Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sharing a tender moment

This past week was our transfer of 28 new missionaries. Not only do we get this wonderful new missionaries, but we had to say good-bye to 80+ missionaries who are now serving in the Ghana Accra West Mission. One of those missionaries, was our dear Elder Amumi of the Senchi Branch. I want to share a small portion of a thank you letter he wrote to Elder Avery and I so others may see what an intelligent, spiritual young man he is.
"The older I get, the less prone I am to believe in coincidence. I gladly and eagerly acknowledge  God's hand in all things, including the orchestration of events in our lives and the interlacing of our daily associations. I also believe He brings people into our lives and paths who can bless and enlighten us and I know that He brings us into contact with people whose acquaintance will, down the road, open the doors, dissolve barriers, and make straight the way according to the Lord's need. As I look more and more often into the eyes of other people, sensing their goodness, perceiving their commitment to God, and feeling those quiet profound impressions bearing witness to my soul, I have gained an expanding awareness that God knows us, loves us, and desires all of us, His children, to love others, respect and better understand each other. Far too often, other faiths allow doctrinal differences to differ us from fruitful conversation, enlightened discussion, and joined participation in a moral cause."
He then expresses appreciation to us for the time we served with him in Senchi. He asked that God would bless us and our family and our future. I will treasure the memories of this kind, gentle, giant of a man always. What he said about God's hand in all things and bringing people into our lives at just the right time to influence us for good, is what we all can relate too.

In reading this letter again, I was drawn to the blessing that was invoked on behalf of my family and future. If we could, we would leave our families a legacy of testimony that it might reach through the generations.This requires an understanding of how testimony is instilled in our hearts. Since it is the Holy Ghost who testifies of sacred truth, and we want to make that experience more likely for our families, we can teach some sacred truth. Then we can testify that we know what we have taught is true. And then we must act so that our actions can be seen conforming to what we said was true. The Holy Ghost will then confirm the truth of what we said. I recently read an account of a convert to the Church from Wales. He kept a journal, making a short entry nearly every day for 22 years. He didn't have much preaching in them, and he did not testify that Brigham Young was a prophet. He just records having answered "yes" every time the prophet called him on a mission from "over Jordan" to the Muddy mission, then on to a mission back to Wales. His few entries which record his testimony seem to appear when death took a child. His testimony seems more powerful because he offered it when his soul was tried. He prayed that the Lord would help him to endure faithful to his cause to the end of his days, that he would be worthy to receive his children back into the family circle, blessed and happy because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He taught the truth. He testified that it was true. He lived consistent with his testimony and prayed that he would endure faithful until he could be united with his dear family.What a legacy of testimony he left for his family! I hope to do the same.

It was a long four weeks instructing Elder and Sister Wall for the new mission, but was good in many ways. We were able to work closely with a great couple who are so willing to serve the Lord, even in the challenges that a new mission brings.They were a great help on Wednesday when we greeted those 28 new missionaries. I guess that means we are now experts for when we welcome 27 in August and 29 in September. Actually, if I think about it too much, it makes my head 'swim'. We are getting missionaries for October now, 17 so far, and my focus next week will be getting their welcome letters ready for President Judd to sign and then mailed or emailed. The work continues to move forward, as I entered 59 baptisms last week.The days in the office are usually longer than I like, but now that I have expressed my desire to not complain about it, I am blessed to be able to get us supper when I get home, study the scriptures, and even get a load of laundry done when needed. I am grateful for a great companion who helps out so much.

I feel blessed to be in the service of the Lord. What can I say more.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Milder Temperatures!

It has actually been rather pleasant here in Accra. I asked Joseph, one of our security men, how long this cooler weather would last, and he said probably through August and maybe longer. We still get that sticky, clammy feeling, but cooking in the kitchen has been much more comfortable.

I just had an unique experience. It is actually a blessing for me and for Elder Mauga. August 6th is the next departure of missionaries being released from their two year mission. There are 16 missionaries departing but it should really be 17. Elder Mauga is that seventeenth missionary, but he is serving in what is going to be the Ghana Accra West Mission, and there transfer day is not until August 20th. A few of the other Elders would be serving in that mission also, but needed to be transferred back to our mission next week so they could be home in time to start school. Because Elder Mauga would be the only missionary going home on the 29th, I was notified that he would also be going home the 6th. I already had flight itinerary for him and had mailed a release letter to his Stake President in Samoa. Thank goodness there were cell phone numbers on Elder Mauga's contact information, but when I tried to call they could not understand me. Elder Caleb, who is Samoan, told me that the Island I was trying to call did not speak English, or very little. He told me it was 6 am Monday morning in Samoa and that he would call for me. Hearing him speak in Samoan and give all the valuable information to the Bishop, was a choice experience. The bishop will let the Stake President know (we called him first but no answer), and Elder Mauga's family.  Elder Caleb advised them to  leave the Island where they live on August 8th in order to arrive at the airport on the night of August 9th to greet Elder Mauga. I just get such a wonderful feeling when things fall into place like that. Elder Caleb is the missionary who was serving in Cape Coast and was going to go home, but decided at the last minute that he really didn't want to do that. He was assigned to our mission and is one of the missionaries that lives here at the Mission Home complex so we see him often. I like to think this help he gave me and Elder Mauga, was another confirmation that he needed to still be serving his mission.

