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Parker Strong, a 19-year-old from Centerville, Utah, sat on a tro-tro in West Africa. The Ghanaian public transportation was overcrowded and passengers began to pass their goods back for others to help hold. Strong was handed a goat to keep on his lap. It breathed on his face and he looked out the window at the rain forest he was driving through.

“In that moment it just hit me,” Strong said. “‘I’m in the middle of West Africa.’”

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Strong, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was called to serve in the Ghana Accra Mission in 2013. Although he would eventually get used to the culture and learn several different dialects of the language, upon arriving in Ghana, Strong had some major adjustments.

The first three months Strong viewed as an adventure. Waking up each morning to fetch water, using a bucket to shower and living life without electricity seemed exciting. However, the excitement began to wear off as the reality of his new circumstances settled in. Along with longing for the luxuries he had at home, Strong began to have doubts that Ghana was the place he could share the gospel the best.

“I think it’s natural for most missionaries to feel that way,” Strong said. “‘Is this really where I’m supposed to be? Is this what I should be doing with my life?’”

One night in September, such thoughts lingered in Strong’s mind as he tried to help teach a lesson with his companion. They sat across from a sewer in a tiny fishing village. The sun was beginning to set when Strong looked up and saw a young boy walking by wearing a Jr. Jazz basketball jersey.

“I looked at it and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s the Jazz, that’s my hometown team,’” Strong said. “That alone was so exciting because it was something I recognized from home. … I looked at that and was like, ‘Wow, that really speaks to me, that’s so cool. It’s a little piece of home in the middle of West Africa.”

Strong asked the boy to come over, and asked if he could look at the jersey. The boy took it off and handed it to Strong. As he held it on his lap, Strong noticed the jersey was a number zero, the same number he had worn many years ago in Jr. Jazz. Strong flipped the jersey inside out to see the reversible side.

To read the full article on Deseret News, click here