Sunday, June 4, 2017

Behind the Scenes

Starting next Saturday evening the temple will again be closed for two weeks.  We will travel to France for a few days and then on to St. George UT for our family reunion.  Our posts may not be regular again until July.  As we look back over the five months since we were given the assignment to coordinate the ordinances for the living, we realize  we have learned many things.

Because of his stake callings for the past 20 years, Tom was well-acquainted with the process of preparing someone to be sent to the temple for their own ordinances.  We now are involved in the details on the receiving end and the necessity to provide positive individual experiences for the large groups of people who arrive in Accra for those ordinances.

It starts with good communication with stake and district leaders, helping them to understand the requirements relating to ordinances: providing the appropriate recommends, making sure that the patrons are prepared, etc.  For example, we sometimes have patrons who arrive and want to be sealed to a deceased spouse.  Generally the spouse needs to be deceased for a year and the other ordinances need to be completed prior to the sealing.  When patrons arrive without this preparation, they can be disappointed when the sealing is deferred, something we hope to avoid.  Because the church is growing so quickly in Africa, young leaders need teaching and reminding about these details.

We  have forms that we send out to groups asking for the details of the patrons: member names, IDs, and specific ordinances.  When we have that information, we make a planned schedule on Monday for the week, while allowing for the possibility of those who arrive without appointments.  Part of the planning is deciding how many new patrons we can accommodate on any given session.  It is not unusual to receive 70 own endowment patrons over the Tuesday and Wednesday every third week when we have missionaries from the MTC and an excursion group.

When a group arrives on Monday evening, a short meeting is held between a member of the temple presidency, the group leaders, and ourselves.  We talk about the schedule in the temple, getting clothing, the entry time for new patrons, an updated list of who actually came, and the need for help with children who are brought to the temple. We also ask for designated liaisons from the group who help the new patrons get to the temple on time and with other occasional concerns. Language can be a complicating factor if the patrons only understand a tribal dialect.  When groups bring excursion workers, the plans for their training and assignments are handled by Elder and Sr. Pierson. 

Finally, after all the planning, it takes a well-trained team of workers to help the new patrons move from the front desk through verification, clothing, ordinances, instruction, and into the endowment session in a timely manner.  One of our wonderful opportunities is to present a very brief overview of the process to the small groups and individuals as they arrive.  All need the same attention and care, and we try to help them feel our Heavenly Father’s love for them, and His peace that is in His house.  The temple never turns anyone away if they arrive with the appropriate recommend.  We see examples every day day of the hand of Lord in helping the leaders, workers, and patrons to accomplish this great work.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28, 2017

It was a very busy week, starting with temple visitors from Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.  We love meeting the saints that come from all over West Africa.  It did get a little tricky when we had a couple of women who spoke only their tribal language; fortunately there were a two other women in their group who could translate for them.  Later in the week we had a lot of patrons from Cape Coast, with several who spoke Twi or Fante and not much English.  This is a wonderful place for a polyglot.  Unfortunately we speak only a couple of languages, with a few other foreign words to add in.  Our new temple recorder reminded us that he speaks ten languages.  Wow!

An unusual thing happened this week.  We had a couple who came to the temple to be sealed, (to follow her endowment).  They arrived late (compared to their appointment time) and after getting their records checked they decided that they needed to go out for lunch.  Eventually they returned and received all the planned ordinances, but much later than originally planned.  Schedules and planning are a foreign concept for people who don’t pay a lot of attention to clocks.  That’s not a bad thing, unless you come too late or can’t stay overnight because the housing is full and you didn’t make a reservation.  

The temple was very busy yesterday.  There were so many patrons that we had to hold two simultaneous proxy sealing sessions (thanks to the two sealers who came in) to accommodate those who couldn’t attend the already full endowment sessions.  If I have time, I’m going to actually count the number of patrons in the temple at once on that kind of day.  It is my impression that every space is filled: ordinance rooms, dressing rooms, offices, foyer, waiting room, baptistry, and more outside the door waiting to come in.  We dream of having a chapel or another waiting room or more space to accommodate the patrons, but eventually (3-4 years?) the temple in Ivory Coast will be built and that will ease the pressure - perhaps. It is a wonderful challenge to have!

Our ward has had a very supportive relationship with the New Horizons School, through some involved members who volunteer there.  This is a private facility to educate and work with the less-abled young and older children in Accra.  There is no government-sponsored special education in the country.  We held a program in our stake center yesterday to recognize the families and teachers who work with them.  The students and others performed, with songs & dance, etc.  The founder, who is now 88 years old, was in attendance and received special recognition for her pioneering efforts that began 66 years ago with her oldest child.  She formed a cooperative group to help educate and care for their children, some whom are now senior citizens.  It was a wonderful, noisy, happy event.

