Moroni 7:47

"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
-Moroni 7:47

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Week 33 - Mission Accomplished

Dear family and friends,

The title today is a little deceiving. It does not refer to us but to our Africa West Area President, Elder Curtis. He and his wife have served here for five years and will be heading home at the end of the month. We enjoyed one last zone conference with them this week where they reminisced on their time here. Talking on the growth of the church Elder Curtis shared amazing stories from the eight countries (out of fourteen) where the church is established. Senegal was recently added to the list as it now has one organized branch of the church and one senior missionary couple. Membership in 2010 was 145,299. Today the number is 251,989. West Africa has 5% of the total church membership, but 1/3 of the growth of the church in the last five years! Of course growth brings challenges but those are being addressed daily by each of us in our respective callings. It's a privilege to serve here and be on the Lord's team.

Sister Curtis shared how Africa has helped her "see with new eyes" Her favorite experiences include seeing the women in their traditional African dresses (it really is a beautiful sight!), serving in the Temple, and attending Primary. She has been involved in countless service projects and even had the opportunity to go on a Rhino safari! We will miss the Curtis' and their wise, loving leadership

For our part, we have had the blessing of meeting some wonderful members this week who are progressing forward in self reliance. "Joseph Duku returned from his mission in 2009, He spent the next 4 years earning a diploma in Business Management. He then made his leap into the business world by borrowing money to purchase 3 computers to be used in an internet cafe. Speaking of this start up loan, Brother Duku told us that, “Any man who borrows money should be arrested. The interest rates are crazy!” Brother Duku went to work to pay that loan off as fast as he could and using the teachings of the SR course he has learned to save money for all future growth. Brother Duku’s profits from his internet services were meager and falling as many of his customers switched to smart phones for their internet access. So he began to ponder and pray about the future business path he should take. One day someone came to him and asked if he could help him register for the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). He quickly realized he could become an agent to offer this service. This required an electronic finger print identification device which also allowed him to register people in many other programs. To increase the use of his services he has kept the phone numbers of his clients and sends text messages to remind them of important registration deadlines. He has also created banners to advertise his business and has them strategically positioned in the area. This banner designing quickly became a new offering for his business. Brother Duku’s latest additions are the teaching of computer skills and taking and preparing passport photos. When asked about his challenges he mentioned two things: First, he said  he is weak in customer services. That problem was recently solved with the addition of a new employee, his wife of 6 months. He feels that together they make the perfect team as she is “wonderful with people!” However his biggest challenge is staying on top of a very rapidly changing business field. Brother Duku feels that being good today is not enough, he must constantly be looking to the future for the next big thing. He is confident he can do this because he is good at generating ideas and has strong problem solving skills."  
On my birthday (thank you everyone for your kind wishes) we visited Christiana. We met her several weeks ago and were touched by her fortitude despite experiencing many hardships and trials. At that time she expressed a desire to learn to read so on Saturday we approached her about whether she would like lessons and she eagerly accepted. Just to show the goodness of this women, there were five little neighborhood kids hanging out with us as we talked, and a couple of them stated fighting over who would sit in which chair, so she dished up a bowl of rice for each one, and we continued our conversation in peace. We arranged that from now on, every Monday we will meet with her, and using the Gospel Literacy program will teach her to read. I am so excited for the opportunity to use the skills I learned as a para in kindergarten! Reading is so foundational to all we do in life. I don't think we realize what a blessing it is until we see the world through the eyes of a non-reader. And then, what a joy it is, to see their world become colored with words. You young moms know what I am talking about, right? Some of my favorite mothering memories are of teaching our girls to recognize their letters and write their name. It is wonderful to empower others!

On Sunday Elder Lambert and I attended church at Darkuman ward where we hope to have some self reliance groups going in a few weeks. It's fun to meet new people who tell us "Oh, I am the Mensen's daughter" or "Yes, I am Elder Brown's mother" and then make the family connections of people we already know from other wards. It's feeling more like "home" every week!

The gospel of Jesus Christ not only makes us happy, but instills in us the desire to share that happiness with others. I am grateful for the Savior, for His life, and His example in doing the will of His Father. 

Try every day to give love away, 
The Lamberts
Elder and Sister Curtis
Joseph Duku
For my cloud-loving daughters

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Week 32 - Rain Rain...

