Being a birthday week and after getting the VISA crisis resolved last week so we could get money, thanks to a lot of help from Steve talking to Zions bank in Blanding who was on the phone to VISA headquarters in who-knows-where, the missionary apartment rented and the missionaries moved in, we were determined not to allow any more crisis this week. That lasted until about 10:00 on Monday morning when we received a call that the mission check we had written to rent the apartment had been rejected by the bank. I knew that would be no small problem as the smallest things in Benin seems to create the largest problems. We hurried over to the agency we had given the check to, picked up Eve, the proprietor and headed to the bank to see if we could resolve the problem. She had been told the that rejected check was at Ecobank. After a number of lines and inquiries, we discovered it was really at her bank, Diamond Bank. By now it was raining as only it can in the Tropics but we went over and finally recovered the check. Back at our Ecobank, standing in some lines and waiting the appropriate amount of time, they finally admitted that they had made a mistake. We told them we knew that but what were they going to do. They had me write another check and cashed it on the spot, which is probably what we should have done to begin with. The whole process only took about 4 hours. We did have a chance while waiting, however, to teach the gospel a little to Eve. She is a sharp girl who has an MBA from a university in India. We hope she will be at church on Sunday.
Home evening this week was at the Dike family. They all joined the Church about a year ago and are a really good family. Mama Victoria has a large family of mostly grown children. Only two daughters live at home now, Precious and Bertha. Bertha is a young single adult. Precious has three children, Victor, Faveur and Destiny. Victor and Faveur have all the articles of faith memorized. The children’s father was killed in a robbery in Nigeria. Soeur Precious is one of those people that visits everyone and is always busy. I think she is a good example of the scripture that you should “do many things of your own free will and choice and bring to pass much righteousness.” In spite of a lot of adversity in her life, she does exactly that. She is really looking forward to going to the temple in November. They are a good family, and we had a good time with them.
In Cotonou we never know when or where our hearts are going to be touched. This afternoon after Sacrament meeting we stopped by Shella’s house to see her and her daughters. She is the mother of the three little girls who share the one armless and legless doll. Shella had ordered a Bible, Cantique, and Triple combination so we decided to deliver them to her. Her youngest girl has some definite problems and has shown major behavioral disorders. We have gradually made progress with her as the first time we saw her all she did was scream and cry then several weeks later she called me a Yovo and sat on my lap at church. That was the first time we heard her talk to anyone. Today she actually smiled and sang “I Am a Child of God” for us. She had to hide her face behind her mother but the song was loud and clear with good pitch. The girls wanted to give us something, and we could hear them rustling around in the other room. They soon came out with pictures of themselves when they were younger. I am sure these were the only pictures they have of themselves but they still wanted us to have them. As we left I could feel a little tear forming as I thought of their unselfishness with the little they have. This came after we had been asked by someone to help with a child’s schooling and another for taxi fare for a relative so they could come to church. The need for help is so great that we cannot even begin to help everyone we meet who “needs a little help.” Shella has never asked for help even though we are sure she could definitely use it. There are a few in the Branch that have decent jobs and make a good living for Africa but most struggle along with the great majority of the population of Benin. Even learning to share is part of the gospel. We are not commanded to live the united order but we are commanded to share. For us, that sometimes becomes a problem when the line between help and dependency is so thin. For the branch members, it is just humbling to see those who we know do not have enough food on their own table pay fast offerings to help someone else.
Before coming to Africa, whenever I saw a person from the Negroid race, I could only see the color of their skin. When we first arrived I thought everyone looked alike but now I don’t even notice their color but can only see their personality, their spirit, the look in their eyes, the song in their voice and love in their hearts. The list could go on and on but I think what I am trying to say is that now I only see individuals whom I have grown to love. An older white lady is sometimes an attraction, and quite often little kids come running and want to hold my hand or give a hug. They like to see their little black hand in a big spotted white hand. I will admit that there is indeed quite a contrast! I often wonder what will happen to these children in the future as the opportunities are so limited here.
I want to relate a success story of what can happen when a child is given opportunity. Last week or before, we mentioned a little girl by the name of Lillian, the Relief Society president’s daughter, who just started playing the piano keyboard. She has progressed very quickly and accompanied two songs today in sacrament meeting out of the easy hymn book. Frere Landu, the piano instructor, said she has progressed faster than any other student he has. She is only 10 years old, very bright and has a sweet personality. It is a prime example of how a child can progress when given the opportunity. Her mother said that Lillian is very self motivated and uses her spare time to read and play the piano.
The last crisis for the week is that the camera seems to have quit us so we did not get many pictures for the week. Fortunately we have a backup so we will try to do a better job next week. We know that pictures are more interesting than words.