Monday, January 30, 2017

International Split

First off just a few funny Kola jokes to start with. This guy is a comedian like I never saw. He has taught me how to make people laugh and has opened up this whole side of missionary work and really it’s just so much fun chilling with him. There are some things he does that I think are so funny. He really likes to look a certain way with tightly trimmed pants and fancy shoes but he likes the look of kind of bulging pockets for some reason. So, before we leave the house he just stuffs a ton of things in his pockets the most random things too. He will be walking around with two blank planners, a tie, a bottle of Advil, crumpled up pages of the Ensign magazine. You name it, he will walk around with it. Also, I wear my keys on a karabiner on one of my belt loops. I have the key to the apartment and the church building. Kola likes the look of the keys like that so he has started to carry around three random keys he found that don’t work. He carries them around in the sector just to look cool, that’s Kola for you.

I also got a bunch of letters this week from people in the ward and different family members. It was fantastic to read all your best Christmas wishes about a month later. But really, thank you so much to everyone. I would write thank you notes back but there is no way to do that in my sector but I am so grateful for all the people who were thinking of me at Christmas time.

The second part of the week I went to a different zone in Benin in what we call an “international split.” Olela wanted to come back and see some of his converts or whatever so I went to his zone. It was super weird to do a 2 day 2 night split over there. I was with Elder Wride and he got a call that he is going back to the US to get a hernia surgery, wow hernias and people going home seem to be following me. SO, I didn’t do a whole lot of work over in Finagnon. But Elder Wride is such a strong missionary he has to come back to this mission and he is sure he will come back so I am looking forward to his return.

I just put in my request for my 3rd and final visa here in Benin and after this one I’ll have to go to Togo with the new system the state put in place, so that’s kind of crazy. I hope I stay with Kola at least one more transfer because I seriously can’t believe this transfer is almost over. The transfer calls go out this Saturday. This transfer has felt even faster than the MTC which is nuts and it has been super filled with fun and missionary work I had one baptism that was long awaited and hopefully one more by the end of this week.

Kola doing the hair of one of our investigators. He is super good with people and making them laugh.

At a meeting to watch a missionary broadcast, but of course we couldn't watch it because the technology didn't work in Benin. But we took a picture of our MTC group.

I did a split in Finagnon and slept on the floor with my mosquito net. It was very hot, but that is just how it goes.

Amazing pancakes cooked by Elder Wride with chocolate syrup.

When I got back to the apartment after three days there were a ton of dishes to do.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Open Your Mouth

Talk about working hard. Me and Kola work. And it’s not like we get tired, we work with wisdom. This week we did 42 lessons found 20 new investigators and did one baptism. Watch out Zogbo and Menontin Kola and Larson are here. I think the reason we can do all this work is because there are no difficulties between us. We come back to the apartment and whoever is the least tired cooks, the other helps. We joke a lot we have this old guitar we found we both make up songs and play the guitar that neither of us know how to play. I teach him English he teaches me Lingala. And we go out into the sector and teach like mad, and efficiently too. We have gotten in the habit of talking to people who are walking in the direction of where we want to go and while were walking with them we teach a lesson on the way to a lesson or on our way home. You can be very efficient if you try hard enough. In Benin tracting doesn’t exist there is only something we call OVB which is an acronym for open your mouth in French. Because here almost everyone will listen to you even if they are not interested at all. We can get their number, fix another appointment and teach a lesson on the spot. They don’t say no it’s not in their culture. Kola is also good at getting around all their excuses it’s hilarious. We also finally had a baptism for Ma__!!!! I’m so happy. It took way to long with this guy. I didn’t even know this guy was not a member because ever since I came to Benin he has come to church. He is super cool he lives with his older brother who is married and has a kid. And we kept pushing his baptism back and back and back and me and Kola are like no more. We came to church and they hadn’t filled up the font so we left after sacrament meeting with Ma__ and went directly to another church next to Jericho. They were having a baptism right after the third hour and he got baptized there. It was great to finally get him baptized.

