Sunday, October 15, 2017

October 15, 2017 A Cultural Evening

We had a cultural experience last night which enlarged our perspective of the people of Ghana. We purchased tickets to a high school musical production  [The Pirates of Penzance] held at  the National Theatre. Each ticket was 70 cedis which is about $16 and more than many Ghanaians can earn in a week. We had several questions about the cost and the production itself, but were interested in the Gilbert and Sullivan play as a diversion to our weekly responsibilities. About 12 missionary couples including the Temple President and the MTC President enjoyed the evening.

The National Theater
Three musicians statue

We arrived almost an hour early and chose to sit by a Ghanaian woman who told us her name was Tamara, that she had attended this high school and had been a chorus member when Penzance had last been put on in 1985. She shared that this school was considered the best in the country and was run by the government. I did not dare ask how you were allowed or chosen to attend.  She told us that the beautiful theatre had been built with a grant from the Chinese government in the early 90’s.  She also said that Nkrumah, the first President of independent Ghana, had attended that school as well as the past president and first lady of the country.  The previous first lady then arrived and sat about 5 rows in front of us.

Inside the theater - vibrant chair covers!  The 2nd balcony is out of view.
Tamara, who sang every word in the production
Cheerful alumni

We wondered if the theatre would be filled [2000-2500seats] but by 6:30 they were mostly taken and we were the only white people there. Then a school representative announced that we were waiting for the arrival of a special guest and then the play would begin. Within a few minutes, the current president of Ghana arrived with his wife and entourage of huge body guards.  We all stood as he entered and then sang the national anthem.

The operetta was done by a cast made up of alumni, with the choruses done by current students at the school.  The live orchestra was very good, as were the principals.  It was fairly standard Gilbert and Sullivan except that in some of the songs the words were changed to fit the current situation.  For example, in “I am the very model of a modern major general”, the words were changed to reflect some of the campaign slogans of the newly elected president.  There were other insertions that made the production relevant to Ghana and the audience loved it.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get all the cultural inside jokes but it was still very fun - a parody of a parody. 

The major general's daughters

After it was all finished, the MC came onstage to introduce the cast, and then invited the president to join them onstage for a photo-op.  Again wildly received by the audience!  After all that, the national anthem was sung enthusiastically, followed by the school song, done with equal gusto.

The whole evening was like joining a multi-class school reunion, campaign rally, musical production, and patriotic event all rolled into one.  It was a unique insight into this slice of the population, which we have not seen as a group before.  These were obviously people with means, committed to raising money for the school, proud of their country and its cultural heritage.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 8, 2017

We were inspired by the talks and music of General Conference last weekend and are looking forward to studying them over the next six months.  We invited a local sister to watch the sessions with us.  It was the first time she had seen a live broadcast and the first time she could watch all the sessions (except the Priesthood Session which aired here at midnight) in one weekend.  Most members here do not have the internet at home even if they are fortunate enough to have a computer.  The Saturday afternoon and Priesthood sessions were broadcast at the stake center on Sunday with some technical difficulties.

We were fortunate to watch the funeral services for Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve, on Friday evening.  His life was an example of devotion to building the Lord’s kingdom in spite of severe health challenges.  His wise and gentle counsel will be remembered.  

While working in the temple we occasionally have some amusing experiences, mostly due to the naiveté of the new patrons and the challenge of different languages.  For example, the president of the MTC, in preparing new missionaries for their temple experience, tells them that they will be ushered into a dressing room where they will change their clothes and put on the white clothing that they bring from the MTC.  As these missionaries arrive, they are usually taken into the waiting room before being brought in groups of four to the office for verification of their membership records, prior to being taken to the dressing rooms.

One morning this week, the first small group of male missionaries arrived and were asked to wait in the waiting room next to the recommend desk until the others in their group arrived.  This is the same room where our baptismal groups wait.  A few minutes later, the MTC leader heard a commotion from the brother at the recommend desk.  One of the missionaries had emerged from the waiting room, half dressed in his white clothes, and was asking in French where he could get his white slippers.  He was promptly sent back into the waiting room by the anxious, finger-pointing desk attendant who couldn’t speak any French.  The MTC leader was about to take the rest of the group, including sister missionaries, into the waiting room but as he opened the door he found four missionaries in various states of undress getting into their white clothing.  He quickly closed the door and recruited help from someone who spoke French to have the missionaries get back into their street clothes.  The new missionaries had just assumed that the waiting room was the dressing room, and that they should start changing.

