Monday, August 21, 2017

Spiritually fed, physically dead

Sorry everyone for last week. I am so thankful I was able to write an email every week for almost a year in a third world country without major problems. But yes the connection here is not good and last week I wasn’t able to get online, so this week you’ll get a recap of two weeks.

So last week we were blessed to have an apostle of Jesus Christ come and visit our mission. This is the first time since the missions opening ten years ago. Elder Renlund was able to teach us about the importance of good work ethic and good attitude and how a combination of the two can bring miracles. It was a very inspiring lesson and it really motivated me to want to keep striving to become a better and better missionary each day.

I also had the blessing of getting a contact from, surprisingly, the United States of America. So some missionary who is doing an online French mission or something found some guy who was searching for a book that complemented and explained the bible. He likes the bible and knows it’s true but it’s written in a lot of parables and he knows it’s not complete. So this is completely missionary gold because the Book of Mormon is our thing. So we talked to this guy on Sunday and had an amazing first lesson. He has many other issues with churches and is really searching for something bigger. We didn’t have a book of Mormon for him at the time so we gave him our little brochure and he said it was way too small for him, because he really enjoys feasting on readings. We told him the big stuff was coming but I’m already so happy because no one ever reads the little brochures anyway but this guy is ready.

We got a lot of work done the week before this one. We are getting this young girl ready for baptism she is only 13 years old, Her family is non member but wants her to get into the church because this girl has been a little troubled in the past and to get her on a better road a member talked to the family about the program the church has to help young woman. The parents liked it so she has been coming to church to try to change the rest of her life which is super cool

And this week I’ve been dying. I had this weird feeling in my stomach which in a week turned into a pain and I lost my appetite. I could not eat anything the sight the thought the smell of food made me super sick. I never threw up but I was always on the toilet, you know. And after a week I finally got the name for the medicine against worms. I went to a pharmacy and drank that milky liquid and I’m feeling a ton better now. I killed those stupid aliens living inside of me but it did make me think back to the amazing days in the US where you can drink tap water no problem. But here it’s a big problem, but no aliens busted out of my stomach this week like it felt like was gunna happen. But I’m feeling a lot better now.

With Kadima

We brought Kadima's barber to the conference

The conference with Elder Renlund was at the national congress building

A family from church at the conference

The medicine that saved me

Good bread in Togo that I can eat again

I want people to guess how I took this piano photo. Contact my mom with your guesses.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Week 50 and the first no Monday contact

Kaelyn here (Riley's mom). I was warned that there might be a Monday Riley would be unable to write. It happened for the first time today. It could be due to connection problems, power outage, or any number of things. It was still a really hard day for me not hearing anything. Luckily there is a mission Facebook group and another mother posted a picture today that included Riley! So at least I got to see a picture. I don't know where or when it was taken, but I'll include it here. I hope we hear from him soon.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Foot Fetish Mosquitos

[Note from Kaelyn - I think Riley would rather be teaching, but that hasn't worked out very well lately. Instead you get some stories about the area.]

Well I didn’t really do any thing this week so I just thought I would try to let you all in on the weird things that are everyday life to me in Benin and Togo. If I said some of these things already it’s because they are still true. Let’s see, thoughts about Africa. Now when we talk about Africa it is a very diverse place and I have only lived in two countries on the west side. However, two countries that aren’t very diverse from each other are Togo and Benin. You can see how this is the same people just long ago some white people drew some imaginary lines and a people got separated and little differences popped up in there. Different languages and they both always brag about how they are better than the other even though they are really the same. Well what kind of things do we see, for example this week I saw a young guy who is twenty years old and the equivalent of a junior in high school. For a summer job he works at a restaurant where they cook only spaghetti and gets paid the equivalent of one dollar a day for about 12 to 15 hours of work. Is that work? no that is slavery, with money to get to and from work.

I still eat tomato sauce and rice every day, every day for both meals with cookies or bread in the morning, the food here is one of the biggest trials ever.

The mosquitos here are horrible not only do they carry malaria and I have to take daily malaria medication the mosquitos here have a weird foot fetish or something and they only bite my feet and ankles, and it drives me crazy. I get bitten at least twice a day on the feet it looks like my feet have leprosy from all the mosquito bite scars.

