Online Training at Accra Ghana MTC


When missionaries entered the Ghana Missionary Training Center on February 27, 2020, little did they know they would be the last group of missionaries to complete their training in those well-known halls for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic stopped many parts of life, but the Lord’s work continued, and His missionaries needed to be trained. The next group of missionaries called were originally to arrive for training at the MTC in Accra on March 19, 2020. Instead, they were the first group in the history of the Ghana MTC to experience their missionary training online, and they began on March 26.

Online training was brand new for missionaries and the trainers. Content taught at the MTC is the same as is taught online, but many adjustments had to be made. Trainers had to learn the Zoom platform, and many had never used it. The transition to online took only a week in the regular missionary training schedule.

Elder Ejodamen

Some missionaries struggled with the changes. Elder Ejodamen, from Nigeria, was called to serve in the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission. “I was supposed to report to the MTC May 24, 2020, and that was the period that COVID-19 really hit very hard. So, we were told we would attend the online MTC. It was literally like my dream has been shattered. I have heard wonderful experiences about the MTC. So, I was not going to the MTC. It was a very hard time.”

Local church units also had to adjust. Many newly called missionaries did not have access to stable internet with the amount of data that is required to stream video meetings. The Church Facilities Management group ensured that the required internet and equipment was at stake centers so missionaries could be trained. However, it is not always easy for Church Members to get to church buildings. Several MTC trainees had to move away from home and into apartments with full-time missionaries who were closer to the stake meeting houses.

Sister Combay and Harpers

“I used to stay in the mountain, so my bishop told me I should come and stay with the missionary sisters in the missionary apartment. They used to give me transport to pay bike to come to chapel to take my MTC class,” explained Sister Combay of the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission.

Brother Larios Avana, trainer and MTC second counselor, originally from the Republic of Benin, told of helping a sister who did not know how to use a computer. “She doesn’t know how to press the mouse. Then I move the webcam from the top of the monitor to my desk for her to see my mouse, and I show her, ‘This is where you have to touch. Press here so you can do what you must do.’”

Mtc Trainers: Osei-Tutu , Dogbey, Avana

Missionaries already serving in the field were a great help. Sister Combay said, “I did not know how to use computer, but they (sister missionaries) taught me, and I started using the computer. When we had class, I was the one putting on the computer. . . . So, before our instructor came to start class, I already knew how to put computer on and to go onto the system.”

Trainer Emmanuel Dogbey of Ghana explained, “In the MTC, the lessons we teach fall into different categories. We have doctrinal lessons we teach. We have improving finding and teaching skills. We have language and others.”

Teaching adjustments were made. MTC trainer Lorenzo Osei-Tutu from Ghana explained, “We have cards that we show to missionaries, especially language missionaries, and so during the early stages, you want to bring the card to the camera to get them to see what is there. Then maybe someone had a break though that, ‘Hey, you can use this app to design this and then share your screen.’ So, we were still learning the context in where to teach.”

Sister Kainessie

Sister Kainessie, serving in the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission, talked about the early start to online MTC classes. “I have to ride my bike, and also I have to get up around 6:00 because they said we should be at the chapel around 6:30 for us to prepare to get our breakfast.”

Elder Melo

Elder Melo, from Mozambique and called to the Ghana Accra West Mission said, “I confess that my first time I was sleeping because they were just speaking English. No one was there to translate, and English was very hard. . . . During that time, they would teach me small, small, little bit, little bit, and I was just understanding some words in English.”

Learning a language is hard work. When students were sitting in a classroom with them, trainers could easily spot someone having difficulty. Avana explained that in language studies, the trainers help the new missionaries to set a specific goal related to learning a language. Perhaps the goal is a number of scriptures to memorize or a number of words to learn in a new language. Then they help the missionaries set a study plan for how they are going to achieve the goal. That same practice applies to online MTC. The trainers, “assign them to mentors, return missionaries in their stake who speak their mission language. They are able to practice with those people outside of class,” explained Avana.

Because the MTC trainers do not have the ability to see the missionaries during breaks, on the sports court, or in the cafeteria like they might in the physical MTC, they make extra efforts to create connections with missionaries attending the virtual MTC. Avana said, “We reach out to them through phone calls even before their training begins. We call them and ask them, ‘Do you have a cell phone? Do you have WhatsApp? Is there anyone nearby that we can call to reach out to you?’ All those options are set before their training begins.” Connections with new missionaries are also accomplished through holding personal interviews.

Sister Combay stated that after she went into the field full-time, “I was missing the MTC because our instructors were so lovely. They were nice to us, and they also teach us the things we should know. Even sometimes they call us for interview, one by one. We talk to them, share our problem with them.”

Just like in the physical MTC, the missionaries in the virtual MTC are organized into districts, a group of missionary companionships that attend all the training together. Within these virtual groups, the connections that are made become close, just like those in the physical MTC.

Ejodamen said, “The online experience with MTC, one thing that stands out for me is the experience I had to meet different people. It was something really very wonderful because we put our minds together, we studied together, we discussed together. But though it was not in physical contact, it was really wonderful. They were really nice people that I saw on the screen. We talked. We laughed, and they were cool MTC instructors that really helped us. My attending online MTC and someone attending real MTC is the same thing.”

Dogbey explained the MTC pattern of teaching a lesson and having a practice activity. “At the end of the lesson, we ask the missionary to set a goal and then make a plan. Identify what time of the day is he going to accomplish that goal.”

Osei-Tutu added that trainers have worked to adapt the lessons to the missionary’s life circumstances. “We ask them to set goals to live by the things they are learning. That experience is playing a huge role to help the missionaries live the doctrine, to understand it more, to change their lives.”

Ghana MTC president, Paul W. Craig, explained that he and his wife have the “responsibility for the ecclesiastical, spiritual, motivational, worthiness, physical and emotional welfare of our missionaries.” From the beginning of online MTC, the Missionary and MTC departments set up that questions, concerns, health, or spiritual issues are to be addressed through stake presidents. The mission president and his wife continue to encourage the spiritual growth of missionaries through weekly devotionals over Zoom.

“Gratefully, the local leaders and stake presidents, they really responded to the Missionary Department’s call to be part of this work,” said Osei Tutu. “Having them at the right hand and seeing them really minister to the missionaries helped in this transition.”

Sister Kpullum

Sister Kpullum, serving in Sierra Leone Freetown Mission, talked about the change in her perspective of online MTC. When she began, she was thinking, “Why us? So, we do have that doubt, but, actually, the online MTC was really good. They do not lack anything. I think our instructors did very well for us. Yeah. They always make sure we have the best learning, that even if we go out there, we will not see things strange. They really taught us to become a good missionary.”

Kainessie said, “The MTC grew me in a way that I learned how to teach and also how to approach my interested members. Even when I went into the field, I did not find it difficult.”

The online MTC has had some unexpected benefits. “For missionaries who come from backgrounds that their parents are not members, they now do not get to just see their children (or siblings) leave and come after two years or 18 months completely changed, but they get to see a portion of that change happen. And I think it is a blessing for missionaries coming from such backgrounds,” said Osei-Tutu.

Dogbey added, “When they leave the MTC online training and get to the field, they are able to also teach interested people and members through online means, through Zoom, WhatsApp, and Messenger. They can easily schedule an appointment with an interested person and teach that person seated in the comfort of their apartment.”

“I feel that is what President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) prophesied about in 1974 that in our time there will be a better trained missionary force.1 We have seen this,” concluded Dogbey.