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:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Elder Stevenson Visits "Beautiful, Resilient" People in West Africa

 Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor     3 October 2016

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles takes time to visit with members during a trip to Ivory Coast.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Stevenson was the first Apostle to visit Sierra Leone since the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
“We have many new converts that have deep faith. … They testify the gospel has brought joy to their lives. They love the hymns. They sing without a hymnal and seem to know every word of every verse. They are vibrant, wonderful people.” —Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve

Just over a year after missionaries returned to Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone and almost two decades after civil war rocked the West African nation, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Latter-day Saints in the area.
Elder Stevenson said he was filled with “tender feelings” during the assignment September 7 through 19 to Sierra Leone and other nations in the Church’s Africa West Area. The visit, he said, was an opportunity to reflect on the “challenges and adversity” faced by the faithful Latter-day Saints who have found “love and joy in the gospel.”

Elder Stevenson and his wife, Lesa, were accompanied on the assignment by Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Rosana; Bishop Dean M. Davies of the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Darla; and members of the Church’s Africa West Area Presidency—Elder Terence M. Vinson, Elder Marcus B. Nash, and Elder Vern P. Stanfill.

As part of their assignment to West Africa, Elder Stevenson, Elder Soares, and Bishop Davies conducted a review of the Church’s Africa West Area; held priesthood leadership, district, and stake conferences, member devotionals, and missionary meetings; and visited the Accra Ghana Missionary Training Center and the Accra Ghana Temple. In addition to Sierra Leone and Ghana, they also visited Liberia and Ivory Coast, where they met with members, missionaries, and priesthood leaders.
Elder Stevenson’s assignments began in Sierra Leone, where members share a remarkable legacy of faith and sacrifice.

Two years after the first convert baptisms in Sierra Leone in June 1988, new converts began meeting in their homes. In May 1989 Elder Richard G. Scott became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit the country; he met with Church members and dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel.
Members from Sierra Leone wait to greet Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The first district was organized in Freetown in December 1990; a second district was organized seven months later in the city of Bo. Church meetings moved to rented meetinghouses.

Soon, however, Church President Ezra Taft Benson asked members to abandon their new rented meetinghouses and gather in their homes to worship. The news was very discouraging for the local Latter-day Saint leaders and members, who felt that the rented buildings were an important milestone for the Church in Sierra Leone. But they were obedient.

Just months later civil war erupted in Sierra Leone.

In the midst of war, churches were frequently targeted by rebels; thousands lost their lives while worshipping God. But Latter-day Saints in the country were safe from harm, obediently worshipping in their homes.

Because of this faith, the Church in the country continued to grow until Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created, in 2012, the first stake in the nation—the 3,000th in the Church (see related story).
Church leaders meet with priesthood leaders in Ivory Coast.
But trials were not over for Latter-day Saints in the country. After years of civil unrest, the country was hit by the Ebola virus epidemic, which moved into Sierra Leone in 2014 (see related story). Due to Ebola, another Apostle did not visit Sierra Leone again until Elder Stevenson’s recent visit; Bishop Davies’s trip marked the first time a member of the Presiding Bishopric has ever visited Sierra Leone.
He said the members in Sierra Leone are a “light growing out of a darkened nation because of Ebola and war.”

While visiting Sierra Leone, Elder Stevenson, Elder Soares, and Bishop Davies met with the faithful members in the country to talk about the civil war and other hardships.
Elder Stevenson compared the members’ experiences to trials faced by the people of Alma in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 24). The Lord, he explained, did not take away their burdens but instead made them feel light.

“I think this is what is observed in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast,” he said.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to missionaries in the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West Missions on September 14, 2016.
Elder Soares said members in all the West African nations arrived for meetings three to four hours early.

Elder Stevenson said he loved to look out at the congregations of member meetings and see the number of children and families. “Every country we visited is experiencing high growth,” he said. “We have many new converts that have deep faith. … They testify the gospel has brought joy to their lives. They love the hymns. They sing without a hymnal and seem to know every word of every verse. They are vibrant, wonderful people.”

Elder Soares said he loves to hear the members in West Africa sing. “They have a special enthusiasm when they sing,” he said. “It is really beautiful.”

Bishop Davies said Church leaders often talk about the growth in the Africa West Area. “The people are not just growing in numbers,” he explained. They are growing “in wisdom and maturity.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to missionaries in the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West Missions on September 14, 2016.
“Church members reflect a sense of purpose, industry, and faithfulness,“ he said. ”They are pleased with their membership in the Church. They are resourceful and devoted in caring for themselves and for each other. They understand the importance of temples and make unusual sacrifices to go to the temple. In the face of almost overwhelming adversity, they are patient, and their faith in God is unwavering.“ As an example, in the Ivory Coast Bishop Davies met a group of Latter-day Saints at an evening member devotional after they had just returned the same day from their 14-hour one-way trip home from the Accra Ghana Temple.

