Monday, October 26, 2015

Another Good Week

Baptism of F and her daughter, C
 Dear Family,

I will try to keep my letter simple this week because I want to try and send photos. It will be the first time I have tried in this cyber, so keep your fingers crossed!

It’s been a great week, we had Zone conference on Tuesday and I really enjoyed President Morin’s message. He talked about being simple in the way we find amis and invite them to be baptized. He basically had us practice the Preach my gospel invitation but with just a few tweaks:
1-Will you pray about it?
2-WHEN (not if) you have your answer, will you follow Christ's example and be baptized?
3-We are having a baptismal service the X of November, if your answer comes before then will you prepare yourself to be baptized on this date?

He also had my comp and I give him our plan for the day so he could write it on the board (thankfully it was a pretty full plan!). He challenged us to invite every single person in our daily plan to give us a contact.

We did, and it worked out really well! We got at least like 6 contacts by the end of the day. There was even an ami that stopped us on the road just to give us a contact. It was very cool, once we made our effort to get it done, everything started going our way. I feel that’s usually how it is with missionary work, you work hard and show that your dedication, and God just takes of the rest.

President Morin also announced a mission-wide fast so that the mission would be able to 'Rise up to meet the standard,' (or something like that). He had us all buy a new white shirt to wear during the fast as well.

Thursday, we had the baptismal interview for F. We took her to Fidjrosse so she could interview with President Briga (President Morin's counselor). However, when we got there we found out he had to cancel. Fortunately, there was a zone conference going on for the Menontin zone and we went there so she could interview with President Morin. Initially, President was hesitant to interview her because she doesn't speak French well, so he suggested we postpone the baptism. I went to F and started explaining the situation in simple French. President noticed and asked, "Did she understand you?" I looked to her and she nodded, "Yes." President decided to give it a go and it went fine! Afterwards, we dropped her off where she sells tapioca and picked up her daughter to go to Cococodji for her to interview with the DL there. It went fine as well. I love visiting Cococodji.

The baptisms were great, no flaws or problems, just a very special day for F and her daughter.

Sunday we fasted, and my comp and I both noticed that it was a very productive day in the sector. We found new amis and set 3 baptismal dates in one afternoon! We both felt considerably blessed to have fasted. 

In other news, I cut my hair all by my self for the first time today and I actually did I pretty good job Maybe I will throw an application in to Great Clips when I get home!

I love you all so much, miss you guys too. Have a good one!

Elder Walls

PS I did get the package! I didn’t even realize that I had gotten it! There has been a box sitting in the corner of our room and I just figured it belonged to someone else (our apartment has a lot of extra stuff laying around, and I have no idea of what belongs to who). I was reading the Liahona on my bed when I got a better look at the box and realized my name was on it! Thank you so much, it was very nice! We’ve been eating like poor college kids these last few days because we are at the end of the month and we get money into our accounts at the beginning of the month, so having some good munchies is nice! And we pretty much keep all things in common here—sharing things is so nice and carefree 90% of the time. Every now and then you have to go looking for where your soap went.

And to answer your question about what advice I would give to someone preparing to go on a mission I would say to read the missionary handbook and make sure you are cool to sign off on living by those rules for 2 years. Most folks focus on getting the call and the excitement of being called to serve anywhere in the world. You've got to think beyond that, and what life is actually like as a missionary. Also, Elder B had a friend who took the missionary discussions as prep--even though she had grown up in the church. She said it was a very cool experience. Spending time going out with the missionaries would be good too. So there you go.

Another photo of F and C on their baptismal day
M's baptism
Back when we did autonomy training--training to help the people in the area to be more self-reliant.
Classes were given on how to find a job, start a business, continue schooling and so forth.
We were there to talk with the nonmembers. L-R Walls, Elder M., Elder S., Elder B. 
Like many youth here, this girl walks around with foodstuffs on her head all day.
Her mother sends her out while she keeps shop. The girl is taking a breather. 
Want to buy some fish? Not quite the same display you'd see at Wegmans!
I usually buy frozen fish, not this smoked stuff which has been sitting out all day.
Peace out from Benin

Monday, October 19, 2015

Life is Good

Our Stunning Primary!
Dear Family,

The keyboard here isn’t anything to write home about, so I’ll apologize in advance for the plethora of typos you’ll probably find in this---

My week has been great, long but great!

