Sunday, July 25, 2010

OUT OF AFRICA JULY 18-24, 2010


Dear Journal,
As we begin documenting yet another week of our mission we cannot help but wonder at how fast the time is flying by. It is incredible that we are now over half way through our mission and hurtling towards our one year mark. With the entrance into the mission of Elder and Sister Herr taking over Togo, we honestly thought our lives would slow down to the point that boredom would be an issue…oh how wrong we were. We truly look forward to 2:00 pm each day when (schedules permitting) we take our nap. Naps are a new thing for us and we find that we now cannot live without them...wish we had found them sooner. Here is our week.

Week of Sunday July 18-24, 2010

We went to Gbedjromede today and attended a very good Sacrament meeting. President Lokossu watches over his branch with a quiet, organized presence and it is a pleasure being there. Following the service we rode over to Akpakpa to drop off some materials. We are so thankful that we are working on a new building for this branch as they were truly spilling out of the doors today. Our missionary team here is EXCEPTIONAL, Elders Bertoch, Yapo, Yao and Geisler are diligent, hard working, and much loved here…it is a pleasure to see them in action. We were also happy to see our friend from India who came to visit with us, his name is, Nelaballe Manoharam. Unfortunately he told us that he is heading back to India and his wife as all attempts to bring his business into Benin have failed due to the unbelievable corruption here. That is the problem with West Africa, when good people come and want to do good things honorably, they are forced to deal with a corrupt and dishonorable system and they are forced to abandon their hopes and dreams and leave.
We are sad that he is leaving as he was making a difference in the branch and loved by the members. We headed home for an afternoon of relaxation before attending a rehearsal for the “Mighty Change” program at 5:00pm in Gbedjromede. The rehearsal was very well attended with over 30 youth present. We had anticipated a somewhat disorganized display and were not disappointed but, we have to say that it worked itself out and the youth were a lot farther along than we expected. They have been given a script by Accra and for the most part were doing well. One problem was that when it came time to sing a designated song as printed in the script the songs they were singing had nothing whatsoever to do with the theme they had presented. Elder Cloward and I could not figure it out until we looked up the hymn number in the ENGLISH hymn book and realized that it was the correct hymn. The youth were looking up and singing out of the French hymnbook and the numbers are different…we got that fixed. The rehearsal went on for longer than we anticipated and, darkness came and so did the mosquitoes. At last count I received over 20 bites on my legs.
Elder Leavitt: One of the phenomenon’s in West Africa is that the power is so unpredictable. Sister Leavitt and I were sitting and silently praying that the rehearsal would soon be over as the wooden benches were breaking our backs when all of a sudden the building was plunged into darkness. I told Sister Leavitt that the Lord had heard our prayers and now we could go. However, not to be distracted from their rehearsal, simultaneously 30 youth pulled out their cell phones, hit a button and illuminated the room and went right on with their practice. You gotta sometimes hate those cell phones.

Today we are busy doing what we do best…driving around Cotonou, paying our bills, checking
mail, etc. We are also now preparing mentally and physically for transfers coming up. Last night, late, we received the email from Abidjan with the transfer list…it was a shock. We will lose half of our missionaries to transfers. The hardest to take is that we lose the entire Akpakpa team. These are great missionaries doing great things. We knew that we would lose Elders Bertoch, Starita and Geisler as they are on their last Benin visa. One of the many functions we perform is taking care of the legalities of our non-West African missionaries in this country. Benin (unlike Togo) only allows three consecutive visas before the recipient has to leave the country for 30 days. However, we did not count on losing Yapo and Yao. We also lose Elder Tshibasu who along with Elder Starita have been amazing missionaries in Menotin. Elder Halterman stays but moves to another area and apartment. We will have to take Elder Yao to Togo and bring back three missionaries. Two who are being transferred here (Elders Cruz and Kakou) and one who needs to come in to obtain his Cote d’Ivorie entry visa (Elder Ghisquiere) along with Elders Bertoch, Starita, Geisler and Tshibasu. Our missionaries going to Abidjan are three American, one French one from the D.R. Congo and our 6’8” Elder Yapo. This represents a great deal of paperwork and it is a three day process to obtain the actual visa before we can send them out…so today we started the process by visiting the Cote d’Ivorie Embassy to pick up all necessary paperwork. We also did some shopping and enjoyed some lovely cool temperatures.
Sister Leavitt: Today we received a delivery from DHL of 7 packages and a pouch. After the driver left we realized that two of the packages were not for us but rather for the Jehovah Witness organization. We tried to call and explain that two packages were not ours and, where were our two packages? But our pleading was lost in translation and went nowhere…we will tackle it tomorrow.
Elder Leavitt: Sister Leavitt is not satisfied with just having twelve missionaries, today she adopted a mother hen and six of her newly hatched chicks. Now she has me going up and down the stairs feeding them.

