What an amazing and wonderful week it has been. We had Elder and Sister Nielsen here (our Area President) for a mission tour. They came in on Wednesday morning, we drove to Sunyani and met with both of them and the Assistants. Elder Nielsen then interviewed both Assistants and two other elders. Sister Nielsen interviewed two sisters. We then met with the Sunyani District Presidency (President Asare-Boahen, Benjamin Kittson-Mills, and Ernest Sukar) along with our new senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Goodrich before going to the Hotel and having dinner. I knew that by meeting with the District Presidency the Nielsen’s would lift and inspire them and having the Goodrich’s who just arrived on Monday in Kumasi there was an added bonus as they will be working closely together. Elder Nielsen introduced the discussion by talking about the importance of families and then asked each member of the presidency what do they feel they need to focus on in the district. President Mills: Importance of being temple worthy. President Asare-Boahen: the importance of ministering. President Sukar: Seminary. I later added the importance of Young Single Adults in the district as we have 400 with only 50% of them active. That is a lot of opportunity! Elder Nielsen talked about D&C 107 and Priesthood authority and Priesthood power. He discussed the need to exercise the priesthood more, especially through priesthood blessings. Sister Nielsen mentioned something that Elder Bednar taught them, “Every man that comes to the temple needs to be ordained to the priesthood, but the women of the Church do not. This is because of the love and trust that Heavenly Father has for his daughters. Though we spent less than an hour with this great men, it was time well spent.
We started the conference the next morning at about 8:50 am. We ended at noon and then had lunch.
We want to share five key things that were taught during these two sessions of our mission tour zone conferences. We have merged these learnings into one summary for simplicity.
- When the Savior calls (and He has called each of us to serve as full-time missionaries), it is time for us straightway leave the nets of the world and follow Him. Leaders are here to help us “cut” the nets that can often bind us to the things of the world. Addictions, pornography, social media, inappropriate movies and music, modesty in dress, guile, friends and family who do not respect our calls as missionaries, are just a few of the nets that can bind us and drag us outside of the box. We need to free ourselves of these nets that bind us.
- The scriptures are filled with stories of men and women who were called to do VERY hard things. The expectations God has always had of his disciples are nearly incomprehensible to us. We must trust that we will be expected to do hard things because our God is a God of high expectations – and He knows it will be required if we want to become like Him. Missionaries called out name after name of those who did hard things: Nephi son of Lehi, Brother of Jared, Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, Abinadi, Esther, Captain Moroni, Samuel the Lamanite, and the rich young man who was asked to sell all that he had. These are only a few. The ultimate high expectation was the Father’s expectation of the Son. Jesus Christ freely suffered and then died to give us the chance to return to and become like the Father. Talk about doing a hard thing!
- Because we have accepted a call to serve as full-time missionaries, we “are bought with a price” and counseled to not be “the servants of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23). We “are gods, and all of [us] are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:6). This is why we have been given the commandments, covenants, and rules because we are learning to become gods. These rules help us to understand the expectation associated with godhood. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 explains that WE are the epistles of Jesus Christ. Not epistles written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God in the fleshy tablets of our hearts. We become the messengers of salvation because of the spirit, commitment, devotion, and light that is in us. To become gods, we must have balance in our life. There are five spokes on the balance wheel mentioned in Luke 2:52 which we must keep stabilized. 1) Physical (stature). 2) Intellectual (wisdom). 3) Social (favor with man). 4) Emotional (favor with self). 5) Spiritual (favor with God). To become like God, we need to keep order and balance among these five aspects of our lives. To have JOY, we must put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself third. The first three letters of these words spell JOY.
- Repentance comes from the Hebrew word “shub” which means turning towards God. In Greek, the word became “metanoeo” which means to transform our thinking and even our breathing as we become new creatures in Christ. Around 400 AD, the bible was translated into Latin and it became the definitive bible for hundreds of years. In Latin, the word for repentance was penitere, which means “to punish”. While the original meaning of the word repentance was simply a turning towards God, it has taken on a very negative meaning associated with punishment. President Nelson has spent a lot of time in the last 5 years helping to change the perception of repentance back to a “turning to God”. Repentance is filled with joy because it frees us from guilt and shame. And this is why President Nelson encourages us to “discover the joy of daily repentance”.
- In Alma 17-27 we can learn so much about being effective missionaries. Ammon broke down barriers and connected hearts so that he could teach what he knew. The sons of Mosiah taught with power and authority because they prayed and fasted. They trusted the Lord completely. They never missed an opportunity to fulfill their missionary purpose. They loved the people and served them. When preparation meets opportunity, we will have success. We must bury our own weapons of war. We will have more success as we are obedient and ALL IN. We were encouraged to keep reading these chapters over and over and continue to learn about how to fulfill our own missionary purpose because the story in these chapters is our story. The greater the challenges we face, the more profound the miracles.
At the end of each conference, Elder Nielsen offered a blessing as the President of the Africa West Area. While not identical, they were very similar and equally inspiring. The blessings were especially meaningful for those missionaries with non-member families and blessed them in their role as examples in helping their families come unto Christ. It also focused on the missionaries knowing who they are and their destinies as sons and daughters of God. He also mentioned how their testimonies of the restored gospel will deepen during this time and how their relationship with us as their mission leaders can be eternal in nature. He also blessed them with confidence and power to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Both were wonderful.
He closed by reminding us that we have Jesus Christ to help us heal and be happy.
