In the MTC - Sam is kneeling down in front on the left pointing to the Ivory Coast in West Africa

Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009

Salut tout le monde!

Ok it looks like this works a lot better in the morning so we're gonna come early from now on.

First, I'll try to answer your questions. We do get a lot of referrals from members and our investigators, but a lot of the people we teach our people we've contacted ourselves our who approach us. It happens pretty often where people will stop us and ask us who we are. Heck, my first day here, when i first stepped out the door, someone pulled over on a moto and asked for directions to church. It was really cool.

We stay in our own apartment, I doubt any of the members have a house big enough for us to stay at. We do all our own cooking, I've already become an expert at cooking rice and chopping onions haha. About 70ish people attend our branch each week but from what I hear we do have a lot of inactivity. We have strong leadership though, a good branch president and an awesome ward mission leader too. There are actually a lot of english speakers from nigeria who are inactive and we are working with one of them to get him back to church. It's really exciting to teach lessons in english, its a lot easier for me to express myself.

Zone conference was really good. It was actually at the Black's house at they cooked luch for all of us and everything, it was really nice of them. There are 12 missionaries here in Togo/my zone- 6 americans, 5 africans, and 1 french. They are all really nice, we get together about once a week.

Ya i heard that about Nigeria too but Togo's doing fine. No unrest here. As far as where i am compared to the coast and Lome...I have no idea. The zone leaders pick up mail every other week so I'll probably not get the package until next monday. I asked about the mail- E Bowman says he hasnt sent anything since he's been in Togo and E SKousen, zone leader, says its pretty unreliable to send stuff from here. I also asked about pictures- that sounds pretty hard too. Sometimes you can get the Blacks to do it for you but they are leaving this next week so idk. Im gonna try to cend them just from here so we'll see.

Haha E Bowman is great. Hes really cool and my main source of information here.It would've been a lot harder to get settled in here without him. Hopefully he doesn't get transferred soon, hes been in Togo for 4 months.

Ooo; let me know about BYU. THat should be a good game. THanks for the sports updqtes, thqts always appreciated.

This emqil seems to be working fine! Thanks for setting me up the other one tho, if this ever doesn't work I'll just switch.

P days we usually wash our cloths- in buckets, really one of the only downsides of our appartment, no washing machine, e starita's apt has one- email, and go shopping. We usually play soccer as a zone too so thats fun and then at night we go out again.

Anyway this week was really good. It was my goal this week to get our investigators to come to church and this week 8 came! We have 3 baptisms lined up for this saturday and another one for the time after that so thats exciting too. THis week we're going to commit at least " more investigator too so the work is really coming along!

Thats too bad Jack is sick! Get better Jack! Let me know when you get a house Sydney! Have fun in Disneyland everyone!

I love you all!

Elder Bertoch

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So our first p-day without an e-mail happened this week. We have been warned repeatedly that this would happen and I have prepared myself, but it was still disappointing - we just knew not to worry or panic. It turned out, though, that his mission president's wife had a miscarriage (our prayers go out to her and her family) and their zone conference had to be rescheduled for Monday (p-day), so we got a really nice surprise when his e-mail showed up on Thursday this week!!

August 27, 2009

Ok I think I'll actually get to write this time! I'll try to answer as many questions as i can.

My companion has been a member for a few years, he's from cote divoire. He knows the bible crazy well, like I didn't know it was possible to know the bible so well. So ive started to read the new testament in french so i can try to keep up. i've learned a ton from him.

The first person i baptized was hossei sekina, shes the ward mission leaders little sister. The i baptized Mama Ahoefa (any one with a child here you call mama). Shes was some one my companion had been teaching. Shes really strong in the church now, we visit her a lot and i've really developed a strong relationship with her.

The weather here has been really nice here. Its humid but for the most part its just been really overcast so not too hot. There have been some scorching days but not too many- i hear it really starts to get hot in november. its only rained hard once since ive been here, i think i just missed the rainy season. When it did rain tho the streets became rivers and we had to jump from like island to island or stepping stone to stepping stone, it was kinda fun.

The foods been fine, i actually like african food. I get enough to eat, " meals a day. We all eat together and its usually rice or potato type yam things with a little chicken or fish and a very spicy sauce. The africans love spicy food, they put a spice called pima in everything, and I'm just fine with that. I think ive lost some weight but not from lack of eating; everything is just healthier here and i walk like 7-10 miles everyday.

