Monday, June 18, 2018

FREE PIZZA!

Well I must be doing something right. There is a place close to the mission office that has real pizza, which is so hard to find here. You might have noticed in my emails seeing as I have had pizza only twice on my mission before this point. So, Kerr and I decided to eat there for lunch after our trip to the office. It was a great pizza, it had been so long. After we were done eating a family walked in. They are an American family from southern United States, Louisiana, I think. I have seen them out and about. They use the same hospital as the missionaries, so when I went to the hospital for my sick companions, I saw them and talked with them. Turns out they are on a mission for their church. When this family walked in they saw we were about to leave. We said hi and then the father of the family went up and bought our meal. We were shocked because we had to save up our money to eat at this place because it is pretty expensive, and they just covered it. It was too nice. So, I got a free pizza in Benin. That’s one of the biggest miracles I’ve seen.

This week was all about the visit of Elder Vinson of the 70, he is now in the presidency of the 70 and was doing a tour of West Africa. We had a leadership council with him on Wednesday and a full conference on Thursday. We talked a lot about how our mission is not the best, which I knew, and how we need integrity. It was pretty cool. I learned a lot about what I need to do going into this last transfer.

After one of these meetings with Vinson I walked outside and there was an activity at the stake center for the young adults. There I found Elizee! One of my converts I baptized in Hevie in July of last year with Hypote. I lost contact with him because he doesn’t have a phone, but he was there and I hear he is active and he is bringing his friends to the church, that was great to see.

Elder Kerr got his first bead tie made in the flag of Benin and because I had one too we decided to be twins and wear them out into the sector together. Seems like a good idea, right? Wrong. I realized as two white guys in white shirts we stick out way too much already. Add some bright Benin ties to the picture and it attracts a bunch of weirdos, for some reason. People were calling us over, asking for the ties, wanting to talk with us about anything that was not the gospel. They would all stare at our ties and mock us. It was awful, so we both wore normal ties in the afternoon.

That was my week. This week we are going to have two more baptisms, which will help me reach my mission goal of 24 baptisms. On my mission, I baptized by far the most in Cocotomey. Transfers will be this week so I will get to know who is gunnna kill me after all this time. I’m so excited to work with my last companion. It’s been such a journey up to this point and I’m excited to sprint the last bit.

The Free Pizza

Matching bead ties

A gift from Serge's daughter

A weird spiky fruit we ate. We didn't know what it was, but after we ate half, we found out it was rotten.

I found this really weird cement structure and took some pictures on it

Monday, June 11, 2018

Surprise Baptism

I would like to share the example of Mirisse, a recent convert. She has so much faith, I can’t believe it. She got her first call in the church a week after her baptism. Her calling is in the nursery. There was no one in nursery before her. She is starting the nursery in the branch of Cocotomey and she is the only one to take care of 13 kids every Sunday for two hours with limited toys and materials. It’s amazing to see her optimism and humility in the calling as she doesn’t fully understand all the gospel and is relying on faith to do a very hard thing. I’m amazed.

We have been preparing a couple for baptism for a while now. We got their baptism interviews done on Saturday for their baptism next week. However, after the interviews they were super excited for their baptism so they asked if they could do it the next day. So, we changed the baptism to after church on Sunday. There was complete chaos when the baptism font was not filled in time. So, we asked the neighbors if we could use their well and the members filled up the font with well water transported on their heads. It was so nice of them and the baptism was a success. Another example for Romans 8:28 coming to pass.

The rest of the week was normal. I pray often to have my day filled with stuff and it often is filled with stuff, so I’m grateful. We are getting new member contacts as all of our progressing investigators are being baptized.

It’s kind of crazy how superstitous everyone is here. I have found people really don’t like to take the blame for their problems all over the world. It’s the governments fault or it’s the economy’s fault. Here people blame evil spirts or devils for their problems and it often causes problems because many churches have days of deliverance where they chase away the "demons" that are bothering them. We don’t do that because that’s actually not that wide spread of a problem that you need deliverance every Wednesday night. However, what we teach in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that you can’t blame your lack of obedience and consequences on evil spirits. So that drives some people away, but those who want the truth come running.

