Howdy, y'all! This week was wonderful!
Elder Malala is awesome. He loooooves hard work. More importantly, he likes smart work. He has the right idea that as zone leaders we need to have a model sector. He's got so many wonderful ideas and pointers that I never would have thought of, and because he was an Assistant, he knows all of the things that Président looks for in a good sector. I've already learned so much from Elder Malala about leading in Christ's manner, and I'm really looking forward to everything that happens in the upcoming transfer.
We engaged two people to baptism this week. One is Gertrude, the wife of a recent convert. The couple is expecting their first child in a couple of months, so me and Elder Malala kind of hit them with a subtle but big "FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER!!!" Haha, we as missionaries get excited about some lessons some times. The other person we committed is Papa Favor, the father of a family of recent converts. Just as we were explaining everything about baptism to him, we could see that he is ready, and that he willingly accepted the commitment. Both Gertrude and Papa Favor will be baptized the 14th of January, so pray that we can meet this goal! (:
Also, during the week, I went on a split with Elder Jean-Jacques, and at the end of the day, I turned to him and said "Well, try and find one last person for us." He looked around the street with prayerful pondering in his eyes, and with a Spirit-guided stride, he just started walking towards a guy sitting on the street. The contact went very well, the man seemed to be very open to the Gospel, and we have a return appointment! Woohoo!
Well, I guess I should be upfront about the other end of the email's title:... MALARIA!
So, flashback: Last Sunday afternoon (Christmas), during all of our mangez-vous, we didn't get the chance to go home until after nightfall. Normally, I take my doxy (anti-malaria medicine) at lunchtime, but since we didn't go home that afternoon, I didn't take it. I suspect that a mosquito got me while we were out in Djagblé that evening.
Tuesday morning, I woke up super cold. L'Harmattan, the winter dust storm, finally came in, so it was very, very cold. I had to wear a hoodie up until it was time to go out, I was so cold.
Then, Tuesday evening, as we were wrapping up our final appointments, I started getting these weird muscle aches. I don't know how to describe it, other than I felt like I was an old man. Elder Malala has had a companion with malaria, so he knows the symptoms. We got home and went to sleep. Thankfully, during the night, I had no vomiting/diarrhea spells. I consider that a huge blessing! Wednesday, however, I was just beat. I could walk around the apartment with some effort, but I didn't feel up to going back to work. I rested most of the day, and that evening I tried to go out for a dinner appointment. It was rather hard, and not the most pleasant of experiences, but I did it!
Thursday, there was still some soreness, but I was able to handle going out to the sector. As it turns out, I only had two of the four major symptoms of malaria (body aches/headache, and cold flashes), so neither I nor Soeur Morin knows if it was malaria or not. If it wasn't malaria, well, I just went through a nasty case of the sickies. If it was malaria, I consider myself extremely blessed to have not had the same miserable experience that most missionaries have, and to have a very lightened load on my pile of trials. I would say that all of the blessings we receive in life come from God's goodness, first and foremost, and that we can become more qualified for other blessings in obeying God's commandments (in this case, taking Doxy). I've been pretty regular in taking my doxy, and so I imagine that lightened the load a bit. If I had malaria. Which I don't know if I did, so we'll just have to leave that little page with a question mark.....?
Anywho, on Friday, Président Morin came to hold a Leadership Council here in Togo. Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Quorum of the Seventy will be doing a mission tour in February, and so Président wants us to start preparing now for this mission tour, and to be spiritually on-game for the visit. A more recent initiative that Président has put out are the standards of excellence to teach 21 total lessons, find 7 new investigators, and accomplish 49 proselyting hours during the week. To help motivate us, and thank us for our work, the mission will be giving us certificates and medals: if a district achieves the standards for a certain period of time, they will be given certificates, and zones will be given medals. If the district/zone holds strong for 2 weeks, they get a bronze certificate/medal; if they meet the standards for 4 weeks, they get silver; if they go an entire transfer (6 weeks) meeting the standards, then they will get gold. It's caused a little bit of stir among the missionaries, but I think it's a good goal to fix for ourselves.
Towards the end of the council, Président looked at us and asked "Are you joyful?" We didn't really respond to that question, so Président kind of chuckled and said "Well, you don't look like it." Président just took a little time to testify to us of the blessings of honorable serving. He said something to the effect of "Your mission will be the most joyous experience of your life. This time of your life is the happiest you'll ever have, so savor it while you can."
I love what Président said. One of the wisest things that anyone has ever said to me was when a fellow missionary said "You know, a lot of missionaries have the attitude that this mission sucks, and yeah, it sucks, but having that attitude just makes it suck even more." Secondly, one of the testimonies that touched me the most during my mission was from Elder Whitt, who said "I love my mission. It's been a pleasure for me. Love your missions. There is a difference between the missionaries who do and don't, and one can see the difference."
I testify that loving your mission (or your life) is a crucial element of happiness. This is definitely the most golden opportunity I have in my life, and I'll never forget it, and I will never regret it.
My New Year's Resolution is kind of a big goal with lots of small ones. It is basically the following: to come home from my mission the best person I can possibly be, with my spiritual suitcases loaded up and ready to face the world. To do that, I need to dive into these last 5 months of my mission (I can't believe that I'm actually saying that), and make it the best 5 months ever. As one missionary said in The District 2, "18 months is their time to shine". 2017 is it, it's my time to shine!
Africans love New Year's. Because we're on the outskirts of the city, and in Benin I was at the heart of the city, New Year's was considerably less crazy than last year (ie when I looked at the aftermath Sunday morning, there wasn't any visible damage). We still heard the fireworks, and in all, it was a fun New Year's with our new apartment.
Going to church on Sunday was quite an experience. Everyone had similar feelings of starting anew, and getting a clean slate. I testify that in making and keeping covenants, or sacred promises with our Heavenly Father, we are uplifted, and we receive a clean slate. One of these opportunities we have to get a clean slate every year is the sacrament, in which we can renew our covenants and start over every week.
I invite you all to more fully partake of the sacrament, and to keep your New Year a clean one, thanks to the Savior's sacrifice. As Elder Dale G. Renlund said: "The best way I know of to draw closer to God is to prepare conscientiously and partake worthily of the sacrament each week...No matter where you stand in your relationship to God, I invite you to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the Ultimate Benefactors and Givers of all that is good. I invite you to attend sacrament meeting each week and partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s body and blood. I invite you to feel God’s nearness as He is made known to you, as He was to the disciples of old, in the “breaking of [the] bread.” As you do, I promise that you will feel nearer to God. Natural tendencies to childish whining, disgruntled entitlement, and derisive skepticism will dissipate. Those sentiments will be replaced by feelings of greater love and gratitude for Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son. As we draw closer to God, the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ will come into our lives. And, as with the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we will find that the Savior has been nearby all along. I so witness and testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."
Elder Renlund's invitation is my own. I promise that in faith-filled repentance, and in joyous covenant-keeping, we can receive uncounted blessings along our path of discipleship.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I'll see y'all next week! I love you! (: