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

Monday, June 28, 2010

June 28, 2010

Sam mentions Elder Kouakou at the end of his letter - he was his first companion, and, of course, trainer. Here are some pictures he sent as well:

Branch President and his family (Akpakpa Branch)

District Awesome (the 4 roommates - Sam's companion is the very tall African standing next to him)

Elder Geisler in knee deep rain water

At the beach for the second time

Python Voodoo Temple in Ouidah

Weird tree in Ouidah with crazy carvings

At Adele's baptism

Me and Elder Geisler in our boombas

African Boomba

Hey family!
Anyways, just wrote most of my email but the computer crashed. Oh well. Starting over now.
Yup, took plenty of pictures with pythons. I'll try and send some, we'll see how that goes.
I just where my Eccos in the rain. They're still goin strong so no worries there.
It was good to hear that you had a good time at camp, Jack! Even if i had to hear about it from mom and dad!
Well it was just another amazing week to be a missionary. I have many amazing investigators and i still love this branch. The missionaries and the members get a long great. As far as investigators go, Vincent and Raul werent able to get baptized this month. We're hoping and praying that things will work out in July. Carine gets her cast taken off the seventh so as soon as thats off we're going to throw her into the font and shes pretty excited about that too. We also have some new investigators that came to church this week- two ivorians named Pierre and Elodie. They loved church and they are both really awesome, the only problem is that they live together and they are not married (just like everyone else in Benin). But we'll work that out with them. I have high hopes anways.
The rain has also lightened up, which is sad. It made things really exciting haha.
Today we got our prize for winnin the apartment inspection. The couple drove us out to a gigantic super walmart-like supermarket and gave us each 5000cfa to spend. It was pretty cool, for about an hour i felt like i was back in the US!
Have a good time in the mountains this week! Let me know what you end up doing!
Also, there were officially no transfers this time so its pretty sure i'll be leaving in August. Probably around the 20th, thats when i think the next zone conference will be.
K well it was great hearing from you all! I love you and have a great week!
Elder Bertoch
PS Elder Kouakou finishes his mission this Friday. Weird, i remember when i got here he only had like 13 months!
June 21, 2010

I'm glad to hear you had a good day yesterday dad! I was able to wish Elder Leavitt a good day and then couldnt remember if i told you that last week. So, HAPPY FATHERS DAY!
I'm glad you had so much fun at the reunion! North Carolina, sounds like an exciting one to miss. We better have a good one planned for when I get back! And a new TV? And another trip to the mountains?! You guys are just living the life aren't ya?
Anyway, I had a pretty eventful week this week. First, Monday night President came and did the interviews at our appartment. He was very impressed. He kept telling me in my interview how clean the appartment was and how great the spirit was and he is very proud of me. The next day at zone conference his good mood continued. He said Benin is the most obedient zone in the mission and he is extremely happy with all of us. He talked a lot about obedience and he used Alma 23 and Alma 24 to talk about the true process of conversion which was very interesting. There is also a new thing in the mission where two missionaries in each zone are recognized and given a certificate for their outstanding obedience and missionary performance. President chose me and Elder Tshibasu here in Benin which made me blush. (I kept trying to figure out a way to say that without sounding prideful, but i dont think i succeeded.) Anyyway, so now our photos are up in the mission bureau.
Then, Friday, the zone went to "super p day". All the missionaries went to Ouidah. I got friendly with some Pythons at a voodoo python temple, saw the first catholic church in Africa, learned about slavery and voodoo at a museum, ate good food, and then walked the "the trail of sorrows" to the "port of no return" that all the slaves from west africa had to walk to get on the ship that goes to America or Europe. It was all extremely interesting and I took some really good photos that maybe you'll be able to see one day in the future.
Also, Benin has gone absolutely insane. The rainy season has finally arrived and when it rains here it RAINS. Monday night it POURED rain for about 5 hours straight. Elder Geisler and Elder Yao got caught out in it and they had to wade home through water that got to knees. They got some funny pictures of less intelligent motocycle riders still trying to drive and then falling in the water haha. Then, wednesday morning we woke up at 4am to POUNDING thunder and lighting. It was super loud, like i actually had to cover my ears. The lightning would completely light up the sky too, it was pretty cool. Anyway, so now missionary work has become much more exciting. We kept to jump from stepping stone to stepping stone in our area because everything is under water.
Finally, the Leavitts did another apartment inspection this morning and we won. So now we get to pick our prize so we'll think hard about that. Apparently there is a city completely built on stilts over the water so maybe we'll see about going there.
Benin is not even in the world cup but everyone here supports whatever african country happens to be playing. Too bad none of them are good haha. I never found soccer that interesting, and i still dont.
Well, thats all i got. No word on transfers, apparently there will be a big one in the middle of August so we'll see. My last Benin visa expires at the end of August so i gotta go before then. I looooooooove my area, all my investigators and above all my branch. I have such a strong testimony of this Gospel and of the change it can bring into peoples lives. I love you all and I hope you have a great week.
Elder Bertoch

