Sunday, May 29, 2016

Life on My Side of the Globe

Dear Family,

So, this week has been kind of quiet, which I have to say has been kind of nice. We were able to spend several days out in the sector which was also great for a change. 

We had a few baptisms:
The first service was for Paul and Beatrice, two amis from my old sector. I was really happy to see them getting baptized, especially for Paul. He lives in such poor conditions and he had such a bad drinking problem when we first met him that I never thought he would be able to drop it. But after 5 months, he was ready for baptism! 

Photos from the Baptismal Service for Paul and Beatrice

We also baptized Mariath. She is a great ami. She is a single mother. The father of her child had wanted to sacrifice their baby right after he was born. Kind of crazy, but you see and hear of all kinds of things here in Africa. The little boy is so cute, thankfully, she didn't go along with that!

Photos from the Baptism of Mariath

We were also able to see General Conference! I had already read through all the talks in English (thanks for putting those in my birthday package!). It was great to be able to watch Conference as well. I really liked President Uchtdorf's talk, and Sister Oscarson's talk. 

Watching General Conference
Sustaining the Prophet and Other Church Leaders
We are busy taking care of transfers. One of our responsibilities is to drive the missionaries around to their new assignments. I will probably be making multiple trips to Togo and back this week, so I am getting ready for a lot of road. 

I am doing well. Getting over my cough--I was able to get some cough syrup and cough drops that seem to be helping. 

Love you guys a lot. Have a good week!

Elder Walls
Chilling' at a mangez-vous after baptismal service
Post baptism mangez-vous
Post baptism mangez-vous
Caught Elder K-- catching a few zzz's during Conference (teehee!)
#Selfie! Not exactly sure what the thing in my mouth is called , but it is edible

Monday, May 23, 2016

Planning Transfers

Dear Family, 

So this Sunday was really busy--on top of the usual office work we do, we planned the upcoming transfers which was a really neat experience. It was interesting to see how the transfers are decided. President described it as, "A lot of sweat, and a little inspiration," which kind of describes it right (the saying rhymes in French). 

I am relieved to see that I will not have to train a new assistant before leaving here, but instead will be staying with Elder Pellevoizin through the end of my mission. This means I won't have to do as much of the driving, which is nice--the traffic here is crazy!

This week, I got to do a split in Porto Novo, which was lots of fun. I got to see familiar faces and sites. It is interesting to see how much has changed, yet also how much has stayed the same. They now have 2 missionary apartments there and 3 companionships (instead of only 2 companionships living in 1 apartment). I was also happy to hear that one of my former amis was finally baptized! Do you remember G--? She was the young woman who wanted to be baptized, but couldn't get her aunt's permission. It is so cool to see that little seed finally begin to grow. I also did a split with Elder Kincaid who was in my former sector, and that was great as well. 

We had a great lesson with our new Nigerian investigators. When we stopped by their home this week there were 8 people ready to listen to our lesson. We were really excited, and hoped they would all be able to make it out to church (we even planned a special Sunday School class to be held in English). However, it started raining just before 9:00 am, so a lot of investigators and members were not able to make it to church. Four of the Nigerians did come though, and we hope to be able to see all of them in the coming weeks.

Last P-day I was able to go out and buy the tissue (fabric) for the family outfits. I might send a picture laster with the different colors. I hope everyone likes what I picked for them! It ended up costing $50 for all the tissue, so don't be surprised if you see me pulling more cash out of my account to cover the other souvenirs I want to purchase. 

I am doing well, no complaints. I have had a little cough the last 2-3 days, but aside from that I am fine. Oh, and good news! I made it back into my spot on the drum line for the Fall--super excited for that! 

Love you guys!

Elder Walls

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Funny Little Coincidences

Voodoo Hut at Ouidah Beach
Dear Family, 

So I guess I’ve got about 2 weeks worth of writing to do, since I didn’t really detail my week to you guys while we Skyped last Sunday. (Man, Skyping was so great!!)

So, I titled this email, "Funny Little Coincidences," because so many things have just fallen into place. However, I know that they are more than just a coincidence and that Heavenly Father has put these people in my path for a reason.

The first happened right as I was transferred into this new sector at Cocotomey. I got an email from an old investigator of mine from Porto Novo, named Kelvin. He was one of my favorite investigators while I was there because he was a very cool guy to be around, and also because speaks some of the best English that I’ve heard here in Benin (he speaks practically like an American). 

In his email he just asked how I was doing, and if I was still on my mission. I responded and asked if he still met with the missionaries in Porto Novo. He said he no longer met with them because he was now living with his parents in Cocotomey---

Turns out he's living in my current sector!!! I got his phone number and address ASAP. His email had perfect timing--had he emailed any earlier, I would have still been in the other sector of Cocotomey and would not have been able to teach him. I am praying that this time things will work out with him. 

