I hope y'all are doing well and swell back home. We just finished a trip to Dantokpa, which is always fun but tiring, so let's see how this goes.
This week was out of the ordinary, and a real roller coaster.
Tuesday morning, Elder Dakouri told me that he's actually planning on going home the 18th of January. That took me by surprise. As it turns out, all of his family is going to be in town for a funeral that week, and if he didn't go, he'd be the only sibling to miss out. After reflection and prayer, I talked with him again about it on Wednesday morning. I told him the truth, that I wanted him to stay for the two extra weeks, and that I was going to miss him. He's still firm in his decision, but our relationship really took a turn for the better. It reminded me of Into the Storm, the scene where Winston Churchill turns down the knighthood from King George. King George sighs, gets choked up, and says "I feel we had become friends." Winston nods "Yes, I feel so too." In that case I felt like King George and Winston was Dakouri. That conversation really helped us out. I realized that I'm genuinely going to miss my companion, he's actually grown into a good friend. I've learned so much from him, and I can honestly say now that I love the guy. I'm sad to see him go.
That said, after Dakouri leaves, there will still be two weeks left in the transfer. What will happen during those two weeks, I have no idea. The decision is up to the Lord and President Morin, and I haven't heard anything official yet, but there are loads of possibilities. One office elder told me that I might have a Gbegamey elder come over here for a while, the other said that I might go over to Finagnon for those weeks to work with Elders Mutombo and Barnes. There are a bajillion other scenarios that have been rolling in my head, and it gives me some anxiety. If they send someone here for two weeks, there's a risk that I might get transferred out in the next transfer, and to be honest that would make me really sad. Nevertheless, I've learned that whatever happens happens according to the will of the Lord, and that it'll all work out.
Thankfully, Elder Dakouri has been able to go out in the field for at least one rendez-vous a day. It's been mostly good-bye visits, and lessons to help prepare our investigators getting baptized on the 16th. Dakouri's fatigue has actually been a blessing, in some ways: it's helped us focus on the people who are truly really prepared, and it's helped us simplify our teaching into what really needs to be said.
Our investigators are doing pretty good. We have two baptismal dates for the 16th. The first is Audrey, age 17. He's kind of shy, but he's really opened up to us. He's the grandson of a member, Soeur Honorine. He hasn't missed a week of church, which is great! Our second investigator is Jean-Jacques. Soeur Christine's sister, Soeur Johnson, gave a Book of Mormon and all of the brochures to her brother-in-law, Jean-Jacques. He just showed up one Sunday and said he wanted to be baptized. Likewise, he hasn't missed a Sunday. He actually lives all the way out in Menontin (different zone), but his family is here, and so he's going to church here. Because of that, we've only been able to teach him on Sundays, but because he's read all of the brochures, it's been really easy to teach him, and he already believes all of the doctrine. The Lord will place in your path those who are prepared! :)
Everyone else is doing pretty good. Julien has found a pretty stable work situation, and he's been coming to church again! He said that, with the financial situation right now, he could maybe do the marriage around Easter-time. And, we actually found out yesterday how to do marriages with only a birth certificate and about 50 dollars. The Lord is working miracles and opening doors here. Bertrand and Delphine are really strong converts. Bertrand gave a talk in sacrament the day he was confirmed, and he also gave his testimony last Sunday. In both cases he was so sweet and sincere, and truly grateful for the hand of the Lord in His life. With the marriage under his belt, he's become a really good influence for other unmarried couples investigating the church. His example has really helped his younger brother, Esaie, and his wife Angel. He's also been a really positive influence on Julien. Man, I love these people.
With the extra time at the apartment, I've had lots of time to study. My ponderization scripture this week was 1 Nephi 3:7. I've been diving deep into Preach my Gospel, which has helped a lot. Study the doctrine, and the words will come to your mouth more easily when you need them. On top of that, I'm trying to get some deep cleaning in. With only two people in the apartment, it's a little harder to maintain. No worries, we keep it clean, but I've been able to dive into the nooks and crannies this week, and battle... BUGS. One day, I was using the restroom, and I looked up to see the biggest daddy longlegs ever. It's legs were about the size of my thumb, and it was thick in the middle. I backed away slowly from the toilet, grabbed a broom, and slowly stroked it off of the ceiling. Once I got it onto the floor, the monster decided to charge me. After a small scream, I whacked that thing silly with the broom. The next morning, I was studying, and I hear a loud buzzing. The buzz came from a fly, but this fly was no ordinary fly. It must have fallen into a vat of toxic waste, because it's body was definitely bigger than my thumbnail. Luckily, after opening the window, it flew out. Rest assured, we are alive and well here in Akpakpa.
Wednesday night I gave Elder Hansen a call, and we ended up talking for over two hours. It was great to just shoot the breeze and hang out with him over the phone. Quote of the week goes to Hansen: "I don't need my wife to be drop-dead gorgeous, she just needs to be hot enough so that way I'm not tempted to commit adultery on her." Haha, in all seriousness, he's such a wise and kind person, and he can comfort you about any fears you may have. Man, I was blessed to have an amazing trainer.
Friday was Allison's birthday, and it was also Dakouri's 22nd birthday. I baked him a chocolate cake, and with some African yogurt, it was almost like brownies a la mode. And, being January 8th, also happened to be my 6 month mark! Wooooooow, time flies. In reflection over that, I've been reflecting over the mission, and doing a mental comparison between now and the beginning of my mission. I felt that I was missing a lot of the glow that I had in the beginning. I felt like I wasn't really amounting to anything, that maybe I was becoming a worse missionary than when I had started. It didn't get me down too much, but it was something on my mind. Then, Saturday evening, as I was wrapping up my nightly prayers, I expressed gratitude to the Lord for the little prayers He had answered that day. Then, an idea just fell into my head solidly. It just came to me out of the blue, one single sentence: "The Glow is in Gratitude" I didn't really catch it at first, but then I felt the Spirit so strongly, and it was amazing. I felt like I finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. All of my rough experiences over the past few months just disappeared, and I could only see the hand of the Lord in my life over the past few months. This concept has completely changed my outlook. When we are in awe of the miracles that the Lord places in our lives, we can be lead to gratitude. It is this gratitude that compels us to do the things the Lord would have us do, and in doing that, we become effective servants of the Lord. Mosiah 2:19 "O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!" Since then, a flood of grateful thoughts have been rolling through my head. I notice something, and the Spirit prompts me to express gratitude for it. I feel like all of my difficulties and struggles have been made up. Sure, life is never perfect, but I'm so uplifted by these thoughts of gratitude, and I feel like I've found the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, allow me to express gratitude for a few things that matter to me: I'm grateful for my loving Heavenly Father. I'm grateful for a God who loves me enough to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for me individually. I'm grateful for Christ's infinite Atonement, and for His amazing grace. I'm grateful for the Plan of Salvation, which allows me to be resurrected and to be with my family for time and all eternity. I'm grateful that death is not the end. I'm grateful for the Gospel, which allows me to try and try again on a joyous path of discipleship. I'm grateful for my family, who have loved me and taught me in the good way. I'm grateful for God's love, which led Him to restore His true Church upon the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. I'm grateful that we have a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, with apostolic counselors to direct the affairs of this Church. I'm grateful that each one of us can "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him".
I love you all. Have an amazing week!