Monday, January 26, 2015

Not Much to Write Home About


Hey guys, 

Great to hear from you both. Excited to hear that Dad is getting braces, that will be interesting. This week we have stayed pretty busy, going from lesson to lesson. Our key indicators for the week are higher than normal, but of course that means that I have been tired too. 
With our amis, MJ is sadly becoming a little less progressive as she realizes that were not going to be able to baptize her until her marriage situation is resolved. Hopefully we can turn that around and keep her coming to church and progressing, even if the baptism will have to wait.

After our 4 baptisms last week, we are starting to work with their friends and family. We will see how that goes (not that I am counting but I have had 10 baptisms so far).
No excorisms this week, however our grandmother with the child whom she was convinced was possessed by a demon did not show up to church and no one has heard from her. Perhaps we should send someone over to see if everything is still alright.

The work is going well. I am still with Rich, Konan, Ribera, Mayamba, and Barnes. The big news is Barnes and I are no longer sleeping in the living room. We now have a room. Usually missionaries have a room to sleep in and a room for study. One of the missionary couples suggested Peterson and Mayamba give up their study room for us. So now we are crammed in a very small room with no desk or cabinet space to put anything. I have been living out of my suitcase for 7 or 8 weeks now. I guess the living room did have the advantage of having a little more space. 

Also Barnes is doing well, no sickness. We are still working on his French--it will come with time though.

Love you,
Elder Walls

Monday, January 19, 2015

Demons and Near Death Experiences

January 19, 2015

Hey Guys,

Glad to hear from you all, it’s always a highlight of the week.

The week hasn’t been very eventful—we've been doing teaching appointments, but haven't been able to focus as much as we'd like on some of our amis.

One of our amis is doing very well, her name is MJ. She’s a member of the large family that is coming to church. She is preaching the Word of Wisdom to everyone in her neighborhood (this after having heard about it in Sunday School). She so ready to be baptized, and loves the Church and the missionaries. Our only difficulty guessed it...marriage, which is always the problem here. 

We had our 4 baptisms this past Saturday. They went really well. They
were for the youth we’ve been teaching. Two are 14 years old, and the other two are 9 years old (siblings of one of the 14 year olds). Barnes did the baptizing, and I’m sure it was a pretty unique experience.

First of all, Barnes had been sick just the day beforehand. He was hoping he would be well enough to do the baptisms. We were in a pool that was probably about 4 feet deep. The first little 9-year old went in and she was terrified. (Africans don’t swim, and the water was deeper than her head.) Barnes had to end up letting her sit on his knee while he did the prayer, and then just kind off dunk-tanked her. Then the other 9-year old came in and he could stand, but he had never been in a pool before and didn’t really know how to stand. Barnes kept trying to do the prayer, but the boys’ legs kept floating up to surface. Barnes would push them down, but they’d float right back up. Finally, Barnes resolved to stand on the boy's feet while he baptized him. Then the icing on the cake was when Annette tried to get into the pool. She started by walking down the stairs like normal, but then we saw that somehow she lost control and next thing we know her head is under water and her rear end is up in the air. We thought she was just being silly or trying to take advantage of the chance to be in a pool, but we quickly learned that she was actually really struggling. She was wiggling around trying to stay above water, but you could tell that she had never even attempted to swim in her life or knew anything about treading water. (Hence, the "Near Death" title for this email.) Rich and I had to smile   as Barnes helped her to stand up in this 4-feet deep water. Finally, Françoise, after having seen the experiences of all who had gone before her, had a nearly flawless baptism.

You could tell that they were all really happy to have been able to
have been baptized and confirmed. Also our young women’s group has now tripled in size.

In other news, I had to cast out a demon yesterday. One of our more strong members of the church wanted a blessing from Mayamba for her young granddaughter (who is maybe 9 years old).  Mayamba caught me and asked me to assist with him. We went into a little room off to the side and the grandmother started to explain the illness, which she was convince was caused by a demon. I wasn't really sure if the girl was truly possessed by a demon, as people here are pretty quick to jump to the conclusion of demons for all sorts of things--especially when their children act up.  Mayamba was quick to say that there was no problem to give the girl a blessing. So we gave a little blessing of comfort and Mayamba did say a little about getting rid of bad spirits. Anyways, we’ll see what happens with that. 

In other news we had transfers, Barnes and I are still together and will finish training in 6 weeks. Peterson will leave for home, and will be replaced by Ribera, who is one of my favorite missionaries. He's French and was in the MTC with me. He is a great worker and I’m sure he will help Barnes' and my French a lot.

