The highlight of this week was definitely our Mission Leadership Council (MLC) that we held on December 22-23, 2021. We had executed the mid-transfer transfer the previous week so that we would have our new leaders in place for the event we held on the 22nd and 23rd. It took significant planning, but all in all, things worked well and accomplished the purposes for which it was established.
Our desire was to take the 26 members of the MLC plus Elder and Sister Moomey on a doable, but difficult hike. With the help of President Tabi, the first counselor in the mission presidency, we managed to find a place that fit our expectations perfectly. The location was in Obuasi and it took us about 90 minutes to get there from the Mission Office. We owe a big debt of gratitude to President Samuel Appiah, the Stake President in Bantama Stake who owns a tour business and arranged the bus for us. He even drove his own car to the mission office at 6:00 a.m. to show the driver where to pick us up. Now that is going above and beyond the call of duty!
We had the members of the MLC come into the Mission Office on Wednesday evening. The Elders stayed at the Office and we took the 8 Sister Training Leaders to the Mission home to stay in our “Sisters’ Bunkhouse”. We held a “mini-MLC” after dinner from about 7:00-9:00 pm where the Assistants laid a foundation for the next day by showing a video of Elder Holland’s June 2000 talk at the missionary training center. We only watched the last 10 minutes and included in it was a preface and conclusion by President Eyring. You can watch it here. It talks about the Savior’s life and hardships and His ultimate victory over death. It reminded each of us, that with Christ, we can accomplish all things.
We also spent some time going over the November mission statistics. Our biggest concern is that the number of investigators attending sacrament meeting has reduced significantly. We know this is connected to our efforts to find only those the Lord has prepared for us and helping the missionaries make the transition to loving, serving, teaching and baptizing the elect. Because we have complete zones that know how to be successful using this method, we know we can easily double the number of convert baptisms in the mission, but it is taking a lot of effort to bring the entire mission to thinking this way. We shalt not falter in our efforts!
On Thursday morning, everyone was up by 5:00 am and on the bus headed to Obuasi by 6:15 am. The dust and smoke in the air was thick, even so much that the sun had a hard time doing much more than casting an eerie pinkish-yellow glow on everything around us. We met President Tabi at the District Center in Obuasi and then drove the additional 15 minutes to our starting point on our hike. Being on the mountain by 8:00 am was our goal and we were grateful as the morning was still cool, something that would not last the entire morning. I think we were all surprised at the steepness of the ascent, especially at the beginning and then right before we hit the final summit. It was like climbing 12 flights of stairs just to get started. The higher we got, the thicker and higher the grass became. From a distance it just looks like a rolling hill, but when viewed up close it is easy to see just how tough a climb it really was. We knew there were three separate “peaks” that we could choose from and we could make the decision to go higher at the cresting of each knoll. After the first peak, we all knew we would go to the second. At the second peak, it looked like an easy decision, but proved tougher than we thought, although in the end, we all made it.
Top left, final ascent to the third peak. Top middle, starting from a petrol station. Bottom middle, Elder Moomey and me bringing up the rear. Top right, descent from the very top. Bottom left, descent from the top looking to the second peak and further down to the first peak. Bottom right, final descent back to ground zero. Most of the missionaries waiting for us sitting next to the yellow building.
Once we got to the very top, we realized the grass and trees were so thick we could not see back down, but it made a nice secluded place for us to have a wonderful discussion and some quiet spiritual time. We first discussed the metaphors and symbols that the missionaries reflected on as we made the climb. We talked about how we helped each other, how there were some easy spots and some difficult spots and how that is often much like a mission. We talked about the view, the haze in the air that we could now clearly see but was not obvious before and the perspective of climbing higher and seeing things we could not previously see. There were many inspiring thoughts that set the perfect stage for what came next.
As the Lord prepared to bring the Children of Israel into the promised land, the final leg of their journey required them to cross the flooded Jordan river into the promised land as recorded in Joshua chapters 3 and 4. After the crossing, the Lord told Joshua, ‘take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.” (Joshua 4:2-3). So Joshua did as the Lord commanded and in verses 6-7 explained the reason fo the stones. “That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye be these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.” With 8 sets of zone leaders and 4 sister training leaders realized we too had 12 “tribes”. So we asked each companionship to go out and find a stone and bring it back. The Assistants then built a “tower” which became our memorial, that as a Mission Leadership Council we were crossing our own “Jordan”. The tower became our symbol that we were moving into the promised land of obedience, diligence and miracles and leaving our own “wilderness” behind. Over the last 6 months, the mission has slowly been coming out of Covid, each of us committing to be just a little bit better in fulfilling our purpose as missionaries, and we are now ready to move to the next level as consecrated and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. It was a powerful and meaningful experience for us all.
