For the Beauty of the Earth

This was interview week for us. We traveled to Sefwi Bekwai and Sefwi Waiwso, Bibiani, Asouyeboa, Mpraeso, Nkawkaw, Konongo and Bantama. Sefwi Waiwso is the furtherest southwest corner of the mission and Mpraeso is the furtherest eastern point in the mission. It is about 65 miles from the mission home to both of these locations. To get to Waiwso it is just over 3 hours. To get to Mpraeso it is about 2.5 hours. While we have been to Mpraeso and Nkawkaw before (on our way back from Accra), we had not been to Waiwso or Bekwai (we have 2 missionaries in each city). The locations we visited this week outside of Kumasi are all in beautiful places. The terrains are somewhat mountainous and the trees, shrubs and grasses are the greenest green you can imagine. The rain that has been falling here lately just makes everything grow grow grow. While our first love in each of these areas are our missionaries, we have also been impressed with the flora, the fauna and the terrain. Truly we stand amazed at this beautiful earth that our Savior has created for us. We feel honored to see parts of it that we never thought we would see. It is just one more aspect of our testimonies of a loving and generous God.

To the left was our trip to Bekwai, Waiwso and Bibiani and to the right, our journey to Mpraeso (furtherest dot to the right), Nkawkaw and Konongo. Each dot represents a missionary apartment that we visited.

Just one more thing about the travel. Even though the distances to these towns is not so far, the roads are often challenging. There are frequent speed bumps that will rock the bones in your body and teeth in your head if you do not see them coming (trust us, we know) and the roads have plenty of potholes. In fact, President Tabi has remarked that to drive here you need a PhD degree. When I questioned him, he said, “Yes, you need a degree in Pot Hole Dodging!”

On Tuesday we drove to Sefwi Bekwi, Sefwi Waiwso and Bibiani. We participated in the Sefwi District Council in Bekwai where Elder Boamah serves as the district leader. The main instruction was a review of the mission conference. We were very impressed with the takeaways from the conference by the members of the district council. After the meeting, we decided to drive to Waiwso to take Elder Boamah and Elder Gyamfi home so we could see where they lived and the status of the recently acquired chapel. Tuesday and Friday are market days and the chapel building is right next to the chaos of the market. We snapped a picture from the top of the hill looking back down on the town and we have circled the position of the chapel. The area right in front of it and to the left is the marketplace. It was very hectic getting back to the chapel, but we managed to make it. We came back to the truck from the other side which was much easier.

Location of the chapel. The buildings to the left of the trees is the marketplace

While it made for a really long day, we so enjoyed seeing the area and getting a feel for where our missionaries are serving. Here are a number of pictures we took on Tuesday. While I do the interviews of the missionaries, LaDawn checks their phones. We are working hard with the missionaries to be better stewards of technology. We see some great progress in the amount of time they are spending on Facebook on days outside of preparation day.

On Wednesday we traveled the 25 minutes to the Asuoyeboa chapel located here in Kumasi. That made for a very easy day of travel compared to Tuesday and Thursday. The Zone Leaders in the Asuoyeboa Zone are Elder Riley and Elder Yeboah. They are both disciplined, spiritual and visionary leaders. They are working hard to help their entire zone put more trust in the Savior and less trust in themselves.

Wednesday evening was the bi-weekly mission presidency meeting. We have a number of items we are working on right now in each of the Districts. We reviewed the 3rd Quarter key indicators in an effort to know more about where we need additional emphasis….among other things.

Thursday was back into the car again as we picked up Elder Jones and Elder Bampoe (Konongo Zone Leaders) from the Assistants apartment and took them back to their apartment in Nkawkaw (pronounced Ncoco). They had been on exchange with the Assistants and it worked out that we could take them back rather than have them take public transport. We had a very enjoyable experience as we traveled. We spoke at great lengths of the success they have started to have as they placed their trust in the Lord and stopped trying to do the work themselves. They initially thought they would have 6 baptisms, but it was a goal that they set without much inspiration. When they got serious about setting an inspired goal, they prayed in the evening and in the morning they both concluded the number should be 8. Keep in mind that currently the average missionary baptizes between 7 and 8 people in a year! They related miracle after miracle. Here are excerpts from their letters this week. It was so interesting to me that they both had the same experiences but there were so many they spoke about completely different events!

“This week has been great for us, we’ve seen seen so many miracles I don’t even know where to start, the mission conference really inspired me to be the best missionary I can be and give my all to the Lord! So my companion and I after the conference really tried to use this idea of finding the Elect and jump right in with full faith in the Lord and the miracles this week have been amazing! So we set our goal as 8 at the beginning of the transfer and we didn’t know any of them, so this week we filled 4 of those spots, I’ll start with our last one brother Nna Kumi, He came to church alone we didn’t even know who he was but he showed up last week so after sacrament we went to go talk to him and while talking to him he told us that he had been praying to know what to do with his life, and that day a member came by and invited him to church so he knew his prayers were answered so he came to church, and he told us that he wants to be baptized even though we’ve never taught him, so we told him we will teach him and prepare him for baptism by week 6 I’m so grateful for what I have seen this week, this is just one of SOO many miracles and I know it is because we humbled ourselves and put faith in the Lord.”

