Elder Semken, Sr. Missionary's 7/21/13 ramblings

21 July 2013
     I take this moment to inform you that today the Cococodji Branch was created.  A long time member and friend, Paul Dansu, is the new branch President.  He is our egg man.  He started an egg farm with the encouragement of the Southams and has done well.  His first counselor in Elvis, a young returned missionary, he and his wife recently had their first child.  
     This is the first branch that Francine and I had an opportunity to have a lot of involvement.  The missionaries were assigned to this area only in February of this year (2013).  The mission president had a tug-a-war as to where we should send two sets of missionaries because of the very limited number of missionaries in the field.  He could have sent them to Porto Novo which was the expected place to send them since there are several members there.  Another area that was a possibility was Calavi. The members out in Cococodji were being serviced very well by the Menotin Branch.  The President sent me out to explore all three areas with an office elder.  A set of Assistants to the Mission President were also sent to Porto Novo to get their opinion.  Our reports said that all three areas could support missionaries.  The President consulted with the Branch Presidency.  There input was invaluable.  They liked Calavi and Cococodji.  The President then decided after careful consideration and imploring with the Lord what he should do.  He decided to send them to Cococodji.
    As I have mentioned the first week we had 47, then 54 and today there was 103 on a rainy day.  Last week there were 110.  
    Getting the building we now meet in was an interesting event as well.  Today was the first day of meetings in this beautiful building.  This building can accommodate two branches at the same time.  The lot is beautifully landscaped.  I love it!  And I have some new ideas that I could incorporate in my yard.  Not that I could have the same vegetation, no palm trees grow where I live in Utah.  Nevertheless I have some new ideas.  Oh dear, says Francine.  
     The available buildings for a branch were in reality not in existence.  We us Paul Toffi to help us find apartments.  I requested his assistance.  In a day or two he was at the office explaining to us what he had found.  Now it seem that Paul knows everyone.  He found a building that was occupied some Chinese road consultants that were about to vacate the building.  He found the building because he knew someone who knew about this landlord.  So we entered negotiations.  The price was way to high which is normal. We got it down to where we could be serious about it.  The members in the area frequently could not go to the Menotin Branch building because of its cost.  So, Paul went a days journey north to visit the landlord (the wife and owner)  her husband was in Liberia.  As it turns out the village Paul went to is where Paul had lived and he knew the wife.  They agreed on a price and then he brought the proposal back to which we negotiated the final agreement.  The Lord absolutely knows and directs people to fulfill his purposes.  He is involved in the details.  I am but an instrument in his hands for I could never have known about this place, I didn't know the landlord, I didn't live in their village as a youth, I don't speak French.  Stop and think how things can turn out.  
     Yesterday, Saturday 20 July 2013, the elders and I went to prepare the building for the meeting.  We had to make five trips to take chairs, etc.  I wasn't surprised when many members just showed up to work.  Youth and adults and a couple of babies.  I had Elder Welch be the supervisor.  His companion Elder Mulumba was the chief coordinator to the members.  The work that was completed was nothing short of spectacular!  People just went to work! Willingly!  A couple of sisters swept the entire long driveway (125 yards long)  and the walkways that beautifully mark the attractive landscaped facilities.  Of course the women were their beautiful clothes to perform this service.  They do not wear "grubbies" for work done for the Lord.  I am so touched by the respect that they have for the church grounds and that they know that the Lord is well pleased.
     Today, there was adequate room for everyone.  They were as excited as children opening presents on Christmas morning.  Though that for them is but a dream.  But, they feel and felt the need to be there to perform this task.  
     I took a lot of pictures.  After the meeting everyone wanted their picture taken.  It really started when a father requested (in French, but I understood perfectly what he wanted) that I take his picture with his family.  You see this marks a great day in the lives of these people.  And it does.  It also, makes a great day in Francine and my life as well.  They were very reverent and respectful during the services.
     Thank you for your missionaries and for your support and prayers,
               Elder Semken