Some of you might know the story of Bastian, a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprietor reveals an ancient story-book to him, which he is warned can be dangerous. Shortly after, he “borrows” the book and begins to read it in the school attic where he is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction. LaDawn and I remember at least starting to watch the movie, but neither of us are sure whether we ever finished it. All we really remember is that it went on and on and on, seemingly never ending. And so it was with transfers this past week!
It started on Monday when we had a dinner and a sendoff for Sister Quartey who has been a faithful sister missionary and served for a season as a sister training leader. Her mother recently passed away (she is the 5th missionary since our arrival that has lost a parent) and we sent her home a few weeks early so she could attend her mother’s funeral and help to care for her little brother during this difficult time. We wish her all the best, knowing she will be successful in whatever she chooses to pursue as a vocation.
Because she lives in Ghana, she only needed to travel to Accra and then take a car to her home. We will miss her radiant smile and fervent testimony.
On Tuesday, we made two trips to the airport. The first was to drop off Sister Quartey and then pick up what we thought would be three elders from Ivory Coast and DR Congo who came in late the previous night into Accra. But on our way to the airport, we received a call indicating that one of the missionaries (Elder Sehi) posted positive for Covid and had to go into isolation for 4 days. Bummer. We did manage to receive Elder Tano and Elder Dibatayi. They came in about 8:00 am. At noon we went back and received 8 American Elders and 4 African Sisters (DR Congo, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana).
The rest of the day we spent filling out forms, eating lunch and having a welcome dinner, orientation to the mission, and a devotional focused on obedience and integrity. By the time we finished, it was almost 9 pm. We brought the sisters with us to the mission home bunkhouse and the elders stayed at the Mission Office bunkhouse. We feel so fortunate to have these facilities to house these incoming and outgoing missionaries.
The next morning, the trainers who lived south of Sunyani came to the mission home. Those in Tamale and Bolgatanga I trained over Zoom on Sunday afternoon. While I trained the trainers, the assistants taught the new missionaries how to become Finders of the Elect. We both finished around 10:30 am and then we loaded up the trucks and vans and headed over to the Bantama Stake Center for transfers. We tried to do transfers differently a few months back – without bringing everyone into Bantama, but it turned out to consume more time than just doing it all in one day, so we reverted back to this single point of gathering. By 1 pm, all but one or two companionships were on their way to their new areas.
Wednesday evening I held my biweekly mission presidency meeting. Topics included: out of unit membership records, starting a group in Bolgatanga, a combined branch conference in Techiman, Bibiani Strategic growth plans, and a letter to the districts clarifying the role my counselors will play with the district and mission branch presidents. We also discussed the 2022 goals for each of the districts and mission branches as well as the year end audit cycle and plan. It was a very productive meeting and, as always, I am very grateful for these men and their insights, inspiration and diligent effort to establish the Church.
On Thursday morning we returned to the airport and picked up Elder Diakulayi. He is also from DR Congo and was supposed to come with Elder Dibatayai, but was delayed two days because he had not yet had his second covid vaccine. On Dec 12th, Ghana changed their requirements for entry and now everyone coming in requires an authorized covid vaccine (Chinese vaccines are not on the list). His trainer is Elder Standage and he had come in with the other trainers the day before and just stayed over until his new companion arrived. We did a short version of the orientation and devotional and then had Alex Cobbina our mission driver take them to Effiduase. Elder Dibatayi is still learning English and it will be a blessing to him to be in an apartment with two Americans where English is spoken exclusively.
