|Soiree Pancakes! Disregard the sweaty shirts...|
There's comes a point in a missionary's two years where the normal, daily routine just isn't enough. Not that knocking on random doors isn't fun... not that asking nonstop for contacts from members isn't fun... not that walking under the burning hot Beninois sun isn't fun either... but honestly, all those things get pretty old, pretty quick.
So, as I said last week, sometimes, you just gotta get a little creative and start thinking outside the box. One of the problems (and blessings actually) is that it's really hard for missionaries to do all the work all by themselves... to be honest, though possible, it's extremely hard and the results can be minimal. However, when the branch/ward members get involved and start inviting their friends to do things that are Church-related with them, then things get a whole lot easier for us.
Elder Ritchie, our sometimes wise Assistant to the President (I say sometimes just because I like giving him a hard time), has often put it best by giving an example. Imagine if somebody comes to your door and starts trying to sell you something. Chances are, you probably don't want it because you probably are thinking to yourself that you don't need it. Now imagine that your friend comes up to you and starts raving about a product that he just bought. Chances are, you are probably going to want to try it because your friend recommended it to you.
I think you can all see where I'm going with this... missionary work is so much easier when the members from a branch/ward are involved! President Weed has often said that we experience very little success in missionary work if we don't work with the members and interact with them.
So, Elder Lala and I, the adventurers that we are, tried to think of ways to start working with members. Of course, Elder Lala, in his "infinite wisdom", offered that we do a soccer activity. Look, soccer is... well, soccer. People here seem to love it... and when I mean people, I mean boys ages 8-26 seem to love it the most. Not that I'm against meeting soccer loving guys between the ages of 8-26... but... okay, I'm not going to beat around the bush anymore. Soccer is a dumb sport, nuff said. I wasn't going to go to another soccer activity. Gosh, I do not like soccer.
Anyway, I had an idea... an idea that I knew would unite people of all ages, of all backgrounds, and of all continents: pancakes. Could you think of an easier and finer American delicacy to share with the people of West Africa? Because I sure couldn't!
Now, it took a couple of weeks to finally get it all figured out, we had thought of the idea the first week of March and finally got to hold it on the 29th of March.
|The flyers we sent out! (date had to be changed to the 29th however).|
Honestly, everything starting coming together about 24 hours before the activity. We got to our Coordination meeting (meeting between the missionaries and the Branch Mission Leader) a bit early so that way we could go to the marché and buy everything that we would need: flour, tons of water, oil, tons of sugar, powdered milk, pineapples, mangoes, and plastic plates and forks, plus napkins. We thought it would take us forever to find all that junk, but it actually did not take long at all. It's always awkward going to marches as a white guy, but having a white buddy in Elder Gray always helps. We didn't get ripped off either!
|Well, there was no room in the car for Elder Gray after we filled everything up from their apartment |
along with ours... sooo... he just had to hang onto the side of the car to get to the Church
(don't worry, it wasn't too far away!)
The next day, the 29th, the big day had finally arrived. I kept telling Elder Gray that this idea was so crazy, that it just might work. I had asked him if he had ever done an activity like this before, since he's been on his mission, and he said it was a first for him too. We decided to set up shop on the second floor because the first floor would be used for a district activity at that night, so we didn't want to bother them. Thankfully we have a kitchen on the second floor so we were able to install our four burners and two gas tanks up there. There was running water at first, but then it got shut off for some reason... oh well, this is Africa, that's why we bought the extra bags of pure water!
Then, as the other Elders were taking care of entertaining everybody with some games and music, Elder Gray and I set up a barricade in the hallway so that people would stop bothering us while we were making pancakes! Goodness, people are so nosey when it comes to wanting to watch white people cook.
|American Pancake Crafters|
So, Elder Gray and I, armed with our American-ness, set out to make pancakes. At first, we just started making popcorn to hold people over as people started to trickle in (did you know: West Africans don't like salted popcorn as much as they love popcorn coated in powdered milk. It's actually pretty delicious.). I have never popped popcorn on the stove before, but Elder Gray did a masterful job of not getting the kitchen to smell like burnt popcorn!
