We have had what I would call a most unique week, different in so many ways from all of the other weeks we have been here. And as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a rest”, although we may have enjoyed some of that as well.
On Tuesday, we attended the district council in Atafoa where Elder Bampoe is the district leader. Elder Bampoe was a zone leader and continues to be an exceptional missionary. Also serving in that district are his companion Elder Mansaray (from Kenema, Sierra Leone), Sister Diamonds, and Sister Chimhepo. We arrived early so we could do phone checks and interviews before the district council, which we managed to do. Elder Bampoe led an inspiring meeting and then we snapped a picture at the end.
Tuesday evening the Steinmetz’s arrived from Tamale as did Ben Tyler and Felicia Mensah from Cape Coast / Accra. We invited the Moomey’s, the Garrison’s, and the Steinmetz’s to attend and learn more about the gospel literacy program so that they can help us move it forward in the Member Districts in particular. Ben and Felicia came to present the training. All four of them stayed at our home. Our goal is to also get the missionaries involved in the program. We started the training at 11:00 am on Wednesday and ended around 4:00 pm. It was time well spent. After we left Sierra Leone, I continued to work with the Gospel Literacy team in combining the Teacher and Learner manuals into one. Working with Joan Heckle, the brains behind the entire project, an effort was made to simplify and improve on previous teacher instructions, as well as follow the same instruction pattern in each book and chapter. The books were finally published in Accra earlier this year in an A4 format with hardcovers. They are simply beautiful and beautifully simple. This makes each book very functional. It has made us so happy to see these new materials finally getting out where they can do some good. It was a wonderful day and brought back so many memories of our time in Sierra Leone. In fact, one of the videos Ben played was the one with Charles David and his story. It brought tears to my eyes to relive those glorious experiences with him.
After the training, President Tabi, President Obeng and Elder Garrison (Mission Executive Secretary) joined me at the Mission Office and we did some work in developing some strategic growth plans for the district. They key here in Ghana is to take the Church to the people. Distances between units that are not walkable (3 miles max?) means we will have members that cannot afford the transport each week to come. So this reduces the area in which we can proselyte and while not a show-stopper for the missionaries, the work could be accelerated by having more units with missionaries assigned to each. Fortunately the district has done an amazing job of mapping the people with latitudes and longitudes, even though nearly 25% of them are lost. This is also something we are working on getting the missionaries involved with. Sometimes the wheels move slowly.
Thursday and Friday was our couples retreat. This is something we will do each year as a way to give the couples a break from their daily routine. Young missionaries may not fully appreciate the sacrifice senior couples make to leave their kids, grandkids, homes, friends, and conveniences to serve. This retreat is a way for us to show appreciation to them for all of their hard work in helping the mission move forward and the districts to become self-reliant through training and mentoring. The Allred’s who live in Techiman will be going home in two weeks so they opted not to come.
On Thursday morning we played some pickleball, then we all ate breakfast at our place (french toast, bacon (sort of) and bananas). We then had scripture study led by Sister Garrison. We talked about scriptures from the topical guide under Jesus Christ, Exemplar. It was amazing. From there the Moomey’s and the Garrison’s went over to the pool at the Golden Tulip Hotel. We can pay a minimal day rate to get access to the pool. Sister Steinmetz had been fighting a bug and wasn’t feeling well enough to swim, so the Steinmetz’s went to the Mall to find some foods that aren’t available in Tamale. LaDawn and I joined the other couples at the hotel for lunch around 1 pm. After lunch we came back home and kept on preparing for the upcoming transfers, zone conference instruction and reading and replying to missionary letters (that last one is my job). Thursday night we all went over to Noble House for a delicious Chinese food meal. We thought we should go Thursday evening, thinking Friday would be too busy, but it was packed liked we had never seen before. Fortunately we went early enough to get a table before the crowds came. After dinner, we all came to our home and most played a game of Farkle.
On Friday, we went for a walk together (Sister Steinmetz was still not feeling well) over near where the Moomey’s and the Garrison’s live. After breakfast, we all met up again at our house for scripture study, this time led by Elder Steinmetz. The topic was again from the Topical Guide scriptures on Jesus Christ and the sub category was “the glory of”. Another excellent and well spent hour. Around 10 am we held a couples council. We talked first about how we might implement the training that the Dance’s developed on training organizational leaders. We used the same materials that the Dance’s used to present it to the mission presidents.
That was wonderful and gave everyone a good feel for the work we need to do. Sister Garrison will train the Relief Society leaders, Sister Moomey the Young Women leaders, and LaDawn the Primary leaders. We feel so strongly about the importance of women training women. The Allred’s have already been doing some of this training in Techiman and we need to catch up with them on their experiences. Our first District experience will be on July 9th in Sunyani. One of the slides in the presentation was about how to get the water to the end of the row. In this case, we were discussing the importance of making sure this valuable and well prepared training gets to every single organization leader in every branch and in every district. This concept of getting the water to the end of the row is symbolic of the work we are doing here with the member districts. In some case, the plants are starting to die half way down the row for a lack of water. We are moving as quickly as possible to get the water moving again.
We also spent some time talking about Gospel Literacy and who we might begin some work in that area. The Steinmetz’s are taking the lead with their work in Tamale.