And first, he warned us to be careful of his parents because they were very closed minded about religion, and would likely chase us out of their home. However we had the chance to talk with his mother, and she seemed very kind and open to hearing our message. She even joked that we'd have to work hard to try to get anything through her son's head.

Then yesterday, we got a call out of the blue from his father, who said that he was interested in meeting with us to learn more about the Book of Mormon and what we had taught his son. We are going to try to meet with him this coming Saturday.

They're a great family, and would be a tremendous asset to the Branch here. I can see them as very, very strong members. I’m hoping there is some reason why every thing has lined up so well, timing wise. Maybe now is the time that Kelvin and his family will be ready to accept the Gospel. Stay tuned---

Then, yesterday, we had a training meeting for young single adults who are interested in, or preparing to serve a mission. We had a turnout of about 12---My companion and I took two of them aside to help them fill out the paperwork for their mission application. I worked with a young man named Julien. I was surprised that he knew my name without having to look at my badge or struggle with the pronunciation. 

I asked where he knew me from, and he said that he was from Cococodji (my first area). I thought at first that he was a member of the church that I just didn't remember. When I asked him about it, he explained that my comp (Elder Adjei) and I had found him and started teaching him. (I have been searching my memory, and just can't remember him! I am going to have to go back through my weekly letters to see if I wrote anything about him.) 

So, I’m not sure how long we taught him before I left, but it ended up taking him a year to be baptized. By that time, I had moved on to other areas. So here he is, baptized and preparing to go on a mission himself! It goes to show you that you may not necessarily see all the fruits of your labors. And small acts, such as just being outside, walking with everyone and distributing brochures and copies of the Book of Mormon, can lead to success. It adds a fun and interesting spin on the Parable of the Sower.

In other news, Last Monday, we had another Ouidah activity. This makes 4 times for me so I wasn't too excited about going. However, it's our job to taxi all the missionaries around for activities. I’ll probably end up at Ouidah again before going home.

Also, this week I started driving. I think I’ve basically got the hang of driving a stick shift. Now I just need to learn is how to drive in crazy African traffic.

I am also putting a little more effort into playing the piano at church. As you may recall, they wouldn't give me much notice of which songs they were planning on for church. And even then, they would change them--sometimes even during Sacrament meeting. So I kind of had given up trying to practice them in advance. This time the Branch presidency gave me advance notice of the songs (and didn't change them). I managed to play 2 of the 3 songs with both hands, fairly decently (still have lots of work to go!). 

I’ve got a lot of learning going on: Driving, piano, AP duties, missionary apartment locations, new sector, new amis---it makes for a bit of fun stress, which helps the time go by fast. It also makes for a very tired Elder Walls. I did the math the other day, and the typically missionary work week should normally be 74.5 hours, including proselyting, studies, planning, and meetings. 

Moral of the story is just that I’m going to do a lot of napping when I get home! And let's plan on doing going to the DC Temple when I am home. That is something I've missed while serving here. 

I am working hard, doing my best, and enjoying myself along the way. I am trying to not count the days, however, I did note that I've only got 8 more Sundays here in Benin.

Just realized that my first Sunday back will be Alex M.'s last Sunday before he leaves. I am so glad that I'll get to see him before he embarks on his mission--that’ll be exciting. Do you think they’ll do a homecoming talk with a farewell talk? That would be a very awesome Sacrament meeting!

Love you guys, 
Elder Walls

Guess who just walked into the mission office front door? One of BYU's French321 professors (however, not the one from whom I will be taking the class). Very interesting to see a BYU prof on this side of the globe.

Also, BYU should be informing you sometime this week as to whether I am back on the drum line, and what position I will have. If you hear anything, will you shoot me a direct email? Thanks!

I'm sending a lot of photos this week. It is so nice to use the computers at the mission office--so much easier to send photos!

The mural on this voodoo hut is a representation of Mami Wata, the Mermaid Voodoo Goddess. I don't completely understand all of the legend/myth around her, but I do know that many people think she is responsible for many of the misfortunes that occur to people on the sea. A lot of people (including many church members) believe in her, and are afraid of her. 