Tuesday, We went Cococodji to participate in their district meeting. It was a lot of fun to be back in my first sector. It seems like a lot has changed, but so much is still the same. I even got to see one of my favorite converts, M--. She and her husband were married and baptized just after I left Cococodji. It was so nice to see them and see that they are strong in the church. Apparently they both work a lot with the missionaries. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me, so I still don’t have a photo of them!! I will make sure that I always have my camera ready whenever I go back to Cococodji, just in case. 

After the district meeting, I went out to work in the sector of Elder P, one of my new favorites. He's from the same stake in France as Elder R. He is older (24, I think) and is the only convert in his family. He's a very good guy, and a very good Elder as well. That afternoon we worked in our sector, then left to go to Calavi to do a split with Elder M from Calafornia. Wednesday, I worked all day with Elder M. It was fun--we did a lot of finding activities because he's in the process of rebuilding his sector. We did a little street contacting with a member who convinced us to go talk with this very Harley Davidson looking white guy that we saw on the road (we don’t see many white people here). Apparently he’s from Spain, and has heard a little about the Mormon church and he accepted a Book of Mormon.

Thursday thru Saturday, I was back in my sector (except for one baptismal interview at Cococodji). We are working closely with two amis, F and her daughter, C. The two are both in the Celestial church of Christ (look it up---its interesting---It is also Elder L’s former church). They have accepted to be baptized this next Saturday. They don’t really speak French, so we've had to teach them with members.  Even still I feel close to them, and I love F’s one little son, J, whose probably only 2 or 3, he’s very cute.

Yesterday was our Primary program—it was very, very fun to watch. The leaders are just as new to the church as the kids so it's a miracle that we can even do one. At the end the Primary president announced that we would now hear closing remarks from the General Primary President. I spun in my seat expecting to see Sister Wixom sitting in the back of the congregation, but she was really referring to the Stake Primary president, who did a lovely job of wrapping things up. 

The program was very similar to what you would see in America--some children speaking really quietly, others giving humorously short talks (for example, "I'd like to give my talk about the sacrifice of Christ--it was necessary, amen.") The one difference in the program here is that when a child makes a mistake, the audience laughs really loudly--you'd normally be mortified if that happened thinking it would scar the child for life. However, here it is more of cultural thing--they are laughing WITH the children and not at them. 

Overall, the program ran really short on time. To buy some extra time, the Branch President asked the Stake Primary president to sing a solo (with no forewarning or piano accompaniment). Just as she was finishing her talk, he tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to sing! She went straight into, "Dearest Children, God is Near You," without a second thought. Mom, as you visit all the ward programs, maybe you'll be asked to do the same, ha ha!!

All in all, things are great. My comp and I are running in the mornings now, which always feels like a terrible idea when its time to wake up. My comp used to be in the Nigerian Military, so he likes running long distances. 

Having fun! Amis are progressing, I am getting involved in the branch, having fun with the other Elders in the Zone--Life is good. 

Have a great week! Love you!
Elder Walls

PS I forgot that on Saturday we had an amazing mangez-vous (dinner appt). It was one of the assistants’ amis that invited all of us. We don't get many dinner appointments, and usually when we are invited we have patte which we eat with our hands. When we arrived, we saw they had beautifully set the table--tablecloth, napkins, silverware . . . everything! Then we sat down to a  4-course meal:
1-Salad (I can’t even remember the last salad I had, they used real iceberg lettuce)
2-Patte with a veggie and fish sauce (when well prepared, patte is actually very enjoyable)
3-Chicken and rice (at this point I was struggling to keep up)
4-Fruit and yogurt parfait

It was amazing, we couldn’t thank them enough. We know it was a HUGE sacrifice for them to make this nice dinner for us. They even had a photographer come to take photos, and they sent us away with little goodie bags of Pigne (the tissue that we get shirts made out of here). Their baptisms are coming up soon, so we’ll have to find some way to give something back. It was just sooooo nice what they did for us.

