Saturday, January 31, 2015

Learning on the mission to accept the will of the Lord in all things.

Bonjour!                                                                                                                                 02/07/2015
           As you know with the big change again we’ve been super busy. As I mentioned last week there was a big problem that went on and things weren’t going to well, and President called me telling me he needed my help again so I’m back working with him:) We’re busy though as at the same time I’m helping out there, and along with that I’m helping in finishing the training of a new American named Elder Hammons. So with all of that things are pretty busy. They’re getting stressed out as a lot of leaders and a couple are going home that first week of March, so were trying to work things out and get stuff ready for the change. President asked me and Merrill this past week about some replacements, so we will probably be filling in those spots this next week so they can get trained before we all leave.
         We’ve also been super busy with the big visit from Elder Dube this past week! It’s been good though, and it’s been interesting to be back in the branch of Gbegamey. It’s looking good there. We just got the new Branch President in, who is Larry, the Ghanaian that Desvergez and me worked with at the start of my mission, so it’s awesome to see him there. Him and the counselor he chose are both very humble, so they are going to progress really well. Things are already picking up as they’ve started holding CEP meeting and branch council meeting, so things are coming along well there.
         It was a little sad leaving Calavi for sure. But I plan on going back before the end of my mission to say goodbye one last time. Luckily last Saturday I drove back up there to be at the baptism for Alfred and Luchette. It was awesome; it was a great baptism for sure. It was great especially seeing Alfred, as no doubt he will be a big help to the church there in getting things going. In their testimonies after the baptism it was really cool. Its something I’ve noticed often when people bear their testimonies at baptism where they talk about how its like when they found this message they found that part that was missing for them. They talk about how much more peaceful they feel and like they’ve found that destination they’ve been looking for, so now they have that place to rest. They’ll both be big helps to the church so I’m hoping they’ll start the temple preparation soon!
         It’s been funny since I left. As the first few days after, Elder Kasonga would call me every night with a question. And he still calls me companion, which is the funny part. But he calls all the time asking questions about the Amis and what to do, but I think he finally realized that he’s already well enough trained to keep things going in the secteur, so I hope it continues on well there!
        Along with that getting back here I weighed myself and saw that I lost 10 pounds again. Ha-ha so I think all the walking out to the village area had gotten to me a bit. Things are going good though here in the secteur of Cadjehoun. We have an Ami that is progressing pretty well named Louise, and we have her baptismal date fixed for the 21 of this month, so we’re really looking forward to that! Its tough as the entire family is opposed, but its one of those things to where she is willing to make the sacrifice to follow the Lord, so its cool teaching her as she has such a strong desire to keep the commandments.
        The best part of the past week though was the visit with Elder Dube, and it was honestly one of the best parts of my mission. I remember when I was back in Calavi, Bulunga told me that I was going to be translating for Elder Dube in the conference, as he’s an English speaker. So I wasn’t looking forward to that as much as it’s not really possible to take notes, but it was awesome. One of the most tiring days as well though. He arrived late Wednesday night, and the conference started at 8:00 am the next morning and continued till about 2 to 3 in the afternoon. So I wasn’t too excited about translating for hours on end, but then I remembered that Elder Dube has to be teaching all of those hours, I have the easy job, and so I stopped complaining. Ha-ha it was great though, right from the start just getting to be next to Elder Dube was awesome, just being with someone like that.  The best way to describe it is just pure kindness and love, and its all real as well. We talked about learning French, and he told me he’s working on it, and hopes that in the next five years will have it down. The conference started, and it was tough at times as he would get going in English and wouldn’t really stop for the translation. But it went great. Ha-ha At this point it was actually much easier to translate his English into French while he was teaching, than it was to translate the responses in French into English, but I did my best. Another thing I remember well is as I was next to him looking at his scriptures, and I can say I’ve never seen scriptures so marked up in my life, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. He was incredible and gave an awesome lesson about being a disciple of Christ missionary, rather than a me missionary, or someone that just thinks about himself. He talked a lot about the importance of growth on our mission, and as a Stake President he always saw two types of missionaries getting home, the ones who made that growth, and those that got home and talked about nothing but how difficult it was and all the annoying and uncomfortable parts of the mission, the ones who only worried about themselves. It was incredible. He likes walking around and moving everywhere while teaching as well, so that was a little tiring following him, but it was a good workout:).
       While we were sitting together during President Morin’s lesson, he told me some cool stories about the Apostles and what they ask the 70’s to do when they come on the visits to the mission, it was interesting talking to him about them as he knows them well so he will tell you about their personalities and what they are like. He also talked about what an intimidating and difficult time it was when he was called to the 70’s. The conference was long, but it was great at the same time. We got done around 2:30, and at the end, we had a three-hour break before the member fireside that evening, so Elder Dube chooses 3 people for interviews. He looked out and pointed out a couple of missionaries. It was an awesome experience as while he was doing that. I was watching who he was choosing, and was thinking in my head, that would be awesome to get to have a last interview with him, and as I was thinking that same thought in my head, he turned over to me, and turned to President, and asked if he could interview me as well. So after the conference we went off and it was no doubt an experience that I won’t forget. Just being in the same room as him you feel a very special power. We talked a long while about the mission, and how things are working and the missionaries, then just about some questions, about after the mission, and the importance of being willing to accept the will of the Lord in our lives. It was amazing. And there was one thing I noticed, as when I would ask a question, even if it was a little vague, he would stop for a moment, and the response he would give would really be specific and to the point of why I asked that question, which really showed how inspired he really was. I did my best to write everything I remember from what he told me in the interview as I hope to never forget that experience.
        After our interview, a couple of news reporters showed up and wanted to interview him, as the media found out that one of our church leaders came to visit and it was a big event. So President asked me to translate the news interview there as well. That was probably the scariest part as they had a camera then two recorders in front of my mouth as they asked him questions about the church, what we’re doing here, and what is our purpose in Benin, so I was just praying to not mess up his answers as that’s what they were going to send out to everyone about the church. Ha-ha, it was a cool experience though seeing him respond to them in the questions they were asking, and how bold he was.
        After they finished there, he interviewed Elder Bulunga, and two other missionaries so President had me translate those interviews as well. It was kind of nice as I picked up even more counsel from what he gave in the other interviews and benefited from that as well. Ha-ha, in the end I was dead tired, but it was an incredible experience I will always remember. The part I don’t get is he was the one that was busy the entire day, and yet he was still full of energy, and ready to go for the next conference.
        Later that night we had the member devotional, and there he announced that if we can reach the amount of 2000 members by October, we will be organizing the first stake in Benin the 10th and 11th of October. It was an exciting announcement for sure, I’m a little sad I won’t be here for it, but it will be an incredible thing for Benin. In the end it was one of my favorite General Authority visits no doubt. The following day him and President took a plane off to Togo. The problem though is a missionary from Benin was returning from Ivory Coast as he had finished his mission. So I called President as I had no idea what to do, and I didn’t think the missionary wanted to wait till Sunday when President got back to be released. Luckily President was with Elder Dube, so he authorized the District President to do it in his place, so he made sure that got done.
       This week has been pretty busy, but it’s been a good one. It still hasn’t really felt real seeing how much time is left, but I’m doing my best to make the most out of what is left.
        I hope you guys have a great week! I love and miss you a ton
                                                      Elder Oliverson

