Elder Semken, Sr. Missionary's 6/27/13 ramblings

Hello to all of you,
     Your missionaries are doing well.  They are firm in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am sure that you would be very impressed, as I am, when they teach and witness to the truthfulness of the restoration.  The missionaries have studied well.  Even the new elders study and learn a great deal in depth.  The new members generally do very well.  Their activity is good.  The converts are lifted up as having "a brightness of hope" and then lift the people around them.  The rain season has been minimal thus far.  I get conflicting reports as to when the rainy season is here.  Most said June to or through Sept.  I did just read a security report that said that the rainy season is July to early Sept.  Even with that the elders in Finagnon sometimes wear rubber irrigation boots in some areas.
    We are entering a period of time when we will have 24 elders released from their missionary service.  Most of these elders are from the Congo. We only have 15 scheduled to arrive.  We anticipate more in Nov, Dec, and Jan.
     This is also a time of expansion.  Baptisms have been consistent at about 60 per month.  In Togo we now have enough members to form a stake.  In Cotonou we have just approved 4 new branches.  This is to make it easier for the members to attend church.  The Cococodji branch just received final approval last week.  We have secured a beautiful building for them to meet in.  We had hoped to begin meeting their this week, but the current occupants won't be out until the end of July.
      I just can't believe  the wonderful and miraculous conversions that happen.  For example:  Some elders were beginning to teach a family the gospel.  The two older daughter (their ages about 22 and 24) were furious and didn't want their family to take the lessons.  They were against the missionaries from the start.  Well, as you know, in Cotonou though French is the primary language.  But there are significant other tribal languages which has caused a sort of "merging" words and phrases that it is difficult to always convey the whole meaning of thoughts.  In this case, Fon was also spoken.  A language a few of the elders become familiar.  So, the elders asked the 2 older girls to translate from the French to Fon and back, etc.  They said that they would help just so they could show their parents how foolish of them to listen to these elders.  As the discussion progressed the family was ready to be baptized but not the 2 girls.  The family was baptized, and as you might know by now the 2 girls wanted to be baptized.  Just amazing.  At their baptism the sister missionaries showed up.  The girls didn't know that we had sister missionaries.  These beautiful converts were anxious to visit the sister following the meeting.  They did.  The next day (Sunday) I was at the branch.  The boys of the family requested a blessing.  I invited the family to come in.  It was "finals" time at school and they thought that it would help.  Following that the 2 girls requested a blessing the following week since it would be their week of "finals".  President Weed was there to accommodate their wish.  
     This kind of experience is not unusual. Your sons and daughters are in the middle of this.
     We had the final visit of one of the seventy.  Elder Dickson and his wife.  He is now 70 and will be formally released in October.  But, this was his last Mission tour and Zone Conference.  He is just wonderful.  He has been involved with 460 stake reorganizations etc.  He has been the Africa West Area President for several years.  He served as a mission president one or two times.  He spoke at this past April Conference.  He had to have his right arm amputated just before he left for his mission when he was 19.  He says that it has been a blessing to have lost his arm.  You see, challenges are for everyone.  He had a successful business when he was called to serve as a mission president at age 36.  They had 2 of their children born during that time.  
     Your missionaries are blessed with various challenges as well.  We notice their change.  They grow.  They learn about the 8 or 9 other cultures from the missionaries of various cultures.  It is not easy.  But, they are more than equal to the task.  We love their enthusiasm.
     I thought that we had come to serve and in the end it is us who have been served by them, the missionaries and the people of Benin and Togo.  How blessed we have been.  We can hardly wait to see what happens during the next half of our mission.
     We wish you well. Your missionaries pray for you.  They are glad to be here. They are in very good hands, the Lord's hand.
          Elder Semken