Monday, May 23, 2016

E-mail dated 5/23/16

Family and Friends,
Akwaabo! How-da-body every one? It's been another great week here in Liberia, sadly a little too great! I don't have nearly anytime for my long email this week.. I apologize, but I'll try and say something small!

Our baptism fell through this past week, but we have rescheduled it for the 4th of June, so it won't be too far! Speaking of that though, there's a good chance that I will be transferred at the end of this week! I will find out on Friday though.

Other than that it was a great week! 

1.  On the FB page, on of the Mom's asked if anyone knew how many missionaries there were in the mission now.  She got a wide variety of answers:  68, 79 and 98.  Do you know the number?  I know you said you were getting more missionaries the end of the month.
Hmmm... I think it's in the 70's right now, but soon it will reach in the 80's or 90's.

2.  Are President and Sister Carlson assigned to a Branch or do they travel around the mission attending different branches each Sunday?
They travel around, although many times I think they go to the Sinkor Branch because it's the closest!

3.  Did you hear that the Church has revised the clothing requirements for sister missionaries that are serving in countries where disease is passed from mosquitos?  Sisters serving in these countries are now permitted to wear dress pants to proselyte in.  This affects almost half of the missions of the Church.  Do you have any native full-time sister missionaries serving in your mission?
Yes, we have 6 Sisters in our mission! They're awesome.

4.  How much rain would you say you have received this week?  It has rained quite a bit here the last few days.  (I'm sure it is minimal compared to what you received).
Liberia has more rain the the month of June than the city of Seattle does for the whole year. It rains a lot here, but I'm, not sure how many inches these past few weeks! Sister Carlson told me that the average for the year is 180 inches/year.

5.  Besides family, friends, etc., what is the one thing (or things) that you have missed the most after being gone for 21 months?  
Besides my relationships, It's definitely been food. I miss good food so much!

Sorry for the horrible email this week, I promise I'll do better next week! I love you all.
Elder Degen

Monday, May 16, 2016


E-mail dated 5/16/16

Family and Friends,
Awkwaabo! Thank you to every one for the emails the past few weeks! I apologize for last week, but our cafe was down and so I was just able to send something small. Forgive me! It was awesome to see every one last week though, and I'm glad that every one is doing great! The emails every one sends to me make me so happy.

For my week, it was a crazy one! As you might have guessed from the title of my email, Elder Adams and I did a lot of interviews this week. We did interviews for 4 different companionship's, which took up a lot of our time. Which was okay though, because I love doing baptismal interviews! I'm always amazed at the strength of the converts that the mission is pulling in, and I'm lucky I get to hear many of their testimonies before they're baptized. Many people have incredible stories of their conversion as well. Many see dreams, some have met missionaries in miraculous fashion, and a few have come from the depths of sin to the waters of baptism. It's nothing short of amazing.

Today was also fun, because many people from my zone, and a few others, played basketball today! We were able to play at the YMCA in Monrovia (Yes, I was equally surprised that the YMCA is in Liberia). Every time I play basketball on my mission, I get so tired, so fast! I am not in very good shape... Rice makes you fat, who knew?

Let me answer your questions!

1.  Sorry if I have asked you this before, but do you ride motorcycles or public transportation to get around?  I assume that you can't walk everywhere you need to go.
We used to ride motorcycles almost everywhere, but the Area President came and said that we are no longer allowed! So now I walk to my area and back every day, which isn't too bad. We do take public transportation if we ever have to leave New Georgia, usually a trotro or a taxi.

2.  What mission rule is the hardest to keep?  As a  Zone Leader, do you have to deal with missionaries who break the rules?
Hmmm.... that's a hard question. I would have to say that the curfew for my mission is the one that I struggle with the most! We're supposed to be home by 7:00 P.M. in Liberia because of the lack of street lights, but since I would stay out until 9-9:30 in Ghana, it's been hard for me to adjust! But yes, I do have to deal with missionaries who break the rules. It's not that fun.

