Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fr. Eloge

Hello everyone!!! Wherever you are in the beautiful world I sincerely hope that all is going well for you and that life has been wonderful despite the challenges and difficulties that we all have to overcome.
Here's a photo taken of me, our friend shortly before he was baptized, and my new companion named Elder Joseph from Layton, Utah. 

At the start of our new companionship, Elder Joseph and I were able to help out a friend that I've been teaching ever since I first arrived in Bè-Kpota named Fr. Éloge be baptized the 14 Nov. 2015. This guy is a stud and I'm really proud of him for the progress that he made in the short time we've been teaching him. He's still got a ways to go, but we'll do all that we can to help him prepare himself to go to the temple one day. Prayers for this one will be most appreciated!
Well, I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. 

 I'm pleased to announce that I had a fantastic last-Thanksgiving-on-the-mission holiday/dinner as well! :D Believe it or not, but for our dinner, we had mini steaks, rice, devilled eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie and chocolate cake, chips and guacamole, along with a variety of drinks consisting of sodas and cider. I guess one could say that after having lived here for over a year, I've finally learned how to eat (or rather, found the locations of the stores containing said foods). 
 The mission has been going incredibly well these past few weeks and the work has been moving forward faster than I've ever seen before. My companion and I have been teaching investigators with members almost every day (props to the ward and it's members). We receive an almost uncontactable amount of contacts from the ward. We've been having an average of ten or more investigators come to church every Sunday, some of which started coming for the first time since I've been here while others were brought by members and then would later become new investigators. Nearly all of these investigators have baptismal dates fixed, two of which named Fr. Honoré whom I've been teaching since I arrived along with and Sr. Nicole, a ten year-old girl whom Elder Joseph and I started teaching and has kept commitments and come to church ever since we started, are going to be baptized this Saturday. We pray and hope that everything will go according to plan.

 As for other exciting news, our mission received a visit from Elder Visent of the Seventy (the Elder with an Australian accent who gave the opening prayer at the start of the last general conference), with whom I was able to speak during a leadership training meeting, which was really awesome and quite inspirational. And then there's today, which would make the thirteenth month mark of the mission along with twenty-five days away from Skyping back home!

 Well, I pray that all goes well for you during the following week. May you perform well in everything that you do and in every pursuit and ambition that you strive and work to accomplish. May you be physically and spiritually safe and out of any kind of harms way. I pray that Heavenly Father blesses you with everything of which you stand in need. I sincerely miss you, I look forward to seeing you again soon, I love you all so much and I hope you have a wonderful week to come!!

Elder Gonzales

Monday, November 16, 2015

"We're not expected to be perfect, but we are required to do all that we can."

Salut ma famille!!

 Well, my last companion, Elder Adjei, was taken by the assistants to go to Benin where he will have his final interview with Pres. Morin and then take his flight home to Ghana. I had a great time working with him, he was a great companion, we had a lot of fun and got a lot of work done, and he had shown me an excellent example as to how I should end my mission once I get there.
 My new companion came in on Wednesday, this has been one of the best weeks I've had since I've been in Bè-Kpota, one of our investigators named Fr. Eloge was baptized last Saturday. Elder Miyasaki and I have been eating very well since we've been living together, although, we ought to make a better budget. We've been doing our shopping in American-equivalent stores. My new companion is from Layton, Utah, his name is Elder Joseph, he is African-American, and he came into the mission with Elder Whitt. My new guy is really cool, we get along very well and we've been working great together so far. 

 Well, everything has seemed to be turning out for the better this past week. I've been making a lot of great friendships with ward members and investigators and I've been able to develop more Christ-like attributes that I've been striving really hard to acquire. 

 So, last Sunday, I finally had the opportunity to watch the morning and evening sessions of conference at church with the ward. I had a difficult time understanding what was being said because the speakers in the room weren't functioning very well. There was, however, one lesson in particular that I retained from what had been said by of the new Apostles. I forgot which one said this, but one of the Apostles said something that stuck out to me, that is, the fact that we need the constant, daily companionship of the Holy Ghost. We have been promised that if we heed and listen to the words of the prophets and continue living according to the principles and ordinances of the Gospel we will have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I know that we can be worthy to have His constant companionship as we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ along with His promises and His Atonement, as we apply the Atonement in our lives through sincere and daily repentance, as we live in accordance with the baptismal covenants that we've made and as we endure faithfully until the end by praying and reading scriptures personally and as a family, by going to church to renew our baptismal covenants, and by performing righteous works, rendering service, and keeping the commandments to the very best of our abilities. We're not expected to be perfect, but we are required to do all that we can (Moroni 10:32-33). I know that as we do so, the grace and mercy that come from the Atonement of Christ are sufficient to change our lives for the better, to enable us receive the forgiveness of our sins, to help us overcome our trials and our weakness, to enable us to improve ourselves and to eventually obtain perfection that will inevitably come to all those who willingly accept and do all that which had been previously said.

 There's a fantastic book that I've been reading called Believing Christ that I highly suggest that you read because it completely changed my perspective in many different aspects of my life that has helped me better understand the scriptures along with the Atonement and learn how to apply it in my life. I highly encourage you to read the book because is has also helped me learn about what is expected of me in order to receive perfection and it has given me hope in that I no longer worry about whether or not I'll receive Celestial Glory because I know that that it is completely and 100% obtainable thanks to the Atonement of Christ.

 I know this Church is true, I know that the fullness of the Gospel along with the authority of the Priesthood have been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. Thanks to the Restoration, we have a sure knowledge of the true nature of God. He is our Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; however, He is different in that He is a perfect, glorified and resurrected being. I know that He knows exactly who we are and I know that He loves us with all His heart. Because He loves us, He sent His son Jesus Christ to the earth to suffer the price of our sins by performing the Atonement, by being lifted up upon the Cross, and then being resurrected so as to give all of His children the possibility to return to live in the presence once again. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and contains the fullness of the Gospel. I know that as we diligently study this book and put into practice that which is there written, we can know exactly everything that we need to do in order to obtain eternal life and that we may know for a surety that Joseph Smith was indeed a true prophet.
 I'm afraid I'm out of time, but I'd just like to let you all know that I love you so much and that I hope you had a wonderful week! Take great care of yourselves and of each other, continue doing great things, and I'll talk to you next week!

Love, your brother and son,
Elder Gonzales

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"One year mark!"

 Every week, I try as diligently as I can to write a weekly letter to my Mission President. He has asked us as missionaries to write to him about two things: the highlight experience of the week along with our personal progress. This time was a little different from the usual for on 31 Oct. 2015, I have accomplished my official "one year mark" in the mission. The following paragraph is what I wrote:

"This mission has been one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding experiences that I've had in my entire life. I'm so very grateful for the opportunity that the Lord has granted unto me to have one more year to serve Him and to make difference in the lives of His children here in Togo. I've become a better man since I've been here and I see myself becoming an even more effective missionary in the Lord's hands with every passing day. I've developed so many qualities, talents, and abilities that I know I would not have otherwise received unless I went on this mission. Despite the many difficulties and trials that I have to overcome every single day, I've genuinely love this mission for it has brought unto me along with all those with whom I've interacted many wonderful blessings and life changes. There are three things for which I'm particularly grateful which consist of the new-found doctrinal knowledge and reinforced testimony that I've obtained, the many people whom I've been able to meet and render service to, along with the many friendships that I've been able to make since I've been here."
As for my new companion, he's really great and we've been working very well since we've been together. He's extremely tired (only having one more month to go before he goes home), but he's really patient, super kind, considerate, respectful, and is always willing to serve and help others. It's crazy to think that my guy is getting ready to go home.
  The start of the first week was really rough due to trying to get comfortable with the way of which my companion teaches along with getting to know all our investigators, recent converts and members. I had a hard time having charity towards the people in my secteur because I'm not always treated with a lot of respect, but thanks to a lot of prayer I've been able to develop a stronger love for all those who are around me. The secteur that we work in is filled with members along with a ton of non-active members, all of which we see on a day to day basis. There is a vast multitude of people here, a lot more numerous than that of the other secteurs that I've worked in. I particularly appreciate the members in my ward (yes, I'm in a ward) because there are very kind, they love the missionaries, they interact with us a lot, for the most part they are making a great effort to magnify their callings, and we receive a lot of help from their part which has been a fantastic change from Kégué. The new calling has been quite a neat experience thus far and has put me in a position to be an example, which has helped me to become a better person and leader, which has made me more courageous and bold, and to have more opportunities to serve others which has been really great.
 Even though it takes thirty minutes to walk there and then thrity minutes to walk back every day, our secteur is filled with members who live amongst one another and interact and colaborate with each other far better than any other ward that I've seen since I've been on the mission. The members are superb in that they get along and they do everything they can to get us contacts and they work with us very frequently and whenever they are avaible. This is by far the best ward I've ever been in and I thoroughly enjoy interacting and working with the members.
Great news!!! Bro. Frank and his entire family have been baptized!!!!
 The baptism of this Nigerian family was an excellent experience and I'm grateful to have been able to attend. I actually almost was not able to go. I asked the assistant, who acutally happens to be Elder Dioulo (my trainer), if I could attend and he said no because it wasn't in my zone. However, I sent a text to our Mission President, asking if I could attend and he authorized me to go to the baptism the day the service took place. I won't lie, it was quite the scramble.

