The Confederation of Ashtown Areas.
  So that is my fun stories and adventures of the week, hope everyone out there serving is enjoying the work and I pray for everyone back on the home-front. Missionary work is not easy, but it sure is sweet and divine. 
 Much Love,
Elder S Taylor Ray
Elder Ray and his new companion E. Schoessow

All of the new missionaries with their trainers and Pres & Sis. Hill

There were 18 new missionaries in this transfer - bringing the number of missionaries to 120 in the new Ghana Accra West Mission!!!

The trainers getting their instructions - Elder Ray is on the 4th row

Trainers waiting for their trainees!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

District Leader and Training-August 19, 2013

Family and Friends,

It seems like every week on Monday night I get big news about changes in the area, the way we work, or about shifting positions. Well why think this Monday would throw out a new different surprise, can't let the fun run dry now can we? So President Hill has asked me to be the new District Leader for the newly created Ashtown District, affective Wednesday which is transfers day.
   I'll be spending my extended time here training a new missionary as I lead a bunch of other missionaries like I know what I'm doing or something close to it. This is actually a really exciting call, with one down side, and that is now each Tuesday morning I have to hold district meetings and give instruction, probably without a bunch of song quotes either. Dang they make this job hard. Mostly I just report to zone leaders and do baptismal interviews.
  In news from the week we had a pretty uneventful week for the most part. Tuesday and Wednesday not much out of the ordinary happened while teaching. Thursday I went to Accra to the area office for trainer’s council and enjoyed some good times with Elder Schmeltzer who is also training again. We stopped by a large outdoor market named Circle (it sits around a large round about) to look at shoes, I'm thinking of getting some new wing tips. Friday we met an old investigator of mine who was to be baptized back in May but traveled for school. She'll hit the water at the end of the month this time.  Saturday- We traveled to a Liberian refugee camp nearby for the “Mormon Helping Hands-All African Project” or whatever the correct name it was called is not important. My ward cleaned up a hospital and it was a lot of fun being around my ward members as we had fun cleaning the place up.
    Took a nap when we got home then visited the Obeng family (one of my favorite families in the ward.) Though I made the mistake of giving the oldest daughter my last bracelet from Emma. The youngest daughter won't let me forget I owe her one, so please ask Emma if she could make a few more now that I'm out. Mind you some of these kids have small wrists. Bro Obeng is our YMP and is a very strong member, he is a very gentle man standing at 6' 5 and would make a good football player.
   Sunday- we had a good amount of investigators to church and were able to coordinate our upcoming baptisms with the ward. So count on hearing about some more in the following weeks.
  I'll be picking up my new companion fresh from the MTC on Wednesday morning so I'm trying to set up some good African dinner appointments for the rest of the week, why I wouldn't want him to starve after all. I'll be able to tell you more about him next week, but I'm sure I'll get an Elder, unless they run out then maybe I'll get a sister. Haha Well I'll tell you the work is not easy, but it is divine and I know what I'm doing here is the Lord's will, so I'll keep on it up. Thanks for the love and prayers.
    With love from Ghana,
     Elder Steven T Ray

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Long Haul - August 12, 2013

Family and Friends,

Another week in Kasoa goes by, but don't think that they are almost gone because sounds like I'll be here for at least 3 more months! Tonight we were teaching family home evening at Sister A’s and had the D. family over as well. During the lesson I got a call from President Hill, I thought maybe he was just calling on my health and if I had any malaria flare ups since the hospital. He then told me he had a new calling for me and he dropped it on me....Called to train...in Kasoa...Again!
  I was actually really happy to be called to train again, but a little bit of me died inside thinking I'll be here another 3 months. Nothing is final until next week when transfers come, but sounds like they want to add another set of missionaries to my area and split the district( with maybe me as district leader.) 10 months in Kasoa, well I know the area and I know the people like perhaps no other missionary here before so that's at least going for me.
   The week was somehow slow. We did lots of finding and tracking, because we realized we were baptizing all of our investigators in the coming weeks. The days were long and hot and I still have been recovering my strength since the malaria attack.
   I work out now every morning with weights and get my daily dose of biking just like always to build it back. I'm pretty good at riding without hands now, even down trails and over bumpy roads, so there is a plus to not having cars (I wonder sometimes how missions in the world are where they have cars, oh I miss driving.)
   Saturday we baptized another two people. A 21 year old hair dresser who works for a member, she is very sweet girl and also a 14 yr old boy who we contacted earlier last month. Now when the baptism time had come we only had the girl there and waited an hour until we proceeded without him. Everything went smoothly and after we closed we had a coordination with Bro D.(ward ML)
   During this time the boy rode up on his bike and said he had broken down and that was the reason for him being late. The font had just been emptied because we were getting new water from a truck and most people had left. Quickly we gathered everyone back together and after the truck filled the church’s tanks we had them fill the fount until they ran out, only half full, but he was a small boy so we made it work.
   The boy’s name is Exxon so it only seems fitting he should have trouble with water. Him and the girl were confirmed on Sunday and I was able to attend Joseph's parents baptism after our ward finished. That was a very sweet moment and helped brighten my mood as I have been a bit depressed with everyone going home and what not.  Everything is back to the not so standard normal way we do things here in Kasoa.
  Thanks for all the wishes and prayers everyone is still giving. I hope all is well in one way or form for everyone. Looking towards another successful week here in West Africa!!
  Elder Steven T Ray 

Elder Ray and Joseph with his mom and step-dad

Joseph's family and Elder Ray

Joseph and Elder Ray - our other son in Ghana!

