Last week was transfer week, and by far and away our smallest transfer since beginning our mission. We only had 2 new missionaries arrive, Elder James and Elder Kashindi. With 23 new missionaries last transfer, we moved nearly 80 missionaries to new areas or new companions. This transfer, we moved about half of that. It was surprising to us, that even though we had such a small group coming into the mission that there was still so much effort required to make it all work. Things actually went quite smoothly. We did have one missionary whose luggage got put on a bus to Tamale and she was only going to Techiman. Somehow, the missionaries on the bus managed to convince the driver to stop in Techiman and drop off the luggage. We were grateful for that small but important act of kindness.
And while we only had 2 new missionaries coming in, we had 14 going home. This necessitated the closing of 7 areas and left one of our elder companionships in a trio and one of our sister companionships as well. Not ideal but necessary. No one likes trios, it is just more difficult to move, communicate, and succeed. But we do what we have to do. Of the 14 that left, every one of them had been a leader in the mission, either as a trainer, a district leader, a zone leader, or a sister training leader. Several had fulfilled multiple leadership positions. We will miss them but we know it is part of the circle of life as new missionaries come and seasoned missionaries leave.
The seven sisters (sounds like a constellation) who finished their mission this transfer stayed Monday night at our Mission Home bunkhouse (we have beds for 12 but only one small bathroom – not ideal). That meant that we had to get up at 5 am the next day in order to get them over to the Mission Office along with the van so that the office elders, the Moomey’s, and Alex (mission driver) could get them to the airport before 6:15 am. That made Tuesday a really long day with the new missionaries coming in and the orientation and training that we do. We are so grateful for good office elders, a wonderful mission driver, two very capable and willing Assistants, and senior couples who pitch in where ever they are needed during transfers.
Tuesday morning, after dropping off the departing missionaries and the van, LaDawn and I returned home and then a short time later drove to the airport around 9:00 am and picked up Elder Kashindi and Elder James who arrived at 9:20 am.
After picking them up, we came back to the Mission Office, interviewed them both, had them fill out some required paperwork and then began the orientation with Elder Garrison our financial secretary. He goes over the process and rules regarding missionary subsistence and transport. The pizza arrived right as he started, so we paused after Elder Garrison finished and enjoyed some good Hawaiian Pizza from Piri Piri. We started back up at 1 pm and finished with the orientation at 2:30 pm. We took a break until 4:00 pm and then held our new missionary devotional where we talked about exact obedience and integrity of heart. We finished just after 5 pm, and enjoyed a take out meal from Aboude’s – since there were just the 7 of us. The Assistants and Sister Kakou (our interpreter) had been with us all day. By 6:00 pm we were finished with the meal and headed back to the Mission Home. We really appreciated being about to finish early (it is usually closer to 9 pm) since we had started the day so early.
On Wednesday morning, we gathered the two new missionaries, their trainers, Sister Kakou, and the Assistants, and went over a few key points of great companionships and then the Assistants presented how to become a Finder of the Elect. Sister Kakou was again there to translate. Usually we separate the trainers and the trainees. I teach the trainers how to be a good trainer and how to have companionship study, while the Assistants go over Finders of the Elect. I prefer doing more in the future of what we did on Wednesday, as it gave the trainers a refresher so that we do not send out new missionaries with expectations that are not met because their trainers have drifted from the finding approach. Having them both together is an idea that the Hillam’s (our mentors) suggested in a recent video call with them. it is better than what we have been doing.
By 10:30 am, we were finished and ready to go to the Bantama Stake Center for transfers. There were not nearly as many missionaries there (because it was a smaller transfer) and they were gathering and leaving quite quickly. I only have one picture from the gathering and that was Elder Barrowes and Elder Toe. They had only been together one transfer, but had baptized two people, and really loved working together. Their area was one of the ones we had to close. The smiles on the faces of these two elders says so much about the joy they are finding in the work here in the Ghana Kumasi Mission.
Later in the evening at 5 pm, we hosted the 8 Sister Training Leaders and the Assistants in the Mission Home for a discussion. We had a nice meal from Aboude’s (again) and then talked for about two hours about the challenges they see the sisters experiencing in the mission. It was quite eye opening. I suspect many of these challenges are faced by the elders as well. There were two things we talked about that we are going to change in the mission. The first is the length of the hair. Many sisters will purchase long extensions and have them plaited into their hair. Long hair is often associated with wealth, so we can see that this is not a good thing as people may believe the missionaries have money. At our upcoming zone conferences we will talk about keeping a professional look with shorter hair (shoulder length) and no accessories allowed (beads). If they do have longer extensions, they need to maintain a more professional look by pulling it up onto their heads.
