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. AffouĂ©, 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.AffouĂ© 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.