Sunday, August 8, 2010

OUT OF AFRICA Aug 1st - 7th 2010


Dear Journal,
We have had quite a diverse week, to say the least. We also have experienced a myriad of emotions, to say the least. We have most definitely felt the hand of the Lord this week….to say the least.

Week of July August 1-7, 2010

We have assignments today at Menotin Branch, Marv will teach Elder’s Quorum with Elder Cruz as his translator and Sister Leavitt will work with the Primary for the last hour. We are finding that by concentrating on one branch consistently for a whole month our training is more effective. The downside is that when it is time to move on and attend another branch, the one we leave gets upset. The fast and testimony meeting was well attended and some very sweet and sincere testimonies were given…the spirit was very strong. The highlight of the meeting was the blessing of two babies by the priesthood. Elder Leavitt’s training is bearing fruit, we do believe this is the first time since coming here that we have seen a baby blessed. Babies are born all the time, but they are never blessed. This point was made by Elder Leavitt more than once in training and they even practiced how to do it with a hymn book…by golly I do believe our branch members are listening. Primary was another story…it was very chaotic and disorganized. All Sister Leavitt’s labors in providing tools for effective teaching seemed to have been ignored. So, we did a sharing time and then had a fun singing time. The President and 1st Counselor commented that they had never seen the children have so much fun and could I come every week and do the same. Well you can imagine the answer was a “no” with the explanation that I was there to train and provide the tools, but they must rise up and do what they are called to do. Hopefully at some point all this will take root and sprout up. We were both quite tired as we headed back to the apartment and planned to have a really nice nap. As we entered into our street we could hear the loudest thumping noise. Today is Independence Day for Benin, celebrating their 50 years of independence from France. The apartment next to ours was having a celebration with a DJ and speakers the size of the Eiffel Tower. It was so loud the building was shaking….this went on until 9:00pm that night. As we lay in bed exhausted from the constant noise and thumping, the noise finally stopped. We both dared not take a breath for fear it would start up again…but it did not.

Today was the day when you realize that you have a full day of mostly just running from one place to another. At home we would enjoy this kind of a day, stopping for lunch, enjoying the different destinations our errands take us to. But here it is very wearing as you continually fight the horrific traffic conditions and, when you get to your destination, finding a place to park, and when you do it is invariably on the opposite side of the road to the place you need to be and you have to walk across dodging moto traffic, and almost getting hit various times…not fun. But, that is what we do so we set out. One “must do” place was the Leader Price Supermarche to get the finished lease for the Akpakpa building to President Desiree for his information. Well Elder Leavitt had to double park and I had to walk it in to the President’s office. He immediately took it and started crossing everything out he did not like and saying he wanted to meet with Madam Vierin and the Lawyer. I made him go outside and explain to Elder Leavitt why he was upset with a lease that met all the specifications agreed on, and met the total approval of Accra. We found Elder Leavitt and the two of them conversed. I could tell my husband was not happy with President Desiree and I was not happy either. He is a good man but he is not experienced in these kinds of things and was targeting in on things that had no on sequence. We told him if he was going to upset everything at this point he was in total charge and had to take responsibility and run the risk of losing the building altogether. Elder Leavitt also reminded him that we have given notice to the current Landlord that we would not be re-leasing. He said he knew the lawyer and would set up a meeting with Madame Vierin and explain to her…we shall see now where this goes. Marv is weary of this, he has accomplished so much with no language skills and now to have this Branch President step in at the last minute is almost too much. We headed back to the house and decided to get our calendars set up for August and September. It was while we were doing this that we realized that, even though we had notified President Ayekoue two months ago that he had scheduled an Akpakpa Branch Conference for this coming weekend…we had heard nothing from him. Elder Leavitt then called Precious (it is her Branch) to see if they were planning on a conference this coming weekend…oh yes she advised they had made numerous announcements on Sunday about it. Marv then called President Ayekoue and sure enough he had forgotten all about it…he said he was not able to come and would give the assignment to President Dieudonne Attiogbe and have him take care of it. Our President is not a big one for attention to detail. We could not help but wonder what would have happened if we had not thought to check up on it?

Got an early morning call that missionaries were out of cooking gas. Also Precious is starting back today to clean the apartment and I need to have a talk with her to go over our discussions in that area. Marv left and went and got gas and I waited for Precious. All accomplished and while Precious does her thing Elder and Sister Leavitt headed out to take care of personal business. I knew that the lease was weighing heavily on my husband, he looks so tired and worn down. We talked and talked while he drove, we are at a loss as to what to do. He asked my opinion, I felt very strongly that we should not have involved President Desiree as he does not seem to be a businessman and does not comprehend the lease. We decided a change of scenery might help and drove to Port Nouvou (about 30 minutes out of Cotonou). Port Nouvou is actually the capital city of Benin and once we were there we were blown away with how different it was from Cotonou and yet so close. The streets were practically empty of moto traffic and very well maintained. It was a treat driving around the town…definitely somewhere we will visit again when we have more time. We were also able to make some decisions regarding the lease. Marv will attend the meeting set up for tomorrow morning at 8am with Madame Vierin and take Elder Cloward to interpret and hopefully at the conclusion we will have a good resolution that makes everyone happy.

