Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dieu Soit avec Toi Jusqu’Au Revoir (God Be with You Til We Meet Again)

Dear Family, 

Wow, it is really crazy to be emailing for the last time from Africa!

It is hard to put into words my emotions. I am so happy for all the experiences I have had here, and for the people I have met, and for the little part I have been able to play in helping convert my fellow brothers and sisters to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

This past week, I have been visiting converts and members to say goodbye, and to eat patte together. I have been so impressed by the sincerity of everyone we have visited. They really love God, and Jesus Christ, and they really love the missionaries. They have all taught me a lot of different lessons over the past two years. 

Today, in church, I gave my last testimony. I shared John 15:13 (Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.). I talked about the love God has for each of us, and how He asks us to do our best to have the same love for each other. I also shared Luke 22:32 (When thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.), and talked about our responsibility to strengthen ourselves and then help others.

While I was talking, it just kept hitting me that I would still have this responsibility, but that I would have to do it without the badge.

As we were singing the closing hymn, God Be with You Til We Meet Again, different members kept waving at me from the congregation which was really touching. It was hard to keep my eyes on the music, and as a result, I made quite a few mistakes on the piano, but that isn't really important. 

I will miss the people here in Benin. I suppose we will get the chance to see former friends in the next life. Who knows, maybe when they build the temple here, I will be able to come back to visit. 

I have said so many goodbyes, and taken a lot of photos. This has been probably the longest and the shortest two years of my life. Part of me feels like it couldn't ever end.

So this little shed is the place where I taught my first lesson. I still remember sitting there, wedged in-between Elders Adjei and Florion, lost and confused trying to understand what was French and what was Fon. We had taught the Plan of Salvation to a recent convert and her family. I passed by that shed again this past Thursday while visiting Cococodji and all the memories from the beginning of my mission hit me. I had to stop and snap a picture so that I won't ever forget. 

My final responsibilities will be to help take care of transfers. My comp, Elder Pellevoizin, will get his new companion. And then, Elders Jackson, Jorgensen and Bailey and I will take a day to do some sightseeing and shopping for souvenirs. I have one final dinner appointment with Luc and Marina (two of my favorite people from Cococodji). We'll have final interviews with the President, and dinner, and then we are gone. I suppose I have taught my last official lesson, and that is a really, really weird thought. So many mixed emotions. 

It's weird to think that we'll be seeing each other fairly soon. I'm excited to be coming home. I am hoping the things I have learned here will help me be a more serious student, and a better person in general. 

So, I guess ill see you guys in just a few, holy cow---

Love you,

Elder Walls

You typically don't see many monkeys in areas where people live, and when you do,
they usually get overexcited. This little guy was pretty calm and friendly.
Two of our Nigerian amis finally got the courage to come to our all French church
meeting (they speak English). They made us Yellow Eba, a Nigerian classic dish

Final photos with members and converts

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Adieu, Porto Novo, Adieu

Catching up with friends in Porto Novo
Dear Family,

Wow! The time is really flying by, and I am really feeling nostalgic about leaving Africa. I was privileged to get to do one last split with Elder Fenn (who I trained in Cocotomey) in my former sector in Porto Novo. We set the whole day up to see former amis, members and converts. It was really special. I will miss that place and those people!

I got to see DD and Parfaite. I taught them the entire 10 months I was in PN, without getting to see them make much progress because of the dowry/marriage issue here. It was great to see them again. They are very, very close to taking care of all the necessary paperwork and paying all the fines so that they can be married. Hopefully, that means they will be able to be baptized soon as well. Their children, Françoise, Isabelle, and Donald (all of whom I baptized while I was with Elder Barnes) are doing very well. They are probably some of the most active members in PN. They typically arrive very early to church each Sunday, even before the branch president does!

I also was able to see Isaac and Josée. Isaac is making preparations to get married to his girlfriend next year. And Josée, after he was baptized had moved back to the village and didn't have any place to attend church. But he is back in PN and fully active. He is now the Young Men's president. 

I wasn’t able to see Rogenio or Gladys because both are away from PN that day. I have been assured that both are doing fine.

I also was able to see some former amis (Marie-Josée, Jo, Sabine, Raoul, Rachelle) who decided to stop investigating the church. I invited them to come to church and I put them in contact with Elder Fenn. Who knows, maybe they will accept my invitation and come back. They were surprised to see me again, and to know that I remembered them. I was happy they remembered me as well. I hope they know that I sincerely love them and was happy to see them again after 10 months. I really hope they will all be taken care of after I leave. I am sure they will, and in any case, I will do my best to keep in contact with them. 

