There were so many things that happened this week it is hard to pick which one to highlight. However, we loved our trip to Sefwi Bekwai on Sunday. The landscape there is beautiful so I stopped on the road and snapped a picture of the fog hanging onto the mountain in front of us. The picture just doesn’t do the scenery justice! We decided to go to church in Bekwai because we wanted to interview the elders serving there and we wanted to get a feel for the branch. They have sufficient members in an outlying area to form a complete branch and now we can see why. There were more than 60 members in attendance. The members are friendly and it is obvious they really love the gospel.
After my interviews with the Elders, we headed back to Bibiani to participate in a goals review for the first quarter. The main purpose of the meeting was to look at the goals set at the end of December and to discuss what things need to happen to accomplish them. We also did a check to see which of these goals are achievable and which are not. We want them to work on things they know they can achieve, so if things have changed in four months, we wanted to understand what adjustments would help them to grow the district. The meeting was exactly 90 minutes in length. President Tabi did a terrific job of facilitating the meeting and the discussion.
Following the meeting, I interviewed Lucas Kanyir, a young man trying to get out on a mission. This is an impressive, yet humble young man. He has very little of the things of the world, but he is so filled with faith and desire to serve a mission. I was so impressed with him. I would love to have this young man serve in the Ghana Kumasi Mission!
After the interview we left Bibiani and headed back home. We knew they were having stake conference back home and that we would be getting a new stake presidency since the Bikman’s have been called to serve as mission leaders in Brazil. We realized shortly after 3 pm that the meeting had already started so we drove until we found a signal (it is spotty along that road) and then stopped as Elder B. Corey Cuvelier announced the new presidency and asked for a sustaining vote. We were so happy that Jason Beckstead, a former bishop and high councilor, and good friend, was called to preside over the stake.
Our joy was even greater when Brian Conley, our son in law, was announced as the second counselor. The first counselor is another friend, Paul Gifford. Paul and Brian are serving as bishops currently. Their wards are really going to miss them!
While we worked hard to make our way home and still maintain a 3G signal so we could hear the conference, we were disappointed when the feed from the stake center in Tomball went down right after Brian started speaking. It came back up right when he finished. So we did not get to hear his testimony, but we know him well and know he will be a great second counselor to President Beckstead and that the stake will be the beneficiaries of these good brethren and their past experience and future service.
Right after we arrived home, the assistants arrived from the airport with Sister Jessica Ampiah. Jessica has been serving in Nigeria as a full time missionary. It was just two months ago that I set her apart and sent her to the MTC. Unfortunately, her father decided he did not want her serving in Nigeria so forced the Church to bring her home. She is a bit saddened and confused by it all, but I was proud to see the change in her in the two short months she has been gone. She was more confident, had a more radiant countenance, and her testimony was stronger than ever. I have my own hopes that at some point in the future she will get to finish her remaining 16 months as a missionary.
I now need to backup to the start of the week. It was time again for transfers which always makes for a full and inspiring week of training, interviews, devotionals, and transfer calls. On Sunday night we had the departing missionaries come into the mission office where the Moomey’s and Garrison’s provided them a light dinner. We brought the 3 sisters to our bunkhouse and the 5 elders stayed in the bunkhouse at the Mission office. On Monday morning we left at 7 am and took the sisters over to the mission office and they along with the elders were provided a quick breakfast (cereal). Alex (mission driver) picked them up slightly after 8 am and they all went for their covid tests. In the afternoon, I finished the two interviews I had not yet completed while LaDawn ordered food from Aboude’s. We then took the van and brought all of them to our home for dinner and a good game of Preach My Gospel jeopardy. Each team won 1 game. Which was good, because I told them all that the losers would need to stay another 6 months and study Preach My Gospel a bit more 🙃. We had a great evening. The next morning they left early for the airport and were on their way home.
We had a significant “First” happen this past week. We received 11 missionaries and every single one of them came at the same time on the same flight from Accra. This is highly unusual for us because often when we get missionaries in from other countries who were called to Kumasi but started elsewhere due to Covid, or because of vaccine issues had to do remote MTC from their home country. And even though that was the case this past week we managed to have them come to Accra on Sunday evening or Monday morning, do their immigration work in Accra and then come to Kumasi the next day with those from the MTC. Having only one group of new missionaries significantly lightens our workload and gives all of the missionaries a solid start with consistent training and content presented to all of them. I always like to speak to them for a few moments at the airport to ask them to consider if there is anything in their lives that might hold them back as a missionary. I tell them we will be having an interview and it will be an opportunity to talk about anything that might impede the Spirit of the Lord from being their constant guide.
Once they arrive at the Mission Office, they begin to fill out paperwork that we need for our records and while they do that I interview each one of them. Both LaDawn and I start the interview together and then near the end, she leaves and we continue to talk in the event there is anything more we need to discuss. This is always a wonderful experience for us to get to know these new Elders and Sisters. Since four of the elders were French speaking and still learning English, it made the interviews a bit slower. I was grateful for Sister Kakou, a new missionary herself who helped to translate a couple of times. She came to the MTC with no English, and left with an impressive capability to communicate.
After our orientation (mission vision, health and safety) and devotional (keys and bananas) on Tuesday afternoon and evening, we were ready to train the trainers the next morning while the Assistants explained to the new missionaries what it means to be a Finder of the Elect. We were all done by 10:30 am and over to the Bantama Stake center for transfers shortly after 11 am. We know the missionaries love seeing each other, but there is way too much chaos and inefficiency given the nature of bringing over 100 missionaries together and sending them out again. It took us a couple of hours to get it done and fortunately everyone eventually ended up where they needed to be.
