Hey y'all! Sorry for the lack of emails last week, we did show up to the cyber, but the power was out, so it was a no-go. But hey, I'm still alive! And I got your Christmas card last Monday! We look good, family. :)
So, week 1 was pretty good. We only ended up doing things directly involved with our baptisms, like interviews, and a few mangez-vous. I spent the extra time at the apartment cleaning, studying, studying, cleaning, eating, studying, etc. It was a good change of pace, if anything.
Thursday evening, we had one of our baptismal candidates come with us to the Bureau to have an interview with Président Morin. They ended up taking an hour, and sitting there, I was just thinking "Oh my goodness, we're terrible missionaries, we didn't teach him anything, Président's going to think we're slackers," but I reminded myself that doubt doesn't come from the Savior, and I calmed down. Me and Dakouri just talked, and I told him that I was going to miss him, but that I knew that God has big plans for him. He smiled and said "That's for sure!" I've really grown to love my companion. They came out of the interview, Président told us that he's ready for baptism, just be sure to review a topic or two in the recent convert lessons, and that he understood the commandments really well. Yay!!! :) Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts for our baptismal candidates, they both passed their interviews, practically with flying colors! Jean-Jacques and Audrey were baptized on Saturday, and the service went really well. Dakouri baptized for the last time as a missionary, so that was a bittersweet moment.
Sunday, Elder Dakouri said goodbyes to everyone at church, which was also sad to see. He spent nine months in Akpakpa, and he became basically the father of the branch. So many people loved him here, and he was a good influence on a lot of people. That afternoon, the Bureau Elders picked us up and took us to Gbegamey, their sector. We spent the day working with the Gbegamey elders in their sector, teaching lessons. I got to see my good friends, Elders Bile, Koranteng, and Destribois again, and, that night around 21h00, I finally found out what the sitch is! I will be working back in Akpakpa for an unspecified amount of time with Elder Koranteng! I'll get to him in a bit.
Monday morning, Président and Soeur Morin took me and Dakouri out for breakfast, as kind of a farewell present. They took us to a hotel breakfast buffet, which was delicious! I looked at the food, and I got super excited! "The first real food I've seen in months!" Haha, just kidding, we actually eat really good out here as missionaries, for which I'm really grateful. But nonetheless, I never realized how much I love hotel breakfast food. :) Sitting there, eating breakfast with Président and Soeur Morin and Elder Dakouri, I got reminded of vacations with the family, eating breakfast at a hotel, and just being there without a worry or care. Seeing Dakouri off to the airport was even weirder. Going to the airport, I felt like the mission had just been a vacation, or a dream, and that I was going home after a cool experience, and within a couple of hours I'd be sleeping in my bed back at home... Gah! I got super trunky, and I had to shake my head to get out of the clouds. Seeing Dakouri off was weird as well. With his cart of suitcases, Président and Soeur Morin and the senior couple walked him up to the doors, and the lone missionary entered the airport. And just like that, a mission is finished. It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen. Talking to myself, I was just thinking "That's it? That's how a mission ends? No spectacular fanfare or crowds waving farewell or 'Dieu soit avec toi jusqu'au revoir'? You just walk into the airport and go home?" All in all, I don't ever want to go through that again until the end of my mission. It took a few minutes to clear my head out, and the Spirit prompted me that the only way to shake it off is to get to work!
