We were invited to a unique meeting last Sunday evening to hear Bro. Georges Bonnet speak about some of his experiences in helping with the approval and the building of the temple here about 15 years ago. Bro. Bonnet has worked for many years for the Presiding Bishopric and still does. He has been involved with Africa beginning in 1990 when he was the first director of Temporal Affairs for the Africa Area of the church, living in South Africa. At that time there were no direct flights from S. Africa to west Africa. They had to fly to London from Johannesburg and then turnaround and fly back to west Africa. They also had no direct telephone lines from there to here. However, within six months of the area office being established, direct flights became a reality and the telephone communication was also improved. In 1990 there were only five stakes in Africa, all in South Africa, all with caucasian stake presidents.
Elder Faust, the apostle assigned to Africa in 1990, shared this thought when he came that year for leadership training: “Let us not take counsel from our fears.” (It was also the theme of an article he wrote in 2002 - link here: https://www.lds.org/liahona/2002/10/be-not-afraid?lang=eng). Remember that this would have been during the famous “freeze” in Ghana. Shortly after the freeze was lifted, the first two stakes were created in Ghana in April of 1991. At that time, Elder Faust said, “The Spirit of the Lord is brooding over Africa”.
In February of ’98 Pres. Hinckley announced a temple in Ghana during a big tour of Africa. But there were lots of issues and problems in getting the site approved by the government. The Minister of Religion was concerned that the church would “descend upon our people with your materialistic ideas”. In early 2000 Bro. Bonnet was asked to transfer back to be the DTA here in the Africa West Area with the specific assignment of getting approval of the temple. He was concerned about how his wife and family would react to his new assignment. Arriving home that evening, to his surprise, he found his children and his wife dancing and singing “we are going to Ghana”. They had been told nothing by the Brethren. Later he asked his wife when she had learned they would be going back to Africa. Her answer was - "last November". After much fasting and prayer [including him kneeling alone, in the dirt, in the dark, on the temple site, pleading with the Lord that He would open the way] and many small miracles, the temple was approved, and eventually dedicated in January of 2004, just 12 years ago. Just before the dedication of the temple, Pres. Eyring came on a visit to west Africa for training meetings, and said, “The Lord is in a hurry here. He will condense what took years elsewhere.” We now have 72 stakes in the Africa West Area, an increase of 16 this year, with 15 more districts created this year.
Bro. Bonnet’s involvement in getting our temple approved is all the more interesting to us because of his start in the church in France. He joined the church as a teenager in southern France around the time that Tom was a missionary there. Tom had heard of and met this young man, who received a mission call to serve in Tahiti. How influential one new convert can be!
I have been taking pictures of the beautiful flowers on the temple grounds. It is basically summer here - temperatures around 92 degrees in the daytime. It feels very much like Florida in the summer. We are glad to have air conditioning but the patrons in the temple wear sweaters because they are cold.