There is something special about spending Easter in the mission field. There is a focus on the Savior that full-time service brings that is difficult to realize any other way. As I work out on the elliptical in the mornings when we have time, I like to watch Tyler Griffen and Taylor Halverson’s Come Follow Me video from BookofMormonCentral.com. This past week they did an Easter Holy Week special episode with Eric Huntsman, a BYU professor of ancient scripture and an expert in the Bible. As they discussed each day of Holy Week, I wrote down and then researched the scriptures of the events and included them in each day (No promises that I didn’t miss a few). Brother Huntsman mentioned with this particular chronology that other Bible experts have different views on the timing of these events. But as he went through each of the days, the event timing they presented resonated with me. So why am I writing about this today?
On Saturday and Sunday we attended the Konongo Stake Conference. It was their first stake conference since having been made a stake last year. The leadership in the stake is strong and they have continued to grow. In the first three months of the year, the missionaries have baptized 67 converts. This is more than any other stake or district in our mission. They are very missionary minded and the missionaries love serving in their wards and branches. On Sunday, LaDawn and I both had about 10 minutes each to speak. LaDawn did a wonderful job speaking on establishing a Christ-centered home. Since it was Easter, I wanted to say something about the events of Holy Week. As I sat in the meeting preparing a few remarks, I realized that I couldn’t just talk about Holy Week itself. I needed to find a way to connect a question or two to at least one event each day that would help all of us reflect on our own lives. I figured out what I might say about the first couple of days while sitting there, but then my time to speak arrived and got up with the hope and faith that the promise of Luke 12:12 would be mine: “For the Holy Ghost will teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” I wasn’t disappointed. Here are 8 things I came up with after much help from the Spirit.
- It was two women who anointed Jesus Christ for his burial. While others were in denial about his death, these two women knew. One (Mary the sister of Martha) anointed his feet (Saturday), and the other (referred to as an unknown woman) anointed his head (Wednesday). Why did these two women understand what was about to happen and the others (especially the men he was close to) not understand? How can we be more like these women? What can we do to better understand our Savior?
- When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey from the East Gate, Pilate was coming in the West Gate with his entourage with all the pomp and circumstance of a Roman Governor. If we were in Jerusalem that day, at which gate would we be?
- On Monday, Jesus cursed the fig tree because it did not bear fruit. It was a representation that Israel was fruitless. Their wickedness had superseded their covenant keeping. Are our lives bearing fruit?
- On Tuesday, Jesus gave the great sermon recorded in Matthew 24 on the Mt. of Olives to his disciples about the signs of the end times and his second coming. Do we see, recognize, and understand the signs of His Second Coming?
- On Thursday, Jesus was betrayed, abandoned, and arrested. Yet he never became angry and he never wavered in his mission to do the Father’s will. How can we be as steadfast and committed to our Father’s will as Jesus was?
- On Friday, though he was the Son of God and could call down legions of angels to save him, he allowed men to lift him up upon the cross so that all men could be lifted up by the Father (3 Nephi 27:14-15). What do we need to suffer and endure so that the Father can lift us up?
- On Saturday, Jesus opened the Spirit world to teach the spirits the gospel of Jesus Christ so they could progress. What are we doing to help our own ancestors progress?
- On Sunday, Jesus was resurrected. What can we do to be born again, to be resurrected to a new creature in Jesus Christ? What lack we yet?
Perhaps the highlight of the entire day was after the conference. We were able to meet the people the missionaries are teaching who came to conference. We were really overjoyed at the quality of these people who the missionaries have come to call their friends.
The earlier part of the week was filled with zone conferences and interviews. On Tuesday, April 12th we held the Bantama and Asouyeboa zone conference. Elder and Sister Moomey spoke to us about “Becoming Better after Experiencing the Bitter”, based on a talk by David Schramm, an associate professor at Utah State University. They inspired the missionaries to Search Inward, Turn Outward, Look Upward and Press Forward. They used a quote from then President Uchtdorf that we really loved, “Following the Savior will not remove all your trials. However, it will help remove the barriers between you and the help Heavenly Father wants to give you.” Elder Moomey then shared some of his own life experiences that really underscored the points Sister Moomey had made earlier. How grateful we are for the Moomey’s and their love of the gospel, the church, and the missionaries!
Following the Moomey’s, Elder Abekyi, Elder Musungo and Sister Edigin taught the Asouyeboa zone and Elder Boamah, Elder Barrowes, and Sister Kumi instructed the Bantama zone. The topic was the same as the other conferences. How to be a Planner of the elect. The focus was on how to use Area Book Planner to schedule our days to maximize the time and energy we have to find those who have been prepared. Plan the Transfer, Plan the Week, Plan the Day! Execute! I spent some time talking about the new schedule and then it was quiz time as we reviewed the zone conferences from the last 9 months. I used the puzzle I had put together last week showing the topics we have covered as a mission – which I included in last week’s post.
Unfortunately, due to a technical issue we did not get a full picture of the Asouyeboa and Bantama zones.
