June 24, 2013 - Amazing and awesome Africans

hello family! 
sounds like the week has gone great!  this week has flown by and the last 6 months too.  crazy!  summer.... just like i remember: dream filled, but ending up being a lazy reality, but got to love it! yesterday was awesome!  we had 6 amis at church booyah!!! fofo our super poor friend came.  man i love him so much. he is so prepared for the gospel!  also another ami,  remi came.  also an amazingly prepared person.  africans are so prepared! i love it. we have only had 2 quick lessons with him, and talked a little about baptism, but yesterday he told us he wants to get baptized, this saturday or the next.  we were so shocked, but it's awesome.  it will take a lot but this saturday could happen, but i know he will even if its next saturday.   also yolande was there at church.  an amazing lady, that is going to get baptized this saturday too. like i said africans are awesome. 

so we're working hard, but always need to be working harder. there is so much to do.  we are planning on visiting a lot of less actives this week and next to help our branch. should make out to be challenging seeing as most don't have addresses. the ones that do aren't really that helpful, some have old phone numbers, and some are just a weird african name, but we've got some members to help and we are on the hunt!  i love talking to people here, i wish you could just come and talk to the first 100 people you see and you would understand, they're all so crazy and awesome. they have great stories.  they all need the gospel. 

elder digbe, sheesh he's great, great teacher.  he loves to teach with questions and i'm learning a lot from him.  he says he likes teaching with questions because it helps people figure it out themselves, which is the best way they can learn. (learning by faith, benjamin thanks for that talk, i've learned a lot from it, and all the others too that you guys sent me).  he has been a member all his life actually. his family is members.  i'm loading a picture right now.  also when i was going through the pictures i saw one of the baptism saturday.  can you guess?  patience!!! yes i was so happy for her. her son guillaume baptized her. i love that family so much, they are (i feel like ive said amazing and awesome way too much already describing people here, but sorry, they just are and i can't think of a better way) awesome and amazing!  that just made my whole day. 

also sad news, our couple the leavitts are leaving this week they are great too.  i will sincerely miss them.  the eastmans are coming from benin to stay with us for a bit, until the new couple comes.  there are normally three couples here. one togo, one benin, and one office - also in benin, so two benin.  should be good.  the leavitts have served three missions in west africa already and are super great people. i will miss them a lot. 

this morning we played basketball!  first time in a long time.  it was a big activity with all the missionaries in togo and went good.  its been a long time.  most africans don't really play basketball, just soccer, but the ones that do jump.  also there was one member, the hugest man i've seen here. he's like 6' 8" from our branch.  he came and threw it down a couple of times but he was on my team so we're all good, i'm still alive. 

that's a great story.  i've heard it before, probably at timberline.  nathan how was that?  good?  but it's still a great story and i loved reading it.  no i haven't tried cream of wheat.  what the heck is germade or whatever?  yea, mom you cook too good so i didn't really know anything, but i can make some great spaghetti now.  so yeah what is germade, or something like it i can use.  i eat oatmeal a lot of mornings and make pancakes or french toast frequently. saturday we made tons of french toast and i mean a lot. we made it for the whole apartment. i ate 15 pieces of french toast.  and yeah struggled moving for most of the day but it was great.  i think that is all for this week.  i love you all.  thanks for your prayers and letters and everything else. :) 

enjoy the pictures! 
Love Elder Rybin

June 17, 2013 - New companion, humble people

Hey family! 

Lots of changes this week, but I'm learning a lot already.  Elder Digbe (said like dig bay) is a great missionary.  He is a great teacher and has already taught me some things that I am improving about my teaching.  I really excited to work with him.  Its a little different having to lead around the secteur and show all the investigators, but I'm learning a lot.  Elder Hales' companion is Elder Sery (said like the iphone). 

not much super exciting happened this week.  the scale says that i've lost 40 pounds! or at least the last time that i checked it.  sheesh i'm wasting away. 

i had a super humbling experience yesterday.  we had talked to one investigator who is really interested and loving the message about coming to church.  his name is Fofo.  he said he was coming and then wasn't there so we stopped by that evening to see why he wasn't there.  he told us he didn't come because he didn't have anything to wear to go into the lords house.  he is really young probably like 21 ish and has two little kids, he is trying to go to an apprenticeship thing and work, but basically has nothing.  he has one t-shirt and one pair of cut of jeans that he can wear every day, and probably washes once a week.  he literally has nothing.  he was ashamed, and told us that he wanted to come but couldn't disrespect the lords house like that.  we told him the lord doesn't care about any of that but looks at our hearts.  elder digbe is giving him one of his pants that is too long tomorrow and so he can come to church next week. 

