Sunday, October 27, 2013

It is five o'clock and we just arrived back in Accra from spending our Sabbath day in Senchi. The children did well in the Sacrament Program and I hope they remember this experience for the years to come. It was the first time a Primary Sacrament Program had been done there and I hope it will not be the last. Sister Duodo said that now they know how it is to be done that they will do it. I had to make last minute changes when children did not come and others came that had not been there for some time. Sorry to say, but I only had the time during the passing of the Sacrament to do this, so my focus was not where it should have been. Hydielynn was running a fever since Saturday, but she was determined to come and do her part and sing her solo verse. Her mother did very well leading the children in singing and I hope she grew in confidence during the experience. Sister Duodo held the microphone for the children and helped them with their parts when they needed it. I am really working with these dear sisters in taking the leadership role and decision making more and more.
Brother Coleman, who is over the church buildings, had a new microphone system (cordless) installed and it made everything so much better. The mic didn't have static or stop working at any given moment like the old system. The primary room and young women room now have nice bulletin boards which he had installed also this week. I feel that these improvements and others that have been made in the past few months, really help these dear saints to feel they are recognized and appreciated.
We had four baptisms today and then PEC meeting after that. Then we had our first experience of going to Odumase to deliver three packages for a missionary serving there. Just when I think we have seen all the deeply rutted roads there can possibly be, we have to go and find more. Wow! what a ride. But, we are always blessed to help bring a little bit of home to these missionaries, especially when there is Captain Crunch cereal in the packages.

We have missionaries that also serve from Ghana and they have to fill out the Missionary Recommendation forms like any other missionary. I am responsible for checking them over for completion, and making sure they are the correct forms. Missionaries serving from their own country use a 'short form' and some of the church units have not been using this form. I then have to call and inform them that after November 30th, the old forms will not be accepted. This last group of Recommendations to come in had incorrect birth years when checked by the Area Presidency Office with their Church records. I made several phone calls in order to correct the errors. It actually amazes me that in this land, so far away from Church Headquarters, that all of this goes as well as it does.

The referrals continue to come, baptisms take place, Branches/Wards/Groups are organized, and with 29 new missionaries coming this Wednesday, more areas are opened, more districts created, and more young missionaries are training these new young missionaries. I know this goes on all over the world, although I don't know if to the same degree that we are experiencing. It is an exciting time and almost exhausting challenge for our Mission President, as we see this up close and personal serving in this capacity. He and his dear wife just keep pressing forward with energy that can only come from their faith in our Savior and there love for Him and His work.

I think I will close with a quote from C.S. Lewis that was in Elder Soares Conference talk. I feel this is so vital to a world that is struggling with so many 'ills'. "Our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires...It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own." (Mere Christianity, p.189)
I find it difficult to explain why this impacted me so much, but I am sure I am not the only one who will give this a lot of pondering.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

