There is only one word to describe this week and it is LIGHT. Two significant events encompassed most of the week with a few other less significant, but still very important events filling the rest. The first event was the mission leader seminar in Accra with all of the mission leaders in the Africa West Area and, the second was the kickoff for “Light the World” in Ghana, held here in Kumasi.
On Sunday afternoon we flew to Accra and were eventually picked up and transported to the Movenpick Hotel. Definitely the best hotel in Accra. We were somehow left off of the transportation list, so we had to call someone to come and get us, but it was a nice evening and we enjoyed peaceful time outside of the airport.
The seminar was Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It was wonderful. All of the mission leaders from the Africa West Area were in attendance and the Area Presidency had prepared well to deliver a feast of LIght. On Monday afternoon, we had a special treat as Elder and Sister Christopherson and Elder Palmer joined us via video. Initially there were going to be face to face, but something changed and it turned out being by video, but it was still wonderful. Here are the session themes:
- What would the Savior Have Me do?
- Finding, Teaching and Baptizing the Elect.
- Raising the Bar – Worthy to be trusted of the Lord
- Raising Mission Performance by Aligning Key Indicators
- Strengthening the Financial Integrity and Effectiveness of Member District Leaders
- Six Characteristics of High-Performing Missions
- Building leadership Capability that will Lead the Church
- Preparing Missionaries to Teach as the Savior Taught
- Aligning Keys with Priesthood leaders to Establish the Church
I will mention only two of the sessions. The first was the meeting with Elder Christopherson. The very first question asked was “What have you done throughout your life to cultivate your faith and relationship to Jesus Christ?” His answer was a great treatise on developing and growing our faith. Here are the highlights of what he taught us:
He started by simply stating that we cannot have faith in things that are not true and quoted Alma 32:21. “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Therefore, we can only have faith in those things that the spirit has confirmed to us are true. He quoted Romans 10:14 which speaks a bit about our role as missionaries, but also our role as a learner, recognizing the importance of prophets and apostles, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Elder Christopherson went on to explain that Alma 33:22 defines the “word” that is to be planted and nourished with our faith which all centers around Jesus Christ as the Redeemer and our Savior. “If so, wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works (Alma 33:22).” He continued by saying that faith grows into knowledge which leads to greater faith which leads to greater knowledge. He wanted us to know that we can influence our endowment of faith through prayer as described in Alma 34. We especially liked this quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Faith is the reward for obedience. He also discussed the importance of our temple covenants by saying we can have a greater faith because we have God’s promise to us specifically through our temple covenants. He said that gratitude and sacrifice extends our faith even though we don’t fully understand how they do it. He made a statement on how important obeying the law of tithes and offerings was especially as it tends to develop faith faster than any other thing. He linked that statement to Doctrine & Covenants 138:12-13 “And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name.” He quoted Mosiah 15:7 about the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father and said when we submit our will to the Father, it is then that our faith really grows because faith comes by the word, receiving it and having the confirmation of the spirit. He ended by saying that we have some control in the amount of faith that we have based on what we do with our life. But it was obvious in the statement that what he meant is that we have a LOT of control as to how much faith we have based on the choices we make in this life. While I think I did a good job of taking notes, it is much more difficult to describe the power by which he said these things. It was just such a natural teaching moment and he just kept adding scripture after scripture that had personal meaning to him. It was marvelous!
The second session I will mention is the one by Elder Martinez on the Six Characteristics of Highly Performing Missions. These 6 characteristics are the official learnings endorsed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles relating to effectively using Technology discovered during the difficult times associated with Covid lockdowns.
- Emphasize the missionary purpose and maintain structure to daily missionary activities.
- Use technology to provide frequent short training and best practices
- Use technology to effectively use social media. Emphasize the Edify lessons to train missionaries on how to effectively use social media.
- Work more with members to integrate social media finding efforts.
- Make the Safeguards for Using Technology part of the mission culture
- Use both traditional and modern technological missionary approaches.