Luckily though because I have the car now I was able to come back to have our baptism that we had today!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Remembering all that the Lord has done for us even in difficult times.

Bonjour,                                                                                                         01/26/2015

        This past week has been pretty good. We had the transfer in the apartment bringing in Elder Bilau, who I lived with earlier on the mission, and Elder Mutombo, making 3 Congolese in our apartment. Woo hoo Ha-ha, its been good though as they are all nice, but we end up eating Congolese Fufu every single day now, but it will make the food when I get home that much better.
         This week has been good with the work as well. Its been hotter than ever, and our sectuer is very vast, extending all the way out to the west and north with no limits, so we’ve been exhausted, but luckily my companion is in good shape and is willing so we’ve been able to work a ton like usual! We’ve spent a lot of the week getting our candidates ready for baptism this next week. The one I’m really looking forward to is Alfred, again this week we saw how prepared he was before we got to him, as we taught him the commandments. He left coffee with no problem, and explained to us that he committed 7 years ago to respect the law of chastity, and actually knew what it was, so he had no problems with that either, it was incredible. And really the only question he had was how he could pay his tithing. He will be a huge blessing to the church here no doubt, as he is super zealous so we just have to set that in the right direction. He is a professor though so he knows how to teach, and he speaks English, so he already has many good talents that will help the church in Calavi. He is more than ready for baptism and has already promised to bring many other people in the church as well. And before we ever even talked about the organizations in the church, he was asking us how the church helps the youth (youth programs), and how we help new converts stay (home teaching) so he was interested to see that we already had all of his ideas in place. So things are good in the secteur.
       This past week we had a young woman stop us on the road and explain that she was baptized 5 years ago in Menontin, and then moved to a little village area past Calavi, and hasn’t been to church in 3 years now, so now that she has ran into the missionaries she was happy to see how we could help here, so we fixed an appointment on Saturday. We fixed it that day as we were already planning on the 45-minute walk to the village to see another new convert. So we got there to Kansounkpa, then called her, and she told us to continue on the road till we arrive at a school. We started walking not thinking it could be too far, then after walking for 30 more minutes we arrived at the school. When we got there we called again, and she came and met us and took us on another 15-minute walk to her home. So all in all we got pretty much as far as you can get west of Calavi in an area called Zoundja. It was awesome though as it turned into more jungle and was gorgeous out there. It was interesting as the people were a lot friendlier than those in Calavi, and on top of that there aren’t already any churches out there. Obviously we will have to wait, as I doubt that many people there will be able to make the voyage to come to church, but it was cool to see how interested they were in talking to us.
This past week was the departure of Elder Avana the first missionary leaving from our branch here. He’s going to Ghana and the last gift I gave him before leaving was I taught him how to tie a tie, so he was pretty happy about that. The work is going great though. I’m going to miss it a ton. Lately I’ve been noticing a lot more of those things that I will really miss from Benin and Africa that I won’t have back home, especially the people and their kindness. There is this older recent convert that is in our secteur that can’t walk named Paulette. Because of that she can’t really come to church each Sunday, but she reads the Book of Mormon better than any member I’ve ever seen. I got her the Book of Mormon picture book for the primary to help her better understand what she reads, and every time we come now she will recount all the Book of Mormon storied ‘IN DEPTH” to us. Ha-ha its pretty awesome, and I even pick stuff up when we study the scriptures with her.
        Today my companion and me stayed at the apartment, and I spent most the time writing letters to my recent converts in Togo; as I won’t see them before leaving. It was interesting as the stuff I was writing was the same stuff that applies to me as well in persevering to the end, and in remembering all that the Lord has done for us even in difficult times, so it was a good help to me as well to remember those things. Another good news was that Ghanaian family that me and Desvergez always taught, the father Larry is the new Branch President in Gbegamey, so we were happy to see that as well. I love my companion.            Its been good for me as its made me study the basic doctrines of the church more as he has a lot of questions as it is somewhat new to him. Its nice finishing with him though as he is very willing to work! Things are going great here though. I love and miss you all a ton!

Elder Oliverson