In other news, you may have seen the report of Elder Bednar’s visit to West Africa.  He is the first apostle to visit Senegal, Mali, and Gambia, where the church is in beginning phases.  The report (with great pictures) can be found here: .

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017 Good Things

We had an unusual experience Friday night.  A family was being sealed following the endowments of the parents.  The children were ages 5, 3, and 1 and were staying in the Ancillary Building (where there is a play area) with someone from their group watching over them.  A temple worker called over and asked that they be brought to the temple to be dressed in white so they could go to the sealing room at the appropriate time.  A man brought four children to the temple and dropped them in the waiting room.  One, a small boy, was really wailing.  Eventually the five year old sister confirmed that he was not part of the family and he was retrieved.  The calm of the temple was restored.  We joked that he was screaming because he had been kidnapped!

Sue was dressing a one year old for a family sealing while his two older sisters were dressing themselves.  He gave her a big smile and started to babble, telling her a story and actually giggling.  He is the first child who has come to the temple who was not afraid of her white skin.  She almost always has a Ghanaian temple worker with her who is the “correct” color and speaks a tribal language.
This morning we met with the Christiansborg Ward at their building, because another stake was using our building for their conference.  The church is growing so fast here that every stake does not have their own building.  Sue was planning on having a holiday from teaching her single adult class.  She had looked at the topic (Sabbath Day) and remembered the conference talk from Elder Nelson in 2015 (The Sabbath:A Delight).  It was a talk that had made a difference to her perspective on honoring the Sabbath.  During the week she listened to it.  Then she remembered that she would not be teaching this week.  Today during the Sacrament she had the impression that she would be teaching today and accessed the talk on the iPad.  She wrote down the 3 scriptures used (D&C 59:9, Ezekiel 20:12, and Isaiah 58:13-14).  When the last speaker concluded, the representative of the YSA leaned over and asked if she could teach today.  She responded that she would be happy to, and had over 40 in her class.  She was grateful for the Lord’s tender mercies this week.

Thanks to the temple department, this week we received the keys to a new Honda Civic which will be shared between the Piersons and ourselves.  This will really help to do the shopping and for other short excursions.  Mentally it is a big change: feeling less confined to the compound.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 14, 2017 Happy Mother's Day

I have been thinking about nurturing and mothering this week.  I remember little about my mother because she died when I was in my early teens, but I do remember that she was always happy. She did not have an easy life with my father either gone churching or working most of the time. She felt it an honor that the Lord would ask him to serve and never complained about him being gone and leaving her with most of the responsibilities of home.  For many years I have identified with her, although I never knew her as an adult.  It will be marvelous when we can share our stories with each other.

Mother’s Day is actually celebrated in Africa. One of the temple workers explained that if people can afford it, they take their mothers out to dinner. I think the women here may be the hardest working I have ever seen.  I have included two pictures of women doing their jobs with their babies on their backs. One works on the grounds of the area presidents’ condo. She starts before sunrise and sweeps all the walkways clear of leaves and dirt.  She always has her child on her back. 

The other is from the bead factory and works all day making glass beads and stringing them.  The children are happiest with their mothers and are most comfortable carried this way.

This morning in Sacrament meeting, one of the  speakers referred to studies correlating  students' success among the 10,000 in the school district where he served for 16 years.  There were only two factors that the students had in common: how much their parents spoke to them and what words they heard, and secondly how much they had been read to.  I pay tribute to my daughter and daughters-in-law who may produce the smartest grand children of the generation because of their verbal communication with their children and reading to them every day of their lives.

The primary from our ward came to RS to sing to us today.  They are holding pictures of mothers, kneeling with their children to pray. 

Note the age of the conductor. He was pretty cute.

Hope you all had a wonderful day and remembered your mothers!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 7, 2017 Musings

I was fascinated by an article a couple of weeks ago that talked about why cats like boxes, and why they will sometimes be very content to stay put in a circle done on the floor.  It has to do with the presence in a litter of other kitten bodies all pressed together in a confined space, and the release of endorphins related to their safety, contentment, etc.

It reminded me of my freshman year at BYU when I would occasionally find a chalk circle around the statue of Karl G. Maeser outside the science building (it has since been moved), placed there as a joke of sorts to remind everyone of what he had once said about honor.  “Place me behind prison walls - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground - there is a possibility that in some way or other I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it.  Can I get out of the circle?  No, never!  I’d die first.”  I am told that when the statue was moved there wasn’t a chalk circle around it, so he didn’t have to break his word.

Boundaries are interesting.  They are very useful for defining where one thing ends and another  begins, like countries, acceptable behavior, oil and water, etc. etc.  We find them comforting sometimes, like the kitty, even though they are mostly imaginary.  They give us a feeling of security and contentment.  But they can also be confining, as when we define ourselves as less than we really are, or when we put people on the other side of a boundary and define them as “other”.  

