Sunday, May 31, 2015

No Storm Can Keep Me In

Elder Jones and Elder Rowe in Abakrampa. 

Rainy season is a two edged sword.  The clouds and rain cut the heat a bit, but you get wet.

This week, we held Zone Conferences with the Yamoransa Zone and the Kojokrom Zone.

Sister Stevenson helping sick missionaries while enjoying the view. 


Yamoransa Zone

Then on Wednesday, we were in Kojokrom, which is in the Takoradi area.

The Sister Training Leaders gave instruction on the importance of the Book of Mormon in conversion.


Zone Leaders instructing.

Kojokrom Zone

Friday, we tried something that I thought would either be one of the most inspired things I have done, or one of the dumbest.  The last few months of a mission should be the most productive and enjoyable.  I've been wanting to fire up the missionaries so they don't slow down at the end.  I felt that it would be powerful if we could bring them in as MTC groups, about three transfers before they finish, and recommit them to set the pace for the rest of the mission.  

I couldn't just start with the group three transfers out (and here is the potentially dumb part), so we included all of the groups who are completing within three transfers.  That turned out to be sixty missionaries.  It was either going to be a great inspiration or a wild party.

As the missionaries arrived, you could feel the love and excitement in the air.

I really wasn't too worried about how this would turn out and I knew it would be great when I heard this group of 60 seasoned missionaries sing our mission hymn, "Rise Up, (Servants) of God!"

I told them a little about my experience running marathons.

I found that the last 4 to 8 miles of a marathon take all of the mental, physical and spiritual determination that you can muster.  Those last miles will make or break the race.  It is those last miles where your experience and preparation pay off.  (They may have lost a little confidence in me when they asked how I did in this particular race and I told them that I came in 4,462nd.  Hopefully, I'm a better mission president than I am a runner.)  We talked about what it takes to finish a mission well and why that is important.  Then, they divided into their groups (three weeks left, nine weeks left and fifteen weeks left) and set goals for what they would accomplish.

They came back with great goals. I raised my eyebrows when the June group said they would have 35 baptisms, but they assured me they know who those people are.  The August group has 28 missionaries, double the size of the other two groups.  Their goals are awesome.  I wanted them to see the great good that will be accomplished, both while they are here and long afterward, if they will finish well.

I told them about the last month of my mission.  I was transferred back into the same district where I began my mission.  My companion and I taught and baptized a wonderful man, the only man I baptized my whole mission.  I was able to see and be a part of the baptism of a woman that I had taught as a new missionary and who had continued to investigate the Church for two years.  I told the missionaries that about a year after my mission, I ran into a man at BYU who I had taught just prior to leaving Sweden. He recognized me immediately and told me that he had joined the Church not long after I went home. I'm a firm believer in finishing strong.

They were willing to enter into a covenant together to do their part to set an example for the younger missionaries.  I had prepared a "Title of Liberty" and each of the missionaries signed it in token of their commitment to each other.  It was pretty cool.

"In memory of our God, our Savior, our Hearts and Our Willing Minds."

June, August and September 2015 Departing Missionaries

 It was a pretty good day.

Saturday was the quarterly Coordinating Council Meeting with all of the stake presidents who serve within the mission boundaries.  Elder Davis, of the Seventy, presides over our council.  He always gives me 45 minutes to discuss missionary work.  This time, I shared with them the concept of the "Full Purpose Missionary" ( a missionary who balances his or her efforts to bless (1) those investigating the Church, (2) recent converts and (3) those who may have fallen away from the faith). Full Purpose Missionaries have a great partnership with local Church leaders and will be a wonderful resource to Priesthood leaders in accomplishing the Work of Salvation.

Sunday, we held the Abakrampa Branch Conference.  Last time I was in Abakrampa, a heavy rain kept people from getting to church on time and we began the meeting an hour after the scheduled time.  Today, the rains came at the end of the meetings and trapped the members in the chapel.  I like it better that way.

We were invited to visit the home of Sister Alice after the meetings.  Sister Stevenson says she is her first friend in Ghana.  They met on our first Sunday on mission.  

She served us fried corn dough and ground nuts (peanuts) and sent us home with a big bag of fruit from her little farm.

President Amankwa, the First Counselor in the Mission Presidency, joined us. 

We met her brother and left a blessing in the home.  She is a very sweet and kind woman.

