Saturday, July 26, 2014

Eternal Potential

Bonjour,                                                                                                                  07/26/2014

 This past week has been pretty good. It’s been pretty busy as well meaning a lack of rendezvous but its all good! Monday in our meeting with President we talked most about the new thing the First Presidency is implementing with the lessons, and how we are supposed to interact with the converts after the baptism. It should help a lot with retention. But its mostly that we need to re-teach all the lessons and stay in contact with the converts for up to a year after if not longer in helping them make that big change becoming members of the church. Later that night we had an awesome FHE with Romario's family as well. That family has probably been the best part of the week for us. With Romario having already been a member for about a year now, we were able to start teaching his family who were strong Catholics and told us the first day they only wanted to talk with us, but didn’t at all want to come into our church. Then last week we had the baptism of one of their daughters, and as I mentioned last week, the mom is ready and is doing all she can to get baptized, but as her and her husband aren’t married, its not possible for her yet. So we started working more with her husband, and a little like them, he told us right off he had already spoken with the missionaries before, and doesn’t want really anything to do with it. This past week though after a little work, and teaching the family a lot about the plan of salvation, and what’s in store for families, we saw them later on and the father has decided to get married to her, and it should be sometime in the next month. Seeing how the spirit worked with the mom and daughter in converting them was already incredible, but now seeing the father starting to follow is awesome. We still have a little ways to go with him, but were really praying to help this family come into the church together so that they can have those blessings! It will be pretty exciting to see how things go with that, but it will be great for sure, and the family is really excited as well. 
Speaking of marriages, this past week we spent half a day with working on how we can expedite the marriage process here for the converts, as right now it’s a pretty bad headache. So this past week we went with that old police commissioner that is a member  and went a ways up north to a village called Allada that could help us in getting a faster way to get people married. Sure enough thanks to the commissioner we were able to get that taken care of, so hopefully we'll be seeing many more baptisms soon thanks to the new marriage deal we found! 
Thursday as well was a pretty busy day as we had a nice little Mission Conference/Sacrament meeting with President Morin. I will say its the first time I’ve ever taken the Sacrament other than a Sunday, but it was a really cool meeting as well. You can see that him and his wife are really putting their all into their call as Mission President. He’s an incredible guy though, and they have a special appreciation for missionaries, as they’re both converts to the church. With him he was converted, then just a few years later left on his mission, right after he got off of his mission he became District President in the Montreal District, without a wife, or a car or anything, so he told us a lot about that experience, and how he was confused as to why the Lord put him in that position, but talked to us a lot about the importance of accepting the will of the Lord. He talked a lot as well about the importance of the work here, and said it’s been tough for him seeing the poverty here and the kids with no clothes running in the road. But mentioned that even with their circumstances they have just as much eternal potential as anyone of us, which is something very motivating to think about. The work is going pretty well, and is still progressing pretty good, thanks to the family were teaching were getting other contacts that should be pretty good as well so things are going great that way! Today we went and met with the District Presidency as were organizing a missionary activity for the youth in the Stake. So things are going pretty well here, and the work is still coming along really well!
 I hope all is well there, I love and miss you all a ton!
                                                                                          Elder Oliverson
Elder Izekor and Me!

He ain't heavy, he's may brother:)

Drive to Allada
Dorcass, Ambroises 3 year old daughter:)

On the way to Allada we started noticing a ton of oil flowing down the road for about a hundred yeards, then came up on this tanker that had tipped over.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Bonjour!                                                                                                                                                            07/19/2014

