This week was filled with Zone Conferences Tuesday – Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday were in Kumasi and each about 30 minutes from the Mission Office in opposite directions. Thursday was in Sunyani, about 3 hours from the Mission Office. I want to tell you just a few things about what we did. I think it is fair to say that we got better at delivering our messages as the week went on.
Below are pictures of the missionaries in the three zone conferences. The first one is from Sunyani (Tamale, Techiman and Sunyani zones), the second from Bantama (Asuoyeboa, Obuasi, DiChemso and Bantama zones) and the third from University (Konongo, Suame and University zones).
We started each of the three conferences with a video that our kids made for us. We tear up each time we watch it as it reminds us just how much we love and miss them. For those interested, it is 8 minutes long. Much of the credit belongs to our oldest daughter Mauren who labored tirelessly over it. But all the kids helped pull it together and Weston and MiCayla were brave enough to be the hosts. So, thank you very much to our amazing family!
After the video, LaDawn spent the next 20 minutes talking about what it means to Face the Savior. In a nutshell, here is what we mean when we say that in the Ghana Kumasi Mission, we want to always face the Savior.
- We are ALWAYS worthy to stand in His presence.
- We ALWAYS look to Him for guidance.
- We ALWAYS stand accountable to Him for our choices and our efforts.
It is upon this foundation of always facing the Savior that we will plan to build our ministry here in the Kumasi Mission. This first discussion with the missionaries will be one of many, but it will always be the first and the most important aspect of our service as Mission Leaders.
Following LaDawn’s discussion, I then take a little less than an hour and talk about the power of the Word of God in our lives. We use the scripture references on page 77 of Preach My Gospel and talk about the importance of faith and desire in studying the scriptures. We discuss what it means to “thirst” for the word of God. We talk about Alma 32 and that the seed we plant as being the word of God and NOT the seed of faith. (We nourish the seed with our faith, but the seed itself is the word of God). We then read John 1:1-5,14 and talk about who exactly the WORD is and build that into the discussion. We talk about the simularities in Alma 32:41 and Alma 33:23 where they both mention that the tree will grow into a tree of everlasting life, but in chapter 33, it takes this to another level when it talks about this tree growing up to a tree of everlasting life IN YOU. It brings a whole new perspective about how the
Word of God, from the scriptures, prophets, and apostles along as well as the influence of the Savior Himself, can grow in us so that “when He will appear we shall be like Him”. We end the discussion by talking about Jeremiah 20:9. Jeremiah was persecuted, mocked, and even thrown into jail. At one point he is completely finished. He wants to go home and give this whole prophetic ministry thing up. We then read what it says in verse 9: “Then I said, I will not make mention of him [meaning the Lord], nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” Elder Holland explained in our Mission Leadership Seminar that it was in this moment that Jeremiah became a great prophet. He went from a complainer and a man who despised being a prophet to one of the five greatest prophets in the Old Testament. He says that because he had His word in his heart, he could not stop prophesying. This idea of having His word in our hearts can be found in other places in the scriptures. For example, the phrase the “power of the word of God” is found two times in the Book of Mormon. Once in 2 Nephi 1:26 where Lehi explains the source of Nephi’s power and once in 4 Nephi 1:40 when Mormon mentions that the disciples of Jesus who tarried with them could not be imprisoned because of the “power of the word of God, which was in them”. And so it was with Jeremiah. The power of the word of God was so deep in Jeremiah’s heart that he says his heart was like “a burning fire shut up in his bones”. This is such an amazing depiction of what happens when we study the word of God every single day. We remind the missionaries that never again in their lives will they have 2 hours every day to study the scriptures. If they want to be a great missionary, then the opportunity to have this same experience that Jeremiah, Nephi and the disciples of Jesus had, can be ours.
From there our Assistants spend an hour on Elder Andersen’s matrix regarding High Love and High Expectations. Here is a graph of the matrix and then a copy of one of the white boards following the discussion. The point being made here is that in the Ghana Kumasi Mission, we want to live and work in the “Miracle” quadrant.
This means that we have high expectations of ourselves in terms of our worthiness, our study habits, our work ethic and our discipleship. As leaders we have high expectations of those over whom we have stewardship. And we have high expectations of our companions. We recognize that every choice has a consequence.
