Elder Nissinen

Elder Nissinen

Monday, September 28, 2015

Super fun little boy we see a lot. I feel so bad for him. He falls a lot when he walks because he is so cross-eyed. Great kid.

Dear Family, friends, and whoever else: 

This has been another great week here in Teshie. The normal missionary life is sinking in along with the culture, so I'm feeling pretty good right now. 

I smacked the side of a truck thing the other day on my bike! 

The work is going good. We are finding many wonderful investigators that are totally loving the gospel message we share. Finding people to teach here is like the easiest thing to do. Tracting doesn't exist here! I am always amazed at how easy it is to find those to teach. People just come up to us all the time. The only problem with lessons is their lack of english, or our lack of Ga. Many people speak "small small" english, and some know very little. Even those who are "fluent" still struggle. I honestly feel like I am communicating to a 4 or 5 year old sometimes. It's a challenge!  We are working on getting more members in our lessons to help with translation though. 

I had no idea conference is this weekend. I guess that means I'm not watching it! I will have to wait until it is online and go print it out or something. 

Our second issue is still getting people to come to church. For the first few weeks when we invited them to come, they said they would and never showed up. It always bugs the heck out of me when we say "So will you come to church with us this Sunday?" and they respond "By God's Grace" or "Yes, God willing I will". What do you mean?! God wants you to come to church with us, I promise!!! So after a few weeks of people lying to us, they are finally seeing that we aren't joking about them coming to church, so they have began to come now. I flat-out told an older man yesterday after church that he needs to stop lying to us and the Lord and come to churhc, or just say no and don't come. He appreciated the advice. One method that I think we will use more on Sunday mornings is to leave church an hour or so early and go pick up investigators or less actives and walk with them to church! It works!! 

Many lessons, many investigators, many kids, much fun. We walk a ton out here. Lots and lots of walking. 
This ones for you Ro!

There's also been a few cultural practices I've seen this week that if you didn't know better, you'd think they were mentally handicapped. Saw some prayer ritual with old ladies dancing the other day. 

We got our subsistance money Tuesday! It feels so good to get money. Only problem is budgeting. 
I teach the youth sunday school class in our branch each week. It's fun, but the girls will ask you alllllll week long if you are going to be teaching them Sunday.  Yeah the young women like me. They run and hug you, but you just don't feed it and carry on. Some girls want my phone number. Good grief.
These puppies are 3 weeks old. I asked how much they were, and the guy said 20 cedis. Which is like 5 bucks.

To answer a few of Dad's Questions: 
1. My companion is doing great. We work well together. Both of us love sweets and playing with the kids. 
2. I haven't taken a warm shower since I left home. Usually it's nice because it's so darn hot here, but 6:30am is a hard one to dive into cold water.
3. Yeah our apartment of 4 is fun. If somebody else is cooking it usually means you can eat free food. They have a lot of fun music I wish I had. I heard some Boyz II Men the other day and just about died! I miss the music. 
4. Members and people are great. They all flip when you say something in Ga. There's about 4 kind of people from what I have seen: Kids, women (nearly all are overweight, it's gotta be genetic, because they all work hard), men (all skinny and never home in the daytime) and what I call the Ghanaian gangsters. Guys love Michael Jordan here too. See Bulls shirts and fake jordan logos printed all over shirts. People call me chinese sometimes, and it really annoys me. Like really? Not even close. I love the people though. They just are fun to be around. 
5. As far as finances go, everyone lives the same pretty much. We stay a bit away from those we teach, so we are in a nicer gated community. I thought our apartment was really poor the first few days, but it's much nicer than I thought! Thought you might like to know that eggs aren't refrigerated here. Cooks the same, tastes the same. Never have been sick!

Wednesday night we ran out of water. Our poly-tank that holds it was empty. We had no water for drinking, showering, cooking, washing, or brushing teeth! We didn't know when it would come back on either. There's a part in the white handbook that says "Wash daily, if possible." I know why that's there now! Instantly made me appreciate running water. Suddenly everything I wanted to do stopped because it required water, which we didn't have. Luckily we got water the next morning though, so no big deal. Just a great way for me to have gratitude for running water. I could care less about electricity, water is way more important. Appreciate your sink, dishwasher, and heated shower!   The Bread is amazing here. Cheap too. Costs 3-5 cedis for a loaf. We eat a ton of bread! Go through a loaf in about 4 days. Washing clothes is getting more "fun". My knuckles have cuts on them now from the rubbing. It will bleed next time.  The people have very little here.  Kids don't have shoes that fit them. I want to buy them some, but for several reasons I just can't.   Well, you see they pretty much live life hard every day, so there used to it? It is still sad of course, but it's their life, all of them. You just give service when you can and wipe kids' tears away and make them feel appreciated.
Just walking a little girl home.  I love the kids!!!

