Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Drowning From Blessings Poured From on High-Oct 28, 2013

Family,


Those pictures from home made me really miss the Autumn season and all the wonderful changes in brings like cool weather, leaf colors, and eventually the nice early season snow( not that crap we get in February and March.) The Dry season is upon us. Right now the temperature is 33c and doesn't change whether its 3 in the afternoon or morning. Nice thing is with the hot Sahara winds the humidity goes away and it’s much more like a hot day back home.
   Can't believe how fast October came and has gone. I remember thinking back on my birthday how Dad's would be next but not for about two months and now it past! Good pictures, nice to see you guys enjoying despite the fuzz behind you. I bought a large sun hat made from reeds which is about the size of that sombrero. We don't wear them for two reasons: 1- Missionaries don't wear hats, 2 - only The JW wear them around here( makes them easy to spot.)
  Speaking of missionary wear Zone Leaders just told us we are not allowed to proselyte with backpacks anymore. It’s from the Area Presidency and only reason I can think of is because it looks more professional to have a side bag or normal scripture bag. No problem, because I haven't used a backpack to proselyte since day one. They are too hot and can spoil you shirts with the sweat and dirt, though I use mine just for temple trips and large ZT and MC when I have to pick post.
  We had an Open house for our Ashtown ward on Saturday. President Hill, Office Elders and nearby Kasoa and Iron city districts all came to help bring people from the street to tour and learn about the Church. Got about 120 people to leave their name, number, and where they stay. They could come and see posters and ask questions on general doctrine, plus pick up a Book of Mormon all free!!!!(it’s always free but it makes good marketing.) I got to go on splits with Pres. while we were contacting people to 'Come and See"(Jn 1 43-51) so I put in some good work with him.
  On Sunday the D. Family beat us to church for the first time( I'm a hard guy to beat on time) and were all confirmed members. I got to confirm the youngest, G. who is 11, while ward members did the rest. 3 new investigators from the open house came as well as the French man( whose name is J.) After a week with the BoM he has read from page one, through the testimonies, all the way to chpt. 8 and is about ready to explode from excitement. I love the book as well I wish everyone had this man’s enthusiasm.
  This week should be a good one packed with lots more teaching and tracking because we are baptizing all of our investigators before we get more! On Thursday all DLs and ZLs are going to the temple side/Area office to get instruction and training. This is the first time all of us have come together so might be something big.
  Transfers are coming in two weeks and my training of this padawan will be over. Him and I are doing great and working awesome together. Most likely I'll leave, but going off tradition I'll probably just stay and finish my mission here, which at this point I wouldn't mind.
 The ward is so close we are family and they treat me like it. Bishop is always telling me he'll tell President to leave me here, the O family and O2 family love to have me over and love me too! Sister J. makes sure all our RC ladies are fellow-shipped with a job at her hair and beauty salon.  Bro D.( the WML) and I work great together and I love his family as well. Then there is Bro L. and you just can't beat this guy. Ashtown ward is so beautiful any day I expect to just find burn patches from everywhere they were when Translated.
   Well that’s all the good news from Ghana this week. If anything the work is moving on and we are staying ahead or leading it ahead. The sun is hot and biking is tiring, but Mission work is awesome and the church is true!!
  Wish some glorious sonnet,
      Elder Steven T Ray

***I asked Elder Ray about some of his "missionary abbreviations" and this is the code that he sent me:
ZT- Zone training
MC- Mission conference(general authoritarians sometimes come to.)
DC- District council every Tuesday unless we have a ZT which would be held that day
DL- District Leader
ZL-Zone Leader
AP- Assistants to President
OE-Office Elders
RC- Recent converts
LA- Less active
WML- Ward mission leader

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Extending to Holier Spheres - Oct 21, 2013



