Monday morning, I went over to the Mission Office at 7 am and played basketball with Elder Yancey and Elder Lapatu. We played 2 games of HORSE and one game of 21. Let’s just say I lost both games of HORSE – badly. I appreciated that the Elders were soft on me for the game of 21. It was fun to play and to get my blood pumping again. I haven’t played basketball for 3 years, but I never lose my love of the game.
On Tuesday we drove out to Bibiani. Google Maps gave us driving time of about 2 hours and 10 minutes. So, we left just before 9, expecting we would arrive right at 10 am. As it turned out, it took almost 3 hours because of the traffic getting out of Kumasi. We sat within 200 yards of a roundabout for 30 minutes. So many cars were entering from the side streets in front of us, that we simply could not move. Ah well, that is life in Kumasi. We had a great experience in Bibiani at the Bibiani District council where Elder Jones is the District Leader. The council was well organized and well run. The topics were pertinent and prepared. We had a moment at the end before we left to talk about focusing efforts more on people and spending less time traveling. Seems we often travel to single referrals far away from the chapel, which even if the person were to join the church, they would have a difficult time coming each week. We are encouraging more walking in our areas where we can meet, greet, and talk to people so that they will get to know us. It also provides us opportunities to serve the community as we will be much more connected to the people there.
Pictures below (L to R). Road to Bibiani; Elder Jones and Elder Kpornu giving instruction; The entire Bibiani district (Elder Aidoo, Elder Jonjo, Elder Kpornu, Elder Jones); the home where the missionaries live (used to be a chapel)
As we were leaving, we saw an elderly man in the roadway in front of the missionary apartment filling potholes with dirt from a wheelbarrow that he was pushing along. It is not uncommon to see younger men doing this type of work, who then ask the cars that are passing to pay them some small amount for their efforts. But there was something different about this man. He was not stopping cars at all; he was just going about his work. We were impressed with what we saw so we drove up to him and stopped and spoke to him. I gave him a couple of dollars in appreciation for his work and then asked him why he was doing it. In broken English he said he needed to do it to keep fit and strong. No one had asked him to do it, he saw a need and knew if he filled it, his own body would be strengthened and his life blessed. We drove away marveling at this man who was doing something for his community without asking anything in return. As we drove up the road to turn around, we came back to the man and asked him how old he was. His response: 86 years old! What a powerful lesson he taught us that day!
We got back to the Mission Office just in time to meet and then release Sister Owuni who had been serving in the Accra West Mission. The interesting thing is I had no idea she was coming home. Somehow the Accra West Mission failed to notify us, so I only found out when she called from the airport asking if someone was going to pick her up. Fortunately, the Office Elders were available to get her and bring her back to the Mission Office. After I released her, they put her on a Tro-Tro back to the very place we had visited that morning in Bibiani. She is a wonderful sister missionary who has served the Lord well. It was an honor to get to know her. She can now get some additional schooling and get on with her life.
On Wednesday morning we left at 6:15 am and drove to Sunyani to the Sunyani/Techiman zone conference held at the Sunyani District Center. Leaving that early in the morning made the trip just over 2 hours, whereas had we left the afternoon before at 3:00 pm it would have easily taken over 3 hours. We are learning the traffic patterns.
When we got to the District Center, I went to open the back of the truck and I couldn’t get it open. The mission received two new Hilux Pickup trucks with cabs on the back for the senior missionaries coming in November and January. I guess it turned out to be fortunate for us because we found out the registration on the Pajero we drove expired three days after the trucks arrived. So, we have been driving the truck that the Moomey’s (our medical couple) will drive when they come. What I didn’t realize is that the back flip up door has a problem. I had worked hard to shut it before we left, as I knew the road would be dusty in places and I didn’t want to get everything dirty we had placed back there. I had to work especially hard to close the right side. What we found out once we tried to open it in Sunyani was that the latch only moved the mechanism on the left-hand side. For some reason, the door latch did not retract on the right side. And thus, the problem. We had probably 6 missionaries working on trying to get it open for about 30 minutes. We needed to get the projector out for the conference that was in back along with a few other things, so we really needed to get it open. Finally, the missionaries managed to exert some brute strength to pull down the bottom door while the top one was latched. Once they accomplished that, I was able to take a screwdriver and push the latch mechanism in and release it. I only shut the left-hand side the rest of the trip and left the right hand side unlatched.
After the conference, I visited with 5 missionaries with whom I had not yet had an interview. I continue to be impressed with the quality and commitment of these young people who have chosen to put their life on hold for 18 – 24 months to come and share the good news of the restored gospel with the people of Ghana.
We left Sunyani about 2:45 pm and made it Techiman around 4:15 pm. I had a membership council I needed to attend to that evening at 5:00 pm, so we stopped at the Allred’s and unpacked our truck and got settled and then I was off again. I returned about 6:30 pm and we had a nice dinner together, thanks to Sister Allred.
On Thursday we left Techiman about 9:00 am and drove the 4 hours to Tamale (pronounced tom-a-lee). Tamale is a city of about 950,000 in the Northern part of Ghana. It is 90% Muslim and one of the fastest growing cities in West Africa (if not the fastest).
