Welcome to Ben and Julie's Missionary Page
August 2004--Serving in West Africa is Fun To Do!!

Elder Markham and Giftie
Elder Markham makes friends with Giftie, a shop owner's daughter!
I Am Like A Star Shining Brightly

Whether they are young, old, or in between, the joy of serving in Ghana is the people!
We truly hope these few pictures of people
convey the happy attitudes and warm spirits we feel every day.

Mom and Baby at church Granny behind a shop
Mom and Baby at church Granny behind a shop
Photo by Sister Armstrong

Sister Markham’s favorite sight is to see are mothers with babies on their backs. They are everywhere. One Sunday in July we showed up at church at 8 am, the normal time, and found the chapel [we meet in a rented home] was set up to view a General Conference broadcast on videocassette that had just been received by the ward. We sat through the two hour Sunday morning session of the April Conference, during which Sister Markham thought about what she would do with an extra hour that day. When the session was over, a Bishopric member announced there would be a 15 minute break and then we would watch the second Sunday session. Four hours on a wooden pew tested the backsides of Elder and Sister Markham! As it ended, the Bishopric counselor stood and announced there were four convert baptisms which we would be allowed to witness. We stayed for that, and then followed the four outside to the font. There Sister Markham approached this woman and asked if she would allow a photo. The woman agreed, saw the photo in the digital camera, and asked if there was a way she could get a picture. It was likely the first photo she had ever seen of herself. Supportive daughter-in-law Laura made a photo and put it in the mail! Getting this photo made those hours on the all bench worth it.

Maame Another Mom with baby at church
This is Maame.
We work with her Dad, John Buah,
who is first counselor in our stake presidency.
Another Mom with baby at church

Children at church flock to Sister Markham when she gets out her camera. Here are some happy children. Rexford is the young child bundled in a plaid coat. The temperature was down to 70 degrees and his parents were worried that he might get cold.

Harry and Foso Rexford
Harry and Foso
Note the white shirts and ties.
Rexford, bundled up to keep warm!!

Portia and Richardson Monica, Francisca, and Rhoda Lynn
Portia and Richardson Monica, Francisca, and Rhoda Lynn

Brotherly love in commonplace
"The Smile" is everywhere! Brotherly love is commonplace!!

Adenta Ward Young Women Three of the Young Women
Adenta Ward Young Women Three of the Young Women

Fresh Faces, Willing Learners
The Young Women of the Adenta Ward posed for Sister Markham. The younger girls are required by the schools to have very short haircuts. The three leaders are the woman with the cap in the back, the woman in green on the left, and the woman on the far right.

Live long and prosper! Emelia Ahadjie
Live long and prosper!
Elder Markham is working with the youth
to help Sister Markham feel more at home!
Emelia Ahadjie

Emelia Ahadjie is not your average person. She is the Christainsborg Stake President's wife, Area Travel Department Manager, and mother of Elder Ahadjie serving in the Utah Provo Mission. By the way, she makes her own African clothing. From difficult, humble beginnings she has accomplished much through her efforts and faith. Sister Markham is going to help Emelia write a personal history.

Marian Ohene-Opare Monica Ohene-Opare
Marian Ohene-Opare (daughter) Monica Ohene-Opare (mother)

Recently, the topic in Gospel Doctrine was missionary work, with the class giving comments about how a testimony changes our actions towards others. Monica Ohene-Opare told about an experience she had during the Freeze. The Freeze was an 18 month period about 1990 in Ghana when the government took control of all LDS Church buildings and forbade the members to hold church meetings. [However, members could meet in their homes, and during this time fathers acted as group leaders.] One day Sister Opare was with her husband in the car, and their route took them near the Church building. Her husband told her he was going to stop and check on the building. Sister Opare didn’t think this was a good idea, but her husband insisted. He stopped and got out of the car and began to talk to the guard on duty, who was holding a gun. The guard was a Muslim, and he soon became engaged in conversation with Brother Opare [who later became Elder Opare, the first Area Authority in Ghana.] The guard said he had gone through every room in the church and all the materials and he had not found anything there to justify the Freeze. They had a pleasant conversation and Sister Opare asked if she could do anything for him. He said his replacement was very late and he was quite hungry, so she went into town and bought him some kenkay (cornbread) and fish and sauce and returned with it, for which the guard was very grateful. After that experience, whenever they would drive by the church building, they would wave to the guard and ask him to "take good care of our home." Sister Opare realized this was the way a disciple of Christ should behave.

