I hope all is well in the Good Old US of A. This week has been so awesome! There've been a lot of appointments falling through, but Elder Hansen and I keep good backup plans in place, and if those fall through, then we practice improvising by the Spirit. Overall, we have about 30 investigators, and we teach about an average of 15-18 lessons a week.
Elder Hansen and I are doing fantastic. We get along super well. Elder Hansen says that one of the blessings of having an American companion is being able to randomly burst into an American song, and have his companion jump right in on backup. We do a lot of singing in the kitchen. :)
Elder Hansen cut my hair this morning, and it was his first haircut ever! He did an awesome job. He did accidentally shave my sideburns completely off, but it was just something we ended up laughing about. Really, our investigators don't really care how your hair looks, and I actually don't look too shabby, so we just laughed about it. Sometimes, if we get a little down, we have a comedy routine we do to cheer each other up: I have developed this alter ego/impersonation, named Elder Philips (with one “L”). He's from Montana, and he's got the thickest hick accent ever. His grammar isn't too good, but he's very passionate about being a missionary. If he ever has any questions, he goes immediately to the Mission President. So, sometimes, when Elder Hansen and I run into a weird situation, like getting your sideburns shaved, I'll just shout "President! My companion done done shaved my sideburns off! It ain't really a bad sin, like breaking the law of chastity or nothing, but is there a Church Disciplinary council for this kind of mistake?" It always gets us laughing. This week, me and Elder Hansen decided that our unofficial motto is "Optimism and Faith". We try our best to apply it, and when we have a tough time figuring out what to do, we just look at each other, say a prayer, and say "Optimism and Faith”.
Another thing me and Elder Hansen do is Glace Day (Ice Cream Day). Thursday is what we call the missionary Hump Day, halfway between P-Days. It's also a day where we normally go out into the far ends of our area, so we do a lot of walking. To reward ourselves, we go to an ice cream shop and buy ice cream. Ice cream here comes in bags that you tear open with your teeth, and you drink it out of the torn corner. It's nowhere near as good as back home, but I like it a lot.
We see a lot of chickens, some dogs, a few rats and lizards, lots of sheep and pigs and horses and oxen. I saw my first monkey yesterday, somebody was walking it like a dog, but it was gone before I could pull out my camera. We eat chicken and fish mostly, but Elder Dakourri procured a lot of mutton yesterday in a way that shall go unspoken.
We run into some very interesting investigators here in Akpakpa. For example, we tracted into one investigator who has an interesting personal life. She was raised and married in the Catholic Church, but her husband wanted to marry multiple wives after her. Surprisingly, she was totally cool with that, and since the Catholic Church wouldn't let her husband get married to another wife, they decided to attend a different church that would allow polygamy. Needless to say, we decided it would be best to walk away from that situation. Sometimes people will call you over to the side of the streets, and only when you start talking to them will you realize that they are ridiculously drunk. For example, one man called us over and asked a very interesting question: "If I marry a black woman, and I move to Europe and we have our babies there, why won't they be white? Why would they be black?" I still haven't found the answer to that thought-provoking question, but I can offer this response: don't drink alcohol, kids.
My favorite lesson this week was with Crespin and his son, Blaise. In the course of one week, Blaise read all the way up to 1 Nephi 5, which is above average for most of our investigators. We asked Crespin if he had any questions about the things he was reading, and he turned to 2 Nephi 33. I did a double take and asked him if he had read all of 1 and 2 Nephi, and he casually said yes. You know, a busy schoolteacher who works into the evening just casually read over 100 pages of the Book of Mormon in one week. Nothing big. It was something that made us soooo happy! Then, at the end of the lesson, he asked when he could get the priesthood, and we told him. He then asked when he could go to the temple. We haven't even taught him about temples, so we were very confused. He said the Branch President told him about it on Sunday, and so now he wants to work towards going to the temple. Believe me, you will never hear anything as heartwarming as "One day, we will go to the temple together."
The biggest lessons I've learned this week are about miracles. Very rarely do big miracles happen here, but if you look closely, you can see a lot of little miracles. I feel like lots of times, it takes more faith to receive little miracles than to receive the big ones. One morning during personal study, I remember a story that Dan Reynolds once told. It was the first worldwide tour for his band, and one of their stops included London. The O2 Arena is the biggest, most famous concert arena in England, and if the band wanted to, they could have filled that venue to the brim. But instead, they chose a smaller, less famous venue. When asked why, Dan said something to the effect of "Because every great musician started out there. That venue is so legendary, and our band wouldn't dream of missing that one. We'll hit O2 on the next round, but we'd like to start here." I think, in some ways, miracles are kind of like that. Every prophet, apostle, etc. started off looking and praying for small miracles. That's not a bad place to start, right? I guarantee you that if you end the day by looking back and searching for just one small miracle, you'll find it. It may not be a miracle by the world's standards, but it's definitely the gift that Heavenly Father has given you. As a missionary, I've seen very few large miracles. But we have a lot of small miracles that accumulate into big ones. Right now, we have three investigators with a baptismal date, and they didn't come all at once. It was one baptismal invitation at a time, and in a couple of weeks, we hope to be able to baptize three people. When counting my blessings every day, I find that they only get bigger and better. At the end of the road, you look back, and you don't see one massive life-changing experience, but you see so many small, inspiring moments that are worth their weight in gold.
I love you all. I hope that school and work and home and church are all going well, and I'll keep praying for you all.
Avec tout mon amour,