Some of you may have seen the stunning new pictures that were sent back to earth from the James Webb telescope. It is the next generation space telescope replacing the Hubble telescope. The pictures it is sending back to earth are nothing less than stunning. We love them because they show the grandeur and magnitude of God’s creations and remind us of the significance of the work we are currently engaged in. As we thought about this past week, one filled primarily with interviews, there is only one word to describe it: Becoming. Just as the universe is constantly in motion, creating, changing, expanding, this is the same thing we are seeing with our missionaries. Many are finding themselves in a very powerful and life changing way. Just as God moves and galaxies are created, when He touches the life of any of us, we are never the same, and we begin to become the sons and daughters of God that He has envisioned for us. The result is joy, success, and confidence.
While these pictures do not represent all of the interviews, they are a good cross section of the 49 interviews we did last week. There are so many great missionaries in the mission who are working hard to become more like Jesus Christ. Their commitment and desire is inspiring. What is most gratifying is when a missionary makes a conscious decision to change. They know they have not been as good as they should be, and they want to be better. Those are the miracles of a full time mission. You can see the joy in their countenances.
Now, having said the good about the missionaries who are finding themselves, there are also those who are still lost. It is hard to understand why it is the case, but they have come on their mission for the wrong reason and now it is impacting the work and other missionaries. In the interviews this week, I had 4 separate situations where missionaries were not living up to their purpose or their promise. These situations are difficult and require some encouragement beyond, “work hard and be obedient”. And so, this made one day particularly difficult. I can see how it would be easy just to turn a blind eye to disobedience issues, but for the long-term benefit of the missionary’s spiritual life, we refuse to ignore these concerns. This of course creates stress for us and for the missionary involved. Sometimes it takes a serious discussion before a missionary understands that their current direction is incompatible with their missionary purpose. Fortunately, this is a very small number of missionaries and nearly all of them choose to change. When they say they will change, but they do not, it generally results in a return to their home for a few transfers to consider what they want out of life. When these missionaries return they are generally among the best, having experienced the consequences of their decisions. The Lord will hold us accountable at the day of judgment, our goal is to make sure that every missionary that we serve with will stand with boldness before the judgment bar of God, clean and worthy.
It was after this particularly difficult day that I was doing interviews in another part of the mission. A missionary that has been a diligent and successful elder called me a few days before the interview and told me he had a confession to make about the misuse of sacred funds. We discussed it on the phone and when we met in the interview, he brought everything he had purchased with sacred funds to give to me, even things like the small scriptures and a journal that are allowed. This missionary was literally in the depths of humility. We worked through the things he could keep and the things he needed to turn in. Several items of clothes were needed missionary attire which we arranged to let him keep but made a correction in the funding of the items. I rejoiced at the repentant heart of this good elder and sent him on his way.
When his companion came in, he already knew the story because the elder had explained everything to him. He could see the bag of things that were sitting next to my chair. He told me that his companion had nothing back home and he felt he had been richly blessed in his life. And then he asked if he could use his personal money to buy those items back that were most important to his companion so he could give them to him. With tears in his eyes, he expressed gratitude for his companion. He wanted nothing more than to do something for him, that he could not do for himself. A repentant missionary with a redemptive companion. It was a sweet and tender moment after a particularly difficult week. That day I not only saw growth in the repentant missionary, but I saw a new light and resolve in his redemptive companion. These are the moments I cherish. A moment like this makes the parable of the lost sheep and the rejoicing in its return so meaningful to me (Luke 15:4-6).
On Tuesday, we attended the Atonsu District Council where Elder Noryan is currently serving as the district leader. It was a good district council where the instruction was focused on “Turning to the Lord”, a follow-up from the zone conference message a few weeks ago. These elders live in a very nice apartment on the 4th floor. It is a big place with an amazing view from the balcony. It is expensive relative to many of the other apartments in the mission, but it was hard for us to find a place for them to stay that was in their area. We enjoyed being with them and we certainly enjoyed the view!
After the district council meeting we came back to the Mission Home and participated in our mid-transfer MLC. Elder Simpson and Elder Sam gave a marvelous instruction titled “Helping Missionaries not Shrink”. The discussion was welcomed and interactive. We were all edified by it. The second part of the MLC was a council discussion on the topics we need to focus on for the next round of zone conferences. I want to do something on the Book of Mormon, but the members of the MLC felt strongly about delivering instructions to their zone based on the needs that they saw from the exchanges, district councils, and phone calls. Up until now we have been doing top-down topics, meaning the Assistants and I would decide the topics and then push it down to the zone conferences and district councils. This next round we will allow each zone leader companionship select their own topic and see how it goes. How we love these young mission leaders, filled with testimony, courage, obedience, and diligence!
On Saturday, I met my first counselor President Edmund Obeng on the roadside near his home and the two of us drove up to Techiman. We left around 10:15 am and arrived about 12:45 pm. Once there, we were joined by my new second counselor, Joseph Asante. We were in Techiman to hold a membership council in an effort to help a wonderful man repent of some mistakes he has made in the past. While he has historically had difficultly in confessing the sin, his heart has been softening and there was such an outpouring of the spirit as he was able to finally relieve the burden he has been carrying for several years. It was a glorious meeting and far exceeded my expectations. I am so grateful for the atoning power of Jesus Christ and His ability and desire to forgive and renew the spirit of a broken hearted sinner. I am so grateful for President Obeng and President Asante. Two men who willingly gave up their time to do this important work. Working together with them is a joy and a blessing. I made sure we took a snap before we left.
On Sunday, we left about 7:30 am and drove out to the Adansi Asokwa branch where I was able to interview Elder Amoah and Elder Goffa during the second hour. We were fortunate enough to witness the baptism of Samuel Aboasi after church. For the last several weeks, every time Elder Amoah would write to me he would tell me how much he loved this man and how grateful he was for meeting him and having the privilege of teaching him the gospel. It was such a joy to finally meet him. I was so impressed with these elders – and with Samuel. Their lives are filled with light and the love of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While there were only 30 people in attendance, that is not bad for branch only 8 months old. The branch president told me they would have 8 men to advance to the Melchizedek Priesthood at the upcoming District Conference. The missionaries and the branch are growing with priesthood strength and we are so happy to see the progress.
And that was the week. Missionaries “becoming”, members repenting and “becoming”, the mission leadership council “becoming”, presidencies and companionships working together and “becoming”. During the last couple of weeks of zone conferences, the spirit reaffirmed to me that everything having to do with God is progressing, moving, “becoming”. From electrons to living water, the things of God are in motion. To come unto Christ we have to MOVE towards Him, which means we have to leave something behind. What is it? It is the world and all of the natural man tendencies that tend to make the world more tantalizing than “becoming” like Christ. We are so grateful to be here, also working on “becoming”, Together in Ghana.