What a blessed week to be in Ashtown on the Kasoa side of the Ghana Accra West Mission! The work continues just as strong as when we left off last week, here is what happened since then......
  Tuesday- District meeting was one of the best. We talked about the normal stuff like, family, cool stories from the week, and numbers. I gave a lesson on teaching repentance to our investigators better. Hopefully as they become better and draw closer to God their conversion will be stronger and we won't get so many less actives. They also got instruction and input from everyone's latest tactics for JWs and how to deal with them in non-violent ways: for example -teaching from a number of places in the OT, like Jonah we see God has to repent, which is not possible and they realize that – this gives us a good time to bring in JST to them, though they still hate the Book of Mormon, one day one day.
    The rest of the week was just like the other days. Teaching, riding, casting out devils, getting them cast from us, the usual.  Finding and tracking is getting hard for me because it seems like I have been up and down and knocked every road, gutter, shack, tepees, and village in my area. Yeah there are still lots of people to be found but I'm getting tired here. Luckily Kasoa is still very fruitful with a very white field in need of harvesting, even if I have to bike 15 km every day to find that place.
    Our French man is doing really well and we were able to get him a French triple combination. We missed him at Church but he did tell us he might be in Accra, though he would find another ward there to attend on the weekend. We are planning his baptism next month. Lots of other first time investigators showed up on Sunday, I few we have never met so it gives us something to do this week. After the baptism on Sunday I met Joseph (he is a RM and has been very helpful to Elder Ray and the missionaries) and was introduced to his fiancĂ©e. Nice lady and I think the two will be happy, sounds like they'll be staying here for a bit before he tries his luck in the US.
    Friday due to some mistranslation the Zone Leaders came for our interviews, though it wasn't too big of a deal we still were able to do the interviews and the family was already for Sundays baptisms. Everything went as well as they could as we rushed the service a bit before ward two’s Relief Society kicked us from the room. Elder Schoessow was the Baptist and due to our Bishop’s absence I had to preside. It was really wonderful seeing an entire family baptized at once. The father and the 2 oldest boys with their sister, the youngest boy will get baptized next month when he is 8, hopefully by his father.
   Talking about that movie, Saratov Approach reminded me of an event that happened here just a few years back. I pair of missionaries were accused of rape (the charge was false) and sent to prison for nine months. Because they had gone against mission rules and hired a young girl to wash their clothes and didn't go out proselytizing, the government held them that long and demanded a huge amount from the Church  as a bribe. Well be warned our Church doesn't deal with bribes like that, for different reasons like you said. Elder Dallin H Oaks visited during that time and gave a blessing that with fasting, prayers and faith the Elders would be released before the year’s end, which happened. Both Missionaries went on to continue and finish their missions. Obedience is the thing that keeps you safe!
  There you have my week in Ghana, Hot is the weather and sweet is the work. Transfers are in a few weeks and these COULD be my last days in Kasoa( but I'm not saying anything) so I'm doing my best to leave no regrets here and make Ashtown Confederation the place where everybody wants to serve for 9 months. Sweet is the work and tastier are the fruits of its blessings!
   Much love and Commitment,
 Elder Steven T Ray
This is the baptism of the D.Family - these are they boys that always waited for the missionaries so they would play football (soccer) with them which led the missionaries to ask about their family, etc and that led to discussions and then this baptism!!

Elders taking pictures of each other.....this is a little bridge that has been built for when it rains.

Elder Ray and his companion made fajitas for the O. family.  The Elders loved them but I'm not sure what the family thought of them!

Elder Ray cooking the fajitas

Monday, October 14, 2013

Baptisms and Turtle Hunting - Oct 14, 2013

Family,



So I'm going to try to be as fast as I can and informative as possible.
  Tuesday we traveled a little ways to Odokror for our Zone Training meetings. It’s far and traffic is bad so I made my District leave extra early because I hate being late to meetings on the mission. Well it was a good thing we did because traffic was horrible and President Hill came to the meeting and guess what? Ashtown District (or Confederation) looked good! The Apartment is doing really well and everyone is having some awesome success. Kasoa zone for another month lead in most baptisms
   The D family will be baptized on Sunday (at least the 4 that of age) normally Saturdays are baptism days, but due to working schedules Sunday will be the day. The family is amazing and we have had some great lessons with them. The lessons go from anything like answering concerns with the help of our ward mission leader to finding turtle behind the house-the latter happens after lessons though.
  We contacted this awesome guy from Ivory Coast who loves everything and anything to do with the Church. One problem we have though is he only speaks French and we don't. With prayers and the gift of tongues (as well as understanding tongues) we are able to work with him and an okay translator. Bishop and his wife speak his language fine so Sunday things went well and got better when another investigator who came also spoke French. The man is awesome and I hope to soak him soon.
  No Halloween decorations or nods to be seen or heard of, but there is a Christmas buzz starting up, gah It is just as bad in a third world country as it is back home. Tomorrow is a small Muslim holiday, which will be fun to see how it goes down. Muslims are really cool here, not the same type you see with bombs on TV. These guys will even sometimes defend us Mormons, so we get along well enough. A few Muslim neighbors are getting me some Muslim wear.
   Something that has been going around is a deep mourning for a certain Ghanaian professor who was killed in the terrorist attack at the mall in Kenya (I’m sure you all heard about that.) The Government has been lamenting his death for the better part of last week, makes me think of what maybe David and Israel did for Abner when he was murdered, I really like Abner for some reason. As for Ghana funerals are week long events and sometimes they wait 4 to 6 months between death and burial (body freezers) it’s okay resurrection works all the same.
  Well though no super crazy events happened this week we were able to enjoy what did happen and focused in on working harder. Lots of fun with the ward though and more fun events coming up next time.
But for now I bid you parting as I must get home for its late here. Anyways lots of love and faithful work from me.
  Sincerely,
    Elder Steven T Ray

