Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Lord will prepare a way.

Bonjour,                                                                                                            11/29/2014

            This past week has been pretty good. On Sunday we had the Area Conference and it was awesome. There were quite a few people there, which was good to see. Elder Gay from the 70 started it out and spoke, and he gave a pretty awesome talk. He shared a really cool story about a time when he was on a visit with Elder Uchdorf, and they were visiting some of the church buildings in Ghana. When they were looking around, Elder Uchdorf looked at the basketball courts, and asked, does anyone in Ghana play basketball. Elder Gay responded no, then President Uchdorf asked, well then why do we build basketball courts. And he said, well that’s just what we’ve always done and what were used to. Since then the church builds soccer fields around the churches here. He was trying to point out that just because we’ve always done it that way, or because everyone does it that way, doesn’t always mean that its the right thing to do, or what we should be doing. 
         Elder Bednar and Elder Uchdorf spoke as well. It seemed like the central theme was around the family, and bringing a gospel culture into the family, rather than what they do here, and the culture they have. For example the husband and wife work together in raising and teaching their children. They also talked a lot about the importance of leaving behind wicked traditions, to be able to enjoy the blessings of the gospel. Elder Uchdorf shared a story of a visit to West Africa, they were there looking at how they could improve and build better wells. They got to a village and found the well, and said it was terrible, it was filled with mud, and mold, and the water didn’t even look drinkable. He explained that he then saw people that would go take and use the water and even drink it. They asked why and the people explained that is what they have always done, and that is what their fathers have done, and their grandfathers, so it seemed to be fine. They quickly got to work fixing and repairing the well. Within just a little while, they had clean and clear water flowing from it. He showed that its not that the church came in and completely changed their way of living, but rather improved it. He compared it a little to the gospel, that yes they don’t have to leave everything behind, they still have their culture, but living righteously and the gospel, will bring a richer form of life to them. They also talked a lot about the importance of leaving behind the dowry or paying a certain amount of money to take someone’s daughter to wife, as that is still practiced here, and keeps many people from getting married, and in turn breaking certain commandments. It was a great conference for sure! 
        On Sunday we had one of the best mangezvous of my mission. We got invited with President, and the couple to go eat with an owner of one of the missionary apartments, who is from France, but comes here from time to time to look over the orphanages. We were all just so used to relaxed meals of either pate or rice, but when they invited us in we felt so out of place. Ha-ha it was the nicest place I’ve seen on my entire mission, and we were escorted in by a butler with a bow-tie and all. We had all pretty much forgotten like all etiquette as well, so that just made it more awkward as we didn’t know what to do, so we just watched President as he has that French in him and knew how to do everything. It was a little weird though as the daughter gave everyone the cheek kisses as we walked in, but President refused that she gave them to us. Also it was cool, as they kept offering us to drink with them, but the way that President refused it, without being rude, but rather opening up a way into talking about the gospel was pretty cool. It was an incredible 3-course meal, and it was so heavenly. Ha-ha, none of us will ever forget that dinner. 
          In the couple following days we tried to get as much as we could done in our secteur before leaving. We had some good lessons, and some Amis that are starting to break through as well. Everyone is still progressing good. With our new Ami Ken who is incredibly smart, we left him the Book of Mormon a while back with all the commitments, and this past week he came to us and said that he knows its true and that he knows very well also that our church is true, and that its the church of Jesus Christ. It was really cool to see that promise come to pass again. He explained though that he wants to be baptized but is not sure his father will be okay with it. As I’ve said before, even if people are adults, if their parents aren’t okay with it, they are often scared or worried, so we talked with him a lot about that, and had him read 1 Nephi 3:7 but switching his name in. It was interesting to see how well the verse went putting his name in, and helped him see a lot better that even if his father could be against it; the Lord will prepare a way.
        On Thursday morning we left for Togo. And oh how great it was to be back there. I forgot how much I loved that place. Ha-ha, it seems so much nicer than Benin, and the people are the best. It was interesting noting more of the differences between the two countries. It was the best to be back though, and to even get to see some old members and recent converts and see that they’re doing great also! The two conferences went well, and by the last one we were all dead tired. It was great seeing the missionaries there again, and throwing the ball with Elder Barton after the conference:). I really missed Togo a ton!! It was good to see the Tahitians Elders there as well; they’re the best. Friday evening we took the drive back to Cotonou, which took a while, but we made it back. This morning we got up early as to head out to Porto Novo to help with a baptism again, so that went pretty good too! The work is starting to go amazing out there, and this past Sunday they had 50 people at church, the highest they have had since opening it. Its nice being back here, and to be able to get back and focused more again on our secteur.
           Thanks again for all of the love and support and the letter also! I love and miss you all a ton!

