Monday, June 13, 2016

Called as District Leader & killed a rat with a stick! (2 weeks in 1)

Dear family:

 Thank you for the details about what's been going on with the family!! I sincerely appreciate it!! I'm sorry to hear about Dad's back!! I hope that he's doing better! It is super cool, though, that Dad had won that smoker!! That's the way life seems to be at times, especially in the mission -- whenever we have our high ups, they're eventually followed by our low downs. However, the great thing about it all is that whenever we find ourselves in the lowest of life's downs and then choose to turn to the Savior to lift us up as we reach out our hands to his, we're brought up even higher than where we were before we had fallen. 

Well, as for what's going on my side of the world, I was just recently transfered after having served in Togo for the last eighteen and a half months to labor in the Calavi Secteur located in Bénin last Saturday. I am no longer Zone Leader but I have been called to serve as the District Leader of my new apartment, a change that I have genuinely come to appreciate. 

As for the new area, well, there have been a few changes and adjustments that I've had to adapt to as I've been plunged into yet another, slightly different culture. The people of Bénin speak a different native language, their behavior is a bit different than that of the Togolese, not very many people speak French fluently, I moved from a big ward to a small branch, I left behind a lot of converts and friends whom I love and genuinely care for, the people aren't as accepting to the message of the Gospel as the Togolese are, our living conditions aren't too great, the power goes out frequently, we don't have a lot of water, and the apartment was a mess when I arrived (but I cleaned it up today), I've been placed in a district that appartently has need of my help, among a few other things.

I'm a little disappointed having to start from ground zero all over again, but due to all the experience that I've had in this mission, I'm adapting and getting used to everything quickly enough. I'm enforcing myself to remain positive and to continue to serve and to teach as if nothing had ever changed.

Well, I'm still getting to know the new area and I'm still meeting the investigators, members and recent converts found through out our secteur. It'll take a couple weeks to get fully adjusted, but I'm starting to get the hang of things and I've been enjoying meeting the people whom we teach for the most part so far.

My new companion's name is Elder Kabuya from Kinshasha, D.R. Congo. He's been in the mission for ten months, he lost his mother while on the mission and yet, to my amazement, he is still here doing what he should by serving the Lord in the best way that he knows how. His teaching methods are a bit different and are in need of some touching up, but it's nothing that fervent prayer and fasting, diligent studying, consistant complimenting, continual encouraging, patience and charity, and a spirit of unity and friendship can't fix. He has what I consider to be a strange behavior, but he gets along really well with the people and so it all works for me.

Well, my family, that's all the time that I have for today! I love you all so much and I sincerely appreciate your love, support and prayers. God bless you and may you have a wonderful upcoming week!!

Love, your brother and son,
Elder Gonzales
Dear family:
 Wow, aren't my companion and I lucky? The power cut out a few minutes ago and we left the Cyber before I could write to you. As we were on our way back to the apartment, the power came back on and so we made our way back to the Cyber so that we could write to our respective families.

So, here are the details of my life in Calavie, Bénin:

When I first arrived, the apartment was a complete and total wreck. So, what did I do? I cleaned it!! For three days!! Thanks to divine aide and a lot of loving chastizement, I got the other Elders to clean up as well. 
Thankfully, getting them to clean wasn't too much of a battle and they've been diligently cleaning the apartment ever since.
I'm the new district leader and my district consists of Elders Nsengyova, Bailey, and Kabuya. We've been having fun together, we're getting along well enough, the missionaries are a bit lazy in certain aspects (one of which is lazy in all), but one can't force a person to want to do work and so all one can do is be loving, encouraging, strict, just, merciful, and a good example.
I love my new companion, we get along great, we've been working hard, we're serious but we have fun, I've been applying everthing that I've learned from my last companion with my new one, and the result of which has enabled my new guy and I are becoming good friends. There are a few rough edges that still need trimming around my guy's teaching methods, but he's getting a lot better and it's nothing that fasting, prayer, study, friendship, and unity can't fix!
As for the secteur, it's absolutely fantastic, for it's only ten or so minutes away from the apartment. Not only that but the church is only a couple minutes away by foot. Now I can finally die in peace. There are a lot of people to teach and it's surprising really easy to find new investigators. And there is also voodoo... everywhere.
I've figured out the basic lay out of the secteur, I believe that I've now met each one of our investigators, some of which should be getting baptized soon, along with our recent converts, and I've already started becoming good friends with these people. 
Last week, I had written that the people were a bit harder to get along with than the Togolese, but I suppose I only had a rough first impression. I'm happy to announce that I enjoy working with these people and I've come to learn how to better interact with them. 
As for the now new and improved, clean apartment, we got cool neighbors and they made us awesome food the day I arrived, the electricty cuts out every day and we seldom if ever have water and we've so far killed three rats, one of which I killed myself by wacking it on the neck with a stick.

