This post covers the week of March 20-25, 2023. The title of the post is in reference to the feeding of the 5,000 and the lad who so readily gave up his 5 loaves and 2 fishes to the disciples so that Jesus, unbeknown to the lad, could multiply the food and feed the multitude. The full version of the letter to the missionaries can be read here.
I will say more about this theme and concept at the end of the post.
This week we were focused primarily on interviews. There were plenty of other things going on, but the interviews were priority.
On Monday, we played some more basketball. Not sure how much longer we will be able to do this as transfers and my old knees may soon begin to disrupt our “teams”, but for now it is great. It probably doesn’t deserve to be mentioned each week, but it is basketball and such a great way to get some much needed exercise.
I spent most of the day finishing up the prior week missionary letters due to the very busy schedule associated with the zone conferences. In the afternoon, Elder Witte came into the office. He was reassigned to labor in the Alabama, Birmingham Mission due to repeated bouts with malaria. While we have been able to get him well each time, he seems to have a penchant for attracting mosquitos in the evenings. We are grateful for his nearly 18 months of service in the Ghana Kumasi Mission and equally thankful he was able to get reassigned to a mission where malaria will not be a problem for him. We wish him the very best! He flew out of Kumasi early Tuesday and then out of Accra that evening.
One of the missionaries that was sent home early last week got stuck in Accra due to a weather problem between Accra and Central Africa. She ended up having to spend the entire weekend in Accra before flying out on Monday at noon. While most of this was handled by missionary travel in Accra, it was one more thing to track and make sure that those at home knew when she would be arriving. Often it is the details of the day to day operations that require what seems like disproportionate attention. I am grateful for my corporate experience with Shell that taught me the importance of details and the methods for effectively dealing with them – especially through good delegation!
On Tuesday, we traveled to Obuasi and attended the District Council of the Obuasi East District which meets at the Asonkore Branch Building. Elder Utley is the District Leader and the council was well organized and well executed. This was our first District Council to attend where the District Leader was running one minute drills and role plays. Both were done well – and my definition of well means that we were able to talk about what went really good and what could use some improvement. When we can teach the missionaries that a learning environment at District Council is the objective, then the pace at which we learn accelerates. Overall a great meeting!
After the 10 interviews in Asonkore, we drove back to the District Center in Obuasi and interviewed 4 more. Because we had been there for District Conference two days earlier, I had already interviewed the other 8 missionaries in the zone. It made for a shorter day on Tuesday. We managed to only get a picture of one companionship, Elder Bayles and Elder Nuwagaba, both great missionaries. We are grateful for all of the powerful missionaries in the Obuasi Zone.
On Wednesday, we made the trip out to Nkawkaw, then Juaso, then Konongo and back to Kumasi. We left at 6:30 am and returned to Kumasi at 6:00 pm. Once back in Kumasi, we decided to stop at Starbites and have dinner since it was getting so late to go home and still fix something to eat. It was a great day of interviews and discussions. For my scripture this transfer, I chose D&C 88:73-75. Verse 75 talks about a great and last promise. I was initially confused because I could not find the reference to the meaning of this promise. After searching for a bit, I prayed and asked for help. The Spirit ever so gently impressed me to “read the chapter”. So I started in verse 72 and went backwards. I didn’t have to go far as I found the answer in verse 68. This is a scripture I shared with the missionaries last year, connecting it to verses 6-10 (my memorized verses). What surprised me was that I had never connected verse 68 to verse 75. I was delighted with the discovery and shared it with many of the missionaries in our interviews. We had some wonderful ensuing conversations. One of the insights I gained while sharing this scripture so many times with missionaries is that the only way we can “sanctify ourselves” is to repent. What the spirit taught me on one of those many occasions is that when we repent, we are exchanging our sins for Christ’s power, light, and knowledge. As the amount of His light, power, and knowledge increase in our lives, we become more like Him. This is why I believe President Nelson has asked us to discover the joy of daily repentance. He knows that the only way to become like Christ and receive this great and last promise is through daily repentance. That too was an exciting discovery. In verse 74, I talked about purifying our hearts and cleansing our hands and our feet. Our hearts represent our desires. While I can have good desires on my own, if I want pure desires, then they have to be His desires. Everything we do requires the use of our hands, so to have hands that are clean I have to be doing the things the Lord would want me to do. If my hands get dirty, I need to cleanse them through repentance. Some may try to hide their soiled hands, but when we hide our hands it is as though they don’t exist and it is then very difficult to do much. I have learned that missionaries who are not having success are potentially hiding their hands. Clean hands are doing the Lord’s will. Our feet are symbolic of our direction. If I am going to have clean feet, then I need to be “coming unto Christ”, “walking in his footsteps”, “being on His errand”, and “standing in holy places.” As soon as the direction of my feet changes and I go after the world, they are no longer clean. In verse 75 the Lord promises that if we will have pure desires, clean actions – aligned with the Lord’s will, and feet that are facing the Savior, then He (Christ) will testify to His Father that we are clean from the blood of this wicked generation so that He can fulfill the great and last promise, “when He will”. These are some amazing scriptures with wonderful promises. I am grateful for the many discussions on this topic with valiant young men and women seeking to become more sanctified.
On Thursday, we drove to the Agric building (10 minutes away) and there interviewed the 12 missionaries serving in the Bantama and Nkoransa Districts of the Bantama Zone. I really enjoying interviewing there as they have a seldom used pavilion where a nice breeze generally blows. We started at 10:00 am and finished at 2:30 pm. It was another great day of interviews!