                             Elder Oliverson
Drive back to Benin
Elder Marurai, Elder Rich, Elder Mou-Tham, and me.
The Tahitians in Togo.. Elder Vincent, Teihotu, Rybin and Harevaa 

The Area Conference at a building the church rented out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Book of Mormon- simple promise"

Bonjour!                                                                                                                    11/22/2014

       This past week has been pretty good. Really busy as well with the two Zone Conferences in Benin but we’ve still been able to teach a little bit. We have a couple of Amis that are coming along as well. We’ve been stressing retention a lot lately as a mission, as it is easy to baptize here, and many people get baptized, but as the church is still new, and not completely established, many fall inactive. So it’s been a big focus in getting the Amis ready for baptism. President Morin has been working on having us start a more different approach with using genealogy more. Its been super difficult here as its so tough to do that, and many people don’t even know who their grandparents are, but he’s pointed out what a powerful spirit that can bring in helping Amis and converts. Along with that it shows the people that this message will be a blessing for their posterity and children, but also for all of their ancestors who are waiting too. 
        We’ve been working a lot in particular with an Ami named Ken lately, and he’s been progressing really well. He came to us asking for a Book of Mormon after the first visit or so, and by the next visit told us that he woke up in the night and heard a voice telling him to read 1 Nephi 18. It was pretty interesting but pretty cool hearing him tell us about it, and we did our best to sort it out with him, already he is starting to see what a powerful book it is, and how unique our message is as well. Everyone here is religious really, but not many really understand why, or what they are missing out on. We have been working with some other Amis as well who are on about the same level as him, so its been centered a lot around the Book of Mormon. There is a question that sometimes people ask, that makes me think a lot as well. When you get done explaining that Joseph Smith finished translating the gold plates. They sometimes ask where they are now, and when you tell them that the angel came back to retrieve them, they start to wonder. The thing is though, even if the plates were still here on the earth, if you think about it that still wouldn’t really prove anything. That wouldn’t prove to them that it was the Nephites that wrote on them, nor that they were inspired by Prophets, nor that Joseph Smith received them from an angel. It wouldn’t really do anything at all, other than maybe cause other problems, and mystery. I love though the simple promise at the end of the book(Moroni 10:3–5)that gives the most simple way of having the confirmation that everything about it is true in sincere prayer and study. People seem to think God is very complicated sometimes, when he really gives us a lot of these things in simple ways so that everyone can apply it. Its been the best to see as well when people do apply that promise, and read and pray and then have that confirmation that will always come. Things have been a little difficult in our secteur though as we haven’t had a ton of time to get out to work this past week. 
        The Zone Conferences went really good though, we taught first, followed by Elder Bulunga and Merrill, then Rybin, and then President to finish. President Morin gave a really cool lesson comparing Zion’s camp with a mission. In showing the standard of obedience and spirituality that the Lord gave the group before going out, and how difficult and trying it was for them, and then in the end they didn’t end up going to fight as they had originally thought. Many people thought it was a failure and that they had travelled over a 1000 miles for nothing, but just a little while afterwards when the Lord called 12 apostles and then the seventy, 9 of the 12 apostles, and most of the 70 had been part of Zion’s camp, so in a way you see that the Lord used it actually as a way to prepare them for these callings, and for serving and building up his kingdom rather than what they had originally thought. He explained that likewise with the mission, we are stressed obedience and spirituality, and in the end many think that we just wasted two years that could have been used for studies or anything else, when in reality the Lord uses it as a time to observe what we do and to form us as he wants. Next week we will be even more busy again as we will be going to Togo for the next two Zone Conferences there. I’ve always seen the mission president do 4 Zone Conferences at a time like that, but I didn’t realize how tiring it can be till now. Ha-ha it’s been good though. The work is going well here though, and we have our Africa Area Conference tomorrow so we're all looking forward to that!
           All is going well here though; it will be good to go back to Togo next week so that will be nice! I love and miss you all a ton and I hope things go well for you there this next week!   Elder Oliverson  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"He feared God much more than man".