We had Kpong District Conference this weekend, so another Saturday not spent as a preparation day. Senchi is in this district, so we needed to be involved on Saturday as well as Sunday. It is so good to be among these good people and hear their strong testimonies of Jesus Christ and the Restored Gospel. President Mahmud Labinjo, 1st counselor to President Judd, spoke on Tithes and Offerings and I have not heard a better testimony of this principle. He was raised only by his mother and his background is Muslim. When he was able to attend school, he was made fun of when his mother could not attend the school programs because she had to sell on the streets to provide a living for them. He wanted his family life to be different than what he had and he has and is accomplishing that because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He had a time, before he joined the Church, that his wife did not like her life with him because his ambitions were not about the family, but about him. It is hard to write the words he shared, only to say that I felt he was grateful that he was a changed man.
A young Aaronic Priesthood holder named John, from the Senchi Branch, spoke on his responsibility to strengthen  his Quorum. He spoke a lot about being an example and he certainly was, as he did not know where the Church was in Kpong, yet because he made the commitment he found his own way there.
We also had a young woman speak about Testimony bearing and how it should not be a sermon, or colorful stores, but simply testify of the gospel in meekness and heartfelt sincerity so others may be strengthened.
President Andam, a counselor in the Accra Temple Presidency, briefly expressed to the people to not speak about the scarcity in their lives, but to keep the commandments and the Lord has promised they will prosper in the land.
Sister Judd spoke more to the youth and to study the Strength of Youth book and live by it; especially the laws of chastity.
The overall theme for this conference and throughout the world, is "Hastening the Work", which was emphasized by President Judd. He spoke of the growth of the Church in Kpong District and how in 2011 there were only 2 missionaries and now there are 30. Soon we will have the Ho District organized and several more branches. President Judd received a call from a man who lives at Ada, the coastal region to the east, where the Volta River empties into the ocean. This man and 3 others living in Ada are members and want to have someone come so they can partake of the Sacrament. We have been to this place and took a boat ride where I remember speaking with the two young men guiding our boat. I shared with them that one day there would be missionaries come to there land and bring them a wonderful message. It is still in the future, but there is the need and so it will be fulfilled.
A few more thoughts given: Whenever we read the words "Nevertheless" in the scriptures, look for a great doctrine to follow the scripture; Always seek to do the will of God; God knows each one of us; There is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved than the name of Jesus.

We finished the book entitled "The Fortunate Fall" and I have been given much to ponder about through the process. The commandment 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me' was expressed in a way I have not heard before. President Kimball provided examples of idolatry among the Saints which we have heard before: clothes, homes, businesses, etc., but I have never thought that harboring a lot of grief, sadness, and loneliness could be considered a false god. The person who shared this said that, "instead of placing complete faith in my Heavenly Father, I allow sadness to guide me, and that only leads me to despair. It's as though, I choose self-pity and sorrow over Heavenly Father."I will be doing some self-reflection on what my false gods might be.
I really like this counsel by Elder Boyd K. Packer: "Do not try merely to discard a bad habit or a bad thought. Replace it. When you try to eliminate a bad habit, if the spot where it used to be is left open it will sneak back and crawl again into that empty space. It grew there; it will struggle to stay there....Replace it with unselfish thoughts,with unselfish acts. Then, if an evil habit or addiction tries to return, it will have to fight for attention....Your are in charge of you. I repeat, it is very, very difficult to eliminate a bad habit (or false god) just by trying to discard it. Replace it."

I have so much still to learn in this mortal journey and I continually become aware of my weaknesses in the process. I know that weaknesses can be made into strengths if we turn our lives over to our Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus Christ is the sure foundation that I must continually build my life  on and not rely on my own strength. I am grateful for the examples of those in the scriptures who lived lives of faith and hope in Jesus Christ and painstakingly wrote those words for us to hear and see, if we will have ears to hear and eyes to see.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our weekend was spent differently this time. We usually clean, shop for groceries, and I spend a good part of the afternoon cooking some meals to take for our lunches during the coming week. There was to be training on the youth "Come Follow Me" program, to held in Kpong on Saturday. Kpong is only a short distance from Senchi, so it was our very familiar road trip again. Elder and Sister Call have recently arrived in Ghana, and there responsibility, among many, is to train the various wards and branches on this program. I sat in the hallway reading from the Liahona, but could hear and see most of the training. My companion was in a branch presidency training while all of this was taking place. It was delightful to see one of the missionaries serving in Kpong on the video segment the Calls' showed; this must have taken place before his mission.
Today, the Calls' visited Senchi Branch to observe the teaching of those who attended the training. Elder Avery said that Patrick did 100% better, and the youth participated more than they every have.
Elder and Sister Call were asked to share their testimony in Sacrament Meeting and their message was on the Book of Mormon. They had been in Ho on Friday doing the same training and Sister Call shared a great experience. They came in contact with the missionaries as they were on their way to an appointment and pulled over to say hi. These missionaries introduced a man that was with them who had just recently started investigating the church. His story is unique and starts with his attending the Accra Temple open house before it was dedicated. I think that was in 2003 or close to that. He received a Book of Mormon at the open house and when returning home, starting to read it. He found it difficult because of the small writing and took it to a copier and had it made into a large copy (sounded like the size of those old family bibles some of us have seen). That had to cost him a small fortune. When he read in it that the Church would be called the Church of Christ, he found a church by that name, but they did not have the Book of Mormon, so he started his search again. The missionaries did not know how they came about getting this man's name, but when they contacted him, he knew his search was over and is excited about becoming a member after so long a time. He had even been sharing the message with others, so there will probably be more baptisms because of this. I love seeing the Lord's hand in the lives of others and how they are being prepared to receive this wonderful gospel message.

