This blog covers the years 2014-2016 when we (the Robisons) were at the Ghana MTC. To see the blog covering the period 2016-2018 click on this link:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ghana MTC Missionaries Receive the Gift of Health

Yesterday was the first full day for the 22nd group we have hosted since our arrival.  On their second day in the MTC (their first Saturday) every missionary receives immunizations.  (Their first two  hepatitis b shots, a meningitis shot, and a drop of medicine to prevent polio.)  Their yellow fever card is verified as well as their chest x-ray for TB.  In addition all missionaries in Africa take a doxycycline pill every day to prevent malaria.  Our goal?  Healthy missionaries!

It looks more painful than it is.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Although Far from Ghana, Ebola is Still A Very Real and Deep Concern in Sierra Leone and Liberia

Nearly a thousand British soldiers are on the scene, ferrying supplies and hammering together new Ebola clinics. Crates of food and medicine are flowing into the port, and planeloads of experts seem to arrive every day — Ugandan doctors, Chinese epidemiologists, Australian logisticians, even an ambulance specialist from London.

While health officials say they are making headway against the Ebola epidemic in neighboring Liberia, the disease is still raging in Sierra Leone, despite the big international push. In November alone, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,800 new cases in this country, about three times as many as in Liberia, which until recently had been the center of the outbreak.

More than six weeks ago, international health officials conceded that they were overwhelmed in Sierra Leone and reluctantly announced a Plan B. Until enough hospital beds could be built here, they pledged to at least help families tend to their sick loved ones at home.

The health officials admitted Plan B was a major defeat, but said the approach would only be temporary and promised to supply basics like protective gloves, painkillers and rehydration salts.

Fever is the scarlet letter of Ebola. Just about every important building in Freetown — hotels, banks, government offices — is now manned by a guard with an infrared thermometer and a bucket of diluted bleach for a mandatory hand wash.

But in the slums, it is a different story. In Kissi Town, an underserved area of dirt roads and dirty wells, the local Ebola task force said that more than 150 people had recently died of the virus, and that many had received no food, medicine or any other help.

Sierra Leone has an elaborate Ebola response system — on paper. It starts with a call to 117, the toll-free number for central dispatch. A surveillance team is sent out, then an ambulance takes a patient to a holding center, then blood tests and a proper treatment center where the patient might receive intravenous fluids or other special care.

But the Ebola clinics do not have nearly enough beds, especially in Freetown, and an ambulance will not show up at a sick person’s house unless there is a bed somewhere for that patient. The government says it needs 3,000 beds nationwide but has fewer than half of that now.

Ambulances are hurtling across the country for hours to remote clinics in the east, where there are a few vacancies. The roads are horrendously bumpy; the jungle heat without reprieve. Many patients are dead on arrival.

Public health professionals are beginning to look harder at Sierra Leone’s culture, which is dominated by secret men’s and women’s societies that have certain rituals, especially around burials. Many people here — just like in other cultures — believe that the afterlife is more important than this one. A proper burial, in which the body is touched and carefully washed, is the best way to ensure a soul reaches its destination. (Source:  New York Times, Despite Aid Push, Ebola Raging in Sierra Leone, Nov. 27, 2014)

Announcement:  Parents do not be concerned about ebola outside of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinnea.  They are far away from the areas in which missionaries serve.  However, our prayers continue with the peoples of these hard-hit countries.  There will be an Africa-wide Fast on Sunday, December 7th.

The True Size of Africa

I posted a similar map the first month we were here, but this was too good to pass up.  Note how big Africa is.  It takes 5 hours to fly from Ghana to the Mediterrean or to South Africa.  It also takes many hours to cross Africa.

Elder Hitimana Survived Burundi Slaughter, Now in MTC

Since Burundi’s independence in 1962, there have been two events called genocides in the country. The 1972 mass killings of Hutus by the Tutsi-dominated army, and the 1994 mass killings of Tutsis by the majority-Hutu populace are both described as genocide in the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi presented to the Unitied Nations Security Council in 2002.

At the age of 9 months, Elder Innocent Hitimana’s parents were killed in that war in Burundi in 1994.  He does not know their names or where this took place.  A kind passer-by, an elderly lady picked him up and raised him as her own.  However when he was 16 years old his “adopted grandmother” passed away and her children chased him away because they did not want him to lay claim to any inheritance.

He was sent to a boarding school and at the age of 18 was required to work in exchange for the schooling he had received.  So he went to the government (ministry of solidarity), an area overseeing social programs in Burundi.  The government sent him to an orphanage and covered his schooling and room and board. While at this school, he found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From that day he felt at ease.  He was called “brother” and felt like the Church was his family.

