We’ve had a lovely weekend. While our nation at home unravels in chaos and riots and protesters, we have enjoyed a calm Sabbath, smiling at our industrious neighbors (above) and eating some delicious food.
I made banana bread for Alida and her family to celebrate her baptism yesterday and I made pizza and cinnamon rolls for us. We are happy and content here in this peaceful place.
This is one thing I just never get used to–road improvements in West Africa! Every few weeks someone comes and dumps a pile of what we call “road base” in the middle of our little dirt road. These piles are unbelievable! They usually dump a full truck load of debris made up of chunks of concrete, broken cinder blocks and other construction waste. I’ve even seen an entire toilet in the pile of dumped debris.
Within a week or so, enough cars and trucks have driven over the piles to break them up and grind the rubble into the ground, creating another layer of road base. It’s really unbelievable to me. It happens here all the time, on most roads. It seems to do the job.
You’ll see our little plumber stand here to the side of the road.
Here are a few of our other neighbors. These good folks are right on our street, within a few minutes of our apartment.
This man has a chop shop. He grills meat. Today I got a good look at what he was cooking–it was skewered liver.
Here is our closest produce vendor. I bought some potatoes and some bananas to bake banana bread today.
Next you will see an on-the-go sewing vendor. He carries his sewing machine on his shoulder and in one hand he has a pair of scissors which he snips loudly as he walks. Everyone recognizes the sound and if they have something that needs to be mended, they flag him down and he’ll sit right down and mend it.
In front of the sewing vendor are 2 hot drink carts. These men are pushing barrels on wheels. They store their supplies in the barrels, including thermoses of hot water and packets of coffee, tea, Milo and other drinks. For a few cents, you can buy a freshly-made instant hot drink.
We also have a few seamstresses on our little street. These women work all day and into the night sewing like crazy. Every evening as we drive home in the dark, their little shops are lit by a hanging bulb and they are hard at work.
This is where I would be if I needed to find a job here.
And last of all today, here is our shoe repairman in his little shop. He’s here every day with a pile of shoes to fix. At night he puts a tarp over his things to keep them safe.
I’m sure he has enough business to keep him busy for a long time!
These are people and faces we see every day as we go to and from our apartment. This is our home and we love it here. I wish there were a way to get to know each of these neighbors and hear their stories, their hopes and their dreams.
Today was a beautiful day for Sis Alida who has been taught by Elder Blehi and Elder and Elder Muyuwa. You may remember her from my 18 May post about visiting a family compound. She was hard at work in those photos, cooking over the fire. Today she was baptized!
The Elders have been teaching Alida for one month. Alida has lived with her member sister’s family for about a year. She said in all the time she’s lived there, she’s attended another church where they wear white robes/dresses and go barefoot. She said she never heard a single word about our church. She said she saw the Book of Mormon, but thought it was some odd book.
Then COVID came and the Elders came to visit the family to help them have the sacrament in the home. They learned Alida wasn’t a member and asked if they could teach her. She asked the what the name of the church was and they told her “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” She said immediately when they told her the name of the church she thought, of course, this is the right church. “Jesus’ house would have Jesus’ name.” She accepted the gospel easily and felt good about it all along.
It was interesting to watch her as she came into the church with her sister’s son who accompanied her. She immediately walked over to the artwork of Joseph kneeling before God the Father and Jesus and she just stood there staring at it. Her nephew, about 14 or 15 years old, went to the painting of the Millennial Messiah and reached up and touched his feet in the clouds where he could reach them. It was tender to watch them. Aside from her baptismal interview, this was the only other time she’s been inside the church building.
Eventually the missionaries had everything ready. The APs, ZLs, DLs and Sisters were there to help her in the changing room. John offered the opening prayer. The Elders gave the talks and welcomed her to the ward after her confirmation. It was a beautiful simple service. Her countenance was full of light.
She told me before that she’s had many trials and struggles in her life and she hopes that joining this church will make her life easier. I told her that God will not remove the challenges–they are here to help us grow, but He will make us stronger and able to bear them and the Holy Ghost will help us make good decisions and figure out the best things to do.
We welcome you, Alida, to the path that leads to the greatest happiness you have ever known.
Here is the font with the rock stopping the drain. A sacred spot on this special day.
Here’s a look at what a remote MTC experience looks like. These 2 Elders are preparing to serve in Nigeria or Ghana. Both are learning English. They come to the stake center every day for 5-6 hours and join other preparing missionaries in online classes.
There is a Priesthood leader assigned to be in this classroom with the missionaries as they prepare. They were very focused and working hard as they prepare during these rather crazy times.
This morning we traveled along the coast, south to Grand Bassam for a Misison Leadership Council. The Grand Bassam Stake Center is the only one in our area not being painted right now, so that’s where we held our meeting. All of the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders attended.