 Well, Elder Tapusoa told me that I should be the one to baptize the family because he was going to confirm them as members the next day. Although their baptisms weren't by any means the most graceful due to their fear of water and seeing that they don't know how to swim, it was a great experiece nonetheless. By the looks on the faces of Bro. Frank and his wife Sr. Carol, I could tell that they looked slightly concerned due to what I felt to be doubt, but the fact of the matter is that no one is perfectly ready to be baptized (particularly those who are baptized into a church whose members only speak Evé and French).
Fortuneately, the family will be moving to Ghana where the members speak English sometime next month and so they'll finally be able to hear what the Church is all about with their own ears and comprehension.
They've made what I felt to be a courageous decission due to their current situation; however, I know that they will be blessed for the great amount of trust and faith that they had demonstrated unto the Lord. I sincerelly hope that they will remain faithful, strong and active in the Church so that they may one day be able to go to the temple so as to be sealed as a family for time and all eternity. Please do me big a favor and remember this family in your prayers.
 At times I dream of home, perhaps more often than I should, but my mind is steadily becoming more fixed on my missionary purpose. I have one more year left of this and it will all be said and done sooner than we think. My prayer is that I will be able to conquer my weakness and consecrate the remaining half of my mission in rendering diligent and dedicated service with a genuine desire to teach, invite and encourage others to come unto Christ  with more enthusiame and out of the goodness of my heart. Charity has been a difficult attribute that I've been constantly trying to improve due to the way that I'm frequently treated; however, I've become a lot more patient and loving than I've ever been in my entire life since I've been here and I have the Lord to thank for that.
 Though my course has not yet been accomplished, I feel as if I've had a mighty change of mind and heart since I've been in the mission.

  I know that our Heavenly Father lives and that He loves and knows each and every one of us. He's given us weakness so that we may learn from our mistakes and then rely on and turn to Him so that we can become strong (Alma 38:5, Ether 12:27). Because of Heavenly Father loves us, he sent to us a Savoir through which, thanks to His infinate Atonement, we may receive the forgiveness of our sins through sinere repentance, the strength we need to overcome our weakness, and a way by which we all may return to live in His presence (John 3:16-17, 1 John 4:9-10, Alma 7:11-13,14-16, Moroni 10:32-33).
I sincerely appreciate the many wonderful compliments and counsel that you've given to me along with the news feed on what has been happening back at home. I truly apprecaite the heed and diligence that you've made in following the words of the prophet, apostles, the seventy along with the other auxillaries leaders of the church. I know that if you continue to do so, you will be sincerelly blessed and you will be able to improve yourself in every aspect of your life more than you've ever been able to do so before (Mosiah 2:41).   

 I'm afraid it's time for me to go. I love you all so very much and I hope that you've had a wonderful week! Take good care of each other, keep making good choices and keep on doing that which is right.

Elder Gonzales
P.S. No joke though, I'm living on prayers over here.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Called as a Zone Leader!

(Two weeks in one)

Salut ma famille!

 I tell you what, this mission certainly has been quite the adventure and it's already almost half way complete. Ten more days and I will have hit my eleven month mark.
 Well, let me hook you up with that which has been going down over here.
1. First of all, we bought a duck some time during the week and killed it on Friday, which just so happened to be Elder Whitt's year mark. We ate the duck Sunday evening and it actually tasted really great.
2. Bro. Frank, the father of the Nigerian family that we've been teaching, had a dream about us after having prayed about our message one night. He said that him, his son Daniel, my companion and I,
were in an appointment-like setting in his house. There was a lady with us who had a problem with her eyes to the point that she couldn't see and she apparently had some sort of mental illness as well. I
told this woman to write her problems onto a piece of paper. She did what I told her to do and then handed me that which she had written on the paper. I then took an eraser and then presumed to erase everything that she wrote. Shortly thereafter, once all that she had written was erased, I wiped off the paper shavings and then blew away the rest. The lady then screamed and shouted due to what I would imagine to be joy because she had regained her sight and was healed. This was without a doubt the strangest response to a prayer that I've heard yet. At least he said he felt the "fruits of the Spirit" while experiencing this vision (Galatians 5:22), making him feel that everything that we've taught so far is good.
3. We were thankfully able to find, meet up with and teach more investigators to teach during the week. Despite difficulties, we've thankfully had a better week as far as productivity goes and we
were able to work with more members which was really nice.
4. Bro. Franc and his family (save for his wife) came to church again for what would now be I believe the fifth time which is really great. We've attempted to fix a baptismal date with them but they haven't quite yet accepted due to wanting more time to reflect upon said decision. I'm sure though once we teach them more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ along with the Plan of Salvation they'll come around and at last be willing to accept to be baptized.
5. Our friend Fr. Daniel, the brother of a recent convert named Sr. Eugenie, came to church as well, but ended up leaving after Sacrament out of either fatigue, boredom, or both. We tried to convince him in just about any way we could to stay, but in the end he still left. This is actually not the first time that he has done this since we've been teaching him and since he has started coming to church. Well, at least he came. Can't complain for that. Although, now we're just going to work on helping him stay for the remaining two hours. Working with a member and then finding him a friend to be with during church ought to do the trick (I hope). Prays for this one will certainly be appreciated.
6. Unfortunately, I don't have any news concerning Sr. Reine. As far as I know her husband has still refused that she be baptized and has even told her to no longer come to church anymore as well.
 This has been quite unfortunate because Elder Tapusoa and I spoke face to face with her husband and he said that he will have to reflect upon that which we had informed him about, that is, the baptism of his wife Sr. Reine. He said that in the end it all comes down to that which his wife wants to do, but I don't think that what he said was in all actuality how he felt. Well, we'll try to talk to him again and maybe try to explain as to why Sr. Reine wants to be baptized again after having already done so in the Catholic Church. We need to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by one holding the authority of the Priesthood by immersion for remission of sins, thereby rendering
ourselves eligible through the purification and sanctification that comes from the Atonement to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. All of which is essential for salvation. Hopefully it will all turn out okay.
7. Stress is killer. Power naps are awesome.
8. 2 Nephi 2:27 says it all. After all we can do, it's up to the investigators to make up the rest and then choose for themselves to do that which they want to do.
9. I played basketball with the other missionaries in our zone and then went to a small restaurant thereafter to buy hamburgers and liquidy milkshakes for lunch today which was pretty fun.
10. This week is the last week of the transfer!!!
Wow, the time sure passes by quick. I'll sure miss working with Elder Tapusoa.
 He has been the best to work with since I've been here and I'll actually miss him.
Thankfully he lives in Kearns, Utah so I'll be able to meet up with
and see him after the mission.

