Bread, Beauty and Brotherhood

This week I experienced some irony. Last week I talked about tests and trials. This week was a trying test. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I don’t expect every day to be an easy day.

Tuesday we had district meeting. My companion gave us some instruction. He did very well. He is becoming a good speaker and has improved his English vocabulary. After district meeting we went out to teach. We had a lot of people “bounce” us. Wednesday we again went to the furthest part of our area where we had several set appointments. We even called them in the morning to make sure they would be there. When we got there not one of them was home. We called them again. Most of them had their phone switched off, but one man answered. We asked him where he was. He told us, “I am on my way. Wait for me I just be a few minutes.” We continued waiting and after 30 minutes we called again. This time he said he was almost there. 40 minutes later we decided to go to our next appointment who ended up not being home. Normally when this happens we try to make other contacts but this area was “bushy” so we saw more animals them people. The next day we were again bounced. Then it rained. We didn’t have our umbrellas and my companion got a flat tire. The weather forecast for this week is rain every day. There are only two seasons in Ghana – rainy and dry.

When we are transferred the bikes stay with the apartment. When the bikes break, we fix them. The next day we walked because we didn’t have time to fix the bike. This same day there was also a wedding party in our compound. Our neighbor’s daughter was getting married. The wedding made it impossible to study because the music was so loud.

We had our stake conference yesterday and it went well.

All of these events didn’t make the week bad, just challenging. My explanation of the week does sound negative but I don’t mean it that way. It is just simply a little contrast for my other wonderful weeks.

Contrast is an important part in making life beautiful. In a conference talk in 1971, John H. Vandenberg quoted Edwin Markham who talked about three things a man must possess if his soul would live and know life’s perfect good. Edwin Markham said, “That our all-supplying Father would give us not only bread, but also beauty and brotherhood.” This week I experienced all three so God is giving me everything I need.

Talking about beauty he says,

“Has the Lord supplied mankind with beauty? Anyone who doubts it need only to open his eyes to the sunrise and the sunset and his ears to the sound of rain and wind, to marvel at the colors of the flowers and the rainbow, to perceive the variety in the scenery of the desert and the forest, the fields of grain, the mountains, rivers, and oceans. At this time of year we are beginning to thrill with the new life of springtime, and as we lose ourselves in the teeming life about us, we become a part of it.”

“All the earth, with no sterility in it, gladdens the heart. In our concern as our brother’s keeper, we can help one another understand the gift of beauty which is ours. Let us take the time to see and to feel and to enjoy all that God has created for us. Margaret L. White brings this responsibility to our minds as we follow her words:”

“I took a little child’s hand to lead him to the Father. My heart was full of gratitude for the glad privilege. We walked slowly. I suited my steps to the short steps of the child. We spoke of the things the child noticed. Sometimes we picked the Father’s flowers and stroked their soft petals and loved their bright colors. Sometimes it was one of the Father’s birds. We watched it build its nest. We saw the eggs that were laid. We wondered, elated at the care it gave its young. Often we told stories of the Father. I told them to the child, and the child told them again to me. We told them, the child and I, over and over again. Sometimes we stopped to rest, leaning against one of the Father’s trees, and letting his cool air cool our brows, and never speaking. And then, in the twilight, we met the Father. The child’s eyes shone. He looked lovingly, trustingly, eagerly up to the Father’s face. He put his hand into the Father’s hand. I was for the moment forgotten. I was content.”

I also like what John H. Vandenberg says latter in his talk. His comments were not on the topic of beauty but brotherhood.

“It seems that man knows no bounds to the physical conveniences he can produce. We boast how our knowledge is expanding as new discoveries are made which open up the materialistic world. Yet progress in solving the problem of how to live with our brethren seems so slow in comparison.”

It is interesting how true this is even within our own homes.

I hope you have a beautiful week. -Elder Orton

Beautiful Ghanaian Skies

Beautiful Ghanaian Skies


Silver linings

Silver linings in Ghana

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Getting Over Ourselves

First off, congratulations AMY for graduating a year early and with honors. WOW!

