Mission Application Photo

Mission Application Photo

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Another "normal" week-Meetings and Food

We spent the first of the week in the office because Thursday and Friday were multi-zone conferences in the city and in the "bush".  We love to see the missionaries, but after two days of travel we were very tired.  And, our responsibilities are only 1/100th of that of the mission president and his wife!!

 Nancy wanted our grandchildren to know that she looks at them all the time when we are in the mission office.

During a "break out" session of Zone Conference, Elder Jones, talked about geocaching and what gospel related objects he would use as a way to introduce others to the LDS Church.
During Zone Conferences there was a missionary broadcast from Salt Lake City.  The Missionary Executive Committee was giving counsel about how to be better missionaries and also announced more flexibility in the daily schedule.  Pictured above is Steve Allen, the Managing Director of the Missionary Department.  We heard he was just released from this position after 18 years.  Steve was in the broadcasting sequence with Nancy at BYU.  (He won an Emmy for the church Homefront public service announcements).  Steve and Stan met while working at a BYU dorm cafeteria. He encouraged Stan to sign up for the MC Directors.  These "directors" were the technical crew (lights, sound, and MC's) for the University's Program Bureau.  After a short time, both Steve and Stan started touring with the BYU Young Ambassadors.  Steve was the YA business manager and Stan did lights and sound.

Below is a picture of the Young Ambassadors in South America.  Can you find both Stan and Steve?

On the way home from the multi-zone conference, we encountered the usual...heavy, heavy traffic.  Notice the overloaded flatbed ahead of us?  There were 20 plus passengers sitting on wooden benches.

 We never know what we will see on the roads!

Another ROYAL TRAFFIC JAM photo.  It took us two and 1/2 hours to get home.  In the morning we arrived at the Conference building in 25 minutes. No real reason for the traffic mess; just a lot of cars!!  We struggle to exercise patience in traffic as many people just "dive in" and cut us off even when there is no opening.  You only have two choices...1) let him in, or 2) let him run into the side of your vehicle.  It really is a game of "chicken."

This was the Kpong, Ho and Ashaiman Zone Conference during a stand-up break on Friday. Stan and Nancy were asked to talk about "stewardship" and missionary funds. Stan reminded the missionaries that these funds were available only because of the sacrifice of church members.  Nancy had them plan out menus to help them avoid "Affliction Week", when missionaries tend to run out of money before the next subsistence "payment".  For many of these young adults, this is the first time they have ever had to manage money.

Saturday evening we went with our neighbors, the Jones's, to Heritage Restaurant for Indian food. It was delicious and authentic, since the managers are Indian themselves.  We were the first ones there when they opened for the evening, but the place filled in by the time we left.  We have eaten there previously, but at the downstairs restaurant which is Chinese.  You can order from both menus no matter where you decide to dine!!

Freetown Poster
Following our dinner, we watched the movie, "Freetown".  It was filmed in Ghana and is the true story of LDS missionaries serving in Liberia when a civil war erupted in 1989.  One of the missionaries was from an opposing tribe and his life was in danger.  A group of 8 missionaries (the film uses 6) and a driver make a 30 hour journey via a small car past 50 rebel checkpoints (the movie depicts 3 or 4) to travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where they were able continue their missions to preach the gospel.  

We have about seven missionaries from Liberia and several from Sierra Leone.  Between a history of civil war and the Ebola epidemic, you can understand why they want to teach others of faith and hope.

What a wonderful mix of nationalities we have in our mission.  From the left:  Elder Schmanski is from the US, Elder Scheepers is from South Africa, Elder Kalolo is from Samoa, and Elder Asiegbu is from Nigeria. These elders serve in Dawhenya, about an hour from the mission office. We worshipped with them on Sunday.  One of the counselors in the branch presidency is Gilbert Oppong, our mission facilities manager.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hump Day-January 18th

We find it quite hard to believe, but this past Wednesday we reached the one-year point for our missionary service.  We entered the Provo MTC last January 18 and then arrived in Ghana on February 1, 2016.  In retrospect, at times it has been difficult, and yet it has been so rewarding.  We have settled into our circumstances and have become part of life here.  It is much different than home, but it has allowed us to have many wonderful and unique experiences.  All those blessings make any inconveniences or challenges quite insignificant.

This is our MTC group.  We celebrated "hump day" at the Bistro 22.  It is a very nice restaurant and Nancy was so happy to have Butternut Squash Soup and a Mango Beef Salad.   The Websters from California, are across the table from us.  He is a retired attorney helping in the Africa West Area legal department. She assists him and helps at the temple several days a week. The Andersons from Alaska, are at the end of the table.  Dr. Anderson is the Area Medical Advisor.  His wife helps him with health issues, works at the temple, and assists with literacy efforts.  We really enjoyed the evening.  .

