The Waters of Life
On Monday evening we left the house around 3:30 pm to meet Elder Nsungi and Elder Akpan to go over and visit Lazarus and Amelia and their two children. This is a family they have been working with for some time now. Their oldest daughter Treasure has been baptized, but the parents are working on getting legally married. Like so many couples here in Ghana, the cost of marriage is expensive (includes a bride price) and so couples often live together without the formal ceremonies. But that then causes problems when they desire to join the Church. We drove to where the GPS coordinates had the elders’ apartment pinpointed, but when we got there and asked a neighbor, he said missionaries don’t live there anymore. A few calls later and we realized we were far from their actual apartment, so we reset Google Maps and headed that way, only to be met with a tremendous downpour of rain. In fact, it rained so hard, we eventually gave up, realizing that we had completely missed the appointment. Traffic was bad and it was well after 6:30 when we arrived back home, the rain still coming down.
We reset the appointment for Wednesday evening and fortunately, the rain that evening came after we returned home. We had just the most wonderful visit with this little family. One of the things that really makes them unique is that both parents desire to be baptized and they love each other very much. They want to be sealed in the temple as a family. Their children are adorable, and they will be great contributors to building the kingdom of God. They are hoping for a miracle to occur so they can get married. We agreed to join our prayers with theirs. We invited them to begin to read the Book of Mormon together as a family each night. Their conversion has come from attending church and learning the doctrine rather than a deep specific spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon, so we encouraged them to gain that for themselves.
Before leaving the events of Monday, I should just add that my hairdressing career has started back up. It is scary for me to cut LaDawn’s hair, but because I love her, I do my best to help her out. She is the coach, and I am the student and together it seemed to turn out okay. We were both surprised how much hair was left on the floor once we finished! A special thanks to Patsy Beard in our ward back home, who recorded a brief tutorial on LaDawn’s phone about how to feather the layers of her hair.
Tuesday, we traveled down to Obuasi. It took us about 90 minutes to make the drive. There we attended the district council of the Obuasi West District where Elder Faustin is the District Leader. We then had the blessing of meeting with 8 of the missionaries I had not yet interviewed. While I interview the missionaries, LaDawn does a quick phone audit. Our biggest issue in the mission is inappropriate and extended use of Facebook during the week. This is a problem we are working on.
We returned home just in time to attend a zoom meeting with the Area Presidency and all the other Mission Leaders in the Africa West Area. We had a council on a topic presented by the Area Presidency. It was a wonderful discussion and we learned much from the experiences of the other Mission Leaders.
On Wednesday we drove to the Suame Stake Center. This is the stake center that is furthest from the mission home and the most difficult to get to because of roads and traffic. We worried that we might be late due to some heavier than anticipated traffic, but we managed to arrive just two minutes before 10:00 am. There we interviewed 8 more missionaries. Elder Toe and Elder Rasmussen are the zone leaders of the Dichemso district which cover both the Dichemso and Suame stakes. How grateful we are for these honorable and capable young men who lead their zone with such love and care.
Due to the length of the interviews and the return traffic, we were only home for a couple of hours (I worked on reading and responding to missionary letters) before heading out to our visit with Lazarus and Amelia’s family. There is a place where the road goes from two lanes to one lane and although it is only about 2 km in length, it took us about 40 minutes to pass through it. The most frustrating thing is the Tro Tro’s (van taxis) that constantly find any way they can to get ahead in the traffic. In one place, they would drive through a gasoline station and then crowd back into the traffic, making the delay even longer. They are very aggressive drivers.
Thursday, we drove to the University Stake Center and interviewed the last 12 missionaries for this transfer cycle. I am trying to do these interviews in smaller groups so that I can always give my very best to every single one of them. Each transfer I ask the missionaries to memorize a scripture on Jesus Christ and to share it with me in the interview. LaDawn and I have also memorized scriptures about Christ and as they share their scripture with me, I share mine with them. It is such a joyous experience to share these powerful scriptures and then listen as to why that scripture is so important to the missionary.
