Planting Seeds

This post is for the week of March 27 – April 1st. The title once again comes from this week’s letter to the missionaries found here. The graphic titled “Parable of the Sower” explains the symbols of the parable comparing them to post-life destinations. The letter just expounds on the graphic. I will come back to the theme of planting seeds at the end.

On Monday, I spent the majority of time on three tasks: 1) Finishing the prior week letters to missionaries, 2) submitting recommendations for three new branches inside two of our districts (credit for the hard work of creating the boundaries and membership lists goes to my second counselor, Joseph Asante), 3) holding a meeting with our Northern Facilities Manager on the progress of buildings and maintenance issues under his purview. I think the concept of preparation day is brilliant. It is a day that missionaries rarely call and since they are preparing for their week, we have an opportunity to catch up things that lagged due to the prior week!

On Tuesday, we arrived early for the Abaukwa District Council where Elder Jant is the District Leader. I was able to interview Elder Jant and Elder Clarke before the meeting. The council meeting itself was really great. The role plays were focused on “profiling” the people we meet to determine if they are sincerely interested in our message. The one minute drills that week were focused on “The Gospel of Christ and Doctrine of Christ”, “Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve”, and “The Savior’s Earthly Ministry and Atonement”. We really love what we are seeing as the missionaries practice these skills and learn the full doctrines contained in each of the 42 principles in Preach My Gospel. Following the meeting, I interviewed the remaining 6 missionaries. We finished up before 2 pm and returned home.

It is unfortunate, but Tuesday afternoon I learned of a serious issue with an elder that needed to be addressed. I started with his stake president and then communicated with the Area Presidency and Elder Watson, our In-field representative. At the end of the day, the decision was that he would need to go home. I have said this before, and I will say it again, this is by far the hardest work that we do. Teaching accountability can be painful, but necessary if we are to help a young missionary get back on the covenant path and stay there. Too many believe that saying “I am sorry” is enough. If the actions following the apology do not reflect the commitment to change, then it is evident that the apology was a verbal response and not a “broken heart” response. These issues are never easy to work through, but we will never stop caring about the eternal welfare of these young missionaries – even when it is hard.

On Wednesday, I began to work on the transfer board. Transfers news was due out on Saturday and I hadn’t even started on the transfer scenario. As I have said before, I have learned that if I wait until the interviews are finished, the Lord then knows I have done my part and He then will do His part. I always find it to be a revelatory experience. This transfer was no exception. There were a few changes I needed to make, that I couldn’t figure out. I kept studying out different options, and when I finally saw the right companionships and moved them accordingly, it was as if a bell went off and I knew it was right. Just one more evidence that this work is HIS and not ours.

On Wednesday evening, we held our mission presidency meeting. President Asante had to have some oral surgery due to a problem with a tooth and he was really hurting Wednesday night, so we held it without him and provided the notes and actions on which we needed him to follow up.

On Thursday we had our regular couples council. These are always highlights for us. We love these senior couples who have sacrificed time away from children and grandchildren to come and serve the amazing people of Ghana. We are saddened that we will be losing the Moomey’s and Garrison’s this month, but are grateful the Loveland’s will arrive this month, the Goodrich’s next month and the Pack’s in June.

One of our favorite parts of this council is the sharing of personal insights each of us gain in our personal studies during the week. Also, just being able to council together is helpful. At the end of the meeting we agreed that each senior missionary would prepare a brief message about their assigned day of Holy Week and send it to me. I in turn, would then send it out to the young missionaries as an email each morning. Today was day 5 with three more to go. It is so gratifying and joyful to see how these senior couples are willing to go anywhere and do anything that is needed to help build up the Church and establish Zion. We will forever be grateful for these amazing men and women.

Elder Sosu

On Thursday evening we learned that President Kofi Sosu, the Stake President of the Suame Stake had been called to serve as an Area Seventy. This is especially exciting to have someone from Kumasi be called as an Area Authority. It will greatly bless the area and President Sosu, now Elder Sosu, will be a terrific leader wherever he is called to serve.