Recently the Adenta Ward held their ward conference. There was a wonderful choir of at least thirty members. The Ghanaians love to sing and are excellent at it, and hearing them sing or singing with them is one of Sister Markham’s very favorite things. They sing reverently, but with far greater enthusiasm than any obruni* choir we have ever heard. The choir on this particular Sunday was no exception. It is common for the choir to sing prelude music, as the only instrument available is a small keyboard. Generally, the keyboard is useful only for the introduction, because as the choir begins singing, the keyboard can no longer be heard. The choirs only sing hymns, or hymns the chorister has arranged. It appears that the chorister, Marian Ohene-Opare, has talked with the choir beforehand about how they will sing, because there is no sheet music or notes for the arrangement. Most follow the chorister without even looking at their hymnals. Four part harmony is always clear and stunning. We have never heard the mens’ parts sung with greater precision. This particular Sunday the hymns selected were not familiar to us, for the most part. During the concluding speaker’s remarks, the power went out in the building. As the choir stood to sing, the electricity had not returned. The chorister chose a pitch, and the choir started on her pitch and then fell into their parts, unconcerned that the electric keyboard could not assist. Hymns in Priesthood, Relief Society and Young Women are all sung without keyboards, so this, for them, was a non-issue. This particular Sunday the choir also sang two hymns (all four verses) for postlude. Again, these hymns were not familiar to us, but the congregation was singing along robustly as they exited the chapel. It appears to us that everyone knows all the hymns, and all the verses. Hymn books are not necessary.

* obruni = white face person

I Hope They Call Me On A Mission--Elders Wollenzien and Smith

Elders Wollenzien and Smith Elder Wollenzien was on the same flight (his first ever airplane trip) with us from London to Accra. We helped him and his two MTC companions get through the two hour exit queue at the airport and when we got outside, no one from the Mission Home was waiting for these three Elders! [Every mother’s worst nightmare...] Elder Skelton, the Area Executive Secretary, was waiting for us, and he called the Mission Home, told the Mission President he had his three lost missionaries, and we all piled into the van with the few pieces of our luggage that had arrived, and off we went.
At the Mission Home we learned that the Mission Office couple waited two hours at the airport four days earlier for these Elders, but they did not arrive. They went back two days later; still, no Elders. They called Salt Lake and mysteriously were told that no Elders were due for another month, while in fact they were halfway through their 27 hours of travel. In case anyone is panicking, the Lord takes care of his missionaries. Since the Area was expecting us, the Elders were taken care of and were greeted in the middle of the night by quite a crowd when they finally arrived at the Mission Home. Five weeks later while doing errands after work, we stopped at a Chicken Inn for a fried chicken sandwich with pickles but no lettuce. [This sandwich has been deemed safe for Obruni’s by the senior missionary next day ‘health’ poll.] In came a member we know with his family and some friends and these two missionaries. We were happy to see Elder Wollenzien again. He is, no question about it, the happiest Elder we have ever seen. He reported that he had not had one minute of sickness. He said he faithfully does what his senior companion, Elder Smith of Sierra Leone, tells him to do – he eats what Elder Smith eats and drinks what Elder Smith drinks. [But, no lettuce.] He’d just performed his first baptism the week before. I asked him how long he’d been preparing for his mission, and he bent down and put his hand next to his knee. You might be interested in knowing that the Africans have no problems saying Wollenzien. Markham, however, contains an R, not a sound the Ghanaians use. It’s quite difficult for them to say. One of the drives on our computer was named mackham by IS.

There is (still more) beauty all around!!