Later this week we had a group of 12 unendowed elders with their two previously endowed but inexperienced escorts who went on a session.  Toward the end of the two hour experience, a worker realized that neither of the two escorts had been given a name slip of a deceased person to represent on the session.  They pointed to their escort badge, thinking that  it was all that was needed.  We realized that the brother at the door of the session room needed more instruction in checking to see that all who entered were properly prepared for the session.  Having large groups of inexperienced patrons is a challenge because we never know what they don’t know, or what they might do when not closely attended.

One morning early this week, Tom was exiting our apartment to go exercise.  In the hallway he met a boy who was about 4 years old.  The little boy looked up at him with a smile and pointed, saying “Prophet, prophet!”  We laughed a lot about that one!

Laughing is a very healthy outlet.  Fortunately we have been blessed with a sense of humor and can laugh often at our own foibles.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Help is on the way! October 1, 2017

This past week the new full-time temple staff (the assistant reorder, and the two clerks) were being trained by the recorder from S. Africa.  We have known two of the three since our arrival in Ghana and they will be very helpful workers in the office.  One starts officially on Tuesday while the other two start November 1, so we will still be needed to assist for a while.  As many questions came up about procedure and policy, typical in training situations, it became clear that with these full-time workers the temple will make great gains in consistency and stability, and we are excited for this new era to begin.

Sue had a wonderful experience this week.  In the group from Sierra Leone there was a man whose young wife had died a couple of years ago, to whom he wished to be sealed.  Sue represented her in an endowment session and also in the sealing session.  When we have groups that come from far way, we usually hold a group sealing session, rather than doing one couple at a time.  For that group we had six families, more than normal, and there were many jubilant smiles as they exited the sealing room together.

A tragic story also came from this group.  One young returned missionary came with his parents to be sealed to them.  He had been job-sharing in a factory with his cousin who was married and with his bride was expecting a baby in a few months.  The night of the terrible rains and mid slides in Sierra Leone, his cousin and pregnant wife were killed.  When one considers the wars, disease (Ebola), and other tragedies that these good people have endured, it makes us grateful that the Lord provides a way for families to be together forever.  

Today with our normal Sunday meetings canceled due to General Conference we had a pancake breakfast for the temple president and matron and the other three temple missionaries  besides ourselves.  One of the counselors in the presidency had given the matron a fruit (unnamed) which we were advised would taste good if we cut it open and ate it.  Many of you may recognize it.  We didn’t at first.  Here are some pictures:

This is of course a coco fruit, from which chocolate is derived.  The outside looks a bit like a squash and is very tough.  The inside is full of seeds joined in a gelatinous white mass in a clove shape.  If you suck the seeds they have a sweet citrusy flavor that doesn’t last long.  If you dry the seeds and take off the hulls you have the coco bean, which can then be ground into raw coco, very bitter but the base for chocolate.  You can see all three aspects here.

We really enjoyed the first session of conference yesterday afternoon and are looking forward to the rest later today.  Happy October!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

In Praise of Failure Sept 24, 2017

Sue’s lesson in Sunday School this week is on the pioneer trek west.  While there are many lessons that one might learn from that heroic movement, it struck us that perhaps thinking about the pioneers gives us a model for how to deal with failure.  
One of the portraits in our family history that always intrigued me is that of Stephen Winchester.  I wrote about him last July so I won’t go into all the details again.  In the picture he is an elderly man, but it is the look in his eyes that is so interesting.  He is gazing to one side, grim, wary, and perhaps suspicious or maybe just defiant.  When I made that comment to my mother one time she replied, “Yes, but look  what he went through!”

Stephen was typical of the early Mormon converts who stayed true to the faith.  They were working to establish “Zion”, that ideal society of harmony, peace, love, and communal sharing in worship of God and Jesus Christ.  First they gathered to Kirtland OH, but that didn’t work out.  Many went to Missouri for a few years until they were forced to leave homes again and were refugees in Nauvoo where they built a beautiful city.  That didn’t last more than 7 years before they were leaving again, this time through the mud and storms of Iowa and eventually across the plains to Utah.

How did they keep going in the face of the successive failures to achieve Zion (while many others didn’t continue on)?  How did they find the strength to keep starting over?  What does their experience teach us about failure in our own lives, personal and otherwise?