Elder Cloward came over and he and Elder Leavitt left in good time to attend the meeting with Madame Vierin and President Gbedjangni. Just as they were leaving he asked me to call President Gbedjangni to make sure he was on his way. He answered his phone but seemed confused and said Madame Vierin was not at her house and we would have to reschedule. I called Elder Leavitt and gave him the news…he was not happy. He and Elder Cloward then went to the bank and accomplished a few other things. When they returned both Marv and I realized that in all honesty President had forgotten to set the appointment and not called until the last minute. This seems to be the normal way of a West African man. After some back and forth another meeting was set for 3pm tomorrow. afternoon. Our air conditioner in the living room had also decided to not work so we called Pierre to come and check it out. Speaking of Pierre he is busy making us props for a Mighty Change and has produced a spectacular Liahonna..what a treasure he is. The rest of our day brought a myriad of emotions from frustration with our President Ayekoue and his lack of communication to joy from members who continually amaze us in their faithful service. We heard from Elder and Sister Herr that President Attiogbe would be in Cotonou on Friday and we invited him to stay with us…which he willingly accepted. At the ninth hour Marv got the idea to ask President Attiogbe to come in tomorrow so he could attend the meeting with him and Madame Vierin. They work together very well, have accomplished many lease negotiations in Togo when we served there, and Marv feels comfortable with him. He was very gracious and said he would be here tomorrow afternoon in time for the 3pm meeting.

Spent the bulk of the day preparing some thoughts for the Branch Conference as we will both be training. Also Sister Leavitt ransacked the house and found items that will work for the Mighty Change in the costume department…more to come on that. We had a nice morning and then prepared for the arrival of President Attiogbe. As the clock crept closer to 3pm there was no sign of him. We had Precious call President Gbedjangni to ask Madame Vierin if we would come at 4pm instead of 3pm…he said he was not aware of a meeting at 3pm today….we give up! We called Precious back to see if she could get us a meeting with Madame Vierin at 4:30pm, which she did. Dieudonne actually arrived at 3:30pm which gave he and Marv time to go over the original lease, line by line. We headed over to the new building to see if we could find Madame Vierin…she was in her house and gladly received us. We produced the original lease (not the one President Desiree marked up) and went over it in detail. She was pleased with it and accepted the minor changes Elder Leavitt and Dieudonne had made. She was very receptive to Dieudonne and they got on well. This was a very good decision! The final plan is to get with her on Monday or Tuesday with the lawyer, get it finalized and signed and then we are done with it for good, and we hope this happens. We just had time to run home and for Sister Leavitt to make some soup and omelets and then the three of us rushed over to the Gbedjromede chapel to attend the Public Affairs meeting to go over the progress on Helping Hands (8/21) and Mighty Change (8/28). President Gbedjangni the Chairman of these events was a no-show, and no other Branch President were there. Brother Missigbeto took 30 mins to advise us that at his meeting in Accra last week he was told that the Public Affairs has no responsibility for the Mighty Change. No projects have been selected for the Helping Hands and the Mighty Change is at a standstill. Elder Leavitt made his feelings known and President Dieudonne also expressed his sentiments and compared our progress with Togo, who seem to be doing much better. Sister Leavitt basically advised them that this was our 5th meeting on these projects and we have not moved one inch towards anything…(this did not go over well). They are hung up why they should not do this or that, and who will pay for this or that…everyone wants to be a Chief, nobody wants to be the Indian. Then Sister Leavitt got out her bag and produced her costume suggestions and things picked up from there…they loved her ideas and samples. She even came up with armbands for Helaman’s Warriors made out of toilet paper rolls. We were so weary when it was over…the three of us dragged ourselves home and went to bed.

Today we will call it a “play day”. It has been about 2 years since Dieudonne was here and he just wanted to ride around with us and see what was new. We took him as we visited the post office, bank etc. Then Sister Leavitt took him into Erevan and he absolutely loved it and walked around with her with his eyes big as could be. We then had a late lunch/early dinner at Festival de Glace and headed back to the apartment to ready ourselves for tomorrow and the Akpakpa Branch Conference.

We started off the day with a baptism…two were baptized one from Akpakpa and one from Menotin. It was a sweet baptism but not without another frustration. It was supposed to start at 10am, at 10:30am we still had not started even though everyone was there. I found my husband and enquired why he was not happy. It seems the Gbedjromede Branch President was refusing to allow the missionaries to use Gbedjromede’s baptism clothing…he said that the individual branches involved should provide their own. We only have one baptismal font and it is at the Gbedjromede building. Elder Leavitt quickly got it straightened out with a note to address this at some future date with all three Branch Presidents, when will this nonsense cease to end…don’t know. Following the baptism some of the missionaries came back to the apartment to see Dieudonne…they love him so much. Then it was time to head for Akpakpa for the training meeting. It was to start at 2pm but actually started at 2:30pm due to late arrivals. My session was to have the Relief Society President give part of the training but she was not there as she had travelled, so Dieudonne said a few words and then turned it over to me. I trained for 1-1/2 hours on “Rise to your Call”, lessons learned from the women of the bible and how to organize in your respective auxiliary. I had around 25 people in attendance a mix of adults and young women and Precious was by my side to translate. It went very well and I had great participation and response. Elder Leavitt trained on ordinances and had around 12-14. He was pleased with his participation too. We then went into the Adult session from 4-6pm and Marv and I both participated. At the end of the day we felt it had been very worthwhile and were pleased with the comments made by the members. We then headed for our Chinese Restaurant along with Dieudonne and with Elder Cloward and Gnohohi in tow (Elder Cloward had been translating all afternoon for Elder Leavitt). We enjoyed a really good dinner and also enjoyed each others’ company.

The attached pictures hopefully will give you a bird’s eye view of our driving conditions around Cotonou.

Til next week…..Elder and Sister Leavitt

Le Couple

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