Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

 I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
 Just like the one's I used to know.
 Where the tree tops glisten,
 and children listen,
 To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
 I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
 With every Christmas card I write.
 May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmas's be white.

Yes, we too in Africa dream of a white Christmas.  But not a Christmas of cold or a covering of snow upon the ground, the houses and trees.  We dream of people being dressed in white, getting ready to enter the waters of baptism and to become members of the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints.  We were especially blessed this Christmas day to add 7 new members to our branch in Ho.  What a way to remember your baptism date.  One mother got to see her two young children be baptized.  Two men, who have struggled so hard with addictions, have over come them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Three friends embraced the gospel together through the great examples of members living amongst them.  What a happy day it was for everyone and very well attended by our branch. (Of course it was right after Sacrament meeting, so they were already there)

We really love the Elders here in Ghana, and especially in Ho.  We enjoyed feeding them breakfast at our weekly district meeting.  We then were able to attend an all mission Christmas conference in Accra.  It was great to see the joy and excitement on the Elders and Sister faces as they received their packages and letters from home.  Santa Claus found them, even in Ghana.  Our own Elder Anderson, from Australia, got a rather large package and he was sharing some of the contents with the children of our branch.  We know it's hard for missionaries to be away from home at this time, because it has been hard for us too.  But we know we are where we should be and doing what the Lord wants us to be doing at this time.  


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Card From Africa

This is the sun, not the moon, during this the Harmattan season.

 Christmas in Ghana
(Changed from Christmas in Arizona)

The visitor sadly shook his head
As he basked in the warmth of the sun;
"Call this Christmas?" to us he said,
"Well not where I come from!"

"Christmas needs snow and ice and cold,
And the sound of the sleigh bells ring;
And so for me, I can't be sold
On this winter that feels like spring."

We looked at him and then we smiled
As he scoffed aloud at our "plight";
And we felt pity and were not riled
Because he was so far from right.

For no snow fell on Bethlehem
On the night the star first shown,
There was no blizzard or howling gale,
That swept with a shriek and a moan.

The breeze was soft, and what is more,
The night the Christ child came
Hibiscus bloomed near the stable door,
As Mary murmured his name.

Bougainvillea of violet hue
Arched in a graceful bower;
Poinsettias, wet with midnight dew
Enhanced the sacred hour.

The heavenly host in the starry sky,
Proclaimed the birth of the King;
And rustling palms echoed the cry
As the whole earth seemed to sing.

So we find here, in our sun drenched land,
Never touched by ice and snow,
That the spirit of Christmas is near at hand
And we feel God willed it so.

 Nativity at the Accra Temple grounds. Landscaping filled with cocoa bark.  Smells like hot chocolate!
 Beautiful close up of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child.

 Hand carved African Nativity.

 The Christmas tree Elder Lyon wanted to chop down.  He couldn't find an ax.  Plus it might be just a little too big for our home.
 So we decorated for Christmas with this sweet little tree instead.

Things we have seen in Africa that remind us of Christmas:
 A little lamb like may have been in the stable.
 Flying the Christmas Colors.
 Red peppers drying in the sun.
 Red blossom on the temple grounds.
More tropical African plants bearing their Christmas glory.
Flames from the annual bush burning during harmattan. 
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ...

The Ten Commandments of Christmas
by Debra Oaks Coe

1. Thou shalt not put any other holiday traditions or celebrations (not even Santa Claus) above the celebration of our Savior's birth and the deep meaning of His life, teachings, and sacrifices.
2. Thou shalt look at thy life and make at least one positive change as your gift to the Savior at His birthday celebration.
3. Thou shalt have many traditions, especially those types of traditions that remind you of the Savior, give service to others, and bring your family closer together.
4. Thou shalt remember those who are alone and help them to have a "Merry Christmas" also.
5.  Thou shalt give gifts of worth and not merely add to another's collection of clutter simply for the sake of "giving a gift". Give of yourself which is the way the Savior gave.
6.  Thou shalt value the effort and thought put into gifts received.  Just as with the widow's mite, it is the meaning that gives a gift value not the dollar amount paid.
7.  Thou shalt give no gift grudgingly or because you have to.  This does not mean to not give the gift to someone, but to work until you have changed your own attitude.
8.  Thou shalt not become so busy that you don't have time to really enjoy the season.
9.  Thou shalt remember that of all the beautiful and expensive gifts, what children want and need most is honor, respect, love, and your time.
10.  Above all, Thou shalt find a way to keep the spirit of the Christmas season and of giving all through the year.

We wish you all the very best, Christmas ever!  Filled with the love the Savior has for each of you.We love you and miss you all!

Elder and Sister Lyon

Monday, December 12, 2011

Random Thoughts On Africa

As you can see by the photo, Africa is a beautiful country, yet the people litter and throw their garbage everywhere.  When we went to the Wli Falls, which we shall tell about later, we walked through some of the most beautiful and lush green vegetation we have seen.  Yet the guide was picking up litter all the way in and out.  He said that was part of his job.  When we asked him how people could litter such a pretty area, he said it's mostly the African school students who do that.   I wish they would have more respect for this lovely country.