Perhaps we need to think about failure in a more positive way, to change our expectations.  It is a normal part of growth and development.  Who is the writer who wrote the perfect book without revision, the artist whose first work was a masterpiece, the musician who played perfectly on picking up the instrument, the athlete who performed a 10 on the first attempt?  If we think about failure as missing the mark of perfection, then we are all failures, over and over again.  

I have always liked the quote from Oscar Wilde that  experience is the name that men give to their mistakes.  Without mistakes, we can gain no experience, show no improvement, make no progress.  The question then becomes not “have we failed?, but what have we done because of that experience?

The scriptures are plain with the answer to failure: faith and repentance, prayer and action.  To exercise faith is to believe that Christ has the power to redeem us from our errors, and to try again.  To repent is to turn toward God and goodness in that trying.  There is something of euphoria in starting over, in making another attempt using what we have learned from our experience.  I think about all the rebuilding in Texas and Florida that will occur in the wake of the recent storms.  To build something new is wonderful, if we learn from the errors of the past. 

Above all perhaps, enduring failure only occurs if we quit, if we don’t try again.  That is the true tragedy of life - not that someone has tried and failed but that they have given up.  The pioneers never did quit.  They kept moving on and rebuilding until they accomplished their best version of Zion, imperfect as it still was.  And if we keep trying in this life, in faith, turning to the good, we will be able to continue the process in our next existence.  Becoming complete, or perfect, may not be possible here.  “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sept. 17, 2017

One of our few spontaneous acts in the last 17 months happened on Friday. We invited the institute class to our apartment for pancakes .  We had some of our favorite whole wheat pancake flour to share (imported from Hutterites in Magrath, Alberta, thanks to sister Pudge) along with whipped cream and mixed berry syrup, bananas  and pecans.  We didn’t realize what a cultural experience we were providing . Few had ever seen a pancake, and no one had ever seen or tasted whipped cream or berries before. They asked where whipped cream came from and what it was. Berries do not grow here—our syrup was made from frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and some little red berry that I did not recognize.  They told me that peanuts and cashews were the only nuts grown in Ghana. They were cautious as they spooned a little of each on a pancake.  I am not sure if they liked it - the berries most people thought were weird but they were very polite.   It was very fun!

Charles comes to Sunday school and Institute when he can.   He is in Art school and was showing me his first projects.  We purchased one and it sits above our bed.  It is a wood cutting with extra texture added [mosiacs and paper mache] I really like how it looks in our room.  I told him that when he is a rich and famous artist that I can tell people I was the first to buy one of his works.  What a grin that produced!

If you have listened to  Elder Bednar’s talk to young adults last Sunday, you have been introduced to Pres. Antwi who we live and work with every day.  He is on the same floor of the Ancillary Bldg, as we are and serves as Pres. Graham’s counselor. He is a wonderful man, very positive and very patient. We are honored to serve with him and his wife Victoria.

By Saturday night we are ready for a bit of a diversion and frequently go out for an early supper.  Zion Thai is one of our favorite places to retreat. This is a picture of the whole fish that we ordered - Sister Graham, Sister Roy [our new single temple worker originally from Quebec] and myself enjoying our food.

It seems ironic that after several years of hurricane and disaster preparedness training in Jacksonville , we found ourselves listening and watching from a long distance as the Irma went through. The vicarious experience is quite enough for us!  So sorry to see the images of someone kayaking through San Marco, and the houses washed into the ocean.  However we would have loved to have met Pres. Eyring who came to visit for support and encouragement!

We also followed with horror the fast moving Kenow fire as it swept through Waterton Lakes Park in Alberta.  The townsite and Prince of Wales Hotel were only saved by the diligence and perseverance of the fire crews.  We pray for all those who are suffering and all those who are cleaning up and all those who are firefighting  to save some of the most beautiful parts of the continent.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sept. 10, 2017

As we write today the Florida Keys are experiencing the eye of Irma, and the rest of the state will get the wind and rain over the next 36 hours or so.  We are grateful that the storm track has shifted westward from our home in Jacksonville but feel bad that this means Tampa-St.Pete will be hit harder.  As one friend in Jacksonville expressed, this means that he will be able to get out sooner to help those who are hit harder by the storm.  We are grateful for the Bridegans, who are taking care of our home while we are away and who decided to shelter in place.

