Sunrise, Sunset

In considering a title for this week’s blog, I couldn’t help but want to use a picture we snapped on our way home from the Obuasi District Conference and missionary interviews on Saturday night. It has to be the most spectacular sunset we have seen since arriving in Ghana. It is possible that there have been others just as amazing, but this time we were on a less traveled road at the right time. As we came upon a rise, LaDawn asked if I was going to stop and take a picture. I told her she had read my mind (again). While this picture is pretty good (no filters added), it still didn’t capture the majesty and beauty of the sky that evening. We wish we had an equally stunning sunrise and then the title would even be a better fit, but the title is not about photos, it is more about how the sunrises and sunsets begin to blur as they come and go so quickly. This past week was no exception.

Most of the week was spent holding interviews with 78 missionaries covering Kumasi, Konongo and Obuasi. Because of the nature of the interviews and the review of the 17 points of consecrated obedience with each missionary, we averaged about 25 minutes per interview. We know this is not sustainable, but for this round of interviews it was time well spent.

On Monday evening we went to Agric, a chapel that is only about 10 minutes away and interviewed the Bantama District. On Tuesday, we attended the Boukram District Council and also took a snap of the Dichemso District that was meeting just a room or two down the hall. We then came back home in time for the Mission Devotional with Brent and Nena Rawson. Those readers from the Klein and Tomball Stakes know the Rawson’s well. You may also be familiar with their presentation titled “Carpe Diem”. It is something they taught the youth in the Klein Stake and then made it a centerpiece of motivation for the missionaries in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission where they served as Mission Leaders. They did a wonderful job this month sharing this inspiring message with our missionaries, who also loved it.

Brent and Nena Rawson presenting “Carpe Diem”! They currently serve as the Mission Leaders for the Houston Texas Service Missionaries

At the end of the devotional, we took a picture of all the missionaries on Zoom. Not great shots, but at least memorable. Following the devotional, I interviewed the Assistants and the Office Elders.

On Wednesday morning, we drove first to the Atafoa building and interviewed the six members of the Atafoa District (Suame Zone) and then drove to the Suame District Centers and interviewed the remaining 12 missionaries in the Zone. We finished around 4:30 pm, making it back home around 5:15 pm. That night I held my Zoom mission presidency meeting with Edmund Obeng (1C), Joseph Asante (2C), Elder Garrison (Ex Sec), and Eugene Ghorman (clerk). I love it when we are all able to attend and we can work through the agenda. We started at 7:00 pm and finished around 8:15 pm.

Low hanging clouds in Nkawkaw. Chapel is to the right behind the steel gate.

Thursday was our long day. We left at 6:30 am and drove to Nkawkaw. Elder Anderson and Elder Aidoo (the Konongo Zone Leaders) had been on exchange with the Assistants and so we gave them a ride back to Nkawkaw. I interviewed 10 missionaries in Konongo, then we drove to Juaso and interviewed Elder Witte and Elder Mukana, and then drove to the Low Cost chapel and interviewed the remaining 6 missionaries in the Konongo District. We arrived back home just before 5 pm. It was a really great day of interviews. It is clear to us that these missionaries just want to do the right thing and they need is clarity, commitment and consistent messaging from us as leaders. There is no greater joy than to see a missionary who has struggled in the past finally decide to relinquish at least a good portion of his/her will to our God who can make so much more of us than we can of ourselves.

On Thursday evening, we had a chance to meet the Albrecht’s over Zoom. They are a couple referred to us by Kraig and Maggie Loveland – both couples live in the St. George area. We had a delightful call with them and we all agreed they would be a perfect fit as Member Leader Support Missionaries in the Kumasi Mission. We are hoping it might work out for early next year.

On Friday, we drove the 20 minutes to the Asouyeboa chapel and interviewed the 10 missionaries who are part of the Abuakwa District in that zone. These are great missionaries and we enjoyed our time with them.

I want to add one more thing about my interviews with the members of the Abuakwa District. Here is a picture of Elder Watch reading a scripture from a Book of Mormon in his native language of Niuean. He is from New Zealand and wanted to share the scripture he had memorized, first by reading in his native tongue. It was beautiful and unique.

After finishing the interviews and returning home we had an opportunity to spend some time with Rod and Melanie Hillam over Zoom. The Hillam’s were previously Mission Leaders in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission and were assigned as our mentors as we prepared to serve last year. They have remained dear friends and we rejoiced in the opportunity to both learn from, and share ideas with them, and tell them about the “new wind blowing” in the Kumasi Mission.

On Saturday and Sunday we were in Obuasi for their District Conference. It was wonderful. On Saturday, I left the house at 7:05 am and drove over and picked up Elder Garrison and Elder Moomey. I had a meeting that started at 8:30 am with the District Presidency and President Obeng. We talked about the concerns that they had that we might be able to address during the conference. I think the list is probably the same the world over. It is always about how to help the members feel the Savior’s love on the path to discipleship, serving others, studying the scriptures, and sacrificing for the kingdom.

At 10:00 am we held the Priesthood Leadership Meeting (which is why Elder Moomey and Elder Garrison came with me). After a very good first half of the meeting, I spent about 50 minutes at the end reviewing the doctrine of repentance using many of the same slides I use with the missionaries. The intent was to both help them as priesthood leaders to help their members, as well as to help them in their own lives as needed.

Just after 12 noon, LaDawn, Sister Moomey, and Sister Garrison arrived and we enjoyed the afternoon session. LaDawn again spoke about building a firm foundation and I led a discussion for about 40 minutes on the covenants we make to get on and progress on the covenant path.

