Welcome to Ben and Julie's Missionary Page
February 2005 Update

Prayer for Repair
Some Brothers Around a Broken Benz

Elder Markham trains auditors by doing actual audits with them. One Sunday in February we were in the Mission District of Assin Foso, far out in the jungle. While Ben worked with the auditors, I attended their meetings. I can only assume that the people in that area don’t see many white women, because everyone stared at me. The children even pointed. I was very uncomfortable, although not afraid. After the meetings, rather than stay in the building, I chose to sit in the car so I wouldn’t cause a commotion. While in the parking lot, I saw four men in front of a car with its hood up. They were singing “Praise to the Man.” Other men saw them and joined the group. Soon there were ten men singing. They finished the hymn and said a prayer, and then they started another hymn. I wondered if I should tell them this wasn’t a good way to fix a car, but I chose to stay put. After another prayer, they sang “Redeemer of Israel.” After that, the driver got in the car and started the ignition. Another man put the hood down and the passengers got in and off they drove! I was quite humbled. Two nights later we were back home in our apartment in Accra. While we had been gone, the batteries that operate our air conditioner control had leaked. The control appeared to be ruined. Ben worked on the control that night, but he was not successful. He worked on it the next morning before we left the house, also with no luck. That night he decided to do open heart surgery on the control. He completely disassembled it and laid all the parts out on the table and worked on it with the tools he brought with us. I got my hymn book. First, I said a silent prayer and asked the Lord to not think my behavior was mockery. Then I sang “Praise to the Man.” Then I sang “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Then I sang “Redeemer of Israel.” During the last hymn Ben reassembled the control. The LED readings activated and he turned on the air conditioner.

This Month's Features Include:

Ghana's number one export product

Hawkers at Work
Click to jump directly to Hawker pictures.

Our Quick Trip to Liberia
Click to jump directly to Liberia pictures.

During February all local units (wards and branches) are audited for compliance with Church policies and procedures for handling the sacred tithes and offering funds. For the last six months we have focused on general financial process training for the local leaders who handle money and the local auditors who perform the audits. In February we traveled back to areas where we previously did "classroom" training to do "on-the-job" training with the auditors. Return trips are easier in many ways---we know the roads, we have seen the sights, and the people are now our friends. These trips allowed us to spend time talking about their lives, families and dreams. It is beautiful.

Those who are familar with events leading up to missionaries first coming to West Africa in late 1978 have heard of President Kimball reading a letter from a young schoolboy in Ghana to a Regional Representative seminar earlier that year. The schoolboy was a member of an "unauthorized" congregation in Assin Foso lead by Joseph William Billy Johnson. The letter expressed hope that he could soon be baptized and in time receive the priesthood. This schoolboy spoke of how his heart thrilled to the strains of "Come, Come Ye Saints" and other songs of Zion. This letter touched the prophet's heart. The schoolboy was Emmanuel Bondah who is now the District President in Assin Foso. We spent a few hours talking with him about his experiences as an early convert, as one of the first Ghanaians to serve a full time mission, and now as a leader of a rapidly growing area. We missed taking his picture, but will get one next time we see him.

The first time we visited Abomosu, Sister Markham took pictures of pineapple plants growing at the side of the church building. When we arrived this time, the District President's 5 year old daughter, Betty, brought five pineapples out for Sister Markham. The building in Abomosu was completed in 1984, one of the first in Ghana. Besides the pineapple plants on one side, there are two cocoa trees in the front. One was planted in 1984 by Elder Russell M. Nelson and the other by Elder Neal A. Maxwell when they were there to dedicate the building. Interesting history for this sleepy village in central Ghana. Betty with a Pineapple
Betty bearing a gift for Sister Markham

The Abomosu Chapel The Abomosu Building
Two branches use this chapel.
The day we visited they met together
with about 220 in attendance.
The outside of the building still looks nice.
You can see the two cocoa trees on either side
of the entrance walk.

President Owusu with Elder Nelson Tree Cocoa Pods on Elder Maxwell Tree
President Owusu, the District President,
in front a cocoa tree
Cocoa seeds that are used to make chocolate
grow in pods on the trunk of the trees.

Cocoa harvest waiting transport As Ghana's largest export, cocoa is mass produced on plantations. Small farmers grow and gather it also. Their product is seen all along the roads in large bags. The pods are wrapped in a particular kind of leaf to maintain the moisture in the pods. Big trucks come to gather these sacks and the local farmer is paid for his crop. There appears to be a lot of honor system in the commercial markets.

