On Saturday night we did something quite rare for us. We went to a choir concert that was sponsored by The Celestial Evangel Choir Ghana. It was to start at 5 pm, but actually got under way about 5:25 pm. It ended about 9:15 pm. There were quite a few choirs who sang, but the highlight was clearly the The Celestial Evangel Choir. Dr. Albert Dua is the “father” of the choir. He is the conductor of the choir, he leads them, he composes music for them, he plays the piano/organ in an amazing way. He has interacted a number of times with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and he really loves the Church and all that it stands for.
In fact, for this 10 year anniversary of the choir, he invited the Collegiate Choir, which is primarily Alumni from BYU-Idaho to come and celebrate and participate with them. Randall Kempton, a BYU-I choir teacher, and the director of the Collegiate Choir brought 10 singers with him. Br. Kempton led many of the songs of the Celestial Evangel Choir as Dr. Dua played the keyboards for the Choir. Since good choir music is not that much a part of the culture here, this choir from Kumasi is quite a national gem. And while the other choirs that performed had some talented singers, those in the Celestial Evangel Choir are clearly a step above everything else we heard. With the tabernacle choir expanding to a more international participation, Dr. Dua’s name came up. Brother and Sister Michael Neider, a former member of the General Young Men’s presidency were the ones to recommend Dr. Dua and members of his choir to participate in the international expansion of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Of course the only problem is that he is not a member. He expressed interest in learning about and joining the Church and through Elder Nielsen, our Area President, sent his contact information to us. Elder Brigham and Elder Barton have been trying to get with him to teach him, but he is a very busy man. So far they have spent about 1 hour with him, and only about 20 minutes teaching him. He is a very busy man. We are not sure where this will go, but we will continue to follow-up and make connections and hopefully teach this very talented medical doctor, music composer, and choir director.
It was a wonderful evening, although it went much later than we were anticipating.
This past week we also held our zone conferences for the Kumasi zones. Below from top to bottom: Dichemso/Suame, Konongo/University, Asouyeboa/Bantama.
For each of the zone conferences, we followed the following outline:
- Health, Safety, and Security (Elder & Sister Moomey)
- Vision Refresh, Grooming Standards, Mission Toolbox (President Kunz)
- Instruction from Sister Training Leaders
- “O that thou mightest be…” (Sister Kunz)
- Coming to know the Savior (President Kunz)
- Role Plays on how to profile a new contact to determine if they might be prepared to hear the gospel. Also how to convey the message of a Preach My Gospel Principle in 60 seconds.
- Growing and Educating our Desires – (Elder Simpson and Elder Sam)
- Pictures and Cleaning
Elder & Sister Moomey do a great job with our health, safety, and security. They remind the missionaries to exercise, eat carefully prepared foods, listen to the medical advice they are given, and to not make medical decisions on their own. We are grateful for this amazing couple who have been such a blessing to us and the missionaries.
Following the Moomey’s, I shared a new version of the vision. At the Mission Leadership Council the comment was made that if there is a new wind blowing then it seems like the vision should also have some new elements to it. So that is what we have done. The biggest change is making clear that experiencing miracles is about living in the miracle quadrant of high love and high expectations. We have also changed the wording away from “Exact Obedience” and towards “Consecrated Obedience” and living the 17 points. Here is what the revised vision looks like. We will be talking a lot more about this in the days to come. I also introduced the Ghana Kumasi Toolbox. These are the skillsets that we want to get very good at in the coming days. All of our role plays will be based around these 10 “tools”.
The three sets of Sister Training Leaders all gave different instruction, and all three were excellent. Sister Opare and Sister Mukwaira shared how to have “Effective Personal Study”. Sister Apana and Sister Okumah-Boyd led a discussion on “Are You Still Willing” focused on why each of us came on our missions and using some quotes from Elder Kevin Pearson’s recent general conference talk. Sister Diamonds and Sister Damsa discussed “Being a Good Steward”. One of the quotes they shared I loved was a question they asked in response to some missionaries who say they are “tired”. The question? “Does the Lord ever get tired of forgiving our sins?”
