“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, no corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Nephi 2:11)
And so we find ourselves in a week where interviews with missionaries were the main activity, yet nearly overshadowed by opposition. Missionary Medical recently completed a study of malaria cases during and after a missionaries service. What they found was that taking doxycycline for those missionaries from malaria prone countries, actually reduces their immunity. This has resulted in these missionaries returning home and soon contracting malaria. Therefore, the policy has recently changed, allowing missionaries from most African countries (South Africa, Southern Botswana, and Lesotho are the exceptions) to choose whether or not to take doxy. Americans are required to continue to take it each day. As one might expect, especially at the start of the rainy season, the number of cases has jumped. And while that was expected, what was not expected was the jump in cases among our non-African missionaries. In the last 10 days we have had 7 new cases. Four were Africans and three were Americans. The good news is that none of them were even close to life threatening, but all of them impacted the health of these vibrant missionaries and as a result the work also suffered.
And if the malaria infections were not enough, we have had some significant contention among missionaries, primarily companionships. This has also been a distraction to the work and in each case resulted in an intervention by us, requiring time and effort to help solve these issues. We have been amazed at how easy it is for some missionaries to get crosswise with their companion over the most insignificant issues. While as missionaries we teach forgiveness and love, we are still learning it for ourselves. The good news is that in nearly every situation, forgiveness was easily offered, sought and received. That is a credit to the young men and women who are willing to press forward and forgive.
And if malaria and companionship contention was not enough, we have been having trouble with our mission phones. Something has happened with google play store and we are having a hard time getting apps that we use downloaded, especially new phones that we give to new companionships. (If a companionship is responsible for breaking a phone because they dropped it, it will be replaced with a refurbished model of the same vintage.) This causes noise across the mission and in some cases keeps missionaries from being able to contact their families and the people they are teaching (which is our biggest concern). And speaking of phones, on Friday night we had two of our zone leaders accompany a pair of sisters to a nearby clinic. One of the sisters had been diagnosed with malaria and needed to take an IV treatment that evening. When they came out of the clinic, the guard unlocked the door for them and then locked it back up. As they were waiting for their Uber to arrive, two guys pulled up on a motorcycle and demanded their phones. They could not turn back to the clinic lobby, although it was only a few feet away because the door was locked and the guard was afraid for his own welfare so he wasn’t about to open it. The only thing the missionaries could do was relinquish their phones. Unfortunately, the zone leaders had just received a new one a day or two earlier, but we can always replace a phone. We were grateful that they did the prudent thing and give up the phones and equally grateful that the bike then sped off into the night. We have learned not to send missionaries that late (it was 10 pm when they finished) to that clinic for ANY reason.
And so we learn from the opposition that we face, trusting in the Lord, expressing gratitude for the help and strength to work through these bumps in the road, always recognizing His hand in the work that we do.
On Monday, we finally got our toilet fixed. Through a series of unfortunate events, we had to replace the toilet in the master bedroom a month ago. Since then, we have been fighting the smell coming back up the line from the septic. I caulked every possible hole, nook and cranny I could find on that toilet, all to no avail. I finally got a plumber back over and they removed the toilet and reseated it, this time using a gasket to make a tight seal. In America we use wax rings, but not here. Generally the toilet is just caulked to the floor. Fortunately the plumber found a toilet gasket that worked. When he lifted the toilet off its mounts, I discovered there were two holes that may have been used when the toilet was made. I am not quite sure why they are there. Needless to say, with the plugging of those two holes with caulk and the use of the gasket, the toilet is again a blessing instead of a curse. Maybe this qualifies as an additional form of opposition? Ah, the things of life.
On Tuesday we visited the Dichemso District Council where Elder Sehi is the District Leader. He did a great job and the meeting went well. This district will achieve their baptismal goal of of 12 which they set at the start of the transfer. They are working hard and having success. Below you can see the way we do the companionship accountability at each District Council. “Goals” represent the number of people they feel the Lord has prepared for them to baptize this transfer. “BA” stands for Baptisms Achieved already in the transfer. “PE” stands for the Potential Elect that have been found. These are people the missionaries feel will be baptized, but not this transfer. The “EF” are the Elect Found that will be baptized during the 6 week transfer period. We also did 16 interviews following the district council, finishing up just after 3:30 pm. Every single missionary had light in their eyes and desire in their hearts to do the Lord’s will.
