Sunday, December 29, 2013

We had an enjoyable and very simple Christmas Day. It started at 7:30 am feeding breakfast to Elders Oguche, Udofia, Nelson and Brother Dornor (ward missionary preparing for mission). They live next door to us as we never received the missionary couple that was scheduled to live there. We had a ham breakfast casserole, fruit salad of all the fresh fruits we can get here, and a chocolate bread.The missionaries ate hearty and then went to their "White Christmas", which means a baptism. It is truly a special thing when the missionaries have a baptism on Christmas Day. Christmas celebrations, if there is any, are very simple here,  and so to take that day and be baptized does not take them away from any other activity.
I did some laundry after breakfast and then we came to the office to do some things and prepare to skype with some of our children. Sister Judd, after the baptisms, asked us, the Assistants, and the Office Elders over for a Brunch and we enjoyed visiting with each other.
It was so fun to see the Escobedo family, Hipple family, and Nolan's family as they showed us their presents and just being able to look into their homes and enjoy the sweet spirit there. Jason emailed us of the delightful but crazy Christmas morning with his children. Ryan and two of his boys skyped with us the next day. The Shelton's just moved into their home and did not have internet so we will look forward to when we can connect with them. We will be skyping with Nathan's family tonight from Texas instead of Michigan, as they are visiting family there for the Holidays. So grateful for our family!

The picture below was taken at our Christmas Conference. There sure is a lot of us and the backdrop of the Accra Temple is barely visible. I did not really pay attention to how many US missionaries we had until I saw this picture. These are all special missionaries and we are proud to serve with them. (picture can be clicked on to enlarge)

I was disappointed with our Sacrament Meeting today. I am really grateful that last week when the Minister of another church visited Senchi that is was not today. It was more the kind of talks that should have been given in a 5th Sunday Priesthood, Relief Society meeting where instruction and correction is given. Oh the baby steps that have to be taken and I want them to take giant ones. I am sure getting lots of lessons in patience.

After reading Elder Perry's talk given during the Priesthood Session of General Conference, I decided that the primary children needed to be serious about learning the Articles of Faith. It will be a slow process but we need to be consistent and the learning will come.
Elder Ballard's talk on member missionary work/hastening the work of salvation was inspiring. Even though we have had experiences where we have opened our mouths and shared the gospel here in Ghana, I want to make sure that I continue with that same attitude when I return home.

Saturday morning we had the choice opportunity of attending the sealing of the young couple, Richard and Akpene, that was married a while ago. I had pictures of their traditional wedding on the blog. We also attended the session with them and sure would have like to see the new film but there was one woman that needed the language headset. Oh well, hopefully another time.What a blessing to have the Accra Temple to attend. Our first mission we could not attend for the full year that we were there as it was outside our mission boundaries. We appreciate blessings more when we experience having to be without them for a time. I hope I always remember that.

We will skype very soon so must be ready.
With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I have to admit that I am so glad this will be the last Christmas, since we began this mission, that I will have to spend away from my family. Once again, I express gratitude for technology that makes possible emailing and skyping.  My dear brother Chad has been so generous with his kind uplifting words in responding to every blog post that I write.  I have so appreciated his words of love and encouragement and it is no wonder he was born on Christmas Day.

To reach my blog post, I go through the Church website, and I get so involved in watching the wonderful videos there that it is hard to stop. I just watched were some young women were inspired by President Grant's story of the time he gave his brand new red coat to a little boy. They started a project of collecting coats and took them to homeless shelters. What a blessing it is to give of our time and means to lift others. I so appreciate President Monson's directive to us as our Prophet and how he lives what he teaches.

From our recent reading of the Conference talks: "An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment"; "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith"; "Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto Him"; "Mortality is meant to be difficult and "opposition in all things" is not a flaw in the plan of salvation. Rather, opposition strengthens our will and refines our choices"; "It is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself "; "There is one life that sustains those who are troubled or beset with sorrow and grief--even the Lord Jesus Christ."