Today Sister Leavitt had planned a day at home to do laundry and cleaning but Elder Leavitt talked her out of it and suggested she do it on Thursday. So, we ran more errands and enjoyed more lovely cool temperatures. The rain is basically staying away but we have a goodly amount of wind and it is a nice cool wind….and WE LIKE IT! As we travelled around we took the two packages with us that need to be returned to DHL. It is amazing to us that we realized we were the ones who called to advise them that they had delivered two packages to us that were not ours and, as we ran around they kept calling us on our cell phone DEMANDING that we bring the packages to them immediately. We never got a thank you or anything…you would have thought it was our fault that they had been delivered to us in error. I actually do not know what DHL stands for but, for me in this country I think it stands for Dumb, Hysteric, Lunatics…so there.
Elder Leavitt: Today we went shopping at Eravan for the chickens we are going to put in our spaghetti. They are cooked on a rotisserie and when we got them into the truck they smelled sooooo good, it almost made me want to eat one right there and then.

Today we have invited the Akpakpa Apartment missionaries to come and have lunch with us.
We decided this prior to finding out they were leaving us. Sister Leavitt has long wanted to have all the missionaries to the apartment for a lunch at the beginning of each month to celebrate birthdays. But now, with twelve missionaries it is a bit much and we are limited by space, utensils, and whatnot as to what we can serve so, Elder Leavitt suggested we have them come by apartment. We only have one birthday in July and that is Elder Geisler so we invited them we are glad we did. We were going to serve chicken, rice, veggie, salad…etc., but Sister Leavitt wanted to try her daughter Wendy’s Chicken Spaghetti (much to Elder Leavitt’s chagrin)….and she won out. We made the spaghetti sauce and bought two large chickens. Elder Leavitt pulled all the meat off them and we mixed it in. The menu consisted of, Four packages of spaghetti, three large jars of spaghetti sauce with various added seasonings, two large chickens, four loaves of French bread sliced and made into cheesy garlic bread, two large bowls of cabbage salad with raisins, carrots and pineapple, 8 sliced tomatoes, two large avocados sliced and one large cucumber sliced. Dessert was a plate with a chocolate mousse brownie and chocolate croissant with fresh pineapple. THEY ATE THE LOT! We had such a good time with them. Elder Geisler opened his birthday present consisting of a jar of Skippy Creamy Peanut butter and a large Nestle Crunch Bar…he was happy. The best part was as they were leaving Elder Geisler came and said to Sister Leavitt…”this is the best day, the food was good but I felt like I was at home with my family”. I told him he was, with his missionary family….we love these missionaries to bits. As Elder Leavitt drove them home, Sister Leavitt cleaned up the kitchen and loved every minute of it. The afternoon was brief, but we did enjoy some down time and then we got ready to receive Daniel Kabason from Accra who is here for a meeting with Elder Leavitt and the bank.
We took him to dinner and then, when we returned back to the apartment he declared that he was so tired and would it be ok if he just went in to bed (it was 7:00pm)…absolutely it was, and we did the same thing.

