Monday, July 29, 2013

Another good past week and a tiring one for sure!! Things
have been going really well the past week work wise. Elder Barton just
got in, so the last American to come from the Provo MTC, because the
rest will be going to the Ghana now! But yeah the past week has been
really great!! Things are finally coming together now in the branch
really well, and we actually got two of the young men called as branch
missionaries so that’ll be way fun to work with them and help them get
ready for their own missions as well! This past week we made a lot of
progress with one of our ami's named Hughe. He is a student here from
Cote D'ivoire.. and we’ve had trouble getting to talk to him because of
his uncle, who is strongly against the church and such, and thinks we,
are racist and that whole thing. Finally though we have been able to
get working with him and its been awesome for sure! He loves our
message and has been soaking it all up, especially with the Joseph
Smith story and such, he’s been reading the Book of Mormon as well, and
we can already see a lot of progress with him that way. He is getting
baptized the 17 of the next month as well so that will be great! We
have had a great time with the new Font families that we’ve found, and
they as well are actually getting baptized the 17th as well so that
should be really fun as well! It was the best seeing them come in
church this past Sunday. All 7 of the kids took up about half of our
chapel, but hey its a good thing! As of right now we have 14
baptismal dates set for August with many more that should be coming!
So it’s really fun to see the work start picking up! The members have
been a huge help though, and were seeing a lot of improvement that
way, for example we had a rendezvouz with an ami after church, who
wasn’t able to go to church because she got some malaria, while we were
in the lesson she got a call from the relief society president in our
branch asking what was up and if she needed anything. So the branch
is doing awesome here! English class has been a pretty good time as
well, and that is for sure starting to help the missionary efforts a
lot because everyone here wants to learn English. Everyone. We’ve had
some problems with church cleaning so my comp and me have started
going each week to get that going, which also has helped a ton because
the members love it when we come! While cleaning the church we went
into the garage, only to find one of the missions extra trucks... this
whole time the brand new truck has been there, but apparently is only
for emergencies and such! I was kind of bummed Ill be honest! But hey
maybe one day! We’ve been able to start teaching more Muslims again,
even though their month isn’t over yet, which is interesting, but some
of them are actually progressing really well! Its interesting teaching
the word of wisdom and chastity with them because a lot of teachings
in the Koran are similar to an extent, so they don’t have too much of a
problem with those areas. But yeah the work is going awesome! One of
my favorite lessons this last week was our first lesson with the wife
of Ambroise, the one business man who hasn’t been able to be baptized
yet because they’re still waiting on the papers for their marriage. She
has been coming to church with him and the family each week, yet we
just finally had our first lesson with her because she lives way far
away. But yeah we had our first lesson, it went awesome, she
understood really well, and then she started talking about Ambroise..
She was talking about how before he wasn’t the best guy, he would be at
the bar each week with the guys, or was traveling for work. He never
saw the family, and she said that she hasn’t seen him, or her, happy in
years.. She said though she started to notice an enormous change in
him, and he started talking about how he was meeting with the
missionaries and how happy he was.. She said he left part of his job,
and has been home every night since then.. The part that about made me
die was when she said that now, every morning, and night he insists on
family study of the Book of Mormon, and prayer, and they’ve even
started up Family home evening.. She said no doubt they are the
happiest they have ever been, and they finally have their family
together again, and every day its the best when he gets back from
work. She explained that she though absolutely nothing could change
her husband, but if there was something that could, it would have to
be an absolute miracle. Man how great that was to see how much the
gospel really does bless individuals, but especially families!! That
was probably the happiest part of the week hearing that! Since then we
have been able to start teaching their five daughters as well, and
were hoping to be able to see them all be baptized together in the
next couple weeks! No doubt that will be a beautiful family in the
church!! The gospel no doubt is the only thing that could possibly
change someone’s life, and family like that. It surely strengthened my
testimony as well on how important the gospel is in the family, and
those things like prayer and scripture study! Another great part of
the week was at church.. Were so used to having about 3 or 4 amis at
church each Sunday, and that is the usual, maybe a couple more but not
often..  That’s one of the biggest problems we have is with getting
people to church.. We’ve found some awesome ami's lately, but still I
was blown away when we had 17 amis at church this past week!! It was
awesome to see the church filled completely, no doubt it could be a
huge blessing for the branch as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to
see not far off the branch getting split into two really. But yeah the
ami's are all doing great and the work is awesome right now!! Its the
best still hearing people that sometimes have a hard time
understanding explaining how they just know things are true, and how
the spirit feels, and explain how things just feel right.. it no doubt
shows the power of the spirit in conversion and has been amazing to
watch! Also how the Lord helps us find those honest in heart and ready
to hear the gospel.. so often we find people, begin teaching and they
don’t progress, but we find they have friends or family who have just
soaked in our message. But yeah Africa is still great! Not a ton new!
