Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ramblings from Elder Semkens ~ January 2014

5 January 2014
Happy New Year,
      The missionaries were kept busy during the holiday season.   The mission has a very nice Christmas activity.   It started at 10 am and is schedule to end at 2 pm.   The activity in Togo was a week before Christmas and in Benin the day before Christmas.  They start out by playing 6 games.  The missionaries are divided into 3 groups and then depending on the game are broken into small groups.   I asked them if they enjoyed the games and all of them said yes.  Games such as pictionary and musical chairs.   There are some competitive characteristics that demonstrated.  Even the sisters are very competitive.  Following the games a there is a nice dinner and then the Christmas program.   The program is put on by the missionaries.  Each apartment or two apartments in some cases sing a song and include a scriptural reading.   The mission president gives a Christmas story presentation as well as sings.   He is a very talented musician.   The accompanied himself with his guitar while singing.
       The missionaries are then presented with a gift.   As they start to head back to their apartments they linger to visit with one another.  
       The Christmas season is also filled with many member dinners for the missionaries.
      New Year's frequently includes dinner with members as well.  Some missionaries get together and cook a pig and eat it.   This year we have a Tahitian who could help. 
     The new year has begun with Zone Conferences and Missionary interviews.  The general theme setting goals.  Later this month we will have visits by two different groups of general authorities.  These include the area presidency and other area seventies.   I think there may be one from the US.  For one of the meetings Elder Vinson is having the missionaries complete a questionnaire.  It includes questions of evaluation as to where the missionary thinks he was about 6 months ago and then where he is today.   Such as,  are you reading the Book of Mormon everyday or somedays, companion study, personal study, etc.   He is also requested that the missionaries read 3 or 4 assigned conference talks in preparation for the training.
      This past December we had very few medical issues.   The few that we had were very minor.
       Missionaries frequently lose weight as they adjust to their new diet.  The weight is generally muscle, since they don't get any real exercise.   They do a lot of walking but little lifting, nor running, etc.
      We are now experiencing the dry season.  This is the time when the high atmospheric trade winds bring the sand (microscopic dust) from the Sahara desert.   Many people wear the surgical masks to minimize the amount of dust that gets into their lungs.  As far as I can tell there isn't anything to worry about. I suppose if exposed for years it could have some negative effect.  For more than a year now we have been in what is considered a drought.  The other day when we were driving along a very sandy beach road there were tow or 3 vehicles who were stuck in the sand.  One small car was buried past his wheel hub.  Motos were having to get off and push through the bad spots. If I were driving the mission van it may have gotten stuck.  Our trucks are very good, but I have used 4 wheel drive 2 or 3 times.
     The missionary work is steady.  One great challenge that we have seen here is the inability for the members to visit one another, like home teaching and visiting teaching.  The missionaries are asked to go and re-teach their converts following their baptism.  The missionaries build very positive long-term relationships with their new friends.  All of us could put into action of fellowshipping in our own neighborhood, etc.   Developing the depth in leadership and teaching skills requires a lot of time and effort.  The members are doing well.   We have missionaries playing the keyboard for sacrament meeting.   Thank goodness for mothers who had their sons learn to play.  The African missionaries do not play musical instruments.   
    I mention that your sons are very firm in their testimony.  They have a great deal to learn and are glad they have the opportunity to learn to pray, study and testify.  We are very proud of them.
     There is always some new experience for them nearly every day.
              Elder Semken

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