Elder Nissinen

Elder Nissinen

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spanish...........in Ghana????

Dear family and friends, 

This has been yet another rollercoaster-of-a-week out here! Words really can't describe the things I see, hear, and experience each day. Not even 1/10th can describe what goes on around me. It's really unbelievable. 

I was a model.
Joe, sorry about the rough week man. Braces sort of suck, but they are a lot more worth it than they suck. Stick it out, they'll quit hurting soon (I hope). Eat a tub of Tillamook Mudslide for me.

Tuesday was a day I don't plan on forgetting. We were visiting with an investigator named Mabel who has taken all the lessons, has been to church plenty of times before I came along, but didn't show up on her baptismal day. She has been lying to us about coming to church for several weeks now. Tuesday we were trying to get her to open up, explain why she was lying and not wanting to attend church, and trying to find ways to help her. She wasn't answering any questions at all. I knew she needed help, she wanted help, but wasn't willing to tell us how. I became so frustrated at her that I started to cry. I was so frustrated at her. She began to cry, and Elder Liongitau tried calming her down and explaining our thoughts. She still wasn't answering anything, so I just grabbed my stuff and walked away. I sat on a rock by myself and cried for a bit. I was just in a bad mood the rest of the day.   That night I prayed to have Mabel open herself up to us. The next day we visited her, and she explained her story. She's only 20 years old and gave birth to twins a few years ago, of which she hasn't seen since they were born. No communication with the father either. She told us about how her own father used to take her to church every Sunday, but had passed away a few years back. Every time she goes to church she thinks about him, making it difficult on her. I was super happy she opened her story up to me. We have a good friendship now. She came to church all 3 hours Sunday, made a few friends, and is going to be baptized this Saturday. 
We were late to the baptism and covered head-to-toe , so we just got a picture afterwords. This is Gilbert. 23 years old.

Speaking of baptism, I baptized Gilbert Saturday! He's a solid guy, we really like him. He was confirmed the next day and got ordained to Priest too. We plan on 2 baptisms this coming weekend. 

In reference to the title, sometimes people try to be mean or funny and refuse to speak to you in English, so we don't know what they are saying. I resolved this by responding in Spanish! They have no idea what you're saying, and immediately speak back in English. Works like a charm...!
I was told these were gifts for a newborn baby, sort of like a baby shower. The prayer rituals and customs here are a sight to see. I have no idea what's going on half the time! No way to explain it. 

We've had a record number of lights-out hours this week too. It's always off! At one point it was 50 hours off, 7 hours on. Because of that, our pump isn't running much, so we ran out of water the other night. I took my first bucket shower on 2 gallons of emergency water! It's not as bad as you think, but it makes you appreciate your nice shower-head. I mean, bucket showers is how everyone else does it...

During and after the baptism, there was a big institute party at the church. So there was music blasting outside the whole day! Right after the baptism we played volleyball and basketball. It was a lot of fun! Makes me laugh how different the church is here. It's the same doctrine of course, but it's different in its own way. 

The Oreo prophecy has been fulfilled!!!!

Yesterday after church some lady in the other Elder's area was throwing a massive party for her grandson's first birthday. She invited everyone! A ton of Elders, including the Mission President! He didn't come though. Music was blasting and we all had a good time eating good food. 

     The party Sunday afternoon. This party had nothing to do with                  keeping the Sabbath day holy. It's hilarious!
    We had to yell to hear the guy next to us the music was so darn                        loud.... Super fun time!!

 Elder Liongitau and I are doing great. His shoes and socks were wrecked, so we woke up early this morning and went to Accra so I could help buy him some stuff.

