Four to five months ago we were at the Bantama Stake Center. I walked outside and I saw a man that I thought was a member and asked him his name. He said he was Michael. As it turned out, he was not a member at all, but came to the Stake Center from time to time to play basketball (there is an outside basketball court – of sorts). I asked him if he knew much about the Church and he said he didn’t but he would like to learn. I told him to wait and I went inside and grabbed Elder Degelbeck and asked him to come outside with me. I introduced him to Michael and asked him to help him. He was able to get his contact information and they set a time to meet. This is not that uncommon of an occurrence here in Ghana. Many people will will say yes to an invitation to learn more, but few will actually follow through with the commitment to do so. However, on Friday morning at 10:00 am at the Bantama Stake Center, Elder Degelbeck baptized Michael Odoom. We were privileged to attend and witness this wonderful event. Michael is starting school at KNUST (the local university) and he would not be able to at church on Sunday, but he really wanted to be baptized. So the local bishop was called and he made time to come and preside at this wonderful baptism. We are grateful that Michael has chosen to make this covenant with God. We were also excited that he brought his good friend with him (he calls him his brother) who also now wants to learn the gospel and join the Church. The missionaries have also started teaching his sister. I am grateful that day that I stepped outside in time to meet Michael and connect him with a great missionary who has shepherded his progress all the way up to his baptism. Congratulations Michael and Elder Degelbeck!
On Monday we drove out to Konongo and participated in an event with the Konongo stake presidency who wanted to honor the missionaries who serve in the stake. The Konongo zone over the last 9 months has baptized 25% more converts per companionship than any other zone. President Paul Oppong, the president of the stake wanted to honor the missionaries for their work. The stake did this by inviting the missionaries to attend a devotional that started at 11 am on Monday, and asked them to bring with them people they are teaching. The meeting also featured opportunities to talk about how the stake might help the missionaries reach even more people.
We returned home in time for two Zoom meetings. The first was with Aaron Allotey, our Southern FM for the Coordinating Council. My focus for his areas of responsibilities include the Mission Office, the Mission Home and Obuasi District. Directly following that meeting we met in our monthly Mission Health Council with Elder Gibb (Area Medical Advisor), Sister Glade (Area Mental Health Advisor), Sister Moomey (Mission Nurse), and LaDawn and me. It is always a good meeting to discuss the health status of individual missionaries and discuss any mission wide concerns or issues.
On Tuesday, we spent much of the morning preparing for our mid-transfer virtual Mission Leadership Council. The Assistants taught about mental fatigue that missionaries sometimes get and what we can do to combat it. LaDawn and I introduced a new schedule that will bring more structure into the missionaries’ days. We have asked the MLC to live it between now and the next face to face MLC and then we will discuss it and make whatever tweaks are necessary to role it out to the rest of the mission at the upcoming zone conferences.
On Wednesday we continued with interviews, this time at the Agric Chapel. It is the first time we have been to this building. The proximity for us is good, but the building is definitely in need of some love. We spent a bit more time than expected with the missionaries, but it was time well spent. We are grateful for these young men and women who have devoted themselves to being disciples of Jesus Christ.
On Thursday we arose early and drove to Dunkwa. This is a mining area and is nestled into a beautiful setting among small mountains about 2 hours south of Kumasi. We decided to drive first to Dunkwa and then come back up through Obuasi where we would finish the rest of the interviews. We had a great experience with the missionaries in Dunkwa and introduced them to the new schedule (highlighted above) and asked them to work with it and see how it improves their missionary efforts. We had a good laugh when we were close to their apartment we called to ask them for directions. We said, “We are right in front of a big white three story building” (it was the ONLY one that was anything like it in the area). The elders were not sure where it was. We drove a bit further and when they came out of their apartment they were directly ACROSS from the building we referenced. They just never really paid much attention to the building and so did not recognize our description! Good to know they were more focused on the people than the buildings!
From Dunkwa, we drove back to Obuasi and interviewed the remaining 12 missionaries. It is a highlight of our week when we get to spend time with these amazing missionaries. We ran some Facebook ads about the purpose of life and have had a very strong response rate. Many of these referrals are from Obuasi and the missionaries are in awe of the strength of these people who are seeking to understand why they are here and what their purpose is. This is the third round of ads that we have run and by far the most successful, receiving over 300 referrals between Kumasi and Sunyani. Past experience in other missions in Ghana show that about 15% of those responding to this ad will eventually be baptized. We are excited for the potential of these generally educated english speakers and what they will mean for the growth of the church here in the Kumasi Mission.
