I hope you're all doing splendid, and I'm proud of all the various accomplishments and tasks that you are working towards! Y'all are the best. :)
So, this week was an amazing week, and definitely a change of pace.
Monday, Elders Magré and Kola came. I spent the first half of the week in the north of Akpakpa, my first sector, going on splits with them, showing them the sector, and helping them know who and where things are. I haven't worked that hard in a long time, and working with Elders Kola and Magré one on one each day helped me get to know them better, and say a final goodbye to Akpakpa 2. Most importantly, I felt very at ease seeing the sector off to an amazing equipe. For the longest time, I had had a subconscious fear of what would happen if I were transferred from Akpakpa altogether. I usually shoved those thoughts into my mental filing cabinets, but the fear was still there. Being able to work with Elders Magré and Kola, I could just see how amazing they are as missionaries, how ready they are for the task, and I felt the Spirit confirm to me that Akpakpa 2 would be just fine.
Elder Kola is a rock and roll star. That man is zealous! During my second split with him, he fixed two baptismal dates for Saturday the 13th. By the end of the week they had four dates fixed. They're going to have to refix most of the dates, but they're going to baptize Ruth, Julien's daughter, this Saturday! Elder Kola also really wants to learn English, so I'm giving him a few pointers here and there. Also, as we were talking about our families, I mentioned that I had a younger sister, and he asked for her email address to write her. I told him she's too young, but after he served an honorable two year mission, we could talk. Haha, we have an awesome relationship. So Allison, if you're ever tired of boy trouble, just remember that there's an African missionary who wants to go out with you. :)
Elder Magré is really awesome. His parents are French, so he grew up speaking French, but he's American. He's from Draper, and he went to Alta and Corner Canyon. He's such a fun guy, and he's super nice. He's spent his entire mission in Togo up to this point, so there are several moments where he says "What? You guys have this?" or "What? You guys don't have this?" I've learned a lot about Togo, and there are definite differences between the two countries. We were talking about Akpakpa, and he told me I'm really lucky to start my mission in a harder sector. I actually didn't know that Akpakpa was a bit more difficult, but that makes me feel better about myself. Anywho, Elder Magré has just jumped into being district leader here. He's rolling up his sleeves and diving into the work. He's got lots of good ideas to help the branch, and his positivity is already changing lots of things.
Being in a four man apartment again is a blessing. I missed it so much! We feel more like a family together, and it gives you a little mental break from one person all the time. The messes after cooking are a lot bigger, but cleaning is soooooo much quicker with four. Honestly, today I think we cleaned the apartment in an hour, which is the fastest cleaning has ever taken. To welcome the new guys into the apartment, I baked either my sixth or seventh chocolate cake, and they just keep getting better. We'll get to that one in a bit.
Beninois elections are coming up on the 28th, and so the mission is just amping up its preparedness. Last week we had fire extinguishers installed in the Benin apartments, and we had a zone conference about extra safety procedures in light of the elections. Nothing crazy has happened in this mission, but we prepare ourselves anyhow. With the elections, power outages have become crazy. Through Thursday and Friday, we had a thirty hour power outage, and on Saturday, the power went out at least six times. Friday night, our zone leader asked us to stay in the apartment during Saturday, because there were rumors that there would be a protest in Akpakpa against the power outages. We stayed in Saturday morning, but we got the green light saying we could go out Saturday afternoon, but to keep our eyes out for trouble. No worries, we didn't see anything, and we're all safe and sound here in Akpakpa. Benin and Togo are the safest countries in West Africa, in terms of political upheaval. We're all good, we just stand ready in case of emergencies. Be prepared.
I spent the second half of the week with Elder Koranteng, and he ended up going home on Saturday, with a medical release and an honorable return. He's going to keep serving in Ghana as a ward missionary. He told me "I can be a missionary, and I get to watch all the movies I missed (he really wanted to see Freetown)!" I really love Elder Koranteng. He's such a cool guy, and he's so very friendly. Sometimes hard things happen to good people, but my companion handled the difficulties with grace and kindness. Dieu soit avec toi jusqu'a revoir, buddy.
