Monday, May 27, 2013

Bonjour! Another great week! Just like every week way different than the one before and full of all different kinds of adventures, even though we do the same thing every day, because its Africa! Still eating stuff that I'm not really sure what it is, but hopefully Ill find out soon! Slowly I'm getting more used to the heat so that's nice! When it hits 88 it feels amazing! This past week was super tough for sure! With the work but also the living! These past few weeks I became very thankful for showers after having to have bucket showers.. but this past week we had no water and no electricity for half the week.. So I became thankful for just even having bucket showers, because we couldn't even have those! Haha, the second night with no electricity I woke up drenched in sweat, because the fan doesn't work, and could barely breath because of how hot it was! I looked for my companion and saw him out on our patio with the other missionaries sleeping.. It was an easy decision to risk sleeping outside because of how hot it was and was worth it for sure, and I didn't get malaria so we lucked out there! Living without all that is insanely tough, especially because of how hot it is and such! But its still the best! We finally have the electricity back for now so that's pretty nice! By the third day Ill be honest when I say I started to complain a little bit, but when we went out to teach lessons that day, I remembered that that is how these people live every single day, and reminded me again to be thankful even for those little things! The work is really great  though no doubt! We had some amazing lessons this past week! This Saturday is my first baptism as well so that's way exciting! Its a young girl named Marlene and shes in here 20's, she is a very humble person and has a lot of challenges in here life, but she loves the Lord and the Gospel and she knows it will bless her life greatly! The spirit is always way strong when we are with here! No doubt my favorite times in lessons are when we give someone the Book of Mormon the first time, or invite them to be baptized, the spirit is unbelievable at those times and you can see it in the people no doubt! We have also have two more investigators ready to baptized in the next couple weeks named Vallessa, Cristelle, and Glarisse! I'm not sure when we'll do those though because this next Saturday the Area 70 either Elder Dickson, or Elder Legrand Curtis coming to visit and such, so we'll have to wait on the Baptisms! But its really exciting to have them come visiting! Another cool experience came this week when we gave a young man the Book of Mormon.. the lesson went great, and he asked the best questions, and we went on to explain the book of Mormon and what it was... Usually the people because they know the Bible so well are very uneasy about the Book of Mormon at first and such. But he seemed very interested, I went to hand him the book and he set it down and left the room.. I though I got rejected and was really confused.. He came back in drying off his hands and I realized he left to wash his hands before touching and reading from the book. He explained that he could feel the book was important and of God, and it was only right to show that kind of respect for a sacred book. What an amazing thing that was to watch him look through the book and really feel the power of it! It taught me a big lesson of the power and the sacredness of the Book of Mormon! These people are the best no doubt, and have really taught me I feel like a lot more than Ive taught them! We have some of the best investigators and are really understanding our message! The biggest challenges the past week came in getting people to come to church, and in helping the people read and understand the Book of Mormon.. Most everyone here speaks "Fin" and French as well.. but because Fin is the native language, many people cant read French, so that is really tough! But when the people really have the desire to follow the gospel the Lord provides a way for them to receive a testimony no doubt! Another funny thing this past week was answering peoples questions about church, after having gone for the first time.. Most were pretty disappointed there wasn't a ton of dancing and singing and saying "Hallelujah!!" like there is in the other churches, but we were able to help them understand pretty well... even then they were still a little disappointed we don't dance and have African music but they still come so its all good! The French is slowly getting better! I get corrected a lot and find that most the stuff I say is wrong after lessons from my companion! But hey that's the only way to learn! And its pretty even there because his English needs a lot of work so we love our language study together! The people are still the best here no doubt and are the happiest! They're still trying to teach me how to dance Cookooracha... some African dance, and they have a pretty fun time with that! And hey even though Ive learned I cant keep up with these people at all in that area its still fun! We were able to play basketball today for the first time on a p-day and that was pretty great! Ill say I was a little disappointed because I was planning on finding some Michael Jordan's here.... but these people are definitely not the best at that sport.. which I was a little confused by... But hey they had fun so its all good! This is the best though no doubt! When everything you do is in the service of the Lord, there is no way that you cant be happy!! Yeah the living is still way way tough, and sometimes I just have to laugh because of how tough it is but its great! Hand washing clothes is still my least favorite part, and also clearing all of the lizards out of our church house, not sure why, but every time we go in there are little lizards all over the place! Also some of the spiders we have found are really to big to even be called spiders, so that's taking some getting used to for sure! I also had my first run in with one of the guard monkeys this week so that was interesting.. Instead of having guard dogs (because the dogs are food) a few people have nasty baboon type monkeys chained in front of their house, and I'm not going to lie they are a lot more intimidating than most guard dogs! So Ive learned to stay clear of those! But overall the serving the people here and being with them definitely puts that all out! I hope all is good back in America! Good luck with everything this next week! Love and miss you all! 
