Our journey to Kumasi began on September 22, 2020 when we received a call from Elder Soares secretary explaining that Elder Soares wanted to speak with us on Zoom. The next day, we spent about 30 minutes with him. He asked us a lot of questions about our children, parents, home, health and finances. He only told us that he was doing an exploratory interview for full-time church service. At the end of the call, he told us that he would be recommending us to serve and that if we had not heard from the First Presidency by October 25th, to call him back. As we hung up the call we looked at each other and were in awe of the blessings we have received to bring us to the point where we could answer each of those questions in a way that would allow us to serve.
Two weeks later, on October 7th, we received a call from Melissa, President Eyring’s secretary who said President Eyring wanted to speak with us the next day. In that interview, he went over with us the “contract” that we were entering into in accepting a call to preside over a mission (he didn’t say which one). Things like timing and assignment expectations. Before he started, he told us not to worry, that we had actually signed the “contract” a long time ago. He also told us that everything in our life had led us to this point and that the Lord had been preparing us a very long time for this call. He spent about 45 minutes with us. It was wonderful.
Fast forward to December 14th, that was the day we received and opened our mission call. We had a Zoom call with our family and Mauren and Justin and their kids and Brian and Kira and their kids came out. We also invited the Rawson’s and the Speer’s to attend the call as well as LaDawn’s brothers and their wives (Kelly and Susan, Roland and Pat, Jerry and Marta and Tracy and Stacy). Caden (son of Stacy and Tracy who is currently serving a mission) also joined us. We were very grateful to be called to the Ghana Kumasi Mission. The day we spoke to Elder Soares, we looked at all the West African Mission Presidents who would be completing their missions this year and Kumasi was the only one that was English Speaking. From the beginning, this is where we felt we would go, and we were gratified to find that confirmed in the call letter from the First Presidency.
The next 8 months flew by. Much of my time was spent working outside and getting things in good shape for Weston and Kelsi and their kids to come and live in our home while were away. LaDawn spent most of her time inside preparing the home, making quilts for future grandchildren, and collecting the items we would send on our shipment. The hard freeze in February, added additional items to the list as plants needed to be trimmed and some replaced. It seemed like a never ending list of repairs, organization, documentation and improvements. We had plenty of challenges along the way, including losing food in both refrigerators and freezers when a breaker on our generator popped while we were gone to Utah to be set apart.
But through the thick and thin of it all, we made it and on June 27th, we boarded a flight first to Atlanta, then New York, then Kumasi. Consistent with some of the last minute challenges we had to get to Kumasi, the reservations that Delta had did not match the itinerary from Missionary Travel in Salt Lake. This caused all sorts of worry and anxiety associated with potentially missing our flight in New York and not having an opportunity to sit down with the Websters (previous mission leaders) before they left. But after making it to Atlanta and not getting a standby seat on the flight we were supposed to be on, we prayed and then knew we had done everything we possibly could, and it would now be up to our Savior and His angels to get us there on time. Unsurprisingly, we caught a later flight out of Atlanta (in an unpaid upgrade to comfort+ seats) that left and arrived on time in New York. As a bonus, the flight to Accra was delayed about 45 minutes, so we made it without any problems, even though we were among the last 10 people to board.
On arrival in Accra, it took a couple of hours to get through the airport covid testing and immigration protocols. Daniel and Hanson were there to greet us and took us to a hotel where we had a nice dinner and some much-needed sleep. The next morning, we were picked up by Adam and taken to the area office and then to a health check and onto an office to register and receive our non-resident card. We were at the airport by 10:45 am and caught an Africa World Airlines to Kumasi which landed us in Kumasi before 1:30 pm. The Websters and the Assistants were there to pick us up and within 40 minutes we were in the mission home.
We spent a little over an hour with the Websters (until 4:30 pm) at which time they packed up and left. Shortly after 5 pm, Andrews, the FM over the mission home and the buildings in the southern part of the mission, took us to the new mission home that was recently put under lease. This was something that we learned about right before coming. Even President Webster was not aware until about a week before we arrived. The new mission home is about 7 minutes from the old one and is in a nice neighborhood and is much quieter and less chaotic than the old one. Having the mission office and the mission home in the same building makes any degree of privacy difficult. We are grateful to have a place we can retreat to in the evenings. This particular property was looked at as a possible replacement for the entire mission home and mission office but was deemed unacceptable. But the idea of separating the two was brilliant.
