It is good for me to write the things I am thankful for, I often ask myself could it be worse then this? Then I see Elder Warr who just got an operation done here in Benin on his foot for an ingrown toenail without anesthesia. And I see, yeah it can be worse. When we were on our 24th hour without power on Thanksgiving AND I was burning hot because I couldn't use my fan, I thougt how could it get worse? And then they cut our water. How could it get worse than this? And Mukendi said, just wait, he has been 1 whole week without water and power in Togo. He says it is standard to have at least one of those in this mission. I am a firm believer it could always be worse. So it keeps me thankful for what I do have. I am thankful for the little things too, I think I am so sick of being coverd head to toe in ants all day every day, and I think at least it's just ants. This week was a little rough but for some reason it didn't phase me as much as it would have a few weeks ago. Just with my talks with Mukendi I am becoming more and more determined to finish my mission strong. Elder Olela told me lots of Americans don't make it too the end. They get sick or just quit, this mission is not for the weak. I told him I am not weak, he said out of the 16 Americans who arived with me he thinks only 8 or 9 will make it to the end. If that is true I will be one of those nine. There are so many little stories that happen in the week I know but I am really drawing a blank.
I really want to write good long emails for the blog. I really try hard to make it intresting, but then again I think its just the reality of the things here that make the best stories. And I will never think of Africa as all the same place ever again. I live with two Congolese. Well really there are four Congolese in my apartment, two by blood and two by conversion The missionaries from each country bring there own flavor to the mix. And I am now an American Congolese, that's for sure. I almost feel patriotic at times, it's weird. However the Congolese are open people, if they don't like somthing they tell you. They don't get offended and sulk or talk behind peoples back, they fight back, they talk it out, or most of the time yell it out. Insults fly on a regular basis, it's really something to be apart of. They have a maner of speaking where almost all their conversations sound like they are mad at you. And this was hard to get used to at the beginning for me. When I tried my best to cook fries for the apartment, some got a little bit crispy and Olela gave it too me hard, told me my food was crap, I don't know how to cook, I added to much salt. Then I went in my room to be alone because I was quite sad and he followed me because he wasn't done. That was a bad day. However, now I have converted to the Congolese way. I let Olela have it back, and it's not like Olela was trying to be mean, he told me after, hey if I hadn't of made such a big deal, and just said "oh Larson your food is great thank you" you would never change. And it is so true. I can cook the one sauce I eat now pretty well, and I am becoming less and less timid each day. When someone does somthing I don't like I tell them and we talk it out, I have never done that my entire life but that's what Mukendi does and I follow the example of my Dad. I am so greatful for Mukendi, he is one of my best freinds. We joke all day long, and I respect him so much. He is very wise, He is like 6 years older than me and has gone through so much more in his life. Congo is crazy, a completly different type of crazy then Benin. One time in a lesson he was bearing his super strong testimony and he told a story of a time he watched his freind get shot and killed right before his eyes, and he had to run away. He encourages me constantly and gives me advice. And one piece of advice he gave me to help me go full Congolese is the way and manner to chastize people. And boy do the Congolese chastise. Mukendi knows how things are supposed to go. The chuch is well established in Congo and here it is just like the early days of the church the members who lead the chuch are all recent converts. It's not quite blind leading the blind, but kind of like that. It's to no fault of them, it's like a newborn child it needs to be nutured and shown the right path. And Mukendi has taken on himself the role of Parent for the baby church in Benin. And he parents by chastisement. He will see the bishop do somthing wrong and he will pull him aside and say hey bishop what you did there is not right that is not how a bishiop is supposed to act, here is what you do next time. He especially is tough on ward mission leaders. Because we work with them all the time. One time we went to another ward for a baptism for the sister missionaris and the mission leader came to the baptism without a tie and dress pants, just a white shirt with a collar. He chastised him hard after the baptism, He says your a return missionary what are you doing, you know better then this, you need to help your ward man. I love it. It is just so different the first few times we chastised the leaders of the church I thought it was bad, like it's not our place, but Mukendi uses the stories of Peter in the bible, when Peter was walking with Jesus and said that Jesus shouldn't die at the hand of the jews in Matt 16 Jesus calls Peter satan! And Mukendi says that's the kind of thing he does he rubukes just so the person can change for the better.
I don't know if this all sounds super messed up and I hope I haven't lost my manners when I get home but I have been rebuked by Olela many times and have changed every time. So I am converted to the Congolay way. I'm not sure I want that to be permanent but that's just how it is for the moment and I think it really gets resuts here.
And just one cool thing I wanted to leave you with. Is an update on my converts, Jo__ and his wife Ed___ and their son are becoming super strong members of the ward. They have come every week as a family, so cute. They have their hymnbooks and are learning hymns, saying prayers, cleaning the church and just being all around great people. It is such a joy to have baptized a family together, this gosple does bless families. Ed___ used to look so tired all the time, now I never see her without a smile. Jo__ bought a white shirt and I gave him one of my very few ties, I had to tie it for him but it was all good, they are my converts and I am here to support them. It was just super nice to see.
An African Thanksgiving:
I provided and cooked all the food for Thanksgiving. I used the canned turkey, freeze dried mashed potatoes, and gravy powder that my mom sent. Then I bought pineapples, bread, cakes, and sodas. BTW pineapples here are the best in the world, I didn't like pineapples before but now I love them they are soo good here. Like better than any American one I have had.
Mukendi was super happy to have a random huge meal for what to him seemed like no reson, he was scared to eat the mashed potatoes and peanut butter because he hadn't had either before, but he said, he really liked this weird American holiday.
Me and my chair. I spend so much time in that chair, I study there, I sit and think there, when I have nothing to do I am always in that chair. One time I feel asleep in the chair and Mukendi didnt wake me up so I slept throught all of companionship study.
Picture by the house of one of the people we are teaching.