Have a good one!! Love you!!

Elder Walls

1st Course: Salad!
Salad tastes SO good to me now!
2nd course: Patti with sauce crehn crehn--this was delicious!
3rd course:Chicken with rice--I was pretty stuffed at this point!
Another photo of our Primary, with President Comi
Cococojdi church--I was glad to be able to get a photo of the
building since I didn't get one when I was there

Monday, October 12, 2015

Patience is a Virtue

Palace of Congress in Benin
Dear Family,

I loved reading your emails, and I had a detailed response typed out and then the power cut out here at the cyber. I've been trying to get on a working computer here ever since. It's been a little frustrating! Things are so different here than in the States, and some days my patience is not where it should be. 

I love getting your emails every week, and getting to read about your week. And Mom, reading about your experience in the Manhattan temple gave me the idea to look at some temple photos which helped me calm down. I always felt the same calm at the Ghana temple. Seeing the world outside of our bus was scary and full of havoc, but after the temple, it always seemed less so. 
I am sure the trees there in PA are beautiful with the change in seasons. The weather here is pretty constant--there is the hot season, the hot and rainy season, and the hot and dry season. But the trees and other things never change colors. The only thing that changes is how dusty it is. 
I don't have a lot of time, so I'll keep my email this week brief:

We baptized M--she is pretty young (maybe 12), but she is very smart and funny. I had the opportunity to teach her a few times. Really, the missionary I replaced here is the one who taught her. It was great to be able to be a part of her conversion.

I got to go to the Palace of Congress, which is basically the nicest and prettiest building in Benin. We went on Friday with the other zone leaders to find contacts. It was an autonomy training with a Canadian member who has his own university here in Benin. It was a lot of fun, and we probably got 150 contacts which will be distributed to all of the zones and districts in the area. 

Saturday, before our baptisms, we went to Calavi to assist them during the baptismal service that was held there. They have 8 missionaries in that branch, and had 6 different baptisms that day. It was a great service--I think everyone felt something. One of the converts actually passed out after being baptized--she came out of the water and started making some weird sounds and then just knocked out. The missionary performing the baptism had to lift her out of the font, and the branch president and another member carried her inside to care for her. The people here really don't know how to swim and are terrified of water. 

Sunday, one of our less active members we have been visiting came to church! She was baptized in France, but stopped attending church here in Benin. We visited and explained that the church is true no matter where you are--it is still Christ's church. And we explained the importance of taking the Sacrament each week. We were very excited to see her at church on Sunday. We will continue to work with her--we need every member here to do their part to fortify the branch in Cocotomey!
Today, we did a soccer activity with the zone. It was a lot of fun getting to run and play. I am still very bad at soccer, but it was fun. And it was great to see everyone too.

Love you guys,
Elder Walls

Monday, October 5, 2015

Life in Cocotomey (Home of the Coconut Trees)

Hello Family!

So where to begin . . . so much has happened this week. I left Porto Novo on Thursday morning. Before then, I said my goodbyes to everyone, which was really hard. In this mission, we are not transferred as frequently as in other missions, so you really become attached to folks. Saying goodbye to Porto Novo and the people there was really difficult. (I got to thinking--I believe that I stayed in Porto Novo longer than we lived in Greeneville, TN! I arrived in PN on December 10, 2014 and left October 1, 2015--maybe you can do the math and see if I am right.) 

I am settled in my apartment and it is comfortable. The water and power situation is not as bad as it was in Cococodji. We actually have a pet pig here! Well, she's not exactly a pet, but we keep her in our gated yard. The assistants were planning on raising her for food, but now I think we are going to give her to one of our amis so that they can raise a little pig family. Then they will give us a male pig, or at least, I think that is the plan.

