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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 20, 2010

So for the phone call i was thinking maybe just the same deal as last year? Christmas Eve, at 8 pm here so i think 1 pm there? That sound good? It it doesn't...well i hope it does cuz i wont be back on the computer before friday.
So I've just been having a blast this week. Elder Starita and I have been contacting people like crazy because we didnt have any investigators and it went well. We gave three baptismal dates and had three people come to church. Me and Elder Startita are not zone leaders anymore (or even district leaders), but its looking like in January we might get shipped out near the boarder of Ghana to start a new branch from scratch so that would be exciting. Like we would rent a building over there, run church (at first there would just be sunday school but after we baptize the first member we'd add other meetings) and thatd be pretty cool. But we'll see, thats just the plan for the moment. If i ended up doing that, i dont think id have much of a chance to go back to Benin.
So i have got an african artist working on the nativity sets. You guys probably noticed i took out a lot of money a couple weeks ago...can you guys make sure my account stays pretty full, i'm going to start buying things soon.

So what other news? Our zone is having fun together. Im with Elders Call, Cunningham, Cruz, Lewis, Ghisquiere, Leach, and Mbunga and a Madagash plus our district in the zone. This morning we all went and played two hand touch football together and it was a blast. Not to brag our anything but our district totally won, even with a future BYU running back on the other team.
Also, I shaved my head pretty dang short saturday night. Like preeeeeeeeeeetttttty dang short. I'll try to send pictures.
The couple here is the Herrs. I've only taked to them a few times but they seem really nice (like all missionary couples). We are actually going to do a christmas devotional at their house sunday night and a christmas activity with them next monday too. It should be fun.
Hmmm...dont know my address anymore. It should just be the same address you were using a year ago. Do you still have that?
So let me know what is going on with you guys! What are the christmas plans with you three? Actually as i m writing this im realizing i'll just ask you on friday! Cool!
Ok well thats all! I still love being a missionary and am going strong. No time to get lazy, gotta grow the church in Togo! I have a testimony of this work and am super happy with where i am! I love you all! Cant wait to talk in five days!
Elder Bertoch

December 13, 2010

Sam was sent to Togo again last week. It's good to know he and the other missionaries are safe and sound.

Alright, well an interesting week has gone by. Very eventful. So on Wednesday we had a special mission conference in which President (he finally got back into the country Tuesday) announced that things had calmed down enough to start to move back to our old areas little by little during the weekend which got us all pretty excited. The next day we went to a second mission conference again and during the conference President got a phone call that America was about to step into the whole election mess so there were going to be anti american feelings in the country. So the interregion decided it was best to get us out (the us embassy workers evacuated too). So thursday was spent running back to our old appartments and getting our bags and then Friday morning they flew all of us out. I ended up in Togo and President totally granted a favor that I asked him and put me with Elder Starita!!! After the conference on thursday I had realized that that would mean that Togo and Benin would have a lot of Americans so i went and approached President and requested to be companions with Elder Startia, promising that we would be the best companionship ever. This is going to be awesome. Our new branch is called Ablogamé, is just got created last week so we've already started to contact a bunch of people to get investigators. I'm super happy, we are going to work like crazy here and I know that we will see miracles here. It was really hard to leave Cote D'Ivoire, like I was depressed thursday night, but President made the transition a lot easier with this transfer and i have already loved seeing a lot of the old members i knew from a year ago, soon im going to try to visit people in Hedzranawoe.

So in our appartment we have us two, Elder Zufelt (was in the MTC with me), Elder Winter (french), Elder Geisler and Elder Shaffer (newer american missionary). We are going to have a blast. Our appartment is huuuge and really nice compared to my appartments in CDI. We have running water now which im really excited about. We already have seen like four mice and a bunch of cockroaches in the appartment so last night we went hunting (killed one mouse) and this morning cleaned like crazy.