“Miracles were wrought by our faith as we went out to find the Elect. We met a woman who has been coming to church for a couple of weeks even before we met and taught her and she really has a desire to be baptized. She contributes in everything we do at church to a point that she gave out offering to support the church. Another is brother Francis who also has a very strong desire to be baptized after being at church for some weeks. As we discussed with our ward mission leader about his baptism today he made a comment, “Oh I thought he was a member because he does everything like us” and you cannot believe the joy I felt in my heart, just as Sister Kunz shared – when we are part of this great and marvelous work. We took a taxi today and as you said our countenance fell on the driver that he asked what we do, we briefly did introduce ourselves and he said I want to come to church this Sunday. Indeed there are a lot of miracles but time would not permit me to share all but finally the last I will share is that we were prompted by the spirit to visit a member who stays around our apartment. We had a wonderful discussion and surprisingly her husband who is not a member showed up at church on Sunday and wants to be baptized even though he had never had a lesson with us yet except for that evening. We hope for more miracles and hope for the best for our Zone and the entire mission as we labor in his vineyard.”

I took this snap in front of their goal white board. They actually had 5 individuals found at the time, but hadn’t written the 5th name in. On Saturday night I received a text from them that they had found the other 3 that would be baptized this transfer.

From the zone leader’s apartment we went over to visit with Elder Sam and Elder Smith. Their area is the Nkawkaw 1st branch. They are two of the hardest working elders in the entire mission. They too are learning how to turn their work over to the Lord by setting an inspired baptismal goal and then working hard to follow the promptings of the Spirit to help them achieve them. One of the things I learned this last week was that Elder Sam’s father was baptized back home. He has been in and around the church for 45 years and it is only now that he has taken the step to enter the covenant path. There is no doubt in my mind that Elder Sam’s faithfulness as a missionary translated to softening his father’s heart to the point where he was ready to come to know for himself. Elder Sam is a Ghanaian from the Cape Coast area.

From the Nkawkaw 1 apartment, we drove up the mountain to Mpraeso. It is likely the highest elevation in the mission at 1565 feet above sea level compared to 825 feet where we are at here at the mission home.

After interviewing the four elders, we went out with Elder Lawson and Elder Kierstead to visit the family of a young man scheduled for baptism. We asked if we should drive, but they said it was only a 10 or 15 minute walk. Turned out it was a mile there and a mile back. It was good to get in a bit of exercise after all of the driving. On the way there, we came across some men loading a truck with some very wet (aka heavy) boards. Elder Kierstead immediately started helping them. Elder Lawson jumped right in as well. They got some dirt on their shirts, but I will tell you those men were impressed!

Elder Kierstead and Elder Lawson loading boards

When we got to the town/village, we walked over to the house of the young man the elders have been teaching in hopes of meeting his mom. The young man’s name is Dwamena. He is very spiritually mature for his young 13 years. It was he who approached the missionaries about wanting to come to “their” church. When we arrived at their home, his grandmother was out cooking and called him to come out of the house. He wasn’t feeling well so he was staying home from school. This gave us an opportunity to meet him. I suggested to the elders they should give him a priesthood blessing, so Elder Lawson reviewed what they had taught him about the priesthood and then explained priesthood blessings. It was a beautiful example of teaching a person rather than a lesson. By this time, the rain had began to fall very heavily so we decided to just wait it out. In the meantime, the elders read from the Book of Mormon with Dwamena.

We left Mpraeso at 2 pm and drove to Konongo where we interviewed the Sisters who serve in the Patriensa and Low Cost branches. The rain and the walk had put us about 30 minutes behind schedule but we managed to get there, do the interviews and leave by about 4:15 pm. The sisters apartment needs some work on the outside (already scheduled) but the inside is very nice. LaDawn stayed inside with the sisters while I interviewed each one of them outside under a “patio cover” of sorts. These are some terrific sister missionaries!

By the time we got back to Kumasi all of the traffic lights along the congested road near the University Stake Center were out. The traffic was horrific as cars continued to crowd in from side roads. With no lights and no traffic control it took us an extra hour to get home. We arrived about 6:30 pm and found that the exterminator was there and had just sprayed our kitchen. We had arranged to have that done in the early morning so that by the time we would arrive home it would be cleaned up, finished and the smell dissipated, but it wasn’t to be. The kitchen was a mess and the house was uninhabitable due to the volume of the insecticide that was sprayed (there were actually puddles on the floor). We decided to drive over to Aboude’s and buy some dinner. By the time we came back about an hour later it was all cleaned up. Fortunately, we had closed the two doors between the kitchen, our office, and our bedroom so we did not have to worry about the smell in our bedroom. We opened the kitchen window and closed the internal doors and by morning it was habitable.

