The Mission President’s Seminar Continues

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Pres & Sis Binene spent the day here, in their office, connected to leaders in Accra and Salt Lake and to all of the other West Africa Mission Presidents and their wives.  This is their last MP Seminar–they will complete their work here at the end of June.  It’s a bit of an emotional time for them–they and the other soon-departing Mission Presidents and wives shared their testimonies with each other and area leaders they’ve grown to love.

We will also be losing Elder Nash, who has been our Area President in Accra.  He will be returning to Salt Lake to serve as the Managing Director of the Missionary Department.

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Lunch and snacks.

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Meanwhile, the work of the mission continues.  John has been busy sorting and organizing files and piles of financial records.

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And during breaks, there are always more things to sign.

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The work moves on!

Good Things Happening Here!

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Any day that starts with a visit to our neighborhood produce vendors is a good day!

And any day that brings 2 new missionaries to our mission is an exceptional day!

These two have come to us from here in Abidan.

Today and tomorrow Pres and Sis Binene are “attending” their Mission Presidents’ (virtual) Seminar in Accra.  They are here in the office, with their laptop and a translator.  These meetings are the highlights of the year for mission presidents.

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To top it off, today is trash day!

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Two Important Things Happened Today

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Today all of the Pacific Island missionaries serving in the Ivory Coast were transferred to the Abidjan West Mission under Pres. Daniel Lewis’s care.  This includes our 5 Tahitians and the 11 serving in the Yamoussoukro Mission.  This will make it much easier to keep track of things when the time comes for a flight out.  We are still keeping our fingers crossed.  Our 5 Elders will continue to live in the AP’s old apartment here in our mission.

The 5 Elders pictured above dropped by from next door this morning.  They are part of this group of Elders hoping for a flight out soon.

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The other important thing that happened this evening was our first training meeting with Salt Lake to prepare the way for our missionaries to receive smartphones.   This will be a huge blessing to the missionaries here.  The mission will provide one smartphone for each companionship and the missionaries will be instructed on how to transfer their paper lives to digital.  They will also be taught how to keep themselves safeguarded with this new tool to teach and communicate with others.

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A Chicken Project for the Cocody Stake

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This morning as we were leaving our District Meeting, we found many members and church leaders outside the stake center waiting.  Chairs had been set up with the appropriate distancing, and several of the local Bishops were here visiting with the members who had come.

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We wondered if they were being interviewed or if they were ministering. We weren’t sure what was happening. I was guessing that the bishops were assessing their needs. Some had children with them.

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Then we saw a delivery truck coming through the gate and into the parking lot. They opened the back and started unloading large old ice chests, heavy with something. Was it food? I went over to see what was in them.

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Some had chicken feet sticking out of them. Our Bishop Sery Kone was there and explained to us what was happening. He owns several chicken farms in different parts of the country. He has a pass to travel in and out of Abidjan.  Bishop Kone has an NGO called Well Africa and his partners in Utah have been fund-raising to help the members here.

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Every family in need in the Cocody Stake will receive up to 10 chickens to get them through the next month or so. There were 100s of plucked chickens with heads and feet still attached in those coolers.

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What a thrill it was to see these Bishops working together to help and bless the families in our Cocody Stake.  We are grateful to Bishop Kone for his help and kindness and for making this happen.  This is the gospel in action.

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District Meeting in Cocody

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Today we had our weekly District Meeting at the Cocody Stake Center.  We continue to practice social distancing within small groups of 10 or fewer.

And the missionaries here continue to read from the old white handbook in every meeting.  When we get smartphones the missionaries will have access to the new missionary handbook online.

Topics of discussion today included ideas for finding people to teach during this coronavirus season.  Already numbers are increasing and these good missionaries are finding new people to teach.  The 4 Sisters reported 16 new investigators this week!  The Elders are trying to keep up!

We also talked about appropriate ways to give aid and help those around us who are in need.  We had a good discussion about our role and the role of the Bishops and who is responsible to help in which kinds of ways.  As missionaries, we are responsible for spiritual aid and support, not temporal.  We are not in a position to give food, money, transport or provide temporal aid.  Bishops who have access to fast offerings can help in those ways.

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Every week the temple grows a few more feet towards heaven.  It’s exciting to watch!

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Sabbath Worship and John’s Birthday

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This morning we got to hold our church service with these two beautiful Sisters– Soeur Djadou and Soeur Kalanja (not what’s on her nametag).  We are learning that Africans have lots of names and they sometimes change which one they want to go by.

Today we celebrated John’s 66th Birthday.  I made a pan of enchiladas for him.  We miss Mexican food.  I found a jar of salsa at the store a few weeks ago and a package of 8 flour tortillas.  I’ve been saving them for today.  I filled the enchiladas with a mixture of chicken, cream cheese, salsa and stewed tomatoes.  I added a bit of cumin.  They weren’t bad.