I’ll let you in on a little secret of this mission there is something here called tithing where the old missionaries collect money from all the younger missionaries they knew on the mission their last transfer to buy stuff. I have been subject for this many times it’s a tradition I hate but what can I do they paid it when they were young missionaries so now it’s their turn to collect. But because I’m such a nice guy I became friends with like everyone in the mission and 14 missionaries or so are going home this transfer including three of my old companions. My dad and many other friends so I don’t know what I’m going to do because the requests for tithing keep coming in and I’m only one guy. But I can handle it just fine.

Anyway an interesting thing about the church here is testimony meetings. Often times whole families will go up and bare their testimonies together. Like they all stand at the podium at the same time the wife goes and the husband will testify what his wife said was true then add some stuff, it’s different and kinda funny sometimes with bigger families or families with little kids.

This place is very unsanitary and many things that happen here would make my mom die along with all other germaphobes, especially where we buy our meat. Talk about "the jungle" but in Africa which sounds kinda of funny but no one wears gloves. The guy who cuts it always seems to have gone to the bathroom right before touching our meat with his bare hands, grabbing a machete off the ground, sloppily cutting our meat as it flies across the room and picking it up off the floor puts it into an already used bag and we take it home. But hey it’s normal here.

Every time a kid touches my white shirt it immediately gets stained.

Lots of people in Africa hate the French, some people ask me all angry about why the French can’t leave these countries’ alone then they find out I’m American and they like me a lot more.

Also being white helps you get all the ladies, not that you even try, but I get marriage proposals on a daily basis. Everyone thinks marring a white man means going to America to live in peace and die without problems for the rest of their lives. Interesting fact, if a lady gets pregnant here abortions are a thing, but if a black lady gets pregnant by a white guy they will never ever have an abortion. When I heard that I found that super weird but hey it’s just what happens.

White people means money apparently, so everything I try to buy is way more expensive. Anything anyone tries to buy around me becomes more expensive. And I get asked for money by everyone. Almost every conversation I have ends or starts with “yovo, you brought what for me?” or “give me 100 franks.”

I still wash my clothes by hand and I have gotten down to wearing the smallest amounts of clothes possible. Like two shirts a week, the same pair of pants the whole week, two or three pair of socks and just changing my underwear every day. It sounds gross but cleaning by hand is so time consuming and boring. I do it twice a week for an hour and half that is with doing my clothes conservation technique so I can’t imagine if I changed clothes every day.

I see some of the funniest things every day I see motorcycles carrying tons of stuff like other motos, cars, and caskets for dead people.

You speak the real language of any person here they light up and that works for all nationalities so I try to learn a little bit of every language.

There are so many more things that I live and see and if you have any questions about what life is like here please ask my mom and she can send the questions to me because I see a thousand and one crazy things a day that I don’t recognize as crazy.

A little piece of my heart will always live in Togo and Benin although it’s weird and I suffer a lot I have found another family here and I’m so glad I got the chance to come and serve them and show them the light of the gospel.
Mosquito bite on the pinky toe

I jerry rigged a toilet lid

Togo church building

With glasses I found in the apartment

Monday, July 31, 2017

Salty Water Drinking Mormons

Okay let me tell you some things about Togo. The water is salty, I’m not sure why or where it comes from but even if you filter it or do what ever it’s just salty. What can you do? There are a lot more people here that know the church than in Benin. Instead of getting "are you Jehovah Witnesses" like we did all the time in Benin, we get a lot of "are you the Mormons?" So I don’t like that. I liked the clean slate I got in Benin. There are a lot less motos and a lot more taxis.

The language here is similar to Fon but just different that I don’t understand anything. Just when I was starting to understand a little here and a little there they change countries on me.

It does feel like I’ve restarted my mission in Benin I was at least oriented, now I couldn’t tell you where I am, but that will come with the time.

I have feared for my life a few more times here than in Benin. It was a normal sight to see parents beat kids and people get in fights. But just the things I’ve seen people use to do those things here, a drunk dad using a super thick stick on his like infant child who did nothing. The dad was just drunk and a woman and a man using big rocks to fight instead of fists. So seeing those two things was very scary.

