An Outward Token

While most of the Christian world understands the rainbow as a sign between God and Noah that “neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen 9:11), we have additional insight about this outward token from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible:

The view as we drove into Tamale on Thursday afternoon for zone conference and the semi-annual District Conference

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself. And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy; And the general assembly of the church of the firstborn shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch.

Speaking of the return of the City of Enoch, Moses 7:62-63 says, “And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other”

Of this scripture, Joseph Smith stated, “And now, I ask, how righteousness and truth are going to sweep the earth as with a flood? I will answer. Men and angels are to be co-workers in bringing to pass this great work, and Zion is to be prepared, even a new Jerusalem, for the elect that are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and to be established an holy city, for the tabernacle of the Lord shall be with them.”

And so it is, the work in which we are engaged is the working with angels to bring to pass this great work. Seeing the rainbow in Tamale as we entered was a nice reminder of the significance and greatness of the work in which we are engaged!

Monday we spent preparing for the rest of the week as we knew we would be gone until the following Monday morning with zone conferences in Sunyani and Tamale, a couple of nights at the Allred’s in Techiman and the Tamale District conference. Our preparation included time spent on final conference preparations (both zone and district) as well as some much needed shopping for meals along the way. Fast food as we know it in most of the western world does not exist in Ghana, so that means peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, nuts, granola bars, chocolate chip cookies (oh wait, we forgot to take the cookies). In any case by the time Tuesday morning rolled around we were up, prepared and on the road by 6:30 am.

Our plan was to be in Sunyani by 8:30 and start missionary interviews no later than 9:15. The problem we ran into was a detour that increased our travel time nearly a full hour. And that road from Mankranso to Tepa is just horrible. There are more pot holes on that road than there were gopher holes in our alfalfa field back home (and believe me, there were a lot!). For me it was frustrating because I am confident there was a shorter road that would take us back to the highway, but when we turned on the road that should have been that shorter road, all of the Tro-Tro drivers who were stopped along the road told us we couldn’t go that way. But there was not enough oncoming traffic on the road we ended up taking to convince me there wasn’t a better way. The traffic from Sunyani to Kumasi is not insignificant and it was clearly not on the road we were on. In any case, we finally made it Sunyani about 9:35 and started the interviews immediately. It is 78 miles to Sunyani and it took us 3 hours. That means we averaged 26 mph. Ugh. That was painful.

The long and winding, pot-hole filled road to Sunyani

We are really grateful for the excellent missionaries who are serving in Sunyani. We took a moment once everyone arrived to snap this selfie just outside of the chapel doors at the district center.

LtoR – Sister Akko, Sister Chanda, Elder Amoah, Sister Gurere, Elder Walker, Sister Opare, Elder Oduro, Elder Penrose, Elder Archibong and Elder Jant.

We finished up the interviews around noon and decided to head over to KFC for some lunch. Earlier I mentioned there is no fast food in our mission boundaries. And by that, I meant food that is fast. KFC is a nice treat, but they are not fast. Nevertheless we enjoyed he opportunity to eat out in what felt pretty close to an American restaurant.

KFC in Sunyani

Prior to walking over to KFC, we checked in the Eusbett Hotel. We have stayed there once before and thought we would try it again, but for the money we spent ($140) it wasn’t very good. It took the guy that showed us to our room three tries to find an unoccupied clean room. When he finally found one, there were no towels and the A/C was not working very well. They eventually brought us towels and the technician for the A/C showed up around 4 pm and added some gas to the condenser to cool things down. At 1:45 pm, we had a Zoom meeting with Elder Klebingat and Elder Mbuyi/Elder Degelbeck to talk about what it means to become a Finder of the Elect. Elder Klebingat was very interested in what it is that makes Elder Mbuyi so successful as a missionary. On Monday, I had written 5 pages to describe, as best I could, what it is that more and more of our missionaries are doing to have greater success in bringing people to the waters of baptism while experiencing less frustration and anxiety over people who do not keep commitments. Knowing we would not have enough time to go through all of the details that we are learning about this method, the write-up was an attempt to provide enough background for Elder Klebingat to ask the most important questions. We think we were successful in our efforts. Since that meeting, I have again updated the document (we are on version 4). If I were to give a short description of this all means, I would say it is the same method that Ammon employed in the Book of Mormon and it is based on faith in Jesus Christ and serving the people with no expectation of reward.

