As mentioned last week, we have changed the schedule of the mission so that means we needed to hold Zone Conferences within 3 weeks of each other instead of every 6 weeks. This week we did 3: University/Konongo on Tuesday; Dichemso/Suame on Wednesday and Asuoyeboa/Obuasi/Bantama on Thursday. This week we will drive to Sunyani, Techiman and then to Tamale. We want to tell you a little about what we did on this second round of conferences.
LaDawn has been doing an in-depth study on Mormon. A Nephite General and a historian with a significant following :-). The Book of Mormon inside the Book of Mormon is filled with the miraculous and spirit-filled events of this stalwart, never to be swayed disciple of Jesus Christ. In her discussion with the missionaries, her comments can be summed up in three points: 1) While “wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land” [see Mormon 1:13] insomuch that the Lord did take away the disciples of Jesus and did cause the work of miracles and healing to cease because of the iniquity of the people, Mormon was having a completely different experience. “And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus” [Mormon 1;15]. Despite the iniquity and wickedness which surrounded Mormon, he was so good that at 15 years of age he was “visited of the Lord”. The key message is that we do not need to be defined by the bad choices of people around us. We can choose to face the Savior regardless of the choices of others. 2) Mormon was clearly humble, yet confident. In his record he attributes his call to lead the Nephite armies at 15 years of age to his “being large in stature”. But LaDawn made the point that it was likely his countenance and confidence, having already been visited by the Lord, that attracted the decision makers to select Mormon. When people are looking for hope in delivery from an enemy, light is one of the first attributes sought. 3) The Lord often calls the young to great responsibility. She discussed Joseph Smith, Samuel and David. Even our missionaries are being called at an ever-younger age to gather Israel for they are the ones unspotted by the world. 4) She discussed the difference between the “sorrowing of the damned” and the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and change. Mormon’s people were not interested in changing, they were only interested in boasting about defeating the Lamanites. 5) She ended the session by inviting the missionaries in the Kumasi Mission to pick up the sword of righteousness in defense of truth, to become valiant warriors in the fight against darkness as we gather Israel for the final time before the Second Coming. It was a powerful moment. “If each of us as disciples of Jesus Christ do not pick up the sword of righteousness, who will?”
I then led a discussion about what exactly “high love” is. If you read last week’s post, you will know this question came up in an interview with one of the zone leaders following our Mission Leadership Council. I am so appreciative of the question, as it drove me to both to my knees and to the scriptures. I first asked the missionaries, what does “high love” mean to you? When someone loves you, and you know it, what is the evidence of that love? The answers were great: service, appreciation, mutual joy and happiness, kindness, genuine gentle correction and acceptance of the correction, gratitude, time & attention, trust, encouragement, listening, understanding and obedience. (I will come back to obedience).
We then went to the other side of the board and discussed the ways that Jesus showed love: no discrimination, gave his life for us, taught the many – and he taught the one, lived what he taught, performed miracles (walked on water and invited Peter to do the same, raised the dead and felt sorrow, made the blind to see, and healed the sick), shared spiritual experiences (specifically referencing the experience with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration). Along with that I added a few others: publicly admired the faith of the Centurion whose servant he healed from afar, allowed others to serve Him, (e.g., the sinful woman to anoint His feet with alabaster), taught in parables with the expectation that His disciples begin to learn for themselves, challenged the traditions of the day so He could teach a higher law, rebuked His disciples, challenged the rich young man to do a hard thing, and cast out the moneychangers from the temple.
While I was preparing for the discussion last week, it was this last event that had me wondering how the moneychangers must have felt as they were clearly not feeling “high love”. It was then LaDawn said, “He was showing love to His Father”. And in that moment, it all came together for me. Jesus didn’t care what the people around Him thought of His ministry. He was not trying to be popular. He simply wanted to please the Father and do the Father’s will. He was facing the Father in all that He did. Therefore, when a sister missionary mentioned “obedience” in the first part of the discussion, it changed the discussion. She immediately recognized that “high love” means doing the Father’s will and not our own. In fact, all of the words we used to describe “high expectations” are really just us showing “high love” to the Father. Phrases and words like these: Focus on the work, high productivity and progress, diligence, obedience, consecration, trust, joy, humility, desire, accountability, courage, unity. The reason all these words are referencing “high love” and “high expectations” is because they represent the characteristics and attributes of the Father shown to us by the Son.
We often think of “high love” in terms of what others offer us. The reality is that “high love” is what we must offer to others, including to God. This is why facing the Savior is so important to us and to the Ghana Kumasi mission as a whole. As we do His will, and not our own, we will in fact THEN feel the pure love of Christ that He offers to us. Now that is the ultimate definition of “HIGH LOVE”!
Before finishing, we talked a bit about preparation day as described in the Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ regarding what we should be doing on that day. We also talked about the definition of being a successful missionary as described on pages 11-12 of Preach My Gospel. I spent the last 10 minutes talking about how to study the scriptures more effectively by identifying scriptural patters that I learned from Gene R. Cook’s book titled “Searching the Scriptures: Bringing Power to Your Personal and Family Study”. We gave each missionary a laminated card to keep in their scriptures to help them apply these learnings.