Anyways, that's what my week looked like. Again, it's impossible to describe in words or pictures the things I'm seeing. It's so awesome.  I'm sure what the hardest thing is.... It's a constant challenge dealing with the heat all the time.    Sometimes the water isn't even cold enough when I shower! I take frozen water bottles and pour that water on my head to cool me down. There isn't one specific thing that is hardest. Hand-washing clothes is annoying sometimes. Dealing with difficult people frustrates me. Many people like pouring their knowledge on us foreigners so they can think we think they're smart. People still beg for money all the time. Things like that just get old after a while.  Because it's such a different lifestyle, I love it. Kids know how to actually play and work. Everyone is an athlete. I really enjoy the people for the most part and all the fun that goes with it. I love feeling like I'm camping all the time. It's a lot of fun taking the challenges head-on and making solutions out of it. I enjoy that part.   Everything is just so different from home, nothing's the same. Thanks for the emails and pictures. Hope everyone has a great Halloween! There is no Halloween here ,but I plan on dressing up as a full-time missionary this year. We'll see how that goes. 

Mom, have a wonderful birthday this week!!! Thanks so much for all you do and have done to get me to be the boy I am. I love you very much. If I could send a gift, I totally would! Have lots of fun. 

Hope everyone has a great week! Joe, keep those braces shiny.I mean, just EmBRACE them. Jacob, try to have a little more fun ok? I have a feeling you and Storm aren't partying enough. Keep up the good work everyone else!  I just got news that Elder Bednar is coming for a devotional this Thursday! Whoa!! 

Love, Elder Nissinen

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hello family and friends! 

This has definitely been the craziest, wildest, and overall most challenging week of my mission. The stuff that happens is nuts! Tomorrow also marks 2 months...

Since it's all dirt, mud sticks around for days after hard rains...

Wednesday we had a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, rain storm! Of course, me and Elder Liongitau were miles away from the apartment, so we got stuck in it. We were so soaked! The only way I can properly describe it is we were wetter and muddier than Joe's wettest and muddiest soccer game. Head to toe! I dumped 4 shoe fulls of water out that night. Oh yeah, it was also lights out when we got back too, and my battery powered fan had died, so it was HOT!  That sure didn't help my cold. T he rain felt good I guess, but you feel like you just jumped in a lake, so it's not really refreshing in any way. All your clothes and stuff just gets wrecked. 
Dogs and rain.... But it wasn't raining dogs though!

Kids like rats here I guess. They buy and sell them, don't really know what else they do with them....

Thursday rolled around, and we had a great zone training meeting at the stake center, where we met the new fresh elders from the MTC. It feels so nice not being brand new anymore! You're not looked upon as a baby. Our district sang "Come To Zion....Remixed". We had been practicing it for a few weeks prior too. Somehow I was chosen to sing soprano, and everyone laughed when it was my turn to sing the 2nd verse like a girl. Oh well.
We like to goof around!

That night, while walking back to the apartment, I fell into a  3 foot ditch.I wasn't really looking where I was going, and it was dark out. It hurt pretty bad, not gonna lie! My nametag got all scratched up, pants scuffed, and my left arm got a beating. Ironically, I was singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy" right before it happened! So I stood back up, shook myself off, and kept singing! Oh yeah, we also had lights off that night too.... so no fan again...
The bad crash in the ditch. My knuckles, forearm, and elbow.

Everyone in our little area here speaks Ga. So I unfortunately don't know any Twi. I know just a few things in Ga. People go absolutely NUTS when you say something in Ga. They love when you do their culture. Kids will repeatedly ask me to say something in Ga to them, they literally all go nuts.  I don't really know what the men do for work. Everything is really random as for working from what I know. Kids go to school usually 5 days a week. They go for a while then they have a break for a week or something. I don't really know much on that either. School's go for 2 sessions. Like a group will go 6 am to 1 pm, then another group will go 2 to 7 or something like that.

Friday we went on exchanges, so I was with Elder Fayeampah in his area. It was also his birthday that day, so we ate a fun breakfast and had a great dinner and party that night. Thanks Aunt Ninnie for the balloons! We had fun messing around with those. 
This is what we had for breakfast on Elder Fayeampah's birthday!
 So good!
Elder Fayeampah is 25 years old now... old man! 
This was a super fun night.