Friday was our day in the Mission Office. We have a Mission Office Council every other week on Friday where we talk about schedules, travel, missionary apartments, member district building issues, mission office and mission home concerns and anything else that needs to be addressed by the people that keep the mission running. I spent most of the afternoon and into the late evening answering the 64 remaining missionary letters that I had received earlier in the week. While there is no expectation by the missionary department that a mission president respond to each one of these letters each week, I find joy in conversing one on one with each missionary through email. This last week I received 115 letters, that is 77% of the missionaries. I really desire to hear from everyone each week. It is still something we are working on.

On Saturday, we traveled to the Bantama Stake center and interviewed the 8 missionaries that work close enough to the Bantama building for it to make sense for them to come there for interviews. By the time I had finished interviewing the first two sisters, everyone else had arrived so we took a moment to capture this group picture when a member just happened to walk into the building at just the right time.

Sister Quartey, Elder Akpan, Sister Edigin, Elder Kwakoyo, Sister Kantono, Elder Mbuyi, Sister Quanor, Elder Degelbeck

On Sunday we left the Mission Home at 7:00 am and drove to Obuasi to attend the Obuasi 1st Branch and the Obuasi 4th branch and then to attend a baptism in Asonkore. We had a wonderful meeting in the First Branch. There were about 70 in attendance. The talks were well prepared and well delivered. I had an opportunity to talk for a few minutes about the importance of the temple and what it means to walk in a “newness of life” as described in Romans 6:4. While the First Branch meets in sacrament meeting, the Fourth Branch has their classes, and then they swap rooms and the Fourth Branch has Sacrament Meeting. We decided to stay for that as well. I am glad we did. There were only 35 people in the meeting, even though they have 216 on the rolls. I had a few minutes at the end of the meeting and I expressed a call for change. A call to rise up. A call to bring the branch back to life. I told them that if they were a patient in a hospital, they would be dying and on life support. I asked them each to go find one of those 181 members who were not in attendance and bring them to church next week. I asked those who were in attendance and over the age of 20 and not endowed, to make plans to get to the temple. I asked the branch president to meet with the 23 endowed members with expired temple recommends and invite them to get back to the temple. I had one of the counselors in the branch presidency translate my comments into Twi so that everyone would understand. I felt such a sense of urgency to ask the branch to arise and begin to grow again. There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord sent us to that branch today. I felt it the moment the meeting started and I feel it now.

After a quick temple recommend interview with Sister Rebecca, we were out the door driving the 15 minutes to the east to the Asonkore branch. We were originally planning on creating the Adansi Asokwa branch today (splitting it off of the Asonkore branch), but we didn’t have clarity on who the Lord would call as the new Branch President, so we decided to delay it until the end of November. We walked into the branch building just as the first of the three young men who had been baptized was being confirmed. We did manage to get a picture with Nicolas, Kofi and Daniel before they left. I asked Sister Freeman how they met these boys. They told me that at the District Conference back in August, they handed a Book of Mormon to the second oldest man in the Asonkore Branch (his name is Edmund Clifford Assan-Nyamekye) and asked him to give it to someone he thinks might be interested in reading it. He gave it to Nickolas and Nickolas then shared it with Kofi and Daniel. What a valiant member missionary this 84 year old man is! He is further proof that we are never too old to be a missionary!

Before we left for our missions, good friends of ours, Kraig & Maggie Loveland, gave us some money and asked us to find a way to use it to bless someone’s life. Kraig, you will be happy to know we have arranged to buy these boys white shirts and ties and we may also need to get them pants so that they can feel comfortable passing the sacrament.

LtoR – Sister Freeman, Daniel, Kofi, Nickolas, Sister Lenga

I then took the opportunity to interview Sister Freeman and Sister Lenga before heading to the Obuasi District Center where I interviewed and signed temple recommends for the District President and his wife. President Tabi had arranged to do a training for the District and Branch Leaders regarding the responsibilities of the Elders Quorum and Relief Society Presidents and how they can help support the Branch Presidents. I have to say I was more than pleased to see the turnout for the training. I simply stuck my head in, told them thank you for being so faithful and encouraged them to press forward so we can make Obuasi into a stake.

Leaders from the Obuasi District and associated branches

I took a quick picture and then LaDawn and I left and came back home so we could watch Brian and Kira’s kids in their sacrament meeting program via Zoom. For the closing song of the primary program, the youth joined the children and they sang “I will be what I believe“. If you haven’t heard it you might want to click on the link in the song title and watch the YouTube video. It is beautiful.

Another great week here in the Kumasi Mission! We love our missionaries. They are really responding to the call to be more obedient, more consecrated, more diligent and more like Jesus Christ. We feel honored to be working with them, Together in Ghana.

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