Press Forward, Saints

So many things happened this week, that it is hard to find a main highlight. We had missionaries completing their missions, new missionaries coming in, missionaries from member districts departing for their missions and a missionary who has returned with honor from a mission in Nigeria. In addition, we did leadership training for new missionary leaders and had an amazing mission devotional. On the weekend, I attended a coordinating council meeting and then called a new district presidency.

Sister Koomson, Sister Mensah, Elder Adebayo, Sister Varpilah, Sister De-Heer, Sister Gbeku

On Monday evening we said goodbye to 6 missionaries. Sister Koomson, Sister Mensah, Elder Adebayo, Sister Varpilah, Sister De-Heer, and Sister Gbeku all completed their missions with honor and returned home. Four of the sisters are from Ghana (one from Liberia) and Elder Adebayo is from Nigeria. We will miss them.

We ordered food from Aboude’s (rice and chicken) and then played some Preach My Gospel Jeopardy. Let’s just say that the second round of the game ended with a much better result than the first round!

On Tuesday morning, we received in 9 new missionaries. Last week we found out that two of our missionaries in the MTC would have to start their missions in Nigeria because they did not have their passports in time to get Ghana residency permit. Interestingly enough, two days before we found out we would lose two missionaries, we received word that two of the missionaries who had been called to Kumasi, but had to start their missions in DR Congo due to similar immigration issues were now ready to come. So we gained two and then lost two. The good news is that we were able to slide the two new missionaries into the slots of those we lost. We were grateful it was so easy to adjust (one elder and one sister in both cases).

Our new missionaries from 6 difference countries in Africa: (LtR, back to front) Elder Lenge (DRC), Elder Udo (Nigeria), Elder Dube (Zimbabwe), Elder Prah (Ghana), Elder Uzoigwe (Nigeria), Elder Josiah (Botswana), Sister Eme (Nigeria), Sister Aruna (Sierra Leone), Sister Mujinga (DRC)

It is always a busy day bringing the missionaries into the mission, getting them oriented to the mission, having a nice dinner together and then having our mission devotional on obedience and integrity. It makes for a long day. On Wednesday morning, we brought in the trainers and spent time with them to prepare them to train. This is one of the most important callings in the entire mission and so we want to make sure we get it right. While I was with the missionaries who will train, my Assistants were with the new missionaries, teaching them how to be finders of the elect. When we both concluded, we brought them together and matched them the new missionaries to their trainers. This is always a lot of fun.

Assistants, new missionaries, their trainers and Sister Lenga who translated for Sister Mujinga and Elder Lenge who both came directly from DR Congo.

It was then time to move to the Bantama Stake Center where we announced each zone where the missionaries would be moving to and the zone leaders then took over from there and arranged transportation back to their areas. The elders and sisters going to Tamale spent one more night with us and then the office elders took them early the next morning to catch their bus and be on their way.

Wednesday night we had our mission presidency meeting. We had some hard rain during the meeting making it difficult for several on the call to hear everything, but we muddled through it, repeating where necessary. These meetings are so important to me. This is where so much of the work of the member districts and mission branches is planned. Wednesday was no exception.

Elder Simpson and Elder Yeboah training our new leaders

Thursday we held our leadership training for the new district leaders, new zone leaders and new sister training leaders. Elder Simpson and Elder Yeboah led the training and I sat in and added a few tidbits here and there. It was a wonderful meeting and training. We have 12 points that we address during the training. Faith in Jesus Christ, Being Prepared, Collective Obedience, Scriptures on Jesus Christ, Baptismal Goals, Leadership Connection with the Missionaries, Exchanges, Motivation/Inspiration, Sustaining the MLC, Inviting a Missionary to Change, Baptismal Interviews, and the Mission Vision.

Thursday evening we spent a couple of hours over Zoom with President and Sister Morgan. They are the new mission leaders for the Ghana Cape Coast Mission replacing the Morrison’s. President Morrison was called to be a General Authority and will be leaving at the end of June. Since we are the most recent Americans to come to Ghana, we thought it might be helpful to them to have a chance to ask questions and discuss what it might be like for them. They are a delightful couple from Mississippi who will do well.

Our highlight of Friday was a mission devotional with with our friend Thom Harrison. Thom is a psycho-therapist who recently retired from his practice in Salt Lake City. He currently works as a service missionary helping to screen missionary applicants for assignments based on their health profiles. But more importantly, Thom is a student of the scriptures. He is a powerful teacher and his very voice reflects the love that He has for the Savior and the Savior for him. It was such a powerful hour that we spent together. His topic was “The Importance of Names”. At the end, he invited missionaries to share their favorite title of Jesus Christ. While only a few were able to respond to the question, I think we all answered it within ourselves. We were grateful to again have help from Kevin Ball who worked the technical aspects of the presentation for Thom. Shane Holmes (our last presenter) also joined us.

On Saturday morning, President Tabi arrived at the Mission Home at 8:00 am and we drove together over to the University Stake Center where the Kumasi Coordinating Council Meeting under the direction of Elder Appianti was held. The meeting started late and much of the meeting was based on temporal issues, which are clearly important, but often not very rewarding. On the spiritual side, we had a discussion of some of the key messages from General Conference, especially as it relates to missionary work. We also talked about Repentance and Membership Councils and our role as Priesthood leaders to help our members repent. There is still too much negativity associated with repentance instead of the joy that accompanies being clean before the Lord. We then moved to the temporal topics, starting with a discussion about intentional growth in the coordinating council and some of the things that President Mensah of the University Stake is doing to take the Church to the people. We then discussed facility issues (never much fun) and financial audits (necessary, but also not fun).