Then we started cutting up our mangoes and pineapples to make our syrups... they turned out to be really jelly-like but we would just add more water in order to make them a bit more syrup like. They tasted SUPER good though! I preferred the mango syrup over the pineapple one though... I think pineapples are a bit more watery so it wasn't as sweet as the mango one was.
Finally, as it seemed like we had everybody there (I would say a good 30-50 people showed up), we fired up those pans and started pouring pancakes down. We found that the secret to making really fluffy pancakes is adding more baking soda! I know Fro is probably laughing at me right now because there has to be some faulty reasoning in that somewhere, but it's true! We were making some pretty monstrous pancakes! Elder Gray and I were getting so efficient at making the pancakes, it was like clockwork... at the end, I was even making the pancake batter without any measuring of any kind (I was using handfuls of flour, eyeballing everything). It was pretty scary how fast we were churning out those pancakes.
And then finally, the moment arrived where we would find out if our pancake factory was all done in vain. We brought out the pancakes and the syrups (we had three cups full). We put them down and told people they could start eating when they wanted too (we had already blessed the food, don't worry!)... and then nobody was coming to eat them.
Our greatest fear was actually this: Beninois (and West Africans in general) do not like sweet things. Yeah, that's right: sweet and sugary is a no-no here. It's really weird to think but people do not have a sweet tooth like we do back home... instead of going for a nice bowl of ice cream or a cookie or two, they reach for alloco (sweet banana plantains) or beignets sprinkled with sugar.... definitely good stuff, but nothing like a nice pancake!
|Look at all those delicious pancakes and their delicious syrup!|
However, thankfully our work was not in vain: Elder Lala and Elder Konduah (Elder Gray's comp) started dishing out the pancakes and the syrup (and they looked pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay good with those cool colored syrups that we made)... and people did start eating them... and they actually LIKED THEM. Then we brought out the beesap and some more waters and everybody was happy. Since it was an activity for the young adults and the youth, they were all occupied playing games, enjoying the music, and eating up the glorious pancakes.
I was really happy as well because three of our amis came, as well as my recent convert Olivier, who brought a friend with him. I didn't get to talk to them too much because I was either busy making pancakes or busy cleaning up the pancakes, but everybody seemed to be having fun. Also, favorite youth African activity? Musical chairs. I'm pretty sure these people can be entertained for hours watching the youth play musical chairs (actually, it is pretty amusing though).
|Tellin' ya, they love musical chairs.|
It's amazing to see how just a little bit of energy, about $40, and some teamwork can really all come together and give people a good time together! I've always been a fan of doing non-threatening Church activities like that for people who really don't know the Church that well... I feel like a lot of people are scared to go to Church activities because they are going to be preached too, but I think Church activities are more about helping people feel welcomed into a community that is inviting to everybody! Even looking at Christ's ministry here in Earth, when he fed the multitudes TWICE with fish and bread, he never said that only the members of His Church could come and eat! He invited everybody, no matter where they came from or who they were!
In retrospect, the pancake activity was a ton of fun, but at the end of it we were all just super tired from it. The youth absolutely loved it and want us to do it again next month (um, yeah, how about they sweat out a storm making pancakes next time!) but I don't think that's gonna happen anytime soon! Now, I think we're going to try to do a general branch activity to get everybody involved but that's gonna be a long ways out because we're still tired from the last activity that we had!
If there is any advice I have to give out this week, it's that missionary work doesn't have to be boring! It can be really fun if you just get a little creative and are not afraid to sweat a little bit (or a lot of you're stuck in a tiny kitchen with four burners going!).
Just like Miss Frizzle says: Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!
Just like Miss Frizzle says: Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!
And you'll end up having a whole lot of fun! And success.
Couple more Pics from Porto Novo:
|Went back to Porto Novo this week to look for missionary apartments and took pictures |
of these Voodoo things... thought they looked pretty interesting.
Have no idea what they do inside of them, but don't know if I want to!
Note from the Fro: He says THANK YOU to Mark & Cathy and family for all the letters. He got them!!! Tami, he got yours too. He was SOOOOO excited to get REAL mail! Told me to let you know he will be writing you back. Thank you ALL for writing!