We decided to do something different on Wednesday afternoon. Because we were able to get all of the new missionaries in on Tuesday, we concluded we could hold our Mission Leadership Council on Thursday. This meant all of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders would be in Kumasi on Wednesday evening. We decided to ask the Sister Training Leaders to come in a little early and we held a council with these amazing sisters along with our Assistants. While we felt impressed to bring them together, we did not know exactly what we were going to talk about. It turned out the subject we ended up discussing was what we might do to raise their profile among the zone leaders and the sisters they serve. Among other things, we decided to put them in charge of paying for gas and electricity for the sisters they oversee. We also made sure they knew they can visit their sisters as needs arise, even if at a different time than an exchange. Working closely with the zone leaders, they are also invited to attend district councils where they have sisters for whom they are responsible. We essentially want them feel as valued as our zone leaders. I think we all came away with an understanding of just how wonderful these sisters are and how capable they are to do things traditionally reserved for zone leaders. It was a great two hours! Afterwards LaDawn fixed a nice meal of sloppy joes and french fries. A new and different dish for these Sisters which was quite well received.
Thursday came quickly as we gathered together as a Mission Leadership Council. The centerpiece of the meeting was instruction by the Assistants about how to plan to be a Finder of the Elect. Planning (and using Area Book Planner to do it) is a topic that we have not covered. I have felt for some months that we needed to cover it, but the timing was never quite right. This transfer, it came to the top of the priority list and the Assistants had done enough preparatory work that they knew how and what to teach simply and effectively. This was also important as we have started to introduce the new schedule. We spent almost 3 hours talking about planning, adhering to the new schedule, and tracking our key indicators in Area Book. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, Elder Yeboah had eaten something bad the day before and he was unable to present with Elder Morgan. But these elders work so seamlessly together that Elder Morgan was able to pick up the entire discussion and he did so well. How grateful I am for these two devoted disciples of Jesus Christ!
There is one other thing I should mention about Thursday. Elder Enoch Oti Afena from the Kenten branch in Techiman left on his mission that morning. He came to Kumasi with the missionaries on Wednesday, stayed the night at the mission office, and early Thursday I set him apart as a full-time missionary with an assignment to serve in the Nigeria Ibadan Mission. The office elders then took him to the airport to catch his flight to Accra and the MTC. This is a fine young man and he will be a great missionary. President Akinbo, a mission president who came out the same time as we did is a lucky mission leader to have him!
On Friday, the Assistants came over to the Mission Home and we held leadership training for the new district and zone leaders in the mission. Elder Yeboah and Elder Morgan gave the training and I sat nearby and provided a few comments along the way. I think we are really figuring this training out!
On Friday afternoon we had a special treat. Elder Appianti and his wife Elisabeth came from Accra and we had all of the Stake Presidents and their wives along with my councilors and their wives join together in the Mission Office for a “Strengthening Marriages Roundtable Discussion”. This is an inspired initiative of the Area Presidency to strengthen the marriages of our priesthood leaders in the Africa West Area. It is so needed and such a valuable discussion. The idea is for the Area Seventies to meet with all of the Stake Presidents and Mission President in his Coordinating Council. They are then to take this same roundtable discussion to the bishops and branch presidents in their stakes. As a mission, we are to do the same with our district presidents and mission branch presidents. I was grateful to have both of my counselors there so they can help roll this out. The expectation is that this is completed by the end of October this year. I am excited to see the impact that this inspired roundtable discussion will have on our families in the Kumasi Coordinating Council.
About halfway through the 4 hour discussion we made a break for dinner and Hannah our mission cook (she is wonderful) provided a delicious meal of chicken and rice. That is a lot to ask of her on a Friday night but she did it without a word of complaint. We are very grateful for her.
So that takes us to Saturday. Two weeks ago, we sent 15 missionaries from Tamale and Wa down to Accra to get their medical checks so they can apply for their resident visas to stay here in Ghana. Because we had 25 more who were here in the greater Kumasi area, the medical team came to us. The Moomey’s and Garrison’s sacrificed their preparation day to help out from 10:00 am until after 3:00 pm. LaDawn and these two couples took all of the vitals of the missionaries (height, weight, and temperature) and helped move the entire process along. The team of nurses arrived an hour late (they were to be here at 11:00 am) and the doctor came about 1 pm and saw all of the missionaries who had already been given a covid test and had their blood drawn. It was a long day, but something we are happy to have mostly behind us. We still have a couple more that we need to send to Accra, but the biggest part of this is done. I should also mention how grateful we are for Alex Cobbina. He drove to Sunyani on Friday, picked up the missionaries in Sunyani early in the morning, drove to Techiman and picked them up and brought them all to Kumasi. When it was over, he did a reverse trip. We would be lost without this great man!
When we look back at the week, it is hard to believe everything we were able to fit in. We know that this is the Lord’s work. There is no possible way that we could ever do this without His guidance and strengthening power available through His atonement. We bear witness that He lives! We are so grateful to have a small part in this great work. Africa represents the front-line of the Church in the gathering of Israel and we are humbled to be a part of it, Together in Ghana gathering the elect out from the world.