-Elder Oliverson
At the beach with companion. 
Me & Elder Kazada. 
 Elder Soanantenaina from Madagascar, Elder Langouet is from France, Elder Kazada is from the Congo and Me. 
I can cook fufu pretty good!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bonjour! This past week has been really good! Same work each day, and I'm still getting more used to the culture! We had the chance to go to the beach this past Saturday, and that was about the best thing ever! The couple Americans found out really fast too that these are pretty much the best dancers in the world here.. You can see that all the hip hop and such in America came from here no doubt!  But yeah the beach was awesome, and there were only like ten people! Mainly because tourists don't come here.. because its Africa.. But yeah! Still really hot each day and lizards everywhere! Still eating fufu every day and losing weight but hey its all good! I fit in more that way! Not a ton has gone on this past week, Elder Kazadi our district leader left, and that was sad to see him go. He was one of the funniest people I've ever met, especially with trying to teach him English. About the only things he ever learned were how to say "Another day another dollar" and "if there is a will there is a way", and he was happy with that! But he was a great missionary and he'll do some great things back at home in the Congo! The work is going well though! Still really tough with the language and hard to understand! But I can see that I can understand most of the lessons, its just responding in French.. We had some cool experiences this past week in giving blessings.. Many people are sick here and have different diseases and problems that way, so I can see that there will be a lot in that area. But the first blessing, my companion looked to me to give it.. I was terrified to be honest, and I knew my french wasn't there, because it really isn't! But he really didn't give me a choice! Ill be honest that I did lack some faith, but when I gave the blessing it was unbelievable how the spirit really can put the words in the mouth of missionaries with the gift of tongues.. I really don't remember anything I said in the blessing, I just remember words came and I said them. I have given blessings in English and have had that happen, but it strengthened my faith a ton to see that happen in a completely different language. Afterwords I was worried if what I said made any sense and if I even said anything right. But my companion went on to say that that blessing what through the spirit, and was great. Like I said I cant remember what I said at all, but no doubt with the help of the spirit I was able to do that! I am starting to see that more in the lessons too, where the spirit really does give you the words you need. I love how through preach my gospel you can teach each person according to their needs. Everyone really is completely different so every lesson changes. I love teaching these African people because of the faith they have and how spiritual they already are! Most of the times in blessings of healing to these African people, the people quickly have a full recovery, which I can see is because of the faith and humility they have.. its also not hard to see that they can feel the spirit in each lesson! The challenge comes in helping them to make the changes they need to for baptism, whether that is leaving behind bad habits, or leaving their old church. The biggest problem has been with having them attend church regularly, but this new branch here is awesome and is really helping with that! The culture is so different here, but it is funny to see the similarities between the branch here and the wards back in the U.S.! With relief society, and the elders quorum, and the deacons.. Its funny to see how they act and how it is a lot alike the ward back in Utah! Another cool experience this week has been with a new ami named David...( We don't really know peoples last name here, every one just has a first name ) But he is very receptive, and feels the spirit each lesson.. and he was sharing about how he feels a lot different and he feels a good feeling when hes with us and reads the scriptures.. but then later he goes back with his old friends and old ways and has a different feeling, but he said every time that he has been about to do something that he shouldn't do, or go back into a bad habit.. exactly at that moment, either we call, or we show up to his place.. For example he shared that after a long night he was ready to go back into his abusive substances, and right when he was about to pick that up, he received a call from us confirming our next appointment. It was so great hearing him say these things, and recognizing that this isn't all just by chance, but that god really wants him to accept this message and come unto him. No doubt so