Monday, September 30, 2013

Yesterday was a good but extra long day. By 2pm we left Senchi and took supplies, mail, and reimbursement to missionaries in Kpong, Akuse, Odumase, and, of course, Senchi. These areas are within a 10-15 mile radius of each other. We want to help these young men as much as we can, yet assist them in being self-reliant. It is interesting to see how differently each one of them experience their mission. There is no doubt that this probably is the greatest challenge they have had so far in their lives, but those that greet their work with a cheerful heart, are a great example to those who don't.
I have to say that the drive to Senchi is becoming as familiar now as our trips from Caliente to St. George. To describe the first one, however, would put the second one in the 'boring' category. I know I am going to thoroughly enjoy those trips to St. George from now on.

We skyped with Angela and Dave after we got back from Senchi and are excited that we will now have another grandchild. We will not be home in time for the birth of Ruth and Ben's baby girl, but we hope to be for Angela and Dave's baby. Our family is growing and we are excited for these babies to come.

Where else can I get phone calls from Switzerland than in Africa.  A young medical student is coming to Koforidua to do an internship and her father wanted to let someone in the church there know she is coming. He tried to reach the district president but the number would not go through. He just wanted her to have that contact to put his mind at ease. I was glad that we were in the office on Sunday to be able to take his call and I gave him Elder and Sister Scoville's number. They are the missionary couple serving in Koforidua and I believe Elder Scoville serves in the district presidency there. I look forward to hearing more about this from them.

President and Sister Judd went to Kpando this weekend to meet with what is called a Group. It is much smaller than a Branch and the Group had not yet been formally organized so they could have the Sacrament ordinance.The members were able to partake of the Sacrament for the first time and will now be able to every Sunday. Ho and Tsito are north of Senchi by about an hour, and Kpando is  farther north in the Volta Region. The Church is growing here and it takes a lot of work and organizing, but it is exciting to behold it happening.

The Ghana Accra West Mission (divided from us July1) has been holding an open house this month in all their chapels. About 90% of the referrals they have been getting are in our mission and I have not been able to keep up with all of them. Juliana, a delightful woman, is employed by the Church and helps Sister Judd at the Mission Home. Sister Judd has taught her to sew and she has made curtains for the missionary apartments. She already has wonderful cooking skills and is grateful to be developing so many more. Because of all these referrals, she also has been a blessing to me in making calls to the missionaries to help me get these names out so they can be contacted.

With 30 missionaries coming October 30th, we have to start yesterday in order to be ready. We will reach well our limit of missionaries by then, so I am grateful that the December transfer has only two missionaries coming. Speaking of December, I am looking to playing Christmas music while I work in the office. I just might start playing it any day now, which the Office Elders very much approved of.
 We sure enjoy the missionaries and so admire their dedication to the Lord's work. The love they have for the people of Africa shows in their desire to live in conditions when the light is off (no electricity), when the poly tank is empty and the water truck is late in coming, when the toilets don't function well, when cockroaches and ants threaten to take over their apartments, and the threat of malaria is ever present. We have really been blessed to not have much sickness with as many missionaries as we have. Sister Judd really stresses health issues with them and we keep encouraging them on the apartment cleaning. It takes all of us to do the Lord's work and willingly give our will to him. It is so special to see 'ebony and ivory' working side by side in bringing souls unto Christ. What a blessing!

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Temperature is rising!

When I feel the sweat run down the small of my back, I know what is coming. We will probably have a couple of weeks more with some rain, but then it will be as I remember it almost one year ago. It amazes me how much we have adjusted to this land and its climate and culture. The horn honking doesn't even affect me any more and I no longer have a desire to roll down my window and scold the trotros and taxis as they try to get ahead of us on the road. I will add very quickly, however, that I will not miss it either.

What a great group of missionaries we greeted on Wednesday. They were full of enthusiasm and ready to go to work, even when I told them I looked forward to seeing them washing their clothes by hand when we inspect their apartments. We had one missionary that had to go to the Provo MTC because his visa had been delayed. He was the first new missionary, that I know of, that got to eat the farewell dinner of missionaries going home. He arrived the day before the missionaries come from the Ghana MTC, but he will adjust and fit right in very quickly.

