Sunday, January 31, 2016

"There you have it, yet another week in a Bénin, Cotonou Mission".

Dear Family:
 Though this week may not have been as productive as normal, it was, all the same, quite fruitful in the end.
 On Tuesday, my comp. and I held our first English Course and we had quite the turn out. It was a lot of fun, a lot of people showed up and everyone actively participated. A few of the people there already new the majority of everything that we taught and so it was sort of a review for them.
  On Wednesday, I went on a split with Elder Whitt's companion E. Ranaivorisoa in their secateur at Baguida. The majority of the day consisted of doing a whole lot of OVB throughout proselyting hours, and then holding an English Course where we would teach the one person who showed up and doing a baptismal interview for a girl named Sr. Sesilia (who was baptized last Saturday) before leaving back to my apartment.
  On Thursday, my comp. and I had a Bible bash with a coiffeur (hair cutter) during the morning, which lasted for a little over an hour. He argued on a lot of points concerning the Restoration of the Gospel. We tried in every way we could to help him understand that the Gospel, the authority of the Priesthood along with the same organization or church that had been established by Jesus Christ himself and has existed in every dispensation, but the Spirit wasn't present and the man too arrogant to accept anything that we taught him, even though we confounded him more times than my guy and I could count using his own words along with the scriptures. He argued that we no longer have need of prophets, apostles or the same organization that had been established by Jesus Christ himself and said that he will never been convinced that a Restoration has taken place unless he reads is directly from the Bible (which testifies of the Great Apostasy along with the Restoration on several accounts). At times, it astounds me at how blinded some can be to the truth that has been plainly written and placed beneath their eyes; however, so arrogant and prideful is the heart of men that there are some that don't want to accept this message even when it makes -- at least to me -- perfect sense. So shall they remain until their hearts are softened and are then pierced into by the witness of the Holy Spirit that these things are true! The only thing that we can do in these kind of circumstances is to just let these differences go and to serve, to not judge, to help and to become friends with these kinds of people. Teaching with a humble heart and atmosphere is absolutely essential for spiritual progression along with spiritually edifying experiences; without the Spirit, we're merely shouting words back and forth against figurative, mental brick walls like water balloons.
  Anyway, for the remainder of the evening, my companion fell sick and started having the runs and so we stayed in the apartment until it was time for us to go to the church to teach a scripture study class. We only had two participants at this class, which included Fr. Honoré, a ward missionary who works with us from time to time, along with Sr. Clarisse, a member in our ward who has gone on mini missions with Sister missionaries in our zone and will be leaving in a couple weeks to do her own full-time mission in the Côte d'Ivoire, Abidjan Mission. What we did was actually really cool, in that we taught them how to effectively teach the first point of the Restoration, The True Nature of God, by using many scriptures to answer specific questions that have been posed to us found in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon. This point focuses in on the Divinity, or the belief that God, the Eternal Father, his son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, are three distinct individuals who are united in purpose and in doctrine.
  On Friday, we had quite a busy day. First thing in the morning, my guy and I did weekly planning and were shortly thereafter picked up by our taxi man Fr. Richard to go back to Baguida because I forgot to sign the baptismal form of E. Whitt's baptismal candidate before I left. Later in the afternoon, I went on a split with E. Mayamba in order to go to Akodesewa to do another baptismal interview for a baptismal candidate of E. Hammons and E. Florion while E. Joseph stayed with E. Miyasaki in Bè-Kpota so E. Miyasaki could do an interview for three of our candidates, which included Sr. Shérifa, Sr. Akuto, and Fr. Dieudonné. I finished with my interview in time to be dropped back off at Bè-Kpota from Akodesewa before our candidates' interviews had been completed. Shortly after I arrived, I learned that not only was everyone good to go, but the sisters were older than they had originally told us from the beginning. Sr Shérifa, who I thought was either eighteen or nineteen, is actually twenty-one whereas her sister, who I believed to be fourteen, is actually eighteen. The people here have a weird tendency to give us either false names (usually done by men) or ages (mostly done by women). I believe they're taught to do this when they're young just as to how we teach our children to not talk to strangers.
 In any case, Sr. Shérifa, Sr. Akuto, as well as Fr. Dieudonné whom I've taught ever since I first arrived in Be-Kpota along with all of the other previously mentioned investigators where baptized Saturday afternoon and then confirmed as members the following day at their respective church buildings during Sacrament Meeting.
  Our three investigators are super fantastic and we've become great friends with them ever since we began teaching them. It was difficult teaching them at first because they had a hard time understanding and keeping commitments by not reading scriptures nor coming to church. It also took a long time before we were able to get through all the lessons, but as we patiently went along they progressively began to better understand and keep commitments by reading the BofM and coming to church. Though it took a while, they now understand the doctrine really well and were able to become converted based on what they've learned along with the witness that they've received from the Spirit that our message along with the church are true.
  On Sunday, after the confirmation of our investigators and the Sacrament Meeting, we went to our investigator class where I would translate for our new Nigerian investigator Bro. Alex who has now come to church for the second time since we've recently began teaching him. At the third hour, I taught Fr. Alex while E. Joseph taught another one of our investigators named Fr. Anoumou. Fr. Alex and I had an interesting discussion and he asked me so many questions that I ended up teaching him about the Great Apostasy, The Restoration, the story of Joseph Smith, along with the Book of Mormon all in accordance to what he asked me to find out.
  As for the remainder of the afternoon, we went back to the apartment where we would rest and then prepare ourselves to go to Sr. Clarisse's house to spend time with her and her family and then eat a ton of pat with great tasting sauce. Afterwards, we went to see an investigator named Sr. Zeynab, an English-speaking girl born in Niger, to wish her a happy birthday before we went back to the apartment. As we were getting ready to leave, she gave us a small pizza along with a cork-bottled container filled with non-alcoholic, red cyder juice. I felt bad taking this because I had nothing to offer as a gift, but she insisted and so we took them without refusal. We ate the pizza, which tasted like overheated quesadillas, and drank the drink, which was actually really tasty, once we got back to the apartment.
  Well, my family, there you have it, yet another week in a Bénin, Cotonou Mission in Bè-Kpota, Lomé, Togo.  

 Thank you so much for the thorough and very encouraging email that you sent me. It was really great to be able to read this and it really made me feel a lot better about myself for the efforts that I'm trying to make to be more diligent and obedient when it seems like no one else in the zone seems to care anymore. Transfers are coming up next week and its always during this time that most of the Elders seem to have difficulty wanting to work and do as much as they're capable of doing. Prayers on behalf of the missionaries in the zone would be genuinely appreciated because no matter what I do to be a good example and to encourage others to do what they should be doing doesn't seem to make a difference. This work is a sacred calling that deserves not only the best of us, but to also be taken seriously and be magnified; although, it would be nice if others felt the way I do.

 Well, I'm super glad that all is going well on your side of the world and I pray that all may continue to do so. You're all so wonderful and I love you all so much. I would encourage you to make to best usage of your time as possible by consistently serving others, by searching to make a positive difference in your own lives and in those around you, by spending wholesome, quality, fun and spiritual time with friends and family, and by choosing to make each day a gift to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 I love you, God bless, and may you have a wonderful, upcoming week, and may all work out in your favor so long as it is aligned with the Lord's.

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