On Saturday, March 17, 2012 , three ward Relief Societies in Accra, Ghana, joined together to celebrate the birthday of Relief Society. The sisters from the Adenta I, Adenta II, and the Adenta West Wards boarded a bus and travelled to the Julianna and Emmanuel Frank Anno home in the Accra McCarthy Hill Stake. The sisters brought food they had prepared for a lovely lunch that they served under the trees in the garden surrounding the Anno’s home. Before lunch was served, sitting in garden chairs around many round tables, the sisters sang hymns and listened as Sister Faustina Botchway, Relief Society President of the Adenta II Ward, talked about the early history of Relief Society.
Then everyone listened while Sister Anno, who is 85 years old and one of the first members of the church in Accra, told about how she first heard the gospel and was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 30, 1981. On the next day, May 31, 1981, Sister Anno was confirmed a member of the Church. At this time there were not enough members for a branch in Accra so Sister Anno met each Sunday with a small group of saints.
Several years earlier Sister Anno had hosted three exchange students in her home. Two were girls from the United States and one was a boy from Britain. Sister Anno explained that in the late 70’s there was a social welfare exchange program introduced in Accra. Because her family had already participated in an exchange program she was invited to join the program and visit a home in Vermont.
The hostess in Vermont wanted to show Sister Anno the sites around the area. She told Sister Anno that the Mormons were in the area and they had a historical site nearby. Though the hostess did not believe in the Mormon religion, she was willing to take her guest to see the monument placed at the birthplace of Joseph Smith in Sharon, Vermont. The hostess did not want to go in to the visitor’s center at the historical site so she stayed in the car.
Sister Anno was interested enough to go by herself. She was very impressed with the stone obelisk and the beautiful grounds surrounding the monument. But she was even more impressed when she went inside a building and saw a movie. The movie, called “Man’s Search for Happiness,” answered the questions she had always had in her mind. “Where we came from, why we are here on earth, and where we are going when we die.”
Sister Anno was so touched by the message and the explanation that she heard, she gathered all the free pamphlets and a Book of Mormon to take home. However, when she packed her bags to return to Africa she had too much weight so she had to leave the pamphlets and the Book of Mormon behind.
When she returned to Accra she could not find anyone who knew about the Mormon Church. But a few years later she needed to visit her two daughters who were living at a boarding school in Cape Coast. Her friend, Pricilla was a teacher at the school but she was not at school when Sister Anno went to visit her daughters. She inquired at the school and they said Pricilla was sick and at home.
Sister Anno went to visit her sick friend. On the table in her friend’s home she saw a Book of Mormon and some of the same pamphlets that she had collected in Sharon, Vermont. Immediately she asked where Pricilla had found these materials. Pricilla said that she had received them from some people when she was visiting in Switzerland. Pricilla told Sister Anno that she had heard that there were some foreigners in Accra who had an affiliation with the pamphlets. Sister Anno copied down the address of the home in Accra where the “Obronis” (foreigners) were supposed to be meeting.
When Sister Anno finally found the address in Accra, the gate to the home was locked and she was told that no one was there. The guard told her that the Obronis had moved back to America. Disappointed, she returned home.
Sometime later, Pricilla who had now joined the Church in Cape Coast was staying in Accra with family. She visited Julianna and told her that there was going to be a conference at the Ambassador Hotel in Accra. Sister Anno was glad to hear this news and she made plans to attend. She took her only son, Kweku and his friend with her. She liked what she heard and both she and her son, who had recently graduated from the university, met with the missionaries to receive the discussions. Both Sister Anno and her son completed the discussions and asked to be baptized. However, Sister Anno was told that she had to have written permission from her husband as he was not a member. Her husband said that he did not object to her being baptized but he did not want to sign any papers. So her son, Kweku, was able to be baptized before his mother.
At this time, the group of saints in Accra, Ghana was under the direction of the mission in Nigeria. After some time Sister Anno received a letter from the mission president informing her that since her husband had given verbal permission and she was of age, she could be baptized. This was a very happy day for her. On March 31, 1981 Sister Julianna Anno was confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Since that day Sister Anno has taught the gospel to her children and her grandchildren and she has taught and nurtured many other children in the gospel. In addition she has fulfilled callings in the Relief Society and Sunday School. She taught Seminary for many years and also shared her experience and knowledge when she served as the Teacher Development Leader. Sister Anno particularly enjoyed serving as an ordinance worker in the Ghana Accra Temple. She has always enjoyed serving as a visiting teacher and even now serves in that capacity. By her faithful example and her willingness to share her unwavering testimony, Sister Anno has taught and strengthened not only her own family but all those whose lives she has touched.
Recently one of Sister Anno’s seminary students, Daniel Abeo, was sustained as the Stake President of the Tesano Stake in the Greater Accra area of Ghana. He said, “Sister Anno made me who I am. When I was a young struggling seminary student she taught me how to study the gospel. She taught me how to prepare and gave me an opportunity to teach the seminary class when she needed to be away. Her encouragement and the confidence she placed in me motivated me to learn and to develop the ability to teach the gospel.” On the day President Abeo was sustained he said, “It is because of Sister Anno that I am here today.”