Today, back in my current sector, we baptized Fr. Mensah. It was a very nice service. We held it right after church, so everyone stayed and helped. And remarkably, everyone was pretty calm and reverent (not always one of our strengths here in Africa!). Fr. Mensah got up and bore his testimony afterwards and said he was very thankful to be a child of God. 

Not sure how I will be able to say goodbye to all these wonderful people. It's going to be tough. 

All in all, it’s been a good week. I am doing my best not to count down the days, but I am looking forward to seeing you guys very soon. 

Love you all,

Elder Walls

Photos from Fr. Mensah's baptism. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Enduring to the End

Dear Mom and Dad,

I hope everyone is doing well back home. I miss you guys a lot, but I am doing my best not to count down the day until I am home. I am working in the mission office, and sitting right by my computer area all the farewell envelopes for the returning missionaries, so that isn't helping! I suppose I shouldn't peek at those until they give it to me officially :)

My companion is feeling better, so we have been able to work in the sector a few days. We also assisted President Morin on his interviews with the missionaries. Every 3 months, President Morin takes a trip around the entire mission to interview everyone. We follow and support him while he conducts his business. 

This round of interviews was based on companionship study. President Morin read some scriptures with each companionship and then discussed their efforts to study together. While he is working with the missionaries, we look through the area books for each companionship. 

Overall, it has been a good week. I am hoping we will be able to spend lots of time in our sector this week. We are still working with Brother Mensah and Sister Josephine. I am hoping to be able to see them be baptized before I leave!

So, that's been my week. Again, I hope you are all doing well. I will see you in not so long!

Elder Walls

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Isaiah 52:7

Dear Family,

So my companion is feeling kind of sick and probably won’t want to stick around the office for too long, so I’ll keep this email shorter than usual---

I've had an unusual, yet productive week.

The first story relates to the scripture found in Isaiah 52:7.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

I think I told you about the warts on my foot a few weeks ago. I had a few ugly little warts on the big toe of my right foot. I treated them with an acidic cream that I purchased from the pharmacy. It worked, or at least I thought it was working. The skin in the area died, and peeled off, along with the black warts. And the skin underneath looked good. 

I just let the new skin be, but I suppose there must still have been a little bit of the virus left because the warts started coming back. With a vengeance! Since there were quite a few warts, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist. There aren't too many dermatologist's offices, but I was finally able to get an appointment in a small clinic in Cotonou. 

I assumed that the doctor would be able to use liquid nitrogen to freeze them off. However, when I asked about that, he just laughed. He said there isn't enough money in Benin for things like that. What he said he could do though, would be to electro coagulate them off---or basically use electricity to burn them off.

I called the Morin's and got their "OK," and told the doctor to go ahead with the treatment. I didn’t quite realize how crazy painful it would be. First of all, I needed anesthetic shots in the foot (I was told that I would only need 4). The bottom of the foot has a lot of nerve ending and is very, very sensitive to tickling, pain, etc., so each needle felt way more significant than any other shot that I’ve gotten before.

After the shots, he started burning warts. However, I could still feel basically everything that was going on, so I got more shots. Shots, burning, shots, burning---etc etc. Very tiring. I think I got probably more than 14 shots in total and the doc said that he had found over 20 warts including ones that were hiding underneath other warts. It took quite a bit of time, but it finally was over. 

One funny moment. The doctor had a very, unintentionally, funny nurse helping him. When she noticed that I was still feeling the burn from the electrode, she said, "Don't worry, I'll turn the AC on." Hahaha, as if a little AC would really do anything for the pain!

Anyways, the electrocoagulation left some nice scabs and open wounds for the first week or so. I've got some gnarly looking feet right now, but they are getting better. I am using an antibiotic cream to keep any infections from starting. And I change my bandage morning and night. (Mom, thanks for sending me out with a nice first aid kit and gauze! :-)

I’ll send you guys a photo, try not to gag.

One of the missionaries in our apartment has malaria and has really been out of shape. And my comp just started coming down with something yesterday--possibly malaria. Both seem to be doing better, so don't worry. 

I am excited to see that we have a big group of Americans coming to the mission! There has not been a group this big as long as I've been here. The timing is good, because in the next few months, we will lose almost half of the Americans that are here. It is funny to look at the photos of those who are coming--you can see a resemblance to another missionary who will be leaving soon (or has already left). Some even have the same last name as previous missionaries. It is great to know that others are coming to pick up where we leave off, and continue the work we have been doing. Hopefully, they will have a real impact on the mission and the people of Benin. 

I love you all, and I can’t wait until we meet back up in the airport!

See ya in a few!

Elder Walls