Thursday evening, we traveled back to the Bantama Stake Center and met with President Appiah, the stake president. We also asked 2 of the 4 zone leaders that serve in that stake to join as well. Elder Mbuyi and Elder Morgan attended. Elder Kwakoyo and Elder Rylie also serve in the stake, but they have been heading up our digital finding and teaching efforts, and that required a trip to the Mission Office for use of a computer earlier in the day, so we decided not to ask them to attend this time.
Speaking of Digital Finding and Teaching, we ran the 3 Facebook ads within a 5 km circle of our Church building closet to the Universities. After three days we had 29 people who had filled out the form with their contact information seeking more information about “Where did I come from and Why am I here?” That is a big number for a Facebook ad. We are excited to see where we go with these interested people. We are working out the kinks in terms of getting a mechanism in place to track their progress and follow-up quickly.
On Friday I spoke to Elder Klebingat. He informed us that he would be coming to Kumasi for an “all-mission” conference. Apparently, this is something that members of the Area Presidency do after a new mission president has been in place for a few months. We are really looking forward to having him with us next week for this singular event. On Friday, we also spent some time with the Assistants to review and finalize the transfer board. I have spent a lot of time working through the various scenarios and seeking the Lord’s will to know where each missionary should be serving. We are receiving in 12 new missionaries this transfer and sending six home who have finished their missions. Two more will leave in 2 weeks (my basketball playing elders). This has allowed us to open 2 areas permanently and one temporarily. Before finalizing, we always review the board together with the assistants in case they know something that is important to the transfer (and it seems they always do!).
On Saturday morning we met with President Mensah of the University Stake. He is an amazing leader. He arranged for the stake leadership to travel to Seneagya a couple of weeks ago and all they did was talk to as many people as they could about the church. The result was 92 referrals for the missionaries in one day!
We are not even sure how the missionaries can possibly follow-up on that many people. Needless to say, this is one of the areas where we are adding a new companionship. Elder Anderson and Elder Lekopa were with us, as they are the zone leaders who serve in the stake. We had a wonderful discussion about ways to further the work and how we can be closely aligned in growing the Church in the University Stake.
The rest of Saturday was spent watching General Conference. We had the Assistants, the Office Elders and our wonderful Office Couple (Elder & Sister Coombs) over to watch both sessions. Sister Coombs made some delicious lasagna that we ate between sessions. We had a little trouble with streaming the second session because the rain was out of control and when it rains, the internet does not do so well. We felt so blessed to be able to watch as much of it as we did. So inspiring!
On Sunday, we watched the Saturday night session which was already on the Church website. We were planning to attend a baptism at 12:30 pm at the Atonsu Ward, but at 11:00 am we received a message from the District Leader the baptism was moved up to 11:30. We left immediately and luckily traffic was light and we arrived at 11:34 am. The service had already started, but we made it in time for a few pictures and the actual baptism. Georgina, Celestina, Derek and Eric were all baptized. Such a great event on a spectacular day! We were even pleased to meet Ruth who is the University Stake literacy specialist. Someone we will be more involved with as time goes on and the mission becomes more involved with the program.
We arrived back home in plenty of time for the last two Sunday sessions. Between the sessions, LaDawn served a delicious meal of chicken, potatoes, carrots and our favorite bread from Shop-rite. She also made an incredibly delicious chocolate cake which we ate with some new ice cream we found that is made in South Africa. So good!
There is so much we could say about conference, but let it suffice to say that we were uplifted and inspired. This may be my favorite quote from the entire conference (and their were many!). This from President Nelson: “It is now time that we each implement extraordinary measures — perhaps measures we have never taken before — to strengthen our personal spiritual foundations. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.”
It is our testimony that Jesus Christ is the real Water of Life and that what He offers us will be in us “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The love of our Savior pours down upon us like a Ghanaian rain, unable to be contained within rain gutters and roadside ditches. It is powerful and life giving. This is what General Conference was for us. Sacred rain poured out upon some parched soil. We are grateful for living prophets and apostles. We are grateful for a world-wide church that administers the ordinances of salvation, and we are grateful to be engaged in this great cause of bringing the gospel to these amazing people, Together in Ghana.