12/9/13 - Transfer & Zone Leader call, Togo Stake organized

my favorite family!

this week was going by really fast until thursday.  i remember the moment so clearly.  i was eating pate at sister laura's house right before going back to the apartment.  she had helped us for a couple of rendezvous and she invited us over for some good ol' pate and ademain sauce.  anyways i've got a nice big ball of pate in my hand and we get a call.  i pull the phone out of my pocket and see "E. Assistants".  my heart just dropped into my stomach.  transfer... i answered and yep i'm being transferred this week.  i'm going to a secteur called Anfame to work with elder Dagrou.  They called me on thursday because they invited me to the zone leader council friday morning.  i'm replacing the zone leader in anfame who is going home this week.  What!! yeah i know i instantly lost my appetite and couldn't finish my pate.  it's still all surreal for me, it hasn't really sunk in yet. i didn't think i'd miss attiegou as much as i do right now.  we have some really great investigators and are really getting the branch going.  Elder Kongolo and i were just starting to get into a rhythm, and teach well together.  and bam mutated [transferred].  but i'll go where i'm called.  it should be a great opportunity to learn serve and love the other missionaries which i'm excited for.
well that was the biggest news for this week, definitely.  i think i might leave tomorrow, not sure maybe wednesday.  also i made a goal to testify in ewe when i left attiegou, but because of the conference i couldn't do it.  i was pretty bummed.  i was getting close i can say a simple testimony now. 

but the conference was great.  stake in Togo!  elder vinson of the seventy came.  all the missionaries went to the saturday adult session and sunday too.  all of elder vinson's talks were really awesome.  i loved it.  he is from australia, so his accent was fun too.  we created some wards too. a lot actually like 5 or 6.  called bishops and the stake presidency.  it is a big step for togo and will help the mission out a lot because it takes some keys from president and gives them to the stake president. the lord is hastening his work!

i haven't opened my oreos yet maybe tonight.  peanut butter is heavenly.  snow at home!  wow sometimes i forget that it is december because it doesn't feel much different.  hot and humid all the time.  it's nice though i'm soaking it up. 

Christmas.  i'm not sure what the program is.  i heard the cyber in anfame is really good, and so skype is possible, but i'm not sure when... it could be that i could skype at like 11 am here, or you call late at night.  but really i'm not sure.  i don't know our number yet but i'll tell you next week.  and confirm some things.  but i would like to skype if it works out.

but other than that this week was great.  i got a chance to see a lot of missionaries this weekend that i haven't seen for a while.  the transfer slowed things down but it's alright.  it was only a little transfer because there are more people going home at the end of december so i think there is going to be the real transfer then in a couple of weeks.  but we'll see how it goes. 

i think that's all for this week.  i love you all.  i pray for you.  pray for me so that i can do and be all that the lord wants me to do and be.  love you all!
Elder Rybin

Elder Semkin, Sr. Missionary Ramblings, 12/13/13

To all of you,
     The Christmas season is very different from the season of years past for these missionaries.   There are few Christmas songs, the stories of Christmas that they heard before their missions are only in their memories, there are no pageants, I have yet to hear anything about the birth of the Savior from the pulpits, nor Sunday School classes, and none in Relief Society nor Priesthood.  Likewise, I have not heard a seasons greeting.  Last Sunday I visited with a Branch President and told him what Christmas was like at home.  He said that they don't know the hymns nor songs of Christmas.  He hadn't thought about the Christmas story as a possible subject for talks.  I think that somehow these marvelous people will get something from Christmas the next two Sundays.  
    The current make up of the mission is; 20 sisters,half of the Elders are from the states & Europe half of the elders are from Africa.  Your sons are very diligent in their work and they are glad the Christmas season is here.   They are teaching by word, deed, and example the reason for the great Christmas message to the world.  ...For unto us a child is born.... They remember the sweet times of home.  They remember their families and friends.  They are happy.
     Their work has changed their lives and you will be so surprised when they return.   They are surprised at themselves!  One of our soon to be released missionaries made the following comments:  Said he; As I reflect upon my mission I contemplate some scriptures and quoted from Mosiah 2: 20-24, I am so blessed because of the change that has been wrought in my life.  I want to just bawl. He expressed in such a humble manner that he hopes that he can continue to do what is asked of him and expressed a willingness to do so.  He expressed gratefulness to the message he was privileged to deliver and thankfulness to his family, friends, leaders and others who helped him along the way."  I know his sentiments mirror what your sons say and think.
    Not that this work is easy.  I look at their shoes, dirty and worn out from walking long distances on dusty roads.  I look at their yellow colored collars.  The creases in their trousers are almost non-existent, they are stained.  Their meals are scanty but sufficient.  The heat takes a lot out of them.  On P-day their wash tubs turn to mud as they put their shirts, socks, underclothing into the water to clean with their hands and rub the dirt out until the the skin on their knuckles are nearly worn off.  They sleep with a fan on hoping to be comfortable.  Can you imagine this?  And they then say, most of the time,  "today is the best day of my life".   I reverence their love and devotion.
     They love to teach, they love the people.  They wish that everyone would come a partake of the fruit of the tree of life.  But, they have the disappointments of people not being able to come to the table and feast at the Lord's table.  But, they know that the message delivered will resonate into the lives of those who are just not quite ready.  They rejoice with those who come into the waters of baptism and begin a new life.  
     The language and customs can be very challenging as well, both of the people here and their companions who they grow to love as they mature in the nature of their missionary call.  
      We are grateful to all of you for your love and concern for your valiant sons, the Lord knows them, and he takes care of them.  Just as he took care of our forefathers.   Through the trials of living we are prepared to receive great blessings.  Blessings that we can't even begin to imagine.
      Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season,
           Elder & Sister Semken

