The title to this weeks post might seem a bit strange to the reader. We didn’t spend a week on the hills of Ghana (although there are plenty). The title stemmed from my most recent letter to the missionaries that I write each week and send them on Sunday night. To fully understand it you would probably need to read the letter itself, titled, “Flourish Upon the Hills“. I have included a link to it in the event you are interested. It was actually quite the revelatory process for me.
In the scriptures, the hills would usually represent the high points of our lives. The celebrations, the joy, the excitement of success. On the other hand, the valleys represent the low places, the failures, discouragements and frustrations. So when I say we had a week on the hills, it is because there were so many good things that were celebrated last week. Most of them having to do with our family.
On Monday, August 1, 2022, MiCayla and Lincoln (our youngest daughter) celebrated the birth of their son, Cole William Bergeson. While he was not due until the 14th, the doctors were concerned about the size of his shoulders and the ease of MiCayla giving birth. There were also some other concerns around gestational diabetes for MiCayla, so they induced her two weeks early. The beauty of this story is that Cole was born healthy and strong and MiCayla had no signs of any gestational diabetes. All of the concerns the doctor had, either never existed or completely vanished when he was born. That is definitely a reason to shout from the top of the hills! We recognize the hand of the Lord in all things.
Four days later, we were again rewarded with more reasons to celebrate and rejoice. Mauren and Justin (our oldest daughter), gave birth to two healthy twin boys. Having married late, her biological clock was working against them to have the family they desired. With a 4 year old and a 2 year old, they were hoping to add another child. When they discovered Mauren was pregnant with twins, they were ecstatic, but because of her history of miscarriages, they were cautiously optimistic she could carry them full term. They also had concerns she may have to be bedridden the last half of the pregnancy. But with help from the heavens, she carried them without any life-threatening events for herself or the boys. And at 36 weeks, on Friday, August 5th between 1:09 pm and 1:12 pm, Logan James (6 pounds, 3 ounces, 19.5 inches) and Carter Reeves (5 pounds 3 ounces, 18.5 inches) arrived healthy and strong. These boys are beautiful and appear to be identical, but time will tell. Little Carter has had to spend some extra time in the hospital so his lungs and heart could develop a bit more. As the smaller of the two, his big brother grew faster than he did. We are hoping he will get to home this week. A week of miracles and seeing the hand of God in the lives of all three of these future missionaries.
A few other notables about last week. On August 2, 1975, I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A decision for which I was grateful for then, and am even more grateful today, and one for which I will be eternally grateful. That simple decision has changed my life to an extent I could never have dreamed of as a young man. My mission to Germany a year later, built a foundation that has carried me for 45 years. Every good thing that has happened to me in my life has occurred because of that decision I made as a new convert of just one year to serve a mission. It was on August 4, 1978 that I entered the brand new Language Training Mission in Provo. Our group was the very first group to start and complete our training in the new facility. I was there the day it was dedicated by President Kimball on 27 September 1978. After serving in the Munich Germany Mission for two years, I arrived back home on August 3, 1978.
The experiences I had as a missionary solidified my testimony and taught me doctrines that I did not know, and if I did know them, I did not understand them – until I began to teach them. And so this past week as we celebrated the birth of these three beautiful grandsons (as well as our new granddaughter Sophie a month ago), I also couldn’t help but reflect on all of the blessings that have come to me as I reflected on my baptism, the start of my mission, and the completion of my mission. All in the same week! Now that is a week on the hills.
Three other things I will mention about the week. On Tuesday, we started interviews back up for this 6 week period. We attended the new Onwe district where Elder Panton is the District Leader. Onwe is a new branch in the University Stake that is being split off from the Ejisu Ward. I interviewed the sisters in the district before the District Council meeting and the two elders afterwards. The zone leaders were also in attendance. The District Council was outstanding and we all left inspired to do better and be better.
Wednesday was a day of preparation for the upcoming zone conferences. And while I would like to say we had a quiet day of preparation, it didn’t turn out to be what we had hoped. But that is the lives of Mission Leaders. Missionary phone issues, missionary emails, email exchanges with our new Area Mission Specialist in Salt Lake, sending out senior missionary request forms (always recruiting), discussions with the Area Controller on a recent audit. We also held a mission presidency meeting that evening over zoom. And despite all of the interruptions and pressing matters, we were still able to get the preparation done. We were grateful for a day to catch our breaths.
On Thursday we were back to interviews. We drove out to Effiduasi which is usually about a 75 minute drive. But because Thursday was Founders Day here in Ghana, there was very little traffic and we made it in 50 minutes. We interviewed Elder Prah and his new missionary companion Elder Medina. They are doing very well together. We also interviewed Elder Komba and Elder Awuku. Such fine missionaries! From there we drove back to Kwamo and interviewed Elder Akpan and Elder Kunzler, Elder Jonjo and Elder Shaw, Elder Bayles and Elder Gyasi. It was a good day of interviews. These are valiant young men who are working hard to gather Israel. Like the vast majority of the missionaries in the Ghana Kumasi Mission they are hardworking, obedient, and seeking only to do the will of the Lord. We are so proud of them.
On Friday, we drove to the University Stake Center and continued our interviews with 10 more missionaries. Again, the same experience. Young men and young women who are dedicated to their missionary purpose and who desire nothing more than to do the will of the Lord and bring souls unto Jesus Christ. One of the greatest joys we have as mission leaders is to see growth in these missionaries as they continue to serve, study, learn, testify – and then baptize the elect of God.
On Saturday, I attended a meeting with Elder Appianti (our Area Seventy) and the rest of the Kumasi Coordinating Council. President Paul Craig of the Ghana MTC was in attendance and spoke to all of the Stake Presidents about the process for preparing missionaries to come to the MTC, and specifically related to their clothing needs. For many, having enough money to come to the mission field with the required clothing is a problem. As a result, many come with very little. President Craig and his team have done a marvelous job of creating a process to help them get what they need for minimal cost while at the MTC. It was a good meeting.
While I was in the Coordinating Council Meeting, LaDawn went with the Garrison’s and the Moomey’s to Obuasi to provide instruction to the organizational leaders (Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary) using the materials that Elder and Sister Dance provided to the entire area. This training is marvelous. It is easy to see that the districts are most focused on Relief Society, and then Young Women, and then Primary. How do we know this? Just look at the number of leaders who come for each organization. Sister Garrison (top left) taught Relief Society leaders, Sister Moomey (top right) taught Young Women leaders, and LaDawn (bottom right) taught Primary leaders (one more came after the photo)
On Sunday, we decided to visit the Pankrono Branch in the Suame Stake. This is the branch where we have not had a baptism for over a year, but since Elder Griffin and Elder Baldwin have been there, they have baptized 4. We had a delightful visit with them, and I took the opportunity to bear my testimony since it was fast Sunday. Afterwards we took a picture of those in attendance. It was small but powerful, and the branch is coming alive thanks primarily to these two amazing missionaries.
And that is what a week upon the hills looks like. We are grateful for the ups and the downs that we experience as mission leaders. Both the hills and the valleys teach us and refine us. We see the Lord’s hand in this work. We desire nothing more than to have missionaries who will become life long disciples of Jesus Christ. We desire nothing more than to have an eternal family of our own, with no empty chairs. We desire nothing more than to gather Israel one last time and establish the Church, Together in Ghana.