It rained this week, like usual.. so we’ve been finding a lot more
lizards in our place, I hope they’re doing good work with the bugs, so
that’s nice! Desvergez is still the best ever!! He loves missionary
work and is no doubt the most zealous, fun loving missionary I’ve known
yet, so its been the absolute best! You definitely have to be fun
loving with these people, and they love you! We have a new p-day
activity, and that is finding different random basketball courts
around Gbegamey and asking people to play us in pick up games.. they
love it, (because its two yovo's).. till we start to play.. I will be
honest right now when I say that we one 32 straight games this
morning, 2 on 5.. On top of that though we got 5 new contacts from it,
so its definitely a good activity for the work as well! ha-ha but no
doubt its been 8 months since Desvergez has played but hes still got
it in him! Ha-ha, so things are going great here in Gbegamey! I hope
all is great back in the U.S.A! I love and miss you all!
Elder Oliverson
Kids here are the best!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Another great and crazy week! Me and Elder Desvergez have been working insanely hard, but its been the best at the same time!! This past week has consisted of a lot of finding mostly, we've been working to get a lot more stuff set up in the branch, like the English class, a young single adults group, more branch organisation, and helping get mission prep going. Its been great though!! All our amis are doing great as well! One of those two business men, Ambroise is waiting on his baptism, because of a problem getting their marriage worked out.. They're pretty complicated to get done here, and along with everything you have to do, you have to get permission from both parents. Here parents are living in France, and so because of that for some reason they are having a lot of problems getting things done there, hes been awesome though, in still doing all he can to get ready for his baptism!! Overall this past week we fixed 8 new baptismal dates as well so its been the best for sure! We've also finally been able to get the parental permission for Merveille a young man in the branch, who hasn't missed a week of church in a year and a half, is already trying to get ready to serve a mission, but still hasn't been able to get baptized, because of the parental permission required.. So it was awesome to finally get that!! Still we've been doing a lot more in the branch and that so its been really fun, and having more members help in the work so its been great!! We actually have been able to start meeting with the former president of the branch in gbegamey, and who is actually the one who started up the branch, he has since, for about the past 9 months or so been completely inactive, and has gone off the path a little bit.. I had heard different things that he had gotten into some pretty rough stuff, but not much more.. But one day this past week we had a missed rendez-vous, in a parcel that was just next to his. I have never seen or met hi
m in my life, and really wasn't sure why we hadn't visited him before or why I haven't heard much about him.. But Elder Desvergez, decided to just stop by and say hey and introduce ourselves.. We did so and he ended up having us come in. In that hour or so he explained to us a little of what had happened and how things were going and why he isn't in the church anymore. We also found out that his brother who lived in the building next door had passed away a while ago, and he was trying to sell the place, he showed us though and showed what the problem was, and when we walked in, it was crazy!! Ive never in my life seen a place more dirty in every way possible.. There were dead mice everywhere and such, and it was pretty insane for sure! We asked if we could help by chance, and he refused, we took that and gave a little spiritual thought, and went on our way.. In our planning though we were trying to figure out what we could do to help him. We ended up deciding to get all our young men, and youth in general to come over with us one day to go clean up that house for him, do a little service and see if that could help this guy. So we ended up organizing it, the only part I wasn't too fond of was that we had to do it at 5 in the morning.. because its Muslim month long holiday and that, they do more praying and such, so they do all of the washing their hands and feet and such, and so we had to do this service at a time before they used all of the water for the day. Soon we got to go over there, and man it