Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Power Outage


I got your emails and finally made it to a cyber so don’t worry about me. The entire country has been without power or water since Sunday. Not sure exactly what the problem is, but hopefully it has been fixed. The power just came back about an hour ago, so we are capitalizing on it before it cuts out again.

We’ve had a good week; Elder Ribera was put in as the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency. I got to give a talk and also teach Sunday School. Both went by smoothly without any problems or weird questions. Things are going well; not many complaints.

Konan and Mayamba were transferred to Togo, so now Elder Ribera has moved into our apartment to work with Legbanon, who is from Benin. Now the entire City of Porto Novo is split among only 4 missionaries. Previously, we have had more missionaries working in several areas of the city. Now we four are all located in one apartment, and we have lots of walking to get to all of the amis we have all over the city.  

We went up to the roof of our neighbor's house yesterday (4 or 5 stories up), and got to see most of the city. We saw a water tower that is by the church (where we have lots of amis) and it seemed so far away! It is hard to believe that we actually make (i.e., WALK) that long trip out so often. Then we noted other landmarks in all directions where we have amis. It's really pretty impressive the amount of walking we do here.

Rainy season has officially started, so we’ve had a couple of pretty impressive storms. The storms are nice because the air cools down a few degrees and we get more cloud coverage. The other good news is that I found the African equivalent to funnel cake. It's called Ingnyam Behnyay. It is basically the exact same thing as funnel cake, but in a ball shape. And they only cost about 2 cents each, so I’ve been indulging quite a bit in the past week.

What else has been happening?...On Wednesday we started walking to Aimlonfide from Tokpota (about an hour walk). On the way we saw a school bus pass from a school that we recognized and knew to be near the church. We waved them down and convinced them to let the Yovos hitch a free ride. That was really nice, showing up to our first lesson near the church and not being completely drenched in sweat from the walk.

Saurel is doing well. He has a baptismal date set for the 13th of June, and he looks like he will be ready for that date. We also have a few new amis, including Hilaire, who is a little older than most our amis. He is really knowledgeable when it comes to the Bible. He’s fun to teach because although he is strong in his other church, he doesn’t try to Bible bash with us. 

We keep making efforts to teach G** and another older amis. We need a member with us when we teach G** because she’s female and doesn’t have any male friends that want to follow the lessons with her. It is difficult because she lives far away, so it can be hard to get members to go with us. 

There is one other bizarre story. Apparently, there is some huge public protest or manifestation going on at the airport today (like the ones that were going on when I had my accident). All today’s flights have been cancelled. It is poor timing because the missionaries who are going home this transfer were supposed to be on those flights. They will have to stay an extra night. 

Things are going well here. Hoping to have a few baptisms in the next few weeks. 

Love you, have a good week!
Elder Walls

Walking by huge piles of garbage

Walking companions

Me and my sector

Let's play I-Spy: Can you spot the water tower on the horizon? That is where the church building is located, along with several amis. We make that walk several times a week!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Voodoo Prayers, Song and Dance

Hey guys!

It's been a fairly long week, lots of stuff to do and lots of stuff going on, We were lucky enough to be able to get out of the apartment and work almost everyday of the week. Thankfully, my comp wasn't sick, and no plumber visits like in the weeks before. 

Seems whenever we are out in the sector, bizarre stuff happens!

The first story that comes to mind happened this Wednesday, We were trying to get a member to go with us to visit G* (our ami whose aunt does not want her to be baptized). We need an adult male with us because of mission rules. It can be difficult to find someone because she lives so far away, and they have to be willing to walk with us to get there. We finally got Bellmond to go with us (he’s a 20 year old recent convert who likes trying to rap and sing in English). Because it took so long to get someone to go with us, by the time we got to her house it was already dark. Apparently, her parcel turns into a whole new world after the sun goes down. Her parcel is comprised of more traditional and older families, so during the day it is quiet. However, as soon as we sat down with G*, her aunt came out of nowhere and starting singing some sort of traditional Beninois chant at us and dancing--topless. All the other older women in the parcel came out of their hiding places and joined in as a dozen little kids sitting around a fire clapped along. Needless to say our lesson didn’t really work out, as we excused ourselves pretty quick!

It’s really interesting to see some of the cultural things of Benin that having existed for a long time, but are never get let go (even by members of the church). For example, Mami Wata (or Mother Water), the Voodoo mermaid, goddess of Oceans, that everyone is terrified of. Many people claim to have actually seen her walking the streets. 

We had a soccer activity on Saturday, which is always a nice reminder of how bad I am at soccer. People take soccer pretty seriously here, which can lead to some intense exchanges at times. 

Anyways that’s all the crazy stuff for the week. On the brighter side we were able to get more work done and I was able to see a lot of the amis that I’ve been wanting to see for the past three weeks while we were confined in the apartment.

I got to see G*, Cyrille, and Florence again. I don’t know if I’ve told you about Florence, but she’s the sister of Isaac and lives pretty far out, so you have to be willing and ready to make the walk out to see her. And find a member willing to take the journey with you. It was good to be able to make up for lost time with our amis. 