We have had missionaries lose family members this past week. Some were expected losses, but not all. A missionary, that arrived in the August transfer, had his father pass away very suddenly just this week. I am sad to admit it, but I have been in the learning process of the purpose of trials and affliction for much too long. Since we received this news, I have been reading even more about the tests of this life. I appreciate the words of those who have greater faith than I do, and I long to be as they are. These wise words say that God in His omniscience knows what is in our heart, but we need the same knowledge for ourselves. Elder Orson F. Whitney said, "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our heart, expands our soul, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God...and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven." This total trust and acceptance is what I diligently strive for each day.  I do not know if this young missionary will go home or if he will stay, but he first response was to stay.

Elder Curtis, West Africa Area President, and his dear wife visited Senchi today. They travel to Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and other West Africa countries often, but when they do not travel they like to visit a ward or a branch. We were blessed to have them choose to visit us today. Sister Curtis came into sharing time and I was so proud of the children as they said their parts for the Sacrament Program and sang as I have never heard them sing. I told them last week that a child that sings is a happy child and I asked them if they believe they are happy children and they all said yes!
Our program is not until October 27th, but when children have not done a program like this before, I felt we needed to start early (we have District Conference one of the Sundays). These children do not seem to get bored with repetition as that is the way they are taught in their schools. We will practice in the chapel (you would be so grateful for the chapel you have) one of the Sundays and the children are excited to speak into the microphone. Stay tuned to the final report on the 27th, and maybe you will pray that all will go well right along with me.

Well, earlier mornings to Senchi, now that my companion is in the branch presidency, make one tired couple by this time of day. We have apartment inspections tomorrow and some more catching up to do this week. We are skyping with our Shelton family in a few minutes. Some missionaries just came into the office and said couples get quite a few 'perks', and we said it would be something for them to look forward to some day; sure are delightful young men.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I wonder if Sunday is the end of a good week or the beginning of a good week. I guess it doesn't really matter as long as it is thought of as good. This is not always easy here in Africa, but I also believe it is as easy as I make it. It truly was a good Sabbath day, for many reasons, but the best is because the children here just make it so. You would all love the children I guarantee it.
 They do throw tantrums though, so you would think you where right at home. (example) Our chapel at Senchi is in an area where people in the area need to pass close by the building to go to an area where they can get on the trotros when they want to travel. Today as I was playing the keyboard, a mother and her very young son were passing by and he was yelling at the top of his lungs and trying to hit his mom (sound familiar). She just kept walking and would look back at him with a big smile on her face and soon they were out of sight and hearing.

My companion and I traveled to Koforidua yesterday to take a dryer to Elder and Sister Scoville. We have been wanting to visit them and see the beautiful country there, and besides, it would really help Paul ,who is over-whelmed with getting the apartments ready for the new missionaries. The GPS always takes the shortest route, and because we had never been there before, we followed it faithfully. Well, we had an adventurous ride over a mountain road that I simply had to laugh about because I knew the Scovilles do not take that every time they come to Accra. We kept going and as we came down the other side of the mountain, we came to some farming areas and saw people in their homes. They probably will be telling the story amongst themselves for sometime about how these two obrunis' came down their mountain road. At one place, I saw a young boy up in a tree and caught his attention and waved as we passed. He had the biggest smile and waved back.
We did arrive at the Scovilles and thank goodness the cell phones had service. They took us to Boti Falls which was like we were right in a jungle. It was beautiful! We descended many stairs, to get to the Falls and came back the same way so we have very sore muscles.  We also went to another place that is called umbrella rock and what a view to behold from that rock. We took pictures on the Scoville's camera and they will bring them to us this week and put on our computer so I can share. There are various organizations that build simple schools and educate those who are willing to teach the children, as this was a very remote area where we were. I think my grandchildren would really appreciate the schools they have when they see the one we saw.
There were 3 young women from Germany and 1 from Nigeria, who were doing some medical internship, that we saw at both the Falls and the umbrella rock. They had hired a guide, as they walked from the Falls to umbrella rock, where we drove the truck. It rained off and on and so we offered them a ride part of the way back to town. They had to ride in the back of the truck except the young women from Nigeria sat next to me. We had a delightful visit about what we do as missionaries and she was amazed that all four of us had been married as long as we have. She wasn't interested in having the missionaries contact her when she returned to Nigeria to continue her studies, but maybe we 'planted a seed'.
Our trip back to Accra was certainly not the same way we went but we have to have an adventure once in awhile, so it was worth it.

This coming week we will send 5 missionaries home after two years of dedicated service. We will also welcome 27 missionaries to begin their service. It will be a busy week but is such a good way to spend a week.