And for a funny little tid bit people here have completely different stereotypes of the church because it’s so young here. Most people don’t know us at all. Most people think were just Jehovah’s Witnesses but we are known as a church that is very anti polygamy which is funny because in the US people think the LDS church still practices polygamy but here people are offended that to get baptized they can’t have two wives. Also for Benin the church is very progressive for woman’s rights. People are shocked sometimes when they come to our sacrament meeting and see that woman are giving talks teaching lessons and are supported by their husbands and treated like equals. For some men this is a foreign concept because gender roles are hardcore in this culture and like the idea that the father is supposed to provide for and serve his family and help raise the kid with his wife is a newer idea to some people. Also, there is that occasional person who jumps to rash conclusion and thinks our church practices homosexuality because they always see two guys (missionaries) living together and always walking side by side, dressed the same, teaching some gay religion or something. Not true. I just thought the perceptions of the church are so different and no one calls us Mormons not even the church members, no one.

Cotonou, a clean city

Kola with the trash
Ma__ Baptism
Me and Kola, the best of friends

Monday, January 16, 2017

Where's my water?

This week was good. It is good I feel good about it. I really do think I have changed a lot since I've come here because if I was Riley, this week would have stressed me out but Elder Larson can take it. This mission is all about adapting, keeping your standards, doing the best you can and adapting to the things that you need to adapt to. This week I had no water at my apartment. I don't know if all of you know all the implications of having your water cut for a week. Some of you might but it's not an easy thing. You use water to clean your hands, cook food, wash clothes, flush toilets, take showers. It all uses water. I'm sure you all know this, but just try living without water for a week and that's a little taste of what I did. However, I am very blessed to have a well right next to our apartment so we used well water for the days and also bought sacks of clean water to cook and drink. Sadly, that well is where all the mosquitoes lay their eggs, but it's all good. I was really blessed to have the water only gone for a week. There are many missionaries who have gone much longer, up to 18 days. I am so blessed: and the water came back on Saturday but you know how it came back? I went to look at the water system and saw one pipe was closed, I turned the lever and bang we had water again. The water was never cut but I guess when the water guy came the week before he closed it off and didn't open it again so we had water that whole week we just didn't use it. At that moment I thought about getting angry but I wasn't angry. I lived without water for a week for no reason, I bathed in mosquito invested water for no reason using a bowl. But guess what? I went all 12 apostle in this situation and thought about how turning that lever was like repenting and how a person has all the blessing waiting right there. The only thing they need is to repent and open the blessing of heaven, you just need to act. I wrote a lovely talk about that in my personal study journal and thanked the lord for the experience I had without water. It was a good week for learning lessons.

I also am great friends with Kola, we joke all the time. I never thought on my mission I would make such good friends with all these people, but these could be friends for life. Even though they live so far away. First Mukendi and Olela now Kola and Kiela, and many other Congolese friends, it's fantastic. If I had to choose my second nationality after American, it's Congolese by a long shot.

Kola got operated on this week he had an infection in his armpit or something and it was all swollen and big so they cut that thing open and for whatever reason we go back to the hospital every day in the morning to get it fixed up again. So, we were at the hospital every day this week, and probably next week. But Kola was so strong the day of his operation he wanted to go out into the sector and I'm like "no Kola, you're not even supposed to use your arm, they told you to rest for like three days." He is like "fine we will go out tomorrow," he is like "if I die in the sector I will be blessed forever. That's why I'm not scared to cross streets like you." Man, Kola is great.

He also found some old vitamins left by an old missionary and he takes one everyday and thinks it like gives him super powers or something. I explained to him how vitamins work but he is convinced all the problems in the world will be solved by taking his daily vitamin like I do. It’s so funny we went on splits the other day he is like okay what do I need to take? And all he ended up taking were his scriptures and one vitamin to take the next morning. To him all that is important is to take his daily vitamin.

