ACCRA, Ghana Throughout the month of January, Ghanaians say "Afehyia pa," a Twi-language greeting meaning "Happy New Year." The standard response is "Afe uko mbotohen," meaning "May we spend many years greeting each other."
On Jan. 11, the exchange of greetings on the grounds of the Accra Ghana Temple were different. Added to the exchange were "Ete sen?" (How is this day?) and "Eye." (It is good.)
Over and over, people on the temple grounds said it was a good day; superlatives of "wonderful," and "best day of my life" were used.
"I am so happy," or "this is a happy day," was a common response. Charlotte Abankwa, who was in the choir for the second dedicatory session, never stopped smiling during the singing. "I am humbled and happy," she said. "I don't know how to express myself. I shed tears when we sang 'How Great Thou Art,' but I kept smiling. I couldn't stop. How could anyone not smile on a day like this?"
Members' happiness centered on the fact that they now have a temple in their midst, even if some had to travel two or more days to arrive for the dedication. By bus, car or on foot, they came to what many people, even government and other leaders, describe as the grandest building in all of Ghana.
Toby W. Tweh and his wife, Beatrice, came from Liberia, where he presides over the stake in Monrovia. "This is a happy time; I am so happy," he said. "This temple in Accra will bring relief to us because there are so many members who want to go to the temple but they don't have the money to go all the way to South Africa."
Their joy in attending the temple was tinged with a bit of sadness over the fact that no other members from their stake were able to travel to the dedication. "They wanted to come, but the road is closed, and there was no chance for them to come. But they wanted to, and I wish they could be here."
The Accra temple has been much anticipated. While in Accra on Feb. 16, 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced plans for a temple to be built in Ghana. However, construction was delayed during the process of obtaining building permits. Still, the fact that Ghana has a temple is, as many said, miraculous. It was only 25 years ago on Dec. 9, 1978 that Elder Ted Cannon and his wife, Sister Janath Cannon, and Elder Rendell Mabey and his wife, Sister Rachel Mabey, arrived in Ghana as the first missionaries.
Many references were made during the dedicatory sessions and in informal conversations about the pioneering missionaries and those who followed them. Also, tribute was paid pioneer members in Ghana. One of the first members baptized was Priscilla Sampson-Davis, among 89 people baptized Dec. 12 of that year.
Sister Sampson-Davis described Bungalow #26 where early meetings were held in Accra.
After attending a brief ceremony in which she participated in placing items in a box to be sealed behind a coverstone of the temple, she said, "We have come a long way." Of seeing the temple, she said, "It is a wonderful feeling. I am so excited."
Another pioneer member in Ghana is Joseph William Billy Johnson, who was also among those baptized Dec.12, 1978. In the 1950s, various pamphlets about the Church found their way to Ghana; some Ghanaians wrote to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, requesting more information. Brother Johnson, then a minister, read the Book of Mormon in 1964 and gained a testimony.
"This temple is a marvelous blessing," he said. "We've been waiting for a long time. We knew if we keep the commandments and do what we are supposed to do that Heavenly Father would give us a temple."
Only about 415 members in Ghana had received their endowments prior to the dedication of the Accra temple. "It was a joy for members to go to the temple, but to travel so far away was a burden. So many cannot afford to go to South Africa or London. We kept praying and fasting, asking that the Lord would open the door to the temple some day. This day, the Lord has opened the door of the temple for us. I was so happy when President Hinckley announced there would be a temple. We were at a meeting in Independence Square. There was jubilation that day. All the members were so happy. Now, with the temple being dedicated, I feel that the prayers we offered so many years ago have been answered. The day is here. I am so grateful. I will strive to merit the blessings I have been given. Now is the time to help those who have been laid down in the grave. I know they're rejoicing. All the Church is rejoicing."
E-mail: [email protected]