The title of this weeks blog post was a toss-up between two very different parts of the week. The first part was transfers and that went from Sunday evening until Saturday morning (and we still have a missionary to arrive on Friday and one in two weeks). We had so many things happen that were not planned that we thought a fitting title would be “Transfer Follies”. But in the spirit of sharing the most important at the beginning, we decided to focus first on the District Conference in Sunyani this past weekend. The reason it is significant is because Sunyani was the first district conference we attended (and presided over) when we first arrived. And now we have had the second. It seems to us to be some sort of milestone of importance for us as mission leaders in the Ghana Kumasi Mission.
The conference was presided over by Elder Richard Ahadjie, an Area Seventy who lives in Accra. We first met Elder Ahadjie on our mission in Sierra Leone when he came to the district conference in Kenema. We never imagined we would be accompanying him to a future district conference as Mission Leaders!
FIrst we want to say that we have seen some significant improvement in the District. We have changed two branch presidents and one of the counselors in the District Presidency since our last conference. They are really working hard to improve. Is there more that can be done? Absolutely, but the reality is that they are moving in the right direction.
There were three things that happened that can I only explain as miracles. In the adult session on Saturday, President Tabi told a story about a young man hired to paint a boat, which he did. When the owner returned, he saw his family out on the water in the boat and immediately panicked, because he knew there was a hole in the boat that would cause it to sink. When he found the boy to pay him, he gave him 10X what he had promised him because the boy had plugged the hole as he painted the boat. No one had asked him to do it, he just saw it was something that needed to be done. The man was grateful for that act of kindness likely saved his family from drowning. LaDawn then spoke about receiving personal revelation and when I stepped to the stand the other things I was thinking of speaking about were gone and I spoke about the 3 voices that a healthy person hears: our own voice, Satan’s voice, and the voice of the Spirit of the Lord. Connecting the concept of “Plug the hole” with personal revelation could not have been orchestrated any better had we planned it. Those in attendance were the second-mile Saints. Those who come to a meeting on Saturday morning. There were less than 60 of them. I stood in awe how these three concepts came together to deliver the message the Lord had for these people. It was like perfectly woven fabric with an award winning design.
In the leadership session on Saturday afternoon, LaDawn was just going to bear her testimony, but as she played the intermediate hymn on the keyboard, the thought occurred to her about her experience as a primary president. Eight months pregnant with 4 small children already at home and 150 children in the primary, she was only able to succeed in that calling because of two capable and willing counselors. As soon as she told that story, I knew that I needed to share Elder Richard G Scott’s graphic on what it means to be an effective and united presidency. Although I had been jotting down some ideas that I thought I should address, I spent the entire 15 minutes talking about effective (and ineffective) presidencies. The spirit confirmed this was the right message and I know it was especially meaningful for the district presidency and each of the branch presidencies.
On Sunday, speakers were running over their allotted time and we knew we were going to struggle having much time to speak. But President Tabi’s older brother, a non-member who we had met the previous evening, decided to come to the conference at the invitation of President Tabi. I felt the need to have him bear his testimony with his brother in attendance. I asked Elder Ahadjie if we could fit him in and he gave me permission to allow him to use part of my time. So when it was my turn to speak, I invited President Tabi to the pulpit and he bore a powerful testimony and in front of that entire congregation invited his brother to listen to the missionary discussions. It was powerful. I then spoke about how if every active member in the stake would invite 2 people to listen to the missionaries just as President Tabi had just done, that Sunyani would have enough people to be a stake in 2 years. Again, we could not have scripted it any better had we even been smart enough to plan it out.
Two more items I need to mention. The first is a comment made in the Sunday session by a young woman by the name of Mabel Azumbile. Her topic was “Loving God with all my heart, might, mind, and strength”. Here is what she asked, “Do we really love God or do we just want to go to Heaven?” For us, this statement is so profound that it stays in our heads and our hearts and engenders a number of additional, similar questions. “Do I really want to serve God or do I just want to have a leadership title?” “Do I really want to attend the temple and be taught by the Spirit or do I just want my priesthood leaders to know I have a current temple recommend?” “Do I come to church to partake of the sacrament and renew all of my covenants or do I just go so I can see my friends?” Similar questions are almost without number. Just one more interesting tidbit. This statement was so profound, that President Tabi’s brother posted it to social media and President Tabi sent me the graphic Monday morning.
After the conference ended we had a summary meeting with the District Presidency and then I interviewed a missionary (Clifford Nana Sam) so we could submit his papers while President Tabi did 10 temple recommend interviews. We had 10 brethren advanced to the Melchizedek Priesthood which is double what we had last time. Things are definitely starting to move in the District.
On to transfer follies! This past week we sent 11 wonderful missionaries home and received in 20. It was supposed to be 22, and that is part of the follies. Here is a list of the things that caused us pain during transfer week.
- A sister from South Africa was due to get her second vaccine on Feb 9th and travel to us on the 10th, but the country ran out of vaccines at the last moment and will not have any more until the 28th of February.
