Sunday, June 23, 2013

Headed out to Ghana

So pretty much everything is ready and I head out for the Ghana MTC this Thursday.  I gave my farewell talk this last Sunday and this is some of what I had to say:

I am excited for this opportunity to get to speak before I leave on my mission.  I was called to serve in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission and I am reporting to the Ghana MTC in a week from this Friday.  Ghana is located in West Africa between the Ivory Coast and Togo and my mission covers the southwestern parts of Ghana, mostly along the Atlantic coast.  I received my mission call this last February while I was at BYU.  As a little kid growing up in primary, I always dreamed of going on a mission to go serve the Lord, but I don’t think that I ever really imagined that this day would actually come and I especially did not expect to be going to Ghana.  But it is has sure come fast.  I am excited for this opportunity to go and serve the people over in Ghana.  The Gospel has spread very fast over in Africa.   Many are being baptized and the church is growing exponentially.  This last General Conference Elder John B Dickson shared a message of the missionary work being done in this area.  He said,

“As a people, West Africans believe in God, have absolutely no shame in declaring and sharing their belief with others, and have tremendous leadership capacity. They are coming into the Church by the hundreds, and every week or so a couple of wards or branches are created somewhere in the Africa West Area with, in nearly every case, all-African priesthood and auxiliary leadership.
How I wish you could join the Saints in the temple in Aba, Nigeria, or Accra, Ghana, where you would sense the commitment of the Saints and come to know the all-African temple presidencies. Or how I wish I could introduce you to the African Area Seventies, who are assembled with us here in the Conference Center today and are attorneys, professors, and business managers, or have you become acquainted with the African stake and ward leaders and their families.
Across Africa, to join a Sunday School, auxiliary, or priesthood class is a sacred experience, where the Church curriculum is followed and there is great gospel understanding, teaching, and learning by the Spirit.
The gospel in Africa is going to a happy people, very unencumbered by the trappings that affect the lives of many in the West. They are not concerned about having endless material possessions.
It has been said of Africans that they have very little of that which matters least and a great deal of that which matters most. They have little interest in enormous homes and the finest cars but great interest in knowing their Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and in having eternal families. As a natural result of their faith, the Lord is lifting them in meaningful ways.”
As I was growing up here I played soccer competitively.  One the guys on my team, his name was Stewy.  He was my first experience of meeting someone from Ghana, although I did not know that I would be serving there.  He was a friend that I respected, as he was friendly, cool, and  would stand up for himself and his values. Since I received my mission call, I have had the opportunity to meet a few more people from Ghana, one of which I was able to have dinner with and talk to. His name was Holdbrook McArthur.  Holdbrook’s family was one of the first members of the Church in Ghana, they became converted when man named Billy Johnson received a copy of the Book of Mormon. 

Billy Johnson was a Ghanan who got his hands upon a Book of Mormon.  In 1969, he read it and found it to be true.  He spread the Gospel among the people in Ghana.  Even though he had not yet received priesthood authority to baptize, he started to baptize people in Ghana forming congregations.  In 1978, when Spencer W Kimball announced the declaration that blacks could receive the priesthood, Johnson contacted the church headquarters hopeing to officially form the church in Ghana.  The church then sent leaders over to Ghana and the church was officially organized and Billy Johnson then became the first patriarch in Ghana.

The people that I have met from Ghana so far are very caring people as we all should be.  They look around to serve those around them and focus on the more important things in life.

We all should focus on the things that matter most in life, our families, the gospel, and put them above the material things of this world.  I feel that our mindset is a big part of how successful we can be, not just as a missionary, but as a human being.  If we look towards God and Christ and have that as our focus and mindset, it will help us become better people and better missionaries.

In Ether 12: 27 it says,

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I love this scripture because it shows that we all have weaknesses and Christ can help us make them our strengths, but we first have to realize what they are and humble ourselves before him.  We have faith and try our best to make our weaknesses into our strengths, Christ will help us and make us a stronger people.  We cannot be too proud of ourselves, but we have to humble ourselves and look to Christ and he will help us.  I know that this scripture will give me strength because I would consider speaking to those I don’t know and in public as one of my weaknesses.  These next two years for me will not be the easiest, but I know if I humble myself and look unto Christ that he will help me.

Missionary work is very important to God and it can help bring others to Christ.   When we experience the blessings of gospel living, we naturally want to share those blessings with others. The Lord spoke of the joy that comes into our lives when we share His gospel in D&C 18:15–16.  It says:

“If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”

The goal of missionary is found in the missionary purpose which is to “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

We need to strive to help others receive this gospel.  Moses 1:39 says “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” We need to strive to help to bring to pass immortality and eternal life to all.  I have always viewed this verse as God’s mission statement.  We all should work together to help everyone achieve immortality and eternal life.  We can do this through missionary work.  Christ says in Mark 16:15 to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”  Christ commands us to serve God by going out and preaching his word unto all his children upon earth.  Brad Wilcox said that “Heaven is not a prize for the perfect, but the future home of all who are willing to be perfected.”  We can gain immortality and eternal life if we strive to perfect ourselves and let our weaknesses be made strong.

One way this past year that I have been able to make myself stronger and see areas that I need to improve is by studying the scriptures and I also had the opportunity to volunteer at the MTC as an investigator.  Going to volunteer was a good experience as I could help the missionaries prepare for their mission, and through their teaching, I could see ways I could also improve.  All the missionaries had the spirit with them, but you could tell some had prepared themselves throughout their life better than others.  We all want to be the one who is ready for whatever comes next.  Preparation is one of the best things that we can do for ourselves. 

In D&C 121:34-36, it says, “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?  Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—  That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” 

We need to be the ones who are the chosen.  Rather than setting our hearts upon the things of this world, we should strive to set our hearts on the Gospel and its teachings.  If we live like unto Christ, then we may become these chosen and be able to return to live with our Father in Heaven once again.  We need to make sure not to delay and put off these actions for another day and time.  These are the latter days.  Doctrine and Covenants section 4 shows this and it is a very good scripture for missionary work.  It says,

Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in storethat he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Now is the time to do missionary work and to serve God.  It says that “the field is white, already to harvest.”  There are people out there waiting for us to share the gospel and all we have to do is to open our mouths and God will help us share the Gospel.  If we ask for his help and humble ourselves, we will receive it.  It says that if we serve God with all our “heart, might, mind, and strength, that we will stand blameless before God at the last day.” Missionary work benefits both missionary and the one receiving the Gospel.

I am excited for my opportunity to serve as a full time missionary for this church.  I’m not going to lie; I am intimidated and nervous for the upcoming experiences that lie ahead of me.  I know that they won’t be easy, but I know that they will definitely be worth it.  I am excited to be able to help others receive the restored gospel, and know that if we all take every advantage we have, that we will be greatly blessed for it.

I would like to close by bearing my testimony that I know that this church is true.  It is as simple as that.  I know that my mission will help me for the better and I know that I am heading out there for the right reasons, because I know that Christ suffered through the atonement for me.  He suffered my pains, trials, and afflictions and I know that he will help me through my upcoming journey.  I am grateful for all the opportunities that I have been blessed with and I am grateful for my parents and leaders that have helped keep me on the straight and narrow. I would like to say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.