9/23/13 - blessings, second rainy season, ami martin

happy birthday!  can you believe that its already the end of september?  i don't know.  what's all the plans for the birthday?  you'll have to let me know how it goes.  i'll wish you happy birthday, nathan and emma, friday.  fall is coming.  have fun in winter!! haha. 

today was a super nice day cloudy and rainy and cool-ish.  the second rainy season is right now but for the moment it's pretty wimpy, but it's been pretty windy lately.  overall the only temperature we have here is humid.  its good though, i haven't had to wear chapstick since being here, my elbows are so smooth! it's awesome, no dry hands or skin.  i kinda like it.  unless its combined with 95 degree sun, then i just die. but sounds like you all are still having fun even with school, the utah byu game, eating at foriegn restaurants, birthdays, etc etc.

this last week president weed came around and did his interviews with all the missionaries in Togo, it went really well, i learned some things. president is so wise, i love it. sister weed challenged us to make a list of 100 things that were grateful for, it was awesome! i copied mine into my journal, and i'm thinking about getting another journal and making just a list, at least one thing per day, of things i'm grateful for, i'm not sure how exactly i'm going to do it but we'll see. 

president said that we are getting 20 new missionaries at the beginning of october ( around when elder Ndaye and Rakatsoniaina leave) and so a lot of people are going to have to train, and it's going to be a huge mutation [transfer], we'll see what happens.

i've been learning lately a lot about grace: the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement.  what a huge blessing. i've been focusing a lot on improving my personal prayers, and it's taking a lot of work, but i've seen some improvement, studying the atonement and grace is helping me change my prayers.

not really any crazy stories for this week, but we did have another lesson with our ami [investigator] martin.  he is one of my favorite people to teach.  he is a philosophy teacher, and super smart and loves learning.  a lot of  smart people we talk to or people that know a lot about the bible love to show off how much they know by just talking and talking and quoting scripture, which is frustrating when you're trying to teach.  but with martin, he is so receptive, and is just soaking it all up ,and he understands it too. it's like someone doing a puzzle that just can't put all the pieces together fast enough, and we just keep feeding him the right pieces, and he puts it all together himself.  it's so awesome to see and i love teaching him.  only problem is that he has so many responsibilities in his own church he hasn't been able to come to church yet.  but he told us this week: "don't think that you're wasting your time here.  what you're doing here with me and what you do with others is amazing".  he'll come to church, i'm sure of it, but it'll take some time, prayers, lots of faith and gods help.

Thanks for all your letters and stories.  have a great week!
I love you all!
Elder Rybin

9/16/2013 - more flying animals, small world, pictures


hello again.  sounds like your week has been super busy with school.  thanks for the food ideas.  i know it's hard because you don't know what i have but rice, yep definitely have rice, but no cheese or tortillas.  i can get bread though, normal bread.  it's good to hear that Sam is doing better thanks for the update. 

i don't know what it is with flying animals in our apartment lately but right before we left there was a bird in our apartment, so we prepared our broom, and hit him once to get him to stop flying and grabbed him and put him outside.  heather is getting so big!  crazy walking soon, what? she looks like a little trina.
other random news: i met the parents of ami bennion yesterday at church.  apparently they are missionaries in ghana for some young adult thing in west africa, and they are here in togo to do some seminars or something like that, anyway they were at our church, and they asked me where i was from and i said american fork and they said, oh we have a daughter who lives there and i asked where and they said just south and west of the temple, and i hesitated, trying to orient myself, and was thinking that's where i live.... and they were like do you know where the hospital is, and i said yep i live right across the street.  anyways, didn't get to talk much just a couple of minutes, but small world.

the soles inside my shoes on one of my pairs are wearing out.  i don't think i can find those anywhere so if you could add that to the list.

this week i memorized d and c 122: 5-9 and d and c 121: 34-46 both in french.  it took a little time and i'm still polishing them up but it was good.  i love how in d and c 121: 7 or 8 or something like that and 122: 8 god says "mon fils" [my son].  i don't think there is a title more comforting god could use.  president utchdorf used it as one of his 4 titles in his preisthood session talk too.  very cool. speaking of scriptures my goal is to finish the new testament by the end of the month, i just finish Colossians today and so i think i have to read about 5 pages in my french bible a day, making about 14 days, so perfect.  i have really liked reading the new testament, i've learned a lot. 

