Sunday, February 24, 2013

Striving to Improve

We had transfers this past Wednesday and with it came ten new missionaries; two from Australia, two from Sierra Leone, two from Liberia, one from Kenya, one from Nigeria, and two from USA. Sometime I want to read the history of Sierra Leone because it is a miracle that missionaries are coming from a country that suffered for ten years with 'civil war', and now the church is growing so much there. Anyway, when we reviewed the transfer in our weekly Friday Office Council meeting, we all felt that there were ways we needed to improve. The new missionaries were still well taken care of and were not aware of anything not working well, but we know that with twenty five new missionaries coming the third of April, we need to be more efficient in the whole process. Our missionaries numbers are at 168 (not couples) and will climb to about 200 before we split the mission in July. May and June transfers dates are gaining more missionaries regularly, and keep us busy planning for them, as we have to make sure we have apartments and that they are fully equipped. The news of 58 new missions throughout the world and three of those are in the West Africa Area, is exciting indeed. It is wonderful to be a part of it all.

Today we attended the Senchi Branch with President and Sister Judd, which is where we are being assigned. It takes 1 1/2 hours, one way, to drive to Senchi which is what we will be doing each Sunday for probably the rest of our mission. We saw a family of Baboons along the road, so I will need to get pictures for another blog. We go through two toll booths on the way there and two coming back,so at 1 cedi for each, that will add up. This has been a struggling branch for some time, but they still had about 65 in attendance. After Sacrament Meeting, I went to the primary and enjoyed the sweet children. I was able to help with the music and felt a part of the branch right away by doing so. We are not sure what the branch presidency will have us do for sure, but I would enjoy working in the primary. The two missionaries there are, Elder Nyarko and Elder Amumi and they have their apartment on the upper floor of the building they use for a church. I told them I could play for the meeting if there was a keyboard to use, which they said that there was. The singing without a piano was still very nice so we will see what happens for next week. I felt sad about leaving the Cantoments Ward and having to tell Brother Mensah that I would not be able to play the organ anymore, but that is what serving is all about.

I was able to contact the Church Music Department and apply for a keyboard for Linda. They agreed to send her one and it arrived this past week. She was so excited when I handed it to her at the piano lesson. I was required to have a contract written up that she and I signed indicating that it was just a loan and if she finished the entire course and if she agrees to teach others to play, she could apply to have the keyboard for her very own. She has a very willing spirit and now with a piano to practice at home, she should be able to progress well.

For some time now, I have noticed the young man that comes to take care of the yard at the apartment complex where we live. He has such a friendly welcoming smile and there was just something about him that impressed me. I approached him Saturday and learned that his name is John, that he goes to his family home in Nsawam on most weekends, and that yes, he would take the Book of Mormon to read and be willing to have missionaries visit him. I will send his information on to Elders: Bates, Owino, Bagazwaga, and Mea and see which set of missionaries will be in his area to teach him. I am really praying to be able to open up more and share this great message that we are privileged to have. 

Well it is Sister Judd's birthday today and she has invited us and the missionaries that live in the Mission Office complex to have cake and ice cream with her and President Judd. It is always nice to socialize a little to break up the routine a bit.

With love,
Sister Avery (Mom, Grandma)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Spiritual Uplift!

Sometimes there has been so much that has taken place during a week, that it is hard to know where to begin. The highlight, of course, has been Elder Quentin L Cook's visit to our mission. L. Whitney Clayton, who is in the Presidency of the Seventy, was with Elder Cook. Their dear wives were with them and spoke in the two meetings that we attended. The Wednesday evening meeting for the general membership, was well attended and I felt they were so happy to be in attendance. Many of these had probably come a great distance and at a expense that did not come easy for them. The choir music added to the spirit of the meeting and was well recognized by the visiting authorities. Elder Cook spoke of the early pioneers of the church, their poverty, paying of tithing, and how they built  temples to the Lord. He felt that they, the African Saints, would be known to future generations as pioneers in much the same way. Elder Cook told of his calling to be an Apostle of the Lord and how inadequate he felt. He then counseled the members to get rid of doubts in their lives and to remember that the Atonement covers all the injustices that they may experience. Love was expressed to the people by each one that spoke and I felt their sincerity. Their dear wives amazed me as to how easily they spoke words from the heart that related perfectly to the members. Elder Cook invoked a blessing of peace and increased faith on the people. Temporal blessings were promised and they were invited to care about one another and help each other.