The Surprise Baptism

Funny picture Kerr - Larson
With Serge's family

Monday, June 4, 2018

Foofoo and poopoo

On Tuesday, we went to a district meeting for a district in our zone. It sprinkled a little bit while we were there. When we got in our taxi to go back to our sector, the driver told us there was a huge storm in our sector. When we arrived... I couldn’t believe my eyes. The roads here flood when it rains just a little, but it was as if all roads were changed into muddy swimming pools. We had to go out into the sector that day. Let’s just say I went swimming. However, at our investigators house the lady dried my socks out on a line.

When it rains it gets cold and if I don’t exercise in the morning the ice cold shower is so uncomfortable. So, I found the two biggest pots we had and put them on the stove with water, heated them up and put them in a bucket to pour on myself in the shower. But without wisdom I used a glass cup and in the middle the cup dropped and shattered into a million pieces. I cut my hand and foot on it. We also had a rendezvous really early that day so all the cleaning up glass time took up my personal study. With these experiences and the flooded streets, I wondered why everything was working against me. And then I realized my great companion, in his righteous desires, had prayed for mountains to climb and because I’m his companion I had to climb them too. But looking back on it those experiences were for my good.

On Wednesday night, I went to do a split with elder Kalonji in Cococodji. I was super excited. Elder Kalonji is Congolese and I have not had foofoo Congolese since I was with Kadima and I really wanted to eat that. But, Kalonji was new in the sector so he didn’t know where to find the ingredients and he had no money. So, we had to go out and buy all of the ingredients. We started searching for ingredients with a member at 20h00 which is what 8h00 pm. We had to go all over the place to find the stuff. We walked and walked for miles to get these things. My white shirt was drenched in sweat. Finally, at 10h00pm we got all the ingredients and got back to the apartment. But it takes at least an hour and half to cook so we didn’t get to eat till 11h30pm. It was a great price to pay to eat some foofoo. But it was so good I’m gunna miss that dish a lot.

The rest of the week was good. We worked hard, stayed busy, had some people cancel on us, the usual until we got to Friday. On Friday, there is an investigator in the sisters’ sector in our zone. The sister missionaries wanted us to come help teach this guy. This guy was one of the best people I’ve ever met. This man is so, so incredibly smart he is a professor of sociology at the university here. And he is not yet baptized but knows everything there is to know about the church. After about one year of research he also knows about every other religion. He tried to ask us a lot of questions to test our knowledge of our own gospel to try to trip us up. It was a mentally tiring game to teach him, but the spirit was with us and at the end of the lesson he was smiling congratulating us on our methods of teaching and knowledge. He can’t get baptized yet because of some personal decisions he has to make first. But, I have no doubt that guy has been chosen to be a leader here in Benin.

On Sunday, we were wondering what we could eat. We didn’t have a lot of food so we looked at what we had and we realized we had all the ingredients for no bake cookies, except neither of us knew how to make them. We tried anyway. In the end it turned into crap. It looked so gross. We realized we should have put the oats in last or something. So, we had to eat some nasty stuff for dinner. Pictures below, warning, it looks nasty.
The no bake cookies gone so wrong

The moto packed streets of Benin

This is a normal toilet here. People are lucky to have this here.

Monday, May 28, 2018

I'm glad I'm getting paid enough for this

Often times, even when everything is going as well as it could be and I’m working hard, life here is still difficult. And in these moments, I have the habit of saying “I’m glad I’m getting paid enough for this.” I know there are a lot of blessings, but it’s not always easy. Like for instance I woke up on Saturday with an incredible pain in my left leg in the joint on my hip. It was incredibly painful to move and to walk. I don’t know what was wrong but I knew it hurt. I don’t like being a wimp so I decided to suffer through the pain and go out to the sector anyway. I looked like I had been in a bad accident with my limp but I was able to work hard anyway; I feel fine now. And even at this instant, I’m writing this email, I have a swarm of mosquitos constantly biting my legs. The lord must be preparing me for something with all this opposition.