Our dear friends the Scovilles had to leave on a medical emergency. Elder Scoville had an accident where his eye was injured very seriously and the proper care was not available here. Because he needed to be attended to as quickly as possible, the flights to the US were not within the time frame he needed, so he was flown to London. There they experienced socialized medicine (scary possibility in our lives) for the first time and it took a lot of effort to make it all happen. He finally had the first of several surgeries, which was successful in saving his eye. They are now in the US and he will continue to have the care that he needs. Obviously they will not be returning to Ghana and now it is the task to get their luggage sent to them. We miss them very much.

We had a minister from another church in Koforidua visit us today in Senchi. We are doing some speculating here, but the missionaries in Koforidua gave the phone number of our missionaries in Senchi to this minister and he called to say he was coming. We wonder if he didn't want his congregation to know he attended an LDS Church in Koforidua and so he came to Senchi. I hope he felt the spirit there because I sure did. The singing was wonderful, the talks were on forgiveness and counting our blessings in difficult times. I was asked to bear my testimony on the Liahona (Ensign) and shared from some notes I had written when I read the message that Elder Holland gave in the December Liahona on "Preparing for the Second Coming."  The children in Primary have been learning in Sharing Time this very theme. I hope there is more to learn about this minister in the future.

Our Christmas Conference went very well and I am quite sure that the "senior couples" got the most applause and hollers from our rendition of missionary words to "Lion Sleeps tonight." The missionary apartments all received a gift of a blender to help make their cooking a little easier and more nutritious, we hope. The missionaries all seemed to enjoy themselves and they continue to amaze me in their ability to tirelessly share the gospel. They will definitely appreciate washing machines, air conditioning, and microwaves when they return home, but will personally never be the same because of what they gained from this service.

In spite of being away from family this time of year, I am so grateful for the Christmas season. In primary today, I read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2. But I started first with chapter 1 where Zacharias and Elizabeth were told by an angel of the coming forth of their son John to prepare the way for the coming of our Savior. I asked the children to listen to how many times the angel Gabriel said the words "Fear Not", through those two chapters, to hopefully help them to listen, and to teach an important lesson about life. I know that God loves us for who we are and for who we can become. He sent His Son to show us the way, and because of our Savior's Atoning Sacrifice, we do not need to fear. Of this I most certainly know.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

This past Tuesday we said good-bye to Elder Larsen, Elder Gann, Sister Turhirirwe and Sister Otwane, having completed their missions. On Wednesday, we welcomed one Sister and one Elder to begin theirs. Elder Gann had his parents come to get him as he told them the best way for him to describe his mission is for them to come and experience a little of it for themselves. They will fly home tonight. The parents of Elder Larsen kept it a surprise for the other members of the family, saying that they were preparing his room for guests that would come for Christmas (he was not due home until January). I emailed to see if he had arrived home as he traveled a longer route through Frankfurt Germany. His family said that the surprise went very well. It is so fun to hear of times when families reunite and wish I could hear of our African missionaries as well.

We are looking forward to our Christmas Conference this Thursday. It takes a lot of planning, especially by President and Sister Judd. All the missionaries will be coming in and 56 of them, because of not traveling back to their areas late at night, will spend the night in the mission complex. They will sleep on mats throughout our office, mission home, and living area of the Office Elders and Assistants. Each apartment will be given a gift of a blender to help make the preparing of their food easier and hopefully eat healthier. The food, talent to be shared, singing the Christmas hymns, and spiritual instruction, will give us all a lift and soften the difficulty of not being with our families. These young men and women really amaze me as they leave family and friends, and make a wonderful contribution of devoting their lives to missionary work.

I decided that I would purchase a keyboard instruction book for Patrick and start working with him while my companion is in meetings on Sundays. He was very excited when I told him I would do this and committed himself to the time it would demand of him. He will visit with President Ampomah about using the keyboard in the chapel on Saturdays to practice as that is the only way for him. I would appreciate prayers on his behalf for his ability to understand everything he needs to learn so he can be a blessing to the Branch. He also needs to be able to teach others as well, as that will help to solidify what he is learning. He is about 24 years of age and is from Nigeria and is in the Sunday School Presidency and also teaches the "Come Follow Me" program to the youth. The missionaries really appreciate him as he goes with them a lot to visit the less active.