Two weeks ago I wrote about President and Sister Judd's visit to Kpando where they spent Sunday with a 'Group' of Saints there. October 7th, President Judd received an email from the Brethren requesting him to formally organize a unit of the Church in Kpando. It is a goal the Mission has had for 2 years, and was an answer to prayers and hard work. I do not understand the process of it all, but I am sure we will have missionaries there in the near future. Other areas to open in the future include Mamfe (where Elder Avery and I took a unplanned mountain road trip a month or so ago), which is in the mountains between Accra and Koforidua, and HoHoe, which is north of Kpando.

The Primary Sacrament Meeting practice went very well today. I am so proud of the children and the leaders. Sister Boateng was there to lead the children in the music and I think she had a positive experience that will build her confidence for the future. These children are simply choice spirits and I certainly feel it and am grateful for the opportunity. Because some of the children were not there, I had other children say a second part. On the 27th, when we do our program, who knows what changes we will still have to make, but it will all be just fine.

One of our missionaries, that was coming in October, is from Angola. It is a Portuguese speaking country and we just received notice that he is going to the Provo MTC and won't arrive until the December transfer. I am assuming he needs to learn English, as his Missionary recommendation was in that language. Also for October, we will have 2 sisters and 1 elder from Cote d' Ivoire and their recommendations were in French but I think they know at least some English. We also have 2 sisters from Fiji, 3 from South Africa, 2 from Uganda, 3 from Nigeria, and 16 from the USA. What an interesting mixture of missionaries coming and what a blessing they will be.

There is a wonderful article in the September Liahona (Ensign) magazine written by Brad Wilcox on Grace. He writes, so it is very understandable, by comparing grace to taking piano lessons. I think this would be a great family home evening lesson for my grandchildren as most of them have had piano lessons. It is a principle that is very important for all of us to have a greater understanding of. I learn and gain greater understanding of our Savior's Gospel every day. Some days I have to strive more diligently to have an open heart to be receptive to the teachings of the Spirit, but I am always rewarded with greater understanding. I have listened to a few of the Conference talks when I have had a moment now and then. You know, we are such a blessed people to have this every 6 months. I really enjoyed Elder Holland's talk on mental illness as well as others I have listened too.

Our Eden celebrated her third Birthday, Ethan's team just won the Soccer championship and there was a nice article in their local newspaper, Cooper loves Pre-School, and I am sure many more things about my dear family.

Well, as the hymn says, the day is over, night has drawn nigh, and the shadows of the evening have long left this part of the sky.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We are in the October Era!

A few months back, a church photographer came into our office to meet with the Assistants in planning where he would go to take pictures for an article to be published in the October Era on the life of a missionary. We are delighted that some of our very missionaries are in some of the photos. Pages 18, 19 are Elder Ballard and Elder Reed; Elder Reed has completed his mission and Elder Ballard is the grandson of Elder M. Russel Ballard. Page 22 in the upper left hand corner is our Sister Tuhirirwe and the other sister I cannot remember as she was one that went to the West Mission when we split. Page 23, the picture with two missionaries shaking hands with a man, is our Assistant Elder Chaffetz and Elder Kyremateng, who went to the West Mission as an Assistant and recently completed his mission. Page 25 shows Elder Ballard and Elder Reed again doing service by carrying water containers for a woman. There was quite a 'buzz' among the  missionaries when it was discovered that some of our missionaries were in the magazine. It was special to meet the man who took these pictures and converse with him about what it takes to travel to other countries and bring news of the Church in those countries.

