When the Mission President’s wife is not feeling well and it is transfer week, it definitely feels like there is an arm missing. Fortunately, Elder & Sister Garrison and Elder & Sister Moomey were here to fill in the gaps and with their help we made it through what was a very busy week. LaDawn was down with a bad cold and deep cough (one doctor referred to it as communal pneumonia). With the help of Sister Moomey and Elder Gibb (our area medical advisor), she was able to get the right medication and antibiotics to recover enough by Wednesday morning to come and take pictures with the new incoming missionaries. Her involvement in transfer week is so crucial to the whole week running smoothly, and without her I definitely felt like a one-armed man.
On Monday evening we said goodbye to five of our missionaries whose mission in Kumasi came to an end. Elder Nsungi, Elder Adjetey, Sister Shingirai, Elder Toe, and Elder Kabongo. We sent Elder Nsungi back to the Lubumbashi Mission for his last two transfers so that he could get a visa to go back to school in South Africa. Due to a combined error by the Area immigration office and the Mission, he was never issued a residency permit so when he went to get his South African visa in Accra, they could not issue him one. The only solution was to send him back to Congo where he was already a resident and where getting a school visa to South Africa would be possible. It is extremely rare for a missionary to be reassigned to another mission, but due the immigration issues and errors, it was approved by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
On Tuesday, morning I received a call from our missionary travel office in Accra. They informed me that DR Congo had sent four missionaries that were to come to Kumasi instead of the three we had discussed and agreed. The issue is that many of the Congolese missionaries received their calls prior to receiving their passports and other needed documents. That means they were temporarily reassigned to a local DR Congo mission until these documents were ready. When the documents finalize, I get an email and ask when I can receive them. It is not good when an unplanned missionary shows up. Last week I had also received an email about a New Zealand missionary (Elder Watch) who had 7 months left on his mission and was now able to come to Kumasi. My plan was to create a trio that would dissolve into two companionships when Elder Watch arrived. Unfortunately one of our missionaries in the MTC needed to go back home, so the extra DR Congo missionary took his place and we will only have a trio once Elder Watch arrives. These last minute changes keeps us on our toes and we are always grateful that the Lord makes a way possible for us to accommodate the changes. Just one more small way we acknowledge that this is His work and not ours.
The way Tuesday ended up was we met 14 missionaries at the airport (without my right arm), at 10:30 am. Because the van from the MTC had a flat tire on the way to the airport, the missionaries were barely able to make the flight (there were some strings pulled to make that happen). Unfortunately, their luggage was not able to be as lucky. We were told it would come on the 3:00 pm flight, but only 11 of the 18 bags arrived. There were 4 other missionaries that came Tuesday evening and arrived at the Mission office around 7:30 pm. The rest of the luggage came with them, although we had quite the time verifying that we all had of the pieces. Three of these late arriving missionaries had been in the MTC, but the Area Office misplaced their passports and could not put them on the earlier flight. The fourth missionary is from Sierra Leone and her family flew over to be sealed in the temple on Monday – except the temple isn’t open on Mondays. So she was sealed to her family on Tuesday morning and came to Kumasi that evening with the other missionaries. It is hard to explain the turmoil these changes cause us. We spend about 4 hours with new missionaries to get them oriented and started on a good path. In this case, the 4 that came late missed 3 hours of that orientation. Because of the schedule for the rest of the week, it was very difficult to change plans to accommodate these late arrivals. So we did what we could and we sent them out to their companions. Of the 18 total missionaries we received on Tuesday, 6 of them are from DR Congo. Two of the sisters have been in the MTC for 9 weeks and have been learning English. The other 4 did home MTC and then started serving in a French speaking mission. Needless to say, all 6 of them had very little ability to speak English. We were grateful that Sister Kakou, herself a relatively new missionary only here for three months, was able to help us with translation on Tuesday for the 6. Sister Kakou has been called to be a trainer, so on Wednesday, we asked Sister Lenga (one of our Sister Training Leaders) and her companion Sister Gurure to come to the Mission Office so Sister Lenga could help the new missionaries while they were being taught by the Assistants. During that same time, I did a “train the trainers” session for the missionaries who will train these new missionaries. Somehow it all worked out – just like it always does!
Wednesday morning LaDawn was able to join us and we gathered and took pictures of the entire group of new missionaries (above). Eighteen missionaries from 5 different countries, including young men from Hawaii and Alaska. Quite a diverse group! I have to say that I was quite impressed with all of them. Again, I was grateful for Sister Kakou who helped translate for those who are still learning English. These are valiant young men and young women who have come to gather Israel!
Following the training sessions that morning, we brought all of the missionaries into the living room area of the Mission Office (used to be the Mission Home) and matched them two by two. This is always one of the most fun and enjoyable events of the entire transfer. To see these new missionaries and trainers filled with anticipation about who the Lord will match them with is priceless. It is always the highlight of transfer week.
Following the assignment of trainers to trainees, we all crowded into every Mission van, pickup, and SUV that we have here in Kumasi and with only two seats remaining headed to the Bantama Stake Center. By the time we arrived, it was raining and it only intensified. That caused us to move everything inside and without power in the building it was a decent challenge to get every one organized into zones and given their new assignments. We were extremely grateful for our portable microphone system that we brought with us, without it we would have been challenged even more!
