Mission Application Photo

Mission Application Photo

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Witnessing the Growth of the Church in Ghana

The title of our post this week reflects what we "witnessed" today.  We enjoyed very much being a part of the expansion of the Church in our mission area.

The Mission President has allowed us the liberty to choose where we attend church on Sundays.  For our mission, we have around 70 congregations to choose from.  Today we visited the La Ward where they were organizing the Burma Hill Branch from three existing units.  These divisions are approved by the Africa West Area Presidency and ultimately, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Salt Lake. The Christiansborg Stake President, President Quasei, presided over the proceedings.  You could feel the excitement in the congregation as we all witnessed yet another manifestation of the growth of the Gospel in Ghana.  (The seventh one since we arrived in February).  Young fathers and husbands accepted the call to serve as Bishops and Branch Presidents.  The love and support demonstrated by the members was truly inspiring.  It was a good day.

These are some of the members affected by the changes today.  They were shocked when Nancy stood up to snap their picture after the meeting ended.

 This is the La Ward choir, joined by other units.  The Ghanaians love to sing.

During Sunday School lesson time, the teacher divided us into 4 large groups to discuss what the Savior meant when he said, "Ye are the salt of the earth."  The discussion was lively and instructive.  The Ghanaians have a strong understanding of the scriptures. (Stan is in the middle seated next to the Jones's, our neighbors.)

We attended the Tema District Council this past Tuesday.  This district has 8 sisters and three of them arrived only the week before.  They also have two new Elders from the US.  Most are transitioning well.

Nancy and Sister Heid traveled back to Tema to check on our new sisters a few days after the District meeting.  One of the African sisters was having trouble adjusting to a mission schedule.  Sister Heid was able to encourage everyone to work together and they were smiling after our discussion. This was taken at the MTC which is located in their proselyting area.
On Wednesday we were invited to dinner at the Jones's.  The special guest for the evening was Lothian.  A few weeks ago we talked about him and the group of saints meeting in the country of Mali.  Lothian is a returned missionary from Cameroon.  He served his mission in Ivory Coast and was working on the chicken farm in Mali.  He was recently married but work has them separated with Lothian in Mali, and his wife in France.  She is a former model who is studying marketing in the fashion industry in Paris. 

Lothian is in Accra for medical treatment.  At the chicken farm, his hand was caught in some machinery that did serious damage to his first two fingers.  There was no one in the capitol city of Mali, who could repair his wounds.  A benefactor from the US, the owner of the chicken farm, sent him funds so he could travel to Accra and be treated.  He lost portions of both fingers, but it could have been much worse. 

Lothian told us that a film crew from Utah traveled to Mali recently to document the LDS group meeting there at the chicken farm.  It is supposed to be aired between General Conference sessions this next week, likely on Saturday, October 1.

Thursday evening, we were invited to have dinner with President and Sister Simpson of the Ghana Accra West Mission.  There were 8 of us.  (President and Sister Simpson, their office couple, Elder and Sister Munro, President and Sister Heid, and us).  Sister Simpson, who is from the Pacific Islands, prepared generously.  There was so much food.  After we had a huge meal and dessert, she wanted to serve us Root beer floats!!

This gigantic dish of Beef Chow Mein could have fed a dozen or more hungry elders.

Sorry about all the pictures of food.  It seems to be a theme that runs through all of our experiences in Ghana.

Adding one more food item to our post this week is RED RED.  The AP's borrowed our truck to go get lunch one day and wanted us to try this dish.  Nancy will tell you what this is made of.  It really wasn't bad and I can understand why most of the young missionaries from this US like this stuff.  It is very filling!!

Red Red is a traditional West African dish made of fried plantain, black eyed beans and gari.  Gari is a granular flour made from cassava roots.  After harvesting, the root is washed, grated and water and starch is squeezed out of it to make a mash.  It is left to ferment and then can be fried in red palm oil along with some onion and spice, if you desire.

We now have a new office elder working with Elder Falk.  His name is Elder Shelton and he is from Syracuse, Utah.  He is an outstanding young man.  We are looking forward to the time we get to spend with him. 

On Saturday we explored a Retail Center 20 minutes from our apartment.  There is a grocery store, Shoprite, and Palace, (a sort of a glorified Walmart).  In the complex were several small stores, including one with a display of girl's clothing.  Notice that the Africans are also "into" Frozen and other Disney characters.  It is amazing to be in a small but modern shopping mall when just a block away are shacks and extreme poverty.