The Lord will test us for our sakes. Something I have wondered as I was listening to a talk was the fact that God knows us perfectly from beginning to end, inside and out, better than we know ourselves. So if He is to test us, is it really for Him to learn more about us or is it more for us to learn about Him and ourselves?

From what I have seen, life teaches us a little different from school. In school we are taught and then tested but in life we learn from our tests. We learn more about ourselves when more is required of us and that is usually when things are more difficult. We see in the end how we responded to our difficulties. At that time we will recognize (if we look for it) the hand of the Lord involved in that test or trial. We will see why he may have allowed it to happen and at the same time see how He guided us and sustained us through it. When we are tested we are shown our weakness and dependency on God. If we rely on God, He can make that weakness a strength.

I have noticed that with every convert I have had a chance to teach or baptize, each has been tested following their baptism. I have had converts lose a family member, job, or support from family right after their baptism. Those that have persevered became some of the best members in that ward or branch.

This week we baptized Adelaide Damtise. Her baptism went well and was a beautiful experience. Now the only one left in her family not a member is her younger brother. He has listened to a few of the lessons but right now he is not that interested in joining the church because he plays the trumpet for his church’s band. But all seems to be going well with their family and they are strong in the gospel.

The pattern for our electric power is usually 24 hours off and 12 hours on. For the last three days now we have had power. It has not been constant but we have had power for most of the time during the last three days. When the power is out for 24 hours the food does not stay cold so it limits what we can eat and store. The power situation makes it a little more costly.

In this area, we always have a lot of investigators we can teach but not so many that take the time to come to church. Church was good this week. I gave a talk on tithing and before I got up there they asked me to take 25 minutes, ha ha. So I did my first 25-minute talk for which I didn’t have time to prepare for. I think it went well.

Some of the hardest situations are working with those that don’t want to work. This can be difficult. I think with every trial we go through the biggest thing we need to do is get over ourselves, after that what’s hard?

-Elder Orton

We follow this pathway in West Adenta

We follow this pathway in West Adenta

We pass this doorway of a fenced yard as we walk along the above pathway

We pass this doorway of a fenced yard as we walk along the above pathway

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Intercepting Blessings

From what I understand Liberia is now Ebola free. That is great to hear. I have only heard rumors about what will happen with reopening the mission. I am excited to know what will come about.

This week my companion and I went to visit the Brown family. We met with them to check up on how everything is going for their family. They said, “Everything is good except for maybe one thing.” We asked, “What is that?” He said, “We joined the church some time ago. Since then our family has been out of favor in our neighborhood for being members. That didn’t bother us too much because we knew that what they were saying about the church was not true.” Brother Brown explained to us that there are a lot of strange rumors being spread around by people in a church that is near their house. It is interesting how many people believe the crazy rumors.

One rumor is that Mormons collect all of the blessings from the people that they live next to. By that they mean if you asked God to bless you with something the Mormon will intercept that blessing and you will be left without. For example, if they pray for a car the Mormon will magically get one then next day.

The fact they have spread the rumor has not been what has troubled Brother Brown. What has been difficult is that a group of the church members gather in the neighboring home, come to the closest window to Brother Brown’s window and shout and pray in tongues at 8:30 to 9:30 pm then again at 3:00-4:00 am every night. These neighbors are praying to keep their blessings and hope to cause the Brown family so much trouble that they will move. These people figure that way they will keep their blessings.

Brother Brown said they have been preventing the whole family from sleeping though the whole night. I asked Brother Brown what he has done about it. He replied, “Nothing.” I asked him how long this has been happening and he said, “For some time. I thought that they would just get tired and give up like my other neighbors.” He also explained that he feels if he does act against them or try to stop them it will only make it worse. He is probably right.

This week was good we contacted a lot of interesting people that are not that interested. But that is just a part of the work I guess. If all goes well we have a baptism for another Damtse family member so that is exciting.

