It has been a marvelous week in the Ghana Kumasi Mission. This was the week of our mission tour with Elder and Sister Klebingat. Elder Klebingat is the first counselor in the Area Presidency and is the member of the Area Presidency who came last year for our one day mission conference. This year we did two combined zone conferences. One in Kumasi on Tuesday and the other one in Sunyani on Wednesday. Logistically it was challenging to bring all of the missionaries outside of Kumasi (Bibiani, Obuasi, Konongo) into Kumasi either the night before or early in the morning of conference. For Sunyani, we had to bring missionaries all the way from Bolgatanga, Tamale, Wa, and Techiman. The good news is that everyone was in their seats and ready to go before both conferences began. In Kumasi, we started at 9:00 am. In Sunyani we started at 9:30 am, as we elected to drive up and back the day of the conference. It made for an extremely long day, but a good one. We were able to return back to Kumasi by 7:30 pm on Wednesday.
There were so many gems from the mission tour conferences that perhaps the best thing to do is provide some background context and then share some of the nuggets we captured. This mission has been mediocre for too long. When we first came a year ago, the mission was coming out of covid, and it was at best in a telestial state. We have worked hard with our leaders and senior couples over the last year and we believe we have now arrived at a terrestrial state. Things are definitely better, but not where they need to be. We had pretty much resigned ourselves to this being our lot as mission leaders for the next two years. Small improvements, but constant problems associated with disobedience at some level. What Elder and Sister Klebingat brought was the vision and the path to a celestial mission. Elder Klebingat spoke clearly and plainly. He was a powerful second witness to the importance of being obedient – something we have been talking about since we arrived. When those words come from a General Authority with the power of the Area Presidency in his pocket, the missionaries sit up and take note. LaDawn and I went through the mission roster and identified 30 missionaries who tend to be those who choose disobedience, gossip, and the mocking of those trying to do their best. Every mission has those whose testimonies are small and their conversion smaller. So one of the things I did in my instruction at the zone conferences was to invite the 170 to rise up and no longer let the 30 dictate the culture of this mission. With that context, here are some of the gems from the conference from both Elder & Sister Klebingat:
- The Lord will not ask how many baptisms you had. He will ask about what you did to help your companion chose the right.
- Silence on disobedience is agreement.
- Co-negligence will send you home if you know a missionary is being disobedient and say nothing.
- There is a difference between weakness in a missionary and rebellion.
- Make humility one of the Christlike attributes of the mission, and then when we are faced with correction, we cannot reject it and harden our hearts. We should be grateful for any correction we receive.
- It is easier to be humble “up” than it is to be humble “down”. – Elder Neal A. Maxwell.
- We need to replace discontent with gratitude.
- If we are not working effectively, then we have no help from the Spirit
- We need to make sure our own Liahona is working
- Telestial glory requires a telescope (stars), Terrestial glory you can see with your eyes (moon), Celestial glory you need protection (sun). D&C 88:32-33 “They” did not want the greater light, it was too much and so “they” settled for that which they were willing to receive rather than enjoy that which they might have received. The gift is given but we do not receive it because we do not want to change.
- We must be willing to give away all our sins
- Don’t make the Lord force you to come to the altar – we must come by our own free will
- If we haven’t given our “all”, we have given nothing.
- Companionships need to show the Lord that they love him – and we should not look for a receipt in exchange for our offering!
- The Lord is in the process of cleansing the inner vessel (the Church). He will return when there is a people prepared to receive Him. Having our lamps filled with oil will be worth more than anything.
- The expectations of the Ghana Kumasi Mission have just been changed “…he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word” Alma 12:10
- There are no short cuts in the gospel. The law of the harvest is in full force.
- Anyone who leaves the church has stopped having meaningful scripture study.
- Moses 1:39 will become our job description.
- Church is under condemnation because we have treated the Book of Mormon lightly (D&C 84:57)
- The Lord needs our permission to teach us. He will never infringe upon our agency.
- Missionaries make a covenant with the Lord, not with the Mission President.
- Don’t let anyone interfere with your commitment to serve a mission for your God
- What is your offering?
- “There is not a right way to do a wrong thing” (Sister Craven)
- Surrounding ourselves with good influences and studying the scriptures will help us stay on the Lord’s side
- 2 Nephi 28:21 – The adversary does not start with tragedy. He carefully leads us to destruction.
- Spiritual Gifts are for those who love Him and keep His commandments and are striving so to do. D&C 46:9
- A righteous person is one who repents, strives to be obedient, and walks between the lines.
- Which way are we facing? Top of the stairs looking down or bottom of the stairs looking up (in reference to the direction we are headed).
- We have to stop drawing lines between “this” and “that” – Position, Tribe, Race, Country, etc.
- The Liahona could have worked just fine for Nephi, but it did not. It took collective obedience of the entire family and a desire to open the windows of heaven.
- 1 Nephi 18:15 We should not wait until we are about to be swallowed up in the sea before we decide to change.
- The real power comes when we no longer care about what others think of us. We need to only worry what the Lord thinks of us.
- The power of a missionary is the ability to connect people to God through the Book of Mormon. But we have to pay the price of knowing the Book of Mormon to be able to do it.
One of the things that Elder Klebingat asked the missionaries during the conference was why was there still so much disobedience in the mission. Over both conferences I captured the comments of the missionaries. There is some great insight here!
One of the highlights of each conference was a special musical number by two sisters. In Kumasi, Sister Ita and Sister Ngabola sang a beautiful medley composed of I feel my Savior’s Love and Where Can I Turn for Peace. It is below if you are interested in a sound glimpse of their musical talent. I wasn’t able to record Sister Opa and Sister Edigin in Sunyani, but it was equally magnificient! They sang “In the Hollow of Thy Hand”
There was so much more we talked about, but I will leave it at that with two exceptions. I spoke about Light and Darkness. I had been feeling for several weeks that this was the topic I needed to cover. I was so grateful for how well it fit into everything that the Klebingat’s said. LaDawn spoke about staying between the lines. Another topic that fit perfectly with the overall themes of the conferences.
