Friday, February 27, 2015

No more fish!

 Well, talk about having some experiences while I'm here. Turns out I just finished having one that I hope I never have to have again! So, I don't know if the mission leaders contacted you, but I've been in the hospital since Friday until this morning because I had a serious case of the runs and a pretty hardcore fever. Yeah, it was pretty intense. But, like I said, I was just released today, not having shown any signs or symptoms yesterday and today. As for the hospital experience, it wasn't too bad, other than the shower water smelt absolutely horrid and the bed was as stiff as a board. I had an I.V. in my wrist for to receive fluids and I took three shots to the top of my right back side. As for my sickness, it was caused by something that I had eaten. I don't really remember what the meal was exactly but it had something to do with fish.
The fever was pretty hardcore and I was burning up pretty bad; however, I don't know how high it was.
The hospital was alright. It was nothing like an American hospital, but at least it was a nice facility with workers that knew what they were doing. My only issues while I was there was that I got bitten a ton by mosquitos the first night, it was super-hot (until they brought me a fan), the bed was super stiff and the shower room stank super bad as well as the closets where we stored our stuff. My companion stayed with me during the whole experience. He slept on a think, cushioned mat.
 But there's no need to worry, I'm doing much better now and my health is working its way back.

  Well, as for baptisms, we've committed a young man named Borris to be baptized I think towards the end of the month, but we might need to push the date back because we haven't quite gone over everything yet. But he's in progress so we'll continue to work with him and hope and pray that he'll still want to be baptized! A lot of people that we've been working with have been progressing really well and we've been lucky to be able to teach some of our contacts which has been super great.

 It's pretty crazy that I'm in Africa; however, now that I've been here for three and half months, it's really starting to become a normal deal, save for the occasional interesting or otherwise crazy experiences. Oh, guess what? Two more weeks and I'll be done with my training! That means I'll either be staying or leaving and I'll either become a trainer, which I hope doesn't happen because I'm nowhere near ready (but I'm at least still willing if that's what the Lord needs me to do), or I'll be a junior companion again which I think is what will end up happening.

 As for change, I'm definitely becoming more bold, courageous, loving, patient, and charitable. I've noticed that my character is being sculpted into something I never knew I was capable of becoming. I have a much stronger testimony, my wisdom and knowledge of the Gospel is increasing, my love for the scriptures is growing, I'm becoming more capable of teaching more effectively, I'm able to stand up for myself and hold my ground, I'm developing more fear for the Lord than the people, I've been repenting so much more than before, I feel the spirit so much more, and my love for the Lord and Savior is becoming so strong and I've come to be so grateful to Him for the Atonement and the Resurrection. Don't get me wrong, I still have a LOT of weakness, but this is the Lord's work and so all I need to do is make sure to strive to be personally sanctified, have a lot of courage, have the faith to open my mouth and speak.

 Well, everything is still going really well over here. It's getting harder to speak and write in English and getting easier to speak and understand French. Sometimes, while talking to the American Elder named Elder Sagers, I'll accidently mix French words in my sentences or say a phrase in English that is said in French (if that makes sense). I actually prefer to speak French now with him (due to the fact that he already knows French) because that's the best way to learn a language, that is, to speak and then continue speaking. And this is probably going to be the only time in my life where I'll have the opportunity to speak French all the time so I should live it up to the fullest and enjoy it while I can, even if I can't entirely understand all the time. However, give me about two-three more months and I'm certain that I'll have this language down, especially after I finish reading the Book of Mormon in French. But, the language doesn't matter all I need to do is learn the doctrine because that's the true reason why I'm here, that is, to invite others to come unto Christ so they can have eternal life in Heavenly Father's kingdom. French, for me, is simply a gift on top of all my work to be an instrument in the Lord's hands.

 Well, hopefully my companion and I will be able to help Frère Borris become baptized this upcoming Saturday before our transfer ends. And, if not, it'll still be okay because I'll most likely just end up staying here in Adidogomé so I'll be able to continue working with him. I'm not sure, but I may also end up going to the new apartment in this same area.

 Well I hope everything is still going well for you all and that your health is still going strong! Keep hitting me up with the details about life! If you've got any questions, feel free to ask them! I love you all so much and I'm so glad to have been able to write to you! Be safe and enjoy everything that you've been given!