For the instruction from LaDawn, she used 1 Nephi 2 and taught the missionaries how placing their names in a verse of scripture can give them greater insight into what the Lord would have them know and do. It was marvelous as the missionaries could begin to see themselves in this story about the counsel Lehi gave to his sons Laman and Lemuel. I then led a discussion about how having Powerful Personal Study will help us come to know the Lord. In John 14:31 it says, “But that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise let us go hence”. These are last words the Savior spoke to the disciples before departing to go out to the Garden of Gethsemane to take upon himself the sins of the world. Of all the reasons he could have given for performing this selfless act, the one He chose to make sure the world understood, was simply that he “loved the Father”. What if we all loved the Father that much? To love someone, we must know them. The Son clearly knew the Father. For us to come to know the Father the same way is only possible by coming to know the Son, for “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Because we have very little written about the Father, we must rely on coming to know the Son through the scriptures and our personal experiences with Him. As we come to know Him, we will come to know and love the Father the way the Son loves Him. I have also considered that perhaps the Father’s real desire is for us to love the Son the same way that the Son loves the Father. Either way, this scripture teaches us that when we love the Father and the Son, we will then be able to place our will fully upon the altar. Powerful daily scripture study is the means to this end.
After lunch we came back to the chapel and did some role plays. We worked on helping the missionaries do two things. 1) Know the doctrines in the 42 principles of Preach My Gospel extremely well. 2) Understand how to ask good questions of those who are interested so we can come to know whether they have barriers that will keep them from being baptized in the next 5-6 weeks. We call this process “profiling”, and while in some places in the world it is a negative word, we use it to describe getting to know someone so that they know we care about them even as we get to know them better. The intent is only to use these questions as reference points in a discussion and to consider how best to get to know someone. Through our role-plays we have especially come to know the power of the questions in what we call the “love” column. These are genuine and sincere questions that tend to develop trust and relationships quickly.
After the role-plays, we moved into the crown jewel of the conference. A spirit led discussion on Growing our Righteous Desires. This quote from Orson F. Whitney is part of their instruction and a good teaser for their overall message. “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.” Thank you Elder Simpson and Elder Sam for your preparation, your example, your love, and your own righteous desires to help the mission move to a higher plain!
Following our picture and closing prayer, once again the missionaries did a great job of leaving the building better than we found it.
Here are a few other pictures from the three zone conferences last week.
On Sunday we traveled to the Dunkwa on Offin Branch where we met with President Tabi (the District President) and conducted some business. We released President Nyarko and called to replace him one of our missionaries, Elder Jacob Walker. Elder Walker has been serving as a zone leader up in Tamale and only recently swapped places with Elder Clegg. Elder Walker is a 6th or 7th great-grandson of Hyrum Smith and his love and zeal for the gospel makes it easy to recognize his heritage. He will be able to help the branch understand how a branch can and should operate. It is a short term solution as we prepare local priesthood leadership to take back the helm next year. His companion, Elder Mba will serve as the executive secretary.
It was also a glorious day to witness the baptism of two wonderful men. Eric Kwabena Amankwah (the branch clerks father) who was baptized by his son. The other man is a french speaker, which made it easy since Elder Bingabinga is from DR Congo. His name is Junior Ayitey Kwadjo. It was a marvelous day to see the change in the leadership and these two men taking their first steps onto the covenant path.
Only one last thing to mention. We lost another sheep this weekend from the fold. A young man who quite honestly was unprepared to serve a mission and had been given bad information by returned missionaries from his branch who misled him on the expectations of a missionary. After numerous interventions and warnings, the new wind which is blowing, blew him back home.
Zone conference week is always an exhausting and exhilarating week. We love being with the missionaries and feeling the spirit of these conferences. This work of gathering Israel “Together in Ghana” is picking up steam and we need to keep up with the pace that the Lord expects. No matter what the expectations, we find joy in the work and sustaining strength through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We rejoice to serve with these valiant young single adult elders and sisters who are earnestly striving to become consecrated disciples. We are encouraged and inspired by their examples. Hurrah for Israel!!!