Sunday, April 28, 2013

BYU-Idaho visits Ghana!

The Collegiate Singers from BYU-Idaho  held concerts in the Kumasi, Cape Coast, and Ghana Accra Missions. The performed at eleven places in these missions and were well received.  There purpose in coming was in praise of faith, country and international brotherhood. I did not know this, but BYU-Idaho operates 80 satellite facilities world-wide, including two in Accra. In these locations a fine tertiary education is available to qualifying students at minimal cost. Called Pathway, this approach to higher education combines secular learning with religious and moral development. A choir of Pathway students performed with the Collegiate Singers one of those nights and it was the night we attended. They sang the Ghanaian National Anthem and also a song in one of the languages, which I think was Twi, and did a great job. They did some numbers with drums which was a big hit with the people. The Impossible Dream, one of my favorite, was sung by all the men of the Collegiate Singers. There were words to some of the songs in our program, as these were special arrangements of scripture. One was the scripture where Nephi says, "O wretched man am I"---Awake, my soul! rejoice, my heart! and let me praise again the Lord my God, who is my rock and stay. Another beautiful arrangement was, "children all over the world, we shall rise up in unity, we shall rise up in harmony, we shall rise up in faith, we shall rise up in love, we shall rise up in dignity, we shall rise up in charity, we shall rise up in faith, we shall rise up in hope, Children all over the world, we shall rise!"   Yes, we must all rise to the greatness within each of us made possible through the Atonement of our Savior.

I have a correction to make from my last blog. It is regarding the woman that was Muslim and came to Ghana and converted to Christianity. She came from the country of Mali which is all Muslim and Christians are treated with contempt, even death. In Ghana, there are many Muslims, but they and the Christians live side by side with no hostility. Ghana has many problems, mainly because of political dealings (we know about that, right), but it really is a peace-loving country, especially when compared with some of the neighboring countries.

We have a missionary couple serving as Public Relation missionaries and I was excited to find out that he wrote the book that became a favorite of mine. His name is Terry C. Warner and he wrote the book "Bonds that make us Free."  He has also written other articles and I have listened to his lectures on BYU TV.  He and Sister Warner were instrumental in organizing the advertising for the Collegiate Singers that recently performed, and are involved with an open house that is held one night every week at the Temple grounds Stake Center. I am always amazed at how small the world really is when you can meet someone, whose work you admire, thousands of miles away in Ghana.

I must share a name I am called by several of the people we work with and have become close too. I understand it is a said out of respect and I feel honored and hope I am deserving. When I first heard it, I thought they were calling me Mame (sp), but found out they were saying Mum, which is the same as Mom. It must be because of the grey hair and all the wisdom that comes with it, ha ha. Anyway, it is a delight to be called that and it helps a little with family so far away.

Primary was all on me today, which was a surprise, but then I shouldn't be too surprised. I need to visit with the others that it is a courtesy that they let me know when they won't be there. The lesson was on the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and sharing time was on the Priesthood being conferred on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. I had Thomas, a 14 year old recent convert, come and talk on the Aaronic Priesthood part, and Elder Avery on the Melchizedek part. Thomas is such an intelligent young man and did a wonderful job. In fact, he pulled out his notes from his pocket but put them back and spoke from his heart. We really praised him! After church today, he pulled Elder Avery aside and told him that he leaves for boarding school soon and that he is sponsored to go and so has his meals provided every day, but on Sunday he is given only a piece of bread. Well, of course, we gave him some money and told him he would need to be wise with it so it would sustain him over a longer period of time. Anyway, there was more to our day than a tired missionary can write, so I will just say it was a good day.

I finished up with the hemming of some curtains for the new apartments we are needing with so many missionaries coming. I also wanted to spruce up our apartment some, much to my companions unspoken reluctance. I found some decent curtains in a cupboard in our apartment, and fixed them so they could be hung and washed the dirty sheers that were already hanging, and even he said it made things look better. I appreciated his help in the project. We also had a bare kitchen window, so I found a sheet in the cupboard that had some vines of yellow roses on it, and cut and hemmed it so it made a nice curtain for the kitchen. That and fixing meals for lunches for the coming week, took all of Saturday, but it was well worth it.

Well, it is getting late and we still need a little dinner. The peanut butter sandwich and apple we eat on the way home from Senchi was hours ago and a little something before going to bed will help until morning.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Couple Missionaries!

We so need couple missionaries, and I am sure this is true all over the world. This coming Tuesday, we lose Elder and Sister Lyon (our African lyons) who have served in Ho, and on May 16th, we lose Elder and Sister Dalton who have served in Abomosu. The Daltons' have been instrumental in many couples receiving their Temple Endowments and being sealed as families. They even have had children named after them, which says a lot about their service among the people. Elder and Sister Scoville have only been here since September, a month before us, but recently returned home for medical reasons that were just not being resolved here. They plan to come back and we sure hope so. That leaves only Elder Avery and I, and President and Sister Judd. We do have the Nielsons who are coming on June 3rd, and the Cosgraves' who are coming August 11th. However, we are moving farther north in Ghana, and more will be needed in the future, plus there will be the Ghana Accra West Mission on July 1st.

