My wife and I were delighted to preside over the MTC in Accra, Ghana, West Africa, from 2004 to 2006. Every three weeks a new group of missionaries arrived from various countries in Africa to begin their training. I wanted to share with you some interesting comments from one such group which was typical of the many groups that arrived to prepare for several weeks before departing for their various mission assignments.
One missionary wrote me the following: 'I didn't get to know my dad as he died four days before I was born. I loved my mom, she brought us the Gospel, but she died before we could prove to her how much we loved her for bringing us such a precious gift as the Gospel. Two of my sisters and one brother are now Returned Missionaries and outstanding people in the Church. I was taught to change every difficult situation into a good one, but one of my more difficult moments came when my brother, who had just completed his mission, died from a car accident only two weeks after he finished his mission. He was a very special person to me.'
Another Elder wrote, 'I don't have either of my parents, I lost them both some years back. That one day, one time, I will meet each of them and enjoy having them again for my parents.'
Another told me: 'I have no mother and no father, they are both dead. So I take Jesus Christ as everything in my life. There are no other members of the Church in my entire family. I am the only one. It is so hard.'
Another Elder explained: 'My parents are both dead and my adoptive mother, whom I greatly love, also died. These losses led me to a preoccupation with the doctrine of Baptism for the Dead. The priests in my former church never could explain what it meant. My adoptive mother came to me repeatedly in many dreams insisting that I should be baptized for her. She told me that she had received the promise that I would do it for her salvation. She told me that I would shortly find the true church where I could do it. While visiting my sister, I found the church and recognized it by this one teaching of Baptism for the Dead. I knew it was true the moment that they taught me that one principle. I pray for my mother, my father and my adoptive mother and I know that they are all members of the Church in Heaven for I have had all their work done for them in the Temple. I have also brought several friends into the Church.'
I will share just one more inspiring example. It is about Elder Alaka of Nairobi,Africa. Shortly after arriving at the MTC, he gave his first four-minute talk in his first sacrament meeting in the MTC. He told the congregation that six years before, during the terrorist bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, Elder Alaka was then a young boy age 14. He was holding his eight year-old sister's hand and anxiously dialing a cell telephone number praying that it would answer. It did.
The cell phone that was ringing belonged to his father-a Kenyan accountant employed at the U.S. Embassy. He was a good man trying to raise his two young children after his wife had died just three years before. He had recently found the Gospel and had many good friends in the Church who were anxious to help him with his two motherless children.
With great momentary relief, the cell phone was answered, but a strange voice responded. After asking for his father, this stranger told this fourteen year-old that he had heard the phone ringing and had taken it out the pocket of his father who had just been killed in the bombing at the Embassy.
Stunned and heartbroken, Alaka looked down at his eight year-old sister and wondered how he could tell her that her that mommy was gone and now their daddy was not coming home either. Six years later this twenty year-old missionary enrolled his now 14 year old sister a in a boarding school with the money he had received from some insurance provide by the U.S. Government, gave her a big hug and then boarded a plane for his flight across Africa from Kenya to Accra, Ghana, where he began his mission. He is the first missionary from his newly converted family. He is convinced that his father and mother are very much aware of his mission and watching carefully how he represents them and his sister and the Church. I could tell he was going to be a great missionary. His mom and dad will be very proud of him.
This group of new missionaries, and their trials and struggles to arrive in the MTC, was representative of the hundreds of missionaries who came through the MTC during our tenure in that special and sacred place. Everyone came with an amazing story. It always seemed like a miracle to discover how they had found themselves at the Missionary Training Center arriving from some village or hamlet from all over Africa preparing to change their lives forever and lots of others along the way. We discovered that each of their arrivals was not only a miracle but also that it was a piece of a foreordained plan to build the Kingdom of God in Africa.