Dearest Family,

The rainy season has made everything so green! The crops are growing fast, the frogs are croaking loudly (all night long) and I love watching and listening to the sound of the rain from our windows. We have had three good soakers this week, and on Friday it rained all day as we traveled to Assin Foso to support the first Business Fair presented by any of the ten stakes we cover. 

We imagined this fair would involve members displaying samples of their businesses on tables in the cultural hall and everyone walking around to look at the displays, ask questions, discover how the self reliance initiative has impacted their lives and give encouragement to everyone. However, something in the back of my mind told me it probably wouldn't turn out to be anything like that, and so I was not surprised (just a little disappointed) when it wasn't!  But it was OK because it fulfilled their needs, and was a very successful event. About 175 people attended, and they rotated through eight different presentations given by representatives of local colleges, vocational schools, media school, imaging diagnostic center, a bank, and a welding business. Everyone seemed to be enjoying it, asking questions and receiving some valuable information ....I think. Elder Lambert and I were lost since 95% of the  event was in Twi. Anyway, I have become pretty good at picking out the English-speakers to translate for me and as a result was able to interview the welder and learn about his journey to success, and get a little feed back on the discussions.
Along with the Business Fair we visited a couple more member businesses..... Sister Felicia Gyansah
 learned how to make liquid soap in RS about two years ago, which is about the same time she and her husband took “Start and Grow My Business”. SR taught her about savings and how to improve her business. Initially the challenge was how to make the business known. She went to schools, churches, restaurants. and other businesses to do this. She has also invested in advertising by having an attractive label made for her product.  Because of her efforts she now has customers who call her to reorder her products. 

We were given a lesson on soap making and learned she gets her supplies from a distributer in Accra. When asked if she had researched for a cheaper price she said she had but learned that less expensive supplies come with lower quality. Sister Gyansah feels offering a quality product has been better for her business than seeking more profit or offering a lower price. To keep costs down she gets used gallon containers from a hair dresser friend when she is finished with them. She also tries to refill her 5 gallon containers when her customers have emptied them. 

To make her finances easy she has all payments go directly to an account. She makes withdrawals from this account for business expenses and her salary. A son, who is attending business school, helps her keep track of these transactions.  
One of Sister Gyansah’s future goals is to register her business with the Ghana Food and Drug Administration. She feels this stamp of approval will help her business. Also, because of a lack of capital, her business is limited to cleaning products. She would like to eventually save enough to expand into body soaps and other products.  

Two years ago Brother Thomas Gyansah,was out of work and, “Life was not good.” With a mechanical background, Brother Gyansah started a new business in which he buys cars in need of repair and restores them to usable condition.  These are then sold for a profit. He uses a website to advertise his cars. When asked how the SR program has impacted his business he said he learned about tracking costs and keeping records to insure he is making a profit from each car he sells. His challenges are to save enough capitol to buy the kind of cars that sell fast and to build his inventory from one to as many as five cars. 
This family appears to not only be learning and growing in their business but are doing well with their family and in service to the church. Brother Gyansah serves in the temple and their younger of two sons recently returned from a mission and is enrolled in a business coarse at a university. The older son just finished his college degree and is now serving his mission. 

We find it humbling to visit with these good people. Sometimes we are at their business locations and sometimes we are invited into their homes. By way of material possessions they are most certainly poor; homes are small, small and sparsely furnished with old and worn out furniture, maybe a rug on the cement floor, maybe electricity to run a fan if they can afford it.  At the Gyansah home this was also the case, but what touched my heart was that they had placed a picture of the First Presidency on one wall, the Temple on another wall, and a picture of the Savior on a third wall of the living room. I think this told me that their true focus is is not on worldly wealth but on being spiritually rich.

On Thursday we invited interns Josh and Kirt to join us at a Pathway devotional in Kaneshie. Kirt served his mission in Cape Coast so he is very comfortable with the culture. Josh is "warming up" to life here and has great business skills he can use in the NGO (Non Government Organization) he works with. The devotional was a hit and we received positive feed back from students, so that was encouraging. We are grateful to give them something that will help them move forward in their educational choices. Many of the third semester students will register with BYU/BYU-i for on- line classes in the fall.

So good to see Miss Lily for her first birthday and know that she and her big sister travel to Africa on a regular basis in their adventures!
Be good, do good!
Elder and Sister Lambert

Pictures: Josh, Collins and Kirt
President Tandoh (our SR Manager), his wife and boys Gabriel and Bruce
Lily, Ziyah and their Dad