Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wrapping Up Q1-2015 Zone Conferences

Jenga -- Level: Expert

We finished up our last three zone conferences of the quarter.  All of them were Cape Coast Stake zones, so we were close to home.  It was nice to not have to travel at the crack of dawn.

My training for these zone conferences was "Establishing a Zion Mission."  We looked at different times in the scriptures when the Church had been blessed with happiness and success at "astonishing" levels (Heleman 3: 24-25).  We then picked out the "Attributes of Astonishment" to see if there were things that were common in these times of great spiritual prosperity.  We developed a nice list and focused on Unity, Obedience and Peace (no contention).  I think we are very close and I am looking forward to being astonished.

The Assistants trained on overcoming the fear to talk to everyone.  They pointed out that if we fail to open our mouth, our wonderful message will not be heard.  They used the training model of Explain, Demonstrate, Practice, Evaluate and Repractice.  I think everyone left resolved to improve.

Each of the zone leaders also gave instruction in each conference that was specific to the needs of their zones.  Topics ranged from teaching the Law of Chastity to giving correction to a companion with love and respect.  It was all very good.

After the zone conferences on Wednesday and Thursday, I drove out into the mission to do baptismal interviews.  Wednesday was in Sekondi and Thursday was in Assin Foso.

These happy young men are the Sekondi Elders.  I interviewed three of their investigators, including a wonderful couple.  The husband walked into the Takoradi Stake Center last December when we were holding the Zone Christmas Devotional.  Sister Stevenson was the first one to meet him and he told her he wanted to join the Church.  She introduced him to Elder Julander (Elder and Sister Julander are the missionary couple who live in the Takoradi-Sekondi area.)  The missionaries have been teaching the couple since then and they were baptized yesterday.  As I met with them, I asked what had motivated him to come into the chapel that day.  He said that he really wanted to make changes in his spiritual life and felt drawn to the Church.  His wife said as they drove around and happened to pass one of our buildings, he would say, "That's our church."  On that day in December he saw cars in the parking lot and decided it was time.  They were so happy and will be great leaders in the Church.

On Friday, we had 14 new Trainers at the Mission Home for New Trainer Orientation.  Our transfers are next week so we wanted to get them ready for their new missionaries.

We are only sending home one sister this time and receiving eight, so we are opening four new sister areas this transfer.

After the training, I went out to Elmina for another baptismal interview.  I have had several bad experiences driving in Elmina (including my first week in Ghana when Elder Hinckley pointed to the end of a dark street and said, "That's the way to Cape Coast." and I managed to get home by pure dumb luck!), so I don't do that anymore.  Now I park several blocks away from the chapel and walk in.

It's a pretty walk along the coast with a nice view of the Elmina Slave Castle.  It also gives me a chance to talk to people as I go.  I had a group of five men at a barber shop gathered around me on Friday and they all wanted to meet with the missionaries, so that was pretty cool.

Date Night:

Nuff Said.

On Saturday, I drove in to Accra for some training at the Area Office.  All the stake presidents and mission presidents had been asked to attend this meeting on the annual church history submissions that each unit prepares.  It was nice to see all of the stakes from our mission represented.

The training was scheduled to end at 1:30 p.m. which gave me just enough time to drive back to Cape Coast for a 5 p.m. fireside where I was speaking.  I arrived at 4:50 and had 10 minutes to unwind from that crazy drive.

It was nicely attended for a Saturday fireside and we enjoyed being there with the missionaries and their investigators.  Sister Stevenson got a surprise invitation to speak as well.  That always makes her happy.  She did great.

After the fireside, we dropped in on the Cape Coast Zone Leaders to see how the transfer transportation plan was coming (and to eat cookies and ice cream with them.)

I'm really glad they take care of those details because I wouldn't have a clue.

On Sunday, we drove to Takoradi where I had been invited to speak in the West Tanokrom Ward.

The sisters are always so happy to see Sister Stevenson.  They were also preparing for a baptismal service after church.  This is filling the font the hard way.  Ghana is experiencing a power shortage and in the Takoradi area it is particularly bad.  Usually the power is off for 24 hours then on for 24 hours there.  No power also mean no water since the pumps don't work.  The missionaries have had to get creative for baptisms.  Sometimes, they travel from building to building looking for enough water to immerse someone.  Somehow, it gets done.

From Takoradi, we drove to Agona where I had a couple of interviews to do.  These pretty flowers were from the Agona chapel grounds.

We saw the TREE OF THE WEEK on the drive back from Agona.

