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