Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hello Haatso!!

Dear Family,

Goodbye Tema! 

Taylor saying goodbye to  'Fat Albert'...

Taylor with Godwin...he reminds Taylor of 'Grandpa Bradshaw'

Honestly I really wasn’t sad to leave Tema. 
Yes, I was sad to leave my investigators...but I was ready for a change. 

Tema was a great area, and I had a great opportunity to find and teach some incredible people there.  I have never worked and looked so hard for something.  It was so difficult to find those people, and it literally hot and cold, black and white, there was no middle ground.  You were awesome or you were not, and often we were not. 

I would have been willing to stay...but at the same time I am happy to go.  Hatsso seems to be a blessed area.  It is full of potential...a whole lot of people like Godwin.  Even in just the few days I have been here I have seen that the potential of this area is unlike anything I have previously experienced! 

My companion is great!  He just finished his training and now is so willing to learn and work.  He sucks up all that I throw at him, which is totally different than my last companion, its nice to be appreciated.  It definitely makes me a whole lot more excited to share what I have learned.  His name is Elder Johnson, he grew up in Oregon, did a semester at BYU before he came, and his family now lives in American Fork!  Small world isn’t it!  You will have to see if you guys can go to dinner with them sometime or something, they seem like great people.   (From Kim:  Our doorbell rang last night and there was this super sweet lady, holding a plate of cookies that said...'Hello my name is Emily Johnson...and our sons are companions!'  She stayed to talk for about 30 minutes and we love her...I think Taylor and her son Alex will get along great!)

This area is full of just incredible people and they haven't been taught or even talked to in nine months!  I am so excited to see what is out there for us to find in the upcoming weeks. 

Okay, so before I left, do you remember how I told you that no matter what I didn't want to serve on a college campus?  I thought that in Ghana I was pretty safe.  But...be careful what you say...because yep...starting on the 5th of February, Elder Johnson and I are not only responsible for the huge cities of Haatso and Madina...but we are also responsible for 50,000 University students from the University of Ghana!  Aaah!  Stressful, and overwhelming for sure...but also I am now so excited! 

I previously thought it would just be so hard to be walking around talking to a bunch of people that are my same age, let alone they are probably the most uninterested age group of people toward the message that we share.  But now that I look at it...it's a collection of the smartest and most educated people in Ghana!  The University of Ghana is to Ghana what Harvard is to the U.S.  Pretty sweet. 

President asked us to make it one of the main focuses of our teaching, and to really focus more on it than it has been in the past.  Apparently, the same council has been given for some time now, but due to, I guess a desire to get numbers, or to avoid the tough investigators, it has been severely neglected.  Our ward is great!  They are willing to work with us.  They are excited with our game plan of looking for those that are elect, rather than those who just join and fall away...and we have the right team for the job.  Elder Honour and I are back together! Not the same apartment, but the same district and ward, which has been kinda fun!  It's been so amazing to see where we were when we were together a year ago...and to be away for so much time...but then still be able to come together and have learned a lot of the same things.  We've been able to teach together even thought its been so different than when we were together in Koforidua.  It's a difficult thing to explain, but it really built my testimony of how the Spirit is really what teaches us.  Yes, we have our separate experiences, our different companions, but we have the same love for The Book of Mormon, and having based our testimony and our teaching on that, has allowed the spirit to bring us to the same place. 

I feel so scatter brained today, like my email didn’t make any sense, but I am just excited to be where I am!  The area is sweet, my companion is a great guy, my apartment is literally a circle which is a bummer, but I am excited to see where things go.  I have a lot of work to do, a lot of different things to worry about now, but its going to be so great.  I finally have people that understand at a level that makes it fun to teach, not the normal, “does your church drink blood” kind of questions but I can actually share scriptures to prove a point, and they understand!  It's really strange, but so great!

So...how are you feeling about this transfer.
-so happy about it!   

What’s your companionship situation?

