Mission Accomplished

This is a thought I was typing a few weeks ago but now I have the chance to send it.

In the April 1971 general conference Sterling W. Sill said,

“Certainly the most successful lives are those that have the most worthwhile experiences. The religion of Christ itself is not so much a set of ideas as it is a set of activities. The purpose of the Church is to help us translate the principles of the gospel of Christ into constructive, meaningful human experience.”

I have found that life’s greatest experiences (as I have experienced so far) are consequence or benefits from the Gospel we live. I grew up surrounded by the gospel and meaningful experiences. My whole life our family has been involved with Smith family reunions. Taking me to most all of the historical sites of the church. This deepened my testimony of the restoration.

I was also involved in Young Men’s activities. I know I may not realize the full impact that the Young Men’s program has had on me. I can’t say for certain what would have become of me had I not been involved in Boy Scouts and Young Men’s. Earlier, while writing one of my Young Men’s leaders I had the chance to reflect and I know this, while other teenagers were at parties exposing themselves to all categories of temptation, I was at the base of the delicate arch. While they were watching inappropriate movies, I was at the top of a mountain contemplating the creations and wonders of God. These things have not just become wonderful memories, but they have become a part of who I am and brought into my life worthwhile experience.

The same rings true with my mission. The daily devotion of living and sharing the gospel has broadened my understanding. As well as given me experience I could not have gained any other way. As a missionary I experience and witness adversity daily. I would say that adversity is a fundamental ingredient of experience.

In Liberia I felt at first that my physical conditions were difficult. I had to draw my water from a well (even if I just wanted to flush the toilet). I had no power so we used a generator for three hours a day. One month I had no electricity at all. I had to wash my clothes by hand, had to take cold showers out of a bucket, had to take pills each day to prevent malaria and many more hardships. But it didn’t take long until I was used to it all and forgot that there was any other way of life. I also didn’t feel so sorry for myself once I saw the conditions of others. I saw people pass through trials unimaginably difficult. I am sure that nothing could have helped them as much as the gospel and Divine aid. Going through and witnessing all of this helped me a lot.

The American poet, Douglas Malloch, said in his poem Good Timber:

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees,
The further sky, the greater length,
The more the storm the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

Adversity is not just an important part of life but an important part of the gospel. It is essential to gaining experience and growing stronger. It is easy to talk about adversity being good and essential but while we are experiencing it most of us don’t want it. As a general rule we (humans) don’t like change, we don’t like difficulties, and we don’t even like thinking about our weakness. Why is it that everything of great value requires difficulty as the price? I guess you just need to gain experience to understand value. One the best parts of serving a mission is you learn what is really valuable in life.

I am so very grateful for being given the privilege to serve as a missionary.

D&C 122 vs 5&7

Alma 26:16

Sincerely and for the last time,

-Elder Orton

Elder Orton sent this picture of a lady who has prepared plantain pounded with the casava making this dough which is called fufu.

Elder Orton sent this picture of Sister Brown who has prepared plantain pounded with the casava making this dough which is called fufu.

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Walking in the Sand

Well this week was great. We found more great people to teach, I got to go through the temple, and saw the coolest lighting storm with the craziest thunder.

On Monday we got to the Botanical Gardens in Aburi. The coolest thing was something called the strangler ficus tree maybe you can just look it up. A plant of some sort took over the tree so now the tree is hollow all the way up to the top. It still looks like a normal living tree. It is big enough that you can step inside. We also saw a really old broken down helicopter. I thought the whole place was pretty cool.

Thursday I got to go to the temple with all the missionaries that are going home on July 20th. We went a week earlier than the standard schedule because the temple is closing for cleaning and won’t open again until August. While I was in the temple my companion, Elder Hall, was in a meeting. For the last four weeks of his mission, he will serve as a trainer. That is actually pretty cool because not many people get to end their mission that way. After going through the temple we were invited to have a small meal and lesson with Sister Asanti who is in our ward. The lesson went well, near the end she asked if I had heard of the book Walking in the Sand. I said, “Yes, but I haven’t had the chance to read it yet.” She replied, “Oh, I think I have one.” She then stood up and went into the other room and came back with a copy. She gave the book to me. I opened it and saw that it was signed by the author Emmanuel Abu Kissi. I asked her, “Are you sure you want to give this to me?” I showed her the front page. She said, “Yeah, of course. I can get another one any time. My dad is the author.” Then she said, “Do you remember the doctor at the Ghana MTC?” She then describe how he looked. I said, “Yeah, I remember him.” She then told me, “That’s my dad.” She proceeded to tell us a few stories about his experience as a MTC doctor. Before we left I thanked her again for the gift. Then we biked home.