This week I have been reading D&C along with a church history student manual and have learned a lot. I ended up reading up to the 1870s where the Tabernacle was constructed I found it all very interesting. There were a lot more miracles then I was used to thinking.
I hope you all have a great week.

– Elder Orton

It is common in Ghana for a family to build one room at a time as they can afford it and live in it until a long time later when the home is finished

It is common in Ghana for a family to build one room at a time as they can afford it and live in it until a long time later when the home is finished

A view from a Ghanaian home

A view from a Ghanaian home

This is a view from the internet cafe

This is a view from the internet cafe

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Snippets

This week we had to get really creative with scheduling. Elder Bofando and I had three baptismal interviews and the sisters had four. Originally we had them scheduled on different days, but the zone leaders called informing me of a change in plans. They needed to do interviews for some other Elders and needed to come do our interviews a day early. The baptismal interviews that were assigned to me were now scheduled at the same time that the zone leaders would be interviewing our baptismal candidates and the zone leaders needed us to show them how to locate the place. We made them all work out. Anyway, I am out of time sorry. But this week was good. We had a great baptismal service and church meeting. Today our entire zone hiked to the falls.

I am sorry that I am not sending any more. I don’t have time and everything is going wrong with this computer. I have not yet typed much because my computer freezes when I click.

[Editor’s note: The internet cafes in Ghana do not always have electricity, reliable connections, or good computers. Sometimes the keyboards are in French. Some computers have viruses which have ruined the flash drives and photo cards for some Elders. Here are some snippets from our Mothers’ Day call:]

  • Question: What’s the weather like?
  • Answer: It’s difficult to describe the heat. The temperature of the air is not very hot but the sun is very, very strong. It stronger in Ghana than even Liberia. It feels like I am standing in a microwave.

  • Question: How much biking do you do?
  • Answer: I figure that we average about six miles a day.

  • Question: How do you find people to teach?
  • Answer: We are getting more referrals from members which are often successful—member referrals are always better than making contacts on the street.

  • Question: When was the last time you really laughed and why?
  • Answer: We were sitting in a room and the power was out. A fly was going all around the room and we couldn’t get him. I told my companion about a fly at my friend’s house and how I shot him with a rubber band. I saw a rubber band on the table and picked it up and shot at the fly and hit it on the first try and killed it. We had a good laugh.

  • Question: Can you tell us about a miracle?
  • Answer: The one I am thinking of right now was while I was in Liberia. We just contacted someone who wanted to meet with us. He told us the area he was in. Suddenly he came into our minds and we thought that we should try to find his house. We walked straight to his house and walked to the back of his house and he was there. He said he had read the pamphlet three times. That scriptures kept coming to his mind from Daniel about the stone cut out of the mountain without hands. Then many miracles kept happening with that young man. We kept running into him at just the right times. We had very good lessons and it was nice.

  • Question: What is your favorite smell in your area?
  • Answer: There are some flowers outside our apartment that give off a strong scent that is very, very, very nice. It is like what fabric softener is trying to do.

    The Damtse Family

    The Damtse Family


    Elder Orton loved these cool thorny trees

    Elder Orton loved these cool thorny trees


    It is hard to see how big the trees are in the left picture but this helps put them in scale - see the missionaries in the lower right hand corner. The picture on the right is the Tsenku Waterfalls located in the Dodowa Forest falling on stratified rock.

    It is hard to see how big the trees are in the left picture but this helps put them in scale – see the missionaries in the lower right hand corner. The picture on the right is the Tsenku Waterfalls located in the Dodowa Forest falling on stratified rock.


    Our Zone at Dodowa Falls

    Our Zone at Dodowa Falls

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    Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet

    Tuesday two more Elders came to live in our apartment, Elder Weegi from Liberia and Elder Krofuah from Ghana. They have added a little more life to the apartment and are fun to be around. Elder Weegi knows a lot of the same people I do from Liberia. He left for his mission last May. So while I was serving in Gardnerville he was there. That is a fun connection.