Apartment situation?
-believe me here...it's about the size of Elli's room....But it doesn't stop there, its a circle.  Like not even kidding!  We can't both be in the kitchen at one time.  You have to open a door, step in, get behind it and then close it.  There isn't even enough room to step to either side ha ha.  It's not bad though, so we can keep it nice and clean.  Which, by the way, I didn't just clean my last apartment like crazy when inspections were coming, I always live like that now.  I told you I was different now. (From Kim:  Taylor sent a picture of a very official-looking certificate signed by his president awarding him and his flat-mates the 'clean apartment award' for the 4th quarter last year!)

Any special reason or instructions from the President for this transfer?
-I'm here for the university, and to change the focus from teaching those in 4x4ft. shacks to 4 story homes.  I'm here to help Elder Johnson to get where he needs to be after a difficult training experience, which again makes me so grateful for my training again.  I have an opportunity to try and by an 'Elder Larsen' in the life of Elder Johnson. And also, I am here to split the ward.

What happened to Elder Nondala and Elder Halavaka?
-Elder Halavaka stayed with Elder Mabizela, and Elder Nondala is with another Elder Johnson still in Tema.

Well I love you all so much!

out of time


Monday, January 20, 2014

Amazing people in Tema

Dear Family,
This week I am really struggling to find something to write about.....  It seems like some weeks, some more than others, just fly by so fast that I don't even realize that a week has gone by.  We were so busy with mission tours this week, all sorts of traveling, exchanges, interviews, it was crazy!  Sorry for the lame email, in my mind...I still am thinking its about the 1st of January....
This week I got some mail from Sister Borden and the Hess family!  Thank you both so much!  I really appreciate it...more than I can explain:).  I also got the things that you sent with Elder Manns parents!  Thank you so much!  I still don't know how I get so excited about pens, shirts and shoe insoles but it was like Christmas all over again ha ha.  I even had some caramels to complete the feeling!:).  Thank you to Grandma and Grandpa Bradshaw for that!  It was like I was walking on a cloud this week, those insoles were definitely needed ha ha. 
I guess this week I'll start off with the questions, maybe that will spark some things to share...
You mentioned some of your awesome investigators going cold...how is Albert, Godwin and       Chris????  Are they still interested and progressing?
-yeah....these good people are still progressing but its just been slower than I imagined.  Especially Godwin, he is amazing...but is so hard to meet with!  He is always traveling for work, going here and there, doing this or that, that it makes it hard for him to find time to sit down with us.  The other thing is that he wants to postpone his baptism for a awhile....I was originally going to get all over him for that...'don't procrastinate the day of your repentance'... and all that good stuff...but his reasoning was incredible.  At church last week we had a lesson on being worthy and ready...always to be able to render priesthood service.  After the lesson, he said that he didn't feel like with where he was right now, that he could be committed enough to that priesthood to feel like he was as worthy as he could be.  He continued to explain to us that he has promised to do x,y, and z at his former church, and given his word that he would do it.  He felt that he shouldn't walk out on his word.  I was shocked!  Finding a Ghanian that is true to their word is like finding...okay...I wanted to put some funny thing that was hard to find, but I couldn't think of anything...lets just say its tough!  He didn't want to walk out when he had given his word, so he has still been assisting the catholic church with the things that he said he would.  And in doing so...he thought that since he wasn't giving his whole self to preparing for the Melchezidek priesthood, that he wouldn't feel as worthy as he needed to be in order to perform the things he would be asked to do.  I was even more shocked to hear that answer! Godwin is truly amazing!
Albert is still going awesome!  He has thoroughly studied, all of First Nephi and about half of Second Nephi...using the BYU religious studies manual.  But he is still wanting to be "more converted", to put it in his own words.  He heard our bishop talking about how he was concerned with all the people that have come and then left, and he didn't want to follow.  So, we have been trying to get him as converted as we can...so that no matter what Fat Albert ain't going no where!  He is always the first person to church on Sunday though...second row:). 
Did you have your mission conference with the area authority?  When is Elder Bednar coming?  What will you get to do when he comes.  
Our mission conference this week was amazing!  Super good.  Elder Bednar, I believe will be here next week.  We are taking Godwin, hopefully, to a member/investigator meeting with Elder Bednar which should be cool!
When are transfers?  Any news about what you'll be doing?
-yeah they are Wednesday....  I hope I get a new companion, sorry I know that sounds bad, but...we'll find out tomorrow I guess.
18 months this week? 
-so so weird!
Anything funny to share?
I was on an exchange with Elder Halavaka again, and we walked past this group of little kids, who looked terrified out of their minds.  The kid that looked to be the ring leader it looked like, was saying to the other kids "don't...be...afraid", in the most hushed tones.  He was scared!  Elder Halavaka turns around and asks, "afraid of what?" the big-kid leader fell over in fear and about started to cry as the rest of kids scattered!  I guess two white guys walking down the street...is pretty scary;).
Well, I love you all so much!  Things here are good.  Not always great, but there's times I can't contain my joy and that makes all the bad times seem like nothing! 
I love you all more than I can tell you.
Be safe, have fun,

