Wow, this week was one of my favorite weeks ever here on the mission.
Tuesday, all of the Benin missionaries gathered for our Christmas party. We spent the morning doing a service project for an orphanage in Calavi. We cleaned their drinking bottles, sang some Christmas carols for the kids (they sang along and played the drums to "Angels We Have Heard on High"), and we got to spend some time taking pictures with the adorable kids. I think my favorite thing to do here in Benin is spend time playing with the kids. There is honestly no joy that can compare. We spent the afternoon eating a fancy Christmas meal in a conference room, we played games (remember Cookie Crumble from Minute to Win It? Nothing funnier than seeing us play it. And, Elder Hansen won musical chairs; Woohoo!), each zone shared spiritual thoughts about Jesus Christ, and the senior couple and President and Soeur Morin shared Christmas thoughts. We wrapped up the evening with Soeur Morin handing out stockings and our Christmas letters from the First Presidency.
Christmas Eve, the branch had their branch party, which was different from the Utah Valley traditional ward breakfast, but I still liked it. Before the party began, Bertrand and Delphine returned from the Marriage Office, the marriage having gone successfully, without a hitch! It was so cool to see them just after the marriage: they were such studs before they were married, but afterwards they just had a completely amplified countenance. They were glowing, so in love with each other, and so in love with the Lord. Obedience brings the greatest blessings. No matter how hard it may seem, the Savior rewards us infinitely and openly. We watched the Testaments together, which was slightly disappointing because in the French version Cohor doesn't have that awesome voice, but after having so much of the Book of Mormon fresh in my mind, the coming of the Savior to the Americas really touched me all the more. I love le Livre de Mormon (I got to read 3 Nephi 11 Christmas day, and I'm hoping to finish the Book of Ether tomorrow), and I know that it's true. It can bring you closer to Christ. The Primary put on an adorable program, Frere Landu sung "O Holy Night," and played the guitar, and the youth had a little talent show. We wrapped up by eating some good rice, sauce, and meat.
When we got back to the apartment, we did some cleaning, and some decorating (stockings and candy canes on the laundry rack, candles on the windowsills, cookies and milk on the table, and the felt Christmas tree on the Mormon coffee table). We played a game, sang some hymns, and read Luc 2 together.
Christmas morning, I dove into my package, which was so awesome! I love every effort y'all put into it. After having lived in Africa for almost five months now, I can say that I have the best family in the world. :) The senior couple came in the morning for inspections, gave us some treats, and sang some hymns with us. I sure do love Elder and Sister Dyson! We went to the cyber in the afternoon to try Skype, but there were some technical difficulties. Elders Mutombo and Barnes came to do the baptismal interview for Bertrand and Delphine, so I had to hang up. While Elder Mutombo was doing the interviews, Elder Barnes was on the phone talking to his family, and it was interesting to hear some culture tidbits from the USA ("What? Leia's not a Jedi!"). Also, a guy running for city council dressed up as Santa and paraded down the street with a marching band, handing out toys. Cool? We finished Christmas day with a wonderful dinner at the Pascaline home.
Saturday, we had the baptism of Bertrand and Delphine. It went so wonderfully! It was a true blessing to see a whole year's worth of work culminate in a truly happy moment. I felt Heavenly Father's love so strongly for His two children in front of me, and I know that He's proud of them. That afternoon, we stopped by the cyber again, and the Skype call worked! It was such a great blessing to be able to talk to you all face to face, and to hear your wonderful voices. You all are so beautiful, and I loved seeing each of your bright happy faces. The family is ordained of God.
Now, in the spirit of New Year's, may I share three pieces of advice to consider as you set your goals: 1. Have some goals set not only for yourself, but for those around you. Try to have at least one goal that'll help other people, and not just you. You'll find a lot more benefit. 2. Be active about your goals. Whatever your goals, be on the frontlines! Don't get casual about it, always be excited! It's hard to keep that January 1st glow throughout the entire year, but think of all the joy you receive from being active about your goals. You will make mistakes, you won't be perfect, but you can always get up, smile, and keep moving. 3. Choose goals that will bring you closer to Christ.
I love you all. Be safe, have a super happy new year, Allison good luck with the wisdom teeth, it's honestly super fun!, and know that I love y'all with all of my heart.
Avec mon amour,