Mission Leadership Council and Smartphone Distribution

2020-6-11 MLC Smartphones (1)On our way to MLC this morning we picked up Elder Lath, who is returning home today.  We’ve loved having him here after spending most of his mission in Nigeria.  These Ivorian missionaries who were able to come back to Cote d’Ivoire in March have been such a great blessing to our mission.

Today was an overcast rainy day.  We are moving into the rainy season here.  This is what I’ve learned about the seasons here:

December to the end of January = Harmattan–hot dry wind blows down from the Sahara, chapped lips, dry skin, and lots of lotion
February to mid April = changeable weather–some rain, some sun, comfortable
June to mid-September = Rainy, cooler
Mid-September to October, November = HOT, humid

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Setting up and preparing for the meeting:

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Social and physical distancing:

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Today we had 3 hours of MLC training, which included quite a bit about being good leader examples and obedience.  We talked about the culture of our mission and changes that might improve what we do here.

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Then this afternoon we had 2 hours with the smartphones!  The first phones are now in the hands of our missionaries.  This is a big day!

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Today the goal was to complete the set up, and have them take them home and practice using them.  The rest of the missionaries will receive their phones in the coming zone conferences and these Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders will be able to help the rest learn.

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Fr. Ebick is our Mission Communications Specialist.  He did a great job walking everyone through the steps of setting up their phones.  Every companionship has one phone.

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When we consider the power in these phones for good, it’s very exciting.  There is also power here for evil and we need to safeguard ourselves against those things that would cause harm.  We have confidence in these missionaries.

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The Abidjan Temporal Affairs Office

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This morning we took a trip to the Temporal Affairs Office in Cocody.  These good folks look after the temporal affairs for the church in the Ivory Coast.  This includes things like real estate and housing, finances, travel, church buildings, and a church distribution center.

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We’ve heard that the new building by the temple will soon house these offices and the Distribution Center when completed.

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Our purpose in visiting today was to get some new check books.

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Here is the Distribution Center.

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And here are a few interesting things spotted along our way back to the office.

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Fruit and handwashing stations:

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Pavers for sale:

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New Missionaries Arrive–Elder Kouame and Elder Oba

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Meet Elder Kouame from Grand Bassam and Elder Oba from Abobo.  Both arrived this morning at the mission office.  They will join our missionaries here until the borders are open again, then Elder Kouame will travel to his missionary assignment in the Ghana Accra West Mission and Elder Oba will go to the Sierra Leone Freetown mission.  We are lucky to have them for now.

Both Elders have been attending remote MTCs in their home stakes.  Elder Kouame spent 9 weeks in a remote class in Grand Bassam learning from Preach My Gospel and learning English.  Elder Oba studied for 3 weeks at the Abobo stake center.  They both told me their favorite things were learning to use the computers and learning from their fine teachers in Accra.  And both are very happy they are learning to speak English!

Here’s a picture I took of Elder Kouame on May 28th in Grand Bassam where he was studying.  He had one other Elder in his group who went to the Abidjan West Mission.  Elder Oba had 12 missionaries in his MTC group (9 going to Ghana, 2 to Nigeria, and he to Sierra Leone).

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It’s an interesting time to be a missionary here.  2020 will be a year we all remember with the disruptions in the normal flow of missionary work, but this work carries on, like a stone cut out of the mountain without hands.  It will fill the whole earth and we will help.

Zone Training Meeting in Cocody

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Here is the progress being made on the temple and on the distribution center this week.  Our Zone Training Meeting was peppered with pounding and constructions noises.

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Zone Training Meetings happen once a month on the Tuesday after MLC.  The Zone Leaders attend with each of their districts and teach the things they learned in MLC to the rest of the missionaries.

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Instead of collecting key indicator numbers from each companionship, they showed the numbers from the last month (May) and the goals for June.  Elder Lath will attend his ZTMs this week, then return home Thursday, completing his mission.

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Today we talked about using smartphones and how they will enhance our work here.  This will revolutionize missionary work here.  John showed the missionaries an example of how missionaries in France are posting interesting things on Facebook that encourage people to comment and ask questions.  The post he showed had one of our Tahitians with an American and a French companion singing.

