Monday, September 30, 2013


Hey Everybody!....

      This is Elder Gray checking in for the first time in who knows
how long. I know you've all probably put me on the list of "worst
letter writers" ever... and that's only partly true. I've discovered
it's REALLY hard to send emails home over the internet when the
computer you're using doesn't have any internet connection. Trust me.
It's not all that much fun for me either.

      It's been too long to be able to give a super detailed list of
everything that has happened and to be completely honest I can't
really remember the last thing that I talked about. I guess I'll just
give a quick summary of things. I worked with three companions in
Cococodji. Elders Milambo (Congolesse) Dagrou (Ivorian) Lalaharninana
(French). We had insane success and helped establish a brand new

      I was transferred to the Akpakpa area the 13th of August and
worked with Elder Ragodonsondrasana (Malagash) for a month. I'm
currently working with Elder Ta (Ivorian) and living with Elders
Ratosomilala (Malagash) and Maxwell (American).

      Moving from the village to the city has been quite the adventure
and Elder Maxwell and I have had an awesome time trying to keep the
endless swarm of cockroaches at bay. One day we came home from a late
meeting, walked into the kitchen, flipped on the lights and saw dozens
of the little buggers scurrying around. Elder Gray promptly screamed
like a four year old girl and ran into the very well lit living room.

      After somehow convincing me to conquer my riduculously rational
fear of bugs bigger than my fingers; Elder Maxwell said the
inspirational words that I want sewn into a pillow one day. Armed with
shoes on feet, flip-flops in one had, and brooms in the other; "Gird
up thy loins Gray, We're goin' in!" we went for it. Yea, I say unto my
bretheren, so great and terrible was the battle fought that night. So
great and terrible as to have ever been known amongst the people of
Akpakpa. And it came to pass that their numbers were so many they
could not be numbered; and their bodies were heaped up and cast into
the darkness of the garbage. (Gray 2:4)

      All joking aside. I seriously wish I could send y'all pictures
of the heap upon heaps on cockroach corpses that we've assembled since
starting the war to cover all wars. (I'll send the SD card home in

      Other adventures include buying a makeshift grill and charcoal
for good old Boy Scout style hot-dogs; burning all sorts of
broken/useless/too worn out to use items to celebrate my 7 month mark
and Elder Maxwells 18 month mark; trying to bake cookies in a rise
cooker because we have no oven; frying cookiedough because baking
cookies in the rice cooker went TERRIBLY wrong; and many other wild
adventures that go on the list of things to tell your family AFTER
being released. (I'm totally joking)

      When it comes to "missionary work". That's just about it. Work.
Being a missionary isn't easy. If it was they wouldn't have the term
"missionary work". If you think about it that term just kind of makes

      Our sector has three investigators that are progressing nicely.
Of course, like normal, nothing is easy and we're going to have to
fight through some problems with all three of them, but it's nothing
that we can't handle.

      The first is Aisha. She's the daughter of the Relief Society
present and has been running from the missionaries for years. She had
an accident and broke her left leg just before I got transferred her.
She hasn't been able to walk in months, but on the bright side.....
she can't run from the missionaries anymore! She's taken all the
lessons and has a super strong testimony. The only thing stopping her
from getting baptised is walking to the font.

      Papa Juste and his wife are the other two investigators. They're
a super nice couple that we've been teaching for the last couple of
weeks. It's been interesting teaching them, because most of our
lessons are specifically focused on marriage and getting along as a
couple. It's kind of funny when you think about two really young guys
who have no marriage experience what-so-ever couseling a very aged
couple on how to get along and how the gospel can change their lives.
The minute these two get married is the day they'll be baptised.

      Anyway. That's just about it. I don't really have a whole lot
else to say. I hope you've all been having a super fantastic couple of
weeks. Every day is a living testimony that this church is true,
because the missionaries haven't screwed it up yet. Love you all!

-Elder Gray

Conversation with Cheston

Heard from Elder Gray was more like an email conversation, here is the jest of that conversation.  We are just glad to know that he is alive and well. 

From: Cheston Gray
Subject: Re: blue team checking in.... anybody home?


On 9/16/13, Gray, Byron wrote:
You are alive!!!  What gives on not sending emails out weekly??

On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:
no connection and no power
it hasn't really been a picnic here either....

On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:

I'm still here... did you get my email about the cockroaches? 

On 9/16/13, Gray, Byron wrote:
No!  Resend please
Have not seen anything from you about your new sector
 On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:

I'll try to find it.... hang on

On 9/16/13, Gray, Byron wrote:

Sorry Son -

You do what you need to do...

Are you getting our emails to you?

 On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:

I'm getting them. I'm just afraid that mine aren't making it to you.

The sector isn't the village but it's still Africa. It's pretty much a
village but with buildings and cars.

I did inherit an apartment with a kill count of 10-15 cockroaches
every night. The record is more than 300, but that was when we
actually went looking for them.

We still have investigators, but not as many.