One would think Christmas is coming with all the packages that continue to arrive. I feel for Elder Lloyd and Elder Benans-Hillard, the Office Elders, but they never complain. They also were responsible for getting all the variety of phone chips so the missionaries can call home for Christmas. They have worked hard to get it all right and I hope there are no problems so the missionaries have this opportunity. It is such a privilege to work with these young men and see how they take on such responsibility and do it well. I have to share another situation that happens quite often here, especially this time of year. The police stopped them (has happened more than once) and comes up with a ridiculous law when in reality they are doing it to get paid for not arresting them. They calmly talked to the 3 policemen and they seemed very happy to receive a Book of Mormon each and let them go on their way. Similar situations have happen before, although sometimes a money bribe has to be given because there is no other way. It goes against everything we believe but because of the unfairness of some of the policemen to get something for themselves, it happens sometimes.

Well, the satisfaction of the peanut butter sandwich and apple have begun to wear off and daylight has passed. It has been a good Sabbath Day and even though there is much growth that needs to take place in the Senchi Branch, the people love the Lord and they will succeed. I also have needed to grow and this experience is giving me that opportunity. With the Lord's help, I too will succeed.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Our Liahona for November finally arrived and it was good to read the talks this morning as we traveled. I mentioned last week about our couples conference and was not sure why it was called a conference. After reading Elder Hales talk, I feel it must be about strengthening faith and testimony, in the lives of each other no matter what setting we are in. If we are receptive to the Holy Spirit, our faith and testimonies are certainly strengthened by each others experiences whether on a mission or not. I am grateful for the wisdom our leaders, and a bonus is that it helps to take my mind off the traffic as we travel.

As we go to the different areas to do apartment inspections etc., I have found the names of the small business along side the road to be quite interesting. I started writing a few of them down and thought I would put them here so I would remember them when I write my history of serving in Ghana: God is King Metal Work, God's Favor Cold Store (where meat is kept cold for purchasing), God is Great (on an air tank for when people have flat tires), Merciful God Vulcanizing (repairs tires I think), Jesus is the Way P.O.P Shop (not sure what the initials are for), Glory Land Landscaping, Zion Brothers Barbering Salon (sometimes we see salon spelled as saloon), His Excellency Farms, God's Finger Farm, The Synagogue Boutique, First Star Shoe Shop, God is Able Enterprises. The schools have interesting names too but I only have a couple of them: Rising Soul School, and Goodness and Mercy Academy.  I feel these names reflect their belief and even shows their gratitude for the opportunity to have a way to make a living.

Transfers are on Tuesday and Wednesday and we only have four departing and two arriving. We don't know quite how to act with such a small group compared to the 29 missionaries we had come in October. I haven't had as many letters and file folders to prepare, and we can hold the training at the Mission Home rather than scheduling the Area Office. It actually brings a feeling of relief at this time.

Two new Branches, Odumase and Asutsuare, were created last week in the Kpong District, which is the district Senchi is in. I know the Church is growing here but still the Branches struggle with new converts remaining active. I am sure this is world-wide for there to be so much emphasis put on member missionary work. I sometimes wonder if the people here all had access to the websites the Church has if it would make a difference. They just don't have that blessing, but I must hope for a future time for them. I hope my children and grandchildren are taking advantage of the technology and strengthening themselves with the powerful messages that are at their finger tips.

In the Mission Home Complex we have two very faded banners and I have been assigned to have new ones made to replace them. One of the banners (ideas from President and Sister Judd) will read, "The Great Test of This Life is Obedience" which comes from President Monson's April 2013 Conference talk. The second banner will be a picture of the Christus and will have the scripture from Moroni 10:32 on it. This is my first experience in this and with the help of others, I was successful in finding a business to do this and will meet with him tomorrow to finalize how it is to be done. I hope we can communicate well enough to get this right. Sometimes the things I am ask to do stretch me more than I think I am capable of, but I have learned by going forward and hope this will have the same outcome.

