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