Welcome to Ben and Julie's Missionary Page
September 2004: Venturing out of Accra

A family near a village
This family was out working on a Saturday.
We saw them at least a mile from any village.
They were gathering food and fuel in the jungle.

Below are close-ups of three generations.

Grandma Grandson, proudly carrying a log
She became very friendly when Elder Markham
paid her 50 cents for some family pictures!
Grandson, proudly carrying a log
Elder Markhem hefted the log--about 35 lbs.
That would be like Elder M carrying 120+ lbs
on his head! I don't think so!!!

A daughter Another daughter
A daughter we think, but
not enough English to determine exact relationships.
Another daughter-aged person
Note the machetes with the plantains.

Our work is now taking us to congregations in smaller cities.
The roads we travel are sometimes very crowded with traffic,
and sometimes through jungle with scattered small villages.

The traffic on the main roads out of Accra is very bad on Fridays and Saturdays
when people leave to return to their villages.
Traffic Jam
Mouseover to see the what is behind through the rearview mirror!

Stay Alert Hawkers
The other drivers keep us alert!
Lanes?? Why worry!!
The Hawkers often entertain us.

Hawker with Family Graceful Hawker
This Mom is selling bread
while her daughter tends the baby.
Graceful Hawker

Nsawam is a city about 30 miles north of Accra.
We have been there twice, once on a Saturday morning,
then again on a Sunday at about the same time.
Sunday traffic into Nsawam
Mouseover to see the difference in traffic on Sunday!

Along the way, we see lots of interesting stuff in the cities.

Crowded Tro-Tro Mosque
Most people travel by Tro-Tros,
which are generally crowded.
On weekends the travelers take goods to
and from villages, overloading the vans.
There are churches and mosques all over.

African Drums Train Sign
We took this picture of African
Drums for Jeff!!
But we have not found a train for Uncle Mike.
We think we are getting closer!

Turning off the main roads, we pass through the bush (jungle)
and see small villages and towns.

Jungle Scene Jungle Scene
The scenery is beautiful... ..and there is much less traffic!

Jungle Scene Jungle Scene
We don't recognize much of the flora... ...but we often stop at the top of hills
so we can soak it in.

Village We don't take pictures of people in the villages because they are generally staring at us, and we have been told some don't like their picture taken because of old superstitions. Most expect you to stop and pay them for the picures, or at least give them a "snap" (print).
Window shot of a village

Village Scene Village Scene
Most villages are a mix of old huts with
mud adobe walls with thatched roofs...
...and "modern" construction using
concrete blocks and corrugated tin roofs.
We hear the old huts are much cooler than the new!

Village Scene Towns Scene
Some Ghanians want to move
back to their home village,
but take some modern conveniences.
Every so often there is a town with schools,
churches, shops and an open market area.

At the end of our trips we always find a beautiful LDS chapel.
Oda Chapel
Click the picture to see what we found in the Asamankese chapel.

Along the road to Oda Branch we saw a small sign saying the "largest tree in Africa." It was 270 meters down a trail through the jungle. We stopped and took the hike. What did we find? A big tree with two fourteen year old self appointed caretakers. They told us we needed to put money in a notch in the tree or we would have bad luck. We tipped them for "guiding us" and posing for pictures, but left nothing extra in the tree. So far, we have not noticed any spell, but who knows?
Big Tree Very Big Tree
A Big Tree A Very Big Tree

Big Tree Kwesi and Yao
Some size perspective Kwesi (front) and Yao
show off the bench they were constructing
from bamboo and vines.

The Jungle Path Butterflies
The Jungle Path Butterflies were all over.
It was just like walking through
the butterfly exhibit in Houston.

Sadly, everywhere we go in West Africa, we are reminded of the devastation HIV/AIDS has caused among the people here. There are local government, foreign agencies, and NGO's (non-governmental organizations) all working together to change this situation. Their efforts are not subtle. AIDS awareness billboards are all over the large cities and even in the small villages.