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Here is our District minus Elder Muyuwa and Elder Blehi who had raced off to an appointment.

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We gave the Sisters a ride home afterwards.

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There are several homes next to their apartment that are made of tarp and boards.  It’s a hard life for many here.

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Departure Dinner for Elder Lath and Elder Gnonzion

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This afternoon after their departing interviews, we met together with Pres and Sis Binene and the Assistants for a testimony meeting before our final dinner with these Elders.  We have missed doing this with so many of our Abidjan East missionaries who departed quickly during the COVID-19 disruptions.

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After sharing our love for this work and for each other, the Binenes gave their final words of testimony and counsel to these two good Elders.  They were both called to serve in Ghana, and only joined us here in March, when they were evacuated from Ghana to return here to their home country.

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After the group photo, the feast begain!

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Soeur Celestine served her delicious food.

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These are my favorite dishes:

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And this is Sis Binene’s favorite dish–Footoo.  “I LOVE footoo!” she kept saying.

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After the meal, we had a zoom call and wonderful visit with Pres Bendixsen.  I’m sad I didn’t get a picture of his face.  Next time!  They were scheduled to depart for here on June 29th, but this week we learned that will be delayed.  They are still waiting for the borders to open so they can be issued an Ivorian visa.  We are preparing for their arrival.

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After that call, planning for the smartphones continued.  This week members of our MLC will receive their phones.  It’s an exciting time here in the Abidjan East Mission!

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A Lesson in Food Preparation at the Mission Home

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This afternoon we went to the mission home and mission office for a farewell dinner.  Two of our Ivorian missionaries have completed their missions and today we celebrated with a departure dinner.  This is the first departing dinner we’ve had since the COVID restrictions were made.

We arrived early, while President Binene was interviewing the Elders.  I went into the kitchen to see if Sis Binene needed any help.  She told me everything was prepared and ready to go.  Soeur Celestine is a caterer who comes to help with special meals at the mission home.  She’s a good cook!

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Today she showed me the food she had prepared, beginning with footoo.  Footoo is made by pounding prepared cassava and plantain with the mortar and pestle.  Then it is cooked in a large pot and formed into these balls.  Footoo is served with a red sauce that is made from palm oil and dried fish.  It’s a favorite Ivorian dish.

The rice and fried plantain are served with fried chicken and a vegetable sauce that has onion, tomato, cabbage, carrots and squash.

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This mission kitchen has been well-used and loved.

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Celeste and Elder Lath showed me how they use the mortar and pestles to prepare the food.  One is for pounding footoo and maize porridge.  The other is for pounding leaves that go into the sauces.

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This is ground maize flour (corn) that is cooked into a porridge, which is eaten every day by families like the Binenes.  Maize porridge is called foofoo.  This is a Congolese meal, often prepared for lunch and dinner, served with sauce.   A small amount corn meal is put into boiling water on the stove and stirred and cooked like a gruel.  After it boils for awhile, more maize flour is added until it becomes very very thick.   It is left to cook for 5-10 minutes and then it is put into forms the size of a ball to make the individual servings.

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Here is an explanation by Elder Lath of how the mortar and pestles are used:

 

Sunday with Elder N’cho and Elder Wanani, our Assistants

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This morning we enjoyed a peaceful sacrament meeting with our mission Assistants, Elder N’cho and Elder Wanani.  These are remarkable young men who help administer the affairs of the Abidjan East Mission.  They are helpers and teachers and trainers.

Today we thought it would be interesting to learn about their conversion stories and their decisions to serve missions.  We continue to learn from each other.

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Elder Yapo N’cho
Elder N’cho is from Abobo, not far from here. He was called to serve in Ghana and he learned English and he speaks really well. He returned here with other Ivorians when they came back during the COVID missionary movement. He’s 26 years old and did 3 years studying law at the university before his mission.

Elder N’cho told us that he comes from a family with 4 children, his is the 3rd and he has a “junior brother” he is very close to. His dad worked in the Abidjan area as an elevator repair technician (now retired and living on a pension). It was a good job and he earned good money, but sadly, he spent much of his money on alcohol. The family wasn’t happy, his mom wasn’t happy.

