President Ayekoue Visits Cotonou

A big African Bonjour from Cotonou. I think we have set a precedence for ourselves with the expectations we seem to have from posting our blog each week. This is the second week now that Elder Black has not had a free minute to write so will make another feeble attempt to inform everyone of our life here this past week. First of all, we have had electricity every day for one week. Hurray! Each day I remember to give thanks for things that are certainly taken for granted at home. I would like to give you an example of humble gratitude of one of our investigators who will soon be baptized. We have mention MMa before when we described to you her goat intestine soup. She is from Nigeria and is trying desperately to make a living for herself and nephew plus send some money to her mother in Nigeria. She has had restaurant experience and decided to open a small little cafe by the road on one of the residential streets in Akpakpa, an area of Cotonou. She did not have enough money for electricity so she cooks on the little charcoal burners that are so prevalent here. Since coming to our church, the pastor from her previous congregation told people not to patronize her establishment; therefore, she has very little business. When we were there last week in her prayer she was thankful for the air we breathe, the sunshine, the rain, our health, that we have food to eat, a place to sleep, etc. For her, a place to sleep was the floor of her restaurant, food was not three squares a day, and health was not having enough money for malaria medicine when she contracted the disease, but she was thankful. It is almost embarrassing to think of what we have at home and how little we think of how much we waste every day. I have gotten to the point where, even when we say at home that we are thankful for our blessings, I really wonder if we even know what we are saying. I guess that is not for us to judge. I am certain that we have talked about this before but being in Africa has certainly changed our concept of wants vs needs and gratitude for what we have. Not that we were not grateful before, I guess we just never realized that so many people have so little and are perhaps more grateful for what little they have than we seem to be for the abundance we enjoy.

Soeur Black is busy helping Godwin with the dishes so I will take over for a bit. Godwin is one of our branch members who is waiting for his mission call which could be coming any time now. He lives here in Cotonou by himself. His father lives in Togo and his mother lives somewhere out in a village but he doesn’t seem to have much to do with his mother. I think it has to do with something about the step father she married. Being alone he seems to show up once in a while about meal time and seems to enjoy Soeur Black’s cooking. We are happy to have him come because he never takes advantage and always wants to do the dishes or help in any way he can. He just seems really grateful for any help we offer. I am sure a few times he has come, he hasn’t eaten for a day or perhaps more. He has taught himself English and likes to practice that when he can but he is always soft spoken and never obnoxious. He quietly goes about doing whatever he can in the Branch and is going to make a terrific missionary.

President and Sister AyekoueI suppose the big news this week is the visit of President Ayekoue along with his wife and daughter. We picked them up at the airport on Thursday afternoon and got them checked into a Hotel then had interviews here at our apartment that evening until late with Sister Black and me, Elder Crooks (our district leader), and Elder Kabangu who is being released. After that we had a nice dinner before taking them back to the hotel. President Ayekoue can get by in English but speaks French whenever possible. Sister Ayekoue is just learning English so she and Soeur Black practiced on each other. The big news, and you will note that most of the pictures for the week are about Happy Ayekoue. She is the 2 month old daughter and is just a doll. She wins everyone heart. President and Sister Ayekoue have a 9 year old boy and then have not been able to have any other children until this little girl was born 2 months ago. When she was 5 weeks old they took her to Provo to the Mission Presidents’ seminar for 10 days. I guess they almost got her taken away there with all of the older mission presidents and their wives. President Ayekoue has a huge job ahead with very little help. They have not had any white elders in Ivory Coast since they had a revolution there a couple of years ago. Also the only mission couples are us here in Benin and the Gillis’ in Togo–none at all in the mission office, so he is trying to get by with just two elders in the office and one sister who helps with office work. Add to that a two month old baby and you get the idea of the size of job he is facing.

A few weeks ago I wrote a proposal that we needed to divide the branch here and spread out our missionary efforts in the City. The chapel here is crowded to capacity every Sunday and everyone, missionaries and members, are pretty much stacked on top of each other. I have kept it a little quiet so as not to cause a stir in the Branch. When we had our interview with the President, he said that he and President Dil had talked about it and both thought it was the way to go, so he gave us the go-ahead to locate missionaries into Akpakpa and get a branch started there. On Saturday, we had a meeting with all of the Branch leadership. He gave some really good training talking about keeping the commandments and helping the church to grow. Then he drew a map and said the plan was ready to make two more branches in the City. I guess the cat is out of the bag now and we have our work cut out getting missionaries re-established and two new branches formed. It is pretty exciting and a much-needed step, but will be a lot of work by the time we find facilities, define boundaries and call new leadership. Other new assignments are that Soeur Black is to inspect the elders’ apartments on a regular basis and give instructions as needed, and we are to establish a mini distribution center here at our apartment. That will help a lot also because getting even basic materials here like Bibles and triple combinations seems to be a problem. President Ayekoue isn’t one to overlook details either. Other jobs are to change the curtains in the Branch President office from the flower prints to white and to make sure there is toilet paper in the bathrooms and see that the chalkboards are erased when class is over. The toilet paper has been a problem because the members sometimes take it home so someone is assigned to gather it up and put it away after church. No more. President Ayekoue says if that is a problem then teach the branch members not to take the toilet paper home. It is just amazing the things you get into when you serve a mission in Africa. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Not everyone gets a Mission President picture like this

Not everyone gets a Mission President picture like this

Elder Black and Happy Ayekoue

Elder Black and Happy Ayekoue

Its hard to tell who is the happiest

It’s hard to tell who is the happiest

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