Stay tuned for next week's blog when we will report on more FOOD EXPERIENCES!  (We thought this was such a cute invitation.  Elder and Sister Webster serve as executive secretaries to the West Africa Presidency.  The Presidency is in Salt Lake City preparing for the semi-annual LDS General Conference, so the Webster's have some time on their hands!!  They are so busy when the Presidency is in town.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Apostolic Visit and Conference

The major event for us this week, was the visit of Elder Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  He was accompanied by Elder Soares, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  They were making various stops in West Africa.  They requested that all the missionaries of the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West missions be in attendance on Wednesday.  A complication and challenge with that opportunity was the fact that we received 7 missionaries on Tuesday from the Ghana MTC and then on Wednesday received 9 more missionaries from the Provo MTC.  The logistics of having everyone, including the Bush areas, come into town, interviewing and calling new trainers, arranging "Bush" elders a place to stay, getting everyone from the airport, etc. to their correct destination and having a major transfer was daunting.  But, President Heid is a master of this kind of challenge.  Everything came off with very few problems.  It was a miracle!!!

On Monday, we also bid farewell to 5 missionaries who returned to their homes in Nigeria and the D.R. Congo.   Well, they were taken to the airport, but the Nigerians had to wait until Wednesday afternoon to leave.  Arik Air had fuel issues.  Fortunately, there was an alternative housing option that Church Area Travel provided, as we were overflowing at the Mission Home.  These were all great elders and we wish them well upon their return home.

This was at our farewell dinner.  You will recognize Elder Osei-Brobbey on the left, (AP).  Elder Ajayi is on the right.  Great young men.

At the departure dinner we also honored our mission nurse, Sister Meg Jones.  It was her birthday and that was a large "candle"!

On Tuesday we welcomed 4 new African Sister Missionaries, along with 3 African Elders.

 The next photos are from the Conference with Elder Stevenson.  It was quite an event.

The elders in the front row had just gotten off their international flight from the US two hours earlier.  They were still awake.  Elder Vanwinkle, on the right, is from the Navajo Indian reservation.
 Elder Stevenson, taken from the very back of the chapel.  He reminded the missionaries that we are all in the "sweet spot" of our mission, whether we are a new missionary, a 12 month missionary or a finishing missionary.  He encouraged the missionaries to invite those they meet and teach to make a commitment - like praying 3 times a week or to read a few scriptures - and that there are promised blessings for keeping such commitments. 

At the end of the meeting, the visiting church authorities shook all our hands.  We feel privileged that we have been on our mission 8 months and have seen three of the twelve apostles in Accra:  Elder Rasband, Elder Bednar and Elder Stevenson.

 After the conference, we were served lunch.  It was quite good.  It was the feeding of the 300!! 

 The Elders got full!! 

 After the Conference we sent these elders back to their Area, so we could concentrate on helping the newly arrived US missionaries get adjusted to the time difference and a new country.

 For a couple of days, we seemed to have extra missionaries in the mission home courtyard.

 You have to look closely, but Elder Pace is on the left grilling hotdogs with the assistance of Elder Jones.  Sister Jones is holding her phone to "shed light on the situation". 

The newly arrived US missionaries probably thought they would not see a hot dog for two years!  Fooled them!!

 Elder Osei-Brobbey being himself.

 Some of the new missionaries who came to our mission this week.

 Elder Hayes from Gilbert, Arizona.  He is friends with a family who live near our son, Tyler.

It was Elder Falk's birthday on Friday.  Nancy baked muffins.  (Because of the busy week, President  Heid postponed Monday Preparation Day and told the office elders and AP's to take Friday off, so it was casual Friday!!)

Saturday we noticed a crowd marching down a ramp.  We didn't get the best photo but some of the participants were wearing T shirts that said, "No War".  We don't know if the rally was to encourage restraint for the coming elections in December or a reference to some other situation.  We see world church security reports everyday and we are grateful that peaceful Ghana never makes the news!

 We attended church in a location along the beach area of Accra.  This ward was just formed two weeks ago.  In Relief Society there was a tablecloth listing the names and positions of those who were serving in that organization.

When we exercise each morning we pass Isaac, who works as a security guard at a bank on our route.  He is always so friendly, smiles and greets us.  Stan felt like he might be interested in what the LDS Church has to offer, so Stan shared a pamphlet and Book of Mormon with him.  Isaac had some questions, so we met with him Sunday afternoon and then took him back to his home and met his wife and children.  He lives in very humble circumstances.   Isaac is religious and already has a marvelous understanding of the scriptures and believes in Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Exploring the "outer" Bush and the Kente Festival

This week we left on Thursday afternoon to travel into the Ho bush zone.  Our primary purpose was to visit the missionaries and learn as much as we could about their living circumstances.  Sister Jones also wanted to check on their medical supplies and make sure each apartment had the necessary medicines and first aid items they most commonly need.  As an aside, there was a special Kente celebration being held in the immediate area, so we thought that would be informative, and help us learn more about the Ghanaian people and their unique culture.  Hopefully the pictures we have included will tell the story of our 4-day experience in the Ho Zone.

We really love the drive to Ho. (Ho is about 3-4 hours northeast of Accra).  Everything is so green and lush.  It is in this region that you see what they call the mountains but are really just some big hills.

