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!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

We were privileged this week to assist the members referred to in the following comments (used with permission).  The author is Elder Renfroe, who with his wife has served in the Tamale Branch and District for the past year.  Tamale is a 12 hour drive straight north of Accra, and in some ways about 75 years straight back in time.

“Remember when Jane introduced Tarzan to New York City?  That is what it is like for these good people seeing the Accra temple and a US style grocery store for the first time.  Abraham just got back to Tamale from his village where he spent 3 months planting 2,500 yams.  He had no electricity, no phone, no internet and didn’t think anything about it.  He comes back to Tamale to the ”big city”.  He is not sorry or suffering or blaming anybody for how he lives.  It is just how it is.  Christiana and Raymond have similar backgrounds being raised in villages.  Now they are here gazing up at the temple.  Abraham exclaims, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

They are staying in the ancillary building with air conditioning, elevators, and doors that fit and work.  Each a new experience for them.  When they come outside into the 85 degrees and 85% humidity air they exclaim how much more comfortable it is being outside.    It is hard to imagine what is going on in their heads.  Tomorrow the real fun starts in the temple.  We spent the last two days in the car teaching the temple preparation classes.

Yet, what they will see in the temple tomorrow will probably far exceed what I will see.  Their eyes are unsullied.  But our eyes are covered with the clay of this earth caked on from years of exposure to the earthen ways of life in America from which we must be cleansed in order to see clearly.  May we be careful to not soil them with things we think they need but don’t.”

It was a very busy week in the temple with Ivorian saints through Thursday and Ghanian saints who flooded the temple on Good Friday and yesterday.    We concluded the day yesterday adjudicating the Ofankor Stake choir festival (and accompanying them all).  This is our second time to do this and we saw a definite improvement in the choirs.  It was an exercise in looking for the good where at times it wasn’t obvious.

We woke up this Easter Sunday grateful for Jesus Christ; that through Him we have the power to change, to forgive and be forgiven, and to love.  “How great, how glorious, how complete, redemption’s grand design, Where justice, love, and mercy meet in harmony divine.”     Eliza R. Snow

Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 9, 2017

It’s been a quiet week.  The Ivoiriens who were scheduled to come cancelled their trip.  We were able to officiate again in ordinances and enjoyed that.  Sue has been more involved in training and recertification.  Tom did some preparations for the next 2 excursions.

Monday we attended a special family home evening with Parry Merkley, brother of one of our senior missionaries.  He was hired by Elder Ballard 7 years ago to head a committee that was to produce a campaign to make the church and its message more visible.  Despite the view from the inside, surveys at the time showed that very few people worldwide knew anything about the church.  

As was recounted to us, Elder Ballard had a dream that he died and went before the Lord for judgement, and the Lord said, “Russell, Satan learned to use the media, why couldn’t you?”  That prompted a lot of research, meetings, and creative ideas.  The results included the website, the personal profiles of members (I Am a Mormon), and the major ad blitzes in London, New York, and Melbourne that piggy-backed on the Book of Mormon Musical.  A group now also monitors and strategizes on how to keep the church sites at the top of the results when online searches are done.

He had interesting comments about the reluctance of some of the leaders to endorse the use of “Mormon” rather than the full name of the church.  They eventually did when they understood that “Mormon” was how most people look for information about us online.  He also had comments about how Elder Perry was an early and enthusiastic adopter of the use of technology to enhance missionary work in all its facets.  

We really enjoyed General Conference.  There seemed to be a theme of gentleness, kindness, focus on the Savior, loving your neighbor, and inclusion.  We were very interested in the backgrounds of the new Relief Society Presidency ( ).  Here is a stimulating talk given by Sr. Eubank at the FAIR Conference in 2014, titled “This is a woman’s church”:  We heard her speak in person about humanitarian services and principles of self-reliance several years ago and found her approach very enlightening.

It is possible that the rainy season has begun.  We’ve had two large showers in the last week that were impressive in the amount of water that fell.  The seasons are changing!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017

We have officially passed the mid-point of our mission.  Hard to wrap the mind around that thought.  We are staying busy and learning much.

We had breakfast this morning with some of the most interesting people we have ever met (although we keep meeting more and more of those people).  The Findlays are finishing their 20+ years as senior missionaries, most recently with the Humanitarian Services wheelchair project, and transitioning their responsibilities to the Christensens, who started as senior missionaries 10 years ago in the Congo.  This is their third assignment.  He is known as “commando” Christensen because of their experiences in the DRC during what is politely called “civil unrest”, but which included bullets flying in the streets outside their apartment.  These two couples were accompanied by a younger woman who is a therapist and travels with the wheelchair project as a technical specialist & trainer.  