Monday, January 13, 2014

Come home but never go back...

Dear Family,

This week was interesting, its still amazing to me to see how quickly you can go from a total high to an absolute low.  Missionary work really is a roller coaster.  This week we had everything from being chased out of compounds by an investigators' angry family members, to being condemned and prayed 'at'...is I guess the best description I can give, by two random pastors.  Investigators that were once progressing like I can't explain...have now gone cold, it was just a week for trials and testing, but I still feel so happy.  It was the hardest week I have had in a while but yet I am still just so happy.  I feel the spirit in my life each day and I just find it hard to be sad, its confusing to me sometimes, but at the same time it makes so much sense...  As I have been reading this week I came across a scripture that I believe describes it perfectly,
'And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.'
Alma 31:38 
The words in this verse that I love so much.  The word that really stuck out to me was, "save".   In this context I believe it could be used like "nevertheless".  I don't believe that it was possible that Alma and his brethren never suffered any pains or sickness, temptations and doubts, or problems along their way.  That just seems impossible when it comes to missionary work, but all those trials that they experienced were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.  They were so sure of what they were doing, they were so obedient in their cause, and so faithful to that which they had been entrusted...that no matter how hard it got, no matter how much they suffered, and how much they wanted to quit they didn't.  I think it was more than just not quitting, but they were happy while they continued.  Of course I am not Alma and the great missionaries of The Book of Mormon...but I have a desire to be.  And I know that as I try my best to be like them, I will be privileged to experience some of the same blessings that they did. 
This week I have thought a lot about New Years resolutions.  It's a practice that I like, but this year I was a bit confused.  I will be spending the next six months in probably the most selfless of conditions, and the following six in probably the most selfish in my life, as I make some big decisions.  I am going to be experiencing change in a magnitude that I haven't ever before experienced.  Something I observed when I was transferred from Koforidua to Tema, is that in Koforidua I can say I was doing pretty well.  I was being more obedient than I ever had on my mission.  I was working harder, feeling the spirit more, and things were going pretty well.  I was comfortable with where I was, I knew my surroundings, I knew my companion, I knew the work, and I was enjoying myself.....then came transfers.  I was taken again from what was my "home", that I had grown to love and dropped into a place I could hardly comprehend, and things were so different.  When the change came, I also saw myself begin to change.  I saw good habits that I had established begin to be harder to follow, I saw my desire to wake up on time diminish, the drive to work late into the night was not really there and I never laid awake at night crying that the time was going too fast.  I don't know why it happened but I guess I could say that I digressed, not drastically, but it was something that really bothered me.  
I think the thing that bothered me the most about it is that I knew the biggest changes were right around the corner when I got home, and I didn't know how I would handle them.  I knew I would digress drastically, like I said, but I was nervous to see how my good habits of, reading everyday, staying away from anything that pokes at my spirit, greeting everyone and basically just being excited about the gospel, I didn't want those things to go.  
I guess, simply put, my new years resolution this year is to "come home but to never go back".  I want to come home, I am excited as I could ever be to come home...but I don't want to go back.  Elder Bradshaw is different than Taylor was.  Not that Taylor was bad and not that Elder Bradshaw is perfect...but Elder Bradshaw is a whole lot closer to where he needs to be than Taylor was.
It's going to be tough coming home, out here I am away from so much filth that the world has to offer.  I feel like that painting that we have at the house, "The Iron Rod", when I came here and finally committed to this thing...I feel like I dropped my load and held fast to that rod.  I have to say though, that being a missionary you have a lot of help in doing that.  I guess my fear was to see how I would react when those things of the world were put back on my shoulders, and I again 'picked up my load'. 
I don't want to let go of that rod for even a half a second.  I have been and will be thinking a whole lot more about how I can do that, but one thing that I thought of was to make The Book of Mormon an even more central role of my life.  I thought a lot about the times that are tempting for me, the times when I am weakest, and the times when I am most tempted to make those small small mistakes that we all do.  I figure the more opposed to wrong that I can be here, the better off I will be when I get home.  As I thought, I realized that after I study in the morning that no temptations come, well they come but I literally almost laugh at them because I desire so much to do what is right.  I realized the times that are hardest for me are those times when I have gone the longest without study, once a day for me is not enough for me to keep myself totally fortified against temptation.  
I've realize more and more how massive of a role The Book of Mormon is playing and will play in literally every aspect of my life, my repentance, my conversion, enduring, absolutely everything!  That being said... is why I have set it as a goal to make it even more of a central role in my life than it already is.  Of course, I will have my one hour of personal study in the morning that will give me the most strength, and what I need to make it through the day.  But, I am now going to read a few chapters just before I go to bed and just when I wake up in the morning.  I have been doing this the last two days now and I already feel such a difference, it is amazing!  I sleep well, I feel awake in the morning.  I have a disposition to do good more than I ever have.  I have the spirit quicker in the morning, and later into the night.  My mind is more clear and I just feel good. 
I sleep with a copy of The Book of Mormon, and my head lamp under my pillow.  I know with all my heart that the more The Book of Mormon is a part of my life, the higher the mounds of dirt, and stronger the wood works of timber around my spirit will be.  
I love The Book of Mormon!  I know I talk about it all the time but literally it is the whole center of what I have done every day for the last 18 months!  It is the thing that keeps me going, the electricity that re-charges my batteries, and something that I have grown to love more than I ever thought I would!
Sorry.  I'm about out of time, but I love you all so much!  Lexi I am so sorry to hear about your ankle, that really stinks!  Elli I am glad to hear that you are getting funny now:), you have graduated from that 'Bob looking into the dead sticks joke, that you made up...;).  I love you all so so much!
Mom I am safe, I was thinking about how I thought this place was going to be do dangerous... and now I realize how safe it is.  Yes there is danger here...but I know that nothing will happen to me:).