This past week has gone by pretty well. Sunday we had even more Amis at church than we had the week before, so things continue to progress more and more which is really cool to see. Along with that after church we went to Ambroises house again with Desvergez and Lala, as this was Lala's last week on the mission so they wanted him to come eat there one last time, and as usual that was the best! Then came Monday and the long anticipated francophone-Anglophone basketball game. It got serious to the point where we even had a night devotional over a conference call with the English speakers the night before the game. I had the great honor of sharing the spiritual thought, and it surely helped in getting the team pumped up. Then came game day, unfortunately two of our other starters didn’t show up on time, so me and a couple other elders were put with the load of carrying the squad for the first half of the game. Lets just say it was pretty rough, as the French team recruited a bunch of random Beninois guys there that were playing street ball, I can't say they were the best at basketball, but they were athletic nevertheless. The game was pretty rough for us to be honest, but we made some good runs almost tying up the score. But in the end we ended up losing badly. Ha-ha, I can say that it is mostly all because of the French team having Desvergez, but its whatever. We were able to get over it quickly by throwing the football after. 
Things have been well during the week with the work also. Our Amis are progressing pretty well and we have started teaching some new member contacts that are doing really well! Two of those are contacts from Ambroise's family, and have already been to church for a few weeks, and have assisted their FHE nights, so they were already pretty prepared before we even started teaching them! We're hoping they will be ready to be baptized the first week of August. Romarios family that we’ve been teaching is coming along really well also! We actually had the baptism for Sarah his sister today, and she was very ready for it as well. The baptismal service was really special as well, and she was bawling her eyes out while bearing her testimony after, along with the rest of her family, and I will say that’s something considering Africans don’t really cry that much! But along with that President Morin told us that when the first presidency talked to them at their seminar, they want the missionaries to have a much bigger hand in the integration of converts. Rather than just turning them over to the members, we are supposed to continue to teach them and stay in close contact to them for a year afterwards now, so President let us know all about that which will be really cool. That family is doing awesome, and honestly the mom was supposed to be baptized today as well, but as her and her husband are not yet married, and there are some problems there, they weren’t able to today. I’ve seen that situation a ton on the mission where the wife really wants to progress and be baptized but always seems to be held back by the husband. We’ve started teaching him a lot more now as well, so were really hoping and praying things will work out there so that they can get baptized and all be together in the church! It will be nice having Ambroise's wife as the Relief Society President with her, as she can help her out a lot having had the same experience. Its a tough situation with her and her husband as he has multiple wives, and because of some stuff in the past is having trouble forgiving her and just getting married to her and her only. So a lot of my studies this past week have been about forgiveness and the importance of it. Its no doubt one of the toughest parts of having Charity, but is surely one of the most important. Just seeing the example of Christ with forgiveness his whole life is no doubt the best one. From all of it though I can see that when we don’t forgive and hold grudges, its hurting no one more than ourselves as were the most sad person holding the grudge, but as we know we need to simply forgive, forget and leave the judgment to the Lord as he will be the most perfect judge of all, and then we have nothing to worry about. We're hoping things will progress with him for sure. 
This week has been pretty busy though as well keeping us from teaching a ton! Tuesday was no doubt one of the saddest parts seeing Elder Ritchie go home finally. It was nice though as we got to be there for the last dinner with President. He was no doubt one of our most obedient and hardworking missionary and was always my hero on the mission so he will surely be missed! Then on Wednesday we had to do some transfers in the mission, and ended up driving to Togo to pick up the missionaries from there that were coming over to Benin. It took up most of the day as well as it’s about a 2 hour drive one way, mostly because half of it is off-roading. I will say though it was a ton more fun as it had rained the night before so it was just mud driving the whole way there and back! Ha-ha then we got back even later because of a flat tire along the way. One of the missionaries we picked up was Ringle as he is coming back over here so it was good seeing him! At the end of the week we had 5 Ivoirians going home, including Elder Gnenenon so we had to pick them up and take them to the airport and all, so it was crazy seeing them all leave as well! Then along with that on Friday we had Elder Lemaire and Lala, leaving back to France, so that kept us busy also. I'll no doubt miss them all a ton!
               President Morin has been incredible; he’s been getting hard into the work and is doing well. He’s an incredible man though no doubt, and incredibly humble as well. 
        Things are going well here, its still been pretty cool and cloudy with the rainy season so that’s been nice, but not too much else is new. I love and miss you all a ton!
Elder Oliverson

 Elder Ritchie and Me right before he left.
Eldet Gomun, Elder Gnenenon and me dropping them off at the airport
Me with Elder Lale and Elder Lemaire dropping them off at the airport.
Gas Station.
Road to Togo.
The drive from Benin to Togo.