many of these people are prepared in some way for our message, and its awesome how much they recognize, that these things are through the will of the Lord! These really are the best people! After hearing the stories from David, it showed my companion and I how much the spirit has been with us in our planning and just the little things we do. There really are great great miracles that come through small promptings each day. i remember in the MTC hearing that, that its not how you receive the prompting, but more what it says, or the result of it. I would say that most of the promptings have been those really small thought, but acting upon them, we have found and been able to help many people here! The work over all is progressing well though! Nothing too unbelievable this past week though! I didn't get the chance to kill and eat that cat with the member family this past week unfortunately.. because apparently it isn't big enough.. so hopefully next week!! Still getting used to the fufu, and eating the potato smoothies my companion makes..( African potatoes mixed with milk).. but hey its getting there! This past week at the beach some people brought American candy, and Sprite and root beer.. never have those things tasted sooo good.. Ill never take those simple things for granted ever again! These people are the best though and are no doubt very ready for the gospel and its so evident! There are many challenges in helping the build the church here, but the Lord is no doubt very mindful of all of those and is helping in those areas! It is the best though! Already I can say I am really enjoying this and have never been more happy in my life! I don't have music, showers, grass, carpet, or any of those random things that have given comfort back in the U.S of A, but sharing the gospel and seeing it bless peoples lives brings more joy than any other thing in the world! Joseph Smith once said after all has been said, the most great and most important thing there is, is to share the gospel! And that really is for everyone! Hope all is well back in America and good luck with everything this next week! Love and miss you all!
Elder Oliverson

Eating is with our new ami, David! He's the best! 

Welcoming party when I got back from Zone Conference.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bonjour!! Another great week! Slowly but surely I'm getting past that
initial cultural shock, which is really good because it allows me to
be more able to focus on the work. Still though it is Africa and
really every day is a new adventure no doubt! I'm getting used to
dealing with the water, food, those things and such.. and have finally
got past the fact that NOTHING here is clean! So that to me is a great
miracle in itself that I have not gotten sick yet with how dirty it is
here! The only thing that I really don't enjoy is hand washing the
clothes! The rumor is true that it leaves sores on your hand so they
hurt pretty bad but hey its all good! Along with that the other thing
to get used to has been having people constantly feeling my skin and
hair.. its pretty entertaining for them no doubt! Its funny because
just like all Africans look the same to us, all white people look the
same to them, so when they see me after seeing other white
missionaries, they get confused on who is who! Luckily though my size
makes me stand out a ton, so they usually can pick us apart! The
weather has been insane as well! I wake up and its 90 degrees:: I go
to sleep and its 90 degrees.. this week though we had an African
rainstorm and no lie got over a foot of water, which I was insanely
grateful for because of how it cooled it down to about 88 degrees!! Ha
This week has also been very well with our investigators, I don't have
a ton of stories with new investigators yet, because a lot of the work
has been in fortifying the church here and establishing the
leadership, because it is so new here, I feel like these people have
already taught me much more than I have taught them! Nowhere could you
find a more happy and loving people than these! So happy and loving
that it is almost a problem, The people are so kind that they accept
all of your invitations and such.. They are people pleaser's so if they
see that it makes you happy then they will say they will do it. For
example many people committed to coming to church, yet we hardly had
any new investigators at Church, which is really tough! So the big
challenge comes in finding those who are most ready to come unto
Christ! We have already found some amazing people here though that are
doing well. Two in specific that have definitely made me much more
thankful for the gospel in my life are Jean, a young boy; and Rebbecca
a middle aged women. Jean is just ten years old yet he is amazingly
interested in the gospel. Usually we don't teach the young kids
