Monday, March 25, 2013

Je suis ici. Je suis nouveux. Je suis content d'etre ici mais je ne comprend pas beaucoup

If you didn't understand the subject for this email, neither did I, and welcome to my life! It's awesome.

Basically. The plane rides were awesome. DC was awesome. Brussels was awesome (all we did was sleep because the airport was huge and empty and kind of boring but awesome) The flight here was awesome. Stepping off the plane here literally felt like walking into a steam room wearing a suit. It smells kind of funny and I'm apologizing now for when I get home and smell funny. When we got to the mission home there was enough water in my shirt to wring a small puddle of water. President and Sister Weed are awesome, but we didn't have a whole lot of time to talk to them before being shipped out to our apartments. Driving is scary.

If I die here. It's going to be during a transfer or when we're taking a taxi to wherever we're going to go. The roads here fit the description of a video game. No rules, no lines, no police. You just get where you need to go as fast as you possibly can without killing yourself. What appears to be the common rule is if you're bigger you have the right of way. Motorcycles yield to cars, cars to vans and trucks, vans and trucks to bigger vans and trucks. The people get to play frogger when they cross the street. If it wasn't so stinking scary it'd be really cool.

Anyway. I knew I was going to be in for the adventure of a lifetime when the zone leaders who dropped me off had this conversation just before they left.  

"Well Elder Gray here is your new apartment. When I was here we didn't have power and the water only worked every once in a while." 

"Don't tell him that! You don't want to scare the poor guy just before he goes in there..."

"Well they don't speak English here! I figure somebody should tell him about it now just in case they can't!"

"Fair enough"

 They were not far off either. The power is off for most of the time, but the water situation is a lot better than what I imagined. It works most of the time, which means we can actually take showers using a shower and not the bucket of water that we prep every night. Showering is kind of fun now. When the water is on you shower. When it dies you brush your teeth and try to shave. It's tricky though, because if you put more shaving cream on that you can shave before the water comes back on then you waste it. It's kind of fun guessing when it'll come back. Sometimes it's ten seconds other times it's it's around two or three minutes, but there isn't any way to tell. 

I'm sorry if this letter seems random or jumps around a bit. The power keeps going off and kills the email. Thank the heavens for the "save draft" button. I figure that's why we have so much time here. Everything is so unrealiable. 

Anyway. My companion is Kefa Milambo. Good luck with the pronunciation. He's from the Congo. We're living with Elder Mary from France and Elder Kouadio from the Cote D'Ivoire. We're working in Cococodji. (you say the cococo part like you would for an extra co in coconut and then add gee afterwards, Co-co-co-gee)

I love Elder Milambo so much. It was a match made way before I got here. He is the perfect trainer. We're so alike in everything we do. Considering I don't speak very good French and he knows very very little English it's scary how well we can communicate. My French has gotten infinitely better in just this first week. I can follow conversations and lessons and jump in with a comment or two. Sometimes he'll just let me at it and then translate the bits that I didn't explain very well. We're so in synch. I almost regret having him as a companion at the start of my mission here, because it's going to be insanely hard to come close to how well and how good things are with him.

Cococodji is the Celestial Kingdom for missionaries. We had 14 baptisms or so this Saturday, with a whole bunch more scheduled for the 6th of April. This week alone with a companion that doesn't speak French Milambo and | were able to bring 17 investigators to church. 17. Five of them we found this past week. Two of the five we found this week have committed to being baptized on the 6th of April.

 Teaching new investigators is pretty straight forward. The gospel makes sense to these people. They love God so much, we just explain that he is our loving Heavenly Father and that the same church and the same gospel that was taught during the life of Jesus Christ. If they have questions about how or why their church isn't true all we do is mention baptism by immersion, the gift of the holy ghost by the laying on of hands, or the plan of salvation and they're willing to come to church and to read the book of Mormon. It's insane.