Bonjour,                                                                                                                    11/15/2014

         This past week has been pretty good! At the start of the week we got invited to a little party with a sister named Sandrine from Avotrou who left on her mission this past week. She was Elder Barton’s convert actually, so that was cool, but we helped her a lot with getting ready and getting everything she needed for the mission so that was good. President Morin has put a lot of focus on getting the future missionaries from Benin ready to go out, so that’s big as well, and also helps with retention. On Monday we didn’t get too much done as we had a 3 hour meeting with President:). We did get the new couple, which was pretty cool. The Dyson's who are actually from Bluffdale so not too far from us. Its interesting as he grew up in New Zealand so has a strong accent, and she has been a member for only 2 years. They’ll be a big help to the mission for sure. We also planned out a lot of what our theme will be for the Zone Conferences in a few weeks and about what we’re going to teach. The obedience in the mission is improving a lot so we're able to focus more on other things in working more effectively, which is nice.
        President left after that for Togo and spent a lot of the week there, so we had more time to work in our secteur which was nice again, and you can see that things are starting to progress more as well! We still have our Ami Carlos who has his baptismal date fixed, and we’ve started teaching the other members of his family. As they don’t speak French we’ve been bringing Rebecca with us in the lessons, she lived in Togo so she speaks Mina. It’s been super effective, and she is already a pro missionary! Its interesting to see that many recent converts teach better than I ever could have before the mission, as they are so fresh off the missionary lessons and such. We also have another family we have started teaching and its been going great there as well. The father is actually the chief of the quartier, so like the neighborhood leader I guess, so we’re hoping if things go well with him we’ll get a lot more contacts in the area as. The teaching has been going great with them though, and they were no doubt prepared in advance. After the first visit we left stuff to read, and by the next time they were wanting Book's of Mormon, showing that they had already read what we left them and understood. The spirit has been really strong with them, and we have a lot of hope things will continue with them.
        I was reminded of something that I learned in the MTC this past week about the spirit in teaching. As we've had some great lessons this past week and the spirit has been really strong, but I remember them telling us when Satan sees things are going well, or he is worried, he will do all he can. That distraction's will come to distract from the lesson. I’ve always-payed attention to that and have noticed that a lot, that often when things are going really well, a phone will ring or someone will randomly interrupt distracting us all. In one of our lessons with the family for example, there were a bunch of chickens around us, when out of nowhere a dog came running in the parcel and the chickens went nuts. There was a chase between the dogs and the chickens for about ten minutes till they got the dogs. It was tough but luckily it didn’t take too much away from the lesson, but it was just interesting to see how things work that way, but also what a powerful tool the spirit can be in lessons.                  
        We’ve had some really good lessons with Abel, who we are still trying to help accept the gospel. His problem is still that he has two wives and as a result, he can’t get baptized. He wants to be with one and has already decided he wants to marry her, but is worried that by leaving the other one many people will hate him, and that other wife will be lost without the support. It’s a tough situation. But my companion told a really cool story about someone he knew in Nigeria. It was a pastor that followed the missionary lessons, and fell in love with the church, he had the strongest desire to get baptized, but then the baptismal interviews came along. That’s when he mentioned that in his past he was a lawyer, and there was a case in particular where his client came to him and confessed that they had committed the particular crime. He used it for his advantage, and ended up winning the case, which put the other person in prison for four years, and kept his client out. He said that that had really been weighing on him since he started talking to the missionaries. They talked a lot about repentance, and restitution. He came to the realization that he had to confess to the family of that person, and as well to the court what really happened. In doing so he knew that it could ruin his life for a time, and as well could put him in prison, but he said his desire to be baptized was so strong he knew what he had to do. He went before the family, as well as the court and confessed what had happened, immediately afterwards they took him into custody and sentenced him to four years in prison. He told the missionaries to be ready in four years for when he would get out. I was blown away by the sacrifice he made to fully repent for his past sin, and how he feared God much more than man. He ended up going to prison, but what was a miracle was that after being in prison for about 6 months, a new governor in that state in Nigeria was elected, by being elected, he had the opportunity a little like in America, to look at a few questionable cases of people who have been put in prison, and let them free. He ended up being one of those people that was set free from prison after six months, and immediately searched out the missionaries. He ended up being baptized, and is now a leader in the church in Nigeria. The story really touched Abel, and we're hoping that he will do what he needs to do to be able to get his life back in order. It really reminded me that repentance is not always easy, but how necessary it is. I remember a talk mentioning that it’s like a problem in math with a lot of steps. Once you make a mistake its necessary to correct it right away, otherwise you can’t progress. If you try to keep going along, hoping to get the right answer, in the end it could be far from it, if you go back though right away and take care of it, its much much easier to continue. But yeah the work is going pretty well for us! On Friday President called and asked us to go visit a district for planning and also to do splits with them so we went to help them out. It went pretty well, and it was nice getting out and working like that again. Plus the secteur was full of Nigerians; honestly about 7 out of every 10 people we talked to are Nigerian. So there were a lot of lessons with us trying to understand each other’s English, which is sometimes a little miserable. But Nigerians are super spiritual people so it was cool as well! The past week was great though, and the time is still flying by! It keeps getting hotter and hotter but its more bearable now as well. I hope all goes great there this next week!
                                                  I love and miss you all a ton!

