Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Dear Family,

This will be short since we just spoke the other day, and I think I covered everything on the phone.
Christmas was great, and getting to talk to everyone was definitely the highlight of the day! I could hardly understand what anyone was saying because the connection was so poor, but it was still good to hear your voices. 

The day after Christmas I woke up with a very sore throat which has been bothering me ever since. I went out and purchased some honey and lemons to make myself a homemade remedy. It has been helping. Sunday, I woke up feeling really pretty nasty all over--Church was pretty miserable, and going out in the afternoon to teach wasn't fun either. It has been nice to have today to relax and recuperate. 

The Christmas party was fun. I think I mentioned our zone was in charge of doing a nativity scene. It was kind of thrown together at the last minute, without much time to prepare. The best part was seeing my 6'5" companion dressed as a jaguar, carrying Elder M (who was playing the part of Mary) on his back across the room to Bethlehem. My comp's costume was pretty great--we had a one piece War Machine costume (Ironman's sidekick, basically all gray onesie) and a jaguar mask. Everyone loved it!

Hope everyone is having fun back home. Say hello to grandma and grandpa and everyone for me. Have a Merry Christmas!

Love You,

Elder Walls

Here are some photos from our service project. We went back to the orphanage we were at last year and washed the dirty glass bottles the orphans use to drink out of. 

Elder Walls and his comp, Elder F. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas in the Air

Chocolate cake with frosting! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Dear Family, 

The computer just randomly shut down and erased everything I’d been writing---that is so annoying! But anyways, I’m very excited to get to chat with you all on Friday, and I love getting to hear all of your news every week.

It doesn’t seem like long ago when I was with Elder B. and I made my last Christmas call. I suppose a lot has happened since then. I will call you guys around noon (that is 6 PM my time), and then you can call me back. 

This week has been fun and very productive---I think we might have set a mission record, but I’m not sure. We got 20 new investigators during the week (last Sunday afternoon thru Saturday). A new investigator is defined as a new person who takes a lesson with the missionaries and agrees on a set time for the next lesson. We really didn't set out to teach that many people, it just sort of happened. People would miss a lesson we had scheduled, and while we were waiting by their door, trying to call them, we would see someone else looking at us that seemed interested. We would ask them if we could sit down and talk with them and we got a lot of good results. We have more than doubled our teaching pool. We are going to do our best to see them again next week. 

I’ve been busy organizing a nativity scene that our zone is doing tomorrow. It is tricky because we all live so far apart. Trying to coordinate with busy missionaries with limited resources adds to the complexity. I am sure it will go over alright. I will fill you in on it later.

I got your package!! Thank you so much it was so nice! And sorry, but we just kind of went ahead and opened everything as soon as we got it. Christmas Day isn't really much different than any other day here. Most folks don't take the day off from work, and it is still hot and dusty, so we figured we would just go for it. Oh, and Elder P. wanted me to say, "Thank you," for the candies and the mini remote control cars. He said my mom was, "Formidable," which is a great compliment. 

We made a cake and loved it, I will send you a photo. I also made a makeshift flag pole for my American flag, we pledge allegiance to it every morning. 

Nothing else is really new. I’m enjoying myself and I’m happy. I am doing my best to be a good missionary, and feeling more confident in my abilities, which is nice. And I have great companions. No complaints here. 

Looking forward to Friday!

Love you,

Elder Walls

My makeshift flag pole--it probably stands 7 feet tall. We pledge allegiance to it every morning.
(Editor's apology for the choppiness of the photo--something happens when I flip the photos.)
Agbocodji, a new area we discovered in our sector. I got these photos off of Elder F's card.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

There's a Mouse in the House!

Dear Family,

I got the package from the distribution center. Thanks! That will really help me with playing the piano for Sacrament meetings. I believe all the songs we sing are in there.

Time is flying by really fast. This time next month I’ll hit the last 6 month mark, I remember hitting the first 6 month mark and celebrating with a very expensive pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I’ll have to find another pint for this time as well. It's weird, but I still feel brand new in some ways here. 

I’m very excited to get to call home for Christmas, then before you know it it will be Mother’s Day (get to call home again) and then it will be July! 

So this week started with a BBQ to celebrate Elder M going home. Things didn't go exactly as planned. That day, we did a split where I worked with Elder P, and Elder M went with Elder T to visit his old sectors. He accidentally took the apartment key with him. So when Elder P and I got home, we couldn't get into our apartment, and into the kitchen where the chicken was marinating. They didn't get back until much later. So we didn't get to eat until pretty late. 