Transfers are next week. This is week 5 in the field. I wish to stay here until Christmas.  I hope you are all doing well and working hard. Jacob, keep it up with Storm.  Yeah I've heard about BYU and the Ducks a little, so that's too bad they are not any good. At least Joe's team wins. 

I got the package today! So awesome receiving those things. I can't wait to dive into that beef jerky! Don't have that here! Thank you for that. 

We ride our bikes to the chapel and walk all day. It's getting hotter and hotter out here. After our little 6 minute bike ride, we are soaked in sweat.

Love and miss you all. Rock on!

Elder Nissinen

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cute girl picture for the week. This is how all women carry their babies - with some cloth and the baby on their back. Looks uncomfortable to me, but babies sleep all time, so I guess it works.

Dear Family and Friends.
Hey!! Great to hear from everyone again. Hope school is going well and everyone is having fun. Joe keep kicking butt! Rosie keep being a good friend, service opportunities are everywhere, you just need the "service goggles" as I say first. Jacob, BYU sounds sooo fun! Keep being a hungry hound dog. 

First of all...... it's my one month mark! Crazy how fast time goes by when you are a full-time servant busy doing work all day long. Weeks fly by. This week was a week of milestones for me personally. In short, I am becoming more and more "Africanized" as Pres. Heid calls it. I'm getting into the norm of missionary life in Ghana. 

Yes, I got my haircut! 19 year old kid cut it. Did a phenomenal job on it really, considering it was his first time cutting a white mans hair. he spent probably 30-40 minutes on it.

 My first milestone happened on Tuesday, but the story begins Monday. Bear with me on the length of the story: 

There is a chop-bar that some member lady owns or something, so she gives missionaries free meals. Well that's awesome, except it is only fufu and banku. My companion and the other elders in the apartment like it a lot, so I'm always reluctant on going, because if you don't eat everything, they will be very upset, and so you have to give it to the other elders to help you out. Well Monday night they were tired of helping me out because I can hardly eat any fufu, and so my only resort was to ask for a plastic bag to "take it home and eat it later". I stuffed it in the bag and threw it on the side of the road while we were going home. Frustrated at the world basically, impatient at myself, and a bit hungry, I prayed and asked for some help. So Tuesday the Zone Leaders went out with us for the day. Of course, for breakfast, they wanted to go to the chop bar. Again reluctant, I joined with no choice. We started eating, and before I knew it, I ate all the fufu!!!! First time!!! Just twelve hours ago I couldn't eat jack-squat, and now I downed the whole thing!  I was so happy at my achievement, I nearly cried. It was monumental for me, though it sounds silly. Since then, fufu is fine. Banku has a sour flavor, so it's not as easy, and you have to swallow a bit quicker than you can with fufu, but I'm getting much better. Prayers are answered! Foods that were gross in the MTC taste good now. Foods that weren't sweet enough are sweet now. Thought those of you at home would enjoy a story about the food, since you're all curious about that. 
Monumental first ball of fufu! Fufu is gooooood! Now I'm working on finishing the soup and chicken too. I just get too full honestly. I can't eat as much as before. 

Banku at the apartment for breakfast. They don't have fufu for breakfast where we are at. Banku helps you swallow better. Fufu you can savor... not banku! 

Second milestone: 

I got my first baptism Saturday! His name is Clifford, middle-aged man. I never knew him really. See he was suppose to be baptized before I came, but they postponed it. My companion told me I was going to baptize him, so I did. It was a bit strange baptizing basically a stranger, but it was a significant event on his part. He's a really serious guy though... I'm really excited when I have baptisms of my own next month with people I taught and found. It'll be really significant then. Next month we are planning on at least 3 baptisms... possibly 4 or 5. 

Clifford, the very serious man I baptized. We nailed it first time! Didn't mess up on the name or anything! 
Me and Elder Liongitau are working hard in resolving our differences. I'm working on humbling myself in all situations and looking inward to better our companionship. I don't always need to be right or know what is going on. Many great attributes I'm trying to attain out here.... 

The work is also going sweet. Members are becoming friends, and church attendance is slowly on the rise. 

To answer a few questions about technology here: 
No iPads to missionaries. I gave mine to President when I arrived here, and will get it back in two years... Most people have phones, but they are basic nokia things like what we have. Sometimes a smartphone. When it's lights out, it's generators out too, so generators are all over the place. I mean, you have to still blast the music even though it's lights out, duh! 