                                                              Elder Oliverson
That little farewell for Sandrine!

Elder Mou-tham, me and Elder Jorgensen

Saturday, November 8, 2014

“Remember the teacher is always quiet during a test"

Bonjour,                                                                                                                   11/08/2014

      This past week has been nice to get back into our secteur and working there. We had a little missionary activity Monday morning, and threw the football a bit, which was nice as usual. Our meeting with President was a little longer than usual so we didn’t get out too much to teach on Monday. We were able to get out to teach lessons most of the other days, and to try to get things going with our Amis. We have to work a lot on keeping our Amis occupied and keeping their commitments even when we're not there, otherwise they don’t progress as much, and as there are some weeks we don’t get to see them, it makes a big difference. We have some pretty good Amis right now though. One in particular is named Carlos. He is really humble, but doesn’t speak much French, so we have to teach him with a member. He went to school before, but his dad thought he was worthless so he pulled him out, and ever since then he has had to work up till today, and now he is an adult and really doesn’t speak much French. Still though he has accepted the Gospel really well because of his humility, and you can see that it is something that is starting to bring much more joy in to his life now. This past week we were able to fix a baptismal date with him, so were hoping things will go well with getting him ready for that. 
We’ve also found some other new Amis this week that were hoping will start to progress more. Because we're often so busy we’ve had to work on just talking with everyone everywhere we go, because its hard to find time just for tracting, so whenever we go out we’ve had to keep our eyes open and looking for people. The work is going well though. 
Its crazy to see how fast the time is going now, and that there are only a couple transfers that I have left, but it’s pretty sad at the same time. Elder Rybin is doing a little better, they found a few kidney stones actually, and he only has less than a month left anyways, so hopefully it will get worked out. This past week as well, I did a little split as well with Elder Merrill, as there was a meeting at Gbedromede with some of the leaders, and President wanted our companions to go there, so we were able to go work together in the secteur. We visited our Ami Rebecca, who still to this day is waiting on the baptism even though she really wants it, because she is not married yet, and their papers are taking forever to get through. Along with that her husband really doesn’t want much to do with the gospel either anymore unfortunately. We decided to restart going over the lessons with her a bit, and focused a lot on the Plan of Salvation in particular. That is a lesson that is really fun to give, as it gives so much comfort and reassurance. It also helps us understand why we’re on the earth and why this time is so important. We talked a lot too about the trials in this life, and why they come and how we react. She was talking about how even when we do pray and keep the commandments in trials, why does no response come when we need it most. I remembered hearing once for an example that when you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, “Remember the teacher is always quiet during a test". Its interesting to think about it like that, I remember in the MTC one of the Seventies talking about sometimes in trials the Lord waits a bit to watch us, and see how we react to certain things, or what we do, because he has a lot of trust in us. In the end it was a really good lesson that we had with her, and one that helped her put things in perspective, and understand that there are many things in life we can control, but also many that we can’t, but that doesn't change the fact that we should do all we can to please the Lord. So the work is picking back up for us, which is nice and we're hoping it continues that way. 
Its been raining a ton lately here, which is a little weird for November, we’re still just waiting for it too start getting really hot again like it does this time of the year. Things are going pretty well in the mission also. A new couple is getting here today, so that will be a good help to the missionaries in Benin. Not too much else is new this week. Things are going great here though! The work is a lot of fun as usual, and teaching the gospel never gets old either. I hope all goes great back there this next week!

                   I love and miss you all a ton!

                                                                        Elder Oliverson

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lord lifted them back up

Bonjour!                                                                     11/01/2014