It was another good Sabbath in Senchi. There were 5 baptisms today and more coming next week. I see a bright light at the end of the tunnel concerning the primary. Sister Boateng was assigned to be the teacher, but has not come but 2 times since I have been going. I think the visit we made with the missionaries to her home a few weeks ago may have made the difference. She was sustained today as the 2nd Counselor in the primary, which made it even better. Last week I expressed my desire to Brother Ahiabor, 1st counselor in the branch presidency, that the older children really needed to have their own class and the younger children have theirs. Then we would all come together for sharing time and singing time. After Sacrament Meeting today, I approached him to confirm the change and we were given the room next to ours. That room is where the youth meet for their Sunday School instruction and they were moved to an upstairs room which made it so perfect for us. Sister Boateng took the older primary children (age 6-11) in that room for their lesson, and I and Sister Duodu had the younger children. I was not sure what to expect for this week, but felt to prepare the first lesson from the nursery manual. The youngest is probably 18 months and she was a delight for the children who are a little older. When I did an activity with the children showing that Heavenly Father loves us if were are tall and if we are small, she crouched down right next to me when I was being small and it was delightful to all of us. Sister Duodo helped with the language at times and it went very well. After the lesson time, we all joined together for the rest of the primary. Sister Duodu did the sharing time and I did the singing time. I knew the children would not know 'name-that-tune' like we do in the States, but I wanted to try a version of it at least. I told them I would lalala the music and they had to guess what words go with that music. It took a few repeats, but they caught on and it was so fun. It is amazing the love and connection I feel with these children and these other women leaders. It is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

After Church, we went with Elder Amumi and Elder Royce to visit a family who have just started to investigate the Church. What a choice family! They have twin 14 year old boys, and triplet 9 year old girls. They just barely learned about tithing and already Sister Lucas set aside money from the sale of  her snail- kabob- making business for tithing. Brother Lucas is a farmer and a devoted father and husband. He has a good understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ already and is 'hungry' for more. Elder Royce was able to clear up a misunderstanding that Brother Lucas had, about partaking of the Sacrament bringing a curse upon a person if taken unworthily. It is a wonderful experience when the truth is taught and how it dispels the darkness of false beliefs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has only light and truth, and it is a privilege to be sharing it with others who are wanting more.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

I knew Father's Day was in June but in my hurrying to get ready for the drive to Senchi, I did not tell my companion. It is a good thing he is understanding. I will make up for it by fixing him a broccoli omelet for supper. Now doesn't that sound like a way to make it all right. It is a good thing he is a good sport.

There is not a lot to share this week, as we have been so involved with training Elder and Sister Wall,  the office couple, for the new mission that will begin July 1st. I am so grateful that I came to our office with it fully functioning and just about everything I needed already on the computers. They do not have that, other than what they can copy from our files. I have taken time to start saving some of the documents in the Ghana Accra West Mission to help a little. We were able to get the address of their mission office from the executive secretary at the area office. As if a new mission was not challenging enough, they will be in a temporary office until who knows when. There temporary office is an apartment that will be convenient in some ways but not in many others. They are very positive and I know they will be a blessing to President Hill when he arrives July 29th.

We also had Elder and Sister Neilson arrive from Monroe Utah. They are member/leadership support missionaries and President Judd has assigned them to Asamankese. It is in the West mission boundaries, is approximately 3 hours away, and has some very bumpy roads.  They, Elder and Sister Wall, and President and Sister Judd have been in Asamankese this weekend at a district conference. We have been praying for the Neilsons as they were ready to head back home. Even though this is a hugh cultural adjustment, it is so worth it because the people become so special to us. We have all offered words of encouragement and I hope being in Asamankese and meeting the members, and the missionaries, will make the difference for them. An added challenge is that their apartment will not be ready to move in until Tuesday. Paul, Kwame, and others have worked late hours to get this ready. Volumes could be written on what it takes to have a growing mission operating as it should, and to think that 58 new missions are undergoing the same thing. With all the emails we have sent to Salt Lake requesting information, just imagine all of those 58 asking pretty much the same thing. It is all exciting and over-whelming at the same time, even for those at Church Headquarters.