Benin is progressing. We were able to see yet another one of our investigator couples get married, Brother and Sister Houssou. They had the wedding planned for Saturday. However, someone in the family found out about the wedding and was not happy and threated to come and destroy the wedding with voodoo or something making everyone scared. So, we switched the wedding to Friday at a different location and the marriage was accomplished just fine. So, we will now finish the teachings and baptize yet another couple. I’m so happy.

We did not end up getting any pictures of us with the couple on my camera but we got one with one of their daughters. And we were in the background of some of the wedding pictures. We didn’t know we were in the background. I think they are funny so I’ll put them in.

Every three months in Benin we have to go to the immigration building and renew our visas. I have done that process a ton of times, but this week was my last visa renewal. The visa I got will last me till the end of my mission. I’m also the missionary on this mission with the most time logged in Benin out of all the other missionaries. I’m the most true Benin boy.

We have a super cool investigator named Victory. He is a student at a school established by a Canadian member of the church. So, the school has an institute of religion class and he signed up for it and became super interested in the message and lives in our sector. He has come to church quite a few times and is very smart. He speaks fluent French and English, kinda like me. We have to make a big sacrifice to see him in the mornings before he goes to school, but he is progressing towards his baptism too. He is one of the first investigators I’ve had that has actually read the brochures and the Book of Mormon.

So that was my week for the most part. I’m also in the missionary choir preparing for a visit of the area 70 who is coming, so that is fun to sing still. Okay that’s all.

At the wedding with the brides daughter and granddaughter

The bride is in green and I am unknowingly in the background of these pictures

Eating dinner at the house of the newly married couple. Me, Naneon, Kerr and McKrola's arms

With Kerr

An approaching storm

Monday, May 21, 2018

It's not a toomah!!!!

Well, I worked really hard this week. So much that I got a headache, the headache got worse and worse all day on Saturday that it made me throw up. I never had a migraine in my life so it was super weird and uncomfortable. I was in so much pain I wondered, could this be cancer? but I was comforted by the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger yelling "It’s not a toomah!"- Kindergarten Cop.

Other than that, things were pretty normal this week. I finally washed my sheets without them getting dirty, which was one of the biggest accomplishments of my mission.

Kerr and I had busy days this week. We had one day where we worked solid out in the sector from 8h00 to about 21h00 which, I guess in America time is 8am to 9pm. It was a big day but people are just really excited to get their teachings done so they can get baptized. They are calling us to see them and we can never say no to that.

One of the people we have the chance to teach is Sister Honorine. She is the wife of a long time member of the church. But because the stupid dowry gets in the way of people get married this member started living with his wife before getting married, excluding him from callings in the church and eventually fell away. But now they finally got married, so we came and reactivated the husband and are preparing the wife for baptism. He came to church and was so happy. I can see how great his repentance was. Repentance is always positive.

I see many little miracles every day. This week was busy and important things happened in the lives of many people but I had no pictures taken so I’ll just send one of me right now at the cyber.

In the cyber

Monday, May 14, 2018

Feeling like Alma

Well, this week was fantastic. After the dis-service project we did last week I was feeling kind of down. However, we spent all week working hard to get all of the baptism interviews done and all the preparations done for our huge baptism on Saturday. We had five candidates and the assistants had six, so we were all working together to make sure this baptism was something special for 11 people for the same branch. We had to borrow baptism clothes form nearby branches to get everyone clothes.

I have never had a baptism service go perfectly so I was wondering what was gunna happen when I woke up on Saturday. We had to go with the assistants to do one last baptism interview Saturday morning in that red sandy place called Womey, the place where Martial and I got lost. That place gets really muddy after it rains and it had been raining for a while. So, as we were driving though the jungle up there we got stuck in the mud. We tried to dislodge the car and put it into four-wheel drive, but the tires kept spinning and sinking further into the mud. All sorts of kids and mamas around there started coming out of their little houses crowding around and yelling things saying lots of stuff about the “yovos”. It was the talk of the whole village; they brought us some hoes to try to dig out the wheels but after trying for an hour we left the car walked the rest of the way to the interview and did it then walked back to the car to try to fix the problem. We had one man from the village that came to help. We dug more holes, put down rocks and weeds to try to get traction. Try after try we could not get out of the mud. We were all in white shirts and ties and we all got super dirty, especially Elder Naneon who was behind a tire at the wrong time and got a face full of mud flung from the tire. However, what I loved about this experience is we were all laughing the whole time. We never got angry or frustrated we were just so happy that the mission is always so exciting and unique. I love it.

