On Sunday we attended the new Kwanwoma Group. This is a group that was started with the help of Elder Yancey and Elder Binene a few months back. It is part of the University Stake where Prosper Mensah is the most amazing Stake President in all of Ghana (perhaps the world!). Generally we would travel to a district branch for Sunday meetings, but today because of our flight to Accra this afternoon for the Mission Leader Seminar with the Area Presidency and Elder Christopherson, we decided to stay local and visit this new unit of the Church. It is currently attached to the Daban Ward, where Bishop Boacye presides. In fact, Bishop Boacye was there today presiding at the sacrament service and short Sunday School lesson. It was a wonderful version of a 1 hour church meeting.
After the meeting, we took a few pictures and had an opportunity to meet 1:1 with those in attendance. Sister Konadu is the spark. I have mentioned her before, comparing her to Sister Messie in Tongo in Sierra Leone. She is dynamic and invites everyone she knows to “come and see”. Of special note was a young woman by the name of Stephanie. We would guess she is in her early 20’s. Two years ago, a friend in the Bantama stake told her about the church and when she moved to Kwanwoma she was looking for the missionaries, but for two years she could not find them. Then one day, Elder Morgan and Elder Binene were in the area and were walking and saw her pounding fufu. They were on their way over to help here when she saw them and said with excitement, “I have been looking for you!” This is a young woman of promise. Her eyes are filled with light and virtue.
Moving back to the start of the week, we will again talk about transfers. This one was even larger than the last one in terms of changes in missionaries and it made for a monster week. We had 8 missionaries go home and 21 missionaries arrive at three different times (always makes life interesting). We had 9 sisters and 8 American elders come directly from the Ghana MTC on Tuesday at 1:30 pm. We had 3 more elders from DR Congo arrive close to 4:00 pm and then Elder Crane, came from home MTC in Utah on Thursday night around 8:00 pm.
However, before talking about the new missionaries coming in, we want to just take a moment and talk about the 8 that left. All 5 of the elders had served as zone leaders (Elder Rasmussen, Elder Binene, Elder Mbuyi, Elder Magaia and Elder Faustin) and in addition, Elder Binene had been my Assistant. Sister Davies was a Sister Training Leader and Sister Banda was perhaps the best sister trainer in the entire mission. Sister Osholowu showed her talents when we played Preach My Gospel Jeopardy. She was amazing at the answers. It didn’t surprise me at all when she said she wanted to go back home and become a computer scientist!
Okay, now back to the arriving missionaries. We have been implementing an idea given to us by Elder Klebingat of the Area Presidency. After we have loaded the luggage into the trucks, I call all of the missionaries together and speak to them before we leave the airport. The speech goes something like this: “We are about 30-40 minutes away from the Mission Office. As we travel, I would like each of you to reflect on whether there is anything in your life that needs to be resolved with a priesthood leader but has not been. I invite you to offer a silent prayer to Heavenly Father and ask Him if there is anything you need to discuss with your mission president that has been nagging at you. Once you get in the field, if you have not completely repented of everything in your past, the Spirit will be relentless in telling you to talk to me.”
Here is a picture of that meeting with the first group on Tuesday that came in from the MTC. Every single time I have done this, it has paid dividends for the missionary. This time was no exception.
When we get new missionaries in, we have a series of events that we involve them in. The first is the filling out of paperwork that we need as they start their service in Ghana. I also interview each one of them. Doing that with 20 missionaries in a short time frame is no small feat, especially since some of them do need a bit more time to discuss some unresolved matters. I generally try to do as many as possible the first day, but they often spill into the second day. We provide an orientation to the mission, including the Vision for the mission, how to stay healthy and how to use their mission subsistence cards. Following the orientation, Hannah, our mission housekeeper and cook, prepares a delicious meal for the new missionaries. Following dinner, we spend another 75-90 minutes talking about keys and bananas (aka, exact obedience and integrity of heart). The next morning, we bring in their trainers and train them while the new missionaries do a “companionship study” with the Assistants. Following that, we do a matching meeting, where we gather the trainers and the new missionaries into the living room area of the mission office and bring them together as trainer and trainee. Here is a short video clip of that meeting.
Following the matching, we take pictures of each missionary, both alone for the transfer board, and together with their companion and then with Sister Kunz and me (for their family). We then take a group picture and we are on our way over to the Bantama Stake Center where all of the transferring missionaries meet their new companions and head off to their new areas. It is a thrilling, rewarding and exhausting few days. We love the energy of the new missionaries and we love the desire of their trainers to do the very best they can do to help these new missionaries get a solid start. The three missionaries from DR Congo arrived late (here is a shout-out to the Office Elders (Elder Carling and Elder Mubu) who picked them up at the airport and brought them to the Mission Office) and because their English Language Skills are still developing, Elder Binene who was going home the next day helped us to translate the key messages for them. We will miss Elder BInene in many ways, and this is just one more reason.
After finishing the training, we transported 24+ missionaries over to the Bantama Stake Center which was no small task. We used every available vehicle to get everyone there. Getting them all into public transportation and back to their areas was even a larger task. It took a couple of hours to get it all sorted, but eventually everyone ended up where they needed to be. The four sisters going to Tamale (Sister Gurure, Sister Damsa, Sister Opa, and Sister Musa) stayed in the bunkhouse at the mission home on Wednesday evening and then left the next morning around 8:120 am with Elder Griffen who was going to Bolgatanga and our mission driver, Bishop Alex Cobbina.
Wednesday evening, following the transfers, I had my bi-weekly presidency meeting with President Tabi, President Obeng and our Mission Clerk, Eugene Ghorman. I know I say it frequently, but these men are such a blessing to the mission – and to me.
On Thursday morning, we again did a Zoom call with all of the new leaders (District, Zone, and Sister Training Leaders). We continue to improve and revise it to be more succinct and applicable. Of special note, we had a wonderful discussion this time on how leaders can deal with contention among missionaries and how to deal with the pressure of being a new leader called to lead missionaries who yesterday were peers. We want to do more of these in-depth discussions in the future as we were all edified.
In the afternoon, Elder Crane arrived. Because he received his Covid Vaccine so late, he had not completed the 2 week waiting period after the second shot to be able to attend the MTC, so he had do home MTC. Everything that we did for the other 20, we did for the 1. There are obviously fewer questions, but the need to make sure every new missionary has as much of the same experience as possible is our goal. On Friday afternoon, Elder Webster (his trainer) and Elder Kunzler (they are in a trio for two weeks waiting for another new missionary who will come from Ivory Coast) came and picked up Elder Crane and headed back to their area.
And that is what this transfer week looked like.
After arriving home from Kwanwoma on Sunday, we ate the rest of the delicious tacos LaDawn made for dinner on Thursday and then at 1:30 pm, the Garrison’s were kind enough to come pick us up and take us to the airport for our trip to Accra. We arrived at the airport around 5:00 pm and made it to the hotel about 5:45 pm (we had not been put on the pickup list, so there was some scrambling while we waited). We had a lovely meal at the hotel and are now preparing for an amazing spiritual feast over the next few days.
The gratitude we feel to be Together in Ghana doing this most important work is boundless. We continue to have great experiences as we strive to teach the missionaries the depth and breadth of this work in which they are engaged. There are plenty of bumps in the road and we are learning how to Face the Savior in a way that will bless and lift the missionaries as well as maintain the accountability we feel to Him. This is indeed His work and we find great joy in the labor.