Monday, June 13, 2016

"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   

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