It was a week of zone conferences and interviews. University and Konongo on Tuesday. Dichemso on Wednesday and Bantama and Asouyeboa on Thursday. We also received one missionary back to a member district and sent one out from another. The missionaries performed a service project at each of the stake centers, cleaning and mopping the floors, dusting the ledges, cleaning the windows and returning the bathrooms to a useable condition. We definitely left each building better than we found it. A special shout out to Elder Moomey who arranged all of that service! I should also add that it is possible that somewhere in that week I may have “celebrated” my 65th birthday (sort of).
With the conferences now complete, I will go slightly deeper on the topics and the doctrines that we covered. The Assistants led a marvelous discussion about being ALL In as a missionary. This topic is a follow-up to the wonderful devotional with had with our friend Kevin Ball on February 4th where he talked about what it means to be born again. Elder Morgan and Elder Yeboah “hit it out of the park” (an American colloquialism) with their discussion focused on 3 main sub-topics.
- Born again moments – Alma the Younger and Ammon and King Lamoni were highlighted. Scriptures used were Mosiah 27:17-18, 28,29,32; Alma 18:41,42 Alma 9:6. The concept of being born again was also highlighted using 1 Cor 11:28 (let a man examine himself) and D&C 88:40 (light cleaveth unto light)
- “I will give myself to Him” – This is the title of a talk given by Spencer Osguthorpe who was then serving as the General Sunday School president of the Church. In that amazing talk, he asked three questions which Elder Morgan and Elder Yeboah repeated in their discussion. 1 – What does the word “will” mean? (Hel 3:35 and Mosiah 5:3). 2 – How do we give our will to God (change of behavior vs. a change of nature). 3 – How do we know if we are succeeding? (Alma 5:26 – singing the song of redeeming love)
- Eternal Perspective – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing….) Alma 5:14 (Have ye been born of God?)
While the content of the discussion was excellent, the spirit with which they delivered it was the most powerful part of the conference. These elders are two of the finest missionaries I have ever known. I do not tell them what they should teach. They seek inspiration, present their ideas to me and then they study and prepare the topic. They always teach at MLC and then the rest of the rest of the Leadership Council decides who will teach the same topic at zone conferences, themselves or the Assistants.
After the Assistants finished, I took about 30 minutes and talked about some of the things that are stopping us as a mission from being All In. The most troublesome is a belief by some that there is an alternate path to the Kingdom of God that allows for disobedience to the mission rules. It is the age old problem of “My will over His will”. We do what we want because we think the choices we make will give us a better outcome than choosing to be obedient to the rules. It is only when we are born again that we are truly on the path that leads to eternal life with the Father. Some feel that this alternate path can also lead us there but we know that it is only when we repent that we can truly turn our lives over to the Savior, be born again and get on the path that leads to exaltation. For those who believe they can be disobedient today and then repent later, they will be surprised how difficult it is to turn their will over to the Father after a consistent disregard for His commandments. Divine natures take time and effort to nurture.
Next up was LaDawn with a discussion about Miracles. She asked the missionaries for definitions and then shared one by Rex and Janet Lee. Rex is a former BYU President. “Those things that we cannot fully comprehend through our rational processes we call miracles. As we go through life, gaining maturity, the reality of these miracles is often supported by reason—but never completely.” She also used a quote from Elder Rasband that is powerful. “Miracles, signs, and wonders abound among followers of Jesus Christ today, in your lives and in mine. Miracles are divine acts, manifestations and expressions of God’s limitless power, and an affirmation that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
She also used a picture by renown artist Norman Rockwell titled, “Lift Up Thine Eyes” which is a wonderful invitation to each of us to look heavenward to see the miracles that the Lord presents in our lives every single day. The picture is a bit of a parody because in that painting, not a single person is actually looking up. It is an indicator that we are all so busy mulling our own problems and issues that we don’t take the time to recognize the hand of God in our lives – especially in the very moments that we need it most. She completes the instruction by reading 2 Nephi 27:23 (I am an unchanging God of miracles) and by then inviting the missionaries “To be someone else’s miracle”.
Following LaDawn, I conclude the conference with a discussion on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how we can use the power available to us through that great act to be born again, to be redeemed, to be sanctified and to become like Christ. Using four examples from the scriptures (Moses, Enos, Alma the Younger, King Benjamin’s people) I help the missionaries to realize that the common denominator in the application of Christ’s atonement in each of these experiences was through the simple action of “asking“. Those who have known me a long time know that I love the story of Moses and the fiery flying serpents biting the children of Israel and bringing death upon them. Many have seen previous versions of my bronze serpents.