After we finished the conference and interviews on Tuesday, we hurried back to the office and arrived around 3 pm. Elder Bonnet had arrived earlier while we were at zone conference. We were grateful the office elders where able to pick him up from the airport and bring him to the office. Elder Bonnett came off-transfer (meaning he came alone) and we are thrilled to have him join us. We spent about 3 hours with him, providing him orientation to the mission as well as a devotional about integrity and how to help a struggling companion. We enjoyed a nice meal together along with the Assistants. He is a fine young man and will do well in the Ghana Kumasi Mission. The next morning, the Assistants brought him to the University Stake Center where he met his trainer, Elder Dredge, and experienced his first zone conference in the field.
On Wednesday we were with the University and Konongo Zones at the University Stake Center. This time the Garrison’s provided instruction on Spiritually Defining Memories based on a talk Elder Andersen gave in the April 2020 General Conference. The best part of their comments was a story that Sister Garrison told about Parker Strong, a young man who was serving in Accra, Ghana in 2013 and wondering if that was where he should be. It was then he noticed a young boy wearing a Jr. Jazz Uniform and he thought how cool it was that there was a bit of home right there in West Africa. He called the boy over and asked if he could look at the jersey. The boy pulled it off and gave it to him and that was when Elder Strong saw his own name inside the jersey. What was the chance that his jersey would make it to Ghana after being donated by his mother to Deseret Industries? It was a powerful moment for Elder Strong who realized God was very much aware of him. If you would like to read the story, you can find it here. Elder Garrison shared his own conversion story and the spiritually defining moments along the way as well as the men who mentored and influenced him. We are so grateful for the Garrison’s. They are devoted disciples of Jesus Christ and they keep this mission running!
The zones then divided and Elder Sam, Elder Degelbeck, and Sister Musa instructed the University Zone and Sister Koomson, Elder Riley, and Elder Bampoe instructed the Konongo zone. These were well done and well received.
Below LtoR – Elder Sam, Sister Musa, Elder Degelbeck. Sister Koomson, Elder Bampoe, Elder Riley
Above LtoR – Elder Abeo, Elder Ross, Elder Maulana, Elder Gyamfi; Sister Walker, Sister Lenga, Sister Ehigie, Sister Maphalala; Elder Bloomfield, Elder Gilbert, Elder Bampoe, Elder Riley; Elder Morgan, Elder Brima, Elder Mulangu, Elder Fuller; Sister Musa; Elder Driscoll and Elder Sam; Elder Okerlund and Elder Dredge.
After the Wednesday zone conference, we again went back to the Mission Office where I met, interviewed and set apart three of our missionaries leaving from member districts. All three of them are going to the Nigeria Benin City Mission. Elder Atango is from Tamale District, Elder Yeboah from Kenten Branch (Mission Branch) and Elder Mesumekyere is from Sunyani District.
On Thursday, we did our final zone conference at the Dichemso Stake Center. This conference included the new Suame Zone and the Dichemso Zone. I say new, but the zone leaders in Suame used to have the missionaries who are now divided into two zones. The new zone leaders are Elder Harnois and Elder Awortwi (Elder Awortwi was previously serving with Elder Sam in the University Zone).
At this zone conference, we invited President Tabi, the first counselor in the mission presidency to speak to the missionaries. He used one of my favorite Book of Mormon scriptures, found in Helaman 10:4-5 and built a discussion around unwearingness. Two of the inspired questions he asked: Has there ever been a better time to grow spiritually? How can we get the connection with Jesus Christ so that we can take that lesson home with us after the mission? He shared one of his own sayings that he coined from a scripture: Work, serve, and be unweary, for tomorrow we die! He talked about how we can be renewed by the spirit so that we don’t get “tired” before our mission is finished. It was overall an excellent presentation and I think the missionaries really appreciated the message, especially coming from a Ghanaian. President Tabi is a special and talented man. The Lord has much work for him to do in this country, of that I am sure.
Following President Tabi, Elder Awuku, Elder Nsungi, and Sister Arthur instructed the Suame Zone and Elder Harnois, Elder Awortwi, and Sister Gurure instructed the Dichemso. Again the theme was the same, “How to become Planners of the Elect”.
I cannot close out this week’s post without giving a big shoutout to Elder Moomey. Once again, the missionaries took some time after the zone conference and cleaned the buildings to a very high standard. All of this was done under the direction of Elder Moomey working through the zone leaders. Elder Moomey helps with Apartments, Safety, Medical, and now Cleaning. We would be lost without him. Thank you so much Elder Moomey for all you do to make this mission a great place to serve!
It’s been a wonderful week. We always love the weeks we get to spend with the missionaries. The more time we spend with the more missionaries, the happier we are. We love these disciples of Jesus Christ that are putting forth so much effort to not only make the world a better place to live by sharing the gospel message to those who have been prepared, but also the way they themselves are becoming stalwart leaders and devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We are grateful for each and every one them and are thankful that we can be here, Together in Ghana.