 Yeah I finally got my haircut Saturday night. The guy litterally spent 45 minutes on it. Like my hair was President's lawn or something. I was getting impatient almost. Looks good though.  There's a good chance I'm going to be training. I'm a bit nervous on that, just handling the phone and baptismal records and all.  Knowing the area is really hard too.  No street names or anything.  So I'm working now to prepare for that.  I feel like there are many aspects I am ready for, but lots I'm not ready for. Training right after you've been trained is a challenge. We'll see what goes down in the coming weeks. We got 2 solid baptisms this weekend, so I'm stoked for that.

Oh yeah, I just remembered. A teenage girl hugged and kissed me on the cheek last week. A friend of an investigator that we see a lot. She hadn't seen me in a few days so apparently she needed to kiss me. Ugh.

Saturday was suppose to be a baptism for Fayeampah and Berguson's candidate, but he didn't show up, which is typical on baptism or confirmation day. So we were bummed out about that. Then, while we were sitting outside the church.... President Heid showed up! He wanted to come to the baptism. He ended up doing a personal interview in his truck to all of us, after which we all piled in and showed him our areas. He didn't have time though to drive around Sangonaa area, which was so nice! President asked Elder Berguson and Fayeampah the names of every road in their area... I don't know a single name of any road in our area! They don't really have names...? So we scraped by on that one by our teeth! 

Saturday was also the hottest day I think I've been here yet. Incredible how hot it gets! 
I just realized the weather here in Teshie! It's been high 90's all week! Whoa! . It is lights off right now, so we hung around the apartment after sports for a few hours until something opened. Elder Liongitau and I decided we'd just go to this cafe  (the one with my bathroom experience). Luckily it's generator operated, otherwise we'd have to come tomorrow.
The food is great. No problems eating anything now.
I'm always sweating especially with the spicy food!

We woke up at 5 am to go buy shoes in Accra for Liongitau, but every tro tro was packed, so it never happened. He has 3 pair of shoes  but 2 of them got wrecked cause that's just what happens out here. I'm probably going to give him some money.

Sunday rolled around and we had 2 great investigators show up. Somehow we lost track of time, so we looked at our watches and realized church was starting in 5 minutes... yikes! While jumping on my bike, I split my new pants clean down the center. So I quickly changed and we made it church in just 3 minutes! Record time for sure, but we weren't late...!  Both of those 2 investigators are being baptized this Saturday. We have 2 or 3 more that are close to baptism, but getting them to attend church without us coming to pick them up is still a never-ending struggle.  Our branch had their Primary Program Sunday! It was absolutely hilarious. The kids were super funny. They acted out the 10 virgins skit.  I was laughing my head off all sacrament long. Super cute and hilarious.  A girl got up in the beginning, 8 years old, and rehearsed the Articles of Faith without a single mess up. I couldn't read it as well as she did. It was incredible!

To sum it all up, this really was a week of trials. I told President that there were so many things that happened to me this week that I could have just thrown the jersey in and gave up for the day. But as for me, it's all about the attitude and how you handle situations. Like Gordon B. Hickley's father said, "Forget yourself and go to work!" I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to better myself and help others come closer to Jesus Christ. I'm working hard right now to memorize the area and where the members live, because the odds are I'm going to be training in 5 weeks. Elder Liongitau is helping with that a lot. 
I've been wanting to do a shot like this since I left home. Finally a good day for it!

Great to hear from everyone this week, like always! Lots of pictures to come your way, as you can imagine from the eventful week I've had. Thanks for your all your love and support! And thanks to those in the ward for their letters too. Have a great week everyone! 

There is one quote shared from a poem we read during Zone Conference that stood out to me: 

"No matter what we go through, when we feel we can't take more,
Just stop and think about Jesus Christ, He's been there before."

Love Elder Nissinen

Monday, October 12, 2015

This little baby suddenly fell asleep by me. Pretty funny, sucking his thumb the whole time. 
Dear Family and Friends.