Sooo, Elder Tapusoa and I received our transfer calls last Saturday while we were having a rendez-vous with Bro. Frank and his family.
 I have been transferred and called, after having worked in the Kégué secteur for three months as a trainer for E. Tapusoa (who has been called to continue to serve in the Kégueé secteur to work with a member as the senior companion), to be the new Zone Leader in the Bèkpota Zone. I was transferred yesterday afternoon and I am now working in the Bèkpota secteur with Elder Adjei from Ghana who only has one more transfer (six weeks) left until he goes home. I was in all honesty not at all expecting to be called as a Zone Leader, let alone be transferred from Kégué. I was hoping to not receive more responsibility than that of what I previously had, but it'll be a great opportunity to render service and to help others accomplish that which we've been called to do. As far as responsibilities go, it's in all reality not that much. All I have to do is keep track of all that which a number of companionships are doing, make certain reports, among other things, help take care of zone funds and transportation, lead out zone meetings with my guy, perform baptismal interviews on behalf of the district leaders in the zone, and then there's not much else to it.

 Well, this calling has more than likely determined all that which is going to happen to me for the next six to seven months of my life in the mission. So I'll probably be at my 3/4 mark by the time I'm called to do something else.
  I suppose a new chapter in the book has been opened and we'll see how it all turns out in the end. At least my new guy is really cool. He's super nice, really considerate, has a great rep for being a great missionary, and I can see us working together quite fine.
Those who are in my district apartment consist of an Elder from Hawaii along with another Elder from the Congo. They are also really awesome and I can see us all having a fun time together.

Well, working with E. Tapusoa has been the best experience that I've had since I've been here and has certainly been the best three months of my mission life thus far. He and I worked very hard to come up with investigators to teach by doing a lot of door-to-door proselyting. Our labor consisted of a lot searching, finding, teaching, and seed planting. We managed to find certain people who will potentially be baptized while I'm gone, which would consist of Bro. Frank, who wants to be baptized, along with his family, Sr. Reine, who would have been baptized by now if her husband had accepted that she be baptized, and Fr. Daniel who we hope will be ready to be baptized by the end of October, along with Fr. Jean, the younger brother of a member named Fr. Ekoué, and his son Beaugard who will hopefully be ready to be baptized by the end of October as well.

Elder Tapusoa taught me something during our last companionship study that really touched my heart and inspired me to change and improve the manner of which or the quality of how I do this mission. He showed to me a picture that had been sent to him by a friend that had a quote on the back saying something along the lines of, <<The measure of success is not in the amount of numbers accomplished but in how happy one is to serve the Lord.>> This helped me realize that this is indeed the Lord's work and that I should do my part by acquiring more charity towards the people that I teach, by not relying so much on my own capabilities but more so on the Spirit, and then by being a worthy, happy and cheerful instrument through which the Lord may accomplish the work that He has called me to do.

Well family, I love you all so much, take good care of yourselves, have a fantastic week, and I look forward to hearing from you next week!
Je vous aime tous beaucoup et que Dieu vous bénisse!!
Elder Gonzales

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Salut tout le monde!!!

Salut tout le monde!!!
Well, to hook you all up with the news of what's been going on, last week was probably the most difficult week we've had since we've been here. We literally only taught six lessons (one lesson a day) throughout the entire week. Nearly all the rendez-vous that we fixed with our investigators fell. We would get to the investigators home, after having called and confirmed our rendez-vous, and they were either busy and didn't want to receive us or they weren't even there. We did, however, have several opportunities to receive more contacts through the members that we worked with throughout the week, which was nice, but there are a few contacts that we'll probably have to drop due to a few crazy experiences that we had with them while attempting to present to them our message. 

In brief, here are the hardships that we have to over come on a typically daily basis: The word "Yovo" (White) being shouted out at us by children and adults alike among other racial slurs, envious individuals attempting to make us give them money, an insane language barrier seeing that there aren't many who speak French very well, falling rendez-vous, writing in my journal every night (it's a lot harder than you think) among with other things. At least we do have super awesome investigators, even it there are few; "Yovo" only bothers me when I'm extremely frustrated which doesn't happen very often if ever anymore; we've grown tough so dealing with crazy people isn't too bad and at times can be rather fun; as long as we have members with us, everything seems to take care of itself and investigators understand what we want to say; even if our rendez-vous fell, at least did everything that we could as far as staying productive and we were at least able to make one difference a day; I've still been writing in my journal and I even write for the days that I've missed because the memories we've been making are way to great to not be recorded.

Though the secteur at times may be tough, I have the best companion in the world who supports and helps me out all the time. He and I have been working super incredibly well together and it's been simply a breeze training him (come to think of it, he only has three weeks of training left!). I also have a fantastic district and so coming home after a hard day's work is always great. The four of us in our apartment get along super well and we've been having such a blast working together for the past couple months. I'm not gonna lie, I'm really going to miss working/living with these Elders when it's time to be transferred.
Well, I've worked so far with three missionaries in three secteurs (areas) found in Lomé, Togo. First of all was my french-speaking trainer named Elder Dioulo from the Ivory Coast whom I worked with for three months in my first secteur called Apidokoué. Secondly, I worked with Elder Jeneseri, my senior companion from Holidy, Utah, oringinally born in Africa, in my second secteur called Adidogomé for four months. At this present time I'm working with a missionary from Kearns, Utah named Elder Tapusoa, my favorite companion so far whom I am also training, in my third secteur called Kégué for two and a half months. In total, I've been out in the field for almost eleven months (add another month and a half for when I was in the Ghana MTC). 
While working in my first two secteurs I stayed in the same apartment until I was transfered to Kégué for seven months. A change was definately warm welcomed.

Everything has been going extradinarily well for me so far. This has been the happiest yet most difficult part of my mission so far because I've been blessed with the best companion in the world and have also been granted one of the harder secteurs in this part of the mission, that is, in Togo.

We've been having several investigators come to church almost every sunday for a little over a month, which consist of a Nigerian family who speaks English (who came last sunday), our friend Fr. Daniel and his recent covert sister whom we helped start coming back to church named Sr. Eugenie, a woman with whom we fixed a baptismal date with named Sr. Reine for this upcoming Saturday, but won't be able to do it because her husband has refused that she be baptised, along with two other friends named Fr. Doumassi and Fr. Raoul with whom we fixed baptismal dates, but have gone on voyages and won't be returning until next week and so we'll need to refix those dates. We've been fortunate enough (more so lead by the Spirit) to be able to find more people to teach the last week which was despritely needed because many of the appointments that we've been fixing with investigators have not been holding as planned, rendering productivity quite a difficult task.

I can't express the amount of gratitude that I've developed after everything that I've been through. As difficult as this misison has been, it has certainly been the most rewarding work that I've ever taken part or particpated in, an experience that has changed my life along with who I am for the better and the greatest blessing that I've ever been granted in this life (other than the Atonement and my family) due to the wealth of doctrinal knowledge that I've received along with a new and profound testimony that I've obtained of everything that we believe in in this Church. I absolutely love this mission and wouldn't want to be anywhere else in this world. I'm living in a very poor third world country; however, it is filled with a very kind people rich in spirit and a particularly positive way of thinking. The every day problems that we have in the U.S. quite frankly don't even exist here in Togo, seeing that there are many whose only worry is finding the means to feed their families on a day to day basis. Being here has really opened my eyes to many things along with certain aspects that I perhaps would never have thought of before had I not come.
I'm sorry, I've gotta bounce. District Leader forgot the key to the appartment and is minutes from pooping in the yard.

 I hope you all have a wonderful week and that life continues to go well for you. Thank you all so much for your love, your support, and especially your prayers!
Love you all so much and have a wonderful week!!!!!
Je vous aime tous, passez une merveilleuse semaine, et que Dieu vous bénisse!!!!
Elder Gonzales  


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Everything on my side of the world is going great!"

 Salute family!

