True or False?

This post covers the week of December 12th – 18th.

Last week we began our December Zone Conferences. We left Monday morning shortly after 8:00 am and arrived in Tamale just before 3:30 pm. We made a short stop in Techiman at the Thompson’s where we used the washrooms and then “saddled up our horses” and headed north. It was a good, uneventful drive. Just the way we like it. We went directly to the Steinmetz’s and Sister Steinmetz gifted us a chocolate chip cookie. Doesn’t get much better than that after a 7 hour drive!

We started interviews shortly after 4 pm and interviewed the 8 elders working in Bolgatanga and the 2 zone leaders in Tamale. I finished up at 6:45 pm. The Moomey’s arrived between 5 and 5:30 and the Steinmetz’s were kind enough to feed us all a delicious spaghetti dinner. After dinner we drove over to MA-S Hotel where we usually stay. They were just finishing the cleaning of the filters on the A/C unit in our room. It was filthy. The Moomey’s had checked into their room earlier and had asked them to clean the filters in both rooms. We suspect they hadn’t been cleaned since the last time we asked.

Elders serving in Bolgatanga: back: Elder Thatcher, Elder Fitzpatrick, Elder Toe, Elder Watch, Elder Josiah. Front: Elder Sunday, Elder Price, Elder Sorvari.

On Tuesday, we held zone conference in the Kanvilli Branch building in Tamale. It is always a cozy setting, and that makes for a more intimate experience for all of us. I wish every zone could have the same experience. We did things a bit different than last year’s Christmas conference. We started with birthdays, and then moved into talents and games. The missionaries and we love this part of zone conference each year, where we are able to have some good fun together. The talents were excellent.

Following the songs and skits, we played games for a little over an hour. LaDawn started with a game called “True or False?”. The missionaries lined up on either side of the room depending on whether they believe the statement was true or false. The missionaries in Tamale were especially expressive when they got the right answer. Here are some of the questions that were asked.

  • The strongest muscle in proportion to its size in the human body is the tongue
  • A cockroach will live for nine days without its head, before it starves to death
  • A pregnant goldfish is called a twit
  • Women can read smaller print than men; Men can hear better than women
  • Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team
  • The tax collector passed by on the other side in the parable of the Good Samaritan. 
  • God dispatched Jonah to Nineveh.  
  • At the wedding in Damascus, Jesus turned water into wine.
  • The two longest rivers in the world are the Mississippi and the Nile.
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the biggest ocean on Earth.
  • South Africa has one capital.
  • Other than Ether, Coriantumr and Shiz were the last two survivors of the Jaredite Nation.

Below are pictures from the games we played in both Tamale and Sunyani.

Our second game was a version of “name that tune”, where a missionary would receive the name of a hymn or Christmas song and then by only using DO-DO-DO’s have the other missionaries in their group guess the song. That was also a lot of fun. It was especially difficult for some of our French speakers who either did not know the name of the hymn in English, or did not know the tune. We helped each other figure it out and it turned out to be a great game.

Our third game was the shoe game. Everyone removes their shoes and unlaces them and throws them in a pile. The missionaries are divided into two teams and it becomes a relay race. This one is fast paced and competitive and the missionaries loved it. We didn’t play this in Tamale as we tried a different game, but when we went to Sunyani later in the week, we swapped “Drop a Hint” for the shoe game.

The last game we played was the animal game. This one has been a favorite of mine for a long time. No props required, just a circle of people with a desire to have some good fun. In each circle were 9-11 missionaries and each chair was assigned an animal. Moose, Snake, Giraffe, Bear, Chicken, Fish, Pig, Rabbit, Duck, Elephant, Alligator. The Moose is the head chair and that person makes their sign and then someone else’s sign. The “someone else” picks up with their sign and then someone else’s sign in the circle. When someone pauses or gets confused, they move to the last chair and everyone moves up, changing animals each time they move.

In Sunyani, the talents were also great. Both zones shared a song, Sunyani shared “Silent Night” and Techiman sang “The Twelve Days of Christmas”

After the songs, skits, and games, I did a mission vision refresh, but instead of using the usual vision sticker, I shared this photograph below of 3 missionaries (and yes I know the Sister’s companion is missing). It is a drawing by Elder Doug Thompson who is working in Techiman with his wife as Member Leader Support missionaries. They are doing a great job. He is a world class artist and drew this for us. I put the picture up and then asked the missionaries what they saw in the picture. It was marvelous to hear their insights, including: 1) The new wind blowing evidenced by the ties and the flag. 2) All three missionaries, supporting each other with joy and gladness for the consecrated obedience of the entire mission. 3) The elder holding the flag is doing so with a firm grip and appears to shouting to the other missionaries to come and follow the 17 points. 4) The similarities to the Title of Liberty were mentioned. 5) The field behind the missionaries could represent a field ready to harvest.. 6) The mountain in the background has vestiges of higher pastures and temple symbolism. 7) The bushes in the field could represent the current bush spoken about by President Hugh B. Brown in regards to seeking correction. 8) The color of the flag acts both as a warning (red) and a symbol of the atonement of Jesus Christ. The yellow around the 17 represents the sun and the light that the Son of God brings into the world. 9) The clouds in the background represent a storm that has just blown through the mission and now the light is beginning to radiate. 10) All of the missionaries are dressed and groomed appropriately (clean shaven, short hair for the sister). We had a wonderful time discussing it and everyone was happy at the end of the conference when we presented each missionary with a study notebook with this picture on the front.

