Thanksgiving was alive and well in Cotonou on December 1. The elders wanted it on their P-day so they would have longer to enjoy the meal. They take really seriously the missionary schedule and work when the schedule says work. It took a little preparation and determination on my part to make it happen, but thanks to Jody and the Findlays we managed to come up with a close facsimile. Jody sent pumpkin pie items and Findlays brought dressing mix and cranberry sauce. We bought chickens but finally found a frozen turkey from Brazil, which definitely was not a Norbest tender timer as it was very salty. It disappeared quite quickly, though. Elder Fontaine brought to our attention that “potat doux” was a sweet potato so we were excited to find them readily available and bought a sack full for the equivalent of about $1. The outside looked like a normal sweet potato but the inside was a different story as when they were cooked they turned a nice color of green. The first time we have had green sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Monday morning Elder Loveless came in our apartment and said, “Do I smell rolls? It smells like my grandma’s house.” That was a good compliment and I reminded him that I was a grandma, too. The little postage stamp oven was in full service for about 8 solid hours before we could eat.
Before we surrounded the table, we took turns expressing our gratitude for our blessings. The elders expressed their love of the people here and how they have witnessed miracles in some of their lives after accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They expressed their love of the Lord and the love of their missions here in Cotonou. My gratitude of the small things in life has been magnified. I have a greater love for and appreciation of missionary service. I also love the beautiful promises given to us in the scriptures about our eternal salvation. Expressing our gratitude for our blessings compensated for the separation I felt during a time when the family was together.
Soeur Black did an excellent job of finding suitable substitutes for items which are readily available where we live but which are not easy to come by in Africa. Other than a few minor blips it was just like a good ol’ American Thanksgiving dinner. I think the African and French Elders also enjoyed it. Soon after, during the week Soeur Black started to inventory the Christmas decorations. There have been a few things left here in the apartment by various other couples and missionaries and we found a little artificial tree about 2 feet tall which Soeur Black put into a round bottom clay pot she thought would be suitable for a Christmas tree stand. The pot was supported by a wrapped up African headdress. We originally put the tree in our bedroom but unfortunately during the night the fabric of the headdress sagged a little and the clay pot and Christmas tree rolled off on the tile floor breaking the pot, scattering the tree and almost scaring us to death. Oh well, at least we have a start on Christmas. It is a little difficult to get the Christmas spirit when it is hot and sweaty outside but it is December and we decided we had better get on with the celebration. I downloaded a lot of Christmas music on the computer before we left and we have been playing that some as well as. That mostly just makes us homesick but we will get by.
On Saturday Elizabeth Lokossou was baptized. We have included a picture of the Lokossou family. The two on the right are brothers. Rogotian (far right) is a retired banker serves as first counselor in the Branch Presidency. He also helps us with apartment contracts and other matters and is always willing to help wherever he can. Joachime his brother is the father of all the children including Elizabeth from a previous marriage. He is a retired police officer. The whole family are really solid in the church and do a lot of good. Urbain, the boy on the far left is getting ready to go on a mission next year as soon as he finishes some schooling. Sister Lokossou (next to Urbain) is a real character. Whenever she is around there is always laughter and merriment. The family went to the temple and were all sealed when Southams left last June.
Other than that, the week was mostly spent getting visas for missionaries and getting them transferred to and from Ivory Coast, the details of which are not all that exciting. Elder Loveless’ replacement is Elder Ahoutou from Ivory Coast. He is the only member in his family and has been a member about 5 years. We are looking forward to getting better acquainted with him. We were glad to be finished with transfers and looking forward to a better week. On Sunday morning, we had an e-mail from President Ayekoue asking us to send two more of our best missionaries to Ivory Coast along with two from Togo. So we have another week of about the same as last week. Elder Crooks and Phillips are our two district leaders and have been in Cotonou ever since before we arrived so we are really going to miss them. We gave them the news on Sunday morning since it was Fast and Testimony meeting and tears were shed in the meeting by missionaries and members alike. I guess that is all part of missionary work. They will do a great job in Ivory Coast until they finish their missions in March.