On Sunday of this week we traveled to Techiman. We left around 7 am and arrived about 9:15 am. In lieu of having four branch conferences which are difficult to schedule due to the distance and the fact they all meet at 9:00 am in different buildings, we decided to have a combined branch conference. Each of the four branch presidents spoke. President Adu, President Lesuno, President Hene, and President Mainoo. My second counselor, President Obeng also spoke. We had Elder and Sister Allred bare their testimonies and then LaDawn spoke and I finished the conference with my comments. We had 210 people in attendance. It was obvious the members loved coming together in a district conference like format. With the four branches, we have been considering for some time now the creation of a district in Techiman. We are only baptizing 5 people a month across the four branches, and that will never be sufficient to realize the growth we need to create a district. However, we have way too many less active members. If we could make a concerted effort to both share the gospel and bring back some of the members who have lost their way, we would have more than enough leadership. So it is with that backdrop that we planned the conference to get a feel for what a district might look like. We had good topics throughout the conference: Developing Strong Marital and Family Relationships; Increasing Faith in Jesus Christ; Importance of Partaking of the Sacrament Each Week; Sharing the Gospel; Making and Keeping Covenants; Creating a Christ-Centered Home.
My plan was to talk about discovering the joy of daily repentance as encouraged by President Nelson, but as LaDawn was speaking, I thought I should ask Heavenly Father one last time, if I needed to change my topic and if so, what did He want me to tell Him. The answers came quickly, and interestingly, they came as statements directly to the congregation….
- Heavenly Father loves you. You have made a choice to try and follow Him and He knows that. Some are doing better than others, but he sees your efforts.
- He wants you to receive all that He wants to give to you.
- He wants you to share the message of the restored gospel with your families. They are His children too.
- He wants you to help stem the tide of wickedness that is engulfing the earth.
- He would like you to have joy in fulfilling the measure of your creation.
And so I changed my comments to focus on these 5 messages. Initially I only received four, and then I said a silent prayer, “Heavenly Father, I would like to have 5, it is a better number than 4. Now that might sound kind of dumb, but I felt that I needed a fifth item. And that is when the last statement came concerning joy. I have to say that this was a significant moment for me. I knew exactly what He wanted me to say and as I spoke I could feel the spirit confirming the message. It was one of those experiences that I will never forget. This is happening more and more as I truly seek to know His will, He willingly shares it with me. I am forever grateful for His goodness, love, and kindness to us. For those who offer prayers in our behalf, I want to assure you that we feel them and this experience and other similar ones, are the direct result of those prayers.
Following the meeting, President Obeng and I met with the branch presidents, took a few moments so that each could share one thing that they feel they need to do in their branches as a result of the conference. We then invited them to begin to have branch council each week so that the work of salvation can be spread across the leaders in an effort to accelerate it. All in all, it was a wonderful day. Later in the day, I spent about 90 minutes with a man in the area who made some mistakes and is eager to change. I hope good things can come of the time we spent together.
One of the other two significant highlights of the week was our Mission Leadership Council which we held on Thursday. Being with these magnificent leaders is always a bright spot for us. Elder Yeboah and Elder Simpson did a masterful job in discussing how to Baptize the Elect. The genesis of this instruction came from Elder Morgan and Elder Yeboah. This will be our theme for the upcoming zone conferences so we rolled it out to the MLC so they will be prepared to teach it to their zones. The Sister Training Leaders will be talking about convert retention. We are really looking forward to these conferences. We also talked to the MLC about the mission baptismal goals. We don’t set a goal for the mission, we allow each companionship to set their own baptismal goal for the transfer. In the March 22 – May 3 transfer period, we achieved 44% of the goal. The MLC companionships baptize twice as many people per companionship as the rest of the mission. These are some statistics we discussed in an effort to understand them better. I love the faith of these young leaders who all overwhelming felt we should be baptizing 80-95% of the mission goal every transfer.
The third of our major highlights was a mission devotional that we held on Friday. Our good friend Thom Harrison presented a devotional on the importance of Names. It was marvelous! The spirit of the meeting was palpable and missionaries have made mention of it to me a number of times. One of my favorite comments came from a missionary from America. “In personal study I have been reading Jesus the Christ and the part that stuck out to me was how important names are. Brother Harrison also talked about the same thing in his devotional which was a really cool thing to get further insight on. I never realized how important names were I just thought that they were a way to identify people, but while they do identify us, they also tell everything about us. I have learned a lot about how we can get names any why we get them. In Jesus the Christ it gives many examples of where people’s names were changed to mark either blessings they had received or changes to their character. To me it makes me feel special that I get my own names and I want to do my best to make them good ones.” Thank you Brother Harrison!
The majority of the rest of the week was spent in interviews. On Tuesday we attended the University District Council where Elder Franklin is the district leader. Sister Musa gave the instruction which was a review of the first nine months of zone conferences since we arrived. She did well and the missionaries had some fun. We did interviews both before and after the meeting, including missionaries from the Atonsu District who also meet at the University Stake Center for District Council.
On Wednesday, we drove to Asouyeboa to have interviews with the missionaries who live close to that area. Sister Edigin and Sister Kumi (Sister Training Leaders); Sister Yenga and Sister Komugisa; Elder Miller and Elder Welch; and Elder Donohoe and Elder Musungo (Zone Leaders)
On Friday, we drove out to Effiduase, picking the zone leaders (Elder Degelbeck and Elder Sam) up on the way, and interviewing the Elders who work in Effiduase and Sneyagya. We then drove back to Kwamo and did interviews there. In Kwamo, the missionaries could not find anyone with the keys to the ward building, and so I did the interviews in the car while LaDawn and the other missionaries waited across the street on a bench. It is not often I get an air conditioned office for interviews!
We really appreciated having some time on Saturday to prepare for zone conferences, knowing we would be heading to Techiman the next morning and then going non-stop the full week. We had some trouble with a companionship from the night before that were not getting along, and so on Saturday morning I joined them over the phone for companionship study. I decided we needed to study about Jesus Christ, Exemplar from the topical guide. We spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes and only discussed two scriptures! It was wonderful but didn’t have much impact on one of the missionaries. On Sunday, I concluded I would need to move him and a clear solution presented itself that eventually played out successfully.
If Friday afternoon was not enough of a challenge with this companionship, we had a toilet break at the mission office and flood a number of rooms and hallways. And I mean flood! I was working on the missionary issue as the Garrison’s, Moomey’s, Alex (mission driver) and Cooper (mission Facilities Manager) along with one of the guards (Jude) were scooping and sweeping up water. What a mess! (At least it wasn’t in the Mission Home this time).
We continue to be grateful for our involvement in this great work. We clearly see the hand of the Lord in every aspect of what we are doing. So much of our focus is on helping these young missionaries become the very best disciples possible. And as we teach, counsel, and correct along the way, we learn more about ourselves and our own weaknesses and frailties. How grateful we are for the strengthening and redeeming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ! We testify that He lives and that this is HIS work in which we are engaged, Together in Ghana.