On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:
He's awesome. I really have had a blast with him, but there are things I just have to give in to. I don't know if you've heard stories about him or not. Elder Ta is famous for his rage and is the most transferred Elder in the mission.

On 9/16/13, Gray, Byron wrote:

Lucky you - best he not try and mess with you- he may be sorry....
On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:
I'm not afraid of him. I feel sorry for the poor guy. He's got no friends here. Hopefully I can change that. So far I've loved every minute with him.
On 9/16/13, Gray, Byron wrote:
You are the man - Did you resend the cockroach email?
On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:

I tried but I guess it didn't work again. Basically it says that my new apartment is disgusting.
Every day we achieve the death count of around 10-12 cockroaches
The record was over 200, (No. I'm NOT kidding) but that was when we actually went looking for them.
On 9/16/13, Gray, Byron wrote:
Sorry Son - make lemon aid out of the lemons....perhaps a cockroach necklace to present to Semkens during next inspection will win you some brownie points
On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:
It's been a great bonding for all of us in Akpakpa. It's kind of funny
hearing screams of terror and naughty words from French, English,
Malagash, and Whatever it's called from the Ivory Coast.
On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:

I figure it's about time to brighten the lives and destroy the ears of
my lovely companions by singing along to disney music.... in French!
The only problem is that I don't have any French disney music. That's
where y'all come in (Cooper).

I would REALLY love it if you could send.....

Everything from Tangled - Tangled
I can go the distance - Hercules
I won't say I'm in love - Hercules
I'll make a man out of you - Mulan
A girl worth fighting for - Mulan
I want to know - Tarzan
Brother Bear Songs - Brother Bear
How does she know - Enchanted
A whole new world - Alladin
Under the Sea - Little Mermaid
Kiss the Girl - Little Mermaid
Everything from the Lion King - Lion King
That song I can't remember from a Goofy Movie - A Goofy Movie
I'm stil here - Treasure Planet (English is fine if you can't find it in French)

Anything else that you could think of would be awesome. Have the girls
help you out.

On Sep 16, 2013, Cheston Gray wrote:

There is a huge rumor running through the missionary ranks that some
crazy big director is making a book of mormon movie and in order to be
a part of it the actors have to read the book or mormon and people are
being converted and it's a big deal and yadayada. Is any of this true or is it just a rumor?
We are probably heading out soon. I hope. We're already going to be
super late for our appointment tonight. Oh well.

If this is the last e-mail that makes it out tell everybody I love
them and that next week I hopefully will be able to get a big letter
out. This week was spent reading up on what was happening.

Love you!
-Elder Gray

Notes from Mom

On September 3rd worried sick I finally broke down and wrote Elder Semkens, heres my email and his response:

Dear Elder Semken,

I have tried really hard not to be "that mom" but I need to bother you for a favor. It has been since the 19th of August (and even that letter was only a 3 liner) since we have heard from our dear sweet Elder Gray, and I am slightly (ha ha) concerned. I know that there are several different reasons why he would be unable to send a letter home, and I have tried really hard not to over react.

If you get a chance could you please check on him for me? If it is indeed power or cyber related I will apologize in advance and will try harder next time to be more patient. If it is because he is sick or some other reason I will try to have more faith; if it is because he is just trying to make me crazy and push my buttons, you have my permission to beat him :)

I know you are always very busy doing the Lord's work and I hate to bother you, so again I am super sorry, but very grateful that you and your sweet wife are there to take care of our son.

Have a good day, and again thank you from the bottom of my heart. Just knowing I can ask someone to check on him is a great comfort.


Deena Gray

4 Sept 2013
Sister Gray,
He is doing very well. I saw him on Tuesday and he will be in the office on Thursday. He and Elder Maxwell are still running regularly. Unlike most missionaries he hasn't lost any muscle nor weight. I will ask him a question or two which should prompt him to write next Monday. Even though they have been busy on P-Day the past two weeks he should take a minute or two to write your family a note. As you know, to him, "every day is the greatest day of his mission". That is a good thought to have.
Frequently the missionaries think that they are saying the same thing over and over again, but miss the point that just because they are engaged and are doing just fine people back home want a hello at least.
The President does get a letter from every missionary every week and he DOES read every letter very carefully. The mission president does have very special keys and has the mantle of his calling upon him.
I am certain that he is grateful for your thoughts and prayers.
Elder Semken

Bless Elder Semken.  I was sure we would here from him on Monday, BUT nope, nothing, zip.  Another long week and then we finially heard from our dear sweet Elder Gray.

August 19, 2013

The last letter we received from Elder Gray was August 12th, on August 19th he wrote this:

Sorry this week was kind of lame. Everything I wanted to send out got
deleted. Hopefully next week will be better. My hopes of finding a
better cyber were destroyed. I love you muchly. I miss you too.

I'll tell you about the cockroach massacre that we had last week. We
killed boatloads of the little buggers.

Loves you all!

-Elder Gray