I'm cooking on my own more. If you want something to eat, you pretty much have to cook it! Eggs, fruit, bread, and Indomie. Indomie is the same as Top Raman, so I bought a fat pack of 40 of them the other day. Such a good investment. 
Just because it's lights out, doesn't stop the people from doing the things they need to do. This iron works off of coals. I was amazed. Looked at it, studied it, played with it for a good 5 minutes. They are so resourceful!

There is a nice lady named Theodora who "altered my trousers" aka hemmed my pants for free! Five pair! 
They use handcrank sewing machines here. I've only seen just a few electronic ones. 

Fun thought for you all. I get asked the funniest questions sometimes. Here are some good ones: 

Do you have oranges in America?
Is America cold? 
I have a friend named so-and-so in America. Do you know him?

                  Speaking of that question, there is a funny story about a recent convert we go and visit that I think you would like. He is an old man named John Smith. He LOVES that he has a white last name. He tells the story all the time. Supposedly his great-great-great-great grandfather was white, so that's why his last name is Smith. Well the other day he asked me if I could take him home to the U.S. and help find his relatives, or that he wants to go to the U.S. and look himself and find his ancestry. SO FUNNY! He has no idea that there are like 10.2 million Smiths out there. I told him about familysearch.com, but i don't even think that will help him in his case. 
Like I said, we are near the ocean. So we went down to see for ourselves: Absolutely amazing scene! The ocean is right along a huge cliff, where everyone lives. It was so cool to see. 

I just love the people here. The people love life. I say it in my head nearly everyday. They just have a love of life, regardless of the things they lack. Low quality living, high quality people.

Keep being rockstars and choosing the right. Remember that people are watching you no matter what. Don't forget to reach out to those in need. Like the scriptures say, as I am losing myself in the service of the Lord, I am finding myself just as equally. 

Have a wonderful week! Thanks for the letters, stories, pictures, and support. Love and miss you all, 

Elder Nissinen

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hello everyone! So great to hear from you all, it's always a wonderful refresher to write home and hear what everyone is up to. 

First off, I'm SO jealous of the new Chevy! Man I would kill to ride in that right now. Sort of breaks my heart a little bit. Wax it for me?

Things are going pretty great here right now. I am getting more and more "Africanized" as we say it here each day. It's always going to be hot and I'm always going to be sunburnt, but I'm working on techniques. 

Dad and Joe, don't look! First time eating Fufu basically. I struggle! It comes with time though.
Today, as the title of the letter states, marks the beginning of "Affliction Week". Affliction week is the last week before your subsistance money we get each month, and because we're Elders and 18/19 years old, we can't budget very well. I totally blew all my money the first 2 weeks, so I'm on a budget myself. I went several days on 8 or 9 cedis a day, or like 2 bucks in american money. I exchanged some of my american dollars, so I'm all good now. We get 360 cedis per 4 weeks.

One night while walking back to the church building with some cool recent convert kids - we found a house that had exploded that morning, so it was really smoky! We thought it would be a great photo op. (and it was). But a man came out and chewed out the recent converts in the native language, and so we left. Apparently
 it was his house he was building, and he thought we were making fun of the situation. We didn't know, otherwise we wouldn't had done it. But we still got great pictures.

So last week went well. We had a big multi-zone conference near the MTC, and Pres. and Sister Heid delivered some great stuff to us, a lot of it I needed to hear. I'm learning to become more patient. As a Greenie, it's important for me to just take everything in and not get frustrated. The food, the weather, Ghana itself - will all come with patience. 

                                     This is my shirt after the big rain.

Lights off has been pretty sporadic though. It was 24 hours off, 12 hours on for a few days, but now it's kind of whatever the power people want to do... As long as my fan works, I don't care!!
Our area btw is really close to the ocean! We decided to go near it and look at all the trash. Very sad sight really. I need to get my pants tapered some. I look like I'm wearing my dad's church clothes when he was on a mission in the 90's.

Me and Elder Liongitau are working hard though. Last week I committed 4 people to baptism, 3 of which were in the same day! Our branch struggles a lot with people coming to church, so we are targeting Less Actives and Recent Converts to come, as well as our investigators of course. I feel like the people are receiving me and trusting me more, and will continue to. 

There is one small problem with being a white guy out here -  girls. All of them  in our branch like me, and a nutcase 24 year old too. I get teased about it a lot from the elders. It's just distracting because they'll try and hold my hand, throw their arm around me, and for some reason they love carrying my side bag. It's rather annoying to be honest, cause I can't be rude to people, but I can't let them escort me everywhere either. 