Now, having said that, we know from our experience in Kenema in Sierra Leone that moving into a new place has its own set of issues. For example, when we came home on Friday night ,we found about 20 gallons on water on the floor in the kitchen and three of the bathrooms. It was a mystery to us at the time. Fortunately, one of our security guys helped me mop it all up. We eventually unraveled the mystery. The house is attached to both a city water connection as well as a high-pressure pump and water tanks that are here on the mission home property. When both the pump and the city water was up and running, it was too much pressure for the pipes. The connections to the hot water heaters were especially bad as well as a couple of toilet hoses. The plumber was here for 6 hours on Saturday and when he left it was worse than when he came. Today (Monday) he came back and got it right by putting water pressure regulators on each of the hoses going into the hot water heaters (these are small hot water heaters that sit above the showers and below the kitchen sink).
Wednesday was spent in the Mission Office, working with our assistants Elder Yancey from St. Anthony and Elder Bineme from DR Congo. His father is currently a mission president in Ivory Coast. Such fine young men! We talked though the transfer scenario that President Webster had left and made a few adjustments based on wanting to keep Elders and Sisters in their areas longer. It also gave me an opportunity to make a list of the Elders and Sisters who will be training new missionaries on the next transfer so that I could make sure that I meet them during zone conferences and feel the confirming spirit that they are to train.
As the Elders and Sisters arrived for the Mission Leadership Council (MLC) to be held on Thursday, I took the opportunity to interview 14 of them throughout the day. That represented half of the MLC. The other half I still need to see. I was so impressed with the quality and commitment of the zone leaders and the sister training leaders. There were 28 of them in total. We have 10 zones and 4 sets of sister training leaders.
Wednesday night I didn’t sleep so well, continuing to think about things I realized we hadn’t figured out (like the planning of zone conferences). Nothing worse than laying in bed with your mind going a thousand miles an hour! When I finally got tired of laying in bed, I got up and was able to work on a few things for the MLC as well as letters that we send out to the missionaries once they receive their calls.
We arrived at the mission home at 8:00 am to help get things setup and to finalize the agenda with the assistants. The day actually went incredibly well. We started by showing our introductory video that our kids made for us. The assistants had worked on an assignment that President Webster had passed along to them from us about 3 weeks ago. We asked them to look up the word “disciple” in the topical guide, read all the references and come up with 5 key attributes of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Here they are: 1) True disciples possess pure love. 2) Disciples of Jesus Christ are changed by their faith in Jesus Christ. 3) Disciples feel sorrow for those who will not repent. 4) Disciples are not perfect but are working towards perfection. 5) Disciples know Jesus Christ and His teachings. They spent a little over an hour discussing this with the MLC. It was a wonderful way to start the MLC. Following that we went into accountability reports. This is where each companionship reports on progress of their goals for the transfer including their performance against the standards set for the key indicators. To shorten this, we asked each to present and then mention any area where they felt they could use help. At the end we discussed what our overall takeaways were from what we had heard. Some of things we discussed. 1) What we call goals are really objectives because they cannot be measured (e.g., a goal to be more humble is difficult to measure). 2) We are having zone councils which are not an authorized meeting from the handbook which in many cases are taking time away from proselyting. 3) It was interesting how different the goals for the key indicators were vs. the standards of excellence, yet the MLC “owned” both. 4) There is a relationship between Book of Mormon’s placed and baptisms. 5) Activity is not results. 6) Digital area books are just starting to be used (we will use the numbers from the Area Books from now on rather than manually creating these numbers). This should help adoption of the Area Books. 7) Using time wisely is an issue in the mission. 8) Changing the monthly areas of emphasis every month may not be the best as it takes time to implement change.
After lunch we came back and I led a discussion about high love and high expectations. It was a marvelous hour and it was obvious the elders and sisters really understood what it takes to increase the number of miracles in the mission. We talked about moving to the miracle quadrant by lots of love and at the same time high expectations of effort. It was a glorious, spirit filled discussion. I snapped a picture of the board after we finished.
The board based on the discussion we had about what sort of behaviors result in each quadrant.