 I've got some really fantastic news!!! We had three of our investigators named Sr. Reine, Sr. Adjo and Fr. Raoul Johnson along with a Nigerian, English-speaking family attend church with us last Sunday! The two sisters are progressing really well and hopefully we'll be able to help them become baptized by the end of the next month. As for our friend Raoul,  we've only recently started teaching him,  but he is doing really great as well. So, here's a cool story as to how we met Raoul: While we were on our way to meet up with someone to make a rendezvous with, he approached us from behind and asked if we were from the LDS church. We told him that we were and that were missionaries. Before further explaining, he had been talking to a girl over Facebook living in France who happens to be a member and she started telling him about our church. He became interested and told her that if he ever saw the missionaries in Lomé he would go speak with them to find out more. So, one day, he felt inspired to go for a walk for no apparent reason, and in doing so, he met us. While talking with him we gave him a brochure and took his number and set up a day to drop by his house to teach him more about our message. He voluntarily agreed and willing fixed a day to meet up with us. Since that day, we've met up with him three times and he has already come to church! The last time we were at his house, we took pictures together with his tablet that his sister sent to from my Germany and we sent the photos to the girl in France to show her what her missionary efforts produced. Pretty awesome story right?
 As for the Nigerian family, we were walking in the secteur on our way to a rendezvous Saturday evening and the father of the family who was driving his car at the time pulled over beside and us and starting speaking in English asking if we were from "That Church", that he had recently came from seeing the church building and asked when it was that he and his family could come to visit. We told that he and his family could came by the next day on Sunday, that church starts at 11h00 and ends at 14h00, that we were in fact from "That Church" and that we were missionaries, that we would like to take his number so as to be able to call him and make an appointment with him and his family to be able to share with them more about our message and that it would be a pleasure for us to see them at church.
 These sort of situations happen every now and then, that is one approaches us asking what it is that we do, if we have some sort of message to share and after having given whoever is what that asked us these questions a brochure along with a number to call if he/she is interested in learning more about our message, he/she says that he/she will come visit our church; however, they never actually come. But guess who was at the church the very next day?! I actually wasn't entirely surprised to see him and his family there because he seemed sincerely interested in coming. While he was there, I translated for him in Elder's Quorum and it went really great. I've got a pretty solid feeling that he and his family can genuinely progress. Well, we fixed a rendezvous with him and his family for this Wednesday so we'll see what happens.
Here is a picture of me and my missionary boys chillin in the hood while snapping selfies!

We send you all our love and thanks for the love, support, care and prayers!

We love you all so much and thank you so much for all that you do for us!

For some its been a while since we've spoken. Know that everything on my side of the world is going great! I'm absolutely loving it here, my compaion whose name is Elder Tapusoa is a champ, my district (all of whom you see in the photo) is absolutely amazing and we've working really great together, I'm still alive and healthly, and as happy and excited to do this work more than ever before since I've been on the mission, and we've been having really great success in our efforts to spread forth the message of the restored gospel with all those willing to hear us among the people of Togo.
Have a wonderful week and I hope to hear from you all again soon!

Je vous aime beaucoup et que Dieu vous bénisse!

P.S. -- By the way, Sarah asked me if I've seen anything crazy or weird since I've been here. In fact, yes, I've seen two to be precise. I hope you're literally ready to hear what I'm about to say. (1) So, one day, while teaching an investigator, there was an old lady sitting on the ground not too far away from us who started a fire by doing voodoo. In between her legs lied a can that she had filled with charcoal, whether or not it was lit, I wasn't sure. At some point of time, she lifted her hands above the opening and made a few, strange hands signals. Shortly after doing so, sparks started flickering out of the can and a spurt of flame ignited. (2) While walking the streets of Apedokoué in my last secteur of Adidogomé, there were two topless ladies painted completely white, wearing a white, fabric turban over their faces while holding what looked like a white, round-headed paintbrush, marching and chanting down the street while being followed by a group of normal dressed people banging on drums and making all sorts of crazy noise. This is indeed a very weird place and voodoo is pretty freaky and scary.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Short but sweet!

 Ma famille!!! Vous me manquez beaucoup!!!!

 Oh wow! That's crazy to hear what happened to Naomi! I sure hope that she's doing okay!
 Dad and mom, I must let you know that you were amazing parents and I seriously grew up having one of the most fortunate of circumstances as pertaining to a genuinely happy family. I could literally go on for a very long time, but as a brief yet sincere summary, know that you've always taken great and wonderful care of me in supporting me in every physical, emotional, and spiritual need, you've taught me a whole lot more than you can probably imagine, you've shown me countless of times throughout the entirety of my life that you love and cherish me and my siblings, you've set an incredible example to me as to how I should be one day as a parent, and I will tell you right now that you have no room for doubt nor worry that you were unsuccessful parents because in my eyes you have sincerely fulfilled your roles as parents in my life by demonstrating through your countless efforts that you did everything that you possibly could to make my siblings and I genuinely happy by teaching us to do what is right and by walking beside us in the light.

 Well, talking about the time passing by, my companion and I were asking ourselves today if this last week even happened. It's true when one says that time flies when you're having fun. Even though this week was rather tough due to trying to find more people to teach who are willing to receive us, contacting many people, going door to door, person to person giving brochures, and so forth, the week has certainly been among the favorites since I've been here in Kégué working with Elder Tapusoa. I'm afraid I don't have a whole lot more time left for today so as a summary everything is going great even if we're having difficulty finding people to teach. Fortunately enough we've found a few people who've been receiving us super well and I'm certain that they can progress to baptism. We've even had an investigator who grew up in France and poses ridiculously hard questions during rendezvous come to church last Sunday. My companion is progressing super fast and really well due to all the hard work and effort that he has been putting in to become a successful and effective missionary. Elder Tapusoa is so great, we've been working super awesome together and by far he's been my favorite companion so far (even though he's only the third). 

 Well family, I'm afraid I've gotta bounce so I catch you on the flip side next week alright! 
Take care of each other and have a wonderful week!
Je vous aime et que Dieu vous bénisse!
Avec Amour,
Elder Gonzales

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"I'm loving my missionary life"

  I must tell you that this has been the best and happiest week of my missionary life thus far. My companion is called Elder Tapusoa, he's Samoan (and huge) and he comes from Kearns, Utah. He's a super great kid, he works hard, he studies all the time, we get along super great, I have him speak with people and teach during lessons and he does a fantastic job. Training is an absolute blast and I love just about every single minute of it. Seeing that I had a more or less difficult time during my training, I've decided to do the best I can to help my guy have the best training he can possibly get before he goes out all on his own after his training has been completed. Our district, by the way, is so amazing! I'm back in the same apartment as Elder Whitt (an American Elder from Idaho whom I lived with for the first two months of my mission) along with the nicest and coolest African from Côte d'Ivore named Elder Adjo who happened to be trained by Elder Sagers (the other American Elder I lived with for the first three months of my mission). The district gets along great, we eat together, we talk with each other and laugh all the time.

My new guy and I are currently working in a dead secteur -- meaning: we don't have any investigators -- in a city called Kegué. He and I have been doing what I had to do in Adidogomé with Elder Jeneseri when we were transferred into our new secteur -- a whole lot of OVB. I've been having my companion speak quite frequently as we've been going door to door along with stopping and talking with people on the streets. We've received a lot of contacts and hopefully we'll be able to take a few rendez-vous with them in the near future. We thankfully have a few recent converts in our secteur so we've been able to have a few rendez-vous with them. There's a recent convert that Elder Whitt helped to be baptized named Sr. Christine who showed us to the work place of one of her friends named Sr. Grace to introduce us to her to start the missionary discussions. We've had one rendez-vous with her thus far and she's already read The Restoration and The Testimony of Joseph Smith pamphlets along with a couple verses in the Book of Mormon that I had written in the book for her to read. First off, according to Elder Whitt and Elder Adjo, that kind of thing never happens around here. So, one could say that she's particularly and genuinely interested in our message and I have a good feeling that she can really progress. 