I got a new companion! His name is Hounga Amos, and he's a special missionary. Mainly because he's not a missionary yet. In West Africa, when missions don't have too many new missionaries coming in, instead of closing sectors, mission presidents will ask potential missionaries to do a "mini-mission" to help prepare them from missionary work. These potential missionaries live within the boundaries of their mission, and have received a mission call. They've received the Melchizedek Priesthood, but they aren't yet endowed, and haven't been to the Missionary Training Center yet. So, I'm working with Frère Amos! He's 23, he's from Jericho, Cotonou, Benin, and he's called to serve in the Cote d'Ivoire West mission! He's a super nice and happy guy, and he's very faithful. Président Morin called him Friday night asking him if he wanted to do a mini-mission, and after some persuasion, Amos accepted. We met each other Saturday afternoon. I'm really grateful for Frère Amos. He's so humble, and he's willing to work hard. Being with a Beninois companion, I realized that my French has actually gotten much better. I can communicate very effectively, and I'm also picking up a lot more phrases in Fon, the native language here. Every time I use even just a little phrase in Fon, the people light up and smile and are delighted. It's cool to see. I'm very nervous because this mini-mission is going to be his very first missionary experience, after going out to help the missionaries with member-present lessons, and I feel very responsible for him, and for Akpakpa 1. As we were walking around on Saturday, it just hit me that I'm in charge of the spiritual welfare of an entire half of a town, and to help prepare a young man for his mission. Nevertheless, I know that the Lord qualifies those whom He has called. If I try to take care of Akpakpa and train Amos on my own, I'll fail miserably, but if I rely on the Lord to magnify my efforts, I know that Akpakpa will come back to life as a sector, and that Amos will be well-prepared for his mission.
With all of these changes, and seeing all of this new effort and dedication and love being poured into Akpakpa, I found a really cool parable in my life (Mom, sorry if I kind of ripped off your Cinammon Roll story, but these thoughts came to me before I remembered your story). The first time I tried to bake a chocolate cake was for Elder Hansen's birthday. It was okay, but it basically turned into burnt brownies covered in Huskey sauce. I kept trying and trying to bake cakes, getting better and better each time. I made mistakes, kept trying, and now I feel very confident in my cake baking abilities, occasionally make a few mistakes, but usually end up producing delicious chocolate cakes, if I do say so myself. In thinking of those experiences, I asked myself "Why did I keep at it? Why did I even start baking in the first place?" I realized that I baked my very first cake because I love my trainer, and I'm super grateful for all he's done for me, and I wanted to show my love and appreciation. Each time I baked a new cake, it was out of love for the people in my apartment, to say goodbye or to welcome them in, to celebrate or to comfort. Charity, in whatever little form it took, motivated me to bake cakes. In life, we are presented with many difficult tasks. Some are small, like baking or cleaning apartments, and some are huge, like preaching the Gospel in French or showing somebody their new sector or training a missionary who's not a missionary. Maybe your task is providing for a family, keeping a house clean, school work, social drama, extracurricular activities, medical problems, losses in the family, divorce, anxiety or depression, and on and on and on. Whatever the task you may have before you, I encourage you to find the pure love of Christ in your lives and in your hearts, to search actively for charity, for charity never faileth. Pray for it with all of your heart (Moroni 7:43-48). Even the smallest efforts can go the longest way, like saying a phrase in Fon or washing somebody's white shirts (Amos just told me he wanted to wash my shirts this morning. I really love my new companion). Let the love for God and all mankind motivate you to do extraordinary things, relying upon the merits and mercy of Him who is mighty to save.
Je vous aime, il faut avoir une semaine formidable! :)
Tout mon amour,