Im not exactly sure how long i will be here though. President talked about in CDI that very soon he's going to start sending missionaries to start brand new branches from scratch, like in areas that have no members our investigators. The missionaries would run the church and everything and slowly grow the branch in that area. I think that sounds hard but would be suuupppper cool too. I really hope me and Starita get sent somewhere like that. Like reallly wanna open a new branch from scratch to finish my mission.

So i never did get those packages unfortunately. I guess its possible that President could send them over but im not sure. Its pretty sad but i'll survive. I'll be able to survive the next six months without new shoes or garments though, dont worry about me. I'm still excited for christmas though!

Ok well i better go! I hope I answered all of your questions! I love you all!

Elder Bertoch

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 9, 2010

Got word today from the missionary couple that they are flying the non-African missionaries out of the Ivory Coast. They will be going to either Togo or Benin. Don't know yet where Sam will end up. Some of the missionaries left today, but according to the pictures they sent, Sam does not appear to be one of them. So he will be leaving tomorrow. Sam loved the people of the Ivory Coast and I'm sure he is disappointed, but I have to imagine they are all relieved to be out of that cramped apartment. Here is the e-mail we received from the missionary couple:

Yes, Soeur Ayekoue & I did go shopping yesterday. It's not exactly the same thing, but all seems very good. Yet, we understand how quickly things can happen, and so does President Ayekoue, (and the Area Presidency) so....there are 15 tickets to Togo and Benin tomorrow abt 5:30pm for all expats (those from USA, France, & New Zealand). We have tickets as well, but may stay a little longer. Is it for a short time or for good, or to another location? For the missionaries, it is for the duration of their mission.
Remember there is always an upside: There are plans to finally split the mission, making Togo & Benin their own mission, hopefully by or before July this year. These elders are in a great position to help get things set up, organized, leadership, fellowship, etc. Plus, Elder Legere has wanted to experience Togo or Benin, even if only for a week (until he returns to Las Vegas). We will update you as things progress. Very busy right now. Can't imagine leaving the President at this time, or at any time. We've included a couple of pictures of some that left today. Keep in touch.
Lots of love,
Soeur Gubler

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

November 6, 2010

Things are getting crazier in the Ivory Coast. Both candidates have declared himself the winner and has sworn himself in as President. The risk for violence or even civil war has escalated, so the missionaries haven't been able to go out except for church yesterday and a quick trip to the computer today. We are praying for a quick resolution and for safe missionaries. I feel pretty calm, however - I have faith that they will be protected.

Hey family!

Still stuck in lockdown. Havent left that tiny apartment in over a week (except to go to church yesterday and cyber today). Im going a little insane but not toooo bad. There are fourteen of us in this appartment (Starita, Carver, Cruz, Legere, Leach, and eight africans). Apparently things are still pretty unstable outside (the country now has two presidents creating their own governments) but hopefully they will be able to resolve it.

President Ayekoue is still locked out of the country (he was in Togo when the boarders got shut down) but we're hoping he makes it back soon.

Well gotta go, just a quick note to let y'all know that i'm doin fine! I love you all! Thank you so much for the prayers! I hope i get the packages soon! The church is true!

Elder Bertoch

PS The inter-region is now creating the Togo Benin Mission. Great news!

PPS Im considering studying Arabic when i get home
November 29, 2010

The run off election was held yesterday between two remaining candidates. The results are expected by Wednesday, which is why Sam expects to be in quarantine until then.

Ok we dont have too much time in the cyber today, just a quick note to let you all know that we are all fine. We are back in quarantine since saturday and should be here until wednesday or thursday. Things are a little crazier here this time but nothing im too worried about.

My birthday went well. My companion bought me a cake and threw a surprise party for me with the zone so it was really fun. Didnt get to go out for pizza but i'll try and do that next monday maybe. Sadly I havent gotten the package yet, hopefully it comes this week.

But we're doing good here. I was happy to here you guys all had a great thanksgiving! Just looking at you all wearing sweaters made me start sweating haha. I cant believe its almost christmas! Wow this year went by fast. And its snowing there? Thats cool. Things are starting to really heat up here again.