Sister Armstrong put some of the fine Ghanaian cocoa to good use in the form of a chocalate cake for Sister Markham's birthday. The number of candles was a compromise to avoid letting out personal data on the internet!! Chocolate Birthday Cake
Sister Markham prepares to blow out
the candle on a very happy birthday.
Thank you, Sister Armstrong!!

We took another trip to the Cape Coast area to do audits in three stakes and districts. We had to stay three nights in the hotel on the beautiful beach. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Another Cape Coast Sunrise
Even though we had been there before,
each sunrise was unique and beautiful.

The beaches and old castles around Cape Coast make it a very pleaseant place to visit.
Cape Coast Beach Elmina Castle
Cape Coast Beach Elmina Castle

Sister Markham at Coconut Grove Hotel Sister Armstrong at Coconut Grove Hotel
Our good friends the Armstrongs
were with us for one day. They were
doing Family History training in
Cape Coast Stake.
Sisters Markham and Armstrong found
this intersting spot for pictures
to document our stay there.

Some regular readers of this website have asked if EVERYONE in Africa likes to pose for pictures.
We don't know about everyone, but most do---including the "grounds crew" at Coconut Grove Resort!

The Grounds Crew Posing
The Grounds Crew posing for Sister Markham's Camera
"Oh, I am having such a bad wool day!!"
"Stretch your neck to hide that double chin!"

Back to Work
OK, everybody back to work!!!

Speaking of posing for pictures...

Gecko Gecko on Wall
The geckos will always pose for a picture.
They do need to learn to stop
the head shaking, though!
Some Geckos like to show off their
cliff climbing ability.

Neighborhood Bull Birds in Liberia
However, when we found this bull
grazing just down the street from
our apartment, he was totally unconcerned
about having a picture taken for the internet.
And these birds in Liberia were too busy
building up-side-down nests to pose.

When we say we "know the roads," it can be taken literally.
Many of them have left deep impressions on us as we bounced along them!

Road Construction Stay Alert
Some major construction projects have been
completed, but others, like the highway
to Cape Coast, are still in progress.
Detours around construction are rare.
Mostly we just drive through the work
as does traffic coming the other way.
There are no lane markers!!
(Note the rear truck wheels on the left.)

Wet Roads Clouds over the Road
The only thing worse than bad roads
is bad roads with heavy rain!
But there is a silver lining behind
every cloud. It is raining and that
means the Harmattan dust has been washed
out of the air and we can see again!!

At construction sites we often see people scambling to collect larger rocks that are in the fill dirt. Nearby we see people see people using hammers and chisels to break down the larger rocks to gravel. Apparently there is money to be made from this very manual labor. UN statistics say about 40% of Ghanaians make less than a dollar a day. Gathering Rocks
People collecting rocks behind
earth movers and graders.

On the roads, the hawkers and head carrying always entertains and amazes us!

Bread Hawkers We have been told that many hawkers get their goods from a manufacturer or distributer and sell on commission. It is very common to see several vendors selling identical goods within a short distance. Other hawkers have prepared "Fast Food" to purvey to the riders who pass. The variety is endless---a visitor from Salt Lake commented to us, "It is like driving through a Wal-Mart checkout lane!"
A popular spot for bread in Nsawam.

Turkey Tails Kroger T-Shirt
But man does not live by bread alone.
This lady is selling "Turkey Tails"
which are spicy, deep fried pieces
of turkey or chicken.
This young bread vendor had sold out,
but Sister Markham liked his Kroger T-Shirt.
Where do your old T-shirts go?

This video clip catches a breakfast vendor (hard boiled eggs)
making a sale to a Tro-Tro rider. We love to watch the grace in motion!

Kids, don't try this at home!!

Lingerie Lady
The Lingerie Lady
You really can buy most anything!
(Fitting rooms are optional.)

One time, in very heavy trafic, we saw two hawkers collide. One dropped his load of frozen yogurt bars and created a commotion. This is the only time we have seen anything dropped from a head!
Dropped Load The Re-Gathering
In a crowd like this, accidents can happen. But recovery was quick
with competitors helping.

Everything is carried on the head.
Chairs for Hire Gathered Food
Here some young men are delivering
rented chairs for a funeral.
Most cargos are water or gathered food or
fuel. Laundry on the way to the river
is another common load.

Children hauling water Young women getting water
Early each day and in the evening
children go to the nearest source
to get water for the family.
This chore becomes a social activity
where friends join to talk and laugh.