Well, the power just died, so I'll have to send the message before my computer shuts off.

I love you all so much and I hope you have a wonderful week!!!

With love, Elder Gonzales

Finally some PICTURES!!!

 Hello everyone!! I know that it's been a while but I've finally found a working computer with which I can send pictures!!!

 -Me and the ward missionaries in our last ward missionary training meeting together; the day I left Togo to go to Bénin with my old apartment, my previous companion along with the replacement missionaries. Elder Barnes and Elder Tapusoa were in this picture and were by far my best friends in the mission. I'm really going to miss them and quite frankly, I already do.

-One of my old districts in Bè-Kpota with whom I had taken a picture after having watched general conference at the Kégué stake center; my Ghana MTC district and me at the pizzeria restaurant called San Marcos; my previous district and me before I left for Bénin. 
-Me again at the first stake activity in Togo that I had attended while on the mission, with one of my first converts that I had baptized over a year ago in my very first secteur, and in a bus that had no seats yet was filled with members with whom we travaled to get to the activity.

-Here are a few pictures of me at church, in my old secteur, and with my black children.

-Here are some pictures of my old zone in a zone meeting and zone activity along with one of my previous districts.

-The following pictures consist of all of the baptisms that I had while I was working with E. Ndibu, my previous companion from Kishasha, D.R. Congo with whom I labored for approximately four months in the Bè-Kpota secteur.

-The names of the two children are Fr. Josué and Sr. Debora and then the two young men's names are Fr. Anoumou Kossi and Fr. Girard Noun. Each one of these converts are absolutely fantastic, super active in the church, and have been the means by which we have received more contacts and have found more people to teach. Fr. Girard, by the way, has received the Aaronic Priesthood and has been helping us once every week. They are all very dedicated to the Church and delight in participating in missionary work. I love them so much and it has been a pleasure being a part of their lives.

 Well, I sincerely hope that all is going well for each and every one of you in your respective homes, families, work, studies, lives and so forth. I pray continually for your temporal, spiritual and over all well-being. I hope with all my heart that you have success in your every endevors and that your lives be filled with happiness, peace, and joy. Take care of yourselves in the best of ways so that every aspect in your lives continues to move progressively forward.
Scriptures to read from the Book of Mormon: Ether 12:4 and Moroni 8:3.I love you all so much, thank you so much for your love, support and prayers, God bless you and may you have a wonderful upcoming week!

Sincerely, Elder Gonzales

"I have at long last been called to labor in Benin'."

 Well, everyone, I have some good news to share with you: after having served in Lomé, Togo for a grand total of eighteen months, eight of which in Bè-Kpota as zone leader, I have at long last been called to labor in Bénin where I will be serving with another Congolese companion in the Calavie secteur.

 About a week previous to my new calling, something had happened to me that has never taken place in my life before. I had two dreams in which I found out that after having served for eight months in the Bè-Kpota secteur, I was going to be transferred to work in Bénin and then work with a Congolese companion. During my second dream, or vision, I would more accurately say, I saw my soon-to-be new companion. I don't know why I was allowed to see what I saw, but I do distinctively remember asking the Lord, if it was according to his will, that he grant me with an opportunity to receive personal revelation during my sleep some time before I had these visions. This certainly wasn't what I was expecting, and I'm not necessarily sure why this had been reveled to me, but it was an interesting experience to see what it's like to actually have a vision of my own. I can't even imagine what it must be like for President Monson and the Quorum of the Twelve.

 As my MTC district companions and I were on our way to the Ghana airport from which we would go to Bénin and then seperate to our respective secteurs to commence our missions and start our training, I had received a personal revelation -- and last Saturday (twenty months later) a spiritual confirmation -- that I was needed in Bénin and that the Lord had a great and marvelous work for me to accomplish once I arrived there. I was a little shocked at first to find out that I was going to start my mission in Togo instead of Bénin, and at the rate that the mission was going, I was fairly convinced that I was going to finish my mission here in Togo. Although, as it had been confirmed, it
seems that the Lord has need of me on the other side of the border after all. I did, however, receive another confirmation a long time ago that once I was ready and completely "formed", then I would go to Bénin to accomplish my work.

