It’s been a quiet week here in West Africa.
|The balloons were pretty--not the correct way to do lanes though!|
Last week we dedicated the Temple Villas on Monday. There was a very nice program that included the Area Office Choir, balloons on the pool, talks, prayers and even a ribbon cutting. This is a very wonderful addition to the Temple Compound and is a comfortable home for the Area Presidency, the Temple President, the DTA, and the Executive Secretary couple. We even had a light buffet.
This is Brother Gregory Dunn and his wife, Shannon. Brother Dunn is the DTA (Director for Temporal Affairs) for West Africa. He is in charge of all the buildings, land, employees and all things temporal. He is a great man with so much responsibility. We work closely with him as he is part of the Area Audit Committee. He was formerly the Head of Security for the entire Church, so we also listen closely to his counsel and advice.
Last Tuesday we went to Tantra Hills for our weekly piano lessons. Debi now has four students. We meet them at the church and she teaches them on the church keyboard. They are coming along, but it is hard for them to practice at home because the power fails so much, but we told them their keyboard uses batteries. Perhaps that will solve that problem.
Debi is also the ward organist in the Jamestown Branch that we attend. The Africans love to sing, but many of them do not know the fine points of leading the singing. They especially do not get the upswing that starts most of the hymns. They also sing some of the songs their own way, and hold some notes longer and others that should be longer, shorter. In reality the congregation leads the singing and the leader and the organist try to stay with them. It stresses her out a bit, but I think it is quite amusing.
I have a couple of hours each week of free time while she teaches her lessons. Sometimes I take work to do, or something to read. I am reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln and so last week I thought I would park the car in the shade of the building, roll the windows down and read about the American Civil War from Lincoln’s point of view. Well, that was not to happen.
Most of the Church-built buildings are also a compound with a masonry wall around the perimeter. They all seem to have a basketball standard in the parking lot (they call it the car park). Well, the neighborhood kids think it is their playground. There is a metal gate, and although it is usually closed, is not locked. We open it and drive in and park. The neighborhood kids walk in and play soccer, basketball or an assortment of other games. They also fight.
This day, the older boys were being mean to some of the little ones. The oldest was 13 and the youngest was probably 2. There was absolutely no adult supervision, except me. So I gathered them all together and asked, “Do you know what this building is?” “Yes, it is a church.” “Do you know that it is dedicated to God? Do you know what that means?” “Yes, it is holy.” “Good. So we cannot fight and be mean in a holy place or God will not be happy, right?” “Right.” Now, these were neighborhood kids, not church members.
I gathered them closer and had them all put their hands in the circle like we were a basketball team about to take the floor. “One, two, three…BE NICE!” We all cheered.
I then returned to my car and they all followed me, of course. So we sat down in the shade and I asked if they wanted me to tell them a story. “YES!” I told them a modified Goldilocks and the three bears. The porridge was changed to fufu and goat soup, and I tried to modify the bears, but they got it OK and especially liked when the little bear went “Wa, Wa Wa!” I then told them about Kentucky and his super-dog, Lad. They loved it when Lad saved the drowning girl in the lake, and also when he rescued the little boy from the crocodile (at home it was a wolf). Then I decided to tell them a true story.
I got out a pamphlet and showed them the pictures, children love to see pictures of the stories. This story was about a boy, “about the same age as this boy” pointing to the oldest. He lived in America. He is a prophet. “Do you know what a prophet is?” “Yes.” One said, Moses, another, Noah, another, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Another said Muhammad. “What makes them a prophet?” “They talk to God (or in Muhammad’s case, Allah). Yes. Let me tell you about a boy who talked with God.
Then I told them about the gold plates and the angel. They loved it.
I then told them that God loved each one of them and that they could talk to God anytime they wanted or when they needed help. I explained how to pray to God. After talking about that I had them all kneel and we said a pray together. They kneeled, folded their arms, and a couple of them were saying amens as I said the prayer. I thought about how Jesus must have felt as he prayed to the Father for the children.
We then got up and did some exercises. It was hard getting them to “line up”. This is a concept that seems foreign to them. We first exercised our fingers. They all had a hard time getting their two fingers to divide from their other two and do the Vulcan Sign from Star trek. We tried to roll our tongues. We did arm stretches, leg raises and turning around.
I thought they deserved a treat so we marched out to the street and down the road to a little shop that sold stuff. It was quite the sight. There were 30 children. I bought them all water. Here drinking water comes in bottles or bags (like a CapriSun but without a straw). They bite off a corner and suck out the water. Then they throw the plastic on the ground. “No, no” I said. Put in the garbage. “What is garbage?”