pictures this week: we were sitting outside the house of one of our investigators and i saw those clouds rolling by and decided to take a picture. 

thats engonam and mathias and onivia and prince the family we just baptized last month, at church yesterday.  don't worry they're happy people here just don't smile much in pictures. not really sure why, it's like those old, old pictures we have.

and last of all that's a big old lizard.  just soaking up the sun on our wall.  i'm not sure if you can tell but he's like a foot long from tail to nose.  pretty decent sized, but not the biggest we can see here.  lots of them though. 

well i think that is all for this week.  thanks for your letters.  love you all and have a great week!
Elder Rybin

9/16/2013 - lots of walking, area & house pictures

hey family, 

another week come and gone just like that.  thanks for all your letters and stories and prayers.

i'm jumping right in now.  mutation [transfer]: no one in attiegou is moving.  so i'm staying with elder ndaye for a couple more weeks until the next mutation because he's leaving in about 4 weeks.  so we'll have another mutation then.  that's when, or as far as i know, all the whole bunch of new missionaries are coming in because we're losing so many in these two transfers here.  elder hales is getting an elder lamaire, a french guy.  and the other biggest news for the mutation is that elder potter and elder garza are working together.  it's probably just for these few weeks because so many africans are leaving but still a pretty big surprise, two americans together. that never happens.
biggest story from this week is that last night we had a "chauve-souris" in our apartment.  literal translation is "bald mouse".  actual translation "bat".  so elder ndaye gets a broom and starts swinging at him.  i just was busting up laughing watching him try to get this little bat. after a couple minutes he got it though. haha
i borrowed a pedometer from elder landeen and have been seeing how far i walk. it has only been a couple of days so i haven't seen for the whole week but so far we walk a lot more than i thought.  when our medical forms said be able to walk something like 7 to 10 miles a day every day i was like ha i doubt we'll walk like that,  but yep its true.  we probably average 6 to 7 miles a day.  on those really long days i wouldn't be surprised if we hit 12, 13, 14 ish.  crazy huh?  lots of walking.  the church is a mile and a half from our apartment and we're there 3, 4 sometimes 5 times a week.
mom do you have some food ideas?  i'm getting tired of spaghetti, and rice with tomato sauce.  i know how to make a couple other simple things but any suggestions?  i don't have a lot of stuff, but if necessary i can find a surprisingly large amount of things, but any simple food ideas that are super quick.  thanks.  maybe i'll think of some spices i can't find here and you can throw those in the package to help. we'll see.  it depends on what ideas you come up with.

pictures this week. i have a lot!  first is out in the boonies of my secteur,  pretty much the very top of Lome, just looking out into the forest.

then there's another that looks back into Lomé a little.  not too great of photos but whatevs. 


also there are some sky pictures i took from our roof.  the sky here is amazing - the clouds are awesome.  

also there are some pictures of our apartment right as you come in the door, our terrace and kitchen and another room with the stairs that go to the roof.  

also there are some cool ties i bought.  they are hand made from these little beads.  this member lady makes them. that's the benin and togo flags, they are super sweet.  she went over to ghana to learn how to do it. cool huh?

thanks! love you all have a great week keep up the good work in school!
Elder Rybin

Elder Semken, Sr. Missionary's 9/7/13 ramblings

7 September 2013

I think that I have mentioned that I have a bird who likes to sing to me outside my window each morning at 6:30 am.  It brings me great joy to hear this bird.  I don't  know what kind of bird it is because I have yet to see it.  It sings for about 15 minutes.  It doesn't wake me up because by the time it starts I have been up for an hour or so.  Its sounds are so different than the rat race of life in Cotonou.  It is melodic.  It is peaceful.  A far cry from the motos and cars that are always honking. 

