Sorry to freak you out with a title like that, but we'll get to that story later on. Haha.
In other news, this morning I died and went to the celestial kingdom. We as a district went to Avotrou to check out a new supermarket called Erovan's (Super U). There are a few Erovan's in different parts of Cotonou, but it was my first time ever being inside one. Walking up to the doors, I smelt that really familiar smell of supermarkets, the first time in seven months. As the sliding doors opened, and the air conditioning rushed in, and I saw a real, actual, grocery store, I literally stopped in my tracks and my jaw dropped. Erovan's is basically a small Walmart, but I was in total awe. The shelves were packed with so many different types of food that I haven't seen in forever. I just walked around, my jaw open (not in a cartoon-ish way, just in a dumbfounded way), my eyes wide. They sell hamburger patties there. Hamburger patties! I was just in shock the whole time. Even if I had any money on me, I wouldn't have bought anything because I was just wandering the store like a madman. Whenever Elder Magré would ask me if we should buy something, he would have to repeat the question, and I would just say "Yeah sure, go for it". Then, walking out of the store, I had a rude awakening as we re-entered the world of Africa. Humidity, dirty roads, tin huts. The contrast really hit me, and it was one of those "I'm in a third world country moments". To be honest it got me a little trunky for home, but back home I reflected over the principles of 2 Néphi 2, and the thought became so exciting: if 6 months in Africa + one real store amazes you, imagine 2 years in Africa + going home! I know that if I dig in and make the most of my mission, going home is going to be amazing. Also, be grateful for Walmart, Target, and McDonalds. Those are some fine establishments, and I'd give anything to have them here in Bénin.
Anywho, this week as a district we made boombas! We bought some pagne, which is this really colorful fabric with awesome patterns. You can give your pagne to a tailor, and in a couple days he can make some crazy cool stuff! Boombas are full body outfits made of pagne, shirt and pants, and they are super comfortable, and ridiculously stylish!
We're all doing great, the district is getting along good, and me and Frère Amos are tearing it up in our sector. The hardest part about serving here is that you can easily find so many people who are interested in the Gospel, but not ready. You can fill your entire week up with amazing lessons and new investigators, but none of them show up on Sunday. It's discouraging, but we just adjust our belts and keep trucking on. On a side note, new personal record of 15 new investigators found in one week.
The Lost Boys are doing good. Some of them aren't too interested, but there are some that are really interested, and two of them have said they know that the Book of Mormon is true. Starting a literacy class with a group that size is always hard, because there are multiple students and each one of them is on a different level of learning, and we just don't have the time to do one on one tutoring. However, we give them the engagement to read the Book of Mormon during their lunch breaks. The boys that can read will often read out loud for those that can't. Progress is little by little, but with time and the Lord, some of these boys will enter the waters of baptism.
Friday evening and all of Saturday, I had a split with Elder Colby. It was kind of a surprise, we found out an hour beforehand, but it was fantastic! It was my first time being senior companion in a split, so that was different, but Elder Colby is doing great. Out in the sector, he noticed so many finding and service opportunities that I didn't notice. He's got the greenie fire, and he's zealous to do the work. His language is coming along great, and on the split, he taught an entire lesson in French all on his own. The Spirit was super strong, and we committed the guy to baptism. Way to go, Elder Colby!
Saturday morning, the others had their first baptism in the sector! They baptized Ruth, Julien's 12 year old daughter. The baptism was definitely the most reverent, spiritual baptism I've been to here in Africa. I feel so blessed to see a member of that family get baptized, to see the process start to finish. Elders Magré and Kola did pretty much all the work, and it was cool to see the fruits of their labors.
Okay, now for the title story.
One thing you need to know about Frère Bertrand is that he has a very gentle personality, but he's ridiculously strong. Not beefy, very skinny, and all muscle. He can do 30 times 5 pushups. And he doesn't know his own strength. He once told us that he often does his own laundry, and accidentally tear the shirts in his hands. Now, imagine us going over to his house for a rendez-vous. The first thing we notice are tree branches everywhere, and a tree with most of its branches cut. We go inside and see Bertrand with his leg stretched out on a table, and some pagne wrapped around his knee. We see that the pagne is a little stained, so we asked him what happened. The conversation happened like this:
Us: What happened?
Bertrand: Oh, that happened 10 minutes ago.
Us: So, what happened?
Bertrand: Well, I climbed up the tree to cut branches with a macheté. I don't know my own strength, so on my first swing I cut clean through the first branch, and I cut my kneecap too.
Us: Uhhhhh...... Are you okay, buddy?
Bertrand: Yeah, it hurt pretty bad. I sliced the tendon in between the kneecap and the leg.
Us: Did you cut to the bone?
Bertrand: Yeah, I think so. I tried to cut the rest of the tree branches, but I wasn't very good at it (remember, most of the branches were cut when we showed up).
Us: You're going to the hospital, right?
Bertrand: Nah, the hospital's too expensive.
So, that whole conversation freaked me out, and I just had that one scene from the Other Side of Heaven running through my head, where the guy cuts himself with a macheté and gets infected and dies. I said that we would give Bertrand a blessing and we would pay for him to go to the hospital. He then asked if we could still do our lesson together, and start by singing a hymn. All went well eventually, Bertrand went to the hospital (it only costed 10 bucks), and we saw him the next day walking around, on painkillers, pretty content.
With Bertrand a bit incapacitated, we volunteered to do service projects at his house. We reserved the next morning to show up at his house and do chores. Delphine saw us in our service clothes, and laughed, and when we said that we were there to do chores, she laughed even more. But then she saw we were serious, and she was totally shocked. We ended up washing dishes and doing laundry, African style (no washboard, all by rubbing it in between your hands. Fun but hard!). We felt good all the rest of the day, and when we came back for Alphabet class that evening, Delphine said that she had never seen any missionaries or pastors do anything like that before. Service is the best way to be happy. You've got to lose yourself to find yourself.
To wrap the week up, Président and Soeur Morin ended up coming to the Akpakpa branch for a surprise visit, and the Branch Presidency got reorganized. Président Kafechina got released as branch president, and Président Dangnisso is now the new branch president. Président Kafechina actually opposed the sustaining vote, so we've all got a lot of questions about what's going on, but we know that the Lord calls and releases in an inspired manner. In sacrament meeting, Président Morin bore his testimony about how there is no up or down in the church, only forward. He shared an experience where he served as a district president, then as a branch president, and then got called to serve in nursery. From a worldly perspective, it looked like he got demoted. But: "Of all the spiritual experiences I've ever had, the most powerful were the ones I had when I served in the nursery." -Président.
Transfer calls are this Saturday. Frère Amos will be leaving me, which will be sad, but I've really enjoyed the time I spent working with him. He's going to be a fantastic missionary. They might keep me here in Akpakpa with a new companion, or they might transfer me out. Either way, I feel really satisfied with my service here, and I'm ready to serve either way. I want to stay for another transfer, but I'll be happy either way. There is no up or down, only forward.
I love you all! Have a great week!