 à la semaine prochaine!
Avec amour,
Votre frère et fils,
Elder Gonzales

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What teaching is like... Alma 18: 24-40

Wow, my hand just went numb. I just got shocked by the metal table that the computer is holding itself on.

Well, as for starters, I'd like to share what's teaching is like. If you read in Alma 18:24-40, believe it or not, but that's literally what it's like at times. Most people believe that God is a Spirit or that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are one single person. I've heard others things, just for example, that God is fire, or made of fire. Yeah, the beliefs can get pretty interesting, but everyone and I mean everyone here believes in God. Not only that, but everyone knows so much about the Bible and so pulling out scriptures from there really helps to establish a solid ground of understanding for investigators.
So, the thing that we try to establish first of all with investigators is the true nature of God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit. From there, we branch off according to the investigators interests/needs or we'll continue on with the true baptism, the Great Apostasy (to explain the multitude of churches) and the authority of God, or the Priesthood and the organization of the church to explain that this is the one and only true church on the earth. Personally, I always love talking about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and his Atonement, along with the First Vision and the story of Joseph Smith. Those subjects always seem to hit at home with investigators and myself as well.

There are literally hundreds of different religions here, three of the most popular are Les Témoins de Jéhovah (Jehovah's Witnesses), Catholique (Catholic), and Muslim. Also, I'm not sure if it's a religion, but there's also Vaudoo (Voodo). Here's an interesting fact, turns out that Togo and Benin are the Vodoo capitals of the world. As for all the other churches, you'll here pastors preaching, singing, yelling into a microphone in a small church building all the time.

As for culture: If you're the one who opens the door, whoever is with you goes first. If you don't know an area, you're companion (if he knows the area) walks in front of you and you can't walk in front of him or else you'll show him that you're the leader, which they really don't like that; but, if you know the area, you always walk together, side by side or just a little bit behind. If you walk ahead without paying attention, they get mad. When making a greeting, you wait until you're about an arm's length away before saying anything. If it's a casual salutation, you can wave or call out them out from a distance. The people don't typically ask for anything, they just tell you what they want because the word "demander" means "to ask." If you can see the root "demand" you'll kind of see why it's like that over here. Don't get me wrong, the people here are very polite, super kind, always and extremely charitable, and incredibly faithful, but asking isn't much of the question unless they need information. As for the "right of way" whatever is bigger has it; this is the way that it goes: Bus/Truck, Car, Moto, person. At times people in vehicles yield, which is really generous, but if you're not careful, you'll get bumped. Oh yeah, and if you have more years than someone else, everything you do and say basically has the higher authority and you expect respect. Last thing, if you think that Dad has ever chastised me, which, I don't think he ever has, you've seen nothing yet. Just be glad that you've never had to go through an African chastisement because believe me, it's pretty rough. All that, and people are incredibly honest. If they don't like something, they'll straight up tell you, which at times can be pretty hilarious (when not directed towards you). But, like I was saying earlier, despite the different cultural stances, the people are absolutely great and I'm actually really starting to develop a great love for them because they really are awesome.

At appointments, typically we don't say anything until we're seated. From there, the host of the house says, "Bonjour/Bonsoir" Good morning/Good evening and then you reply with the same word; after that, "Bon arriver" or good arrival and then you say, "Merci" or thank you; and then, the host will offer you water and whether you accept/decline it doesn't matter but that's when the conversation basically goes however it goes until the lesson.

Well yeah, that's just a little bit of what it's like over here. I'm actually beginning to really love my mission now that I understand the culture. It also helps that I'm learning the language very quickly and I'm more able to teach, express my thoughts, take care of my needs, understand people and so forth. But more importantly, I've been gaining such a strong testimony these past couple weeks and my knowledge of the gospel and the scriptures has increased immensely. I can't help but just be so grateful that I'm here, even as hard as it can be, but it's really forming me into the man that Heavenly Father needs me to become and who I also want to become.

Well, I sincerely hope that everything is going super well for you all!

I love you all so much!

Jusqu'a la semaine prochaine!

--Elder Gonzales