This past week has been one of the busiest of my mission, but it’s been good! I actually don’t have a ton of time today to write home as we just barely returned from Togo. Most of it started Monday morning as the week was pretty well planned out for us, as we had a lot going on with the transfer and the new missionaries and meetings and such. But Elder Rybin woke up sick Monday morning. So bad that he had to go see the doctor. He was describing a sharp pain in his lower back, and they think it is a kidney stone. So, that kept him out all this week! Because of that Monday we did all the transfers we could ourselves, along with picking up Elder Merrill who will replace Elder Rybin.Tuesday then came along, and we were trying to manage the missionaries leaving with those that were coming. Luckily those that were going home were a lot of help with that. It was really sad, and strange seeing them go home. I remember for example when Elder Layton went home and it was sad, but he was so much farther along on the mission than me it didn’t really hit home, but with this group it really did. 
We had an awesome group of new missionaries get here as well. The past few groups have been awesome for sure! The good part as well is President Morin stresses a lot the training. He puts a lot into who he chooses as trainers, and gives them a lot of training as well on training. It’s going really well also, as most missionaries when they get here are very zealous, so having a really good training helps them keep that. It was pretty busy picking them up at the airport and doing everything with them at the bureau, then afterwards taking them all to their apartments. Its not really that Cotonou is a huge city, but more that the traffic in the evenings is rough, so we ended up getting back really late that night from dropping everyone off. 
The next morning we came into the bureau early. Originally the plan was that Rybin takes a truck, and we take the other. But because he was down for the week, we had to take as many as we could that day. It was a long drive as well, but we got there, and came back the same day, and after dropping off the rest the missionaries in Benin came back to the bureau. We were taking a bit of a rest, when a soon to be missionary from the branch of Fidjrosse that was supposed to be leaving for the MTC the next day showed up. He explained that he was just told to show up at the bureau, the problem was he hadn’t even been set apart yet, nor received his temple recommend. The Branch President didn’t really know how the whole process went, and had no idea he was supposed to do it. So we had to run him back home to get interviewed by his President, then back to Presidents house to get interviewed by him. It was pretty hectic. It was awesome to see how excited he was to be starting his mission, and reminded me a lot of those last moments before becoming a missionary. By the time we got all his interviews done, President wanted to set him apart, and asked us to join him in the setting apart. It was a really cool, and spiritual experience as it was just us and President, his wife and the new missionary in his house. The spirit was really strong there, and it was a good reminder of the importance of a setting apart as a missionary. Afterwards we got to eat with President, as we happened to be there:). President then asked us to take him to our apartment then run him to the airport in the morning. That was another night with not much rest as we woke up pretty early to get him there. 
