This week has been fantastic! I hope all is well, and that this letter finds you safe and sound, on the way to Yellowstone! Woohoo!
On Monday, we had a mangez-vous with a member family in the others' sector, to wish Elder N'Guessan Bi au revoir. The family is so nice, and it was a great evening.
The Assistants came Tuesday evening, picking up Elder N'Guessan Bi and dropping off Elder Joseph.
Elder Joseph is a blast to be around. He's absolutely hilarious, and we've been having so much fun together. I feel like he's got the perfect balance between work hard/play hard; we work when we have to and then some, and then we have fun in every other possible moment.
My back is about the same. I've been putting everyone's suggestions into practice, and they help lots. We've decided that the cause is my mattress, so we're hoping this week to change it out for a sturdy, hard one.
In the fall (around October), the Attiegou ward will move out of the stake center and into a for-rent building. It will be sad to lose the Spirit of an actual Church building, but the new building will be closer to less active members who can't afford to pay transport to the stake center. The new building is in our sector, so we've had the idea to do street contacting and door-knocking in the area around the new building, to prepare the area for when the ward actually comes. It's showing a lot of promise, and we're hoping to have several progressing investigators in the coming days and weeks.
Our ami Pierre is doing well. He's fallen sick this week, but he's clean from alcohol, so that's great. I don't know if I've talked about Pierre, but if not he's a contact from our DMP, who has/had a Word of Wisdom problem, but he's had several dreams that have shaken him out of the habit. He feels like the Gospel has been helping him, and it's the right direction to take, so we're just happy to help! He accepted a baptismal date for the beginning of August.
Philomenne and Brigitte are doing well. We've decided to teach the entire Akakpo family, to better invite the Spirit. They're baptismal dates are fixed for the end of the month. I really hope that we'll be able to "complete the family," so to speak. There's a really big power in converting families, and you can feel the Spirit more intensely as you teach and baptize families.
Islene is doing good. We taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he loved it. He wants to get baptized, and we fixed a date with him. The only thing getting in his way is coming to church, and the only thing blocking him from church is his mom. She goes to her church every Sunday, and she insists that that is where Islene wants to go too. She said that right in front of him, and, looking at his face, you can tell that that's not what he wants. Don't get me wrong, she loves when we come over to teach, she just sees it as supplementary scripture study, not really demanding any commitments. Nevertheless, we are planning on talking to her and teaching her this week. Pray for us! (:
The members here are wonderful! Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, we have Arnaud come teach with us! Arnaud is a priest-aged young man who just moved into the ward this week. He's awesome! Frère Bakana also teaches with us every Sunday afternoon. Haha, imagine this Sunday schedule:
-Go to church at 7h30, finishing at 10h30.
-Ward council, directly after church, until about 11h30 or 12h00
-Home teaching a group of members preparing to go to the temple
-Coming to work with the missionaries from 14h30/15h30 until the end of the day.
And, during all this time, Bakana is a street contacting stud. As a mission, we have a standard of excellence to find 7 new investigators each week, and thanks to Frère Bakana, we found all 7 yesterday afternoon! We would be walking to a different rendez-vous, and Bakana would just stop people on the streets and start doing OVB with us. Me and Elder Joseph gave each other looks as if to say "Oh my goodness, this guy doesn't stop! He's awesome!" I loooooove working with the members here! (:
During weekly planning, we made a lot of ambitious, but accomplishable goals. We were both excited for our plans, and I think that Elder Joseph will be going out on a considerable bang!
Me and Elder Joseph were talking about the end of his mission, and I asked him "What is the emotion that has surprised you the most leading up to going home?" He told me that he's felt an increasing desire to do service. He wants to leave people here at least a little better off. As a result, whenever we have a ratez-vous, we look for service opportunities instead of street contacting. I really like that change.
All throughout my mission, I've been constantly looking for ways to improve my teaching skills, new teaching ideas and models, etc. etc. To be honest, my teaching isn't a strong suit. But this week, I thought a lot more about service than about teaching.
Anyone can teach or talk about the Gospel. Really, if the Church wanted us to be "teachers only," they'd keep us in our cozy homes and send out a broadcast of the missionary lessons taught by professional missionaries. But that's not what we're here to do! We're "called to SERVE". I think that who we are as missionaries is a more powerful message than what we say as missionaries.
In one of his MTC talks, Elder Bednar stated that he often asks recent converts to describe their first lesson with the missionaries. Not surprisingly, the common consensus is "the most confusing thirty minutes of my life!" These converts say that they invited the missionaries back, not for the message, but for the Spirit that they felt. Elder Bednar then made the point that what is felt is more important than what is said.
So, the journey of the missionary, and for that matter every one of us as well, is to apply the Gospel daily in our lives, and improve our character. As we focus on "being" and "becoming," we feel a more natural and righteous desire to "do" and "serve," not just because it's the "right thing to do". Then, people are touched by the Spirit that follows, and they too are motivated to change their lives for good.
From hereon out, Elder Phillips will continue to improve his teaching skills, as usual, but he will focus more on doing good and being good. As we continue this work, I know that the Lord will bless us and use us as effective instruments.
I love you all! I hope y'all have a great week fly-fishing and buffalo bowling! (;