Sorry there was not a whole lot of spiritual experiences to share this week besides the blessing of getting water back.
Living without water meant I bought a lot of bags of water and used a well. However...
...I realized I lived without water for a whole week for no reason The pipe was just closed. Ugh.
Hospital waiting room. I've spent a lot of time here, so glad I've not gotten sick
Dorsey and I made pancakes. Tasted just like camping pancakes and those are the best kind.
I made my first Congolese meal, foo foo! It was a little soft, but I'm becoming more Congolese by the day. I speak their language better than the language of Benin.
Me at a cyber (where I type my weekly email)
The amazing package Mackenzi Marsh sent me!
Me as Mr. Fox (This is my favorite movie)
Me with Ranaivoarisoa

Monday, January 9, 2017

LARSON-KOLA: Open Happiness

Well this week was nuts, I don’t have a ton of time to write today which stinks because I did so much this week. They say your mission doesn’t start until after your training and wow that feels about right. Me and Kola went to work this week, hard. Kola is a great teacher he studied educational methods before he came here and also does some mad personal study and has basically all the standard works memorized. He is strong, it’s crazy. We fixed 7 baptism dates this week and 2 of them were in the first lesson we taught with them. Kola knows how to invite people to baptism. It is like magic. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m going to learn. The guy knows how to work by the spirit too, he just looked at the numbers we had from the new sector we inherited and picked one that he felt good about. We taught him at the church and fixed a baptism date. We saw him again that week and he came to church. Kola, wow. We taught lessons like mad 27 lessons in one week! That’s my record and found 11 new investigators. We were out in the sector all day every day coming back late a few nights because Kola is not afraid to walk super far for our last meetings. So we walked a ton this week which is good. I like walking for the investigators that progress. I took what little time I had to relax to enjoy Benin knock off products. If you find the American brand name it still is never quite the same so I always go the cheaper knock off so when it tastes a little weird it’s justified. I took some picture I hope you enjoy!

Also with Kola I eat good; he cooks a lot. I’m trying to step in and help out but he just goes and cooks. We have had some really amazing peanut sauce this week that has been my favorite thing to eat here and also just great spaghetti. We made a kind of like pancake crepe thing, ahh so good. The food situation is great now, and I can still eat that tomato sauce and chicken too. It is still appealing to me, I have no idea how, but I like it still.

Oh btw I found a scale this week just to weigh myself. I found out that I’m 62kilos which meant nothing. I figured out I weigh 136lbs which means I have lost 7lbs already on my mission, wow, what a diet and exercise plan they have put together for this mission. Also there are lots of miracles that happen when you work well with your companion and do the missionary work to the best of your ability. I have been searching for one of the old investigators of Elder Olela. He was super interested in the church all he wanted was to be baptized he came to church every week and knew our church is true. However, when Olela and Warr got sick after 3 weeks of not having the lessons or anything he stopped coming. It was such a shame but I didn’t have his number or any way to find him, he was just lost, such a pity. However, I went on spits with Dorsey to help out in Jericho and out of the blue he is like hey there is an investigator of yours who works in Jericho, I said oh really who is it? and he is like idk but he says he was taught by Elder Warr and Olela. I didn’t even think of this guy. However, we go to see him and look who it is but it’s Er___! I was so happy, I couldn’t get his number because he doesn’t have one but he says he is going to come back to church and we can always call the Jericho elders to keep in touch, Its super cool! Miracles of God for Elders who work hard.

And I worked hard this week. When you send in your mission papers you ask if your physically able to handle walking a ton of miles every week, and I’m like sure yeah I can do that. I never thought that would be reached but sure enough I walked to and from the stake center every day this week which is 45mins away that’s 1hour and 30 mins of walking and that’s just for usually one or two lessons then were back to walking. It’s great I’m not tired I’m being helped, I can feel it.