Breakfast with Daniel…what an outstanding young man he is. We remember working with him when we served in Nigeria. Elder Leavitt and Daniel then left for the meeting at the bank and Sister Leavitt finally got her day to stay in the apartment and clean, and she did. At 5:00pm Elder Leavitt and Pierre attended an appointment with the lawyer of Madame Vierin to finalize the lease on the Akpakpa Chapel. The evening brought yet another meeting at 7:00pm that of the public affairs committee. We attended but it did not go well, for some reason President Desiree who is the Chairman was not in good spirits and behaved very rudely towards us…why we do not know. Elder Leavitt said he would get to the bottom of it this coming Sunday. This is when the culture clash becomes hard for us. We need to get our August 21st “Helping Hands” service project organized and going and we asked questions regarding this project and received no answers so we had to give some directions and deadlines and we don’t think he took very kindly to that. Our calling is to help and support the members and missionaries alike. The members would like that we just do it all for them and that is not the way. I love Elder Leavitt’s charge that “we are here to HELP them NOT to make them HELPLESS”. Following the meeting we headed home…very, very tired indeed.
Elder Leavitt: At the meeting of the Akpakpa lease I was greeted by two attorneys and Madame Vierin and I do believe that these two arrogant attorneys thought I had fallen off a cabbage truck. They started by telling me (through Pierre) that I needed to give Madame Vierin 4,000,000cfa in advance to help her
get her building completed. Along with a series of other unacceptable demands. We finally left the meeting with them agreeing to fund the money to Madame Vierin out of their own pockets, reducing our contract from 5 years to 3 years with an option of first refusal for an additional 3 years with a maximum 20% increase. When I got done I felt like somebody had taken me out and whipped me with a board…it is so very hard to negotiate through an interpreter.

We have worked out how we can make the upcoming transfers smooth and get everyone transferred and in place as directed. Elder Leavitt reported to Accra on the Akpakpa lease situation and they were very complimentary and pleased with his achievement (so am I). We checked the mail at the post office and ran some things over to Precious in her shop and got some copies made. Other than that, today we have enjoyed the cool, lovely temperatures and the nice clean apartment and, oh yes the excellent Banana Raisin Bread I made yesterday…LIFE IS GOOD.

We started our day today by going teaching with the missionaries, Elders Halterman and Aisseba. They have a family they are currently teaching and the Mom is from Uganda and speaks excellent English. We arrived at their home which was very nice at 9am and were privileged to meet Elizabeth and her son Mark who is 20. We also met Ashley, Elizabeth’s little granddaughter, very cute. The missionaries taught them about baptism and we loved being included in the lesson. Elizabeth is a teacher, her husband was not home as he is a Director of a school and had to work. Mark asked many, many questions and is very bright.
It was an interesting 2 hours as many topics were discussed. We loved the experience and hope we get more. Not often can we be involved because of the language barrier but this time, even though the teachings were in French, because of the multi language skills of the family we were able to contribute. Following the lesson we ran some errands and then headed home. At 3pm we attended the baptism, a total of three were baptized but there were many investigators present. It was a lovely service. Our missionaries got their transfers today and the moves were met with mixed emotions, unfortunately Elder Leavitt was the one who had to shoulder emotions expressed by the different Elders…but he is very good at that. Tomorrow we will attend Church in Akpakpa and then hit the road to Togo to transfer out Elder Yao and bring back three others as mentioned earlier.
Elder Leavitt: It is so nice every now and then to get to participate in the spiritual side of our mission instead of the temporal. Sister Leavitt: DITTO!

Til next week….Elder and Sister Leavitt
Le Couple

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I just received word that Arnold (Pete) Leavitt passed away last night around 7:30. His daughter, Liz May, sent word and said he had a fast, aggressive form of cancer and passed peacefully. We will be updated on the memorial service.

Thanks, Liz, for keeping us informed. We send our love and prayers to his wife, Joan, his daughters and family, and siblings. He will surely be missed. Pete was always very active in the Leavitt Family gatherings of any kind. We will sure miss his sweet sense of humor and wonderful hugs.