Hello! I'm beaming with happiness today for several reasons. Yes, I did receive my packages! They are totally amazing and way too much, so Elder Liongitau is certainly receiving a bunch of it!  I honestly don't need anything! I have what I need. I enjoy using up what I already have and being humble with it. I felt great with the 3 packages today of course, but everyone was looking at me with 3 packages in my hand like I'm a spoiled rich kid. I'm giving Liongitau half.   I don't need ties either.... Tell Ninnie  thank you but no more ties! And don't give me things to hand out to the kids here either. It ruins our image that we are trying to make. People beg for money, so giving them stuff only helps their mindset of us having everything to give away. I'm a missionary, not an american on vacation.   From everyone at home perspective, it's nice giving poor kids stuff. And it certainly is. But I can't give kids stuff. I don't feel good about doing that. Literally everyone stares at us when we walk by, so I don't want more attention. Feel free to send whatever, but I don't really need anything. Snacks are fine and american cash is great, because it doesn't cost you much and it's worth a bit here. A package or two every transfer, which is 6 weeks, is just fine for me. 

 It's P-day too of course, so I'm happy to hear from home. I'm sure people in the cafe think I'm nuts because I laugh at all the pictures and letters. Funny stuff! 

Like I said, I'm no longer a bright-greenie! I'm now a shady-greenie. I'm staying here in Sangonaa with Elder Liongitau. Missionaries stay here for quite a while. Elder Liongitau has been here all 6 months. In fact, all 4 of us in the district have been here our whole missions. So forget transfers. Which is fine, because I'm totally loving it and our area. I've said it before, but you guys just wouldn't believe the number of people in our area. Tens of thousands. It's a blast finding new people, playing with the kids, teaching, and just having a good ol' time laughing at the random stuff you see. 

The Sangonaa Studs. 

As you can assume, I've already learned a ton in just the 6 weeks I've been here. Time really does fly when you're a missionary, dedicating your time and energy to OTHERS. Pretty amazing when you think about it, huh?

I got sick Mom.....

..... of my sidebag. Empty it weighs like 10 pounds. So I got a scripture case. That's all we use out here. Scriptures and a few pamphlets. No need for anything else really. I will send a picture next week of it. No, backpacks, believe it or not, aren't allowed. It's so lame because there are tons of great backpacks here and it's much more convenient than a dumb sidebag, but we can't. It's ok, I have a killer scripture bag that works just fine. 
One Transfer Down.... A bunch to Go!

We are two weeks away from our baptismal date. We have 4 investigators who are progressing well enough to be ready for baptism. Only two showed up to church though. I'm establishing myself better with people, clearing the way to them opening up their problems and personal feelings. When that happens, it's a piece of cake to use the gospel as answers. 

Last Tuesday President assigned every person in the mission to deep clean their apartment for 4 hours. He wanted us to clean every square inch of it! Like behind the fridge and everything. We clean ours pretty good every Monday morning, but we found tons of things that haven't been even touched in ages. I listen to a talk every morning when I'm cleaning, eating, and washing. It's really nice. 

I had 2 girls propose to me last week...... yikes.

We had a massive downpour the other day, so we all just camped in our apartment until it stopped. Because all the homes and most of our area is just dirt, it creates a lot of mud and flooding. The ground can only soak up so much. Even just the few hours it rained, you could see flooding beginning to happen. 

While at the mission home today, there was a scale. It said I weighed 135 pounds. I left at 146. I don't think it is right, but all the elders said it was, since they use it to weigh luggage. I still think it's wrong though. I'm never hungry. The food is just fine! I feel just fine too. Not a problem in the world for me Mom!   I sprayed my net with special insecticide spray the other day. We do it every conference. Thought you might like to know that. Also, I don't really know the holidays other than Christmas, but there is one next month I think.  I don't know what it is.  No, there is no Halloween or Thanksgiving here.  Trick or treating wouldn't even be possible here. There aren't even doors to knock
on.  I've only knocked on 2 so far.  It's so fun feeling like you're camping all the time.
We pounded fufu and stirred banku this week! You have to do it yourself to appreciate the work behind it. It's not easy! 
You pound fufu and stir/drive banku. Fufu blistered my hands. 