One of the only churches we found out past Kansounkpa.
Off too Zoundja.

Elder Destribois fell asleep.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Grateful for the little things:)

Bonjour!                                                                                             01/19/2015
        This past week has been pretty good. We’ve been able to get more work done as well. Its been nice too as Harmattan all of the sudden just cleared out in a few days, and were back to the really humid hot, which everyone likes more here so we were able to teach more lessons.
        Earlier in the week though we had to head back to the mission home and then to immigration to get my companions residence card, so it was nice being back there again. While we were there me and Elder Bulunga talked to a few people. Its always interesting as a lot of Northern Africans and middle easterners come to Benin for business, so we ran into some Tunisians that were Muslim, and told us from the start that that is one of the most difficult things to do is to convert someone from Islam to Christianity. We had a good time talking to him, and found out that he spoke fluent English, Italian, French, and Arabic as well. That is one of the interesting things I’ve noticed with Europeans and especially the French, is that they tend to speak multiple languages, and always a little English at least.
        Our Amis are progressing along well. We’ve still been working with Olivier and his wife, as they need to work on getting married before the baptism, other than that they are doing wonderful. The other baptismal dates we have are doing great also. The one in particular this week who has done the best is Alfred. I mentioned that he is one of the smartest people I’ve ever taught and teaches English at the university. He’s very sincere and humble though and has loved our message. He’s been reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know of the truthfulness, as he wanted to be sure before going any farther. In our planning for him we talked a little about what we would do if he has already received his answer, and what we would do if he hadn’t. We realized though that it was kind of a lack of faith, wondering if the God has responded or not, so we turned more towards planning on him having already received the response and then helping him from there. We had an awesome lesson with him, and he claimed he hadn’t received the response yet, and wasn’t quite sure. I felt a little like he had though so we started working more on helping him understand that he had received, even if it wasn’t huge. It reminded me of D&C 6:22-23 where the Lord is talking with Oliver Cowdery, as he wanted more confirmation, and the Lord explains that he brought peace to his soul. I’m not sure what the translation is in English but its something like that. But we showed that often the Lord responds in smaller ways, and we need to recognize those, and often if we search for more, we won’t receive them because we won’t accept what he has already given us. I remember hearing before the mission that Africans are a very visionary people, and have been able to see that just a little on the mission. But he started to remember a bit a dream he had had that week where he was somewhere he didn’t know, and there was a man dressed in the same attire that we wear as missionaries, he was holding a book, and told Alfred that the truth is here. That’s all he remembered but said because of that dream he has been putting the effort into read and study, and has seen that he has more assurance spiritually and more peace. Without even asking him, he then asked us when we would have our next baptismal service. He will be getting baptized at the end of this month as we still have to help him prepare a bit more, but I can see already he will be an incredible member of the church, so its been fun teaching him.            
We’ve still been working a lot with our families and are hoping for improvement there, but things are still going pretty well in the secteur. My companion is coming along well with his teaching and there on. He’s still pretty fresh, and a bit timid, but there are some times when you just see that he is on fire and can see he is feeling the spirit. This next week is the departure of Elder Gray, Allred, Buxton, and Peterson. Its pretty crazy as it was the group of Americans that got here right before me and Ringle, showing us that we are now the next to be leaving. Its pretty sad but I’m at the point now where I’m just trying not to think about it to be able to focus in more.
        This past Sunday we had some pretty good meetings. This week I taught the youth class, and the lesson was on how we can recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives. It was interesting as we were talking about the blessings we have and such, and they were bringing up things like, the fact that we woke up this morning, that we have good health, that we have food to eat, because there are other people that don’t have those things. If Americans were to look at these people they would think that they have nothing, and I remember us being thankful for our cars, jobs, and such, but it was really cool seeing the humility and simplicity of their answers, as they are the things we forget so often. All is great here though, I hope all is well there, I love and miss you all a ton!
Elder Oliverson