The work is going well and I love you all!
Elder Walls

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Feeling Better

Sorry, I had a real nice message typed and then it wouldn’t go through when I sent it, and then it got lost. Now, I don’t have much time, so this might seem rushed. Mom, I’ll try to answer your questions:

(Editor’s note: The following has been put into a Q/A format to make it easier to read. After last week’s email where Eric mentioned he and his companion had had intestinal problems for over a week, Mom was worried, and grilled Eric about his health.)

Mom: How are you and Barnes feeling?
Eric: We are both fine now, it took a little over a week, but we are both feeling much better now. It is nice to not have to run back to our apartment after every teaching appointment! Now, some of the Elders are having a hard time with the dry season; it is causing their skin to dry up.

Mom: Did you ever figure out what was making you and Barnes have the intestinal problems?
Eric: We are not sure exactly what it was, because weren’t too many things that we ate differently than the rest of the guys in our apartment.

Mom: Are you following all of the health rules?
Eric: We watch out for all that health stuff. We take our doxy, use filtered water, yadda, yadda. However, the conditions here are terrible. We found a ton of maggots while cleaning the kitchen today, and there is nowhere to buy food that feels completely safe—but we do our best.

Mom: Do you guys ever get any warnings about terrorism? Recently here in the news, there have been a lot of reports of terrorism in different countries.
Eric: I haven’t heard anything, however, the missionaries here didn’t even know about the whole Ebola thing until the Mission President said something. The last I heard about terrorism was in the airport traveling here—something related to ISIS and a beheading.

Mom: I hope you are OK with me using your emails to update your blog. By the way, I have to do major editing, your grammar is going downhill!
Eric: That’s fine. Sorry about my grammar. The keyboards here are quite different and I get so tired when I use them. Also, they aren’t high quality keyboards (for example, today the space bar is sticking).

Mom: Any requests for future packages? You mentioned you are wearing your sandals all the time, would another pair be helpful?
Eric: Protein bars are good—the first ones you sent I didn’t care for as much (I think they were the Quest brand). The others (Think Thin?) were fine. As for another pair of sandals, they aren’t really necessary now—maybe later another pair would be useful. The ones I have are fine, they are holding up well except the sole is a little ripped from all of the rough terrain.

Final words from Eric:
We’ve got 4 baptisms coming up on Saturday—they are two 14-year old friends, and their 2 little siblings. They are all very excited.  We’ve also got this huge family that we’re teaching that just starting coming to church—the grandmother, her two daughters, their neighbor, and all their kids are coming so far. But there are still more to teach, maybe we can convert the whole neighborhood!

Hit the 5 month mark, seems to have come pretty fast, but at the same
time, America feels like its a million years in my past.

Thanks for all the love and support,
Elder Walls

Monday, January 5, 2015

Voodoo, Komodo Dragons and Diarrhea

January 5, 2015


It’s great to hear from you and to hear about all the stories from home; I especially loved hearing about Spencer’s mission. That is too funny that someone wanted to name their baby Elder Walmer! I think if someone named their baby Elder Walls, I wouldn’t try to stop them. I’d love knowing that someone was named Elder Walls after me!

Right now were doing well. We just had the start of the cold and dry
season (it is called Harmattan). Basically the wind blows in a bunch of dirt over the region from the Sahara. And now its really chilly in the morning, and super dry all the time. I am glad that I packed Chapstick.

This past week we had a mangez-vous (translation, dinner appointment?) that was really difficult to get through. We have had pàte (mixture of cornmeal and boiling water) plenty of times, but this time they did something different and it was so terrible. Even the Africans that were with us didn’t want to eat it. We had to keep eating though, or we would offend our hosts. The food here really is nothing to brag about. It’s no wonder that you never hear about it in America. I think it would be more fitting if we Americans forgot the phrase 'there are people starving in Africa,' as a way of convincing children to finish their food, and start using 'there are people in Africa who have to eat pàte!’

Found a Komodo dragon on the way to a rendezvous. Or maybe the term is Gila monster, I am not quite sure. It was freaky—not quite as big as you would see at a zoo, but maybe 3 or 4 feet long. I got a picture and I will try to send it.

Barnes and I are getting over a lot of sickness. I forgot to mention that in my last letter. Pretty much since the day after Christmas my companion and I have been having bad stomach problems.  This has been going on for a week, and it’s not fun. Thankfully, the good news is that I haven’t had an accident while we’ve been out teaching. I’ve heard of a lot of missionaries who have, and I don’t want to join that list!

There were a lot of voodoo practitioners in the street on New Year’s Eve, which was interesting. They did a lot of dancing which was fun to watch. Only one guy tried to get us to give him money.

All in all, everything is going well, although, we haven’t had much success with our teaching. Hopefully now, with the holidays close to an end (January 10 is a voodoo holiday here) and being over our sickness, we will have a little more success.

Love hearing from every week. Always a highlight of the week!

Love you,
Elder Walls