Monday, November 20, 2017

Instrument in the hands of God

This week I would love to let you into the lives of a few of the investigators me and my son have found. One day back in the second week my son was here, that is like two months ago, we were walking and I saw a young woman selling some rice and cookies on the side of the road. So I felt impressed to give her a brochure. We give out tons of those things every day. It wasn’t special, we gave it to her and she said she sold there every day so we could stop by whenever, so we left. When we were planning, we decided to pass by where she was selling just to see if she was really interested because as I explained before most aren’t. We stopped by and she said she had read the brochure but was kinda sad that she didn’t have a Book of Mormon to really understand everything. So we gave her one, next time we came back she was asking all sorts of questions about Nephi’s story. We started passing by more often and we found she lives with her boyfriend and they aren’t married. However the boyfriend was super open to our message too, and before we knew it she started coming to church she has been coming for a month now and the boyfriend just came this last Sunday. We taught them the importance about the law of chastity and the boyfriend now works form morning till night every day to save money to marry the girl so they can get baptized in our church. And it all just started with a simple act of sharing a message.

I often focus on the crazy events that happen in this place, and I have many stories I will continue to share because I know it’s interesting, but I just absolutely love the perspective I get about the gospel of Jesus Christ while teaching it to people here. Everyday I spend hours in the sun walking incredible distances for what? because I have been called to be an instrument in the hands of God and what good is a rake if it has a mind of its own and does whatever it wants. I work to substitute my will, my thoughts for the will and thoughts of God. And it’s an amazing thing. I’m not perfect but I love this work. This week we were able to give the Book of Mormon to a guy who had been searching for it for over a year asking everyone and we happened to find his number and call him and we walked for an hour and a half to finally find him and bless his life with the truth. I know what I’m doing is right, and I love what this gospel can do in the lives of people. I’m feeling all spiritual this week because we had zone conference.

Some weird things this week, I saw on a bumper of a car “Bernie 2016” which is weird I don’t know why a Togoley would have cared about the US election. And also we pass buy a bum every day when we go out to the sector, he sits under a tree and smokes cigarettes all day. Where he gets the money I don’t know, but the other day he was laying down and his pants had a huge hole in the crotch area, like so big you could barely call what he was wearing pants, and he had no underwear on, so sadly I saw things I never ever ever ever ever wanted to see.

Apparently in the US after a year on your mission people burn a white shirt. I didn’t do that and when Bradshaw found out he quickly found an old shirt of Kadima and burned it in honor of my one year mark, so nice of him.

The zone activity today

Bradshaw burns a shirt in honor of my one year mark (a little late)

Kouadio protects himself from the oil burns

I have Kouadio's comb and glasses

Eating dinner when the power went out

Monday, November 13, 2017

The mouse murderers

Sadly for you but happy for me the events of this week were a lot calmer than the events of last week.

If you remember a few weeks ago there were huge riots that kept us inside, but no one told us not to go out from the mission side it was just the roamers in the streets that kept us from being killed. (Killed is a form of speech don’t worry about me, I am in no danger.)

Anyway, because there were planned protests again this week the church called in advance telling everyone to stay in for three whole days, however the protests were all peaceful in Lomé so we were stuck in the apartment for nothing. The most exciting thing that happened in those days is there was a mouse in our apartment. It was supper weird, we were all sitting in the living room then we see the mouse enter and everyone went into savage mode. We chased that thing into Bradshaw’s room and Bien-aime and Kouadio took two brooms and destroyed his room looking for the mouse while Bradshaw blocked the only exit and I took pictures. They ended up killing that little thing, then we paid our respects by doing a mini funeral for him and burying him under the tree of remembrance in our courtyard.

As I have said many times, the little kids call me "yovo yovo" in the streets every day well this started making Kouadio annoyed. Not because they called me yovo, and that’s all we hear every day, but because they don’t say hi to him as well. So he now walks around with candy in his bag teaching kids to say black in their language too when they see us which is something like "ameyibo". And if they say hi to him they get a treat, and it’s starting to work, really funny.

I’m super thankful for the chance I get to be a missionary. I talk to people I would have never met otherwise. The other day we were teaching the old man that has the bible memorized and he just told us his life story and cried as he explained he has had such a blessed life. But he does not feel like he has adequately served God for all his blessings, because he was so blessed, but he sinned so much in his life, it was very touching trying to explain to him there is still hope out there.