Love you all,
Elder Bradshaw the older

Monday, January 6, 2014

This area is on fire!!

Dear Family,

Ha ha, Mom I had to laugh at your opening comment in your letter...  
"if you were a 'girl Taylor', you would be coming home this month!!!"  
Yes, it is true, if I were a 'girl Taylor' I would have like two weeks to go, but honestly...as excited as I am to come home I'm not really ready yet:).  The time is flying by though, its crazy.  I was writing a thank you card and wrote, "I'll be home in July or August", and I just stopped and about started crying....  Looking back serving a mission seemed like the most daugnting task anyone could have ever asked me to perform...but now looking at how close it is to just being done forever...I don't know...It seems like I just started. 
Things here just keep getting better and better and better!  The area is on fire!  I still can't even figure out what is happening.  We were one night talking about how unsuccessful we had been lately and then we met Godwin. I have told you about Godwin before, but since we met him...things are just on an amazing upward track. Each week we seem to be coming into contact with more and more prepared people that are so elect...and so many of them are progressing at a rate that I have never before experienced on my mission. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people on my mission...those who I love dearly...but I can safely say that I have never worked with more prepared group of investigators. We had a number of days this week where I could say to myself that I have never been happier. It's been such a blessing to be able to come into contact with these people.  Not only will they be incredible additions to the ward when they are baptized...but the ward is recognizing that fact...and are really starting to be willing to work with us in welcoming them into the ward the way they should. We only had two members present lessons this week, but they were amazing! It was an incredible experience, and one that really open my eyes even further to the importance of members and missionaries working together in this work that we have been called to do.

