In 1971 David Bowie released the song Changes. We are not David Bowie fans, nor do we subscribe to the messages of the song (mostly about moving away from the rock music revolution), but as we reflect on the week, the title and way it is sung seems to be reflective of the week.
The biggest change we had this past week was the passing of the torch from Elder and Sister Coombs to Elder and Sister Garrison. We are grateful for the tireless efforts that the Coombs’ put forth to help the mission succeed. Being an office couple is no small task, but they cheerfully dug in and really made things work for all of us. We will forever be grateful.
We are also grateful for the Garrison’s who wanted to come to Ghana originally, but when we were told by the Websters’ that they thought the Coombs’ would extend, we were unable to offer them an office position. Being that the Garrison’s were good friends with the Moomey’s really helped us out here. Within an hour of us knowing that the Coombs’ would go home the end of November, the Moomey’s provided me the Garrison’s contact information, I called and spoke with them and then they called the missionary department and said they would like to come to Kumasi, and then I called the missionary department and told them we would love to have them. Because their papers had already been submitted, a week later they had their call to come to our mission. We are very grateful for them and the training the Coombs’ provided so that the heartbeat of the mission could keep pumping without interruption.
We also sent a sister missionary home this week at the conclusion of her mission. Sister Margaret Chanda returned to her country of Zambia with honor. We are grateful for the contributions she has made to the people in the Ghana Kumasi Mission and wish her the very best in her future endeavors. There is nothing better than a full-time mission to prepare a young single adult to face the challenges of life.
While we will not say much about it, we also had additional changes with two missionary companionships who ran into difficulty communicating. Often this takes the form of misunderstandings due to the differing cultures of our missionaries. We currently have missionaries from 15 countries: Nigeria, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, America, Brazil, Malawi, Liberia, Uganda, South Africa, and Botswana. And just like a person from Georgia, USA has a different culture than someone from Idaho, USA, (Kelly and Susan you know who I am talking about) each of these countries have their own food preferences, their own language customs, and their own traditions. We are learning that sometimes these different cultures clash. One of the biggest responsibilities we feel to this widely diverse family of missionaries is to teach them that the Culture of Christ trumps all other cultures. It is often difficult, as few of these young single adults have ever been out of their home countries prior to coming here, so we labor with love and patience as we work to teach the important principles of kindness, empathy, and most importantly, listening to and supporting each other.
This week was filled with interviews. Tuesday we drove to Effiduasi to attend a district council and do interviews. Wednesday we drove to Nkawkaw, Juaso and Konongo. Thursday we were in Asuoyeboa. Friday we in the Mission Office and Saturday we were at the University Stake Center. All in all we spoke to 50 missionaries, so about 1/3 of the total (we are up to 162 young missionaries right now). The rest we will see over the next two weeks. I love these interviews. I ask each missionary to bring with them a memorized scripture from the Topical Guide under one of the 58 headings of Jesus Christ. They share their scripture with me and I share my memorized scripture with them. I am definitely the benefactor of this as I come to understand the scriptures I have learned at an incredibly deep level – this as a result of repeating it 162 times! The spirit continues to teach me new things each time I share it with a missionary. For this transfer, the my scripture is Alma 13:16.
Here are pictures from many (but not all) of the interviews we did this last week:
One other thing that occurred this week was the planning for our Christmas Zone Conferences. LaDawn, Sister Moomey and Sister Garrison huddled in the mission office on Friday afternoon and planned out some games and activities for the conferences over the next two weeks. Messages from us and the assistants will be on Lehi’s vision, the birth and life of Jesus Christ, and how to become even more effective finders and teachers of the elect. After we left the office we visited a new restaurant that one of the couples had discovered. It is called Starbites and the hamburgers there are absolutely the best we have eaten in Africa. It was such a nice find!
After interviews on Saturday, the Garrison’s hosted the Moomey’s and us for a delicious meal of taco salads / burrito bowls at their home. Chocolate cake and pistachio ice cream were included! It was a nice break from an otherwise busy week.
On Sunday, we traveled to Duayaw Nkwanta for church. It is a small branch about 30 minutes this side of Sunyani. It took us just under 2 hours to get there. We needed some help from the missionaries to find the chapel, as there is not yet a signboard on the main road. But once we received some directional help, we drove straight there. One of the big issues they have right now is that the water is not running from the town on a regular basis. This means that they had no water to flush toilets essentially closing down the washrooms. When we lease buildings here, if the party we are negotiating with discovers it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wanting the building, they will either increase the price, or sometimes even refuse to rent the building. Because of the number of Christian denominations that are here in Ghana (and there are a LOT), many of these churches preach against the Latter-day Saints. The more congregants they have, the more money they collect, and make no mistake that these churches are here to make money. Because we have an active missionary program, they are always worried that their members will defect, so they preach against us. Back to the branch in Duayaw Nkwanta. The Landlady is not happy that we are there, and she continues to make life difficult for the branch president and the Facilities Management Group. We have the building for another 18 months, so there is not much she can do. Her Sister is a regular church attender, but does not want to be taught. It is a curious situation.
In any case, when the meeting started at 9:00 am, there were only 7 members plus LaDawn and me and our two elders. By the time church was over, there were close to 20, with 7 of them being investigators. The branch has suffered for a number of reasons over the last little while. Recently a new Branch President was called, President Albert Damtse, and he is working hard to improve things quickly. Because it was fast and testimony meeting, both LaDawn and I had a chance to bear our testimonies. Every member took the opportunity and several non-members as well. It was really a good meeting. During the second hour, since it was all in Twi, I took the opportunity to have interviews with Elder Kanyinda and Elder Adu.
After Church, we took a picture with three of the investigators: Cecilia, Helena, and Rachel. Cecilia is the cousin of Helena and Rachel is Helena’s classmate at the Nursing Midwifery School in Techiman. Very impressive women. I took Helena’s contact information and have given it to the Zone Leaders in Techiman to get in contact with her and Rachel. Elder Adu and Elder Kanyinda will teach Cecilia.
We returned home to Kumasi around 1:20 pm, as Google Maps took us on a new road we had not discovered before. “New” would be the wrong word, “different” may be better. It was a dirt road about half of the way, but it did allow us to avoid the Abuakwa Area which is always a 1 hour delay. So maybe we got lucky or just maybe we have discovered a new route to Sunyani – permanently.
At 3:00 pm we had a missionary coordination meeting with President Sosu, who is the Suame Stake President. Getting to his stake center is at least an hour for us, so we decided to meet over Zoom along with Elder Toe and Elder Sunday, the zone leaders. It was a very good meeting and we all felt like we had accomplished much by coordinating together how to move the work forward in the Suame Stake.
I will add one last picture for the week, even though it was taken today (Monday). We did some shopping at Palace. This is a store that carries really good fresh ground hamburger meat, along with a number of American branded foods. We will be going to Sunyani tomorrow and then on to Techiman where the Allred’s stay. They don’t have nearly as good as selections as we do here, so we were doing some shopping for them. While Christmas is not apparent everywhere, at Palace they have done some decorating. I couldn’t help but stop and snap this picture with this jolly Santa Clause just outside the store. Tis the Season to be jolly!
One thing about being Mission Leaders, we are constantly faced with change. Missionaries come and missionaries go. Church leaders change. Sometimes the direction and counsel we receive – and give – needs to change as circumstances, laws and expectations evolve. There are changes which we cannot control, but something we can control is the degree of change that occurs in us. Not just in LaDawn and me, although that is certainly one of our foci, but also in the missionaries. We work diligently to teach them life skills and to find ways to help them understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a deeper more personal way. We are grateful to be called to serve, Together in Ghana.