definitely wasn't easy at all!! Ill never complain about hard work again that's for sure, but seeing this guy and how stunned and happy he was made it completely worth it!! Since then we have been able to have a couple lessons and meetings with him and such, and no doubt you can already see him getting his life back together, and actually this past Sunday he came back to church for the first time in months!! No doubt making that all worth it! It definitely strengthened my testimony on service, and how we can do missionary work, and be representatives of Christ in many different ways! So that was definitely one of the happiest parts of this past week! But yeah the work is great!! Insanely tough for sure but its been great! Its been especially tough with the Muslim holiday and such, but were definitely seeing the blessings for the hard work for sure!! The branch is doing great though, and its been the best getting more involved with them and helping out there.. I got to kick it in the primary this Sunday again because President Weed and his wife were visiting and he needed me to translate for her in the primary..(which I have to give it to her, it would be insanely hard to be here that long and not know French!) So that was fun to be there with them again! Ive got to refresh on my primary songs for sure though, its been a while! It was cool to because the presidents son and his wife were visiting here as well, so they got to come to the branch and visit. Talking to them after it reminded me how awesome these people really are! I felt bad because I'm getting so used to being here and the people that I forget how blessed and happy they really are and what a blessing it is to be with them!! The presidents daughter said something to that really hit me, and that was that she saw that the gospel is the same, and is still true in every different language and culture.. and how true that is! Yes you walk into the branch, and its so different than anything you'd ever find anywhere else, but the Gospel is still the same, as is the spirit! So that was another great reminder for me as well! But yeah things are all great here! The work is definitely picking up for sure as well so its been great! Things are a lot different for sure as well being with another Yovo, and a lot more crazy.. Haha we have a lot more run-ins with "prophets" and some of the stranger people as well.. but its been fine! And along with that as well, there is a man claiming to be Jesus in Nigeria, and has already gotten up to about 50 million followers.. so that's been a big one here as well.. but just goes to prove the prophecies of in the last days there will be plenty of false prophets and such! But hey the work is still progressing here amazingly with all of that! I hope all is great back in America! I love and miss you all!
Elder Oliverson
Larry's family that I had FHE with last week! 
The Gata

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bonjour!! A pretty great past week here in Benin!! Big news is the new companion Elder Desvergez!! First off just because of the shock in that he's a French (so hes a yovo as well) and it would be the first time that's happened and the only companionship like this here, so we were both surprised, its been the best though! One of the most french people you ll ever meet but hes the best no doubt! Hes our only french missionary from Paris, because he was a big basketball player over in France! He has been on the mission for 7 months now, and was in Togo for those past months and is now here.. But things have been the best for sure!! No doubt Ive never worked harder in my life but we have a party for sure.. But hes no doubt one of the most zealous missionaries ever so its the best to work together! Hes a stellar missionary though for sure and works really smart as well! The office elders warned me to get ready to pack my bags with Book of Mormons because hes been known for going through our boxes of Book of Mormon's like crazy.. on top of that he eats like crazy, which is a big positive when ami's put food in front of us..(not that I don't love it or anything) which is also probably the reason hes 110 kilos as well.. not sure in pounds? I went from being the big guy to meeting my match though with a French who is much bigger, so walking down the roads in Gbegamey its hard to hide Haha but its the best and we work insanely hard and things have really been picking up and doing insanely well here in Gbegamey! Two downsides though are the fact that all prices are about 4 times the original now because apparently two white people are insanely rich?.. and also that for some reason two big white missionaries attract more of the stranger people..