Zone Conferences were held in Benin this past week and they will be held in Togo this week. At the present time things have finally settled down since we had so many missionaries depart the past 6 weeks and so many come the past month. The new responsibilities of the missionaries that have been here requires additional training on the part of the mission president. Then the new missionaries have a lot of adjusting to do as well. It seems to me that things are going well and about as expected.
These young men and women are exceptional. There skills of language is remarkable as well as their enthusiasm. They are very kind and considerate towards the members, the community, and their companions. They learn the gospel and have the opportunity to put the things that they have learned to the test. A mission becomes a refiner of men and women.
The challenges of culture may still be their biggest challenge. Things are so different here and we learn new things regularly. I have spoken about the traditions of the fathers: Here is an interesting story that Sister Semken and I have been involved. This couple, Gladys and Patrick and their two small children have been receiving the lessons. They are not married, which is extremely common because most couples can't pay the dowry. Sister Semken & I taught them about marriage. They know they can't be baptized without being married and getting permission from both families and paying a dowry. They live in a 12 x 15 sq foot cement lodging. No running water, one 2 foot florescence lamp. They thought that they would would not be able to be baptized for several months in order to save for the fees to get married, settle the dowry questions etc. Well they went to visit Gladys' family about marriage. Her family is very traditional Catholic. Her father came over to their house following their visit and said we are so glad that you will be married in the Catholic Church. She said, we don't want to do that. He said, we are so glad you are going to be married civilly. She said yes and we are going to be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He said, we support you in your decision. We are just glad that you are getting married, and BY THE WAY, THERE WILL BE NO DOWRY TO PAY. Now, go figure. That never happens. There are miracles that happen regularly. Your sons and daughters are a part of these kinds of experiences. They learn so much from others and they have so much to give. They are a true blessing to these people. Thank you for your efforts on their behave.
Christmas is not celebrated as much here like in America or European cultures. But, the missionaries love it. We have a Christmas dinner and program (put on by the missionaries). It is a lot of fun. It is always nice for the missionaries to call home and they look forward to it. They welcome the cards.
This is a great place to be!Elder Semken