Monday, September 25, 2017

When Yes Means No

I have heard a million ways people say they are not interested here on my mission and most of them sound like they are interested. The most common is, "Wow this sounds great, after I read this brochure you gave me I’ll call you and we will talk about it." I have heard that phrase over 100 times on my mission. You know how many times someone has called back? 2 times and neither of them have been in this sector. This people can’t say no, especially to Jesus, so they just lie and say yes. We can find a person, they give us an appointment hour and time, they give us their number, we call and confirm the appointment the night before or the morning of, we get to the home, they are not there and their number no longer works meaning they turned off their phone. This happened to me and Kouadio this week about 20 times which is fantastic. Usually when this happens I give people the benefit of the doubt and try again but after three times we have to leave them because they waste our time like nothing because they say they are there up until it matters.

Yes, things are discouraging, sometimes it’s hard to tell the serious yeses from the not serious yesses, but they all kinda sound the same. I have only had a few people outright reject our message. Like maybe five my whole mission, this mission is not like others.

I had many amazing experiences this week, hard to name them all, but I have one I still don’t quite totally understand. We had three appointments fall through in a row, I didn’t know what to do so I said a prayer in my heart to know what to do. I had the feeling to go visit the president of the branch, we saw him and had a good talk. He mentioned a less active brother in our branch, I haven’t seen him in a while but I knew his house, so we made our way over there. We knocked on the door, and the man’s son came to the door saying his dad was visiting with some men. We told him we could come back later but the boy went to ask his dad if we could come in and we got invited in. We saw the man who lived at the house with two other men and they were all in a state of shock. We said hi and before we got to talking they said that we were sent from God to save a life. Turns out man number one brought man number two to the person’s house (that goes to our church) because man number two just went through some unknown crisis and lost everything and wants to kill himself. Man number one says he can find peace through Jesus Christ, the suicidal man number two didn’t believe. Prophetic man number one says that God will prove to you he needs you alive, and right as he said that two missionaries (us) knock on the door. What weird timing what weird experiences. I hope that all made sense, but it turns out we had to go to the president’s house to get the tip to come to the man from church’s house, get lost a little on the way to arrive at the perfect moment to be a sign to another not to kill himself. We told the man God loved him and then he came to church this Sunday even though it rained, and he is very interested now. I would be too if that happened to me. I’m just weirded out by that prophetic man one who said we were coming, I don’t know how that worked but I aint complaining.

And to finish, a funny thing. Me and my son (Kouadio) are not the best at walking all the time, my son doesn’t really know all the sector and even when he does he gets confused a lot and I will sometimes not warn him when we are turning and we will both want to turn opposite ways and we bump into each other. This happened a lot this week weirdly, which I bet makes us look even weirder two dudes one white, one black, dressed the same, bumping into each other all day long. However we are working on walking, it’s getting better.

The food fight continues with Fried Ingyam - so good

Me and Kouadio with our 9 year old friend (and soon to be convert)

At the Stake Center

Monday, September 18, 2017

Friendly Food War

I have not had a chance to breathe this whole week. Which is a huge blessing for me, being called as a full time missionary means to be a servant at all times.

So, where to begin? This week started out with a fun soccer activity with President Goury.  And after Monday we hit the pavement, or really the dusty streets. I worked for so long one day I got sun burnt, which is weird because of the tan I built up from a year in the sun. But just the amount of time I spent in that heat burnt my face, it was crazy.

Now that I’m finally working hard for the first time in a long time on my mission I’m having loads of spiritual experiences, having the chance to really testify as a missionary, and finding people who just in a week and a half start believing in our message.

For example last week I just decided to give a brochure to a mom, she was nice and we stopped by the next day, we sat on the dusty floor of her food stand as she sat on a trash bag. I felt impressed to talk about eternal families, she then started crying as she explained her worries for one of her daughters who was making wrong choices and refused to come home. We told her about free agency but also about prayer and scripture study. The next time we saw her she expressed her gratitude for teaching her about prayer and praying for her because a day after we left her daughter called and said she was coming home; just amazing stuff.

This Wednesday Elder Nash from the 70 came to bless this mission with some revelation from God, it was the most spiritual conference I had on the mission probably because I’m now doing things in the Lord’s way. The conference was all day long and talked a lot about obedience, and I was totally edified, even though many of the missionaries here rejected what he said. Me and my companion took it to heart and are even more firm in our commitment to work.

Often times it is hard to go out into the sector when there is no one to see, or to stay out after a bunch of appointments fall through. However there are blessings that come from continually trying to preach the gospel and approaching people. Little did we know as we were exploring the sector and walking down many streets in the blazing sun we passed by tons of members. Sometimes they were in taxis and they passed us or were in their homes and saw us pass. I don’t know many members houses so I didn’t know to stop and knock and say hi. However when we arrived at church on Sunday everyone was happy to see us, giving us contacts, and asking for a day to come work with us in the sector. So it is true following the rules gains member confidence.