This week we also met the Daltons who just came back to Ghana to the same MLS assignment in the same branch & district, and living in the same apartment, for the 3rd time.  They were called on the phone and asked if they would consider returning to help establish a stake in that district, and they jumped at the opportunity.  They are in a difficult place, under difficult physical circumstances, but they just love the people.

A couple of weeks ago I was able to visit with Pres. Assard and Bro. Affoué, who with their wives were the two founding families of the Church in Cote d’Ivoire in 1986.  Each family was inspired to return to their home country from Germany and France to build up the church.  Bro. Assard visited with Elder Joseph Wirthlin in Frankfort before returning and received a short list of people and addresses in Ivory Coast.  He wrote to them all after arriving, but only Bro.Affoué replied and he thought that Bro. Assard must be French because of his last name.  What he didn’t know is that Bro. Assard’s name had been changed by the French from Assa when he was in school.  They found that they were both from the same tribe and lived in villages adjacent to each other.  They started holding meetings immediately.  Thirty years later there are 11 stakes and 10 districts, at last count.  We pray for the announced temple in Abidjan, that they can break ground soon.  Otherwise we won’t have room for them all in Accra.

We were able to watch General Conference yesterday and are waiting for the Priesthood Session to become available.  Just before the first session I received a text and photo from a cousin who is an Area Seventy and attending the conference.  They realized they were sitting next to our dear stake president from here, Anthony B. Quaisie, who was sustained as an Area Seventy in the afternoon session

 On Wednesday a small group of Saints [3 couples and 2 single sisters] came from Liberia for their endowments and sealings. Two of the couples brought children with them. It is part of my responsibility to make sure the children are dressed completely in white and then accompany them to where their parents are waiting for the ordinance. I gave the 10 year old girl a choice between two long dresses. She was very excited about one of them and I could tell it made her feel special. After the ordinance was finished, she took my hand and asked me if when she came to the temple the next time, she could wear the same dress. Knowing [because of distance and expense] that she would not get here again for years, I replied “The next time you come, you will have your own beautiful dress”. She threw her arms around my waist and gave me a big hug.

Often, on week-ends, brides come to the temple grounds for pictures. It is a public service the church allows because the grounds and the building itself are probably the most beautiful in the city. This picture was taken out of our window yesterday.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 26, 2017

When we were preparing to come to Ghana we were advised that this was a cash society.  A year ago it was a major event to get to the right ATM so we could get out enough cash to survive a couple of weeks.  However, we have found more and more grocery stores are accepting of credit cards and now can use them weekly on our provisioning trips. This is very convenient for record keeping.

We have commented in past blogs about the challenge of the young singles in this culture to marry, given the tradition of bride-price, etc.  Our ward conference today focused on the importance of celestial marriage, both preparing for and receiving the ordinance and also including God in the relationship.  Sacrament Meeting was longer than normal.  Our classroom was locked and by the time it was opened we were limited to 20 minutes, so my young singles explained to me the intricacies of dating and marriage in Ghana. It was fascinating to me to hear the difference in perspective between the women  and the men, both completely misunderstanding the other. It made me appreciate the necessity of honest communication even though it makes one vulnerable.

We are looking forward to General Conference next Saturday and Sunday.  We will get four sessions live (although that will be at 4pm and 8pm after working a full day at the temple). We will watch the Priesthood Session delayed because it is live at midnight. We were very moved by the talks in the Women’s Session which we listened to this afternoon. They will all be worth two or three re-readings.  Joe Junior will now have competition for his definition of “leaning”, at least in the church.

Next week-end is also when our friends from Rochester, the Redlins, arrive. They will be serving a humanitarian mission. We have become good friends with the Piersons who have been temple missionaries for a month.  They still call me Anne most of the time because they knew my older sister, but I think of it as a compliment.

We had a long day yesterday, but it was worth the effort to help the many groups and individuals who filled the temple and who also filled the temple grounds while waiting for their turn to enter.  Officially the temple closes at 3:30 pm on Saturday but the doors weren’t actually locked until almost 5 pm because of a late proxy sealing session officiated by our most elderly sealer.  He wanted to help a group who had come a long distance to do proxy work for their deceased family members and he just kept going.  

Blessings to you for the coming week!

A bus we saw recently.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017

We’ve had some interesting experiences helping patrons with their ordinances.  We had a woman who came wanting to do her mother’s work.  Her mother was one of the earliest baptisms in the church in Ghana.  Record-keeping in those days was spotty so when she wanted to come to the temple the records couldn’t be found and it took some time to get that straightened out.  Eventually she had her recommend, but two days before the planned trip (they live 4 hours away), she passed away unexpectedly.  That was two months ago.  The family had requested and received permission from the 1st Presidency to have her ordinances done.  However, when the daughter came a week ago on Saturday we couldn’t figure out how to print the ordinance card.  Church headquarters being 7 hours behind GST that day, we also couldn't find anyone who knew the solution.  