President Tabi and I then left because we needed to travel to Sunyani to make changes in the District Presidency. We missed the last hour (it was to be over by the time we left at 1 pm, but it went another hour) where it looks like most of the spiritually uplifting topics were covered. Elder Appianti is a wonderful Area Authority and has such great insights, I was sorry to miss that last hour. Upon our arrival in Sunyani, President Tabi and I visited with the outgoing president and his wife to extend a release to him.

James Fianko & Juliet Ofosu-Appiah

President James Fianko Ofosu-Appiah has served as the district president for over 9 years. His wife Juliet has been faithfully by his side. He has been dependable and committed to serving the Lord. It is a pleasure to extend such a wonderful man an honorable release. From there, we made our way over to the home of Samuel Asare-Boahen and his wife Juliet. Samuel is a doctor at Sunyani Municipal Hospital. He is well respected and incredibly talented. He went to Medical School in Ukraine. His father served as a counselor to President Obeng (my second counselor) when President Obeng served as a Bishop. While he is only 29 years old, he is wise beyond his age.

Samuel and Juliet Asare-Boahen

He served a mission to Benin City, Nigeria and in his first area after training, he met a family with a 14 year-old daughter, Juliet. He never thought twice about it. Fast forward to 2021. During one of our first visits to Sunyani, I met Samuel. He was in his residency as a doctor and was planning to marry a girl from Nigeria in October. He was playing the piano for the meeting so he was easy to notice (not many can play). I took his name and number in the event he might be helpful to our missionaries in Sunyani (he has been). True to his word, he married Juliet in October and was sealed in the temple immediately thereafter. They both moved to a new place in Sunyani and began their married life. As it turns out, Juliet was that 14 year-old girl he had met in Benin City. She grew up and served a mission in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) learning and speaking French. When she returned home, one of Samuel’s missionary companions (from Sierra Leone) visited her family in Nigeria. While there, Juliet inquired about what ever happened to “Elder Asare-Boahen”. He said he was studying to be a doctor and he gave her his Facebook profile. You see, 10 years earlier she had seen him smile and remembered it vividly. While she didn’t say anything about it, she was impressed by him and his beautiful smile. To make a long story short, she contacted him on Facebook and he was smart enough to pursue the relationship. The rest is history. She is currently studying at Ensign College online and working as a French teacher. They are both very busy. And both very impressive and committed Latter-day Saints.

So, it was a bit of a shock when President Tabi and I came to their home and called him to serve as the new District President. Despite his heavy schedule, he didn’t blink. He said, “I will do it”. Juliet agreed to support him, although she didn’t quite see how it could all work given their schedules. Samuel is also getting his masters degree in Hospital Administration on the weekends. Busy? Oh yeah. And yet, with great faith they both said if this is what the Lord wants then they will do it. We love their faith!

He retained the first counselor in the prior presidency, Benjamin Odarkwei Kitson-Mills. He is 66 years old and a seasoned leader. He loves the Lord and is humble, teachable, and devoted to his family and his God. They will be a great team. We worked hard to get a second counselor called, but ran into some road blocks, so rather than force anything, we decided to wait a couple of weeks until President Asare-Boahen had his feet fully under him and came to know the men in the District just a bit better.

Ernest Sukar (District Clerk), President Kitson-Mills, President Asare-Boahen

The next morning we sent the District Councilors to each of the branches. In addition, I attended the Estates Branch where President Asare-Boahen and his wife attend. President Tabi attended Penkwase and President Ofosu-Appiah traveled to Duayaw Nkwanta. President Tabi orchestrated the logistics and I pulled together a release and sustaining list. Once we had confirmation that all of the branches had been reached and the new presidency had been sustained, we gathered at the district center and set them apart.

Sunyani Estates Branch Building
Estates Branch Sacrament Mtg

We provided training and gave them direction on where to start and then we drove back to Kumasi. Such an amazing and wonderful weekend! How we love this work!

I need to back up a few days and talk about the setting apart of Sani Lare (Benin Cotonou Mission – French Speaking) and Peter Apambilla (Nigeria Enugu Mission). Both of these young men will be honorable and hard working missionaries.

Matthew Adjei

On Friday evening, we had a missionary return from the Nigeria Owerri Mission. Elder Matthew Adjei served a short time in the Kumasi Mission (during covid) and then made his way to Nigeria to complete his mission. This is one impressive young man! For the last 9.5 months he has been serving as an assistant to the mission president. He is humble, soft spoken, and on fire with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He will return to the Obuasi 4th Branch where he will bring his energy, testimony, and commitment to the membership of the entire branch. It is young men like Matthew who bring great hope to the future of the Church in Ghana. We are so pleased to welcome him back home and to see where his life will take him.

Among all of the good things that happened this last week, there is one that saddens us. One of our missionaries was sent home due to persistent disobedience. We are always disappointed when something like this has to happen. It is hard on us, the mission as a whole, and on the missionary and especially the parents of the missionary. Sometimes, the only way to help someone is to suspend the privilege of being a missionary for a season. Our prayer is that this particular missionary will have a change of heart and return to finish with honor.

One of the great blessings of being a mission leader is the opportunity to see so much of the gospel in action. Missionaries coming, missionaries going, new leaders called, trained, and set apart. Personal ministering interviews, temple recommend interviews, organizational leaders being called and trained. We truly have a front row seat to the establishment of the Church in Africa. We are grateful beyond words to work with the powerful Area Presidency, our amazing senior missionary couples, the energetic and committed young missionaries, and the leaders of these stakes, districts, wards, and branches. Hurrah for Israel, Together in Ghana!

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