March 25, 2013 - His branch, happy children, teaching Tango

Hey family,

thanks for the letters as always. and i love hearing all the stories.  this week has been good, time is moving faster.  it is weird to think that elder mccray is home now, but no we didn't really do anything that cool, just went out to eat at a place called akims or akifs, i can't remember. 

yeah, i carry water almost all the time.  i have a bottle that has a built-in filter in the straw so i can drink pretty much whatever, but without that i can't much.  we have a filter in our apartment that we use to drink from.  i drink so much water though.  probably an average of 3 liters of water a day, and i use it all sweating.

my sandals are great. i'm actually wearing them right now.  my feet are filthy at the end of the day, but i love them still.  i don't wear them every day, but more than the other 5 in our apartment.  i think we are having a soccer tournament with all the branches around for this weekend, Easter, but other than that nothing really. 

the branch is great.  all of us 6 go to the same branch and there is probably like 50 on average, counting investigators.  we go at 1 o'clock because another branch meets in the morning. that is usually where i get to see elder potter for a few minutes.  the building is something the church rents out and it is pretty nice building. the new building that the church is building should open soon. i haven't been there yet but i heard its really nice.  i'm excited for that to open because i hope i can start to teach an english class there to find some new amis.  there are tons of people who want to learn english and people love saying the few phrases they know in english to me.  also english is required i think in school like every year so all the kids are leaning it too.  i hope it will work out.

our branch president is called president gabrielle, and he is awesome, and is willing to help the missionaries out a lot.  church here is definitely a different experience though.  there is no piano so we sing a capella and one person gets up and sings the first line of the song and then says like one two sing and we all start.  for africans singing is more about volume than sounding good, so everyone is just belting at the top of their lungs, and most don't really know the tune.  sometimes we'll be going along and they will sing something completely off and it will screw me up, but whatever, its awesome.  their favorite hymn is 44 in french "que tu es grand".  how great thou art in english.  we sing it all the time. 

the branch takes trips, i think four times a year, to ghana to visit the temple with whoever wants and they just went this week actually.  it is weird to not have all the temples around.  it really is such a big blessing in our lives and i miss going every week.  we have soo much in the US, more than we ever would need, but people here are happy probably because most of them don't know how it is in the US, but they are happy.  the kids especially, just happy running around wearing some shorts... maybe, probably all they own, but they are content.  it is humbling.  tall wise most africans are short so i'm taller than most of them, but there are some that are really tall. elder hales and i just tower over everyone else in the apartment pretty much.  elder gomun is the tallest african but skinny as a rail.

this week we taught a really awesome lesson to this guy named tango.  at the beginning he asked us the question basically of why there was so many churches.  i got the chance to explain the restoration a little to answer his question.  and after i had finished he was like.  that's so awesome, that makes a lot of sense.  i feel so good right now, so happy.  i was threefold excited.  number one, he understood my french, and number two, he understood the restoration, and three, he was feeling the spirit.  as we wrapped up the lesson he just kept saying things like i'm so happy right now i don't know why but this is just amazing, i'm so excited to learn and read more and thank you so much for being here explaining this to me.  so i told him, tango what you're feeling is the holy ghost, its telling you that what i told you is true.  and that's what our message is all about, so if you keep feeling what you do now as we come back and while you read the book of mormon, and when you find for yourself a testimony, will you be baptised? and he was like.. of course!  it was awesome.  i hope he continues to progress.  and i hope that will happen more and more as my french and teaching improve. 

i'm sending some pictures this week.  the monkey is mwamba.  he is crazy.  that little girl is also crazy and those kids too.  it's like a whole bunch of hyper curtis kids running around attacking me.  thanks for everything.  

love you all. good luck with school and everything.  

loves Elder Rybin

March 18, 2013 - People in Togo

Bon Soir family.  
people here will say bonjour until about 1 pm and then bon soir for the rest of the night.  so all morning it is bonjour and then we switch to bon soir at night.  