Within each of the these 6 headings, Elder Martinez presented additional sub-bullets on actions we should consider implementing. Every single item presented was based on experience and successes around the suggestions. And yet, but the time Elder Martinez finished, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of the things we are not doing relative to Technology. Even though we have started with paid Facebook ads, have identified and trained a zone leader companionship to be our Digital Finding and Teaching experts, trained our office elders in handling of referrals, and have everyone with a Facebook account trained on the Safeguards, we are a long ways from having any of these things working very well. In addition, we have areas where the internet is extremely poor, making the use of technology even more challenging. It has been difficult to reconcile in our own minds how much emphasis to place on these new methods, when here in Ghana we have very few Covid restrictions and the traditional means of finding the elect work extremely well. So it was with that conundrum and some heaviness of heart that we ended the day. And then everything immediately got better. The Area Presidency had arranged for the mission leaders to attend one of two temple sessions, 3:30 and 4:30. We were assigned to the 4:30 pm session with 6 other mission leader couples. It was glorious and the light burst forth as we soaked in the radiant spirit that accompanies a temple endowment session. Near the end, all 14 of us stood together in the prayer circle (we were the only ones in the session) and it was if the roof was rolled back and the sun shined a radiant beam of light upon those of us in that circle. We are at a loss for describing the feeling and the power of the men and women in that circle. It was a magnificent moment and clearly the highest of the highest highlights of the week. How grateful we are for our temple covenants! At the Sunday morning General Conference session, President Nelson said that after the renovations on the Salt Lake Temple are completed, there will be no safer place to be in the Salt Lake Valley than in that temple. He then made this profound promise, “Likewise, whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants!” This last week we felt the power of our temple covenants in a profound way and stand as additional witnesses that President Nelson’s statement is true.
On Thursday morning we caught a flight back to Kumasi and were met at the airport by Elder and Sister Moomey. And this brings us to the second significant event of the week. This year, the kickoff for the Church’s “Light the World” campaign was held here in Kumasi on Saturday, November 27th. In preparation for that event, we were asked to provide 20 missionaries to the Dichemso Stake Stake Center at 9:00 am on Thursday (Thanksgiving), to prepare 350 bags of foodstuffs for those in need. We were also invited to identify 40 families in the Kumasi area that the missionaries knew who are in need and could benefit from this food. Now there are so many more than 40 who need the help, but we were grateful to be a small part of this miracle and be able to at least bless some of the people we work with. So when the Moomey’s picked us up were were able to travel over to the Dichemso Stake Center and witness first hand the work the missionaries were doing. It was quite amazing to see the effort, teamwork and spirit of camaraderie among the sisters and elders as they unloaded the truck and began to assemble these bags. It was a lot of work, going from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm. These missionaries were warriors! We were so proud of them and we are pretty sure many of the sisters were able to outwork the elders. We think there were some sore muscles the next day.
On Saturday, the actual event was held at Jubilee Park. It is more of a car park than a traditional park. It was all cement with a small pavilion, perfect for the setting. Church Communications from Accra who did the leg work to get it all organized did a great job. Elder and Sister Kacher from the Area Presidency attended the event and spoke along with a number of other dignitaries from Kumasi. The majority of people who were to receive the bags were also in attendance. We had been asked to invite the 40 families nominated by the missionaries, but most had no means to be able to come to the event, so Elder Moomey accepted the assignment to work with the missionaries to get the bags delivered. It was quite the effort and we are grateful for his willingness to organize and oversee the work. Each of these bags weighed around 50 pounds, and it was quite impressive to see many of these women put these heavy bags on their heads and walk away.
There was a traditional drumming group who were there along with a dancer or two doing some really great Ashante drumming and dancing. Sister Garrison, our new office secretary was invited out to dance and then Sister Kacher did the same. While we did not capture them in video, we do have a short video of the “professional” dancing woman. We also have a short video of Sister Kacher playing the drums with the group. All in all in was a great day. People who were receiving help were so very grateful and the community as a whole were very appreciative. I am thankful that we belong to a Church that cares so much about the individual, regardless of race, color, social status, education level, or gender. All are children of God and all are deserving of love and attention.
As a side note, lifting these bags over and over and helping people put them on their heads (women) or shoulders (men) was a good workout. I have to say that I do enjoy some good physical labor from time to time!
The theme for the Light the World campaign is “Light the World with Love“. There could be nothing more important than helping the people around us feel the love that God has for them.
After thinking through these two major events, we have wondered how we possibly managed to fit in the rest of the week. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Elder and Sister Moomey and Elder and Sister Garrison on Thursday. It was nice to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Mission Leader life and just spend some time with good friends and good food and express gratitude for our many abundant blessings. We even played a game of 5 crowns and then a game of Farkle after dinner. I managed to lose both games by the widest of margins. Isn’t that what a good host is supposed to do (even if it wasn’t his intent)?
