Monday, May 29, 2017

Well, not a lot happened

Before I start my letter home I would like to make a shout out to my brother and friend Elder Abbott. I know he reads the blog and he is a super cool dude. Our many hours in that small MTC classroom were some of the funniest moments in my mission. He was the best office Elder I’ve ever seen and I wish him the best of luck on his adventures in the Americas.

And in regards to my last email if anyone of you is worried about me don’t be, I’m alright! Day to day life here might seem really hard but you get used to it, I promise. I’m doing great!

However I know each and every week I see and hear the weirdest things and I know if I could just recognize them as weird they would be great interesting stories but honestly I’m beginning to not see things through the same eyes. Things that were weird have become normal which is going to make for a hard culture shock going back.

However I have a really weird story. All day everyday people insult us, jeer at us, say all sorts of stuff to us in their native language that we don’t understand. It so normal we just ignore and walk on. How could an insult we don’t understand affect us? But sometimes we work with members who speak the language to translate for those who don’t speak French and they sometimes find it hard working with us because they understand everything.

One of these days a super old lady, like super old, missing teeth and stuff old kept following us and saying stuff in Fon and the member with us kept laughing but we kept walking. He asked if we knew what she was saying and he explained she was following us because she wanted yovo babies or she wanted the white guy (me) to give her white babies that made me feel uncomfortable, but I’m trying to forget about all that.

Also, one other observation I have made. This mission is small, very small in Benin we only cover two cities but the sectors are so massive and there are so few missionaries not many people hear the gospel. Things are progressing little by little here and the mission is only on its second almost third mission president but I met this guy who loves our message but can’t come to church because he lives with his family in a village two hours up north and he just comes to Hêvié to work but he just has all these friends that he wants us to teach up in his village. He wants to have church meetings up there and have his whole family join. It’s sad because it will be many years before that can happen maybe it will be through this guy the church gets up there, who knows. I’m so happy to teach him though it shows how the gospel can change lives even if the person doesn’t get baptized the teachings and applications of the principles are what matter and I know God knows his heart, the little joys of this work.

Yeah other than that no big news that I can remember just waiting for something to change.

I didn't take any pics this week, but here are some old ones I haven't sent before

Me with Abbott in the MTC - my good friend

My district eating igname pilé

Zone activity

With Sister Morin - the meeting where she gave me my birthday tie (two months after my birthday)

Monday, May 22, 2017

I'm a survivor

What am I a survivor of? This week. Well yeah Elder Larson everyone made it through the week, oh yeah you’re right...But let me tell you about mine.

This week was rough. It started with the rain. All of Tuesday it rained and if you want to go teach in the rain in Cococodji you’re going swimming because the roads are so poorly designed that they are flooded and the water can only leave by evaporation. So that means wet and muddy shoes for us for the rest of the week too.

On Tuesday they cut our power yet again because the mission forgot to pay our bill, once again. And our phone died so we couldn’t plan and everything was still flooded.

On Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, maybe Friday too I can’t remember completely but we had no water so we had to go find some people who we could get water from. We were able to find some water so we filled up some old big plastic tanks that the people use to transport gasoline, washed them up and had to walk them back to our apartment. As we suffered to lug those heavy things back I watched as all the people we passed mock me, the weak white boy struggling to carry one tank while my companion marched ahead with two.

All of my progressing investigators left Hevie at the same time or found work so we lost lots of good people to teach and motivation. Last week I talked about two new investigators I found that were just golden yeah they were chased away by some ex-members and other investigators that go around preaching our church is the church of the devil.

So seeing those people refuse to answer our calls really hurt me and my confidence and Saturday it rained again.

All the times we stayed in, the disappointment in the sector, the rain, no power, no water, and it is almost month nine and all I’ve eaten is tomato sauce and rice! It sounds really hard but I’m smiling big today because there are not just 6 days in a week but the Sabbath day can change it all!

The past two Sundays we only had 1 investigator at church but this week I had 7!!!! Out of no where people who said they couldn’t come because they had no money for transport, walked to church, non progressing investigators became progressing; old investigators who had stopped coming came back and some new faces brought by my converts came too and the joy of the work made all the bad memories and the pain go away! Now I’m not just surviving, I’m living.

My muddy shoes
The bridge under construction

The following are a bunch of pictures I took on the roof of my apartment:
Some junk on my roof

Monday, May 15, 2017

The magic Chinese

Well, this week I got to call home! And hear all sorts of things! That was super cool. I got some feedback on my blog which was cool because it’s one of the things I like the best. I try to be honest about what’s going on and how I feel. And my parents said my weekly posts have a tone that I’m barely surviving or something. Which is quite funny because the more I thought about that I realized that day to day living here is survival, that is for sure. But that should not make you guys worried for me I really love my mission, because the craziness, the hard times, all that changes me and now I just laugh it off. It’s never easy but it’s always possible to over come the daily difficulties with a smile.

This whole week we have had no water pressure, which means we have to leave the faucet open all the time to fill up water bottles with the slight drips of water that come out of the sink to later poor them on our mounds of dirty dishes. It’s sad there is never enough water to cook or clean so we have all learned the art of patience as we watch little drips of water fill up a pot in 20 mins that used to be filled up in 3 seconds.

This week was kind of hard for some reason because we looked at our investigators at the beginning of this week and we saw we only had two investigators in progress, which means we had work to do. My companion is a little tired though so I had been praying and fasting that I could have people prepared for the gospel to come to me so we could teach them. And this Wednesday we found 3 new investigators who were super prepared, you could say it was a miracle, and for me it was a direct answer to my prayers.

