We found out more about that goat market we told you about two weeks ago. The Muslim people celebrated Tabaski on Monday. We don’t know a lot about that holiday except that it seems to involve feasting on goat meat. All over the city on Monday morning there seemed to be a somewhat ceremonial slaughtering of goats. As interested observers, we could tell that there was a definite way in which each goat was slaughtered as they were all processed the same way. After the initial killing each goat was inflated and shaved, the insides cleaned and the head roasted over an open fire and the meat cut ready to be cooked for consumption. Most of this was done on the sandy streets so we got a good chance to observe. We later found out that Tabaski is a Muslim holiday in observance of when the Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and a ram appeared and took his son’s place. The tradition is to slaughter a goat in the prescribed way and then to eat and also give meat to neighbors. In some areas, I guess there are some hostilities between Christians and Muslims but here in Cotonou it appears there is respect for the beliefs of others. All of the Muslims we have become acquainted with seem to be good people. The entire city of Cotonou semi-stopped in respect for the Muslim community holiday. You could actually drive on the roads but when we tried to shop we ran into problems with stores closed. I did have one member call to ask if it was okay to accept goat meat from a Muslim neighbor. I told him it would probably be okay if you remembered to thank him.
We went to President Briga’s, the Elders Quorum President’s home for home evening on Monday night. We were late because of the horrible traffic jams between our apartment and theirs. When we arrived it was after dark and after opening the big metal door into their courtyard, we could hear the little family singing hymns with a CD playing for accompaniment. We felt the spirit of our Heavenly Father so strong and it really was a great beginning to another wonderful home evening. We talked about the importance of marriage and families and how families can be sealed in the temple in order to be together for eternity. Helene Briga is not a member of the church but has been coming with her husband lately and has decided that she would like to learn more about the gospel. We are really excited about that!
Since there is no Cote d’Ivoire Consulate in Togo for the Togo missionaries to get a visa, it was back to the border to get Elders Carter and Lee early on Tuesday morning so we could get the necessary paper work done in time for them to have a visa by Thursday. They were happy to come since they both worked here and knew many of the members and missionaries. Elder Carter casually mentioned that Tuesday was his birthday so when the elders were at the Cote d’Ivoire Consulate, I fixed a quick birthday dinner. There was no time to bake a cake but I did have some cookie dough in the freezer, so I baked a batch real fast and put a candle in each one and we sang “Happy Birthday”. First time I served a birthday cookie with candles! Thursday was the big transfer day. We put 4 elders on the airplane for Ivory Coast and received two more here so we spent most of the day at the airport. Now that all of our transfers have finished, our count is as follows: Africans 4 (Elders Samutamu from Congo and Elders Ahoutou, Teti and Gondo from Ivory Coast; French 2(Elders Foucher and Fontaine); American 3 (Elders Skouson, Schwieger and Bowman); and Canadian 1 (Elder Olsen). Seems like we have transfers almost every week any more. Next week Elder Foucher finishes his mission just in time for Christmas, and President says to send Elder Olsen to Togo.
I had a difficult time accepting President Ayekoue’s decision to transfer three of our best missionaries just before Christmas, but the work is more important than my personal wishes. Saying goodbye and obtaining visas took most of our time for the next two days. On Wednesday, we were able to go to Calavie to see Soeur Julianne and Josianne. Elder Carter knew them so was eager to go see them before leaving on Thursday. We like to go to Calavie and leave the city of Cotonou for awhile. The road is under constant construction, so getting there is quite the challenge as there are motos, cars, semis, buses and people everywhere and with the detours, you know that the trip will take and hour instead of half an hour. By Thursday night the four elders were weighed in and ready to go. We retrieved their replacements, two missionaries who were transferred from Cote d’Ivoire, also on Thursday. Thursday was definitely our airport day! Our four missionaries had ambivalent feelings about leaving investigators and members here in Cotonou but were packed and ready to go. We were all a little serious at the airport, though.
We also got in a little teaching time this week. A couple of weeks ago, Elder Foucher and I were trying to get an extra set of keys made for his apartment. The place that was supposed to make them was closed so we followed some leads of where people told us we could get one made and finally ended up at a home in back of some other homes that didn’t look much at all like a key shop. The lady told us that their key shop was just up the street. When we tried to pin her down as to where it was exactly it really didn’t make sense, but she said it would just take a few minutes to walk there and she would send her daughter to guide us. Okay. After a 20-30 minute walk, we finally arrived at a key shop and got the keys made. There was a Jehovah’s Witness brochure on the table that Elder Foucher dissected a little as we were waiting. When the guy came back I asked him if he were JW. He said no, that they had just been by and left a brochure. I told him we were missionaries and would like to give him a message. To make a long story short, since then he and his wife have not missed church and have been meeting with the missionaries regularly. They are interesting people. We went with the missionaries on Friday and met with them. Their surroundings look like they are the poorest people in Cotonou but they actually own quite a lot of land and have a good business. Seraphin dresses kind of like Mahatma Gandi most of the time. The goat in the picture (on the right) is Philomen. When he calls her name she answers with a Baa-aa-aa. They are interesting folks and will make good members if they continue to progress.
Saturday the young women’s presidency asked us to help them take the girls to the beach. We agreed since we had suggested they might do that earlier as a good activity for the girls. There is always a problem of supporting local leaders in their decisions and guiding and directing how things go a little. We arrived at the beach ready to play and have some fun. The young women’s presidency, however, didn’t exactly have that vision. We should have seen that coming since the people here have little leisure time unless they are unemployed and then they have too much. The presidency had prepared a lesson and had all the girls sit in the sand, had prayer, sang a hymn, said another prayer, moved into the shade and commenced a fairly long lesson on talents. By then Soeur Black was getting a little nervous. When I got a minute, I finally suggested that perhaps Sunday would be a good time to complete the lesson on talents and perhaps we could now go over near the water and enjoy the beach. That appeared to be an entirely new concept but they finally agreed and we all went over and enjoyed outrunning the waves, playing in the sand and generally having a good time. Afterwards the girls started dancing in the sand and enjoyed themselves a lot. Rhythm and dancing comes standard in the package of these people. It is just as natural as walking and as fun for them to do as it is for us to watch.
On Sunday the branch presidency made the announcement that the Branch will be divided next Sunday when President Ayekoue is here. After a lot of work and a long time it is finally going to officially happen. Our problems now is that it will only create a lot more work for us. We are still on a great search for suitable sites for suitable chapels. We thought we found a perfect large building by one of the main roads in the Menontin area of Cotonou. We made arrangements with the owner to view it on Wednesday but found out it was basically a fourplex apartment building — no room large enough for a chapel really without considerable remodeling. Many buildings have a guardian on the grounds for maintenance and security and this one was no exception. The guardian had twins, a little boy and girl who were absolutely adorable. Not only were they cute but they also were best friends. We just couldn’t help but include a picture of them.