On Wednesday, we held our first zone conference for this transfer. Normally we start in Kumasi and then go to Sunyani and Tamale at the end. But because of the Tamale District conference, we needed to go North first and then come back to Kumasi the following week. We changed things around a bit just so we make sure we don’t get into a rut of doing the same thing every single time. We first celebrated the birthdays for October and November and then showed a very sobering safety video about the death of a young elder who accidentally touched an electrical line on the top of a roof where he was serving in Mexico. The electrical standards here in Ghana are very much akin to those in Mexico, to the video hit home with all of us.

Watching the Safety Zone Video on the hazards of electrical wires

The zone leaders and sister training leaders then led a discussion on the effective use of the Book of the Mormon. This is a topic that Elder Klebingat challenged our mission to improve upon. Sister Vandy, Sister Davies, Elder Musungo and Elder Ferry did a great job getting us thinking about ways we can more effective with this tool prepared especially for the Latter-day gathering of Israel.

LaDawn then led a masterful discussion on the principle of “Becoming”. One of my favorite quotes that she used is from Elder Bednar, “What do we need to learn to become who we need to become?” Following her remarks, I discussed how the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost interact and how learning to listen to and obey the Light of Christ will bring us into His presence. It is the lesson I have most desired to share with the missionaries since the day we received our call to preside in Kumasi. If we can learn to listen to and obey the still small voice, then our lives are simply better and happier and the people we love benefit from our goodness and kindness that is directed by the Light which comes from Jesus Christ.

At the end of the conference, we did a “Therefore, What” session, where every statement made by a missionary had to start with the words, “I will….” Below is the picture of the whiteboard just after a portion of the title was erased (saved in the nick of time!). Due to the time constraints we had to cut the session off, but it was clear that the missionaries heard the messages of the day.

After the conference we drove to Techiman where we stayed with the Allred’s. Sister Allred prepared a yummy dinner for which we were so grateful. We were pretty beat, so after answering some missionary emails, we went to bed a bit early. It was nice.

On Thursday morning, we started with interviews at 8:30 am (the sisters came 30 minutes late) and finished about 11:15 am. Four of the sisters left before we were able to snap this picture with the rest of the Techiman missionaries.

LtoR – Elder Adabayo, Sister Davies, Elder Mulambo, Sister Vandy, Elder Musungo, Elder Ferry

We then drove to Tamale where we enjoyed the Rainbow Welcome. We checked into our hotel (Ma’s Hotel) and then drove over to the zone leaders’ apartment where I interviewed the four elders from Bolgatanga. That way they would be able to return home the next day immediately after the conference.

On Thursday, we replicated the zone conference that we had in Sunyani and this time Elder Lombahe and Elder Barrowes led the discussion on the effective use of the Book of Mormon in our missionary work.

Elder Lombahe and Elder Barrowes

Following the zone conference we took a picture and then I interviewed the remaining 10 missionaries in the zone. These are valiant missionaries who love the Lord and are putting their wills on the altar to bring souls unto Christ. We are so very proud of each and every one of them!

Saturday morning saw us shift from zone conference mode to District Conference mode. President Edmund Obeng, my second counselor and I, met with the District President (President Gakpo), his First Counselor (President Martey) and his Executive Secretary (Nicholas Atanga) starting at 8:30. His Second Counselor, President Owusu was getting married that day and because of family obligations couldn’t change it (and we wouldn’t have wanted him to!). We discussed the progress on the 2021 Goals during the third quarter. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much progress. In the meeting the goal was to create a case for action that something different needed to change and then encourage the presidency to listen to the Spirit of the Lord during the conference to know the actions that need to be taken.