This week church headquarters notified us that our July transfer date for missionaries would be moved up by three weeks.  With an incoming mission president on July 1 and transfers two days later, the missionary department changed the date so President Heid could have everything in place when the new mission president arrives.  We could not believe how fast word spread among the missionaries scheduled to go home July 3 and now going June 13. 

As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, we have also learned who our office replacements will be.   That knowledge alone has changed our thinking.   We are committed more than ever to finishing strong and doing our best to prepare for the Big transition in July.

Speaking of "finishing" strong, it is interesting how the Ghanaians use this term.   If you are in a restaurant and you order something that they don't have it, they will say, "It is finished."  Something no longer available at a store?...."It is finished."  Often I say "I am finished" with regard to a task I am working on or when we have been shopping for an hour or so.  In Ghana then, if you say "I am finished," it means "I am dead."

I thought I would share a few additional words or phrases that are used in Ghana.

"Small small."  This is used to indicate how much of something you want.
"Please give me something small or small, small."  Little or very little. Interestingly enough, if you are fortunate to be pulled over by an Ghanaian Policemen, this may be the words used when he wants a bribe.  "Please, something small?"

"Dash me...". This means to give a tip or a gift.

"Excuse me to say...". When you want to insult someone courteously.

"Yes, please."  An emphatic YES.

"From today onward going."  Henceforth...

This week five missionaries returned home and we received nine.  That meant we had to open two new areas.  This incoming group was from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, the Philippines, South Africa and Nigeria.  It is quite fun welcoming these new and enthusiastic missionaries and helping with their transition to mission life.  This week the missionaries arrived without ATM bank cards.  We learned that customs in Ghana stopped the delivery to the MTC but did not notify anyone of this action.  This is the second time this has happened.  It is frustrating because the missionaries use their cards to receive their subsistence money.  This time we had to distribute cash from the office which puts heavy pressure on the small working funds amount that Stan has available.

 Elder Avana, one of our Zone Leaders, is returning home to Benin.  He is a wonderful young man.  He came as a French speaker, but his English is excellent.

Elder Avana and Stan demonstrate a "smiling competition".   Once Stan was at a District Missionary Meeting and told the missionaries about his mission experience in Austria.  He and his companion would look at each other, force their faces to a smile, (well, sort of an intense smile), and just as the door opened, resume a regular door stance.  The result was a smile so big that the person answering the door had to smile back.  Elder Avana wanted to practice before returning home from his mission.

 President Heid had all the new missionaries line up to meet their trainers.

 The new missionaries and their companions pose in front of the mission home.

At our Zone meeting this week, we watched a video with Elder Neil Anderson and Elder Dallin Oaks of the Quroum of the Twelve Apostles.  They encouraged missionaries to use social media in helping fellowship the youth and young adults since they are the future of the church.

This young woman was part of the video.  She is from Norway and had only been a member of the church for three weeks!!.  She and others talked about how they came to join the church and what the missionaries did to help them learn about the gospel.  Those on the video had been members less than six years.  Some of them are current missionaries on Temple Square.
This picture was sent to us by the senior missionary couple in Koforidua, the Haglunds.  They met with their Zone this week and it looks like all is well.  Elder Harris, our recently released AP, is the one with glasses behind the sister in the blue.  All week Elder Harris was moping around the office worrying about the transition from the office back to the mission field.  Looks like he is doing great!

Elder Falk, our former office elder, is back in the field in an area called Bethlehem.  We love the names of towns around here.  It is about an hour from the mission home.  We went to church at the Bethlehem Ward and checked on Elder Falk's new "trainee" from Sierra Leone, Elder Alieu.

We were very impressed by the ward.  The Bishopric was outstanding, people were friendly and the speakers hardly used any notes as they spoke about reverence, family home evening and missionary work.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Farewell to Clarks and Heckels - Out to Tema New Town-Replacements coming!

We look forward to Family Home Evening every other Monday.  This week we said good bye to the Clarks and Heckels.

Elder and Sister Heckel are given their farewell banners by our Area President, President Vinson. The Heckels have only been married 3 years and have spent two years of their "honeymoon" here on a mission developing literacy materials.  Sister Heckel is a professional in that field.  Elder Heckel served as a mission president in the Salt Lake area many years ago with his first wife.  The "newlywed" Sister Heckel had never been married. Yes, there is a 20+ year age difference, but they really are great together.