[Family note: Another story about Emmanuel Abu Kissi’s work during the Ghana Hunger Crisis is called, The Windows of Heaven. It is an humbling experience to read about.]

Friday we had a few lessons planned that we were sad did not work out. We had biked to one of the extreme ends of our area and sat down for a lesson. It began to pour. After the rain stopped we went to another lesson. When we sat down the storm came back with twice the strength. There were a few times the lighting struck less than a mile away. The thunder was strange though. It was not the normal rolling thunder I am used to but it sounded like an explosion with an echo. Once the rain let up again we quickly biked towards our next appointment. As we were travelling I looked up and saw what I am convinced had to be the coolest lightning strike ever. Of course something that cool is hard for me to describe. It looked like the lighting strike went sideways across the sky and branched out seeming to go in a really big oval. It looked like the lighting was going in circles. That is not a very good description but trust me it was cool.

So there is a little about my week. I hope everything is going well.

Love, Elder Orton

A parasitic plant took over a larger “Afzelia Africana” and successfully ‘strangled’ the tree.

A parasitic plant took over a larger “Afzelia Africana” and successfully ‘strangled’ the tree. Picture from http://www.flyingfourchette.com/2013/10/03/aburi-botanical-gardens/#/.


What’s left of the tree looks hollow and is big enough for you to step inside.

What’s left of the tree looks hollow and is big enough for you to step inside. Picture from http://www.flyingfourchette.com/2013/10/03/aburi-botanical-gardens/#/.

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We Found the Village

This week went by super-fast. Every day was packed full of lessons and activities. We haven’t got anyone that we are currently teaching that looks promising so all of the things I could share wouldn’t have a good follow up story.

My favorite part of the week was yesterday. We got to teach the missionary prep class after church. There were just four in the class but it was our first time doing it. I expect the numbers to go up next time. The ones that came are the ward missionaries that normally come with us. Two of them already have their calls. One Sister Madugu is going July 24 to Nigeria Lagos and she leaves right after me. Sister Cudjoe is going to the Nigeria Port-Harcourt Mission and leaves on August 20 the same day Elder Hall goes home. Class went well.

We found out that a member in our ward is the founder of the Abrui Craft Village. His name is Millar. He walks with a cane and has a beard. Last week during our p-day we got to go to this wood carving market at the base of the Abrui Mountains. This is the place most of the wood carvings in Ghana come from. It was a cool.

We didn’t know where the village was. We were trying to follow directions given to us over the phone. When we got off the tro-tro and looked around we couldn’t tell where it was. We tried calling the people that gave us the directions but we didn’t have service. Then we saw a building that said craft village. When we walked over to it the building was empty. That confused me a little but then I saw something on the other side of the building through the windows. So we walked around and found the village full of African crafts. It was a very nice place. We met 5 or 6 members who were happy to talk with us.

Take care.
-Elder Orton

Some of the scenery on our way to the craft village

Some of the scenery on our way to the craft village


Abrui Craft Village

Abrui Craft Village


Some of the crafts in the village

Some of the crafts in the village are conventional Ghanaian carved wood items like these djembe drums, masks, and (Akuaba) fertility dolls


More wood carvings in the Abrui Craft Village

More wood carvings in the Abrui Craft Village


In ancient times, trees in Ghana were thought to be dwelling locations of supernatural spirits and powers, both caring and mean. The trees cut down for carving were offered purification rites. The picture on the right the stools stacked along the wall are symbols of position among the tribal leaders and can likewise be a carved record of maternal genealogy. They are created from a single piece of wood. The seat part is curved and portrays the warm acceptance of a mother. The center middle section can include writings that suggest the owner’s beliefs, history or values.

In ancient times, trees in Ghana were thought to be dwelling locations of supernatural spirits and powers, both caring and mean. The trees cut down for carving were offered purification rites. The picture on the right shows stools stacked along the wall. Stools are symbols of position among the tribal leaders and can likewise be a carved record of maternal genealogy. They are created from a single piece of wood. The seat part is curved and portrays the warm acceptance of a mother. The center middle section can include writings that suggest the owner’s beliefs, history or values.


The first man carving is a member.

The first man carving is a member.

