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