Man, I am so stoked for our Skype call!!!!!! I can hardly wait!!!!!!!
The Worst Souvenir
Well, at the beginning of this week, Elder Eperonnier caught this weird eye disease. I looked up the translation, it's the equivalent of pink eye, but it certainly looks different from what I remember of pink eye. Your eyes are red, they're irritated, and your eyelids swell up and occasionally excrete pus. It's pleasant, I know. Well, throughout the week, it spread across the zone, from Elder Eperonnier to Elder Lath to Elder Jean-Jacques and then to me! (:
Yeah, it's been no fun whatsoever. (:
Well, with everyone getting pink eye, it's pretty much wiped out all of our proselyting this week. We mostly just stayed at the apartment. Before getting sick, I did a split or two with Elder Abbott, but even then, it was hard to get much done. So, from a standard missionary work perspective, this week kind of tanked.
The Best Gift
But, from a Christmas-spirit perspective, this week was the best ever!!!
This week, we did get opportunities to prepare for the mission Christmas party!
We came together for a zone meeting Tuesday morning, and we layed out the plan for our zone's presentation. Wednesday morning, we had a rehearsal together, and we even came together to make a group lunch to kind of celebrate together.
So, I didn't get into the details last Christmas, but last Christmas, the zone I was in gave a very irreverent sketch for our zone presentation. It was mostly led by the older missionaries, and as a younger guy, I didn't have much say. Naturally, we got chastized for it, and I felt pretty bad. Leading up to this Christmas, I've had an innate desire to kind of redeem myself, and give a stellar "last presentation". As we planned out what we were doing, the zone members just came up with their own very inspired ideas, and it was super cool! I felt very stoked about our performance.
Thursday morning, we all woke up early to go to an orphanage for our service project. We cleaned off the main dust pathway inside the orphanage, and then we made cement, and transported it in wheelbarrows, then dumped it out and smoothed it out flat. Some cement workers helped us out and kind of directed our work.
Since it was my last Christmas in Africa, I really wanted to give it my all and make the most of that service opportunity, so I just went running into the work! It was wonderful, and I felt so satisfied. There were so many missionaries that worked so very hard! I felt so happy to be just engaged in service and working alongside my fellow missionaries. There is no better road to happiness than service!
It's moments like those that really just make me happy and glad that I came out on my mission. (:
After the service project, we all went home, cleaned up, then returned to the stake center for the Christmas party. We had a lovely, well-cooked dinner (salad, rice, fish, and fruit cups), and the zone presentations were pretty great.
Ours was perfect! (:
We were the last zone to present, and we started by singing "Joy to the World," after which we sang/hummed "The Shepherd's Carol," while different people stepped forward and read various scriptures from the Book of Mormon about the coming of Christ. Elders Lath and Abbott gave a talk together based on Elder Dallin H. Oaks's Christmas Devotional message, and we finished by singing "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains". It was a very beautiful, well-done performance, and I was so proud of how we all worked together to make it happen. It definitely invited the Spirit, and I was very happy. We all bore our testimony of our Savior in that moment, and it was perfect.
I just want to bear my testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ. As a missionary, I've had the blessed opportunity to draw closer to the Lord like never before. I've felt His Spirit, and I've come to learn, at least more than I used to, the meaning of what He did for us. Here's what I told Président Morin in my letter to him this week:
"I am really happy to work as a missionary during this Christmas season. There is no greater pleasure for me, and I love my Savior. I am grateful for all that He has done to me, and as a missionary, I have never felt so close to Him. I know that Jesus Christ came into the world, in humble circumstances, and I know that He came for us. I know that, thanks to Him, all will be well. I know that through His Atonement we can approach our Heavenly Father, and receive blessings in this life and eternal life."
I love my Savior. I know that it Him, the Prince of Peace, that can bring us peace and joy. I know that, in following Him and living His Gospel, we truly do receive the Best Gift. It is by Christ "that we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5, Mosiah 14:5).
I wish you all a wonderful, joyous Christmas! May each of you find a moment to remember the Reason for the Season, and may each of you be brought closer to Christ. I love you all, and I wish you all the Best Christmas Ever!
Joyeux Noel, Epebé Jobenwé, and Merry Christmas to One and All!
Avec tout mon amour,
Elder Brian H. Phillips