Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Long Road to Aladda

#hipstapic #afrika (that's for SisSieHawk)

During my sejour at the Bureau, I have gone and traveled to a lot of places... Togo border, Porto Novo, Ouidah... well, let's just add another place on that place: Aladda! Maybe Fro can get that on a map to show you where it is, but it's about 20 miles north, outside of Cotonou... and 20 miles might not sound like a lot to you all, but when the road is mostly unpaved and a lot of the way is just bumpy roads, 20 miles turns into a good hour to hour and a half trip. I mean, if a gas tanker flips over because of how bad the road is, you know that we aren't joking about road conditions!

Says it should take 40 mins, but....this is Africa!

The whole purpose of the trip was to help out the amis in Cotonou get married. As some of you might know, it is actually very hard for people to get married here not only because of dowries, but also because of the government's restrictions on getting married in Cotonou. For example, there was a couple trying to get married here and they asked for just about a million pieces of documentation (like birth certificates, IDs, high school diplomas, etc... a lot of stuff that really don't have anything to do with marriage!). Plus, it can be very expensive to get married unfortunately, running from 50,000-100,000 CFA which is $100-200... a lot for just a simple marriage. 

So, we took Fr. Chodaton, who is the former police commissioner of Cotonou (and in my branch) to his village of Aladda to try and negotiate for one of the city officials to come to Cotonou and marry people (for cheap). It would end up saving couples about $100 so it's definitely worth the trip. Of course, the not exciting part was driving up there and then driving around the cities (I was *this close* to bottoming out the car but thankfully 10 Beninois came and helped us out!). 

It was pretty cool to get to see the country side of Afrika... it makes me feel like I'm actually serving in some crazy, weird place in Africa and not some dirty/grimy city. We didn't see any wild animals, but that's all good... getting out of the city is always fun so I'm down with that. 

This week, I felt like I went crazy in picture taking so I'll probably let the pictures do more of the talking than my own letter. 

Just a truck full of cows... 

Don't have room for a road? Just destroy the homes on the side of the previous road! Pretty, huh?
Hmmmmm... what's all this black stuff on the road? That's weird...

Wait a second, that can't be a flipped over gas truck can it?!?!
Oh crap... it's a flipped over gas truck... What the heck?!?! Should we even be driving on this road?!?! 

Well, at least people are trying to save what they can... free gas anyone? 

Hipsterized photos taken on the trip to Allada... really nice hillsides... 

.....actually reminded me a bit of the rolling hills of PA!

 Cool white plants that I found at this random house in Allada.

Anyway... things are going pretty well... other than the Aladda trip, there wasn't much else that was too exciting. The big news right now is that I'm leaving the Bureau! Pretty crazy isn't it? I'm not going to write too much about leaving the Bureau this week because I'll still be here a week from now, but it's a bitter sweet feeling. I'm going to go to Menontin, which isn't very far away from the Bureau. I'll be training a new missionary, Elder Semeha... who is from Togo! That's pretty cool in my opinion because my only two sons are from the two mission countries! Not many people can say they've trained both a Beninois and a Togolais on their mission... actually, nobody can say that yet so I'll be the first! 

I'll be leaving the sector in good hands though... I feel like we have some good amis right now that are progressing well. If you remember the family I was talking about last week, just yesterday the Dad said that he was going to get married to our ami Rebecca... we're not sure if it's really going to happen yet, but if it does we are going to be so excited!!!! We've been working a lot with this family the past week, especially with Romario and Sara (our recent convert). We had a cool lesson at the office with them, talking about the family proclamation and how families can be together forever. We gave them a big copy of it so that they could hang it up in their house and then we gave them like 5 photocopies to share with people.

The funny thing is that once they both got home, Romario went to go see his Dad, Abel, at work and gave him a copy... then a few minutes later, Romario left and then Sara came and gave him another copy without realizing that Romario had already given him one! But the best part is, they told us that when he came home he actually sat down and read it! That's the important part! 

Click HERE to print a copy!

During that lesson we had, I gave them a picture of the Ghana, Accra Temple. I told them that this is the goal that they should be aiming for: the day that their whole family can get sealed together in the Temple, for all time and eternity. So, they took that and the next day I saw it hanging in their living room, just like how I had asked them! It was right next to the family proclamation that we gave them! Another cool thing is that Abel's dad saw it when he got home and told his family that they really needed to frame the picture and not just have it taped up! So... I think that's good that he's realizing how important it is that they get married to help them progress towards the goal of marriage in the Temple. Now don't get me wrong, they're a long ways away from reaching that goal, but I know that one day, it will happen! 

Ghana, Accra Temple

One thing that has been important to learn on my mission is that baptism is NOT actually the most important goal to have when teaching people... it's just the starting point. Our goal is to help people live the Gospel for the rest of their lives, an important part of that being making temple covenants! Even yesterday, the first counselor in the Branch was telling us that we should tell the wife that we can baptize her, by herself, once she gets married to her husband (meaning that she doesn't have to wait for her husband to get baptized in order to get baptized)... though I knew he didn't mean anything bad by the comment, I told him that our goal with this family is not to just baptize them... but our goal is to help bring them through the temple one day! So we're going to try and help the whole family come in... not just part of the family.

That actually reminds me a lot about what President Morin was teaching us this past Thursday, when we had a Sacrament Meeting as a mission (well, half of the mission). He talked a lot about how we will start to focus a lot about retaining our converts and truly converting them to the Gospel so that they will progress in it and get all the blessings that they need out of it. 

I feel really blessed that the Lord has given us the Agbo family to teach and see! They are so awesome and I have so much hope in them right now... like I mentioned last week, I've always hoped to find a good family to bring into the Gospel, and I think my companions and I have found the perfect family! It's crazy to say, but sometimes I feel like I'm a part of their family just because I love them so much... I'm definitely going to miss them when I'm transferred, but... 'tis life as a missionary.

I hope that everyone will have a great week! Thanks for sending prayers, letters, and kind thoughts my way!


Elder Hawkins

a few more pics:

The District of the Bureau. The "Beau Gosses"
Oliverson and I having fun jumping at the beach.
Hipsterized photos taken at the Beach... we just randomly went to the beach one day to go and take some pictures because our RVs fell through and we were feeling the need for a little break!

... got some cool pictures tho!

Yeah, I had a little too much fun I think. Thanks Elder Izekor for pushing me in the ocean in my faithful Doc Martens. (don't worry... I think they'll make a full recovery).

This is Celia (Romario and Sara's littlest sister)... this is what happens when you take out the tresses in somebodies hair... AFRO! BOOM!

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