Thanks so much for the quote, Mom! I love President Monson. Espescially this time of the year we all need to keep Jesus Christ and his gift to us on our minds. Since I've been on my mission I've read the book Jesus the Christ like three times and thats really helped me to understand His life and mission.

Scripture study ideas- one thing i like to do sometimes is to pick a Christlike Attribute from Preach My Gospel and focus my scripture study on scriptures about that topic and work on applying it during the week. Just one idea. But chapter 6 is definitely one of my favorite chapters in PMG.

Ok well gotta get back to quarantine! I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder Bertoch
November 22, 2010

Thanks for all the birthday wishes everyone! (November 26) This year best birthday email goes to... Jackson! -his sneak attack on dad's age sealed the deal.
Things are still going good here. Unfortuneately I havent gotten the package yet but my fingers are crossed that I'll get it before Friday. I planning on taking my district out for pizza next monday to celebrate so can you guys make sure i have money in my account? Thanks!

Doesnt look like anything special will be happening for thanksgiving though. Sadly this year there are not any americans in the ward to invite us over. No biggie, i'll eat more than my share of rice and tomatoe sauce to compensate.
Theres another Harry Potter movie?! I swear thats like the third one thats come out since i started my mission.

Hmmm...I think i could end up staying here until the end of January. Actually for the moment I think thats what i see happening. Whatever happens, I probably only have one area left after this one (maybe two if I'm lucky).

So the campaigns for the elections started again last saturday. The current President (Gbagbo Laurent) against the challenger (Allassane Ouattera). As far as I can tell, it should be a pretty even race. It sounds like all the non ivoriens will end up having to return to quarantine this week- tomorrow we are having mission conference so they will give us the details then. But things are still quiet, if it werent for the stickers, t shirts, and billboards everywhere you wouldnt even know there was an election going on.

We went to Grand Bassam (the city on the beach, about a 45 min bus ride away) two more times this week to do interviews. Baptismal interviews are always very rewarding to do. I love talking to baptismal canidates bear their testimonies and express their committment to follow Jesus Christ. Each one is always a unique experience that strengthens my testimony.

The music here is pretty much the same. In well developed wards they have choirs that sing the hymns very well. At church we only sing hymns but at activities sometimes the choir will sing traditional/gospel type music clapping and dancing and everything which is cool to see.

The young mens programs does not really exist yet in our ward. I dont think they ever meet during the week except rarely for special activities. Like last monday we played against them in soccer. Our ward doesnt really have to many young men yet so i guess thats kind of the problem.

The work is still going well. We added two more baptismal dates this week our zone is also going to baptize like fifteen people this saturday also (like a first for the zone of Koumassi) so i'm excited. I only hope that i wont spend too much time away.
Yesterday there was Stake Conference for all of west Africa. It was a projection that we watched at the stake center led by Elder Oaks. It was pretty cool, I ended up giving up my seat to a member (there are nine wards in the stake so it was pretty full) but what i saw was good- one speaker talked about the importance of smiling. Very important, especially for missionaries.

Well, i probably had other things i was going to say but my mind just went blank. Sorry! Have a good week and you will all be in my prayers! Thanks for the pictures too! They made me smile! Love you all!

Elder Bertoch
November 15, 2010

Well had just another awesome week this week. Although now im trying

to think of something that happened during it...nothing memorable just
good ole missionary work. We set a baptismal date after reading 2
Nephi 31 with an investigator for the 27th...only problem is that for
the moment its our only baptismal date haha. So we're working hard to
find new people; saturday is always a good day to find families at
home so we did some tracting. Most people were not interested but
there was one really nice family that let us in. They said that anyone
that talks about God is welcome in their house (something we hear
often-Africans have an amazingly strong faith in God). They are
promising- just got married and the wife is pregnant- so we'll see how
it turns out. We need good new investigators.

