Monday, March 18, 2013

What are we doing in Africa?

By Greg:

Elder Haws giving a tour to our new friend Mohommed

We often wonder what those of you that are reading our blog think about what we are doing here and is it clear what we are spending most of our time on and what it is that we are trying to accomplish.  Well, we have identified several things that we are doing, and we will try to comment on each of them. 


This is the are of our new ward
Today we were transferred.  For the last nearly 7 months we have been attending the Ofankor Ward which meets in a rental building rather far from the Temple Square.  We have really enjoyed this and have learned to love the members.  Debi has been especially active with the children.  But today we said our farewells and now we are going to attend the James Town Branch of the Christiansborg Stake.  This branch is struggling and most of the members are poor.  It is expensive for them to travel to the church, so most do not attend.  They are looking for a building to rent that would be closer to them.  This branch area is around the lighthouse that we have visited several times.


Anyone who has been on a mission knows the feeling of being transferred.  The problem for Sister Haws is that she does not get a new companion.

Our other assignments include:

1.     Member and leader support
2.     Missionary work
3.     Area Auditing
4.     Humanitarian-water tank projects
5.     Piano lessons
6.     Genealogy and family history
7.     Temple Work
8.     MSR assignments
9.     Specific assignments
10.  Locating meeting houses


Member and leader support by Debi 

Each senior missionary couple is assigned to a ward or branch to help strengthen and encourage the leadership in that ward and branch.  We support the Bishop by doing whatever he asks us to do.  We bear our testimonies and show support for the members of the ward. We also build friendships and show love for those investigating the Church and those who are new members.  It is amazing how close we feel to the ward members.  We feel like we are coming home when we walk into the Church on Sunday.



Missionary work by Debi 

We have posted earlier about our friend Paul.  He was baptized December 15th.  Paul has continued his activity in the Church and is a fantastic missionary.  Just a few weeks after Paul’s baptism he brought Sunday (that is his name) to Temple Square and wanted to show him the “Church”.   We introduced Sunday to the young Elders and just last Sunday (the day of the week) Sunday (the investigator) was baptized!  Now Sunday has brought a friend, Nkrumah, with him and he has been meeting with the missionaries and he is getting baptized next Sunday. Almost two or three times
a week Paul calls and asks us to meet him at the Temple to show some of his friends the Church.  Sometimes it has been difficult to meet with them because of our schedule of other missionary duties. 

Sunday was unusual because the first day he came to Church he wanted to pay his tithing.  We wondered if Paul had taught him that principle because we had just taught it to Paul.  It is not usual for an investigator to pay tithing, but it is a very good sign.

We decided that if we set a definite time each week that Paul could bring his friends to Temple Square it would work better for us.  We set the time for Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 pm.  This decision has worked into something that we are so excited about.



This last week some investigators that the Young Elders have been teaching came to the Open House.  They have been meeting with the Elders for some time.  Suzie, her husband and son and a friend are all from mainland China. They are here running a business.  Suzie was baptized yesterday and confirmed today. As we met with them on Wednesday evening we felt a very special spirit with the whole family. At Suzie’s baptism I was asked to bear my testimony.  I felt a very special bond with this beautiful new sister in the gospel.


With the support of the Priesthood leaders and the excitement from the Mission President and the young missionaries we hope this open house project will move forward and become a great missionary tool.

More Missionary work By Greg

I want to tell you about another friend named Richard.  He showed up here one Sunday and said he wanted to see what was here.  It turns out that he is a fantasitc piano player.  He came to our second open house and afterwards gave us a mini-concert.  Today he was made the James Town organist.  He is playing songs he has never heard before, but he is so touched by the gospel.  I spent the Priesthood meeting time giving him a private lesson on the Book of Mormon, the restoration, the law of chasity and priesthood authority.  I believe he too will be baptized.

Area Auditing-by Greg

This is our primary assignment.  Each unit is audited by local Stake or District auditors twice each year.  Stakes and Districts are joined together in Coordinating Councils and an Assistant Area Auditor is called to oversee the audits in that Council.  We are the assistants to the Area Auditor, Brother William Sowah.  We have 13 Assistant Area Auditors in 7 countries.  We have spent much of our time traveling and teaching and training them on their duties.  One of the purposes is so that they can train the Stake and Districts.  Two of them are French speakers.