The water cost about one dime so I saw that they had a jar of gum balls. They were about a nickel in US money (10 Ghana Peseos). I bought thirty. We marched back to the Church and I tried to distribute the gum in the midst of the Children of Ghana’s riot of May 2013! They all are sure that everyone will get one but them. I wonder how many times that must have happened. Well, some wanted two, so we examined their tongues and mouths to be sure they had not already eaten one. Whew! The things I get myself into!
One more thing. We helped Elder and Sister Peterson from Gilbert, Arizona, with a Young Adult activity on Saturday. This was a leadership training for YA youth leaders from all over the area. We taught them how to have activities and play games. Debi and I did a game where they stick their noses in Vaseline and then attempt to pick up cotton balls and move them to another bowl, all without hands. It was boys against girls. It was so funny.
I then suggested we do it again, but with one modification. The boys would pick up the cotton balls with their noses and then transfer them to the girl’s noses. I had Sister Haws help me demonstrate. The boys all shouted for joy and the girls literally ran away. I guess this was too “intimate” for them. We did it again the same way as at first.
It is really sad that the young people here are not marrying. They are afraid. It costs money for the “bride price” (aka Johnny Lingo’s eight cows) and it is expensive to live. So many young adults are single and want to marry, but are not. We are trying to help them move along.
Of course, no activity is complete without refreshments!
Next to the country of Ghana is the country of Cote d’Ivoire or as many of us know it, The Ivory Coast. Ghana use to be called The Gold Coast. Both countries were colonies of European nations and now have their liberty. Ivory Coast is French speaking.
Thirty years ago two people fell in love in Germany and where married. The man, Elder Assard was from the Ivory Coast and Sister Assard was from Germany. Even though they met with much persecution they still moved forward in their lives. Sister Assard’s sister found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and introduced her sister, Sister Assard, to the Church. She joined the Church and hoped someday her husband would join her. After four years he did join the Church with a fervent testimony. He felt such a strong feeling to go back to his homeland and take the Church to his family and fellow countrymen. So they did return.
Thirty years later and years of dedicating their lives to the Church in Cote d’Ivoire they are now here serving a temple mission in the Ghana Temple. Elder Assard is very much needed to be a French speaking sealer in the Temple. They are both a blessing to the work here as Sister Assard also helps with the French speaking members who come to the temple.
Monday night we had a Family Home Evening at the Temple President’s home. Elder Assard was asked to explain the journey of the members of the Church to travel to the Ghana Temple. It was so interesting and very inspiring that I thought I would tell of their journey.
They prepare for months by saving their money and doing their family history long before they leave for the temple. The members reserve a bus to bring them all to Ghana. They board the bus at 4:00 in the morning and start traveling towards the border. It really isn’t that far it only takes them about 4 hours to get to the border. The hard part is getting through the border. They spend about 3 hours getting out of their country and 3 more hours trying to cross into Ghana. They each have to pay money, and have their entire luggage checked and then pay some more money to finally get through. So after 10 hours of all of the members being pushed tight on a bus with many little children they start their travels again through Ghana towards the Temple. Then the 15 check points start. Each time they are stopped they have to have everything checked again and pay more “fines”. They arrive in Accra, Ghana at the Temple sight around 8:00 pm.
After a 16 strenuous hours they have arrived at the Temple. They will spend the next 4 or 5 days working in the Temple almost nonstop to do the work for their loved ones who have passed on. They stay here at the Ancillary Building.
After Elder Assard described this ordeal several people also added their stories. Sister Houssian explained that Cote d’Ivoire members are number one per member to submit and do the work for their own families in the whole Church throughout the world. That is an amazing fact.
Brother Dunn, who is the Director of Temporal Affairs for the Church here, also told of his experience with the members in Ivory Coast. After the terrible civil war that they experienced he went into the country to determine the damage to the Church buildings and see what was needed to be done. He went to one Church site and the members were staying on the property. They were all gathered around a map and having a meeting. He thought they were trying to decide where they could go to build back their lives and start anew. When he asked them what they were doing they said that they were planning a Temple trip as soon as possible. Brother Dunn was shocked and asked them why they weren’t trying to find a place to live. The members responded that they knew if they were faithful and went to the Temple to do their work the Lord would bless them and provide for their needs!
The people in Cote d’Ivoire are amazing members. Their testimonies are strong. They have been tested with many trials and they are truly pioneers in every sense of the word. Even though they didn’t live in the 1800’s like the pioneers of America they are the pioneer members of west Africa.
We are all hoping and praying that one day there will be a temple in Cote d'Ivoire.
Now, Greg and I live just a few paces from the Temple. We will never live this close to a Temple again. Yes, we are taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity. We have been bitten by the genealogy bug and are doing a lot of work for our family that are on the other side. I hope that we all will realize that what the Prophet Joseph Smith said is so true that if a religion does not have the power to require the sacrifice of all things it does not have the power to save you.