Thursday evening we welcomed another new missionary to the mission. Elder Byansi is an experienced missionary coming to us from the Accra Mission by way of Uganda. We are grateful to have him as a part of our “gatherers”. He is bright, committed to the work, and obedient. Since he came in late Thursday, we did an interview and then let him get some rest after a long day. We started Friday morning early at 7:30 with orientation and finished by 10:00 am in time to start missionary interviews
Friday turned out to be a difficult day. After the early start to the day orienting Elder Byansi and subsequently interviewing the Office Elders, my Assistants, and Abaobo Elders (great interviews by the way), I had a meeting at 2 pm with an Area Auditor. And not just any Area Auditor. Kwaku Perprem is the best of the best. He had completed an audit of the mission in the area of vendor payments and vehicle/fuel usage. Some disturbing anomalies were uncovered in the audit that will need to be addressed. This has nothing to do with our full time missionary office staff (young and senior) – all is well there, but it will require some changes in the organization and changes to our processes and procedures. Something about a meeting like that can really ruin a perfectly good day. We are grateful for men like Kwaku who ooze integrity from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. We need more men like him.
We spent Saturday and Sunday in Techiman. It was their first District Conference since being made a district late last year. Elder Solomon Aliche was again our visiting Area Authority. While we have only worked with Elder Aliche a couple of times, we have really grown to love him. He is a powerful priesthood leader and inspired in his comments and counsel. On Saturday morning we arose early and picked Elder Aliche up at the Lancaster Hotel and drove to Techiman. It took a bit longer than we anticipated and so we didn’t get there until about 8:45. Our meeting with the district presidency was to start at 8:30 am. We had a wonderful meeting with the presidency focusing on self-reliance, convert baptisms, and renewing temple recommends. The presidency feels the strength of the district is the youth, the leadership, more members paying tithing, and an overall commitment to follow the covenant path by the members. Opportunities include less of a “me” focus and more of a focus on others. Also to continue to teach the principles of self-reliance to move away from an entitlement mentality. They want more service to each other and to the community. Following the meeting, we moved into the sacrament hall of the Kenten Branch and held the Saturday adult session.
The adult session included talks on loving God and our neighbors, repentance, using Come Follow Me in the home, the strait and narrow way, becoming a celestial person, and what it means to have a total commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The leadership session followed with topics on the Children and Youth Program, the importance of missionary coordination meetings, and using the new self-reliance form as families to develop our own plan regardless of our financial situation. It was a great meeting.
We spent the night with the Thompson’s and Sister Thompson fixed us a delicious shrimp scampi meal with pesto as part of the scampi. It was excellent. Elder Aliche joined us for the meal. Before dinner, I interviewed two prospective missionaries. One who is ready to serve and one who needs some more time.
The next morning in the general session we had a full house. I think the count was close to 300 in attendance. There was such a rich spirit there, so much so that Elder Aliche mentioned it on the way home. The primary children sang prelude music. It was really great. My favorite was “The Army of Helaman”. A short clip is included below. The second clip is of the missionaries serving in the Techiman District singing “Come, Come Ye Saints”. I loved the comparison of the children singing about being the Army of Helaman, and then the missionaries, who are clearly part of the modern day Army of Helaman singing Come, Come, Ye Saints.
President Adu (district president) started the meeting by speaking on the prayer of faith. Sister Anaso Adefo, a young woman, gave a wonderful talk on the law of chastity. She was followed by Amoafo Mainoo (Kenten Branch President’s son) speaking on honesty and integrity. Sister Nora Somalia, a young single adult then spoke brilliantly about tithes and offerings. LaDawn talked about organisation and cleanliness – especially as it relates to our homes and church buildings. I then spoke on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. I had considered speaking on another topic, but the spirit clearly communicated that this was the right subject. Elder Aliche then asked the Thompson’s to bear their testimonies. Sister Thompson expressed her love for the Savior and how she has learned what is important in life. Elder Thompson encouraged the district to “Be One!”, a theme that Elder Aliche then picked up on during his comments. Elder Aliche did a masterful job of tying the conference together. He said we had received numerous invitations and then listed them: 1) Pray Always. 2) Live the Law of Chastity. 3) Be honest. 4) Keep our meetinghouses clean. 5) Pay our tithes and offerings. 6) Keep the Sabbath Day holy. He ended by saying the only way members can help their nation (Ghana) is to teach everyone the gospel of Jesus Christ. He concluded by saying we need to be more grateful.
Following the conference, I interviewed Sister Aruna. She was in Accra being sealed to her parents when we came for interviews. I see her growing and am grateful for her desire to be a consecrated missionary.
We left Techiman about 12:40 pm and dropped Elder Aliche off at the airport at 3:00 pm. It was a wonderful and spirit filled conference. I told Elder Aliche he should come with me to the other three District Conferences. I really enjoyed working with him.
The Gathering of Israel is multifaceted. It is not just about teaching repentance and baptizing converts, it is about helping every single member make and keep sacred covenants. This is the work we are doing in the districts. We have amazing District Presidencies across the mission. Their commitment to and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ is making a huge difference in the lives of the members.
Now, back to the title of this blog post. It is easy for us, the missionaries, and the leaders of these districts from time to time to feel that we are not good enough to do this work. To believe that the work is bigger than our meager capacities. However, if there is anything we can learn from the feeding of the 5,000 and the lad who gave up his 5 loaves and 2 fishes, it is this: when the Master touches our lives, guides our actions, and blesses our efforts, whatever we have to offer will always be enough! We love being “enough”, Together in Ghana, engaged in this great work!