First, let me start by saying that Devon is doing very well. He is happy and healthy and knows he is exactly where he is needed. He loves serving the Lord and has come to love the people he has met in Ghana so very much, and he especially loves President and Sister Shulz. This experience is something he said he will cherish for the rest of his life and he is grateful for the opportunity. It is a blessing and he has grown so much already, as a person, he no longer sees the world the same as he did before he left. He is definitely becoming a man and leaving behind the thinking of the teenager he was when he left. His testimony of the gospel has strengthened so much he said, it is incredible. He knows that serving his mission, though it has been the hardest thing he has ever done, was the right and best decision he could have made. He is thankful for everyone's thoughts, prayers, letters, and support.
We didn't talk very much about Africa this time, I guess because we email each week and those consist mostly of what is happening in Ghana. What we did talk about was what his thoughts were about the mission so far and the people he has taught. We talked about the members at the branch he attends and we also spoke a lot about General Conference. He also asked a lot about everyone at home and how the ward is doing. So, I suppose the best thing to do is just take it one topic at a time huh?
1. Mission life: He is having the time of his life! He is really experiencing the culture in Ghana, he loves the food, he loves the people, and he says the area is beautiful. He adjusted quickly so that was never an issue for him. He has realized that he liked home more than he even thought and appreciates things, especially the small things so much more than he ever did before. He is just happy and doing well. He really just loves being on his mission and serving. He did say that he is going to be ready to get married soon after he gets home though, so that was a shock! He said he would be getting back in to YSA right away as well. Guess I better get prepared for the day my "baby" gets married, but I'm not sure how I feel about that just yet... He did say not to panic too much just yet, since, after all, there are no ladies for him to date in our ward or area for that matter. Ahhhh, I can breath again!
2. His converts: The love he has for those he has taught and baptized. It is great! But the love he has for S, it is special. I truly believe she was his person. She had been taught for about 5 years by other missionaries but had lots of issues to overcome. When she met Elder Brown and Elder Derry, something changed for her, the repentance process was long and tough but she did it and was able to enter the waters of baptism. Elder Brown was able to perform the baptism and confirmation, and he said it was the best experience he has had on his mission. He said he has been very lucky in that the people that he and his companions have taught have been very strong and have stayed active so far and he feels that they will stay active and be strong members for life!
3. Members: Awesome for the most part. He said everyone is great, very nice but they have a hard time with the members fellow-shipping recent converts for some reason. (hmmmm....sounded vaguely familiar to me) That bothers him some because of being on that side of it before and knowing how it can feel. I had to agree with him on that. I think that members don't realize how difficult it is to transition into this faith. I, having been there, can totally understand how someone could easily become inactive shortly after being baptized. Especially if they are an only member in their family. You have to have a very strong testimony of the gospel to be able to come Sunday after Sunday, alone (maybe with kids) no one to sit with or talk to, feeling unwelcome and unwanted, lonely, in a faith that you may feel like a baby in, to then go home where you have no support. I can understand why it would be tough for the missionaries, because they work with these people and teach them and they gain a testimony of the gospel and come to church and because they feel unwelcome by the members, quit coming. How sad. But, you can't give up. I know that Elder Brown believes in the work, believes in the members, has a testimony of the gospel, has faith in Jesus Christ, and in His Heavenly Father. He said that is one thing that he wishes members would really be more diligent with though, fellow-shipping new converts.
4. General Conference: His favorite talk (which happened to be my favorite as well, hmm...how did that happen?) Converted to His Gospel through His Church by Donald L. Hallstrom: anyone who reads his blog knows Elder Brown was unable to watch General Conference in English so I sent him the Conference issue of the Ensign which he was thrilled to get! He said he was so glad to read this talk and knew that it was truly inspired. He said that it is something he thinks about sometimes, how things are going back home, how people are doing, especially youth, and wonders if this is still a problem? It makes him think because of the members in the branch he attends, as stated before, they have a hard time fellow-shipping and even serving each other sometimes. He said he believes that you can't truly be active in the gospel if you are not willing to serve others and to love one another. Really??? Who is this person? Is this really MY son? When did he become so , RIGHT??? After all, he is right. Jesus did command us to love one another, right? A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34 What does the scriptures teach us about service? And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2:17 Sounds like service is pretty important. Of course, Jesus did tell the lawyer to go and do as the good samiritan did, so I guess we should probably be doing the same. Yea, Elder Brown made me think about how well I am doing at serving others and loving everyone. I sure have room for improvement!!
By now I guess you have figured out that Elder Brown has been doing a bit of pondering since the last time we spoke, so our conversation this time was a bit more serious and spiritual in nature. Yes, we did talk of things that I am not of a mind to share but I know that you understand. We did some laughing as well, but I know my son, and I can NOT share those stories, he would be upset with me if I did so I'll keep them between the 2 of us (so, if you see me giggling for what seems like no reason...DON"T ASK!!!)
Keep reading his blog and know that it makes him happy that so many people are following his adventures each week. Know that he prays for all of you and loves to hear from you so keep sending those letters!!! Use dearelder.com, it's free to send letters!
He loves you and appreciates you. Until next week...peace from Ghana :)