The missionaries don’t have a challenge teaching and baptizing new members, said Elder Soares, noting that referrals in the area come from relatives and friends. The members are a great example of happiness, which brings others into the gospel, he said.

A sister missionary participates in a meeting of missionaries serving in the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West Missions on September 14, 2016.
Elder Stevenson said all of the countries they visited belong to the Accra Ghana Temple District. They faithfully attend the temple, despite two to three days' travel from some locations. The temple announced in Ivory Coast will be a blessing to the area, he added. Despite the long drive to attend the Accra Ghana Temple, members continue to come, said Elder Soares. “They fill temple patron housing every time they come. They want to come more frequently.”

Other challenges facing the Church in the area, Elder Stevenson said, come as a result of the dramatic growth. The Church is working to provide meetinghouses and to train local leadership, he said. “All of this has built faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”

The members are hardworking, doctrinally sound, and obedient, added Elder Stevenson. The Area Presidency is directing the rapid growth of the Church in an impressive, orderly way, he added.
“I was really impressed by the resilience of the African Saints,” said Elder Soares. “Beside the challenges and suffering they are resilient and they look for God in every way. They have a faith in God that allows them to go forward.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses priesthood leaders in Sierra Leone.
Sunset shows beauty of Sierra Leone.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits the soon-to-be completed missionary training center in Ghana.
Latter-day Saints gather for a member devotional in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

OBHR Lessons from the Caribbean and Ghana

zone-conf-wim October 11

OBHR Lessons from the Caribbean

Robison and his wife presided over the Ghana Missionary Training Center, helping missionaries learn to teach the gospel in French and English from 2014-16.

When two young missionaries lost the trail while hiking La Soufière, a volcano on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Reid Robison had to act quickly. After receiving the news that the two young men had gone missing, Robison, then president of the West Indies Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, immediately flew to Martinique from mission headquarters in Trinidad and brought in twenty additional missionaries from surrounding islands in the mission to help search alongside the local police force.
For three days, headlines such as “Where are the Lost Boys?” splattered the local papers and nightly news. Robison drilled his strategy to the searchers: “Pray, then go.” It worked. Days later, the missing missionaries turned up deep in the marshy forest of the island.
“It was the first time anyone had ever survived being lost in that area of the jungle,” Robison remembers.

Robison embraces one of the recovered missionaries that had been lost in the Martinique jungle.

In addition to the miracle of finding the lost missionaries, Robison’s tenure as a mission president included countless opportunities to use his organizational behavior (OB) background. Robison holds an MBA from Northwestern University and a PhD in educational leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though his time among the people and culture of the West Indies stands in stark contrast to his business background as a manager and executive at OC Tanner, Robison cherishes the memories. Spice stands in Grenada, cutlasses in Barbados, and bokits, the traditional fried sandwich of Guadeloupe, stitch together the bright fabric of the Caribbean, where Robison and his wife supervised 186 missionaries of the West Indies Mission from 2006-09.
Though Robison may seem like a classic Wasatch Front grandfather, his experiences in OB far surpass those of a typical classroom education. In addition to his time in the Caribbean, Robison served as president of the Ghana Missionary Training Center from 2014-16.
Presiding over a mission or an MTC is “really a workshop in leadership,” Robison says. “You’re training missionaries to be leaders, and you’re training new members in the developing church to be leaders.”
Robison, his wife, and West Indies missionaries at the mission home in Trinidad.

Today, Robison, now a BYU OBHR professor, applies the lessons in sociology, psychology, communication, and management he learned during his years of missionary service abroad to his curriculum at the Marriott School.
He believes in the value of appreciating and understanding diverse cultures, and he teaches students to “listen to understand” when they work in organizations. He shares with students how he and his wife went to the Caribbean and Ghana thinking, “There is so much we can do to teach and to educate the people there,” but came back “blown away by how much they had taught us.” Robison hopes students will see how much they can learn from any person in an organization.
In addition to teaching classes, Robison develops social innovation projects in his new role as relationship manager for the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance. He finds partners in the US and Africa to build Ballard Center education and trade programs in underdeveloped areas, including those where he once served. He is currently working to establish a program for students to receive credit for higher education classes that will be held in church buildings across many third-world countries.


Today, Robison works with the Ballard Center on development projects in underprivileged countries.
“We work to enrich the lives of people in underprivileged countries,” Robison says. “It’s along the lines of, ‘How are we going to teach them how to fish?’”
Apart from their 4.5 years abroad, Robison and his wife, Diane, have lived in Provo for the past 18 years. Of their 18 grandchildren, 13 live within two miles of the Robisons’ home, where the family gathers each Sunday.
“I love cheering them on in whatever they do,” Robison says.
The Robisons also have one granddaughter serving as a missionary in Paris, where Robison first served a mission at age 19.
“French is the language of heaven,” Robison says.

Robison and his wife with the two missionaries that had been lost in Martinique.