Monday, April 25, 2016


E-mail dated 4/25/16

Family and Friends,
Akwaabo! I'm going to apologize in advance to all those who emailed me today, I won't be able to respond! The internet isn't too great today, so I'll just send out my group email. Sorry! I was able to read all of my inbox though, and it sounds like every one is doing great.

My week was also pretty amazing!! I spent the week showing Elder Adams around my area and also finishing the preparations for Mitchell and Rita. I also did interviews this week for a few people, which is always a great experience! As for my area though, everything is going great. I have really been blessed with my different areas I have been assigned to throughout my mission, because I have loved every single one. Some missionaries are dying to leave their areas, but I've never had that experience and I don't think I will! The Lord has really blessed me.

The crowning event of the week, of course, was the baptism! I sent some pictures earlier today, I hope that every one can see them! It was a rewarding baptism because we were helping to complete some part-member families. For Mitchell, he was stubborn when we first started teaching him, but over the past few weeks, he's really opened up. As for Rita, she used to run inside and hide when we would come to teach her siblings, Jones and Caulena. But her heart was softened too after many prayers! They bore powerful testimonies at the baptismal service. The testimonies are my favorite part of any baptism.

To answer some of your questions!

1.  I probably don't want to know the answer to this question, but did you missionaries actually do the killing, skinning, cleaning and cooking of the cats you sent pictures of or did you find a native to do that for you and you just "tasted" it?
Elder Eguko and I helped kill it, and burn the hair off of it, and then we gave it to a Liberian to clean and gut it! But then we took it home, seasoned the meat ourselves and threw it into the oven. It was so delicious! 

2.  Any information on when you will be calling/Skyping?
I will FOR SURE be able to Skype this time! A member has already offered us her laptop and we will have good internet now. I was planning on Skyping around 6:30 p.m. in my time (12:30 MST), is that okay? If not, then just let me know before next week! I'm so excited!

3.  You may have told me this several months ago, but where is Elder Adams from, how long has he been out and was he a transfer from Ghana like you were?  Sorry if you have already answered this before.
Elder Adams is a Ghanaian from Takoradi (close to my first area)! He is 7 months old on his mission, and he came to Liberia on December 7 after he was trained for 3 months in the Accra West Mission! He is the same MTC group as Elder Carlson and Elder Ibe. 

4.  Is there a food that eat so much of there that when you come home you will never want to eat again?
Hmmm... I don't think so! If anything, serving in Liberia has only increased my appetite for rice! Sure I eat it for lunch and dinner everyday, but it's still great!

5.  Did the baptism take place on Saturday?  Did you get to baptize any of the candidates?
Yes, it took place! I wasn't the baptist, but Elder Eguko was able to baptize Rita and a new missionary, Elder Harman baptized the rest! It was one of the best services I've had of my entire mission. I loved it.

Well, I'm sorry again to all those who I didn't reply to today! I love you all though, and I promise that I will be able to talk more next week! I pray for all of you daily though, and I hope to hear from every one again next Monday. Have a great week!

Elder Degen

Monday, April 18, 2016


E-mail dated 4/18/16

Family and friends,
Akwaabo! Thank you to every one who gave me kind words of encouragement this week in their emails. I was blessed to hear from so many family members. I'm glad that every one is doing well and enjoying work and school! I was grateful to know that my daily prayers are being answered.

My week in Liberia has been an awesome one! Elder Eguko and I have been blessed to be in Bassa Town together for the past 2 transfers, and we had an awesome last week there together. We taught quite a few people are really finished preparing Mitchell and Rita for baptism on the 23rd! Sadly, transfer news came on Friday night and we are being split apart! We are still in the same apartment and the same branch, but Elder Eguko has been called to train a new missionary and I am now full-time companions with Elder Adams! I have been companions with Elder Adams on and off during the past 6 weeks whenever we would go and do zone business, so it won't be that much of a change! I am really going to miss Elder Eguko though. I have grown close to him over the past 13 weeks, and I love that guy. I'm glad he'll only be one room over.

The fun thing about my week, though? I have gotten to kill and eat 2 cats! The Kpoto's (an amazing member-family in my area) set up a cage in their land and caught two large ones that they let us take home and cook. Cat meat is delicious! I hope that everyone will be able to see the pictures that I sent. 

Anyways, to answer your questions!

1.  Do you have any sisters (native) called to serve in Liberia yet?  If not, do you think they will be anytime in the near future?
We currently have 3 sisters serving in the mission, but 3 more will arrive tomorrow! Of the 3, one is from Ghana and the other 2 are from Nigeria. I don't know the nationalities of the ones coming in! I know that by the time I go home, President Carlson said there will be 12 sisters here so that he can actually transfer them around. The current sisters have been in the same area for a very long time because there's no where else to put them!