I was assigned to follow up and late on Tuesday afternoon was able to connect with the right folks in Salt Lake.  They quickly printed the card there, and then emailed it to the temple president.  The daughter was back yesterday and shared her joyful, tearful, thankful smile after having completed her mother’s ordinances.

Another concern was a brother from Ivory Coast who wanted to be sealed to his new wife.  In scheduling that event, the computer reminded us that he needed a permission letter from the 1st Presidency since he had been sealed to his first wife and there was no death recorded.  In discussing that with Pres. Assard he said, “Oh, I know him.  His first wife died.”  Death is more common than divorce as a source of remarriage in the church here.

Another man with the group from Ivory Coast asked me this week if his son could be sealed to his wife and himself.  His son was to be endowed that day.  I replied that I thought they would still need a recommend for an ordinance for a living person signed by the stake president and the bishop.  I knew that the stake president was with the group but I didn’t know about the bishop.  The brother replied that getting the recommend wouldn't be a problem, since I was already looking at the bishop!   

One of our concerns is making sure, as much as possible, that people who travel long distances to receive temple ordinances qualify for and already have the appropriate recommend needed.  I have seen a couple of instances when good people who haven't yet been in the church for at least a year have come with recommends.  It’s very sad for them and for us when we can’t proceed with the ordinances because of leaders’ errors.  That is one of the challenges of rapid growth - training leaders who haven’t had much time to absorb all that they need to know and who aren’t naturally inclined to read the handbooks carefully.

With a wonderful group of saints from Ivory Coast, on the temple steps.  Happy and tired and ready to go home.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017 - A Walk in the Park

Last Monday was the 60th anniversary of Ghana Independence Day.  The Grahams invited us on a short road trip to visit the Aburi Botanical Gardens and we enjoyed the outing.  About an hour north of Accra the road climbs up into some high hills, with views of the countryside.  We followed the directions of the GPS and of course ended up out in the middle of nowhere, which was Sue’s favorite part - no people, no garbage, no city.  It was very beautiful and lush.

Eventually we did find the garden, which was opened during the colonial era about 125 years ago and has mostly trees and bushes of various types.  There are also some “restaurants” in the park.  We encountered several groups of people who were dancing, singing, praying, and eating as part of their celebrations.

 Two huge roots

Note what is available at the restaurant.  I've never actually had gizzard sauce on the continent...  The women are preparing to set up food for sale.

This man is pounding cassava to make banku, a local staple.  On the right is a cocoa pod.  They grow from the little flowers that you can see on the trunk.

Monday evening while we were doing a load of laundry, the washer didn't turn off (failed solenoid) and sent a stream onto the floor and down the hall before it was discovered.  Obviously the drain was not the lowest point in the room.  These are high class sweepers and moppers:  Elder Pierson & Tom on the left and Pres. Antwi & Sr. Pierson on the right.  It only took about 15 minutes to clean up.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Welcome to March

It was a good week for our new roles in the temple. The load was light.  Nevertheless, things went smoothly.  As Pres. Assard said, “Il n’y avait pas de sable dans la boîte à vitesse”.  (Translation: there wasn’t any sand in the transmission).  He was an engineer for Mercedes-Benz in Germany before resigning to return to Ivory Coast many years ago to share the gospel message in his homeland.

Tom caught a cold and missed a day and a half in the temple trying to get better.  Since it was a head cold, the most likely pathogen was the rhinovirus.  It is among the smallest of viruses and with 99 recognized human types it has been very difficult to create a vaccine.  Given that we are in Africa, he decided that this must be an African rhinovirus, or with a bit of editing, an African Rhino virus.  That sounds much more exotic than the common cold, but it isn’t.

As we have explained in the past, one of our joys is helping young missionaries in the MTC help navigate the website to prepare names of deceased parents or siblings for proxy work in the temple.  This week, Tom was able to help one of the office workers in the temple.  Her father’s death had not been properly recorded in church records and she fussed that it had made it difficult to navigate the program and perform some of his work.  As they talked about that, he said, “Let’s take a look”, so she logged on to her account to check her father’s information.  His death date was recorded there and it said he had temple work which could be done.  With a few mouse clicks, she was able to print out the slip with his name so that she could have him sealed to his parents.  A simple bit of serendipity perhaps, but she had a big smile when she left the office.

