This post covers Jan 2-8, 2023. We had transfers this week and that means it has been very busy. Today is Friday, January 13, and things have finally slowed down enough to get this post written.
The week before transfers is when we finish interviews with the missionaries and schedule meetings over Zoom because we know we will have time for them. This week was no exception. We (us and the Moomey’s) held our Mission Health Council with Elder Davis and Sister Davis from Accra who serve as our Area Health Advisors, our dentist, Dr. Shane, who serves from his home in the USA, and Elder Middleton who is our Area Mental Health Advisor. In addition, we held our Couples Council with the Steinmetz’s, the Thompson’s, the Garrison’s, and the Moomey’s. We also held our Mission Devotional with a good friend of the Moomey’s Lisa Bruneel. We would be lost without the ability to have these virtual meetings and are grateful for the miracle of applications like Zoom. If the pandemic did anything good, it was the proliferation and improvement of these multi-audience virtual tools.
On Tuesday, Jan 3, Lisa Bruneel delivered a devotional from her home in Utah. She spoke about “Our Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ”. She started by sharing 2 Nephi 33:6. “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.” I then recorded 6 points that she offered to improve our relationship with our Savior.
- Growing our Faith in Jesus Christ. When we are moved to action, it is evidence of our growing faith. Faith begins with agency and as we exercise it properly, Christ offers us a relationship to Him.
- Making and keeping covenants are the key to receiving power.
- When we turn to the Savior for help, it is an indicator that we trust Him. Sister Bruneel encouraged the missionaries to keep spiritual journals regarding promptings from the Spirit.
- Studying the gospel through the scriptures (and especially the Book of Mormon) will draw us nearer to Him. Reading scriptures, marking them, asking inspired questions as we study are the things that will help us “own” the Word of God.
- Daily repentance. Nothing is more liberating to our progress. We should ask Heavenly Father what we need to repent of.
- Daily forgiveness of others. Forgiveness is a healing principle.
There are also barriers to a relationship to the Savior that she discussed. 1) Fear. 2) Resentment. 3) Dishonesty. 4) Shame. If we “watch ourselves” with Jesus Christ, we can identify these barriers in our own lives. Christ can remove them from us.
In our Couples Council, Sister Thompson by sharing a spiritual thought about the Arizona Biosphere Project starting in the 1980’s. I was not familiar with the project but found one of the learnings to be quite interesting. Without wind and rain and storms, the trees inside the Biosphere collapsed from their own weight. You can read more about it here.
We had two topics we discussed:
- How to begin to expand Gospel Literacy across the districts, involving the missionaries more in the effort.
- How to help the districts and branches fill the many open positions in the various branches. There is work here to educate the leadership on delegating skills, educating the members on their responsibility to serve, and using the branch councils to solve these two issues.
We are also very happy to welcome Elder and Sister Goodrich from Price, Utah who were recently called to come to the Kumasi Mission in May as Self-Reliance missionaries. We had a delightful conversation with them earlier in the week over Zoom and we know they will be a great help to the Sunyani District where we are currently planning for them to serve.
They are both excited to begin this new adventure in their lives, and like most of us when we were first called, have lots of questions. Their educational, career, and church backgrounds, their love of the gospel, and their desire to serve will make a huge difference in Sunyani and we hope, as we have seen in our own experiences, richly bless their lives.
We are looking forward to having them with us come May!
On Tuesday, we attended the new Abaukwa District Council where Elder Ross was serving as District Leader. We had a great meeting where everyone participated and we learned together. The instruction given by Elder Ross was on Companionship Inventories. We are realizing what a significant need we have to help missionaries build greater unity. Contention in a companionship, even if unspoken, drives away the spirit and makes it difficult for them to teach. We will be doing some role plays on this very topic during this upcoming round of zone conferences.
Wednesday was our last big travel day for interviews. We drove all the way to Sefwi Waiwso (just over 3 hours) and interviewed the four missionaries serving there. I am happy to say we just received approval for the Bosomioso Group just outside of Waiwso which should increase the missionary work success significantly as it will bring the church closer to the people. We are currently looking for a place to hold the meetings.
From Waiwso, we drove back to Sefwi Bekwai (we refer to it simply as Bekwai) where we interviewed the four missionaries there. We recently created the Humjibre Branch where Elder Riggs and Elder Kennedy are serving. Things are going really well in Humjibre and the Church is growing. Two weeks ago they had 14 non-members who attended sacrament meeting who wanted to come and see for themselves. This was Elder Kabasubabu’s last transfer and he is now back home. We have loved watching the growth in these good missionaries.
From Bekwai, we continued back to Bibiani where we interviewed the four elders working there. Elder Diakulayi has been there for a while and has seen a lot of success. Working together with Elder Mills, they consistently have been bringing those who were prepared to the waters of baptism. Even though he only has one transfer left, we just made Elder Diakulayi a zone leader. He has been a wonderful leader in that Bibiani District. Elder Kanu and Elder Braithwaite are equally successful. They too have been seeing some great success. We are proud of this entire district and the way they have fulfilled their missionary purpose.
