Monday, July 27, 2015

Greetings from Porto Nauvoo!

Just posing, not actually riding a moto!
Dear Family,

We’ve had a great week. One of the highlights was our Zone Conference that we had on Thursday. I love getting to see and hear from each of our missionary leaders.

The Dyson's gave the first presentation which was a funny object lesson. They wanted to teach us how to keep a shirt clean. They started with a sketch where they were promenading and ran into two missionaries (played by the office Elders), who had purposefully dirty shirts with yellowed collars, and lots of black marks on their backs. (Sweat usually turns collars yellow here, and we get black marks from tucking our shirts in.) The office Elders completely refused to listen to them.

So the Dysons grabbed a water basin, threw in a few shirts, and said that they would now show us how to wash a shirt. Elder Dyson showed us a dirtied collar, rubbed some soap on, and then started rubbing the collar ends against one another (as we usually do). He then put the shirt back into the basin, said a few words, and then pulled a different shirt out of the basin to show us the nice clean collar. It was kind of like a cooking show where they magically show you the finished product.

Then they warned us against the dangers of using too much bleach by pouring a whole bottle of it into the wash and then pulling out a shirt with holes cut out of it. Everyone laughed, but we got the message: Scrub harder.

President Morin's messages are always very inspired. One of the strong points that stood out to me was when he said that a testimony is a gift from God, but that conversion is a choice we make. Elder Ribera and I discussed it quite a bit when we got home.

Something else special from the week was the Sunday school lesson. I am trying to have members teach now. Grace volunteered to teach this week, and took the manual with her. I told her I would call on Friday so that we could coordinate and see if she needed any help planning, or teaching. However, I was never able to get a hold of her. I finally contacted her sister who assured me that all was well. And it pretty much was except for one minor detail:

Just before Sunday school started, Grace showed me the lesson for the week (which was definitely a difficult lesson for a newer member to teach—the title was, “Edification of the Saints in Nauvoo.”) She said that she had studied the manual but had one question, "What’s a Nauvoo?" I did my best to give her some quick pointers and then assured her I would help her. (My memory of the history of Nauvoo was definitely a little rusty—I think I was 9 or 10 years old the last time we visited Nauvoo!)

We basically tried to compare the experience of the early Saints arriving in Nauvoo to the early church members here in Porto Novo. We discussed how when the Saints first got to Nauvoo it was initially just a swampy area, but they kept their hopes bright and saw the potential that the swamp had to be a city. And through their faith and hard work, they built up the beautiful city of Nauvoo. So, then we discussed the church here in Porto Novo, which started as practically nothing, but is continually growing.  What helped them draw a connection between the two was that they couldn’t pronounce Nauvoo, but instead said "Novo" which led one member to the conclusion that we are just like them because we are in “Porto 'Novo.” So then we split them into groups to have them discuss what they could do to be pioneers of the church today, and had each group send one person to share their ideas. It was fun to hear all they had discussed, especially one youth who said that we had to obey the “Law of Wisdom and the Word of Chastity!”

I was happy with how the lesson turned out, and am also happy to be a part of the start of the church here. Eventually there will be a Stake here, and I’ve even picked out a little open space in my sector for the temple. 

President announced in his address that Porto Novo would soon be receiving additional missionaries; meaning that this next transfer might be interesting—stay tuned.

It’s always great to hear from everyone. Love you!
Elder Walls

PS Mom, I am excited to get the package! It is just a second too late--we just had Zone Conference on Thursday! Maybe in a week or two I'll be able to pick it up. 

Out in the Boonies
African Goat Cheese--very rubbery, not like cheese in the States
Women sell it straight from of buckets of water which they carry on their heads!


Monday, July 20, 2015


Our District wearing our boombas!
Boombas are pretty popular here and fun to have made.
You find fabric you like and then take it to a tailor who will custom make them for you. 