Hugs, Pete

Sunday, July 18, 2010

OUT OF AFRICA - JULY 11-17, 2010


Dear Journal,
We have most certainly worn more than a few hats this week as we have tackled the tasks set before us. Elder Leavitt most especially has donned more than his share…to mention just a few. Auditor, Real Estate Agent, Trainer, Motivator, Navigator and, most important guardian of Sister Leavitt to keep her sane and safe. Here we go.

Week of Sunday, July 11-17, 2010

Off with a stop at Gbedjromede to deposit some paperwork with the branch president then on to Menotin for Sacrament then finishing up at Akpakpa to conduct an audit. Sister Leavitt visited the Primary and monitored the lesson given and then Relief Society and did likewise. Following church we gave the man visiting from India a ride home as it was starting to pour with rain. Once home we relaxed for the remainder of the day and Sister Leavitt did more work on her primary book. Elder Leavitt: The audit was excellent with the branch clerk prepared and ready. He speaks excellent English as he is from Nigeria so the process was quick. Sister Leavitt: Sister Gbedjannaghi as she taught the Primary lesson had a baby on her back. I knew that she did not have a child of her own that small so I asked her who the baby was. She explained that an investigator was attending church and had her baby who was fussing so, in order for the sister to enjoy her first experience at church, Sister Gbedjannaghi strapped her baby onto her back and took her into Primary. The baby was a contented as could be and fast asleep.

The morning brought another visit to the proposed new Akpakpa church building with more pictures needed for Accra. This time we asked Brother Agassin (Pierre) to come with us so he could survey the work that needed to be done to complete the space.
It was interesting to see how Madame Vierin reacted to Pierre as they met for the first time. Elder Leavitt: One of the problems that you have when you take a West African to translate English to another West African is that you see a real hesitation for them to translate anything that is not a positive. During these negotiations Madame Vierin wanted all her money up front and I was not willing to do that. So we took about an extra hour before I could get Pierre to basically tell her what the terms and conditions would be. What should have been a 15-20 minute meeting ended up to be about 2-1/2 – 3 hours. Sister Leavitt: While taking more pictures I went outside on the balcony and took pictures of the street below. Because of the huge amount of rain the high water ditches that run down the middle of the street had become full. There were about 8-10 young men standing in the water with shovels cleaning the debris out that had been thrown in, so that the water could freely run and drain. It looked to me like a really awful job. It was interesting to watch Elder Leavitt and Pierre as they went and measured every room to get the dimensions for Accra. Pierre came with a tape measure, Elder Leavitt said he would just stride it off. Pierre did not think this would work so Elder Leavitt said, Ok I will stride it off and shout out the measurement and then you measure and we will see how close I am. In every single case Marv was within 1” of Pierre’s measurements. Pierre would smile and shake his head…it make me laugh to watch them.

Marv and Pierre made a return trip to the proposed new Akpakpa chapel today as more negotiations need to take place. Sister Leavitt stayed at the apartment to clean and do laundry. The negotiations with Elder Leavitt and Pierre took an additional two hours before they were done. By the end of the day we had received more and more rain. Brother Agassin told Elder Leavitt that after the 15th the rain will stop…we will see. Elder Leavitt: I took the remainder of this day to prepare for the upcoming audits and work on my working fund for Accra. Sister Leavitt: Call me nuts but I love to clean…cleaning is therapy for me. I feel normal when I scrub a toilet and that’s the truth.

Another day…another trip to the proposed new apartment for Elder Leavitt and Pierre. Today they also got to meet Madame Vierin’s mother. Following the meeting they also stopped by Precious’ shop to pick up the primary book, all finished…it looks good. Other events worth mentioning today, the air conditioner in our bedroom broke (yet again) and Elder Leavitt braved the floods and torrential rain in the late afternoon to go to Menotin for yet another audit. Sister Leavitt stayed in the apartment while the A/C man tried to figure out what went wrong with the unit in the bedroom. Elder Leavitt: It was quite delightful to meet with an older (but not entirely disengaged) party to this transaction. Her mother has a relatively good understanding of business and what it means to advance money and then withhold it from the rents in the future. Madame Vierin seems much more interested in getting the money for a trip to Paris, France with her family, than anything else. The mother, at one point in time told her daughter to stop and not act so stupid.
Sister Leavitt: Today while out and about, Elder Leavitt took the money to Elder Bertoch for his new shoes. He was very proud that he was able to buy from the market two pairs of new shoes for a total price of 20,000cfa ($40.00). I am questioning the quality of the shoes but he is very happy with them, so I will shut up.

