A big African hello to everyone!
We really enjoy Monday evenings as we try to have a home evening with a member or investigator family. On Monday we went to the home of Gladys Anyaogu and her four children. (Her husband is in Nigeria most of the time and I can’t say his name much less spell it. They are one of the couples who were married in the triple ceremony.) The kids range in age from 1 ½ to 9 years. Just to give you an idea of some of the names we deal with, here are the kids names:
Anyaogu, Onyeje Favour Jessica
Anyaogu, Agboghocha Josephine Ezinne
Anyaogu, Andrew Awara
Thankfully, most of them have at least one name we can say and possibly remember. There is Favor, Josephine, Andrew and Junior. When we arrived, we could tell that the older kids did not know what to expect and were sitting stiffly on the couch with their scriptures in hand. Luckily, the kids are bilingual so we could communicate in English. We started by talking about differences and similarities of each kid in the family and how their parents really love them even though they are not exactly alike. We sang “I Am a Child of God” and talked about how all of us are part of Heavenly Father’s family. He loves us even though we are all different, and we are all an important part of His family. We then played “Don’t Eat Pete”, ate chocolate cupcakes and drank beesap. All of the kids we play “Don’t Eat Pete” with think it is great and we have a lot of fun. Another game that we play is “Catch the Mouse”. All of the players sit at a table with a string tied on a little wooden block. All of the blocks are arranged in a circle in the middle of the table and one person is it, holding a funnel. He rolls a dice and if it rolls a one or a six everyone pulls their “mouse” out as fast as they can and the one with the funnel tries to catch it under the funnel. Even the parents have a great time. I don’t think the kids and parents have played many silly games together so it is a good learning experience for both.
Thursday brought some excitement as three new elders arrived in Cotonou. Elder Fontaine is from France, Elder Olsen from Ontario Canada and Elder Skouson is from Richland Washington. Elder Skouson has some San Juan County roots as his grandparents are Garth and Sandra Skouson from Monticello. This brings us up to 9 elders now so we have one 3 some which is difficult but we will live with it for a while. Our airport experiences are always interesting. We had word that the elders were to arrive at the airport about 7:00 in the evening so some of us went down to meet them while Soeur Black stayed home and fixed a spaghetti dinner for their arrival. By the time we waited at the airport for a while and started to ask questions, we became aware that there was not even a flight scheduled to arrive from Ivory Coast until almost 9:00. We finally picked them up and got back here by about 10:00 and had a good spaghetti dinner which was welcomed by all the new elders as well as the old. It was a good time to get acquainted and find out about them all. A couple of hours delay wasn’t as bad as when the Findlays left last week and waited at the airport for 9 hours before their plane left. It appears that the times of arrivals and departures are more suggestions than anything else.
We had an interesting experience with the Benin Police on Friday. Elder Olsen was actually scheduled to come earlier in the week but he lost his passport in Abidjan so he had to stay until he received a temporary one from the Canadian Embassy in Cote d’Ivorie. When he finally got the passport he didn’t have time to get a Benin VISA so he arrived at the airport with no visa. That was only indirectly what caused the police incident. We took him down on Friday morning and got his Visa straightened out and were returning home. At a traffic light I stopped and then made a free right turn since no traffic was coming, as everyone always does. Unfortunately there was a policeman at the intersection telling me to pull over. I did and he gave me a ticket for turning on a red light. I protested telling him I was quite sure it was legal to do that but he says no, you cannot not unless there is a green arrow. I countered by telling him I was sure you could unless there was a red arrow. He wasn’t real unpleasant about it but he was determined to give me a citation so I said okay. The ticket system is also interesting here. The police give you a little slip of paper, about 2 x 2 telling what the infraction was and keep your carnet which is a little book that amounts to your vehicle registration. The slip of paper replaces the carnet book for a 48 hour period. During that time you have to go to the police station and pay your fine and in theory pick up your carnet book. The problem is, if the police decide it is not important to take your book to the police station then you are not going to get it back and no one is going to help you. In this case, the policeman told me he didn’t have a vehicle to take it to the police station so I would need to go and pay the fine and then bring the receipt back to him to get my book back. I asked him what I would do if he wasn’t there when I got back and that I wanted his name so I would know who to look for if I couldn’t find my book. About that time he handed it back and took back the ticket. He said “this is getting too complicated, just give me something and we will forget it. Without thinking I started to get my wallet out thinking that would be a lot easier than going to the police station. That panicked him a little. He said “not here, get back in your vehicle first.” I got back in and told Elder Olsen, “I think I was just asked for a bribe, should we pay him off or go to the police station.” He said “let’s go to the police station” and I agreed so when he came after his “something” I told him we would take the ticket and go to the police station. At that point, he asked if we were missionaries. I told him we were. Of course he could also see our badges. He said “This is really complicated. I will just tear up the ticket and you can go.” I thanked him and he flagged traffic so I could get back onto the road and away we went. So the count is so far 5 times I have been stopped but only had to pay 1 fine.
We have talked about Godwin, one of the young men in the branch who we are helping go on a mission. Elvis has already left but Godwin has not received his call due to passport problems. He washes the pick-up and does little odd jobs for us in return for our help to him. Whenever he is here at mealtime we make sure he is fed. It seems as if he shows up around mealtime quite often but he never asks for food. He has a very minimal job at Tokpa Marche where earns about the equivalent of $60.00 a month. After tithing, rent and taxi rides to work he only has about $10.00 left for everything else. Even in Cotonou that is not very much! He came this morning before work to wash the pick-up and sweep the deck and after breakfast he told me that if it were not for us he would be dead by now. I assume that would have been from starvation. Another tug at my heart strings and I wondered how many more in Cotonou are hungry all of the time. Another time he told me that life was difficult here after I told him of the beating we witnessed. He never complains and is always ready to help others, help clean the church, is the branch clerk. He has a mother but pretty much in name only and that is a story for another day. We count our blessings every day, not only for what we have but what we have learned from living with the people here many of whom we are beginning to really love.