Sister Moomey and Sister Garrison retrieved lunch for us from KFC (yes, that is Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ghana) and we quickly consumed it in time for our Mission Devotional with Clairissa Jolley, a friend who lives in Colorado. She did an absolutely amazing job presenting doctrine and then some personal stories and testimonies that were absolutely spirit-filled and life changing. The missionaries loved the devotional. We are so grateful for the time she took to prepare and present such a marvelous message. Thank you Clairissa!
Following the devotional, we took a picture with Elder Yeboah. Elder Yeboah has been released as an assistant and is spending his last transfer in a place called Aprade with Elder Shaw. His service as an Assistant has been stellar. He is an honest, hard-working, committed, disciple of Jesus Christ. We will miss him but are glad we have him for one more transfer. After the photos, Elder Yeboah, Elder Simpson and I worked on the transfer board as we attempted to make some final changes (even though we have learned that nothing is ever final until it over).
On Saturday morning we had our transfer meeting with the Garrisons, the Moomey’s, the Office Elders, The Assistants, and our mission driver, Alex. I also interviewed the office elders and Assistants (they were the last four interviews for the transfers). LaDawn does a great job figuring out the high level logistics for the transfer and then everyone else helps to fill in the gaps and make sure that assignments are appropriately made and carried out.
At 1 pm, I loaded up the car and headed to Bibiani. We had received approval from the Area Presidency to change out the District Presidency and so this was the weekend we had selected to do just that. On a Saturday afternoon, the trip to Bibiani was right at 2.5 hours. I missed having LaDawn as a traveling companion, but we knew if she came, she would be sitting and waiting for me. She had begun to feel a bit under the weather so we thought it was good if she could stay home and rest. Once in Bibiani, I met President Tabi who had been meeting with the district council to arrange for someone to be in each unit the next day to conduct the business. We then meet President Ewusie (current branch president of one of the Bibiani branches) and we drove over to his home (he met us to show us the way) and extended the call for him to serve as the new District President. He has a wonderful family and an extraordinarily supportive wife. We loved the few minutes we spent with them. From there, we drove back over to the “district center” (I put it in quotes because it is really just a branch building too small to serve the needs of the people – it is the district center because there is an office there for the District Presidency). Upon arrival, we met with President Turkson and released him. He has served for 4 years and has helped the district get off the ground as he was the very first district president and a pioneer of the Church in the Bibiani area. It was primarily through his leadership and effort that the Church came to Bibiani so many years ago. Where once there was nothing, there is now a district of 800 members in 5 branches: Kuffour Camp, Gyedi, Estates, Sefwi Bekwai, Sefwi Waiwso. President Turkson is 72 years old and shows no sign of slowing down. This man loves the Lord and we are so grateful for his leadership and efforts.
That night President Tabi and I stayed in the Aduaddai Hotel. This time LaDawn reserved two rooms so we would make sure President Tabi would have one. He and I had a nice meal together (fried rice and chicken) and then I spent several hours working on answering missionary letters. The room was nice, even though the bed was hard (just like before). I had a good nights sleep.
The next morning, I arrived at the district center at 8:15 am so that I could extend a call to the existing first counselor to continue in his role in the new presidency. The second counselor was to be Francis Arthur who lives at the opposite end of the district in Sefwi Waiwso. Because he has only lived in the district for two months, I needed to call his prior bishop and/or stake president to make sure he was worthy to serve. Both gave their full support, allowing President Tabi to call him (he had traveled to Bekwai to meet him) prior to sacrament meeting.
When 9:00 am rolled around, I expected the meeting in the Estates Branch would start. It was their branch conference. When I gathered everyone together, they assured me the meeting would start at 10:00 am instead of 9:00 am because it was branch conference. What? One more opportunity for improvement!
After the meeting we gathered the new district presidency together and set them apart. I set President Ewusie apart and President Tabi set apart his counselors. We then spent another hour with them on some key items to focus on as a new district presidency. Shortly after I left Bibiani, I realized the hotel had not charged me for the dinner the night before. Since President Tabi had stayed to do some temple recommends, I called him and he was able to go by and settle with the hotel, knowing we would reimburse him later. By 1:30 pm I was on my home and back by 4:00 pm. After dinner, the Assistants came over and we put the finishing touches on the topics for Mission Leadership Council that would be held the following Thursday, talked about the upcoming zone conferences, and spent a few minutes again reviewing the transfer board. Before I finalize transfers, I always run it past the Assistants who often have insights I do not have and this occasion was no different. These are some great young men!
And so the work continues. As a young man growing up on a farm, I did plenty of flood irrigation of our fields. Particularly the potato and corn fields. I know that the more volume of water coming out of the ditch, through the culvert and into the rows, the further the water will run. The greater the volume of water, the more powerful the force of its progress and the greater the success rate in getting it to the end of the row in the allotted time. And so it is with our work as mission leaders. We know that engaging our senior couples more in the work of salvation, calling and training new district and branch leaders where needed, and putting our own significant efforts into the work, the momentum will carry understanding of Church governance and programs, understanding of doctrines and principles, and a greater desire to be doers of the word and not hearers only to the very end of the row in each branch and district. How we love this work and the magnificent hand of the Lord we see each day as we press forward, Together in Ghana.