Last week was a busy one in Togo. Back in days gone by, it used to be a little relaxing to go there but such was not the case this week as we needed to help equip the new Lome branch chapel with chairs, fans, a paint job in a few rooms, etc. We were moderately successful except for chairs. “Indian Trader” Mike told us he had all of the blue chairs we wanted. Blue was not our first choice but we were in desperate need, so we ordered 135 chairs. When they arrived our 135 had turned in to 60 and then only by using two different shades of blue. The final phase of the seating plan is to use these chairs now in the chapel and when we have benches made for the chapel later, the chairs will go in the classrooms. The branch rented plastic stacking chairs for more seating in the chapel and also the classrooms. On Sunday, I think every chair was used.
The Lome chapel is a beautiful facility. We are not really proud of the area that it is in, but that seems to make little difference in Africa. After you enter past the high cement wall, you are in a beautiful courtyard with grass and nice shrubs. Before entering into the chapel, classroom and office area there is a large tiled patio. The patio area is large enough for a dance or other activities and also serves as overflow for the sacrament meeting. Originally this facility was a large upscale villa, therefore, there are enough rooms for classrooms and offices plus the chapel. One area appears to have been for hired servants to live which added an additional five rooms plus the rooms in the main building. On Saturday evening many members were there cleaning and excited to be preparing for the Sabbath. We went back to the chapel about dark. The choir was practicing and it appeared that most of the branch were just milling around, visiting and enjoying the yard and their new facility. The cost to rent all of that is about $600 per month – not a lot by US standards but quite a bit for Africa.
We attended church there on Sunday and enjoyed the good spirit that was there. The African people really know how to sing and it is always a thrill to be in their presence when the hymns are being sung. They sing with feeling and gusto. You do not see anyone sitting there mouthing a few words or not singing at all. They sing! Even the organist was singing with all his heart and soul as he played the accompaniment. It is very contagious and we find ourselves singing with real intent ourselves. Primary was well attended and it was fun to hear the kids singing, “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree”, in French, of course. They were doing the movements just like at home. I couldn’t help but wonder how these kids could relate to a song about an apricot tree but they were sure enjoying the song. I guess we need to find one about a mango tree! All the Primary kids know, “I Am a Child of God”, and it pulls at my heart strings every time I hear them sing it. The little kids here are so cute and lovable. When it came time to go to class, there was no problem with the chairs. You will note in the picture how that was solved.
There was a baptism on Saturday in the Tokoin Branch for a sister. It turned out to be quite the challenge. We had had a problem with the baptismal font not draining so there was water standing in the font which was not really inviting and also dangerous for little kids running around. Last trip I contracted a plumber to fix the problem. As soon as we arrived, one of the elders said, “Elder Black the baptismal font is leaking.” Sure enough, we could see the water going in but the water level was not rising. Elder Black measured the level of the water and it would not go above 16 1/2 inches. This sister was not particularly big but it still took five tries to finally get her completely immersed in the water. She was good natured about it and thankfully was not afraid of water as are many Africans. You would think that in a climate like this, and close to the ocean, people would almost live in water and be very familiar with it. On the contrary, most people are afraid of water and baptisms can become a challenge at times.
At the same time as the baptism, the Relief Society sisters had an activity going. They were sitting around preparing pate and fish. This was pate blanc and then wrapped in wet corn husks. They formed a ball with the pate and then wrapped it with the husks and then steamed it. I helped them with the corn husks for awhile before the baptism. Every time I attend and activity where food is being served, I marvel how these sisters can prepare so much food working in large pans on the ground or floor and then cook on a little charcoal burner. The brothers were having a meeting and then they were all going to eat together. I think the brethren got the easiest end of that deal! We could not stay to eat as we needed to go back to the Lome chapel.
The former Elder Ellis was with us for this week in Lome and everyone really enjoyed seeing him and he enjoyed seeing them. He had interesting names for some of the areas around Lome. For example, the big marche that we had trouble going through several weeks ago is “Outer Darkness” and a place where a member works by the port is “Kingdom of the Flies.” I thought that they were pretty descriptive phrases. He likes Africa so well that he is taking a jar of Togo dirt and jar of Benin dirt home so that he can be buried under African soil someday. Sunday we left for Cotonou along with Elder Jerman who was being transferred from Togo to Benin. As we were driving home from shopping on Saturday we caught a picture of him and his companion as he was taking one last look at the beach. It was easy to spot an yovo with a white shirt and red tie from far away.