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Everyone Needs Blessings

We had a few really cool experiences this week that helped remind me of lessons I have learned. On Tuesday we were passing through an area and felt we should stop and visit one of our strongest members. We knocked on his door and he answered and let us in. He gave us a soft drink and had us sit down. It was also a plus that he had AC so we sat comfortably. We talked for five or so minutes. We asked if it would be ok to share a small message. He look almost surprised and said, “Yeah, I would love that.” We prayed and shared the first things that came to our minds. After saying what we felt we should he sincerely thanked us and said, “You know it has been a really long time since anyone has come to share any message with me.” Then he said, “I think that everyone assumes since I am always in church and do all my assignments that I don’t need any strengthening or help. I haven’t had any home teachers since I got here.” He became a little more serious and said, “You know, I think it was God that sent you here because I have been having a very hard time lately. What you shared really helped.” He then went on to explain what he was going through and it had to do with the same things we shared with him. I felt really good that we were able to help him. He is one of the most helpful people in the ward and it was just great to give something back to him. He actually shared a nice thought with us as well. He read a scripture from D&C 1:23, “That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.” He shared with us that the Lord works through the weak and simple. When we feel like we have become strong that is when the Lord will bring us back down, so that he might use us to do something great.

We had another experience this week with a member that is not one of the “strong members”. He explained to us that a few years ago he got very sick and the doctors did not know what was wrong with him. (By the way, at this time he was in Finland.) After various treatments he slowly began to recover. Once he got better he came back to Ghana. He said that a few weeks ago this same sickness came back. His explanation actually came with a very long back story but at the end he asked us if we could give him a blessing. We of course agreed. We gave him a blessing. He thanked us and we left. Yesterday he came to church. In Elders Quorum he told everyone that we came over and gave him a blessing and that the next day he woke up and was all better. He bore his testimony about the Priesthood and its reality. It was really nice.

The other experience I thought to share was a little more humorous. But the problem is it will probably end up being a “guess you had to be there” story. Any way we were walking around contacting people when we met this old man and his 45ish old son. They invited us to sit down under a tree. As soon as we sat down they looked and said, “Oh no, scoot forward so you are not in the sun.” Immediately after telling us that the old man just stared firing off questions. Like where we were from and what church we were with. How long we have been here and so on. He barely stopped long enough to take a breath let alone for us to answer. Then at the end of his little questionnaire he asked, “Why are you talking? What did you come here for, to sit there and not say anything? Scoot forward so you are not in the sun.” Trying hard not to laugh we suggested we pray. After another minute or two of him talking about who should pray, we finally prayed. We got to introduce who we were and what church we were from and one or two sentences when the old man started talking about his great-great-grandfather who came here to Ghana before there were cars from Jamaica. Then he gave us his family history and said a lot of stories. My companion seeing an opportunity talked about how in this church we do family history work. Then the old man preceded to tell us that same story he just explained repeating it detail for detail. We tried to come in a few times but we couldn’t catch a break. Then he finally finished. My companion began to talk but mid-sentence the old man’s son very loudly said, “I have been married for twenty five years and my wife still won’t listen to me.” The way everything happened and the caricature of the two just made this all hilarious to me. But we did see that this was probably not the best use of our time after the old man recounted his history again. We tried to end the lesson and finally after 10 minutes we succeeded. It made our day just a little more interesting.

Thank you for all your emails and encouragement. Love you all.
– Elder Orton

A road we walk

A road we walk


Great Ghanaian colors

Great Ghanaian colors


These animals are called a grasscutter. They are an overly large cross between a beaver and a rat, or “a Rodent of Unusual Size,” to use a popular culture reference.

These animals are called grasscutters. They are an overly large cross between a beaver and a rat, or “a Rodent of Unusual Size,” to use a popular Princess Bride reference. “Grasscutters, sometimes referred to with the less than appealing name cane rat, are native in much of central and West Africa and have long been a favorite food for many in the region.” You can read more about this by clicking here.

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Mercy Stew

This week was full of teaching, finding, and meeting with more members. That is a good thing. We have worked hard. We usually have one or two things get in our way. The first when we get to the door of the person we planned to teach they say, “Sorry I am busy.” I think you could ask any missionary in our mission and they will also agree this is one of the most common responses. Every time someone tells me they are “busy” I just think what they don’t see is that they are instead just detracted from what is more important. That might happen a little bit in each of our lives. Sometimes we think we are too busy to spend time with our family or go to church. Sometimes we think we are too busy serve others or whatever it might be. If we are busy, just make sure its busy doing what is really important.
Another thing that is not really a hindrance but feels like a burden is eating. We have to eat every day. It is not something you can hurry and do for the week and then be done. We have to do it over and over.