I have had more unique experiences with emailing referrals to other missions. I have met Sister Langston who is serving in Canada(I forgot what mission), that was delighted to hear from a mission in Africa. We have emailed back and forth a little and shared information about our individual missions. I hope other couples will come to know that serving a mission may be hard at times,(especially being away from family), but there is just too many wonderful experiences that I don't think can be found in any other way.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I have had more time lately to call on the referrals I receive from the missionaries(there are many) as well as other missions. I received a reply from one I sent to New Zealand Auckland Mission and read how delighted they were to receive a referral from Ghana. The individual I referred was not in their mission, but they sent it on to the New Zealand Hamilton Mission. I have had many experiences getting to know other office couples serving in other missions through emailing referrals.
 I am also getting referrals for people who are living where we do not have missionaries yet. President Judd has asked me to give him those names and where they live because he is wanting to open more areas in the future.
 I have a word document for referrals that I try to keep updated regularly. When I call the missionaries where I have referred someone, I often find that they have decided to drop the individual because of lack of interest. The other side of that is when I have just finished entering a baptismal record and later have time to do some calling on the referrals and find the name I had just entered as being baptized and confirmed.  Life brings many bitter/sweet moments and these certainly help me to appreciate more fully the sweet ones.

Last Monday we spent the day at the Area Office with the missionaries in the Greater Accra Region applying for our Ghanaian non-residency permits. Apparently the government here had passed a law saying that anyone who is not from Ghana has to carry a photo ID card with them permitting them to be here in Ghana. There were 206 missionaries(including couples, spouses and children of Area Presidency and church employees) and it literally took all day and well into the evening. Our missionaries in the Kpong and Koforidua Zones still need to be done and a mobile unit will need to go to these areas. It has been an expensive thing to have to do, but we always want to be obedient to the laws of the land.

We know we are not too far away from the hot humid weather season of Ghana, but we are still enjoying some rainfall and somewhat cooler temperatures. We have started to notice more the 'sticky' feeling of our skin and hair that does not want to hold a curl for even long enough to get out the front door. I can't complain, though, because it was the hot season when we arrived in October last year and we survived, which means we will again. I have found that life here in this part of the world is much better than I prepared myself for. I had read the book "Safe Journey" before our mission, when missionaries were here in the 70's and 80's, and they were real pioneers in my eyes. I am so grateful that I am experiencing Ghana in 2013-2014, because I don't know if I would have been as strong as they were.

I am missing the mangoes already! We finished up the last this morning and the new season will not begin until about the time we are released from our mission. I wished I liked papaya as this fruit always seems to be around. I did have a missionary couple, with the same feelings, tell me they have squeezed passion fruit on it and they liked it, so we bought some Saturday to try it out.
This season being what could be called the fall/winter season, we can find butternut squash and other  winter type squash. It is fun when we go to the vegetable/fruit market and find out that all this type of squash is called pumpkin, but they don't look like the pumpkins we know. We call our winter squash names like acorn, hubbard, banana and the list goes on, but they just call all of theirs pumpkin. They really are very good and add a nice variety to our menu. In fact, I was assigned to take a side dish to our family home evening tomorrow and I decided to take some butter/sweetened pumpkin as my dish.

I learned something about myself today as I was reading Elder Holland's talk from the last Conference issue. It was entitled, "Lord, I Believe". I have related often to the man in the account found in Mark chapter 9 when he said to Jesus, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." I so appreciated Elder Holland's inspired understanding of this and many other scripture accounts on the subject of belief and faith. I found that I have held fast to what I already know and stood strong until additional knowledge came. I found that I do have more faith than I thought I did because of what the Book of Mormon calls "the greatness of the evidences." Jesus said, "ye shall know them by their fruits," and the fruit of living the gospel is evident in my life and in your life. I took great comfort in being taught that what we know will always trump what we do not know because all of us are to walk by faith. In primary we sing a song with the words, "faith is like a little seed, if planted it will grow", and I believe it can grow from a seed of belief into the tree of life. I am still on this journey, but I have hope and will continue to fan the flame of my faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Week was "Ghana Good"!

"Ghana good" is a term used among the senior missionaries that explains that life here may not be what we would like, or are use to, but it is still good. Sometimes we even declare something "Ghana great", and I am sure I have felt that at times.