Well, I don't know exactly what lies in store for me and I'm not sure what's going to happen next, but I sincerely hope that after all I had learned from being here in Togo for the last eighteen months has
prepared me enough so that I can be an effective instrument through which the Lord can do great things to come in my new secteur with my new companion. I suppose all that I can do, as I had been encouraged by Bishop Warner, is to start enforcing myself to double my efforts so that I have double the success and blessings that come from hard work and diligence. I just hope that my new companion and I will be able to get along with each other better than my current companion and I have.

 As for the week, nothing too particularly interesting took place, but I had a lot of great experiences. On Saturday, the day that I received my new calling, we started out the day by cleaning the church. After we had finished, we went and bought hamburgers and charwarmas for lunch. Not too long after that, we went to the church where I conducted a baptismal interview for a candidate who was to be baptized that day. My companion was supposed to do it, but due to the circumstances, I had to take it upon myself to do it. This isn't, by the way, the first time that something like this has happened. The
other day, my companion and I went on a split with the other two Elders in our apartment so that my companion could conduct baptismal interviews in our district leader's secteur while I conducted two in the secteur of Ablogomé for two other Elders. Once my comp. and E. Barnes (our DL) arrived to the investigators house, the baptismal candidate was asleep and so they had decided to do it the next day.
 Well, when it was time for us to be at the church, my guy was washing his laundry and wasn't ready to go. So, I went with our DL while my comp. finished up with that to the church so that I could conduct the interview before the service. Well, we're only as responsible as we're willing to be; although, it would be easier and less annoying and fatiguing if responibility didn't have to be a burden inconsiderately and unexpectedly thrown onto the shoulders of another. After the service, we went back to the apartment where we changed, went to a local, outdoor bar, ordered a plate of sphaghetti with a soda, and watched the soccer champion's league final, during which we received our new callings. By the way, turns out that E. Tapusoa, has been transfered to work with E. Ndibu! It seems like E. Tapusoa is following in my foot steps as I did to my trainer who had also worked in the same secteur as me before I had replaced him. It's conforting to know that my secteur, converts, and legecy will be protected and taken care of by a reliable and trustworthy friend.

 As for Sunday, I had three experiences that were very precious to me:
(1) I bore my last testimony during church for the last time in myward in Togo, (2) I held and directed our ward missionary training during which I thanked the ward missionaries for all the hard work that they had done to accompany and help as us as often as they did and then (3) I said good-bye to almost every single one of my converts throughout the remainder of the evening. My testimony was short, simple, and sweet, and thankfully, no tears were shed. During the ward
missionary training, I had to my surprise been thanked by the ward missionaries along with a few converts who had attended, for the way that I interacted with the members and for all the hard work that I had done in the ward to help the Lord's work move forward. That was one of the most precious moments of my mission for that was the first time that I had been thanked and then recognized by others for all the work that I put in and then I had received a confirmation that the Lord was able to make a positive influence in the lives of others through me. As for the good-byes, no tears were shed (save for one of my converts who cried when she saw me coming to her house) but many
encouragements, prayers, scriptures, songs, and love-filled experiences had been shared. That was one of the coolest experiences that I've ever seen, that is, to have witnessed that the Lord had been
a positive influence in the lives of others through me.

Well, I wouldn't say that the good-byes were in vain, but seeing that I wasn't sure when I was leaving, I thought I'd do it as soon as I possibly can. I did, however, find out this morning that I'm leaving
for Bénin early Friday morning, so I'll be around for a few more days. I suppose I could say that that's just a tender mercy of the Lord in that he has granted me to have more time to spend with my coverts and my progressing investigators and then pack my bags and do a little bit of laundry before I leave.

As for myself, eh, I'm doing about as good as I can for the moment. I just hope and pray that everything goes well for me during the next four days before I leave. I am going to miss E. Barnes, though, a lot. He and I have had a ton of fun and a lot of laughs together and he was probably one of my best missionary friends that I've had since I've been in the mission.

Anyways, thank you so much for the details!! I'm super glad to have found out more about all that's going down on your side of the world!! Well, Mom and Dad, I'm super excited to hear that you have received new callings, for which I congratulate and wish you the very best.
Thank you all so much for your love, support, concern, and prayers; they've played a considerably essential role in my success, in overcoming my problems, difficulties, and stresses, and in having a
great aboundance of happiness and joy in the work.

Well, my family, I'm afraid that my time is up. I pray that you have a most wonderful week and that all may go well for each and every one of you according to your individual needs. I love you all so much, I miss you, you're in my prayers, and I care for you.

With love, your brother and son,
Elder Gonzales

"In the rainy season, & when it rains, it comes down hardcore."