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On the subject of gathering....
The first rule of shopping in Ghana is: If you see it and want it, BUY it.
You may never see it again.
Pickles Pickle food storage
After not finding her favorite pickles
for months, Sister Markham stocked up
when a Heinz shipment showed up at the store.
She bought enough sandwich pickles
to cover the rest of our mission!

While doing Family History training in Nigeria,
Sister Armstrong found this beautiful flower.

Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise

Sister Markham's favorite flower this month.

Yellow Flower
Yellow Beauty

To enjoy other plant life Sister Markham found this month,
click on the button below.

Jake Hill
Eagle Scout Candidate, Jake Hill

Malaria Prevention Eagle Scout Project
Click here to see Jake Hill's excellent project.

Here is the shop/sign of the month contest.
Click to see this month's results.

In late January we made a two day trip to Liberia to train leaders of the stake there.

Liberia is struggling to recover from civil war that lasted 14 years. During the war, the dam that supplies water and electricity for the country was severely damaged. As we rode from the airport into Monrovia, the highway was lined with power line poles, but all the wire had been taken. Only buildings with diesel powered generators have electricity. The small hotel where we stayed fortunately had a generator, as did the stake center where our training was held. Missionaries were removed during the war and there is still no plan to reinstate them.

Bullet holes in building Razor wire at hotel
Evidence of the war is everywhere.
There are many burned out buildings
and others with obvious bullet holes.
Our hotel sign seen through razor wire
that adorns many walls around Monrovia.

Generator Guard House at the Stake Center
The Stake Center survived the war,
but everything that was not cemented in
place was taken, including the folding chairs.
Here is the new generator.
There is full time security in this
guard house at the church.

Brother David Harris The local CES coordinator, David Harris, is the only church employee in Liberia. He, along with many Liberians, is a descendant of freed US slaves who returned to West Africa in the early 1800s. Brother Harris was one of the first people to be baptized in Liberia. He talked to us about his struggles during the war. He was able to keep his car (which he has as a Church employee) by hiding the tires and wheels, then putting the car on blocks for the duration of the war. If he hadn't done this, the car would have been taken by the rebels or the army. About thirty of Brother Harris’ relatives moved in with him, and sometimes it took all day to find food and water for them. His wife recently died of tuberculosis of the liver, and he is raising two children with the help of extended family members. A member of the stake presidency that we talked to said that during the war he thought they were all going to be exterminated.
Brother David Harris
Church Education System Coordinator

The good news is there are definite signs of "Spring" in Liberia---life returning to normal. There is a strong presence of UN peacekeepers and elections are planned for later this year. There is construction, rebuilding of houses and businesses. The members we talked with spoke of increasing confidence that the war is finally over and people are now making plans for the future. It was most exciting to see two mothers with small children on our flight to Monrovia. They were leaving Buduburam Refugee Camp (see our September 2004 update) after more than a decade. One husband was already in Liberia. The other woman will stay with her family until her husband could also come back to Liberia. Church members are coming to Accra in the next few weeks for their first ever temple excursion trip. The bus ride will take about three days each way. They have allowed an extra day to travel through the Ivory Coast, where frequent military checkpoints have been set up after an uprising there in the Fall. David Hill with Baby
David Hill, Africa West Area Controller,
holds a baby for a young mother who is
returning to Liberia after 11 years
at Buduburam Refugee Camp.

Brother Harris provided transportation for us during our stay. He was holding a CES faculty training session at the stake center the same day as our meetings. We saw the seminary and institute instructors who were attending his Inservice meetings. Twenty-six instructors were present. The Monrovia Stake only has nine units, so we found this number astounding. Brother Harris told us that each ward has at least one early morning seminary, which meets at 5:00 am using candles or lanterns. Many wards have two seminaries to reduce the distance students have to walk in the dark. Most wards also have an Institute program. Institute in West Africa is Gospel instruction for all adults, not just single members. We were inspired by the efforts the members there make to learn and grow in the Gospel. In a typical week about 50% of members over 15 attend one or more seminary and institute classes. The CES program is an oasis of gospel training for this isolated stake. The members realize the value, and take advantage of it.

We found some real treats in Liberia.

Chocolate Chips President Warner
Sister Markham learned that US goods
were available in Liberian stores.
She brought back several packages of
Chocolate Chunks which are very
difficult to find in Ghana (go figure!)
President Warner, 1st Counselor, Monrovia Stake
When Elder Markham mentioned his great
grandmother was a Warner, President Warner
started calling him "Cuz."

Melanie's Necklace
Grandma Dewey made an effort to help Melanie
remember her by sending a bamboo necklace.
Wouldn't it be nice if Melanie could send
those chocolate chip cookies in return!

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