So Thursday, the assistants came and got me with their car and we headed to Cocotomey. Since then I’ve had to do a significant amount of travel back and forth to the office and back. Friday, we spent the morning there renewing my companion, Elder A's, passport. It was interesting because they actually let me go with him and Sr. P into the Nigerian Embassy (normally they’d have me wait outside with the office Elders). It was fun going in--I joked with the embassy workers by talking to them with the Nigerian’s 'brocken English' (pronounced 'Brah-kin). A few examples--you say, "Howfa," to say "how are you?" Or they will say, "How you day?" in place of, "How is your day?" Also, there is "How the body?" to which one replies, "The body is in clothes." The embassy workers are all very well educated, so they don't speak like that, but they knew what I was talking about. 

Friday afternoon I met a lot of our amis, members and converts. They all seem very nice. They remind me of my amis from Cococodji--genuinely interested in the church. If they say they'll come on Sunday, they'll be there.

Some of the ones I met---

Sr. A and her daughter Sr. M:
They are both really funny; A. is probably 50 and her daughter 30, they were both recently baptized. We came by to give A. her genealogy packet, and she was so excited to see that we had a little manilla envelope for her with her name on it. She kissed it a few times, laughing, and hugged it. We explained to her the importance of family history and temple work, and showed her how to use the 'My Family' brochure.  Then she explained that she wouldn’t be able to do the genealogy because she would have to go to Godomey (a little far away, but still in our sector), and ask her family to help. She said that her whole family is savage and would chase her away. We made the connection that her story was like that of Nephi and Laban's, and how they journeyed to a far place to get family records from a wicked relative.

C and J:
A young couple that started taking the lessons while I was in Cococodji. They are active in the church, though they haven’t been baptized yet because of the difficulties in getting married here. They are very fun to be around and both have a great sense of humor. My comp was reminding them what time to be at church, and C. assured him saying, "Don’t worry I will be there at 12 o'clock sharp!" (church starts at 9:00 :). I would love to help them get married--I'd gladly give them the money they need for the permits and so forth, but I know that swooping in and taking care of all of the bills and forms isn't the best solution and that is would be better for them to work things out. So for now, we encouraged them to get the the marriage form they need and fill that out--that seemed like a good first step. We can talk about saving money later. We actually are going to give them our pet pig so they can start a little pig family and use that money towards getting married. That should help some.

E. is a 17-yr old member that teaches with us a lot. Turns out that he is the younger brother of Fr. D. from the Cococodji branch! (I sent you a few photos of Fr. D. and his family just before I went to Porto Novo--he has a wife and two daughters--one is a baby, the other is maybe 5. There was a photo of him laying on the couch while wearing a boomba.). Anyways, when I met him it was like I already knew E. from somewhere. I’m not sure if I ever saw him, but I definitely knew his family.

Saturday, we helped with cleaning the branch building. I had to kill two semi large lizards that had made there way into the church with a stick.

Sunday, was great as well. I really like the branch here. It will take awhile to learn everyone's name, but I will do my best. Many people had just returned from a temple trip to Ghana, so that was great to hear their testimonies. Many of them spoke in Fon (the tribal language here), so I didn't catch most of the details, but you could really feel the Spirit.

Today we made a stop at Tokpa, the grand market of Benin. It is crazy! Motorcycles flying everywhere, people going in every direction, lots of shouting and people trying to sell their stuff. I am surprised there aren't tons of accidents all the time with the way people drive here. 

That is about it for the week. I am here and feeling so much better about how things are going. My comp and I get along just fine. It feels so good to be working again!

Thanks again for the photos. I love the ones of Ferris--I think I miss him most of all! (Probably because I can't write to him, haha!). No, we have not had a chance to watch General Conference yet. I did hear about the new Apostles. That is cool about what was said about West Africa. If I am not mistaken, it is the fastest growing area. It's a very exciting time in the history of the church here! I am glad to be a part of this great work. 

I love you all,
Elder Walls