To be in this quadrant, we must have high love for the Savior and face Him in everything we do. We love our companion(s) and we love the members and the leaders as the Savior loves us. We don’t judge, criticize, murmur, or complain. We recognize mistakes and repent quickly. We are quick to forgive and slow to anger. We encourage others to become better through our own example of selfless service, kindness, gratitude, and love. The high expectations we have of others also comes with a very high level love.
In the afternoon, we had four 20 minute round robin trainings from the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders from the zones in attendance. At MLC, we identified 12 topics that the young mission leaders felt were important to address. They were able to select from list as inspired, and we ended up with 8 distinct and inspiring discussions across the three zone conferences.
- How to become a better missionary
- How to follow the Spirit of the Lord
- How to extend invitations
- How to develop Christlike attributes (focus on faith)
- New ways to do old things (focus on the proper use of technology)
- Why we need the Atonement of Jesus Christ
- How to work with and bless the members of the Church
- The Culture of Christ
We ended the conference by doing a “Therefore, what will I do?” and then we issued three invitations to the missionaries. 1) Clean their names on their nametags. Today many of the missionaries wear a dirty nametag as a badge of honor. It means they have been out on their missions for some time. A new missionary will have a clean name and an old missionary will have a soiled name. Longer tenured missionaries tend to feel as though they are better than new missionaries. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we should all look our best and should not judge a missionary by how much dirt is on their name. LaDawn added an important point about the symbolism of having our dirty name next to the Saviors on our nametags. It goes against the principle of always being clean and worthy to stand in the presence of the Savior. [It is worth adding that many of the leaders had cleaned their nametags by the next day, never realizing the “badge of honor” issue until it was mentioned, but immediately saw the problem]. 2) Write a letter to the Mission President every Preparation Day. Last week we only received 34 and I was disappointed that more had not written. 3) Memorize a scripture about Jesus Christ every transfer. These can be found in the 58 different titles of Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide. I told them we would share our scriptures with each other at our next interview.
And with that, I did some interviews of the missionaries who lived the furthest out and the rest of the missionaries went back to work. On Tuesday we were at the University Stake Center and went back home to sleep. On Tuesday we were at the Bantama Stake Center. From there we drove to Sunyani (3 hours) and stayed at the Eusbett Hotel. We had dinner at the Kentucky Fried Chicken place next to the Hotel. We are not sure the KFC recipes are being used here, but it was food, and we were hungry. The next day we were at the Sunyani District Center and then drove 90 minutes further north where we stayed at the Techiman Couple’s apartment. Elder and Sister Allred from Afton, WY will be joining us as a Member Leader Support couple in 2 weeks and we wanted to check out the house before they arrived. It is very spacious! We invited Elder Ferry and Elder Faustin, the two zone leaders who serve in Techiman, to join us at Rabboni’s restaurant for dinner. We had chicken and chips (French fries). A little spicy, but still very tasty, and again, we were hungry and ready to eat.
On Friday morning, we drove to the Kenten Branch building (shared partially with a group of Muslims who have a room on the first floor). There I interviewed the rest of the Techiman missionaries and then the four branch presidents who preside over the 4 mission branches in Techiman. I was so very impressed with each of them. Presidents Mainoo, Adu, Boakye, and Lasuno. These are good men who are faithful in their testimonies of Christ. We think Techiman holds much promise in the future!
We left Techiman around noon and headed back to Sunyani and interviewed 10 of the 14 missionaries serving there. This is where I have to say something about these interviews. I have been inspired and lifted by the inspiring stories these missionaries share with me about their families, their conversions and their decisions to serve a mission. Here is a snippet:
- Missionaries came to their family’s home and did a Family Home Evening about the Book of Mormon. It sparked something in this young man at age 14 and he wanted to know for himself.
- A sister’s cousin joined the church and the missionaries that were teaching him were asked to give the sister’s mom a blessing. She was very sick. The mom recovered and now seeks baptism.
- A sister had a good job and was earning money to buy land. The man she gave money to buy the land defrauded her. She was devasted and prayed about what to do. She heard a voice, “Serve a Mission”.