Larios. Our little member from Calavi thats leaving on his missin to Ghana this week.
Elder Kouao, my old companion, Elder Agui and Me 

This is Lionel. He is a member in our branch and is leaving to Italy soon to play soccer.

Christmas party.

I don't know if you recognize the logo on this guys backpack.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Bonjour,                                                                                                           01/14/2015

This past week has gone pretty well for us. I can’t say there was too much out of the ordinary, other than that Hamattan is still killing us here. It came late this year but is a little worse then last year. It is super dusty, and everything is covered with the dust from the Sahara that has blown down, so everything is dirtier, and also it’s not the best to breath in. Most of our Amis claimed to be sick this past week. Its funny as well that in Harmattan the sun is pretty blocked by the dust, so you can look at it because it isn’t very bright, but along with that it cools down quite a bit like around the low 70s. The funny part is when everyone here can’t go out in the morning because they think it is too cold, and you see them wearing winter coats and big jackets and such.
Last Monday after the cyber we had a pretty interesting experience as well. It was a miracle I would say, and really just happened in the split of a second. We left the cyber and were walking to an appointment on the side of the road. My companion was on the left, so I was walking more in the road. As we were walking I could hear a car coming from behind us, so I moved over a bit so he could get by. I thought I was over far enough, and as the truck is passing by I felt a really powerful wind and sensation by my head, and when I looked up I saw that the truck passed with a bunch of metal pipes hanging out the side of the truck, right at the level that it should have decked me in the back of the head. Along with that the truck was moving at a pretty good speed, and I can’t even imagine what would have happened if those would have nailed me. The crazy part is when me and my companion looked forward, you could see that the pipes were right at the level where they should have hit me, but they didn’t. It really made me remember the protection that comes, and I was counting my blessings surely right afterwards.
Our Ami's are doing pretty well and are still progressing too. Olivier made a lot of progress this last week, and this past week we finally taught chastity, so now there is the understanding that he has to get married to his wife before he can get baptized. He had read the brochure before we got there for the lesson, so he was a little worried seeing that he hadn’t respected the commandment so he wasn’t sure what would end up with him. He hadn’t read to the end of the brochure though as at the end it explains the repentance we can make for these sins and become pure again. It was an awesome lesson no doubt though, so things are going good that way, we are starting to work a lot more with the leaders as well that way as we need to start getting marriage plans for them.
Our best Ami right now would probably be Alfred though, the one who teaches English at the university. He is one of the smartest, but at the same time most humble people I’ve taught. It’s nice as he understands very quickly, and at the same time is willing to listen and learn more. I can see clearly though that he will be an awesome member of the church one day. He is currently reading the Book of Mormon right now working to strengthen his testimony. The thing is we didn’t even have to tell him to do that, he just started doing it and explained to us that he wants to know better so that his testimony will stay with him the rest of his life. I’m hoping he will be getting baptized next month. Along with that we fixed a baptismal date with a newer Ami named Ligette. She is a really young mom, whose husband left here, so here life is difficult, but very humble because of it. There is a collective marriage in a few weeks, so the leaders in the branch have been helping some of our couples start getting ready for that in hopes they can prepare. We have a lot of families we’re teaching right now, but they seem to have a lot of different problems in each one, so were hoping that just by applying the simple gospel principles they will start to disappear.
I also finally found out the real reason that everyone scars their faces here, as I’ve heard many reasons why. First off it represents the python, as on a pythons face it has ten nostrils. But along with that they started doing it back before it was Benin and was known as Dahomey, and they had problems with people marrying and having kids between their immediate families. So each tribe and family started scaring their faces with a hot knife in a certain pattern to avoid that same problem. Ha-ha. It makes much more sense now. Things are great here right now. I got to give another surprise lesson this past Sunday in Elder’s quorum. The usual when I’m in the primary helping there and the President comes in five minutes before they start and asked if I can help out. Ha-ha hope all is well back there, I love and miss everyone a ton!
                                                                       Elder Oliverson

