Bonjour ma famille!
Well, this week was full of ups and downs, here we go!
Our bedroom is right next to the backyard, and if you have a large backyard, chances are you have a lot of trees, and if you have a lot of trees, then chances are you have a lot of birds in your courtyard, and if you have a lot of birds in your courtyard, then chances are that they make lots of cool noises in the morning, and if they make lots of cool noises in the morning, then chances are Elder Phillips wakes up every morning to the sound of the African jungle right before the tribal chant starts at the beginning of Lion King. Yeah, it's pretty awesome. (;
So, to describe the title of my email, let's go to Saturday night. As the sun set, the craziest and most intense thunderstorm of my life began. One thing I've noticed about African thunderclouds is that you'll see a very bright flash, but then you'll wait twenty seconds before you actually hear the thunder. If my weather skills serve me correctly, that means that the lightning is so far away that we can only hear a low rumble, but so strong that we can see it flash!
We got into our apartment just as the first drops were hitting the ground. We sat inside, planning, and then the power cut! So, we endured a good half of the storm in the dark, which was rather scary. There wasn't any danger or anything, it was just one of those moments from Planet Earth or something. The most intense part was when we would see ridiculously bright flashes of lightning, and then hear suuuper loud thunder one second later that would rumble for twenty seconds! I could feel the ground trembling slightly! Luckily the power came back on, most of the storm passed, and we slept safe and sound. So, thank you Toto, but you can keep your blessings. (;
Well, Monday night, we went to an Family Home Evening at our DMPs house! Papa Mensan and some of his family were there, as well as Frère Bakana, and a less-active named Boris. It was great to be with everyone! Boris is a really cool guy, and I feel like he's a special spirit. We're planning to work with him this week. I really feel like we've gained Papa Mensan's trust. He likes us, and he sees that we're working hard. We have an FHE with the Bishop's family tonight, and I promised to cook a little something special for them (rice with pineapple sauce, first time cooking it! Pray for me! (; )! I feel like the members trust us, and they can see that we're working hard. I've learned that, in missionary work, making sure that the members see your hard work is just as important as working hard. That doesn't mean that we should put on a show and pretend that we're working harder than we are, but we should show the ward the fruits of all our hard work.
We had a zone meeting on Tuesday, and we got to hear about missionary efforts in Kpalimé! They're experiencing a few difficulties getting the plane off of the ground, but it's looking like Kpalimé's going to be a soaring sector! I also gave my first report as district leader, which was a little intimidating, but nothing too special, just letting the zone know how we're doing. Elders Eperonnier and Lath gave great lessons, as well.
We've taken on some recent converts in the other sector, Frère Emmanuel and Family. They seem great, they're preparing to go to the temple (Emmanuel has prepared over 500 names to do baptisms for the dead with! Wow!!!), they just need a little bit of guidance in some doctrinal matters, but nothing too crazy.
Philomène has been a little hesitant to meet with us lately, and we learned yesterday that she's got some problems accepting the doctrine of baptisms for the dead, so we're hoping to work with that this week.
Hilaire's family is doing wonderfully! Elisabeth wants for the whole family to get baptized, so we're going to try and baptize them this Saturday. Luckily, Hilaire knows pretty much everything, so he's helping a ton with getting the rest of his family up to date. The family just found out that they're getting evicted at the end of the month, so they're hoping that the members can help them find a new situation. They've talked with the bishop, and we made sure that they're getting baptized for the right reasons (ie to become converted and not just to receive help), and I feel like they're being genuine. You know that the work is progressing really well when your thoughts change from "What does this family need to get baptized" to "How are we going to get them ready for baptism?!" It's been such a tender mercy of the Lord, for which we're super grateful. We'll see how it goes over the coming week. Pray that we'll be able to get them to baptism safe and sound, and that they'll be able to remember all of the doctrine that we've taught them! And that they'll get baptized for the right reasons!
There were a lot of ratez-vous in the middle of this week, which was a bit discouraging, but nothing too bad. We did service for Alice by carrying corn to the cornmill, which was fun!
Felicité is still a little hesitant about baptism, so we re-fixed her date to the 24th of September. She does want to go to the YSA activity (going to Benin to meet Beninois YSAs), though, so that's a good sign.
Sam is doing great! He understands the Restoration, and we invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. We challenged him to come to Church, to which he was hesitant. We promised the blessings of coming to Church, to which he responded that he's "done a lot of searching" in his life, and multiple times he's heard pastors say "If you do this, you'll be blessed," to no avail, to the point of disappointment. We shared John 7:17, and testified that, to know the will of the Lord, you have to act upon seeds of faith.
