Though we had a good week with two more zone conferences and many missionary interviews, the closer to the end of the week we came, the more challenges we had to overcome. And while overall the week was good, we were happy to see Sunday morning roll around. Some weeks are just going to be tougher than others. The fact that this post is coming 5 days late is some indication of the type of week we had
We suspect that many of the challenges we faced were associated with three things: 1) A mid-transfer, transfer to accommodate missionaries who were to leave on the 28th December, but who we sent home earlier so they could be with their families at Christmas. 2) As Christmas draws near, there is more traffic on the roads and couple that with a visit of the President of Kumasi over the weekend for a political party convention and traffic became a nightmare. 3) The continued efforts of the Mission Leadership Council to become more diligent, obedient and focused on our purpose as missionaries.
On Monday night, we had a farewell dinner for Elder Carling. A fine young man who has been serving as an office elder and was previously a zone leader. He left on the 15th due to a blackout travel ban for missionaries beginning on the 16th. We then had Sister Mbedzi along with Elder Lekopa and Elder Lombahe, all three members of the Mission Leadership Council (Sister Training Leader and Zone Leaders) in for their farewell dinner on Thursday, the 16th with an expected departure to Accra on the 17th (also due to an African missionary travel ban starting on the 19th). As it turns out, a misplaced passport required a last minute trip by the office elders 2 hours to the north to retrieve it and the end result was they left for the airport at 2:20 pm and due to the heavy traffic, arrived 20 minutes after the cutoff time and ended up missing their flight to Accra.
This then necessitated our mission driver, Alex Cobbina to drive them to Accra on Saturday morning. Sister Mbedzi and Elder Lekopa were okay, because their flights out of Accra were for Saturday evening. But for Elder Lombahe, his travel got pushed back to Sunday evening. Lots of stress, phone calls and logistical juggling to make all of that work.
The travel back to Accra was complicated because our newest missionary, Elder Niando from Ivory Coast came in on Thursday the 16th. There was a giant political convention of the President’s party here at KNUST (Kwame Nkumrah University of Science and Technology). And that was the event behind many of our issues, because it snarled traffic beginning on Thursday. Because of the convention, all of the airline flights were completely booked and we could not get Elder Niando here until Saturday. That created all sorts of issues both for us and for him, so we sent Alex to pick him up from the airport in Accra on Thursday and bring him back early Friday morning. At the last minute on Friday morning, we received a call asking if Alex could bring another sister missionary home from the MTC… and me, thinking it would be no issue, simply said “Yes”. What I didn’t realize was that it would delay them 2 hours getting back to Kumasi because she was not prepared to leave at 6:30 am when Alex was scheduled to leave. I will live and learn to ask the right questions next time!
On Tuesday we had our zone conference with the Bantama and Asuoyeboa Zones. It was wonderful to be with the missionaries. We had some good fun as well.
Following the conference on Tuesday, I held 8 interviews for the Bibiani / Sefwi Elders and then we headed home.
Wednesday morning came quickly as we headed to the University Stake Center for the Dichemso, Konongo and University combined zone conference. We had about 80 missionaries and it is definitely more effort to hold a zone conference with three zones rather than just 1 or 2. But we loved being with them! We had a lot of fun with this huge group of missionaries as well, although it was a little more of challenge playing the games.
Perhaps the highlight of the talent presentations was Sister Edigin and Sister Apana reciting The Living Christ (mostly from memory) while a video played in the background. It was impressive by any standard and brought a wonderful spirit to the conference as we moved from the talents into the games. One other significant highlight was Elder Jones and Elder Lima singing a song and playing the guitar. It was beautiful. Elder Ison who serves as Elder Lima’s companion did a “studio” remake after the conference which I have shared on my Facebook account. The Song is amazing and the technical effort to film it, edit it and produce was equally impressive. So grateful for these elders and the joy they bring to all who watch it.
As a gift to all of the missionaries, we gave each of them two of our new vision stickers and a wooden, hand-carved fist holding an iron rod. This was to reinforce our discussion about Lehi’s vision and where we might find ourselves in that vision. Here is a picture of a large one we had made that is all sanded and polished. The ones we gave the missionaries, we sanded but not polished due to the additional cost. We do hope these mementos will be something they will cherish long after they leave the mission. We express appreciation to Rod and Melanie Hillam for giving us the idea. As we have mentioned before, they were our mentors coming into the mission, having served as Mission Leaders in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission from 2018 – 2021. The catch-phrase of the carving was attached to each one by LaDawn, “Love the Feel of the Steel”.