Two stories from the institute class:

A young woman, now a medical student, told about her conversion and love for the Church while in Jr. High School.  She attended a school run by a denominational church, and one of the school requirements was that every student must attend worship services there on Sunday.  Those who did not attend that church were caned on Monday morning when they came to school. She had been asked to play the keyboard at her LDS ward so did not attend the required Sabbath meeting. She spoke about how even the anticipation of that punishment every week could not take away the wonderful feelings she had in her attendance at her own ward.  This lasted for two years.  One of her school teachers eventually asked why she would choose a whipping every week rather than just attend the school’s church.  She replied, “Because my church makes me happy”. 

Another young man spoke about life before joining the church.  He and 2 other boys had a friend who was a member and this friend would always read the Book of Mormon before school.  Even though they mocked and teased him for reading it, he always stayed calm and never got angry.  Once day Joseph snatched the member’s scriptures and threw them across the room but still he didn’t lose his temper.  The friend later gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and asked him to just read some passages.  As he did, he felt the spirit testify that this book was true, and that led to his own conversion and later a mission call.

This week we celebrated Sue's 68th birthday with friends at a French restaurant. It was great to visit  over  authentic French bread and butter, tagine, and crême broulée. Being together, serving in Africa, and doing the Lord’s work binds us together. We are creating memories which will last longer than a life time.  We missed the Tolleys who were supposed to be with us. They will not be returning to Africa due to ongoing medical care.  We already miss them a great deal and pray for a new assignment that will be rewarding and challenging for them.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

September 3, 2017 - A Very Busy Week

This has to have been one of our more interesting weeks in the temple.  The group that came was from several different districts in one of the missions in Cote d’Ivoire, and there was not good communication amongst themselves.  Also, the people were mostly from “la brousse”, or as we would say in English, “the sticks”.  They were less familiar with organization, time and appointments, and following directions.  About 3 weeks ago the mission leaders sent us a list of all the people needing their own endowment and sealing.  It was over 100 endowments and about 50 sealings.  We sent information back asking them to reduce their numbers by about half, along with some sheets to help us organize the sessions.  What we received back was busy but doable in the three days (Tuesday through Thursday) that they would be here. 

We went through the usual planning and organizing and thought that by using every session possible on Tuesday and Wednesday morning we could get all the endowments done in time to have those same people then sealed as families, finishing Thursday afternoon.  Unfortunately their buses didn’t arrive until midnight Monday so we couldn't have our usual planning meeting with the leadership and confirm the plans.

Tuesday morning one of the leaders arrived in the temple and greeted us with one handwritten page full on both sides with names of people left off the schedule.  So we took a deep breath and said “We’ll do what we can”.  We reorganized the schedule to include everyone.  Patrons would often arrive about an hour late for their appointment, which meant that they were delayed into the following session.   Despite being asked beforehand about children to be sealed to parents, when the family arrived for the actual ordinance they would want to add more names - a time consuming request.

However, with much help and diligence from all the leaders and temple workers, by the time Thursday evening came we found that all the work was done.  In the three days we had helped over a hundred members receive their endowment and 38 families to be sealed together for eternity - more than we had ever done before in a whole week.  And everyone was exhausted.  Fortunately the next two days were light and a full recovery has been made.

We were surprised to hear that the Tolleys, executive secretary to the area presidency, were leaving Tuesday for medical tests in SLC. We  really miss them and hope all goes well enough that they might be able to return. We all fasted for them today.

A happy family after their sealing

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Aug 27, 2017

In the last two weeks I have started two new adventures in Africa.  I have started taking official French lessons which actually cost money and motivate me to study.  My teacher is a single young man who used to teach at the MTC and is Ivoirien.  We meet twice a week for an hour.  I am always tired from work when I get there but always inspired by the time I come home. I like him because he does not make me feel stupid, is always positive, and helps me learn phrases and put together sentences that are actually useful.  I can say the blessing on the food in French and have tried family prayer once.  When praying in another language, it makes you think about what you really need to say and how to say it.  Today I tapped Pres. and Sis. Assard on their shoulders and said "Je suis heureuse de vous voir"  [I am happy to see you].  It is the first time I have said that phrase but will add it to my orientation to the people I speak to in the temple when they are there for the first time.  It is very hard work learning a different language but I am grateful that all my children and their spouses and my husband have found it rewarding.  I am proud of them and am trying to be like them.  Don’t you think that I need to live in France for a while?