It wasn’t long however before companionships began to depart for their areas and by 2 pm we left with only a few missionaries remaining who were waiting on Tro-tros and Taxis. We are so grateful when the missionaries arrive safely back in their areas and begin the work they have been called to do
Once back at the Mission Home, we prepared for a meeting with the Area Presidency over Zoom. Elder Klebingat is on home leave so the meeting included all of the Mission Leaders across West Africa except for President and Sister Harper who must have had another commitment. Elder Martinez presided and Elder Kacher conducted. The topic of the 1 hour meeting what have we done with in regards to the counsel we received at the April Mission Leadership Seminar in Accra. Our contribution was the zone conference we held on the doctrine of baptism and how it has helped the missionaries understand the importance of it in allowing people access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It was so good to spend an hour with these amazing men and women and we are grateful for our association with ALL of them. At the end of each meeting everyone waves to each other and I managed to snap a picture capturing the joy as we each waved goodbye. Eight of these couples plus the Harpers as well as Elder & Sister Martinez and Elder & Sister Kacher will be departing at the end of June as their assignments have ended. How we will miss them all!
After the meeting, I returned to the Mission Office to set apart Lucas Kanyir who is from Bibiani and going to the Ghana Accra Mission. He had arrived right after the transfer meeting at Bantama and was staying the night in the Mission Office bunkhouse with the missionaries going back to Tamale the next morning. Lucas is a wonderful young man, humble, kind, easily entreated, and very teachable. He will be a great missionary.
On Thursday, we held our Mission Leadership Council. This transfer we brought in one new sister training leader, five new zone leaders and one new Assistant. It is rare for us to not have any change in the MLC but to have seven is also unusual. These are great leaders and it is with joy that we bring them in and include them in the work of leading the mission. They are always a bit surprised at the topics, the responsibilities, and the training and instruction they receive. This meeting was no exception. Elder Simpson and Elder Sam gave an absolutely outstanding instruction on “The Divine Companionship” based on a Mission Leader Seminar talk by Elder Holland 15 years ago. For me, it was another chapter in the Finding the Elect series (Planning, Finding, Baptizing) which I will title, Teaching the Elect. The entire instruction is based on having the Holy Ghost as the third member of our companionships. I am excited to see how this will help the missionaries throughout the mission as the Assistants present it at each of the zone conferences.
In addition to the instruction, we counseled on our approach to transportation money, Facebook posts and media referrals, revelatory daily planning, statistics on how we did for the transfer across the mission against our goals, and how our exchanges are going. We invited each companionship to do two things over the next 6 weeks. 1) Meet with at least two companionships on Sunday evening and participate with them in their weekly planning. 2) Reevaluate the amount of transportation money that each companionship is receiving.
Following the meeting, Hannah prepared for us a delicious meal of Banku with a delicious soup (included Okra, Chicken, and Beef). The authentic way to each the Banku is with your fingers, dipping it into the soup and then eating it. So delicious! And the Banku definitely stays with you!
On Friday, the Assistants joined me here at the Mission Home and we held leadership training for the new sister training leader, the new zone leaders, and the new district leaders. I am really starting to like the outline we are using and I think it has become quite helpful to the new leaders as well. Following the meeting I met with the Assistants and we discussed the upcoming zone conferences. We concluded that the zone leaders will present the topic “Listen” from Preach My Gospel and the Sister Training Leaders will present the topic “Pray with Faith”. I will be talking about the doctrine of Repentance (as a follow-on to the topic on Baptism). While Repentance precedes Baptism in the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, we needed to discuss Baptism before the doctrine of Repentance could be sufficiently meaningful to the Mission. LaDawn will discuss honesty and integrity. We have felt the spirit of the Lord confirm that these are the right topics for the mission and we are alway excited to see how they play out.
The rest of Friday and most of Saturday we were working from the Mission Home preparing for our instruction at the upcoming zone conferences. We try to spend the right amount of time in preparation, knowing that “doctrine, properly prepared and taught, will change behavior far more than talking about behavior.”
A week or so ago, we had a nearby lightening strike that took out our security cameras. So all day Friday we had Mabel (May-Bell) and her husband Prince and the contractors they had hired here working on getting it all working again. As a part of the “fix”, they installed a lightning arrestor on the roof and ran copper wires through the attic and down the side of the house in two places and into holes dug through the cement and 2 feet deep into the ground. We are all hopeful we will not have a reoccurrence of that problem! We always appreciate the work that Mabel and Prince do. They are timely, thorough, and competent. We are grateful for them and always rejoice when they are selected by the Facility manager to do work at the Mission Home.
Sunday was rather quiet. We attended Stake Conference in the Dichemso Stake and had an opportunity to speak for a few minutes to the people. Dichemso is one of the center stakes in Kumasi. It is a strong stake with many members who are pioneers of the Church in Kumasi. We were grateful to be invited and it is always a special treat to be able to see the missionaries in their element with the people they have invited to attend the conference.
After the stake conference we returned home and I finished up last weeks replies to the missionary letters. It was a busy week and I was behind in responding. In the early evening, we were invited by the Moomey’s to have a Father’s Day meal with them and the Garrison’s. It was delicious and a nice break from a rather hectic week. It was nice to come back home and take calls from each of our 7 children as they called to wish me a Happy Father’s Day. What a blessed man I am, working side by side with the love of my life (and my right arm), Together in Ghana.