Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November 2017

 Wow time flies!  We are back from travel with elders all the way to Asikuma. We took elders and supplies to the farthest part on the mission. Then we returned with elders traveling in this direction. It was an all day event. We had our first branch missionary correlation meeting with our new elders and branch mission leader. The president was there as well as the elders quorum president.

Water Woes! Since we have been here we have run out of water 3x in less than a month. Come to find out the water pipes (pvc) are separating beneath the concrete surfaces around the house. We have lost nearly 7000 gallons of water to leaks! We have had no running water to bath or do the dishes let alone the laundry. Hopefully it will remedy with surface pipe installed.

Also, I have put in our sweet potato garden. I noticed our neighbor hoeing up the field next door and planting sweet potato vines. I purchased a hoe and rake and put in our own garden. Hard work! We need rain to recover the newly planted tops to the sweet potatoes.

Did I mention we went to Accra to the temple and a visit to the doctor for Dawn. Well on the way we were rear ended by a Tro Tro, but suffered little damage (to an already damaged truck from scraping the left side door and fender as Dawn drove too close to the entrance barrier). Then we attended to temple since the doctor was not in. It was a wonderful time, so quiet and peaceful in this hectic African country.

Time is really moving along here in Ghana because we stay so busy. Actually, yesterday was the first day here that we did not go far from our home. We have been to Accra twice this month. The last trip 3 days ago we took five bicycles and 4 floor fans to be exchanged at the mission office. We picked up 3 bicycles and it was difficult getting them into the truck since the mission had a canopy put on the back of the truck bed. 

Our branch mission leader had a correlation meeting at his home for the first time in the branch. We also have a new investigator from our neighborhood. Also, I am reporting a community service project which we as a district completed today. As we walk in the morning we cross a stream by a foot bridge which was in need of serious repair. Our 10 missionaries and Sister Russell and I took on the task of putting in major repairs on the bridge. It took us working hard all afternoon in replacing the boards and straightening the foundation. Wow what a task but we accomplished it. Standing in mud and hot sun was tough but our elders did well.

Thanksgiving is coming next week. In payment for the wonderful service the missionaries give we are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at our home.

This week end we had house guests! Elder and Sister Wood stayed with us Saturday night and attended church at the Breku branch. They were taking Eric, a crippled boy to Ghana Make A Difference. Eric had just returned from Utah where he underwent reconstructive surgery. He had been in an auto accident as a baby and was paralyzed from the waist down. The Woods are serving in the Kamasi mission living in Techniman. They are from New Zealand and such a delightful couple.

Tomorrow we are headed to Accra to deliver bicycles and attend an art demonstration in making boutiques and kente cloth. I hope to be back before dark.

Thanksgiving was a big event at the Russells. We had over 11 missionaries for dinner. Sister Russell cooked an entire meal of all the Thanksgiving items we could, including mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, stuffing and roasted chickens (2). Apple pie for desert and whipped cream topping was the last item on the menu.

Since we are missionaries we get to visit many investigators. We invite many to come unto Christ as we travel and walk our neighborhood. This is stake conference weekend and we have invited the queen of Awutu Breku to attend. Her good friend, Samuel is receiving the Melchizedek priesthood this Sunday. 
We are finally getting internet service that is affordable. It is so difficult to purchase services without paying an extremely high price.

 This is the end of the month and time to look back at a month of mission life. Sunday was the Kasoa Stake conference. Samuel Tibo ( my good friend) was sustained to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. I ordained him following the meeting. Pres. Simons asked if I would comment on the support of the Aaronic priesthood holders. He is training the ward and branch leadership to see the young men advance in the priesthood. They are the “Rising Generation”. The speakers were assigned the atonement. Pres. Simpson (Accra Ghana West mission president) and his wife spoke 2Nephi27:13-16. The choir sang beautifully. I was so impressed with the quality of presentations. Africa is the place to be.

We also, had a Kasoa zone activity. Our ZL had a well-planned inside and outside activities, including jump rope, football, a fine meal and we were asked to give our testimonies. The leadership in this mission is outstanding.

Zone Leader Nebrotzky in Swedru 
Sister Russell at cocoa rack

Breku Young Women

Our Neighbor

Corn lunch with missionaries at Akuwksi
Community bridge before repairs
Missionary Service Project

District missionaries tearing bridge apart

Replacing old boards

My service project crew!

Finished project

Elder and Sister Wood with Eric

Cocoa tree

Plantain bananas

Asikuma road

My sweet potato garden

Thanksgiving meal prep

Our district missionaries

On our way to Asikuma

Package from home

New skirt for Sister Russell
Thanksgiving guests!