Sing along with me to "Lion sleeps tonight": In our mission, our mighty mission we always choose the right. In our mission, the Accra mission we serve with all our might. (Awee mo eh 16 times then Wee de de de de de de de de de we always obey 2 times.) In the handbook, our small white handbook our conduct is outlined. In the handbook, the mission handbook the world is left behind.(repeat the above) Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon is not for just a few. Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon we testify it's true! Hup Hup  (repeat the above).
I think us old couples will be a hit at the Christmas Conference Ha Ha.

I felt the children in Primary today had a spiritual experience with the Law of Tithing. I am grateful I could bear testimony of the truthfulness of this and express to the children that I have always paid tithing from the time I was the age of some of them. I told them that the blessings are not the same for each of us, but the Lords blesses us with what we need. I asked them to trust Heavenly Father. They listened intently to the stories of others who have been blessed by paying tithing. They learned that the one tenth we pay comes back to us in the way of temples, church buildings, lesson books, etc., and how much their Heavenly Father and Savior love them. Such choice children!

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

We had a wonderful conference with the eight of us that are serving in the Ghana Accra Mission. I am not sure why it is called a conference but then maybe I don't know the meaning of the word. It was so good to socialize and share the experiences we are having with each other. Each couple has quite different responsibilities in many ways, yet alike in our purpose in serving the Lord while we serve His children.
Each couple was asked to take an hour and talk of our life's lessons. It was so delightful getting to know each other this way. At first we thought how can we possibly take an hour, but actually, how can anyone share what they have learned or are learning in an hour.
 We talked about doing a number as couples for our upcoming Christmas Conference and voted that different words put to the tune of  "The Lion sleeps tonight" from Lion King would really delight our missionaries. Now we just need to find time to practice so we do a fun but hopefully well rehearsed song.

Between the Area Office couples, Area Presidency, and the two missions in the Greater Accra area, there was about sixty people enjoying a great Thanksgiving dinner. My sweet potato casserole made out of butternut squash turn out good. The pies included pumpkin, pecan, coconut cream, banana cream, apple, and chocolate cream pie, which tells what ingredients we can find here. The turkey and maybe some other items came from Utah with Elder and Sister Curtis when they were there for General Conference, but I have been amazed at what is available here.

The Christmas packages for the missionaries have been coming and Elder Lloyd, and Elder Benans-Hillard (office elders) are being kept even more busy. I wonder where they find the energy to do what they do on a day to day basis and still make time to do missionary work. President Judd requires that of them and the Assistants and it is wonderful to hear of their experiences teaching as well as seeing all they do to help take things to the missionaries, arrange meals on transfer days, keep the stock of teaching supplies filled, do the mail, and much more.

We enjoyed skyping with some of our children during Thanksgiving and hopefully during the Christmas Holidays we can with the rest of them. I think they grow a lot when we are not around to see them changing. It is so fun to hear of their accomplishments and what they are learning. There is so much to help our children grow in light and truth to help them make the right choices. The December Liahona has an article on helping our children recognize the Holy Ghost in their lives, that I found very enlightening. According to the message, it is important that we know how our children learn so we can give them those experiences with the Holy Ghost where they will recognize it and feel it more fully. I so appreciate the insights of others through their own experiences with the Spirit teaching them. I am so grateful we have this blessing in our lives and that we are never alone in this journey.

Well, it's getting late and I am ready to close this good Sabbath Day. I taught the older children about the Law of the Fast today in Senchi and I added a little different explanation that most teaching would not need. I told them that Fasting is when we have enough food to eat and we choose not eat so we can help others through our Offerings. I hope they all have enough food but I do not know their circumstances at all. I hope they understood when I told a story, they could relate to, of farmers fasting for rain so their seeds would grow. I always testify to the truths and let the spirit confirm that in their hearts.

With love,
Sister Avery (mom,grandma)