Hello to all of you;  it has been sometime since I last wrote and not because we haven't been doing much.  Our days are filled with new events on a very regular basis.  Just when we think we have seen or heard everything something happens which causes me to take pause and examine what I think may have occurred.  
This past while I have noticed how the people speak so positively and unashamedly they about the gospel of Jesus Christ and His ministry.  They seem to recognize, at least those who are somewhat tuned into finding the purpose of life, the great power that comes from living the precepts of the gospel.  They announce that it is God who provides whatever it is they have; their families, their food, their home.  They hold in great reverence the power of the priesthood and know that the authority is here on the earth again.  As they learn the gospel they learn that love is the most divine of all the attributes of God.  They are patient, yet anxious.  They have few of the many distractions of life that we have in the States.  They also know that there are many more blessing that await them.  Once baptized they immediately begin to prepare to go to the temple.  They do baptisms for the dead. They do a lot of family history work.  Then after one year they can enter into the other covenants of temple and receive great blessing in this life and in the life yet to come.  They tell me that the gospel has great power.  The missionaries continue to teach the converts for some time about these other blessings.  They recognize that have just entered onto the path of exaltation by exercising faith, repenting and being baptized.
There are great challenges for each of these people.  There is sickness, unemployment, lack of basic things we take for granted like clean water and electricity and sewage disposal.  Then lack of good education and providing food is a daily challenge.  Then there are the challenges of society which are described in the Book of Mormon.  
There have been some tender moments that I have observed which made me wonder why I haven't paid attention to these emotions that our missionaries face.  We have four new sisters that have recently entered the mission field. Not the new ones from this week.  Sister Semken and I inspect the missionary apartments for cleanliness, to take cleaning supplies and the Ensign (the Liahona), new cups, plates, and such.  We are so pleased to see them.  And they us.  The first question asked is : do you have any mail for me.  The apartment that is the neatest and cleanest get taken to lunch.  Certainly nothing extravagant.  Well the competition is keen.  The difference is now down to doing something extra special.  For example the missionaries have a fans to keep them cool during the day and at night the fan is placed directly on the missionary.  I notice that there was like a "rust" or "dirt build up on the cages and the blades.  I suggested that they clean them off so the air could flow better and the dirt wouldn't get into their throats.  Well this past week I noticed in one apartment how clean the fans were.  They told me they took the fans completely apart and washed every fan.  WoW.  The apartments are so clean that we now have 6, 7, or 8 that score nearly 100% on cleanliness.  Well, back to the sisters.  The sisters apartments the first month were not too good.  Then the next month one of the sister's apartment would be rated as 5 star hotel.  It was immaculate, spotless, under the beds, the furniture, the dishes, the refrigerator was as clean as any you would see in the best restaurants.  We immediately informed them they were the winner.  One very gracious sister went into the kitchen all excited and told the sister in the kitchen that they had won that day.  They came out of the kitchen jumping and dancing.  The other sister's joined in.  It was as if it were a double Christmas.  
Shortly after I asked the sisters about home.  Three of the four had been members for 15 years.  There families were members for longer periods of time.  The other sister had been a member of the church for only two years.  I asked if the first time they attended the temple was when the entered the MTC.  Yes, was the answer.  I asked about their parents.  Not one had been to the temple; to far away, no money.  The long time member sister had other sibling who have served missions.  I asked one sister, the gracious, mature sister about her mother.  She said she was a very gracious and wonderful mother, so loving, kind, charitable.  
A few days later they were in the mission home to get their visas.  The one sister I have been speaking about took a sister who was crying out on the porch.  I just watched.  They came back in and nothing more was said.  The next day we took these two sisters to see the doctor.  The doctor couldn't find anything wrong with the tiny sister.  She (the doctor) then said to her: do you miss your family?  She just started sobbing and crying.  She was homesick; she missed her family so very much.  This was the first time she had been away from home.  The doctor, not a member, then said; you have been called a mission for your God for 18 months, you must have faith that He will help you serve your 18 months.  Please come and visit me in a week .  The doctor then reported to us that maybe she could call home and visit.  She needs a mother's touch.  I reported that to the President.  He was out of town at the time.  But, said that he and Sister Weed would go and visit her.  Which they did and allowed her to call home.  So far, so good.  But, you see, I had missed the tender emotions that one can have.  i hadn't even suspected that the elders and sisters would miss home so much that they would be homesick.
There have been two other events over the past month that caused me to explore tender feelings. Which, I admit, I have.  Jesus the Christ, His Misson is all about life!
I wish I could write and speak as the prophets, like power and the still small voice.  I quote from President David O McKay:  The literal resurrection is from the grave was a reality . "The spirit of man passes triumphantly through the portals of death into everlasting life is one of the glorious message given by Christ, our Redeemer.  To him this earthly career is but a day and its closing but the setting of life's sun.  Death, but a sleep , is followed by a glorious awakening in the morning of an eternal realm." I wept when I read those lines.  For I know that it is true.  I testify that it is true.  
Now there are missionaries in our mission as in all of the other missions who have loved ones that have passed the portals of death into everlasting life.  They have very tender hearts now having been touched by the loss of a loved one.  They too are able to testify about the sacredness of life and the great blessings of life and that through the Atonement and resurrection great blessing are yet to come.   They have emotions that are near the surface.  They develop great maturity.  They learn that though their loved ones are not as to this world but that they, the loved ones, are still a part of their life; and that the missionary is still a part of the loved one's life who is but asleep as to the mortal body. 
Another tender moment came when two couples who desired to be baptized had  to be married.  I have written about the traditions of fathers about marriage and the difficulty in being able to.  The missionaries came to me and asked what can we do. (I was putting them to a test). I told them to ask President Lionel (a new branch president).  He told them he didn't know what to do.  We can't use church funds for such purposes.  A week later I received a call asking if I could take 18 of them to be married.  I said yes.  It is done by the justice of the peace.  Following the wedding as I dropped the elders off; I asked how did you or they get the money for them to be wedded?  The elder said, the missionaries in the zone each gave money enough so they could be married.  Can you imagine? From the meager funds of the missionaries they offered a sacrifice for the benefit of someone else, for their eternal welfare.  The missionaries may not know nor realize this, but they also did this unto the Savior and to their eternal welfare.
So there are many unwritten and unknown acts of faith and tender moments of mercy.  That is why you have sent your sons and daughters on missions.  You too are blessed.  All of you.  I thank all who help in anyway, the reward is the same.
I wish all of you well.  
              Elder Semken