Those ten weeks were the toughest ten weeks of my life. There were good times, lots of stressful times, and lots of times when I just cried. Ten weeks felt like ten years. But I learned a lot, and I felt like I grew as a person. Each companion I've had, no matter the difficulties, I've needed at a specific period of my mission, and Dakouri was no exception. He's seen so many trials on his mission, and he's had a tough two years. I can't imagine the stuff he's had to go through, but he was an effective missionary. I think he baptized around fifty people, he himself having lost count. He knows the scriptures, and he knows how to think. I learned how to survive Bible-bashing situations, all thanks to him. He taught me a lot about gaining members's trust. Most of all, he taught me so much about charity. Part of me wishes that I could go back in time and be more charitable to him, but I know that it'll all work out. Well done, thou good and faithful servant. The Lord has many blessings in store for you buddy. Dieu soit avec toi jusqu'au revoir, chef. :)
Well, ready to meet my new companion? Elder Koranteng is awesome. He's from Ghana, so he speaks English! It's a really huge blessing, actually, I didn't realize how much I missed English. He's got about nine months left on the mission, and it's his first time being a senior companion. He's been having back problems for eight months, but the doctors said he's okay to go back slowly into full time service. So, our days haven't been all-day-out-in-the-sector days, but it is better than the week before, so I'm super happy for that. Elder Koranteng has actually served in Akpakpa before, and he was replaced by Elder Hansen. Of all his Benin sectors, Akpakpa is his favorite, and he's super happy to be back. Koranteng is chill. As in, really chill. Super chill. On a chill scale of 1 to beach bum, he's a zen master Yoda. Seriously, as the Bureau elders took us back to Akpakpa, I kept asking myself "How is he so relaxed?" Then, as he was unpacking, he pulled out his music, and... the man listens to nothing but Enya. At first I did a double take, but within ten minutes, I was totally relaxed. Dad, remember back in the day when you used to listen to Enya in the car driving in traffic? Now I understand why, it totally relaxes people! In all goodness, Elder Koranteng is super relaxed. He doesn't let the little things bug him.
For example: One morning, I woke up, said my prayers, and went to the living room to do my exercises, and I saw the hallway tile floor soaked. It was coming from the kitchen, so I sploshed my way over to see a waterbottle, left under the faucet, overflowing with water. Haha, Koranteng left his waterbottle there the night before and forgot to go get it. So yes, the apartment had a flood. Nothing was damaged, thank heavens, and because we have tile floors, it only took about thirty minutes to clean up. No worries, all is well. But we both looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and laughed it off.
So, with the new relaxed vibe in the apartment, I've been feeling the Spirit in much more abundance. I'm so happy here, and everyone is so happy to see Koranteng back! They love him, and I can't count how many times people have cried for joy or ran up to hug him. He only spent two transfers here, but he is loved by the people.
With all of these experiences, I was reflecting on faith. I realized that there's a level deeper than just being chill or not letting things bug you, and it's called faith. I was reading Alma 13:28-29, and it said "Have faith that ye shall receive eternal life". That really struck me, and I really spent a lot of time pondering that. Oftentimes we think of the Judgment day as an unknown scenario, we could see ourselves going anywhere, really. I've learned this week that faith is not just leaving it up to whatever happens; it's confidence that the best will come from the situation, no matter what happens. We are faithful in Christ when we believe that He can and will save us, no matter our shortcomings. Likewise, we exercise faith when we act according to His will, and prepare ourselves to enter the celestial kingdom by being obedient to His commandments. Faith in Christ doesn't mean that we can just sweep our mistakes under the rug, but that He has the ability to clean them all up for good. Faith in Christ means that we firmly believe in good things to come. These thoughts really put me at ease. I'm at ease about my mission, knowing that if I do my best, the Lord will bless me. With official transfers this weekend, there is always the possibility that I am transferred out of Akpakpa. I would be sad, but I know that in the long run, the Lord can make a miracle out of my mission. My mission, while many things are yet to come, will bless many individuals, and I will come home having served an honorable, exemplary, full-time mission. Likewise, it's now time to act with faith in preparation for that blessing. I'm at ease about my life to come. I really have no idea what's going to happen after my mission, but I know that if I listen to the Spirit's guidance, I will have a life filled with tender mercies. One step at a time, that starts with this mission. And, most importantly, I'm at ease about my eternal life. I find great joy in just imagining the Lord calling me up to enter His presence. It's a glorious thought.
Don't you worry or fret, you're doing just fine. There are difficulties and challenges, but they all will wash away. Christ is a powerful Master, and He loves you. Don't leave your head in the dumps, unsure of your futute standing with God, but have that glorious vision of your eternal happiness in the forefront of your mind, and all the things leading up to it will take care of themselves. Act, live with real intent, never lose sight of your eternal homecoming.
I love you all so much. I wish you all the very best this week, and I know that God cares about you individually, and He stands ready to run to your aid. Isn't that amazing? :)
Avec tout mon amour,