2.  Are transfers coming up soon?
The new transfer officially begins today and will end on May 31st, so I can sit tight for a while!  

3.  Do you speak any Fante or Twi at all?  (I hope I spelled those right)  Do you think you still remember the languages?
Since ELder Eguko and Elder Adams are both fluent in Twi, I have actually gotten to speak small again! I absolutely love the language, but I'm a bit rusty after not having been in Ghana for close to 7 months... Hopefully Elder Adams will help me regain it.

4.  What did you do when you ran out of water at your apartment last week?  How long were you without it and how is it generally replenished?
Well, I won't go into all the details of what happens when Elders don't have running water, but for the most part we just fetched water at the well across the road. Some people came this week and dug our own well deeper, so everything is fixed now. Normally we have an electric pump push water from our well up to an elevated water tank which then feeds into the house. That's how nearly all houses in west Africa get water!

5.  How is your Branch President doing?  I think about him often!  
He is doing great! He has come to church for the past 3 weeks, and he has really regained his strength back. He is still not quite rehabilitated from the mental aspect, although he has greatly improved. I love that man, and your prayers would still be appreciated!

6.  What is a popular snack food in Liberia?  We seem to like our popcorn and chocolate.  What about Liberians?
Popcorn is universal! Everybody eats popcorn here. You can buy a bag for 10 LD on the streets (about 8 cents), so it's very cheap. Liberians also love biscuits (cookies)! I really enjoy the vanilla wafers that they sell almost every where. Definitely no chocolate though.

Well thank you to every one again for the help and support that you give to me! I love all of you so much and pray for most of you individually. Please continue praying for me and those that I teach! I love you all. 

Elder Degen

Monday, April 11, 2016

E-mail dated 4/11/16

Family and Friends,
Akwaabo! It's been a successful P-day today, and I'm glad that I now have the chance to hear from every one. From everything that I read, it seems that every one is doing well and that every one is happy and healthy! I only am aware of one heartbreak that happened (UNC....) but that's nothing compared to the good news that I heard. Thank you to every one!

My week in Liberia was an eventful one (I don't know how many times I've said that already, but somehow every week it seems to be true). Elder Adams and I went with each other to MLC on Wednesday, we instructed our zone on Thursday and then went to 2 District Presidency meetings on Saturday. It was a lot of effort, but it was also a lot of fun! I love being with other missionaries, and all these meetings were great opportunities to talk with the other Elders.

As far as my area goes, it was also an awesome week! Leroy came to church again, and he is progressing really well. We're so excited about him. Rita, sister of Jones Shekpeh (I baptized him in February), has also decided to be baptized and Elder Eguko and I were ecstatic! Our last candidate for the 23rd is Mitchell, who is the 12 year old son of one of our strong members. We were able to see all of them this week, and we are very excited about their progression. They should be interviewed either this week or next!

Also, we found a new investigator this week, and it's hard to put into words who this girl is. She is 19 and she's from Sierra Leone and she reminds me so much of my Recent Convert in Ghana, Abigail! I'll keep you all updated as we continue to teach these great people.

To answer your questions...

1.  Were you able to view conference yet?
I haven't been able to view it, but I was able to download it on my iPod this week and I've read through almost all of them! It. was. amazing. Of course, I'm biased, and Elder Hallstrom's talk was my favorite. 
To add to that though, I have been absolutely amazed at how many things are in the Gospel Library app! Since I've received my iPod, I have learned so much from talks, study aids, and manuals inside the app. I hope every one who has a smart phone is using the app to its fullest, because I feel like an idiot for wasting my time at home.

2.  Are there any big sporting events in Monrovia?
No... There was a football match a few months back, but other than that Liberia doesn't have too much else. There's a decent stadium in town, but the Liberia team isn't very good. 

3.  You painted your apartment to look like a giraffe?  Do missionaries live in the entire building or is it subdivided into more than one apartment?
I didn't paint it like that, that's how we bought it! How could you expect me to live in Africa and not have a giraffe painted house?? All 6 of us live in there with no divisions, just 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. Speaking of the title of my email though, I'm not referring to showers of the rainy season, I'm referring to water in my apartment... we ran out this week. It was not a pleasant sight (or smell).

4.  Does it rain every day now?  Are you glad for the rainy season?
Nope, I don't think it rained at all this week. But, rainy season officially starts on the 15th, so hopefully things will start to pick up soon! You'll be receiving pictures of me in rain boots and an umbrella next month!