I have been busy getting all the paper work done for missionaries being released May 14th. It requires arranging their flight itinerary, letting parents and mission/stake presidents know of their release date, and preparing their release certificates and letter to their priesthood leader. It was a bitter/sweet moment for these missionaries when I first called them a month ago to arrange the airport closest to their home. It becomes a reality at that point, and is exciting, yet also a time of wondering how their mission went so quickly. It will be nice to not have any missionaries going home in June, as we have 27 that are coming in June, but that just means more apartments to acquire and furnish. In other words, the work continues to move forward and we are needed to move with it. It is not about our being left behind if we don't move either. It is simply that we must move and do all we can, and trust that the Lord will strengthen us, give us ideas, and make it all possible.

We had a wonderful District Conference in Kpong today (k is silent). (For those who may not know, Branches are under the leadership of a District President and the Mission President is over all the Branches and Districts. There are many Wards and Stakes, but they are in the Greater Accra Region. The Branches are in the Eastern and Volta Regions.) I am so amazed with the spiritual knowledge and understanding of these leaders. We were taught to strengthen our families in the gospel and for love and harmony to permeate our homes. One young women was asked to share her testimony and told us of an experience she had with her co-workers where she bore testimony so strongly of chastity and the word of wisdom. I was so emotionally moved by her strong conviction or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Another young father talked of how the very chapel we were meeting in was built on marshy land that no one else wanted, but because it was reinforced and built on a good foundation, it is secure and strong. He compared that to building our families on a sure foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,..." whereon if men build, they will not fall." Another spoke of being one with God and with each other. A counselor in the District Presidency spoke eloquently on the Law of Tithing. Sister Judd spoke on the Gift of Christ's Atonement and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. President Judd had a lovely women and her child come to the front where he told how he met her. It was when Elder Scott Grow was here visiting and being shown the areas in the mission. President Judd saw this women in a crowd of people and felt he needed to make contact with her. When he stopped the car and asked her to come speak with him, he found out that she came from Tamale (t is silent), a land far north of us. The northern part of Ghana is predominately Muslim. Anyway, she had left her homeland and converted to Christianity. Because of this act of President Judd's she is now being taught by the
missionaries. (Our Elder Amumi and Elder Royce, of the Senchi Branch, are also teaching a mother of two young children who is Muslim. Her family is angry with her about this choice she is making and she doesn't know what the future holds for her if she joins the church.) President Judd finished his remarks by saying that the way is opening for the gospel to go forth among this people and we need to spiritually prepare ourselves more deeply. He expressed his love for the people and reminded them that they are a great people, that Ghana is a choice land, and that they must not let the spiritual decline that is happening in his own country, happen to them.

We have an easier apartment inspection tomorrow which I always welcome. We will just inspect the apartment of the Assistants, Office Elders and two other Elders that live in the Mission Home compound. We just have to walk across the courtyard so I am a happy person already.

I was delighted with the scripture bag made out of Kental that arrived to our Xander in plenty of time for his birthday. He just turned 8 years old and will be baptized and was delighted with the colors of his bag. Brother Attisso did a great job choosing the colors for this fun-loving grandson and Xander can say it came all the way from Ghana Africa.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom & grandma)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Growing Pains!

Our Mission is growing and with it comes all the challenges of finding more apartments, supplying them, and then there is that many more to inspect, make apartment awards for, and take care of water, plumbing and electrical problems, etc. This growth is a wonderful thing (as I listened to the report at conference) and we have been blessed to meet the challenges. However, I do look forward to the Ghana Accra West Mission being in place so we will have some relief. I am enjoying the work, don't get me wrong, yet in order for missions to be as effective as they need to be, changes have to take place. The Brethern know that and are being guided by the Spirit all the time.

While I am on that subject, I noticed Sisters giving prayers in Conference and so I share the following information that has just been given to us. "The Lord's Church is governed through councils at every level. Full expression from all participants, elders and sisters, in a monthly mission leadership council will replace zone leader council (only the elders attended). Sister training leaders (a new title) are to participate in the council setting, unifying the efforts of both male and female council members." President Judd had been thinking of this very thing and discussing it with his assistants at about the same time the directive came to us. I just think it is wonderful how "in tune" our leaders are. I apologize for the casual way that sounds, but it is hard to put some spiritual happenings into words, especially after a long, long day.

I have the privilege, and I say that kind of "tongue in cheek", to keep a mission history. Even though challenging, it has it's rewards. Every time a missionary goes home, I ask them to write one of their mission conversion stories for the history. In order to email them to me, they have to go to an internet cafe to do so and it doesn't always work out for them. I then ask them to hand write them and I will type them in. I have so enjoyed, even with the unusual way they have of formatting their words, reading these special conversion stories. It would take a long time to share, so let me just say that, "a marvelous work has begun to come forth, among all the children of men, and ye that are called to this work, serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength." I paraphrased that somewhat, but that is what I feel as I read these conversion stories.