The meeting on Saturday was with the missionaries and I was asked by Elder Boateng and Elder Chaffetz, who are the Assistants to President Judd, to play the music for the meeting. It was a special experience to sit so close to these wonderful men and their wives and hear the words of praise, and encouragement, as they counseled with the missionaries. Sister Clayton told of a women's conference she attended some years ago in another part of Africa, where she noticed a woman with no legs working her way to the area where the meetings were held. The security man that was with Sister Clayton, said he must go and carry this women to a chair in the conference room, as he could not stand idly by and not do anything. He was smaller in stature and the women was a heavier woman, but he carried her easily and placed her on a chair. What special experiences these leaders have as they go throughout the world and share their love and testimonies. Elder Clayton talked of all things being spiritual unto God; of choosing the right consequences that we want in our lives; of how they, as missionaries, are as angels declaring repentance and salvation, and that they must act as angels act and they will have the power to influence the people for good. Sister Cook led us in the hymn "Put your shoulder to the wheel" and wanted them to listen for the Christ-like attribute that was in the words. Sister Mpofu knew the attribute was diligence. Sister Cook had part of the group sing the words "push push along" in rhythm to the music, and then traded with the other half of the group singing the words "work hard" as the verses were sung. It actually turned out delightful and she praised the missionaries for their willingness. Elder Cook expressed to the missionaries, that with the new younger missionaries coming, they needed to be better prepared, spiritually mature, and more pure. He taught so well and it is impossible to share it all and words don't convey the spirit that was there. Because of President Monson's plea for us to reach out to those that not enjoying the full blessings of the gospel, Elder Cook told the missionaries that they were to be Branch and Ward Builders, and that is not all about how many people we can baptize. He pronounced a blessing on them in having an increased sense of how important their calling is, to love their companions, and to love the Lord. He blessed their families and invoked blessings of comfort and reassurance that the Lord is mindful of their families and to find joy in doing what they should be doing and not worry about home. This blessing especially spoke to my heart!

President Judd just came in and had us read a letter that he has compiled for the missionaries. It is about our mission being split July 1 and the new mission being called Ghana Accra West.This announcement should come out in the Church News this next week. The letter talked about the areas and missionaries that will go with that mission and the ones that will stay in the Ghana Accra Mission. It will make our work load easier with less apartments to inspect, etc., etc., but we will miss the missionaries that will go with that mission. We will be asked to train the new mission office couple for that mission so we need to be prepared. President Judd also made us aware that he wants to assign us to the Senchi Branch which is a distance away and will require us doing everything we can, within reason, to strengthen the branch. There will be much more to tell on that later when we know more. It is in a beautiful area up by the Volta River and will be neat to see some more of Ghana.
Anyway, I am grateful for my blessings, love my companion (made him chocolate chip peanut butter bars), and love the Lord with all my heart.

With love,
Sister Avery (Mom & Grandma)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

While everyone at home is looking forward to spring, we are looking forward to what would be called winter here. I don't think the people of Ghana actually refer to their seasons like we do, but I sure am appreciating so much more the change of the seasons that we have at home. We had two nights this past week that the power was off and sleeping is very difficult when we can't run the fan in the bedroom. We each bought a fan that we use at church meetings and this is what we each used to help us fall asleep. I think it would have been comical to watch us as we would fan ourselves, dose off, and then come to enough to fan ourselves some more. We also slept with our heads at the foot of the bed trying to feel the air-flow from our bedroom window to the window in the room across the hallway. One night we were lucky to have a breeze which we considered a blessing. Needless-to-say, we have put ourselves on the list to get our generator in working order.

Last Sunday, which was Fast Sunday, we were in the office doing our email and blog when Elder Gurr came into the office. I have spoken of Elder Gurr before and what a dedicated missionary he is and how we have had baptisms from the referrals I have given him. Anyway, he bore his testimony in that meeting about his mother being an alcoholic when he was young and how she had been excommunicated and now has become sober and has returned to activity and is waiting for her missionary son to come home and baptize her. He shared more of the story to us of how his parents had divorced, remarried and have kept in touch with each other. Both sets of parents have asked permission to come to Ghana in August to pick up Elder Gurr and I just received information that they have been granted permission. This is certainly one of the many blessings of serving a mission. President Judd knows many missionaries that have come from similar backgrounds and worse and are faithfully serving the Lord. It really humbles me to think of their sacrifice and willingness to serve, especially when my part has been so much easier.

As we travel, whether it is for apartment inspections, grocery shopping, or to and from the office, we often see handicapped people who try to learn a living and not just beg. There are quite a few of them that do beg, but I really applaud those who peddle a bike with an awkward load attached and are able to only peddle with one leg while the other hangs loose, or use a single crutch to balance themselves while they sell goods on the streets. That is how many of these people make a living and are called hawkers (sp), which is not a negative thing here. The items that are sold this way are so many that it would take a long time to list them but just think of everything that you can buy at a 'flea market', and then some, and it is right at your car window at every stop light. It is quite a sight to behold but honorable, none-the-less.