On Friday we attended Michael Odoom’s baptism mentioned above and then came to the Mission Office for our monthly Mission Office Council. The Garrison’s, the Moomey’s, the Office Elders, Alex Cobbina, and Cooper (Mission Facilities Manager) all attend along with LaDawn and me. The focus of the meeting is the management of the affairs of the office and the mission from a more temporal perspective. After the meeting I interviewed the Office Elders, signed some checks (seems like I do that a lot) and then returned back to the Mission Home and worked on reading and responding to missionary letters.
Saturday morning I played some pickleball with the Moomey’s and the Garrison’s. Always a great way to get the blood pumping. If you have never played pickleball you are really missing out. It is both easy and hard, depending on your level of competitiveness. Mine has waned a bit over the years, so it is a lot of fun and not too difficult to understand in order to enjoy the game.
After an hour of sweating, I came home, cleaned up and LaDawn and I left for the airport to pick up Sister Maphalala who was coming from Swaziland in South Africa. We spent the next 4 hours with her, giving her a mission orientation and then some training on expectations and the mission vision. We also talked about integrity and expectations. She is a wonderful and kind sister and will be a great blessing to the mission. The church is more established in South Africa and so often the missionaries have family members who are also in the Church. For Sister Maphalala, she is the youngest of 6 but only her mom, niece and nephew are members. We are grateful that the Church has blessed her life and now she will bless the lives of others who are seeking for truth and light. Another faith-filled missionary from Africa!
The rest of the afternoon we spent at the Mission Office, necessitated by interviews with 2 sets of missionaries who had had some bumps in the road. We were also been having trouble with air conditioners and the kitchen sink plumbing at the office and that made the afternoon even more challenging. I am happy to say that by the end of the evening, all was once again well in the Ghana Kumasi Mission. And yesterday the A/C guy and plumber were there and so we are hopeful that transfers next week will be supported by cool rooms and functioning sinks!
On Sunday, we drove to church out in Offinso. It took us about 65 minutes to get there. It was great to be with the missionaries as they were scheduled to have some baptisms (5) that day, so we thought we would go and support them and meet the branch president. It was fast and testimony day since last week was stake conference and we both had an opportunity to bear our testimonies. I think by the time church was over we had over 50 people in attendance. Sunday School was more like a temple preparation class. There was a lot of discussion when they came to the law of chastity and since it was in Twi, it was hard to know what was being talked about. I tried to carefully intervene, by going over to a member who spoke good english. I asked him what was happening and he was the one who told me they were discussing what was meant by not lusting after another man’s wife. I opened to gospel topics on Gospel Library, found a paragraph that I think was helpful and then had the brother I was talking to read it. It was a lively discussion for sure and I think we got the proper doctrine taught and I hope, understood. During that lesson, because most of it was in Twi, I couldn’t help but take a few snapshots of the beautiful children around me. Yes, they should have been in Primary but for some reason it didn’t happen and I became the local photographer.
After church we were able to witness the baptisms of 5 people. Evans Gyamfi, Emmanuella Serwaa, Stephany Serwaa Bonsu, Stephen Appiah, and Beatrice Opoku. A few days later the district leader called e and said, “Uh, you know that young man we baptized on Sunday (Gyamfi)? We thought he was 8 but it turns out when we filled out the paperwork for his record he doesn’t turn 8 until July. What do we do?” My response? “I don’t know”. Fortunately a quick call to Salt Lake helped me to understand that section 22.214.171.124 in the handbook of instructions clarifies the answer: “The ordinance is not valid if it was performed before the appropriate age.” Makes perfect sense. The missionaries are teaching his entire family so who knows, he may be a child of record by the time July rolls around. And we will rejoice if that is the case!
And with that another week comes to a close. Apologies for posting this so late. I somehow managed to finish everything through Saturday a few days ago and then I lost everything when I discovered that the internet was out and the autosave was not working. It was nice to live the week twice! We are grateful for the continued blessing of being with the wonderful people of Ghana and the amazing missionaries who are working hard to gather Israel, Together in Ghana.
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I love reading about your experiences as a mission president.