 As for other good news, ever since I moved in, I've been eating so good! Today, we as a district went and did our once a month shopping at the grande marché in a store that sells American along with other high quality merchandise. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant found in the Togo's equivalent of Beverly Hills that also just so happens to be in my zone with eight other missionaries where I ate an entire legit pizza.

 I'm loving my missionary life at this moment of time and everything so far has been going exceptionally well.

 As for the long anticipated details: This has been without a doubt one
of the best weeks of my mission that I've had yet. Elder Tapusoa, is absolutely fantastic! He's super kind, really charitable, always willing to serve, timid yet courageous, hard working, extremely
patient and humble, and filled with gratitude. To a degree, he almost reminds me of Alec. We get along super well, he helped me do my laundry today (which was super awesome), we eat really good, we have a super awesome district, and he's honestly just a champ. I've got a solid feeling that we're going to have a great time while he trains.

As I mentioned last week, Elder Tapusoa and I have started working together by doing a whole lot of OVB in our "dead secteur." I'm actually really glad that we had the opportunity to do so because it
has enabled me to give my guy many occasions to speak, testify and teach and it has also helped me improve my capacities in presenting, teaching and tesifying about the message of the Restored Gospel that we've had the opportunity to share with many persons. So far we've
found about four solid investigators by doing OVB. We'll see how we will be able to progress with them; however, with the help of the ward members, we should hopefully be able to see some lasting effects from our labors.
 Here's what I thought to be a halarious experience that E Tapusoa and I have had while teaching a couple of our investigators. I do this quite frequently, that is having my guy lead out the lessons; however, there were two particular instances that stood out to me that I'd like to share with you. There were two lessons during which I had my guy start out teaching; although, there came a time where he would turn to me to see if I would take over the lesson from there or continue talking from where he left off. As he did this, I didn't even look at him but kept my eyes on the investigator, waiting for him to continue to speak. Which is exactly what he did. I was so proud. He was astounded to find that he was capable of saying and doing much more than he thought he has capable. To his suprise, all I could do was just smile and look back to when I was in his shoes over six months
ago. I tell you what, the time really does fly by a lot quicker than I thought.
 Training with E Tapusoa has been a wonderful experience that has really provided me with many wonderful learning, improoving, and growing opportunities. Everthing that I've learned since I first
arrived, I've had to put into action. There have been many questions and situations that have been presented to me that I've never had to deal with before; however, I've felt the Spirit of the Lord sustain me and my companion in every effort that we've made to do our part in being worthy instruments in the Lord's hands to accomplish His work. Although it has been given to me to take over the majority of teaching during lessons, my companion's testimony, no matter how small
it is at this moment of time due to the language barrier, is sincere and filled with conviction which amounts to the same if not more to all that it is that I do. A simple testimony is enough to change
another person's world. Also, I thank the Lord almost every night for blessing with a wonderfully non-crazy companion.
Well, here's a quick brief on our current investigators. We've been teaching a lady named Sr. Reine along with her neighbor named Sr. Adjo. We've about finished with the message of the Restoration with them and will probably be moving into the Gospel of Jesus Christ really soon due to their questions about baptism. There's Sr. Grace whom we met through a recent convert named Sr. Christine who had been baptised by Elder Whitt. She's doing great and has been progressing
fairly well. She reads the BofM and the brochures and she's been praying to find out for herself if our message is true. One day, we hope to be able to meet up with not only her but her entire family as
well. Her work schedule and the work schedule of her husband don't correlate so well and so fixing an exact day to come to her to teach her rather than teaching her at the super marché that she works at is a bit difficult. We also have Sr. Annick, a lady who at one point in her life lived in France but came back to be with her family until she is able to renew her passport to go back to Europe. She poses a lot of difficult questions and has a variety of beliefs that contradict a lot of things that we teach and so we'll see how it all goes out with her during the week to come. Finally, we have a man investigator named Fr. John who had been a contact that we received from other missionaries who works as an imported goods unloader at the ocean whenever a boat comes in from other countries. It's a very difficult job for him and his circumstances are tough, having to take care of his eleven year-old daughter all alone. However, as time goes on, he will see as a result to accepting our message and doing the things that we invite him to do that the quality of his life will change and will sincerelly
improve for the better (a promise that we had given him the first time that we came to his home to present to him what it is that we do along with a brief of our message). It was actually really difficult getting a hold of him at first, but we managed to get a hold of him one day and we will hopefully be able to see him again sometime soon during the upcoming week.

There's a member that lives in our secteur that we've been trying to become friends with named
Fr. Ekoué. The first time we came to his house was a fantastic experience. All my guy and I did was help Fr. Ekoué prepare some sauce that he had been cooking up to go along with his lunch and we did nothing but introduce ourselves to him along with having conversation and talking about life. Based on the way that things work around here, that was a really good thing for us to do because we as missionaries have to do everything we can to develop good relationships with members by becomeing their friends so as to earn their confidance and trust. Along with becoming his friend, we've been hoping to be able to teach the women that he wants to marry the missionary lessons.
Fr. Ekoué would have married this girl a long time ago; however, he has to pay off what one calls the "Dote" -- an African tradition that requires a man to pay his wife's father a ridiculuous amount of money in order to be able to become civilly marry his wife. It's the dumbest tradition in the world because couples, even when the husband is in the process of paying off the Dote, are able to live together and have children before paying the entirety of the Dote which means that they are breaking the law of chastity because they're living together and having children without being civilly married. This has been a very difficult obstacle that every missionary has had to overcome while teaching certain investigators. Fr. Ekoué is a very active and faithful member who had been baptized over a year ago and comes to church every Sunday; however, he is now struggling with paying the Dote because his woman's father refused to allow Fr. Ekoué to pay the Dote in increments, meaning that he can pay half and then be civilly married, but we would still have to pay off the rest later. There's nothing that we can do to help him in that regard; however, we will do all that we can to teach his future wife the gospel so that one day, when he's capable of paying off the Dote and if she accepts what we teach, she'll be able to be baptized and then go with Fr. Ekoué to the temple so that they
can be sealed together.

Well, I'm afraid I'm all out of time, but there's the smack down on
the details of all that's been going on with us over here in Kégué.

Please keep these people in your prayers so that everything can work
out for these people!

I love you all and I hope you have yet another wonderful week!!!

Je vous aime et que Dieu vous bénisse!!


Elder Gonzales

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Prayers on my behalf will be very sincerelly and especially appreciated!!!

