On July 1, 2012, the Ghana Kumasi was officially established. President Leon A. and Sister Elizabeth G. Holmes from South Africa were called as the first mission leaders. It was our honor to have President and Sister Holmes with us on Zoom in a mission-wide devotional on Friday, July 1st to celebrate this milestone. They gave us a wonderful history of the beginnings of the mission, including a graphic showing the growth of the mission over the 3 years they were here. I decided to fast forward to June 30, 2022 and update the graphic to show what has happened in the intervening years. You will see it below:
The growth of the Church in the mission is actually quite remarkable. I don’t know what the membership was in the district in 2012, but since the mission was created, there have been an average just over 1000 baptisms per year. This is equivalent of a little over 5 stakes during the period which is born out in the statistics shown above.
We also had President and Sister Webster join us on the call. It was great to see them again and to hear some of their stories, especially relating to the evacuation of missionaries at the start of the Covid pandemic. What a difficult time they endured. One of the most telling pictures they showed was the sorting of all of the airline itineraries for the missionaries who had to leave. A picture is worth a thousand words!
We had expected to have President and Sister Cosgrave also join us on the call. They served between the Holmes and the Websters from 2015 – 2018. Unfortunately they were traveling to a son’s graduation and were unable to make it at the last minute. We were sorry to miss them. We had also arranged to have Elder Klebingat with us for the devotional but because of last minute flight change due to an airline worker strike in Paris, they were rerouted and delayed a day in their return from home leave. Even though we had some disappointments, we all enjoyed learning a bit more about the mission from its inception and are excited for what the next 10 years will bring (and especially the next two!).
This week was zone conference week. We started with University and Konongo on Tuesday then moved to Suame and Dichemso on Wednesday, and Asouyeboa and Bantama on Thursday. Coupled with interviews of those companionships who live furtherest out, it was a wonderful – and busy week!
At zone conference we focused on 1) The Divine Companionship. What it means to have the Holy Ghost as the third companion. 2) Listening. How to listen more intently rather than preparing what we will say next while teaching. 3) Praying with Faith. Our success is based on how much faith we have in Jesus Christ. To the degree that we can pray with increasing faith, our success as missionaries will grow. 4) Integrity of Heart. Disciples of Jesus Christ are honest and filled with integrity. Regardless of the consequences, we should always be honest in all we do. 5) The power of turning to the Lord. Based on a talk by Elder Bednar with comments from other Apostles and the use of many scriptures, we discussed the power of Repentance in our own lives and the lives of those we teach and baptize. Every single zone conference finished between 1:30 – 2:00 pm. About 45 minutes later than usual. We squeezed a lot of doctrine and principle based living into the conference because we felt these were the important truths we needed to share.
At the end of the last two conferences (we forgot on the first one), we did a “Hurrah for Israel” shout. Many of you know the story of Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young as they were leaving their families to go to England to serve missions. Both were ill – as were their families. They were riding in the back of a wagon. As they were departing, Heber stopped the wagon and said to Brigham, “Let’s stand up and give them a shout”. And so they did, bringing the spirit of gladness into their hearts and that of their families. You can watch a reenactment of that scene here starting at the 4:00 minute mark. And so we have done this once before (we took the idea from President and Sister Harper in Sierra Leone). It is always a joyous and spiritually powerful moment for those missionaries who really understand the scope and nature of the work we are engaged in.
It was also this week that we bid farewell to the Allred’s from Star Valley, Wyoming, USA. Elder and Sister Allred served their entire mission in the city of Techiman. They were instrumental in helping a number of young missionaries prepare for and receive their mission calls. They delivered valuable priesthood and organizational training to the leadership of the four mission branches and taught a number of people how to play the piano, something they really loved doing. We are grateful for their service and will miss them dearly. On Tuesday evening, we joined with the Moomey’s and the Garrison’s to bid them farewell. Thank you for everything Elder and Sister Allred!
While we had so much to be grateful for and rejoice over this past week, we did have a lowlight as well. On Wednesday evening as we were returning from the Dichemso Stake Center after zone conference and interviews, the heavens opened and a deluge of rain ensued. The traffic was snarled and what usually takes less than 30 minutes turned into over an hour. When we got near the Mission Home, we decided to take the back road onto our street. The main road was extremely busy and we felt we could avoid more delay. As we turned from the road we were on, to the road our home is on, the water was running over the entire area where the two roads join. Unfortunately I turned a little too soon, and I missed the end of the asphalt cover over the drainage ditch. The result was not good. My front tire went into the cement ditch and when it came out it was flat. My back tire also followed the same path, but it seemed to be okay. Since it was still pouring rain, we hobbled the last 200 yards to our house and I began to change the tire (it was still raining, but only lightly at this point). When I got the car jacked up, and the old tire off, I realized I couldn’t get the spare back on because the jack would not go any higher. Fortunately, I called Elder Moomey and he came over and helped me with his jack. We got the front tire on and everything put away and Elder Moomey was just leaving when I realized that the rear tire was also going flat. I had punctured it as well. Ugh. I managed to stop Elder Moomey just as he was leaving and we changed the back tire as well, this time using the spare from their truck (fortunately they are both Toyota’s and use the same size tire). I cannot tell you how grateful I was that Elder Moomey came to my rescue. We had another zone conference the next morning and we really needed our vehicle.
The next day, I drove back to the place where the tires were damaged. I had missed the end of the asphalt by inches. Unfortunately, there was steel rebar sticking out of the concrete and they were the culprits of my demise.
Despite the lowlight with the tires, we had one other great experience this week, as grandchild #22 was born. Sophie Kate Kunz joined Garen and Kaitlin’s amazing family. Garen is our 3rd son and 5th child. Sophie will be their 5th child. Kaitlin gave birth so fast that she delivered at home, by herself, even before the midwife could arrive. Both mother and daughter are doing great! Another miracle blessing we attribute to a loving and merciful God. Over the next month, we have three more grandsons who will be born (including a set of twins) and then in January, Chase and Heidi will bless us with our 26th grandchild. How blessed we are. How grateful we are!
We have come to appreciate that we will have ups and downs and that is part of the mission experience and part of the life experience. The constant change and churn of mission life is both exhilarating and exhausting. We love being with the missionaries. We love being engaged in the work of gathering Israel. We love the Ghanaian people and their gentle, believing spirits. We are grateful that we are here to usher in the next 10 years of the Ghana Kumasi Mission, knowing that there is so much good to still be done. We are grateful for our wonderful and supportive and growing family who lift us with their Facetime calls and texts. We are also grateful for good friends who help us when we are trouble – and a God who blesses us with wisdom and understanding that all will be well as we press forward, Together in Ghana.