When the Children of Israel pled with Moses to ask the Lord to destroy the serpents, instead of doing so He told Moses to put a bronze snake on a staff and hold it up for all to see. Those who looked (aka, “asked“) were healed. Those who did not, perished. Through the stories of Enos and Alma the Younger, and the people of King Benjamin, this same simple formula is reinforced. We can access this marvelous strengthening, enabling, and redeeming power by simply having enough faith to ask our Heavenly Father to help us, forgive us, strengthen us, and heal us through this readily accessible and unlimited gift given to those who believe in Jesus Christ.
No Zone Conference would be complete without pictures and so below are pictures from the three conferences this past week. University and Konongo, Dichemso, and Asouyeboa and Bantama.
As I mentioned at the top, one of the ways we wanted to give back to the stakes and the districts is to do a thorough job of cleaning the buildings after our conferences. The missionaries did a wonderful job!
At the Dichemso Zone conference our caterer went to an extra special effort to provide a cake for my birthday. I was a very kind gesture, but certainly not expected nor required. I think the missionaries did enjoy getting a piece of the cake that Joanna (the caterer) provided. And I enjoyed cutting it up and giving it out!
A very tall Happy Birthday Cake. A picture with the Dichemso zone and the cake. Joanna and her crew.
We actually were able to celebrate birthday’s again on Saturday night with the Moomey’s and the Garrison’s. Sister Moomey cooked some delicious chicken, Sister Garrison added yummy potatoes and LaDawn brought a fruit salad. We topped all of that off with Sister Moomey’s amazing chocolate cake and some ice cream. Both Elder and Sister Moomey also celebrate their birthdays in March so we had a great meal together and made another great memory as all three of us added one more year of wisdom to our gray matter!
I mentioned earlier that we had a missionary leave from one of our member districts and one return. Elder Ebenezer Carsten Acquah departed from the Sefwi Waiwso Branch in the Bibiani District. Elder Acquah is one of the most prepared missionaries I have seen. He really wants to serve with all of his heart, might, mind, and strength and it was such a privilege setting him apart to serve in the Nigeria Uyo Mission. On the coming home side, Elder Edmund Kwakye returned from the Nigeria Lagos Mission to the Nkwabeng Branch in the Sunyani District. This is a special young man as well. He served for 9 months as the mission Financial Secretary. A very tall order for a young missionary. He is a trustworthy and committed priesthood holder and it was such a privilege to release him and send him on his way back home.
On Saturday and Sunday we attended the Suame Stake Conference. The general sessions on both days were especially good. LaDawn and I shared 30 minutes at each of those meetings. I am always amazed how the Lord makes it so easy for me to know what I am to speak about. I have to give so much credit to LaDawn because it is often what she says that helps me to know exactly the message I am to deliver.
For example, on Sunday, she introduced us as having 7 children, all married in the temple, and then she spoke about building a Christ-centered home. Her words were powerful because our children’s lives reflect the effort that we made as they were growing up to do exactly what it was she was encouraging others to do. Reading the scriptures every day as a family, having Family Home Evening, attending Church together and having high expectations of each of the boys to serve missions. It made it easy for me to talk about the temple and the power of the covenants we make there. I was able to read the new section on the endowment (27.2) and share that the new handbook allows anyone over 18 who is worthy and has finished high school to receive their endowment. There were other connections made in those few minutes that surprised even me. How grateful I am for the Spirit of the Lord and the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ that I feel everyday as we labor, Together in Ghana, for the salvation of souls and the spiritual maturing of our amazing missionaries.
One last item. A few weeks ago I mentioned the first meeting of the Agogo Branch and the attendance of the local chief at the first sacrament meeting. On Sunday, he was in Kumasi for a funeral and because his assistant had taken my contact information, he called me and asked if they could meet with me. I wasn’t sure why he would want to meet with me, but I told him we were in Suame and would be home in a couple of hours. A few minutes later, his assistant called me back and said the chief wanted to come to Suame….and come they did. It took over an hour in traffic to get there. We had been attending a baptism after the conference and it had just finished when they arrived. We walked into the back of the chapel and sat down and I asked what I could do for him. He said, he just wanted to greet me. He said out of respect, he wanted to stop and just greet me face to face. I was so honored by the respect of this impressive man. A man much more important than I will ever be. I stand in awe of his kindness. After a few moments together, they got up and returned to Agogo, calling me when they arrived so I would know they arrived safely. That is one impressive chief!