Now for a funny story, I was walking down the street and saw a mama selling scones, so I stopped to buy a few then I saw that where the mama put the burnt crumbs left over from the scones on the ground there was a little girl picking up the pieces and eating the nasty, sandy, burnt scone bits. She was dirty and her clothes were torn. I heard Boyd K. Packer in my head with his talk “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them” and I gave the little girl a scone that she grabbed up quickly and took off running more animal like than child. There are lots of kids like that here I don’t know if they have homes and families or not. Now you might be thinking that’s not funny that’s sad. Well what happened as we continued walking a signal must have been sent out among the children street rats, and about three or four more boys dressed in dirty, ripped clothes started following us, wanting scones too. I couldn’t give them all one, there were too many kids, and I didn’t want more to appear and follow us home so I told them the scones were all gone, and to go home. Then the leader boy hissed at me and at his signal all the boys started attacking me. They weren’t very old but there were a few of them. I bet it was quite a funny sight to see, a white guy in shirt and tie getting beat up by a bunch of 5 or 6 year old kids. They were so dirty my white shirt had tons of brown marks all over and my son (Kouadio) thought this was the funniest thing ever and couldn’t help get the kids off of me because he was laughing to hard. They were punching me with all their force but they were too little so it didn’t hurt. People in the street started gathering around and helped pull the kids off of me and chase them away, and my son wipes the tears from his eyes from laughing so hard, saying he is going to see everything in his mission.

For the friendly food war me and my son took turns cooking amazing meals for each other. He cooked native Ivorian dishes and I cooked US dishes, with other mixes of good food in-between. We ate super well, below are pictures of some of just the few things we ate this week. Food was my biggest problem before, it’s still not perfect because it’s not like home, but it’s so much better.

Zone activity last Monday

The conference with Elder Nash

At the conference with Colby

At the conference with Kouadio

Oil burns

Friendly Food War:
Atiéké- Ivorian dish made by Kouadio
I made mashed potatoes...
...and french toast.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Coincidence? I think not

I am so very blessed to be writing this email today. If any of you follow the political situation in Togo you will know that there are some weird things going on here. I don’t want to say too much or I might get targeted as anti gov or something and be killed. There have been some major protests and the gov did not let you send text messages, it was super hard to call and the internet was cut for the whole week, but it just came back last night for us to do emails today, so that is a huge blessing because I had a great week and would love to share with you all that happened. But this peaceful little country has a dark side for sure.

To start of the week I went to Kodjoviakope which is the sector with the big market, and is on the beach right next to the Ghana border, so I’ve now seen Ghana with my own two eyes and have been in spitting distance of it.

I stayed with Mahaffey and Ncoy, who are two great missionaries, they told me that I would be there for a day or two. I ended up staying there for four days and three nights. I didn’t get back to my sector till Thursday night. It was good, their apartment was right on the beach and I slept on the couch. The mosquitos ate me alive till I found a mosquito net to set up. I only had one shirt and it got pretty dirty those days because we worked hard in their sector that was basically dead.

On Wednesday they told me they would bring my son, however Wednesday came and went with nothing. I wondered what happened, but because of the political situation they couldn’t warn us not to go out side because you couldn’t call anyone, and so my son didn’t come and we had no communication.

Turns out while coming across the border with a group of missionaries they were driving two cars, a mission truck with all sorts of stuff in the back and a bus with all the missionaries. As they were going along the bus’s brakes just stopped working and the bus rammed into the other mission car in front of it destroying the two cars and probably giving concussion to everyone in the cars. My son was in that crash and his eyes have been hurting him ever since. He is going the hospital tomorrow. One of the sister missionaries in the crash is in a neck brace; so this mission has problems.

However, my son did arrive. His name is Elder Kouadio he is from the Ivory Coast and is super cool, he has an amazing testimony of the gospel and a lot of faith. His parents are divorced, his sister was a member but has since left the church and he is the only active member in his family. He lived alone with his dad until coming on a mission, and is the first ever missionary from his ward, so he is a super pioneer. The beginning is never easy for any missionary but I think this will be a great couple months.

We were only in the sector for three days, but I have never worked so hard in my mission. I remember before my mission I wished my call would be to French speaking Africa, I have long thought that was a horrible wish but now I’m starting to remember why I wished that. The people here are so open to the gospel, in just three days I found 7 investigators who could progress, I fixed a baptism date had two people come to church and got a bunch of contacts from members, and I filled up the whole next week with more lessons then I have time for. A problem I’ve never had my whole mission but is something you can easily have if you work hard.

I have been working so hard I have had barely a moment to think, we have had an activity with president, interviews with president, and we have a huge conference this Wednesday with a general authority 70 which will be exciting.

Me and my son like food which is great, he loves cooking I like trying new things, so we went shopping and bought a ton of stuff and have been eating great ever since.