I started out feeling sorry for the people here, but after being here awhile and getting to know them, I now am starting to feel sorry for the people back home.  They don't have the distractions that modern technology provides, so they spend their time reading scriptures, studying lessons and memorizing songs.  They are very knowledgeable about the gospel and scriptures.  They love to sing here, even if they have no accompaniment and they are mostly off key. When there is no accompanist they ask someone to sing the first stanza of the hymn. (They call this give us the tune.) The chorister will then say, "One, Two, Go". They then start to sing.  It's wonderful because what they lack in quality, they make up for in quantity.  They are not shy about singing the hymns loudly.

The people here are warm, friendly and open.  You can talk to anyone, well almost anyone, about the gospel and they will stop to listen.  They will accept the pamphlets we hand out and will promise to read them.  They love getting things from people, especially us "Yavoos" (White People). As they walk along the road they have this sullen and serious look on their face, but if you greet them, their face brightens and they will smile and return your greeting, well, most of them do.  There is always the exception.  We have people walk up to us and ask us about our church.  If you can't be a missionary here, you can't be a missionary anywhere.  When people greet us here they say, "You are welcome", which means, you are welcome here.  In Ewe they say "Woezor", which means "Welcome".  Then we reply back, "Thank you" or Akpeh".  They kind of have it backwards here.

When the children see us they brighten up and yell Yavoo.  We can tell when we walk by children that have seen us because they will yell out.  Some will want to give us a big hug or want to hold our hand.  They smile so big and enjoy being around us.  We've even had to have someone who spoke Ewe tell them to go back home because they were following us and we were afraid they would get lost.  We have been told it's good luck for them to see and be around a white person.  Kind of makes you feel special.  And they all love to have their picture taken and see it on the camera screen.  But they don't want to smile for the photo, but they have big smiles afterwards when they see them.

The driving can be best described as bumper cars, yet they seldom have collisions, just lots of near misses.  We have had our mirrors hit before.  And when they do have a collision, they just get out and yell at each other for awhile and then go on their way.  Seldom is there any physical confrontation.  The drivers are aggressive yet courteous.  They will take the right of way, but if you take it from them, there is no yelling, shouting or cursing.  But if you let a vehicle in, the whole line of them will go.  There is no your lane goes, then my lane goes and so forth, it's every man for himself.  The vehicles have the right of way on the streets, at the intersections, everywhere.  The pedestrians watch out for them.  About 70% of the highway fatalities here involve vehicles hitting people walking.  When you do stop for a pedestrian and let them cross, they look surprised, then smile and wave at you.  Because there is hardly any private ownership of cars here, if they want transportation somewhere, instead of walking they either take a taxi or tro-tro (a van that will hold up to 14 people).  A member of our branch, who drives a taxi, says there are about 2,000 taxis here in Ho.  I believe it, they're everywhere.  The vehicles stop at anytime and anywhere to let their passengers out or in.  You always have to be ready to swerve out of the way in case they do.

Things I think I'll never get used to:  Humidity.  Roosters not knowing the time of day and they're only supposed to crow at sunrise.  People relieving themselves out in the open, anywhere they can.  The noise, Africa is a noisy place.  The fire station across the street testing their alarms daily, but at least it's around 7am.  The sun rising and setting at the same time each day.  Ghana is the center of the world, the country closest to 0 degrees longitude and 0 degrees latitude.  The taste and texture of food.  It is okay, just a little off from what we're used to.  Even the products that come from American companies that are made in South Africa, don't taste quite the same.  But the fresh fruit here is wonderful.   Seeing lizards in the house, but I guess it's better than having bugs.  But we have bugs too.  Ghanaian standard time.  It's worse than Mormon standard time.  The price of things compared to the quality.  Everything here is so expensive, I don't know how some people live, but the quality is really poor.  It's not even Ghana good (to quote Mandy).  The driving.  The condition of the roads and rumble strips, or speed ramps. Dodging potholes everywhere, I am working on my PHD (pot hole dodger). Electricity going off at random times and not knowing when it will come back on.  There is no electric company to call here.  No addresses.  People very seldom had telephones until cell phone came along, now everyone has one, but they don't know phone etiquette.  They don't say goodbye, they just hang up.  And if their phone rings they answer it, no matter where they are or what they are doing.  Deep gutters, I mean deep, at least two to three feet deep and about twelve to fifteen inches wide. You definitely don't want to park to close to or drive your vehicle into one.

They have a whole different terminology for things.  If something is ruined or broke, it's said to be spoiled.  An intersection is a junction.  Groceries are provisions.  If you are going out of town you are  traveling, if you move, you are out of town.  Comments in church are called contributions.  When they run out of something, they call it finished.  When the instructor asks someone to look up a scripture and read it, they will wait for everyone to find it and will say "are we there yet?"  When questioning  what you say, they say "are you sure".  Speed bumps are called rumble strips and they don't just have one, they have several in a row.