Here is the Grand Bassam Stake Center:
Greeting friends and former companions:
Arriving with missionary supplies and medications for each apartment:
Our council meeting began at about 9:30 or 10:00. We heard from 2 of the missionaries, the APs and Pres and Sis Binene. Then we had the special treat of hearing from Elder Martinez in Accra. He cheered us on and taught about preaching repentance and baptizing converts, our missionary purpose.
President Binene talked about ways to study and share the new Proclamation on the Restoration.
After the meeting, we had sandwiches for lunch and we distributed the supplies.
Here is a post I wrote for my personal blog. I thought I’d share it here too as part of our mission history.
We are passing through some interesting times. At the beginning of March we traveled to Accra, Ghana with church members to attend the temple. We had a glorious week there with them, then they returned to Bamako and we flew to Abadjan for what we expected would be a couple of weeks. Bamako is our main residence, Abidjan is our other home. We come and go between our two apartments.
After a day or two in Abidjan, our world changed. We were not able to get a flight out to Bamako. Borders closed. Missionaries were sent home. Lockdown felt imminent. We were in an apartment with no food supplies and the world around us was in a panic. We didn’t know how much time we’d have to stock up on some food before that window of opportunity closed.
On the evening of March 17th we went to the finest supermarche in Abidjan to do a little shopping. We found a ransacked store with panicking shoppers filling carts with whatever they could grab and afford. It was frightening. We purchased a few things to sustain us for the coming week. We had no idea what the future held.
Gratefully, in the weeks that followed, we were never required to go into apartment lockdown. We continued to go to the mission office every day, helping there as dozens of missionaries exited for their homelands.
We are still here. We don’t know how long we’ll be here. The country borders are still closed. The Abidjan city limits are also closed to contain the spread of the virus to other parts of the country. There are not many cases here, which is good. The stores have restocked their shelves and we are able now to buy the things we need.
What crazy times! I’ve been thinking a lot about FOOD and what essential food items are most important to us here. I thought it might be fun to chronicle the list of things we are eating during this particular time here in West Africa.
Here are my cupboards filled with our food supplies–a few things here came all the way from America to Bamako to Abidjan, and we ration them for special occasions.
We also have a fridge with a freezer. The small freezer space is filled with frozen chicken, ground beef, frozen peas, cheese, butter, bread, and our homemade frozen yogurt. The fridge holds water, yogurt, cheese, butter, eggs, some condiments and our fruits and vegetables. We are so grateful to have a fridge and freezer to preserve our food.
This is my food storage pantry in the other room:
And here is our water supply–on top are bottles I’ve refilled with filtered water with a few drops of bleach.
Here’s my list of things I can purchase here that I like to keep on hand:
We are happy and healthy and we eat well (in spite of losing quite a bit of weight). It’s a trying time for the people around us who have been impacted by the COVID restrictions. We still don’t know what the future holds, but we hope we’ve dodged the worst of it here in Cote d’Ivoire. We’re happy to be here.
Sister Blesson was called to serve in the Nigeria Oweri Mission. She is from Cote d’Ivoire, so as the borders around us started to close, she came back with many other Nigerian missionaries to her home country to finish her mission.
We have 10 missionaries serving now who have passed their release dates. They can’t return to their homes until the borders open again. There will be 9 more in June. We are grateful for their help here, but realize they are tired. I hope they feel extra blessings during their extra service!
Sister Blesson is from N’dotre, not far from here. She will be a great strength to the ward she is returning to. She is a fantastic missionary and she told me she will not stop being a missionary when she returns home.
Our neighborhood is so interesting. Everywhere I look, I can pause and think about what I am seeing. Today I saw this pile of expired wheelbarrows and I wondered what stories they or their owners might tell if they were able. What loads and burdens did they carry? What lives did they once ease? I wish I knew the story of each one.
By the time something here reaches the trash pile, it’s totally used up. My friends here are masters of the saying: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!” I can learn from how they make do.
Today the Cocody and the Riviera Districts met for their weekly meetings. The work is picking up around here. Schools opened again yesterday and more people are out and about. Life is returning to a more normal state. We’re still cautioned to be careful, with lots of handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks, but most carry on without worry.
The maintenance crews are still at the stake centers painting and working on things inside and out.
Here is our Cocody District:
Pres and Sis Binene dropped in on our district today!
And here is the Riviera District:
Afterwards we gave the Sisters a ride to the boulangerie for some baguettes.
Wig shops are very popular places.
I have trouble passing any fruit stand without buying something delicious.
Every day we continue to come to the office to work. John is plowing through piles and piles of paperwork, preparing for an upcoming audit. He’s also keeping the missionary support coming and paying the bills that come in every day.
This afternoon during a break in the rain, we went out for a short walk down to the China Mall to buy some office supplies. Here are a few pictures from our walk.
A shoe shiner at rest:
Hand washing station where we transferred some money to a missionary:
An Ivorian roadblock:
On any given day we see dozens and dozens of these food vendors. You can buy a hot meal for a small price.