Missionary moments: Eternal bonds

The day, Aug. 24, 2005, was a fine day for the Missionary Training Center in Tema, Ghana. We were the center of the universe for two young men. Elder Georges Grah from Ivory Coast was on his 12th day in the MTC and Elder Greg Sterling Dixon was on his 730th day and heading home. Elder Dixon, of Kaysville, Utah, had just finished his mission in Cameroon, a French speaking country east of us — and part of the new Cape Coast mission.

One year previous, Elder Dixon was serving in Ivory Coast and was a key player in the conversion and baptism of Georges Grah. Today, barely one year later he was a full-time missionary and preparing to return to his country to do what Elder Dixon had done for him. As they embraced and some not few tears flowed it was a very reflective moment for all of us who were witnesses to this eternal bonding that was happening right before our eyes.

In our morning devotional, we shared some stories of some eternal bonds we had created since my Scottish mission days in the early 1960s. I then shared a wonderful experience where my wife, Carolyn, and I had been in the Sydney Australia Temple during our mission to that part of the world. I had borrowed the president's phone and as I exited his office, the temple secretary who had overheard me introducing myself on the telephone asked, "Are you the Jim Ritchie from Heber City, Utah?"

She continued, "You baptized me 40 years ago in Scotland." The re-connection and the e-mails that have occurred are priceless as we have each shared our histories, challenges and family growth since those days in Glasgow.

We also pondered the next 40 years during which Elder Dixon and Elder Grah may share their experiences. Maybe Elder Grah will send pictures of his mission successes, future family and then pictures of the day he will escort his children to the Missionary Training Center. And perhaps Elder Dixon and his family will shed tears of joy as they read, remember and reflect on Elder Grah and his family.

The bonds that missions create are truly eternal — and bring us "never ending happiness." The memories of members, converts, companions, investigators and neighbors become part of the most incredible memories that God has foreordained for us to share. — James W. Ritchie, Heber City, Utah, former president of Ghana Missionary Training Center

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