To Family and Friends,
We now have another couple who have been assigned to the country of Togo. In essence they replaced the Leavitts who returned home at the end of June. They are the Christensen's from Yarrington, Nevada. This is some 80 miles from Reno in a beautiful valley. President and Sister Weed know them from their temple worker experience. He is a second generation as a pharmacist. Both of them worked in the store together. Their son is taking their place as the third generation of owning the town pharmacy. He served in the same mission in France that President Weed did but not at the same time. She also speaks French. As a pharmacist they know a lot about how to treat various illnesses. Already that skill has been a nice blessing to the mission.
They have a very nice story about their calling as temple workers. It is their story to tell.
Yesterday, the first baptism at the Cococodji Branch was held. As you recall from prior ramblings this area was opened in February. They started with 47 people coming to church. Today they have about 125 and 8 more were added yesterday. The branch President had the privilege of baptizing his son first. Then 4 elders had the blessing of baptizing at total of 7 others. It was drizzling. It took Francine & I and two elders about 11/2 hours to travel the muddy roads the 12 miles to the building. It was raining and it would be similar to a driving in a snow storm (not a whiteout) in Utah. The drivers here did not know how to drive in it. Cars, SUVs and semi-trucks were stuck and broken down. Some because they went in water to deep and they didn't know what to do. You keep moving. I took the lead and a few followed me through. The rest stopped and waited for the storm to pass and the water to drain. The French and African Elders that were with us said, "this is an adventurer". Their were about 35-40 people their to witness this first baptism event.
I took another way back to Cotonou. There wasn't much traffic but the road was in poor condition because of the rain. Another adventure the Elders said.
Today at church the Priesthood and Relief Society met together. The lesson was taught by President Modeste, the 1st counselor in the District Presidency and a master teacher. I have also previously written about him. We sat with Sophia, our convert baptism. At the time I didn't know two other people who were sitting next to her. The lesson was about the Priesthood, in the home and family. It started with a 6 or 7 minute video with Elder Oaks. President Modeste then gave a wonderful discourse as he always does. He had good and proper discussion. Now, remember about 1/2 of the people in attendance (this is at Fidjrosse Branch), have been members for less than one year. Many only a few months. They asked what to us were simple questions. Who can hold the priesthood? Why can't women hold the priesthood? What about when no priesthood is in the home? Then their were some questions that were from the more experienced members. Sophia answered the question as an expert about the woman's role and the priesthood. When we started to teach her she was surprised and questioned the role of women in the church. We took two or three weeks of instruction on this issue. She understands this as if she had been a member all of her life. President Modeste handled all of the questions perfectly as well as explaining the blessings of the Priesthood.
Following the lesson I was introduced to the two sisters, a mother and 11 year old daughter, sitting next to Sophia. They are her sister and niece. I turned around to visit for a moment or two with others. We still can communicate even though we don't speak French. I then turned around and saw Sophia's sister visiting with President Modeste. I called him over and to bring Sophia's sister as well. I then introduced President to Sophia and told him that he was speaking with Sophia's sister. Since the time Sophia and Sam were taking the lessons, Sophia and Sam have been under a microscope. More on this at another time. Today was the first time that Sophia's sister had come to church. She has not had any lessons. President Modeste told me that he had been visiting with Sophia's sister and she said that she wanted the Priesthood in her home. Naturally we had the elders set an appointment to teach today at four. As I am writing this she and her daughter are taking their first lesson. That little bit should give you something to ponder about. It does me!
This past week the office elders informed me that they would have a baptism this week. I was surprised since they baptized last week and hadn't mentioned anyone being ready to be baptized this week. They had been teaching a young lady for 2 or 3 months who was moving to New Guinea and would not be baptized since the church does not have any presence there. At the beginning of the week she announced that she really wanted to be baptized regardless of the lack of the church in New Guinea. The elders called the mission president and told him the circumstances and said that she could be baptized if that was her wish. I told the elders that they won't know what happened to her for 20 years when we read about her perhaps being the first member of the church in that country and what a great person she is. You see, the Lord plants seeds in many places in various ways his wonders to perform.
Other thoughts, whom the Lord calls he qualifies. I have been wondering about my lack of language skills in French. I have other lessons to learn as well. I recognize that once we have mastered or nearly mastered something that then the Lord will give us another challenge or calls to our mind some other virtue that needs working on. He doesn't have us work on everything at one time. Of course that would be an impossible task. Well this mission is giving me plenty of opportunity to discover virtues and other challenges to improve upon. What a great thing to discover; how to improve my character and abilities and meeting various challenges and trials. Time and patience and observation frequently solve the various challenges. This is a great place to be.
The missionaries are learning great lessons of life. They are wonderful and doing well.Elder Semken