Flowers Flowers
More beautiful flowers These flowers look like little bird of paradise
At this point, Sister Markham is wondering if she’s going to continue on her streak in finding new blooms every month to photograph. Blossoms are everywhere. Marian Esiope, a secretary in the Office Building, has taken on the role of Sister Markham’s cultural guide. In responding to another question of, “What is its name?” Marian answered with “Africans take no delight in knowing such things.” No one knows the names of the plants. It goes further. No one knows the names of the birds. Or, the breed of their own dogs. It’s enough to know they are dogs, or flowers, or birds. The obrunis have resorted to buying nature books at second hand stores to learn the botanical and animal names. [However, ask an LDS Ghanaian to sing all four verses of any hymn without using a hymnal, and that can be done. This isn’t a memory problem. It’s solely a lack of interest.] And just for the record, Sister Markham thinks the bright red bloom is a canna lily. It’s growing outside our kitchen window.

Flowers Flowers
Dainty and elegant A canna outside our window

Sunday Morning Mystery Solved
Every Sunday morning about 6:00 am we hear a rhymic chanting of a group of men moving down our street. A while later we hear them come back, usually with more voices. We had assumed it was a charismatic preacher "gathering the flock," as there are many churches in Accra. One week curiosity got the best of Sister Markham, so camera in hand, she went to our gate and peeked out. Much to her surprise, she saw the local soccer club warming up before their practice. Is this cool, or what!!!

I Got Rhythm!!

Saturday Afternoon Mystery Solved
One Saturday afternoon while eating lunch, we heard a continuous ‘thump, thump, thump.’ It went on for at least a half an hour. We couldn’t imagine what it was. As Sister Markham started to do the dishes, she could see Baba outside with a long pole. She took her camera and found him making fufu. His English was not good enough to learn who his companion was, but she was quick with her hands and turned the dough after each rhythmic thump of his pole. It appears the recipe for fufu is to beat boiled yams or plantains with a stick for half an hour. It’s an African staple. Ben ordered fufu from the office cafeteria once, but he asked for just a small portion. He was watched carefully for the next several minutes while he ate it. As for Sister Markham, she was there with a peanut butter sandwich.

Beating Instead of Kneading, Yams Instead of Flour

Elder Markham with Cranberry Juice Those of you who worried Elder Markham might have to go 18 months without his cranberry juice can stop worrying! The grocery store we shop at is relatively random as to what’s stocked, so this was a pleasant surprise. It sold for the bargain price of 80,000 cedis ($9).
What, me worry?

Several senior missionaries have sought Elder Markham’s guidance on creating their own web sites. [Others, like the Armstrong's, will piggy back off ours. Please peek at their pictures.] It should be no mystery that Elder Markham still talks about oil. But modeling? The explanation is that Elder Markham brought six pair of slacks to Africa, and in bucking a fashion trend among senior Elders, they are not all black. Some have commented on his brilliant fashion sense. We came to work one morning to find this sign on our door advertising Elder Markham’s specialties. In case evidence of a little horse play causes some concern about the seriousness of the missionaries in this Area, be warned that of the eighteen senior missionary couples serving in Accra, only two are on their first mission as a couple. Elder Markham's business activity
Is Elder Markham an entrepreneur?

Our mousetrap
Our Mousetrap--made in China
We found clear evidence that a mouse was nibbling in our kitchen. We went to a store and politely asked for a mouse trap, and the clerk was clearly embarrassed for us and simply said they did not carry mouse traps. We went to a second store where we met the equivalent scenario. A third store provided the same embarrassment from the clerk and no mouse trap. I asked Marian if there was something cultural I was missing. She took one step backwards, and then explained that finding a mouse in your house is evidence that you are a very dirty person. In a later conversation, she told me Africans try very hard to keep their homes clean, to the point that they do not even let their dogs in the house. When I told her our dog had slept with us, it became clear to her why we had a mouse in the house. Someone at work acquired a mouse trap for us, which we set. Marian told me African mice were very smart and it would be to difficult entice one into a trap. Apparently, she is correct, as the trap and its cheese remain untouched, but there is no more sign of the rodent.

Now it is time for YOU to take a quiz.
Study the question carefully, then check your answer!

What does this cow have in common with...

Coke Beer
...this coke bottle, and... ...this beer bottle, and...