We also bought some bug spray and tried to kill all the cockroaches in the apartment. We have killed hundreds and we think there are still more, we also killed many ants and some lizards we found.

The last thing is about coincidence, you can tell you’re a successful missionary when the Lord guides your actions. On Saturday we planned to visit a member, of course here there are no addresses so he gave us his typical “go to this sign, walk for this many paces, turn left, then right, then it’s that house”. Well, we tried to do that and got super lost, so we decided to just go visit someone else but we kept getting in dead ends and stuff but we eventually made it back, after taking a few breaks because it was a ton of walking. Then we tried to see an investigator who wasn’t home, then we started walking back to the apartment and we see a guy come out of a photo copy place, as were passing and he calls us over. We talk to him and he says his sister is married in the temple and lives in a different ward, he says he likes the missionaries but has never talked with them because when they came to the house it was to talk with his sister. We took his number and fixed a time to come visit him, then we went home, but he was a super cool guy so we were just remarking how crazy it was that all those people we didn’t see helped us to be at the right place to bump into the guy we were really supposed to find. If we were just a few mins early or late we would have missed him at the photo copy place. But hold up another cool story, so we were at church and one of the ward members brings a little kid over to us. His grandma, who takes care of him, is a convert of Kadimas, but the kid was not baptized with the grandma, so because he is nine we have to teach him. So yes, this is an easy baptism and the kid is really cool. So after church we wanted to see where he lived, and we walk with him and when we walk in the door we find that his grandma is the mom of that very same guy we saw at the photo copy place the day before, if the heavens were not pointing to us teaching that guy. So I’ll let you know how that goes.

Many other spiritual experiences happened for sure, and I’m so glad to see the Lord working with me and me really become and instrument in His hand.

On the beach with Mahaffey

How I slept in Mahaffey's apartment

On the beach with Ncoy and Mahaffey

My son, Kouadio

A fridge stocked up

Killing cockroaches

Monday, September 4, 2017

An old man dies, a baby is born

This week was packed to the brim with stuff. It will be hard to remember all the stories.

Let’s start with transfers. Kadima is off to go home and I’m going to train a new Ivorian so that’s exciting. I’m optimistic yet hesitant we will see how it goes.

This week we had my thirteenth baptism of a young girl named Ak__. She is 18 and has a cool story. As a younger teen she wasn’t the best. She left home a lot without asking and lied about where she was and obviously was not doing the best things in her life. Her parents did not know what to do but luckily there was a young woman’s leader who lives right next door and asked the parents if she could take Ak__ to church with her to see if the teachings our church taught could help her. The parents accepted and our teachings did help her she really changed. She stopped the bad things and her parents saw the change and let her get baptized and here we are.

Okay let’s go from nice fairy tale story to weird “only in this mission” story. I wake up on Sunday and start to get ready, I hear the doorbell ring. I go check and one of our neighbors who sells us bread was there with her son she tells us “take him to your church today and bring him back when you’re done”. Before I have a chance to think about what was happening she was running away to go to her church. So now we have this eleven year old kid we get to take to church with us, since we couldn’t leave him alone at the apartment. We took him to church and took him back home like she asked. The kid is funny but it was just a super weird experience for sure, picture below.

I had spam bacon in a can this week, sent in a package from my grandma. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s been so long or if it’s really that good but it was some of the best tasting bacon stuff ever.

This transfer has not been easy for me at all, however just at the end me and my companion sat down and just talked he thanked me for everything I had done for him. He said I helped him do a lot to push him to be better till the end. It was a super cool moment and I have yet to find a comp that I have not gotten along great with.

Fun facts about Africa. It is summer vacation here, even though every day is summer. The kids have fun games to play with tires, sticks, playing in trash, and many other games. I have no idea how to play but they seem fun. There are guys that walk around with little carts that sell ice-cream in bags. Like water in bags that I drink, but really interesting ice cream, the trucks have horns that they honk and every time they see white people they honk extra fast. Beer flavored drinks that don’t have alcohol are very popular here but real alcohol is even more popular. I see so many drunk people it’s kind of sad.

Kadima said good bye to all his converts and the members which made our last few days super busy. Also the world is big but when we find connections we say the world is small. I found a cool connection this week with a couple in the stake that came to visit our branch. They lived in the US for many years and in many states before returning to Togo and guess where they found the church? No other than Sioux City, Iowa while living there for 8 years. When they found out I was from there they were so surprised because I’m the first or second missionary to serve in this mission from Iowa. They were super great people.

That’s all I can remember, life goes on.

Ak__ Baptism

The little neighbor kid we took to church

My amazing breakfast. Spam bacon (thanks grandma) good bread, eggs and a bag of water.

The ant hills in the apartment. I sweep about daily and they just come back.

Kadima wrote his name in 14 places in the apartment before he left.