- A sister had a dream one night. 3 men she later recognized as missionaries picked her up in a van and took her to the most beautiful building she had ever seen. The same month, missionaries came into the library where she was and she recognized them from her dream. Because of this she sought out the church and was baptized. She continues to have inspired dreams. Because she is older, she had not thought about serving a mission, but one night she had a dream that her mom took her to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). When they arrived, there was no chair for them, so they stood in the back. She told her mom, “See, I am too late”. Her non-member mom responded, “It is better that you are late than that you do not go”.
- A sister was looking for a church and praying to know where to go. One day she received a call from missionaries out of the blue, only to find out they were calling someone they were teaching and dialed the wrong number. Two days later, she called the number back and had the missionaries come and teach her.
- An elder discovered the church in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2019 that he sought out the church for himself and asked to be taught the gospel. His father has passed away and no one else in his family is a member, but he remembered his feelings in 2006 and eventually sought out the church to fill a hole in his life.
- A young elder’s family had to leave Rowanda due to the genocide. Moved to DR Congo where his cousin shared the gospel with him. He is the only member of the church in a family of seven children.
I could go on and on about how the hand of the Lord has been in the lives of these missionaries from a very young age. It is inspiring to hear stories of missionaries referring their families back home and then hearing they have been baptized. It is sad to hear of the families that would love to be part of the Church but live in an area where the Church has not yet come. For the young elder or sister, it is often because they left the village and moved to the city to live with a grandparent or an uncle or aunt that they found the gospel. So many of these non-member families are proud of their missionary son or daughter and support them fully. It is just amazing to see how the Lord is moving here in Ghana and across Africa to gather Israel one last time before He comes again.
On Saturday we attended a Church Communications Meeting at the Dichemso Stake Center. The team from the Area Office came to train Stake and District Presidents as well as the Stake can District Relief Society Presidents on how to handle media interviews. With the temple having been announced for Kumasi, there will be more and more media inquiries directed at the church. The meeting was well attended and extremely well done. Elder and Sister Parry are a senior couple from Farmington, UT who will be going home soon. They have been of great help to the team. Following that meeting, the team came over to the Mission Office where we talked specifically about how the Communications Team might help us here in this mission. It was time very well spent!
The rest of the evening we met with the Assistants to work on the logistics of this upcoming week. We have 3 missionaries going home who have to get Covid tests and then wait for the results before they can leave, 1 new one going out from a mission district, 2 new sisters coming on Monday, 8 new African elders from the MTC, and 1 currently serving missionary from Zimbabwe coming on Tuesday, and four new American elders coming on Friday. In addition, we have new Zone Leaders and New District Leaders we need to train and Training Companions for these new missionaries that LaDawn and I will personally train. Because of the Covid protocols, the arrivals and departures are spread throughout the week. In addition, we have 29 other elders and sisters who are moving on transfer. It will be a very busy week!
On Sunday, we drove back out to Konongo District, primarily to attend a meeting at the District Center with the District President and the Branch Presidents. We decided to attend the Juaso Branch but had some degree of difficulty finding it. The Google coordinates we had pointed us to a previous building. After asking several people, we finally found it. The speakers did not arrive, so LaDawn and I took up the entire meeting. The amount of English they speak in the branch is minimal, so we spoke and had the branch president translate it to Twi. LaDawn spoke about love, and I spoke about becoming like Christ through the Doctrine of Christ. For Sunday School there was a non-member in attendance who was visiting the church for the first time. A member of the branch presidency taught her the basic doctrines of the church. It was all in Twi, but we were able to chime in a couple of times and then have him translate. We had a delightful experience there and felt the good hearts and strong spirits of the members.
From there it was over to the meeting with the District Leadership. I was very impressed with these men and their knowledge of Church policies and procedures. They will soon become a stake and will no longer be under the mission. I was so happy to meet with and to get to know them. The difference that good leadership makes can never by underestimated.
We arrived back at the Mission Office in time for another meeting with the Assistants and our Mission Secretary, Sister Coombs, to finalize the logistics for the week. Let’s hope all goes as planned.
We are now nearly two weeks in. It has been non-stop for us and it looks like it will continue that way for some time to come. We know this is the Lord’s work. We have felt His spirit and the prayers of many of you. We thank you for thinking of us and joy with you in the knowledge we have of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.