Jet Plane Fish
...this jet plane, and... ...this fish, and...

Lion Rooster
...this lion, and... ...this rooster, and...

White Pickup
...and this white pickup truck???

Have you reached a solution??
No peeking at the answer before you give it your best effort!
To check your answer, click this button.

Salt for health Krrunchy bars
A low cost approach to "natural" medicine ..or how about a
crunchy chocolate health bar
to fight AIDS!

Malta sign
This stuff is not mentioned
in Section 89
Malta bottle
Ghanaians care very much about their health. Culturally, it is important to care for one’s teeth here. Young children are taught to chew on a special stick to keep their teeth clean. It is a rare person here who doesn’t have a big smile with bright, white clean teeth [not counting the obrunis, whose dental work is all too visible by comparison.] Smoking is rare. We have seen foreigners smoke, but very few Ghanaians smoke, making tobacco one obstacle they do not have to overcome to join the Church. We see evidence of health food signs as we drive around. We attended a meal with many native LDS here. A popular drink they ordered was Malta. Sister Markham was concerned and wondered if perhaps the Word of Wisdom was not taught here. She gently inquired about the drink, and was told that it was made from the same grain as beer is made, but this is sweet and non-alcoholic.

A Pharmacy
One of many pharmacies in our area

Who Needs Canada?
Pharmacies are prevalent. We have been told we can buy any medication without a prescription. We keep Cipro in our refrigerator to help us through any bugs we pick up. [Works very well, too!] Elder Markham stopped at a new pharmacy so we could restock, and was surprised that the druggist asked for a prescription. Elder Markham told the pharmacist that he didn’t know a prescription was needed as the other shops had not asked for one. The pharmacist said, “Please, tell me your symptoms.” Elder Markham explained why he wanted to buy it, and the druggist said, "OK, I can sell it to you."
Ten pills cost about $7.

Ocean A cool dip?
The ocean is nearby
and helps moderate the temperature.
We found a rockie point from which
to view the waves.
Elder Markham wanted to cool off.
He argued he wouldn't get any more wet!
The humidity is like Houston.

Private beach wall Ship salvage?
Most of the good beaches are private.
This keeps them clean and relatively unpolluted.
Unfortunately, this is all you see from outside.
An unwanted guest,
this ship lost power and ran aground.
Salvage operation is underway.

No food for lazy man
A sign we liked

To entertain ourselves as we travel around, we look for interesting signs, slogans and shop names. We have decided to pick a sign/slogan/shop of the month for the web page. The ubiquitous religious slogans provide many entries in our contest. But some plain old wisdom, like the sign above, also gets consideration.

Nice Hair Sign
Some signs are just unique!

Slogans Slogans
Taxis and Tro-Tros preach... ...through their rear windows.

Machine shop Motor shop
You can get anything! An intersting combination
(Name and speciality)

A shop with large sizes? Shop with a good name.
A shop with large sizes? Shop with a good name.

Wall sign Wall sign
A common sign on walls by stores This could be a tough court marshal
Some People Need to Be Told
We often find signs like these. Remember, this is a society where indoor plumbing is not available to everyone.

And this month's winner is...

Trust me Fast Food
An aptly named fast food establishment!

Communication is one of the biggest problems the Church faces in West Africa. Few people have home phones, although many have cell phones. We have a cell phone. We use it mostly to answer wrong numbers. Telephone booths
Superman Would Feel At Home Here

Teshie Chapel MTC
The LDS Church buildings stand out.
They are all well built and maintained.
This is the Teshie Chapel.
This is the Africa West Area
MTC (Missionary Training Center).
There is a big effort to fill it to capacity
with missionaries from the area.

Ella tells Papa and Dewey to be good missionaries in Ghana!!

I Can See Clearly Now
Our office is on the fourth floor of the Area Office Building. Sister Markham has not taken a picture of the view before because the Harmattan sand winds that come in the dry season (winter in North America) crusted the windows with a film. Workmen washed the windows in July – joy! We have a much better view now. Many people have come up to our office to take pictures.

Temple View from Office
The Accra Temple from Sister Markham's office

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