The flat we got when we got back to Cotonou.

The truck we drove on the left. Elder Rybins driving on the right.

It's been a while since I've baptized someone as I usually want the members to have the chance to do it, but today there wasn't the option!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"The Restoration"

Bonjour!                                                                                                   07/12/2014

Things have been pretty good this past week. Sunday went really well for us, as we had the most Amis at church since I’ve been here. It’s really nice to see how well some of them are progressing! On Monday night we had a really special FHE with one of the families we are teaching. It’s the family with one young man who is a member (Romario). Its crazy to see how well they’ve progressed. At first even he was hesitant giving us they’re contact because he said there was no hope, and even our first lesson with them, the Mom sort of brought up as well that there was no hope, and that they were staying Catholic, but would still follow the lessons anyways. So we’ve been teaching them and they’ve even started coming to church. The Mom told us a really cool story about it as well. She said that after our lessons she wasn’t really planning on coming to church, but when she woke up the morning before Sunday, she said it was like a voice in her head telling her to go to church with us. She said she didn’t really know why it was there, but took it as being from God and decided to come with us. Even the rest of her family was stunned seeing her coming along but she came, and she LOVED it there. It was good to see that as well as with Gbegamey still being a little weaker branch, sometimes things don’t run as well, but she saw past those things and that day at church had a huge impact on her. On Monday we were with the family again, and this time we brought "The Restoration" DVD. It’s a killer. And had a spiritual experience watching that, just like every time. Both the mom and the daughter explained after the special feelings they felt while watching that, and we helped them understand it was the Holy Ghost confirming the truth of the message. They both have baptismal dates fixed for the next few weeks, and are no doubt very ready for those. Its amazing to see how powerful the spirit can be, and how us as missionaries only set things up to where the spirit can come in and help them know these things are true. 
Our other Amis are coming along really well also! So it’s very nice to see the work progressing like it is now. We went out and taught as well with one of my converts from the first time in Gbegamey on Thursday and that was really fun. He told me a story that touched me a lot as well. Since I’ve been back he’s been to church every Sunday, but the member who gave him to us as a contact hasn’t been. We were talking about it, and he was telling me how it all kind of started one night when he was there with a few member friends, and there was a party going on. It was a pretty rough one and there was alcohol there as well. They were tempted to go, saying that they would just avoid the alcohol, but he kept telling them it wasn’t the best idea. After talking about it for a while he tried again to convince them not to go, but they left leaving him behind. He went home and came to church the next morning and didn’t see them there. When he visited them later he found that they had all been caught drinking at the party and things aren’t going too well with them. He told me he still tries to help them come back and return to church, but it hasn’t worked much since and they still haven’t been back. The story reminded me a ton of one of those classic church stories, but really touched me a lot that even though his good friends and examples in the church made a bad choice, he chose to stand alone, and in the end avoided big problems in his life. So things are going pretty well with the work! 
President Morin and his wife left to Togo with the couple this past Wednesday so we’ve been kind of running things solo here. We’ve done our best to "Hold down the Fort" as he told us to. Driving is still great as ever as well, and the excitement never gets old ha-ha. Things have been pretty cooled down the past week as well which has been nice! This rainy season has been much more cool than the last. We have a big group of missionaries going home this next week, so Monday we planned a Anglo-phone vs. Franco-phone basketball game which I’m pretty pumped about. I was named a starter, so I’m sure you guys are pretty proud about that:) Ha-ha, it will be fun though, our team is mostly Americans and a couple Ghanaians, even though they’re not the best it just makes our team look more athletic. Unfortunately Desvergez is playing on the other team along with Lemaire. So we'll have to see how that goes! But yeah all is going pretty well here! I love and miss you all a ton, I hope you have a great next week!
       Elder Oliverson

Little dog we found:)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Prophets and Apostles

Bonjour!                                                                                                                   07/05/2014