We had a super fun activity at the branch this last Saturday. There was dancing and food and games. I had a good time and a ton of my investigators came. I found out that the branch of Adidogome is famous for the best activities in Togo because it seemed more like a multi stake activity because of all the members from both stakes that were there.

I have now gained the confidence of the members of the branch. Sadly I think I only have two more weeks here, but I really like what my mission has become here. Sadly I stayed at the apartment a lot this week because of the protests so not a ton of excitement, sorry.


Broken glasses

Trying to exercise

Kouadio at a branch activity
Me at the branch activity

Bien-aime and Kouadio killed a mouse

Me and my son being good shepherds

Monday, November 6, 2017

I was forced to liquidate my assets

Yo, whats up everyone.

This week was fantastic, it started and ended with a bang... Tuesday this week was Halloween. Not that that made a difference, that holiday does not exist here. I forgot it was even Halloween, it was Bradshaw that reminded me. We got a few pieces of African candy he knocked on my bedroom door and I gave it to him, so that weird American tradition made it to Adidogome this year.

I started that day off by eating a very questionable smelling hot dog, for breakfast with some eggs and fries. I shouldn’t have done it but I didn’t smell the hotdog till it was already mixed with my eggs and fries so I wasn’t about to throw that stuff away, right? so I ate that nasty smelling sucker and went out to work. That hotdog grew arms and legs in my stomach and started punching me form the inside trying to get out. Sadly, my sector is really far away from the apartment. I thought I could keep that hotdog at bay and I tried to teach a lesson, however this hotdog was not a member of our Church and started doing voodoo and all sorts of secret combinations in my stomach. It chased away the spirt so we quickly closed the lesson, and speed walked to the apartment. As I went through what we call in French "la lutte supreme" or the supreme struggle, I wrested with the devil, however I prayed for strength and God helped me in my trials and was able to make it to the porcelain heaven and send that evil hot dog to his watery grave.

Sadly, Satan did not leave me alone and on Saturday he sent the spirt of the Hot dog back and this time nature did not just call, nature screamed and yelled. I started that same strait and narrow path to the apartment struggling with this sudden emergency evacuation order. Sadly, that day I was not so lucky, and not one but two pairs of underwear were forcefully baptized by fire. It was a sad day my friends. A sad, sad day.

Hey but I’m all better now.

Things are going great with my son. He is one off the funniest dudes. He will do anything to get the laugh, and he loves laughing himself. He pretends to be obsessed with white people, like he constantly says he will marry any white person of any age or gender. As long as they are white, he will marry them. And he has a bunch of weird habits that are funny. I’ll tell you a few of them:

He loves lotion and likes to put lotion on his whole body for some reason. However, he shares a room with me, and never closes or locks the door. Let’s just say I’ve had many un-needed surprises walking into my room.

He eats a ton of food a ton, and often times if we’re not looking or we’re saying the prayer for the food he will take food off others plates and put it on his. He also does not like waste. We are forced to eat chicken with bones here, while a normal person will eat the chicken and leave the bones he says we paid for the chicken with the bones so if we throw them away were throwing away money, so he eats all the bones of the chicken after every meal.

He once started a fire in our kitchen because he wasn’t sure if the fire alarm worked instead of pressing the test button.

What a guy.

You can always tell when rain is coming because there will be a huge gust of cold wind and in five mins the rains come and they come hard. Sadly, the gust of wind only gives you that five minute window and when we felt the wind on Sunday we knew we had an at least 25 min speed walk to the apartment. So we knew we were gunna drown that day, and boy did we get soaked, pictures below.

As for the spiritual side this week we taught a bunch of people we found two guys this week after talking to them for a few moments they really liked what we had to say so they took us around to all their friends saying we were missionaries of their church and that all they needed in their life was our message and they helped us give out a bunch of brochures. It was super funny seeing as they hadn’t heard our message yet and are not actually members but they were self proclaimed members after knowing us for 45mins. After that we did teach them and everything we say they take it as scripture its awesome.

We also worked with the ward mission leader all day on Thursday. He is a super cool guy and is a return missionary from the Ivory Coast. He gave us lots of tips on how to teach the Togoley people and he showed us how he teaches the law of chastity, and its hardcore. He says if you have broken the law of chastity and don’t cry after he teaches the law of chastity there is something wrong with the person, and he put it in action. It’s hard to explain exactly how he teaches it but he uses great examples that work with this people. He is very direct and it was awesome to see him work some magic with our investigators that needed to change in that area.