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Legend Continues - Oct 7, 2013



Dear Mom, Dad, sisters and junior brother.
  Transfers were on Wednesday and we sadly lost Elder Paletonga to a different area far far away. I'm really missing my friend from Samoa right now. Before he left, he gave me a really cool towel from Samoa as well as some other little trinkets. He told me he also sent his sister for a lava-lava for me as well. The kid is a very sweet and one of the best teachers I know, probably because he was 25 and had a degree in teaching he earned before the mission.
  On the other hand, Elder Thomas got a new companion from Uganda, very sweet kid who is also super tall! Elder Jones came from being with Elder Bay to replace Paley, though not in our hearts. He is quiet but can have a funny sense of humor so we get along.
   Lots of rain this week which is really good news because Ghana had a sort of drought during the Rainy season and we are about to start the hot season. Lots of crops failed, but now everyone has another shot before The Harmattan , where we get hot winds and lots dust blown in from the Sahara Desert. I came during the first of it last year, so that means my time is coming!
  We continued to teach our golden family, the 5 members of the D family. The kids had to visit there grandma in Accra, but the father was still able to come on Sunday which was a relief. Saturday I was happy to see the last of my investigators from the time I was with Moyer get baptized. It was a sister whose parents didn't like the church and she has finally found the freedom and clearance to join the church. It was a really nice thing to see happen. Besides this the week was actually kinda lame until Saturday night when we ate dinner at a Sister Helen’s with the other district. I met Elder Jensen from Richfield and saw Lilo again. We had a pretty fun time there and Sunday after church and everything else we got to gather to make a big dinner, guess who was the chief cook? Yep, me!
    In the last couple of months or so I have really been reading hard through the OT and understanding it better, plus cross referencing it with The Book Of Mormon. I love the stories and teaching found within the OT, especially because it deals with a lot of the history of the times as well as the spiritual aspect of things. I can see that is differently not all correct though.
  There you go, another week of effort in Ghana. It was a pretty good one, though I was a little sad not to watch conference( we see parts of it with the ward in about a month.) Well there is work to be done and only 13-1/2
months left for me to do it, so I keep that as a reminder to that this opportunity  to the heart and do the best I can and the Lord will do the rest!
    With great faith in the works,
  Elder Steven T Ray

PS - Plus anyone looking for an eagle scout project or that type of thing I have a really good school owned by members here I think could use writing books, pencil erasers and that sort things. More on it next week, just think about it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Keeping the Faith as a Tripanionship‏ - Sept 30, 2013