Yesterday i also had another chance to speak in church. There was
actually an error and somehow i was not informed i would be speaking
until it was annonced. It went well though, it was just a great chance
to let the Spirit guide my words. I didnt have anything prepared so i
just talked about the importance of families- strengthening our
families by family prayer, scripture study and FHE, and sharing the
gospel with members of our family who are not yet members of the
church. I also had the chance to bear testimony of how grateful i am
to have a family that raised in the gospel and that if it werent for
them i would not be here today.

Thursday there was a Leaders meeting at the mission office. President
doesnt seem to be worried about the elections at all this time and so
it seems like i'll just be able to stay here luckily.

I havent gotten the packages yet. I asked around and appartenly the
mail is slower here than Benin- packages take about 4-5 weeks.
Hopefully I'll get it this week though. I need those shoes haha.

Sorry about the lack of pictures lately. For some reason i have
trouble sending them from this cyber here. I'll keep trying though.

Yep i get everyones emails! Thank you so much! Today i was lucky
enough to hear from Leanne and Grandma!

New reading assignment- Alma 5

Well have fun this week! Sounds like you guys will have a blast with
Mike and Sydney too!
November 8, 2010

Hey! (seems like thats how i start every email)

So the regrouping is finally over! It was fun for a while, but then
sunday-wednesday we werent allowed to leave the appartment so it got a
little tiring. Twelve people in a little appartment 24/7 gets a little
cramped but i got to know a lot of new people which was cool. Nothing
too exciting happened during the elections either- President said that
Abidjan just was empty for three days, there were no cars on the
street, stores were closed, nobody went out cuz they were scared.

So you guys know already, there will be a second election later this
month- it just got changed to the 21st i think. We're hoping that we
wont have to go back into quarantine again, President said since
everything was calm the first time, we might be able to stay in our

So I'm back here at Koumassi now with Elder Kuiongbe. Yep, the mission
recieved 8 new missionaries (two of which are in my zone) but I'm most
likely done training (zone leaders are just paired with other zone
leaders). Which is actually too bad, i probably progressed the most on
my mission when i was with Elder Tshibasu. Anyway, this month we're
realizing that we baptized all of our good investigators last month,
so we'll have to work on finding alot. Nevertheless, we set our goal
for baptisms at seven so we'll have to work pretty hard.

Today we had zone conference for our zone. President talked a lot
about the role of the Spirit in conversion and then a lot of specific
problems that missionaries have in the mission (as far as behavior
goes). It was really good. Afterwards we had our interviews and me and
president had a really good conversation about the mission. I came out
of the conference very committed to improve myself and be a really
good example.

We also got to watch two sessions of general conference at church
yesterday (sat afternoon and sun morning). It was awesome. I
especially enjoyed Elder Oaks' talk on recieving revelation by the
personal line and the preisthood line. There was also a talk on
selective obedience that i liked too. Cant wait to get the Ensign.

Ya, there is a new AP now, Elder Cloward. He was actually my zone
leader when I was in Benin. He finishes at the end of january i think.

Yep, its been raining here lately, but nothing like the rain in Benin.
That was just unbelievable. And no, actually, Togo seems like it was
just yesterday, and then i remember that its been almost a year since
i left. Crazy.

Anyway your guys' new assignment is...2 Nephi 31. We talked about this
chapter a lot last mission conference while we were talking about the
doctrine of Christ.

Well that about it! I love you all! Thanks for the email too, syd! I
got the one before too. You are a writing machine!

Elder Bertoch
November 1, 2010


So, survived the elections. Barely. Just kiddin, yesterday was pretty calm, we went to church in the morning and then werent allowed to leave the appartment after that. So actually just really boring. Today we're not allowed to leave the appartment either (except to write home) cuz the results are starting to come out.

Thats the first time i heard about the rule that they might have to do the elections again this month. That would probably mean that we would have to stay here. Darn.

Me and my companion just missed being companionship of the month unfortunately. You know who took it from us? Elder Halterman and Elder Aiba baptizing our investigators in Niangon, so i was still happy.

Elder Halvorsen says that Yamasoukro is extremely hot and very muslim and catholic (has the largest basilic in the world). I actually think that it is very possible that when he finishes i replace him up there. That would be kinda cool.