The Harmattan is a cold-dry[ and dusty trade wind, blowing over the West African subregion.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Word of Wisdom

Bonjour!                                                                                                           01/05/2015

The past week has been pretty good. It has been a little tougher than the week of Christmas as more people party for the New Year. Which mostly means they just drink a ton. It’s been good though. We’ve had a pretty mixed up program with the holiday but its still worked out for us.
On Wednesday we had interviews with President. This was my last one with him as the next one will be for my going home interview. It was a really good one and very comforting as well. It was really cool at the end he talked about how when he was back home, right before the New Year he would offer a blessing to each of his kids. And as we are now somewhat considered his sons on the mission, he offered each of us that day a blessing as well. It was awesome and one I will always remember no doubt. Along with the week of New Years, there were some restrictions on going out, so we were a little limited that way, yet we still got a lot of lessons done.    
Our Amis Olivier is coming along well, and is still as enthusiastic as ever, as I said before he has to get married first, so were praying that will happen quickly! On New Years day though we saw him just for a lesson, but sure enough we showed up and the table was covered with food. (As he is super rich and generous) and we ate like kings. We honestly left pretty sick so luckily it was our last appointment before going back to the apartment. We continue to help our other Amis to progress to the baptism, and it’s going well. On top of the Amis we had at church last week, we had another 2 new ones come this week, which was awesome! I ended up teaching Elders Quorum instead of Relief Society, and it was interesting to see that more than half of the class was our Amis. Its nice as when the church is getting started or built somewhere, it needs a lot of solid Melchizedek Priesthood holders, so we’ve been really blessed in finding those that are qualified for that. The branch is coming a long pretty well, and its nice as all the members are recent converts, they don’t have much experience, but are pretty energetic still.
We started our little program of doing the sacrament for the shut ins this past week seeing that it will help the older people a ton, but at the same time help the young men. Our other two Amis Eli and Jeremie the brothers are doing awesome. Like I said I’ve never really met someone like them. He claims to have read the bible already 26 times, and if you talk to him you start to believe its true, but its been really interesting to see that he sees that there are many things he still doesn’t know, and that we have because of the restoration, so he’s always pushing to learn a lot more about the message. We have some awesome Amis right now.
 My companion is doing well and is still super obedient and hardworking so we’ve been working like crazy. With the training it’s been nice, as it’s helped me remember some of those important fundamentals in missionary work. It’s awesome though. I can see that it is very true about how the end of the mission is without doubt the best and most effective part, as you seem to be at the prime part. I hope to be able to keep that till the end, but its going really well so far with all that we have going on in our secteur.
We have a lot of families that are progressing also. They too are held back by the marriage, along with a lot of other problems in the family like alcohol and such. We have one family in particular where they are all accepting the gospel very well, but the father is very alcoholic and abusive. To show how much he loves alcohol, one of his sons is named Bacardi. Which is an alcohol brand. So we’ve been working a lot in that area with him as we’ve seen clearly that the word of wisdom seems to be the root of all the problems in the family.
Like I said our secteur is pretty out there so we walk like crazy. I would say we walk more than I did back in Be Kpota. Along with that it’s dustier than ever as its Hamadan season. Where the wind blows down from the Sahara bringing a cooler dry wind, which is really nice. Things are good in our apartment, we decided to start eating together, as I figured it would be nice to eat nothing but pate and rice till the end of my mission, that way when I get home the food will be that much better. Things are going great here though all round! I hope all is well there.
           I love and miss you all a ton!
Elder Oliverson

Me and my companion.
Trail to the village at the edge of our secteur.

Its hard to tell but the sky is really dusty and red as its Harmattan season.

Big satellite for some reason in our secteur?