It’s been a GREAT week! Stake Conference was wonderful!
We rented a bus to take our investigators to the Palace of Congress and had a great turn out---17 investigators for our companionship and 15 for the Assistants. Lots of people were eager to take the opportunity to see the beautiful part of Cotonou, where the Palace and other government buildings are located, even if it meant leaving really early to get to church.
Once again, I had the opportunity to meet with other members from all over Benin. I got to see some of my former converts from Cococodji, Luc and Marina, who are still very strong in the church. I also saw, Annafreed and her daughter Eloïde who are also still very active. From Porto Novo, I saw the family of Dieudonné (whose children Elder Barnes and I were able to baptize, but we were waiting for the parents to be married before they could be baptized). It was the first time I have seen them since I left Porto Novo, so that was really special for us all. Rogenio also came and it sounds like he is going to go on a mission once he's got a little more experience in the church. The one person I didn't see was Isaac, I will have to give him a call and make sure everything is fine with him.
The session itself was great. The Spirit was so strong as Elder Korentang, an Area Seventy from Ghana, announced the official organization of the Cotonou Benin Stake. It was as if the dark clouds of voodoo and evil spirits, slavery, etc., were pulled back to make room for Zion.
They called Benin's First Stake President, President Modest Padonou. He’s an amazing guy. A funny and sociable guy with very good teaching and leading skills He is so very, very humble. He’s a returned missionary from the Ivory Coast and he was also the District President before the stake organization. He will do a wonderful job as Stake President.
I got to talk with Elder Stanfill and his wife as well during our leadership councils. I suppose their daughter already mentioned that there was a missionary in Benin from Kutztown, because they already were on the look out for an Elder Walls. Elder and Sister Stanfill are an amazing couple, and had lots of good insights and stories to share.
One of the messages that stood out to me is how Christ's Atonement not only serves to forgive us of our sins, but serves just as much to help us to do incredible things. His grace truly is an enabling power. And also, how obedience leads to the gift of discernment, which is essential to missionary work. Elder Stanfill shared a story that illustrated how quickly the Adversary can blind us when we take little steps away from what we should be doing.
President Morin spoke as well, and gave a great explanation on the difference between sin and weakness. Sin is introduced by the Devil and is healed through repentance. Weaknesses are introduced by God and are healed through Grace.
Elder Stanfill's visit came at just the right time for me. I didn't start my mission with the intention of only giving 50% by the end of my time here, but I sometimes find myself thinking that now certain amis have been baptized, or now that the new Stake has been organized, or now that I am down to only 11 or so weeks left, I could let up a bit on my studies. Or work a little less hard. Sleep a little later.
Elder Stanfill's visit was definitely a good reminder for me that my mission is so much more than just the influence we have on the Church (converts, reactivating nonactive members, etc.), but it is also about personal sanctification and learning to do hard things.
I have seen some missionaries slack off the last 12 weeks of their mission. The first 12 weeks of your mission you are training--or learning how to be a missionary. So, some look at the last 12 weeks as a kind of un-training, or "deformation." I think a more appropriate title for my last 12 weeks will be, "reformation," because it is my last chance to profit from the spiritual experiences I am having on my mission.
By the way, transfers have me working here with Elder Pellevoizin! I am super excited! He is an amazing guy. And I will have the opportunity to work more closely with President Morin and the Dysons.
I will keep you update on the adventure. I will be emailing on Sundays now, btw.