Learning the Ropes in Lome

Gillis\' last day in TogoThis week was devoted entirely to a quick lesson about the missionary efforts and branch situation in Togo. Elder and Sister Gillis were almost packed and ready to go to Abidjan when we arrived on Sunday; therefore, on Monday we began the daunting task of learning a huge city in two days. They and another Elder needed to update their visas so the first learning experience was at the Togo Embassy.

There are some crucial places to know in Lome besides The Togo Embassy: The American Embassy, Eco Bank, DHL, post office, customs at the airport, Toyota, chapels, missionary apartments and most important, supermarkets. The supermarkets are almost like those at home and even had such things as Tang and Jello. I am not suggesting that they are absolute necessities, but at least the labels looked like home. The isles were even wide enough for a grocery cart!

In Togo there are 8 missionaries (3 from the U.S. and 5 from Africa) with two more American scheduled to arrive on Friday. On Tuesday morning we picked up two of the elders to take them to teach institute at the university and had a little mishap. We have mentioned about the crazy moto drivers in Cotonou, and the Lome drivers are in the same category. On the way to the university a moto driver ran into the back of our pickup. We thought he was going around us and then heard a big thump, turned around and looked and saw a moto lying on the ground. Fortunately no one was hurt but we did lose the rest of the day and the next morning resolving the situation with the police and the insurance company. We were not at fault but ended up giving the moto driver some money to fix his moto so we could be done with it and get on with life! He was very nice and wasn’t blaming anyone but just felt badly about his moto since he used it for his work.

Missionaries in Togo (No snow here)On Wednesday we checked into a hotel for a much needed break and to give the Gillis’ some time to say their goodbyes and finish packing. Our balcony overlooked a tropical scene of palm trees, swimming pool, and beautiful flowering trees with the ocean in the background. It was absolutely beautiful but seemed to be a fairy tale compared to the Africa that we have become so familiar with. I will have to admit that we crashed and didn’t even want to leave to eat dinner so we relaxed and ate cheese, crackers, fruit and yogurt. The next morning we did enjoy the breakfast buffet by the pool with an ocean view. That definitely made up for the night before, as there was everything from omelets to tropical fruit.

We needed to go back to the bank on Thursday morning where I had another experience that we don’t have at home. I stayed in the car while Elder Black went into the bank. Not long after he went inside, a soldier with an AK 47 or something similar knocked on my window and my heart skipped a few beats. Looking at that gun, I felt obliged to roll down the window and try to talk to him. I told him to wait because my husband would soon be back and I could only speak a little French. He just stood to the side, and I thought he was waiting, but when Elder Black came he didn’t even want to talk to him. I decided that he was just protecting us from the beggars and sellers as when one approached, he told him to leave. Whew!

Blaise\'s (Togo Branch President) wifeThe couple’s home in Lome has a full-time guardian who takes care of the yard, washes the pickup and does anything else that is asked of him. We thought that was pretty great as the only guardian we have in Cotonou is ourselves! His name is Blaise and by coincidence we met his wife and baby when we were at the fruit stand of Mama Catherine, also a good member of the church in Lome. Mama CatherineMama Catherine loves the missionaries and they in turn love her as she takes pretty good care of them. All of the missionaries who have worked in Lome have spoken very highly of her.

On Friday before we left Lome with the Gillis’ for Cotonou, we all ate breakfast at the hotel buffet and enjoyed the view and conversation before facing another border crossing. We would like to show you pictures of the border but cameras are not allowed and it is strictly enforced. Sister Southam tried to take a picture once and it got the attention of the police real fast! She almost lost her camera. Surprisingly enough, when Gillis’ left from Cotonou airport, it was calm and their departure for Abidjan went smoothly and on time for once.

This week was an administrative week and we really missed going into the homes of the people here in Cotonou. We feel much more like missionaries when we teach, have home evenings, and fellowship. When serving the Lord, we try to do whatever needs to be done and serve Him with all “our heart, might, mind and strength”.

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