The Assistants and in one zone conference, two of our zone leaders, led a discussion about having “an eye single to the glory”. The concept was built from an idea that two of our zone leaders had about setting a goal for the number of baptisms they wanted to have in a transfer and then, without knowing the names, prayerfully start looking for those who were prepared. Their experience was miraculous. This was the same role play that we shared at MLC two weeks ago. The assistants then followed that up with a discussion on what it means to have our eye single to the glory of God. If I were to sum their message up in one statement, it would be this: The glory of God is intelligence. When we learn to trust that knowledge and tap into it through our faith, we can easily find those who are prepared to hear the gospel message. A single focus on doing things with an eye single to His glory results in God recognizing our effort, focus and faith, opening the windows of heaven and pouring out knowledge upon us that enables us to find the elect by inspiring us in the way we should go to cross paths with them.
All-in-all the zone conferences were shorter, focused on the key messages and spirit filled. We are so grateful for the obedient spirit that these missionaries bring to the conferences which allows the spirit to fill the room and all of our hearts.
Which leads me to the next part of the story. As the mission “comes out of Covid”, there is at least one person who is not happy about it. The adversary. As the missionaries begin to face the Savior each day and focus on doing what He would have them do, the adversary is looking for ways to distract us. It started Friday night with a medical issue with a missionary which turned out not to be serious, but consumed significant effort on our part, the zone leaders, and the sister training leaders. Later that evening we received word that sisters in another city were having a flare up. That too required an intervention by us, the zone leaders, and the district leader. All precious time away from the work. On Saturday, another flare up with a different companionship where zone leaders were involved and through zoom we met with them to help resolve the issue. We met again on Monday morning. Saturday evening, an elder hurt his knee catching a frisbee playing with the youth of the branch. This required a trip from our office couple on Sunday to bring him and his companion back to Kumasi for treatment. More time away from the work. On Sunday, a set of elders called us telling us they gave a blessing to a sister who was later diagnosed with Covid. This will cause them to self-isolate for 7 days for safety (no contact other than a blessing, in and out of her house quickly wearing masks the entire time). More time away from the work. Can you see the pattern? The good news is that this is further evidence that we are on the right path. The even better news is that our God is a powerful God and we know that with Him we can and will prevail, no matter the adversary’s tactics.
A couple of other highlights for the week. On Monday we drove back from Techiman, bringing Sister Natal to the mission home for her Covid test and farewell dinner and testimony before leaving for home back to Mozambique. Because her suitcases were too heavy, she had to pay for the added weight. When a friend sent her money through Western Union, we went to the bank and spent two hours there trying to get it, but could not due to some system error. We found another method to transfer the money and managed to get her on the plane on Wednesday following zone conference. We will miss her in the mission.
On Sunday we drove to Obuasi to attend church, meet 1:1 with the District President and attend the mid-year goals review. During Church, one of our zone leaders, Elder Shaw, bore his testimony. He was sitting next to 6 year old Jessica who is President Manu’s (the branch president) youngest daughter. I could see she wanted to bear her testimony, but was nervous. They even made a pinkie promise that if Elder Shaw would bear his testimony, that she would bear hers. But she was still reluctant. Finally Elder Shaw took her by the hand and brought her to the stand and she bore the sweetest, more genuine 6-year-old testimony I have heard. It was a very sweet moment in the meeting to have watched all this from the stand and then see it unfold. It is no wonder that we are told we should become as little children. Thank you, Elder Shaw, for your wonderful example of kindness and love.
After sacrament meeting, I spent about an hour with President Adams Agyare. He has been a member for 8 years and was raised as a Muslim. He has worked at the mine for 23 years and is a supervisor in the wastewater management team. In fact, he left work to come and meet with me and needed to go back to work after our meeting. He loves the Lord, and he loves the work he has been called to do. His wife is simply amazing. She introduced him to the church and has been his most ardent cheerleader and confidante. They have 7 children and I learned on Sunday, that his daughter is serving in our mission. Sister Adams was called to a different mission, but because of Covid she stayed here in Kumasi. She has been a great missionary and will return home later this month as she honorable completes her mission.
Following our meeting, President Tabi (my first counselor in the mission presidency) and I met with the branch presidents, their counselors and clerks and some Relief Society leaders as well. We had a great discussion on their goals and what simple things they might do to progress them even more in the second half of the year. It was a wonderful day all the way around.
Upon returning to Kumasi, we picked up the Elders that Elder and Sister Coombs had picked up and brought to the Mission Office due to the injured knee, and brought them over to the bunkhouse at the Mission Home where we stay. LaDawn fixed a delicious meal of corn chowder on rice and then the companion without a broken knee whipped up some brownies from a mix we had just purchased. At 7 pm, the Assistants came over and we had our weekly meeting and discussed the upcoming week and some of the changes we are making in terms of transport and utility funds.
The work moves forward and we are so happy to be a small part of building Zion in this part of the world, and we love doing it Together in Ghana.