The second issue is regarding the wearing of a skirt with a second layer of netting. The fashion is the wearing of a shorter skirt underneath the netting with the netting being longer. The problem is that the short underskirt is clearly visible and not missionary appropriate. To avoid any confusion, we will simply say no netted overlay skirts. This is completely consistent with the Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ. We are constantly trying to help the missionaries let go of the world and focus more on Jesus Christ and His gospel. It is a labor of love.
On Thursday we held our MLC at the mission office. We started at 9:00 am and didn’t end until 4:00 pm. We tried doing some role plays on profiling people around the topics of family, work/school, and God/religion. That one went pretty well. We also did a role play on setting the stage for a lesson, and that one did not go so well. Live and learn. The rest of the meeting was fantastic. Elder Simpson and Elder Sam knocked it out of the park as they spoke about Growing our Desires to love and serve God. Such a powerful instruction. Everyone felt strongly about having them do the same at each of the zone conferences in the coming weeks. A couple of other items of importance. We discussed refreshing the Vision Sticker to add a few more words of clarity. Stay tuned for upcoming changes. We also spent some time talking about a Mission Toolbox. This toolbox will be the skillsets that we will expect all of the missionaries in the Ghana Kumasi Mission to possess. It may grow or shrink with time, but for now we will start with this.
As we strive to live the 17 points of consecrated obedience we have introduced, we expect the members of the MLC to be examples. Unfortunately, even some of our leaders struggle with the use of technology to fulfill their missionary purpose. The phones become a huge distraction (and temptation) even to many of our best missionaries. We showed some statistics from MLC phone use and invited each leader to become more consecrated.
On Friday, Elder Simpson and Elder Sam again presented the 12 points of leadership with which we train all of our new district leaders, sister training leaders, and zone leaders. This is a 90 minute meeting. I sit close by and add in a few words now and again. The Assistants have become extremely proficient at delivering this excellent training.
The weekend was filled with stake conferences. On Saturday, we attended the Leadership Session as well as the Adult session of conference of the University Stake. The speakers in the leadership session went way over time, so I suggested to Elder Charles O. Oide, the presiding Area Seventy that I was more than happy to forego my 10 minutes so he would have sufficient time to deliver his message. For some reason the conference started 30 minutes late. It may have had something to do with training that Elder Oide was delivering to the stake presidency prior to the leadership session. In the Adult session that followed at 1:00 pm, LaDawn and I shared 19 minutes. She spoke first and took only 3. So it is pretty obvious where the other 16 went. I think she did more good in her 3 minutes than I did in my 16. Once again, we live and we learn.
On Sunday, we drove out to Konongo and attended the Sunday Session of their stake conference. Elder Anthony Kaku, Area Seventy, presided at their conference. We love being in Konongo and we loved seeing all of the missionaries who serve in that stake. There are 22 of them. This time LaDawn and I shared 16 minutes. She took 6 and I took 9. Much better balance and better messaging on my part. Throughout the mission, about 40% of the convert baptisms come from member referrals. The other 60% come from the finding that the missionaries do on their own. While these percentages vary from stake to stake and district to district, they remain close to 40/60. My invitation to each stake and district is to flip those percentages. Considering that in our mission, 65% of member referrals end up being baptized for the remission of their sins, just flipping this percentage would have a significant impact on the growth of the Church in Ghana.
The Konongo Stake Center is way too small to handle the membership and attendance at conference. I was happy to see there is a renovation underway to literally double (or more) the size of the chapel. This will be a huge blessing to the Latter-day Saints in that stake.
It was a transfer week filled with councils and conferences. How we love to gather with the missionaries, to be with them and to feel of their love for this great work. How we love to be with the members of the stakes and districts who are hungry for gospel knowledge and counsel about how to do better and be better. We rejoice in the love the Saints have for our Lord and Savior. We see it in their countenances, it radiates through their voices when they sing, and it is evident when they gather to be instructed. These stakes are still relatively young but they growing because the members are engaged in this great work of gathering, side by side with the missionaries, and with us, Together in Ghana.