without the parents. But one day he approached us, and wanted to know
how we could help him, ever since he hasn't missed church once, and is
reading the Book of Mormon like a champ! The problem is that his
parent wont allow him to be baptised. Its hard to see someone with
such desire not be able to be baptised in the church. I know with time
though that the Lord will help in that situation. With Rebecca she as
well has a strong desire to come to Church and be baptised.. the
problem we found when we visited her though, is that her brother has
been very abusive with her for going to church and such... again
another hard situation, but I know that because she is trying to do
what is right the lord will help! Another big thing that has stood out
is the peoples desire to go to the temple, they want to so bad to be
sealed as families, and are thankful for the opportunity they have to
maybe go once in a lifetime. So living in Utah with temples
everywhere, I now see what a blessing temples really are for us! This
week has been great! And I finally realized that me new name for the
next couple years, will be Yovo, (white man)... but hey its been a
blessing so far with how many people I have found because I a, white!
Ive learned that the Lord blesses us all the time really, but we just
don't notice them, and sometimes take them for granted! But surely its
important to look and see how much the lord really has blessed us!
Sorry if this email is choppy, I'm still getting used to the french
keyboard, but hey that will come with time too! Also I got invited to
come to a members house to kill their cat and eat it with them, so
next week Ill fill you all in on that so pray that goes well! Love and
miss you all!! Elder Oliverson Au revoir!

Sis. Weed recognizing up coming Birthdays at Zone Conference. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Thank you mom and dad for the letters! Yes I am in Africa and WOW.. haha, so from the start, the travel was very good, and long! Sorry I did not call from D.C. our cards did not work there I don't know why! But yeah then we went on to Belgium.. in Belgium I began speaking my french with all the people and was feeling pretty good about myself and was getting around so I got pretty excited! Then I boarded the plane to Africa.. I slept most that flight when we flew in to Cotonou! We arrived late at night, and so it was dark... luckily.. haha I got off the plane and have never smelt such a terrible smell in my whole life! No doubt I will never complain about bad smells again after stepping foot here! I am used to it now though! Right away though people started to talk to me, and I had no clue what they said.. still this day, I hardly have any clue what people are saying! Because the accent here in Africa is so strong and they speak much different french so that has been the hardest part! But back to the airport, the President and his wife were there to pick us up so we met them! He is an amazing man and no doubt will be a great mission president for me, he was so welcoming and is such a loving and caring person.. We went back to there house, which is really probably the nicest house in Benin, and showed up and had to go through the three guards to get in the house.. his house had air conditioning and good food and all that so that night and morning was great!   We got to interview with him that next morning.. originally they had me serving in Menotin, with Elder Kimzey! But President changed his mind after, and he sent me to Gbegamey! This secteur is a newer one, and the branch is just starting out here! The hardest part though, is he put me in the one apartment with all french speakers.. so there has been a lot of pointing this past week to get things accomplished.. haha but they are all Awesome! Elder Kazada is from the Congo and Elder Langouet is from France and my companion Elder Soanantenaina is from Madagascar ( They have long names obviously) but he is awesome.. he has a strong testimony and he has a great knowledge of the scriptures, so I can learn a lot in that area! Back to the day though The second we walked outside to get in the car.. was a total shock.. it was a new day so it was light outside and wow! Never in my life had I ever seen anything like this, and I that is comparing to Tijuana and such.. but it was okay.. so we went out to our area, and slowly the quality of the area decreased.. we pulled up to our little shack of an apartment, which is luckily on the third floor though! So we don't have as many creepy crawly's and lizards and such! And we go in and it definitely is not what I am used to.. The environment I live in is third world, but really is one of the better apartments here! I will no doubt ever complain about anything after having been here.. You don't realize how comfortable we really live.. I am lucky to get a shower, a cold