As far as the actual mission is going, im loving it. We usually teach between 6-8 lessons a day and the zone goal is 36 a week. At first it was a little rough cuz i was pretty lost- i never knew who was an investigator or a recent convert or a member- but as time has gone on i've really grown to love our investigators. As i learn more french i am able to actually teach and participate and joke around with our investigators. ive really become friends with them which is vital- it gets you motivated to serve and bring them closer to Christ because you love them, not because you know you should. It also makes missionary work infinitly more enjoyable. Our investigators are all very nice. They ilisten to us and just accept what we say for the most part. The hard part is getting them to really keep their commitments ( church etc)

My area is pretty suburban for Africa. There are cities here in Togo but where we are there are just houses and little shops and one big market. I can buy basically anything here, every other pday we take a taxi to the city to a place called champions- its like grocery store you could find in the US its really nice.

I would send letters home but i have absolutely no idea how. There is no post offices here and the zone leaders pick up our mail for us, i dont know where they get it. Just know im looking into it. I'll send pics home too when i figure out how.

The french is really coming a long. When i first got here i could speak enough to get by it was just hqrd to try to understand and keep up with them. I've gotten a lot better now tho and can understand a lot more. There were some differences here between here and what i learned at the mtc but it was easy to adapt.

Ok well i hope the email was better this time. Today was much better- usually it takes like 45 min to open the page like david said but today was nice. I love you all! Thank you so much!

Thanks for sending me the debit card! I'll let you know when i get it.

PS you're getting this thursday bc monday we had zc so we're doing pday today.
Things were still slow with this e-mail attempt, so not too much information again. We are now e-mailing him at instead of the myldsmail account. So far it seems to be working better.

August 17, 2009

Hello again! Ok this is gonna have to be fast again- I dont know technology seems really slow in Africa...its weird.

Thanks for all the emails! I wish I couldve read them...myldsmail isnt working too well and i couldnt open anything. But the Blacks told me thqt you cancelled my credit card so thank you for that. Im not sure how im going to get money or what to do abt my license but im sure we'll figure something out.

Things are still going great here! My area is called Hedranawoe and i love it. There are about 75 members in my branch but that number is about to drastically increase :). My area is pretty big i think, we can walk up to 35 min to an appt. We walk along dirt roads and people have there houses/shops lined up a long them. Here I'm a yovo-it means white in the native language here-and the little kids always sing yovo yovo bon soir, ca va bien, merci! whenever they see me, its cute. they love to run up and touch me and its beeen a lot of fun.

K im outta time again, sorry i couldn't say much. im looking forward to this week-we have another couple baptisms lined up and its zone conference. I love you all! sorry i couldn't reply to anyone!

This e-mail is from the missionary couple, Elder and Sister Black, who are in Togo. They are letting us know about Sam's wallet being stolen, but they also had some since things to say about Sam. I haven't noticed Sam experiencing "culture shock", but so far his e-mails haven't revealed much anyway.

August 10, 2009

Dear Brother and Sister Bertoch,

We are Elder and Sister Black, the couple missionaries serving in Benin and Togo. I don’t know if Elder Bertoch has been in touch since he arrived. He landed here in Lome, Togo on Friday and was assigned to Elder Kowkou as companion. Elder Kowkou is a very good missionary from Ivory Coast. They had a baptism on Saturday and Elder Bertoch did the baptizing so he is in the harness and pulling hard. Unfortunately he also got a lesson in the other side of Africa and called a while ago to report that his wallet had been stolen when he and his companion went to the Marche. Luckily they had already done their shopping for the week so he did not lose all of his allowance money but he did have $150 in American money and of course his credit card and drivers license. It would probably be a good idea to cancel his credit card. Most of the time a thief would just take the money and throw the rest away as credit cards aren’t used here much but you never know for sure. I am sure everything will be okay. He seems to be taking it in stride. He likely will not need a drivers license while he is here. We can make sure he gets by okay should he need any extra money until you can get him a new card. Usually the missionaries don’t need any unless they want to buy souvenirs or some such things. They get plenty every two weeks for their personal needs and we have already replaced what he lost there.

If you send him a new credit card, the best way to do it usually is to send the card (mail usually takes 10 days – 2 weeks) and then after he confirms he has it, you can activate the card the send him the pin if necessary.

All the missionaries get their mail at the same PO Box. The address is BP 4086, Lome, Togo, West Africa. In our experience, the mail has been fairly reliable.

We are really glad to have him here. We were amazed at his French skills already. He is adjusting well and will be a great asset to the mission. Most of the missionaries go through a few weeks of discouraging times as the culture shock really sets in so don’t be surprised if that happens, but after that they suddenly discover they can understand what people are saying and their missions take a turn for the good. The missionaries write home from internet cafes where they can go in and use a computer and the internet for a while for a few hundred francs. They report that most of the time it works well but once in a while Africa wins out which means they lose. We are lucky enough to have an internet connection in our house so we get by a little better if and when it works. Let us know if you have any questions or if you lose contact.