On Friday we held our Mission Leadership Council. Such a great group of missionaries. We love them so much and are grateful for their desire to serve and be examples across the mission of leading, teaching and loving the way the Savior does. A highlight was instruction by the Assistants who spoke about Finding the Elect and three very important points. 1) Love to Charity. 2) Knowing the Profile of the Elect and 3) Teaching the Elect. They spent 90 minutes on this and we could have used another 30 minutes. The good news is they will be attending our upcoming zone conferences and sharing a more condensed version of the same instruction.
In addition to the instruction by the Assistants, we talked about our key indicators, how to stay unified as a Mission Leadership Council, how we should be using Facebook to find new people, making sure our baptismal records are submitted, and our newly agreed upon Mission Vision Sticker. Here is the final version.
As a way to review what we talked about and agreed to as a council, we held a discussion on what the perfect exchange looks like. We have done this before, but it was more generic. This time it was about how will we bring the items we discussed in the MLC that day into our exchanges. That is the primary source of teaching and training that our Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders do. We were all so edified by the meeting and grateful for the contributions of everyone who helped make it successful.
The one other major activity this week was a Coordinating Council Meeting Saturday morning with the Stake Presidents (Pres Oppong, Pres Mensah, Pres Sosu, Pres Appiah and Pres Obeng) and Elder Patrick Appianti, our Area Authority Seventy. That meeting went from 8 am to 12:00 noon and covered a number of topics. At the end of the day, Elder Appianti asked us all to focus on three things (even I can remember three things!): Improved 1:1 ministering, Making sure our presidencies (Elders Quorum, Relief Society, Branch Presidencies and all other organizational presidencies) have specific assignments identified for each member of the presidency, and making sure we know the key indicators for conversion and growth for our units and that we are using them in teaching and training.
With having been gone for half of the week to Accra for the Mission Leader Seminar, we are a bit behind on missionary interviews. LaDawn spent quite a bit of time Saturday evening putting together our interview schedule for the next few weeks. We are now up to 163 missionaries, so it will be a big effort to get them all done before Christmas. I am so grateful for the effort she makes to get all of this scheduled so we can plan out our weeks.
And I almost forgot to mention the creation of the new Adansi Asokwa Branch from the Asonkore Branch in the Obuasi District. We have been waiting to get a building procured and habitable, but it doesn’t look like it is going to happen anytime soon, and since we only have 90 days after approval to create the branch, we needed to get it done.
After the sacrament meeting, President Tabi (first counselor), President Agyare (District President) and I met with the new branch presidencies and set them apart and gave them some brief counsel: 1) weekly presidency meetings, 2) branch council meetings at least 2 times a month and 3) Regular ministering interviews with the Elders Quorum and Relief Society Presidents. We talked about the work of salvation (Live the gospel, Care for the Poor and Needy, Invite all to Come unto Christ, and Unify families) and how their leadership meetings should focus on these four areas.
Following the meetings at Asonkore, we drove back to the District Center to meet with the District Presidency. The new Asonkore Branch president (President Felix Nii Lantey Lawson) had just been released from the District Presidency to serve as the Branch President) and Pres Amankwa had just been called. We wanted to take 1 hour and do some training while we were there since President Agyare now had a new counselor. As we left Asonkore to drive back to the District Center, we found the road completely blocked by a large truck that had turned over and completed stopped all traffic. I rolled down my window and asked a man if there was another road, and he said yes. He then offered to ride with us and show us the way. We said, “Sure, hop in!” After he showed us the road where we needed to turn, I was thinking maybe I should let him out, and then it occurred to me, we had a kind man in the backseat who was willing to show us the road and we could talk about the gospel! I mean we are missionaries after all. The man’s name is Francis. He lives in Obuasi and drives a taxi. Has three children and a wife, although he indicated he never really finalized the marriage because he couldn’t afford the bride price. His english was excellent and he told us he didn’t go to church anymore because to him they were only running a business. We talked a bit about the Atonement of Christ, the need for a restoration of truth and the fact that our church was right near where he lived. He said, “If you can give me the name and number of Ghanaian member of your church, I will call him and look into your church some more.” So we gave him President Tabi’s contact information and later discovered that he had called President Tabi before we had even arrived at the District Center. He also lives very near where the Tabi’s live. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The man said he had been praying to know what God would have him do.
After arriving back home, we watched an Area Wide Devotional with Elder and Sister Kacher (they were everywhere this week!) and then listened to a special musical number by 6 of our grandchildren who sang in Brian and Kira’s ward sacrament meeting. It was so awesome!
So that was the week. So much LIGHT was brought into our lives as we served, were served by others, called others to serve, and rejoiced with those who are just now learning how to serve. What an incredible and fulfilling opportunity we have to Light the World with Love, Together in Ghana.