At the age of 21 he had what we say is the equivalent of a high school degree.  The government then helped him find a job that would pay for more school.  However, after two months into this internship the government had learned Elder Hitimana had decided to serve a mission for his church.  The government official over the program was angry with him, expelled Elder Hitimana from the program and said he should work first and serve a mission later.
Elder Hitimana then went to live with a Senior Couple named Cahoons for eight months.  It was with the Cahoons that he was able to prepare for his mission.  With tears of gratitude streaming down his face, he told his sad story in French, the language he is assigned to in the MTC.  He wants to do Family File work in the temple but does not even know the names of his parents or where they are from.  This is the sobering story, one of many, of one of the missionaries who has sacrificed all to come on this mission.

Temple Challenge Reaches Ghana MTC

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invited all of the youth of the Church to participate in a global temple challenge, which he issued during his devotional talk held in conjunction with the RootsTech Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 8, 2014.

“I want to challenge each of you to set a personal goal to help prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms you perform in the temple,” the apostle said. He added, “There is something powerful in searching out someone who needs temple ordinances, learning who they are and then being part of their receiving these sacred ordinances.”

Youth from around the world have accepted the invitation and are sharing their experience with friends and family on social media. Through using the online search term #TempleChallenge, anyone can follow the faithful young men and young women as they share their experiences. has published some examples of youth participating in family history work and taking their own names to the temple. (Church News Article, November 29, 2014) Here is our example:

As missionaries called to serve in the Ghana MTC begin their 11 day experience, they are taught about family history work by Elder and Sister Watson, assisted by Elder Malmrose and assisted in submitting family file names for work to be done in the Ghana Temple.  Since Elder Andersen's challenge, 1151 missionaries have entered the Ghana MTC through the end of October.  From those missionaries, and in addition to first time endowments for 610 of them, 2243 names were submitted to the temple for temple work, often performed by the missionaries during their visits.  Also of note were 794 sealings of which 12 were for missionaries to be sealed to their parents.

Elder Ezam's Life Journey from the LRA to the MTC

When Michael Emmia Ezam was very young, perhaps even under 5 years old, he was taken away by Rebels to be in the LRA.  The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), also known as the Lord's Resistance Movement, is a militant movement which is "Christianist," extremist Christian,acting as a new religious movement or cult which operated in Norther Uganda and South Sudan.

The LRA has been accused of widespread human rights violations including murder, abduction, mutilation, child-sex slavery, and forcing children to participate in hostilities.

The LRA was initially formed to resist the  Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF), called the National Resistance Army  (NRA) before it took control of the country. The NRA/UPDF has been accused of widespread murder, rape, and pillage. In June 2006, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN's special representative for children, found more than 5000 children recruited in the Ugandan government army.

Michael was not treated well.  Sometimes he would be beaten for making the smallest of mistakes.  Today there are marks on his back as reminders of that punishment.  The rebels taught him to fight, but he did not shoot guns.  Rather they had him clean up dead bodies.

After many years of this Michael grew weary of the army.  Because he had friends in high ranking positions in the army, he was able to find a way to be free. 

Shortly before his retirement from the army, he learned of the death of his parents.  He does not remember what they looked like but due to their names, he knew he had learned correctly.   He then knew he had to get out.  So he found a way.  He began to live on his own and took cleaning jobs to support himself. 

One day as he was returning from the market, he saw the missionaries and introduced himself.  He did not know that much about the Church, but invited them to his apartment.  The next day they shared with him the Joseph Smith story and invited him to Church.  Since that day, he has never missed Church and can feel his testimony about the Church and the restored gospel grow every day. Yesterday, Michael entered the Ghana MTC as Elder Ezam, called to serve in the South Africa Cape Town Mission.  He is now a member of God's Army - such a contrast to the upbringing he suffered for many, many years.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Two more from the Zimbabwe Lady Golfer Missionary Preparation Army Arrive

Remember those professional lady golfers preparing a couple of hundred missionaries in Zimbabwe to come on missions?  Well today we received  No. 14 and No. 126.

 Sister Mkwela, Precious - Number 126
Elder Mkandla, Alex Praise - Number 14

Take A Fascinating Look at the Population Growth in Western Africa

Total Population(EST.)
1 year population change(increase)
1 year percentage change
Median Age
Fertility Rate
Cote d’Ivoire
Sierra Leone

Average by country (not weighted)