I love these trees.  They are Africa to me.  I haven't been able to figure out the name.  I don't think it is a Baobab -- but maybe.


Our angry bird found a friend.  Not so angry anymore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More Zone Conferences...

We had three more zone conferences this week -- all outside of Cape Coast.  We did the math and figured we spent over 20 hours in the car.  

We started in Takoradi on Tuesday:

I was able to release a missionary who had served in Nigeria. He lives in one of the mission branches in the Western Region.  Luckily, the zone conference location was on his way home.

I had a meeting in the evening, so Sister Stevenson when out teaching with the missionaries.  I think they taught six discussion that night.  The sisters love it when she goes out with them -- and so does Sister Stevenson.

Wednesday we were in Assin Foso:

 Practicing teaching.

Searching for "Attributes of Astonishment."

We both got to go out with the missionaries on Wednesday.

Thursday was Praso.  This is the most rural zone in the mission.

On the way home from Praso, we stopped in Elmina to interview this sweet grandmother for baptism.


On Friday, I drove to Asikuma and Odeben (about a seven hour round trip) to do some baptismal interviews.  I had to drive through a puddle so deep that my car alarm was submerged.  Now it sounds like a small cricket.  The Google Maps to Asikuma are still rough, so it was an adventure.

Saturday and Sunday we participated in the Takoradi Stake Conference.  We stayed overnight with Elder and Sister Julander.  Sister Stevenson and I had several opportunities to speak.

The members seem to like my stories.  I told them about a time that we saw a car go into the gutter and get stuck.  I got out to help, but alone could not do anything.  Then a bunch of men came out of the church building and began lifting and pushing.  Before long, the car was free and good as new (well mostly).  I said there is much we can accomplish if we work together that we could not do alone.  

The Takoradi Stake Choir -- can you find the Julanders?

Since we were (kind of) in the area, we drove the two hours from Takoradi to Tarkwa to see the missionaries there.  It is hard to get there often because of the distance.  We had a nice, but short, visit.   

We arrived home Sunday at about 8 p.m. with tired bums.


Both of our water storage tanks went dry on Friday so we had to have a truck come and fill one.  The city water that normally fills the tanks gets filtered twice between the street and the tanks, so this water was pretty brown for a day or two until things settled out.  As a result, part of date night included washing shirts by hand with filtered water.  We were afraid if we used the washing machine with the brown water, I would have brown shirts.  This is how almost all of Western Africa does laundry, so it was a nice cultural experience.  Not so nice that we weren't grateful for the washing machines.


This Emperor Scorpion crawled up the shower drain in the Assistant's apartment next door while Elder Gqweta was showering.  Our grandson William says they make good pets.  Elder Gqweta disagrees.

On the softer side:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mission Tour 2015

We were joined this week by Elder and Sister Edward Dube.  Elder Dube is a member of the Seventy and is a counselor in the Area Presidency for the Africa West Area.  He and Sister Dube were assigned to come and visit our mission.  We met with all of the missionaries over a three day period and participated in a leadership meeting for the Cape Coast Stake on Tuesday evening and a fireside with the Takoradi Stake on Wednesday evening.  We enjoyed our time with them very much.

Elder and Sister Dube left us on Thursday afternoon following the last combined zone conference.  On Thursday evening and Friday I was able to do baptismal interviews in Mankessim, Cape Coast and Greenhill.  All very nice people.


Sister Stevenson drove in to Cape with me on Friday and while I was doing a baptismal interview, she bought some grilled Talapia from our fish lady.  Then we went home and ate and played Rummikub.

Sister Stevenson won.

Saturday and Sunday we had the Assin Foso Stake Conference. Elder Yirenya-Tawiah was the presiding authority and he invited Sister Stevenson and I to participate.  On Saturday, there were separate leadership meetings for the men and women -- I instructed for the men and Sister Stevenson instructed for the women.  I was also invited to speak at the evening adult session.  On Sunday, we were both asked to speak in the general session.  It was good to see the Assin Foso Zone again.   

On Saturday, Evans called and said his mission assignment had arrived.  We Skyped in while he opened the letter from the First Presidency.  

He has been called to serve in the Tennessee Nashville Mission.  It is about half Tennessee, half Kentucky and  a smidge of Illinois.  We are all very excited.  He really wanted an English speaking mission and this is just north of where his cousin Jed has been serving since September 2013.

He begins his service June 3rd, which means that he will complete his mission a few weeks before we will.  We are hoping that he will come home to us here in Ghana and finish with us and we will all go home together.


Whatever bit this missionary.

It was a no-see-um in the night.  

Probably not this guy...