Of course, tons of other things happened this week but I couldn’t tell them all, but the biggest adventures of the week are there. What an interesting blessing I have to be here.

Rain! Soaked to the bone.

Walking with a box of chicken on my head. The pics are a little blurry because Kouadio took them while we were walking and while he was laughing. 

dirty shirt

with Kouadio

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Witnesses Hat

A week has passed in the blink of an eye. I have a feeling I only have a month left in this sector with my son and I’m scared. I have so much more I want to do in this place. And the time I have is just not enough and it’s such a change from the first half of my mission.

This week me and my son went ham on our sector because we needed to at least double our number of serious investigators. We had some pretty cool experiences.

One of my favorites was being called over by an old papa, named Do___, he is an ex-Jehovah witness and has practically memorized the entire bible, and the same thing with his son, he has read the bible like 100 times or something. And you know what’s great about people who know the bible more than anything they are super ready to accept the gospel of our church! It’s only the people who don’t read or understand the bible who are really hard to teach. If you understand the bible you understand the bible is complicated it’s not always easy to understand and there are many human errors and mis-translations and mis-interpretations, mixed with much truth and light. For years papa Do___ has searched for truth but as he sees the churches of today and with the bible he reads and cries because he doesn’t understand anything anymore. Then Elder Larson and his son came in and he thinks he has found the light, we gave him the Book of Mormon and he is super interested. When we told him about the plan of salvation he was with us the whole time. All the truths that are not clear in the bible we showed him are clear in the Book of Mormon, I’m so glad we found this man.

Along with your cool investigators there is always the weird ones. There is this one dude that stopped me and Kadima back in the day and he talks a ton but never lets you talk. He asks weird questions but doesn’t listen to your answers, he loves talking about the time he has spent living in every country in the world even though we know he is lying and has never left Togo. And no matter where we are in the sector we always seem to bump into him, he is such a weird dude. Every time he comes up to us he has something weird to say. This last week he came up to us for the third time that week in another weird spot in our sector and asked if we could baptize him right then and there. We said yes because we like messing with him, so we told him he just needs to come to church on Sunday, he said he could only if we called him at 5h30 in the morning on Sunday. If it was 5h31 it was too late and he couldn’t come so we set our alarms that day and called him on the dot but he didn’t answer, nor come to church, we knew he was a pathetic liar but it was such a weird request we just had to do it to see.

Many, many, many people think we are Jehovah Witnesses. I know I’ve said it before but most people don’t like Jehovah Witnesses either, like a general hatred is felt towards them kinda. Any way when we present our self in French I often say, we are missionaries from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are not Jehovah Witnesses. When you say that everyone gets more interested for some reason, any way this week my son found an old straw hat in our apartment and decided to wear it but the thing is all Jehovah Witnesses I’ve ever seen in Togo wear straw hats, and all of our investigators teased him about converting to a rival church, it was super funny.

My son often says he is single with no wife and no kids I often tell him saying your single means you don’t have a wife automatically, he refuses. He also says that reality and truth are two different ideas but I don’t think so. We talk a lot so these are some of our favorite topics to argue about.

Things are going well lots of people coming to church with all the efforts I’m doing, working hard, laughing a lot things are good and time is flying.

Kouadio finds a straw hat

Monday, October 23, 2017

Politically and Spiritually Divided

Okay!

I am alive and things are hopefully getting back to normal.

This week was transfer week which means we get very little done. A neighboring missionary had his companion transferred so he came to stay with me and Kouadio for a week. His name is Elder Hemon and he is a French man who comes from the same stake as Elder Raveneau, my old companion. Hemon is super cool and it was awesome to stay with him for a couple days. There are a lot of missionaries that eat a ton of food, my son (Kouadio) is one of them. However, in my whole mission I’ve never seen someone eat more than Hemon. That guy pounds food like no one I’ve seen.

Last week as we tried to fix appointments for this week. Everyone said that Wednesday and Thursday were impossible because no one will be able to go out because of the protests. There have been protests before and we have been fine so I was wondering why everyone was so scared.