Time ticked away closer and closer to the baptism finally we decided to pray for inspiration. We prayed, then got the car jack out, lifted each tire up out of the mud and put a wood plank under each one. Then we got all the men around to push the car and we got it out. The whole crowd of people cheered like crazy. It took four hours of work total. After that we then had a couple other mishaps along the way but we made it to the baptism only five mins late. There were some minor problems with baptism clothes and one candidate for the assistants had malaria and couldn’t be baptized. But other than that, it turned out pretty great and I got some awesome pictures.

Another cool thing that happened where I got to see the fruits of my labors is Hevie just became its own branch. It is now totally separated from Cococdji, which is so cool. The work is progressing before my eyes and I know my converts are playing a role in that.

There has been another miracle in the sector. We have an investigator named Damian who is the father of the young women’s president here. He has been taught for a while but became more and more incredulous. He started insulting the church and us and saying we did not know the gospel but every week he kept coming to church. Back when I was with Martial he said we would never go see him again because he did not want to understand. But when Kerr came, we went back to teach him. The first time it was the same thing, but after a time he started having a change of heart with our efforts and the branch members and even people from the stake. Now he understands the importance of the church, left all his bad habits, and is making a huge sacrifice to get married this month to be baptized. He went through a huge change and it was only the Lord that could have done that. So, he and his wife will be baptized soon. We will work on them.

Pictures with all the baptism candidates.
 Kerr and I had 5; McKrola and Naneon (the assistants) had 6
Me, Sister Joana, Kerr
Serge's family
With Sister Cecile - a great member of the branch

Car in the mud pictures courtesy of Elder McKrola

Kerr and I pranked the Assistant's apartment with a cereal that looks like mouse poop. We scattered it all over.

Monday, May 7, 2018

"They taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good" Moses 6:55

What a roller coaster of a week. Some really great moments and some really low moments.

Kerr and I have been teaching non-stop the last few weeks. As we wind down the teachings for Serge's family, because of their baptism this week, we needed to fill up more spots. But all of our investigators kept falling through. We realized all our cool investigators are college students. We were able to teach them all because the campus has been having teacher protests for months now. However, the protests ended this week and all the college students went back and poof there goes our investigators and it made us scramble for interviews a lot. Dang it college.

As you know I love choir. One of the sisters in the Relief Society found out and recruited me to help make a branch choir for branch conference in a few weeks, so I’ve been trying to do that. Elder Kerr and I are the only two men in the choir, the rest are young women. The councilor in Relief Society directs us. It’s pretty rough, but hey we will do our best with what we’ve got. It’s fun to sing again.

It was funny to see everyone on Labor Day here got the day off work and it was like everyone celebrated as if it was Christmas or New Years.

We got to see some miracles this week. One was with Sister Jo___, she has been an investigator for over a year and she just never really took the lessons seriously. However, recently she has really started listening and putting into practice the repentance needed. We have a baptism date with her for next week. We were still feeling kind of shaky but on Sunday we had a great lesson with her and she showed us how she understands the baptism and wants it "with all her heart". We were touched by her testimony and if all goes well, will be baptized this Saturday with Serges family. This will be five baptisms for me I’m so excited.

I also had an amazing lesson with the Serge’s whole family. We had been teaching them apart because they were all on different levels. Now we got them together and we saw their family had issues. Everyone was kind of tense and sad when we started the lesson but we made some jokes, taught the gospel with the spirit, did major family therapy, and they were all smiling and laughing by the end. We all prayed together on our knees and by end and I felt the joy and the spirit I haven felt since I was back with my family doing things together. It had been so long, it was a great feeling, really the joy of life is in the family.

We had my second organized service project my whole mission. We found this lady’s house to paint. It was a zone activity, so we were in charge of planning but the paint we ended up getting wasn’t great and the un-trained missionaries paint job was not professional, but hey, for a free paint job it was alright. At least it’s not just cement bricks.


Serge's family

Kerr

Zone Activity - Service Project painting a house
Before
After