one at that! And be thankful for laundry because it takes forever to hand wash clothes and such! haha, and the clothes need a good wash because of how hot it is here.. It is INSANE how hot it is! It is like being in a sauna 24/7! No lie! And it never cools down even at night.. so you are always drenching wet with sweat! I am getting more used to that! The only part I really don't like is sleeping in a wet smelly bed but hey ill get used to it:)  We are also lucky as we get electricity.. because we usually don't have it.. I like to have it because then I can fan my bed when I sleep which is a little nice! So I have definitely gained an appreciation for those things.. and another one is toilet paper! I found out this first week African's don't use toilet paper! So yeah.. first night, no power so I walk in the dark bathroom and yeah.. take care of business.. only to look around and see.. Oh no, no toilet paper.. so yeah.. but luckily since then I have found an way to take care of that so we are good there! Another thing is the food.. we have to make our own food.. and we trade off each meal which is nice! But we went shopping.. and I had no clue what was going, I can cook quesadillas and such.. but in Africa the food is completely different! Haha, luckily I was able to communicate with my companion for him to help me with that.. every meal we usually have chicken ( African Chicken)... and if you see the chickens here you know what i mean.. and either rice or fufu.. fufu is the main food here along with pate.. it really isn't too bad, and I can eat it every meal! It is a paste out of cornmeal and is plain so you mix it with a beninoi sauce! So far I don't think I have had too crazy of food.. I think.. people give you food and you have to eat it so I do! I have had raw fish though and plenty of it! Another shocker here is about half the people don't wear clothes.. so that has taken some getting used to! haha.. a pretty funny thing happened when I stopped to talk to a young boy.. we talked for a little and while we were talking he reached down and just started to ... yeah, go to the bathroom.. that is just what you do here!I have come to realize though really that all these things don't matter! These are no doubt the happiest people I have EVER met! And the most kind and unselfish! You just smile at someone and they will light up! They are the best! There is no shortage of people to talk to! Anyone and everyone will talk to you so the challenge comes in finding the ones who are most ready to hear the gospel! They are amazing though, always happy, and know what the important things are.. The children are so awesome as well.. my new name for them is YOVO.. which means white man.. they follow me around and sing songs and such and love looking at and talking me with! It is funny because the really young ones, like Hayden's age.. just stare because they are so confused about me.. but the older ones think its pretty funny and love the big white man! Every time they see me they light up and come hug me! A lot of them will grab my hand and follow me everywhere! They are adorable and are so nice! I haven't felt too in danger here. and have been pretty safe! These people are no doubt the best though, and very understanding that I cant really speak with them yet. The branch I am with is no doubt very basic and beginning, I have also been given the responsibility to teach them all English, which is tough to do along with proselyting and not knowing french, but I know the lord will help! We had an interesting incident this past week in church... a new member told one of the leaders about how when she started praying she began to speak in the language of tongues(Adamic language) I'm not really sure why.. haha.... so yeah.. when she claimed that she could, he got  upset and so we had to come in and calm him down and handle that overall situation! But it is good now.. also the people at church got to watch conference for the first time because it just got here! So it was fun to hear what they had to say! A lot of my work involves strengthening the members and fortifying the leadership in the branch, it is very stressful and tough not knowing how to speak, but I know that the lord will help! This is an amazing place and I am so very thankful to be here! The Lord has prepared these people and his work will go forward! The President told me that the church here is like the church when it originated, and that we need to help with getting the foundation here! I love it here and each day become better with french.. I will have more stories next week, because I will have more lessons to teach so wait till then! I am just getting started out! I love and miss you all ! Au Revoir! Elder Oliverson

 Me, Elder Soanantenaina, Elder Langouet, Elder Christenson and  two investigator.
They keep to bugs down :)