  Well, for starters, this has been a most wonderful week filled with a lot of fun and productivity. I absolutely love the new Elders in my district or apartment. I can't express to you just how great it has been to finally have true friends who genuinely care for me, who help clean the apartment, who have a desire to be my friends and to help me in everything that I do, and with whom I can let lose, relax, have fun, work hard, laugh, eat good food and have joy in the difficulties that we have to go through. At long last, I'm genuinely content and happy. Oh, it's so nice to have true friends again. A lot of prayers have been answered as a result of their coming into my apartment.

 This is kind of funny for the both of us, but E. Barnes and I were a little skeptical on how well we were going to get along before he came; however, it turns out that we're super alike, we get along a lot better than anticipated, and we've been having a blast living together.

Today, as for an exercise activity, E. Barnes and I played broom hockey with a small ball as a puck and water basins as goals. We kept playing until I broke the broom. It was a lot of fun and we had a ton of laughs. 

It's super nice to be able to live with someone with whom I can be myself and have what feels like a non-stop streak of happy moments, hilarious experiences, inside jokes, and so much more.

 My life has changed for the better and despite all that I have to go through on a day to day basis, living with a friend sure makes all the difference.
Well, I'm afraid that I'm all out of time. Gotta go to a family night at the church with the district!!
 Monday (16 May) -- As I had already described, E. Barnes and I played broom hockey, then we went to the Cyber and then to the Church as a district to participate in a ward family home evening which consisted of the youth and young adults both member and non-member. We watched the LDS produced movie called "The Testament", discussed about what we understood and appreciated from the movie, and then ate cookies and drank juice as a snack at the end. 
 Tuesday (17 May) -- We canceled our district meeting and stayed in the apartment during the morning due to a rain storm that had come in. We're currently in the rainy season, and when it rains, it comes down hardcore. Thankfully the rain stopped some time in the afternoon, thus we were able to go out into the secteur. Earlier in the day, my companion refused to help me plan for what we were going to do today and told me that I could fill out the progress report that we fill out and then discuss upon during our coordination meeting that we have at the end of the day at the church with our ward mission leader among other leaders. Well, let me just start out by saying that my companion is very easily offended, he gets angry when I least expect it and then holds grudges and takes things very personaly. My companion was offended for what I had done to him the other day, that is, praying before he was ready to start. The entire district had waited for him for an hour to get ready so that we could get going to the cyber. Once we gathered together to say a prayer before we left, he asked us to wait for him to zip up his pants and tuck in his shirt. Well, I really wanted to go to the cyber and my patience was already running thin, and so I started praying as he got himself ready. Well, that made him so mad that he lost his spirit and decided that he didn't want to help me with what I just mentioned along with none of our lessons. Well family, believe it or not, I gave three lessons all by myself without any contribution from his part whatsoever. Fun right? At least once we got to the church after we (I) had taught our investigators, our ward mission leader apologized to us due to not magnifying his calling for the past month and said that he would start coming to the coordination meeting each week and would start attending baptisms every time we had them. I had been praying to find out as to how we could better work with our ward leaders and then had later discussed with our Bishop about everything that has not been happening but should on our ward mission leader's efforts. Our Bishop had then spoke with our ward mission leader and that had appartently done the trick. I love it when things just sort of work out like that. Such experiences really remind me that the Lord is currently capable of doing his own work.  
Wednesday (18 May) -- We worked with our recent convert Fr. Girard who will soon be receiving the Aaronic Priesthood and works with us every Wednesday from 15h00 to 20h00. My companion didn't speak or teach during our lessons until the very last one, but that at least gave Fr. Girard an opportunity to see what it's like to teach with and as a missionary. Our convert is super intelligent and understands the message of the Restored Gospel super well, thus he was able to teach as if he had already been called as a full-time missionary. This kid is so great and I know that he'll be a phenominal missionary. He's eighteen, by the way, and will hopefully be graduating from high school this year (in a few weeks).
Thursday (19 May) -- Had a surprise meeting with Pres. Morin, his wife, and the Togo Assistants in the morning at the Kégué chapel. I didn't find out that we were having this meeting until last night while my companion and I were planning for the next day. I'm super glad that we had this meeting, for it was during which that we discussed as leaders on the following points: teaching in unity so as to more fully accomplish our missionary objective, getting along with companions, having love one for another, becoming more like Chirst, being accountable for our actions, supporting what we teach by putting it into practice and so forth. As a result of this meeting, my companion started teaching again and did so through out the remainder of the day, but we were still lacking a very vital key to missionary success: unity along with the spirit and power that come from it. The meeting that we had along with the lessons that we had given today moved me repent by doing something about changing our situation so that we could have the spirit of unity back in our companionship and in my own life. However, I wasn't sure as to what I should do and I didn't know as to when I should go about making said change. Even though every time I did so the spirit felt very distant, but I decided to give myself up to much prayer so as to receive guidance and inspiration, for I knew that if the Spirit were to come back into my life, I would have to reconcile myself with my brother first (3 Nephi 12:21-24). 