I was super humbled, ashamed even about what i have now, and had at home.  I knew that poverty existed, and had even seen pictures and movies, but i didn't ever really understand what poverty is.  Don't ever take anything for granted! God loves us all.  All He does is for our good and benefit, if we will but accept his will everything will turn out in the end.  1 nephi 7:12 i think explains a little of that. i read it this week its nephi talking to his brothers to build their faith.  says something like Don't you know that god is able to do all things? "soyons lui donc fidele" or "therefore let us be faithful to him".  gods goal is our eternal happiness! if we follow him that's where he'll lead us so stop worrying about all the stuff that doesn't matter and just trust in him. 

i love the gospel!  i am learning so much, learning some things that i knew before, but didn't fully understand the significance of.  well that's all i've got to say about that :) 

I love you all!  trust in God!  have a great week!
Elder Rybin

June ramblings from Elder Semken, Sr. Missionary in Benin Cotonou Mission

2 June 2013

To all,
The missionary work here is progressing very well.  A new group was started 4 weeks ago.  The 1st week 58 attended; 73 the next; 89 the next and today 93.  This group is the Cococodji group.  Recommendations for a branch are now in the pipeline.  The space they meet in will accommodate 50 maybe; so we set the other chairs outside for people to sit on.  We take the podium to the door and the speakers can then speak to both groups.  Since it is only a group we hold Sacrament meeting; then Sunday School.  This group is on the extreme dusty roads.
Sister Semken and I went to Togo two weeks ago and participated in a missionary activity of climbing some mountain up to a waterfall.  It was a delightful experience.  We got to see Africa like I had imagined it to be.  Lush undergrowth and trees.  The hike took about 2 1/2 hours.  I got acquainted with missionaries that we hadn't met yet and got reacquainted with those we knew.  The elders loved the exercise, the beauty, the food, getting away from the city and especially the opportunity to visit.
This past week President/Elder Dickson of the West Africa Area held mission conferences in Togo and Benin.  He spoke this past conference.  He is absolutely wonderful.  His wife as well.  He has served for 21 years as a General Authority.  He was mission president in Mexico at the age of about 36.  Two of their 8 children were born while they were serving as the mission President.  The last 16 years he has been serving outside of the USA.  He is turning 70 and will be officially released in October.  He told us that the Africa area is doing extremely well.  We are growing from positions of strength.  He said, and we know as well, that we can go into villages and baptize 30-50 people in a couple of weeks.  But then, we don't have the capacity to serve them, teach them and etc.  So they would die on the vine so of speak.  As we continue to grow we will get to the villages.  Cotonou, Benin will be getting 4 new branches.  Two have already been approved and the other two are on the way.  We expect at least one other branch before year end.  Lome, Togo could also see another branch. Recently a couple of branches were established.
President Dickson talked to the missionaries about teaching people the law of tithing.  We should not fear.  If they keep this covenant, as well as each of us, they will receive the priesthood and be prepared for the temple covenants as well.  This now appears to be the time for these African people to receive the greatest message ever given.  The restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith; the true nature of the Godhead; the understanding of the who and what man is.  We bring joy and happiness to the lives of so many.  You can't hardly believe the stories that are told about conversions, healing, changes in lifestyles, and gaining understanding and knowledge.  If the leaders make any mistakes it is only because they do not know.  It is interesting that they are willing to receive counsel.  They are teachable.  There is much being done and much to do. 
The elders received counsel about who they are as missionaries:  Alma 13:3; Ether and finding solutions to challenges; Jacob 5; D&C 42; D&C 43 being taught from on High and endowed with power.  Instruction was given about their Temple experience.
Each missionary is weaving his own tapestry of his mission.  When this one is done I think they will be pleased if they have been willing to be obedient.  Of course none of us are perfect.  Each missionary has different perspectives and each experience is tailor made just for that missionary.  They definitely learn about different cultures.  Their companions are from many cultures; French, Madagash, Congolese, Liberian, Nigerian, Ghanan, Ivorian, and of course American.  Boy, this is a challenge, food, language, knowledge, environment, governments, etc.  I think that in general these elders do an amazing job of adapting.  It will be good for them in future years.   They are happy and generally healthy.  Most lose a few pounds.  They work hard.
We will receive 7 new sisters and 5 new elders on June12-13.  We are so very excited.  There is one elder from Scotland, this should be fun to see how he speaks french with a Scottish accent.  We will hear.  
Sister Semken and I are glad to be here.  We thank you for your sons and daughters, they are a pearl of great price, as you must be so as well. 
Elder Semken

June 10, 2013 - Money in Togo

another week has flown by! sounds like summer is going good back home everyone busy as usual.  nathan that sounds like an awesome trip. we just got back from eating at a members house.  we ate foutou or pat from plantains with some weird sauce.  it was really good though.  we are eating again tonight but i'm not sure what they are making for us.