While at the Bibiani District Center, I was also able to interview Locadia Kanyir. She is a wonderful young single adult who is prepared to serve a mission. She has done well to prepare herself, working as a teacher to make enough money to get her passport and medicals. I think she will be a wonderful missionary for some lucky mission president. She is soft spoken and humble, but she has a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Our last stop in Bibiani was at the Kuffour Camp chapel where we interviewed the zone leaders. We only recently created the Bibiani Zone in hopes of growing the number of missionaries serving there as the Church expands and grows. Elder Maulana and Elder Griffin came to the area with no knowledge of the people, the branch, or the people that have been taught in the past. In one transfer, they were able to help 6 people come to the covenant path. These are powerful young men. I should also mention that the Bibiani zone was the most successful zone during the last transfer. Such a great group of missionaries who have supportive leaders and members who are really helping to find and baptize those who are prepared.
We had hoped to be home before it got dark, but with the delays throughout the day we drove the last hour in the dark and made it home around 7:30 pm. We were grateful for the day and came home bone tired.
I spent several hours on Thursday trying to figure out the transfer board. As I have said before, once I finish the interviews, things begin to fall into place on the board. We were still having some movement on the missionaries coming in. I was expecting a Filipino who had been serving in the Philippines awaiting a visa, but it turned out that by Thursday it was clear he would not come until a week or two after transfers (always an additional challenge). On Saturday, a missionary from another mission was reassigned to us, essentially filling the slot we were holding for the Filipino. So that worked out really well. While it is difficult to make a transfer board perfect, I find the Lord is in the details. I will give you an example. I had made a decision to leave two elders in their respective areas. When I read the letter from Elder #1’s companion, the spirit said, “move his companion”. I had already been over that companionship a couple of times and everything about it was going well and they had only been together for one transfer. When I received that prompting, I began looking at the board for where he should go. I started on the right hand side of the board (it is all digital) and worked my way to the left. Not sure why I do it that way, but I always start on the right and move to the left. It wasn’t until I arrived at the very last column of missionaries that I knew where he needed to be. So I moved Elder #2 to Elder #1’s area and put Elder #2 in Elder #1’s area. A couple of days later, I read the weekly letter from Elder #2. He needed a change and the spirit confirmed it. Originally I thought the move was for Elder #1, but it turned out it was for Elder #2. These types of experiences which are not uncommon fill me with gratitude that we get to be a small part of this work as we watch the miracles unfold around us. I should add that while the transfer board was in good shape by the end of Friday, I still ended up making a change as late as Wednesday morning (the day of transfers). Flexible and nimble seem to be required attributes of today’s mission leaders. We are grateful to be surrounded by Senior Couples who adopt the same philosophy and are willing to change their plans at a minutes notice to help get missionaries where they need to be.
The other thing I spent a lot of time on last week was getting the baptisms properly recorded. When a baptism takes place, the missionaries fill out the baptismal form in Area Book and submit it digitally to the Ward or Branch clerk. He then brings it in, prints the baptism and confirmation certificate and submits it to Church HQ. In order to make sure the end of year was as accurate as possible, I spent at least one hour every day for the last two weeks talking to missionaries, stake presidents, zone leaders, and even the Global Services help desk about getting these baptisms recorded properly. This means the missionaries have to submit them to the clerks and the clerks have to submit them to Church HQ. At one point I came to understand a problem with the clarity around children of record in the Handbook of Instructions. The lack of clarity in the Handbook results in our missionaries putting 8 year olds without a member record (but with one or both parents as members) into Area Book. When they are baptized, Salt Lake reclassifies them as children of record and the missionary entries into Area Book never clear. Discovering this caused me to pause, research and understand the problem, and then write a letter to the Missionary Department and Area Presidency about the issue. My Shell Oil training around process management kicked in and I felt a need to try to help fix a process that has to be causing other mission leaders the same trouble it is causing us. Thankfully the Missionary Department recognized the issue and agreed to find a way to fix it. In the meantime, we have a workaround.
We want to come back to the Righteous Use of Technology as we close out this post. Having smart phones is a huge blessing to our mission. It gives us access to so many more opportunities to teach and meet and learn. However, having smart phones is a huge challenge to our mission. Teaching young single adults how to use technology righteously is no small task. The biggest problems are the friends and family back home who constantly communicate with our missionaries. We will be discussing this issue with the Mission Leadership Council next week in hopes of coming to agreement on how to help get us focused more on our purpose. It is a labor of love to inoculate missionaries against the evils of social media where people are looking to the world for approval rather than to God. With the Missionary Department’s approval for every missionary in West Africa to have their own smart phone starting later this year, we feel a sense of urgency to improve the righteous use of technology. We are grateful to be in the trenches, where the work of Gathering of Israel is happening at an accelerated pace for one last time. We rejoice in our opportunity to be a part of this work, Together in Ghana.