After conference, I interviewed the 8 missionaries who work in and around the Obuasi (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Branches). We finished up around 5 pm and headed home. We decided to get something to eat from Aboude’s since it was so late and we took it home and enjoyed it there. The sunset picture above was taken on our way home. We arrived around 6:40 pm. I had been feeling a prompting much of the afternoon to call Adams Agyare, the former District President, and invite him to come and share his testimony. Once back home, I called him and while he was not able to pick the call, he did call me back within 15 minutes and gladly accepted the invitation. I was grateful as I felt that the district really needed to hear from him since he was released between conferences.

On Sunday we left home around 8:20 am and arrived in Obuasi just after 9:30 am. The session started at 10:00 am. The district had put together a choir which consisted of as many missionaries as members. They sang like angels. I couldn’t help but record a couple of verses so you can hear them too.

The music really enhanced the session on Sunday and invited the spirit into the Chapel in a profound way.

President Tabi was the first speaker and used an analogy of a tennis game in his talk (he had invited his non-member tennis coach to come – and he did). The lines, the net, the rackets, the rules, are always the same. The only thing that changes in a game is the direction, speed, and velocity of the ball. He then invited us to “keep our eyes on the ball”. There are so many distractions in the world, and even though the commandments, covenants, and scriptures don’t change, there is plenty of wind, rain, sun, and humidity that sometimes make the ball do funny things. He emphasized the difference between consecration and and sacrifice. It was a brilliant talk. I will mention one other talk that was just excellent. It was from Helina Johnson, a 16 year old young woman who talked about living the law of chastity. One of her statements, “We should never willingly be in places where our standards will be challenged.” It was excellent. There were so many great testimonies and thoughts shared that I could fill a page with them. Let it suffice to say it was a wonderful meeting. After the intermediate hymn, Adams Agyare bore a beautiful testimony that I know was healing for him as well as other members of the district. LaDawn spoke about integrity for a few minutes and then I concluded the last 10 minutes with a plea to increase the referrals to the missionaries. In the Obuasi District, 95% of member referrals are baptized. That is an incredible statistic and one with which we need to do more. 40% of the converts come from member referrals and 60% come from the missionaries themselves. I invited them to flip those numbers. I also spoke about repentance as a way to grow strength in the District and our families, especially as it relates to pride. I love the statement made by Sister Michelle Craig in conference, “God cares more about our growth than He does our comfort” and I used that as well. Such a great day!

After the conference we gathered the district branch presidents and district presidency together and I asked them what the spirit had taught them they needed to work on. I simply wrote them on the board and invited them to follow the promptings. We finished in 15 minutes. I then met with the district presidency and asked them to add one more item to the list: prospective elders. There are 318 of them in the district and I challenged them to prepare 30 of them to be ordained at the next conference.

List of promptings the leaders received during the two day conference that they need to work on

Unfortunately one person had opposed the sustaining of the district presidency at the beginning of the meeting so President Obeng and I took another hour and spoke with him and President Tabi in an effort to resolve the issue. Some excellent progress was made and a plan set in motion.

Following the meeting, I interviewed the remaining 10 missionaries who live outside of Obuasi but are still a part of the District. Because we started an hour late, we didn’t finish until 4:40 pm. I like to meet outside because the rooms have so much echo in them, but I was competing with music from a funeral behind the chapel and it was difficult to not be annoyed by the booming music and what sounded like yelling into the microphone. But alas, all was well. I then did a first time temple recommend for a young man who is going to the temple this week to be endowed. We finished by 5 pm and were home by 6:15 pm, in time to get a quick dinner before meeting with the Assistants for a couple of hours about our upcoming MLC and zone conferences. I love these young men who serve as my right hand and my left hand. They are such great missionaries and sterling examples of the 17 points of consecrated obedience.

Pointing to the leak

One more thing I want to add about the week. We were privileged to have Elder and Sister Derr from the Area Self Reliance team stay with us as they worked with some of the stake leaders and young single adults in the area in regards to helping our members become self-reliant. Not sure why, but it seems that almost every time the Derr’s stay with us we have water issues. We dodged it last time, but we were not so lucky this time around. On Saturday morning I went into what is known affectionately as the “General Authority” bedroom where the elliptical lives. I found a flooded room. The hot water heater (which is never on) had leaked over 25 gallons of water onto the floor. It flooded the bathroom and spilled over into the bedroom soaking the area rug. It was a mess. The problem was that we had interview appointments and did not have time to clean it up. We picked up the 2 rugs (bedroom and bathroom) and put them in the bathtub to “drain”. We then called Elder Moomey who was already up and at a missionary apartment with Sister Moomey that morning speaking with an elder about some eyeglasses he had ordered (a whole story in itself). We asked him if he could help us and like the incredible man he is, he simply said “yes, don’t worry, go to your appointment and I will take care of it”. He came and cleaned up the water (that’s how we know there was 25 gallons) and he put the rugs out on the railing to dry. We are so grateful for this dedicated senior missionary!

And so 7 more suns have risen and 7 more suns have set. The work keeps moving every single day. We are so pleased to see the missionaries becoming more consecrated. We are grateful for their desires to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to perfect themselves through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We are so aware of the love of our Savior for these young men and young women, our maturely seasoned couples, and for us as well. We rejoice in the gathering of Israel in which we are participating. It is an exciting time to be Mission Leaders, Together in Ghana.

One thought on “Sunrise, Sunset

  1. Tom,
    I gain so much from your weekly letters, but I always vicariously exhausted with the pace you must keep to get all you do done!

    I am sure you have shared the 17 points of consecrated obedience. But could you email me them or indicate where in your entries I can find it?


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