We get up Wednesday morning do a few studies and then at 10 we start hearing some noise. We get up on our roof and just one street over where we couldn’t see we heard a bunch of voices screaming and yelling like a huge crowd was spilling on to the main road. Within a few mins they were burning tires making huge black smoke and the military came shooting plastic bullets and gas into the crowd. Me, wanting to work, decided to go out but as we worked our way away from the big road the protests were on small side roads too doing the same things. So everyone forced us to turn back. So I went back and slept, and my son tore his pants on the way back, I love my son.

On Friday we were able to go get the rest of our district members. We picked them up and spent the other two days showing them their sector. They are cool one is Bien-aime he is from Haiti. He was supposed to have come with me on the mission but because of visas he waited six months at home before coming. The other is a brand new American, Bradshaw, who is from California and is super cool. I see a lot of the difficulties he is having because of what I went through in training so I’m trying to help him as much as I can to make his training a better experience then mine.

I also taught a girl on Tuesday and on Wednesday she had already prayed and had an answer about the truthfulness of our message, so that was awesome.

We also had a conference this Sunday where the stake in Togo got split. Now there are two stakes in Togo, and I got to be there at this monumental occasion. But it wasn’t too exciting it wasn’t like Moses splitting the red sea, it was more like someone got up and just said where the new borders of the stakes were, but still a big moment.


Elder Hemon
Hemon likes food (we all do)
I love my son
Kouadio rips his pants
New district: Larson, Kouadio, Bradshaw, Bien-aime
My district
With Bradshaw


Togo Conference

Monday, October 16, 2017

How to buy a wife

I’m trying to get my thoughts organized so what I say is not just a brain dump but a cohesive story.

Let’s start with two more weird ideas people have about the United States.
- That everyone is burned after they are dead and there are no burials
- That the United States is a country in Europe.

Okay so the week started of pretty normal, I believe. We worked hard. There is this one family we teach where we were there almost every day this week because every morning they would call us to make sure we would come over.

Then in the middle of the week I got out of Adidogome and went into the middle of Lome in the sector of Elder Wride for the day. He is a super cool guy and we had some great lessons and talked a lot about our different experiences in this half dream half nightmare we call the Benin, Cotonou Mission. However, we are both a lot happier then we were in the beginning. Their apartment was super weird, every room was crawling with cockroaches, like little baby ones. Sorry for the image mom, but it was bad, like you can’t take a step without killing a few. Luckily I didn’t eat any by accident.

Then the highlight of the week happened the last few days. On Saturday I got to witness with my own two eyes how the Togolese do "la dote" in English that is the dowry. Basically it’s a big ceremony where a husband buys his wife from her parents. It’s all over Africa and it’s embedded in tradition. For purposes of religion its pretty screwed up actually, because what it is if a guy wants to marry a girl before he can do that he has to pay for her. But with a butt crap ton of money and so many people can’t pay so they end up living together without getting married and then bunches of kids are born and parents leave. It’s sad stuff. It brings lots of pain and suffering. However, you can’t change the culture so I went to go see one of the members of our branch buy another member of our branch for the price of about 1000 US dollars. When I did the conversion it doesn’t look like that much but this is Togo, one of the poorest countries in the world. Also one of the cheapest dowry’s in Africa and trust me that is a ton of money here.

Any way the ceremony was super interesting. The wife’s family is on one side and the husbands on the other. The couple is nowhere to be seen for most of it. It was done in the mother language of the couple, so of course I understood absolutely nothing. There is a lot of discussing, lots of whispering, then the husband’s family brings in the offerings. Expensive alcoholic drinks, food, pine, other gifts and a sum of money. Then the family of the wife goes and checks it out to see if it is worthy. If they say “no” the dowry is over, but they accepted. Then there was some more stuff that happened I don’t know but people were laughing a lot. Then a big lady came around to the husband’s side to get money to pay for "the transportation" of the wife. Then someone walks into a room with someone covered in a sheet they bring it, uncover her, and it’s not the bride. They repeat the same process many times trying to get more and more transportation money. I see money is everything here. They finally bring in the girl. Then they talk and then she goes and changes into clothes that match the guy and then the guy won the game he got the girl. Now they can go pay a butt load of money to the state at the town hall to get really married. I’m super angry I took so many pics of the ceremony but the camera battery died and we didn’t get pic with the couple.