Farewell also to the Clarks.  They will return home to Dallas, Texas and prepare to return to Liberia in July as Mission President and Mission Mom.

Sister Ama Boateng opened her mission call to Nigeria Lagos.  Sister Boateng's father is the Koforidua district president in the 'bush."  She was so excited and leaves for the MTC on March 2.  
Friends had recommended a butcher shop, not far from the mission home.  We stopped by and met David.  The place was clean, so we purchased some pork chops.

We attended church in Tema New Town this Sunday.  We did not take this picture, but it was part of a previous church news feature regarding Bishop Azumah.  This unique pulpit was constructed by a senior missionary couple in 2015. It allows the Bishop to address the congregation from a normal position. The Bishop contracted an illness when he was 4 years old that paralyzed his legs and stunted their growth.    The missionaries tell us that the Bishop is a handyman by trade, has a family, and that many people in the congregation were introduced to the church by him.

This cute little guy sat next to me in church this Sunday. 

President asked us to attend church in Tema New Town, near the MTC, and transfer missionaries back to Accra.  He was making some changes in preparation for departures and new missionaries arriving this week.  Elder Hales and Elder Olschewski, on the left, were companions.  Now Elder Hales and Elder Skelton in the background will be going back to Tema New Town and Elder O and Elder Robertson will stay in the Jamestown area, about 10 minutes from the mission home.

Elder Olschewski spent nine months in Tema New Town.  It was difficult to say good bye to all his young friends.

This last two weeks we learned that President Heid and his wife will be replaced by a new Mission President.  We needed to wait until there was a formal announcement in the Church News to release the name.  We understand he is an attorney from South Africa.  We will have about ten days with the new president before we leave the mission field.

Mission            Current President   New President

Ghana AccraDavid L. HeidTrevor T. Keyes

In addition, a new office couple has accepted a mission call to replace us in the Ghana Accra Mission.  We look forward to meeting the Glanfields, when they arrive about June 20. Our neighbors are excited because the Glanfields are also from Canada.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Ghana Presidential Inauguration

This week the highlight was the Inauguration of a new president in Ghana on Saturday.  The election was hotly contested and there were allegations on both sides that the election was "rigged."  In spite of all of that, the election was orderly and peaceful.  In the commentary, on TV and otherwise, they were pleased that Ghana has once again been an example to the nations of Africa that nonviolent changes of power are possible.   They were very happy about that and were seriously patting themselves on the back as the only African nation able to pull it off.   
President Nano Akufu Addo takes the oath of office.  Those kente cloth tribal "robes" are heavy and the judges were wearing wigs.  It was hot outside!!

The sign says Ghana Has Won Again.  Peaceful Elections and Transition

Ghana has many problems and the people have high expectations for improvement. Corruption is a priority and the new president has committed to make big changes. Education, infrastructure and health care are also hot topics.  Everyone is trying to be optimistic.  
We were invited to the MTC for an African Attire Party on Monday afternoon.  Many Area Office employees had the day off due to the New Year's observance.  We "skipped" out of the office to join them!!  The Tibbets were given their banners as they will be leaving Africa this week after their one year assignment at the MTC.  They met the Brubakers, on the outside of the picture, when they served together on a mission in Belgium.
Some of the symbols on the banner represent:  Hands to Work, Hearts to God, Love is the Key..

 Many couples dressed in African attire.

 As usual, there was plenty to eat!!

 Aba's husband demonstrated how to wear the Kente cloth.

Aba is the head cook at the MTC, and made a great sweet and sour chicken dish for our buffet.  Here she demonstrated various ways some African women wrap their heads in a scarf.
 Another demonstration was how to wrap a baby on your back!!

And of course, the infamous act of balance many items on your head!!

Sister Clark tried to balance the apples also.  Maybe that is a talent she can take to Liberia where she and her husband will service as Mission President/Mission Mom effective July 1, 2017.

 We attended Dodowa District Council Meeting.  President Heid wanted us to read and discuss the mission guidebook together.

These elders were being interviewed by the President and attending the temple.  Henry, not in the white shirt, is a Returned Missionary and computer technology specialist.  President has received notice that missionaries need to be interviewed by him every six weeks.  With 180 missionaries, that will require some creative scheduling!

Saturday evening we invited John and Jen Ezell to dinner along with the Websters, whom we met in the MTC.   We became acquainted with John when were on the plane to Mole as we traveled to see the elephants the end of July.  He works for the US Embassy as a Financial Controller for US Aid to West Africa.  We have kept in touch and finally found a date that worked for everyone.  Jen's parents live in Grants Pass, Oregon!!