Dear Family,

Another week has gone by, seems like the weeks are just rolling by. Some highlights from this week: 

The week before last, we had the opportunity to be judges at an English competition (I think I wrote about it last week). It was fun, and we added a little "star quality," by being white. While we were there we reconnected with one of our former investigators, Jose. He studies English and wants to be a teacher one day. While he came to church frequently, we weren't sure how serious he was at learning about the gospel. It seemed he liked coming because he viewed it as an American church and not like the other run-of-the-mill African churches that you find on every corner. At any rate, we reconnected with him over the week. He really seems genuinely interested in the message this time around.  We managed to set a baptismal date with him! I’m hoping he pulls through--I would love to baptize him because he is such a great guy. 

One of our members was rebaptized during the week. She told us she was baptized before our branch was organized. However, there is no record of that taking place. And she could not remember the names of the missionaries or the witnesses. So, we had to redo the ordinance. 

One of my good friends in the ward, Arafat, a Ghanaian who was baptized about a year ago received the Melchizedek Priesthood. He is such a great member! He is so honest and hard working. He cried during the ordination, which was pretty touching. In my whole time here, I have only seen an African cry maybe 3 times. 

Aside from that, things are going well, I am studying quite a bit, and we've managed to get some work done too, I’m constantly hoping that we can help our investigators to get to where they need to be.

Mom you asked if our mission had any special traditions for hitting the 1-year mark. I think in most missions, burning a worn out shirt is pretty standard. Not so much here--there are so many people who would gladly take it off your hands, that it seems like it would be such a waste. I am considering burning my microfiber towel--it smells pretty bad and has some moldy spots. I swear nothing here is safe from mold, NOTHING! I have to wash it out often or else our room starts smelling. I love the microfiber towel, it has been great, but it does stink! Thankfully, I have only used one of the towels I brought, with the plan of using the 2nd one when I got to the 1-year point. I will definitely be more careful with the 2nd towel and make sure to hang it up in airy places. 

I’ve got some photos to send through: A few are old, from a week ago with the English event, and the Python temple, a few of some investigators, and also of cool souvenirs that I had made. I’m thinking I could also have some made for you guys before coming back.

Love you all. See you a year (approximately!!), 
Elder Walls

Love how this Scripture case turned out!
The whole project was only $5-6, and that is with fabric and labor.

Jose at the English competition.
Each contestant had to read from a script (the script itself had lots of errors so it made judging difficult)

The competition featured a humorous skit written by some of the students. The plot was about an abusive professor who carries a long stick. A good portion of the skit was the professor jumping on tables and smacking things. In the end, an inspector came and found the professor asleep on the job, holding the stick. The professor was fired and everyone cheered!

Our District at the Temple of Pythons
(L-R Elders Walls, Legbanon, Marurai, Ribera)

These children are all part of an extended family.
They were super excited to meet white people. Super cute family!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Approaching the Year Mark

Beach at Ouidah


Not too much to report this week, things are still going slowly with the work. I had time to study this week. I finished the Old Testament on Wednesday. The Old Testament is definitely a book that a lot of people dismiss as not being applicable today, but it does shed a lot of light on many eternal principles and creates a foundation upon which the Book of Mormon and New Testament build upon.

I found a fun service project to do during the week. A local university held an event for all of the English learners and I got to be the head judge for their English reading, debate, and singing contests. Lots of fun! I also got to visit with several former investigators that I had taught with Barnes who happened to be there as well. I am hoping to be able to restart teaching a few of them. 

Also met a few interesting potential investigators, The first is one of the English teachers at the university who is from....Philadelphia! (Can you believe it? Who would think a half a world away I would meet someone from near my hometown?!) He gave a speech during the event and I noticed that his English was remarkably better than that of all the other professors. So after he had finished, I went and spoke with him and it turns out that he is also a professor at Temple University! And he has a few friends who are Mormon. I got his business card and we'll see if we can get a foot in the door with him. He does live really far away so that might be a challenge.