I really like the branch here it reminds me of my home ward there are lots of people joking and some fun personalities. There are a lot of return missionaries and people who really understand what the church is supposed to be which I never found in abundance in Benin.

The branch is going crazy for the visit of the apostle who is coming in a week, Elder Renlund, so that is cool. It’s the first time an apostle will come to Togo and Benin since the mission opened, so for seven years or so.

The transfer took all week so we didn’t get a lot done this week.

And I got the chance of living in the worst apartment in Togo. The outside is alright and the placement is cool just the rooms are too small for two people to have beds in and they are not ventilated so they are super hot, but it’s only for a time.

I don’t have many cool stories but it’s just me and Kadima in this big house kinda lonely, but now is the beginning of my Togo adventures...
Packed up leaving Benin for Togo with my Togo tie

Seeing my dad, Mukendi, in Togo right after I arrived

My new companion, Kadima

The mattress I slept on my first night in Togo

My new mini room

The teeny tiny bathroom in my new apartment

Adidogome kitchen

Adidogome apartment

The courtyard in Adidogome. Yes, that is a vodka bottle. They sell oil and snacks in old vodka bottles - recycling is big in Togo

Laundry in the courtyard in Adidogome

"Tree of Remembrance" where missionaries who have lived there carve their name

My dad, Mukendi lived here

Roof of apartment in Adidogome

Monday, July 24, 2017

I will take my transfer TO GO please

Well last thing is first, because this last Saturday were transfers and I’m leaving Cococodji and leaving Benin and I’m heading to Togo to see another country and help more people. I’m going to kill yet another missionary, another Congolese who is on his last six weeks. I hope I will learn a lot from his old missionary wisdom.

This week was actually pretty fun I have pictures below of operation water balloon where I filled up a bunch of water balloons I got in a package from Kenzi and gave them to random kids below our apartment. Ellison stood on the roof and documented this interesting psychological test on what little Benin kids would do with plastic balloons filled with water. (If you can’t tell from the pictures they didn’t fight with them, they all just held them and stared at them in wonder.)

I also had two baptisms this week and I saw something amazing happen with one of my candidates. So my last baptism with Mayani was the sister Ju__ who was super cool and so we started teaching her little sister to see if she wanted to progress like her big sister. It turns out she saw the effect going to our church had on her sister and how it helped her sister be happy so she accepted a baptism date.

As we continued to teach her we found that she had a really hard time paying attention. She wouldn’t answer questions and it was like she didn’t take seriously what we were trying to do, but rain or shine she was at church every week and was always ready to be taught so we kept teaching her. The 20th came up three days before her date and we had finished everything so we were going to the mandatory pre-interview and we were sure we were going to have to push back her baptism because she didn’t understand. But as we started talking to her and asking her questions it was as if she had completely changed. It was as if every lesson she had kept everything we taught when just the day before she couldn’t remember anything. She shared her need to change and be baptized we were so sure she was ready we sent her to her interview she passed and was baptized. It just shows that really the missionaries don’t prepare people but it is the Lord that prepares people.

Also, the other young guy his parents refused his baptism that same day and then a miracle happened. Someone called his dad and he accepted and was able to get baptized anyway. There was a point in the week I thought I wouldn’t be able to baptize anyone, but they both came around in the end.

I also ate more rabbit this week that was fun. I don’t really know what else I did this week. I bought a piano and took some fun pics I hope you enjoy and I’ve done 11 months of this madness only 13 left to go.

I had a friend in Hevie make me hats and ties out of cool fabric

Me and Ellison

My district in African clothes

Operation Water Balloon

I bought a keyboard

My last baptism in Hevie

Monday, July 17, 2017


This week was a pretty normal week with Hypote which means we went to the hospital a lot which is not a huge deal. I really just want him to get healthy again.

On Wednesday Elder Ny cooked some food. I though I got my normal chicken, tomato sauce and rice and sat down to eat. I bit into the chicken and wow it was super good, like way better than normal. I ate the rest of the meal and went on with my day. That night I thanked Ny for the chicken, it was super good and he told me that that wasn’t chicken it was rabbit. It was the first time I’ve eaten rabbit, but it was great. Anyone who has had rabbit before knows it’s good stuff.

