Monday, September 28, 2015

Porto Novo, Adieu


It is going to be so hard to leave Porto Novo! It is amazing how much the Branch building has changed. When I first came to this area, we missionaries lived upstairs (Elder B and I slept on the floor no less!). Now that we have moved out, there is a huge Chapel on the second floor. The building now has its own baptismal font. Ceiling fans, purple paint, walls busted up, we even have a sign on the front--lots of changes. The church will continue to grow here--I am so glad to have been a part of it!
Dear Family,

So I guess I will skip most of what happened during the week and go straight to transfer calls—I'm being transferred! This week the Assistants are going to come get me and take me to my new sector, ..... Cocotomey! (Pronounced Coco—like the word coconut—toe may.)

I will be the zone leader of the Cocotomey zone. This is the same zone where I did my training. My sector is the next-door neighbor to Cococodji (where I was trained with Elder A). I'll be working with Elder A from Nigeria, He was Elder B's companion in the MTC, so he's relatively new and I don't know much about him--I am sure we will get along great! The other companionship in the apartment is the Assistants, Elders M and T (from Utah and Hawaii). I'm looking forward to working with them as well.

I'm excited because this means that: (1) I will probably get to see many of my converts and amis from Cococodji while doing splits. (2) I will most likely be present for the creation of the new stake! (I will actually be in the stake boundaries now.) And (3) I will get to eat charwarma (a Middle-Eastern chicken wrap thing) every month during the ZL meetings.

I've actually been to Cocotomey a few times while in Cococodji. It is more rural than Porto Novo, but not as much as Cococodji. I remember seeing a few decent places to eat and shop. We actually spent last Thanksgiving there--we would go there for baptismal interviews, and on Thanksgiving, we stayed a little longer and had charwarmas for dinner. There was a great place you could get charwarmas for about 1000 frances (about $2)--most places charge 1500 or more francs.

Elder M (an Elder from Nashville who I really like) also just got called ZL for the neighboring zone of Menontin, so we'll probably get to see each other occasionally. 

I imagine it's going to be kind of difficult at first because I’ve never worked as a zone leader. I will have to quickly learn my responsibilities and my zone--our first zone conference is in October, and there may be a member of the 70 there.

So that is the exciting part about transfers, now for the sad part:
I will really miss Porto Novo. I have loved the sector and the branch and everything about the area. It has been a real pleasure to be able to play a little part in the branch's initial growth—to see people getting baptized, leaders being called and trained, auxiliaries being established, etc. It’s very likely that in the next 10 years or so that there will be a stake here. Right now it’s still in the 'seeding' process I suppose, but the soil is very rich and very ready to accept and nourish the seeds that missionaries and angels alike are sowing in every direction.

I've planted some seeds, and I've seen some of them start to grow and flourish. I’m sure others will eventually follow. It is easy to count the baptisms you were a part of, as the "influence," you have had in a sector. However, you have a bigger impact than you think. Even just being outside in a white shirt and tie, wearing your missionary name tag and carrying a copy of the Book of Mormon does something. People see it, and start to wonder who are all these white guys walking around everywhere. Quite often they will stop us and ask questions. Eventually, they will no longer confuse us with Jehovah's Witnesses or students at a local school. One day they might even start shouting, "Mormon!" instead of "Yovo!" when they see us in the streets.

I'm only the 7th missionary to have come into this city, and many more will follow. Hopefully people who have seen us in the streets, or gotten brochures from us, will start listening to the message we missionaries have and come unto Christ.

This area is so ready for the Gospel! I would imagine if you were to take a missionary serving in France or someplace where the people are not very interested in listening to the missionaries, and send them here for a month, they wouldn't want to stop to eat or sleep or anything. They'd just be proselyting 24/7.

Africa is not a difficult place to serve. Quite often you will hear people complain about the heat, or the food, or being sick, but honestly, you get used to all of those things. You get used to the heat, and the food and all the little microbes after a few months and after that you are good to go. Benin is a great place to serve a mission! So many people are willing to listen and accept our message. At the very least, they will talk to us. 

I am sad to leave Porto Novo, but I am excited to start with a new comp in a new sector. I have learned a lot in the past 10 months here in Porto Novo; about doing missionary work and also about getting along with people. I’m hoping to hit the ground running in Cocotomey. I’m excited to get started in a new branch and to put everything I’ve learned in the past 14 months to practice. 

Love you all,
Elder Walls

PS Thanks for the photos! It is crazy to think that Nathan is already 17 and a junior in high school, he'll almost be 18 when I get back. It's always fun to see you guys, sometimes photos speak louder than words. Thanks for the photo of the cheerleaders as well, I might need to print this one off to hang up in my room, haha--just kidding!

Here are some photos--don't ever want to forget these wonderful people!

The Porto Novo Elder's Quorum--a few members are not pictured

President and Sister Z. It is amazing how the Lord calls inexperienced people to do His work. These two wonderful people have had to learn all the rules and traditions of the church. They have worked hard and tried their best while learning to lead the Branch.

One of my favorite members, A. He would often help teach Sunday School, and is going to take my place as SS president. He speaks both French and English. He recently received the Melchizedek priesthood, and is considering serving a mission.Hard to believe he was baptized only a little over a year ago.

These two are not a couple, we just took a photo together. I love them both. P (the man) is our Branch clerk. He works in the Benin Historical Archives--I visited him once at work and his job looks so cool! ML (the woman) lives so far away from the church building but always makes it on time to church. Quite often she brings food for the missionaries. She asked that if I ever meet the prophet, that I show him her photo--I'll do my best!

E is a former voodoo practioner, and now is one of the first to show up for church every Sunday. He is a great guy and wants to be baptized.

B is always fun to be around--love him!

Another great member here is A. To look at him you would think he is in his 20's, but he is in his mid 30's. He always has a very serious face while listening to talks or lessons--you can tell he really pays attention to what is being said.

My first converts here in Porto Novo! They are awesome. They have a really long walk to get to church, but they never miss a Sunday! We are working on getting their parents baptized.

Elder B and I taught I a long time ago, and he has changed so much--I guess the gospel changes all of us. He loves to wear his boombas to church!

This is R, a recent convert of Elders R and L. He did a lot of work in order to be married so that he could be baptized. I was glad to be able to teach him a few times while on splits.

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