Togo Flag
This week  has been good.  thanks for the emails and pictures.  heather is soo big and has soo much hair too!  its crazy!  tell them i miss them all and good luck with moving and finding a new house, i'm excited to see it when i get back.  and sounds like dad and benjamin had a good break.  

yes, we do have some young women in our branch, not very many, but our branch is not very big so it is good to have some.  Guillome's sister came to church for the second time yesterday and i think she has found some friends in young womens.  this saturday the yw and ym are having an activity out at the beach in the morning and she is planning on going.  i'm super excited for her and patience, guillome's mom.  

i met some crazy people today.  well i should say all africans are a little weird and crazy but these guys were really crazy.  the first guy we met when we were waiting on the corner of a busy street for a contact we were meeting there.  because we got his number from Elder mccray and mukenga, and no one here has an actual address, so you have to meet people somewhere close to where they live and find them that way.  after you meet someone you just have to remember where they live.  it is the hardest when someone tries to tell you where they live, they are like go down this road and by this building, and there is a turn and a tree.  but they find people just fine here and i'm getting the hang of it.  but anyways  we are waiting for this guy to come named rod and this african guy who is black (like everyone, but you'll see why i say that) comes up and starts talking to me and at first i thought it was him but then i found out he was crazy.  he told me that he knew me and that he gave me his address before and i was like i'm sorry, i've only been here for like 3 weeks at most and i've never met you, but he kept insisting.  then he was like, i know you i remember you. don't you remember me?  i'm the president of the society of white people in africa....i'm the president of africa!!  i almost just busted up laughing and had to hold it in.  he finally just got frustrated that i kept telling him that i didn't know who he was and left.  it was great.  

quick story about rod though.  we taught him just a quick lesson when he showed up and he was explaining what he believed and it went along so well with the gospel. it was soo awesome.  he was like, i think that everyone says that they have a prophet today, but a prophet is not just anyone even if they get revelation.  it is someone called of god that speaks for god and leads the people.  or he was like i think every church has little bits of the truth, and so i like learning what others believe so that i can take the things i know are true and apply them to make me better.  and after we explained a little about the restoration and book of mormon he was like great.  all i need to do now is read and study for myself to find out if this is true.  i thought who is this guy. i dont need to do anything, just show him the right direction and he'll do the rest.  i hope he figures out that this is true, and finds the things he is looking for here because i know he can.  it was really cool.

the next guy was later.  we were walking and it was late and dark and this guy walks right up to me with this kind of puzzled, interested and confused look on his face.  maybe i know who he is but just can't tell who he is because it is so dark.  but he walked right up and just started staring at my face.  he was 6 inches from my face and just stayed there for like 10 seconds and i was like what the heck who is this guy and then he said hello in the broken french and was like missionary?  and i was like yep. and he asked a couple other questions then just walked off.  it was super weird especially right at the beginning when he just stared at me uncomfortably close to my face.  haha africans what crazy people.  

we have eaten a couple times at guillome's house.  we call it a mangez-vous instead of rendez-vous.  people have pets.  some have little dogs.  i told you about olivier who has the monkey named mwamba.  i forgot again to take a picture of him.  i'll get one next week.  there are chickens EVERYWHERE.  they are just running around in the streets and homes and just everywhere.  they are nasty, but i think they belong generally to the people who they hang around.  some people have a cat too, but that's pretty much it.

it has rained i think three days so far.  two of the three were just sprinkles not anything really and the other day it poured pretty good for just a little bit.  we had to go get our clothes that were up on the roof, but they were already super wet.  it will just start pouring really quick.  but i haven't had to walk in the rain yet, but i'll tell you when i do.  

most common dialect is called évé  i think that's how it is spelled and yeah every chance i get i am having people tell me new words.  they love it when i say even small things.  some things are really easy about évé.  like there isn't much conjugation except when you change tenses, but other things are super hard, some of the sounds are like impossible to make.  like gni is to be.  and also mi and mi is nous or vous depending on the way you say it.  and o and o is tu or ils depending on whether you say them going up or down.  it is so confusing, but i love it and i want to learn it all.  

elder potter is at atiegou, but we are in the same zone so we get to see him every once in a while.  just tell sam and natalie they will be awesome and good luck.  