 Hey family! I apologize that I didn't get to write to you last week! We arrived late to the Cyber last week and I only had enough time to write to Casey who after a few months has written to me an awesome message.
  I'm super glad to hear that you've all had an awesome 4th of July and that you've been able to have fun experiences as a family through out the weeks! Do me a favor and send my love to all our entended family members for me and shout out "salut" from my part to them as well. 
 Check it out! I've got some crazy news to share with you! I might not have had the pleasure of watching fireworks blazing magnificiantly through the night sky; however, while my collègue and I were with an investigator whom we brought with us to go to church for her first time to institute Saturday night, I received the phone call from one of our assistants to the president. After working for seven months in the same appartment in Adidogomé, I have been called to serve in a city not too far from here called Kégé. While there, I will be training a missionary from Samoa who does not speak French. I'm not sure if he is directly from Samoa or not, for all I know he could have been born there and was later raised in the US; however, it seems to be that I am about to open up a whole new chapter of responsibilty and a lot of hard work. 
I'm not scared of what's going to happen due to everything that I've already been through; although, I am a bit nervous and a little anxious all at the same time. I know I am not anything close to perfect, but I'm ready to take on this sacred task that has been placed upon me and I'm willing to face the challenges that are bound to come my way. Dispite my anxieties, I'm actually very excited to have been presented with this wonderful opportunity that I've been hoping to have one day to be able to take part in the start of a new generation of missionaries as a trainer.
 Prayers on my behalf will be very sincerelly and especially appreciated!!! 
 Thank you so much for the prayers that you've made on behalf of our investigators. I've sincerelly seen the difference in the progression of four of them who we've been really concentrating ourselves on since I've asked you to pray from them last week. Our friend Rodrigue who has struggled to get himself to church because of his work, whom we teach, see, visit, talk to, eat and hang out with, has started to become re-interested in the Gospel, especially when we had introduced to him the temple, eternal marriage, baptism for the dead, along with other blessings that come from going there. In fact, among these four progressing investigators, there are two potential baptismal canidates named Sr. Yeabli and Sr. Patience, to whom we have as well introduced to the temple.
Sr. Patience, I am completely certain, will be baptised while I'm gone. The only thing that has stopping her is the permission of her mother, who has declared that she is not in agreement with her daughter being baptised. We only hope and pray that one day her mother's heart will soften enough to the point that she will allow her daughter to be baptised. Even though Sr. Patience is twenty-five years old, she is living with her mother at this time, and if Sr. Patience were to leave her mother's church, she could be potentially kicked out of her mother's home with no where to go and no means to take care of herself nor her daughter, who, unfortunately, does not want to be baptised due to the lack of interest and understanding, having also been persuaded by persecution. At the end of it all, we are all free to choose whatever it is that we so desire to do; however, we will patiently continue to persist diligently in doing everything that we can to help her and all of our other investigators understand and simply realise the blessings that are waiting for them in the temple.
 Sr. Yeabli has become particularly interessted in the church since we answered her truly significiant soul-searching questions by introducing to her the Plan of Salvation along with the temple. I'm sorry, but based off of everything that I've learned from the hundreds of churches found in Togo is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one and only true church on the earth. The Bible and The Book of Mormon correlate in such a manner that it simply makes absolutely sense if not provide solid proof that this church is nothing but absolutely true. I'm living the story of Joseph Smith every day. Apostacy is real. However, the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ along with the power and authority to act upon His holy name, I tell you, has been restorated and is only found in the church that we are in this very day. The evidence is real and is there to be found by those who sincerelly search for it. Even then, proof can be fought by the cunningness of Satan by distoration, misconception, antichristianisme along with many other things. However, if we so desire to maintain the integrity and conviction of our testimonies, we must follow the instructions given to us in Moroni 10:3-5 because it is through the Spirit alone that we will be able to protect our testimonies from the Adversary and his attemps to destroy them (D&C 10:5).

 Well family, I pray that the Spirit of the Lord stay with you at all times and in all places that you may be protected from physical and spiritual harm. Have another wonderful week and take good care of each other!!!
 P.S. -- Fr. Rodrigue and Sr. Patience were super sad when they found out that I'm going to be transfered. I'm not going to lie, it really put a knife in my heart to tell them that in a few days I'll be gone. It's really going to be hard to leave them. My collègue and I taught them so much and spent so much time with them these past three months. It's crazy just how fast the time has gone. They've become very good friends of mine and I'll never forget them. Thankfully I have their contact information so we'll be able to keep in contact throughout the entirety of my mission along with after as well.
 Parents, congratulations with your 20th anniversary! I sincerelly hope you two had a wonderful time in celebrating such an awesome day.  

Avec amour,
Elder Gonzales

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Working with members totally rocks!!!"

 -So, for the first time in almost seven months, I went to an outdoor gym with my companion and our district. It wasn't anything like Gold's, but still got the job done. 

 Transfers came in, but I'm not going out. My comp and I will be working together in our new secteur, which is fine with me because after a nice few weeks of hard work we've finally started seeing progress.

 By the way, on Sunday night, we had been invited by our neighbors -- of whom we frequently buy our bread from -- to assist their father's birthday party. It went super well! The party took place on the roof of the family's house, there were a lot of people who came (and I was the only white person), we ate a lot of free and awesome tasting food and we watched a dance performance by four super tall dancers who were dressed up as ninjas.

  We had three investigators come to church! One of which named Sr. Brigitte, whom we met through tracting, came for the first time since we've known her. As for the others, our friend Naomi, who comes every single Sunday, came again and a young man, who's name escapes me, came to church as well. By the way, I met a Nigerian investigator of the other two Elders at church this Sunday who actually lived in Georgia, US for ten years. I got to sit next to him during our investigator class and it turned out to be an awesome experience because I got to translate the French to English for him.

 We worked with a member during the week named Sr. Eugenie and she really helped us out a ton. It's so awesome having members with us because they are able to really relate to these people because they speak the same language, come from the same country, understand the culture, and are able to relate conversion experiences and then bear testimony.

We saw Sr. Naomi a few times throughout the week with Sr. Eugenie and a recent convert named Sr. Alice. We fixed her a baptismal date, and now we're encouraging her to ask her father if she can be baptized because she is not yet eighteen. She hasn't asked yet because African fathers are not always, but sometimes very solid in their traditions. But we continue to support her by visiting her with her neighbors (Sr. Alice and Fr Robert [a potential new investigator]), by answering the ton of questions that she poses and by helping understand the things that she questions.

We saw Abigel and the family a couple times during the week. We've decided to start concentrating more on the family by visiting them more throughout the week. In fact, just this passed week we were able to fix a baptismal date with one of the mothers in the family named Sr. Patience who frequently comes to church. If we could help her get baptized by the end of the month or sooner, that would set an excellent example for the family! 

 We're still working with our friend Rodrique, who has been having difficulty coming to church because of his work, but we'll keep hoping and praying that his patron will let him have Sundays off so that that he'll be able to start coming to church.

Oh hey, check it out! My comp and I met some investigators of the other Elders who come from the neighboring country to Tanzania, the country where my comp comes from originally, and they were able to speak to each other in their native language. It was pretty cool to see and the investigators themselves are actually really cool to hang out with. One of them named Jimmy has been coming to church the past few Sundays and I can see him becoming a missionary someday if he's able to progress and accept the gospel.

 All sorts of experiences are taking place all around me every single day. I'll be honest when I say that this has been one of the biggest stresses in my life being on a mission, the reason being is because one's integrity, faith, patience, intellect, knowledge of the doctrine and scriptures, communication, progression, and testimony are tried every day. However, the mission is only as stressful as one allows it to be, and the more one acquires Christ-like attributes as listed in Ch. 6 of PMG, the easier the mission gets and the more enjoyable this life becomes.

 Besides, this mission will only last but a small moment, so why not make it something worth remembering for time and all eternity by giving it all you got and pushing yourself harder than before to help the Lord accomplish His work.

 -First off, my comp and I fixed two baptismal dates with two of our progressing investigators named Madame Yeabli and Sœur Patience for the 27th of June. We still have a long ways to go, but hopefully until this time we'll be able to help them prepare themselves to be baptized. Note: two super awesome scriptures that we shared before committing Madame Yeabli to baptism -- Matthew 7:13-17 and 2 Nephi 31:5-9. 

 We met Sr. Patience one day while we were visiting our family in Womyomé. We were teaching the children of the family out in the courtyard the Plan of Salvation when she approached us and asked what it is that we do. I don't remember if she participated in our discussion before we introduced ourselves, but we've been meeting with her and the family ever since. 

 As for Madame Yeabli, we met her on the road in front of her house as we were on our way to a rendezvous. Turns out that one of the first houses to which we did tracking to when we first started working in this new secteur was the house of her daughter Sr. Faustine. Ever since we met Madame Yeabli, we've had three rendezvous at Sr. Faustine's house in the past three weeks.

 By the way, working with members totally rocks!!! The language, the culture, the background, the support, and the testimony are what really makes this work move forward. Seriously though, without the help of members, we would be utterly wasted and exhausted by the lack of progress that members help bring. With the two ladies mentioned, we had a member with us named Sr. Eugenie when we fixed their baptismal dates and I'm convinced that it made all the difference.

 On Sunday, we went to a stake meeting at a huge building called the Palais des Congrès. All the members in Lomé, which basically consisted of all the members in Togo were present along with many investigators who had been invited to come by ward members and missionaries. It was a fantastic experience because I got to see all the missionaries in Togo, one in particular whom I was very happy to see and whom I haven't seen in months was my trainer Elder Dioulo. For the first time, I could perfectly understand him. Sure would've been nice during my training.