With the nice scenery, however, there is a price.  Most of the roads in this area are "under construction", and are merely dirt roads that turn into mud roads during the rainy season.  Any paved roads are marked by thousands of very large potholes, making travel quite rough.  But the landscape is a thing to behold, if you can focus while being jostled continuously.

 This is one of the four major highways in Ghana

The first group of missionaries we met up with were in Hohoe.  Hohoe is about two hours north of Ho. Elder Uche and Elder Miller serve in that area.

Elder Jones suggested a solution for a clothesline "repair".

We drove next to Kpando.  There are four missionaries in Kpando.  We caught up with two of them, Elder Barton and Elder Adeosun.  Sister Jones was so pleased that their medical kit had a lid and was dust free!

The total trip to Hohoe, Kpando and back to Ho actually took 7 hours, but it was worth the chance to see the missionaries in these remote places and check on them.  They seemed to appreciate our short visit.

Kpando is located very near Lake Volta, one of the largest lakes in Africa. 

Friday evening, we invited a number of the Senior Couples and young elders to the Ho House where we were staying.  They were staying in local hotels so there is not really a gathering place. These couples were also in town for the annual Kente Festival.  The conversation turned to aging and the technologies available to repair worn out body parts.  In this photo, friends and Elder Helm, showed off their scars.  It was comical. 

We have seen the title of "American House" various times throughout Ghana.  Not sure what it means.

Saturday, we joined the other Senior Couples and missionaries for the finale of the Kente Festival; the Grand Durbar of Chiefs procession.  There was dancing and bands playing, but it was difficult to get close-up pictures.  The Kente Festival is held in the Agotime Area, about thirty minutes to the east of Ho and near the Togo border.  The festival celebrates the colorful Kente cloth, which is handmade by local weavers and has various designs with symbolic values.  There is a concern that this will be a lost art as some want to employ China to weave the cloth by machine.

Some of the week's festivities included: An interdenominational prayer service, Kente Weaving Competition, Women and Children's Day, women fetching water at a river, re-enactment of a landing, firing of musketry to remember ancestors who fought in wars, and a beauty contest. 
This is a picture from the internet of the women fetching water.  We were not able to attend this event and don't yet have pictures from our friends who were there.

Elder Webster, the executive secretary to the Africa West Presidency, proudly wore his Kente scarfThere were several hawkers, so we think he bought something so he wouldn't be bothered any more!!

Elder Nash, a counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency, and his wife posed with some of the local children who were selling their Kente cloth.

Elder and Sister Nash were seated next to Mr. Kradolfer, an honorary tribal chief.  He and his wife are designated Kente Ambassadors to promote Kente tourism worldwide.  He is a former director of temporal affairs for the church here in Accra and now resides in Utah.  He has made many friends in the region and helped festival organizers with brochures, taking photographs and attracting non-Africans to the festival.

These two photos are from the internet from 2015.  Mr. Kradolfer and his wife.

 Each tribe had a separate procession.

 Many of the tribesman had staffs with characters or animals.  We didn't get a picture of a rooster on one staff, but it apparently means that particular chief "watches" over his tribe.

Another sample of Kente cloth.
Green:  vegetation, harvesting, life and growth
Yellow : Fertility, wealth and royalty
Red:  Bloodshed, political and social associations

Elder Helm displays his Kente tie.  Elder Kanon had a beaded tie of the Ghana flag.

 A Kente weaver was paraded around the field

These are some examples of Kente cloth from the internet

Playing the Kente Drums

On Sunday, we attended Ho 1 Branch with some of the other couples.  It was a full house and we got to hear Elder Nash address the congregation.  It was an inspiring meeting.

Sister Nash and I noticed this woman at church.  The fabric of her dress said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had pictures of modern-day prophets.  Quite a fashion statement and a way to be a missionary!

This sign was on a small metal vendor container along the main street of Ho.  We don't understand the city government "regulations".  Seems like there are many small shops like this around the town so not sure why this one was "marked".  (Remember the date is Sept 16, 2016 for removal.  We will have to have the Ho elders check next week and see if the Ho Municipal Assembly was successful).  

After Church, we picked up Elder Omokoh to bring him to Accra because he will finish his mission on Monday.  On the way, we stopped and checked in with eight more missionaries and 3 apartments.  It was "eye opening."  We feel part of our assignment is to encourage our missionaries to be organized, to be clean and to be safe.  

This is in Tsito, about an half hour south from Ho.  Elder Omokoh, holding the shopping bag, served here twice on his mission.  He needed to collect a beaded tie, so we stopped on our way back to Accra.  The orange truck belongs to Romeo, the counselor in the branch presidency, who owns a local farm.  Every Sunday he goes back and forth with his truck taking people to church and returning them to their homes.

 This apartment in Juapong was one we could have lived in....nice courtyard and highly polished tiled floors!  Elder Fesolai and Elder Palmer enjoy the peaceful setting.

A former Assistant to the President, nicknamed Elder Pace, "Coach".  That title has spread throughout the mission.  Elder Howard wanted a picture with Coach!