On Wednesday we drove to Dunkwa, interviewing the 4 missionaries there and then came back to Obuasi and interviewed 4 more. We then drove to the Asonkore building and interviewed four more and lastly we drove to Adansi Asokwa and interviewed the two elders there finishing up around 3:30 pm. I love these interviews. I love the sharing of the scriptures on Christ that we both have memorized and I love finding out what is working and where they might be having struggles. This was another great day of interviews with great missionaries. We didn’t get pictures of everyone, but here are some of them: Sister Walker and Sister Quanor (Asonkore); Elder Mutatshi and Elder Ferry (Obuasi 1); Elder Kasongo, Elder Call, Elder Hoyt, and Elder Lenge (Dunkwa).
On Thursday, we drove to Suame and interviewed 12 more missionaries. We were originally going to interview four more, but we had to be back to the Mission Office by 1:30 pm, so we postponed the last four until this week. When the Suame stake center was built, the location was perfect for the members, but it has turned out to have some significant downsides. There is a surface garbage dump (aka landfill) not far from the building and when the wind blows from the wrong direction, it is a challenge because of the smell (I like to sit outside). Thursday was one of those days. The other problem is that it sits on property where numerous big truck mechanics have set up a repair shop around it. No shop building, no type of order, just park the truck in front of the stake center, tear it apart and rebuild the engine. And there a LOT of trucks parked there. If it weren’t for the steeple, one would not even know the building is there. It is so unfortunate. I took a picture off of Google Maps, but it doesn’t do justice, as this week there were more trucks than ever parked right in front of the building. The good news is that interviews went well and we were back at the Mission Office on time.
When our Fortuner was in for repairs after the accident, the dealer “farmed” out the body work to another vendor. While the vehicle was with that vendor, someone removed the small circuit board inside the alarm remote. This essentially would give anyone with that circuit board access to the vehicle. Couple that with the concept of a potential tracker being put on the vehicle and the result was a decision to not drive the vehicle until the whole alarm system could be changed. So on Thursday, the fleet manager from Accra sent a man named Amufa to Kumasi to do just that. He finished just before we returned at 1:30 pm. So we traded vehicles and are now back in the Fortuner. While the Fortuner does not have cruise control, everything else about it is so much better than the Pajero Sport loaner we were driving. Seems like a small thing, but to us it makes a big difference with as much driving as we do.
Thursday afternoon we held our mid transfer Virtual Mission Leadership Council. The topic was on how to TEACH companionship unity. It is one thing to discuss unity, but it is a completely different level to teach young mission leaders how to teach it to other missionaries. Elder Simpson and Elder Yeboah did a terrific job preparing and delivering an inspired instruction. The virtual meeting consisted of one exercise (Write down 5 things you love about your companion) and then 4 inspired questions which the Assistants then followed up with doctrine and quotes from Church Leaders. Here are the 4 questions:
- Why is companionship unity so important?
- What things make companionship unity difficult?
- How can we resolve the issues that create disunity?
- How can we be persuasive in the Savior’s way?
In addition, I spent a few minutes discussing the Ladder of Inference which is a model developed by Chris Argyris who taught at both Yale and Harvard Universities. It is an organizational behavior model about how to resolve conflict based on misunderstandings and judgments. It has been a profound help to me throughout my life and thought it might be useful to the members of the MLC as well. Overall the meeting lasted 90 minutes and was just excellent in both the spirit that was conveyed and the content that was shared. These are amazing leaders and we are so grateful we get to work them!