Visit to the post office first thing which yielded three packages for Elder Geisler (birthday coming up). Elder Leavitt had decided to do a surprise visit to the Gbedjromede Apartment Elders across the street at 6:30am today. He has been noticing no lights on and wanted to see what was happening. Bottom line only one missionary up and dressed…the others in bed. They got a lecture and I am sure my children reading this will remember their Dad’s admonition for Seminary wake-ups with a loud…”FEET ON THE FLOOR”. Today amongst other things we went to the Bank and picked up more finished primary books. We treated ourselves to lunch out (Festival de Glace). Afternoon brought more work at the apartment and a pre-audit by Elder Leavitt for Gbedjromede. A/C man came back to finish the A/C unit. At 5pm we went to Gbedjromede Chapel for another audit by Elder Leavitt. Sister Leavitt read up on the “Mighty Change” program in preparation for a meeting with public affairs at 7pm. The rain continues to come down in torrential torrents…when will this end? Sister Leavitt: It was interesting noticing the facial expressions as I tried to explain to the public affairs committee that we needed to get this program back on track the way the Africa West Area Presidency envisioned it. Lots of nodding of heads and writing of notes. My husband’s admonition for me to NOT GET INVOLVED beyond giving them information will not fly…if it’s going to happen we will have to be involved to some degree.

This morning Elder Leavitt left early for an 8am meeting with Madame Vierin’s lawyer to go over the lease agreement. He took Pierre with him. The problem was the lawyer did not schedule a meeting for 8am this morning but rather 5pm on Monday night, COMMUNICATION! So, Elder Leavitt returned to the apartment as quickly as he left. All he could say was the lawyer was extremely arrogant and rude and he had to climb four flights of stairs and return back down again and his knee hurt…not a good start to the day. On their way back they delivered Elder Geisler’s three packages to him. Sister Leavitt called Sister Petersen in Accra to get some direction on pioneer costumes for this production…this will be interesting as Sister Leavitt does not sew and does not understand any type of pattern…Carline where are you when I need you? Elder Leavitt made several phone calls to Accra also getting some financial problems solved for Gbedjromede. At 12noon…all things settled we hit the road to Togo to take supplies to the Herr’s. Ride over (under cloudy skies) was uneventful and border crossing very pleasant. When we finally got to Elder and Sister Herr’s house they were not there but we soon found them and joined up with them for a late lunch at Festival de Glace (yummy, yummy crepes sucre for Sister Leavitt). Back to the new house and they have done a wonderful job with putting it together. The four of us sat and talked and talked and talked until after 11pm. I guess we were enjoying having a conversation and actually understanding one another. Elder Leavitt: This morning as Pierre and I were returning home and it was raining cats and dogs I reminded him that he had told me that after the 15th of July there would be no more rain, as the rainy season was over. Without hesitation he said, “You have to blame the French, they think they are in charge of the weather and now, they realize that God is the one in charge of the weather”.

Woke up with sunshine coming in the windows (have not seen that for a while). We packed and quickly said goodbye to Elder and Sister Herr and headed back to Cotonou. We had a good uneventful ride albeit the roads are atrocious because of the rain…lots of ruts and giant pot holes to dodge. On the way in we stopped at our Chinese restaurant for lunch and then headed for the apartment. We were so, so tired. Wouldn’t you know it, the power was off and Pierre had the plumber with him and they had the water pump in pieces servicing it. Pierre thought we were not coming back till Sunday…OH WELL SUCH IS LIFE for the Leavitts.

Till next week….Elder and Sister Leavitt, Le Couple