Well, come Sunday morning, Sam showed up, rasta cap and all! It was so great to see him! He seemed super happy to be there! He was a little shy in the Gospel Principles class, but he loved and participated in the Priesthood quorum lesson about eternal families! Another amazing blessing from the Lord.
Africans are very spiritual people. Sometimes, if you're teaching with a member, you'll be testifying of a certain principle, and you'll ask the member to share how they've gained a testimony of that principle, and they'll talk about how they had some very spiritual dream or experience of how they gained a testimony. As a missionary, I absolutely believe what they say, but to continue the lesson is kind of anti-climactic ("Well, I don't know what to say to that, so will you close with a prayer?"). I've really grown to love and appreciate these people, they are wonderful to live with, and I'm going to desperately miss them when I'm gone.
Training Elder Angbo is going well. He's really zealous in his English study. It's hard for him to learn, but he still goes at it nonstop! He's a stud. He hasn't had any problems with homesickness, and he's super engaged in the work. I'm so grateful to have him as a companion. Nowadays, if we're teaching a lesson that we've already learned together, I let him teach the entire lesson. I know that I've learned best when I was let loose to experiment and try my own ideas, so I imagine that he'll learn much more that way too.
Elder Angbo has the gift of remembering where people live, and being guided by the Spirit to get there. One day, as we were headed to an appointment, he thought he was on the wrong course, so we took a turn or two, and we ran into Frère Hugues! Hugues is one of Elder Jorgensen's converts, and he's awesome! He's a very sweet, humble, nice guy. He's a tailor, and so we made a business deal about some ties I wanted made. We stopped by this morning to drop off the fabric, and he gave us two contacts that we'll be seeing tomorrow! Woohoo! The Spirit is awesome!
One member, Soeur Charlotte, was less-active, but thanks to Frère Bakana, she's been going to church for two months now, and she wants to go to the temple next month. We visited her yesterday, and she said "Oh hey, my niece isn't baptized yet, can you baptize her?" So yeah, we're working pretty well with the members. We're hoping to baptize Awofah (the niece) this Saturday, too! Pray for us!
Délali is also hoping to be baptized this Saturday! Pray for her too!
Working with Frère Bakana is always a pleasure and a blessing. He's so eager for the work! We have our mission standard of excellence to find seven new investigators a week, but with Frère Bakana we end up finding usually five of those investigators on Sunday. He rocks! Yesterday, as we were walking home, I thanked him for everything he's doing for us, and he turned around and found another investigator just to shut me up. (:
So yeah, to sum it up, we're working the boots off of our feet trying to keep up with everyone who wants to be baptized! Needless to say, it's exhilirating, tiring, and so, so very rewarding. We are so blessed here in Attiegou, and it's become my favorite sector. I hope that I'll be able to spend a good deal more time here, "yea, perhaps until the day I" go home. (:
If there was one thing I learned from study/experience this week, it would be the importance of daily repentance. It was a principle that we ended up emphasizing to multiple investigators, and it's something that I'm still learning about. One paragraph in the "Gospel of Jesus Christ" brochure says it best:
"Repentance does not always mean making big changes. Often it simply requires an increased commitment to live according to God’s will. True repentance does not always happen quickly; be patient with yourself as you strive to do what is right and correct mistakes you make. As you repent, you will experience a change of heart. You will no longer desire to sin. You will come to know that you are a child of God and that you need not continue making the same mistakes over and over. Your desire to follow God will grow stronger and deeper."
As Preach My Gospel says:
"Even after we have accepted Christ and repented of our sins, we may fall short and sin again. We should continually try to correct these transgressions. In addition, we should continually improve—to develop Christlike qualities, to grow in knowledge, and to serve more effectively. As we learn more about what the Savior expects of us, we will want to show our love by obeying Him. Thus, as we repent daily, we will find that our lives will change and improve. Our hearts and our behavior will become more Christlike. We will come to feel great joy in repenting daily."
I love this doctrine! I've felt its blessings so much during my mission, especially this week. Daily repentance is not beating yourself up every day about your mistakes, nor is it an emotionless critique, or an imaginary confession. It is simply, at the end of your day, coming to Heavenly Father in prayer with a positive, open heart, asking "Okay Father, what did I do well today? What can I do to improve?"
The Lord is infinitely loving. I have gain such a testimony of the peace that the Gospel brings, and I can promise each of you that God is waiting for you, no matter who you are. He's ready to take the burden of anything that might be weighing you down, and teach you how to fly. I know it.
I love you all! I wish you a phenomenal week!
é zandé! (see you later!)