(voodoo and such) not sure why but that's for sure kept things interesting.. haha Not a ton new ami wise, we've been spending most of our time finding lately and building up there, but still have been able to be teaching 7 lessons a day, so we have a lot of ami's progressing well, and should be having a lot more soon! All of our new members like Gilbert and Ambroise, the business men.. are incredibly strong members, and its the best to see how fast they're growing in the church no doubt! Desvergez is a smart missionary for sure, and has taught me a lot though already, and work is going to start picking up no doubt!! We had an awesome experience yesterday in a quick visit with a family in the branch.. This family is one of the strongest families in the church Ive ever seen, and have only been in the church for 6 months, but working to prepare financially and spiritually to get ready for a trip to Ghana to go through the temple.. so its been awesome.. but we were planning on visiting them after church, we went over and were having a great little visit, and answered a few questions, and it was about time to leave because of another rendez-vous, so we just planned on wrapping up, but a feeling came that I should just share one more quick scripture, and I opened up and went to Nephi chapter 18 and just the verses 1-4, at the time I wasn't sure why but I just had a strong feeling I should, so I was just planning on reading together and talking about how its always best to do things in the manner that the Lord has shown rather than the manner of man and the world.. and after reading without explaining Larry broke down in tears.. first time I had ever seen an African cry, so that was pretty strange, and he went on to explain that this scripture was exactly an answer that he was searching for in his life with work and family and such.. as they have had serious struggles and things were tight and had no clue what to do.. the spirit was incredibly strong being with that family for this awesome spiritual experience and showing how real the spirit really is and such.. He went and marked on the wall the day and the time of this experience and it wasn't hard at all to see how incredibly grateful he and his whole family was.. no doubt one I wont forget and am so thankful for the spirit that was there!! Its incredibly how much the spirit is always involved, and the goal is really just to act on it.. I remember Elder Bednar saying in the MTC not to be a missionary who for ever thought questions if its the spirit or not, but that when you're worthy and doing whats right, 9 times out of ten those promptings are the spirit. Desvergez has taught me a ton there too, and choosing what to do and where to go, all of even the smallest thoughts, he goes for it, and it often ends up being incredible! We've also had some cool experiences in teaching the people more out in the boonie's type areas, where there is no education and most speak only Font and seeing how the message really is for everyone, and everyone can understand the gospel if the spirit is there.. its awesome being with the humble people hearing them try to explain how the spirit feels, or why they stopped us and the impression they had.. the spirit definitely works both ways! But yeah the work is going great!! It is going to start to go crazy as well, so its really exciting!! But yeah the week has been good, and things are starting to pick up for sure.. no Revanons this week, and I doubt we'll have to worry about them trying to hit us with sticks anymore Haha, and on a side note I got a alligator back pack... yes, an alligator.. so for everyone that thinks a kangaroo scripture case is cool.. try an alligator one.. Haha only in Africa!! the problem is how bad it smells.. considering its an alligator, so I'm really hoping that goes away soon! But yeah things are great here in Africa, its getting hotter again and hasn't rained in a few weeks, and people are getting really worried because this is the least rain they've had in decades, and apparently there is a drastic drought here as well, so they said we should be seeing big effects from that as well in a couple months with the harvest and such! But its all good! I hope all is great back in the U.S! Love and miss you all!
Elder Oliverson
Some of my boys in the Branch in Gbegamey!

Elder Kabedeh, Elder Soanantenaina & Me.
This is Etoile rouge behind me.. a big monument here in Gbegamey.