Fishermen off the shore of Ouidah

African Canoe
Revenon ("Awoken voodoo spirit") Statue at Ouidah
GTV (Goat transport vehicle!)
Baptism of Fr Adrien
Mangez-vous (dinner appointment) with Sr. Diane, Fr. Emmanuel, L'élu, Ezekiel and Dominique
Patte with Peanut Sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce!
This little cutie is the son of one of our amis.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

The First Stake of Zion, A Letter from the Mission President

Dear Parents, Leaders, and Friends,

After many years of dedicated service on the part of missionaries, members, and church leaders, the first Stake of Zion in Benin was organized on Sunday April 24th under the direction of Elder Vern P. Stanfill of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and Elder Koranteng of the Africa West Area Presidency.

On this memorable occasion more than 1500 people gathered at Palais des Congrès (a convention center) in Cotonou to participate in this historic event. Elder Stanfill and his wife also took advantage of their presence to meet with all of the missionaries in Benin and Togo. Attached you will find photographs taken during these two zone conferences.

We take this opportunity to thank you for your love and constant support that you show to each of our missionaries.


President and sister Morin.

Elder and Sister Stanfill with missionaries in Benin

Elder and Sister Stanfill with the missionaries in Togo

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Dear Family,

It is very weird emailing on Sunday. It's kind of throwing me off, especially being in such a nice, cushy air-conditioned bureau to do it. And using an English keyboard instead of a French one is so different too. 

This week has really flown by. I'm loving being in the car and not having to walk miles under the burning, hot sun. I’m hoping to gain a little bit of weight back. And the air-conditioning is pretty sweet, too. Being able to spend a little time every now and again in the mission office (air-conditioned) is also a plus.

I really, really love my new comp, Elder Pellevoizin, as well. I first met him just after being transferred to Cocotomey. He was transferred at the same time from Togo to Cococodji. I liked him from the get-go. Then he got transferred to Cocotomey to work with Elder Teaupa and we still got along great. Now I’m in heaven getting to work with him. Definitely a blessing for me to finish the mission with such a great guy!

So my new duties officially started on Tuesday. We spent the entire day transporting missionaries around the country. We ended up getting in an accident while trying to cross the road, an old man on a moto didn’t feel like slowing down for us and slammed into our side. We spent some time arguing and finally gave him 10,000 so that he'd leave us alone. Road laws are practically nonexistent here, no one is insured and no one calls the police for these sorts of problems.

That evening we started the journey to Togo, taking Elders Barnes (my former comp), Seifert, and Ballié- with us. It took about 3 and a half hours to make the trip, but it was worth it to see how amazing Togo is.... I can't even exaggerate how great it is. Missionaries always talk about how nice it is, but I never really considered what they were saying until now.

So, the first branch we visited was Baguida, and we walked in to an AMAZING outdoor branch activity with food, live music, and dancing. It was such a well organized and fun get together. 

Afterwards we passed by the Stake center of Togo, which is beautiful! It made me feel like I was at home walking through the halls. I haven't seen a traditional LDS church building since 2014. 

Then we dropped off Elder Seifert at Tokoin, the district of Elder Jackson, whom I haven’t seen since leaving the MTC. Elder Jackson has served his entire mission in Togo (as I have in Benin). It was great to see him again. I had been worrying that I wouldn't be able to talk with him again until the airplane ride home. He is being transferred to Benin (Cococodji). It will be interesting to see what he has to say about Benin. 

We spent the night with Elder Jorgensen (my former MTC comp) at Kelegougan, so I got the chance to chat with him as well, which was so great.

Elder Walls with his former MTC comp, Elder Jorgensen, in Togo
It was a pleasant surprise to see that the sun rises before our 6AM reveille in Togo, making it so nice and easy to get up on time. Normally in Benin, the sun rises between 6:30 and 7:00. 

We stopped by a supermarket on the way back and I found Dr. Pepper and Cap'n Crunch!!! Two brands that I haven’t seen since home! Togo has better import/export laws so finding American products is easier. 

I am so grateful to have had the chance to go to Togo. I am still very happy to have served in Benin. I've been able to participate in the creation of the first stake here, and the birth of the church in a country that, until recently had never even heard of the Mormons. 

In other news, I’m starting to learn my way around the sector little by little. Tomorrow I’m going to start learning to drive stick shift with my comp. Wish me luck!

I love you guys a lot!

Elder Walls

PS I am sending a ton of photos. The ride to Togo was nearly 3 1/2 hours (each way), so I had a lot of time to take pictures. Plus, it is so nice to be able to send multiple photos at a time. (Editor's note: Many of the photos were added to previous posts since they related to prior experiences.)

Road trip to Togo
Another photo from our trip to Togo
3 1/2 hour drive of rural scenery
OK, so a Shell gas station probably isn't that exciting for you, but I was excited to see one!
Cargo ships at the Port of Togo
In front of the Togo Stake Center (you can't see much since it was dark)
Benin Chinese Cultural Center