This week has been another crazy, surprising week! We fell a little sick this week (just cold symptoms), so not as much work was done in terms of teaching lessons, but we still saw some mighty miracles.
On Wednesday, we got the results from my scan. The good news is that there is, according to the doctor who interpreted my results, nothing visibly wrong with my spine. The pain is still there, so they've got me on some new medicines. Soeur Morin is also going to prescribe me a back brace. When she told me that, I felt like that would really help. So, for now, we'll say that the pain is still current, but I believe shall soon be alleviated, and that there is no spinal damage/problems. I consider that a blessing.
Philomène was pretty much ready for her baptism. When we passed by her house on Thursday, she told us that members of her other church stopped by to ask why she wasn't there on Sunday. Frère Bakana, the stud of all studs, showed up early to go through the baptismal interview questions before we did the pre-interview, and he helped her overcome that social pressure. Seriously, I have no idea what we, or the ward, would do without that man. I guarantee you the moment that he gets married, he's going to become a bishop at the same time. (:
Sika's had an up-and-down week. When we passed by his house on Friday, his countenance had completely changed. We first saw his copy of the Book of Mormon next to his bed. What's interesting is that, on Sunday, he had told us that he was in Alma 60, which is a ridiculously fast reading pace for an investigator. This time, however, he told us that he had just finished 1 Nephi 15. Me and Elder Angbo talked about it afterwards, and we feel like he had just been reading the Book of Mormon, and now he was starting to study it. Like I said, his countenance was completely changed. Normally, he's kind of difficult, and he goes all over the place in the lesson, but this time, he was really quiet, and he listened intently. He agreed with everything we taught about the doctrine of Christ (the things we must do in this life to prepare ourselves for the next life). He said that he hasn't found anything in the Book of Mormon that disagrees with the Bible, and that he's still praying to receive his answer. He committed to come to church again, and even be baptized. Me and Elder Angbo walked out of that lesson totally jumping with joy, filled with the Spirit.
When we stopped by Sunday morning to pick up Sika, he seemed rather downfallen. He seemed kind of down in the dumps. He told us that he wasn't planning on coming to Church, and that it was just a one-time thing, but that we can still stop by and study with him during the week. That just broke my heart to see; it felt like it wasn't Sika actually talking. As close as me and Elder Angbo can imagine, we think that he went to his church on Saturday, and asked a pastor about all of what we've taught him, and the pastor kind of tore him apart. There was really a lack of the Spirit in his home.
Nevertheless, me and Elder Angbo know that the Lord lead us to Sika for a reason, and that one day Sika will be baptized. We can see and feel Sika's potential, and we're not giving up on him yet. One of the most inspiring things I've seen in this training process is Elder Angbo, the morning after a lesson with Sika, studying really hard, occasionally looking up to ask me a question about a scripture related to what we discussed the day before. I have full confidence that Elder Angbo will see Sika to the waters of baptism.
Philomène came to church on Friday to do her baptismal interview. While there, I got to catch up with Elder Herring, my MTC companion. We had a good time shooting the breeze together. It's crazy to think how far we've come, and how much we've changed. I could tell that Elder Herring's having a positive experience, and I'm super happy for him.
We also ran into the Tokoin elders. Okay, here's a cool story:
The Tokoin elders were at an investigator's house, and a lady came into the courtyard. She asked the usual questions people ask us about the church, and then she asked if we do deliverance prayers. The elders explained that we do give priesthood blessings to those in need. Essenam (the lady) explained that her son was three years old, and couldn't walk or talk. The elders thought of Matthew 17:21, and a story from the Liahona. They sent the contact to us. We went to her house, and she seemed super nice. She actually was still in the Tokoin area, there was a type of misunderstanding, so we planned on just teaching a lesson and then returning the contact to Tokoin. Her son, as said, couldn't walk or talk, and seemed to have a mental disability (throwing fits, crawling, etc). We taught a brief first lesson, focusing on the restoration of the same power that Christ used to heal others in the past. We testified that this same power is on the earth today. We committed her to fast for her son for two meals, and then the Tokoin elders would come back to give a priesthood blessing. Well, she fasted, and the Tokoin elders returned. They gave a priesthood blessing. When we ran into the Tokoin elders on Friday, they told us that this week the boy started walking. Essenam is now asking the golden question: "What else can God do for me?"
It was a miracle.
Philomène passed her interview. Also, Abide, the investigator whose husband is in prison, and her daughter Ruth, are going to be baptized within the next couple of weeks. Abide talked with Président Attiogbé, and he told us that she could still get baptized, without having to pay the dowry. That was a miracle, too. I was a little doubtful, too, because at first Président told us through a weekly letter that all couples need to be married. In an experience that I can only describe as someone discerning my thoughts, Président Attiogbé told us not to worry, that he was in regular contact with Président, and that they had discussed the situation. The gift of discernment is pretty cool.
Baptismal Font Bananza, Part 3
Previously on Baptismal Font Bananza, our intrepid heroes arrived at the church to find the baptismal font half empty. Now we return to the never-ending story of our two missionaries and their mission to invite others to come unto Christ...
