No, I'm not being a rebel missionary, no worries. (: We had a mission conference with Elder Stanfill yesterday morning, so Président just decided to move our Pday to Tuesday, and have us work the rest of Monday. But more on that later.
This week was amazing.
For starters, I had an exchange with Elder Teaupa, our zone leader, this week. He came here to work, and I had so much fun! I can't remember ever having such a great time on exchanges. Elder Teaupa is from Hawaii, and he's a former assistant. He's an awesome cook: I haven't eaten that well since the Provo MTC. He gave me a lot of good advice about the sector, which we'll be implementing this week. The biggest idea was inviting less actives to teach with you. At first the idea seemed backwards, but thinking about it, it totally makes sense. Less actives are sick and tired of having people come to them and saying the same message over and over. They get the attitude of "I've already heard this before, why would it work this time?" When they come to teach with you, their testimony grows in the bearing of it. They get to see themselves as they were when they were investigating. They see people feel the Spirit and accept the Gospel. It reignites their faith. So we'll see how that goes. We also had a great mangez-vous with the Kpadonou family, and I made pate for the first time! I'm really bad at it, but hey, it gives the locals something to laugh at. (: I'm also learning how to dance African style. (:
Here we go.
Saturday afternoon, me and Elder Ogoudiran went to Palais de Congrès to play piano for the General Members session, but the meetings were running late, so we actually got to sit in on the Priesthood session. It was so nice! It gave me a lot of excitement for when I get back and I can go to church meetings and listen like a normal member. I definitely enjoyed it, and all of the speakers talked about how we can access our Priesthood power better. Integrity, magnifying our callings, doing missionary work, etc.
I got to do a little bit of prelude for the general members session, and Elder Stanfill took some time beforehand to shake my hand! It was just a quick conversation, but it made my day. Elder Stanfill said "We're glad to have you here, Elder, thanks for your help." I felt really humbled, because he's a General Authority, we're glad to have him here!
The members session was very cool. Elder Koranteng, from the Africa West Interregion, talked about tithing. Elder Stanfill, instead of speaking from the podium, grabbed a microphone, and gave his talk while walking among the audience. "When I'm up on the stand, I'm afraid, but when I'm down here, you all are afraid, so that makes me feel better." (: He thanked the members for their wonderful work. He invited converts and their member friends to share their stories. There were some cool stories, like miraculous Priesthood blessings, family members who persevered for years in sharing the gospel, etc. Elder Stanfill's message was "It's so easy. When it's not easy, keep persevering. Keep doing what you're doing".
Saturday night, after a spiritually fulfilling day, we got transfer calls. Everything is the same, except I now have a new companion, Elder Yoboue! He's from Cote d'Ivoire, and he came into the mission a transfer after me. He's a super nice, humble, and fun guy. He's always smiling! I'm super excited to get to know him, and I feel comfortable with the fact that if this transfer is my last in Akpakpa, I'll be leaving the sector in good hands.
I'm still super happy here. I love the people, and I don't think there's a better branch in all of Benin. These people are my second family, and I love it here.
Sunday morning, me and Elder Alexander left the apartment early so we could be at Palais de Congrès at 7h30. Elder Kola and Elder Ogoudiran stayed behind to make sure that as many amis as possible made it to the minibus we rented for them. Bertrand, who is a stud, drove his moto three times to the bus and back to get all of his contacts to the bus. He's an absolute rockstar. Gudi, Alex, Eugene, Natalie, Esaie, Eli, Michel, Hospice, Eugenie, Valentin, and one of Bertrand's son's friends came along, as well as other Akpakpa 2 amis like Julien and Lioni.
The conference was a spiritual feast. Soeur Christine got back from her first temple visit. Bertrand, Jean-Jacques, and Frère Victor all received the Melchizedek Priesthood, among others. The stake was organized, by unanimous vote, covering the Southeast of Porto Novo to the Togo border. Benin Cotonou received its first stake. The new stake president is Modeste Kpadonou (no relation to the Kpadonous in Akpakpa), who was the district president. He and his counselors are returned missionaries and have been sealed to their families in the temple. They're all super young for a stake presidency, under the age of thirty I believe, but the Spirit testified to all of us that they were the men. Président Modeste is a very awesome, humble guy, and he's got a lot of "weight on his little shoulders," said his wife in her testimony. You could tell that she was distraught at the idea of her husband spending another ten years on the stand without a chance to sit with her during sacrament meeting, but Soeur Morin said that she felt the same way when Président Morin was called as a district president, and how charity helped her overcome that. Charity is a principle we must have in establishing Zion.
Président Morin saluted the work of all the members, missionaries, and others who have made the stake possible, including Président Weed, the former mission president. Author's note: I would say that the two people who worked the hardest for this stake were Présidents Weed and Morin. They did pretty much all the work. Président Morin also noted the young age of the new stake presidency, but that if we take the principle of foreordination into hand, callings are no more a matter of age.
Elder Stanfill told us about his trip here. They were supposed to fly in from Ghana to Cotonou on Thursday, but the flight was cancelled. They arrived at the airport at 10am for a 12pm flight, they checked in their baggage, but it turns out that their flight was actually for 5pm, so they would miss out on their afternoon meetings. Elder Stanfill became grumpy, and he lost the Spirit. They arrived in the Cotonou airport at 7pm, hot, humid, and crowded with people (just like a new missionary), and were welcomed to the sound of a choir of 50 youth singing hymns, having waited since noon at the airport in the heat of the day. Elder Stanfill was really touched by that. He testified that he and Elder Koranteng both received distinct impressions that Président Modeste was the man for the job. He encouraged us all to keep working, and to never give up. He chose "Come Come ye Saints" as the intermediate hymn (last minute) because we were pioneers, and we've got a lot of great blessings here, and we can keep going. He blessed the members that they would be able to keep up the good work.
Monday, we had a mission conference with Elder and Sister Stanfill. It was my favorite zone conference ever! I felt that the overlying theme was prayer, and how to pray with faith. Elder Stanfill's message was "When we pray saying 'Heavenly Father, show me Thy will, and I will go and do,' then we see miracles". And "If you focus on your missions, you will look back at only sweet memories. He promised that in 40 years, churches and temples would dot this country.
That's just a little taste of the most wonderful, historic weekend ever. I'm so excited for the day when y'all get to see the celestial replay of this moment, when heaven and earth touched for an instant on the West African coast.
"And [if we were to die in this moment],
[It would be a] happy day! All is well!
We [would be] free from toil and sorrow too
With the just we [would] dwell
But...our lives are spared again
To see the saints their rest obtain
Oh [let us] make this chorus swell:
All is well! All is well!"
I love you all. Hurrah for Israel!