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His gifts included a bar of Swiss chocolate and some Lindor balls and tonight we made chocolate chip cookies.  It’s been a good day.

On the Street Where We Live

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It’s mango  and avocado season and we see women with headpans full in the streets.  The fruit is beautiful, plentiful and inexpensive.

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The rest of these photos are from our little neighborhood:

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Haircuts:

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All of your office needs:

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This is where you can go for hair extensions:

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Our local furniture maker:

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We love watching everyone out at work every day.  Live goes on here.  We’ve added masks, but not much else has changed.

Food for the Mighty Tahitians

After yesterday’s disappointing airport trip, our 5 Tahitian Elders sadly went back to the apartment in Abidjan where they are staying.  The pizza fest had filled them, but this morning they woke up HUNGRY!  Pres Binene called us this morning and asked if we might help them get some groceries to get them through the next few days.  We were happy to help.  I have large sons and I understand quantity!

After purchasing some things like chickens and eggs and rice and pasta and vegetables we took them to a local Patisserie for bread and a few tasty pastries.  They are set now for a few more days.  We’re all praying it won’t be too much longer.

Another Try at the Airport for our Tahitians

This afternoon we loaded up the luggage for another try at the airport to get these missionaries on their way home.  Here’s what today’s plan looked like:

Two small planes are coming from Lagos. One is flying from Lagos to Cotonou, Benin to Abidjan to Accra and back to Lagos. The other is flying form Lagos to Abidjan to Accra and then back to Lagos.  They will pick up missionaries along the way and take them to Accra. Then they’ll go back empty to Lagos and everyone in Accra will get on a big plane (Egypt Air) and fly to Freetown, Sierra Leon, refuel in Cairo, then continue on to Manila to deposit the Filipino missionaries, and then it will continue to Brisbane Australia (arriving there Sunday the 26th) where the rest will get off (one big step closer to their homes in the islands).  It was a grand plan that took a lot of work to negotiate.

Even as we left for the airport, things were not finalized.

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At the airport we met up with the 11 Elders from the Yamoussoukro mission who were also hoping to depart today.  We were told to wait outside the airport until we had word that all was going as it should.

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The Elders were instructed to have masks and gloves.

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John is giving instructions and reviewing the flight plans.

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Here are our 16 travelers:

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Then we waited.  For 2 hours we waited.

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Finally word came that the approvals were not given for the two small planes to land in Accra and for the passengers to transit to a different plane there.  This was not going to happen for these missionaries AGAIN.  We sadly headed back to the parking lot and loaded up the luggage again.

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Here come the Yamoussoukro Elders.

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They will return to stay with missionaries in the Abidjan West mission.  Our 5 Elders are staying in the old AP’s apartment.  Now we wait for Plan B.  Actually Plan D.

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Here’s how Brent Belnap, our Legal Counsel in Accra described what happened today:

Wonderful sendoff today of approximately 150 missionaries from the Philippines, Australia, and other Pacific Island nations who had been serving in Ghana and Sierra Leone, to whom we were able to add approximately 80 non-Church member Australian nationals anxious to get home. Lots of long days, sleepless nights, and often seemingly insurmountable problems over the past 3 weeks to get these missionaries on a chartered flight from Accra to Freetown, Sierra Leone and then to the other side of the world. (Unfortunately, despite several last-minute miracles and government approvals, we couldn’t evacuate the 17 remaining foreign missionaries in West Africa–1 in Benin and 16 still in Ivory Coast.) Next stop: Manila, then Brisbane. Special thanks to the Australian High Commissioner Andrew Barnes and his team in Ghana, the Australian Government, the Philippines Government, the Ghanaian Government, the Sierra Leonean Government, the Benin Government, the Ivory Coast Government, and U.S. Embassies across West Africa for making this repatriation flight possible. Getting the requisite flight clearances, government approvals, internal travel permits, health checks, etc., was like playing three-dimensional chess magnified across multiple countries, legal systems, regulatory hurdles, and personalities in West Africa, Salt Lake City, Manila, Auckland, Canberra, and Accra. Complicated? Definitely. And yet so many miracles, large and small, at every turn. I’m ready for the first relatively low-key weekend in several months.

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Two Days of Interviews at the Office

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Thursday and Friday this week have been interviewing days for Pres Binene.  The missionaries are coming to the office and it’s been great to see so many of them here.  Here are our Thursday visitors:

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2020-4-23 Office Interviews (9)This morning (Friday) we took our neighbor Elders with us to the office.  Today is another big flight day for our 5 Tahitian Elders.  We got word yesterday that the flight is a GO!  2020-4-24 Office Departure Not (2)

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President Binene continued doing interviews all morning.

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Filling out HIPPA health forms for Salt Lake.

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Our 5 Tahitians!

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Our Tahitian Elders treated all of us to pizza for lunch–their farewell meal!

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And then it was time to get them to the airport.