The next few days were spent doing a lot of catch-up, yet we were able to get some work done in the secteur, which was nice. There was also a really really sad experience this past week as well. One of the days we went out into our secteur we went to visit a member family that has been struggling a bit. We got there to find that the parents were gone as the mother was sick and her husband took her to the hospital. We spent some time with their kids before leaving. The next morning we got a call finding that the mother had just passed away that morning. It was pretty heartbreaking for all of us. Especially that the family is struggling a lot financially, and all of the kids are between the ages of 4 and 11. It was comforting though as well, to see the support from the branch that came to help them, as they needed it, we went as well to see what we could do to help. As the family already has a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, that does help, but it was more of a situation where all you can do is comfort those who stand in need of comfort and try to give them some hope. We’ve been keeping them in our prayers lately a lot no doubt. 
As I said earlier we weren’t able to get around as much to our other Amis as we wanted, but we’re able to help a lot of our recent converts. One that really lifted our spirits was our recent convert Sarah, who just returned to school. She was explaining that now that she is a member, things have changed a lot with school and her social life, she is persecuted and made fun of every day now that she has joined our church, and it seems now that she has a rough time even going to school each day, at the same time it didn’t at all influence her enthusiasm in the gospel, which was really touching to see, and you could see that it actually strengthened her as a member, we tried to show her some other people that she is in the same company as with that persecution coming because she sticks to the truth, like Joseph Smith, Nephi, and especially Jesus Christ even, so the fact that people won't leave her alone actually isn’t a bad thing. 
We also visited one of my old converts from when I was back in Gbegamey at the start of my mission. He started out as an extremely zealous member, but with the time was hit by many trials, at first things were fine, but when the trials began to seem like they wouldn’t end, his faith really started to struggle a bit. We showed him an idea I saw in the Liahona a few months ago that was a good story about the brother of Jared, and how they crossed the ocean on the barges. It talks about how they were pushed by the wind towards their destination, the Promised Land. At times though the wind and waves would crash upon them and bury them deep in the ocean, but each time they prayed, the Lord lifted them back up to the surface for a time, but not completely out. We tried to show that the same wind that was pushing them towards the Promised Land was the same one that was also crashing upon them at times. We showed the comparison as well that in life many trials come on our journey to return to live with God, but something that could really help us is knowing that its these trials that can really help us advance in that direction, and progress towards our goal. In the end we showed that it took almost a year before they arrived from their journey, showing that sometimes our trials will last a bit long, but we just need to stick it out, as we don’t always have control over that. He understood really well, and we're praying that things will improve with him. Today again we went to Togo to finish up the rest of the transfer that we started earlier this week, so that took up most of our day, so by now were pretty exhausted again, but its all good! It will be nice this next week to get back into our secteur more, so hopefully we will be able to get things back up and going that way. All is well here though, and the work is going along! I hope all is well there, I love and miss you all a ton Elder Oliverson
Elder Fall & Me

This is Elder Nsengiyumva from the group of missionaries that just got here this last week. I wish I was training him:) he is our first missionary ever from little Burundi. I didn't even know the church was there, but I guess it is now. It was awesome meeting him as he is super quiet and little, but one of the most humble Elders I've met on my mission, so it will be fun to see how well he does!