12/2/13 - First Stake in Togo, Eric baptism

so like usual, we are here at the cyber, late, and i have basically no time.  but i can briefly pass over the highlights of the week. 

first i got the package this week.  ate some wheat thins and candy, but haven't touched the oreos yet.  i am kinda scared, i just like looking at them though.  everything else was good too, i'm stocked up now and happy. 

thanksgiving this week.... i forgot until right before bed. :)  i don't think i really ate dinner.... but you all probably ate plenty for me anyways. last night we went and ate foufou at a members house, and that was good.  i pooped when i got home and next morning... that's some good foufou :) 

Caden taylor is home from his mission already?!? wow.  that's crazy about kristen. 

also today we went to the foire.  i spelled it wrong last time.  it was pretty cool we bought some little african stuff.  next year's Christmas presents some of them... :) i couldn't find a chess set, but i got a few leads, and well see.  benjamin, i didn't see a lion skin, but i saw a carved elephant that was like 3 feet square, pretty sweet.  1400 bucks though, and probably weights a butt ton.  there was some cool stuff though. 

fast and testimony meeting is AWESOME.  i love it when my converts get up and bear their testimonies!  it's the best.  marie gave a wonderful testimony yesterday and i was so happy.  she talked about how much the gospel has changed her life and how she has come to love the scriptures.  it was amazing. 

also we had a baptism saturday!  eric a friend of aime.  he is great.  aime too, but he wasn't there yesterday for church.... he had to go sort out some family stuff.  we're seeing him tonight though. 

sunday big news!!! togo is getting their first stake!!! oh yeah! i'm pumped, not a 12 coming but a 70.  should be awesome.  making progress.  vide vide hevi wo nato.  that means little by little the bird makes his nest in ewe.  it's a saying they have. 

thanks i've got no time left.  love you all.  good shopping, christmasnessing.  drink egg nog for me, no milk.  i love you!
Elder Rybin

Mom's note:
We received this picture from Sister Christensen.  She and her husband are Senior Missionaries in Togo.  One day I felt like Elder Rybin had been gone FOREVER!  The picture came just a few minutes after I had voiced that thought.  Thanks for that tender mercy!

11/25/13 - Pre-Thanksgiving dinner, new young couple

hey family!!

how are you all doing!  this week is thanksgiving!  we had a thanksgiving party with the zone today and ate a little bird like a mix between a turkey and a chicken.  it was pretty good.  not like home exactly but a good african thanksgiving.  other than that i don't think we have any big plans for thanksgiving.  i found some mountain dew in a store in the city and have saved a can that i'll probably drink on thursday.  but yeah. 

can you believe it's almost december?  wow christmas is just around the corner.  i haven't got my package yet but I'm not worried it'll get here soon. i'm not sure if we have any zone activities planned for christmas; not sure.  there is a transfer  menacing again soon because there are some missionaries going home in december.  so i don't know if i'll even be here in attiegou for christmas; never know though.

this week we taught a really awesome lesson with a young couple.  we talked with the wife first a couple days earlier.  she was interested but it was a little difficult because she doesn't speak much french; but we had someone there to translate, and it turned out to be a really great lesson.  she accepted to be baptized at the end too.  then we came back and she says that she gave the brochure to her husband and they read and both had the same dream that our church was true.  we came back and taught them both together this time, and they are really great.  both don't speak french that much, but while explaining the first vision Asou, the husband, cecile is the wife, his face was just speechless, he was just soaking it up.  at the end before we even have the chance to invite him he says he wants to come to church, and asks us if he can be baptized in our church somehow.  (yeah! i know!  awesome right!)  downside is that they aren't yet married... but when we explained that he needs to do the dowry before, he didn't even hesitate in saying that he has to do that because he needs to be baptized.  it was awesome!  those are the people who are truly prepared. those who don't ask questions or make excuses they just do everything you ask.  it's going to be tough because they are really poor, but we promised them miracles according to their faith and desire.  cecile was there at church yesterday;  asou had an emergency in his village, otherwise he would have been there too.

Thanksgiving Bird
i'm attaching a picture of our thanksgiving bowl of one of the birds.  turned out really good.  have fun at carols this week i think that is all that i have for this week.  thanks for all your letters and stories.  i love you all.  happy thanksgiving!


Elder Rybin

Note:  Sister Bennion lives in our home ward.  Her parents (Elder & Sister Peterson) are on a mission in Ghana.  They travel around West Africa working with Young Single Adults.  One day they happened to find out that Elder Rybin is from American Fork and lives in the same ward as their daughter.  Check out their mission blog.  http://petersensinghana.blogspot.com/  and look at the entry for Tuesday, September 17, 2013, Trip to Togo.  Elder Rybin's picture is at the bottom.