Yes, Africa is a wonderful place full of contrasts.  For everything you find that's bad, you can find more that's good.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve here on a mission and for those who have helped physically, spiritually and financially.  And it's an added blessing to be serving here with Sister Lyon, my eternal companion. May the blessings of the Lord be with each and everyone of you.  

Mia Ga Da Go

Friday, December 9, 2011

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

We thoroughly enjoy reading the store names and signs as we travel from Ho to Accra and back again so often in our missionary endeavors.  The African people have a deep abiding faith in God and love for Jesus Christ which is abundantly evident where ever we go.  This helps make missionary work very enjoyable and the gospel easy to discuss with just about anyone.  We hope you enjoy these photos ... we will let them speak for themselves.

Yes, This Choose the Right Store is owned by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints!

Dallin Oaks would be pleased with this store name...

Friday, December 2, 2011

All Creatures of Our God and King

 All creatures of our God and King,
 Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Al-le-lu-ia! Al-le-lu-ia!
 Thou burning sun with golden beam,
 Thou silver moon with softer gleam,
Al-le-lu-ia! Al-le-lu-ia!
 Al-le-lu-ia! Oh praise Him! Al-le-lu-ia!
 Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heav'n along...
 Dear Mother Earth,  who day by day,
Carry children on your backs in every way...
(Sorry, just couldn't resist putting that verse in)

 This world is so beautiful, sometimes you just have to break out in song to express how grateful we are for the "Beauty of The Earth".  Here we go again.  On the Monday before Thanksgiving we went to Tafi Atome.  They have a monkey sanctuary there for the Mona monkeys.  They usually come out to the road in the morning, but because we were lazy and didn't get out of bed before sunrise, we got to walk through the gorgeous forest with our guide to try and find them.  The guide was making some kind of loud, prolonged kissing sound to try and attract them.  Was he after women or monkeys?
One of the trees we encountered on our walk.  I love how the trunk is formed so large and then the rest of the tree is slender.  Our guide told us to stay, right in the middle of the forest, and he would go see if he could find the monkeys.  We enjoyed the lovely surroundings, so thankful Heavenly Father created it and we were there.  After awhile we were starting to wonder because our guide hadn't returned.  Then a young man came by on a bicycle and informed us the guide had found them.
 We followed him and all of a sudden there were crashing sounds and brush being moved and there they were.  Everywhere.  The sanctuary was started because the Mona monkey is a sacred animal to the natives and the settlers were starting to kill them.  This one is intently watching to see when we are going to break out the bananas we brought to feed them.
 Jessie held one out and a monkey jumped right on her hand to get it.  The guide told us to hang on to the banana tight.  If we held it loose they would just take it out of our hands and go up into a tree to eat it, but if we held on tight they would peel it and eat it.  We had them eating out of our hands.
 Very surprising the length's they would go to get the bananas! The good thing about them, they didn't have sharp claws and they only chewed on the bananas.  It was very fun when you held a banana in your hand and the monkeys would jump right out of the tree onto your arm.  Sometimes there were several trying to get the treat.
Ma'am I'm tired of swinging through the trees.  May I please have a ride.
 When this one saw me taking photos, he had to strike a pose.   
The guide told us this is the Patriarch and Matriarch of the group of about 30 to 40 monkeys.  That is about the size of each group.  There are about 300 to 400 monkeys in the whole sanctuary.  We are glad we went there, found the monkeys and got to feed them.  What a great experience.  We would love to go there again sometime.
 More beautiful African landscape as we leave the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary.  This is what most of the roads look like.  Sometimes they're better to drive on than the paved roads. 

 Mixed blessings come from a truck that takes three days to service rather than one.  We enjoyed more time in and around the Accra Temple.  Elder Lyon is standing next to a Traveler's Palm sporting his Kente cloth tie.  These fan shaped palms line the sidewalks of the temple grounds. Uniquely beautiful.
Gorgeous foliage surrounds the temple.
 "Beautiful Temple--God it's light ..." (to quote the words of one of the Ghanaian's favorite hymns, #44)
 "Beautiful palms the conq'rors show ...
Detail of the stained glass, imagine it from inside with the brilliant golds, purple, blues, greens shining with light from above. "Beautiful heaven where all is light ..."
 "Beautiful angel's clothed in white ..."

 Another blessing in disguise while waiting for our truck to finish being serviced, we were able to have Thanksgiving dinner with these great Elders. The AP's and Office Elders in the home of Elder and Sister Barney who are from Gilbert, AZ and serve in the mission office.  We were also blessed with their hospitality in letting us stay in their home during this time.  The reason Elder and Sister Barney are not in the photo is because the food had been blessed, and the Elders couldn't wait to dig in to such a delicious spread.

 From Arizona to Africa, sunsets are one of the many of God's great creations which we are so grateful for.

Elder Lyon, stop monkeying around, this blog post is finished.