If you would like to see a sampling of the AIDS warning billboards,
click the button below. Warning: Some are very direct.

Have you ever met a real Princess?

This princess travels with a driver, a linguist, and a body guard.
She lives on a private island at the mouth of the Volta River.
She has a Master's Degree from Rutgers in Mechanical Engineering.

Princess and Entourage Volta River
Tribal royalty often uses linguists to speak
for them to avoid talking to common folk.
This linguist is only ceremonial, as
this Princess speaks for herself, very well!
The Volta River looks like the Mississippi.
At its mouth are beautiful tropical islands.

The princess is the daughter of a tribal king. While tribes no longer have direct political power, the traditional influence and allegiance of the people is still strong. In this case the land holdings of the king's family are also very significant. The princess uses her personal intelligence and charm, plus traditional tribal factors, to promote business and humanitarian activities in Ghana. She is a class act!!

A current business project is salt and mineral recovery facilities in Ghana. The Princess has sought out world class experts to advise on this project. One such expert is a church member who has developed and operated recovery facilities at the Great Salt Lake. Through this connection to the church, she invited some missionaries to visit an orphanage she sponsors for children who lost their parents to AIDS. She has also attended church at the Ghana Missionary Training Center (MTC). She was impressed with the methods and content of the training there and asked if the new missionaries could visit the orphanage to teach religious values to the children.

Princess Asie Ocansey Princess Asie Ocansey
Princess Asie Ocansey
with daughter (far right) and foster children.
Click on her smile to meet children from the orphanage.

Still More Flowers!

Flowers Flowers
A white star Double flowers, white on pink

To enjoy the rest of the flowers Sister Markham found this month,
click on the button below.

Plantains Ginger?
Plantains growing at our apartment Is this ginger? We think it might be.

Our neighbor's garden is growing well.
Neighbor's Garden
Mouseover to see how the garden grew between July 31 and September 2!

BYU Tie Giraffe
Elder Markham claims to not miss BYU football,
but he wears this tie every Friday!
A potential friend for Harrison

Sister Markham took some animal pictures this month.
For our grandkids, and anyone else who is interested, click the button below.

Buduburam, the Liberian Refugee Camp

For a decade plus, there has been civil unrest and violence in Liberia. Many people left the country for safety in neighboring lands. There are church members among these refugees. About 30 miles East of Accra, the Ghanaian government has established a refugee camp for Liberians. Even the Ghanaians who live in this area are very poor. The refugees are given food and water to sustain life, but only minimal education is available for the children, and adults have almost no possibility to get education or meaningful employment. Refugees can not take regular jobs in Ghana that would displace a Ghanaian worker (unemployment in Ghana is about 20%). They can be self employed. Many have been in the camp for 10 years. They want to return to their homeland, but they still fear for their safety there. There are about 300 church members at the camp. It is the Buduburam Branch of the Lartebiokorshie Stake.

Do you remember the tro-tro with 25 adults inside arriving at the temple in the last website update? Those were members from Buduburam Branch---economic reality made the overloading necessary. We traveled to the Buduburam Branch on a Sunday morning with a stake auditor to attend meetings and do an audit. Due to lack of telephones, they did NOT know we were coming. After a couple of months in West Africa, Elder Markham thought he could deal with anything. The visit to Buduburam Branch proved him wrong and may have altered his life forever. Grab a tissue and read on.

Primary Girls
Primary girls welcoming Elder Markham

We arrived about 20 minutes before the meeting time. Members were already there sweeping the ground and arranging the chairs. The branch rents two rooms of the elementary school for Sunday meetings. Relief Society uses one and Primary the other. Priesthood and Young Women meet outside on the playground. The chairs are elementary student desks, build for two students each.

Primary Boys
Primary boys in the Priesthood and Sunday School "room"

Elder Markham had to move the car---he had parked where the Aaronic Priesthood would meet. The two pictures below are cropped from the upper corners of the picture above. They tell a story that our words can not adequately convey.

