The past couple of weeks have been filled mostly with administrative tasks. Let’s face it, looking for apartments just doesn’t give rise to that many spiritual experiences. Nevertheless it needs to be done and we are working hard to try and identify where each member lives so that we can draw some division lines, find some suitable places to rent for chapel space and get the missionary apartments decentralized so that the missionaries will be able to contact more people and the church can grow faster here in Cotonou. It isn’t that the work is boring, it’s just that it doesn’t produce many experiences worth writing home about. The urgency is, as we have stated before, that the chapel just won’t hold any more people. Today there was standing room only and even standing room is getting in short supply.
After the zone conference two weeks ago, President Ayekoue did shake up the missionaries a little. We didn’t have any transfers in or out of Cotonou but the companionships here in Cotonou were all shifted around, so now all the Elders have new companions and some are working in new areas. We are being told that we can expect more missionaries soon. “Soon” can have various meanings in Africa but I think the plan is to double the missionary force in Cotonou so we hope to have 12 elders here.
Associating with the elders is such a positive aspect of our missionary work. I think at times we keep each other a little entertained as we have many “senior moments,” and they have the enthusiasm of youth. For example, Elder Black quite frequently forgets a tie and then says,”I was wondering why I was so comfortable.” (He does get one on before we leave the house, however.) Many times I forget my missionary tag and then when we get to a rendezvous we have forgotten our cantiques or even our scriptures. They take it all in good stride with a good sense of humor. The elders cut their own or each other’s hair and most of the time they look like skin heads but in Africa you need to be practical. Keeping your hair parted would never work here. Elder Schwieger called last night and said he was cutting his hair and the spacer fell off the electric clippers so he shaved off a streak down the middle of his head right down to the skin. It was a Mohawk in reverse! A couple of weeks ago Elder Crooks decided that he would have Gilberto’s coiffure across the street give him a good shave. I guess the coiffure didn’t know what to do with a pale face with tender whiskers and he ended up with a slice out of his throat. He is the same elder who shaves half of his face one day and the other half the next day as elders are supposed to shave every day. Now that is obedience!
Monday is preparation day for the missionaries and it is a day not only for preparation but also for building friendship between all of the missionaries. The elders have one hour of time on the Internet to send and receive letters from family and friends. They clean their apartments, especially when they know an inspection is coming from Soeur Black, wash their clothes, have a rousing game of foos ball, go to the marche to buy ties, and shop for food or other needed things. We eat together on Monday afternoon, and that is a time when the pressure is off except when their team is on cooking detail. We have a good time together even in the kitchen! The two sisters who cooked our zone conference meal are opening a little side walk cafe today and we are going there as a district to support them. Besides we know that they are excellent cooks!
Estelle & Nadia’s Resturant
Missionary dinner at Estelle and Nadia’s Restaurant
Three weeks ago a young couple, Brian and Lynne Larsen, from the United States showed up at church. They have been living in Iowa where Lynne is finishing a doctoral degree in African art and then they are in transition to the University of Washington in Seattle where Brian will get his doctoral degree in English and Irish literature. They both graduated from BYU and went on missions, he to Ivory Coast and she to Germany. He has been home for about ten years and has retained his French speaking capabilities very well. Lynn received a grant to come to Africa to study African art at the source which I believe can make one’s research more meaningful. Besides Cotonou, they visited Abomey, Ouida, and Porto Novo. They are adventuresome souls traveling around with just a backpack and using local moto taxies and staying in whatever hotels they can find when night comes. We invited them over to dinner last Sunday and they ended up staying the night with us. They left two little boys at home so they were anxious to get on their way home last Friday. They had to be at the airport at 4:30 in the morning, so we invited them back last Thursday night and took them to the airport early on Friday. Getting to the airport at that time of morning without a vehicle could be an experience in itself. Pierre had run across them when they showed up at the chapel and invited them to his home, so we went over to Pierre’s house on Thursday before they left, had a good visit and took some pictures. They left us with a good contact (one of their taxi drivers) who has already called us and wants to meet with us to learn about the Church. We enjoyed their visit and had plenty to talk about.
The Dansou family, Paul and Honorine and their two little boys (age about 3 and 6 months), are getting ready to go to the temple soon. There has been a temple preparation class going in Sunday School for a few weeks now, but Paul asked us to come over to his home and talk to them a little more. Soeur Honorine speaks only a little French and is mostly a Fon speaker so I think he wanted to have us come to his house where things were a little more quiet and he could translate better for her. They are a really fine family and their two little boys are cute as can be. Paul has a little welding shop in part of their home where he makes his living but work is slow right now. They have been members for a couple of years now (as have most of the members) and Paul is the financial clerk in the branch. Paul is learning English and doing quite well. He likes to speak to us in English and insists that Sister Black respond in French. We are going over again tonight and Soeur Black is going to help Soeur Honorine get started on a temple dress. We wish we could go with them to the temple but that probably will not happen. After that we are going over to the home of Frere Geoffery (our returned missionary) and his brother Floren (who was baptized last week) for a family home evening. Frere Geoffery is still keeping busy as a missionary and is almost keeping one team of missionaries busy with referrals.