After the visit of President Ayekoue and his friendly encouragement, we decided that we need to be little more diligent in following the words of the song, “The world has need of willing men Who wear the worker’s seal. Come, help the good work move along; Put your shoulder to the wheel.” I wonder if he knows how old these shoulders are? But we are so thankful that we are able to be here and working every day as we try to help some of the people in Cotonou. He wants us to move a little faster on getting the branch divided and finding a new missionary apartment in Akpaka. Therefore, the day after he left, we headed for Akpaka with one goal in mind: to find an apartment for the elders. In Cotonou this is not an easy task as there are no “for sale” or “for rent” signs on any of the buildings. So the first place we went was to talk to the owner of the apartment that we missed renting by one day and asked if he knew of any other apartments which were for rent. He said no but gave us the name of an immoblier, who is like a real estate agent at home. We called and met him to look at two apartments which were very nice but a little too nice and costly for missionaries. But he did agree, however, for 5000 cfs to look in earnest or us. I swore we would not use one of these immobliers but it seems as if we yovos don’t know the system well enough to do it solo.
There are many children in Cotonou and every street has many kids to keep the chickens and goats company. They seem to know a little ditty from birth about yovos, and it goes something like this: “Yovo, Yovo, Bon soir. Ca va Bien, merci.” Literally translated it means: “White person, white person. Good evening, How are you? Very well, thank you.” The kids seem to know this from birth and have no idea what it means except that it is to be chanted over and over again every time a white person is around. Needless to say, already we have heard it hundreds of times. The kids seem to be curious about us but the adults don’t pay any attention. A few days ago I was sitting in the car waiting for Pete when a kid about 11 or 12 walked by, and when he noticed a yovo was sitting in the car he turned his head for a better look and hit his face on the side mirror. A lady was walking toward him and proceeded to give him a big whack for his curiosity. Many of the little kids wave and want to hold my hand.
I love the little children here. I guess it is the grandmother in me but I have had the strings to my heart pulled many times already. In some respects kids are the same the world over–playing, laughing, arguing with siblings, and being mischievous, but here they have to be a little more creative in how they play. I have seen very few toys as we know toys. The most common one is an old moto tire being rolled down the road either with the hand or guided by a stick. The boys frequently have neighborhood soccer games going often with a flat, worn-out ball but they are having a good time regardless. One incidence that pulled at my heart in a more negative way happened when we were visiting a semi-active member. We had not seen her in church for quite awhile and were sitting in front of her apartment watching the neighbors in the little dirt courtyard as we visited. There were several little children and two or three mothers. One little boy about 2 or 3 was playing quietly by himself pounding a nail or something in the dirt with a stick and his mother got up from her cooking and gave him a big whack. A while later, she got up and gave him a bigger whack. I was so disturbed by it that I wanted to get up and give the little kid a great big hug, but I couldn’t interfere. Kids are generally not encouraged to be curious or creative. In school they are taught to memorize and recite and not reason.
I mentioned Obed and Pacome in a previous blog that they were both baptized not long ago. They both love Primary and love music so I promised them a Primary Children’s Song Book. I thought that I could get one from Ghana soon but could not so I really appreciated Jody sending them from Provo. Several weeks passed before I could give the boys their books. Obed was so excited he favored me with my first African kiss. Being a senior missionary definitely has its perks!
Back to the apartment search. When we were in Akpakpa talking to another immoblier, he mentioned that he had an apartment that met our specifications but it was in Mennotin instead of Akpakpa. Much to his surprise, we told him that it just so happened that we needed one in Mennotin, also. So the next day we were on the other side of Cotonou from Akpakpa looking at an apartment in Mennotin. Much to our surprise, it was indeed just what we were looking for in an ideal location and the price was right. So today, Saturday, Elder Black, Frere Lokkasou and Frere Pierre made the final arrangements for 85,000 cfs per month which is about $190. It has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and a nice large living room. Two elders will move in immediately and two more later, probably in October or November. The next thing on the agenda is to get it furnished, which will probably take most of next week.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and living it. Therefore, when President Ayekoue asked us to speak on any subject of our choice to help fortify the elders, I choose this topic. Elder Black spoke about self-reliance and how an independent church cannot consist of dependent members. It is relatively easy to learn facts and concepts of the gospel but definitely more difficult to make them part of our lives every day. That is why “enduring to the end” isn’t easy. The commitment part of any promise or covenant takes a lot of diligence to practice. Basically, the gospel is a blue print on how to live and part of this how is what to do, what to say and how to be. (The basic idea was expressed by Robert Fulgham.) When someone accepts the gospel, many times changes in behavior need to follow, and for some this can be a challenge. We feel a big responsibility to be the kind of example to those with whom we come in contact that the more fully you live the gospel principles, the happier you are in life.
The way we carry kids in Africa
Kids learn to sell at an early age