So glad to hear the early Thanksgiving dinner went well, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to email some of y'all last week, the server crashed. Car meme, on est la.
First off, guess what came in on Thursday the 19th? That's right, your package!!! I was sooooo happy when I opened it up, it totally made my day! The letters were my favorite part, but reading those General Conference talks uplifted me so much! We've only watched the Saturday Afternoon session and part of Sunday Morning session here, and the volume was terrible, so I really don't know what was said at conference, and the talks were so inspiring! I know that we have apostles and prophets called in our day! And also, the food was awesome. Good call on ziplock bagging everything, sometimes double, because everything melts here in Africa. No literally, everything; good luck, Wicked Witch of the West. Plus, the ziplocked bags helped me to not eat all my candy all at once. Man, I forgot how good Reese’s is. In all, thank yoouuuuuuuu so much for the package! It totally lifted my spirits.
All in all, things are rolling along here in Akpakpa 1. With that, I guess I should officially give you a roll down of the new sector. We have fewer amis here, but the ones we have are faithful and true. Here's kind of a who's who:
-The Kpadonou Family. Olivier and Tatiana Kpadonou are a couple who were inactive, but they started coming back to church this summer, and boy oh boy are they strong in the Gospel. They have a little daughter who loves to chase me, and a newborn boy. Olivier's younger brother, Pierre, is one of our investigators from Akpakpa 2. He had moved into the family house where all the Kpadonous live, and so the Friday of transfers, before we had any idea what would happen, we moved his file over to Akpakpa 1. I guess I'm meant to make sure he gets baptized. He's busy every day except Sundays, but he's still strong and wants to learn more.
-The Pascaline Family. A member family from Nigeria, Soeur Pascaline and family loooooove Elder Dakouri. Adore him. As in, we have a standing FHE appointment every Monday evening.
-Bertrand and Delphine. Part member family, their son is a member, but they're still saving up for a marriage so they can get baptized. They are some really golden people, always happy, and they love the church. They have a date fixed for the 26th of December.
-Christ. Yeah, that's his name (pronounced Chris). He's a young single adult, his best friend is a member, and he likes the church, and wants to follow the example of his friend. He has a date fixed for the 5th of December.
-Agath. She's a single mom, and she's a super cool lady. She runs this little boutique for children's clothes, and she is awesome. We were explaining the law of chastity, and she said "But it's hard not to look at guys!" and so we asked her to clarify, and she said, "You know, just to see a man walking down the street, and to think he's handsome, that's hard to avoid!" So, we laughed, and told her that she could absolutely think that men are handsome, while not lusting or breaking the law of chastity.
-Kapaza. He's a single dad, in his twenties, who struggles with the commandments a lot. We hope that he can learn to embrace the Gospel. He's got a date fixed for the 26 of December.
-Miracle. Little 9 year old girl, her parents are active members of the church. She's shy, but she wants to be baptized. She's got a date fixed for the 5 of December. Her house is at the very edge of our sector, about a thirty minute walk out, so we have to reserve about a two hour block to go out and see her, and after that we are dead tired.
That's kind of the feel of Akpakpa 1. Elder Dakouri has so much love for the people here, and he really wants to make sure the sector is in good shape before he leaves.
Wednesday we had a Zone Meeting to prepare for District Conference (this week, Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Seventy is coming). There were some getting-along problems in another district, so Elder Teihoutu (District Leader in Porto Novo) gave probably the best lesson I have ever been in in my life. It was all about not judging, how we are all here to serve Christ. He asked us all to raise our hands if we kept every missionary rule perfectly. Not a single hand went up. It was definitely one of the most powerful moments of my mission so far. I learned so much! Then, Elder Mutombo (I love this guy, one of my heroes) gave a lesson about being zealous, focusing on Jacob 1:17-19. He exhorted us to work all day every day, and to work hard. He is a living sermon of that, let me tell you.
Things are going well in the apartment. Elder Marurai is literally a ball of sunshine. He is happy any time of the day, and he loves everyone he meets. Elder Hansen is doing well, also. Same with Elder Dakouri and I. I've really learned so many invaluable lessons in the first week that I couldn't have learned without him, especially about loving the people and having charity. We get along pretty good, and whenever we laugh together, boy do we laugh.
Saturday, we went on exchanges, and I had a brief return to Akpakpa 2 with Elder Hansen. Things were so much easier there, the people were all happy to see me, especially Soeur Christine, and I just felt home. That's one thing that's probably the hardest in this adjustment: there are a lot fewer kids in Akpakpa 1 than in the other sector, so I don't get to be a true goofball teddy bear as often. But, despite how comfortable I felt in Akpakpa 2, the Spirit definitely confirmed that I'm meant to be in Akpakpa 1. That leads me to my weekly lesson:
Being in my new area really has validated one of my favorite life lessons: Today was a good day because I chose it to be good. Or something like that, I can't remember the exact quote. In life, there are only four things we can control: our attitude, our behavior, our current choices, and our part in a relationship. Happiness is absolutely a choice. All I can do is strive for a good attitude, keep my behavior straight, choose the right, and offer 100 percent of what I have to the Lord and people here in Akpakpa. But this week, I've also learned a lot about how Christ helps us with that. We will often fail if we try to be perky and happy of our own accord, but if we pray for Christ's love, we can be lifted up by how much Heavenly Father loves those around us. Left to my own devices, I would have a hard time adjusting to Akpakpa 1. If I were to try and be happy just of my own accord, I'd fall flat on my face. But, as I've prayed for charity, little by little this change has been easier, and the Lord has always always reached out to me when I needed a boost. We are commanded to come, "no toil nor labor fear, but with joy wend your way". In other words, we are commanded to be joyful! And the Lord "giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way". If you find yourself with less sunshine in life, reach out to the Lord, and He will, in His own time, lead you to the source of our joy. I know that I am here in Akpakpa with Elder Dakouri for a reason, and with the wind of Christ in my sails, nothing is going to break me down!!!! I love you all sooo much! Have a great Thanksgiving week, live with gratitude, and with joy, wend your way!
Tout mon amour,
P.S. Fun fact, Elder Jenkins of elderprestonrileyjenkins.blogspot.com finished his mission here in Akpakpa 1, some of it with Elder Dakouri and our current investigators! If you go back far enough, you'll see pictures of an investigator and a benchpress set. That's Bertrand!
P.S.S. Also, side note about the Freetown movie, missionaries like the ones in Freetown are the best, and they are frequently found in the mission! I don't think we're quite as village-like here in the city, but the people are just as much, if not more golden. And, thank heavens, no violence here!