Thursday, April 23, was definitely another WA WA (West Africa Wins Again) day in Cotonou. A lot of work has been going on at the old chapel to get it back into shape. In Africa, it seems that when you leave a building, it is expected that it be in top condition. The Church tries to respect that so there are no problems with landlords. The building is being painted and everything repaired nicely. We have been concerned about the building looking good in this case as our relationship with the landlord hasn’t always been the best. It seems to have fallen to us to oversee getting the old building returned and we also needed to get some landscaping in and around the new chapel. There are a couple of older gentlemen in the Branch, Frere Dieudonne and Koffi George, who have been very helpful over the years in cleaning up outside of the building, watering and trimming the plants, removing the garbage and in general taking good care of things. We have appreciated them a lot. Koffi George has never been baptized as he just can’t seem to whip some word of wisdom problems, but he probably knows the gospel better than anyone in the branch and never misses church. President Lokossou told us to talk to Frere Dieudonne about planting some greenery around the new chapel so we stopped by his little shack where he recycles anything he can find of any value. He was talking shotgun French to Elder Black and was telling him about his little sister dying in Ghana and that sure he would help with the plants, etc. By the way, he said he had already been to the old chapel and had cut the greenery there. Elder Black thought that was really great of him to prune the bushes so it would look good to return to the landlord. That night we found out that when he said cut, he meant cut – everything — right down to the roots. He had gone over and with the help of Koffi George, literally chopped down every green bush or tree that was there except for a large fan palm that would have needed more than a machete. Sometimes African logic is a little hard to follow. A sense of humor is an absolute necessity in Africa so we have been laughing about it ever since – sort of.
But laughing about it would not rectify the situation so we asked Frere Landu, our piano teacher who is an expert gardener, to help us out. That turned out to be a good decision. The next morning we went to a nursery along the road to the airport and began the selection process. I just about went crazy seeing all of the beautiful tropical bushes and flowers all being sold for a pittance compared to what we pay to landscape at home. Many of the plants we have as house plants at home are used for outdoor landscaping over here since freezing is not a problem. There are numerous nurseries along the sides of the streets of Cotonou. We had observed them before and noticed the abundance of beautiful plants but this was the first time we had stopped to look closely and buy. Landu made some nice decisions and had them planted by noon.
In the afternoon we went back to the nursery with President Lokossou and Landu to choose greenery for the new chapel. We purchased several plants in pots to put around the baptismal font and out in front of the building. We bought some low growing flowering shrubs for a planter area directly in front of the building and two trees for the front. Some of the plants are fairly large and with the concrete pot probably weighed well over 100 lbs. Landu and I tried to carry one, and we were not exactly sure how we would get them loaded. The young man in charge of shifting things around didn’t seem to have the same problem that we did. He hoisted it up on his head and carried it to the pickup. The new paint job and the potted plants really made that old building come alive. The painting is almost finished. One of the members framed some nice pictures in addition to the ones we already had moved from the old chapel and things are really starting to look nice.
On Saturday we held the first baptisms at the new chapel. Three baptisms were held in the morning from the Akpakpa Branch and one in the afternoon from Gbedjromede Branch. Sunday was our general conference day. We knew the chapel would not hold everyone so we geared up with TVs and DVD players for three rooms, two for French and one for English. As near as we could count, there were about 170 people in attendance so the new chapel got a real workout. I thought the talk by Elder Holland on the life of the Savior was especially powerful but we enjoyed it all. After Church we met with Frere Briga and his wife. That is a long and developing story that we hope to be able to relate from start to finish next week.
Our love to all.
A rainstorm in the tropics