On our way back down, we stopped and took a picture looking back up at the mount we had just descended. Somehow the picture just doesn’t show how steep and difficult the climb up and back down actually was. We had everyone find a stone that they could take back down with them as their own reminder of the experience and to hold it up as we took a picture from the second mount looking back down over the valley below. How we love these valiant, capable and consecrated leaders!
Before going to bed on Wednesday night, we had found a picture of stones on the internet, put the verse of scripture over the top of it and sent it to Sister Garrison to copy and laminate for each member of the MLC upon our return. But as we were on top of the mountain with our own tower, we decided to snap a picture and send it to her and ask her to memorialize our own stone tower. She did a terrific job with that and we were able to give each missionary their own copy. The Garrison’s also purchased ice cream bars for everyone so that on our return it was small victory celebration of the day.
We stopped at the District Center in Obuasi and had a nice lunch that was prepared by a local member. We had a little trouble with the timeliness of its delivery, but again, thanks to President Tabi, the food arrived and we made our way back to the Mission Office. The bus was pretty quiet all the way home as the physical exertions of the day caught up with all of us.
The other significant event of the week was the Kumasi Coordinating Council FSY held at the Kwame Nkumrah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). There were over 1000 youth in attendance. It was a massive undertaking and turned out to be a terrific experience for the youth. President Tabi and had been asked to work together to conduct a 40 minute session four different times on the topic of preparing to serve missions. The night before the event, President Tabi was asked to fill in for another speaker who couldn’t make it. Doing 4, 40 minute sessions is a lot, especially with a large crowd, so I was worried when I knew we would each be on our own. Fortunately, I threw our portable PA system into the car and after trying to speak to 300 youth in a hall with no amplification, for the next three sessions I had the help of a microphone, for which I was so grateful. My voice would not have made it! I spoke about three things, Obedience, Knowledge, Sacrifice and how the exercise of these three principles will prepare them to be powerful missionaries. Obedience is all about placing our will upon the altar of God. Knowledge is about knowing the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. Sacrifice is about letting go of the me me me generational thinking and looking outward to others instead of inward to Facebook selfies and accumulated “likes”.
We finished about 4:30 pm and made our way back to the Mission Office, where President Tabi had parked his car that morning so we could travel over together. It was a good day, but we were both worn out from the experience. But a day in the service of others is better than any other day in my view!
A few other comments about the week. On Monday we went to a Kente village about an hour away in a place called Bonwire which is near Effiduase. We loved the brightly woven fabrics and enjoyed watching them do some miraculous handwork in very little time. We purchased a few fabrics to make some ties and temple bag and enjoyed the day together with the Moomey’s who were kind enough to go with us.
Perhaps the highlight of the day, was meeting this 90 year old woman who was simply standing between buildings. She did not speak a word of English. LaDawn waved at the woman as she walked by and then Sister Moomey stopped and said hello, and then I stopped and snapped a picture with her permission. She is probably the most stunning 90 year woman we have ever met. LaDawn then stopped a passerby and asked him to ask her what her name was and how old she was. The name was not familiar, so we didn’t remember it, but her age is hard to forget. This woman embodies the spirit of the Ghanian people. Kind, friendly and humble. Her picture and the symbol of strength she embodies is not something we will soon forget.
On Christmas eve, the Moomey’s invited the Garrison’s and us over for dinner. It was delicious. On Saturday, (Christmas day) we again got together, this time with Tom and Becky Rogers and their three kids who are still here along with Donny who lives with them and was sort of adopted by the Cosgrave’s who were the mission leaders prior to the Websters. It was a wonderful evening of food, conversation and laughter. The Roger’s have literacy centers and a family restoration center that they run here as a non-profit to help the people. They are selfless, kind and generous people. We are grateful to know them and were blessed to spend some time with them on Christmas day. I am just sorry that we failed to take a picture all together!
It is hard to believe that 6 months have already passed. We know that this time and season of our lives will pass quickly and that we must take advantage of every day that we are given to serve these missionaries and this people. Whether we are in the office, on the road or high on a mountain top, we are grateful to be serving as full-time missionaries, Together in Ghana.