June 14, 2010

He didn't hear from us because we got home late the night before from a family reunion in North Carolina and decided to get up early in the morning and write him. I sat down to e-mail him at 6:00 a.m. and his e-mail had arrived at 5:00 a.m. I don't remember ever getting an e-mail that early from him. It only figures.

Hey family!
Didnt hear from ya this week but its no big deal...i'm actually surprised that its the first time thats happened, its been a year! You're probably having a blast in North Carolina and heck, who nows if there is even the internet up there???
So how has the family reunion been? Has the weather been good? Is it even possible to have fun without me there???
Also, I got the third package, the one with the shirts in them! Thanks! They are kinda big on me but here in Africa style is not really too important. Thanks again! Loved the photos more than anything!
This week went by pretty fast. I'm actually feeling like lately we've just been teaching the same people who are not progressing so i think this week we are going to focus on finding new, better investigators. In fact, nothing really changed or happened this last week. I did splits in the other area, so it was interesting seeing how the other missionaries teach and how their investigators progress. I did three more baptismal interviews too which is always a cool experience. The world cup started last friday and everyone here is going crazy so its been more difficult to get rendez vous too haha. Soccer is life here in Africa. I guess the Ivory Coast plays tommorow so all of the Ivorian missionaries are super excited.
Well, President is probably in Benin right now. We have our interviews tonight and then zone conference tommorow so that should be exciting. I'll be sure to let you know if anything good happens haha.
Well I love you all! I hope to hear from you next week! Have fun in N. Carolina!
Elder Bertoch

June 8, 2010

Hey family!
Sorry for the lack of email yesterday! We came and the internet was not working at all, so we stopped by this morning to write a little.
First, I got two packages! Thank you very much! All the candy is gone already and i plan on making the soups this week. Love ya guys.
Things really are starting to pick up now. The first sunday i was here the assistance was 39, now its gotten up to the fifties and even the sixties once. I love Akpakpa so I'm actually hoping that i dont get transferred- which means of course i probably get transferred haha. I just feel like such a big part of the branch- sunday i taught sunday school and young mens, next week i'll give a talk and teach elders quorum. I really think of it as my branch- all the more motivation to add members to it. Well, we'll see. President is actually coming next monday/tuesday for zone conference so maybe i'll find out if i'm transferred.
I'm glad you had such a great birthday mom! cream maker.
It actually rained a lot more this week, made going out a lot more interesting. Didnt stop us from setting a couple of baptismal date. Theres Vincent whos maybe in his forties or fifties, has a good job and a real family (as in they are actually married). He should get baptized this month as well as Raul who was at church Sunday. He grew up a really strong catholic but stopped after a while. He knew members of the church in Togo before moving here and he was always really impressed by them. His fiancee is also in the United States (Texas) so no problems with chastity there either. They should both really contribute to the church here in Akpakpa- they are intelligent and hard working, good quality baptisms that will become future leaders here.
Well, i think that is about it. I still love being a missionary. President had challenged each missionary to read the entire Book of Mormon before he comes back for zone conference and I finished that last week. What an amazing book. I've grown to love 2 Nephi 9 and King Benjamins talk and Alma 26. Just to name a few. Ps i dont remember if i ever told you this story but there are pasteurs here that always use the Book of Mormon in there sermons without telling people where they are getting their material. I heard that there was one pasteur that read all of king benjamins talk in Mosiah like it was himself that wrote it and everyone loved it. Crazy.
Anyway, gotta go. Love ya all!
Elder Bertoch

Thursday, June 3, 2010

May 31, 2010

Not only did my birthday fall on a holiday this year, it is also p-day and I received an e-mail from my son. It was the icing on the cake to hear that his investigator thought to pray for me on my birthday. What a day!! In addition, his one year anniversary is this Thursday (June 3).