On Thursday, we drove down to Obuasi and did interviews with the elders and sisters who serve there. We really love Obuasi and find joy in the drive and beautiful surroundings of mountains. We also love the faithful, diligent missionaries who serve there. Unfortunately I forgot to snap pictures of each of the companionships. Elder Bangura and Elder Kluse, Elder Sorbley and Elder Ipantiar, Elder Green and Elder Lucero, Sister Bangura and Sister Yula all serve in Obuasi. Sister Freeman and Sister Lenga serve in Asonkore and Elder Kpornu and Elder Call along with Elder Brima and Elder Welch all serve in Dunkwa. We loved being with them!
Later in the evening after we returned we had a wonderful dinner with the departing missionaries as mentioned above. We took the opportunity to play “Preach My Gospel” jeopardy which is always a lot of fun.
On Friday, we drove to the Bantama Stake Center and interviewed the rest of the missionaries in the Bantama Zone. The drive usually takes us 20 minutes and in bad traffic it takes 30, but on Friday it took us almost a full hour. Traffic was simply crazy, again we associate it with the political convention and the President being in town.
Shortly after we arrived back at the Mission Office, Elder Niando and Alex Cobbina arrived from Accra. We didn’t have much time to do a full orientation, so I interviewed him and Elder Niando, Elder Frehner, Elder Walker, Elder Mutatshi, Sister Codjoe and Sister Walker were all on their way to Sunyani, again with Alex driving the mission van. We really kept him busy during the week with two trips to Accra and one to Sunyani – not to mention the other errands around Kumasi that he ran. With all of that driving, one of the brake pads had finished and so they had to stop on their way to Sunyani and replace it. That meant that arriving after it was dark. Not my favorite thing for them or for us.
On Saturday we attended the church wedding of Lazarus and Amelia. They are the couple that we visited back on the 29th of September with Elder Nsungi and Elder Akpan. Their nine year old daughter Treasure had been baptized already, but they had to get married first, and that took some effort given the traditions here. It was so wonderful to be with them on their special day and be able to be a witness to the event. They had a traditional marriage the previous week and so were able to be baptized on Wednesday of this same week. They were confirmed on Sunday, the day after their wedding.
After the wedding we traveled to Suame to interview the missionaries serving in that stake. I have learned that I can hear so much better if I sit outside rather than in an echo-y room inside the church. Plus a gentle breeze is always a bonus. On Saturday we visited with these wonderful missionaries highlighted below.
On the way back to Suame, Google Maps took us through Kejetia. This is the biggest market in Kumasi and getting through it was painful. Talk about traffic! But the real traffic wasn’t from the cars, although there were plenty of those. The greatest traffic issue was the hoards of people simply walking in the road where the cars should be going. This made the trip through that market extremely slow. LaDawn says that it is good that we did that one time for the experience. I am happy if we never do it again!
Once we got through Kejetia Market, we decided we would stop at Starbites and grab something to eat. Starbites is like the best discovery we have made since our arrival. I had fish and chips and LaDawn had a Chicken Salad. I also had a “chocolate milkshake”. I placed it in quotes because it was not like an American Shake, but I have to say, it was still very good and refreshing. It was a small glass, so to keep the calories in check I am guessing. 😂. In any case the food there is consistently excellent and we are happy to have our missionaries tell us about it.
On Sunday, we attended the Kokoben Ward sacrament meeting so that we could attend the confirmation of Lazarus and Amelia. After sacrament meeting, we drove the three elders serving in the ward down to the Nkoransa Ward. They are in a trio right now and are serving both units. Once again, the traffic between the two buildings was painful. The Nkoransa building is where our mission driver is the Bishop. The building is quite nice and I snapped a picture of their Sunday School class looking down from the top floor where Bishop Cobbina’s office is located.
We need to mention just one more thing. As our Mission Leadership Council continues to catch the vision of owning the culture of the “their” mission, they are identifying concerns that need to be addressed by us as mission leaders. We are grateful for their desire to make their mission into the greatest possible experience of their lives. This often requires difficult discussions with some missionaries and great effort by the young leaders to solve problems that never even reach us. We are so grateful for each one of them.
So that was our week. Looking back on it now it doesn’t seem quite as hectic and stressful as it did while we were in it. And that is the benefit of hindsight and perspective. We are grateful for the strength we draw from the prayers of our family and friends. We feel them and are grateful for them. We also are grateful from the strength we draw from the Atonement of Jesus Christ. While often we speak of the redeeming power of the Atonement, we bear witness to the Strengthening power of the Atonement as well. We also bear witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. We know He lives and are grateful to serve Him, Together in Ghana!