Monday, August 28, 2017

Half way there, living on a prayer

That is right everyone, this week marks one year on the mission. I have seen and done a lot of things. I’ve lived for days without power, weeks without water. I have had food poisoning and worms. I have been made fun of for my race every day, and get ripped off at every store for the same reason. I also have baptized 12 people including two families. I’ve had 6 companions who all think I’m a great guy. I have been in three sectors where I have made many great memories. I sang in General Conference, I have shaken the hand of an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have grown my testimony a ton and I’m only half way.

If you were to ask me the hardest thing so far, easy it’s the food. I really wish I was not so attached to food. I always seem to get hungry again and am forced to eat tomato sauce and rice every day. And that is not to say the food in these two countries is bad, it’s really good. I love many of the native dishes, it’s just missionaries never have time or don’t know how to make them. So we resort to eating only to survive and not to enjoy.

If you were to ask the best thing so far it would be hard because there have been so many good things. It’s either seeing the Lord work through me and really feel like an instrument in his hands for good, or seeing people I’ve helped convert progress in the church. Both things bring so much joy to me.

To celebrate my one year on my mission I had some cheerios sent by my Grandma Scott for breakfast and I went out and bought ingyam peele which is one of my favorite foods of all time and from what I know does not exist anywhere in America. It’s hard to explain but there are pictures below. It’s like a spongy white glob of stuff you dip in sauce. This sauce came with chunks of roast beef which is the first time I’ve eaten cow since the MTC almost a year ago, so that was a real treat.

This Friday and Saturday we got a message that a group of people against the government called for a black Friday meaning no one was supposed to do anything. Like no one was supposed to open their shops or drive taxis or go to work. Everyone was supposed to stay at home and protesters would go out in the streets, wear all back, and destroy any shops that tried to open to protest the current government. All because the same family has been in power since the country became independent or something. I wasn’t sure the reason, any way so that was exciting.

I took this chance to get enough energy to clean my sheets. It’s been a while and they needed to be clean, but if any one washes things by hand they know the two hardest things to wash are jeans and sheets, it’s quite tiring. Anyway, because I had time on Friday and there were nice blue skies, I knew it wouldn’t rain. I did it and hung my sheets on the line on the roof. My stomach started hurting me again so I went to take a nap then all the sudden in my nap the power got cut, which is normal. The power cuts every day for about 15 or so minutes about twice a day. But then I heard a big thunder clap, I think that’s what that is called, and I got up as fast as I could thinking about my sheets. The rain came out of nowhere and it was so much. I ran to the roof and in two seconds I was soaked to the bone by the amount of rain and wind that was coming. I got up just in time to see my sheets about to be blown away. They were barely hanging on. I got them of the line and brought them down, very sad that I would have to re wash them. Freak rainstorms man.

Then on Sunday I had a whole different kind of storm, a storm of children. Right after the first hour I was asked if I could teach primary. I, of course, could never refuse service like that I happily accepted but I accepted a real charge. Here in this branch there is no junior or senior primary or nursery because there are not enough leaders but there are plenty enough kids. They gave me a group of about 19 or so kids ages ranging from 2 all the way to almost 12. This would have been great for me because I like kids, yet I had to keep these kids entertained for 2 hours in the same class with one big problem I had no way to communicate with them. A few of the older kids could speak French and there were two little girls from Ghana so they understood a little English, but not much, so for the rest of the kids all they spoke was their native language of Evee. Every one in the room understood Evee, except me. So it’s like some tall weird Yovo is in the front of the room speaking in baby gibberish to you. Are you going to sit still and be good? No. You’re not, you’re going to throw a party. I couldn’t do anything to stop them because they couldn’t understand. It was madness. Little kids would come up to me with big eyes asking for something. Did they need their mom? Did they have to go to the bathroom? Did they need a drink? I didn’t know so I just had them sing songs. I kinda got a few to play follow the leader. If someone was good I would give them my badge so they could be a missionary too. It was hard, my lesson was on why hitting was bad because the older kids kept trying to discipline the younger kids who were being disobedient. But I kept trying to get them to not hit, but the older kids said that is the only way they listen. There were a couple girls who just grabbed on to my legs the whole time and wouldn’t let go and when it came time to go home they wouldn’t go to their moms, so that was funny. They all seemed to like my class.

Also that same day a great spiritual experience happened to me with the investigator given to us by the American elders We went to teach him and he had marked up the plan of salvation brochure with tons of notes and questions he said he had a big problem understanding the fall. He had asked his pastor and read the Book of Mormon but was still not satisfied. Kadima did a good job of explaining the fall and as it was my turn to elaborate I just explained how I understood the fall. Although not said in the best French I felt my words being guided and his face lit up as the spirit taught him exactly the missing peace in his comprehension of the subject. In preach my gospel it says you can tell you’re a successful missionary if the spirit testifies through you. I felt being an instrument in Gods hands for one of the first times on my mission which makes me super happy.

Some fun apartment facts we have the worst ant infestation ever. Every corner there is an ant hill. Every day I sweep it. The next day it is back and cockroaches are everywhere. Our freezer works way to well and you open it up its just a solid ice block, the whole thing, there is no room to fit anything in, it’s all ice.

Here’s to the next year.

The top is my new handkerchief. The bottom is the one I used from month 6 to one year. And yes, I did wash it every week.

One year celebration meal. Ingyam Peele.
Eating ingyam peele with Kadima

My wet sheets after the rain

Me with some of the primary kids
Some of the primary kids at church

(from a few weeks ago) Picture when Elder Renlund visited

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