Friday was our journey out to Nkawkaw, Juaso, and Konongo where we interviewed 14 missionaries at three locations. The traffic through Konongo delayed us about 20 minutes all because of a stalled truck in the middle of town. This must have been the day of stalled trucks because upon our return to Kumasi, we stopped at Star BItes for some “Linner” and what is normally a 15 minute drive home turned into over an hour due to the same problem. A dead truck. Something about Friday traffic I guess. Perhaps you can imagine these big 18 wheelers which have been sent to Africa after all of their useful life was consumed in Europe or Asia. The men here somehow get them running and then haul these huge overweight loads across the country. The number of broken down trucks we come across is significant and when these big trucks with heavy loads travel through congested areas on streets hardly big enough for cars, a breakdown is a big deal in terms of traffic flow. Such was our lot on Friday – twice! On the upside, we really enjoyed our interviews with the missionaries and we love the Nkawkaw environment with rock cliffs and “mountains”. It is always a fun day for us, except when trucks block traffic! 😊
On Saturday we traveled the 10 minutes to the Agric building where we had 10 more interviews. Once again, I only managed to take pictures of the zone leaders who were the very last interviews. All 10 of these missionaries serve in the same district and the unity they share is impressive. One of the things I find the most rewarding is meeting with these missionaries and seeing their individual spiritual growth. Saturday was no exception. I rejoice in our God when I see an elder or a sister begin to catch the vision of their purpose as missionaries. The result is confidence, humility, diligence and desire. This is definitely one of the greatest blessing of being a mission leader. Saturday was especially filled with these experiences. The nice thing about the Agric building is the large pavilion in the back where I can hold interviews where it is quiet. Something not easy to find in Kumasi (the quiet).
On Sunday we drove to Obuasi to attend church at the Obuasi 2nd Branch. They are the unit that meets at the District Center. It was fast and testimony meeting and the testimonies were just excellent. The branch president is President Manu, an energetic and experienced leader. The meeting was perfect. Following sacrament meeting we attended Sunday School. The teacher divided the room into three groups and then gave each group a question to discuss. Ours was on the story of Gideon in the Book of Judges. This is one way a teacher can come unprepared and still have the members in the class have a good experience. At the end, each group reported what they learned, that unfortunately took us about 10 minutes overtime, but I think overall, everyone in the class had a good experience. But we need to improve on the method a bit.
After Sunday School, I found a quiet place (sort of) in the cultural hall and had a WhatsApp video call with Jennifer Ayinebono Adongyine. A strong young member in Bolgatanga First Branch who wants to go on a mission. We completed her mission interview and the next day I submitted her paperwork to the Area Presidency. She is the sixth missionary from Bolgatanga in the last month that I have interviewed for missions. Normally I prefer to do these face to face, but the distance is prohibitive and with a good video connection I was able to get the needed verbal and body language feedback that helps me to ascertain the mission worthiness and readiness of a prospective missionary. All of these young single adults from Bolgatanga are powerful and deeply committed young people who have a great desire to serve. They will be great missionaries!
After the interview, we attended to some Priesthood business that we will discuss more at a later date. The work continues to press forward!
One last item I want to mention. This week LaDawn was looking at the Missionary Roster on our IMOS system and she noticed a new senior couple on the list. Roger and Debbie Anderson from Layton, Utah have been assigned as an MLS couple to our mission. We are so excited to have them. We have so much work to do with the districts and mission branches, and couples make such a huge difference. With the Allred’s going home at the end of the month, we will be down a couple. We still need 3 more just to meet the needs of the mission. Any takers out there? We are hopeful there will be more coming. They will arrive in September and while we haven’t yet decided on their assignment, we know they will make a big difference. They have served three missions already: A military relations mission in California, a temple mission to Cebu, Philippines, and a service mission from home working in their local Bishop’s Storehouse. They come with experience, testimony, and desire. How do we know? Because as soon as we saw their name on IMOS we called and spoke to them. Hurrah for Israel!
Regardless of the opposition that we face in this work, whether it be internal to the mission with disagreements and contention or external to the mission like phone trouble, traffic issues, or even robbery, we are not daunted in our assignment to gather Israel one last time. We are SO grateful to be engaged in this great work and see the hand of the Lord every single day. Truly it is a huge honor, privilege, and blessing to be doing this work, Together in Ghana.