I can't believe it's already been a week. It feels like I just got here a couple of hours ago. Despite the fact that we have little to no power, unreliable and not the best tasting water, I've ruined two of my shirts from the dirt and sand that is EVERYWHERE, this place makes hell feel cold, the people here have nothing, I get pointed and laughed at because I'm white, and I'm more tired than I've ever been in my entire life; this is the most fun I've ever had. Being a missionary is amazing. I’m so happy.  

I've already taught people I know I needed to teach. Some of them almost seem to recognize me. It's an amazing feeling knowing what to say or remembering that scripture I read that one time by the power of the spirit. I'm learning French. I'm learning how to be happy. Truely happy and I love it. 

I miss you all and I'll write you again in what'll feel like a couple of hours. I love you all! 

-Elder Cheston Russell Gray

Saturday, March 23, 2013

We have a trainer!!

Hey Deena, this is from Elder Christensen, Elder Gray is with Elder Milambo in Kokokodji. It is the farthest out apartment in Cotonou, but he apparently has a really good area, they had 17 investigators come to church on Sunday. That's more investigators than I (Elder Christensen) have had come to church all together in the last 6 months. He's the only American in his apartment, but aparently the French elder speaks a decent English, so he'll be alright.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

News Flash!!!

According to one of the Missionary Moms in the Mission Facebook Group, Elder Gray's first area is spelled Kokokodji.  According to Kari Peirson her son Elder Gunderson served there with Elder Milambo and "It's a new area and there are a lot of people there that are ready for the Gospel"  What exciting news!!!

Elder Gray Arrived Safely

Dear Brother and Sister Gray,

Your son Elder Gray arrived safely in Cotonou, Benin last night. The missionaries spent the night with President and Sister Weed in the Mission Home. After breakfast , Elder Gray and his companions came next door for an Orientation in the Mission Office. We explained how to use their debit cards, Sister Weed talked about health and safety, and President Weed had an interview with Elder Gray. It was so nice to be able to meet your wonderful son, he will be a great missionary. Then Elder Gray was driven to his new area called Cococodji about a 25 minute drive. I am attaching a picture of Elder Gray with President and Sister Weed. We are happy to be serving with your son in this wonderful Benin, Cotonou Mission. Elder Christensen says hello, he thinks you have met his Mom. He works with us in the office and is a wonderful missionary.
Soeur Semken(Office Secretary) 

Nothing is better than getting an email saying your son arrived safely, add a picture and your day just seems to be a lot brighter!! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Salt Lake to Benin 36 Hours and Counting

Today Elders Gray, Allred, Buxton and Peterson flew out of Salt Lake International Airport headed for the Benin, Cotonou Mission.  It will take them 36 hours, 3 different Airports, and 12 hours of layovers.
 Let the Adventure Begin . . . . . . .

Elder Gray was really taught to chew with his mouth closed I promise!
Elder Allred

Elder Buxton

Elder Peterson

 Good Luck Elders, BLUE TEAM HAS MOVED OUT!!!

Blue Team is packed and ready for Deployment

Blue Team is packed and ready to go. We'll have had plenty to eat so don't worry about that. If you could get a hold of some pass along cards that would be amazing. I've got watter bottles and plenty of goods for the ride. I'm just about maxed out on weight so don't go crazy.

IF YOU COULD GET ME A LIFE SIZE COPY OF MY CALL THAT COULD BE EXTREMELY HELPFUL. (I don't know what happened/if we packed an actual life size copy. All I have is a little one and I've been told I need a copy.......)

I've stocked up on some Books of Mormon from the bookstore here. Hopefully they won't make it to Africa.

I'll see you and talk to you Monday.

Blue Team moving out.

Travel Plans

As for travel plans here is everything. I don't know how all the times are going to work out and how long the flights are actually going to be because of the time zone differences when we land in each spot. Hopefully Dad has some knowledge of this and can figure out exactly when everything is relative to your time.
We leave Salt Lake at 7:48 a.m. on flight number 659 and arrive at Washing Dulles, DC at 1:55 p.m.

We leave DC at 5:55 p.m. on flight 950 and arrive in Brussels, Belgium at 6:15 a.m.

