Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Farewell

We have just returned from the farewell devotional for Elder Legrand and Sr. Jane Curtis.  He has been the Africa West Area President for the past three years and served as a counselor for two years before that.  The nearby stake center was filled to overflowing and the meeting was attended by government officials, stake presidents, mission presidents, area seventies, the temple presidency, and many others, including three choirs.

We are at the epicenter of the fastest growing area of the Church.  When the Curtises arrived in 2011 there were 29 stakes.  Today there are 69 stakes, and ten of those were created in the last 3 months.  The Church is in 7 countries of the 17 in West Africa and there are 14 missions.  Growth in membership in the past 5 years has been 57%.  They anticipate that with current progress there will be more than 27,000 convert baptisms in the area this year.

Sr. Curtis spoke of all the things she loves about the people of West Africa, but especially their faith and the way that faith is expressed publicly on the names of businesses and on the taxis and tro-tros (minibuses).  She liked the names of two businesses she saw on a recent trip: Worship God Motors, and the No Weapons Food Joint.  Tro-tro wisdom from recent travel: God’s Time Is Best, Showers of Blessings, and God Will Provide.  She also commented on her love of the way the saints sing and invited everyone to stand and sing one verse of Beautiful Zion, which she led. The Ghanaian saints sing in tune, in parts, and from the heart!  If you have ever sung in a mass choir in a moment of pure joy and inspiration, you can imagine what this sounded like.  

Elder Curtis shared several experiences and insights.  He spoke about how in visiting the many wards and branches in the area, they could always tell when they were getting close to the chapel.  Members would be walking in their Sunday best: men in white shirts and ties, women in their colorful dresses with babies tied on their backs.  And members would be arriving in taxis and minibuses.  He had seen a family of six in Nigeria who arrived on a motorcycle (I would need a picture to figure that one out).  

He talked about the importance of the temple, how it blessed the members, and how they often made great sacrifices to attend.  In one of the Liberian branches he observed a line of saints down the length of the hall and around the corner as each waited their turn for a temple recommend interview.  He was later able to greet them when they arrived in Accra from their four-day bus trip.  After traveling each day they would sleep under the bus or on the side of the road at night.  To his question, “Wasn’t that hard?” they replied, “We just thought of the pioneers.”  He asked a couple of men how they could get that much time off work. One said he had quit his job to come.  Another said, ”I don’t know.  I’ll see what the boss says when I get back.”  (These people live in our building for the five days that they are doing ordinances at the temple, sleeping in bunk rooms and cooking in the large group kitchen.)

Elder Vinson, currently a counselor, will replace Elder Curtis as Area President.  There were many other inspiring moments in the meeting, much love and gratitude shared.  It was helpful to us to gain a larger perspective of the work here in the AWA, and to see the hand of the Lord in blessing His children here. 

The meeting closed with everyone singing this Ghanaian patriotic song ( followed by a verse of the Star Spangled Banner.  

Translation of the song follows:

This is our own land.  That is a valuable thing to us, acquired through the blood our ancestors shed for us.  

It is now our turn to continue what our ancestors started.  Know-it-all behavior, cheating, and selfishness has scarred our character and diminished our affection for our land.

Whether or not this nation prospers clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation.

Bragging of educational achievements, or useless greed for material things, and bad lifestyles are destroying our nation and disgracing it.

Obedience and respect, caring for the welfare of one another everyday, and selflessness in the traditional way, ensures each person's welfare.  That is what will bring peace and prosperity to our nation.

Whether or not this nation prospers clearly depends on the character of the citizens of the nation.

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