Last Saturday the Relief Societies of all three branches had a combined Birthday party celebrating 167 years of Relief Society. Each president talked and they did a little skit about Relief Society. After the skit they did an activity where they chose certain people to choose a slip of paper out of a bowl and then do something or answer a question. I was relieved that our first question was, ” What is the theme of Relief Society?” and the second was to tell where in the scriptures you find, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] Easy to answer, and we did not have to make fools of ourselves. Some had to imitate animals, sing a son, or act out something. President Lokkosou stole the show when he drew a paper that said, “Do a native dance.” He thought about it for a minute and then started doing the dance that we have seen where they bend their knees and move their feet and shoulders back and forth to the rhythm of the music. It was a side to President Lokkosou that most of us have not seen before, and everyone loved the show! I felt bad as it took me by surprise and I did not get my camera out fast enough as it definitely was a “Kodak moment.”
After this activity, President Felicete announced that we would now hear from both branch presidents that were there and Soeur Black. I thought that I must not have heard right but Elder Black said that I had better get up there as I was on. Boy, was I mistaken when I thought that baking the cake was my only responsibility. My baby French was absolutely useless so Elder Black translated and I talked a little about when the Relief Society was organized on March 17, 1842 and the sisters were counseled by the Prophet Joseph Smith to give service to one another and others in need. They were also counseled to instruct one another and their families by learning the principles of the gospel. The same counsel is as important to the sisters today as it was then. That was a mighty short talk. After the talks, the sisters served sandwiches, beesap and cake. No matter how much food is prepared, it all disappears.
On Tuesday we put Elder Samutamu on the airplane to return to his home in Congo after serving for two years. He has been the zone leader here and was an excellent missionary. It is always sad to send a missionary home when you know that you will never see him again, as it is so easy for a missionary to have a special place in our hearts. Elder Kra came back from Lome with us and spent five days with Elder Samutamu before he left for home in Cote d’Ivoire. They served together in Abidjan as assistants to the president so it was good that they could spend some time together.
Before Elders Samutamu and Kra left on Monday, we told Elder Samutamu we would take the missionaries on a special activity of his choice. He chose to go Ouida, the birthplace of Voodooism that we have talked about on the road to Lome. The first stop was a Portuguese slave castle that has been rebuilt exactly as it was in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The word castle gives entirely the wrong impression as it was definitely not a castle for the slaves. The slaves were imprisoned in an area behind the castle, and if one died or misbehaved they were thrown in the alligator mote. That is certainly not my idea of how life should be in a castle. When the ships arrived, the slaves were taken down a road to the ocean to be taken to Europe, North America, Brazil, the Caribbean, etc. Trafficking human beings is a sad thing and slavery was certainly a sad chapter in the history of the world. The interesting thing is that it was normally the different warring tribes that rounded up each other to be sold as slaves to the white traders. We followed the slave route out to the beach and saw a few historic things along the way. At the beach we had fixed some sandwiches for lunch and found a quaint little pavilion some folks were willing to let us rent for an hour to eat our lunch. We were also going to see the python Temple which we understand is a monument to Voodooism, but when we arrived we found it was closed from noon to 3:00 and we had to get back to Cotonou by 4:00 so we missed that part of the tour. That will be another P-day activity. All in all it was a good trip and a little diversion from the normal routine.
The rest of the week was taken by the move from the old chapel to the new. We got a running start by using our pickup to move the library and a lot of smaller things on Friday. On Saturday there was one final baptism held that morning and then we had hired a truck to move all the bigger items such as tables and benches. We discovered too late in the process that we had not counted on Africans being task oriented. The only concern was to get the job done. How it was done was of no consequence. I have seen more care exercised in moving baled hay than that used to handle the beautiful African wood benches and tables. (By the end of the day Elder Black’s white shirt looked like he had been hauling hay!) We probably have a refinishing job on our hands now but it only seemed to bother Soeur Black and me. Everyone else seemed perfectly happy. It would have been nice to have time to do the remodel work necessary on the new chapel before moving everything in, but time did not permit. Since we had to be out of the old building by April 2, we just had to move everything and will have to work around it as best we can. Anyway, now everything is in the new building and other than scratches, dents and a few pieces of broken glass, it is more or less intact. Everyone was happy and helping. I guess we will survive also. When the moving was just about finished, a few of the sisters decided to go to one of their homes and fix pate for all of the members who were there helping. Well, pate just isn’t complete without chicken, so we ended up with quite a meal. When the food was ready, we went to help the sisters transport it to the new chapel. When we arrived they were all dripping with sweat. In fact, it looked like they had just stepped out of the shower, They climbed in the back seat laughing and having a good time. Then much to our surprise they broke into a hymn singing, “Come, Come Ye Saints, All is Well.” I looked at Elder Black and started to laugh as it helped put things in a better perspective for us. Yes, we are still learning!
Today we held sacrament meeting in the new building. We did not have any water or electricity yet so we only held sacrament meeting and then went home. Depending on how much work we are able to get done, that may be the pattern for a few Sundays.