Peter Kofi Angmor was visitor to our door one evening in December. We were skyping with our family in Michigan when he knocked on the door. We had visited briefly and then let the missionaries know that he was interested. It has been a long couple of months with John L visiting him and the missionaries, encouraging him to come to church. With the invitations, we volunteered to go to his place, which is basically a shack, and give him a ride. Last Sunday he said he had a swollen knee so he couldn't go. This Sunday he wasn't ready, so John L said he would take me to the church so I could play the prelude music, and then would come back for him. When John L went back he still was ready, but this isn't the end of the story. We feel that because John L went back that it showed he was a man of his word and that it caused Peter to stop and think about his own words of telling us he would be ready and wasn't. Anyway, as we finished the three hour block of our meetings, who should we see coming down the stairs from the Jamestown Sacrament meeting but dear Peter. He looked so nice and radiated as we expressed how wonderful it was to see him. Elder Boateng and Elder Chaffetz stayed and went to the rest of the branch meetings with him even though they had already been to their meetings for the day. We pray that, since he has finally taken the first step and felt good about it, that he will continue to come. He has a friend named John that expressed a desire to come, so we will see. At the beginning, it seemed like Peter was wanting to contact the church because he wanted a hand-out from us and we just kept telling him that the gospel of Jesus Christ will do more for him, in the long run, and that we were not in a position to help him in that way. It has been a great experience to be involved in the missionary work in a different way than we do in the office every day. We see many that come to the office with the missionaries for special interviews for baptism with President Judd and hope to see Peter here some day.

We have a full week this next week with Elder Quentin L. Cook coming for a visit and I look forward to sharing what we hear from him. I am amazed how many General Authorities come here and what a blessing it is to be here experiencing it all. It all helps to make the nights with no air-conditioning a little more bearable.

With love,
Sister Avery (Mom, Grandma)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 1st marked four months since we started our mission. I guess time goes fast when you are having fun because it sure has gone quickly. Although, the 'having fun' part does not happen for me when we are traveling to our office and need to go around the dreaded circle or round-about. My dear companion was traveling with Henry to our apartment to fix the air-conditioner, when a taxi cut him off without warning and he was rear-ended again. At least this time, the driver that hit our car was totally accountable, although frustrated with the taxi driver. A good thing is, that it was in the same place we were hit before but, of course, more damage and the trunk would not open. Our car is in the repair shop this week and we are driving a diesel vehicle and will be glad to get ours back.

February is also the start of getting back to apartment inspections, which we do almost every Monday. It was good to have a break during the holiday season, and I find myself a little reluctant starting again because of the traffic and challenge in finding their apartments. It also, is not the highlight of my day to tell missionaries they need to do better. For now, we have 33 apartments that we have to inspect every quarter. In March we will be giving out awards for the 4th quarter of last year and those decisions are made by us. The Sister missionaries always have the cleanest apartments, but at least we give out a 'most improved' award also. This last Monday, I asked the missionaries of the apartments we inspected, what they thought Elder Avery and my daily schedule was. Whether it worked or not, I wanted them to know that we are at our office by 7:30-8:00 every morning and do not leave until 7:00 -7:30 most nights of the week. I was trying to teach them that they have to organize their time and do a little something every day, and then on their 'P' day they get started earlier. I tell them that my companion helps with the cleaning and dishes and that they ALL needed to be doing their part also. We are now doing the 2nd inspection on these apartments and if there are not improvements, I am going to take pictures and show Sister Judd. I know the condition of a lot of these apartments is not ideal, and I take all of that into consideration, but is all about obedience to the mission rules, their health, and 'critters' that thrive in dirty conditions. Anyway, enough of that.

We had Elder and Sister Dalton stay with us for two days this week while their vehicle was serviced. They live in Abomosu, which is one of the areas that is what we call, 'the bush'. They sure like to talk and have a lot to share, so we were their captive audience. I can't even begin to tell the experiences they have had up in that country, but if I mention that he has been referred to as a 'Crocodile Dundee' type, then, if you use your imagination, you will get the picture of what he has experienced with the villagers. The Daltons are wonderful people and truly magnify their missionary service. They work with the members in their branch and are of great help to the missionaries in that area.

An interesting bit of information to do some research on, is what is called the Harmatan. The spelling may not be correct, but it is what we have been experiencing here for a couple of months and will still have for a couple more months, although I am not sure.The atmosphere is full of the sand or dirt from the Sahara Desert and it has its good points and not so good ones. When you think dirt in the air and that it has to come down, then you know the not so good ones, but the part I like is that quite often the weather is a few degrees cooler and the humidity is lower.

I had a good piano lesson with Linda yesterday and the really amazing part,( take heed dear grandchildren), is that it took her close to an hour to walk from her home to the Stake Center. She is 17 years old and has a goal to learn to play before she goes on her mission when she is about 20 or 21. The other amazing part is that she does not have a piano and will have to practice learning on a paper keyboard at home and find time to practice at the Stake Center. I need to look through the information I received on this, before we came on our mission, and see of the possibility of her having her own keyboard at home. I pray I am successful.

Well, it has been another full busy week and I am not able to share only a fraction of it, so I hope I remember it well when I write my personal history one day,(hopefully right after this mission.)

I am so grateful to actually be seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ growing in a land so far from home. It is hard to express the feelings that this brings to my heart, especially when I hear the strong testimonies they share. Each time they declare the gospel is true, I echo yes, it is true!

With love,
Sister Avery