One of the highlights of the week was our District Conference in Obuasi with Elder Patrick Appianti of the Seventy. Elder Appianti is a 36 year-old Area Authority and former bishop and mission president. He is also the Operations Manager at the Ghana MTC. Being with him for the weekend was wonderful. He is a young man, but so very mature in his understanding of the gospel. He seems to never forget a name and he is very mindful of all those around him. His insights into the scriptures are inspiring. He joined the church in 2005, when he was just 19 years old. Two years later he had to convince his mom (who was living in the UK at the time) to allow him to serve a mission. He served as a Bishop of his ward when he was in his late 20’s. In 2018 he was called to be the mission president of the Nigeria Ibadan Mission. When his father passed away during his service as a mission president, he came home to the funeral but refused to follow the traditions that would compromise his temple covenants. He speaks clearly and boldly about right from wrong, yet everyone around him feels his love. He is both impressive and humble and desires only to do the will of his Heavenly Father. The trips down and back to Obuasi were as wonderful as the conference itself.
In the final session of the conference on Sunday, Elder Appianti spoke about a phrase from the scriptures and as he did so, the Spirit whispered to me “write a letter on this to the missionaries”. The phrase is “the way(s) of the Lord”. As I began to study the topic for myself, I went to the topical guide and selected 10 scriptures, read them, asked myself (and the Spirit) a few questions about each one of them and then identified 7 descriptions of what the phrase means, and 7 blessings associated with walking in the ways of the Lord. I sent what I learned in my weekly letter to the missionaries. A portion of that letter follows.
What does it mean to walk in the ways of the Lord? Here are the 7 definitions I extracted:
- Teach our children and our household to be just and exercise righteous judgment
- Obey the commandments and statutes (eternal truths).
- Keep to His judgments and his testimonies. In other words, just follow the prophet and seek to do the Lord’s will over our own.
- Teach diligently the things of the Lord
- Judge righteous judgments
- Bury our weapons of war (rebellion)
- Remember what the Lord has done for us
And here are the 7 blessings.
- Receive the promises of the Abrahamic covenant
- Prosper no matter where we are going or what we are doing
- Become a powerful teacher unto the convincing of the people that Jesus is the Christ
- Have direction in our lives about what course we should pursue
- Become a righteous leader able to dispel contention
- Experience continual peace
- Build up a righteous kingdom
There is so much we can learn from this simple phrase that appears so many times throughout the scriptures. You might want to see what additional definitions and blessings you can find.
Following the final session, Elder Appianti, President Tabi and I met with the district presidency and all of the branch presidents for another 90 minutes. Each branch president had an opportunity to talk about what they will do as a result of the conference. These are good men that need greater understanding and training on Church administration and leadership. We are doing all that we can to bless their lives and those of the district members and they are responding to the call to rise up!
While Monday is officially our preparation day, there is always more that we need to do than we can get done, so we often use most of it trying to catch up from the previous week. I did take some time though this past Monday to try to sort out our U.S. cell phone numbers. When we left America, we put our AT&T phone numbers on suspension, but it only lasted six months and then they began charging us full price again. In talking with Elder Steinmetz, he told me about a website named tossabledigits.com where a person can park a number and then retrieve it at any point in time. The cost is only $3.50 a month per number, which is more than $100 less than keeping the number active. I spent some time on Monday working on porting the numbers over, but they kept being rejected when I entered my credit card. After more than an hour of frustration and two chats with the help desk, they discovered their credit card processor was down and they didn’t even know it. Despite the frustration, I was able to move the numbers on Tuesday and say goodbye to AT&T wireless, a company we have been with for a very long time. It is interesting to me that AT&T does not have an easy way to save a customer like me from leaving them. They could have kept our numbers parked for 3 years and made $20 a month for doing so, but their “policy” would not allow it. It was good to get it done. Incidentally, the Monday before that I spent several hours getting our taxes filed using Turbo Tax online. I am grateful for the internet that allows us to take care of these necessary chores while we are away.
On Tuesday we went to Dichemso and interviewed 15 missionaries. On Wednesday we were in Suame where we interviewed 12 more. After those interviews I only had the assistants remaining which I did on Friday. So what do I learn from all of these interviews? Here are a few of my takeaways:
- Because we each share a scripture on Jesus Christ, I can easily determine which missionaries are deepening their testimonies of the Savior and which are not.
- I learn what time the missionaries are going out from their apartments and when they come in. This has been especially valuable as we have been working on a new schedule as mentioned last week.
- I learn which missionaries are consecrated and which ones are still struggling to put Jesus Christ first in their lives.
- I learn which missionaries are humble and kind to their companions and which ones struggle to love another person that is very much unlike themselves.
- I learn which missionaries are filled with gratitude and which missionaries struggle to find the good in the people they meet.
These interviews are imperative to understanding the needs for the upcoming transfer. I learn so much about missionaries that need a change. I also learn what topics we need to consider for the upcoming Mission Leadership Council and the upcoming zone conferences. I am grateful for this time together with these young missionaries who really do want to do good and be good. It is an honor to serve with them. Sometimes we remember to take pictures and sometimes we do not. These are pictures from our Wednesday interviews at the Suame Stake Center.
One more little tidbit about these interviews this week. On Tuesday we left early so we could do some interviews both before and after District Council. LaDawn grabbed her shoes and put them on in our closet without turning on the light (which wouldn’t have made that much difference anyway as it is a dim light). It wasn’t until later during the interviews that she looked down and saw that the shoes were not exactly what she thought they were. We both had a good laugh. No one even realized it until she said something. I think she was just creating a new style among mission leaders!
The other highlight of the week was a devotional over Zoom that we held with the mission on Friday. The devotional was given by Shane Holmes, another good friend of ours. He spoke about Faith, Miracles and Hearing Him. It is hard to describe the spirit that accompanied this devotional. We all knew we were on sacred ground and will be forever grateful to Shane for his preparation, not just for the devotional but for his entire life. He modeled for these young missionaries what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and what it means to expect and receive miracles in his life. Thank you Shane! We are also grateful to Kevin Ball who became Shane’s technical expert. These are two of the finest men we know!
There are so many things that happen in the life of mission leaders that we simply cannot post publicly, but one thing we want to make clear – we see the hand of the Lord in our lives and in this work every single day. We also see it in the lives of these wonderful missionaries, some of who already know who they are and some who are still struggling to figure it out. This is life under a microscope. High expectations of spiritual preparation and understanding and high expectations of obedience, effort and discipline. A mission is not for the faint of heart. It takes effort and desire and devotion to Jesus Christ. We are forever grateful to have a small part in this great work, Together in Ghana!