Trying to figure out a title for this weeks post is not easy. While much of the week was just a normal transfer week, there were some tough days mixed in. First the “outs”. We sent 9 of our stellar missionaries home on Tuesday morning. They were all leaders and great missionaries. We will miss them greatly and wish them the very best in their lives, knowing as they live with honesty and integrity, constantly deepen their testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ through study and application, and apply what they have learned as missionaries to truly Hear Him, they will have lives filled with joy and gladness. That is our greatest desire for each and every missionary that serves in the Ghana Kumasi Mission. On Monday evening we enjoyed a meal together at the mission home and then some fun playing Preach My Gospel Jeopardy. LaDawn took a picture of them taking a picture.
Next the “ins”. Shortly after the other missionaries left on Tuesday morning, we received in 15 new missionaries. Thirteen came from the MTC in Ghana, one from Port Harcourt Mission in Nigeria where she was serving while waiting for her passport, and one from the Provo MTC due to visa issues. The good news is they all arrived at the same time, which makes orientation, training, and our welcome devotional so much easier and effective.
This is another very strong group of missionaries. We are grateful for their preparation to come and serve and their willingness to place their wills on the altar so they can do what God wants them to do. Our orientation consists of reviewing in detail our mission vision, how to stay healthy, the receiving and handling of subsistence and transport funds and the mission rules and expectations. We had no french speakers in this group (8 will come on the next transfer), and that means everything moved a bit quicker because there was no translation required.
On Tuesday evening, we have our mission devotional where we talk about exact obedience and integrity of heart. We spend about 75-90 minutes talking and discussing all of the ways that we might justify actions that we know are inappropriate. We also talk about how to help a struggling companion. It is time well spent and lays a solid foundation of expectations.
One of the highlights of transfer week is the matching of new missionaries to trainers on Wednesday morning. We start the day with a train the trainers meeting, where I meet with the missionaries who will train. We talk about the expectations of a trainer and how to have effective companionship study. Because we had four trainers in the Tamale Zone, and we didn’t want them to travel the great distance, I met with them separately over a Zoom call later in the day. When we did the matching, we had those four join by Zoom. Not ideal, but better than nothing. While I was training the trainers, the Assistants were in the other room with the new missionaries teaching them to become Finders of the Elect.
Now for the “downs”. In the middle of all of this, there were two additional missionaries leaving the mission. One due to a problem with persistently wanting only to do what he wanted to do, and the other due to his own insistence. Definitely the hardest day since we have been here. Sending a missionary home early is not easy. It requires the approval of the Area Presidency, the In Field Representative, and a general authority in the Missionary Department. The general authority in the missionary department sets the conditions for what it will require to return back to the mission if they are sent home for persistent disobedience. However, that part is easy, compared with the stress of telling a missionary their mission is over for now. Our hearts break when this is the only way to “awaken” a young man or young woman from their slumber. Tough love is hard for the receiver and it is hard for the giver. But we are on the Lord’s errand. As missionaries, we have entered into a covenant with God that we will serve Him and do so faithfully. When the covenant is broken, there are consequences, and not even the infinite power of the atonement of Jesus Christ can pay the price that justice demands until there is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
And now for the “ups”. On Thursday, we held MLC. We had five new zone leaders join us at the transfer. It was such a great meeting. The Assistants provided instruction on “Overcoming Concerns”. Elder Simpson and Elder Sam did a great job. During their instruction, they presented two role plays. In both cases, I was the person being taught. In the first example, I took control of the conversation and led the missionaries to a number of “rabbit trails” that were difficult to recover from, although Elder Harnois and Elder Donkor did a great job trying. After the instruction and how to better control the conversation, we did it again, this time with Sister Edigin and Sister Freeman. They were incredibly powerful. Even though I was role playing, I was caught up in the spirit when Sister Edigin asked me if I had ever prayed to God. I told them (playing my role) that one time my wife was sick and as I was walking to the hospital I mumbled some prayer to a God I did not know about please don’t let her die. Sister Edigin asked if she got better. I said yes, and the spirit overwhelmed me as I realized (in my role playing mode) that I really had had an answer and that I could find out for myself the Book of Mormon was true. It was a powerful moment and I was moved to tears as this connection was made for me because of a simple question from a missionary.
