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

Monday, December 28, 2009

December 24, 2009

We spoke to Sam today for 2 hours!! He is sounding great. We were able to learn a lot more about what life is like there for him. He said his area is really doing well as far as baptisms. It used to be the place where the missionaries did not want to go, but in November the companionship who lives with him (Elder Bowman and Elder Carver) were #1 in the mission and Sam and his companion (Elder Halverson) are on track to be #1 for this month. He mentioned, though, that he will probably be transferred to Benin very soon. I think it will be hard on him - he has really grown to love the people there. There are 12 missionaries in Togo. They get together every p-day and have gotten to know each other really well. The mission president, of course, is in the Ivory Coast, and the senior mission couple are usually in Benin, so they don't have a whole lot of supervision, but it sounds like they are working hard.

Sam explained that the families there live in small one story buildings with doors off of a hallway. A family will live in a room behind each door. These rooms get very hot, so they do most of their teaching outside among the goats and chickens. He said that it is very dirty (dusty) there. He doesn't wear his sandals because his feet get so dirty. And there is a lot of trash around. They have a large soccer stadium in Lome' and he plays a lot of soccer with the kids and on p-day. There's even an old rickety basketball hoop that they can play on sometimes.

Sam also told us about a ceremony that the Muslims hold there where they take a lamb out into the street, cut off it's head, and then burn it. We talked a little more about the cat he ate. He said he knew which cat it was and that he had seen it walking around. Hope he doesn't have to do that again.

We updated him on things around here as well. It is so great to hear how happy he is and how much he loves getting to know the people there. As an added plus he loves his companions (and roommates). He's still staying healthy and just seems to be battling ingrown toenails (which can be very painful). We appreciate your prayers and thoughts for Sam.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 14, 2009

Wow, finally! Today is not a good day for email so sorry if this is a little short!

First off, I'll let you know what I've heard about the christmas call. According to Elder and Sister Leavitt, it is very difficult to get a call through on the actual christmas day so they suggest that we do it either the 23rd or 24th. So I was thinking maybe the 23rd at 7pm here, about noon there? What do ya think? They said usually the family back home buys phone cards (the Blacks knew some good website to buy them for Africa) and then you'll just call my cell phone when we decide.

Also, this week we got the good news that on Friday Togo is going to become its own district! (Before it was in the Mission Cote Divoire District). So president is going to get here this friday and all the members in togo will come to Hedzranawoe to organize the district (call a presidency and everything). So that is pretty exciting. The church is really coming along here in Togo, its great to see. We're expecting to have Zone Conference at the same time, maybe this Saturday, so I'll probably be able to update you next week on any changes.

This week was just another awesome week to be a missionary. Elder Halterman and I continue to be blessed in our area with success. We were able to get all six of our canidates baptized and confirmed without too much stress. In addition, the members here and our investigators continue to help us, and this last week we also found 15 new investigators. I've been in Hedzranawoe for about 4 and a half months now but I really dont wanna leave yet! We have another possible four or five conidates we are preparing for the 26th, I love the branch and I love Elder Halterman too, we get a long great. It will be a sad day if I leave this zone conference, but I guess that's the mission.

Anyway, i'm still just looking forward to christmas. It looks like President Ayekoue and the Couple will be in Benin for Christmas day, so I'm not sure exactly what the missionaries will do here, maybe we'll just go out to eat together after working half the day. It'll be nice whatever we do. I'm looking forward to talking to all of you! I love you all!

Elder Bertoch

PS The chocolate got here just fine! It wasnt melted and then I just kept it in the fridge! It was delicious!

PPS Haha I send my emails to whatever account you write me on mom! The last two times you've written from dad's account!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 7, 2009

In this e-mail Sam mentions a missionary, Elder Kumbongo, who served in his mission and was released a month before Sam arrived. He is from Congo and he was accepted to BYU for the January 2010 semester, but needs help to pay for his flight to the States. His tuition has already been taken care of. This missionary converted a whole congregation of The Church of Christ. I guess he was pretty amazing.

The story from the Leavitts (the senior missionary couple) that he mentions: While driving at night (it's very dark there, no street or headlights), they came across a woman lying in the road who had been hit more than once. The missionaries that were with them wanted to get out and help the woman, but the couple wouldn't let them because of the high threat of AIDS. They parked their car in front of the woman, so no one else would hit her, and help came for her shortly thereafter.

Finally, Sam was able to get more pictures to us, which are posted after his e-mail. He didn't not send any explanation, so any captions are me guessing.

Hey there everyone! It was great hearing from you all again, comme d'habitude. So we had some big transfers over here in Togo this past week but nothing that affected me too much. Elder Bowman did get transferred which was too bad but he'd been here along time and he was ready to go. So we have a new Elder in the appartment, Elder Djoman, he's from Cote D'Ivoire and he's really cool, we get a long great already. It will really be good for us to have a french speaker in the appartment, when we were all american we had a hard time always speaking french but that should get better now. Elder Skousen our zone leader left to Cote Divoire too so it was sad to see him go too but his replacement Elder Kouassi is a way good missionary too. I now over my 4 month mark in Hedzranawoe too so I wouldn't be surprised if I left soon also.