The Hedzranawoé elders also had a baptismal service the same day. Philomène was running late at work, so we couldn't hold her baptism at the same time, but we asked the elders to keep the water in the font. While the doors were closed, a well-intentioned member from the other ward unplugged the font, thinking that there were no more baptisms. While we were waiting for Philomène to come, we discovered the nearly empty font. We looked at each other, looked at the nearby buckets, and then I proclaimed "NO, NO, I will NOT do that again!". Also, Frère Akakpo was indisposed at work, so he couldn't come, and Philomène wanted to get the service done quickly so she could get back to work.
I said a few prayers in my heart. We noticed a soccer team (non-members) practicing on the field right next to the church, and we had the bold idea to ask them to come help us fill the font. If everyone took a bucket, it would go much quicker. Many players and their coaches came to help us. I was so uplifted by how nice and willing to help they were. The font was filled to a manageable level. I consider that a tender mercy from the Lord.
More problems came, one after another: no clean baptismal clothes, no member of the bishopric, etc etc. It was all resolved, and the Lord answered all of our prayers. It felt like Satan was doing everything in his power to keep this baptismal service from happening, but the Lord came through in the end. I had the sweet privilege to baptize Philomène. I felt very humbled, comforted, and uplifted by the presence of the Lord. After the ordinance, I testified of how the Lord wants Philomène and her family to be together forever, and how she had just taken the first step towards that infinite blessing. Her family is now complete. The next morning, at church, Frère Akakpo had the blessing of confirming his wife. It was the first time he had ever confirmed anyone, and he was a little nervous, but he did it wonderfully, and he gave a sweet blessing to his wife. It was another tender mercy.
Well, transfer calls came in Saturday night. In fact, they came in during the baptismal service. I'm now a zone leader in Hedzranawoé, still the same zone, and I'm going to work with Elder Eperonnier. He's from La Réunion (look it up, it's a pretty cool place), and he's got one transfer left on his mission. I'm going to "kill" my FOURTH missionary. Elder Angbo is now the district leader of Attiegou, and he will be training Elder Jean-Jacques, a new missionary from France. Quoi??? I feel like an old man, now that I have a "mission posterity," haha. Seriously though, I'd say that your mission son training right after his training is the highest honor one can receive. I'm so immensely proud of Elder Angbo, and the fantastic missionary he's become. I'm sure that he'll perform miracles during the rest of his mission.
It was hard to say goodbye to everyone at Attiegou, but not as hard as I thought. I definitely felt the Spirit confirming to me that this change is the will of the Lord. In fact, I feel ready to leave Attiegou behind. The ward leaders here have been an immense help, but I know that they'll keep going working miracles.
If anything, I've got stress about two things:
- Elder Angbo. Not in a bad way. I know that he's ready to train. He's got so much potential, and he will work miracles, as always. I just have a slight perpetual feeling of "Oh no, he's grown up now, and there's soooo much that I didn't teach him. I can relate to the words of Elizabeth Akers Allen: "O time, O time, go back in flight, And let them be my little children for just one more night!" ("Rock Me to Sleep"). I suppose that lots of parents, to some degree, can relate to this poem. Parents can never be perfect, and no matter how much teaching and preparation we give our children, it will never entirely replace the school of first-hand experience that we all must pass through, but it certainly does help. While I was not a perfect trainer, I feel that I did what the Lord would have me do. There's a lot that I didn't get the chance to teach Elder Angbo about, but he'll be great at learning, he always has been. In the words of a wise amnesiac fish, “You can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him." Being with Elder Angbo has been perhaps the most rewarding experience of my mission. We've worked miracles together, and I've literally seen lives changed. I wouldn't trade these twelve weeks for anything, and they have been worth any and every trial that I've come across on my mission. Godspeed, my son.
- Being a zone leader. You know, at the very beginning of my mission, I did not necessarily seek after the title of zone leader, I did think that eventually becoming zone leader would be a cool thing. A mountain of experiences later, I now feel very awkward and ill-suited for the task. The Assistants are hoping that we'll jump-start the zone. I feel like the last person who could help motivate the missionaries here. But, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," (Philippians 4:13). I feel that this chapter of my mission is now over, and I'm about to enter the next one. Hedzranawoé will probably be the last area of my mission, "here must I stay, and here my life must end," (William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part III, Act I, Scene 4). (; So, cue the funeral dirges and the classical music played in retirement homes, because I'm going to "rage against the dying of the light," (Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night").
Well, this email is already monster long. Here's the big, spiritual takeaway that me and Elder Angbo learned this week:
As a joke one morning, I told Elder Angbo to read the hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints," and then to read 2 Nephi 28:24-25. We had a good laugh, and I jokingly asked him why those two contradicted. In a more serious response, he said "I think that scripture applies to those that aren't working." Hmm, very deep insight. When we don't "put our shoulders to the wheel," we cannot say "all is well." Things may be well for the kingdom, and the Church will continue into the Second Coming, but things will not be well for you. To truly be able to say that "all is well," you need to work, and "lift where you stand."
The Gospel is like a treadmill. If we stand there like a lazy wet noodle, then life's difficulties, trials, and opportunities will sweep you backwards. The treadmill will always be working, but you will not progress. We need to actively press forward as disciples of Christ, dead set on where we want to go and who we want to be. The person who runs on the treadmill will experience more physical discomfort than those who simply stand, but despite the pain, he can, with sweat and toil, say "All is well." The work of God will go forward, and so can you!
I wish you all a wonderful week. May you find your true potential, and be uplifted to new, breathtaking heights. I love you all!
Avec tout mon amour,