 The district and I were able to go to the grand market by the ocean. I didn't buy anything of explicit value, such as masks, paintings, hand-made bags, clothing materials, wood carvings, jewelry, and so forth; however, we did happen to find a store with American merchandise where I bought BBQ sauce, two snicker bars, 4 bags of ramen noodles, and hot chocolate. Oh, the simple things of home sure bring a smile to my face. Despite how nice these things are, I sure do appreciate cooking the things that I've learned to cook here (rice, chicken, pasta, spaghetti, inyams, sauce, etc). When I get back, I'll have to cook y'all up some African style meals and I promise you'll love it!

 I've learned a very important principal this week due to a single verse of scripture found in Alma 48:20 that talks about humility. Unless something is worth fighting for, let us do as the people here say and "laissez tomber" or "Let it fall" meaning Let it go and it has been promised by the Lord that there will be no wars nor quarrels among us. Let us not search to provoke one another by humbly looking inward rather than looking somewhere outward (Matthew 7:3-5). If it has no direct affect on us, even if it bugs us, don't point it out, don't even worry about it, let it go, accept a person for who he or she is, and simply worry about improving ourselves rather than fixing someone else and I promise we'll have peace, happiness, and joy.
 Well family, I've gotta bounce! There's an activity being held at the church in a few minutes so the district and I are heading on over there. We're going to have a branch family night! Super excited and should be a lot of fun ! 

Je vous aime tous et que Dieu vous bénisse!
Elder Gonzales 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Now that right there is what this work is all about."

Salut ma famille!!!

 Hey Mom, I received your letter a couple days ago!

I'm so glad that you sent me that because it really helped me out.

 In fact, after I read that talk, I followed Elder Holland's invitation of praying to Heavenly Father and telling him, "Here I am, let me be an instrument between thy hands. I know I'm not perfect, I have a lot of weakness, and all I ask is that thou wilt help me to overcome them that I may be able to speak and testify more often than before; and, if thou wilt accept me, I am willing to be a vessel by which thou wilt accomplish thy work." The prayer I made was something along those lines, but I did something that I've never done before. As Priesthood holders, we are capable of calling forth from the powers of heaven unto the ministering of angels. During the prayer, I said "In the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the Melchezidik Priesthood in which I hold, I call upon the powers of heaven..." to help me become more of what He needs me to be and to be capable of doing the work that He sent me here to do. Never yet have I felt so capable of doing what I've been sent to do since that prayer. Not only that, but that was a very powerful experience for me because I could really feel the love and care that the Lord has for me and especially for His children here in Togo. I know that the Lord didn't send me to fail, but rather He sent me to serve a people and to do a mission. I know that the Lord will accomplish all His mighty works through all who are willing to be worthy instruments between His hands by the Holy Spirit along with the powers of heaven.

 Since then, I've had many spiritually edifying experiences in briefly teaching and testifying of the message of the Restoration more than I've ever been capable before with a friend of our progressing investigator and really awesome friend named Rodrique along with answering a lot questions to a woman named Soeur Nadege an investigator we met through tracting whom we've been working with for the past few weeks.

 One of the questions Sr. Nadege asked me was "What blessings have you received from the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" At first, I was slightly shocked because that was the first time since I've been here that I've been asked that question. Quite honestly, I didn't know what to say, but only because I didn't know where to start. However, once I got going, an old lady came by and sat down on a crate to join us in the midst of our conversation. If there's one blessing that I've received is the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. I began answering her question; however, I had directed myself to the woman who came and joined us. There are three questions that can be answered thanks to the Plan of Salvation: (1) Where do we come from? (2) Why are we here/ What is the purpose of life? (3) Where are we going after this life? I had shared each question and then briefly explained the answer to each one. God is our Father in Heaven and we lived with Him as his spirit children before coming to this life on earth. We chose to come here so that we could obtain a body of flesh and bones and to have trials and experiences to learn and grow and to have a family of our own to love and care for. We're also here to keep the commandments of God, to be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, and to perform good works. In doing these things, I know that we will be able to return into the presence of our God after this life to dwell in His kingdom to be reunited with our families and to have eternal life. I know that during this life we make mistakes and we sin; however, thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive the forgiveness and remission of our mistakes and sins. Thanks to the Atonement, we can repent of our sins and be saved (Article of Faith # 3).

 Honestly, it was an absolutely amazing experience because the words just kept coming and I kept speaking without hesitation or pausing and the Spirit burned within my heart and warmed the depths my soul as if I was wearing a spiritual electric blanket. After having spoken with her along with giving her a brochure of the Plan of Salvation along with a Book of Mormon, we spoke with her and Sr. Nadege for a little while to have a really fun conversation before we left.

I tell you what, after leaving from the experience I couldn't help but smile with every bit of gratitude in my heart and then say "Now that right there is what this work is all about."

 I've been sincerely blessed to receive new experiences such as these almost every single day. Sometimes it really can be difficult and the integrity of my faith can be shaken; however, thanks be unto the Lord who has had so much mercy upon me in answering my prayers. Thank you all so much for the prayers that you make on my behalf. They sincerely uplift me and give me the strength to always look higher when my struggles strive to drag me lower. Thank you all so much for all that you've done for me and continue to do on my behalf.

After six long months, I can tell you that I know that this church is true! 

Never let your doubts triumph over your faith and never let what you hear against this church disturb that belief and conviction that you have within your hearts! 

Trust in the feelings in your mind and in your heart and know that the Spirit is alive and true and will testify to you if you sincerely seek to find out the truth! (Moroni 10:3-5; Galations 5:22).


Well family, it was wonderful hearing from you all again and I hope you all have a wonderful week. Take care of each other, protect yourselves from the adversary and stay forever strong in this faith (2 Nephi 31:20).


Je vous aime et que Dieu vous bénisse.


 Elder Gonzales 

 P.S. -- I was asked the question "Who is Mormon?" The simple response: see introduction of the BofM second paragraph and 3 Nephi 5:12-14. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Joyeuse fête des mères or Happy Mother's Day!!!

 Joyeuse fête des mères or Happy Mother's Day!!!
That means that we'll be able to use Skype!!! :D

 Oh man, I'm so excited!
I realized something that I didn't quite see before. Sometimes I worry a lot about not being able to explain things very clearly or not really knowing completely what it is that I need say during lessons; however, its not what I explain that will impact these people's lives but its the conviction that I show through my countenance along with the solid bearing of my testimony with a heart full of faith that will genuinely make all the difference.
Well, as for the new area, it's been slow going, having had to show the other missionaries to their new secteurs as well as to their investigators' homes for quite a few days within the past couple weeks. However, the secteur that we work in is in our neighborhood and so it's not difficult at all to get around. Now that my companion is getting more sleep due to the medication that he's been taking, we won't need to go to the hospital anymore; that, and we finished showing the other elders to all that they need to work with so we are now finally free to start pioneering. 
As for the good news, last Sunday, our friend Rodric came to church for the first time in the month or so that we've been teaching him. That, and my comp and I were able to set two baptismal dates with Frère Rodric along with a new investigator in our new secteurs named Soeur Brigitte. We'll see what happens over the next few weeks, but let's just keep hoping that they'll both keep progressing so that we'll be able to help them get themselves baptized.  
As for Boris, I probably won't be able to see him anytime soon because his home is no longer in my secteur; however, I'm going to give him a call here in a little bit just to see how he's doing. I'll see to it that I call him throughout the entirety of my mission to see if he's still going strong in the church and that everything is going okay for him in life. Who knows, maybe after a year he'll be ready to go do a mission -- of which would be so awesome!!!  
 We've been going about meeting new people and sharing the message of the gospel with whomever is willing to hear it. So far, we've received about 20 new contacts through proselyting alone and have had appointments with about five of them on a fairly consistent basis. We hope they'll be able to progress and hopefully some day we'll be able to help a few of them start getting themselves where they need to be -- the temple!
Well my most amazing family, I'm afraid I must now depart to go pick up some pictures that we had printed out for a few members in my last ward; afterwards, I'll be heading over to a dinner appointment with a family whom we always buy our bread from.
By the way, here's an awesome scripture that I read this morning: Alma 37:36 -- The thing that I learned from this scripture was that in every aspect of our lives we should always remember the Lord and involve Him in everything that we do. For me, this scripture truly defines how one should remember the Lord and Savior during and after having taking the Sacrament.
Okay everyone, take care, I love you, God bless you and I'll SEE you all next week!!! :D
 After Skyping on Mother's Day:
I'm so happy and grateful to my Lord and Savoir for the opportunity that he has given me to see you all again. It was truly a really wonderful blessing to hear your voices and to see your faces. I'm so glad to have prayed with you guys as well. That really hit home cause it made me realize that even if we're thousands of miles apart, we're all still there together through prayer. That actually opened my eyes a little because that's exactly what its like for our Heavenly Father when we pray to Him. Though we may be apart, we can still connect with Him through prayer. This life is only but a small moment and so enjoy every single bit of it through good deeds and righteous works. 
à bientôt!!!
Elder Gonzales

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Easter!

