5th Day in Benin

Today Elder Phillips and Elder Loveless invited us to go to teach with them. Actually we had to go quite a ways over to the other side of Cotonou and I think they wanted us to go so we would pay for the taxi. The taxi system here is interesting. As I see it, there are about 3 classes of taxis. The first and most popular is the moto taxi which is any kind of a bike or a scooter, which haul chickens, refrigerators, 20 foot pieces of pipe or even drag pieces or rebar down the road. We have seen all those things on the back of a moto as well as up to 4 people riding on one. Actually the Honda, Suzuki and other kinds of bikes likely made in China are probably the most popular but you see about everything. Although you do see some women, most of the drivers are men and wear a yellow type jacket indicating they are for hire. I understand it is very cheap to travel that way although it is not allowed for missionaries. Charlotte was disappointed in that!! You just wouldn’t believe the hoards of them that are on the road. I think I said thousand in one of my letters but I probably need to change that to at least hundreds of thousands. It is just incredible. Most of the passengers are women because it is the women that are really the shakers and movers here. I need to talk about the dress here but I am getting sidetracked. The next step up in the taxi line is the small cars, generally old but still running and usually yellow in color also. They cost a little more but are still cheap. Any number from 1 to about 10 can ride in one of them. If you stand out on a main road for 1 minute probably only 8 or 10 would pass where there would probably be 50 or so motos. Top of the class appears to be the nicer cars like the one we hired. We sort of have the driver, Herman, on our side now and he knows where we live and where the chapel and Southam’s apartment are located so we can just give him a call and he comes. We pay a premium price. The elders weren’t very proud of our bargaining skills when we told them what we were paying. It is probably 5 or 6 miles from here to the Chapel and takes about 15 minutes. We give him 3,000 CFA’s or Benin Francs which is about $6.00. Try that in the US. When we went with the elders they beat him down a little more.

There is a girl here in the branch that is actually from Nigeria so she speaks English. Her name is Precious Dike (pronounced DeeKay). She pretty much adopted Charlotte from day 1 and vice versa. Her sister is also interested in the gospel and wants to be baptized. Unfortunately, her “husband” is a bit of a no count and although they have 2 children and are expecting another they aren’t married. In addition, he has to have her parents permission to marry Joy and they don’t think much of him either. Maybe he hasn’t figured out that beating up their daughter isn’t the way to impress the parents. Anyway we went out and read with them the proclamation on the family hopefully to encourage both of them a little. Precious met us there for the meeting and then we went to her home and met her mother and kids. The taxi driver took us out there, waited the better part of an hour for us to give the lesson, took all 5 of us over to Precious’ home, waited there for 10 or 15 minutes then brought us back. The cost? 5,000 cfa’s or about $10. The elders only receive about 33,000 cfa every two weeks or around $70 so they have to bargain quite carefully but they report that they get by fine on that.

After the meeting at Joy’s house we taught a lady that owns a little store only a few hundred yards from the chapel. Her name is Sonya. She is well educated and speaks both English and French fluently. You have to picture this little store on a busy corner with a large door wide open. Most of the merchandise is outside on the sidewalk so we set up some chairs inside the store and with the thousands of motos and cars going by, jets crossing overhead (the chapel is right in the path to the airport), we sing a hymn, have a prayer and a real nice meeting. Sonya wants to read the Book of Mormon but the missionaries won’t give her one until she comes to church. They also stressed the importance of the Sabbath day and encouraged her to start closing her store on Sunday. That is going to be hard but the elders aren’t timid. They tell it like it is. I am very impressed with the way they teach. We will see what happens.

Back at the chapel in the evening we had a training meeting with Elders Hubbard (the district leader) and Carter. Precious and Carol were there. Carol is a beautiful young girl who has her mission call right now to serve in the Ivory Coast mission. She leaves in May. She is very impressive. Later on was a missionary coordination meeting with all the elders and branch missionaries. Two other young boys from the branch, are getting ready to serve missions and are impressive young men. If you stay away from last names here you can usually get by okay. Most of the last names are Fon names and are not only difficult to spell or say but almost impossible to remember. Charlotte and I had to introduce ourselves and Charlotte did it in French. I was very proud of her. She told how many children and grandchildren we have and that we wanted to come on a mission to share the gospel. I told them that wasn’t completely true. It was snowing where we came from and we just wanted to come some place to get warm. They got a big kick out of that. The heat here is oppressive. It is getting up to about 90 and nearly 100% humidity. You sweat all the time. Most people carry a rag and wipe to wipe the sweat off. I think we will eventually get used to it but right now we are suffering a little. If you have a good fan it helps a lot but the power goes off on a regular basis. Gratefully it has not been for long periods of time, especially at night. Elder Southam says the warmest he has ever seen is 94 so hopefully we are in the hottest part of the year. I was afraid that we were just starting into summer but supposedly July and August are actually quite cool. We’ll see.

Oh, I almost forgot, President Dill called the Southams earlier and wants to meet with them and us in Togo next week so we went down and got Togo VISAs. We leave on Tuesday and will stay over there in a hotel on Tuesday night and visit with President Dill. I think he is also bringing a vehicle for us. We are looking forward to meeting him. We are also looking forward to having some wheels but not necessarily to driving. That will be another experience. Charlotte says all the trouble we went through to get her an international drivers license was wasted.

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