This week we were in Accra for the Mission Leaders Seminar which occurs twice a year. This time it was only two days instead of the three that it has been in the past. We missed having the extra day in Accra, but valued the more concise presentations and focused topics. We also enjoyed having a meal with all of the Area Seventies on Friday night. We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel in room 546 overlooking the pool and had a nice view looking West making for a great picture in the morning. The hotel is probably the nicest in Accra, the one downside is the a/c is run off of a central system and the humidity in the rooms is higher than it should be. A small thing, but an annoyance for sure. We received a survey from them after returning to Kumasi, we provided the feedback, and they responded with a nice note back saying thank you and they are working on the issue. That is unusual customer service here in Ghana and we appreciate it so much.
We decided to drive to the seminar this time instead of flying since we wanted to do a little shopping ahead of time. There is a member of the Church whose name is Esther who purchases some very nice fabric from Paris, France and then makes custom African prints which are one of a kind. We purchased 4 yards of three different prints and then took them to Bernice (another member) to have three different styles of dresses made. We also were able to get some delicious gelato from a place called Pinocchio’s, which is also an Italian restaurant. On Thursday evening, we went back there with some of the other Mission Leaders for a delicious meal.
Wednesday evening, we had a dinner with the Area Presidency where Elder Gifford Nielsen laid out the vision the Area Presidency has for the Africa West Area. They clearly see the growth that will come and recognize the importance of laying a firm foundation. Recognizing this is the most significant area of growth for the entire Church right now means that we need to make sure that the foundation stones we lay are sure and sound. This land will be dotted with temples in the future and we are the ones helping to prepare the next generation of leaders to guide the stakes and districts into the millennium. It is a daunting and formidable task, but one that is completely doable as we learn to rely even more upon our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Thursday morning we gathered at 9:00 am and each of the mission leaders were introduced with a picture of each of their families and each were given a minute to introduce themselves. Here is the picture that we submitted. We are so grateful for this amazing family and give all the credit for their successful lives to our Savior and Redeemer, loved and worshipped by all of us.
After the introductions, Elder Kyungu, the second counselor spoke to us about the ordinance of baptism. I will share just one of the many inspired comments he made. “Missionaries who understand baptism are those who want others to have the same experience they have had.” Elder Kyungu’s wife’s name is Lucie. She is such an amazing, kind, and intelligent woman. And although she is still learning English, she is undaunted in her role as the wife of a General Authority. We are grateful to know the Kyungu’s and their example of being filled with the pure love of Christ.
Following Elder Kyungu, Elder Klebingat spoke about helping our missionaries become Book of Mormon missionaries. This means they know it well, teach from it, and help those they are teaching come to know for themselves that it is true. One of his quotes, “We must have a burning desire to share our insights from the Book of Mormon.” Many of our African Missionaries are converts and come from other faiths where they are well versed in the New Testament. Our challenge is to help them become as well versed in the Book of Mormon! It is also true for our other missionaries, many who have graduated from Seminary, but could not say upon entry to the mission that they had read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover.
We were fortunate to have our Area Mission Specialist, David Wade, with us. He then talked to us about the importance of the missionaries planning their days. One of his quotes we really liked, “We are perfectly designed as a mission to get the results that we get.” Both profound and a bit worrisome! We are constantly seeking to know what design changes we need to make to improve the results. One other comment that is worth mentioning, “We need to teach the missionaries to consider what they need those they are teaching to know, to feel and to do.”
After David Wade spoke, Elder Nielsen gave a presentation from the missionary department about principle based leadership. All one needs to do is to look at the new For the Strength of Youth pamphlet to see this in action. The idea is to govern by principles rather than by specific rules. For example, the old FSoY pamphlet said teenagers are not to date until they are 16. Now it says, “For your emotional and spiritual development and safety, one-on-one activities should be postponed until you are mature—age 16 is a good guideline. Counsel with your parents and leaders.” The difference is quite significant. Here is the issue: Youth that grow up with an understanding of principle based leadership will be better missionaries because they will already have begun to learn how to make inspired choices based on principles. In 5 years, I think this will begin to translate to better missionaries. The problem now is that we have missionaries who did not grow up understanding how to do this. As we have learned with our 17 points of consecrated obedience, they do much better with specific rules and specific consequences. Our task as mission leaders will be to use these points of consecrated obedience to help bring the missionaries to principle based obedience with an understanding that principles and doctrines require accountability. And make no mistake, the standards for missionaries is being raised across the Church. We feel confident we can move in that direction, just as the law of Moses was a schoolteacher to bring the children of Israel to Jesus Christ, the 17 points of consecrated obedience in the Ghana Kumasi Mission will help bring missionaries to Christ.
After lunch, the Mission Presidents met together and the wives met together with separate agendas but the same question. “What are some of the issues being faced in the missions and how we might address them?” One of the topics was on how to raise the level of preparation of missionaries that are coming to West Africa from branches, districts, wards, and stakes where these young people are being prepared.