 Friday (20 May) -- Weekly planning in the morning. My guy helped me out and it was much appreciated. We saw a lot of people today, and everthing on which we had discussed with them pierced my soul and just shredded me to pieces. There I was teaching others to change their lives, to stop drinking and start keeping the word of wisdom, to prepare themselves to go to the temple, to start coming back to church, and so forth while my own life was in complete disorder. At the end of the day, we saw Sr. Reine and Sr. Victorine, two girls who were supposed to be baptized about a month ago. For the past couple weeks, they hadn't come to church. They went to visit their aunt one week and then the next they didn't come because the eldest didn't want to go. It feels like it's been a long time since I've poured out my heart and testified with everything I got as I did that night to help these little girls realize that the Church and Gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored, that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that they absolutely have need to come to church and to be baptised, and that they've got to keep moving forward by keeping the Lord's commandments. My heart was filled with love, power, conviction, and a sincere desire for their salvation as I spoke to them; however, due to the problems that my companion and I have been having, it felt as if a small yet piercing void had been carved within me. It was at that point that I had resolved to repent, to confess, to change the situation, and to reconcile myself with my companion by sincerely apologizing to him for all that I had done to offend him as we walked home to our apartment. As a result of that talk, the Spirit had finally come back into my life, my companion and I have started talking, working and interacting with each other again, and I feel at peace. It's pretty insane to see what life is like without the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. It was among one of the most worst experiences that I've ever had in my entire life, but it was very eye-opening in many different ways in that pride is killer and humility is wonderously sweet. Well, at least I now know that I should never again take for granted the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.
 Saturday (21 May) -- Baptismal service bright and early in the morning at the Bè-Kpota chapel for E. Barnes and Fr. Tcharé and for the Sister missionaries in our district. Before the service started, I had a baptismal interview with the other Elder's candidate named Sr. Rose, who thankfully passed the interview with flying colors (an odd expression, but that's English). I dislike doing interviews the day of the service because one never knows whether or not the baptismal candidate is actually ready to be baptised. Fortunately, Sr. Rose was ready and worthy to contract the baptismal covenants and had a beeming testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the afternoon, my guy and I taught two investigators named Sr. Sharlotte and Sr. Dopé along with her friends and then we saw two of our other converts Fr. Josué and Sr. Débora. As we were on our way to Fr. Girard's house to talk to his little brother Fr. Godwin, a raging, mini-flash flood, rain storm came out of nowhere and we were forced to sprint for about thirty minutes through the rain, flooded streets and mud in order to get back to the apartment. We stopped twice, once underneath the roof of small boutique to catch our breath and then at the church to take another breather. It was the most insane rain storm that I had ever been caught in. It was fun and all, but man, that was a pretty scary and intense experience! When we got to the boutique, I decided to try something as a thought popped into my head to give it a shot. I had decided to pray and then command the rain in the Lord's name to stop falling as intensely as it had been so that we could safely return to the apartment and so that everyone in the area would be kept safe. It continued to rain, but the quantiy thereof along with the intensity of the wind had settled down enough for us to return home in safety. I tell you what though, I was pretty sore once I woke up the next morning. It's been a while since I've ran that fast for so long. As for the others, they had fortunately found shelter at the house of an investigator who has been coming to church ever since I got here but hasn't been able to be baptized because of her martial issues. She let the missionaries stay at her house and cooked for them until the rain calmed down enough for them to return to the apartment.
 Sunday (22 May) -- Went to Church; not very many people showed up, but we had some investigators come; went home directly after the third hour; slept for a few hours due to getting my butt kicked by the other day's storm; amazingly went back into the secteur in the evening (believe me, it was really hard due to our fatigue); spoke with Sr. Reine and Sr Victorine's Mom with a member named Fr. Komla (the member who had introduced us to the girls) to make sure that she was still okay with her daughters being baptized due to the past excuses that she made; she was of accord and even helped us find certain information needed to be written on the girls' baptismal forms; afterwards, we visited Sr. Shériffa and her family and then we visited Fr. Josué and Sr. Débora at the end of the day.
Well family, everything has been momentarily brought back to the way it should be; although, I would humbly ask that you pray for me and my companion so that peace, happiness, unity, cooperation, and so forth my reign within our companionship until transfers come along (this upcoming Saturday). I would very much appreciate a happy ending; it's always best to end a companionship with a good note. No bitter memories make the mission a lot more enjoyable.