Last audit cycle there were 611 units that needed to be audited.  In just 6 months that number has grown to 664.  They have created several new stakes from existing districts in that same period.  We achieved 100% submission last cycle, but it took a long time to get the last few in.  When we arrived the Mid-year 2012 cycle was underway, and on September 18th we had received only 47.3% of the audits.  Today, at the same point in the next cycle, March 18th, we are at 77.4%.  We are excited about this progress.  It reflects the training we have been doing.


These Assistant Area Auditors are all seasoned men in the Church.  They have amazing stories to tell.  A lot of them are pioneers in the Church in Africa.  We love them.

 This is me training one of our French speaking brethren in Cote dÍvorie on how to enter the audit results onto the computer.  My laptop was on the same screen as his, but mine was in English and his in French,


Humanitarian-water tank projects by Greg:

When we were new here we met the people with the Empower Playground and we were so impressed that we took a field trip to see a couple of their systems.  This is where we saw a crying need for water storage tanks at these same remote schools.  With the support of friends at home we have begun a program to install large poly tanks that will collect rain water for the use of the schools.  This is a wonderful project that does not take much of our time, but we are happy to participate in.



Piano lessons By Greg

 Debi has three sisters (they are Nina, LaDina, and Faustina--we call them the Nina Girls) that she is teaching piano lessons to on Tuesday afternoon.  We drive to their church building and use the church electric piano.  It is a challenge because some times there is not power.  The first time we did this we found one of the main keys, a middle G was broken.  This made it hard to play. I determined to fix it, so I took the thing apart and found the plastic key was really broken.  I took one from the high G and traded them.  At first they said, "Now the high G is broken too!"  But the middle G is OK.  If I had some tools and a few screws and some other stuff, I would go all through the building and fix all the little things, like the doors to the sacrament table, that are broken and falling apart.  These people do not focus on maintenance.


Genealogy and family history by Greg

The Church has recently introduced a newer version of its family search efforts called Family Tree.  I have been working on this in my spare time.  There are so many duplications and repetitions that need to be consolidated and merged or deleted.  I am not sure how much genealogy and family history I have really done.  I feel like I am auditing our family tree, but maybe my efforts will benefit others who will not have to wade through this and wonder which James and Isobel of the twelve listed is our ancestor.


In the process, we have identified several real life (actually they are dead) people who need temple work done.  We are sending these names home so that James and Brynn and Parley (our oldest grandchildren) can go to the St. George Temple and do this work.


Temple Work by Debi

We try to attend the temple at least once a week.  I have been going again in the middle of the week.  I am ususally the only white woman (and the only white person) in the session.  It is a wonderful opportunity to go to the House of the Lord. We also participate in a weekly sealing session that is conducted by a member of the Area Presidency.

MSR assignments by Greg

You can imagine the challenge of recording and updating membership records when families do not have accurate information and no one has an address.  Often one member of the household (which could include a lot of people-some of which are actually related) joins the church.  Later another one joins.  Now the challenge is to link them together.  They have asked Debi to help in the effort in her "spare time".  So she is doing for the living what I am doing for the dead--cleaning up records.  She has the hard job, however, because of the names and dates.  Family members do not have the same names and most of the time the dates are estimates.

Specific assignments by Greg

With so much of the efforts of the Church directed to supporting the increase in the missionary force (some say it could grow to 90,000-there are 3 new missions in our area that will begin in July) some of the other departments have been cut back or restricted from growing.  I have been asked to consult on some issues that are a concern to the brethren.  I am happy to do what I can.


Locating meeting houses by Greg

When we first arrived we felt totally lost.  We set out to locate and map all the buildings in Ghana and prepare a card with a picture of the building, GPS coordinates and directions.  On the back we posted a map.  We have laminated these directions and offer them to all who wish to have copies.  We have not finished this project.  We have 2 of the 6 Stakes in Accra and some of the outlying areas to finish.  We hope to complete this project soon.


In addition to all of this, we spend a considerable amount of time praying, reading our scriptures and in meetings.

This is me with the Elders from the Benin Cotonou Mission that we met a couple of weeks ago.  I am the one with the white hair!

We are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  We are happy to be engaged in furthering the work of the Lord in West Africa.

1 comment:

  1. Aaawww!! I love it! You guys are doing amazing work and Africa is sooo lucky to have you. This post made me laugh out loud many times and also smile with joy. You are changing the world one audit, piano lesson, open house at a time. God bless you both!