For starters, a housekeeping note: effective immediately, my new email time is Sunday afternoons. I'm writing today because yesterday we had an extensive meeting about last-minute details for Elder Vinson's coming.
Things are going super! This week was just an adventure, getting used to new responsibilities, a new area, etc. Because this past week was transfer week, and I'm a new Assistant, I didn't have to shuttle people around.
I spent Monday and Tuesday with Elders Roundy, Ranaivo, and Neubert, the Benin office elders. Elders Roundy and Ranaivo mostly worked on transfers, while Elder Neubert and I did some office chores. It was so awesome to be with Elder Neubert. We haven't seen each other in 9 months. When I went to Togo, he started working in the office. We're practically the same person. He told me that one of the new Americans told him "Elder Neubert, I noticed that at zone conferences, everyone kind of has a buddy that they sit next to, but you're typically alone. Who's your zone conference buddy?" and he responded "That's probably Elder Phillips, he's in Togo". Now, Neubert's going to Togo, so we were both frustrated by the injustice, but it was great to be companions for a day.
Anywho, I took some antibiotics to assure that I wouldn't get infected, and applied some healing cream. As of my checkup visit last Friday, I'm A-OK. Woohoo!
During Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning, I worked in Fidjrosse with none other than my MTC companion, Elder Herring. He's waiting to train a new missionary that will be coming sometime this week. It was cool to catch up with Elder Herring, and see how he's doing. I sure do love that guy. While in Fidjrosse, we visited Elder Legbanon, the first and only Beninois to serve in the Benin Cotonou Mission. His last transfer was our first, so he's like one of the mission legends. Super cool guy, he's doing good, and he's got a nice steel business going now.
We had some tender mercies in Fidjrosse. We had some super street contacts, and on Thursday, I had an absolute miracle. We were going to visit a member, and what-do-you-know? We walk in to find the member and one of my converts from Akpakpa, Jean-Jacques! As it turns out, Jean-Jacques has fallen a little less-active due to a tough work situation, so we had a super discussion with him. I fell into what I call the "Sabbath-day trap," which is when you hit the whole going-to-church button right on the head. In my experience it's not a super-effective way to re-motivate less actives, and I could feel in the lesson that something wasn't clicking, and I had a definite impression to ask Jean-Jacques "Do you still pray every day?" and he said no, he hadn't. We changed the focus to prayer, and Jean-Jacques committed to pray daily, and pray specifically that the Lord would soften his boss's heart to allow him to take Sunday off.
The Lord sure is tender in His mercies, down to the very second. (:
Friday afternoon, I went to the Bureau, and there was a brief instant when we had lost my international permit, after many quick prayers, we found it. Again, the Lord answers prayers.
I'm currently driving a blue Toyota Hilux with four-wheel drive. It's a sweet ride, and I love it to death. (:
Driving has been quite the, er, adventure! We started off with Friday afternoon, driving from the bureau to my new sector, Cocotomey. I lost count of how many times the engine died on me. Elder Digbeu has trained three other Americans before me on how to drive a stick, so at first he was all "Don't worry, Roundy and Colby were just like that at first, you'll get it in no time," and then after a while he got pretty nervous. Driving in Cotonou traffic is insane, because, well, the only rules in Cotonou traffic are listen to the police and don't get hit, haha. Nevertheless, everyone is used to everyone else doing crazy things, so whenever my engine died and we put on the hazards, they got the signal and just passed us.
Luckily, Elder Digbeu is super patient, and he's a great coach. He's helped me a ton, and he's a great co-pilot. More importantly, the power of prayer is real, and I've rapidly improved my driving skills. I've still got a long way to go, but on our way to the bureau this morning, my engine only died once, and it was while I was parking in front of the bureau. Honestly, prayer is powerful, and there have been plenty of moments when I have thought "No way, is this real?" or "I honestly wouldn't be surprised if there were angels protecting us right now."
Elder Digbeu's a great guy. He's at the end, but he's still holding out really strong. He served in the Ivoirien army, and he's a convert of about four years. He's my fifth companion from Cote d'Ivoire, so we get along pretty well.
Cocotomey has a nice apartment. Why, you might ask? Because we are the only missionary apartment in the mission that has AIR CONDITIONING! To be honest, I haven't actually used it yet because I'm so used to the heat during the night, but I'm stoked.
The sector is great. There are tons of members that are willing to help us at the drop of the hat, and they're very willing to give contacts. We're working in a branch, so that's a refreshing change. I'll miss the comfort of serving in a ward, but I'm excited to work (and possibly finish my mission) here in Cocotomey.
We were super blessed to have a baptism on Sunday. Our convert is named Lauren, and he's the son of a member. When the zone leaders were doing the baptismal interview, Elder Kanda (our zone leader) walked out, looked at me, and said "What kind of luck is that? You just got here, and you've got a baptism!" Haha. The baptismal services are on Sundays, after church, and so lots of members stayed and assisted. That was awesome.
As I said, we had a meeting yesterday evening about the last details of Elder Vinson's visit. It should be really great, and we really want to show Elder Vinson the spiritual force of our mission. Among other things, I'm going to be giving a lesson, and I'll translate for Elder Vinson while he presents his message. This week is going to be chaos, but it'll be great. We're going to have a zone conference, a mission council, and other things. It's gonna be gooooood! (;
If there were to be a spiritual takeaway this week, it would be this: during the countless episodes of learning how to drive a stick-shift, a song came to my head: "🎵Jesus, take the wheel.🎶" Haha, sorry, I laugh in my head a lot. Anywho, thinking of that song just made me think of how much we actually do need our Savior Jesus Christ in our life. Just the simple fact that we've been protected, and I've been learning so quickly, attests to the fact that we can't go one day without plugging into the source of all that is good, and relying on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. "🎵I could use a little more Jesus, and a little bit less of me.🎶" or, as a favorite hymn says:
"🎵I need thee ev'ry hour,
Most gracious Lord.
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford...
I need thee ev'ry hour,
Most holy One.
Oh, make me thine indeed,
Thou blessed Son!
I need thee, oh, I need thee;
Ev'ry hour I need thee!
Oh, bless me now, my Savior;
I come to thee!🎶"
I testify that we have need to rely on our Savior, who is Jesus Christ. He was born and he died for us, two thousand years ago, and He lives today. He is my Redeemer, and it is only by Him that we may attain our "fondest dream". I love you all, and I invite you to "always remember Him".
I love you all! Have a wonderful, safe week, everyone!
Elder Brian H. Phillips
"Travailler comme c'est votre premier jour, témoigner comme c'est votre dernier."