Last Sunday, a little boy by the name of Regis did not want to go to Primary so we tried to coax him some and tried to convince him to go. We were not being very successful, and he was determined to win the battle. He looked us straight in the eye, bent his arm at the elbow and clamped it down tight next to his body. Without saying a word it is the well understood signal to LEAVE ME ALONE! It can also mean GO AWAY! We have laughed about it all week and think that it is a signal we should adopt in the United States. This week he was happy as could be and was glad to see us. Last week when I was in Missebo Marche with the elders. I was surrounded by about four or five guys wanting me to buy a belt for “Papa”. Well, Papa didn’t need a belt and I was getting a little annoyed so I gave one the clenched elbow to the side signal. He started to laugh and walked away. Pretty effective!
There are things that happen here that are heart wrenching and many times we have decided not to share some of them with you and tell mostly of the positive. There is one incident, however, that I think will make all of us more appreciative for the gospel and the freedoms we enjoy, freedoms that sometime we take for granted. One evening we were visiting a member by the name of Alfred Samba when we heard a big commotion in his courtyard followed by horrible screams of a young girl. We could hear huge whacks and lots of screaming. We looked outside and could see many people standing around watching as a man and woman were beating this girl unmercifully on her hands and arms. We could hardly bear to hear any more when Elder Black and Elder Schweiger walked outside and stood there watching. When they discovered that two big Yovos were watching with a displeased look in their faces, they stopped. The woman came over to Elder Schweiger and told him that the girl needed to learn a lesson. There is no 911 to call, no social services to put a child in protective custody, nothing. I had a sick feeling in my stomach all night.
Alfred told us that she was a little servant girl and that happened at least twice a month. I think these little servants are more like slaves. Sometimes when a family can’t take care of all of their children, they are given to a family to feed and clothe in return for servant or slave labor. Slavery has been an integral part of the African culture for many centuries. Different tribes have captured neighboring tribes and used their catch for slavery for centuries. In fact, the slaves that were brought to America, England, Brazil, etc. years ago were captured by Africans and traded to the ship captains for ammunition, alcohol, etc. They could not have ended up on the ship without Africans being inhumane to other Africans. One of the goals of the gospel is to try and change some of these things but it won’t happen overnight.
Last night Elder and Sister Findlay from Kewlona, British Columbia, Canada arrived for the church-sponsored measles campaign in Benin. The humanitarian division of the church spends millions of dollars each year to help impoverished areas of the world with such things as eradicating measles, drilling deep wells so people can have access to clean water, and assisting when hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, etc. strike unexpectedly. They will be here for one week now laying the ground work with the Ministry of Health to determine where they are most needed. UNICEF is the major sponsor and the church provides auxiliary help with the project by furnishing all of the advertising for the campaign. I was appalled to learn that prior to the inception of this program, about one million children died every year in Africa from measles; that was about 1200 every single day. They will be here for one week and then come back for follow-ups later. We are enjoying have adult conversation and companionship for a while. We have also been enjoying the goodies sent over by Jody in the suitcase the Findlay’s brought and the wireless network and extra computer sent by Steve.
Saturday we had a wonderful baptism as one of the traditionally married couples who were civilly married last week were baptized. Also the mother of Carole Somaku, a missionary from Cotonou serving in Ivory Coast, was baptized. Julianne Somaku lives in Calavie and we have been going out there every Thursday for the past four months to visit and teach her. We sent pictures of her in previous blogs when we told about her sewing abilities and when we ate dinner there. Julianne is deaf so we always had to have an interpreter who could read Fon lips not French. She told Nadia, our interpreter, once that she felt bad that she was unable to contribute in any classes because of her deafness so I told her that was exactly how I am because of my lack of French ability. I know how she feels. Sister Julianne is just a very special person who has dealt with a lot of adversity in her life and has come out smiling. You can’t help but like her. She will not be able to make a big contribution to the branch or probably even attend church like she would like to but now she and all her children are members with one on a mission.
Elvis and Godwin on Pickup Washing Detail.