We attended the temple on Friday and we are the ones who had to wear the headsets. The session was in French, as it was scheduled for a bus load of patrons from the Ivory Coast. The session was very full and so by the time I got a headset, it was just a one ear piece headset, so I listened to English in my right ear, and heard French in my left. Elder Avery heard the whole thing in French because his did not work at all. One is never disappointed because just being in the temple is enough. Elder Wylie and Elder Mason called us on Saturday and needed some things from the office. They had just been to the temple with people from their ward who were doing baptisms for the dead. They had a very recent convert that was able to do baptisms and they were so excited for this convert to have had this experience so soon. What joy the gospel brings when it is embraced fully.

I had an unpleasant experience on Saturday when I found the only dip in the sidewalk ( ha ha,there are dips everywhere) and twisted my ankle real good. I had a bottle of frozen water in our cooler that I put on it until I could get home to do more. I have not been in pain and was able to fulfill my responsibilities in Senchi today. It is one swollen ankle, though, and I will be glad to go to bed after being up all day on it.

Primary was good today, as I did not have to do it all. Sister Boateng taught the lesson on the Word of Wisdom, and I did Singing and Sharing time. Sister Owusu is back from her trip and will contribute on the next primary day. Now I just need to get Sister Dowodu coming regularly and I will only have to do Singing time; I can only hope. We had two of the District Primary Presidency visit today and I thought it went well. They were delighted to learn the tune of, "For health and strength and daily food, we praise thy name of Lord." After primary, I showed them how it can be done in a round and they thought that was great. I so enjoy the children and am trying to show these good teachers that they do not have to be so gruff with the children, as they are, after all, children. The language still requires me to explain myself more but I know I will see progress.

After meetings today, we went and visited Brother and Sister Adjei. Their conversion was unique, so I want to share it as briefly as I can. In 1982, he was hired by the Ghana Water Department and had to go to Germany for 17 months for training. This is where he found the Church, or it found him, and was baptized. After returning home, he was welcomed by his family and friends and the beer was brought out. He refused it kindly and this is where the conversion of his family started. The process of finding a church meeting to attend was long and tedious, but he persisted and finally found out about a branch in Tema. Tema is quite a distance from Kpong, but he attended every Sunday. In time, he was blessed to be instrumental in organizing a branch in Kpong of which he served as a branch president. They have three children who have all served missions. In fact, a daughter and son were attending school at BYU when they were called on their missions and served in the US. The other son served in Ghana Accra. He and his wife are a strength to the Senchi branch and are admired by all. Sister Adjei served us lunch today of rice and a delicious shrimp stew with shrimp caught from the Volta River that I had on my blog last week. It was a good day!

I think I will go to bed early tonight as we have apartment inspections tomorrow and I really need to rest my ankle. Hope all is well with all of you.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

We survived the week!

With 8 departing missionaries on Tuesday and 21 new missionaries on Wednesday, plus everything else that seems to happen, we have been busy. However, it is always a great experience, and with the Lord strengthening and blessing us, there is always a way to accomplish His work. I pray for these new missionaries that they will have loving, encouraging trainers and will adjust quickly to the cultural changes that are so evident here. At this same time, we had a missionary choose to go home after only being here a short time. I felt for him as he saw the new missionaries come and I knew that he had had that faith and desire to serve at first, but struggled to retain it. I know that he can serve and be a great contributor to building the Lord's kingdom in his home land of Australia.

We were privileged to watch the Saturday morning session of General Conference (at 4pm) and this morning's session after we returned from Senchi. What a delight to hear about a Temple to be built in Cedar City, Utah. My sister had told me that she was told that this might happen, so it was exciting to hear it announced. I have so enjoyed listening to the wonderful messages and am grateful, once again, for technology that brings this to us from so far away. In that opening session of Conference, I felt the Spirit confirm to me, as it has many times, that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and is flourishing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We only visited one family after church today, so we drove a little farther up the road to enjoy the scenery surrounding the Volta River. This area is such a contrast to Accra where we live. I hope we will create the opportunity to see more of this area, as there is probably so much more to see than what we see from the road. There is a lot of farms in this area, although they are not visible from the road, and the mango trees are every where. The following are pictures I took today.

 We have heard from Elder and Sister Wall, who are the office couple missionaries for the new Ghana Accra West Mission that will be opened on July 1st. They will be here on June 1st to train with us and they are going to have a grand experience. We will have the largest transfer we have ever had on June 26th of 27 new missionaries. I am excited to learn more about this couple as I am sure they have had much service experience to be a part of opening a brand new mission.

Well, tomorrow is apartment inspections and I still need to put together a few more meals tonight for us to eat this next week for our lunches. I would like to listen to the last session of conference also, so I will see if I can stay awake to hear it all.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)