I have also started teaching an Institute class for ages 18-31 who are single.  It is part of my past life [about 20 years ago I did this for several years and loved it].  I have a small class of 8 students but they are a fascinating group and are helping me learn lots about Ghana.  This is the first class I have taught that I actually invited Tom to attend.  I always said he could not come as a Bishop or Stake President because he would inhibit what people would feel they could say.  He is a great asset and makes extremely valuable contributions.  Who knows at some point we may actually be able to team teach.  For many years I thought this would be impossible because we have very different styles but they may actually compliment each other.  We meet on Friday evenings from 6:00 -7:30 and we are having fun.  When I add prep time and my work at the temple, it does not leave much time for frivolity but I feel like I am growing.
Members of the Institute class
One of the interesting principles we have been discussing is consecration, and what that means for us.   To consecrate is, of course, to make something holy by giving it to God.  Elder Maxwell taught us many years ago that God owns everything except for our will, and thus the only thing we can truly give to God is just that.   This is shown quite clearly in the ordinance of the sacrament.  Rather than sacrificing an animal on an altar, we are asked to willingly sacrifice our agency to God.  “That they may… witness unto thee… that they are willing…”

Although the law of consecration is difficult to live completely each day, the easier aspect is being obedient to what we know, following the prophet’s counsel, striving to do our best in our relationships and our callings.  The physical aspect would include paying tithing, being generous in fast offerings, etc. A more difficult question is what does the Lord expect of us in relation to our worldly wealth? 

That is a question that each must decide individually, and for which we will each be held accountable.  The Church is clearly one of the most effective organizations at helping people rise above poverty and ignorance, but what of personal responsibility?  That answer can only come by personal revelation.  There are many heroic individuals whose stories we occasionally read - people who have started orphanages, clinics, schools, etc. to serve as best they can.  But most of us are not presently capable of being a Mother Teresa.    All we know for sure is that it is not enough to say, “If I were asked to give, I would.”  We must seek to understand how best to bless our Father’s children now, wherever we are and with whatever we have.  
Boys in Cape Coast carrying ropes from the fishing nets

Monday, August 21, 2017

Monday Aug 21, 2017 - Travels

Another tragedy hit Sierra Leone last week when there was major flooding with mudslides in the capital that killed 500+ people and left many others homeless.  We are always impressed by the members who come to the temple from there because they have lived through a civil war and the Ebola virus in the last 10 years.  The day after the flooding began we had 9 patrons from Sierra Leone in the temple for their own endowments and sealings. 

We had an opportunity to meet Elder Renlund and his wife and hear them speak to the missionaries of the Accra Ghana Mission.  He is an inspiring and humble man and concluded his talk with his testimony of Jesus Christ, where he said, “He loves to heal, to mend, and to repair.  He will lighten your burdens by making you strong.”

Saturday was the continent-wide Africa Day of Service so the temple was closed.  Pres. and Sr. Graham suggested that we and the Piersons take the weekend off and go to Cape Coast, where the church was first established in Ghana. We booked into an older resort on Elmina Bay where we sat by the pool,  walked on the beach, and listened to the crashing waves.  Our culinary treat of the weekend was hot pineapple fritters with ice cream.  Very therapeutic!  We watched a most unusual bird, about the size of a hummingbird but with tail feathers ten inches long.  His body was black and white with a red head and it looked like he was courting as he chirped merrily and chased a similar bird without the tail.  We found his picture on-line:  a pin-tailed Whydah.  What a relaxing day!
Walking past the hotel at sunrise on their way to market - 6 miles away.

Carolyn and Sue walked up the beach to a fishing village where this man was taking lobsters from his nets.

Pin-tailed Whydah


Sunday at church all four of us were invited to share our testimonies.  The ward seemed very stable and mature (Ola University Ward).   After, we visited the Cape Coast slave castle.  The museum there gave a very good history of Ghana and its people.  It is estimated that between 12 and 24 million slaves were sent through the slave castles on the African coast in the 200 years between about 1650 and 1850.  About a third went to Brazil, a third to the Caribbean, and up to 2 million into North America.  The conditions in the castle were deplorable and many died.  More died crossing the ocean.  The castle is preserved as a monument to man’s inhumanity to man.  A sobering afternoon.  Although nothing can undo those terrible events, it is gratifying to be part of the effort to bring hope for a better life to Africa.

