Monday, September 15, began as any other P-day with a shopping run to the marche and supermarket. The elders are given their soutien, or living allowance, twice a month and after each soutien day we make our run for groceries. There a few things like hamburger and cold cereal that are impossible to buy at the little stands along each and every road in Cotonou. They are very conscientious about making their soutein go as far as they can stretch it. But it is fun to see that they also reward themselves with a little bag of candy, yogurt, or if they are feeling real flush it could even be a soda pop. It was Elder Adou and Schweiger’s turn to plan the menu and help cook on Monday. They chose roasted chicken and French fries. I was not too thrilled with the idea of cooking that many fries in the kitchen and since we still had Josephine’s charcoal cooker in the truck from our Dutch oven experience last week, we decided to use it and cook the fries outside on the balcony. So far so good! We told the cooks to remove their ties since we were not going out on the street and it was hot cooking. We didn’t have to tell them twice that was a good idea. After cooking a mound of French fries, the two cooks came in and we all began eating. Yum, Yum! It wasn’t long until the doorbell rang and it was our neighbor saying something about fumer in our house. So far so good turned into, “Not good at all!” Boy, did that ever get everyone excited and we knew without even looking it was the charcoal cooker. The cooks left the oil on the cooker so they could cook more fries if they wanted and forgot about it. We not only had smoke but a nice little fire to go with it. Elder Black grabbed the garbage can and turned it upside down on the fire and eventually the fire was out and all we had left was one gooey, black mess. Oh well, the fries were good and there was no permanent damage! It is pretty hard to burn down a cement house.
The really big news was that we ate our first garden tomato with the dinner on Monday. Before they left, Elder Southam planted a tomato plant out on the patio, and the first tomato was ready on Monday. Actually it fell off the plant a few days ago but Soeur Black salvaged it and let it ripen in the kitchen. It wasn’t much but it was the biggest tomato we have seen in Benin and the bite I tasted was really good. We have a few others coming as well as another plant or two Soeur Black planted from seeds sent by Jody.
We are continuing our program of home evenings on Monday night. This Monday evening we were invited to Frere Mattieu and Soeur Chefiath for home evening. Their home is interesting. When you get there, it has a very clean yard surrounded by a wall and everything is in order. Getting there is a little different. In order to arrive at their house, you have to go through the dump – not just past the dump but through the dump. That isn’t unusual around here. You just have to be careful where you step. It is better than having to wade through questionable water to get to your house. The family has two little boys and an older daughter about 12. They are a really good family. We had home evening outside in the yard. It was a beautiful evening and we really enjoyed it. Frere Mattieu is going to be
ordained an Elder soon.
On Tuesday evening we were invited over to Frere Eric and Soeur Estella’s home for another home evening with a couple of investigators, Elders Crooks and Foucher, and three members. Frere Eric gave a lesson on faith and had each person tell how faith has been an instrument in their life. He had Elder Black speak for both of us so it reinforced in mind the necessity to learn French a little better so I can communicate my feelings. Eric and Estelle are stalwarts of the branch and have many talents to help the church grow here in Cotonou. He is the current branch mission leader and does an excellent job. Before he joined the church, he was a rosta which is a local name for a filthy, drug shooting guy with dread locks. Now he teaches lessons, does missionary work, takes piano lessons and is always there when something needs to be done. Estella has a beautiful voice and leads the music in every meeting she attends. She too is always helping with whatever needs to be done. They are a classic example of a couple trying to blend traditional culture with the culture of the government and of the church. It goes back to the dote we described in a previous blog. He paid her family the necessary items to be able to marry her and they are now husband and wife. But Benin made a law two years ago that all couples needed to be married civilly. Since we believe in observing the law of the land, members of the church are encouraged to be married civilly and prospective members cannot be baptized without a legal marriage. Eric and Estella will have a civil marriage in two weeks and then be sealed in the Ghana Temple in December.
Back to the home evening. After the lesson, Estella served everyone a delicious meal of fried enaies or yams, eggs cooked with onion, tomatoes and piment followed by fresh pineapple. We had besap to drink. After we ate they had a fun game ready to play. Each person was given a little box of matches, two circles were formed and then we had to start putting matches across the top of a pop bottle. It sounds easy but as we progressed around our circle the balancing act became more difficult. When your match fell, you were out.
It was a simple little game but lots of fun. There is an idea for your next home evening.
The major event of the week was sending Frere Elvis to the MTC in Tema, Ghana prior to him leaving for Cote d’Ivoire on his mission. He joined the church in July of last year and has a strong testimony of the gospel coupled with knowledge and commitment. He is another stalwart of the branch. He taught Primary, was a branch missionary, took piano lessons and generally helped where needed like Eric and Estella. He has progressed so well on the piano that he has accompanied several hymns in sacrament meeting. With these qualities comes the biggest and most contagious grin you have ever seen. He relates so well to people both young and old which will be a great asset for him on his mission. On Wednesday evening we invited all of the branch missionaries, the music students, and branch leaders over here for a little farewell social for him. It was lots of fun to see everyone enjoying each other’s company so much. Then on Thursday, Frere Dieudonne, the counselor to President Ayekoue, came over from Togo to set him apart, which we did in his home on Thursday night and Elder Elvis got on his way Friday morning.
The contract on the new missionary apartment in Menontin was finalized this week so we spent Friday and Saturday cleaning and moving the elders, Elder Crooks and Foucher. They are basically camping until we can get them better situated with a stove that has gas, a few pans to cook with, some dishes and utensils, etc. Most of Monday will be spent finalizing the moving process. Change can be stimulating and they are excited about opening up a new area for missionary work. It can be stimulating but also at the same time will take lots of concentrated, dedicated, old-fashioned work. Finding apartments and meeting houses is a real chore, but we keep working at it and things are developing slowly.