5.  What is the biggest road block your investigators have in accepting the gospel?  Is it word of wisdom?  Tithing?  I would think if a lot of people live in poverty that asking the to pay 10% of their income to tithing would be challenge.
Definitely, without a doubt, most people's biggest problem is the law of Chastity. These people don't care about money, and they're willing to give any tithing to God. Most people understand that alcohol and drugs are bad. But my goodness, Liberians have a problem with the law of Chastity. I'll just leave it at that... 

Well, I guess that's all for this week! Remember that I love you all and pray for you daily. There's not a day that goes by that I don't thank my Heavenly Father for my family and loved ones at home. I hope that every one has a great and safe week!

Elder Degen

Monday, April 4, 2016

E-mail dated 4/4/16

Family and Friends,
Akwaabo! All is well here in Liberia, and I hope all is well at home too. I loved the many emails I was able to receive this week about General Conference, I loved hearing about your thoughts and impressions that came to your minds as you all listened to the living prophets! It also sounds like every one is healthy and safe, so that's more than I could ask for.

My week was a great one, but nothing too exciting happened! Elder Eguko and I continued to see many of our favorite members and investigators, and they are all doing really well. As a companionship we decided that it would be more beneficial for the branch here in New Georgia if we focused more upon teaching Less Actives and Recent Converts, and the Lord blessed us as we did so. At first, we thought we were going to lose a lot of investigators because of the time we were spending with the weaker members, but we were wrong. Many of those Recent Converts and Less Actives gave us their friends to teach and some even came and proselyted with us! We were so happy with the blessings that came with our change of focus.

As far as conference goes, I wasn't able to watch or listen to it (I'll explain in a second), but I did hear about it! I especially heard about Elder Hallstrom's talk where he mentioned his visit to Liberia last November. I can't wait to listen to that talk! That Liberia Conference was one of the most memorable days of my life, and I was glad to hear that Elder Hallstrom had the same feelings as me. 

Now to answer your questions...

1.  Were you able to watch any or all of conference?  I hope so!
I actually wasn't able to watch any of it.... They were streaming it live in Monrovia, but I wasn't able to go in town to watch it! It's true though that this past weekend was the first time ever that conference has been broadcast to West Africa, so it's an amazing step for this area. 

2.  What is going on in the picture you sent home last week of the building that is painted with giraffe spots and a missionary is on the roof?
Well... I accidentally threw our keys on top of our apartment, and Elder Eguko volunteered to go and get them. Don't you love the paint job on my house?? It's awesome. Also, don't ask how I threw them up there. That's unimportant.

3.  Where were you playing basketball in the picture you sent home?  It looks like a pretty nice court?  Who did you play with?  other missionaries/members?
We were playing at the Liberia Basketball Association court in Monrovia! It was amazing. It was a zone activity, so we had about 20 missionaries playing against each other.

4.  How are your investigators progressing?  Any about ready for baptism?
We have around 4-6 people that we are planning to baptize on the 23rd of this month! We've been pushing back a few people to make sure that they are truly ready, and we are confident that the 23rd will be the day!

5.  Do you know how many missionaries are now in your mission?  I see on the FB page that a group just left from SLC last week for the Ghana MTC prior to reporting to Liberia.  
There's around 70 missionaries in the mission right now! By the end of May, we will have close to 96, which will be our cap. At the end of May, 11(!) Americans are coming, so it will be interesting to meet these missionaries who are graduating high school right now. 

6.  I have been thinking this week about the day you left on your mission and how you boldly left everything behind to serve.  I remember seeing you sitting in the living room chair with your luggage next to you waiting until it was time for us to leave for the airport.  Do you remember what you were thinking at that time and what are your feelings of that day?
Hmm.. I know that I was really nervous, but I was so ready to go. I had been looking forward to that day for nearly 19 years and I my mind was surprisingly calm the day that it finally came. It didn't feel real at the time, and I don't think it really hit me until a few weeks later when I arrived in Cape Coast. A lot has changed since then!  

7.  What was your sweetest success and biggest challenge of this past week?
My sweetest success was being able to reactivate some of the members that are living in my area. This week we found a young man who is a child of record, his siblings are all on missions, and he knows the Book of Mormon really well, yet he hasn't been to church since 2012. We were able to meet with him, and rekindle some of that fire that has been dwindling over the past 4 years. That was my sweetest success.
My biggest challenge... I honestly can't think of a great challenge this week that I experienced. The Lord really provided for me this week!

Thank you to every one again for the emails and prayers that are written and said on my behalf. They are heard, and I can promise you that. I love you all so much, and I'm grateful for all that you do for me! I hope that everyone has a great week.

Elder Gavin Degen