It has been common over the past two weeks that we eat one of three things.

  • Soakings that is cassava ground up into a dry powder then mixed with water. We add bananas and peanuts with a small amount of sugar.
  • Bread and egg.
  • Rice with stew.
  • Continue reading

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    Scrabble

    This week went great. Last Monday we were invited over to Brother Umeh’s house (the Elders Quorum President) for a family night that doubled as a farewell dinner for Elder Bofando. We played a game of scrabble while we waited for the food. It had been a very long time since I last played that game. It was fun Brother Umeh was the winner and I came in second only because he helped me, haha. The meal was nice. They fed us rice and stew with watermelon. After we ate we went around and shared spiritual experiences we have had. It was wonderful.

    Tuesday was transfers. The forecast said that it was supposed to rain so I brought my umbrella just in case. When we got to the mission home they had a few canopies set up where everyone being transferred could keep their luggage dry while they waited for their companion.

    It’s fun when you get to go the Mission Home for transfers and get to see all of the other missionaries there. I got to talk with Elder Jorgensen and a few others and it was great to catch up. Then after a little bit of visiting I met up with my new companion, Elder Hall, and we went to our area. Elder Hall is from Bountiful, Utah.

    Tuesday-Sunday I showed Elder Hall around, we met with everyone we were teaching and the members in the area. We contacted 38 people this week. I just hope that we will be able to find someone that’s ready.

    – Elder Orton

    A sign we pass

    A sign we pass


    Another sign in our area

    Another sign in our area

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    Shocking Discoveries and Powerful Prayer

    On Tuesday it rained a lot. That made getting to district meeting interesting because we were carrying a cake. We planned a sendoff celebration for Elder Matswake and we paid a member’s wife to make us a cake. I wanted to use both hands to hold the cake. So I ended up tying my umbrella to my backpack. That way the backpack could hold the umbrella for me. Thanks to my backpack we got the cake there fine. We had a fun little celebration. I used the pink lemonade packets you sent for the main drink. We also had coke. We found out it actually tastes pretty good mixed with the lemonade.

    After our district meeting we were walking to an investigator’s house. We were passing through a really muddy part of our area that is kind of a short cut. It passes back behind a few homes. As we were started to walk threw two women saw us and started yelling at us in a different language. They were very angry and I had no idea why. When we got closer, my companion said, “Sorry, do you speak English? I can’t understand you.” Then they stopped and didn’t look as angry any more. She said in broken English as she pointed at a house, “This man make secret connection to light and bury it here. It just killed cow. The cow pass the electric – kill the cow. So don’t pass bush, bush pass road, road.”

    It was understandable enough for us and I am sure you understood what she was trying to tell us. That the man made an illegal connection to the city power and buried the power line. So when it rains you can get electrocuted by stepping in the water. We saw that a herd of cows had passed through but from what the ladies both said, I guess it killed one of them. I was very grateful that the same thing didn’t happen to us.

    On Wednesday we got some early transfer news. Elder Bofando is being transferred and Elder Hall will be coming to be my next companion. We also found out Elder Weegl and Krofuah are being transferred. This will make the apartment a two man apartment again.

    Thursday morning we found out about a major disaster that happened in Accra involving an explosion and flood. This was really devastating for Ghana. Many died and many more were affected as they were trying to get protection from the rain and flooding. [You can read more about this on BBC News Ghana petrol station inferno kills about 150 in Accra.]

    Thursday night we had a planned meeting with our Bishop’s family. He told us he would pick us up at 6:45. When he pulled up to where we were waiting it was exactly 6:45. That is something I have not experienced very many times on my mission and was kind of refreshing. When we got to his house it was still “light off” so we used a little LED flashlight to light up the table where we were sitting. Bishop asked his wife to say the prayer. Once she said, “Amen” the lights came back on. That was a pretty awesome moment. Talk about a “powerful” prayer.

    This week was a good week. You are always a little sad to part with companions but I think this transfer will be a good one.

    One random moment. This week I noticed two small kids walking up the hill holding hands in there school uniforms. As they walked by with their hands swinging back and forth the little girl looked up to me with a smile and I smiled back. I thought it was a story book moment and thought I would share it.

    Thanks for all of encouragement and emails.
    -Elder Orton

    Flooding by our apartment

    Flooding by our apartment on June 3


    Water covering the roads by our apartment

    Water covering the roads by our apartment

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