Priesthood Lesson
The Elder's Quorum President is writing the topic for the Priesthood Lesson on the chalkboard.
It is Teaching for Our Times, 2004, Lesson 5: Blessings Through the Priesthood!

Sunday Morning Bath
In the background, neighborhood children are bathing in a faucet.

The Priesthood class had 17 men present, plus Elder Markham and the stake auditor, Brother Larbie. Several are returned missionaries. The discussion was rich, the spirit strong, and chickens walked and pecked through the classroom.

The school has never been wired for electricity. The only light comes from open doors and gables, plus the sideways cinder block windows. The chalkboards are in terrible condition. This is an active elementary school!!
Chalkboard The Neighborhood Children
The Relief Society Room Chalkboard
(The light is from the camera's flash.)
The neighborhood children with our car
Note the school building in the background

The Gospel Doctrine lesson (also outside) was on Captain Moroni in Alma. It was quite an experience to hear the perspective on war from Liberian refugees, many of whom had witnessed atrocities such as family members being hacked to death. In the end, mercy and forgiveness carried the day, leaving vengence to the Lord. Reading about Moroni's defense of the Nephites will never be the same! Elder Markham's head got a little sunburned.

Showing real mercy, the Branch President asked Elder and Sister Markham to give the opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting. This meant they could sit on folding chairs at the front of the room, instead of the student desks---which all had at least three occupants. The room was about 30 feet by 20 feet. There were over 80 people in the meeting. It was so crowded the deacons could NOT walk down the aisle to pass the sacrament. No A/C, fans, microphone or lights, but the spirit was strong. Elder Markham took a deep breath, then gave a short prayer, trying to maintain composure. He would have taken bets that Sister Markham would not have been able to utter a sound without a complete meltdown when she stood to give the closing prayer. But during the meeting she mentally listed what blessings she was thankful for that the members of Buduburam Branch also shared. Her prayer was simple, but profound (inspired). Without a tear, she expressd thanks for the restored gospel, a living prophet, family and friends, and a temple nearby. In discussing our feelings after this experience, we have concluded that while there is no inherent unrighteousness in material blessings, sometime their sheer abundance can mask that which is most important. This is not a problem in Buduburam!
Click below to see people of Buduburam.

Want to meet a prince of a man?

President Alex Tandoh
Buduburam Branch President, Alex Tandoh

President Tandoh is a Ghanaian from a town near the Buduburam refugee camp. He is educated and has a great job in Accra. He and his wife have a young family. They choose to live in an affordable area and he commutes each day. Last May he was called as Buduburam Branch President. He has a great desire to help these members earn money "so they can pay tithing and have the windows of Heaven open and pour out blessings" that they really need. His vision is to find some farm land to lease adjacent to the camp and have the members co-op farm vegetables that they can sell at the local market. Ghanaian laws limit what the refugees can do. Most desire to return to Liberia as soon as it is safe to do so. (They have been in Ghana for ten years!) President Tandoh is working hard to make this vision come true. Some people are born into royal lines in this life. Some magnify the royal lineage they bring with them.

It is time for the shop/sign of the month contest.
Click below to see this month's results.

The Ghana Accra Mission held a zone conference at the Christiansborg Stake Center adjacent to the temple in late August. It was fun to watch this "royal army" assemble for a picture on the temple steps.
Missionaries Coming Missionaries Assembling
Elders and Sisters
coming from the zone conference,
getting assembled for pictures,

Missionaries Coming Missionaries Assembling
properly posed, and back to business.

Matt emails Dewey
Matt sends Dewey an email.
Go, Matt!!

We really appreciate the strong support we feel from family and friends.

Click here to email Julie

The next update will include our September training visit to Sierra Leone, and children who have just been sealed to their parents in the Accra temple. Have your Kleenex and popcorn ready.

Accra Temple
The Accra Temple at night, again. We truly love this sight.

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