I sincerely hope that everything else is going well for you all and that you have a most wonderful week!! 

I love you and God bless you!!
Elder Gonzales

"What we do isn't easy, but in the end it's worth it"!

Dear family:
Well, as for my side of the world, here's what has taken place during the week:
 Had a meeting in the afternoon at the nicest hotel in which I've ever set foot with one of the most recent members of the First Quorum of the Seventy named Elder Stanfill. Their trip turned out to be quite a frustrating event. His flight had been canceled and so he and his wife had to drive from Bénin to Togo, which had delayed our meeting by several hours. The meeting didn't last long, but I'll tell you right now that it has been a long time since I've felt the Spirit so strongly as we spoke with him. All of the zone leaders in Togo were present and we had discussed with him on the things that we do well as a mission along with on the things that we need to do in order to improve. Not too often do I have spiritual experiences in the mission so it was nice to finally be able to feel the Spirit in such high extents. It was quite inspirational and filled me with a stronger desire to give it all I've got by serving with all my heart, might, mind and strength through out the remaining five months that I have left to serve others and to give to the Lord.
  During zone conference we listened to Pres. Morin, Sis. Stanfill and Elder Stanfill speak. For the most part, everything on which they had spoken pertained to me and it was very motivating yet slightly discouraging. My companion and I don't do companionship study and our relationship has been gradually decreasing due to cultural and behavioral differences. I don't have any problems with him whatsoever, but we hadn't been speaking to each other during the week due to me not wanting to further offend my companion and due to the little things that I do as an American that piss him off.  There aren't any problems now, but interaction has been kept to a minimum; fortunately, it has been slowly increasing to how it was at the beginning. In any case, for the first time since I've been on the mission, I stayed in the apartment instead of going out into the secteur today due to discouragement, lack of the Spirit, and complete exhaustion after the meeting. I never plan on doing so again, for I've had experiences that have lifted me up and have reinforced my physical, spiritual, and emotional strength.
 We started teaching Fr. Farouk's mom named Sr. Monique not too long ago. We saw her in the morning and invited her to be baptized. She accepted, but I sincerely hope that she was being serious about making this commitment. In the afternoon, we were supposed to work with Fr. Girard who had been waiting for us, but we arrived late into the secteur and so he left in the hopes of finding us at the home of a member family. Once we arrived, we called one of the members of the family to tell Fr. Girard, who got to their house right as I called, to come back. We waited for him at our designated meeting place, apologized for our lateness, and then left to see Sr. Sharlotte to whom we spoke about prophets and gospel dispensations and with whom we fixed a baptismal date. Afterwards, we went to see Fr. Godwin, the younger brother of Fr. Girard, based on spiritual inspiration to whom we went over what we had discussed last time, seeing that we hadn't seen them for a little while. The two previously mentioned investigators are kids who read scriptures and come to Church every Sunday. They'll be able to be baptized for sure. At the end of the lesson, we spoke to Fr. Girard about baptisms for the dead along with the Plan of Salvation to help him better understand that he can have his mother's saving ordinances be accomplished in the temple. He was thrilled and very interested to learn more about what we had discussed. The end of the day had been spent by visiting the partial member family of whom I had previously spoken and with whom we have become great friends before we went back home. By the way, E. Atherton had been transferred to Baguida (still in Togo and in the zone) while my guy and I were in the secteur.
 Elder Barnes arrived from Bénin last night and was to work with E. Joseph until he was to be transferred to Kélékougon on Saturday (still in Togo, located next to the Kégué secteur). It rained this morning and so we stayed in the apartment and played Monopoly. In the afternoon, the rain cleared up and we were able to go back out into the secteur. A few days ago, a boy named Fr. Albert ran up to me after I had said hello to him, telling me that I was very nice and that we would like for us to come over in order to share our message with him. We planned to see him today and presented our message to him and his older sister. Fr. Albert has already read the brochure and had asked several, great questions about our message and had asked us for a BofM. I hope that he'll progress as we continue on with him. It's pretty cool how the Lord inspires those who are ready and willing to hear and act upon our message to approach us and invite us to their homes in order to teach them. If they're actually home when they invite us to their home and had actually read what we had given them to read, that's usually a good sign saying that they're ready to receive our message. Afterwards, we saw Sr. Shériffa and family along with their friend Majoie who has been coming to Church every Sunday with the family. We spoke to her about Joseph Smith and she managed to understand who he is and what he did despite the language barrier. We had our English Course at the end of the day. Teaching from speakers how to say the word "fork" is super hilarious. They have a hard time pronouncing the "R" and so it sounds like they're saying the "F-Word."
 A lot of RV's have fallen through, we managed to see Sr. Reine and Sr. Victorine, who were supposed to be baptized last Saturday but couldn't due to family complications, to whom we spoke about the Pre-existence as a part of the Plan of Salvation. Afterwards, we saw Fr. Honoré, my recent convert who has recently and already fallen inactive to whom we spoke about the Sabbath Day along with the importance of taking the Sacrament, again. I don't know what his deal is, but I've done all that I can and it seems that it still hasn't been enough to help him to come back. He promised to come to Church last Sunday, but sent me a text apologizing beforehand that he was going to be absent. Hopefully once his brother comes back from his mission in Nigeria, he'll be able to help him to reactive himself. Prayers on his behalf that he has a renewed desire to become active again would be appreciated.