Dear Mom,
  It’s been a busy but rewarding week here in Kasoa as a Tripanionship! Let me explain......
   Starting from Tuesday we would go to Elder Thomas's area in the morning until mid-afternoon then work around my side in the latter part of the day. Monday it hard rained all day and Tuesday it was still a non-stop shower, though it had lightened up a bit. So we mostly stuck close to the Apartment and at ward member’s houses. We gave a blessing to Ward 2's Bishop as he had injured his knee. We then finished at Larbies house that evening. Funny thing happened earlier at a small second hand shop I was looking at CD's, mostly rap and other garbage, when I found the greatest hits of both the Scorpions and Bad Company, in near mint condition.
  Contacting in Thomas's area Wednesday morning we stumbled upon a house with its address marked as 666, this is strange because Ghanaian’s are very superstitious. Inside we met none other than a family of Jehovah Witness, very fitting. We also had a ton of FM's from the members on this day too, so we went to bed well fed.
 Thursday we found a shop advertising 'Free Coke tomorrow' which we made the mistake of going there on the present day. Also bought Transformers Risk and Star Wars Angry Birds the board game for the apartment, funny the random things we find in Ghana.
  That night we taught the family with the boys we always played soccer with and plan to baptize. This time we also taught the father who had come to church the week before. He expressed his love and desire for not only his 4 children his raising by himself, but also the Church. He and the 4 kids should all be baptized in October. I really felt the Spirit on the way home from that lesson.
  Friday morning we bought some sweet straw hats and leather bags from a man walking around by our apartment. He is coming back tomorrow with crocodile bags! I did 4 interviews as well and failed 2 of them, but everything should get worked out and I'll do it again this week.
  Saturday we went back to the JW's and had a semi-heated discussion. I won't bore with details, but I love to add in little bits of our doctrine which they unrealizingly agree with. Had a baptism earlier that morning which went well, now up to 27, but nobody counts. Saw a few other members around that night and finished up a good week.
   The next day Sacrament crowd was a little small, but most of all my recent converts were there, as well as my investigators. So that made me pretty happy to see how they are staying strong and keeping the faith. That afternoon I made( with help from my other 2) Ghanian sweet potato fries with coleslaw, topped with ketchup, mayo, and shito( spicy fish sauce) It was really good and I guess I'm gaining a small reputation around the mission as a good cook( I say that very humbly, because now people are trying to hire me out.)
   So that is the week in the Ashtown Confederation. Transfers are on Wednesday and we find out about what’s happening tomorrow morning. I'll most likely be staying but others may move so there is always excitement around. We are also getting a new AP so look forward to that. With that I bid you farewell and I'll see you on the radio....
  Unconditionally,
Elder Steven T. Ray
This is in response to my question of what he likes and doesn't like us to send to him:
   To leave out of packages
  -pop rocks, I don't care for them and they don't trade well
  - no more cheese sauce, I don't use it much
   Needed Items again
  -more pictures!!!! and maybe a small protective album cover for them.
  -color pencils
  -Unknown God, by Mark E Petersen( if you can :)
 Also Bro Larbie when asked expressed interest in any health books or plants books from the US that you may see. I wanted to give him something. I may also be buying a few souvenirs soon so I might have you wire more money, plus Schoessow said he'd sell me his camera for 100usd.
Sorry I also forgot to say I looooooovvvvedd those peanut bar cake thing you sent, if you want send more! Smith once got an Oreo pie kinda like that and it was also really yummy. The potatos were amazing and I still have one can of roast beef I'm being to protective of-send more haha. Hurley has been writing me and I joked he might see dad at his welcome home. I don't know who is speaking at conference but I hope it Vinsion, he liked my knowledge on the OT when he came last earlier this month.

Below are some pictures of zone conference/mission tour.  Elder and Sister Vinson of the West African Area Presidency spoke.  On a little side note: Elder and Sister Vinson moved to Utah from Australia a few years ago and I met them at Snow College, where Sis Vinson was taking classes.  I didn't know they had been called to the West Africa Area Presidency until they were already over there - it is a very small world!
Elder and Sister Vinson greeting the missionaries before zone conference

Elder Ray catching up with the other elders

Pres. Hill addressing the missionaries at zone conference - Elder Ray is about 3 or 4 rows back.

Pres. Hill and Dr. Emmanuel Abu Kissi - Dr. Kissi holds a speacial place in our heart- he is the doctor who treated Elder Ray when he had malaria.  Sis. Hill wrote this about Dr. Kissi:Dr. Emmanuel Abu Kissi with President Hill (above) was a guest speaker at our conference.  Dr. Kissi, the author of the book "Walking in the Sand" which chronicles the history of the church in Ghana, shared his story of conversion and challenges as the church sought acceptance.   Dr. Kissi, currently the Stake Patriarch in the Kasoa Stake, has been an influential leader of the church here, including acting as the Mission President during the freeze.   He shared, that he never planned to write a book but felt like he should keep track of events surrounding the church in Ghana as they happened.   His detailed notes became the written history of the church here.  As well as the generosity he shows in medically treating our missionaries, his faithful service is an inspiration to us all.