3.  Did everyone in your apartment get to Skype with their families last week?  I hope everyone was as fortunate as we were to get to spend a lot of time with families!
Yes, I think every one was able to Skype for at least a little bit! Many of the Africans have to deal with a connection that is bad in both locations (in Liberia and their home) so it doesn't work as well for others! 

4.  What was something spiritual that happened this week that increased your testimony of the Savior?

Wow. I love that question. This week I was studying from the New Testament, and I marveled at the simplicity of the way that Christ could teach. His parables and statements that "did pierce them to the very soul" (3 Nephi 11:3) are perfect examples to me as I strive to teach as He did. Liberians, in order for them to understand, need to be taught in the simplest of language, which allows for only short and concise sentences. As I've been on my mission, this has been both a blessing and a curse. But Liberia has taught me something; the Gospel is simple! Plain, straightforward ad perfect. And I love it. I can only aspire to speak with the same simplicity as our Savior.

Anyways, thank you to every one again for your emails the past few weeks! They have been nothing but comforting and uplifting. Your prayers are being heard, and I appreciate them so much. I love you all and I can't wait to hear from you next week!

Elder Degen

Monday, May 2, 2016

E-mail dated 5/2/16

Dear Family and Friends,

Akwaabo! I'm sorry that I wasn't able to email everyone last week, but I have time today and the Internet is much better! Thank you for your continuous emails though, they mean a lot. It sounds like everyone is healthy and happy at home, which makes me happy! I can't ask for too much else every Monday.

This week was a fun week with a lot of memorable events! It was busy with proselyting, meetings, exchanges and interviews all filled into a short seven days. Elder Adams and I continued teaching Mitchel and Rita as recent converts, and we have begun the serious preparations for our next baptism on May 21st. We are planning on having 3 people on that day! We're hoping for George, Leroy and Patience. I think I've told you about Leroy before, but I'm sure you'll hear more about all of them as their baptismal date draws closer. I love my investigators!

On Friday was Zone Conference, and it was amazing. It was centered around a training clip by Elder Bednar from the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast in January. He spoke about the role of the Holy Ghost in conversion and how we as missionaries can became better instruments in the hands of the Lord. President Carlson (and I) absolutely love the way Elder Bednar teaches and he urged all of us to learn how to teach like him. Bednar asks many inspired questions in his teaching, listens to the answers, and then directly responds to and teaches from the answers the students give. My favorite quote was "Teaching is much more than talking. It's listening and observing, and then giving a response."

On Saturday we went on exchanges with Elder Carlson (he's a district leader in my zone), and his companion. It was a lot of fun reuniting with him and seeing how much both of us have learned in the past 4-5 months since we have been apart! It was a fun exchange, and I'm preparing for more this week. We're going on splits with the Assistants tomorrow, MLC on Wednesday, Zone Meeting on Thursday, and then Mother's Day(!) on Sunday. I'm in for another busy week!

As for your questions...
1.  I know it is different for all of your investigators, but about how long does it take from the time you first meet them to the time they are ready for baptism?  About how many times do you meet with them?
Hmmm... Well investigators are required to attend Sacrament Meeting three times before they can be baptized, so my fastest baptisms have been in about that time period. I have had many others though who can take 1-3 months before they are finally ready. And, of course, there's always every missionary's worst fear; teaching somebody for months and then they get baptize after you get transferred. That has happened so many times! Normally it requires at least 5-7 visits to teach them all the lessons though. 

2.  Do your new investigators receive callings right away?  Do they have a "mentor" or someone who has been a member for awhile show them the ropes, so to speak?
In a perfect world, all of them should have callings soon after their baptisms. But the leadership is very inexperienced here in Liberia, so it doesn't happen very often. Thankfully Jones did receive a calling yesterday, so now he's a seminary teacher in the branch! I was so happy for him. Before nearly every one is baptized though, we make sure that they have a fellow shipper so that they can be "shown the ropes." Normally the branch member that is closest in age or proximity to the convert is who will fellowship them. 

Well I think that's all for today! Thank you again to every one for all of your emails, support and prayers. I can feel them all the way from African. Please, if anybody wants any souvenirs, please think about what they want and tell me on Mother's Day! I can't wait to talk with every one! I love you all.

Elder Degen