The morning of the MLC followed the difficult previous day with the discussions with the two missionaries who went home. I hurried in finishing my preparations for MLC so that I could have 30 minutes to study my scriptures. I needed a boost. And so I pleaded in prayer for a great experience as I studied, even though I did not have a lot of time. I have been studying the Topical Guide scriptures on Jesus Christ and was near the end of the scriptures under Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd. I had time to study 5 verses: 1 Nephi 22:25; Mosiah 26:21; Ama 5:38,57; and Helaman 7:18. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. I understood these scriptures plainly. From the 5 verses I wrote down 12 questions to ponder and consider. They were inspired questions. Not inspired from my own wisdom, but the spirit whispered these questions to me. I became jubilant as I considered them and I knew in that moment I needed to counsel together with the MLC on these questions and get their insights. And so I did. Doing something I had never done before in MLC, we spent over an hour discussing these 12 questions (I think we actually only got to 11 of them). The insights of these young leaders was absolutely profound. Every single member of the MLC (28 in total) contributed to a discussion that not only lifted me after a particularly rough week, but lifted each of them and bore testimony that indeed Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.
On Friday, we did leadership training for all of the new district leaders and zone leaders. Elder Simpson and Elder Sam do the bulk of the training and I provide a bit of “color commentary” along the way. I am really happy with the current content of the leadership training and feel it is really helping the mission rise up. I am so grateful for Elder Simpson and Elder Sam and their love of the Savior and their love for the Ghana Kumasi Mission.
On Friday evening we had Elder and Sister Derr and Elder and Sister Case stay with us. They are both Self-Reliance Senior Couples and were in Kumasi meeting with priesthood leaders and young single adults. It was a privilege to have them stay with us. We invited them to join us, the Moomey’s and the Garrison’s for dinner at Piri Piri Friday night. It is close by and the food is good. They came a bit late but we had a delightful evening talking about Self-Reliance and the needs of the Member Districts. Unfortunately we failed to snap a picture.
On Saturday, we drove to Obuasi and participated in a meeting with the District Presidency, the Branch Presidents and the missionaries who serve in that district. There are 16 of them. It was a wonderful meeting where we counseled together about how to improve the member missionary work. It turned out that we discussed the barriers to weekly branch conference meetings and how to handle baptisms that are held immediately after church, thus causing branch council to not be held, or the branch leadership not to be in attendance. At the end of the day, we discussed moving these baptisms back to Saturdays as a way to not conflict with branch council meetings after church. To me it seems like the right direction. In any case, it was a wonderful meeting and we are always happy to be in Obuasi with the leaders serving there and what was an added bonus was being with our missionaries.
After the meeting in Obuasi was over, we returned home and hosted a meeting with members of the temple department. They were in Africa on a bit of a tour to get a better feel for the challenges facing the members in attending the temple. We spoke a lot about frequency, distance, travel times of members in the districts coming to Kumasi to attend a temple. Much of this was trying to get a good feel for how much patron housing they would need to consider in constructing the Kumasi temple. While the site has not yet been finalized, the work is moving forward so that when it is identified, progress can be made quickly. It was a joy having these 5 men with us and enjoying a delicious meal of chicken cacciatore that LaDawn had prepared. Serge Zadi is the Africa West Temple Manager and the other four were all from Salt Lake City (Mark, Brian, Seth, and Eric). Again, no picture.
On Sunday, we returned to Obuasi and attended church in the Asonkore Branch. When the sacrament was passed, only 23 were in attendance. By the time church was over, there were 60. In the minutes I had to address the congregation, I spoke about 1 Nephi 18:24 and having enough faith to plant “all of our seeds” in the ground and trusting that the Lord would return us a harvest of abundance. I tied that into the sacrament and consecrating our lives to the building the Kingdom of God. I tried to impress upon them how important it is to NEVER miss the sacrament because it is there we can renew our covenants and recommit ourselves so that we can always have His spirit to be with us. In the second hour, I met with Alex Agyekum, a young man who has prepared himself for a mission and just needed a final interview. This is one great young man. I was impressed with his preparation (he read the entire Book of Mormon before he was baptized) and his desire to be obedient, diligent, and honest. I would be thrilled to have him come to OUR mission.
From there, we drove over to the Obuasi 3rd branch to drop off some reading glasses for a member. He was grateful and it was easy to do. We also had an opportunity to visit briefly with the branch president and the Sister Missionaries, Sister Ngabola and Sister Adomako. They are terrific sisters and doing such wonderful work in that branch. When we see two sisters like these two who unified and consecrated in their work and efforts, it brings us such joy. The branch absolutely adores them. They are confident in their callings and confident in delivering the message of the restoration. Just one more of the “ups” of the week.
Never has this phrase in 2 Nephi 2:11 meant more to us than it does now. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.” We can never forget that we are in a battle for the souls of men. We know there will continue to be ins and outs, ups and downs. The adversary is well aware that we are in the 11th hour. He still believes he can win. There are days when we long for the moment that the Savior returns and sweeps wickedness from the earth. But until then, we will continue to wield the sword of righteousness, the sword of truth, the sword of faith. The word of God. We will never give up the fight! We are grateful to be counted among his warriors of truth and for truth, Together in Ghana.