"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, November 25, 2013

Semken Ramblings - 11.25.13

25 November 2013

To all of you wonderful people,
    We are doing well except for some small colds.  This has been a very dry year for these people and now it is the dry season which lasts until mid-March.   The roads and streets are particularly dry and dusty.  The Elders' shirts are so bad that it is very difficult to keep them clean.   This is especially true in Cococodji.
   A few updates.  I just received word from President Weed that the one year old District in Togo will become a stake in Togo in two weeks.  The growth and stability is miraculous.  Elder Vinson of the Seventy will organize the new stake.  Cotonou is much newer than Togo but it may be possible that a new stake will be in the making by the time President Weed returns home at the end of June.
    I met the first two missionaries in Togo and Benin.  The Findleys.  They are from Canada, age about 70.  They have only take one year off since 1999 as missionaries and humanitarian missionaries.  They started here in 1999.  There were only 6 members of the church.  Now there are 4,000 plus.  It wasn't long ago when the Southam's are there first mission only had 8 missionaries.  That was in about 2007-2008.  We now have 114. 
    To describe the process sometimes.  Remember Cococodji ?  It is on the outskirts of the city, so it seems.  The President tried figure out if we should go to the real capital of Benin.  About 35-40 KMs away or maybe to Cococodji.  He sought counsel from the highest source and said it will be Cococodji.  I was tasked to find an apartment for the elders our in the wilderness.  I found a suitable place.  They moved into the apartment in February 2013.  Two weeks later we decided to find a place to hold a group.  It was in the apartment below them.  Remember the first week we thought we would get 10-15 and we got 47, following week 54 and etc.  A branch was created in May. We were led to a large beautiful building.  It could hold 2 branch meetings at the same time.  Leadership training takes time and a firm foundation must be in place.  Last week there were 140 in attendance.  That is enough to make two branches.   All of this in less than 10 months.   The work is good, though difficult.  The missionaries are happy.   In some places there hasn't been a baptism for a couple of months.  But, there will be.
      Thanksgiving and Christmas are pretty much the same as any other day in Togo and Benin.
     We are pretty much in the saddle for now.   For a while it was if we were like riding a Brahma bull.  I am in the process of teaching and training an employee of the church how we do things with the apartments, utilities, etc.  He was an excellent football player (soccer). This will allow an easier transition to the new missionary couple when they come to replace us.  I am also helping to teach and train on how to get things done.  Like organizing new branches.  The individuals are very bright and capable.  They just need some instruction and they are very willing to do the work.  
    We have had some interesting discussions centering around 3 Nephi 18:32 through the end.  These people are faithful but they too have challenges and some stray for a while because of circumstances of jobs, distance to the church etc,  We are now talking more about Visiting Teachers and Home Teachers.  All of us have seen some who have wandered for a while but have come back and have been rescued as President Monson puts it.
       Never give up.  Never, Never, Never.  
      The missionaries do a great job of teaching and doing follow-up teaching.  We now need the members to start visiting.  There are remarkable stories to be told.
         Your sons and daughters are no longer young men and young women, but are now men and women.  They know how to do!
      Thank-you for you prayers, they are felt.
         Elder Semken

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