A fun story to end things off. The Beninois people believe in voodoo and also in the power to stop rain. There is a saying it never rains Saturday in Benin because the voodoo people will stop the rain, and during the rainy season it rains almost every Monday because the voodoo people stop holding back the rain from the weekend. It’s a really funny legend but everyone here believes it with a passion. However, in Hevie the legend has changed because there are a bunch of Chinese people building a bridge between Cococodji and Hevie and everyone is convinced the Chinese are so technologically advanced they can stop the rain with their magic Chinese powers so they can continue working on the bridge. We try to tell them that that makes no sense but they refuse to believe, so here in Benin the Chinese fight against God.

An investigator prepared a special meal. She knew fish is not my favorite, so she cooked me some cheese instead.

My District

He is waiting for a visa to go to South Africa, until then he started his mission here.

Serpent Temple flashback

By the water in Come

Water fight?

Some of my MTC group

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Audio Recording

We got to talk to Riley for Mother's Day.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have a way to do video but we have some audio from his conversation.  We asked him to speak to us in some of the languages he is learning.   Hear his comments here- Link

Monday, May 8, 2017

Freezing hot

Well this week we had some big rain storms in Benin which means the temperature drops a little bit in the day. At night, it always drops a few degrees. Now I have seen how much I have adapted to the mission because two nights this week I got cold. Like not just comfortable, but cold like my feet were cold I turned off my fan and shivered a little. You know what temperature it was? 86 degrees, the lowest temperature I’ve seen on the mission and that felt cold to me. It just shows living in 90's and 100's all day every day never stopping sweating really changes the body.

In the middle of this week we had a security meeting because we had some problems in the mission so the church sent two Nigerian experts to talk to all the missionaries about safety. It was kind of funny, because they only could speak in there weird Nigerian English and they chose elder Ellison to translate. He did a good job but there were some phrases that were kind of hard to translate with our vocabulary, like for example "sisters, if rape is attempted, one preventive measure is to defecate in your pants" but yeah this mission really isn’t too big into helping us with security. In Benin the vigilantly justice against stealing is nice to keep things a little bit safer, and if we follow the rules it should be okay. This mission has a habit of when the smoke detectors are low on batteries and make that little noise, the missionaries tend to bash them to pieces instead of replacing the battery. So the whole mission got a talking to for that but I, myself have seen three smoke detectors destroyed by the hands of tired missionaries.

This week I had an amazing occasion to teach primary with Elder Mayani. The primary in Cococodji is super crazy, as in super interesting. Every student could recite all the articles of faith in order at the same time and also they knew many stories in the book of Mormon and the Bible from memory. It was amazing to see how robotic they could recite answers as if all they do is memorize things. They don’t sing primary hymns their favorite hymns are the Christmas ones in the big hymn book so that’s what we sang. But being in there brought me back to my days in primary, even though it was completely different, the church has the same organization everywhere.

This Sunday I watched as they gave a baby blessing to a toddler who was a little too big to be held but they did in any way and he was squirming all over the place as they tried to bless him and all the other children of the dads in the circle were at their feet crying. It was quite a fiasco, but super fun to watch.

I have weekly experiences with an investigator in progress name Ro__, the son of the parents I baptized. He is super smart and was really hesitant to accept our message but little by little I see the lord blessing his life as he starts to change his life to better follow Jesus Christ. It’s really we invite and as he follows, he changes, it’s hard for him to see the change but we see it and it makes all the difference.

Mama Mi___ fed us pat and had us wear bibs so we didn't get our white shirts dirty

African Sunset

Ants got in my skittles, so I had to wash them

Monday, May 1, 2017

Licensed to kill

Well transfers were this week, and nothing changed so I’m am now a licensed killer hired by my mission president to kill missionaries. My second target is Elder Mayani, the Congolese. However, it should be great. It’s kind of funny to see these missionaries that have done two years in this mission. They are so adapted they are completely insane but that’s okay.

In this mission, we use gas stoves to cook everything, it’s a pain because when the gas can runs out we do a ton of exercise to walk the empty can to a gas place and pick up a new can, it’s painful, tiring and is a four man job in Cococodji. Our gas stove has had a leak for a while and now the stove is broken so we have done all our cooking in our rice cooker, a little crockpot shaped Chinese invention made to cook rice, and rice only. But we have been very experimental and have cooked spaghetti, eggs, sauces, turkey, fish, and many more foods in a machine that is only made to cook rice. The mission forces you to get creative and suffer just a little bit.

This week we did the best we could to do some work for the lord. It wasn’t all easy because as I said before no one is in my sector unless it’s a Wednesday or a Saturday like one day we called every single one of our investigators like 30 people and not one person was at home so we just went out and tried to find anybody to see. We found some people and new investigators and we were blessed, but it was not easy.

We also had a stake conference so I got to go back to my old sector/ ward of Menontin and I saw my converts that I baptized being super strong members and they work hard with the missionaries to bring in more people. Just seeing that made me so happy. I haven’t touched a lot of people’s lives like I thought I would but I have helped people change their own lives for themselves and that’s even better. It was a good week. 

The Mi____at stake conference

A corn field in Benin, it made me think of Iowa

An old picture walking with Raveneau. (Taken by Ellison)

Chilling at the church with Mayani waiting for people that will never show up