The Monday after Easter is a national holiday in Ghana. The Church offices were closed for the day. Because of the holiday we took a little outing with the other Missionary Couples. We decided to drive to the Volta Dam and reservoir. There are three rivers coming into the Volta Lake. Ghana is very proud of this modern day accomplishment. The lake is the largest man-made lake in the world.
On the way we drove past some small hills and valleys. This hill had two very large boulders at the top. They look like they were placed there but they are natural.
Also on the way there is an animal preserve for baboons. We saw some baboons right along the side of the road. You have to look closely in the grass. Some were eating man made food that people threw out on the wayside. It reminded me of the bears in Yellowstone Park.
I was not prepared for the absolute beauty of the lake. It was so green all around the lake and the water looked fresh and clean. We even saw a few small fishing boats on the lake and on the river below the dam. They are fishing for tilapia. Tilapia is a real popular fish here in Ghana.
After our visit to the reservoir we went to the Volta Hotel and had lunch. They had a beautiful view of the lake. Also, the grounds around the Hotel were so lush and beautiful. I love the flowering bushes here. They are a lot like the bushes in Hawaii.
As you can see, Greg and I are happy, healthy and doing great. We are happy to be here in Ghana and we are happy to be on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
One of the first things the new President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, did when Ghana became an independent country was to put into action a plan that had been developed years earlier to build the Akosombo Dam which created the Volta Lake. As Debi said, it is the largest man-made lake in the world (in land area it is 3,283 square miles and covers 3.6% of Ghana).
The dam was a joint venture of a subsidiary of Kaiser Aluminum and an aluminum smelter was built in Tema. The power plant supplies the electricity to run the smelter. Ghana took out a loan to pay back the $258 million it took to build the dam, which is now 55 years old. The government of Ghana is on the hook to pay back 50% of the loan but they only get 20% of the electricity. The rest goes to Kaiser. But they have enough power to sell to Togo and Benin.
The President built him a house on the hill overlooking the dam, and the current president flies into that home when he needs to look at the dam and the lake. It is very lovely, but needs to be watched. Their Dam authority also built a Dam Hotel where Dam people can stay when they want to watch the Dam and the Dam water. We ate a nice lunch as we watched the Dam water.
In 2007 there was a great concern because the water level dropped due to a drought, which was caused, of course, by Global Warming. There was much concern and anxiety. Oh what should they do? But, by 2010 the water rose to its highest level and there was concern it was going over the top. That Global Warming thing is so fickle!
We had a great time watching General Conference. I am sure anyone that watched it noticed there were several references to West Africa. I did a little analysis of the statistical report and I found that over 33% of the new wards and branches created in 2012 in the entire church were created here in West Africa. Now keep in mind if a branch becomes a ward it is not considered new. But a ward or branch splitting, or just plain starting a new one, is counted. We are growing here, and the growth is real and lasting.
President John B. Dixon, our Area President spoke in Conference in the Saturday afternoon session. He is such a wonderful, kind man, and has been a general authority for over 25 years. He is just about finished as he has turned 70. We love him and will miss him if he is released.
We also were hoping they would announce a new temple here in West Africa. We were hoping for Ivory Coast, or Corte d’Ivorie. This would have been a French speaking temple. Every week a bus load of Ivoirians come here to this temple and spend the week with us at the ancillary building. It is a combination of a youth conference and a temple trip. They get up at 5:00 am for a prayer meeting, even though the temple does not open until 8:30. They cook their own food and the smells travel throughout the building. They also have use of the laundry and the children enjoy running around waiting and looking for the big white elder who has suckers.
Debi spent much effort making laminated signs with the rules on them and pasted them on all the doors. She had two of the other Senior Elders translate it into French. It says a lot, but mainly that there are quiet hours from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. We turn on a fan and we both use earplugs.
They are so faithful, but this is hard for them. They travel for 14-16 hours on a bus (assuming it does not break down) and then they attend the temple non-stop. The temple is air-conditioned and they darken it during a session so many of them fall asleep. When they do fall asleep, and especially when they snore one of their fellows is quick to wake them. I am sure they do not want to leave the temple for reasons other than their personal comfort.
We attend every Friday and many times have to wear headsets as the session is in French. A couple of times I have gone it alone and I felt like I could understand French. Often the person I am going for is from Corte d’Ivorie so French is their native tongue. I wonder how that works. When we die can we all speak every language, or do we all change to a common one, or is there still a language issue? French is a major language in Africa. So boys and girls, study French!
Elder John B. Dickson
First Quorum of the Seventy
Elder John B. Dickson was called to serve as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 1995 after serving in the Second Quorum of the Seventy since June of 1992. As a Church leader, he serves as the president of the Africa West Area. Previously he served as an Executive Director of the Audiovisual Department, assistant Executive Director in the Priesthood and Missionary Departments, and president of the South America South, North America West, and Asia Areas of the Church.
Elder Dickson served a mission in Mexico as a young man and returned as a mission president in the Mexico City North Mission in 1978. At the time of his call to full-time Church service, he was vice-president and partner of Summit Timber Company, an independent sawmill and timber operation in Washington State. He is former president of Northwest Independent Forest Manufacturers, a timber company association. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Brigham Young University.
Elder Dickson was born in Tacoma, Washington, on July 12, 1943. He is married to Delores Jones Dickson, and they are the parents of seven daughters and one son. They have 38 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.