We have two more couples coming to serve in our mission; Elder and Sister Cosgrave the 11th of August and Elder and Sister Pack the 22nd of September. The Packs are PEF/Self-Reliance missionaries and will be living in the apartment that we are now living in. The apartment next to us has become available and we will be moving into it so that improvements can be made on the one we have been living in. It needs to be treated for mold, termites, and other improvements. The Cosgraves will be serving as member/leadership support and will be a great blessing to one of our 'bush' areas. It is a great blessing that we are having these couple come as they add such a strength to a mission.

It was our Branch Conference today in Senchi. I did not know that the District Primary Presidency would be teaching primary and it would have been nice to know. Preparations made to teach is never wasted, so I just observed. I did do singing time and it was a good way to end the day in Senchi. I have been buying CTR rings to give to the children and they wear them so proudly. There is still a lot to do to have the Gospel In Action program going as well as the Sacrament Presentation program. I visited with the district presidency as they were asking me what they could teach in the district training meeting in July. I offered suggestions and they want me to show examples of what a Sacrament Presentation program would be. I reminded them that my first priority is the mission office, but I would do my best. There is such a delicate balance between their needing to be independent and helping them. I can be a bit over-zealous at times, so I want to be wise. Our dear Nelson and Cephas did so well in primary today. We knew it would just take a little time. I didn't see what happened at one point when Nelson starting his howling cry, but I just put my arm around him and spoke softly to him, and he quieted down. I think them having some food to eat helped a lot and we were glad to help their mom. We are encouraging her to pray about her future and what she needs to do to take care of her family and become self-reliant. I truly believe that this is possible for all of God's children if they are willing to put their talents to work. It is not easy, but definitely possible.

At the end of the day, I am weary but not discouraged, hungry but spiritually fed, challenged to stretch myself to become more yet willing to do so because of the love I feel from my Savior. His Atonement, when fully active in my life, is what gets me up each day to do it all again. Simply said, it just feels right.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Maize everywhere!

We discovered that just around the corner from us, there is maize (corn) growing in the most unusual place. We started to notice, that in every possible spot of ground, throughout our travels, there is corn growing. We think it is because we are in the rainy season and it will grow without having to get water to it; which you can see,by where it is planted,would be an impossible task.

Yes, that is where people have dumped their garbage and the man we saw planting made good use of it.

The road you see is just a short distance from our apartment. It will be fun to see this corn grow to maturity, and for a time, the garbage will not be noticed.

I finally had a response from the Nigeria Enugu Mission that the last two missionaries I was trying to send letters to are in their mission. Yea! Maybe the first emails did not go through. It is very important that missionaries hear something from a mission, so I am so grateful we accomplished that.

Elder and Sister Haws, who work at the Area Office, have organized an Open House at the Stake Center located on the grounds of the Temple, every Wednesday night. They had two banners made, advertizing this along with the sign that the church has, welcoming people to come in and learn about the church. It is a mini, mini, visitor center, but is very informative with a video shown about the Restoration, Eternal families,etc. The missionaries assigned to the ward and branch using the Stake Center, come to help with teaching. They have brochures and Books of Mormon to share. I was very impressed with their efforts to reach more people about the gospel and to teach about temples. The other missionaries can bring their investigators also. It is slowly becoming known, and last Wednesday, three people actually came in from the street and Elder Beaufeaux gave me their names to refer. Sister Haws called me to see if I received them and was so elated with the experience they had with these people and their interest in learning about the church. I think I feel some baptisms coming.

President and Sister Judd visited Senchi today. He came to interview men for a change in the Branch Presidency. My companion will be one of the counselors and the change will take place next week in the Branch Conference. I will probably be spending more time there while he attends meetings, so I guess it will be a good time to prepare a primary lesson, read the Liahona, maybe even teach some conducting or piano skills. We will see what the interest is. We have been working with Brother Coleman who is over the physical facilities of the church buildings in Ghana. We are gradually getting pictures, a decent white board for Sunday School, a sink, towel holder, and soap container for the men's bathroom, and hymn number holders. It may seem silly to get excited over such things, but I do, and I know it shows these dear people that the Lord cares about such things to make their place of worship better. We still need clocks in the classrooms and I want a cabinet for the primary so I don't have to carry so much back and forth each Sunday. I also want a bulletin board to display word strips for lessons, singing time, etc. They do not have magnetic boards here, so my plan to use magnets did not work.