On Friday I was able to complete a few more missionary interviews and then in the afternoon LaDawn and I went with our FM (Bishop Cooper) to see an apartment that we might place our medical couple in. It was still under construction and attached to an apartment with 4 missionaries. We concluded it was not suitable and looked at a couple of other possibilities and gave Cooper some additional guidance and he took it all and went back to work. We are grateful to work with him.
Afterwards we drove back to the Mission Office and stopped on the way at a Total Gas station to fill up. I asked the lady that was helping me if she knew of our church. She said she had heard of it but didn’t know anything about it. I asked her if she liked to read, and she said, “yes”. I went and got a Book of Mormon that was in the car door panel and gave it to her. As I did, two other employees walked up and having overheard our conversation, asked for their own copy. I took numbers and names and asked the assistants to follow-up. It is so easy to share the gospel here! After returning the Mission Home we again worked on the transfer board. I have such a steep learning curve. During the time I was with the assistants, LaDawn was working on medical issues with missionaries and discovered she had her first case of malaria with one of the zone leaders who had just been at MLC. She did a great job getting him to the doctor and then receiving the right medicines to help him get well. Tonight (Monday) he is doing much better. I also need to give a shout out to Elly Moomey who will be our mission nurse beginning in November. LaDawn is already consulting with her. Thanks Elly!
Saturday we were at the Mission Home most of the day (with the plumber) and getting things organized a bit. In the afternoon we went out and purchased some food at a place called Palace. We were especially grateful for the Smuckers Jam and the frozen strawberries we were able to buy.
On Sunday we drove out to the Konongo District and attended the Freetown Ward. Although we were in Konongo 1 hour and 20 minutes early, we were still late to sacrament meeting. We first went to the Ahenbronum Chapel right inside Konongo. No one was there so we decided to drive down the road to the Mpraeso Branch to see where it was. Unfortunately, a truck had caused an accident and the road was closed so we went back, thinking that Ahenbronum Branch was the Freetown Branch. It only took meeting the Branch President (Sam Boateng) to know we were in the wrong place (I was looking for President Twomusi). Finding the Freetown Branch which meets in the Konongo District Center was more difficult than we thought it should be and we ended up being a few minutes late, but still were there for the opening prayer. The Ahyiaem Branch meets in the Relief Society Room at the same time, so we were able to visit with both Branch Presidents. The Elders who are there (Elders Rasumussen and Sorbley) cover both branches. They even had a baptism on Sunday of Isaac Osei which we were able to participate in.
Elder Rasmussed and Elder Sorbley at the baptism of Issac Osei. To the right is the Konongo District Center. The grass was especially beautiful!
While there I was able to do 10 temple recommend interviews, including two children over the age of 8 who were to be sealed to their family. It’s been over 6 years since I have given a temple recommend interview and the questions have changed, but the spirit I feel in these worthiness interviews never changes. I think the sweetest experience was a man and his wife where his wife only spoke Twi. He was the translator. I would ask the question, he would translate it for his wife, she would answer the question with a faith filled heart that I could feel, and then he would answer the question afterwards. Such love, faith and hope I do not think I have seen before in an African couple. It was so sweet and powerful.
The drive home was about 90 minutes on deeply rutted roads from heavy trucks driving on it for many years. The good news is we made it safely home and it was an amazing day!
Today we were here at the Mission Home all day as we had workers in and out from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm. Installing new power outlets, setting up a home office for us, moving the treadmill, and as I mentioned earlier, the plumber was here to put pressure regulators on all the lines. We are slowly getting situated to where we feel we can be productive. We also spent some time speaking with Rod and Melanie Hillam, our assigned mentors who have helped us so much. They continue to share insights and counsel that help us to navigate the changes we are making to help the mission move to the next level. How grateful we are for them. Tonight we went over to the mission home, printed out LaDawn’s discussion notes for tomorrow and picked up a few things for what will be a very busy week for us. We have 3 multizone zone conferences across the mission. We are so looking forward to meeting all of the missionaries!
This has been our journey to Kumasi this very first week. We have loved every minute of it. We have lost a few pounds and a few hours of sleep here and there, but we love what we are doing and are grateful to be here at this time…Together in Kumasi, Ghana!