Salut ma famille!!!

 For Easter my companion and I cooked up a ton of rice, made an awesome sauce comprised of a ton of peppers, tomatoes, chicken broth and spices, and last of all, two pieces of grilled chicken. This is about every meal of my life, but the way that we cooked it up tasted magnifique!
 But hey, check out the good news: we've finally had investigators come to church!!! So, two Sundays ago, we had an entire family come to church with us! It was so awesome! They weren't able to come this Sunday because of the Paque, or Easter Sunday, but we did have two other investigators come to church instead. One of them, named Emmanuel, was someone that I met when I was with my first companion and the second, his name is Clemient, and he's one of our newest investigators. With Emmanuel, we just called him and he said he'd come; and surprisingly enough, he actually came. As for Clemient, we beat him and his buddy Aldolf at a game of soccer last Saturday, which my companion and I played with our missionaries clothes on and we won by one point (only because the other two gave us the win), and so I guess you could say we won his coming to church. Also, on Saturday, before we four had our soccer match, we went to a baptism for two investigators of the other two elders in our apartment so it was a really great opportunity for our investigators to see what takes place during the baptism and also how to find the church. Adolf didn't come last Sunday, but he said he'd come next week so we'll see what happens. As for other good news, we've set two dates of baptisms the 18th of April for two of our investigators named Caroline and Adel. These two sisters have been coming to church on a regular basis and they've already been taught almost all the missionary lessons from two missionaries who had been transferred. So, all we have to do is pick up from where they left off and get that baptism done so they can start preparing themselves for greater things to come in the temple.
 I've been having many wonderful experiences these past couple of weeks; and no matter how hard it gets, I've been making sure to write in my journal every night so I can share these experiences with you all when I get back in greater depth. I tell you what though; this mission is definitely the refiner's fire. It's exhausting in many ways, spiritually, physically, and mentally, but in the end it'll be the experience that refines me into what the Lord needs me to become. Thank you so much for your prayers, by the way. I have no doubt whatsoever that the prayers you've made for me have genuinely helped sustain me in many more ways that you all could imagine. Lately, I've been struggling with speaking while teaching due to not knowing what it is that I should say along with learning the scriptures to an extent that I can use them to their full capacity. I realize that I need to be patient and that all good things come through the trial of faith and time, but a bit of extra faith to help me overcome these weaknesses would be a miraculous thing. However, I am getting better and I'm learning more and more as I keep going on and simply just doing everything that I possibly can. But don't worry I'll never give up trying to improve my testimony, my knowledge and understanding of the scriptures, and my capacity to teach and to speak.
  Throughout the whole week my companion and I have been in and out of the hospital so the doctors could take tests on my companion to see what's going on with his incapability to sleep due to his insomnia. We haven't received any definite results at the moment, but we'll be going in tomorrow again and so we'll see how he's doing from there. As far as we know, there's nothing wrong with his brain but it may have something to do with, I want to say his thyroid glands? But yeah, we're not quite sure yet. At least he's still doing alright despite his lack of sleep.

 A couple exiting things have happened with the past week! (1) Today is my companion's birthday, (2) We've got a new American in the house, (3) We've started working in the new secteur and (4) We had a baptism last Saturday.

 (1) Nothing too exciting took place today as of yet, other than going to a restaurant to eat hamburgers and charwamas (chicken burritos) for breakfast.

 (2) His name is Elder Rich and he's from Logan, Utah. He replaced Elder Kandua's companion and he is now our new district leader. He's super great, really hilarious, easy to talk to and likes to listen, genuinely motivated and willing to work and lead, and it's just really cool to have him around because he alongside with my companion are true friends.

(3) My companion and I are opening a new secteur (area) that no missionaries there have yet worked before. We've been going around talking with a lot of people and we've found a few who are interested in hearing more about our message so hopefully we'll continue to be able to work with them. As for talking with people, here's what we do: "Okay, where should go? Well, there's a door. Let's knock on it." From there, we present ourselves to whomever answers; we present our message, and give the person at the door a brochure. There's that, but what's even better is going to what we call "quartiers." It's basically a row of small houses linked together confined by a surrounding wall with a small courtyard in front of the houses to walk, wash clothes, cook and so forth. It's there where we find lots of families and people who are generally more interested in and more open to what we have to say. It's people living in these living conditions who are much more ready and willing to receive us and hear about the gospel. 

(4) Our friend named Soeur Adel who was in our last secteur chose to be baptized and we were able to attend her baptism last Saturday! I was so happy that she was finally able to be baptized because she's so kind, she loves the missionary lessons and understands them really well, she always keeps her commitments by reading the brochures, assigned scriptures and going to church, and she always gave us a bag of bananas after teaching her because we would always do the teachings by her fruit stand. What's also great is that we would only have to invite her to act upon a commitment once and she'd do it without us having to bug and persist her to. That, and she comes to church all on her own every Sunday. Unfortunately, we're no longer in the same ward so we won't be able to continue teaching her. We did, however, introduce her to the new missionaries who recently came in to take over that part of our old secteur and so they'll be able to pick up where we left off. Another great part of all this is that she has friends who are members in the church. I tell you what, if the people are able to become good friends with the members, they're glued right in and I absolutely love it. 

 Well, as for me personally, I'm doing really great and everything has been going just fine. My health is good, I've been eating alright, and I haven't been getting sick. I'm becoming more patient, loving, caring, and genuine with everyone around me which has been such a wonderful blessing. I'm learning so much every single day and it's really unbelievable just how much a person can continually progress every single day of his or her life. My capacity to speak with others and testify to them is developing, my tiny knowledge of the gospel is increasing, and my desire to share this gospel and serve Heavenly Father is growing. I'll be frank, this mission is not always easy, but it's a once in a life time privilege and opportunity and so I will strive my best to work as hard and effectively as I can in everything that I do.

 Hey, I found a really cool chapter in the Bible this morning during personal study in Acts 17. It talked about the Apostle Paul as a missionary going  about preaching to the Jews somewhere in Greece about the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ when we later then came across a people in Athens who were given in to much idolatry. With the people that he found there, he spoke really well on the true nature of God in verses 24-30.

He told these people that it's not man who created God but its God who created man. It's through God that we are living, breathing beings, having been given all things. It's says in verse 27, according to the poets of Athens, that we are the race of God. In the following verse, we see that if we are indeed the race of God, then how is it that we as humans can say that God is made of temporal, non-lasting, man-made things? 

 There's a lot more to the chapter so I invite you to read it because it's actually really cool; however, I'm going to go, we were invited to a family night at the Relief Society President’s house.
Alors, ma famille, voila, la bonne nouvelle de la semaine.
(Well, my family, there you have it, the good news of the week).  

 I love you all so much, I miss you and I sincerely hope you all have a wonderful week! Stay strong, be safe and God bless you! Oh yeah, and Happy Easter!!!
Dieu soit avec vous jusqu'au revoir.
Avec amour,
Elder Gonzales