i don't have any pictures this week but i will take some next week.  i wish i could describe how it is here, i can't explain it fully in words.  everything is different, from the water to shaking hands to the way people live.  but i love it and the people are so awesome. compared to the united states they have nothing, they live off like 1 dollar maybe 2 a day.  the missionaries live so good here, but they are happy.  also random fact.  africans can sleep whenever, wherever, especially kids.  not joking.  parents will just lay their kid down on a pile of rocks and he just zonks out.  or people will sleep just passed out on the side of the road in the shade or on their motos or really just wherever.  its kinda awesome.  

well love you all, good luck with school, keep up the good work.  
loves Elder Rybin  

March 11, 2013 - Baptism & Food

Monday, March 11, 2013,  5:55 pm
hello again everyone!!!

it is good to read all your letters.  that picture i took last week was from the car on a road in benin that they are going to pave soon.  and just wait until the highlights of the week to know that i am on a different continent but i'll save those for the end. :)  

we wash our clothes in a little gazebo thing that is just outside our house but inside our walls. where we have some space. our house is super nice compared to pretty much everyone else though.  most people here live in little cement walled compounds called cours.  they have cement floors and they are tiny.  it is humbling to see the lifestyle of people here.  we have soo much in america. so they will do their laundry wherever there is space. shirts get clean....kinda, i am still learning, but it is not impossible, it is just hard and makes my fingers raw.  i soaked some of my shirts saturday night over sunday in soap and bleach so they were better to wash this week.

i usually eat fruit, or eggs or this lady comes around with some bread and beans that we can buy in the morning.  she walks down the street carrying this big huge bowl on her head that had all this stuff in it and then yells and anyone who wants some can come out and buy some.  and that is another thing, everyone carries things on the heads.  it's awesome, i am going to try it.  and i mean pretty much anything.  and they ride they're motos around with tons of people and stuff on them.  i saw a whole family on one little 125 moto, a mom and dad and four kids.  and also i saw four adults one time.  it's insane and dangerous.  

we eat all together and take turns cooking.  we usually eat chicken and noodles or rice with some sauce stuff.  my companion joined the church when he was 16 or so and is 22 now.  all the african missionaries are a lot older.  elder mukenga is actually going to be 26 tomorrow.   i'm glad you saw the video, [of the children singing "yovo yovo. . ."] and yeah some will just run up and latch onto my legs some will run and some just laugh just depends, but yeah they don't bother elder ouonnebo as much.  

i am just going down the list here of all your questions i hope you don't mind.  branch is called hedzranawoe 3, the members are awesome, but there is a lot of less active members.  they are just about done with the first church building in our mission though and it should be opening in a month or so is the rumors, but that will be our new church.  finding people, we just talk to everyone, walk into peoples cour and talk to them, most people will say something like oh yeah that's awesome, but i'm super busy right now, and so we'll say, when can we come back, and they will say oh anytime, i'm always here and available but right now i'm busy.  haha, but there are a lot of receptive people, which is really good.  but finding the people who are truly prepared is a little harder.  

it gets light pretty early, the sun is fully up and out by 6 15, but it also gets dark starting at like 6 and is way dark by like 6 30.  the humidity and heat is getting better i am adjusting, but my skin is not dry at all, my elbows feels so smooth and good it is amazing! i think that is pretty much everything,

now for the highlights of the week.  drum roll...i got to pet a monkey named mwamba this week, it was awesome.  it didn't have my camera but i'll try to get a picture of him.  and that fried fish head that i have a pictures of -  i ate one of his eyeballs and his brain.  fish have like little rocks in their brain and it wasn't that great, but they eat everything here.  and just today for lunch, we had pat (this like dough stuff that looks and feels like play dough) and chenille which is caterpillar :) it was pretty nasty looking in the sauce stuff,  i have some pictures.  they were like crunchy and chewy.  those little beasties have some meat inside of them.  some of them are pretty big too.  probably about an inch, inch and a half when they were full and bigger than a pencil around.  it was definitely an experience.  Elder McCrays birthday is coming up right before he leaves and we are going to try and get a monkey to eat for his cake, so i'll let you know how our hunt goes :).  

i think that is all.  love you all.  thanks for the letters.  
love love love Elder Rybin

