This week we have been in Takoradi, a coastal port -a six hour drive west of Accra. This is a huge stake consisting of 11 wards and 5 branches. On our first evening there the youth were rehearsing a traditional dance (so fun to watch!) One of the YM told me they will preform it at next month's stake conference when it is hoped a new stake will be created. Besides meeting with the SR committee we also met four individuals who have found success through the SR program. Here are two of their stories:
Sister Celestina Snyper is a humble, single mother with a flour distribution business. She impressed me with her fortitude She attended a My Path devotional because she is a leader and thought it was her duty to go, then she realized she was not yet self reliant so she joined a group and learned many principles that have blessed her life and her business.
Brother Frank Adu Agyapong is a young father who remembered how his mission president's wife made banana bread, so 1.5 years ago he started a banana bread business. After completing SR classes he has made improvements in his financial accounts. He believes his business will grow as he finds a business partner, more vendors to sell his bread and a baker to help make more than the 30 loaves he is currently now making each day. Because Ghana is a cash economy, and interest on bank loans can be anywhere from 30-40%, and investors are hard to come by, those who are most successful start small, save, and eventually grow big. Saving money is also a hard concept to understand and practice here, so it really is an uphill battle to teach that it can be done. Brother Agyapong is a wonderful example of striving to live within his means but also gradually growing his business. I gave him our card and referenced allrecipes.com on the back. We have faith he will become successful in time.
Talking of being successful, Elder Lambert and I have been pondering on what that means exactly.
What does success mean to you? We believe success is not how much money we make, or the status we rise to in work or the community. We have decided that it is exactly what the Self Reliance program encompasses. It is "the ability, commitment and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family."
Paying tithing, spending less than we earn, providing food, shelter, clothing, clean water, and transportation for the family, giving our children an education and being free of consumer debt are all important temporal necessities. Following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, praying and studying the scriptures, partaking of the sacrament and being worthy of a temple recommend are spiritual necessities. And finally, success means willingly sacrificing to serve others. This is what constitutes a successful life.
The lesson of the windshield washer: Every day we are confronted by beggars, and street people wanting us to buy from them. Then there are the windshield washers who come up, and usually uninvited, wash our car windows. (If you don't pay them they may scratch your windows). If you don't want your windows cleaned you indicate with a hand gesture or turn on your wipers. One day I made eye contact with a young windshield washer and indicated that we did not want our windows washed. We continued to look at each other and I became a little frustrated when he approached the car and started washing. Held captive at a traffic light! Then as I handed him a small amount of money he said, "I just want to work."My heart softened and the Spirit taught me a powerful lesson. He wasn't begging- he was working! He did a beautiful job cleaning the windows and all I was giving him probably amounted to 5c. How could I be so stingy? Not only in my payment but in my attitude. I have since resolved that my heart needs to change, I hope by the time we leave Ghana I will have stripped away those layers of pride, stinginess, and Scrooge-like behavior. It reminds me of the question 'Are we denying the Savior, when we deny the service offered to us from others?" I am so grateful that the next 14 months gives me the chance to redeem myself and become, more like the Savior. So grateful for a lesson learned from a young windshield washer. John 13:8-9
Have you viewed the video on lds.org about "The Freeze' here in Ghana? We know some of those individuals who were interviewed! I love pioneers!
Thanks for all your good words of support and love.
Hugs to you all,
Elder and Sister Lambert
Pix: Bro Agyapong with his banana bread
New Gbawe missionaries Elders Kalu (Nigeria), Zounmenou (Benin), Mwanza (Congo), Bassey (Nigeria)
A third business: Bro Agbo demonstrated how to make aluminum pots in his foundry