This post is for the week of April 17-23, 2023. We spent most of last week at our Mission Leader Seminar that was held in Senchi. It is a town at the base of Lake Volta. The “resort” we stayed at was called the The Royal Senchi. It was a very nice place by Ghana standards and we appreciated the time away and an opportunity to be out of the city. The maps below give you a sense as to where the place is relative to Kumasi which in the first photo is the where the blue circle is below all of the other icons representing Church buildings. While you cannot see Accra on the map it is just below the right end of the white line at the base of the first map. The square on the first map is an estimate of the location of the second map, with the yellow outlined circle representing the resort.
We decided to fly to Accra rather than drive because we knew we would be finishing at 4 pm on Saturday and we didn’t want to make the drive back to Kumasi in the dark. We needed to be back Saturday evening as we had an invitation to speak the next morning at the Bantama Stake Conference. On Tuesday, we took the 4 pm flight to Accra and were met at the airport by Hanson who picked up President and Sister Bodaine coming in from the Yamoussoukro Mission in Cote d’Ivoire at the same time we arrived. We came out on our mission with the Bodaine’s so it was a sweet reunion to see them and be with them. We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel on Tuesday night. It was wonderful having dinner with most of the Mission Leaders and then spending some time afterwards sharing experiences.
On Wednesday morning, we attending an endowment session at the Accra Temple. It just happened that President and Sister Ake and President and Sister Morgan also had made reservations for the same session, so the Morgan’s were kind enough to drive all of us there. It was our first time in the temple since the most recent changes and we loved being there and loved being taught by the Spirit. It was a French speaking session, so we wore headphones.
Following the temple session, we came back to the Hotel and had lunch before checking out and boarding a bus to take us to Senchi where the Mission Leader Seminar was held as mentioned above. The ride took a bit longer than expected, just over three hours. We had dinner and a brief introduction to the seminar and then returned to our rooms for a good nights sleep. We had a small balcony and a beautiful view looking out to the Volta River.
In addition to the Area Presidency (Elder Gifford Nielsen, Elder Jorg Klebingat, Elder Alfred Kyunga), Elder Teixeira of the Presidency of the Seventy was able to be with us for the entire week. It was a real treat to spend time with him and Sister Teixeira. We were able to sit at the same table with him twice during the week and hear his counsel, his stories, and his testimony.
Here are a few of the highlights from the instruction we received at the seminar:
- We need to make the Savior’s first and great commandment our first and great commitment. (Elder Nielsen quoting Elder Christopherson from the April 2023).
- Write down at least one thing that you would like to take back with you to your missions from this seminar (Elder Teixeira).
- In the parable of the talents, why did the parable focus on the doubling of the talents? Because whatever we do needs to be significant. Small incremental advances are not enough (Elder Teixeira).
- Our paramount duty is to help each missionary be converted to the Lord (Elder Klebingat quoting Elder Nash).
- Christ will help a missionary be converted and to deepen that conversion (see 3 Nephi 9:13-14) – (Elder Klebingat)j.
- How do you know that you have a testimony? What does it feel like? (Elder Klebingat).
- What is the difference between transactional and transformational missionary work? (Elder Klebingat)
- We need to help missionaries feel comfortable that they are on a transformational journey of receiving a testimony (Elder Klebingat)
- We need to “own” our own testimony (Elder Klebingat).
- Do we have barriers that keep the missionaries from focusing on the key indicators? (David Wade – Area Mission Specialist)
- We need to have our missionaries see, feel, know, testify (Elder Teixeira)
- It is the lack of repentance that causes sorrow upon the earth (see Alma 29:2) Elder Klebingat.
- There is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples. Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought (President Nelson – April 2017 quoted by Elder Klebingat)
- “Because They love you, They do not want to leave you “just as you are.” Because They love you, They want you to have joy and success. Because They love you, They want you to repent because that is the path to happiness. But it is your choice—They honor your agency. You must choose to love Them, to serve Them, to keep Their commandments. Then They can more abundantly bless you as well as love you.” (Elder Christopherson – October 2021 – quoted by Sister Wendy Nielsen).