On Thursday evening, the Assistants came by at 8 pm and we finalized the transfer board. I ended up making a couple of changes on Friday after learning some new information that would enable the missionaries and the mission to address some opportunities. The entire transfer went extremely well.

Friday morning, we held our regular transfer meeting with the Assistants, the Office Elders, the Garrison’s, and the Moomey’s. That meeting was over in 30 minutes. LaDawn has become very adept at putting together the transfer schedule in a way that we are all aware what we need to do. It is getting easier each transfer to execute on a routine plan that has been working well for us.

Sister Moyo and Sister Ilulu

After the transfer meeting, we drove out to the Atafoa Ward building where I interviewed Sister Ilulu. She had been transferred from an area where we had not yet done interviews to an area where the interviews had already been completed. She was the last of the 202 missionaries to be interviewed for the transfer. We are grateful to these sisters, like so many other missionaries in the mission who, put their “all” into this work to gather Israel.

On Saturday morning, I began to make calls to young missionary leaders who either were being called to a new leadership position or released from an old one. All in all I made a total of 38 calls throughout the day, finishing just before the first session of conference started at 4 pm. I had an eye appointment with a nearby eye doctor in the morning, so after playing pickleball, I made my way to his office. I figured it was probably time to have my eyes checked. Something about “age” and “eyes” that seem to be incompatible. The good news is I can still see! But Dr. Armah did dilate my eyes (with two different doses of drops) and it was pretty late in the day before my pupils returned to their normal size and I could take off the sunglasses. Because of that, the Garrison’s were kind enough to come and pick us up at 1 pm and take us to the Kumasi Cultural Center where we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at a restaurant called Ike’s inside the center. I had a crunchy chicken sandwich that was probably as good as anything I have had anywhere. The atmosphere was good. The service was not speedy, but it was attentive. It was just a very different experience for a restaurant here in Kumasi and one I would definitely return to.

The Moomey’s and Garrison’s joined us for conference on both Saturday and then again on Sunday. After the nice lunch on Saturday, we had finger food between sessions. On Sunday, we had a nice pot luck dinner featuring Sister Moomey’s enchilada’s and LaDawn’s chicken pot pie soup as main courses. The conference was an oasis in a desert, and we were all so grateful to be able to listen to a prophet’s voice. How grateful we are for inspired men and women to lift and encourage us to be better.

One last thing I will mention. Sunday at noon we drove over to the Kwanwoma Branch where there were 8 more baptisms held for the branch. This is the branch where my Assistants serve, and we now have 2 more elders who work in Aboabo, a nearby town. The highlight here in addition to the new converts, was the first time use of their new font. I am grateful to Daniel Kabason who is the senior manager of the Facilities Maintenance group in Africa West Area. I spoke to him about the great need we had for a font in Kwanwoma because of the frequency and quantity of baptisms. Within 3 months we had the font and were putting it to good use. We are grateful! Now the entire branch can participate in the baptisms for those who have decided to enter the covenant path.

In the mission field, there are so many ways that seeds are planted, soil is enriched, and new plants are nourished and cultivated. As mission leaders, we work a lot with the “soil” of these young missionaries. We teach the doctrines that influence their behaviors so that their ground will be fertile. The goal is for the Word to grow within them. Elder Bednar mentioned this in his talk on Sunday in conference. It was also a message we heard from Elder Christopherson when he visited Accra in February. The Word that we “plant” in our hearts and then nourish with our faith is Jesus Christ. It is His doctrine, His mission, and His example. We become more like Him when our soil is “good ground” where seeds that are planted will become a tree, springing up in us unto everlasting life (see Alma 33:23). And so while we gather Israel, Together in Ghana, we are also focused on young missionaries, helping them to plant seeds in their own fertile soil – and then nourishing that soil with the doctrines of the restoration and more importantly, faith in Jesus Christ.

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