Anyway, the work is still progressing, even in these conditions. Since me and Elder Halvorsen didn't have any investigators here, we have just been knocking doors. The first door we ever knocked on was somebody named Kouadio Nixon. We taught him the restoration and set up a return appointment in two days. Came back, taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, and committed him to baptism for this saturday (seems extremely rushed, i know, but the mission just came out with a policy that the investigators pick the day they get baptized. Its very possible that we will push that back this week when we talk about the commandments). He came to church yesterday and will have his interview on friday. So everything is a little smushed in time wise but its possible that during the two weeks we will be here that me and Elder Halvorsen will actually baptize someone. The Lord always has a reason for everything, i know we are meant to be in this area right now.

Thanks for reading Moroni 7! New reading assignment: The book of James. I've grown to love the New Testament and that is just a great book.

I'm glad you guys had a great halloween! Nope, sadly, the children here dont trick or treat, Jack. In fact, from what i could see from our appartment balcony yesterday, the streets were kinda empty. Even the Ivoriens are afraid to go out during this time.

Glad you had a fun trip dad! Have fun in Phoenix this week! Way to set the example, Mom! And I about drooled all over the keyboard when you talked about the fondue!

Well, just know that I'm safe and happy. Since we spend a lot of time at the appartment these days i started reading Doctrine and Covenants all the way through. I've read the Bible and the Book of Mormon (a few times) but this is the first time reading D and C. Very interesting stuff. I hope you guys have a great week! Love you all!

Elder Bertoch
October 27, 2010

Sam starts by explaining how the non-ivorians had to move in together during the elections. The Ivory Coast has a history of violence during elections and they want the missionaries together in one area in case of any trouble. The election is scheduled for October 31.

Hey fam!

Sorry for not writing on monday, i was busy with the move to the new appt so im stopping by today.

Things are going well here. There ended up being twelve in the same appartment with one shower, four beds, three fans, and a hundred cockroaches so its interesting haha. But we still have a blast- all night we all just talk and laugh together. My companion for the two weeks is Elder Halverson (from washington , finishes in January) and we're the zone leaders here. When we get back to the appartment at night we have a schedule we have to follow- we plan, then there is a scriptual topic that we talk about for two hours, then we eat. Everyone has been given a little mini area here so when we can leave the appartment we just do door to door.

I forgot to tell you that a few weeks ago I went to the zoo! Its not at all like the zoos in America, here there is basically no supervision and you can get as close to the animals as you dare. I fed an elephant, a hippo, a chimpanzee, and a deer type animal, it was pretty dang cool.

Today we had mission conference. President talked a lot abouta new method that the missionaries in the MTCs are taught and gave us the same training. He spoke about how we shouldnt teach anything but the doctrine of Christ, pure and simple. He also talked about the role the Holy Ghost should play in our lives. I was very inspired by everything he taught and cant wait to put it into practice.

In my zone I didnt really have any disobedient missionaries just some discouraged ones. Some people get it into their head that an area is "hard" so they are less motivated to work. In reality, the Lord has prepared people everywhere, but if you tell yourself that its hard, you're just hindering the Lord from guiding you to those people. Whether you tell yourself that you will be successful and baptize or that its hard and nothing will move forward, you'll be right. Its just part of having faith.

We had another baptismal service last saturday and baptized Richard and Jacqueline. This saturday two more will get baptized too- it's too bad i wont be there.

Well, thats about all the time i've got. I testify that God loves and knows each one of us. He is in control and only has our best interests at heart which is such a comforting thought. I know Jesus Christ is my personal Savior and older brother, and a friend for each one of us when we might feel lost or alone. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its entirety and thanks to that fact each one of us can be sealed as a family for eternity. Thats why I'm here, to help other families to get onto the path that i was blessed enough to be born in to. I love you all and pray for you every night. Do me a favor and read Moroni 7 this week, an awesome chapter.

Elder Bertoch