- President Nelson has said that on nearly every page in the Book of Mormon there is evidence of the scattering and gathering of Israel (Elder Kyungu)
- The Book of Mormon is the preeminent net that God has prepared for missionaries (Elder Kyungu)
- The Book of Mormon was given to us to help us prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Elder Kyungu)
The following insights were offered by Elder Teixeira near the end of the conference. We put these together and have been sharing them with the missionaries in our recent zone conferences. We can see how these statements resonate with these young missionaries (and with us).
- If we will put Jesus Christ first in everything we do, what we do will always be right.
- Reward is always on the other side of sacrifice
- The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
- If you want to make something a big part of your habit, then make the cue for that habit a big part of your life.
- Teach the missionaries to have the right relationships with the instruments that make them disciples of Jesus Christ.
- To reduce or remove the cue that feeds a bad habit, replace it with something good.
- When we start mixing contexts, we are in trouble. The weakest habit will generally prevail (e.g., studying on the bed, eating at our study desk, looking on Facebook for gospel knowledge, etc.)
- The more sacred an idea is to us, the more deeply is tied our our identity and the more we will defend it
- Missionaries need to discover these sacred truths for themselves in the scriptures
- Whatever change we want to create, the more important it is to help it become sacred to the missionaries
- Knowledge: “Understanding and comprehension, especially as taught or confirmed by the spirit.” (Guide to the Scriptures)
- Understanding: “To gain a knowledge of or to perceive the meaning of some truth, including its application to life.” (Guide to the Scriptures)
- To change, we must apply that which we are learning
- He who has the “why” is capable of coping without the “how’s”
On Thursday, we finished at 3 pm and we had free time until 6 pm. I went on a hike with a number of other mission leaders being led by Elder Klebingat to the top of the “hill” mentioned above. LaDawn is still trying to let her achilles tendon heal, so she opted out. The hike was rigorous in a few places, but the view from the top was outstanding.
On Friday, we again had free time from 3-6 pm. This time, we opted for a short boat ride on the Volta River. It was really nice. Williams was our “captain” and there were 6 couples on the boat.
When we returned to the hotel, we still had 2 hours before dinner, so LaDawn and I hit a few golf balls at their “driving range”. No tractor pickup on this range, only golf ball shaggers and a few workers. A basket of 30 balls was about $3. I think I hit 25 of them and LaDawn may have hit 5. Afterwards, we walked over to where a group was playing tennis, and I managed to get in on a few games. So akin to Pickle Ball I was actually able to hit a few shots. It was short-lived but it was fun!
After dinner both nights, the four mission leader couples shared their testimonies (2 each night). We will miss seeing the Bendixon’s, the Proudfoot’s, the Bassey’s, and the Young’s and loved hearing their heartfelt testimonies of Jesus Christ.
On Saturday morning, we loaded the buses and departed by 8:00 am. We drove back to the Area Offices and the Stake Center that is located there. We then met with the Area Seventies, the Area Presidency and Elder and Sister Teixeira. The focus of the meeting was primarily on the rising generation and helping to prepare them to be valiant missionaries. Elder Klebingat spoke about the “Disciples of Jesus Christ” document that is similar to our 17 points of consecrated obedience. Elder Kyungu spoke about developing a culture of missionary work in each stake so that young men and women are better prepared to serve missions. Elder Teixeira talked about the importance of putting Jesus Christ first in our lives. He asked all of us to consider what we might do to make the Savior a greater focus for the rising generation. He talked about helping our young men be more familiar with Jesus Christ. To do that we need to talk more about Him, to love Him more, because then we will follow Him. He asked us to consider “What are the big priorities that we need to focus on first?” (He used the term “big rocks”, referencing the object lesson of putting big rocks into a jar first and then the smaller rocks, pebbles, and sand will fit). He told us that if we are going to make a difference, we need to have a simple measurable objective to go and make it happen . This is about doing and not just talking. We need to increase the number of missionaries who want to serve a mission, not an increase in the number because we are pushing them to go.