We leave Brussels at 2:05 p.m. on flight 231 and arrive in Benin, Cotonou at 8:35 p.m.
That's a lot of layover time. I'll try to call around one hour after each scheduled arrival time. I'm going to buy a calling card for when we get to Washington for sure, but I legitimately don't know how long I'll have to talk when I get to Salt Lake.
Stuffed olives to those who know what they mean and loves to everybody else. I miss you all so very much and I can't believe that I'm leaving for Africa in less that two days...

I'll talk to you soon enough!

-Elder Cheston Gray
I was able to get a copy of Elder Gray's travel plans from Elder Peterson, Thanks for sharing.

MTC Pictures

We finially got photos from Elder Gray during his stay at the MTC. 
Elder Gray thought the food was pretty good, "all you can eat" fast food every meal.  For a bottomless pit this is a great combination.  Especially if you don't have to fix it or clean it up!

Elder Gray was able to meet up with some friends from home.  This is Elder Gray and Kylee Schiess, she actually lives around the corner from us.

This is Elder Gray's younger brother's best friends older brother! Cameron Collett from Kaysville, he is headed to Canada- French speaking

 This is what happens when a PT gives an Elder an excerise band.  Skittle Sling Shot.  Apparently they took turns shooting each other.

OUCH!!! Silly Elders 
Any guess as to why there is one Sister among a bunch of Elders????
This must be their district with their teacher.
Maybe they aren't feeding them enough. GROSS!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Last P-Day in the MTC!!!

Alright so first thing is first I'm going to try to answer all of the questions that you've sent me over the last week.

1. I only have my credit card and don't have the new visa? card? I don't even know if that's what I need or not.

2. I'm thinking I've got plenty of cash for the trip.

3. Don't send contacts. I'll be ok. Speaking of seeing though. I managed to pop the lense out of the glasses that we got from Walmart  yesterday. I wasn't doing anything crazy. I promise. Anyway. I'm sending them today and I really really really hope that you will be able to get them repaired and send them back to me before I leave. Vision is good.

4. No. Just no. I'm not goona say what the yellow taffy is in this email because I'll never hear the end of it. Besides. I don't want to be responsible for a native Elder thinking it is some king of American candy.

5. We have travel plans. We fly out from Salt Lake on Monday morning around 7:35ish. The MTC has everything I'm going to need to travel. Things are super organized and I'm sure that if there was something that was wrong that I would know about it by now.

 Today was super busy and I got a lot done, but the more I think about things the more I'm convinced that I don't need anything. I may have really done a number to myself with breaking my glasses and not being able to get them sent through the mail today either. I really hope they get there soon enough to get sent.

Dad, you mentioned the airport. I don't really know what is all going to happened when Monday rolls around. It sounds like we don't have all that much time to do much once we get there either. If you could bring Mom to spy on my while I'm in the airport that would probably be ok, but I don't think actually meeting up would be the best of plans.

I'm going to send home one of the 8 whatever-memory-unit-used-for-cameras along with the glasses tomorrow morning. I'll have plenty of room with the SD cards that Grandpa Gray sent me. (Huge shout out to that by the way. Thanks a whole lot Grandpa. They will be put to good use!) Once I get to the field I will be able to send more than one picture at a time in an email.

You'll get to see my nearly shaved head soon enough. I had flowing loches of hair during my farewell compared to how short it is now. It's awesome.

I really don't know what else to say now. I really think I'm as ready as I'm going to be for Africa. As for the flight plans and when I'll be able to call you here is what I can remember. I might be able to call you around 5-6ish on monday morning. Dear Elder me who you want to call and where you're going to be at. We leave for DC at 7:30 ish and will arrive around.......... I just found out that we can Email Saturday night. Wow. Ok. That's huge actually.

 Couple of things just for your information. Things are still moving steadily forward. Slowing but surely things are working out. It's crazy to think that I'll have already spent 6 of the 104 weeks when Monday gets here. There are four of us scheduled to leave for Benin on Monday. It's gonna be a party. Elders Allred, Gray, Buxton and Peterson. I'm super excited. The rest of our district is leaving in groups of 30 to 40 for Montreal.... they have a small army heading off for the field.