There was an LDS Church being built in their neighborhood, across the street from the home of his dad’s best friend. They were curious. They thought it might be a hospital or an orphanage because it was so big. The friend and his dad went to investigate what was going on there when an open house was held on a Saturday. They liked what they saw. They were invited to go to the church meeting the next day (Sunday).

At church, they met the missionaries, who asked for his contact information. They would come to teach the family, but he’d hide. He even hid under the bed. The family didn’t like the drinking problem, so they encouraged him to meet with the missionaries so he’d stop drinking. Eventually he came out and listened.  When they were taught the Word of Wisdom the family was very happy. Three months later only he and his friend were baptized (2007).  This friend is now a bishop in Akoupe.

Elder N’cho’s family was happy their dad stopped drinking, but they made fun of his church where they sang songs that sounded like funeral songs (no drums or dancing).  When his dad read scriptures, they continued to make fun of him, but he continued and was faithful. Once his dad invited Elder N’cho to read with him. He did, but he thought the church was too religious. He said his father played CDs of the hymns every morning in their home.

Once American missionaries came and challenged Elder N’cho to play PlayStation. If they won, they got to teach him. If he won, they’d leave him alone. The Americans won. He had to agree to listen to the lessons and go to church. When he went, he said he noticed the young people coming and going at the church. He could see that they were all smart and they knew how to speak well and read well. He thought he would like to be smart like they were (he said he could never speak in front of people.) He started attending church with his dad. He took it all in and decided he liked it.

The missionaries taught him and his younger brother and they were baptized. He learned about eternal families and desired that more than anything. He went to seminary and he received the Priesthood. He and his dad and his brother went with the stake on a temple trip to the Accra Temple to do baptisms for the dead when he was 17 in 2010. In Accra he got a copy of the Duty to God booklet and after returning home, he happened to leave it out on the table for about a week. His mom noticed it and read it. She asked him if he had the Priesthood and he told her yes. She said she wanted to see him blessing the sacrament for all of the people. She attended church with him the next Sunday and watched him do it. She said, “now you are a man.” That booklet changed her heart.

His mother and older siblings were all taught and baptized and they later went to the Accra Temple as a family to be sealed (August 2012). He loved it. He was about 20 when he decided to go on a mission but he had things with school that kept him from it. He finished a degree, studying for law.

His dad once gave him 40,000 cfa to get a passport so he could apply to go on a mission. He spent it on other things. Time went by. One day his dad told him this was his last chance to go on a mission–he was 24 years old. His dad gave him money again to get a passport. He said, “I know that when I gave you money last time for a passport, you spent it on other things. You can do what you want, but I hope you’ll go on a mission.”  This time he gave him the 40,000 plus 30,000 extra, and this time Elder N’cho went the next day to get a passport. He decided that he needed to go on a mission. He said he wanted other people to have the opportunity to have eternal families.

Elder N’cho was thrilled to open his call to serve in the Ghana Cape Coast Mission. The call letter was all written in English and he couldn’t read any of it except for “Ghana” and “MTC in Accra.” He’d studied English in school, but couldn’t really speak it. When he arrived in Accra, he had an American Mission President named President Hillam.  He went into his first arrival interview with him very scared and nervous, but he was able to understand and be understood–every word. He’s loved being able to speak English. Elder N’cho will finish his mission here in August.

Elder N’cho’s 2 older siblings are both married. He baptized his sister’s husband. Everyone in the family is active and they love the gospel. He told us that as a family they had family prayer and family home evening. Their family has been blessed.

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Elder Junior Wanani Bukembo
Elder Wanani’s story was very different. He is 25 years old and he’s from the Congo. His father had 4 wives, his mother was the youngest. She was very young and he was her only child. Because of contention in the compound (between wives and families), his mother left the family when Elder Wanani was 9 months old. She went far away, eventually remarried and had a family.

Elder Wanani was close to his father. There are 13 children in the family, 10 sisters and 3 brothers. One brother has died. The other brother isn’t that close to the family. So Elder Wanani’s father took good care of him and they were very close.

When he was a young boy, about 16 his father sent Elder Wanani away for school because of the contention in the compound.  He lived on his own.  There was an LDS church in his neighborhood and he and his friends would watch people coming and going.  After graduating, he found work doing yard work, then at a customs office, then working for a petroleum company.