On Friday morning, Elder Klebingat, along with Elder Nielsen, led another discussion, this one about consecrated obedience of missionaries. There was a lot of energy around the topic and not enough time allocated to the subject to get everything covered. The Area Presidency took note of the discussion and promised additional follow-up and action. At one point, Sister Wendy Nielsen (Elder Nielsen’s wife), got up and shared from Alma 50 about the things Captain Moroni did to help the people prepare for upcoming war. She did a masterful job of relating this to things we can do as mission leaders to help our missionaries understand their divine purpose and be better prepared to gather Israel.
Following the discussion on consecrated obedience, Elder Kyungu talked about “Sacred Ordinances on the Way to the Temple”. It could also have been titled “The Covenant Path”. He showed a slide that we really liked as it covers all of the things we can help our new converts do (as well as those who have been members for some time) progress on the covenant path.
After lunch we were fortunate to be able to attend an endowment session in the temple. It was like an oasis after being in the desert for a year (the temple was closed in April when we were last there). All in attendance at the seminar gathered on the temple steps for a picture prior to going inside. These are precious memories we will cherish forever.
As mentioned earlier, on Friday evening we enjoyed a dinner with the Area Seventy who serve in the Africa West Area. Because of an event inside the restaurant that night, the hotel setup tables outside by the pool. The weather was fine, although it threatened some rain, but never delivered. After the meal we made our way over to the MTC in vans and there had a meeting for 90 minutes about working together across the Area to grow the Church and establish Zion.
Saturday morning we left Accra at 7 am and made it home around 1 pm. We stopped in Nkawkaw (just over half way home) to pick up some things from the zone leaders who serve there. Unfortunately, the traffic was really heavy, which was something we had not anticipated. As we made our way to the Elder’s apartment, there was a large group of men who were either attending a funeral celebration or had done so earlier. Either way, they were all dressed in black and drunk, and were not particularly interested in letting us pass. Several made us quite annoyed as they would not allow us to progress. One man, dressed in women’s clothes, actually laid down in front of the car. Fortunately, among that group there were several who seemed sober and they managed to help us get through the mob. I didn’t really feel in any danger, but it was frustrating to get caught in that. I would have snapped a photo of them, but I suspect it may have caused an escalation which we didn’t really want. What was to be a quick stop turned out to cost us about an hour. Funerals in Ghana and the “celebrations” are one of the traditions of the Ashanti region that I find to be counter to the culture of Christ.
On Sunday we attended church in the Asokwa ward (University Stake) and then after sacrament meeting headed over to the Asouyeboa 2nd Ward (Bantama Stake). In both wards we had missionaries that we needed to talk to. We were grateful for the opportunity to do so while at the same time meeting a few members that we know.
Sunday evening we had our transfer meeting. We normally hold it on Friday afternoon, but since we were in Accra, we postponed it until Sunday evening. Even though we only had 2 new missionaries coming in, we still had 14 leaving and about 45 other missionaries moving throughout the mission. At first we thought maybe we could get away with not meeting and just sending out some notes, but as the week progressed we were grateful for the detailed plans and everyone knowing what their part was in making it all work. At the end of the meeting we snapped a photo in our living room.
Before closing off for this past week, I need to mention a couple of more things. On Monday evening, we held our couples council for the transfer. This was our agenda:
- State of the Mission: President & Sister Kunz
- Observations of the Couples on State of the Mission: All
- Personal insights from your gospel study – All
- Update and discussion on how we are helping our French speaking missionaries
- Council topics:
1) Ideas for keeping the 17 points alive and the wind blowing
2) Next steps in helping to move the districts forward
We continue to be grateful for these marvelous couples who make such an important contribution to the work of gathering Israel in the Kumasi Mission. This particular counseling meeting was no exception.
On Tuesday we traveled to the Patriensa Ward out in the Konongo Stake for District Council. Elder Adu is the district leader and did a great job with the District Council meeting. I met with the sisters in interviews before the meeting and the remaining four elders after the meeting. We then hooked up our router and the entire district council joined us for the 1 pm mission devotional where the 14 missionaries who were leaving the following week bore their testimony. They each took 3 minutes and it was an amazing experience. We normally do these testimonies at zone conferences, but since we had the mission tour, we decided to do a Zoom call. It worked great and we were all edified by all 14 of these testimonies which were heartfelt and sincere. Something we may decide to replicate in the future.
This marked the week that we finished all 213 interviews. The last one was Elder Vi who had been transferred mid transfer due to a missionary going home early. We had already done the interviews in the area where he arrived, but had not done them from the area he left. On Saturday evening we did a phone call interview to complete the entire mission. There is so much work to be done in the Ghana Kumasi Mission and we are grateful to be engaged with a group of young missionaries, many who have the desire to consecrate themselves to the work, and the remainder who are making progress in that direction. We see the hand of the Lord every single day. It is His work. It is His glory. We are grateful to be a small part of it, Together in Ghana.