It appears to be a center for learning as there are numerous universities and trade schools. Many come to Tamale from the southern part of Ghana for school and work as the economy seems to be doing quite well. The hustle and bustle of the city makes for heavy and usually chaotic traffic.
We stayed at MA-S Hotel in room 2 as the Webster’s suggested. It was a nice place relatively quiet and safe. The room was a good size and probably equivalent to a good 3-star hotel in the states. The bed was comfortable and for us that is probably the most important thing. We were hungry when we arrived, so after getting settled in the hotel room we drove over to a restaurant called Wooden Cafe and Bakery not far from where we were staying.
Since it was by now the middle of the afternoon, there were only a very few people there. We had boneless chicken strips and French fries with a touch of a small salad. I had some lemonade which turned out to be very tart (and delicious) limeade. There was a nice breeze blowing through the outdoor seating which made it very comfortable and enjoyable.
The next morning, we arrived at the District Center (this current building is way too small and will soon give way to a new building that is nearing the building phase) and met with the currently small zone of 8 missionaries. We will be adding 6 missionaries to the zone during the next transfer, but for now it was just the 10 of us meeting together.
The good news is the room did have air conditioning. That was a first! For lunch we had KFC. Yes, that is correct. Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was delicious. No potatoes and gravy, but the rice was wonderful.
After the zone conference, we had some time so I contacted President Fiagbedzi and asked if we could come meet him. I had been working with this good man who is the branch president of the Education Ridge branch, on getting a missionary from his branch off to the MTC. The missionary had missed his plane on Thursday and had to take a different flight early Friday morning. Since we had some time, we decided to drive over to the Fiagbedzi’s and meet them face to face. Such a delightful little family. Emmanual, Regina and their young son Thomas. We enjoyed a brief visit and then headed back to the hotel. On our way, we decided to go the Oasis and have dinner (see below). After dinner we arrived back to the hotel and the rest of the evening reading and responding to missionary letters and finishing up some preparation for a meeting with the District Leadership on Saturday.
Left, a brief visit with the Fiagbedzi’s who are both returned missionaries. Right, dinner at the Oasis. Spaghetti Bolognese and Ground Nut soup with rice. The food was very good.
On Saturday morning we arrived back at the District Center at 8:45 am and I met with the District President and his second counselor for an hour. We talked about the trends in the district over the last 4 years and what might be done to change the trajectory. These are good humble men who are eager to learn and eager to help the district improve. At 10 am we were joined by 4 of the branch presidents, a counselor or two and a couple of branch clerks. We also had 3 Relief Society leaders.
We spent the next two hours talking about the 2021 goals they had set and what things they needed to do to achieve them. It was a wonderful discussion and the desire to learn and improve the district was quite apparent. After discussing the key indicators and their progress towards their goals, we talked about ministering, the Children and Youth Program and the importance of being Self-Reliant. We made notes of the discussions and later President Edmund Obeng, my second counselor in the Mission Presidency, did an amazing job summarizing and preparing a note for us to send back out to the district leadership.
After the meeting, we jumped back into the truck and drove back to Techiman where we again stayed the night with the Allreds. We are so grateful to have this wonderful couple working in Techiman. We can see that they are already making a difference there with the members and branch leaders. The Allred’s again prepared a delicious dinner, this time of chicken strips with friend potatoes and onions. Hmm Hmmm good!
On Sunday we attended the Kenten Branch where President Gabriel Mainoo presides. We had a wonderful sacrament meeting. President Mainoo informed me I would be the concluding speaker, which I readily accepted. LaDawn played the organ and we had a wonderful sacrament meeting. The two counselors in the branch presidency spoke. One on faith and one on tithing. I spoke on the iterative nature of the Doctrine of Christ. Afterwards I met with two of our missionaries who were having some struggles with communication and then I did a temple recommend interview. Elder Faustin and Elder Ferry had planned a baptism for Sister Comfort, but we had to wait until the other branch finished with their Priesthood lesson which was held in the room where the font was. The baptism began at noon. When we first arrived before Sacrament Meeting, the elders were filling the font with water. I found it to be quite interesting that the font was right next to the sacrament table. How appropriate that the place where the original baptismal covenant is made is right next to the place where we renew that covenant each week. Only in Africa!
Left, Elder Faustin and Elder Ferry with Sister Comfort and two of her three children. LaDawn with Comfort’s young son. Above, the baptismal font is positioned right next to the sacrament table. Such rich symbolism!
After the baptism, we jumped back into the truck and made our way home, arriving around 3:30 pm. Traffic on a Sunday evening was not bad, so we made excellent time. We were so happy to be home. After a nice dinner delicious chicken sandwiches and French fries, the assistants came over for our weekly meeting. How I love Elder Binene and Elder Yancey. They are amazing and powerful leaders. I would be lost without them.
So that is what a week looks like from the furthest church district to the south to the furthest church district to the north. The Mission extends another hour to the south from where we were and another 4 hours to the north. Despite the distance and the travel, we love the people, we love the land and we love being Together in Ghana.