We were able to get some used bedding for Julana and her boys and gave money to Elder Amumi and Elder Royce to take her shopping tomorrow for rice, beans, oil, and some other staples. We also talked to them about taking her to meet Emmanuel Ofori's wife Angela, to possibly teach her the skill of fishing. That saying of teaching a person how to fish versus giving them a fish, really took on powerful meaning today. We pray this will work for her, because her heart is willing and she needs to be able to provide for her children. We also talked about a calling in the church and with the new branch presidency, I see this happening. We also want to suggest that she come and help Brother Odunga clean the building for the District helping with her rent. It is all good good news!

Elder and Sister Wall arrived on Tuesday and we have spent and will continue all month, to teach the in's and out's of office work. They are a wonderful couple and it has been delightful working with them.
Before I close, I have one more picture that I think some of my grandchildren will like. We see this lizard every day on this tree just as we enter our apartment area and wonder if this is his hibernation time or what.  Children, see if you can google about this and see what you can find out. (click on the picture to make bigger).

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rain and more Rain!

We are having lots of heavy rain lately. I feel for the people who make their living by selling on the streets. Even though the rain comes and goes during the day, they certainly can't be making as much money as when they can be selling without having to stop for the rain. I also wonder about how weather proof their little shacks are. Last evening, we took Linda home after her piano lesson because the rain was so hard. As we traveled to her home, we had to go through an area that is called Zonga (slums). Apparently this is a term that is used for many of these kinds of areas. It is many different ethic groups, but mainly Muslim, that live in this area. I thought I had already seen the worst living conditions, but this topped all I have seen thus far. There was garbage everywhere and the rain just made it look so much worse. There was a large,deep,cement culvert with "shops" lined on both sides, that was flowing fast and deep with dirty water mixed with garbage. Most of the time there is much greenery that I can concentrate on so I don't focus so much on the poverty, but there was none to experience there. Oh how grateful we should be for what we have even if we feel we don't have much. There definitely is wealth here, but sooo many live pretty much as I have described.

We recently received instruction from the Missionary Department that our mission is to act as the parent mission for the new Ghana Accra West Mission. That means that the missionaries that are being assigned to that mission need to have a welcome letter and it has to come from us. The new mission will be official on July 1st, and then the new mission president will be responsible for contacting the missionaries. Until then, it has to come from us and so I have been doing letters for all of them as well as our own. I am always so grateful when missionaries have email addresses to send the letters, but the African and Island missionaries don't and it is difficult where to send them. I cannot access their contact information to find a branch, stake, or mission president to help send the letter through pouch, because it is not our mission. I am mostly having trouble with some of them from Nigeria. I have emailed the Nigerian missions but only heard back from one of them and will need to follow up with them on the urgency of this matter. Wow, does a mission every stretch a person. I am sure there are other mission secretaries out there doing the same thing and I guess that somehow helps to think that.

I am so proud of my companion and how he takes all these calls from the missionaries about their apartment, phone, and money problems, and does it cheerfully. I am the one who says "if we get one more call about a problem, I will not answer the phone." Oh it can be over-whelming, but he never acts like it and handles each one with love and encouraging words. He does challenge them, at times, to think how they can solve the problem themselves when he thinks that is possible for them.

Senchi was good today, although I had primary by myself again. My companion came in again to sit with Nelson and Cephas and feels they are doing better. They don't have a father figure in their life and I think they just need the attention and, of course, discipline. We had a branch council meeting after the block and much was expressed about how the new converts need to have a calling. We talked about how training can take place and that they can learn and grow as they serve. It is a concept that our branch presidency are not sure will work because some of the people don't read and write.. I was sad to hear such feelings expressed. Yes there will probably be many times that people will not accept,or even if they do, not be committed to the work. But what if that is just what they need and they blossom because of the opportunity. One certainly doesn't have to read and write to go as a home teacher or visiting teacher to love another person and encourage them, or use a talent they have with them There is so much potential in everyone and we must allow ourselves to see as the Lord sees. After this we went to visit Julana and Nelson and Cephas. When she joined the church, that put an end to having a place to live. She asked an old man to let her and her boys live in a portion of his place. I saw the mat that they sleep on on the cement floor with no blanket for padding or warmth during the rainy season. We will be taking things to her next week for sure. We then visited a counselor in the district presidency and his wife and daughter. Because of all the rain, we choose not to take our vehicle all the way to his place, so we walked a good distance to get there. I have the beginnings of a blister on the bottom of my foot from not having the proper shoe for the walk, but it was worth it all. His wife is the teacher for the primary that has not been coming and I hope our coming to visit made a difference. I told Elder Amumi that he was inspired to take us there. Brother and Sister Boateng and Heidi-Lynn were pleased that we came.

Well it has been a long day so I will close and express how grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ and how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family. This, of course, includes all our siblings and their loved ones. They are always in our prayers.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)