 This past week has gone really well. We had a solid Sunday night once again all having dinner with the couple:) One of the best perks of being so close to them. So that was awesome! Then the week started off really well also. It was kind of weird Monday and then Tuesday as those were the last days of President Weed. I will say though it was a good example for all of us, as even his very last day on the mission, he was in working in his office. He no doubt gave it his all till the end. On Monday we had our last weekly meeting with him, and he gave an awesome spiritual thought. He mentioned the statement the first presidency came out with this past week concerning church doctrine, and a little bit about what has been going around in the media lately about the church. It was nice remembering how blessed we are to be led by Prophets and Apostles who are continually receiving revelation for us to help protect us. At the same time though they don’t change as the world does, which often makes what they tell us the more unpopular way. It really reminds me a lot of even Book of Mormon stories for example in the clear fact that many don’t like what the prophet and apostles tell us, even though it is the truth and will help us. In turn they end up having many problems because they failed to follow the prophet. People here always seem stunned to find that we have a Prophet on the earth today, but its nice having that knowledge there is someone there to guide us. 
But yeah on Tuesday President Weed was off to the airport and then on his way home. It was really sad seeing him go, but just an hour after getting dropped off at the airport we had to go pick up President Morin as well. We ended up waiting a while at the airport, but he finally made it! It’s not hard to tell though already that he will be amazing. He’s a pretty small guy, and kind of reminds me of Brother Clark, as he isn’t very big, but is extremely humble and a spiritual giant. He is a native French speaker so that’s what he speaks with us, but he told us that he learned English actually from an American companion he had on his mission. As were President Weed and his wife, him and his wife are awesome together and are an amazing example. Its a little different as well as his wife is a native French speaker also so the two can even kind of teach together when talking to us. He’s extremely zealous as well, and it was funny, as right after we picked him up, he wanted to get started right away with planning and getting to work. I’m pretty sure he’s already gone out and taught with some companionship's every day this past week since he got here. He’s awesome and I’m super glad to have the chance to work closer to him! He’s going to Lome next week to see the missionaries and to meet with the Stake President and Elder Ounleu from the interregion. 
This past week we did have a little headache as the customs at the airport picked up some of the packages they sent here to be waiting when they got here. They were asking us to pay a certain amount, I’m not going to say how much, ha-ha to get them out. We tried and tried but it was pretty useless. Luckily though we ended up calling the ex-police commissioner for Cotonou, who is a member, (the same guy that saved us when we had that accident with the assistants at the start of my mission) and he came and after a long talk with the douane, we were able to get the packages out at about a 14th of the price they were wanting. 
Driving is still as awesome as ever here. It’s like being in a movie or something! I will say though adjusting back to the driving there won't be easy. But yeah the work is going pretty good and our Amis are doing pretty well. We had to push back the baptism for our candidate named Ghouda as he still has a problem with the word of wisdom. The problem is it’s not a drug that is always listed as its something more cultural, so he doesn’t understand yet he has to let it go. At the same time since he has stopped drinking coffee to stay up for work, he told us he hasn’t seen any difference, and still has all the energy he needs to work. So in a way he has already started gaining a testimony of the word of wisdom, but at the same time is struggling in some areas. I think that he will be able to get baptized though not too far off. Our little family we're teaching thanks to one of the sons which is a member is progressing really well also! Again they’re having some difficulty leaving the Catholic Church, but you can see that they understand the importance of our message, and are coming along with that. So yeah the work is coming along pretty well, and is picking up a lot for sure which is nice!

But thanks for the spiritual thought as well! Its interesting how important that reading in the scriptures is. It’s just a normal missionary habit, so we see the blessings of it daily, but its really cool to see the differences that it makes in others and in new converts especially. Its clear that those who study the Book of Mormon, often become the strongest members, and when asking most inactives if they read it, the usual answer is no. So that’s very true! But yeah things are going really well here! I hope all goes great there this next week! I love and miss you all a ton! 

Elder Oliverson

Sis. Morin, Me & Pres. Morin
Elder Izekor & Me
Back in Togo