Surprise! Me and Elder Hansen are actually hitting the cybers in the morning today, instead of in the afternoon, just to see if it's more efficient and less stressful on the time. Anywho, I hope that this email finds you all snuggling in bed, ready to take on a wonderful Monday morning. Or, if you find yourself in Insomnia-ville, that reading emails is something more comforting than watching Netflix. :)
Sorry if last week's email felt a little rushed or lacking in detail. I forgot to mention this in my past two general emails, but I have now been a missionary for three months! I feel like I am adjusting well to Africa. I feel so at home here in Akpakpa, but there are always new discoveries that make it even more of an adventure. For example, we could be walking by a large field, and I could hear different bugs chirping, and it sounds just like those audio recordings they play in the rides in Adventureland! There are always small reminders that I am on the other side of the world. The language is coming great. And I gave my first talk in sacrament meeting yesterday. My favorite thing about the culture is the hospitality of the people. They see us missionaries, and sometimes they'll give us free street food, or invite us into their home, or wish us blessings.
Our district is getting along great. We now have so much more charity for each other, and we love spending time together. I can honestly say now that this District is my second family. We joke, we laugh, we let each other take naps if the day is hard, etc. The other elders have requested another chocolate cake, and so I spent the spare moments of yesterday putting it together. I modified the recipe a little bit, and mixed it with another recipe I got in the MTC, so now I have my very own killer chocolate cake recipe! I'll send pictures of cake number two, I'm considering calling it "Gateaux du Chocolat," or "Mort par Chocolat". One of the two.
Tuesday, we had another zone meeting! I always love zone meetings. It's a chance to lighten up, but also to learn. After the meeting, we all went to an Ivoirian restaurant, which was delicious! Since we had switched to companionship meals, I hadn't had pima in a couple of weeks, so when I downed some pima sauce, it was really hot! I made a complete fool of myself in front of all the other missionaries; coughing and gulping water down, but it's all good.
Friday was the absolute hardest day of my mission, but we'll get to that in a second. First, the context: My ponderization scripture this week was Alma 17:2-3. I learned so very much about prayer! Ponderization works! I was looking for a way to make my prayers more edifying and meaningful, and I felt inspired to try something new. Instead of just writing in my journal and praying, I wrote in my journal in such a way that I was organizing my thoughts for my evening prayer. I wrote things out and decided on what I needed to pray about. Sometimes there were problems that I could work out on paper right then, and the rest I would present to the Lord in prayer. After praying, I would keep my journal, pen, and scriptures next to me, and write down any revelation I received. It totally works for me, and if you have 15-30 minutes before you go to bed, I really recommend it. My journal writing became way more filled with gratitude, and it made my prayers a lot more focused on my daily report to Heavenly Father.
As such, Thursday evening, Elder Hansen and I were planning a lesson for Julien and his family the next day, and we both felt the need to give him a baptismal date. I felt like I needed to start fasting, and so after dinner I started a fast for our lesson with Julien. Friday morning, in companionship study, we were trying to figure out what date to set for Julien. I felt like early November, and Elder Hansen felt like early December, but when we both prayed about it, we both felt firmly to go for Christmas-time. The lesson with Julien was the first one of the day (about the Fall, the Atonement, and our life on earth), and we focused on how Christ redeemed us from the Fall, and in turn he asks us to follow Him. We extended the invitation, and Julien and Leoni gladly accepted. They loved the idea of getting baptized on the 26th of December, right after Christmas! Then came the hard part of the invitation: the invitation to be married. Like I've said before, marriage here is excessively expensive. When couples here are not married, it's not that they don't want to be or that they want to have children before marriage, it's just that the government has made it very difficult to do. Julien has recently lost his job, and his family is barely making ends meet. They live in a two room hut made of wood and tin roofing like you see on the Internet. Julien and Leoni are not married, and so we informed them of the requirement to get married before being baptized. They were very taken aback at the idea of having to spend so much money in just a short amount of time, but Soeur Christine was present in the lesson with us, and she testified of how much baptism has changed her life, and Julien and Leoni calmed down, and decided to press forward with faith. Elder Hansen and I both promised that the Lord wanted them to get baptized, and that because of that he would provide a way for them to get married on time. I have never prayed so much for a lesson, or fasted so meaningfully like I did that day, and that lesson completely drained me and Elder Hansen. The rest of the day was so difficult, as we walked the many roads we needed to walk. I have never struggled so much to walk, and I know that it was not my strength carrying me to the different appointments. We worked hard for that lesson, and with an abundance of the grace of Christ, we made it successful. Missionary work is the hardest thing I have ever done, but nothing will ever be as rewarding as this great labor. The next day, we passed by Julien's again to check up on him, and if anything, their family is more devoted to the Gospel. They are so happy, and they were glad to see us. They are the investigators who are progressing the most, and I hope that we can make it to the 26th on time. With faith!
The biggest lesson I learned this week was about how to do missionary work, and to an extent how to do life's work. As a nouveau missionnaire, I have/had a bad case of greenie fever. "Greenie fever" is when you assume that you as a missionary are the chosen one, meant to bring success to your mission, and completely change the world. You want to completely change things, and set the whole field on fire. I learned this week about change and progress. I have come here to Akpakpa, and there isn't a need for some huge change or for some grand work. The missionaries before me have done a wonderful job here, and I don't need to completely overhaul their work; I just need to keep it going. All I need to do is keep loving the people, keeping them swimming down the stream, and help them walk gently into the waters of baptism, one by one. In life, do we sometimes have "greenie fever"? Do we get a little over-enthusiastic about completely changing everything? I can promise each of you that; chances are, your life is just fine. Sure, there are little improvements here and there, but you are progressing just wonderfully. Take your time, and enjoy the little progress.
Seeing the Mike Yagoobian scarecrow made me thing of Meet the Robinsons, and the song "Little Wonders". Don't forget to look at how wonderful your life is, and how the little changes every now and then are what we really need.
I love you all, and I wish you an awesome week. Keep Christ in your life, and stay in touch with family. Progress comes little by little, small step after small step, joy after joy, little wonder after little wonder.
Tout mon amour,