This next week is going to be allllll sorts of crazy. I love you all and I'm almost out of time. I'm the only missionary I know that hasn't gone over time at least once during his/her stay here at the MTC. I'm gonna be one of the few! Have a good week!

--Elder Gray

Friday, March 8, 2013

Elder Gray with Elder Jacob Christensen, Elder Christensen's brother Ethan is serving in the Benin Cotonou mission currently.  Elder Christensen's mom Laurie sent both picture to me.

And I quote his brother Cooper . . . . ."what a dork!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pictures from our inside Angel

Hi Moms:

'Just thought you'd enjoy another picture or two of the boys! They're in P-Day clothes and still alive and well. They are good to check in with me every so often. I asked how the French is going and they had a fun teaching experience they will probably relate when they write next.

Have a great week!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hello from Provo. It's 4:10 a.m

It's 4:10 a.m. right now and I have got to say that I'm a little bit more than tired. After weeks of going through the absolute chaos that is called "laundry" my companion and I had the absolute brilliant idea of waking up at 3:30. If you think you're crazy. You're more than right. It hasn't been all that bad. We were able to say goodbye to Elder Woodberry and Elder Wallde; two missionaries in our ex-zone that are now on their adventure to Hallafax? Canada. (I don't know how to spell it) 

This week has been incredible. I won't have enough time to fit in everything that I wish I could talk about. The devotionals alone would be enough to chat about for a very long time. On Sunday we heard from the Provo Temple President and his Matron the Daines. 

Tuesday we had the opportunity to hear Elder Ballard instruct us. His was simple. All he said was that most of us have been taught the gospel since we were young and even those that might be newly converted have more than enough knowledge to instruct others. He made it known that as much as we would like to think that it's because of us that people are converting the gospel, that's know how it works. If you have a perfect knowledge of the scriptures, the gospel, and the language, but don't have the spirit; ye shall not teach. That's in D&C somewhere. I found it during personal study the next day.

The last thing I want to tell you all about is the lesson that we had with Denny. Denny is one of our investigators. He's an older man, somewhere in his fifties (hehe), who lives alone with his thoughts. During our first visit we got to know him and discovered a passion for hockey. He used to live in Canada and that's what he did. When it came to teaching the Plan of Salvation, I already had the perfect comparison. Cooper knows exactly what I'm talking about. Life is a Game of Hockey. The lesson started and we did our best to explain the simple concept of being in the locker room with the other players and our coaches; waiting to come into the ice-rink to try out for God's team. As we connected with Deni and answered his questions the spirit grew so thick we all started to get a little teary eyed. The lesson started wrapping up and he asked what he needed to do to be on God's team. We answered with baptism and the rest is history.

-Elder Gray

Hello from Provo once again . . . . . .

I really appreciate the packages of food and goodies that you've all been sending me... but I humbly request that the goodie sending needs to slow down just a bit. Our room has enough food to feed half of my mission for a month. We can't keep up with it. They're feeding us plenty in the cafeteria as it is. Yesterday I ate five ice cream sandwiches after lunch. I still haven't gained a pound.

It's going to be hard to answer all of the questions that y'all have but I'll do my best. We moved in the new bunkbeds last wenesday but we were informed that the Elders that will be filling them are a couple of weeks behind. We might not have to deal with six elders in a room built for four afterall. I'm not sure how i feel about it. I was kind of excited, but at the same time I'm relieved.

The lessons with our investigators have been going fantastic. The spirit duing the discussions is so... thick? I don't know how to describe it. Our language capabilities have grown to the point where we can walk into a lesson with a brand new investigator with nothing but our scriptures, get the know the investigator, share a message, testify, and pray en francais.

That kind of language growth wouldn’t be able to happen anywhere else.

--Elder Gray

Hello from Provo week 2!