 Thanks for the emails, pictures, and Kevin O'Leary quote. Took me a few times to understand who the heck it was though... Great to hear Rosie and Jacob had a great time at Homecoming. Rosie, Kevin is cool, but you're not allowed to boyfriend/girlfriend like Jacob yet. Hard to believe Jacob has girlfriend, in a nice way. Joe your pretty lucky to be a Nissinen boy with his own room. Sheesh, me and Jacob will never have that. Be sure to deck it out and get a good speaker system in it. 
Have a great week! Be positive and a proud member of the Church. We can't really control the things that happen in our lives, but we can certainly control our attitude. So have a good attitude! 

Pretty cool idea huh? 

Love Elder Nissinen 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hello family and friends! 

Zone Soccer Jerseys for when we play other zones. I'm in Christianborg Stake and Christianborg Zone
I got so lucky they spelled my name right. So many Elders got their names way messed up. Super funny
I should probably start by saying something about Conference. It was awesome! We were lucky enough to watch both morning sessions live at the Stake Center near the Temple, about 30 minutes away. We couldn't watch the later sessions because they were too late in the evening for us, due to the 7 hour time change or whatever. But I felt really lucky that we could watch what we did. Conference is much better when you are a missionary, just throwin' that out for ya! You focus, actually take notes by choice, and don't have to be yelled at to sit up. The 3 new apostles are great too. I am excited when they have the talks online so I can print them out and study them. 
  Benjamin, the 17 year old member who goes out with us all the time.

There are 3 groups that meet at our building - Teshie 1 and Teshie 2 wards, and our branch, Sangonaa Branch. They combined all 3 this Sunday so that everyone could have time to make it to Conference, so there was like 250 people total in a relatively small building! 
   Right after Saturday Morning Session. We took lots of pictures. New and improved Elder Nissinen: No sideburns, and how about the pants?! 

To make things even more exciting, I got 12 kids to come to church with us! All of them it was their first time! Kids 6-11. Only a few are really able to be taught, but it was a lot of fun having little girls and boys holding your hand on the way to church. Just imagine 2 non-africans in white shirts and ties with 13 other people following them to church!  Elder Liongitau was with our main investigator, Joseph, a 21 year old guy, so I was left to deal with the little kids in all their needs and different directions. I felt a lot like a father, weird huh?
The kids I took to church! Every one of them is a nonmember and first time coming to our church. They were so fun to be with. They got dressed themselves and waited for us to come by. A few like me. One kissed my cheek the other night and ran away. 

Things are going just fine for me and Elder Liongitau. We are finding plenty of people to teach, so many that it becomes hectic to remember everyone we contacted for the day. It's way too easy to find a new investigator haha. But getting them to come to church is and always will be the challenge. We are continuing our approach to solving this problem by biking to them and physically taking them with us. We are getting more member-present lessons too. 

        We were standing on a bridge called London Bridge. Really cool area because it is so open.

There is one thing that frustrates me and I can't seem to get a good way to solve it: kids and adults begging for money and drunks pestering you. It's hard to deal with. You know people need money usually, and you want to give, but people have a hard time understanding that a white Ghana missionary doesn't have much money to live off of already. I have no problem giving a boy money, but there are tons of others, and I would be broke if I gave to all, so I have to say no most of the time. We still give our money away to those who are hungry, but it's a challenge dealing with it. The drunks are pretty bothersome. Lots of drunks we run into. We attract them?

I went on exchanges with Elder Fayeampah, one of the elders in our apartment. He's hard to get along with because he only 3 hours away from his home and is 25 years old, so the rest of us in the apartment are 18 and 19, and a super long ways away from our homes! I was worried it would be a rough day. But he was hilarious, super cool, down-to-earth, and our relationship now is nothing but fun. Goes to show when you really focus on YOU trying to understand THEM, THEY begin to like YOU. YOU have to focus on OTHERS so OTHERS will like YOU. 

We are having a lot of fun. Everything is getting hotter, but it doesn't stop us from working hard and playing hard. 
Kids coming from school are always a thrill to talk to. I was teaching them a handshake I think. 