Elder F, my new trainee, arrived this week. He’s a very solid kid. Mentally and physically. He’s about 6'5'' and his dad was the mission president of the Chicago mission while he was still in high school. So he grew up in a very missionary work based environment, and is fairly well prepared to be a missionary---though you can only prepare so much for the things you will encounter in Africa. He will learn French soon enough. He studied Spanish in high school, so he doesn’t have much of a background in it, but he’s learning quickly.

My recent convert, J--, just got the Priesthood. And E-- should soon as well. They both are awesome. They work with the missionaries quite often, which really helps us in the work. It is quite helpful because they speak the local tribal language, Fon, and can translate for us. 

Not much else to report on. Life is good. 

I’ve been trying to watch General Conference this past week in English---borrowing DVDs from our branch president I tried to watch the Sunday morning session and was really enjoying Elder Renlund’s testimony when the DVD stopped. I took it out to find it was scratched---not sure how. I need to fix it so that the rest of the branch can watch Conference next month. I tried using toothpaste (I heard that works), but that didn't do anything. Any ideas? 

I’m also hunting a mouse!!! I’ve seen him maybe three times around the apartment. He’s super fast and good at hiding Wish me luck with that.

Have a good week, love you!

Elder Walls

Monday, December 7, 2015

Farewell to Elder M

Found this mural in my sector. I have a lot of respect for the local artists. 
Hello Family,

This week is my companion's last week, so we’ve been visiting lots of members and converts, and doing lots of no complaints here!

One interesting story happened last Monday right after I finished emailing you guys. We left the cyber to go to a branch combined Family Home Evening activity. We didn't expect too many people to show up, however tons came--almost the entire branch. The missionaries gave a little presentation on, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." It went rather well. The interesting part was after we were done, and had retaken our places (we were standing in the doorway because it was so crowded), President Comi got up to give closing remarks. Instead of announcing a closing hymn and prayer, he invited the missionaries back up to the front to dance for everyone! (Huh??!!) He put on some traditional\modern African music and we went ahead and gave it our best shot to perform for everyone. We got a quite a few laughs. Good fun.

It definitely seemed odd dancing for the branch, I suppose it is not against any rules, but it's just not something you'd imagine missionaries doing. (Of course, to not dance, would mean we'd have to disobey our local priesthood I suppose it'd be worse NOT to dance.) We danced about 3 minutes, then we invited the rest of the branch to come join in. Several did. Again, lots of fun.

Serving in Africa is very interesting, because the Church is different here---not that any of the fundamental aspects are different (like priesthood authority, or doctrine), but just the way things are done is completely different. And tons of unwritten Mormon traditions just don’t exist here. It’s nice, I suppose its important to keep in mind that building the Church here doesn’t necessarily mean that we are copying and pasting the Church from America.

As I mentioned, we’ve eaten a lot this past week with different people. Lots of patte, ingyam piléé, agbeli, etc. My convert, J--, promised to make us cat before Elder M-- leaves, but it looks like that might not work out now--maybe sometime in the next few weeks. We'll see. 

Another thing I have noticed that is different from America, is the way people feed us here. Yes, it's less frequently and quite different foods than in the States, but what I have found is that when people feed you here, it's because they really love you. It makes you feel really special that you, or one of your colleagues, was the one to introduce them to the gospel. Oftentimes, people won't even want to eat with us. When they feed us, they just want to watch us eat and be happy. And they really make a big sacrifice to do so. 

It’s been special to see people saying their final farewell to my companion (whom some of them have known for over a year). Elder M has been an awesome missionary here. I am grateful to have been able to work by his side. 

Transfer calls are in: I’m remaining here in Cocotomey as the zone leader, and I’ll be training another new American from SLC named Elder F--. I’ll meet him for the first time tomorrow. I’m sure we will do great together. I am only slightly not so excited about having to force myself to speak French with other Americans again (like I did with Elder B) to help him learn the language. Overall, I’m sure it’ll be great. We will continue to have Elder P (from France) and Elder T (from Hawaii), the APs, in our apartment. 

By the way, I tried to pull out a little personal money this morning because we were going to the Art Hall for my comp. It didn’t work, maybe you could check my account and see what is going on there. 

I wasn’t really planning on getting any souvenirs, but Mom will be happy to know that I found nativity sets at a super good prices. (Usually the merchants try to capitalize on the fact that you are a white American, and won't sell you one for less than 20,000 francs.) However, we found a guy and were able to negotiate to 7,000 francs. I figured I'd buy some sets--some for us, and for Aunt Lavinia. Not sure I'll see that price again. We will be going to Ouidah again soon, so I might try to get some African masks for you guys (they are half as expensive there). 

I love you guys lots!

Elder Walls     

Love the goats here in Africa! Thinking these photos would make great inspirational posters!