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.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017

It was the last of the “quiet” weeks in the temple for several months to come.  This week we will have new missionaries from the MTC as well as members from one of the Ivory Coast stakes Tuesday through Thursday.  We have been asked to take a new role: Living Ordinance Coordinators.  That has not been done before at the Accra Temple, so we will be working it out as we go along.  Basically our responsibility will be to shepherd individuals and couples who come for their own ordinances and make sure that the process works smoothly for them.  For those who may not be LDS or familiar with our temples, or what happens in the temples, there is a wonderful website here that explains all this, with beautiful photos also.

Our temple is relatively small, with session rooms that can hold 40 participants (called patrons), plus a few more with extra chairs set up.  It is not unusual to have 8 or 10 or more patrons receiving their own endowments during a session, along with 30 or more others who are representing deceased persons.  And it is not unusual on busy days to have 35 patrons receiving their own endowment and another dozen or so couples being sealed, often with children (what does sealing mean?  Go back to the website!).  It is important for couples who are being sealed to go through the session together.  Sometimes the sealing is scheduled to take place immediately after the endowment, sometimes it is scheduled a day or two later, depending on the couple’s preferences and the schedule in the temple.

Usually everything works smoothly, especially when the ordinances are scheduled ahead of time and the individuals arrive when they are supposed to.  But life often happens.  They come late or they arrive without the staff knowing anything about them, on a day when the temple is already very busy.  Perhaps a couple is ready to be sealed as a family  but the children aren’t in the temple. Our new role is to sort out these challenges, figure out how to prevent them where possible, and generally help organize and prepare so that these new people have the best possible experience in the temple.  We’re excited to have the opportunity.

Sue was called to teach the Young Singles Sunday School class today. Her students will be ages 18-31. She loves this group because they are adults with curious minds, opinions and personal experience.  She has no idea who or how many will be in her class.

In our scripture study last week, Sue came up with a workable definition for her of the phrase “natural man” in the context of Mosiah 3:19.  It is EGO.  When we come to the realization that the goal is to do the will and the work of the Father [as Christ did] what we do is not about us - it is about Them.  When we are aligned with Them, there is no need for ego. 

We spoke with Marc and Tana Anderson [Ben, she is the Gospel Doctrine teacher in her ward and keeps up with all you publish] this week to give our condolences about the passing of his mother Missy whom we admired greatly. In the conversation we talked about mutual friends who have a son serving his mission in Benin and the adjustments he is making. It reminded us of an account given by our Area President’s wife about two young elders teaching in the Liberia mission.  The lesson was on the law of chastity, with the idea that you would remain a virgin until you were married and then be faithful to your spouse. One of the young women spoke up and said,  “If I live that law, I will not be able to eat”.  Another said “If I live that law, I won’t be able to afford to go to school.”  The Lord asks a great deal of his converts here, considering their culture, educational opportunities, experiences in war, and poverty.  These young women thought the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ were worth it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Feb 5, 2017

View of the entrance to the temple and Independence Ave
It has been a busy week.  On our return from Israel we were asked if we would like to move into a recently vacated apartment on the 3rd floor.  After looking it over on Monday we decided it would be an upgrade, though with “issues”.  It has the same area as our original apartment on the 2nd floor but the configuration is different - a smaller bedroom space and a larger living/dining room. The windows look out on the trees and grass in front of the temple instead of the garbage areas. We can see the sun rise instead of the sun set. The plan was to also shift some newer furniture from a smaller apartment into the new one.

Harmattan sunrise over the Area Building

We thought we would make the move Wednesday afternoon, but on Tuesday morning about 7 the manager asked if we could move in that morning.  So Tom helped move the furniture and then we moved in about 3 hours.  It does have a different feel.  The oven is newer (temperature gauge!), the bedroom closets are at a better height, and the living space is nice.  The taps do not drip and the freezer on top of the fridge is twice the size of our old one.  However, the counter space is non-existent and there is less cupboard space.  Hence the bookshelf next to the couch with very tasteful food and the microwave on top.  Besides living without a lot of stuff to move, missionaries get very creative with whatever space they have.

Living room
Tuesday evening we were working in the temple when we heard, without warning, a lot of wind , thunder, and then rain beating down.  It was a sudden and fierce storm that lasted about an hour.  When it was over, we had lost 9 of the 48 fan palms that surround the temple.  We would have had more snap off but some were young and shorter.  We heard that a lot of electric poles and billboards had been blown down and were covering roadways.  The next morning we were expecting a large group from the MTC 20 miles away but they had not only lost power in the storm but their generator was also out so they were were without electricity and water.  They came in on Thursday instead.

Sue caught a cold, laryngitis, on that same day.  Most of the week she functioned as a patron instead of a worker so she didn’t have to say a lot.  She was feeling well enough yesterday to go to the grocery store and restock our supplies and today is almost back to her verbal self.

We had a great lesson in church today about personal revelation.  One of the interesting analogies is that God is like a broadcaster whose signal is always strong, but until we are tuned in to His frequency we won’t receive the message.  There is merit in that thought.  However, as we talked about this topic in our group, the universal experience was that when seeking for an answer or direction, it rarely came at the time of asking.  Instead it often came at unexpected times or places as we were doing other things.  Answers come, but in His time and not ours.