If you want something fun to look at and see what I eat a lot. google these things:  FanMilk, fanIce, FanChoco. I eat at least one FanChoco every day except Sunday. Phenomenal snack. Frozen!  Water comes in satchels, or pouches here. We all drink from them. Bite off a corner and drink! Really cheap too. Nobody buys bottled water...too expensive. Guys go around with a horn and a bike with a cooler attached to it, selling those things. They are everywhere. They also have muffins, like little corn muffins that we get along with a FanChoco or FanIce. Great snack in the middle of the day. 1 cedi for the FanChoco, 50 pesewas for the muffin. They also have FanYogo, which is like frozen yogurt. I had it in the MTC once and it was gross, but it tastes great now. Same with FanIce. FanChoco is so good. The FanMilk company does great here. See the pictures of the guys on the bikes? You just yell "Hey FanIce!" and they'll come to wherever you're at! I so love it.

To answer some questions from home:  Do members feed you dinner?  Do they have a food calendar to feed the Elders?

Haha yeah right! the church is so different here. Rarely get fed by people. If they are cooking they'll give you something, but it's spur of the moment. Never plan on a free meal! No calendar. The church is really simple here. We don't even have meetings before church. We've had one meeting with the branch mission leader so far. It's just different. We do our own thing. They call on people randomly for fast Sunday!   Everyone shows up late too. They sing songs before church starts. I teach Sunday school. Young women teach themselves. Seminary is in the evening a few nights a week. There is always something happening at the church building.   I usually have at least one little girl or boy on my lap during sacrament or playing with my stuff.  The chorister gets really into it, like she dances almost. Funny. Half of sacrament meeting is in a different language, so I have no idea what's going on half the time! Kids are running around everywhere and other churches blast their music with their dumb bands, so we can't hear the speaker often. Music is played everywhere, every moment. You can always hear music from at least one source. All day, all night. Good music too!   Check out Stone Boy. He's a popular artist here. My favorite song is called Shake Body! Sometimes I want to break out in dance moves but I'm supposed to represent Jesus Christ, so I try to hold it back as much as possible. But sometimes you gotta shake it a little bit. People are dancing all the time. Like it's different here. Nobody is embarrassed about their dancing ability. They dance because they want to, nobody really watches you dance.

 I'm not going to share EVERYTHING I see. There is lots of violence here. Not in a dangerous way, but the culture is aggressive. Kids punch each other, boys and girls, and roll around in the sand and dirt all the time. You want to break it up or hope an adult does it for you, but it's different here. People solve their own problems here. No need for courts or lawsuits. 

I don't know what the hardest thing is really. The weather is rough on my skin. 

Me right now. This is my favorite shirt. 5 cedi! 
I love the children and the work the most. They pick me up when I'm feeling down. They smile at you. The work is great. Serving others all day is a blast.   I love my mission. It's not as hard as you think, at least for me. I love it. Everything I've learned, even in just the 5 weeks of being in the field, has helped me in some way. I know much more about the gospel than I did before, I really like studying the scriptures, and being able to talk to people all day is great. Ghana is a much different culture of course, but I love so many aspects of life here that just can't be done at home for one reason or the other. It will continue to change and mold me (like clay huh?) to the person I need to become.

Thanks again for the package! 
That beef jerky is amazing. Nothing is better than american beef. Sad to hear about the bunk bed going down. Rosie, thanks for cleaning the truck out. Have Jarrett ride in the truck bed next time. Hope Jacob and Rosie have fun at homecoming! Joe, keep cleaning out those cars. I miss detailing. Thanks for the great emails. Keep up the good work everybody!  Oh yeah, something else to tell you: We are probably going to be calling home, not skyping. That's the way they did it for mothers day at least. and it isn't much time either. It's not important to know now, but thought I'd let you all know so no hopes are broken at the last moment.

P.S. If Rosie and Joe get bored, have them handwash there clothes for fun. Or next time they complain about clothes, have them do it our way: handwash in a bucket, and dry on a line.  

Love Elder Nissinen