Helping during Thanksgiving meal

Stake choir

President and Sister Simpson
Zone Activity

Friday, November 3, 2017

October 2017

We’ve been in Ghana for three weeks now with the first week handling issues of jet lag and exhaustion.

Probably the biggest challenge for us has been when traveling because of the horrible drivers especially on round-abouts.  But Blaine is actually doing well with it, with only an occasional panic.  The motorcyclists and the bicyclists seem to have a death wish.  We are also often in bumper to bumper traffic which is tedious. Tro-tros (passenger vans) charge on and off the roadways picking up passengers.

But the good thing here is that the community folks are friendly and always say hello.  Blaine and I try to go for a daily walk in the mornings for a little exercise when we can and we are observing that the salutations are pretty much all they know in English and don’t have more to offer.  The language of the area is Twi pronounced “tree.”  A lot more English is spoken at church by the members.
The folk here are very interested in religion.  The “tro-tro’s” or transportation vans cheaper than taxi’s, usually have some religious statements printed on the back of the bus: Still God is Great, Exceeding Expectations, Praise the Lord, Great Grace, Stand Firm, It’s God, Let Us Pray, Prayer is the Key, Almighty God, Thank You, Jesus, Still Future, Never Loss Hope, Lion of Judah, Dada Rex…etc.,

Mornings are calm and full of beautiful bird noises. We have had massive rain storms with terrific lightning. It rains so hard you can hardly hear while talking. But it is good for our garden which Blaine is attempting to cultivate with hand tools. While digging in the sod he came across three lizard eggs, which are now in a container incubating on our kitchen counter (8-10 weeks).
What we have been doing as missionaries:

Missionary apartment inspections, led music at baptism, witness at baptism, attending district and zone conferences, visited with new members, more missionary inspections, met with branch president to see what he would like us to do – probably primary for me, more new converts visiting, talking with Sister Wakild obtaining literacy materials, shopping for food for members going to the temple.  Prepared food (pbj sandwiches, cookies, water and banana) for 38 for temple trip, temple trip, picked up literacy material.  The temple experience was so uplifting and certainly worth all the effort to get there. Two of our new members we helped fellowship were at the temple. Daniel and Olivia received their recommends to do baptisms for the deceased. West Africa is so blessed to have the Accra Temple.

We have had a lot of help in getting around by two missionaries, Elders Oldham (Alaska) and Ndubuisi (Nigeria) who have unending patience with us.  It will be hard with their eventual transfer..
This week we traveled to Swedru, Odoben, Aboso, Asikma and Winneba to do apartment inspections and distribute materials. This is our first adventure outside our area.

We have sat in on several discussions with our missionaries. They are amazing to work so hard under difficult living conditions and still carry the spirit of the gospel to these incredible people. It surely is the “Day of the Africans” in the church.

We are grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and want to serve to the best of our abilities.  I am also grateful for my wonderful companion who I lean on constantly.  

This is interior Ghana
Elders apartment

Right to left Me, Bishop, Elder Nabronski, Elder Namily

Odoben chapel 
Nigerian Elders and Zone Leader Neboronski

African cattle

African goats everwhere

Sister missionaries

Elder Nebronski eating Fufu

Water delivery truck

Living quarters

New members of the church

Traveling through our neighborhood

Monday, September 4, 2017

Beginning our mission.

2 October 2017 

We leave for the Provo MTC today. After one week we will leave for Accra Ghana on 9 October 2017. The following is a brief biography of Sister Russell and I as we have prepared for the Ghana Accra West Mission:

Elder Blaine R Russell and Sister Dawn E Russell are on our way back to Africa for a second time. Our first mission was to the Maputo Mozambique Mission in 2019 to 2011 for 23 months. We served under Pres. Loren Spendlove dividing our time between Beira, Mozambique to the north and Maputo to the south.

Since we have returned we have served in the Nauvoo Temple Mission from 2015 to 2016 for one year. 

Fortunately, we are able to continue to serve on another further full time mission. We will leave from the Idaho Falls 24th ward in the Idaho Falls Idaho stake. Since we have sold our home and moved our belongings into a condominium accommodating for extended leave. 

Sister Russell and I are packing our essentials for travel to Africa. We are so grateful to be joining President and Sister Simpson within the month.