Late Thursday night, we had three more Americans come into Accra. Two were coming from the Provo MTC (Elder Riggs and Elder Fitzpatrick) due to a delay in their visas, and one was coming from a mission in California (Elder Hale) where he had been serving for 6 months. He was supposed to come in July, but his passport was lost by Missionary Travel and he had to start the process all over again. As we drove to the airport to pick them up early Friday morning, we received another one of those calls we really don’t like. “Elder Fitzpatrick has tested positive for Covid and he is in isolation for 7 days” (It was only 4 days for Elder Sehi!). So we went and picked up Elder Riggs and Elder Hale, brought them back to the Mission Office and went through the orientation and devotional with both of them. At 1:00 pm, Elder Akpan and Elder Bai came and picked up Elder Riggs (Elder Fitzpatrick will be in the same apartment and a companion to Elder Bai) and we had Alex Cobbina take Elder Bai, Elder Akpan, and Elder Riggs to their apartment and then continue on around Kumasi and drop Elder Hale at his apartment in Bouho. To make matters worse, Elder Riggs and Elder Hale both lost their luggage in Amsterdam because of aircraft trouble in Salt Lake City, resulting in a very short connection time in Amsterdam. It has now been collected by missionary travel in Accra and will come with Elder Fitzpatrick later this week.
Friday night we received word that Elder Sehi had passed his Covid test and would be coming to Kumasi on the 8:40 am flight from Accra Saturday morning. So once again LaDawn and I traveled to the airport to pick up this “almost lost” missionary. Elder Sehi is from Ivory Coast and his English is actually quite a bit better than our other French speakers, which made the orientation and devotional go relatively smoothly. The Garrison’s came in and helped get his paperwork done and make sure his subsistence card was working. The traffic was extremely light due to New Years Day so we decided just to take him to his companion, Elder Bayles, ourselves. Their apartment is in Dichemso and not far from the airport. Other than having not shaved in 4 days, Elder Sehi was ready to be a missionary!
Saturday night the Garrison’s invited us over for a delicious meatloaf and mashed potato dinner. It was a really nice break after a week filled with uncertainty and repetition (do those two things even go together?)
On Sunday morning we traveled to Sunyani to attend Church in the Abesim branch where Elder Walker, Elder Mutatshi, Elder Dossia and Elder Lawson are serving. It was Fast and Testimony meeting and a very good one at that. The highlight of the meeting had to be the moment Elder Lawson walked up from the back of the chapel right before the meeting started to give the man blessing the sacrament with Elder Walker, his tie so that he would be in “proper priesthood attire”. I love that this good elder heard the still small voice and responded without saying a word.
After Church we drove to the District Center where I did a missionary interview with Bryce Mesumekyere from the Penkwase Branch. This is one fine young man. He joined the church 10 years ago as an 11 year old boy and has read the Book of Mormon cover to cover 3 times. He is currently serving as a branch clerk and runs a Mo Mo stand for MTN Cellular. He is honest, trustworthy and diligent. He will be a great missionary! While at the District Center, we found Sister Gbeku and Sister Ita teaching a man who had come to church. His question to them (really more of a statement), “If Christ atoned for our sins then that means that there are no sins and that I am not a sinner”. Uh, they have some work to do with him.
After leaving the District Center we decided to drive out to the new apartment where the Lowe’s will live when they come in February. They are a self-reliance couple and will be another great blessing to the Ghana Kumasi Mission. Where they will live is very quiet and we hope they will find it comfortable and convenient for the work they have been called to do. This is the apartment on the first floor where they will be living. It is new construction and while a bit unique in design, we think it will be safe and quiet. We met a man name Bobba Mensah who works for the mine in Kenyasi. He was very friendly and invited us in to tour his brand new apartment that he had just moved into (and it wasn’t even completely finished). He lives on the second floor and will be a good neighbor to the Lowe’s.
By the time we got back home it was 4 pm. It really makes for a long day when we drive so that we can attend a district branch rather than a ward in close proximity in Kumasi. We always joy in the opportunity to rub shoulders with the missionaries, leaders and members in these outlying areas. We look forward to doing more of it.
So now you understand how our transfer week turned into a never ending story. Even now we are still waiting for Elder Fitzpatrick to arrive. We hope it will be on Thursday. Covid continues to disrupt everything that we are doing right now. We are fairly certain that the virus is plentiful in Ghana, despite all the precautions, but most seem to get over it in a day or two and are back at their work, their service and their lives. We are grateful to be with here with this warm-hearted people and the dedicated missionaries sent here to bring them the Good News of the Gospel. We joy in our service and our experiences, Together in Ghana.