Things are getting a bit more difficult. The constant pressure of learning French, living all of the mission rules, and getting used to the new sleep schedule continues. Things are starting to heat up with companinionships throughout the zone. Everybody has moved past the "Honey Moon Phase" and people are really starting to have some issues with their companinons.
To make things more interesting we woke up to a love note on every door in the dorm floor which informed everyone that there will be a bunkbed and a new companionship moving into the rooms. Just a bunkbed and a companionship. Which means there is going to be six people, six beds, two closets, and two desks.
Thank you all so much for the Valentines presents! (Happy Hearts and Hooves Day for Camrie and Cassidy.) I miss you all lots and lots and lots and lots and love you even more than that!

-Elder Gray

Hellooooo from Provo

Hey Everybody!

How are things going? Things here are going great. I think I had one of the best first weeks that anybody could have possibly had. Day one we met our companions are our districts. My companion's name is Joseph Allred. He's an awesome guy from a small town called Safford, Arizona.

 Things have been a roller coaster with starting to live with a companion 24-7 but I think that the two of us are starting to get the hang of things.

 There are six Elders and two Sisters in our Distric. Sister Bolanios and Sister Berry are going to the Montreal, Canada mission. Along with Elders Seamon, Drury, and Hiltago. Elders Gray, Allred, and Peterson are all headed for the Benin, Cotonou misison. I absolutely love our district and our teacher, Frere Sybrowski. 

Things here are so organized and so planned out I wouldn't be surprised if somebody told me that my mother was somehow involved with planning and running things around here. I still haven't quite decided how I feel about having absolutely no free time what-so-ever. 

We established on the first night that we were all going to set our alarms for six in the morning in order to be showered, dressed, and ready to go before 6:45. At first we set the goal just to beat of the billion other crazy, sleep-deprived, and smelly Elders to the showers, but we've found out that fifteen extra minutes of language/scripure study is more than helpful.
The spirit on this campus is so strong. I feel so happy and I know I'm where I need to be, even though I miss you all so much. Everyone here is so cheerful and friendly. It's really fun to walk into the cafeteria and see the hundreds and hundreds of missionaries that are all here for the same reason I am.
On February 6, 2013 Elder Cheston Russell Gray entered the MTC in Provo, Utah, it was one of the hardest/happiest things our family has ever done.  His Uncle Brent called it Miserable Joy, and that was exactly what it was.

Packed and Loaded....Blue Team Move Out!!!
A little bit of time looking at memories before the "Last Lunch" at Grandma and Grandpa Gray's house. 

Grandpa famous "Smoked Ribs" for lunch. They are Elder Gray's favorite.

Our last family picture before we dropped Cheston off.  We were brave little soliders,
notice no tears...yet

Group Hug 
That was the longest sweetest walk of my life.  All the last minute things a mom needs to tell her son before she turns him over the Lord.
Yep Bud, all that luggage is going with you!!! Good Luck 
This was the first picture we got of Elder Gray, Sister Margene Johnson our inside source at the MTC sent this to us on the friday after we dropped him off.  It was like manna from Heaven.  That's Elder JD Allred, his MTC companion from AZ.  Sister Johnson informed us our "cute" boy was doing great and all was well. We also got our first letter that day, hand written and addressed to his mommy!! He is a cute boy, smart too!!

These are all photos that bless Elder Allred's heart that he has sent to his mom, Elder Gray has sent only emails no photos.  Thanks Elder Allred, your my favorite!!
There was tons to do to get Cheston ready for his mission. Neither of us were very good shoppers and both were really glad to have to over.

This was one of the last things to do, get a haircut.  Cheston has only had someone other than mom cut his hair, twice. One for his passport picture and this one to enter into the MTC.

Then it was off for that last Dental appointment. PLEASE BRUSH AND FLOSS!!!!
This was just before Cheston left for the MTC. Between October and Febuary, when he left, it snowed ALOT!!  He won't see snow like this for 2 years.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cheston opened his call on October 26, 2012 many of his friends and family were there to witness the opening.  Mom needless to say was shocked.  
You have been called to serve in Benin Cotonou Mission - French Speaking
 Mom is thrilled about the language!!