One day on our way to the hospital I saw a full out fistfight between two guys on motos. They both got off the motos and went at it. They were swinging, they fell on the ground choking each other. It was nuts but it didn’t really surprise me. I know these things happen every day. But I wonder why they were so mad.

We went to Weme again and are now super popular over in that weird place because we have not only walked all the way out there to see them once, but we came back the next week. Now the mama I’ve seen a ton of times at church now likes me and has learned my name which is great!

I guess this is the time I talk about gari. Gari is a staple food here in Benin its wiki page I could only find in French and it’s like a weird form of chipped flower type stuff made from manyoke. It’s kind of sour and people love this stuff here. You can find it anywhere, any time. It’s a snack they make it into everything. Me and Ellilson have grown to appreciate this food and have eaten it a lot with sugar milk and water in the mornings and are teased about being from Benin. On one of our trips back from the hospital the wheel came off our taxi so we waited as these guys fixed the tire and the sealant they used to help the tire stick to the metal part in the middle they used a gari paste. It was super funny to see how this food is so idolized in this country enough to use it when it probably shouldn’t be used. In America you use duct tape to fix everything, here its gari.

Other than that, I have meet some pretty amazing people here. If everything goes as planned, which it almost never does, but if it does we will have two baptisms this Saturday. A young man named El__ and a sister named La__ they both come to church all the time and El__ is just super cool a young guy who came up to us one day and asked to be baptized. He works hard to understand and prepare to be baptized the work is not easy here but sometimes these miracles can happen.

This morning we had an activity with president Goury we all, including him, played soccer. The first activity of my mission with more than one zone it was super fun. I didn’t play soccer, but I watched and I talked to my good buddy Dorsey who just got back from the US after his medical problems. It was so great to see that guy again.

Mosquito bite on the eye lid

My and Hypote eating in Weme

With my buddy

Soccer with President Goury

Dorsey is back!

T-Shirt logo

Monday, July 10, 2017

If you could hie to Weme

This week was exciting lots of stuff happened we had a meeting with our new president and his wife. He seems really cool his wife doesn’t speak French yet but she is learning like all of us had to.

I had a super cool reunion with my two MTC companions Segal and Linderman because they are the two drivers to the assistants, which is cool. I’m still nothing in the mission but that’s how I like it.

Apparently fourth of July happened, who knew?

I went to the hospital every day this week for my companions back, it really hurts him sometimes. It is kind of annoying to go back and forth from here to the hospital because we are so far away and the road construction here is so bad if it rains all the roads turn to lakes. As we were driving to the hospital one day we went through one of these lakes and the car got flooded like both the engine got flooded and the actual car, so we had to pay people to push us and stuff. And when Cococodji floods Hevie turns into a mud pool, so the only road to get to my sector is so muddy no cars or motos can pass without getting stuck. I walked through that mud mid way up my calf but still three of my investigators walked through that stuff to come to church, so that was really cool.

There is a place in Hevie called Weme and there are a few members out there and lots of investigators but when I worked with the old missionaries they never wanted to go there because it is so far away but I always wanted to go so we made a plan for Thursday. There are some investigators that have come to church for a while that are just waiting for missionaries to teach them and baptize them because they are already taught and prepared by the members. So rain or snow we had to go, and it was raining hard, but we took the hour and forty five minute walk to Weme in the pouring rain. But it was cool its super villagy out there and there are tons of corn fields.

I have been waiting for my day to see a dead guy because I knew it was coming. In this place it just happens, and this week was my week, There was a dead guy all cut up and bruised on the side of the street we passed in a car after our meeting with the new pres. He had just stolen something, got caught by the vigilantly justice, and was murdered and we saw the after math. That was my fourth of July.

Also here there is a weird thing that if a white person does anything it becomes funny, even if it’s a normal thing. Haha a white guy is walking, a white guy is eating corn, a white guy is in a car, a white guy is walking with us in the mud, a white guy is buying something. Everything I do people laugh like it is the funniest thing and mock me in their language. But it doesn’t bug me that much because they insult me in a language I cant understand.

Yeah, that was my week. It was a good week.

Walking in the rain

Muddy shoes

The flooded car
On the way to Weme

Making Pat

Reunion with Segal and Linderman!