This week we met a guy named Chris.  Chris is the most energetic guy that I have ever met in Ghana!  We met him on Tuesday, we went back on Wednesday, he was sitting there with two chairs out waiting for us and his Book of Mormon in his hands.  He had read the first 24 pages, like actually read them!  Had all sorts of questions, it was amazing!  To tell you the total truth...NO one in Ghana actually reads...so when he read that much and had questions, it was amazing!  Its crazy to see how big of a difference a little bit of reading can make in teaching.  If you find someone that actually reads the Book of Mormon, I am thoroughly convinced that it is about a 95% chance they will be baptized!  I just know how I feel when I read it...and how could they not feel the same?  There was a quote I once read that said something along the lines of "reading from The Book of Mormon literally unleashes the spirit off its pages."  I have expereinced that so many times over the last 18 months that I just know they will too!:).

Now, for the questions.....

How have you seen the hand of the Lord in your life this week?
-he has 100% guided us in our finding lately.  That is the only way I could ever explain how we could go 4 months with no one, to the next day having the greatest teaching pool I have ever had.

What miracles did you witness this week?
- We taught a man that we had contacted a lesson, and there was this really old lady there that only spoke Twi.  My Twi is no where near the level to able to teach a lesson so we greeted her, but that was about it.  We had an awesome lesson with this guy named Prince (who turned out not to live in our area....) but it was filled with the spirit.  
Later that night we went and taught Chris, after which he walked us down to the road.  Somone called us over...and it was that old lady again.  Obviously, I still didn't speak Twi, but Chris translated for us. She said that she wanted us to come and visit her...that while she sat there and listened while we taught, she couldn't understand what we were saying...but that she felt something.  She said that she wanted to know what we were talking about because of how she felt.  It was just cool to see how the spirit can touch someone, even when they can't understand what is said.  
I'm learning that if you are worthy and doing what you are supposed to, the Spirit is going to be with you...and there is no way that others won't be able to feel it.

What brought you joy?
-to tell you the truth I layed in bed ever single night this week and just cried....  Never a tear of sorrow.  Just so much joy inside of me that I couldn't keep it in.  I am again expereinceing that great joy that accompanies "The Rest of the Lord."  It has been a while since I had felt it.  Since Koforidua actually.  Even there it was only for a single night, but I have felt it for a solid week now, and even now it still courses through my body.  There is nothing bothering me.  There is nothing weighing me down.  There is nothing I am really all that worried about, and I know that I am doing all that is in my power to magnify this great calling I have been given.  
I remember saying a prayer asking God to help our investigators get to church the next day and I remember being about half way through a sentence before I realized what I was saying.  I said, " God just please bring them to church.  I have done all that is in my power" Here, I stopped.  Usually I feel as if I am doing okay, but still feel like there was more I could have done.  This week I could confidently tell the Lord that I had done absolutely all that was in my power to get them to where they needed to be.  I got them a copy of the book of Mormon, I was exactly obedient, and I could turn them over to the Lord and let Him decide whether or not he would like them to be to church.  It's a difficult feeling to explain but one that is amazing to feel.  I am not saying I am great, but I feel much or even exactly like Alma....   
Yea, I know that I am anothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will bnot boast of myself, but I will cboast of my God, for in his dstrength I can do all ethings; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.
I know exactly how he felt when he wrote that, its not us that are doing a good job but we are doing all that we possible can, we turn it over to him and He does the rest.

A spiritual experience you would like to share?

-This week I don't really think I had a specific spiritual experience...it was more of just a week full of His presence and influence. I can say that with every passing week, as I continue to improve, I can see and feel His hand more and more in my life and am finally beginning to recognize how He talks to me and how it feels. I can feel a difference when I slip.  When He leaves and then can feel his presence again in my life as I get down on my knees and ask for forgiveness. It's still not black and white to me, obviously, but I know that with time that contrast will only become more and more prevalent in my life.

What have you been grateful for this week?
-I've been grateful the spirit...it's the best.
Well, I've got to go.  I'm out of time.  
Love to you all.