Soeur Black and I have finally become celebrities here in Benin. Maybe not really celebrities but we did make the 8 o’clock news. Last Monday was the kickoff for the measles vaccination campaign in which we have been somewhat involved along with Elder and Sister Findlay. They prevailed upon us to go with them to Allada, a town about 40 kilometers away, where the kickoff ceremony was to be held. When we arrived they seated us on the stand right next to the Minister of Health. All of the news media was there, and our white faces seemed to draw quite a bit of attention. I think we even got more coverage than the minister himself. On Tuesday we went over to Lokossou’s and watched ourselves on the news along with a lot of other coverage about the measles campaign. Since then a lot of the members have commented that they saw us on TV. Also a lot of them have seen the advertising spot on TV or heard the one on the radio. The campaign is supposed to be finishing up today (Sunday) so we hope it was successful in getting a lot of children vaccinated. As stated before, the campaign is actually carried out by the ministry of health in little clinics and under shade trees all over Benin. We got a lot of good pictures of this event as opposed to all of the “eating” pictures of last week so we have a little more to offer this week in that department. The Findlays left on Wednesday and are now enjoying a nice 3 week vacation in Egypt before returning to Canada in time for Christmas. It made us just a little homesick to see them finish up and be headed for home but only for a while. There is plenty to do and our turn to return home will come later.
The opening ceremony for the measles campaign took place at the local Ministry of Health facility, and when we arrived there were already about 1000 people there all seated under two large portable tents. Many of them had kids on their laps as actual vaccinations were going to be given after the ceremony. The front rows were filled with cute little kids from a Catholic school. They did get very serious though when the vaccination process began. They were also given a little drink of vitamin A. We also met a couple from Canada who had five kids there between the ages of 9 months and five years who were from a little orphanage. The couple represented a Bible group and were here for a few weeks helping in the orphanage. It is wonderful to meet folks who are dedicated to helping make a difference in this world.
Last Saturday we had a baptism for a little member girl, Faveur Dike. Faveur is a very smart and special little girl. Her mother, Precious, has been a member just a year now and went to the temple last month for the first time. They are a really good family. Mama Dike (Victoria) has just opened a little store where she sells basic items to neighborhood folks. Her husband is in Nigeria and only comes over once in a while. He wants to be baptized also but hasn’t been here enough, and in Nigeria he is a long way away from a ward or a branch. Since they are from Nigeria, they are English speakers. Soeur Black took some of her now famous chocolate cup cakes over on Saturday and then Faveur asked me to confirm her on Sunday so all in all it was a good experience. We would like to have had some convert baptisms also, but the missionaries are teaching some really good people right now and that will come later.
We have talked before about Godwin who was waiting for his mission call. Well, it finally arrived on Tuesday and he is going to the Cote d’Ivoire Mission and will enter the MTC in Tema, Ghana on January 23. He was born in Togo, and it has taken much time and many trips to Togo for him to get his passport. Perseverance paid off, and he finally has his passport in hand. I think that he was pleased with the call as his good friend Elvis is there and he did not have to go to Congo or Nigeria where he was afraid he might be called. He told us previously that he did not want to go to either of those countries. I told him that originally I did not want to go to Africa but now that I am here I am no longer fearful. He will be a good missionary, and we are excited about his willingness to serve.
Paul and Honorine Dansou are very faithful members of the branch. They are another couple who were recently married civilly and then went on to be sealed in the temple. Paul is the branch clerk and seems to be involved in everything. He and Honorine bought a piece of property outside Cotonou and have started building a small house on it. We drove out there with them on Thursday to see what they had done. It is located in a very quiet and peaceful neighborhood out in the country. The biggest problem they will encounter is the distance from Cotonou. Paul is a welder and plans on continuing his work here and of course the church is here. It took us 45 minutes to drive from his house to his existing home. You will notice from the picture this is a very small home with only two rooms – a living room and a bedroom. The kitchen and shower will be outside in back of the house. There is a well in front and room for a big garden. We couldn’t help but notice the contrast between our big homes in Blanding and the small structure Paul and Honorine are building. It does not take much to make the people here happy and content. Kids sleep on mats on the floor and many times so do the parents. The kitchen consists of a charcoal burner or two outside on the ground and a couple aluminum pans. The sink is two large pans for washing and rinsing the dishes, which are very minimal as many times all they need is a plate as food is sometimes eaten with the hands. Paul needs to be out of his current rented house by January, and we asked what it would take to finish up his house. For about $700.00 he could move in and for another $300.00 he could finish it up. Pretty unbelievable, isn’t it?
Next to his house we passed a large termite mound which I am glad that we never see at home. There is probably a reason why they build houses over here out of cement and brick and not out of wood. The first thing they did on the property was to dig a large well, probably about 3 – 4 feet in diameter. The water is down probably 50 feet or so. A bucket on a rope will provide the water supply. The dirt from the well was used to make the blocks from which the house is built on site. If they decide to put power into the house it comes basically via extension cord from the neighbors a quarter mile or so away. A lot of the homes out like that don’t have power as electricity increases the cost of living. For a lot of families that presents a problem as it is important to minimize costs. We can’t blame Paul and Honorine for wanting to move out of town. I think we did the same thing a few years back, and Blanding is a whole lot smaller and less crowded than Cotonou.