Elder Amoah and Elder Harnois

Following the vision refresh, we moved into our instructional portion of the conference. The Zone Leaders led a 30 minute instruction on “Fear over Faith”. This was based on some work that the Assistants had done for MLC. Following the zone leaders instruction, the Assistants picked up the topic, asking missionaries about the fears they face, how they might be able to recognize them, and then how to overcome them. We spent about 1 hour 20 minutes in both Tamale and Techiman. It was time very well spent!

It is always difficult to release Assistants to the President who have served so faithfully, but it is equally rewarding to begin working with two new Assistants who love the Lord and love this work. While Elder Harnois and Elder Amoah are both very different from Elder Simpson and Elder Sam, they are equally talented and devoted to their purpose as missionaries. I am so grateful to have them at my side. As they provided instruction in Tamale and then in Sunyani I saw them grow in confidence and unity. It will only get more pronounced as time goes on.

After the Assistants completed the instruction of Faith over Fear, it was nearly time for lunch. In both of these conferences, we had about 15 minutes to do what we are now calling 1-minute drills. Like last time, we picked two topics from PMG. “Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve” and “The Atonement of Jesus Christ”. We call up missionaries and have them teach the principle in one minute, hitting as many of the concepts in the principle as they can. We do this to see if the missionaries know the principle well enough to teach all of the concepts. In most cases, missionaries learn to teach a principle from their trainer and then they never go back and determine if they are teaching it properly. We think teaching all of the concepts can have a big impact on the mission based on the adage from President Packer that doctrine taught and understood will change behavior more than talking about behavior itself. It is clear we have more work to do on learning these principles.

After lunch we came back and did a role play on how to extend an invitation to someone we are teaching. This is another area where we have work to do. We started by inviting a missionary companionship up to extend an invitation to read the Book of Mormon to Brother Kwame (that’s my role). While both companionships in the two conferences did okay, we could all see opportunities for improvement. We talked about what Preach My Gospel (PMG) teaches about extending invitations and then the Assistants redid the role play showing the impact of following the PMG method. The difference was significant. Here are the two pages out of our new Mission Toolbox on Extending Inspired Invitations.

Helping missionaries understand that whenever they extend an invitation they need to also extend a promise and share a personal testimony about how doing the thing they have just invited the person to do has changed their own life. The hardest part seems to be extending a promise associated with keeping the commitment. This requires the spirit of prophecy whose foundation is faith in Jesus Christ. This comes right back to having daily powerful personal scripture study. We are confident that improving the way we extend invitations will increase the number of people who actually keep the commitments they promise to keep.

Following the role plays, I spent about 40 minutes talking about the Armor of God from Ephesians 6:13-17. We brought our “armor” with us from home when we came and used that as visual aids. As we went through each article of the armor, I solicited help from our Senior Missionaries to “clothe” our volunteer armor bearer. In both conferences we had wonderful discussions on this armor and tied it back to the discussion on Fear over Faith.

Elder Kalombo from DR Congo wearing the whole Armor of God
  • Taking the helmet of salvation
  • Having on the breastplate of righteousness
  • Having our loins girt about with truth
  • Having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel
  • Taking the shield of faith
  • Taking the sword of the spirit

When I served in the Klein Stake Presidency, I would use this armor with the wards as I taught the youth during ward conferences, so it is something that I am familiar with and love to talk about. It fit so well with the Fear over Faith discussion that I knew it was time to pull out the armor from the closet and share these concepts with our fabulous missionaries.

If you are interested, I have written a blog post on this “lesson” while we were in the Philippines and you can find it here.

Following my instruction, LaDawn shared a beautiful story about Christ’s birth, highlighting each of the important elements in the Nativity. It was less than 15 minutes long, but brought a powerful spirit into our zone conferences. She had read a story called “Come to Bethlehem and See” by Ganel-Lyn Condie and based much of her story on that small booklet.

To close the conferences, LaDawn and I sang a duet. Something we have talked about a few weeks before we arrived. We were happy. to finally be able to make that happen. Nothing to write home about, but here is an audio recording from Sunyani.