One of the senior missionary couples who teach temple preparation classes brought 5 people with whom they had been working to the temple yesterday to receive their own ordinances. One of them was a young blind man.  It was heart-warming to see how he was carefully guided about by different people in the process. There is a blind woman who attends  the temple 2-3 times every month. She is very faithful and happy to be there. It makes one wonder if what we see in the temple has anything to do with physical eyes.

Sue had a scare this week when her CPAP machine quit blowing air. She has used it four years and during one sleepless night was panicked about oxygen getting to her heart. Elder Pierson [Mr. Fix-it] and Tom took the machine apart and figured out that the machine was fine but the plastic ribbing supporting the hose was broken, and this allowed the hose to twist and cut off the air flow. They used some medical tape from our first aid kit to fix it.  What  a great relief it was for her to sleep 8 hours last night.

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of Ghanaian independence from Britain. There will be many celebrations throughout the country with fireworks in the evening. We will most likely not leave the compound but have a quiet day near the pool.  Welcome to March! 1/6 of 2017 is already over.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Feb. 26, 2017

We wanted to highlight a service project done in Kumasi by a group of Young Single Adults this week, which was also spotlighted on the AWA web site.  They joined with some health professionals to do diabetes screening for 1,830 high school students.  Here is the link: .  “Though there was some hesitation to begin the process, each volunteer had been trained and prepared for the task at hand. Nephi Nortey-Annan, an 18-year-old Latter-day Saint young man from Takoradi said, ‘I am glad to give my service. I also receive blessings because I have learned about this disease and know better how to care for my own health. Service to God is never lost. You always get more than you give.’”

Volunteers practicing on each other in reparation for the students.

Screening the high school students

From Sue: Two Americans sat behind us in church last week. We struck up a conversation and learned that they were here working at the 37th Military Hospital for three weeks. One was a surgeon and the other an ER nurse. They were from San Antonio where our daughter and our son live. We invited them for dinner on Wed. and exchanged emails in case they got lost or had other complications. We discovered that the last name of one was McMullin [my grandmother on my father’s side was a McMullin] and the last  name of the other was Lamb [my mother’s maiden name was Lamb].  I just laughed.  We could connect with each of them.  Such a small world!

I have a new calling in our congregation.  On Sundays, I will be teaching Sunday School to the 18-30 year old singles. I think this will be very exciting for three reasons: I have taught this age before, these are stimulating individuals, and I will need to study hard to be effective. Today, I had 10 in my class and I hope that more will come next week. To give you some idea of the variety my students, I have one in medical school, one who who is learning to read and everything in between.  Most have been members of the church less than 3 years. I am the first teacher to be called to this age group in our congregation.

Who would believe that it will be March in 2 days?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017

Our first week as Living Ordinance Coordinators went very well.  We watched and learned from the Hills, who serve at the MTC, as they helped the many missionaries receive their ordinances on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  And we were grateful to work with dedicated leaders from the Grand Bassam Stake in Ivory Coast who had brought a large group on a bus.

One of our happy stories occurred with a woman who came for her own endowment along with two friends, a man and a woman.  After helping the woman prepare for the endowment session, Sue noticed that neither of the two friends were present, so she went to the waiting room and found them there just waiting for someone to tell them what to do.  She was able to get them all together in the session.  Had she not been there, that might well have not happened.

Tom’s favorite experience was working with the four couples from Ivory Coast who were sealed on Wednesday, all during the same sealing session.  Two of the couples were there with a child to be sealed to them, one a son age four, the other with a daughter 10 months old.  The room was full of friends from their stake as the four couples were sealed at the altar.   Then we brought in the two children, both dressed in white.  First the infant, dressed in a frilly white dress, was sealed to her parents while a worker held her close.  Then the four-year-old very solemnly stood on the altar cushion while he was sealed to his parents, their hands all joined together.  Both children were very quiet during the time there.  It is hard to capture the sweetness and joy of that event as the families were joined  for eternity in that beautiful setting, but the image will stay in our minds.

Yesterday was exceptionally busy in the temple.  It seemed like everyone who had missed being able to come during the closure in January decided it was the day to be there.  Several sessions were completely full, the baptistery was over full and busy for about 4 hours, and extra proxy sealing sessions were added for those who could not get into the endowment sessions.  It was a wonderful short day (the temple closes at 3:30 PM on Saturday) and all the workers went home exhausted.

We welcomed the arrival yesterday of a new missionary couple who will also serve in the temple.  The Piersons are from Idaho but with Alberta roots and have served previously in Russia.  We fed them dinner and plan to take them along on our visit to the MTC today to help the French-speaking missionaries prepare some proxy family names for the temple this week.  It is so interesting to see Accra again through their eyes and recognize that we have been changed so much in good ways by our time here.