After the meeting, we had a nice lunch and then I walked over to the MTC to meet the three missionaries who are learning English currently and will come to us on May 25th. Elder N’guessan, Sister Manico and Sister Dos Reis Sanches. Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, and Cabo Verde, respectively. We are excited to receive these amazing missionaries who are in full preparation mode right now.
At 1:30 pm, all of the Mission Leaders met at the temple and we enjoyed attending the 2 pm temple endowment together. What a wonderful experience to be in the temple with all of these valiant men and women! We were finished and out by 4 pm and on our way to the airport by 4:30 pm. When we arrived, we learned that our 6:30 pm flight had been cancelled and that we had been placed on a flight for the next day. That wasn’t going to work, so with some help from Daniel Ekow Sam in the Travel Department, we were able to get it all straightened out and we made the 7 pm flight. We were home before 8:30 pm. What a great week it had been in Accra and Senchi!
On Sunday, we attended the Bantama Stake Conference, where Samuel Appiah serves as the stake president. It was wonderful to be with him and the stake members. LaDawn spoke for a few minutes about having reverence for the Lord’s house by keeping our chapels clean. I first spoke about the baptisms in the Bantama Stake. Last year for the full year they had 90 baptisms. This year in the first quarter they had 60. A significant change. Also of note is that 55% of the convert baptisms came from member referrals. That is the highest of any stake in the mission. I then spoke about the “traditions of the elders” (see Matthew 15) and tied that into understanding and keeping the Sabbath Day holy. President Appiah concluded the conference by talking about the importance of listening to the words of the prophets. He especially emphasized President Nelson’s invitation to become Peacemakers.
I estimated there were between 350-400 people in attendance.
Only two more events to mention for the week (it was a week filled with highlights). On Tuesday morning, we attended the Nkoransa District Council where Elder Baldwin is the District Leader. He is doing a great job. Right now he is training Elder Munungo, a wonderful young man from DR Congo. The One Minute Drills and Role Plays were done extremely well and it is good see the progress the missionaries are making with learning and teaching the doctrines of the kingdom. After the meeting, we also snapped a picture of the Bantama District. This was the first district council that the Loveland’s had visited as it was their first week here. We are so happy to have them as part of the Ghana Kumasi Mission!
After District Council, we returned home and participated in our Mission Devotional. Kelly and Susan Ogden, LaDawn’s brother and his wife gave a wonderful presentation to the mission about how we can and do feel the Spirit in our lives. They talked about the importance of the sacrament and being filled by the Spirit each week as we partake of it. They spoke about how the Holy Ghost carries the truthfulness of a message into the hearts of the children of men. Susan talked about how she had evaluated her life in an effort to eliminate things that kept her from having a fullness of the Spirit, and then invited all of us to do the same. They asked this powerful question: What weaknesses and indulgences will we give up to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost? They explained how the influence of the Holy Ghost grows as our own worthiness grows. They encouraged us to have a spiritual experience each time we kneel and pray. And they assured all of the missionaries that as we learn to love the Savior more, everything else falls into place. Such a wonderful devotional from two people we love dearly. Thank you so much Kelly and Susan!
We are so grateful for these weeks when we have a chance to be renewed and refreshed by rubbing shoulders with great missionaries, amazing family members, and powerful Africa West Area priesthood leaders including the 18 mission presidents and their wives serving across the Area. Spending time with like-minded men and women, striving as we are, to become consecrated and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ is a special treat. We are all in this, gathering Israel one last time, Together in Ghana and across West Africa. Hurrah for Israel!