 Harmattan is still with us.  Notice the dust!!

 Stan attended church with the Jones's today as Nancy had a bad cold.  These elders work hard!

Following church, Stan and the Jones's went to a local hospital to visit Gilbert, our maintenance manager.  He scared us this week with a potential heart attack.    Turned out to be double pneumonia.  He is on the mend, thank goodness! He still may need to be in the hospital for another five days.  Stan and Wayne were "sweltering" in the waiting room!!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Harmattan and Holiday Week

This week was definitely a holiday one.  There was less traffic, plus banks and the church Area offices were closed on Monday and Tuesday.  There were two official holidays at this time: Boxing Day and Christmas because it fell on Sunday. We only saw a few street vendors peddling their wares.  

December has also been a hard month for the missionaries to teach anyone.   Many people were gone a week for the Ghana Election and then traveled to their villages for the holidays.

Following Christmas Day, we went outside to exercise and noticed what looked like "fog." Harmattan had arrived.  "The Harmattan is a dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind which blows from the Sahara Desert over the West African subcontinent into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March (winter). The name comes from or is related to Ga haramata." (internet)  Some flights were cancelled this week.  Our friends were to go on a Safari to the northern part of Ghana, but they were never able to fly out of the Accra Airport.
This was taken from our apartment living room window.  You can see a building in the distance, obscured by Harmattan.

We attended District Council Meeting with the Bethlehem District.  Our former office elder, Elder Falk, is in the foreground and is the District Leader over five other missionaries in the area. 
 Elder Asare discussed how do we develop Christlike attributes?

Elder Bullie, Elder Agba and Sister Otto leave for the Missionary Training Center in Tema, Ghana.  Elder Bullie, from Sierra Leone, has been "visa waiting" in our mission, hoping to enter the Capetown Mission via the Johannasburg MTC.  He still did not have his visa for South Africa on 29 December, so a change was made to have him attend the MTC in Ghana for the next three weeks.  We told him that he would be "staff" at the MTC since he has actually been in the mission field for more than a month.  If he does not get his visa by the next transfer on 17 January, he may be back in our mission again!

Elder Agba and Sister Otto live in our mission district and President Heid has responsibility for them.  Elder Agba was going to Nigeria on a mission and Sister Otto to Uganda. President Heid drove the new mission van for the first time and took them to the MTC.

Sunday we attended church at the Teshie 3 Ward.  We wanted to give support to Elder Flan II, who is from Liberia and recently broke his wrist in a bicycle incident.  He will have surgery on Friday to have a plate installed.  His companion, Elder James, has been very patient this past week.  He and our mission nurse, Sister Jones, and her husband sat together from 6 am until almost 4pm for Elder Flan II to receive a temporary cast.  Sister Jones was impressed with the surgeon but not with the hospital organization!!  After everything was finalized, she still had to find and purchase the actual plate and screws needed for surgery from the one pharmacy in Accra which carries these items. 

There was a propane gas explosion in Accra on 22 December that killed at least eleven people and injured 40.  It was bad.  This is the location where we fill our gas propane tank! One of our AP's and an office elder had just driven past the area when they heard the explosion.  They, fortunately, acted quickly and took an alternative route.  Most of the deaths were individuals walking along the road next to the propane station.  On a local website, people are blaming the government for not having stricter standards.  Unfortunately, that is the way it is with many things.

We spent New Year's Eve at a Chinese/Indian restaurant with 40+ others who are here in connection with missionary work.  We enjoyed visiting, eating and headed back by 9pm!! On the drive home there were long traffic lines going the opposite direction towards downtown Accra and many people walking the streets.  The fireworks began early in the evening and have continued for New Year's Day.
Waiting to order at the restaurant.  President Heid is behind us.  President Nash, first counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency is standing.

(Update:  A few weeks ago we mentioned that Elder and Sister Clark, a senior missionary couple helping with auditing, had been called as Mission President as of July 1, 2017.  This week it was announced that they will be serving in Liberia.  It will be a challenge, but they have visited that country before, so they know what to expect.  One bonus is they move into a brand new mission home!!)

Today we have been reflecting upon the past year and looking to 2017.  We feel so blessed to be in Ghana and able to serve as missionaries.  We are doing well and are so glad our health is such that we can do this.  We just have to be patient with our aches and pains.  We are looking forward to completing our mission service in about 6 months.  It is quite amazing how quickly 2016 has gone.  HAPPY NEW YEAR! to all of you.