I almost forgot!  the best part of the week was on Saturday. we had a baptism!!  his name is guillome (gee-um) and his is 18.  he is super awesome.  that is his mom and sister with him and me.  do you like those pants that i found there?  haha they were awesome.  the baptismal font is outside too.  that was awesome.  i got to baptize him and also two other people, but we only taught guillome.  we are teaching his mom and sister right now and they came to church yesterday for the first time, and i was excited because they got to see Guillome get confirmed.  the big picture is all the missionaries and their people getting baptized.  And president and his wife were there too.  

good luck, thanks, and love you all, Elder Rybin

March 4, 2013 First week in Lome, Togo

Bon soir family,

thanks for all the letters.  dad thanks for the update, those are some major miracles and i'm glad things are working out there.  

there is so much to tell that i hope i can remember it all.  and so i'm going to jump right in.  i am great.  the flights from the US were long and hard.  we didn't really get any cool opportunities to teach besides that one guy on the first flight i told you about.  

On the drive from Cotonou, Benin to Lome, Togo
first impression of africa is that it is sooooooooo hot here :)  i wasn't even off the plane and i could feel the humidity wrap around me like a big old blanket in the middle of summer.  it was dark so i couldn't see much but i could definitely feel the heat.  the people here are awesome though.  so humble, so giving, and happy.  even though when you are walking down the street everyone looks angry, but you smile and wave and say hello and they get this big old smile and wave back, at least most people.  the kids are my favorite.  the song the sing is "yovo yovo bon soir ca va bien merci".  sometimes they just sing "yovo yovo bon soir" over and over.  it is great though, every single kid does it.  i get it at least 10 times a day by groups of kids probably on every street we walk down.  some will run up and grab my hand and laugh, others just laugh. [yovo is white boy in Fon]  all the kids are just playing soccer all the time in the streets too.  sorry this is bad spelling but this keyboard here sucks and i am trying to go fast to get more in. [And I am trying to correct the spelling!] 

Bedroom with mosquito nets and fans to help 
them sleep at night without getting bit
the french here is really different though, at least the accent.  but it is coming.  some people i can understand pretty much everything they say and others nothing.  i have some pictures i will send to you too. my companion is elder ouonnebo pronouced "wan-eh-bo"  he is from the Cote d'Ivoire.  so is elder gomen.  elder mukenga is from the congo.  elder gomen is elder hales companion and the district leader.  elder mccray and mukenga are the zone leaders too. elder mccray used to be the assistant, and he goes home in less than three weeks.  its weird to have us newbees and him there, but really helpful.

Elder Ouonnebo
our appartement [French spelling] is old, but pretty big, not bad though.  we have a roof we can get on and it is where we work out in the morning,  i have some pictures from up there too.  cold showers are not bad at all.  they are actually really nice because it is so hot all the time. 
rooftop views


we finished our laundry a little bit ago and that was an adventure.  my fingers are raw in some places. it took me and elder hales forever.  but ca va aller (they say that all the time here, especially to me haha).  
"White" shirt after one day :)

Elder Ouonnebo and the "laundromat"

Gulf of Guinea
the drive to togo was long but good.  we got to see a lot of stuff like the ocean too.  i have some pictures of that too.  the members here are awesome, but there are a lot of less actives.  we are pretty far from the church and so it is hard to get investigators to come to church. we eat pretty much chicken and noodles or chicken and rice.  we just got back from the marche where we bought some fish too.  i bought 4 pineapples for 900 cfa, which is just under 2 bucks. they are a little smaller the ones we have in the states but they are soooo good.  they taste like candy.  especially since we have no candy.  haha.

yesterday elder hales almost died fasting, and i wasn't far behind.  i brought some water to drink once we were done because we were going to finish before we got home, but elder hales had to drink it in church because he was about ready to pass out haha.  i drink so much water here, because i am constantly sweating.  so once we walked for a half an hour to church and sweated out everything we had in us we were dying, but we made it haha.  

its ok, we are all fine here.  so much to tell but i have to go so i can send pictures too.  but love you all, the questions help me focus my writing so thanks for those.  and tell everyone they can email me.  thanks so much.  love love love.  oh ps they didn't have a refill for the scripture marking pen i have at the mtc because they were all out, so when you send a package will you squeeze that in there.  no rush and don't feel obligated to send me stuff.  i can get pretty much everything i need here, but when that comes that would be helpful.  thanks again.  love you all.  Elder Rybin

love you all.  have a great week.
love, elder rybin