Haaaaaappy New Year! Wow, it's already 2016. It didn't really hit me until I wrote 2 Janvier 2016 in my planner, and then I realized that I'm old. But you know, nothing new. :)
So, I learned something from Elder Hansen at the beginning of this week, that actually the Beninois holiday season starts on Christmas, and that New Year's is actually the holiday that everyone goes wild about. Oh, how true that turned out to be. I don't really know how to describe all the crazy I saw this week, but here we go:
The pandemonium started in our rendez-vous early in the week. Lots of people were asking "Did you party well for Christmas?" Nothing too out of the ordinary, just that it happened a lot. Then, the fireworks started picking up a lot. Frequent, loud bangs. You couldn't even see any fireworks, you could only hear them. Traffic was crazy, and people were driving crazily.
As we visited some families like the Kpadonous and the Pascaline Family, a lot of their nonmember relatives were in town to celebrate, and many of them happened to be drunk. We had some pretty interesting exchanges. For example, Olivier's sister talked with me and Elder Mutombo about how Mormons don't drink alcohol, and how that's unhealthy. In her professional opinion, she thought that a little alcohol in the blood is good, and that it gives you a strong back. The day after New Year's, Olivier's brother in law stopped by, and while we were talking about the sacrament, he looked at me and said "You're handsome, you know that?" Being the smooth me that I am, I turned the table and said "No, you're handsome." He shook his head and said "No, you're handsome". Well, take all the compliments you can, I guess. :)
Sunday, the branch announced that they were going to have their own New Year's party, and that they were going to have a prayer meeting to welcome in the new year. Well, I'd never heard of that idea, but I figured hey, why not? Go for it, guys! New Year's Eve, we had to be in our apartment and done with the day exactly at 20h00. I was tired, and so I went straight to bed, to the crazy crazy crazy amounts of fireworks going off. While I was asleep, a member called Elder Dakouri and invited us to her new years party at her house, and she had a car all ready to come pick us up. To politely excuse ourselves, he said "No, sorry, my companion's sleeping already, maybe next time." The same member called another two times, and my companion gave the exact same answer two times. The morning after, when I woke up at 6h00, there were still fireworks going off (there are still one or two a day, at this point), and as I walked out to the balcony, the streets were empty, trashed, and there was a slight dust cloud over everything. I couldn't help but think "This is it, the Apocalypse. Oh whoa."
New Year's day, Elder Dakouri had one of the best ideas he's ever had. He planned three mangez-vous in a row. At 12h00, we had a mangez-vous with President Dangnisso's family, which was delicious. At 3h00, we had a mangez-vous with a less active family, Galiac and Ruth. At 6h00, we had a mangez-vous with the Family Pascaline. I was stuffed to the brim with food, and I could not honestly finish the last meal. It was crazy how much food we had. No matter which member you visit, they will always feed you well. I love these people. So many people shook our hands, wishing us good health, prosperity, and happiness throughout all of the year. Man, I love being here.
My exchange with Elder Mutombo went really well. It was my second exchange ever with him, and I learned so much! He's got such a strong testimony, and he knows the scriptures forwards and backwards. He's got honest and trustworthy perspectives, and I gained so much insight from him. At the end of the exchange, I asked him for final insights on how to become a better missionary, and he just smiled and said "I'm not the kind of person who gives critiques, I can only give advice. The only advice I would give you is that the mission doesn't make you perfect, but you can improve yourself. You can change whenever you want to. Focus only on the strengths of those around you, and learn from them how to obtain their strengths, and you'll never have any problems". That's why Mutombo's the best. :)
Concerning New Year's resolutions, yesterday I spent some time studying, and I really felt drawn to the idea of relying on the Spirit. I pondered on President Eyring's talk "You Are Not Alone in the Work," and other talks by him, and I decided that I wanted to be the kind of missionary that relied on the Spirit for what to say. He knows French better than I do, but He also knows the hearts of the people we teach, and He knows what they need. I desire to be the Spirit-following missionary so bad. It's tough work, but it's so very worth it. So, while I have many goals that I have fixed and will fix, I really only have one missionary New Year's resolution: Rely on the Spirit to show me where to go, what to do, and what to say.
I love you all, and I wish you a very Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, and Happy Happy Experiences.
Tout mon amour,