"You will be an official representative of the Church. . . . Your purpose will be to invite others to come unto Christ . . . Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children. We place our confidence in you." Thomas S. Monson

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happiness comes from focusing on what really matters

Elders Jenkins, Owusu-Fenyi, Kalala, Seidl, Gnahore, Mukenga outside their apartment on 6.14.13                          (before the move)

Wow!  What a week it's been!  So far, I'm loving it out here!  I'm getting used to being hungry all the time, and this french keyboard is a little challenging, and I'm getting used to sweating a lot, but other than that it's amazing!  I have quite a bit of trouble communicating with the people here, but mainly because I don't understand them.  As my companion, Elder Gnahore, says to people, I speak French well, but I just struggle understanding Africans.

I am currently serving in Lomé, Togo in the Nukafu and Wuiti Quartiers.  They are just north of the downtown area, so lots of dirt roads and not the best housing situations for most.  It's really amazing how the people here have so little yet are so happy.

So Elder Lynch, who was one of the three coming out to Africa at the same time, missed his flight in Washington, DC.  Elder Haggard and I became worried when he didn't meet up with us in Brussels.  In addition to that, because he wasn't there to pick up his baggage in Cotonou, they put it back on the plane, which was off to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire the same night.  I'm sure he's suffering from that right now, but the Lord takes care of His missionaries, so I'm sure he'll be ok.

Elder Haggard and I arrived Thursday night at about 9 o'clock in the evening.  President and Sister Weed were there to pick us up and took us to the mission home for a quick dinner and to bed.  The mission home was very, very nice, especially for out here.  The road to get there was the bumpiest road I've ever been on.  The next morning I had an interview with President Weed, filled out some papers, and we were on our way to Togo.  Lomé is only 90 kilometers from Cotonou, but it took us 3 hours to get there because of the road conditions.  What an amazing ride in my life.  The country is absolutely beautiful, but you have to be careful where you walk.  The missionaries drove us to the border for us to go across and then exchanged with Elder and Sister Leavitt, who are pretty much the ma and pa of the Togo missionaries.  Once we got to Lomé, they took us to Festival de la glace, where I got a hamburger. Nothing like a hamburger at home, but it worked.  As we were ordering ice cream, Elders Gunderson and Lemaire came in to get some ice cream after a run.  They are one of the only companionships in the whole mission that has two white missionaries.

After lunch we dropped off Elder Haggard at his apartment, which was quite literally a block from, the beach.  Then 20 minutes north we finally got to my apartment.  Elder and Sister Leavitt dropped me off there and told me not to unpack because we would be moving on Monday (today).  Apparently, the landlord is a drunk and beats his family.  Unfortunately, we had to listen to it Saturday night, and it wasn't pleasant.  It took everything I had in me not to go downstairs and do something.  I'm very glad we moved for several reasons.  1) the new place is much nicer, 2) the old place was right next to a mosque, so we were woken up every morning at 4 for the prayer call, 3) we now live in Elder Gnahore and mine area, so we no longer have to walk half a kilometer to get to our area, and 5) there was a sort of evangelist church last night that was performing rituals until quite late.  One thing about Africans is that they loved God very much, so when they worship, they go ALL OUT.

One of the things I've found here is that almost everyone is very religious.  There's really 3 religions that I've run into: Islam, Catholicism, and other Christians.  The Muslims have no interest in talking to us, and a lot of the Christians just talk to us because they just want to Bible bash.  However, there have been many that are genuinely interested in what we have to say.  However, our main problem is showing people the God does actually have a body of flesh and bone, but some won't accept that fact, even on a basis of Genesis 1:26-27 and Acts 7:55-56.  We have quite a few teaching appointments set up this week so I'm very excited to see how it goes.  

It's been a change living with 4 Africans and only one other American.  The Africans are Elder Kalala and Mukenga (both Congolais), Elder Owusu (Ghanien), and Elder Gnahore (Ivorien).  The other Americain is Elder Seidl, from Idaho.  We all get along well, but the Africans are definitely a lot more light hearted than most missionaries.  However, most of them do know how to work when the time comes.  I'm very glad to have Elder Gnahore (pronouced ynaw-or-ay) as my trainer because he's very good with working hard out in the field.  I'm excited for when I can understand the Africans more so that I can participate more in the discussion.

One thing that I've found is that while there are so many things that are different out here, there are so many that are so similar as well.  I don't really know how to describe it.  That doesn't mean that there isn't anything weird.  Probably the weirdest is that in the three days I've been here, I've been proposed marriage three times.  One to a 6-year-old.  I learn to just politely decline.  They also consider 3:00 to be evening here, because the sun goes down at 6:30.  Another thing that is vastly different is the people.  While there are a few that may not have the best intentions, the general population, especially outside of the downtown area where I am, are all very nice and very friendly.  They almost never look like it, but if you say hello they smile and are very friendly back.

I absolutely LOVE the kids.  Even more than I thought I would.  I've noticed there's a specific pattern of events with kids.  If it's one alone, they generally don't look at you, unless they're brave.  If there's 2 or 3, they smile sheepishly while biting the tips of their fingers.  This is where it gets fun.  If there's 4 or more: 100 meters out: "YOVO! YOVO! YOVO!" which is their word for gringo, then 80 meters out starts the song "Yovo! Yovo! Yovo là bas! Il vient ici! Bonjour! ça va? Bien! Merci!" which means "Yovo! Yovo! Yovo over there! He is coming here! Hello! How are you! Good! Thank you!"  Finally 10 meters away the song stops and they revert back to 2-3 children.  Until I wave and say hello, how are you.  Then, they all smile with the biggest smiles and run along with me, yelling their responses.  It warms the heart each time, no matter how many times it happens.

Well that's all I have time for today.  I love you all, and I know that If we can all follow the example of the people here, not worrying so much about worldly things but focusing on what really matters, then we would all be so much more happier.  Our worries would immensely dissipate, and happiness would not be hard to find.  That's what I've seen in myself.  These are the harshest conditions I've ever lived in by far, yet I am the happiest I've ever been in my life,and just like the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I want to share it with the whole world!

Je vous aime tous!

Elder Jenkins 

P.S.  Oh! I forgot to add that I tried pate yesterday.  Depending on the suace it can be good, but the sauce I had tasted like the zoo.  Yes, the ZOO.  Imagine the smell of the zoo and then put it in taste form.  Yeah, disgusting.  But I'll get used to it.  Yes pate was interesting, but it can be good with the right sauce.

Love to see his sense of humor still coming through

Guessing this is his bed - I recognize the tie on the bed post and the towel and luggage tag are his

Need to remind him to let us know what his pictures are - recognize his luggage and bag tags over there with his shoes.  

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