Also, they passed a new law in Benin where you can’t like have porches that go out on the side walk. I didn’t even know there were sidewalks here because everyone’s cement porch goes right up to the road. So, every person has to destroy their porch with pickaxes and shovels and chisels. So, Benin is getting destroyed from the inside. Everyone is breaking up their porches, it’s nuts and Kola loves service so we’ve been getting dirty with our white shirts and joining in on the fun of destroying Benin one porch at a time.

Delicious peanut sauce
My best self given haircut so far
Off Brand Twix and KitKat
Look closely - Ray Dan; Off brand sun glasses

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Dusty Week in Jericho

Wow, what a crazy week it has been. Mukendi left early morning last week, so sad. The next day Olela left and I was sent to Jericho to stay with Elder Dorsey for the week to wait for our new companions who were in Togo. But it also happened to coincide with one of the seasons here in Benin. I don’t know really what it’s called but I call it the dusty season. It is ridiculous from day to night. It looks as though there is just a fog throughout the city but really it’s just dust. idk what it is but it makes my throat really hurt breathing in that stuff all day. Kola says it lasts about a month. It means things are a little less hot, but not by much, and you have to de-dust everything about every thirty seconds or there is another centimeter of dust already. It’s super weird. Nothing like the snow I usually see at this time.

Anyway, so I arrived in Jericho and Dorsey's trainer was there with a huge smile on his face. A smile that you could tell today was the day he was getting on a flight to go home, and indeed was he happy. Elder Ndibu was a little crazy, but I loved that guy. He was there just for the morning as happy as could be and then we said good bye and off he went leaving me and elder Dorsey with all of Jericho. Jericho, a place most missionaries hate, not Dorsey because Dorsey loves everything. However it is overflowing with Muslims selling things in bulk and not a ton of people to teach. We taught a few lessons here and there. Their rice cooker was a little messed up so I jerry rigged that thing with a floor squeegee thing and a chair to cook some rice. I thought I would be at Jericho for only a little while so I only brought one tie one shirt and one pair of pants. What a mistake, but oh well that’s what this mission is like. They said on Friday is when Kola and Kiala (Dorsey’s companion) would arrive. So we waited and waited then we got an emergency call from the office elders to go to my apartment in Menontin immediately to wait for Kola to come so I grabbed my stuff and Dorsey grabbed some stuff too and we called my taxi guy. He was too busy at a short notice and kind of mad I even asked. Dorsey didn’t have a taxi guy to call so we just went out in the street. I’m carrying my pillow and mosquito net and a box of the African knock off of top ramin and Dorsey had a big suit case and his pillow and we are walking around Jericho trying to find a taxi. We find one guy but he says he won’t take us because it’s too close to be worth his time and lots of people were shouting at us however I bribed him with some money, explained where I live and he got us there. I was so proud of myself. I was able to explain, by myself, how to get to a place in one of the craziest cities in the world. Kola didn’t arrive in Menontin though until midnight that night. And to this moment I’m still with Elder Dorsey because his companion still isn’t here.

Kola is a Congolese missionary he was in the MTC with my trainer Mukendi. He started his mission here in Benin in Jericho in fact and after a while he went to Togo and now he’s back in Benin to finish out his mission. He was born in the church he has 11 brothers and sisters he is the fifth to serve a mission in his family and his father was an area 70 for a while. He is super cool. I was scared because of all the rumors. Most were true, but this guy is really a case by case basis. And Mukendi and Olela put in good words for me and he talked to me that first day and he is like yeah this will work. He is different then Mukendi for sure, but this will work.

Haha this mission... the stories I’ll have when I get back will blow your minds.
A older picture from Christmas.  President and Sister Morin, Mukendi, and other missionaries from our zone.
Me and Dorsey
The city of Jericho and all the dust
How I jerry rigged the rice cooker
There was a rubix cube in the Jericho apartment. I solved it so the OCD people would go crazy
Me and Kola (my new companion)