My companion and I were recently involved with a young man who was in the process of putting in his application for a mission. He is from Ghana and did not allow himself to be discouraged when his Stake President told him that he had to have an X-ray to rule out tuberculosis. He has very little money and did not know where to go for this. His father disowned him when he joined the Church and would not allow his wife to help her son with food or anything else. I won't go into all the details as to how we came to know this young man, but we are grateful we did because we were able to help him get this X-ray. We were able to have the mission doctor read it, and get a letter from him to the young man's bishop stating that he could proceed with his application. The bishop was leaving town in two days and would be gone for over a month, but said he would get the application in the hands of the stake president before he left. This was all done in a matter of about 45 minutes and we were thankful it was so close to our office, as time was of the essence.We felt the gratitude of this young missionary-to-be, and were especially pleased when he recognized the Lord's hand in making this happen.

The Primary program is in the count-down stages. Next week we trade places with the adults so we can practice in the chapel. The following week is District Conference in Kpong, so we will need lots of prayers that not having that Sunday to practice will not hinder us. October 27th, the day of the program, will hopefully prove to the leaders and the children that they can do it again next year. Our microphones are a bit unstable, but we will hope that all will be well. I just hope most of the children will show, as we were missing quite a few today. I asked the children to please tell them when they see them at school that we really need them. I also told them that they might have to do another part that they haven't practiced. I hope they really felt the spirit (I sure did) as I gave the lesson on the Good Samaritan to illustrate that by serving others, we are serving God. I also talked about Heber J. Grant, whose father died when he was an infant, and how his mother provided a living for them by sewing for other people. She made him a warm coat for his birthday, which he gave away to a little boy in need. That was the quietest the children have ever been and I really feel they felt something.
I have about five of the children that will soon need to start going to YW and YM  and Sunday School class, and I will miss them in class so much.

I want to write down these 7 principles of effective teaching that President Judd teaches to the missionaries, so I will remember them and use them. 1. Prepare diligently 2. Ask inspired questions 3. Listen to the Spirit and to the investigator 4. Discern and follow Spiritual direction 5. Teach and testify of the Doctrine 6. Check for understanding 7. Invite commitment.
I have heard some of the missionaries share some wonderful experiences using these principles.

When I prepared the calendar for the month of October, I felt how quickly it would pass. President Judd has personal interviews with all 152 missionaries, which will take four days over a two week period. We also arrange for them to attend the temple during the same day of their interview. Then President Judd and Sister Judd will attend a Mission Presidents Seminar for three days and get back in time to hold a Trainer's Council preparing for the 30 new missionaries that will be coming October 30th. I know the Lord sustains all involved in this great work because it could not be done without it. I don't even come near to describing what all takes place to have a mission function. My eyes have sure been opened to the magnitude of it all.

I have sure missed being able to watch General Conference, and even though I always appreciated the blessing of watching it at home or in Salt Lake, I will be even more grateful when I can do the same again. I can, at least, look forward to reading the talks as we travel to Senchi.
That reminds me. We have been reading, as we travel each Sunday, a book written by President Daniel K Judd (our mission president). It is entitled "The Fortunate Fall" and I recommend it highly.  He gave us a signed copy and we are learning so much. What a gift to have such a knowledge and yet be so humble about it, and to sacrifice so much to serve as a Mission President in Ghana. It has been a privilege to serve with him and Sister Judd.

Well, apartment inspections tomorrow, Yea! After the October transfer of new missionaries, we will be back up to our number of apartments to inspect before the mission split.
All my grandchildren, preparing for missions, need to brush up on their cleaning and cooking skills. It will really make mission life so much easier if they don't have to spend the time thinking about how to do it, I promise them that.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom, grandma)