Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December 8, 2014

Hey Everybody,

      Well. Transfer calls went out last week. Elder Rakotomanana is getting moved to Jericho to work with Elder Ringle and Elder Joseph is getting a new trainer, Elder Hanks. It'll be the first time I've ever even heard of having three Americans in one apartment. Speaking of firsts, I'll be the first missionary to ever NOT see Togo. There have been a couple of missionaries that have gone their whole missions in Togo, but nobodies ever done it with Benin. It's a strange thought to picture the fact that Elder Sagers (another missionary in our Stake) and I have been in the same mission for more than a year, but never have and never will actually see each other.
      Small particles of light are beginning to shine ever so slightly upon the branch of Calavi. These past couple of months have been super duper rough trying to work with these people. Our branch presidency has well under two years of experience between the lot of them. The oh so very minor details that we take for more than granted just about anywhere else are overlooked or unknown. We've been ever so steadily and patiently taking things one step at a time. We've almost filled up the necessary auxiliaries and yesterday we had our very first ward council meeting! 
      Things are moving along with our sector too. We've been working tons with one of our recent converts. She's insane! Her name is Prisca. She's turned into a machine. Almost every single day last week we were teaching with her, and she dragged us up and down her neighborhood and introducing us to just about anybody she could think of. We've been blessed with a couple of progressing investigators that've given the commitment to come to church this upcoming Sunday. We'll see how things turn out.
      I hope you all have the best of weeks ever!
-Elder Gray

Flight Plans ! ! !

From: Benin Cotonou Mission
Date:11/07/2014 2:46 AM (GMT-07:00)
To: bishopmcgrath@gmail.com
Cc: jstaylor89@msn.com
Subject: FW: RETURN: Travel Itinerary For BUXTON/JACE BLAINE - 20Jan - 5PFRS2
Good morning,
Below you will find the flight plans for one of the missionaries in your stake, Elder Gray, who will be returning home in January. This is just to inform you a little more about his return home. If there are any questions we are here to help. Have a great day.
Elder Oliverson
Benin Cotonou Mission
Cadjehoun Lot #1158, Bloc F
01 BP 3323 Cotonou, Benin
SERVICE               DATE  FROM           TO             DEPART  ARRIVE
__________________ _____ ______________ ______________ _______ ______
SN 231              TUESDAY CADJEHOUN      BRUSSELS AIRPO         21JAN
           NON SMOKING      REFRESHMENTS                  1 STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         9:00 DURATION
LUFTHANSA             21JAN BRUSSELS       NEWARK NJ      1000A   1230P
K ECONOMY                                  TERMINAL C
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         8:30 DURATION
V ECONOMY                   TERMINAL B     TERMINAL 2
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         5:00

Camp Zion

Hey Everybody,

      Things are coming along bit by bit even though the week itself
was a bit rough. Tuesday was spent taking things a little bit easy and
not trying to do too much running around in the blazing sun in hopes
of finally kicking Malaria to the curb. These efforts were met with my
eyes starting to itch and go all red Wednesday and followed with a
crazy nasty case of pink eye for the rest of the week. Things are
finally starting to look like they're gonna clear up on the health
front and we're hoping we can put the pedal back to the metal soon

      Friday we had our Zone Conference and it was a good one. I
really enjoyed our Mission Presidents lesson. He talked about Camp
Zion and the group of people that gathered up their supplies and made
a huuuuuuge march because the prophet said so. To make a long story
short teir journey was full of all sorts of trials and at the end they
found out that all the miles they'd walked and all the effort they'd
put into the campain was for nothing. Or so they thought.

      Camp Zion was a huge test of faith for those that blindly walked
through terrible conditions because they were asked by a preisthood
leader to do so. A short time later the Lord instructed Joseph Smith
to organize the first quroum of the 12 and the 70. 9 out of the 12
first apostles and all 70 of the original 70 were men that had been
formed and tested through the long march of Camp Sion.

      Have an awesome week!

-Elder Gray

Round Two - Malaria

Hey Everybody,

      Sorry about last week, we weren't able to get anything though. To be completely honest these past couple of weeks have been kind of frustrating. Most of last week was spent trying to diagnose the big toe on my companions right foot. He messed it up really bad and it got all sorts of swollen and gross. We had to keep him off of it as much as possible, take him in for x-rays, and blah blah blah. Needless to say it made for a very long week. ( I've sworn into secrecy that I would tell anybody HOW he almost broke it. I'll give huge hints by telling you it had something with him trying to prove he could do a front flip over the couch....)

      The results came back with good news. He didn't actually break his toe! Yay! We were able to be out and about for a couple of hours before it was my turn. I got allllll sorts of woozy and the slight headache I'd been feeling for the couple of days before exploded into what became a nasty round two of the lovely sickness we call Malaria. These past couple of days have been awful.... Malaria is no fun. No me gusta.