We arrived home today to prepare for the busy week ahead with patrons from the Cocody Stake in Ivory Coast and the first intake of the new MTC.
Our favorite palm tree at the resort

Sunday, August 13, 2017

13 Aug 2017 Sunday Musings

In part because of Sue’s Sunday School lesson our thoughts have turned this week to the concept of trials in our lives.  What makes something a trial, what purpose do they serve in our growth, how should we deal with them, how can we help others who are experiencing them? - all questions to ponder.

We were reminded of the Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.  “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.  “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

The point well-made is that we do not have enough wisdom or foreknowledge to know whether an event, whether painful or pleasant, will turn out to be a curse or a blessing.  A similar adage is that of the bride exclaiming to her mother on her wedding day, “Oh mother, I’m so happy!  I’m at the end of all my troubles!”  Whereupon her mother agrees: “Yes dear.  You just don’t know which end!”

When afflictions come we tend to ask why this is happening to us.  Only after we start to ask what we can learn from this, or how it might turn to be a blessing, do we begin to deal with the trial effectively.

There is a tendency to see God in our lives as a transactional relationship: when we do what he asks he gives us blessings; when we disobey we are cursed.  The scriptures tell us that repeatedly.  Then we make the mistaken leap to: when good things happen it is because we (or others) are doing good; when bad things happen it is because we (or others) have done something wrong.  Worse yet are the times when we try to bargain with Him: If you will only give me X, then I will do Y.

But He isn’t a cosmic Santa (although He does know who’s been naughty or nice).  His ultimate purpose is not to develop obedient servants, but to help his children grow into celestial adulthood.  And so he proposes a covenantal relationship.  If we will learn to love Him and strive to be like Him, we will surely be blessed and ultimately receive all that He has.  As we gradually understand how to bless His children we will receive greater power to do so.  But that does not eliminate the likelihood that part of our curriculum must include suffering - both personal and vicarious.  The price of the wisdom of old age is the pain gained from our own experiences and those of our loved ones.

God is good. Life is wonderful!  But not easy.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 6, 2017

As we anticipated in last week’s entry, we were very busy this week in the temple - but that’s becoming a non-newsworthy thing to relate.  Our patrons from Ivory Coast left a day early to allow room for 150 youth from there and Ghana who came for Elder Renlund’s Face to Face broadcast.  The youth stayed in our building for three nights and presumably had a youth conference experience during the daytime.  They were very noisy and talkative in the halls when coming or going, but at night they quickly settled down.  When dressed in their Sunday best they were  beautiful and clean in body and spirit.

They came to our Sacrament Meeting this morning and sat in the back of the overflow area.  The first sacrament prayer was given in French by an Ivorian youth.  Sue was sitting on the same row as Pres. Assard, whom we consider as the grandfather of the church in Ivory Coast, and noticed that he was silently weeping as it was read.  She thought that surely those were tears of joy and gratitude from remembering how far the church in Ivory Coast had come from the day in 1983 when there were only two active families there.  The sacrifices made by him and his family and the other pioneers there sowed the seeds that have brought the happiness of the gospel to tens of thousands.

We met Elder Burfeind in the temple this week!  He is an outstanding young missionary from Jacksonville now here in the MTC studying French in preparation for service in Réunion, part of the Madagascar mission.  Who would have ever thought that we would meet again in Ghana?

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the Goethe Institute market, which is held once a month.  It is an eclectic collection of food, souvenirs, arts, cloth, etc. that is all for sale.  The event attracts many senior missionaries and other expats and is a fun social occasion. The Grahams gave us the day off because we had finished our office work and the patrons were few because of the broadcast. We enjoyed buying some spicy sausage which we have not enjoyed since leaving the US.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 31, 2017

In preparing a lesson for this Sunday, we had the opportunity to review some stories from our family histories.  The theme of the lesson was sacrifice.  What had our ancestors sacrificed to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and continue faithful?  In turn what would we be willing to sacrifice?

We remembered our visit to enchanting North Vinal Haven, a green and rocky island in Penobscot Bay, Maine.  It was there that we found in a small history library the record of Henry and Mary Pierce McMullin.  They joined the new faith in 1841, four years after Wilfred Woodruff had first come to the Fox Islands preaching the message of the restoration.  Eventually, in 1855, the McMullins decided to leave behind the persecution that affected his business as a carpenter and shipbuilder, and go to Zion.  We thought it would have been devastating to leave that beautiful place to travel to a desert, when all they had ever known was island life.