Hey familly!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!! Hope you'll have a great birthday today! Funny story- A week or two ago we were teaching our investigator Carine (with the broken leg) and she was wondering if there were 30 or 31 days in may. I said 31 cuz i could never forget cuz thats my moms birthday. Then yesterday we were teaching her and she gave the opening prayer and prayed "and please bless Elder Bertoch's mom, for tomorrow is her birthday bless her to have a great year". It was very touching that she remembered. How old are you now anyways??? Twenty? Twenty five?
Well had a great week this week. We were able to bring Adele to the waters of baptisms which is always very rewarding. I actually was able to baptize her which was very nice. She'll be a really good member, the branch president is getting ready to call her as counselor in the relief society so that is exciting. Here they need members to hold the callings so they get callings like that right after being baptized. In fact even i basically have two callings- i'm sunday school teacher for the english speaker and i teach the only young man in the ward during young mens/deacons class. That has to make me young mens president or deacons quorum advisor or something.
Wow. One year ago from today i was getting into the car for the drive to Utah. Me and Elder Startita celebrated with the zone today by going out and eating at a nice restaurant. I may or may not have eaten a "kingburger" and a individual sized pizza and an ice cream cone. It was delicious.
Anyways, nothing else really exciting happened this week. We're now just getting ready to baptize in June. I'm feeling a transfer to Cote D'Ivoire coming soon actually, maybe in about a month, so i'll keep ya posted.
Well I love you all and i cant wait to hear from you newt week! Sorry you didnt get to go to Ameritowne, Jack! Honestly, it wasnt that memorable anyway. I still love being a missionary and am actually kinda sad i only have a year left. I still got a lot of goals to accomplish and time is running down. Time to get to work.

Elder Bertoch

May 24, 2010

Salut ma famille! Great to hear from you all! Had another great week this week. First, Adele is all set for her baptism this saturday. She's super excited and so are we. Her interview is on wednesday. She will be a good addition to the branch, shes from benin and works in a lab doing medical tests (hiv, malaria, etc).
Less good news is that our investigator Carine (the one with the broken leg) was finally going to have her cast removed last wednesday and be baptized next time, but when she went to the doctors they said she has to keep it on for 45 more days. We went to her house wednesday night to celebrate with her (shes been stuck at home in the cast for at least 2 months) but when we got there she was just sitting there crying. We shared some scriptures with her and tried to encourage her. Shes feeling better now. We even felt prompted to tell her that if she has faith they well be able to remove the cast early.
Easily the best news of the week is that my recent convert at Gbejromede (Victorine) is going to recieve her first calling this week. She will be...drum roll...RELIEF SOCIETY PRESIDENT! The old one was not exactly magnifying her calling so Victorine is going to take over. Shes only been a member for like three months but I know she will be able to handle it. Wow, hearing that made me proud.
Jessy is kinda up and down right now. She didnt come to church yesterday (it rained a little so she used that as an excuse). We went over there after church to see what was up and we had a very good lesson. We shared a scripture in Alma 5 about there only being two shepards, and two folds. We are either the sheep of Jesus Christ or the Devil. We asked her which one she wants to be in. We went over the restoration again. She knows she needs to join the church. The problem is she said it will be complicated get permission from her husband. Hes actually a nice guy, we say hi to him every time we see him, but everytime we try to fix an appointment with him he says he is never at the house, waaaaaaaaay too busy. Mais ça va aller.
Migan (the guy from benin who lives with the member but needs to get married to get baptized but according to his family needs to have two children to get married) is a little on the downside right now. We had a very direct lesson about the law of chastity...but couldn't get him to make a decision. We'll keep trying. We actually are having a lot of success with another man from Benin right now (his name is vincent). Hes older, already married with a 18 yr old daughter and a son that has already moved out. Hes definitly not lacking money either which is good. He came to church yesterday and loved it so we'll go ahead and commit him to baptism tomorrow.
I'm enjoying being with Elder Yapo. Hes been a member for 12 yrs (since he was ten) and his whole family are members too. Like I said last week hes like 6'5" 220 lbs so i look pretty small next to him. We working well together and will baptize a lot.
Being District Leader is going ok. I do my first baptismal interview this week so that will be exciting. Nothing has really changed that much from before.
Yep, I've given lots of blessings as a missionary. To other missionaries, and members, and investigators. I love giving blessings. That is really cool about Dean Cook. 84 yrs old! Wow. Thats awesome.
O yaaaaaaaaa, i remember Ameritowne! I totally did go there. I remember interviewing and being like president of some country or something. That was really fun. I really hope you get to go, Jack! I'll pray for ya!
OK well thats about all that happened this week! It did rain a lot more, got to go "swimming" to our appointments which livened things up (for a country where it supposedly rains a lot, they do not have good drainage...everything was flooded after like five minutes of good hard rain). I have more pictures to send so i'll try and get those to you! Love you all!
Elder Bertoch