It's so great to be able to write y'all. This week was a good one.
On Monday, we got most of our part of the transfer done. The office elders took care of the Benin/Togo transfers, while we worked on the Benin-only transfers. We went to Menontin, Avotrou, Finagnon, Akpakpa, Jericho, Finagnon again, Cococodji, and then to the office. Elders Digbeu and Raveneau had their last interviews and dinner with President while me and my new companion, Elder N'Guessan, went out for dinner, than did some contacting around the office, and we got to know each other. My new companion's a stud, and he works hard. He's my sixth companion from the Ivory Coast, so I'm pretty used to living with Ivoiriens. They're really a faithful, bold, lovable people, and I like being around them. During the week, we've gotten to know each other and develop our flow. We get along pretty easily. I've been praying that my last companion will help me keep up a good pace and finish strong, and I've felt multiple times the confirmation that Elder N'Guessan will be the best companion for the job.
Well, Tuesday morning, we dropped Elder Digbeu off at the airport. It was pretty hard to say goodbye to my good friend, and we both got a bit emotional as we bro-hugged goodbye. I really appreciate Elder Digbeu, his patience and kindness towards me, and all that he taught me. In life, we come across people that are genuinely good and have a positive influence on us, and Elder Digbeu was one of those people. I really love him, and I know that the Lord's got incredible things in store for him.
Well, we got on our way, and on Tuesday we went from Cococodji to Akpakpa to Porto Novo to the office to our apartment. Porto Novo is currently the most isolated sector in Benin, and it's a whole other world out there. It was a pretty cool place. In all, the round trip was four hours. After dropping off Elder Gosse (from Porto Novo) at our apartment, we went to the airport to pick up the new missionaries with the office elders. It was pretty cool to see the new missionaries arrive, I was able to remember the feelings I had on my very first night in the field as I walked out of the airport. I remember being totally on guard for thieves or people trying to take my bags or whatever, totally unable to understand the French that people were using, and how absolutely excited I was to get going in the work. From the opposite side, twenty months later, I felt totally calm, at ease with my surroundings, secure, able to understand French, and that experience reminded me of how wonderful this work really is. Anywho, we dropped off a new elder at Cococodji, and then Wednesday morning, we dropped him and Elder Gosse off at the office, then went back home.
In all, driving through Benin in traffic for two straight days is fun, very tiring, and very tiring, haha. I gained a lot of empathy for Mom and Dad during all of the road trips we would take growing up. Y'all rock! Despite how absolutely exhausting transfers were, I still really enjoy driving in Benin. It's a unique opportunity that the Lord has granted me.
On Thursday afternoon, we went to the office again and had assistant training with President. President is very wise and inspired, and every time we have a meeting with him, I take multiple pages of notes because he just lets loose his wisdom. A few tidbits I loved:
- "We should avoid spiritual dependence. Missionaries should focus more on their relationship between themselves and the Lord."
- "Elder N'Guessan, if you and me were in a sector, I assure you that every member would be excited to get the work done. One must develop a proactive attitude in his relationships with the members."
- "I've seen missionaries destroy their missions because they didn't keep up the habit of personal and companionship study... If missionaries put a real effort into doing their companionship study, there will be harmony in the companionship, and their effectiveness will increase."
Throughout the rest of the week, we focused on proselyting. We got a lot of good work done, and we saw a few miracles.
Joel didn't make his baptismal date this Saturday, but no worries, we'll keep on trying. (:
While trying to remember where an investigator lives, we got lost. I prayed to know where to go, and I had the thought to turn left. We drove a little ways, I prayed again, and I had another impression to turn left. We turned right onto a road that I recognized, helped me remember where the investigator lived, and where a former investigator lived that I had forgotten about. We visited both of the investigators, and got some good lessons out of it.
Yesterday morning, we went out to Gbodje, which is the outskirts of our sector, and it's very village-like. We were trying to find some former investigators, and we got lost. We ended up taking a wrong turn, and it was a dead end for our car, but we could walk a bit (not the turn we were looking for). Elder N'Guessan and I looked at each other, and decided "Well, why not, there might be someone here". On our first contact, we found a woman who had never really been to church, and doesn't know what it's like, which, for missionaries here, is like striking the gold mine: "Well, would you like to find out?". We both felt that she was super prepared for the Gospel, and we walked away from that contact feeling really good.
That evening, our branch president and his wife accompanied us to go out to teach Edmond and his wife. We taught them about eternal families, and the branch president bore his testimony. It was very sweet, and I felt the Spirit. I believe it is a truth that missionaries universally geek out a bit when it comes to the topic of eternal families. It's just such a wonderful, beautiful doctrine! (:
In all, if there would be a lesson to share this week, it would be the importance of listening to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost testifies of truth, and He can give us personal revelation for our lives. This lesson is timely, because in one week we will hear a prophet, apostles, and general authorities and officers of the Church teach doctrine and bear testimony. During this general conference, I encourage everyone reading my emails to watch attentively, but to listen with their spiritual ears: focus on what you feel, not just what you hear. I promise that if you will approach general conference with open ears and hearts, you will receive clear directives from the Holy Ghost about your personal lives. I promise that if you come prepared with a question, you will receive your answer. I know that the Lord answers prayers, and that He cares enough about His children that He communicates to us by way of the Holy Ghost. I love you all! Have a great week!
Avec tout mon amour,
Elder Brian H. Phillips
"Travailler comme c'est votre premier jour, témoigner comme c'est votre dernier."