There is an awesome place called Moon Light we love going to. It's just fried rice and a chicken leg! No pepe or spicy stuff or nothing! Genius Ghanaian whoever came up with that idea. We go there nearly every night and get a cold Coke. 
       This is Moon Light. We get a picture every time we go. 
The second is when it rained for my first time here! And man was it nuts! All of the sudden, out of nowhere, BOOM! rain comes slamming down. It was lights out already, so it was dark, nighttime, and really rainy! We were waiting for Moon light to open, so we helped move the big undercover tent thing over the restaurant, but because the top was so dirty and dusty, we got covered in dirt and mud. I was laughing the entire time! Completely soaked but it was so fun. 

That's about all I can think of. My companion says I am working hard, and I think our numbers show for it, but I can't really compare to anything yet of course. 

There was a sponsorship event in the streets the other day. It was a big dance competition, and kids would dance battle each other for some prize. Absolutely hysterical how people dance here. It's so cool because every kid here can dance. Like at home, it means something if you can dance. But here everyone dances! I love watching them dance because it looks like a cross between someone who is having an epileptic seizure while getting tased. So funny!

Kids will hold your hand walking down the street and won't let you go. They like sitting on our laps too. Sometimes it is a distraction teaching an investigator because kids will come up and crowd around, making noise. I love the kids. They've made me cry 2 times this week. 
They'll kill each other ( no joke) to get in a picture. It's a problem because they'll punch and kick just to get in it. Very funny! 

The area isn't hard! It's just a matter of adjustment. I don't have runny tummy anymore, so that is a blessing in itself. Yes, the people are very humble, but they're a higher quality of a people too. Smart, quick, strong, resourceful.  

Quick story for you kids at home that i just thought of: 
Ghanaian kids have no toys, so they make their own fun. They play games where you clap and stomp. They use flat soccer balls. They collect glass bottle caps and use them to play a game like marbles and another game where you stack a few caps up and stand a ways away and throw your sandal and try and hit it. That is their entertainment. Kids will run around with tires a lot too. So kids at home, next time you get tired of your video games or feel like you have "nothing fun at our house to do", just remember they have bottle caps and sandals and dirt for fun. And they're HAPPY. Just a thought! 

Joe there are lots of 15 year old girls here!!! I told some yesterday that i have a 15 year old brother. I showed them a picture on my camera of you, and they love you! they want me to blow up a picture of you for them. Girls love white men, especially if they are good soccer players. ooo la laaa Joe!

I am focusing on finding service opportunities. I give a bit of money away in candy to children frequently. That makes me happy haha. 

I'm so happy the family is getting closer and closer. I think it's a great blessing we've been given. Sorry about the Captain Crimson and the Ducks. Us American elders all know about BYU's hot streak. Keep it alive!  Tell everyone Joe is going to be the best Captain Crimson yet, they just gotta wait a few years!

One of the funniest Elders - Elder Dickson - told me that his companion told him that if you stomp on your clothes, it works well and washes them much faster. Being that I hate handwashing (we have to do it every day or every other) I tried it out. It works so well! I look like a dork but it works! It gets everything out except the collar. Saves time, energy, and cut up knuckles! Who knew right?

Count your blessings, remember who you are, and reach a hand out to those who need help. Never forget that it doesn't cost one penny to be kind. Not one!
Hope you all have a sweet week.

Love Elder Nissinen

            This is Elder Helm, one of my good buddies from the MTC. He's out in the bush a bit. 

Monday, September 7, 2015


My first area is...... SANGONAA! It is at or near Teshie, which is like an hour away from Accra. There are so many things I want to tell you guys about, but I obviously can't, so I am just going to say what comes to my mind, meaning it's gonna be all over the place haha. 

Yeah so my companion is Elder Liongitau  (Lee-on-gee-tau) from Tonga! Super cool guy, I think he's been out for 5 months now. He's a lot of fun, and a great trainer. We get along pretty well. 

I don't want to make it sound bad, but I am in a pretty poor area. It's still in the city, so I'm not out in the bush or nothing, but it's definitely humble! I totally love it though. Already I feel like this is where I should be. It's certainly a 3rd-world country by all means. 
Our area!

The kids: 
The kids here blow my mind. I love the kids so much! They are young, intellegent, poor, and very hard-working. They are amazing. Wash clothes, sell food, make their own meals, etc. Take no offense, but these kids are WAY cooler than kids at home. My hearts go out to the kids. It's funny being basically the only white guy. Kids constantly say "obruni obruni!" which means white man. I get plenty of stares from people as you can imagine. Kids will pet my arms a lot or shake my hands. As soon as you pull out a camera a million kids come out of nowhere. When I'm teaching a lesson, kids will group up and watch us from 20 or 30 feet. Women take their babies up to me and have me hold them or look at them. As soon as the baby sees me they start crying and get really scared, which always cracks me up!

All you gotta do is pull out a camera and kids'll come runnin! Then they want to see the pic on your camera.
Here's for all the girls at home.....

The food:
To be honest, I haven't really eaten much food here. They call it "runny tummy" and yep I've had that for a while. The food is fine, but people don't know how to keep things clean. Germs and diseases are all over the place. But your body adapts quickly. They love spicy food. It kind of drives me nuts. Every stinkin' thing here is got spicy stuff in it called pepe. Can't take the spicy stuff man!! 

Trying goat for the first time. Just takes like chicken, but all my pieces were fat. Goats and chicken are everywhere too. We walk by dozens of them every day. 
Me and Elder Liongitau. Coke is cheaper and more common in bottles here. You buy it and return the bottle. Coca cola refills it (and every other glass bottle beverage company). Some bottles look really vintage! 

My area:
Sangonaa is great. Our area is one long street that branches out to all the homes. Smells like smoke from fires and open sewage. It stinks! I told my companion the other night that I wish I could have grown up here. It's flippin' awesome! We ride bikes to the church building, then walk everywhere else. Lots and lots of walking!!

Open sewage. Basically no such thing as a garbage service. Garbage is literally everywhere. Kind of sad, but I like being able to throw garbage away anywhere I want. People go to the bathroom all over the place too. I only like that when it's my turn haha.
Our shower!
This is our bedroom. We share the apartment with two other elders as well. I like sleeping in mosquito nets. They feel like I'm in a tent. Fans are important here
So Saturday was a crazy day. There is a festival in our exact proselyting street once a year, and people come from all over the country to be a part of it. My guess is there was 200,000 people there that day.SO MANY PEOPLE! So what they do is group together in groups and run down the street or alley really fast and chant songs! It's sooo nuts. And almost every guy dresses like a girl, so you see some really interesting outfits haha. There was no way we could proselyte, so we just watched it and avoided getting ran over, grabbed to run in the street, and staying away from the guys that shoved weed in our faces! It's hilarious!! We did get one lesson in though. They also have HUGE speakers stacked up allllllll over the place. Sometimes like every 50 feet. They just blast music and kids dance and whatever. Great music actually. It was just nuts!! 

Funniest guy i've met. He stood around at the festival in the middle of the street and danced... really good too! Yeah he was probably mentally handicapped. My companion threw a piece of garbage on the ground and he picked it up and ate it! so funny! 

These speakers were all over the place! I really felt like Ghana is my 'home' because they love speakers and great music.

Guys like this everywhere during the festival. I really like how people are poor and never bother to worry about what they wear. It's such a problem at home (like people worry about it and get judged all the time) but here everyone is on the same level, so all their clothes are dirty. So are mine!!! 
The second one is people from the festival that run around and don't stop for nothing! Absolute madness, I love it.
Because of that, church attendance was pretty love. Our branch only had like 50 Sunday. Fast Sunday is indeed hard here. We tried teaching a few lessons after church, but it was really hot and we were getting drained, so we just went back and napped till dinner. The sun is so fierce here. It doens't even have to break through the clouds. I love sunscreen! First day I didn't put some on and my nose was blistered like you wouldn't believe! People don't know what sunburn is here, so they thought it was a vitamin c deficieny. I was like "no it's an overdose of vitamin d "haha. 

Ghanaian sun + my nose = this
Our little district, which doesn't even have a name. I'm working on it though...
That's about it here! Totally loving the area. I committed a lady to baptism, and we are working hard at finding investigators. There's so many people in Sangonaa, finding people to talk to isn't much of an issue. 
Took me an hour and half to do laundry this morning, and I did some Thursday too. You have to appreciate the Whirlpools! Don't have none of that stuff here.
 I stink sooo bad at handwashing!

OH! forgot to tell you, we don't have electricity about 1/3 of the time. So it's just fun! Happy birthday Papa and hope everyone has a fun time at school. Sorry Joe about your knee. Get some crutches and it'll look tougher. Cool story on the bikes! Jeez that would be really fun. Jacob keep up the dating. Sounds like you are having a flippin blast. I talked to some Elders this morning that are leaving soon, and they said "I'm so excited to get home and just smooch some white girls!". So I guess I see where you're coming from. Love you all! Love life like the Ghanaians! Tell Ro thanks for the email and pictures. I love getting pictures! Oh and Bro. Nelson too. 

       We have a Casio keyboard that I am learning to play the piano on. Only works when we have                  electricity of course.... so when I was bored yesterday I had fun with my favorite tie.