      Other than trying to recover from random illnesses and filling in our blanked schedules from the small windows of health that we have had, things are coming along. Elder Rakotomananaand Elder Joseph had a baptism last Saturday with a girl that Elder Lukonga and I had found and taught while it was just us two alone. When the others showed up we passed her and her friends off and they've been doing well. Her friend Thomas picked out the 29th for his own baptismal service.

      Hopefully we'll have better and brighter news next week! Love you all!

-Elder Gray
A couple of pictures:

Elder Gray (What a good looking missionary)

Yet another use for the all mighty Duck Tape!  MOUSE TRAP!!

November 9, 2014

Thanks to Elder Kunz, we were able to get a SD card from Elder Gray.  Here are a couple of pictures from the card. 

Elder Siedl, Elder Gray, Elder Hawkins and Elder Kunz on the day that Elders Siedl, Hawkins and Kunz left Africa. 

Flat Stanley with "Angry Africa"

Flat Stanley with "Happy Africa"
 Elder Gray grinding something

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hihi Everybody,

      Well... I had already started a letter that was just about
finished... and then we lost power. Which meant bye bye letter. *sigh*

      Long story short, this week started off really slow and then
picked up towards the end. Most of our time as a threesome was spent
trying to help Elder Rakotomanana get to know his sector as much as
possible before his trainee showed up. Tuesday we had to make the very
long journey to the mission office for all sorts of stuff. I needed to
renew my visa, Elder Lukonga needed to give a blood sample for his
residence card.

      It was really cool because all at the same time there were
missionaries that were going home and missionaries that had just
started. It was really fun to be able to say goodbye to Elders
Hawkins, Kunz, and Seidl. After everything was all said and done we
brought Elder Joseph home. It's been a lot of fun so far.

      The rest of the week was spent doing follow ups on the visa,
blood sample, and meetings. We weren't able to get much done.

      However, Saturday rolled around and some investigators that
we've been working with for the past month or so were able to be
baptized. I tried to attach pictures. The older man is named Andrey
and the lady is his daughter Consulate. It was the highlight of the
week. It's always super cool to see the change in people when they
accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and commit to trying their very best
to keep his commandments.

      I love you all tons and tons! Have the best of weeks!

-Elder Gray

Monday, November 3, 2014 (Pictures)


Elder Joseph and Elder Gray

Elder Lukonga.  (I love how the baptismal fonts are outside.)

Papa Andrey, Consulate, Elder Gray and Elder Lukonga

Monday October 27, 2014

Hey Everybody,

      This week started off a little slower than the last couple of weeks. We had appointment after appointment fall through hour after hour and day after day. Having your plans go up into smoke and wandering around trying to find people to teach is no fun under the sun. Speaking of sun, things have gotten HOT. We've entered into what these people referre to as the "Hot" season. To me it's the "hotter that already hot" season.
      However, despite the setbacks, some of our investigators are moving along nicely. We've managed to set baptismal dates for this Saturday, but we've still got a couple of hiccups to work out. We'll see how things go.
      Saturday afternoon we got a very unexpected call from the Assistants just before heading off into the sector asking us if we were ready for Elder Rakotomanana. The awkward silence followed by the question "You guys didn't get the memo?" To make a story short, we're a threesome for the moment and Elder Rakotomanana is going to be training a new missionary. We've been told his name is Elder Joseph, but that could change. I'm not excited to have to share our really nice and clean apartment with new missionaries, but we'll get over it.
      The internet is super super super slow right now, so I wasn't able to get any photos loaded up. Hopefully next week.
      Love you!
-Elder Gray

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hi! Hi!

Hey Everybody!

      Sorry about last week. We got here and I was able to read through a couple of emails and get a reply off to my Dad just before the connection took a really long nap. Our efforts to bring it back to life were vain. 

      Things are chugging along nicely here in Calavi. My companion and I are still all by ourselves and it's fantastic. I would describe Elder Lukonga as an African version of Weiyi... but black and not Asian. It's been really really nice to be able to goof off and joke around with somebody that has the same sense of humor. It also means that we spent half of our time at the apartment laughing.

      However, despite the tons of fun that we have we can still call ourselves efficient missionaries; even with the massively monstrous double-sector that we have to take care of. Having two sectors means there is always something to do and somebody to teach. 

      This last Saturday was a bonus. We put together a mini service project and showed up armed with shovels, rakes, and other gardening tools and performed a total makeover to one of our investigators yard. He's a really nice old man who relies a lot on his family. When we started he tried his best to convince us to stop, but we won him over. All of the work was made worthwhile when we saw him bright and early Sunday morning for church. 

      Have an awesome week! 

-Elder Gray

Pictures 10/20/2014. . . . Soccer and Bugs

Soccer Dudes!

Oh Yeah!

Serious Soccer Dudes

The Latest method of catching gross bugs

After receiving the pictures of the bugs, this is the conversation that took place between Elder Gray and his Dad. . . .

Dem are BIG bugs.  I would not be happy with critters of that size free range roaming the bedroom while trying to sleep at night.
Suspect the buggers are big enough that they are not very quiet as they forage around the flat.

