Wow, I haven't been this happy in forever!!! I am so happy. I have been falling in love with Africa again, and this place is home.
Things are going fantastic here in Akpakpa. We had a zone meeting on Tuesday, and with this transfer, there were a lot of changes and new faces to the zone. I realized that I'm actually one of the elders that's been here the longest, second only to Elder Ravenau, who came into the zone one transfer ahead of me. We have a new zone leader, Elder Teaupa, who just got off being an assistant. He's from Hawaii, and he's really awesome. He's mastered the balance of "Work hard, play hard," and I really admire him. He's training a new missionary, Elder Colby, who actually went to the Provo MTC too! So it was really cool to meet him, and share Provo experiences.
We've re-started the Literacy Class again! I was super worried about taking the lead on that one, and being the new teacher, but it's actually a very relaxing task. Our students have progressed very well, and I only have to correct them on just a couple of words every now and then. The whole experience reminded me of my tutoring days, and I got a little glimpse of home.
Things are going well in the apartment. Elder Kola loves to work, and Elder Magré is my bromance buddy. He's got so much great advice about the mission, and he's also the comedic gold of the apartment. Being an office elder/assistant/special assignment elder, he's got a lot of crazy stories about the mission. Elders Kola and Magré are working hard. They are lighting their sector on fire, and in their first week they had an unheard of 13 lessons in the presence of a member.
And my companion? My companion is the best. Frère Amos is such an honest, genuine, good person. He has such a deep desire to be obedient, and to work hard. He's probably the nicest Béninois I've ever met, and he's just helped me see the good in these people all the more. Plus, when our investigators don't understand my French, he can just translate what I said into Fon. He can also negotiate prices and give directions in Fon. Most importantly, he's got an amazing testimony of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon, and faith in God. My personal study actually landed on the story of Alma and Amulek this week, and I found that to be the perfect description of us. Just imagine: Alma, a missionairy, is discouraged with the lack of progress in the work, but is inspired to not give up, and keep going. He meets Amulek, a local member, and after talking together about the Gospel, they go out together. Alma calls the people to repentance, and many might scorn, but Amulek backs up his brother with basic statements of doctrine, a powerful conversion story, and mighty testimony. Many open their hearts. The scriptures truly do apply to us and our day.
We've been putting our noses to the grindstone. The sector is coming back to life slowly. Not as fast as I'd like it, but I think within this week or next week, it'll be back up to speed. We've been doing so much OVB (Ouvrez votre bouche- open your mouth), otherwise known as street contacting. Some people are interested, some aren't, but they're all super polite, and willing to at least take a brochure. Wednesday, we tracted into some Nigerian pastors. That kind of experience hasn't happened to me since the days of Hansen, but they were definitely the kindest Nigerian pastors I've ever met. They gave me some teaching advice, and they accepted a brochure and an invitation to pray about our message, even though they weren't interested. Sometimes your investigators are ready, and sometimes you've got to just keep planting seeds for the next wave of missionaries.
We're getting more and more chances to see more of the sector. We had a lot of ratez-vous (cancelled appointments) this week, so we had a lot of OVB time, walking the streets. We tired our legs out, and every night we come home tired. I don't remember ever working this hard, but it is honestly the best feeling I've ever had. I never thought that I would get so much joy from getting home, planning, grabbing a cup of yogurt, writing in my journal, and then crashing on my bed because I'm so tired and sore. I never thought I would grow to love hard work like this, but it's the best! Walking around more, I just see so many beautiful things, like palm trees and dirt roads and colorful handpainted buildings and smiling people. This place is my home.
We've also been digging into the area book a lot. Elder Jenkins messaged Elder Koranteng a few weeks ago with some names he was curious about, and that just inspired me to pour over the area book, looking for names and numbers. There's one investigator, Fréjus, who we've only visited once, but he wants to restart the lessons again. Once again, some people are ready, and some need time, but one day they'll come back around.
We've had several meetings and discussions with the branch president. Elder Magré has really helped me see the importance of just being best buddies with the branch president, and he's helped me see the good in weak people. Président Kafechina likes us, and we're gaining his confidence little by little.
Yesterday, we had a mangez-vous with Président Dangnisso. I remember my first time visiting his family, I was the new kid on the block, and I was the one that talked the least. This time around, I was the one showing the others the way to his house, leading the conversations, and eating the most. I'm the old head of Akpakpa. And, if I had my choice, I'd love to spend another six months here. They say spend Valentine's Day with those you love, so I spent it with one of my favorite families in the branch. The Dangnisso family is just a family of good, charitable, upbeat hearts. We as missionaries are called to serve, but Président Dangnisso is always thanking us for what we do, and asking what the branch could do more for us. "On est toujours ensemble." And Président Dangnisso introduced us to some African traditional/pop music. I'm definitely downloading that stuff before I go. :)
Today, our zone went to a cool place in Gbegamey called Bluezone. If I could describe it, it's like the African 21st century version of the YMCA. It's not much nicer than the AF Rec Center, and definitely smaller and more limited, but after being here for six months, it was paradise. They've got basketball courts, a soda bar, ping pong and foosball tables, etc. Whoever invented that place must have invented it for missionairy PDays.
In all, this week was perfect. While visiting members, less-actives, and former investigators, I found myself drawn to a very interesting question that had us all scratching our heads: "How is your relationship with God? And what can you do right now to strengthen it?" Really, we missionaries are just here to help others strengthen their relationship with God, by inviting them "to come unto Christ in helping them receive the Restored Gospel by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, by repentance, by baptism, by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and by enduring to the end." We are all on this journey together, with conversion in our footsteps, and eternal life as our goal. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). So, as we all take our journey of discipleship, what is one thing that you can do to strengthen your relationship with your Heavenly Father? Look for one thing, try to apply it this week, and share your testimony of how you've taken another small step towards our eternal goal.
I love you all! Have a fantastic week!