Friday, April 14, 2017

03 March 2017

March – Home again!
Each time we have returned home from our wanderings, it takes an effort to remember our ward family again.  Yet, our old brains are warming up and we have met with success. 
        Dedication is given again to continue our classes at the Family History Center with Dorothy and Dennis Croft teaching us.  And yet, it seems that Dawn is “forever learning and never coming to an understanding,” because of her need to first take care of the years of pictures she has collected.  Her goal is to organize them in binders for her children and return others to the givers. Blaine works steadfastly at F.H. and applies what he has learned.
        Blaine has digitized the 1,200 slides with the help of a gadget that converts them to digital images.  He then put many of the pictures of his family on a CD and gave one to each of his children.  He also prepared pictures for Julia and Woody, giving them each a CD as well.  Blaine was slowed down only a little by a nasty, combative cold which Dawn was happy to repel.
        Dawn also spent many happy hours of scanning all of the family pictures from her ancient Treasures of Truth book with the hope of eventually converting these to the Family Search Gallery.  Vickie Hurley, a Nauvoo missionary, has convinced her that she should also scan all of her children’s childhood pictures as well, and putting them on a CD.  We enjoyed a meal with Neil and Vickie, a fun loving couple, who live in Rigby, only 20 minutes away.
        Perhaps the most exciting part of this month has been preparing and enjoying the joys of a colonoscopy.  The best part was having a partner to share the experience with, having two bathrooms and knowing that it’s over for 10 years.
        When at Brady’s one day, Blaine admired the pool tables and expressed a yearning for one.  Dawn, who had received no small sum for the sale of her brother’s home, thought she could afford one.  The purchase was sweetened by getting a shuffle board and a ping pong table topper thrown in the deal.  But the best deal of all is that Woody, Val and Julia are avid pool players and now enjoy visiting.
        Dawn’s birthday unfolded by first going to a breakfast at Christine’s ward, hanging out with Blaine at home and attending “Extrava-dance” that evening put on by BYU-I dance teams.  Sarah drove us to the event, Christine paid and we all loved it! The birthday girl also loved the two cakes given her – a chocolate cheese cake via the Crofts and a tiramisu cake, the most delicious ever, that Julia baked at great expense in time and effort.  Rumor has it that Julia forgot Dawn’s birthday and, out of guilt, made her the best cake ever.  Even with two cakes, no weight was gained.  Amazing!
        Second only to the colonoscopy in excitement came the selling of our home.  The good news, James Elston, our realtor explained, was that the buyers didn’t ask for a price reduction, would pay in cash, and would close early – on April 10th.  It’s a good thing that the price was stable because we learned that we needed to put on a new roof which Blaine suspected in the first place.  Drat!  However, we are delighted that the house sold.
        Our VW was taken out of obscurity in the depths of the garage when we had a need to use it while our Honda CRV’s dent was being obliterated.  The VW is a heroic little car, starting the first time after two years in isolation.  It is also admired by many such that Blaine is reconsidering its sale. 
For Home Teaching, Blaine had the great idea of taking the Bailey family to the Idaho Museum and to Mickey D’s beforehand.  We wanted to include Mason Hollingshead and while texting Jenny, I invited the entire family who met us at the museum.  The display was fascinating and benefited Mason who was studying the Roman Empire in school.
        Because Dawn didn’t make any R.S. birthday reminder calls nor any R.S. conference reminder calls, she felt a need to do something for General Conference and so put together notebooks with the apostles picture tabs to write notes in for many of the sisters that she visit teaches and home teaches with Blaine.  After a few days effort, she and Blaine delivered all of the notebooks and candy that went with it.  She knows that it has been appreciated as expressed by Sisters Kingsford, Brandon and Hollingshead.
        Margaret Barfuss sent me an email announcement of her choir, the Chauntennettes, singing at a special fireside where Lloyd Newell, voice of the “Music and the Spoken Word,” is the guest speaker.  I initially didn’t consider going since I knew Blaine wouldn’t want to drive.  But then I thought, “I COULD drive!” That is, if Christine were to come with me.  She agreed and we picked up Angie Bytheway and met Geri Brinley there.  It was a sweet presentation and it was marvelous to meet with Margaret and Janean Godbold who also sang in the choir. Independent was how I felt!

        Blaine and I feel extremely blessed for our kind ward family, for our good health, for our sweet families, the sale of our home and for the possibility or our next mission. We are also extremely grateful for each other and for the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Our temple is under remodel

Tough Winter 2016-17

Still walking the Green Belt in the winter

Another dent!

Colonoscopy prep!!

There is hope for warmer weather with ice melt

Birds of the Green Belt

Warmer days ahead

VW is out of hibernation

Sold our home on 13th Avenue

Woops another day of snow!!

New pool table downstairs


Bikes down and ready to ride

Sister Bolkcom after a session at the Rexburg temple

Home teaching with our families at the Museum of Idaho Falls