On Saturday we also got calls for transfers. Thank everything that is good in the world I’m staying with my son for the next six weeks. They are adding two new missionaries into our apartment so I’m now a district leader to an elder from Haiti who is training a brand new American. I’m super excited to work with these guys were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

When me and Elder Kouadio started together we had two sectors to work in. We had only two investigators. Everything we have now is thanks to the work we have done and the help from the Lord. We worked really hard and brought these two sectors, that were both dead, back to life. However, when we got the call that two new missionaries were coming into the sector me and my son had a really hard time thinking that we would have to leave half of our investigators that we love so much. We prayed about it and came to a good decision about which sector we will take, but it was still hard. And I know for a fact people will take it hard that me and my son won’t get to teach them anymore. We are a good team and people really seem to like us.

On the way home from church a lady invited us into her home to teach her the gospel before we started the lesson she asked if we were thirsty. We actually were so she went to go get something to drink she comes back with a beer. I say oh actually, no thanks on the beer we thought you were going to bring water we don’t drink beer. You would think that would be the end of the conversation. I have never been pushed so hard to drink in my life, she is like what are you scared? It’s only got a little alcohol, you drink the whole bottle you won’t even get drunk. It’s nothing, just at least taste a little. Every line that gets people to drink she used. She was very pushy, me and my son just kept saying no and that it was against our principles and she finally let it go and we had a great lesson, it was just really weird.

This next week the rumors of the biggest protests and riots are coming so I’m actually kind of scared. I hope it all works out.

Splits with Elder Wride

Kouadio falls asleep while exercising

Eating Fishy Crackers - taste from home

La Dote Ceremony

Monday, October 9, 2017

Everything is so Hot

I think the rainy season is over. Because it is really heating up in the country, and for some reason the power goes out very often now at night, which means I wake up with all the fans cut and everything is soaked because of sweat. It is quite miserable but I’m still super happy, because just about everything else is going my way, so an hour every night of super heated sleep is nothing.

Another thing that is hot is the politics. Things are heating up with the many protesters trying to get rid of the current president. We knew that protests were supposed to be happening this week, but they have said that this whole month and we never have seen any, so we weren’t about to let that stop our work. However, weirdly this Wednesday when we started walking there was no one outside, it was super weird. No cars on the road, no one was selling anything, just like a ghost town. We did finally see a mama selling food and asked her what happened. Turns out we just missed a huge protest and the police came and blocked all the roads and sent everyone back home so that’s why no one was outside. Well we didn’t see anything, so we just did our work. However, Thursday was really bad. We saw the results of those protests, a bunch of people dressed in all red would stand on the road and throw big rocks at passing cars of people going to work to try to get them angry at the government. Also because according to them if someone is going to work on a day there are protests that means they are for the government. So we saw the smashed car parts in the road and the marks where the boulders were thrown in the streets. We were already well into our day in our last lesson when the pres called us telling us not to go out that day. But it was too late we already did. My son was scared out of his mind that day because he happened to choose a red tie and that is the color of the opposition.

The third thing that was super hot this week was the food. I don’t know if I mentioned it before but Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast all love lots of hot pepper in their food, so that it is super spicy. I have learned to like a little spice in my food, however this week I had a sauce that toped them all. Kouadio and I went to a place to have ingame pele with peanut sauce, but the sauce was so spicy it made me cry and my nose start to run. People make fun of me normally because of my race, but that day everyone in the restaurant was laughing that the “yovo” was suffering at the heat of the food, so yeah I had tears running down my face but I ate all the sauce but I’m sure I was drinking the devils sauce.

We worked really hard this week, which was kind of tiring but I didn’t know how tired my son (Kouadio) was until one day we took a short sitting break and my son fell asleep on the wall. (picture below)

We got to baptize our 11 year old buddy Em___ he is cool. He talks a lot tho. It was cool to have another baptism. When Elder Wride came to do his baptism interview he said he responded better to the questions then most adults he has done interviews with, He is very smart.

I will finish my email with some of the ideas people have about the US. Not everyone believes the same thing but I will list real things that at least one or more people actually believe about the United States of America.

There are no black people.
Trash doesn’t exist.
You don’t have to work because everyone is already rich.
There is no suffering.
Everyone gets an iPhone for free.
No one is ever hungry because food is free.
Trees talk.

These are some of the beliefs and I’ve heard even crazier, I’m sure. They are not all coming to my head right now but in later weeks I’ll tell you more. Even when I try to explain that US is not heaven on earth they say I’m lying. But it’s all good, I still love them all.

Kouadio falls asleep in the sector

Authentic Togo food

Em__ Baptism

Me with the many articles of clothing I have in pine