On Friday we held our Mission Leadership Council at the Mission Office. What a terrific day it was!
The Mission Leadership Council was spirit filled. Elder Klebingat mentioned to me how impressed he was with the members of the council. At the start, he asked the MLC what they were hearing about the conferences. Here is list of what they said:
- Missionaries will start memorizing more scriptures. (Missionaries were impressed with how many scriptures Elder and Sister Klebingat could quote).
- Missionaries want to follow the mission rules.
- There is now more personal examination.
- The standard for the mission has been raised.
- Need to started applying the scriptures to ourselves.
- More eager to do the right thing for the right reason.
- Go back to the area, repent, and baptize converts (a great summary!).
- No one wants to go home before their time.
- Missionaries felt corrected and the need to be more focused on their purpose.
Elder Simpson and Elder Sam gave a great instruction on Conviction vs. Conversion in regards to teaching those who are interested in learning about the Church. It is one thing to be convinced the Church is true, it is completely another thing to be converted and know the Church is true. The biggest issue is that we are not doing enough of teaching for conversion. How to do this effectively was at the heart of the instruction and is explained so well in Preach My Gospel chapter 11.
Sister Klebingat gave a powerful instruction about being like Captain Moroni as explained in Alma 48:17. I won’t go through the details of her discussion, but it was perfect, and I was amazed at how well Captain Moroni’s attributes parallel those of a strong member of the mission leadership council.
Elder Klebingat then provided some additional gems as he spoke to our young mission leaders:
- No mission will rise above the diligence and obedience of its MLC.
- D&C 12:8 – “And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.”
- Focus on the right questions.
- There should be no competition for position in the mission – no climbing the ladder.
- Whenever a member of the MLC sees a missionary who has stepped out of line, they need to address it with the missionary 1) in private; 2) done gently, but with firmness.
- The MLC needs to have their hands on the pulse of the mission.
- Testimony is not an event, and it is not the same for everyone. Sometimes we focus on the marvelous manifestations that often get shared publicly and then others wonder why they have never had such an experience. We have to be careful with this.
- The Lord does not have to prove Himself to us (nor will He).
For lunch, Sister Moomey, Sister Garrison, and our mission cook Hannah, prepared a delicious lunch. The highlight was the canned chicken sandwiches on fresh rolls. Hannah added fruit salad, fried rice, and green salad. It was wonderful!
On Saturday, Elder Klebingat and I drove to Obuasi ( 75 minutes away) and did some training with the priesthood leaders of the District where President Tabi presides. It was wonderful as well. President Tabi used a few words from Neal A. Maxwell. “Let us not do things because we want a check mark – but because we want to have the mind of Christ.” Elder Maxwell went on to say, and President Tabi quoted him, “There is a big difference between the headlines and the news”. In other words, we need to be looking at the details of what we are doing. If we are doing things to just grab a headline, it is like a checkmark. If we are seeking to have the mind of Christ, then we will be working diligently in the details, or what Elder Maxwell called the “news”. It was a wonderful introduction to the next 1 hour and 45 minutes. I then spoke about humility and not walking by the light of our own sparks as described by Isaiah in chapter 50, verse 11. I then turned to D&C 93:1 and we talked about the privilege the Lord affords us to see His face, but we are so caught up in the headlines, that we are not following the 5 points mentioned in that verse of scriptures. I took a moment and spoke about each of them. Elder Klebingat then spoke about caring for our wives and our sisters in the Church. He spoke about making our homes a bit of heaven and worrying less about position and more about bringing glory to our God through our labors as priesthood leaders. He reminded us that we are stewards of the Church and not owners. We need to know the Handbook of Instructions so that we can discharge our duty as stewards. He encouraged the branch presidents to spend 70-80% of their time with the youth. This is an area we really need to improve upon. He closed by saying that as leaders we have to be connected to heaven.
It was such a great two hours with these men. When Elder Klebingat asked how many of these men were endowed, hands started going up and then President Tabi said, “All of us”. Wow! I don’t think I have ever been in a meeting of priesthood leaders from a stake or a district that could make that statement. It was impressive and is an indicator of the direction and speed of the district under President Tabi’s leadership.
On Sunday, we took Elder and Sister Klebingat back to the Kwanwoma branch where we had witnessed the baptisms of 16 youth a couple of weeks ago. Because Kwanwoma is part of a stake and not a district, President Prosper Mensah attended. During the sacrament meeting, 2 youth spoke, President Mensah bore a testimony, LaDawn and I both said a few words, and then Sister and Elder Klebingat took the remainder of the time.
During the second hour, Elder and Sister Klebingat spoke to all of the youth in attendance, about 6-7 of them were non-members. One of the non-members, a 12 year old named Janet, that I met when I went out proselyting with my Assistants, asked a question about the Plan of Salvation and that became the theme for the rest of the meeting. What a glorious meeting it was! Elder Klebingat interacted with the youth as he taught them and Sister Klebingat drew a picture.
Right after the meeting, we took Elder and Sister Klebingat to the airport where they boarded their plane shortly after 1 pm and returned to Accra. We returned to the mission home, grateful, filled with joy, and tired from a very busy week. We will be forever grateful for this ordained General Authority Seventy and his wonderful wife for coming and lifting us, the mission, and the missionaries. How thankful we are for this work and the front row seat we have as it unfolds. We love the work, the missionaries, the members, and the leaders, All Together in Ghana.