Also met Joan Minor, who is an American Jazz/Blues singer, and her band. They showed up for about 20 minutes just to talk about English and music with the students. She’s touring in West Africa right now. She tried to teach one of the students how to scat (a technique used in singing Jazz), but it really didn’t work out that well. 

President Morin came to church on Sunday to help us with Melchizedek Priesthood interviews and ordinations. I got to translate for Elder Dyson (couple missionary) as he led the interviews. I really, really like the couple missionaries. They have tons of interesting stories. Elder Dyson is from New Zealand and is a widower, and Sister Dyson has biked across Canada and worked on the Alaska pipeline as a secretary. They haven’t been married for too long, and they are both still learning French. Even still, they manage to shoulder so much responsibility. There used to be 4 couples in this mission, but now they are the only ones. We have no record of any new couples that are coming out. So, if anyone in the Kutztown ward wants to serve a mission, we'll take them!

We had a zone activity at Ouidah again (the Temple of Pythons). I’ve been before but I got some good voodoo photos and I’ll try to send them through. (More photos below)

AT the Temple of Pythons
I agree, I can't believe that I am almost at the one-year mark--To answer your questions:
What would you say you love the most about Africa? The openness of the lifestyle here, most people are very simple and welcoming.

What has been the most surprising thing about Africa? The similarities to America and other wealthy countries— people here have smartphones, televisions (usually knockoffs), and there are American brands that you can find in supermarkets. If you have money, you won’t have too hard of a time adjusting to the lifestyle here.

What has Africa taught you? Endurance, patience, simplicity and honesty. 

What is the hardest thing about life in Africa? Seeing such low levels of education, also racism in the streets. 

Oddest? Funniest? There are so many little mannerisms that are completely different from what I’m used to that are the norm here. Such as littering anywhere, and not having addresses. And there are some local sayings such as 'its been three days' (despite the amount of time since you last saw someone). 

All in all, I’m fine. I do hope that everything going well back home--it seems like a lot is changing and not necessarily for the better. It kind of worries me and I wonder what things will be like in the US when I come home.

Hope that you enjoy your week!
Elder Walls

Entrance to the Temple of Pythons
Door to the temple
Painting inside
Another painting
One of the huts at the temple, the white flag represents Voodoo 

Another photo of the beach

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sending Photos



Not much happening this week. There are no changes to our district this round of transfers. By the next transfer I'll have been in Porto Novo for a little over 8 months and with my current comp for about 6 months. It is common in our mission for people to stay in one place for awhile. 

We celebrated the 4th of July as well, We each had half a chicken and a mountain of fries. Normally, it'd be a lot to eat, but after months of patte, rice and spaghetti, we inhaled it all!

Cooking on the 4th of July

The final product
We haven’t had too much progress in our sector, but I guess it's by small and simple things that great things come about. On a positive note, Cyrille, who is one of my favorite amis, starting coming back to church and even got up to bear his testimony on Sunday. I'm really hoping he will commit to being baptized. 

I have had lots of time to study and am learning so much. 

Sad to hear about Elder Packer. Also interesting to hear about the decision by the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage. That must be a big deal there, every email I got today mentioned that. The family is definitely not really considered of much importance now, We see that here as well. The challenge here is that it costs so much money to get married (about $80 US dollars, which is a lot here). And that amount is just for the marriage fee, there is usually a bridal fee to the bride's parents. And if you want a nice ceremony that will cost quite a bit too. 

I’ve got some photos of what is called black patte that I’m going to try to send your way. Since I have a good connection this week, I will try to send some other photos as well. 

Have a good week!
Elder Walls

Black Patte
Here comes the choo-choo train . . . Open wide!
The sauce that goes with it
City of Porto Novo Skyscape
Katchi, the Porto Novo equivalent to Times Square

The Church building
Teaching Sunday School
The baptism of Solange

School children
Shepherds watching their flocks
African wildlife