It was a great week.  Tonight, at 11:30 p.m. (our time), Evans will be set apart as a missionary.  He will enter the Provo MTC on Wednesday.  Our stake president has made arrangements for Sister Stevenson and I to view his setting apart by video conference.  We are very grateful for that.  All of our children will be there with Evans.  I'm glad our friends and family have been available to support Evans in his preparations while we have been away.  Thanks to all of you.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Words of Life.

This week was filled with zone conferences, area visits and a stake conference.

I spent Thursday and Friday in Dunkwa-On-Offin working with Elder Tyson and Elder Okwii.  Elder Loader and Elder Degen are in the same apartment and I enjoyed getting to know all of them better. I've started doing these area visits monthly and this was my second one.  I have enjoyed them very much and love being a "young missionary" again, if only for a day.

The drive in to Dunkwa was as beautiful and adventurous as always.  Because the rainy season has started, there were some small water crossings, but the "shortcut" eliminates most of the really exciting ones.  The little bridge looked like it had taken some abuse since our last trip.  The cross-poles were cracked in the middle and bowing up.  But underneath, there are large telephone pole beams, so I wasn't worried about it collapsing.  I wanted to take a picture, but there were always people around the bridge (coming and going) so I didn't want to be the strange American tourist.

Sister Stevenson sent me with some groceries for the apartment, but I left that for the missionaries and we ate their food.  I was impressed with the avocado.

 Fried egg sandwiches for breakfast.

I experienced my new "Most Peaceful" discussion and my new "Most Chaotic" discussion on this trip.  Most Peaceful was held under a tree in the front of a residence.  Other than a few minor distractions as people greeted us as they walked by, the setting was idyllic.  The investigator was also awesome.  He is a young Nigerian man in his twenties.  Very sincere and very well versed in the Bible.  It was great teaching him.

Then the new winner of the Most Chaotic discussion was in front of a metal works shop.  The investigator was also very sharp and we had a great discussion.  But the shop is on the main road in Dunkwa, with huge trucks and other vehicles passing by.  The TV was on in the shop blaring out a religious program.  Customers were coming and going.  The worst was when one of the workers started grinding a metal pipe and sparks of hot metal started flying towards my feet (not to mention the noise).  Near the end, two men rode up on a motorcycle and were curious about what we were doing and stood behind where we were sitting and started making comments.  The investigator was very self-assured and just continued on with what we were talking about, so pretty soon they quieted down.  I am amazed at how much the people are able to filter out so that they can focus amid all of the distractions around them.  One cool thing that happens often in these settings is that after the discussion, a woman who had been listening in the background stopped us and asked if she could have a copy of the Book of Mormon to read.

I had lunch on Friday with all eight of the missionaries in Dunkwa.  We went to a place managed by one of the members of the branch and she took great care of us.  Most of the missionaries had rice and chicken,

but Elder Tyson and I went for the goat meat fufu in light soup.  It was nice.

It was a great trip and I also got to meet with some of the leadership of the branch while I was there. We had a wonderful experience together.

While I was in Dunkwa, Sister Stevenson went out with two of our sister missionaries in Ola.

This week, we also held zone conferences for the Tarkwa Zone and the Assin Foso Zone.

We held the Tarkwa Zone Conferece in Agona, which equalized everyone's travel time to get there.

We missed Elder Julander this week.  He was down with some back pain, but is back in action now.

Elder Pishl is from the same ward as Sister Stevenson's brother.  This is for you, Herman.

In the evening, the four zone leaders serving in the Takoradi Stake and I met with the Stake President.

The following are from the Assin Foso Zone Conference:

Elder Halversen and Elder Larsen (Assistants)

Using Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life to teach "The Full Purpose Missionary." 

In the evening, Sister Stevenson went out teaching with two of the sister missionaries and I went with two of the elders in Assin Foso.

Saturday and Sunday we were invited to participate in the Cape Coast Stake Conference.  Elder Vinson, of the Seventy and who serves as a member of the Area Presidency was presiding.

Sister Stevenson and I both spoke at the leadership meetings on Saturday morning, then we were asked to speak together at the adult session in the afternoon.  Often, when we are asked to speak at stake conferences, our assignment comes just a few minutes before we are to stand.  We have been very grateful for the promise in Doctrine and Covenants Section 84:

"Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man."

At the conclusion of the meeting on Saturday afternoon, it began to pour down rain.  It gave us the chance to visit with some of the members and missionaries who waited out the storm.

On Sunday, half of the stake came to a morning session of conference and the other half came in the afternoon.  Both sessions were full, so there was no way to get them all together at the same time.  Elder Vinson said, "We have two stakes here!"  The division of a stake is an indication of the faith and faithfulness of the people.  I hope to see many during my season here.