One of the things Elder and Sister Nielsen did during the conferences was to have the missionaries teach repentance to each other. It was marvelous to see the enthusiasm and vigor with which they accepted this invitation to do so. Because we have been practicing the one minute drills specifically on the principle in Preach My Gospel titled, “Repentance through the Atonement of Jesus Christ”, the missionaries were definitely already prepared before they received the assignment. Some of the comments as to what they learned from the role-plays were quite impressive. Here are some of what they mentioned:
- Ammon sought ways to serve Lamoni
- The example of Ammon and Aaron is what had an impact on Lamoni and his Father
- The outcome of the conversion of the Lamanites was their willingness to bury their weapons of war and perish rather than fight
- The sons of Mosiah were told by “friends” that what they were going to do was impossible, but their Faith was so powerful that they actually did what others said couldn’t be done.
- They fasted and prayed and became great missionaries.
- Ammon key his “why”.
- Lamoni’s father when confronted with Ammon’s sword was willing to give up 1/2 of his kingdom to be spared. Later, when the desire in him grew so strong, he was willing to give away all of his sins and all of his kingdom in order to know God. This is the power of a righteous desire and eventual conversion.
- Ammon and Aaron were quick to observe and taught to the needs of Lamoni and his father.
- Ammon and Aaron focused on bringing souls to Christ through teaching the plan of redemption.
- Once Lamoni felt the Spirit of the Lord, nothing else was important to him, including attending the feast his father had prepared to honor his sons.
- These missionaries had 3 things: Great humility, Perseverance, and a Passion for the Work.
Here are some pictures from the two conferences.
On Thursday after the Sunyani conference, we drove back to Kumasi (it rained nearly the whole way) and arrived back about 4:10 pm. We had expected to be back by 4 pm, but about 30 minutes out of Sunyani a tree fell across the road and men had to get out of their vehicles with their machetes to chop through the thick branches and trunk of the tree so that cars could get by. That was pretty impressive considering it was raining. In any case, we started MLC about 4:15 and ended at 5:45 pm. The Assistants had been given an assignment the day before by Elder Nielsen to give an instruction for 20 minutes and then the rest of the MLC meeting would be built off of that instruction. It was an amazing 90 minutes. Elder Harnois and Elder Amoah spoke about John 15:1-16, using the section titled “The Power and Authority of Your Calling” found on pages 4-5 in Preach My Gospel. The Assistants showed the picture of Christ ordaining His apostles and asked the MLC what they saw in the picture. They then discussed the power and authority by which they were called and ordained (elders) and set apart (sisters and elders). The spirt of their instruction cannot be overstated. It was wonderful. Elder Nielsen then put the picture up of all the apostles in Rome with the original apostles excluding Judas but including Paul. Elder Nielsen then led a similar discussion on what can be seen in the picture and the significance of that event. It just kept getting better.
At the end of the MLC, the Nielsen’s and we took pictures with each MLC companionship in front of the picture of these modern day apostles. I will include only one here rather than all 15!
Following MLC, we had a nice dinner that Hannah (mission cook) prepared (I am happy to mention that her husband Enoch came and helped her again and is now taking the discussions from the missionaries) and then we came back to the mission home and had a nice evening together with the Nielsen’s.
After the conference on Friday, Elder Nielsen had two interviews with missionaries and then we dropped him and Sister Nielsen off at the airport and just like that, the mission tour came to end. What wonderful days to be remembered!
As I mentioned earlier, we were grateful to receive the Goodrich’s to the mission on Monday afternoon. We took them and the Loveland’s to dinner at Noble House as a “welcome to the mission meal”. The Goodrich’s will be serving in Sunyani as a Self-Reliance couple and working with our members and leaders in helping them to bless each others’ lives even more in the future than in the past. We are grateful to have this amazing couple serving alongside the Steinmetz’s (Tamale), Thompson’s (Techiman) and Loveland’s (Obuasi and Kumasi).
During the conferences, the Nielsen’s took numerous pictures with individual companionships. Here are some where I was privileged to be the holder of the camera.
On Saturday afternoon I attended the Kumasi Coordinating Council which we held in the Mission Office. Elder Appianti essentially did his final council meeting and essentially turned the reigns over to Elder Sosu. The topics we discussed included:
- Handbook Review 31.1.2-3 – Guiding principles for interviews
- Discussion on the leadership topics taught to the Seventies by the Apostles at General Conference in April. These sessions focused on the BIshop’s responsibilities to the rising generation and how ward councils should facilitate ministering so that the Bishopric can focus on the youth. We also discussed the patterns and principles to life the vision of Missionary Work.
- We reviewed the missionary statistics for the mission and especially the stakes and opportunities to improve the work of salvation by getting more members involved with the missionaries
- Unit statistics were shown for each stake, and each president spoke for a few minutes on the things they are focusing on and the successes they are seeing.
On Sunday, we attended Church in the Kwamwoma branch where our Assistant’s serve. Both of them spoke in the meeting and that made it even better. Afterwards, three people were baptized. They had prepared 10, but in the last days before the baptism things started falling apart. I am confident most of the 7 will be baptized this upcoming transfer. We have some amazing Assistants who really love this work.
We really love weeks like this. Being able to be with ALL of the missionaries in such a short time frame is a special treat. Being able to be with Elder and Sister Nielsen for three days was amazing. Something for which we will always be grateful. And if that wasn’t enough, we ended the week with the Coordinating Council Meeting and then the baptisms on Sunday. We are so so grateful to be a part of this work. We see the Lord’s hand in every aspect of it. The sense of urgency is real and the need to stay focused on finding the Elect has never been greater. These are days never to be forgotten, gathering Israel one last time, Together in Ghana.