Good friends on a great day!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Touch of Grey - August 5, 2013

 Dear Mom,
    So I just got done sending Elder Smith, Littlefield, and Graff off to the mission home. I would be lying if I said it wasn't a depressing thing to do. I have really grown close to this guys and it really make me sad to see them leave, though they have paid their time and have finished their course. I need to stop becoming friends with all the older missionaries; they leave and make me feel really sad and "trunky." :)
   Well it has been quite a week here though I really have done nothing except move from bed to bed and sleep. Malaria is like nothing I could have ever imagined and is really a horrible disease. It leaves your body aching and you are plagued by cold flashes and then intense fevers. Bruce Springsteen said it well in his song 'I'm on Fire" when he said "At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet and a freight train running through the middle of my head.”
The headaches made sitting up nearly impossible.
   It all started last Thursday night I had begun to feel sickish so I went to bed early. We had a special interview in Accra for Sammy( the father of the family to be baptized.) Friday morning. I felt like crap as we went to the mission home and when we got home I collapsed in bed and slept until I forced myself to Bro Larbies that night, but didn't eat. Saturday morning I felt even worse but we did the rest of the interviews with Smith and by noon I was finished. I was really getting sick that night, but Sunday was the baptism and I was to be the baptist for my golden family. So I endured and went to church for all 3 hours as my condition deteriorated.
   The baptism was a success though and I was so happy to see the entire family go into the water. The daughter was not liking the water, but wouldn't leave the fount( her heart was there.) So after her father and the ward coached her back in I said the prayer and plugged her nose and kinda baptized us both. Everything else went well and when it was done,  so was I  and I suffered a horrible evening and night as the malaria really set in.
   Monday we were to roast two pigs for Smith and Littlefield’s farewell but I could not roll over in my bed. Calls were made and they sent me to nearby Odokro where Dr. Kissi has his Deseret hospital. There I was tested and found positive for malaria. Since my case was somehow severe they kept me over night and put me on an I.V. with a nice shot to the butt. Good thing because I had a flare up Tuesday after President Hill paid me a visit.
  Tuesday evening everything returned to normal and I spent some good time with my friend Elder Robertson, my ZL from the UK. Wednesday Dr. Kissi's son Aaron went to Accra and brought pizza before I was discharged. The rest of the week I really just spent sleeping and drinking water (malaria really dehydrates you, which is why I think it can kill.) Saturday the primary had an activity they invited us to and feed us, just before we had ward coordination.
  Sunday we were able to confirm the Mansiah family (their last name's spelling is still a mystery to me.) Also my ward wished me well during sacrament, which was something that I was really grateful for. During my entire illness I had ward members and my recent converts calling me at the hospital to check on me. I saw the love I had given' returned back to me. I really do love these people her and I’ll cry the day I'm transferred.
   So hopefully if everything goes as planned we will baptize 2 people on Saturday (Bree’s birthday) and then on Sunday (your anniversary) confirm those good people. August we will have lots of time to plan baptisms for September as we take care of August ones earlier in the first few weeks. The work is going great here and even in my absences people are continuing and doing their part to help. Kasoa is a sweet place to be serving right now and as my health is restoring I can't wait to go on out and keep it going. I'm doing really well now and lessons have been learned from this so it shouldn't happen again. ;) I'm grateful for your love, support and especially the prayers from home this last week and a half. I really have felt their impact.
  Restored with Love,
  Elder Steven T Ray
PS- I have really been thinking on what to send me. I have had intense urges for Italian food lately, so I don't know what you can send me in that line. Basil? Pesto? or cheese?  I have seen some elders with like the cheese that comes with sausage holiday packages, so if that could be sent it would be wonderful. Those Peanut-butter snickers were golden and have a special place waiting for more! :) Also thank you for those talks on the SD cards and missionary comics. I really enjoy Elder Marvin J Ashton, he has a nice voice. So If you ever get time I would love another, one with more by Spencer W Kimball and David O McKay. Oh and maybe a model train, for display purposes.

Yeah I got both packages and I was very grateful for both. I wonder what the oldest talks are they have on recording....if you have the time you should see if you can get them. Spencer W Kimball has a good one I think it’s called "Communication lines" I really enjoyed it. I like to listen to his voice, it’s very intriguing. Also Elder Haights and Maxwell’s final talks in 2004 and same with Elder Ashton’s final talk. I really find these apostles interesting, how about you? Or what are your favorites. Like I say I really like Elder's Petersen, Ashton, Tanner, Maxwell, and Haight (strange how they passed just ten days from each other, huh?)
Well I have got to get home now, but we can talk about this next week, because this is the kind of stuff I really like. President Kimball I know he said he was worried when he lost his voice because he thought he would never dedicate a temple or talk in conference again, well he did and later became prophet!  Well Thank you for everything and I hope you have a good week. Love you!