 I don't remember when, but Elder Barnes' new companion, a Togolese mini-missionary named Fr. Tcharé, came in a couple days ago. My guy and I had shown the two to some of their investigators' homes on our way to the secteur. We meet a man named Fr. Amagdivi. He's a new investigator who had recently lost his job and is currently looking for work. He thinks that the Church will help him to find work, but hopefully his thoughts will be turned towards his spiritual well-being once we begin teaching him more about our message. In the afternoon, we saw Fr. Folie, a newer investigator whose questions we answered about the Apostasy and the Restoration with his friend Fr. Honoré (a recent convert who helps us more than any other member, who is currently waiting for his mission call). A couple RV's fell and we were super exhausted from all the walking and searching we had done, but we managed to see Fr. Josué and Sr. Débora, two of our recent converts, to whom we had discussed about the importance of following the prophet. At the end of the day, we went to see Fr. Godwin with Fr. Girard to whom we spoke about how Christ established His Church on the earth during His earthly ministry.
  We did our ward missionary training with the ward missionaries. I taught the lesson and we had a very powerful discussion on ward missionary work. Elder Barned and Elder Tcharé attended the training, which was so nice to finally have other missionaries there to help me teach. The others didn't care about the training due to being convinced that the ward missionaries wouldn't help them even if we trained them anyway. Well, they were wrong, the training is awesome, ward missionary work has increased as a result, there is more unity between the ward members and the missionaries, relationships have improved and increased and I've been able to feel the Spirit more frequently in my day to day life. Not having a burden inconsiderately put onto my shoulders along with support from other missionaries is absolutely phenomenal. Many prayers have at long last been answered. Afterwards, we went home. I did my zone report which took a very long time and rendered me very exhausted, but I still managed to go out into the secteur thanks to the strength that I had received from prayer. I received a call from Sr. Shériffa as I was doing my report that a man in her living area had fallen terrible ill after having gotten into a terrible accident at work and hasn't been moving for two weeks ever since. She asked us to come give him a blessing. I told her that we would come after I had finished with the report. Mind you, she hadn't explained the details. All that she had said is that she wanted us to come over in order to pray for the man. On our way to his house, we were about to cross the busy street that we needed to pass in order to get into the secteur when a little boy grabbed the back of my elbow asking me to give him money to eat. I'm so used to having kids yelling out to me in a disrespectful manner on a daily basis to give them money because of the fact that I'm white (which means I'm rich). I was so annoyed, frustrated and exhausted due to all that I had already done at Church and due to my fast that I had ignored him and kept moving forward. However, he persisted and grabbed ahold of my elbow again and asked me in a respectful manner to give him money so that he may buy something to eat. That slightly surprised me and had gotten my attention, but I only took a slight glace behind me to see who had been touching me before I reached into my pocket to pull out 50 francs (about 17 cents) out of the 300 francs. Without looking back, I placed the coin into the boy's hand and then crossed the street. I had a feeling to give him the rest, but I crossed the street instead. Once I crossed the street, I had a feeling to look back. My heart sunk in my chest once I had seen and realized, based on the fact that the child was poorly dressed in dirty, ragged clothes, the he was probably homeless and really had nothing to eat. My heart was shrouded with pain due to the guilt that I had experienced due to my lack of attention and consideration to this poor child's needs. I learned from that experience to keep my eyes open, to pay attention, to be more considerate and aware of the needs of others, to be more willing to give and to not be hesitant or reluctant to do so and to never, ever complain for what I don't have, for I've been given so much. I've never felt so guilty in my entire life to the extent that I had to seriously repent in order to overcome the pangs of guilt that filled my conscious and heart with godly sorrow. Well, once we arrived to the man's house, I messaged the assistants to give me the OK-GO or permission to give this man a blessing. As we waited, I washed my converts dishes by hand until they said that it would be alright. I don't know what happened, but the man had fallen with a machine and wasn't able to move since. I'm not sure, but I think the man had undergone some sort of brain or spinal damage. Whatever the case may be, he was in a very serious condition. Well, we gave him a blessing and I sincerely hope that something good will happen as a result of it. I don't remember his name, but please keep him in your prayers. He's suffering pretty badly. Well, afterwards, we left to see Fr. Farouk and Fr. Pedro, two non-progressing but really good friends to whom we spoke about the Word of Wisdom as a result of Learning that Fr. Farouk had been drinking tea and coffee. The both of them listened well to what he had to say, which they usually do, and accepted to obey the Word of Wisdom. At the end of the day, we saw Fr. Yao, another convert, and spoke to him about the importance of praying often. Fr. Yao has been reading the Book of Mormon and has decided to pray every morning and through out the day as apposed to only doing so at night. Obedience to the commandments brings the greatest blessings.
Well, there you have it, yet another week of a Bénin, Cotonou (Togo, Bè-Kpota) mission. What we do isn't easy, but in the end it's Worth it.
This has been the hardest yet most rewarding experience that I've ever had in my entire life. Prayers to help me overcome my physical fatigue and occasional spiritual and emotional suffering would be tremendously appreciated. It's not, by any means, getting any easier, but as time goes on and as I acquire more experiences, I've been able to become a more effective leader and a better, more considerate and caring person as a result of all that I go through every day.
Thank you so much for your support, your love and your prayers. Take great care of yourselves, I love you, God bless you, I hope that you have a most wonderful, upcoming week.
With love,
 Elder Gonzales   

