A lot of interesting things took place this past week!
1. Elder Moss, an American missionary who will be returning home six weeks after me, and I went on a split Tuesday and Thursday morning so that we could to a government facility where we and other missionaries would either officially state that we'll be leaving the country soon or renew our passports. We did other kinds of passport work while we were there as well for other missionaries who'd recently entered into the mission. After we'd finished doing what we needed to do as this migration government facility during both of these days, E. Moss, a couple other missionaries (one of which was E. Teaupa -- one of the two American missionaries with whom I traveled from Salt Lake City to Ghana) and I bought home-made yogurt from a booth by the road and then go to a restaurant not too far away from there and the mission office to order some crazy delicious charwarmas. We don't get to eat out at restaurants very often and so we thought we'd profit by celebrating our soon return home at this place for lunch.
2. Our friend Fr. Ezekial was supposed to be baptized a couple weeks ago, but our leaders told us to have him wait until he marry his wife before he be married. We thought he'd be able to be baptized because he's not currently living with his wife, but they're still together, they have two kids and they'd be living together if it weren't for his work. It was admittedly a little disappointing, seeing that he's already been converted even though he's not yet baptized, but it makes sense and it would be the right thing for him to do before he be baptized.
Well, for the moment, my companion and I are doing the best we can to help, encourage and support him as he does his best to find work and then save up enough money to pay for his wife's birth certificate and then for the civil marriage. Fr. Ezekial is a very talented painter and does all sorts of painting for a living. He makes artistic projects, he paints schools and business buildings and he paints advertisements for businesses. We've been praying and fasting a lot that he find job opportunities so that he can save up enough money to pay for his marriage. Every time that we see him, we always follow up on how he's doing in saving up for the marriage by asking him if was able to find work during the week. Sure enough, by the help of our faith, fasts, and prayers, he's been finding a lot of work and he's been prayed a lot for the work that he's already done. We'd asked him if he felt that he'd have enough money to pay for the birth certificate and then the marriage by the 24 Sept. 2016 -- the next time that we'll be holding a civil marriage at our branch -- and he said that he feels certain that he will. I really hope that he will because that would be super sweet to be able to attend his wedding before I go!
3. We have a recent convert named Sr. Charlotte with whom we've been doing a lot of genealogy and family history work for the past month or two. Hopefully by the end of this week we'll be able to have the names and information of a large majority of her deceased family members up to four generations sent to the temple so that their ordinances may be accomplished. Sr. Charlotte doesn't know how to use a computer and so with our help and the help of the genealogy consultants in our branch, her family members' ordinances will be accomplished. Helping her to this has been a great motivation and inspiration for me to do our family history and genealogy work once I get back.
4. We continue to speak with many people every day and we seek to share this message with as many people as we can before I return home. We continue to find new investigators, but we continue our search for the diamonds in the rough. It's easy to share this message with people and to find new investigators, but it's difficult finding people who are willing to fully accept, commit and then act upon what we teach. I've only been here for about three months and I've already taught many people and have shared this message with even more; however, out of all these people that we've taught, only a certain few are progressing towards conversion and then baptism. Although, in all honestly, I don't mind this at all because I'd rather baptize a few converted friends who will edify and strengthen the Church, remain active therein for the rest of their lives and then go one day to the temple than a very large quantity of individuals who would fall inactive shortly after baptism.
5. We had an awesome zone activity which had started yesterday and then ended today. Sunday evening, my companion and I went to our assistants' and zone leaders' apartment with four other missionaries that go to our branch where we would spend the night so that we could then have more time to go to the places to which we went today. Sunday night, we ate dinner, played card games and stayed up super late into the night. The next day (or this morning), we woke up a little late but still made delicious, home-made pancakes and syrup (tasted almost like I-hop). Once we finished eating breakfast, we left the apartment and then went to a city called Ouidah which is completely loaded with idolatry and voodoo. Our first stop was at a serpent voodoo temple, into which I entered with E. Hammons (my MTC companion who had been recently transferred back to Bénin as an office elder) along with a few other missionaries who hadn't yet entered therein. We were shown around by a guide who had explained to us the signification of all the voodoo objects found throughout the area (of which I'd taken a lot of pictures) and then lead us into a small building filled with non-aggressive snakes that we picked up, held and took pictures with. Once we'd finished our tour of the serpent voodoo temple, we excited the enclosed area to the front whereby we'd entered which lead into a courtyard filled with vendors selling souvenirs next to the biggest three that I'd ever since in my entire life (it was about the size of a small house). From the vendors, I bought a small drum and a small maraca instrument; afterwards, the zone and I left the place to go to our next destination. We went to a Bénin museum (which wasn't very impressive) and were lead by a guide with a group of white, European women. I've been seeing a lot of white people lately -- that's strange. After our short tour of the museum, which had been, at one point of time, a large fort, we went to the beach where we'd play frisbee, relax, and collect sea shells (I found a ton that I'll give to you once I return). Well, after we'd left the beach, the activity was over and we were dropped off by the assistants and the office Elders in certain locations from which we'd look for busses (our normal means of transportation) and then return to our respective apartments.
Well, family, I'd just thought I'd let you know before I go that I know that the Church to which we belong is the one and only true Church on the earth. Believe and trust in me, if you'd seen only a portion of what I'd seen today along with everything else that I've seen and heard throughout my mission, you'd know with an absolute certainly that this is the only true Church on the earth. I'd humbly invite and encourage you to be as grateful as you possibly can to be where you are and to have everything that you currently posses. We have been given so much, more so than many other countries found all throughout the world. We live in a place of bounty, freedom, peace, harmony, tranquility, unity and charity wherein the Church reigns. It's true that, as time goes on, these things along with the moral standards of the world begin the diminish; however, we've been given the antidote to the world's sickness and a protection against the adversary, which consist of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Atonement, the Priesthood, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the scriptures (ancient and modern day) along with the capacity to pray. We've been given much, even in times of financial crisis and temporal difficulties, and for that, we should always be filled with gratitude and praises to the Lord.
Alright family, I hope that you have a great upcoming week and that all goes well for each and every one of you according to your needs! I love you all so much, I continue to pray and fast for you and I'm super excited to see you in four weeks' time!!
Sincerely, your brother and son,Elder Gonzales