    Wednesday came fast and that made me happy. I got to meet and talk with Stanford before the meeting started. (Elder Stanford McCullough is serving in the Accra West mission. Bryan and Stanford were friends and neighbors before their missions. They also began their missions together in the Ghana MTC.) It was fun to catch up with him. I also got to see other evacuated missionaries from Liberia.

    We had a wonderful mission training as prelude to our meeting with Elder David A. Evans of the Seventy, the Executive Director of the Missionary Department as well as Elders Curtis and Vinson of the Seventy.

    One quote I liked from our mission training was shared by an AP. “There is nothing so bad that complaining won’t make it worse.” I believe that was originally said by Elder Jeffry R Holland. And is a great reminder that complaint is us moving backwards not forward. (“No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.” Jeffry R. Holland, April 2007 General Conference.)

    In our meeting with Elder David A. Evans. He gave a talk themed, “You get what you go for.” He ended by saying; think of what the church needs in your area and go for it.

    One other thing that was great about this week was I got to see some of General Conference. We watched the Saturday afternoon session and the Sunday morning session. Except we didn’t finish the Sunday morning session because the power went out before Elder Holland could give his talk. So I looked for it on LDS library and found it. (And the title of his talk is what spurred my poem. It’s the first and last line.)

    As anyone can tell from reading my emails I am not the best at writing but I do want to share this poem I came up with yesterday and wrote after church.

    Where Love, Justice, and Mercy meet,
    We will kneel before the Savior’s feet.
    In glory, brightness, and joy he stands,
    With open arms and out stretched hands.
    Christ our Lord the Only Begotten,
    Our repentant sins he has only forgotten.
    Our thoughts, deeds, and words He knows,
    Nevertheless his pure love flows.
    Though each of us have committed sin,
    Through Christ Jesus we over it win.
    He is our Savior from death and sin.
    Since the beginning and in the end.
    The Alpha and Omega the finisher of our faith,
    It’s only in Him we can and will be safe.
    When brought before Him, He will ask,
    How we performed each given task.
    The faithful to Him will feel no fear,
    But only shed a joyful tear,
    They will answer standing tall.
    But some heads will slowly fall.
    When they realize how much he suffered,
    For all their sins and follies he buffered.
    Just then Jesus may lift their chin
    To them His words have never sweeter been.
    “Be of good comfort I am here,
    And I will yet remain very near.”
    Though I do not know what Jesus will say,
    Nor how it will be on that last day.
    This is just how I think it will be,
    When I close my eyes this is what I see,
    Of the day we are before the judgment seat,
    Where Love, Justice, and Mercy meet.
    -by Elder Bryan John Orton

    I was thinking about Utah and it’s weather and came up with this just now:
    In Utah just as the summer snows fall, the winter flowers spring.
    – Elder Bryan John Orton

    Elder Bofando walking ahead of Elder Orton through the jungle

    Elder Bofando walking ahead of Elder Orton through the jungle


    This is a termite hill we came across that was as tall as the trees

    This is a termite hill we came across that was as tall as the trees


    This is our church building

    This is our church building


    I love to see the temple

    I love to see the temple


    We came across these cows

    We came across these cows


    This is a game called Oware which is like mancala. It is considered the national game of Ghana. Oware means he/she marries in Twi. Elder Orton said is is played with seeds the size of walnuts.

    This is a game called Oware which is like mancala. It is considered the national game of Ghana. Oware means he/she marries in Twi. Elder Orton said it is played with seeds the size of walnuts and holes dug into the dirt.

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    The Damtse Family

    The power is currently out so we had to go to Medina to retrieve and send emails. Our week was filled with service: from a service project to a baptismal service, and of course our weekly church service. Our ward missionaries were very helpful in planning the service project. They were resourceful in getting us tools and food. They also helped us plan the baptismal service.

    With the help of our Ward and our District we filled in the water logged front yard of the Damtse home. The before picture I sent is how their home looks when it is dry. When it rains I don’t know how they leave the house. That is why we decided to do something about it. The Damtse family were so surprised when we came. I think they might have thought we were joking when we said we are coming to help.

