This week we taught Helene Briga about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We talked about faith being the first principle of the gospel. Faith in our Savior Jesus Christ is a very personal matter as we believe and trust in Him, even though we have not seen Him. We need to nurture this faith as we do a seed that is planted in the ground. When we plant a seed we have faith that it will produce the intended fruit, tree or vegetable. At the same time, it must be watered, have sunshine, and the weeds controlled for it to grow. The same principle applies to faith as it must be nurtured by prayer, keeping His commandments and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It takes effort to keep our faith nurtured and growing. As we meet some or our challenges here we are constantly reminded that we must keep our faith nurtured.
We came home from Togo on Tuesday and had a meeting with a proprietor of another building, but he is asking for a very high rental price so it appears that another find is lost. But we keep reminding ourselves that we must keep the faith and “work like it all depends on us and pray like it all depends on the Lord.”
We were in Lome for Elder Aka’s birthday so we had he and Elder Samutamu over for a birthday dinner. One of our goals is to fix a special dinner for each elder on or near his birthday. We really enjoy this self-appointed assignment as it makes them feel special and gives us time to get to know the elders better. I think being invited over to a sit-down, American-style dinner is a new experience for the most of the African elders, but we don’t see them frowning at Soeur Black’s cooking.
Sister Felicite Akoha has been the Relief Society President of the old Cotonou Branch ever since we arrived. We have become pretty well acquainted as we have worked on various projects and have talked about her before. When she joined the church a few years ago, her husband was initially in favor and interested himself. Then, something changed and he became bitter and it ended in a divorce, so she has been a single mom to two children for 3 or 4 years now. Sister Felicite is a qualified nurse and helps everyone in the branch including us. It is very comforting to have her as a friend whenever anyone including an elder is sick. Between having her in Cotonou and Dr. Stubbs in Accra we at least have some good consultation for such occasions.
A few months ago, she came over to our house all excited. She had been corresponding with an old friend that she had grown up with, who was living in Ivory Coast, and he had agreed to starting taking the missionary lessons. In addition, Elder Elvis Sahoui from Cotonou was the missionary who was teaching him. To make a long story short, he was baptized, returned to Cotonou and they were quietly married at the mayor’s office a couple of weeks ago. They are looking forward to going to the temple as soon as they can. We didn’t even find out about the wedding until the day before, and we were in Togo so we didn’t get to attend. We decided it would be a shame to let the occasion pass without some kind of recognition, so last night the missionary Blacks sponsored a reception at the church in their honor.
Soeur Black made a small but beautiful wedding cake and also a nice arrangement of artificial flowers. For refreshments, we served a fruit cup, a slice of chocolate cake, candy the Southams had sent over, and the required pop. No fete here is complete without the cases of pop. Soeur Estelle coached us a little on how to serve refreshments in Africa. Generally speaking, people are not well enough disciplined that you can allow free access to food set out on a table. First you have all the plates ready to go and put them on the big trays that women carry on their heads. These trays are quickly refilled, and everyone is served who is sitting down. Two men carried the cases of pop around and gave each person a bottle of pop. It actually went very well, and we served about 125 people. Soeur Felicite and her husband Guy we so thrilled and so were her two children Hendrick and Lilliane. It doesn’t take much to please people over here. Maybe our receptions have become too extravagant at home.
The branches are getting well established and we now have three nice branches meeting in Cotonou now where we used to have only one. Soeur Black and I try to get to a couple of Sacrament meetings whenever possible. Today I almost had to leave one meeting because I became so amused. The downside of having three branches is that three times as much music talent is required, and we were already a little short on talent. Nevertheless, we have some of the branch members who are rising to the occasion even though they haven’t been taking lessons very long and it is difficult and scary. One such “volunteer” is Eric who used to be the Branch mission leader and is now the Branch Clerk of Gbedjromede Branch. His wife Estelle (They were married in the triple wedding a few months ago) leads the music. On the closing hymn, Eric began to struggle a little with the tune so Soeur Estella just reached down and turned down the volume of the piano without ever missing a beat. When Eric recovered, Soeur Estella turned him back up again. Eric was concentrating so hard on his playing, I don’t think he ever even knew he had been “quieted.” So goes things in Africa.