9/2/13 Thanks from Paul, a new convert

Hello again family! 

everyone sounds like their busy with school!  thats good, i hope all your classes and teachers are good.  can you believe it's already september? time just keeps on going and going. 

so i think i said last week there was a mutation [transfer]  this week but turns out its next week.  soooo no new exciting/surprising changes for now but next week there is going to be a lot of big changes coming up because of all the missionaries leaving and the lot that are coming in too.  we'll see though.  for now we're just moving along here in attiegou.
i didn't send any "crazy" stories from last week?  i haven't had anything that "crazy" for the last little bit.  this week has been pretty mello just the same old teaching lessons talking to people, you know the missionary work but lets see...

[Note:  At times Elder Rybin uses the word "crazy".  It is not meant to be disrespectful at all.  He loves the people in Togo with all his heart.  At times he is amused with their actions and words, hence his use of the word "crazy".  However, he always says that the people of Africa are "awesome and amazing".  He is grateful to be serving the Lord among the people in West Africa!]

the other day in english class i was talking about how to buy something at the market and we learned some food vocabulary.  We were doing some practice and i came up to paul and the person he was working with.  He said ok: "how much do these honies cost?"  so i usually do pretty good about not laughing when people try to speak and it comes out weird or funny because i know how it is to learn another language but this time i just lost it.  haha he was like what?  and i then had to explain that honey is never plural otherwise it becomes slang for something like wife or women, then we all had a good laugh together. haha

also latest news from Hodessa, the guy that thinks he's japanese, is that he was apparently created from a computer 2000 years before jesus christ.... and also that he was the supreme leader of the government of the planet before but it was abolished or something like that.  haha i'm really not sure what to think about him anymore he always has these stories but he comes to english class and church so we are trying to figure out what to do.  he also said in english class that he can't sing anymore because when he sings the weather changes and it thunders and brings storms.  yep that's hodessa.

one of the best things about missionary work is when people tell you thank you.  when it comes down to it we don't really do much it's all God and the spirit book of mormon and all that, but we get to be there and see the change, see the light come into their lives.   it's the most amazing thing to see.  paul (from english class, same guy) is the brother of yolande my recent covert from hedzranawoe.  he was baptized by the zone leaders right after i left, but he told me this week thank you, and i said you're welcome but it's really not me who did this for you and your sister and family, but he said no, if you weren't there maybe all this wouldn't have happened. thank you.  it's amazing. 

yesterday we had a super awesome testimony meeting, i love testimony meeting here, because pretty much everyone is a convert and have so many of those cool missionary stories.  the spirit is so strong i love it.

so there's my stories for the week.  and you?  i keep forgetting did you say september that crystal's house is going to be done, or when? keep up the good work in school and life.  hope you all have a great week!

Elder Rybin