Joshua Biliki, a Family History Consultant speaks on how to get started on Family History

The adult session was held Saturday morning from 10:00 – 12:00 noon and the leadership session was held from 1:00 – 3:00. At both meetings we registered 35 adults in the chapel and 10 more were in Bolgatonga where the conference was being streamed over Zoom. Considering there are 530 adults in the District, 45 was a meager showing. The messages were good and the people that were attending were attentive and engaged. We saw this as a sign that there is a solid foundation here upon which we can build. My favorite quote of the day was spoken by Nicholas Atanga, a recently returned missionary and the new District Executive Secretary: “Talking is Cheap, and Work is Hard”. He spoke this at the end of a talk focused on how his mission has helped prepare him to lead a productive life. My comments were centered on Lehi’s Dream and where we see ourselves in the vision: Are we: 1) Lost in the mist?  2) Clinging to the rod, but ashamed? 3) In the great and spacious building mocking another? 4) Drowning in the fountain of filthy water? 5) Continually holding fast to the rod, kneeling at the tree?  I could see that these questions were resonating with those in attendance.

On Sunday we met at the Radach Hotel and Conference Center. It is a huge venue and could probably hold up to as many as 1,000 if Covid-19 protocols were not in place. It was far bigger than what we needed as only 119 members were in attendance in the hall with an additional 86 in Bolgatonga. The sound system was also very difficult to hear. We tried to adjust the microphone, but where we sat up on the stage the echo made it impossible to understand the speakers. I later learned that on a scale of 1-10, the streaming to Bolgatonga rated only a 2. We have more work to do.

I was greatly saddened by the difficultly in hearing the speakers as I was then unable to fully appreciate all of the excellent counsel that was offered. I am confident others had the same issue. By the time we got thorough the program to LaDawn and me there was only 10 minutes left. I can only blame myself for setting the schedule the way that I did, which would only work if all of the speakers held to their allotted time. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Nevertheless in the few minutes that I had, I invited the members in attendance to awake and arise. It was time to make something happen in Tamale! Of all the events that were happening in the city of 1,000,000 people, this conference was the most important, yet few paid it any heed. I also invited every member in attendance to find one of the members of the District who has not been attending church and invite them to come back. It was a difficult 8 minutes for me. Not because I didn’t have the words, but because the message was hard to deliver and hard to “hear”.

In our final meeting with the District Presidency, we talked about “Therefore, What?” similar to what we did at the zone conferences. We agreed to two main actions. 1) Each member of the District Presidency will visit 5 less active members each month with a member of the branch presidency or elder’s quorum presidency. While the focus will first be on those who are endowed or Melchizedek Priesthood holders, at least one visit should be to a prospective elder. 2) Two times per month, the members of the District Presidency will visit a branch and after the meetings stay for a branch council meeting. We also agreed that the District Clerk (Brother Bismarck) will make sure all of the branch clerks are fully trained by he end of the year. Additionally we discussed needing to do more publicity for the conference in the future. And with that, we prayed and LaDawn and I headed back to Techiman.

Prince Sarpong

In Techiman, we again stayed with the Allred’s and enjoyed a delicious meal of spaghetti. I was able to have a missionary interview with Prince Sarpong from the Krobo Branch. He is a fine young man and will make a good missionary. I was also scheduled to have an interview with Jessica Ampiah from the Dwumoh Branch, but she had to work that night. I spoke to her branch president and told him we had to leave early the next morning so would have to do the interview virtually, but unfortunately the word didn’t get to her and she showed up the next morning 90 minutes after we had left. I love the valiant testimonies of these future missionaries!

So this is what a week looks like being co-workers with angels as together we sweep the earth as with a flood as we gather Israel for the last time before our Savior returns. We have solemn and firm testimonies that this work we are engaged in is His work and we are so happy as we strive to be instruments in His hands, Together in Ghana.

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