Division of the Cotonou Branch

The Cotonou Branch of the Church no longer exists. Last Saturday and Sunday, December 20 and 21, President Ayekoue interviewed over 20 priesthood holders, disbanded the Cotonou Branch and replaced it with the Gbedjromede Branch, the Menontin Branch, and the Akpakpa Branch.

We have a little catching up to do on the blog after last weeks Christmas message. Things have been happening at a furious pace. President Ayekoue came on December 18th and stayed with us until Monday the 22nd. That in itself is an experience. Sister Ayekoue broke her foot and was not able to come the last two visits but this time she came along with little Happy. She is still not able to get around well and moving about is somewhat difficult and time-consuming. Soeur Black was a little challenged between taking care of Sister Ayekoue, taking care of Happy, and keeping all of us fed and also happy, but she did a magnificent job and all went well.

We had our zone meeting and dinner on December 18th when President and Sister Ayekoue arrived. I went to the border and picked them up while Soeur Black stayed here and prepared the zone dinner for when we got back. After dinner we had the zone conference here in our apartment. On Friday, President Ayekoue interviewed missionaries and then started interviewing branch members in the evening. That continued through Saturday and then on Sunday the old Branch Presidency was released and the three new ones sustained in the Branches. The branch was officially organized in February of 2003 so it has been a little less than 6 years now going from just a handful of members up to now over 225 and 3 branches. We are excited about that. The division doesn’t end our work by any means. In fact, I think it may just be starting. We now need to get bank accounts opened for the new units, divide records, find new physical facilities and get them equipped, train new clerks and do at least 100 other things that seem to keep cropping up. We have also been trying to help the old branch clerk get the tithing records reconciled for the year, and that has been taking a lot of time.

Branch members at Christmas PartySaturday evening was the branch Christmas party. For some time now the Primary and the Youth have been practicing up to present some drama productions and songs for Christmas. It was wonderful. The chapel was filled to overflowing. The primary kids sang songs and presented some readings about Christmas, then the youth took over with drama and more songs and the branch choir also helped out. It was a program that would be a credit to any ward we have at home. It’s hard to describe a program but we will send some pictures which we hope will speak for themselves. Afterwards, the Relief Society served rice and chicken, which seems to be the main refreshment for any proper celebration.

Sunday was also Sister Ayekoue’s 35th Birthday so Soeur Black fixed up a cake and most of the missionaries came over on Sunday evening for cake and ice cream in honor of the event.

After Sunday we kind of forgot about all the branch division and such since Christmas was upon us. President and Sister Ayekoue left on Monday, and on Tuesday we prepared all day to have the missionaries over for our Christmas Eve dinner and party. Christmas Dinner 2008We would have had it on Wednesday but Elder Foucher was leaving late on Tuesday to return to France for Christmas so we had it a day early and made it also a going away dinner as well. Soeur Black had the tables decorated up nicely and we had a wonderful dinner of chicken and rice. I think it was a first for many of the African elders. The elders played the keyboard and sang Christmas carols while we were finishing the dinner. Elders ready to play gift gameAfterwards we had some little gifts for everyone and played the gift game where you can either open a present or steal one from someone else in which case they get to open another. Everyone including us enjoyed the evening.

Elder Focher ready to return to FranceWe will miss Elder Foucher. He has been a very good missionary and understands the scriptures and church doctrine well. We gave him a little wooden plaque of Africa with the Ghana temple burned onto it as a going away gift.

With Christmas out of the way on Tuesday, Wednesday was rather quiet except that the new Branch Presidencies had scheduled a meeting on Christmas Eve so I went over and met with them for a while. I encouraged them to disband as soon as possible and I came home and listened to Christmas Music with Soeur Black. Christmas day we had the missionaries over again for telephone calls with their families. We have the only phone in the Benin missionary work that is not a little cell phone so Soeur Black made up a schedule for all the missionary parents with a time to call our phone to talk to their missionary. It was actually quite a task considering all of the time changes from Africa, Europe, the US and Canada but it went off like clockwork and all the missionaries got to talk to their families. During the day, Soeur Black prepared an all-day breakfast buffet for everyone to eat as they talked or were waiting to talk to their families. Later on it was our turn to talk with all of the kids and grandkids which was the highlight of our Christmas. Thus ended our one and only Christmas in Benin except that on Friday, we went around with a family in the Branch that had invited us to go with them and visited several people, took them a Christmas cupcake and sang them a Christmas carol.

Moving into Akpakpa ChapelThe other event of the week was moving into the Akpakpa chapel on Friday and Saturday. As mentioned before, we have a house there that serves as quite a nice meeting place with 4 or 5 classrooms on the bottom and the elders live on the top floor which is accessed by an outside stairway. It is well situated so almost all the current members can walk to church. It required quite a bit of cleaning and preparing but the members pitched in to clean and we found a truck we could rent to move some benches and other fixtures from the existing chapel so by Saturday night all was ready for Sunday meetings.

I guess we are getting used to things as they are in Benin but the Christmas season again impressed upon our minds how much we have to be thankful for and how very little the people over here have. There were a few decorations here and there and some of the larger stores were somewhat decorated for the event. Those stores are mostly frequented by white people and richer Africans. For the average family, there were no decorations, no tree, and certainly no presents. The City of Cotonou did put up a few stars that looked more like 4th of July than Christmas but I guess that was okay since firecrackers have also been going off regularly as part of the Christmas celebration.

Chickens appear to be popular for Christmas and the holidays. All over town there are improvised chicken coops full of chickens for sale for the holiday. Soeur Black wasn’t too excited about buying chickens on the hoof so we opted for getting some frozen ones at the super market and also bought a few extras which we took around to a few people we wanted to wish a Merry Christmas. We are glad we got to spend a Christmas in Africa. We are also glad we will be home next Christmas and be sure to enjoy friends and family even more as we remember our friends here in Africa. We wish everyone a very happy new year.

Christmas Party Food

Christmas Party Food

Christmas Party Performance

Christmas Party Performance

Elders and Frere Erick Jamming at Branch Christmas Party

Elders and Frere Erick Jamming at Branch Christmas Party

Soeur Black and Happy enjoying the Branch Party

Soeur Black and Happy enjoying the Branch Party

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