    Thursday we did the project and finished it by about lunch time. We filled the yard with broken pieces of cement from some old construction then filled it over with dirt. We also made a raised pathway out of rock and cement for when it rains. Then we made a way for the water to drain when it rains so it won’t sit. Stagnate water becomes mosquito breeding grounds and that is not what you want. We had finished the majority of the work as the Damtse family finished preparing banku for us. So we stopped and ate and took a break. After lunch we finished everything up. The Damtse family expressed their thanks and we packed up and took all of the tools back. It was a great day.

    Saturday was the baptismal service for Matthew and Anthonita Damtse and it went well. We are teaching the rest of the family.

    -Elder Orton

    P.S. The suitcase I brought with me was the one Rob used on his mission to Tijuana, Mexico. It has worked hard and was really beat up during the evacuation from Liberia. It finally broke. I had to use some money for a new one. I found one that is very nice and it will last long after my mission. My broken suitcase is being put to good use. The Ward Missionary donated it to an African friend who had nowhere to put his clothes. He is happy to be able to use the old suitcase.

    The yard we did the service project in.

    The yard we did the service project in.


    It was fun to see the difference now that the water can drain

    It was fun to see the difference now that the water can drain


    There was a great group of people to work with

    There was a great group of people to work with


    Matthew and Anthonita Damtse  Family

    Matthew and Anthonita Damtse Family

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    How Precious Light and Truth Is

    What do I say when I have so little time and when all seems to have been said? Each week tends to go fast, it usually is good, and I do something similar. I guess I usually feel like I have nothing to new to share. Most of the time it’s only once I start typing that I think of something to say.

    Tuesday we had a lesson like I have never had before. She was a recent convert of about 9 months and a very friendly woman. We went over to her house because she invited us to eat with her and her family, which was very kind of her. When we got there she let us in and gave us some water. She explained that all of the appliances she has are electric and because the power had gone out she was unable to prepare us food. We told her, “That is ok. It’s not your fault.” Then we told her that we would like to still have a discussion with her if that was ok. She said that would be fine.

    As we began, she had a few questions that we discussed for some time. After resolving some common and small concerns, she expressed one more concern that was not so common and not so small at least among recent converts. This concern eventually turned into three worries. She did not believe some very fundamental and important doctrines of Christianity. She explained how her friends told her various things that eventually became a part of her beliefs. I was amazed by her fears. We tried our best to explain using scriptures and our testimonies that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and that he did bring us the higher law that we must follow to gain exaltation. We explained that we do have a living prophet and that he does receive revelation for the world. I am grateful she received everything we said humbly, not without question, but humbly. By the end she didn’t say much but said did say, “Thank you.” I believe we were able to resolve her concerns and help her see the importance of prayer and scripture study.

    From that lesson I was reminded of how precious light and truth is. We most commonly lose and gain truth and light bit by bit through the small things we do each day. Every conscious effort we make to do good cases us to gain light and truth. We most commonly gain light and truth through the primary things of scripture study, treasuring up the word, or pondering, as well as prayer. Read, Ponder, and Pray.

    It makes sense why the church focuses on this for primary kids because if it is applied it becomes the key factor in shaping who we are. When we apply those primary things it strongly influences what we do and that will lead to gaining more light and truth. If we fail to do them it leads to losing the light and truth we have. This is what happened to the recent convert. She failed to do these basic things that lead to her losing the light she had; even though when she was baptized she believed those things. She failed to retain her testimony.

    That same thing can happen to us but we shouldn’t let it. It is important we remember in order to be good we need to learn good and not just once but each day. We are human and so if we are not reminded we forget.

    In D&C 93:36 & 37

    36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

    37 Light and truth forsake that evil one.

    Have a good week. Don’t forget to read, ponder, and pray.

    -Elder Orton

    West Adenta Area right in the middle of map

    The West Adenta Area is right in the middle of this map


    Around Adenta

    Around Adenta

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