Behind the scenes of Mormon missionary work in Ghana MTC

Published: Monday, Dec. 30 2013 9:50 a.m. MST

Missionaries at the Ghana MTC practice their teaching skills outside on the grounds of the MTC.

Jeff Call, Deseret News

TEMA, GHANA — It’s a Monday morning and President Stephen L. Graham and his wife, Sister Vanessa Jane S. Graham, are getting ready for “intake day,” when they will welcome 83 missionaries.

The three-story MTC building houses elders and sisters assigned to serve in a variety of French- and English-speaking countries throughout Africa.

“We get missionaries from all over the world,” Sister Graham said. “England, France, the United States, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and, of course, from many countries in Africa. We even have one from Cambodia and Angola. It’s very diverse.”

Among those in this eclectic group of 83 includes some of the first missionaries from the nation of Burundi, where the Church has been established for only a few years. The Burundi missionaries took two flights to Accra — it was the first time they had been on an airplane. The Ghana MTC has also trained missionaries from Tahiti where the Grahams served a mission in the 1980s. The Ghana MTC saw its first missionary from South Sudan in June 2013.

The center in Ghana is one of 15 MTCs throughout the world, and one of two in Africa, along with the MTC in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The majority of the missionaries stay at the Ghana MTC for only 11 days before departing to their assigned missions; a small number stays for six weeks to learn French.

“Things go smoothly here, for the most part,” Sister Graham said, “then it’s kind of like a tsunami.”

The whirlwind of activity includes picking up groups of missionaries at the airport as they arrive on flights from around the world. The MTC shuttles the new missionaries from the airport to the MTC, which is about 45 minutes away.

“Our drivers are driving into the night,” President Graham said. “Some arrive late in the evening.”

Then there’s the time-consuming process of taking photos of the missionaries, checking on their visas, passports and temple recommends, and ensuring they have an Internet email account for sending emails home, if they don’t have one already.

Sister Graham measures each missionary for temple clothing, teaches them about how to stay healthy and gives them their malaria medication.

She is a nurse and keeps all the medical records that must be submitted to a local doctor.

Missionaries are assigned companions, put into districts or classes, then teachers are assigned to each class.

It’s a process that repeats itself every couple of weeks.

President Graham’s biggest challenge is the high volume of interviews that must be conducted in a short period of time. While he thoroughly enjoys the interview experience, it isn’t easy.

“It’s just the sheer numbers of getting to know that many people in such a short time,” President Graham said. “On intake day, my wife and I will both speak briefly with all 83 of them as they arrive. I then call district leaders, and my counselors and I will formally interview each of them on Sunday. Intake day is a long day. Things have to be organized and ready for Sunday. But it’s a wonderful experience. The Lord is hastening His work.”

Initially, the newly arriving missionaries are a little shell-shocked.

“The first meal is always very quiet,” Sister Graham said, “but by the next day, they’re just chatting with each other. It just warms my heart.”

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