"Thank you Mom"

Dear Mom:

 Mom, there's something that I want you to know: you've already succeeded in more ways than you've probably even recognized. Did you know that it was because of your efforts that I read my scriptures everyday? When I teach my investigators and converts, I literally tell them all the time that it was because of you telling me over and over again back at home that I should read my scriptures every day because you knew that it was important that I started doing so in high school and in my mission. Might I also mention that you did so with love, ecouragement, patience and genuine concern for my spiritual well-being (the most effective way to get anyone to do anything). As a result of me telling them about what you did for me, many of my investigators and converts have listened to my encouragements to read the scriptures daily and have started reading their scriptures more frequently. Did you know that you taught me what it means to unselfishly serve and help others without even considering my own interests or comfort? I remember asking you one day why you helped the sisters in our ward so often with their callings, feeling that they were placing a burden on your shoulders every time they did so. Did you complain? No. In fact, you did it with gladness and joy and out of the kindness of your heart simply to be of assistance, despite the inconvenience. There have been many other instances where you have displayed this Christ-like attribute of charity, and because of that, I seek to do the same every moment of every day when such opportunities to help or to serve others arises. This has brought some of the greatest joys that I've experienced through out the entirety of my mission and has enabled me to develop many friendships.
There are many Christ-like qualities that you've helped me to integrate into my life and you've taught me since my youth to walk in the light and to keep the commandments. Who you are has always inspired me to be the very best that I can in everything that I do and you're wonderful example has shown me what I should do and what kind of person I should to be.
All that being said, and with Mother's day shortly to come, I just like to say thank you Mom, for all that you've done for me and for all that you continue to do for the family and for everyone around you. Thank you for the advice, counsel, wisdom, words of kindness and encouragement, the brilliant example of a true disciple of Christ, the best childhood anyone could ask for, the compassion, the sympathy, the listening, the charity, the concern for my well-being, for always showing me that you truly care, for helping me feel that I have worth, for helping me feel good about myself through your well-appreciated compliments, for writing to me so frequently, for the prayers, for always seeking to help me feel happy, for always striving to take care of me in every possible way, for making me lunches every day, for your awesome cooking that I miss so much, and so much more. Never think that you didn't do enough, for you did everything that the Lord expected of you. I could not have possibly asked for a better mother, for you have exceeded in every possible way in my eyes.

 Well, Mom, I just want you to know that I love you so much, I really miss and appreciate you and I look forward to seeing you again on Mother's Day. I hope that you have a wonderful week and that everything may go well for you.

Sincerely, your son,
Elder Gonzales