Those who are willing to cross a boundary into another country or culture learn many new things which can be stimulating, interesting, and enriching to our own sense of identity and purpose.  But in that crossing we also run the risk of being changed in unpredictable ways.  We had an interesting discussion last night with other Canadian expats who decided to stay in the U.S., eventually.  What was once home became instead a place of wonderful memories, and what was once different became home.

It would be healthy for all who are living comfortably at home to spend time in a third world country.  Yes, you run the risk of having to deal with those in poverty, or without education, or with a different worldview.  But the potential blessings of gratitude, service, greater understanding, and love of others is well worth the risk.  And if you are possibly thinking about serving a mission, prepare now.  If possible, pray about it and then send in your application.  There’s a big world out there, and kitty needs to get outside the box.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Shared Experiences April 30, 2017

Good messages from church today:

As the youngest in the family, Terry was assigned to sweep the floor and dust the chairs every morning.  He didn’t appreciate this job because he had older sisters and thought they should be doing it, so sometimes he didn’t do a thorough job.  One day his uncle came to stay with them and knew of Terry’s assignment.  He put a substantial amount of money underneath the couch.  Terry did not move the couch to clean and didn’t see the money.  The next morning his uncle looked under the couch and pulled out the money.  He taught Terry a great lesson about being honest in his work, and from then on he always moved the couch.

A talented young single adult, a returned missionary, told of growing up as a member of the church in a family with 2 sisters.  Ghana is a 3rd world country where the average spending is less than 10 cedis a day (about $2.50).  His older sister is now a certified accountant and a mother of four.  He has a degree in  computer science and works in IT.  His younger sister has a degree in biochemistry and is in medical school.  They were raised by a single mother.  He believes that the windows of heaven were opened to them because their mother taught them to be faithful.   This is his testimony of tithing.

Our new stake president visited the ward today and talked about his conversion and testimony.  When he was 12 years old, his family was quite poor but were active members of the church.  He had an uncle who was a pastor in another denomination and who was relatively wealthy but had no children.  The uncle had a four bedroom apartment and offered to adopt his nephew.  It would give him a son and alleviate some of the family costs of his brother.  Our stake president told his uncle that he would be willing to do that if he could return home on Saturday and Sunday to go to church with his family.  The uncle replied that if he were to be adopted he would have to attend church with him as his own son.  So the boy said no.  Being converted meant that staying in the church he knew to be true was more important than having an easy life with no financial concerns.

We have received permission to leave the temple district during the 2 week closure in June and to extend a week to get to our family reunion in St. George, UT with all the kids and grands.  We are planning some time in France before that visiting the new temple and Pitchers and Ferraras, as well as a few days with Ben and Christy.  It will be a good break.

Sunrise from our window

Sunday, April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017

We get used to so many wonderful things happening in our week that it’s hard to select sometimes what to say.  Tuesday and Wednesday this week were the MTC missionary days for their own ordinances.  Four young men from Sierra Leone came in the group and it was sobering to consider what they had already survived in their young lives - civil war and the Ebola outbreak.  What a preparation for dedicating two years to serve the Lord!

During a lull in the office, Sue was studying the scriptures and commented on 3 Nephi 18:32, a verse she loves, that had been used by Elder Robert Sackley (see April 6, 2016 blog) in his teaching many years ago.  Br. Afful, who is the  former temple president and  works in the office on Thursday mornings, turned around and asked how we had known Elder Sackley.  He then commented that Elder Sackley had been his mission president in Nigeria.  For Sue, this connection [knowing Elder Sackley] will bind her to Bro.Afful forever and the first she has made with a native Ghanaian.

This week we said farewell to Stephen and Rosely Webster as they completed their mission and returned home to Australia.  He served as executive secretary to the area presidency and she as assistant, but that does not begin to describe all the good that they have done and the kind, caring people that they are.  They were responsible for managing the boundary and leadership change proposals in the area - for example, that included 99 new units (branches, wards, stakes, and districts) in the first 88 days of this year.  They oversaw the living arrangements for the senior couples assigned to the AWA (including finding new apartments to lease) , coordinated weekly sealing sessions and sister scripture classes, tours of area  spots of interest, food for FHE,  fresh egg deliveries, etc. etc.  And on top of everything else he was the driver for getting the area presidency and many others to and from the airport - over 300 trips during the 18 months.

Elder and Sr. Webster speaking at FHE

We had the delightful experience yesterday of receiving help to accomplish the sealing of about 15 deceased ancestral daughters and sons to their parents.  It was during a less-busy time in the temple and the president invited a couple who had come for the first time and three others to join us for that short session.  Tender mercies!