I'm doing well, the week was very stressful, but looking back there were a lot of highlights.
Last Pday, I had the blessing to download the conference talks onto a USB, and listen to them during the week on an MP3 with USB capabilities. It was so great! I'm so blessed with the conference talks, and actually listening to them is so amazing! Seriously, you have no idea how empowering it is to listen to work out in the mornings listening to President Nelson's Priesthood talk. That was super cool. I'm super grateful for general conference, because it's like Spiritual Christmas. I was so surprised at how well-tailored the talks were. Seriously, there would be times when something discouraging would happen, I would turn on the talks, and it would be a talk specifically for me, as if the Lord had hijacked the speakers and was saying "Listen up, Elder Phillips, here's the deal..." The Lord speaks by way of His prophet, I know it! Maybe it was because I'm a missionary, but I noticed this time around a lot more of the basic gospel doctrines as talk subjects, especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Priesthood and Restoration, and the Plan of Salvation. And then, of course, Elder Holland gave the ultimate pep talk. I'd take that man as my basketball coach any day.
Eugene is doing well. His uncle is staying with him, and his uncle is super old. His uncle is also not too nice to Eugene. We told the man that Eugene is coming to church, and the man was surprised! "Man, let me tell you about this guy here, he's really lame. When it comes to Jesus Christ, he's in one ear and out the other," and so forth. So, being Elder Phillips, I spoke up and, in a nice, calm manner, said "Well, Eugene is a great guy. I love him a lot. He's doing his best to live the Gospel. The Eugene I know is a fantastic guy." But hey, the old man came to sacrament meeting!
That's one thing that I noticed this week, is how much peer pressure our amis and members have to stand up to. Frère Urvon, Alex, and Gudi share an apartment with many family members, lots of them are former investigators, and many are very active in their faiths. So, in a lesson, Alex was talking about the Book of Mormon, and he said "Thank you, elders, for teaching me about the Book of Mormon, because we've been having some family conversations about it, so I'm glad that I heard about it from the source first." Whenever I see an investigator or member facing opposition in living the Gospel, I just get this feeling, and I know it's how our Heavenly Father feels, of "Yes! You keep at it! You keep going! We love you so much, don't give up!"
Wednesday, I got to go on a split with Elder Alexander, and we worked in Akpakpa 2. It was so great to go back to my stomping grounds! We visited Soeur Christine, who celebrated 1 year of being in the Church last Monday. And, best of all, she's going to the temple! She's been saving and working, and in a week or so she gets to go. It was a major blessing to see. I love her and her family, they're amazing!
Lioni is doing good, coming to church with the kids as usual, just being great and faithful. Julien's work situation is terrible. We walked into their house, and Julien was napping, and when he woke up, within 5 seconds I could tell that he was sick. He's had malaria... for over a week. And he can't take a day off without getting fired (Wednesday was the presidential inauguration, so it was a national holiday). He's lost soooo much weight, and he just looked miserable. It was a very discouraging experience, and I was on the verge of tears. But, we shared a message about faith and God's love, and we testified and felt the Spirit. We gave him a blessing. Miraculously, Julien passed by for sacrament meeting on Sunday, and his health was doing a lot better. And, to my delight, all the kids I loved playing with, when they saw me, ran up to me screaming "Feeleep! Feeleep!" It was the ultimate pick-me up.
Our plans keep going to shambles with the ratez-vous, but we've been finding more and more little miracles along the way. Example: A Nigerian man named Firstus who was a former investigator back when there was only one branch in Bénin, who moved away to Nigeria, and then came back, saw us walking by, remembered his experiences, and called us over. He's forgotten a lot, and when we left him a brochure and came back, he gave a resumé of the brochure based only on the pictures ("God created men and women, and women are very important, but God gave the prophets a golden pen that was passed down through the ages. Jesus Christ gave this pen to His Apostles by baptizing them, and then Joseph Smith saw the sun, was baptized, and went to the Americas"). But hey, if people want to live the Gospel, we'll work with whatever they can give us.
Bertrand is preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood, and I can just tell how seriously he is taking it. In his prayers, he prays for help to apply what we teach him so he can receive the Priesthood. I love my golden converts.
After listening to Elder Renlund's talk, I prepared for the sacrament with the idea in head of growing closer to God, and that totally made yesterday's sacrament meeting remarkable. Also, Elder Bednar's talk inspired ideas that were really useful for the talk I gave in sacrament meeting.
I had my first rehearsal with the choir yesterday. I approached practicing last week with the attitude of "I'll get it in when I can". After yesterday's rehearsal, I can say that I've got a lot of work to do. Heehee. (: But hey, the choir sounds amazing and beautiful. If you ever get the blessing of hearing African Latter-Day Saints singing, it's a golden experience.
Just pray that Elder Phillips can match their awesomeness (;
The branch is doing great. Everybody is doing much better, and the members are all happy. I love these people, and I don't want to leave them. I've seen lots of really depressing things out here, and I've had a lot of discouraging experiences, but whenever I see those Saints smiling, it makes it all worth it. All worth it.
Have a fantastic week everyone! I know that God loves y'all, and He's got a lot of blessings in store. (:
Avec tout mon amour,