Well, this week was quite the week.
We had a pre-baptismal interview with Soeur Johnson. Pre-interviews are when the missionary team teaching the candidate go through the baptismal interview questions to make sure that the ami is ready for baptism. The pre-interview lasted an hour and a half. Soeur Johnson is super converted. She's beyond converted. I was emotional during the interview, the Spirit was sooo powerful. She's demonstrated so much sincere repentance. She will have to have her real interview with the mission president, but she's sincerely repented of her sins. She said "God is great! I've sinned, but he's still merciful, and He's continued to give me children when others who are righteous don't have children. God is merciful." That morning, I had prayed for spiritual confirmation that the Lord was proud of my service in Akpakpa, that I had done my best. I didn't receive an immediate answer, but I took the experience with Soeur Johnson as my response.
Wednesday, during coordination, the Branch President and DMB informed us that the Johnson's marriage wouldn't be able to happen until next week, at earliest. I was distraught. I literally had to repeatedly rub my face with my hands to keep them from seeing my tears. I was looking forward, so much, to baptizing this family, and now, if I got transferred, I wouldn't get the chance.
Me and Elder Hansen showed up at Soeur Christine's house one day to find a graduation party for her niece. There we met Frère and Soeur Johnson, who were at the time a little tipsy. We introduced them to the Restoration, took their contact, and gave it to Elders Dakouri and Destribois. I don't remember how I felt about that, but I probably just shrugged it off. Fast forward to now: all of the children at home are now baptized, except for Noé, who will be baptized together with his mom and dad. They introduced a friend, Jean-Jacques, to the church, and he got baptized as well. Now they've introduced their old pastor to the church, who wants to be baptized eventually, and the family is planning on introducing other members of their old church to the Gospel. Most importantly, they're being converted. They're becoming more and more firm and immovable in their testimony. To think, all of this started over a year ago, when Elders Jenkins and Affri gave a blessing to a sick single mother, who was miraculously healed, who was baptized immediately, brought her family into the Church, introduced some of her extended family to the Gospel, and things just kept going and going from there.
I think there are two takeaways from this. From a missionary standpoint, my time in Akpakpa has been great. At the start, there were so many beginnings. We found so many new investigators, taught so many lessons, and engaged so many people to baptism. Nothing came of it. At least, one would think. Now, towards the end of my time here, I'm seeing just a little bit of the efforts pay off. I can promise you that next transfer, the baptisms will be coming in droves.
Likewise, life is full of beginnings and ends. Starting our path of discipleship is a glorious, beautiful beginning. We receive so many blessings along the way, so many gifts that the Savior has in-store for us that we can't predict or imagine. There are many blessings that, while not received in this transfer, mission, or even mortal existence, we have the promise that God will give an unimaginable, beautiful recompense for our meager efforts. The resurrection, a complete restoration of body and spirit, is just the starting point of our eternal reward.
So, the space that lies in between, "the Middle" (cue Jimmy Eat World), one could say, is called conversion. We don't necessarily see all the fruits of our righteous service, or maybe the change in ourselves that we desire. Sometimes we get frustrated at the fact that we aren't changing as quickly as we would like. Sometimes we ask ourselves why hard things happen when we've only been doing our best to serve the Lord. We shouldn't ignore or deny these trials and challenges, or shove them under our bed, or imagine that they don't exist. They happen. But maybe we could benefit from looking at conversion, enduring to the end, as not having to earn our blessings, but preparing ourselves now for the blessings we shall receive. We can happily persevere in our health problems, and accept the difficulties, not as a way to grin and bear it, or try and put on a happy face, but rather as a manifestation of our faith in a glorious resurrection. We can embrace the heartache of separation from our families, by distance or even death, because we are assured by the Lord that families can be together forever, no matter what barrier. The list goes on and on. The question is not "Will the blessings come?", but rather "Am I practicing gratitude for the blessings that will come? Am I living my life in such a way that I will understand and appreciate the chance to stand before my Heavenly Father and receive all that He has?"
With that said, Saturday evening, transfer calls came. Elder Walls and I had a good conversation. He said "We want to thank you for the service you've given in Akpakpa. You've given... a LOT of service. You are transferred to... TOGO! The sector is called Attiegou. Your new companion is Elder N'Guessan Bi."
Elder Yoboue will be training a new Ivoirien, Elder Alexander will be working with one of my buddies, Elder Omotoyinbo, and Elder Kola is also going to Togo.
So, I'm transferred. It's bittersweet, and I'm scared.
Saying goodbye to everyone on Sunday wasn't too bad, actually. I gave my testimony in 5 languages (Lingala, Minah, Fon, English, and French- but the first three were memorized), which the members liked. We actually watched the Saturday Afternoon and first hour of the Sunday morning sessions of General Conference, and that really eased my fears of change. Especially when BYU-I sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go". I actually felt a lot of joy in saying goodbye to everyone. It's sad, but I was filled with joy. I think Heavenly Father is proud of my service here. I did, however, cry during my last visit with Soeur Christine's family, but not in a bad way. It'll be hard to say goodbye to my second family in Akpakpa. These people are wonderful, and I'm going to miss them. I'm going to do my best to stay in touch with them. I love Akpakpa.
I've been trying to do research about my new companion, new sector, new COUNTRY, etc. The sector is apparently very swampy. Nothing will prepare me entirely, though, so I'm just going to try and embrace surprise and have fun on the ride! (: I'm leaving tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!
Let's go on an adventure! (:
Avec tout mon amour,
PS Family, thanks for the Birthday wishes! I love you! (: