Well, this week was kind of a payoff week. A lot of tender moments that remind a missionary that what he's doing is really worth it.
Elder Malala and I both felt inspired to assist at Attiegou's district meeting, and for me to work in Attiegou with Elder Angbo. The district meeting was great, and Elder Angbo gave a killer lesson on asking inspired questions. I'm very proud of my mission son. He's a stud. During our split, I said "Elder Angbo, I'm worried for you. One day you're going to leave Attiegou, and have to deal with spoiled missionaries." And he just shrugged and said "Don't worry, I'm not worried. I don't fear anyone". Proud dad moment. (:
It felt so good to be back home. I've never quite felt at home like I feel when I'm in Attiegou. That place is definitely my sector. Elders Angbo and Jean-Jacques are hard workers, and they're keeping the fire rolling. There is a possibility that by the end of this transfer, Elder Angbo will have baptized as many people in his first six months as I have in my entire mission, haha.
It was good to visit old friends. In the morning we saw Noelie, and in the afternoon we saw Esther, Elie, and Famille Elizabeth. Esther's an ami that we found two weeks before I got transferred. I offered to charge water for her, and she was super touched by that. We invited her to church, and she said she'd come. For missionaries here, that's an oft-repeated melody that's never realized, but she actually did come to church that Sunday! Elder Angbo baptized her after I left. She said that before she met us, she had a lot of problems, and she often had headaches that she would cure with tea, coffee, and insane amounts of medicine. Once she learned the word of wisdom, the bishop gave her a blessing, and she felt a cool sensation start in her head and wash over her body. Priesthood power is real. Since then, she's had no headaches, abandoned the drinks and meds. She says that the Church is the first that she's joined where she feels good without having to take meds. Esther said "If it wasn't for you helping me to get water, Phillips, my life would never have changed." She half-jokingly offered her ten-year old daughter for wife. Haha, check that off of the Ammon experience (; I was very touched to hear her testimony, and I felt very humble and awkward. I didn't feel special or important, I just had the sentiment of "I was just doing my job." I testify that it's the Lord that converts, and we missionaries are just witnesses of His power.
Visiting Elie was great as well. We found her and her husband, and they were blocked by the marriage issue, but they sincerely wish to be baptized, and they've worked hard towards their marriage. They should be getting baptized this Saturday, alongside four other people. Pray for them!
Visiting Famille Elizabeth was like coming home. All of the kids sang "Yovo yovo" the second they saw me. It was fun to play and joke around with them. Everyone in that courtyard was super happy to see me. Elizabeth was super happy to see me. She said that everyone asks when "Yovo" is going to come back. She says that sometimes she cries at the fact that I'm gone. She also said that the day I or Elder Angbo go to Benin is going to be a day full of tears. Ouch. We explained that we as missionaries are needed all over the country, and so when the Lord sees fit, and there are people that need us, and our service in a certain area is done, we need to go serve others. Elizabeth made us a nice little dinner of pate and àdemain sauce, the Togolais staple.
On Wednesday, we had a worldwide missionary training. During the beginning, while we were having technical difficulties, the broadcast was only coming in English, so I got to translate the general ideas to the French speakers. That was cool. Elder Bednar's remarks touched me the most, he said that when we worry about if we're good enough, then we chase the Spirit away, but when we stop worrying about ourselves and focus on the Lord, then we can work with the Spirit.
A huge announcement that was made is that missionaries are now going to report only 4 key indicators: baptisms, investigators with a baptismal date fixed, investigators that come to church, and new investigators. Missionaries now have the opportunity to create their own schedule, according to the guidelines of their mission president and the needs of their area. Everyone went crazy over that! There will be huge changes in missionary work over the next couple of months, and we're blessed to be serving at this historic time.
On Saturday, we got to do another split with the Assistants, and I got to work with Elder Colby. He gave me some training on certain things, and it was great to learn some new missionary skills. There's a lot of work to be done, and I'll need to practice some new techniques in the coming days and weeks, but it's going to be a great experience.
We taught Willy and Julianne yesterday. They're some great kids. Unfortunately, they're going on vacation this weekend, so we'll have to postpone their baptism by a week again. You know, that's okay. Getting there is what's important, regardless of our own timetable. As a West African proverb says, "Man proposes, God disposes". (:
I don't know if I'll get the opportunity to write you next week, because of transfers. I appreciate your prayers and thoughts on my behalf. Transfer fever is in the air. These past few weeks with Elder Malala have been paradise. In all, my time in Togo has been the most wonderful seven months of my life. I could have never imagined missionary work being so rewarding, and I'm grateful for the opportunity I've had to serve here. I'm reminded of a favorite scripture: "I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you." At the beginning of my mission, I thought that I had come out to repay the Lord for the blessings He'd given me. Now, I realize that I can never repay Him, and I've only been a witness to the miracles He's created in the lives of others. It's like C.S. Lewis said: "I believe in Christ as I believe that the sun has risen: not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else." I have been truly blessed as I've gotten to serve in this unique part of the world, and I've come to know with more certainty that God is real, He loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that the Gospel was restored by way of the prophet Joseph Smith, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
I love you all, and I wish you a very wonderful week!
Elder Brian H. Phillips