This week is transfer week and there are some huge changes. this is a really big transfer.  Elder Ouonnebo, Elder Gomun, and Elder Rantoniana are all leaving Hedzranawoe, and pretty much every apartment has some changes.  Elder Digbe is going to be my new companion.  he is from cote d'ivoire like elder ouonnebo.  and he is coming from kelegougon just north of us so i already know him a little because they are in our zone and go to church with attiegou in our chapel.  i'm a little sad to see elder ouonnebo go, ive learned a lot so far but i'm excited to work with elder digbe.  An elder Siri or something like that is coming to be with elder hales and another american Elder Shearer is coming to be with elder kiputa as our new zone leader.  Elder Ouonnebo is jumping into the next secteur southish direction doumassesse and elder gomun is going to benin.  the transfer is happening wednesday for all inner-togo changes and i think thursday morning for benin-togo changes.  its going to be a little crazy i'm sure. 

yesterday we had a district conference for church.  it is just basically a stake conference but when its branches is a district.  so all the members in togo came to the new chapel for church.  we told everyone to come early to get a seat and so we could start on time.  we started an hour late... oh well though people just wouldn't stop coming.  from like 15 before 9 until after 10 it was a constant stream of members.  we filled every seat!  the missionaries had to stand in the back or on the sides even because there was so many people.  we had i think around 500 people there.  super awesome to see them all.  the new building is great and it was put to good use because it started pouring rain during the conference.  it's a little hard to tell from the pictures but no, the building is not as big as the ones back home.  it would be really small for a utah chapel, but it works so far for here.  

gaston and cherita and their daughter christina at the conference yesterday
also those are some pictures of the money that they use here.  that is all the coins front and back and then some bills.  they also have a blue 2000 bill but i didn't get a picture of that.  500 cfa is about 1 dollar.  


the way we convert is drop three zeros and double the number will give you amount in dollars.  so 10000 cfa is about 20 bucks.  5 cfa 1, cent etc.  and just to give you in general how much things cost a loaf of bread about the size mom makes will cost be 300 cfa about, or 60 cents.  you can get 30 eggs for 2500 cfa about.  that's just in general though to give you an idea.  pretty cool though right there's lots of weird symbols and pictures on the money that i hope you can see.  


well i think that is all for this week.  thanks for all your letters and enjoy the warm weather!  

i love you all!
Elder Rybin 

June 3, 2013 - New church building pictures


another week has flown by.  we are already in june!  where is the time going?  sounds like everyone has some pretty great summer plans.  everyone is taking off in a million different directions.  does benjamin even stay at home anymore? mom sounds like you had a great birthday. i wished you happy birthday on friday from africa i hope you heard. :) 

mama patience didn't get baptized this last week but we are hopeful for the next week or two.  i really love that family a lot and i know it will all work out eventually.  she is awesome though, really starting to see the benefits of the gospel and the changes in her kids and on their family. 

i hear there is watermelon here and i think i've seen some but it's not that great i hear.  i'll have to find some to try. cantaloupe the same.  the fruit in africa that is amazing is AMAZING but the others that are just eh are just eh.  

yeah we do street contacting, and knock "doors" sometimes, but not super often.  it is usually our last resort.  yeah we can just walk into a cour and talk to people, most of the time it's family that lives together.  it's too expensive to move or start your own place most of the time so sometimes they'll just build another little room in their cour for a new family. 

people love to talk about Jesus Christ though, it's really amazing.  we taught a cool lesson last night too.  we taught these guys that were contacts from another secteur,  richard and honorĂ©.  they are really searching for the truth, and want answers.  we didn't have a lot of time, but they were just so hungry to learn and had so many awesome questions.  i told them at the end that i loved their questions and that we have the answers, that they don't need to search anymore because i know this is the truth they've been searching for.  so they are showing a lot of promise i hope all turns out well. 

elder dickson's visit was super awesome.  he and sister dickson are really awesome people.  they live in ghana right now and have for the past 4 years i think and they have lived all over the world serving where the apostles call them.  really they have sacrificed so much, its inspiring. i learned a lot and took some notes in my journal. 

speaking of which i am coming up on the last few pages of my journal and so i still have the two others you sent while i was in the mtc, but if you send one more i think that will be enough to last until the end.  so you can add that to the list.  also a lot of elders get packages and there is a lot of stuff that we can get here pretty simple.  it's kind of weird what you can and can't get and how easily, so send me a list of things you are thinking about sending and i'll tell you yeah nay, thank you :). 

summer there looks great, grass... i never thought i'd miss it like i do.  mowing the lawn is a small price to pay to have some grass.  never thought you'd hear me say that right? i didn't either haha.  don't know what you've got till it's gone.  so true.  it rained a really hard yesterday afternoon.  when it rains, wow, it really rains.  streets are rivers, crazy.  mud too.  lots and lots of mud.  it makes things interesting.  pictures of the church finally. and just a random street where we were walking on the way home from church so enjoy! i think that is all for this week.  


thanks for all your letters and prayers.  have a great week and a great start to summer! 
Love Elder Rybin