"I'm dreaming of a brown Christmas,
Just like the one I had last year,
Lots of dust and wind,
That hasn't come in (yet)
And happiness wherever I go"
Or something like that, I get song lyrics mixed up every now and then. (;
I'm so stoked to be able to Skype you in just a week or two! I'm rather jolly about the idea. (:
Starting Tuesday evening, and finishing on Wednesday evening, I went to Attiegou to work with Elder Jean-Jacques. I just couldn't turn up the opportunity to work with my mission grandson. (; It was rather fun, Elder Jean-Jacques is a pretty cool guy. He's from France, so there were some parts of the day when I had to do a double-take and say "Umm, I didn't understand that one, Elder." Haha, African French is not French French. (; Anyhow, it felt so good to be home away from home. I told Elder Jean-Jacques multiple times: "Hedzranawoé is my area, but Attiegou's my home". It felt good to say hello to the old crowd again, everyone was so happy to see me. We visited Sika, and talked about walking forward with faith. He's still stuck against his wall of faith, and we're praying that he makes the leap. Keep him in your prayers! (: Noeli, Arnaud, Elizabeth, Hilaire, Denise, Papan Mensanh, Frère Bakana, and everyone are doing very well. The kids in Elizabeth's courtyard were sooooo happy to see me. They just wanted to play together for a good ten or twenty minutes. I lifted them up, danced the macarena with them, etc. The kids all call me their dad, and I honestly feel like a papan when I'm with them. Ahh, it felt good to be home. (:
Here in Hedzranawoé, things are going well. So for investigators, we've got:
- Stephen, a Nigerian family man who had a baby boy a month ago. He accepts everything we teach him (after a little explanation), but he doesn't come to church! Don't worry, he'll come.
- Amen, a man we street contacted, who wants to learn more.
- Komi, the security guard I told you about.
- Papan Favor, the dad of some recent converts. He's interested, and he comes to Church, but we never get the chance to teach him during the week.
- A friend of our recent convert Samuel, who came to church this week for the first time, invited by Samuel
Things are going well in the zone. Splits are such a stress reliever. They're a nice break. And on Thursday, I had a split with Elder Abbott, and we worked in the other sector.
Here's the highlight of the week:
This weekend was the stake conference for Lomé, Togo. We didn't quite reach our goal of dividing the stake, but it was good to have a General Authority come to preside at the conference. Elder Marcus B. Nash, President Graham (the Ghana temple president), and their wives came to speak to us. Normally, missionaries aren't supposed to go to the member's session on Saturday, but we had to teach a recent convert, Samuel, at the church, so we arrived and caught the end of the conference, running overtime. To celebrate afterwards, some members played some large African drums and danced and sang. We went over to say hi, to Président and Soeur Morin, and while we were talking with them, I hear someone say "Elder Phillips!" and I turn and oh my goodness, there's Elder Nash right in front of me! He came up to me just like he would a good friend, shook my hand, and took some sincere time to talk to me and Elder Eperonnier. President Graham and their wives made sure to say hi to us too. Elder Nash asked where I was from, and I said Alpine, and he said "Yeah, I know Alpine, they produce really great youth!" He asked how the work's going, I said well, and he asked if I've stopped sweating yet. Elder Nash served his mission in Central America, so said that the West African climate is just the same, it felt like coming home. Elder Nash took the time to genuinely thank me for the work we're doing. He said that it means so much to the people here, and for our future life. As a missionary, we receive a certain level of discernment, according to our worthiness. I really felt like Elder Nash and his wife, as well as the Grahams, are pure souls, they had nothing to hide, and that they had so much charity for us. Elder Nash doesn't break eye contact! I feel so happy around General Authorities, because when you get one-on-one time with them, they just express their gratitude for what you do, and you feel their love. Anywho, a great journal moment. (:
Sunday morning was the open-session of general conference, and it was wonderful! Sister Graham talked about building our families, President Graham talked about the plan of salvation, specifically for our families. Soeur Morin talked about the #LighttheWorld initiative, and President Morin just briefly bore his testimony, and taught about the duty of a Seventy. Sister Nash talked about President Russell M. Nelson's conference talk, "Joy and Spiritual Survival", and how, even in these often difficult circumstances in West Africa, we can feel joy. Elder Nash talked about his favorite food, bread. One day, his mom forgot to put salt in his homemade bread, and it tasted really disgusting! He likened that to 3 Nephi 12:13 (also found in Matthew 7:13), and how if we keep our covenants and the commandments, then we are the salt of the earth. Oftentimes, however, we fall short, and that's what repentance is for. Repentance is simply finding ourselves next to the Savior. It is a happy principle! Elder Nash specifically focused on how we can teach repentance to our children. A very prominent "tradition of the fathers" here in Africa is beating your children when they do something wrong. Elder Nash suggested that, if our children come forward to us with something they've done wrong, instead of getting mad, we can be happy, and say "I'm glad that you want to improve yourself, and that you came forth to tell us about this. Let's help each other out!" When we correct our children like this, then they feel happy when they repent, and they'll have a deeper desire to repent; In keeping our covenants, and repenting, we will have the Light necessary to Light the World!
I testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of peace and happiness. If you feel that you're not truly happy with where you are in life, I invite you to learn more about Jesus Christ and His Restored Gospel. Isn't that what Christmas is all about? Let's put Christ at the center of our Christmas, and we will truly see the light. I testify that in growing closer to the Savior, we can truly have peace. I leave this Christmas testimony with you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have a wonderful week, y'all! May you make the most of this Christmas season! Joyeux Noel! (:
Elder Brian Phillips