The story of Stephen Winchester, another ggparent, is typical of early Mormon pioneers who sacrificed everything to join the Church and follow the prophet.  Stephen was baptized in Erie County, PA in early 1833 and soon moved to Kirtland, OH.  In 1834 he and his son Benjamin joined the 1000 mile Zion’s Camp march to bring relief to the saints in Missouri.  In 1835 he was ordained to the First Quorum of the Seventy and in 1837 he moved from Kirtland to the prairie south of Far West, MO.  It was to his farmhouse that Apostle David W. Patten was carried and died after being wounded in the Battle of Crooked River in 1838.  Stephen himself was for a time held prisoner by a mob.  With his family he was forced to flee in the harsh weather to Illinois, where he helped in building the city of Nauvoo and the temple.  Again, in 1846 he was forced by the mobs to leave behind his home and possessions there and eventually reached the Salt Lake Valley in 1849.  He died in Salt Lake in 1873.  As children we asked our mother why his photograph as an old man showed him grim and wary.  She replied that his face simply reflected the trials he had suffered during his life to be true to his faith.

We met a wonderful young Ghanaian man this week in the temple who had recently received a mission call.  We were very surprised and excited to hear him say that he was going to serve in the Canada Calgary Mission. Tom was raised in Cardston and I in Raymond. Both towns were established  by church members in the late 1800’s. Both are within the boundaries of his mission. He will experience real cold there for the first time but we hope he will feel warmth in the stability of the saints.  It is thrillng to us that as we are building the church here he will be doing the same there.

Tom and I have been running the temple office since Sister Webster left three weeks ago. We have learned all the procedures, the schedules, and know where most everything is and where it goes next. We feel needed and are grateful to assist our exceptional Presidency while a new assistant recorder, office manager and secretary are called. This week we look forward to another large group from Cote D’Ivoire with 39 French language own endowments on Tuesday and 15 sealings on Wednesday. We will also welcome 30 new missionaries who have recently entered the Ghana MTC. They will be the last group who will come from Tema.  The next missionaries we process will be living next door in the beautiful, new Mission Training Center.  It is miraculous to witness the expansion of the Lord’s work right before our eyes.

This Saturday Elder Renlund (of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) and his wife will be in Accra to broadcast Face to Face (a Q & A with youth) from Africa. I would be satisfied to just catch a glimpse of him.  He has become one of my favorite speakers in the church.   I am inspired by not only what he says but how he says it.

Tom estimates that we have 32 weeks left in Accra. I hope it is long enough to learn what the Lord needs us to learn here.   We send our love  and may God bless you in all you do that is good.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 2017 The Hafens: on Consecration

I have been reading a book by the Hafens called “The Contrite Spirit”.  It has some thought provoking statements about consecration:   

- One refers to the  widow’s mite in Mark 12— this is not a story about what we give; rather it’s about what part we decide to keep for ourselves.  

- A woman, after serving a mission with her husband—“I would rather live in a dug-out with our mission filled, than live in that fine house with our mission unfulfilled”. 

- The Lord cannot give us everything He has until we have consecrated all that we have on the altar of sacrifice.  

- A life of consecration will naturally take us out of our comfort zone.  If we don’t get out of our comfort zone, we won’t learn; if we don’t learn, we won’t grow and if we don’t grow, we won’t find joy.  

- Our hearts will follow what we most want and value and that may require that we learn how to discipline our desires. 

- If we haven’t really given our whole hearts to the stretching, expanding process of our own spiritual growth, we won’t - can’t - grow. 

- It is in choosing to be contrite that we bring our whole selves to God and give Him something to work with. 

- Brigham Young said “Many of the Saints are still glued to this earth and lusting and longing for the things of this world".... The covenants of the temple can help us remove that worldly glue and shift our sense of attachment to a higher purpose—to let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever [Alma 37:36]

We are waiting for more office staff, a full time secretary, and an assistant recorder. Our recorder was in a minor motorcycle accident early this week.  We have been trying hard to keep up.  Tom has added a few hours each Monday to temple scheduling.  It is an exhilarating feeling to be needed but we are grateful that this next week appears be a little easier.

Three new couples have arrived to begin their African missions: the Wakilds, the Blackwells, and the Winegardens.  The Andersons leave this week to begin their journey home to Alaska.  He has been our Area Medical Advisor.  They have been wonderful examples of hard work, charity, and cheerfulness and we will miss their companionship greatly.