Singing Star Bright as the closing song for the conference

Following zone conference on Tuesday, December 13th, in Tamale, I interviewed 10 more missionaries. Moomey’s and LaDawn went to Wooden Bakery for dinner and ordered me a fajita sandwich. Elder Steinmetz had a meeting with the District President so they did not join us. I finished around 7 pm and drove to the restaurant. The food arrived minutes before I did, so it was nice to just sit down and eat. The next morning (Wednesday, December 14th), we returned to the Steinmetz’s apartment at 8:00 am and interviewed the four remaining sister missionaries serving in the zone. From the beginning interviews on Monday to the last interviews Wednesday morning, every interview went well. These missionaries are working hard and doing well keeping to the 17 points of consecrated obedience. The result of their efforts are translating to more people being taught and coming to the waters of baptism. It is always wonderful to be in Tamale with the Steinmetz’s and the 24 missionaries who serve in that zone.

Tamale Zone

After interviews, we jumped in the car and drove back to Techiman, arriving there around 1 pm. We had some confusion with interview times, so we didn’t start until about 3:30 pm but still managed to interview 8 missionaries. The remaining 10 (including the sister training leaders who live in Techiman, and the Wa elders who had come down a day early for exchanges before zone conference) I interviewed the next morning. I finished up right at 6 pm and the Thompson’s fed us a nice dinner of shrimp scampi. The next morning (Thursday, December 15th), we finished up the interviews by noon, the Thompson’s gave us a meat pie and a smoothie for lunch and we were on our way to Sunyani.

The road between Techiman and Sunyani is always the worst road that we drive. Lots of pot holes, broken pavement, and very bumpy roads where there is no pavement at all. We made. the trip in just over 90 minutes giving us time to check into the Tyco hotel and make it back for interviews that started at 3:00 pm at the District Center. There we interviewed 12 more missionaries, making 22 for the day. Fortunately with the travel to Sunyani, there was enough of a break to let me recharge. I have found that it is very important to be at my best in these interviews and so getting the timing right is important. While we have 18 missionaries in the Sunyani zone, I only managed to get pictures of 10 of them. But they represent the other 8 extremely well!

The Sunyani and Techiman combined zones
Elder Mukanya from DR Congo in Sunyani

We stayed one more night in Sunyani so I could finish the remaining 6 interviews rather than drive home late at night in the dark. We had a good night’s rest and left Sunyani around 8:00 am the next morning, arriving home in Kumasi about 10:45 am. It is always good to come back home, even though this time we were only gone for 5 days. We had had some trouble with the clothes dryer before we left and we were happy that they were able to get it fixed in our absence. That gave LaDawn some time to wash some of our clothes that had been delayed because of the problem before we left. Unfortunately, the fix lasted less than a week, and at the time of this writing (Christmas Day), we do not have a dryer.

On Saturday afternoon at 1:00 pm, I attended a Coordinating Council Meeting with Elder Appianti, the other Stake Presidents in the Council, and two men and two women from the Area Office responsible for strategic planning. The topic was the 5 year strategic plan for the Mission and the Stakes, especially as it relates to the need for new buildings that will be owned by the Church rather than a leased building converted from a home with minimal room for a growing unit of the Church. Unfortunately, we spent 3 hours discussing the numbers the Area Planners had put together showing that in the next 5 years there would only be one new stake in the mission boundaries. While the planners showed us the numbers, there were things they did not know and we spent way too much time talking about why the numbers were not right rather than go through each stake and look at their growth plans. By 4:40 pm, we had only been through one stake (Konongo). I asked if I could go next, which I did in about 30 minutes. I was excused and made it back home in time to pick up LaDawn to go to the Garrison’s for dinner at 5:30 pm.

Our coordinating council meeting held at the University Stake Center.

On Sunday, we traveled to one of our districts to attend Church in one of its Branches. I had arranged for a meeting after Church with a member, but things turned interesting as I was meeting with the person. That which the person had told me before suddenly became a “misunderstanding”. There were all sorts of things going on with a number of people involved in convincing me that what I had been told was not the real story. These sorts of events trouble me and bring me sadness. There is not a culture of reading in Ghana and that makes it difficult for many members to adopt the habit of reading and studying their scriptures every day. This leads to all kinds of struggles and misunderstandings about the atonement of Jesus Christ and the final judgment, where we will surely stand before the Savior and be convinced of any ungodly deeds among us. (See Jude 1:15).

Following Church and the “failed” meeting, we returned home where I spent the rest of the afternoon working on letters to missionaries.

The title of this blog is “True or False” based on the game we played regarding statements that were read by LaDawn and then assessed by the missionaries. We live in a time when there are many falsehoods taught, espoused, and represented in the world around us. We hear them every day among the people the missionaries teach. Sometimes, these falsehoods creep into the Church where truth is not well understood – generally due to cultural traditions that are still influencing new (and sometimes more tenured) members. But this we know and testify of: This work of gathering Israel by loving, serving, teaching, and baptizing the Elect is TRUE. It is His work. Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is at the head of this Church and this effort. We feel His influence every day. We feel His inspired guidance and miraculous help in this work. He will come again. We are to be prepared for that moment and we are to help prepare others as well. This is the work we love, cherish, and lose ourselves in, Together in Ghana.

One thought on “True or False?

  1. Pingback: Christmas in Ghana 2022 | Kunz Corner

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