Shuddering and shivering going with your old Dad – even if you stepped on them they would make a mess requiring hazmat cleanup on isle one.


Reply from Elder Gray:
If you're unfortunate enough to wake up in the middle of the night and you turn off the fans so there is no noise... you can hear them.
Hundreds of them. What's scary is after we tape them to the walls...
bigger ones come and eat them. We find nothing but wings/legs.

Stepping on them makes a loud POP sound. Like popping a plastic bag.
It's kind of cool.
Dad’s Reply to Elder Gray:
Ok - now this is some info that Mom needs to post on your blog.

Icky, icky, icky!


Just another thing to put on the list of cool things that you can do with duct tape....

Pictures from 10/20/2014

Elder Lukonga in the apartment

Elder Gray, Florence and her daughter Light


Elder Gray and the Primary President

Elder Lukonga, Branch member and Elder Gray

Mama Clarion, Joren, Elder Gray, Ronaldino, and Ashley

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Elder Seidl shared some pictures (Thanks!)

No letter this week, just some photos that Elder Seidl sent him that he forwarded to us.  I will take what I can get.  Thanks Elder Seidl for sharing. 

 Everyone said the same thing...."He has hair!"

 Walking in the mud!

They look pretty happy doing what they are doing! (whatever it is)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Great letter and 3rd in a row!

Hey Everybody!
      This week was a little bit of an adventure. We got the call from the assistants early last week that confirmed our suspicions. Elder Seidl was shipped off to Cococodji and left Elder Gray and Elder Lukonga all by themselves. The entire week was spent walking around his sector trying to remember who, when, where, and what to teach. Our already really really big sector just got doubled. On the bright side, we won't have any downtime!
      It's going to take a bit of time to figure out how we're going to juggle the two sectors and their individual schedules. We're going to try our best to split up with the members to cover as much ground as possible. We're looking forward to the challenge. I'm really excited for the chance to be in an apartment with just me and my companion.
      Things are going really well over here and the Lord has definitely blessed our efforts. We're still working with two families, one of them came to church yesterday. We arranged for a Member family to pass by and pick up the second. Thanks to just a tad bit of contacting, we've been able to fix appointments with two new potential investigators too.
      Something off subject but still worth mentioning: We went the entire week (minus Thursday) with water! It's amazing how the small and simple things that we take for granted can be so easily be made beautiful blessings the minute we no longer have them.
      Have a great week!
-Elder Gray

Photos from 10/06/2014

No commentary

Elder Gray and the kids

Elder Gray and random child

Elder Gray watching Elder Lukonga buying fruit

Elder Lukonga and Elder Gray

Elder Lukonga and Elder Seidl

Elder Lukonga
Elder Seidl and the broken light

Elder Seidl cleaning up the broken light.  (I wonder if the soccer ball in the picture had anything to do with said light?)





Again. . . . No commentary

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Hihi Everybody!

      Things are still going awesome! Elder Lukonga and I are keeping busy. We've been able to find two, yes two, families that have been waiting for the restored gospel. One of the Fathers came to church yesterday and promised to bring the rest of them next week. The other family didn't come because we taught them for the first time later last night. The last couple of lessons that we've given have been taught by the still small voice that testifies of this great work. It's been a very humbling experience.

      Our companionship is still as strong as any. I really love having the opportunity to work with Elder Lukonga. I wish I could say that things were going well with the entire household. Things shook down and we ended up having an emergency transfer. The President stopped by our house with the Assistants to pick up Elder Derou and ship him off for home. For the moment we're juggling two sectors in a threesome. Elder Seidl is doing his best to work with the Preisthood holders of the branch, but all and all it's been kind of a mess.

      Rumor has it that Elder Seidl is going to be shipped back to good ol' Cococodji to work with Elder Florion, who is is the same boat. That would leave Elder Lukonga and Elder Gray all by themselves. We'll keep you posted.

      Hopefully the photos I've been trying to attach make it!

      Have an awesome week!
-Elder Gray

Elder Lukonga

Elders Gray, Derou, Seidl, Lukonga

PICTURES ! Yeah for Pictures 09/29/2014

D'awwww (Note: I don't know if that is her name or exactly what it means, that is simply the title Elder Gray attached.  I do however think she is super cute)

Elder Garza and I quote "I miss him..."

Burgers and Fries!!! YUM

Food (again I have no idea what it is Elder Gray just sums it up in one word. . .  Food)

More Pictures 09/29/2014

Catching as much rainwater a s possible because our water was cut.

Doing dishes with buckets because of the water being cut

Elder Gray slip n' sliding on the balcony during the storm
Elder Lukonga drawing water from the well because our water was cut.

Even more pictures 09/29/2014

Elders Seidl, Yamapia, Rakotoarison, Gray
 Elder Seidl, Eperance, and Elder Yamapia
 Elder Yamapia and Family Narcis
Elder Rakotoarison, Mama Susane, Elder Gray