This was our wonderful 4th of July celebration.. roasting hot dogs over our burner!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bonjour! A pretty good week! No moto crashes or angry mobs and such so that is always nice! This past week has been pretty peaceful and nice, not too much that is new. I have finally found out its totally cool to hold hands with other guys and no one will judge. I have definitely been judging this whole time as I have seen just about all of the guys here holding hands with each other. Turns out that here that means you're just friends and that's that! I found that out this week after we went on a split with a member and when we crossed the road he grabbed my hand and I about had one, I looked to my comp stunned at what just happened. Then luckily I found out that really that is not at all the way it is in America, but instead its totally cool to be holding hands with your guy friends... I'm still not a fan though.. Haha and I just realized its my birthday my week too when I was reading some emails so that was to know! Haha I'm trying to keep it on the down low though because I don't know what kind of crazy celebrations they do here for that.. but this week was good in the work! We got to do our monthly split with the zone leaders, so Elder Ritchie went with my comp. and I got to work that day with Elder Kabedeh! No doubt one of the nicest Africans you'll meet, he cooked for me, and even sang me to sleep that night! Whats better than that? On top of that he has their fridge stashed with beesap and we went crazy on that! (its one of the best drinks Ive had no doubt, but its the juice from habiscus flower) Haha, But no doubt one of the best days I have had yet for sure! He is from Liberia, meaning that he speaks English... But not really, You have to understand that the English spoken in Liberia or Nigeria is nowhere near the English that we speak.. Luckily the French has come a long way, and honestly it was much easier to understand his French than it was his English! He is an awesome missionary and no doubt one of the nicest, hardest working Africans I have met yet! We had a great time and got a lot of work done so that day was awesome. Our amis are all doing great though as well! Gilbert and Ambrose are still working on getting their marriages planned so they'll be ready to be baptised next week or so! They're the best though, and are working insanely hard to keep getting ready for their baptism, they have studied the Book of Mormon a ton in this time and are already gaining a great knowledge and testimony of the scriptures and doctrine! They invited some of their business friends to talk with us, they bore some amazing testimonies in those lessons as well and are definitely already doing some great missionary work themselves! Our ami Chrystel is doing great also and is absolutely golden as well, and she also has made some big sacrifices too for baptism! Sure enough shes already giving us a ton of contacts as well as she owns a coiffure business so she has the hookups! So no doubt many more blessings have already started coming from those amis that we have getting baptised! The rest are doing pretty great as well! Its been tough but great for sure! We had a great zone conference this week as well on the importance of using the Book of Mormon, and helping people have a true testimony of it, as if they have that, everything can follow, and how true that is! The Book of Mormon no doubt is true, and contains an unbelievable spirit, and I for sure have a testimony that using that is our best way to get strong lasting converts! Because really our message is pretty strange with a young boy and angels appearing and such, but the proof is in the Book of Mormon and there is a promise that whoever reads it WILL know it is true. So as a missionary I have been able to see how awesome it is to have that proof! Also we found a new Muslim family as well who is taking our message great! They have a cousin who is a member in Burkina Faso and they told these people to find the missionaries.. The people said they have been looking for a few years now, they have found the Jehovah Witness missionaries, (yes there are a ton of those in Cotonou as well) but they said that it just didn't seem right with them.. So this past week as we were on our way to a lesson after having a appointment fall through, we had a lady come up running from behind us yelling for us to come back. She said she knew it was us when she saw us walking down the road, as she led us back to their parcel we ended up having a great lesson with this new family and they as well are all progressing great! So we for sure have had some great experiences this past week and found some new investigators! Its definitely great as well finally having the language because I can finally do much more to help the people and do more in the lessons! These people are so ready though no doubt, and it isn't hard to see how the Lord has prepared them! Nothing else too crazy though this past week! Elder Christensen and I got to go teach in the Primary this past Sunday and man was that a great one!! I miss those days for sure! The only problem was I have all of those primary songs memorized in English not in French so I just had to act like I was singing! The kids had trouble though concentrating on the lesson having two Yovos in the room, but hey it was a great time for sure! We also got to teach the branch the importance of FHE, so that was fun! Our branch is definitely growing and building up great so that is good to see! The French is finally getting there so that is great as well! I'm at the point where I can converse and teach pretty well, but I'm not completely fluent yet! Finally Ive been able to start up teaching some of the branch members English once a week, like the Elders have before, and all I can say is I am so glad I know English already because it is not an easy language to learn! Haha Its going great though! This past week were interviews with President Weed so that was great as well to get to spend time and talk with him there! We have a lot of missionaries going home this month and over 20 Congolese missionaries leaving in September so he explained there will be a lot of changing and things going on in the mission in the next months, also with wanting to open up new areas in Benin like the capital Porto Novo, so that should all be pretty fun! Things are great here though and the work is going awesome! Hey I'm finally acclimating too to Africa and honestly I don't even sleep with the fan on anymore because I get cold with it on at night, Haha, so that's good finally! I hope things are all great back in America! Don't enjoy it too much! I love and miss you all! Have a great 4th of July as well!
Elder Oliverson
A wedding we had in our branch!! Really awesome for sure! Along with the A.Ps and Elder Ringle and his comp!
 Elder Poll killed the picture.