Monday the senior missionaries went to the home of Elder Curtis (Area President) to enjoy a Home Evening together. We all had food assignments and the meal was very good and the company was even better. Elder Cannon and Sister Cannon shared with us the history of his parents and their service as missionaries soon after the revelation, announced in 1978, was given that all worthy males would receive the priesthood. His parents found a large congregation of people who had been waiting 14 years for the gospel to come to them in Africa. Joseph Billy Johnson had been given a Book of Mormon (don't remember every detail) and had embraced the teachings in that book and begun to teach the people. I believe that their is a documentary that has been shown on BYU TV entitled something like, "Saints in Africa". Elder Cannon drew a parallel of the baptizing of these first African Saints to an ancestor who was a captain of a ship that took Africans and sold them as slaves in Jamaica, England, and other places. He shared that the baptisms of these African Saints that his parents knew and loved, took place in the very waters where Captain Cannon loaded these slaves for a life they did not deserve, to where their progenitors were able to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ; The only true freedom that any of us have. It was a most spiritual experience to hear this account and the joy expressed by Elder Cannon when they opened their mission call letter and saw that it was the very place where his parents had served many years before.

Wednesday, we attended Zone Conference and thoroughly enjoyed the spirit of the missionaries and the teachings of President and Sister Judd, as well as the Assistants to the President. I share one quote that really stood out to me. "Part of the afflictions that come to us in life is because we forget things we should remember and remember the things we should forget." I thought of Helaman 5:12 when this was given. I was very impressed with the discussion on  how to teach the gospel to our investigators more effectively. I think this applies to all teaching, even in our families, and is good to remember: 1) Ask inspired questions, 2)Listen to the investigator and the Spirit, 3) Discern spiritual direction, 4)Teach the doctrine, 5) Check for understanding. I found great wisdom in this type of teaching and could really see the benefits of it being applied in our families as well as in all aspects of our lives.

Saturday we went with a group of senior missionaries to Aburi, where we walked through a botanical garden and later had lunch at a outdoor restaurant. The weather was so enjoyable as well as the company. It was good getting acquainted with the missionaries that serve in Perpetual Education, Young Single Adult program, Public Affairs, and others. I wanted to put in a picture of how the cocoa tree grows but I left my camera in my church bag in the apartment. We use the office to do this as the internet is better here. Anyway, the cocoa pod starts as a tiny bud on the trunk of the tree and grows until it is ready to be harvested. I have been told the process of the making of cocoa from this pod, but cannot remember enough to explain. I so found it interesting that it grows on the trunk of the tree and not from the branches. We finally saw a bamboo tree and that was interesting as well. There are many places to buy souvenirs that are made by the local people and see the wonderful talent they have. The wood carving and painting on the wood was beautiful and I bought some fruit bowls. The It was nice to have a diversion from the normal routine and learn more about this interesting land.

Today, my companion was made the second counselor in the branch presidency. We don't have a lot of time left on our mission, but there has been a lot of progress already, and we hope to see even more. I have been asking for a cabinet to put our primary things in so I don't have to keep bringing so much with me every week. It was finally delivered in Senchi Friday and it was so good to go through the materials that had been stacked in boxes and organize them in the cabinet. I love to have things organized and I really think the primary presidency was grateful also. I am just so delighted with how the primary leaders are progressing and taking more responsibility for their callings. I met Sister Appiah, the other counselor, today and she is a sweetheart. Sister Enu wasn't there, as well as Sister Boateng, but I am trying to remain positive. The Sacrament Program is scheduled for October 27th and with working on it each week, we should be ready. I just don't have a lot of the same children every week so it is going to be interesting if there is last minute changes. With these delightful children, how can we not be successful. The parents will be so pleased and the message is wonderful, so it will all be well. It has been fun bringing the keyboard in the primary and having the children sing with that. I told the children that in a few weeks we will practice with the microphone so that they get use to that. These children are just adorable and are helping to soften the missing of my grandchildren. I am seeing their unique personalities blossom as they become more and more comfortable with me and at being able to understand me also. So many good things happening in the Senchi Branch and it is fun being a part of it. I just love the people and their goodness.

Well, it has been a good week in Ghana and made even better when the Supreme Court here made the decision that the past election was clean and there were no demonstrations of any kind that I know of. I have read of African countries that have had the military take over and I am so glad that that did not happen here. To add to this, the Accra Temple has been busy this past month with bus loads of families from Cote d' Ivoire come to do baptisms, etc., in the temple. It is neat to hear their French language as they greet us when we walk around the temple grounds for exercise. The Church is really growing in that part of Africa as well and when I think of the distance they have to travel to come to the temple and then stay for the week, it amazes me. Several times we saw a bus driver, who must be Muslim, with his prayer rug and bowing to the east, by the side of the bus. You probably won't see that anywhere but in Africa.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)