But me and Elder Halterman are still having a great time for now. We ended up with 6 canidates ready to be baptized this saturday and some others ready for the saturday after that. We are just praying now that the interviews will go well but I dont think there should be any problems. They are all really good investigators who have been coming to church every week. We're baptizing the kids in one family (Brigette 17, David 12, and Larissa 9) who come every week with a member. Their mom wanted to be baptized too but the 1 hr+ walk to church from where they live is too much for her to make it so we're praying for her too. The sacrafice some of the members make to come to church sometimes is really inspiring and makes me realize how lucky I was growing up.

Thats really cool about Elder Kumbongo! I never actually met him or anything, he finished about a month before I got here, but I heard he was a really good missionary, in fact, he was Elder Djoman's trainer. That would be great if you helped him get to BYU, I had actually heard that he got accepted! Thats awesome! (Although the part about the arranged marriage with the sister missionary is a little weird haha)

Haha ya I took out some money this last week. We ate out to celebrate thanksgiving/my bday again, and then to say goodbye to Elder Bowman. I wont let it become a habit tho haha.

Wow I haven't heard that story from the Leavitts but thats crazy. We really dont see them that often at all, about 5 min once every two weeks to give us our money (unless there is a problem). They really work hard, its hard to be a senior couple here.

Haha are there mosquitoes here?? Dang they are all over the place. If it wasnt for my doxy i'm sure I would have gotten malaria a hundred times by now haha. But nothing too bad. The heat is getting up there tho. I dont know about the other days but I heard today was 96° F so its getting pretty hot. I'm getting extremely thankful for the air conditioning haha.

Also do you think you could forward me the Leavitt's journal? I think that would be very interesting to read if I had the time.

I think I will just end with my testimony that I know without a doubt that this is the true church of Jesus Christ restored on the earth today. I know with all my heart that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I know that with the Lord's help, there is nothing I cannot do for him in this work. I feel his love and support every day and I can't help but smile. I'm extremely happy and would not be anywhere else.

Ok, well I think thats all I got! Talk to you next week!


Elder Bertoch

PS Great job, Jack!

The four roommates: Sam, Elder Halterman, Elder Bowman (who was transferred this week), and Elder Carver
Sam and Elder Halterman (his companion)

In case it can't be read very well - that is Sam's tag

I believe the missionary in front is Sam's former companion, Elder Kouakou

Sam with his mission president and his wife.

November 30, 2009

Here's the letter for the week. I'm amazed that he already got his Christmas package. I sent it the second week of November. I have been pleasantly surprised with the mail system. I haven't heard of any problems. I've had to send him a debit card and a driver's license which made me nervous, but no problems - Yay!!

Also, he mentions eating cat. I can't even imagine. The cat, Mia, he mentions is Sydney's cat. He thought he'd tease his sister, although they just found out that Mia is a boy and plan to change the name.

Hey again!

Looks like Thanksgiving was fun back in the ole United States, although I'm sure Claim Jumper doesn't have anything on Mom's cooking. But wow...claim jumper, Ted Montanas, Schlotzkeys...sounds delicious but you guys better watch your weight haha.

Also, I got my Christmas package today! Thank you verrrrrrry much. I'll admit, I did cheat and open one present, and I love the watch! It's perfect. Where'd you get it? Be sure to tell all the other moms merci beaucoup for me (or as they would say in native togo language ackbay kaka). The candy looks delicious and I loved seeing the photos too! (I see dad went through my closet since I left, thats totally my shirt!) I can't believe i forgot to mention the cookies last email! They were delicious! Seriously I shared with everyone and they were gone by the next day, not stale or anything. We'd even put them in the little toaster oven we have and they would tast like they were right out of the oven! Thank you! I also have all the christmas decorations set up too already! You guys are the best!

Thats awesome about BYU! Dang that stinks I missed it. Although Elder Bowman says he heard that Max Hall made some pretty unclassy remarks after the game haha. You'll have to let me know what bowl TCU ends up going to.

Still here loving Africa! Baptisms are always rewarding, saturday we baptized two brothers, Elom and Claude. Overall, there were 20 baptisms that day, just in time for mine and Elder Starita's 20th bday which was cool. Then at church the next day, Elom and Claude's mom came to church for the first time which was even more exciting...we'll be working really hard with her now too. She only speaks ewe (native tribal language) like a lot of older women here but we work a lot with members to help translate too and even us missionaries learn some as we go a long too. We also set three more baptismal dates for the 12 so as of now we have 8 if everything goes right with more possible to come this week.

Any other major news? O ya, as of today I can officially add cat to the list of weird things I've eaten. The Africans love it only its kinda expensive and today we (my district, branch mission leader, and ward missionaries) ate a cat with some fufu (kinda like mashed potatoes only it sticks together, i actually really like it) and some peanut butter sauce. It was delicious haha. Now i still want to eat monkey and snake, both of which are kinda rare too but i hear are really good haha. Mmmm cat. I think its name was mia too, come to think of it.

Well, I think thats it. Still loving life here in Togo. I can't believe that I've been out for six months either, seems just like yesterday I was shaking behind the pulpit giving my farewell talk. TIme is flying by, heck, I could even be transferred in the next month or so which is weird to think of. But one thing is for sure, I love my mission and I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. I'm grateful for the gospel and all the blessing it has brought me in my life and I'm eager everyday to get out and share those blessing wth the people of Togo. Thank you so much for all your prays and love and support. I love you all.

Elder Bertoch