I mentioned before that being here has changed my perspective of gratitude so much. The many things I mentioned in my prayers as I expressed gratitude for my blessings in Blanding seem like a million miles away. I feel like we have been living a life of abundance and excess. On Saturday we went to visit a family who lives on the edge of the lake in a home like Pete described when they visited Ganvie, the city in the lake. It was made out of small poles and on stilts about three or four feet off the ground. The lake is low right now so you could walk to their home and just avoid a few puddles of water. In another month or so when the rainy season begins, you have to wade through knee deep water to get there. It isn’t cool, clean water either. To get inside, you simply climb up a rickety pole ladder and when inside the floor is just more poles, mostly bamboo kind of woven together. When I say kind of, that is exactly what I mean. I just knew we would all fall through any minute. I don’t think they worry even for a minute about whether or not the power or the water goes off. Besides Zashaie, the man of the house, there were the two Elders, Pete and me, plus at one point 13 kids. Only three kids were his but we yovos seemed to be the best side show around that day and attracted quit a lot of attention from the neighborhood children who seem to roam the houses as they see fit. Furnishings consisted of a wood bench to sit on and a relic buffet that resembled a reject from the dump. Underneath through the bamboo floor you could see a couple of small pigs rooting around. The smell of putrid water, fish, trash, etc was pretty bad. To be honest, I was really glad to get all of us in and back out without the whole thing collapsing.
Zashaie is an investigator who is a fisherman. He showed us his boat which is a large log hollowed out which came from Nigeria on the other side of the lake. It was the most humble abode I have been in but what was so remarkable was how happy he and the kids seem to be. Here material things do not seem to equate with happiness. He is traditionally married to his wife, which is not accepted by the government of Benin, and he is saving his money so he can get married by the state. That is a requirement before he can be baptized. Also the African tradition is one of polygamy, so that can be a bit of a problem, but hopefully not in Zashaie’s case. Polygamy is dying away now and since about 2 years ago, the Benin government doesn’t sanction it anymore. We don’t encourage divorce or abandonment of a spouse. Basically if a person is involved in a polygamist relationship then we just leave it at that and don’t teach them. If older children want to be baptized, they can be but have to be interviewed first by the mission president. The next thing Zashaie did absolutely blew my mind as he wanted to know how he could pay his tithing even before he is baptized. We wanted so badly to tell him not to worry about it but then decided he probably needs the promised blessings as much as anyone we know. Zashaie loves to sing and has been coming to choir practice and even is trying to learn the keyboard. In fact, we met him on our first day in Cotonou. His wife is a member of another church so she hasn’t taken the discussions but was friendly when we met her. She is a very beautiful woman and impeccably dressed. It amazes me that she could keep herself so clean and neat living in that kind of environment. Pete said I was a real trooper as I just went up and down that ladder without even falling off. Of course, I had a good hand from the Elders and Pete!