We’ve also found some new amis this week. There is Ambras, who is 16 and speaks English really well for having only studied in school. He currently belongs to the church of William Brahnim (which has a lot of similar doctrines as us, but believes that William Brahnim is the prophet, Elias). Also, we are teaching Flore, who has a nice family with 4 kids and their father who still lives with and supports her. We’ve only taught one lesson with her, but I think she will do well, especially if she is willing to attend church. 

All in all, I’m doing well.

Love you all,
Elder Walls

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day, General Conference and Betty Crocker Frosting


   It was really great talking to you all yesterday for Mother's Day; it was definitely something that was on my mind all week. It almost feels weird to call home and hear everyone's voices. I really appreciated it. Now I guess we have to wait all the way until Christmas.

    I'm doing well; sadly my sector isn't doing quite as well. We just were not able to get much work done this past week. Tuesday through Wednesday morning I did a companion split with Elder Mayamba. We had a good time in their sector, so that was great. Thursday and Friday, though, my comp was sick so I had to stay in the apartment with him. I've really had little chance to get out and visit with my amis this week. And the less you see them, the less and less they progress. I will have to visit with them this next week for sure!

    General Conference was definitely a highlight of my week. Though it took a lot of planning and work for it to be a success. I didn't get word that we would have the chance to have the Conference DVD until late Saturday night. I then had to make a lot of calls to look for a member with a TV that they could lend to us, and also a DVD player. Then I had to make sure the Branch President knew about the plan.

     It worked out well. We got the TV, the DVD, and the DVD player. However Sunday we had no power in the building. Luckily, we had electricians working in the building the day before and they left a generator. We decided to 'borrow' it for a while. It started working and we got to watch Conference until the generator ran out of gas and the power cut off. We decided to make an emergency run to a roadside gas stand while the members sang hymns to fill time. We got it up and running again, but it cut out twice again because of a problem with the connection from the generator to the television. 

    In the end we got to nearly finish the Saturday afternoon session, It took three hours to watch the two hour session, and it cut out again before the closing hymn and prayer. After the last time, the President jumped up and told everyone that we'd just have a closing prayer and everyone could leave. (Usually, we watch two sessions here). 

   I really loved listening to the choir most of all. I found it difficult to understand the talks because they use a real French person to translate, and it is very different from the way French is spoken in Africa. And the quality of the speakers we had was very poor. But I understood and loved hearing the choir. In the middle of the session, there is a congregational hymn, and I loved singing along in English. 

    We also had a Zone Conference this week, which is always a lot of fun and a good chance to learn from our missionary leadership. There were a lot of good things I learned, but the best part had to be the end, where they sang for all the recent birthdays. I normally wouldn't care too much about that sort of thing, but I saw that Elder Jenkins (who shares my birthday) had made a cake for all the May birthdays. The cake had REAL Betty Crocker icing he'd gotten from home!!!! That one little piece of cake made the whole day way better than my actual birthday (which had been a few days before). Jenkins has an easy bake oven that he inherited from another Elder here, which is how he was able to bake a cake.

No complaints here. Sounds like you guys are doing well as well. 

Take it easy and have a great week!
Elder Walls

Monday, May 4, 2015


Hey guys,

Thank you for all of your letters, birthday wishes, prayers and everything else. It really makes a difference in my day. Mom, please thank everyone who emailed me, I don't think I will have time to write everyone back. 

The work continues to be a little slow because we our plumber keeps coming over to work in our bathrooms. So, we have had to stay home for his visits. It’s hard taking a home day as a missionary; there is practically nothing to do, but study. Hopefully he will be finished soon. Just when I think he is finished, he comes back, and then he is back again.

When we get to go out, everything is good. We have a few amis here in Tokpota and we still have all our amis from Aimlonfide that we keep track of. So we walk quite a bit, but it makes for good sport. At times I do have to say that I get jealous of all those missionaries out there with cars and AC and iPads, but at the same time I’m content because I know hard things help us to grow.

We hope to have a few baptisms in the future, but we have work to do before that happens.

Last night, for my birthday, we ate dinner with our neighbors. They are all Catholic, so we had one of them pray for us before eating. I almost laughed at one of the things that the 14-year-old girl said in her prayer. She said, "Tonight, we eat in the name of Walls." I guess that tonight if you guys are missing me, you could eat your cake in my name and that would count for me getting cake as well.

Also, I should note that stories spread through the mission faster than the Internet. Somehow they even cross the border between Benin and Togo. So of course, everyone has heard about my accident. Since I didn’t tell them about the incident personally, some of them have gotten quite a different version of the story. Apparently, In Togo, they all heard that I’d been stabbed on the road. However, one of them was shocked enough upon hearing that that he paid the fine to call across borders and ask what really happened.

As far as our amis go, we have a new one named Saurel and he is probably one of the best readers I’ve ever taught. Most amis will say they read all the time and then you ask what they’ve read and they suddenly seem a lot less sure of themselves. However the lesson after having given him the Book of Mormon, he gave us a detailed account (and completely accurate) of the first 12 chapters. I was pretty impressed. We fixed a date for him to be baptized at the end of May. He is worried because he says his family is very strong in another church. Certain other amis are doing well too.

Alright, Thanks again, call you on Sunday!
Elder Walls