Elder and Sister Black

Here is Sam's second e-mail from Africa and his first from Togo. Of course, we were immediately greeted by the news that he had already had his wallet stolen. We have since sent him a new debit card, but haven't heard if he has received it yet. Stay tuned. This is very short - we found out later that incredibly slow means 45 minutes to bring up a page. But air conditioning AND hot water - he's really living!

August 10, 2009

Hey everyone! Ok, i dont have a lot of time...the internet here is innnnnnnnnnncredibly slow so sorry if this is short.

A lot has happened as you might imagine. First, i kinda sorta got pick pocketed today. We were in the market and in the midst of everything I realized my wallet was gone (i dont know why i didnt have it in my back pack). So i lost everything in that, including my drivers license, 150 dollars and my credit card. It stinks but Ill survive, im a missionary and moneys not too important. But please stop my credit card if you will. I dont know what else to do about that. I heard in the mtc we can come out of trials bitter or better and im determined to be better.

Other than that things are going great. I really love Togo. my companion is Elder Kouakou and he is a great missionary. We live in the apartment that everyone calls the best in the mission. We have hot water, air conditioning, its really nice. We live with one other companionship, Elder Ahoutou and Elder Bowman, whos from utah so its nice to have someone i can speqk english too, hes been here 10 months. Thats our district and there are " in our zone.

ahhh im running out of time. K, i got my first two baptisms on saturday it was really cool, my first full day in my area and i baptised two people. they have baptism services every two weeks.

French is going well, i can communicate ok.

I love you all! Soryy its short ill right more next monday!


elder bertoch
ps its ok for people to emqil me here i checked!

This is an e-mail that we received from the missionary couple, Elder & Sister Bailey, in Abidjan shortly after Sam arrived in Africa. This was very comforting, and they said some very kind words about Sam.

August 7, 2009

Brother and Sister Bertoch,

We wanted to let you know that Elder Bertoch boarded a plane from the Ivory Coast to Togo today. He will be serving in a city called, Gbedjromene. ( I still can’t pronounce it!!) Elder and Sister Black who are the couple serving between Togo and Benin were there to greet him and Elder Starita and make sure they were safe and got to their destinations to meet their companions. His companion is Elder Kouakuo from the Ivory Coast. I don’t know this Elder but I’m sure that they will be a wonderful companionship.

We were so grateful to meet your wonderful son. He “hung” out with the “coop” (spelled couple) as the Assistants had many assignments to feel.

He expressed his great love for his family and the Lord. We were able to hear is beautiful testimony in French. These young Elders came prepared to go to work to help bring souls to Christ. Thank you for preparing such a valiant missionary for the Lord.


Elder and Sister Bailey


1. Elder Bertoch in the Mission Home

2. Elder Bertoch next to President Ayekoue (on the left) and all the “New Missionaries”.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is Sam's first e-mail from Africa. His dad and I were starting to get a little annoyed because we knew his companion from the MTC, Elder Starita, had e-mailed home from the mission home in Abidjan when they got there, but we didn't get this for another 2 days. Elder Starita even said in his e-mail that he had to stop writing to give the other new missionaries a chance to write home. We found out later, after contacting the missionary couple, Elder and Sister Bailey, that he had typed in the the wrong e-mail address and when he realized it, this is what came through:

August 6, 2009

Bonjour everyone!

I made is safely! It was so great to talk to you yesterday. The flight from France to Africa was long but not too bad. It wasn't hard to get through the airport and I got all my luggage and everything just find.

The assistants, two Africans, were waiting for us out side and they loaded our stuff into a couple cars and drove us to the mission office. The assistants are really cool. When we got to the mission office they had dinner, sloppy joes, waiting for us and we found out where we are going. Turns out most of the new elders are staying in Abidjan but Elder Starita and I are going to Togo! I'm so excited, we fly there on Friday. Last night everyone else met their native companions (ours are in Togo) and we met the Bailys and Sister Ayeouke. We didn't stay too long- we left at about 9 or 9:30.

Most of the Elders went with their companions to their new apartments but me and Elder Starita got lucky and got to stay with the Bailys at their apartment. We got a nice shower and I slept very well. The Baily's are so nice. They took care of us so well and I am so grateful. We woke up and got some breakfast. I'm not exactly sure where I'm staying tonight, I think with the assistants. I'm not sure what all is planned for today, we're going to be interviewed by the President but that's about all I know- we're at the mission office again right now.

Well that's about all I know...I think. I'm doing great, ready to work. I love you all, thank you so much for everything.

My address will be:
Elder Bertoch
BP 4086, Lome, Togo
West Africa


Elder Bertoch