- An elder coming in from another mission took it upon himself to stop in Accra to go to the temple, missing his flight to Kumasi without telling anyone.
- An elder from America due to come this past week contracted covid and delayed his departure for one week.
- On Tuesday evening after finishing with the new missionary devotional we were ready to take the mission van and the sisters back the bunkhouse at the mission home when we discovered the mission van was missing. Somehow two sisters had managed to convince our mission driver to meet them partway from their area to Kumasi as one was to come for a vaccine (in the middle of transfer week?). They somehow managed to turn up the next day at the transfer meeting to see a prior companion off to her new area. By the time the mission driver returned the van it was close to 10 pm. The good news is it did give me time to finish interviewing all 18 missionaries (4.5 hours) who had come earlier in the day (so maybe that one is not a folly).
- A missionary took the keys to his apartment to his new area over 3 hours away from his old area. When the elders arrived at the apartment, they could not get in and had to return to the mission home 2 hours away. We were able to get an extra set of keys from our Facilities Manager, but when they went back the next day the lock on the gate was new and the second set of keys did not have a key. This required calling someone to come and break the lock so the missionaries could get inside.
- One of those elders left his book bag at the Bantama building and was trying to figure out how to get it before going to his new area (he didn’t get it).
- At the transfer meeting place at Bantama, a missionary did not keep track of his luggage and it ended up being taken by another zone. By the time the luggage was returned to Bantama nearly 2 hours were lost while the busload of missionaries going to Obuasi waited for the missing suitcase to return.
- The office elders purchased 9 tickets for Tamale to leave on Thursday, but we needed 7 for Thursday and 2 for Friday. At the very last minute on Wednesday night, the office elders left a zoom meeting on the handling of Facebook referrals and went to the Kejetia bus station to trade in the tickets listening to the rest of the meeting on audio only as they drove. They made it right before the ticket office closed.
- One of our departing missionaries, eager to go home for the last few months, somehow missed his flight out of Accra, requiring some additional scrambling to rebook the flight to his home country later that day.
- A sister missionary learned in Accra that she would be required to purchase a covid test for her home country while still in Accra. We were unsure what was going on so contacted Missionary Travel in Accra who sent someone to the airport to straighten out the problem.
- During all of the hustle and bustle of transfer week, a missionary from a mission branch in Techiman came to be set apart, as he needed to enter the MTC on Thursday. The branch president and his counselor somehow managed to only sent 1/2 of his temple recommend causing us to scramble to find a way to get him a full recommend before going into the MTC. The branch president ended up putting the other half in an envelope and sent it with a bus to Kumasi.
Despite the missed flights, missing bags, missing keys, missing van, and covid related misses, we actually ended the week with everyone in the mission where they needed to be. It was nothing short of a series of miracles to offset each of these follies to help get us through the week. Here is a montage of pictures which describe much of the week.
On Thursday afternoon we had our first senior missionary council meeting. We will be doing this on a regular basis to get the insights and inspiration from these amazing and wonderful couples.
We loved every virtual minute that we were with these amazing and consecrated senior couples who came here with desires to serve the people and serve the Lord. We count ourselves blessed to have such amazing senior missionaries and friends!
By the time Friday night came along we were pretty tired. Late nights and early mornings consumed us Monday – Thursday. On Friday things slowed down enough so we could catch our breaths before departing for Sunyani at 6:00 am on Saturday. We decided to get a hotel room in Sunyani and save the 2.5 hour drive back and forth so we could recover. It was nice to have some time to finish reading and responding to missionary letters. Unfortunately the air conditioner in the room was less than stellar and mattress was rock hard, and to be honest we didn’t even care. We were grateful for a good nights sleep with the promise of another spirit filled conference meeting on Sunday.
We returned home about 4:30 pm on Sunday and then met with the assistants in the evening as we prepare for Mission Leadership Council (MLC) this week and a trip to Wa next weekend. We joy in this work and are so grateful for the opportunity to serve, Together in Ghana.
I wanted to add an addendum. Elder Walker and Elder Mutatshi invited a man named Moses to the conference in Sunyani and he came. Let me share with you the story of how he came to want to come to church as Elder Walker wrote it to me. “…[This] miracle has to do with another man named Moses. He is the father of Morgan a man who claims he is an Apostle and comes to church every other week. (Elder Penrose and I met Morgan three transfers ago and he has been taught the lessons but wants to create his own church and become rich). The father is much different he has the wisdom that comes with many years. Two months ago Moses attended church with his son a few times but has not come for some time. This past Sunday he came. He was at the building before the doors opened at 8 am. When we came to the building he was waiting for us holding the Book Mormon and has asked us to teach because he says, ‘I want to become member of this church‘. It was Fast and Testimony meeting and he got up to share. He sang a song he has written about God’s love, it was so beautiful and the spirit was so strong. After church we asked to escort him to his home to find out where he stays. He lives at least a mile away from the church. He is at least 70 years and carries a walking stick but he was an hour early for church after walking over a mile. He has been prepared by God and we are so happy to teach him.”