Once there was a baptism (outside font) happening at the LDS church. He and his friends watched over the wall. He had good feelings when he saw what was happening. Not long after he watched young men and women coming and going to an Institute class. He went in to see what was going on. The course was on Marriage and Family Relations. The members were kind to him and invited him to join them. He met the missionaries.

Over a 4-week period, Elder Wanani was taught the discussions and was baptized. He was 20. No one in his family had any interest in the church. His father was a teacher (now retired). He’s had no support from anyone in his family. He’s not sure who he will go home to, although he calls his dad every month and he hopes someday his dad will join the church.

Elder Wanani was very diligent and intent about learning about the gospel after his baptism. His bishop noticed that and gave him things to read. This bishop encouraged him to serve a mission. Now  Elder Wanani is a gospel scholar and he loves to memorize scriptures. Today he said the sacramental prayers by heart.  Only one of his sisters has  joined the church. She’s taking care of his father right now. She and her husband want to move to Belgium after COVID, so Elder Wanani is not sure where he’ll go after his mission. His dream is to go to BYU.

 

The Best Day Ever–Teaching with the Elders

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We had a pretty perfect Saturday.  The Elders invited us to go with them to teach and we were delighted to join them.  We love driving through new sectors of town.  This is such an amazing and interesting world and Africa is such a colorful fascinating place.  I could sit for hours just observing daily life here.  Our friends here are industrious, hardworking and enterprising.  They find simple ways to provide for their families.   And they make do.  We can all learn from our brothers and sisters here.

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Making fresh orange juice
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Drinks and avocados for sale
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Fabric for sale

We arrived at our appointment this afternoon and met these lovely ladies.  They have a hair and beauty salon.  One of the ladies who works here is a member of the church and she shared her love for the gospel of Jesus Christ with these three who are preparing for baptism.  We talked about the commandments and how we can show our love for our Savoir.  I loved being there.  It’s so easy to love the people we meet here.

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As we taught, clients came and went.  It was interesting to see the many hair products for sale and the variety of combs in the vase on the counter.

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The shop looked out into the street filled with every-day life in Abidjan.  I wish there were a way to capture the sights and sounds here.

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As we left, women came for hair extensions, or to have their hair plaited.  Hair care is a big part of daily life here.  Women change their hair styles like we change what we wear.  It’s always interesting and sometimes a challenge to remember what a new friends looks like when they look different each time you see them!

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A shoe cobbler with his shoe equipment and a drink vendor
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Household goods

Our next appointment was with a beautiful seamstress in her little shop.  She welcomed us warmly and we went inside.  I felt right at home there, in her beautiful little sewing room.  I told her sewing is one of my favorite things to do.

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Amassen sat behind her little black Singer treadle sewing machine telling us how much she loves reading the Book of Mormon and the pamphlets. The Elders said they met her on the street–they knocked on her shop door and she invited them in.  She had a perfect smile and a strong spirit. It filled the room.

I Loved being in her shop!  There was a table covered with fabric and clothes, a couple of chairs, a bench and her sewing table and machine. The side walls were wood with cut out pictures of dresses and clothing nailed or pinned up (her patterns). The floor was uneven rock cement. Her scriptures were in a bag by her side, safe and clean.  It was fantastic to be in that little sewing room talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ. She seemed so happy.  And I felt happy too.

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Today was a good day.  I made new friends and I shared what I believe with them.  My French isn’t great, but they don’t seem to mind.  I can speak the things in my heart and they understand me.  There is no place in this world I’d rather be.

Our 11 French Polynesian Elders Finally Depart!

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We heard the news this morning from the West Mission–a French Embassy flight departed this morning from Abidjan for France!  At first there was only room for one of our missionaries on that flight, then two, then three, and then by the end of yesterday, all 11 missionaries from the Cote d’Ivoire missions were able to get on the flight!  They will be finishing their missions in the Paris and Leon France Missions.  We send them on with love!

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What a fun coincidence that our Orem neighbors, the Wildes, are serving in the Paris France Mission office and were there this afternoon to greet our Elders!  They sent us these pictures of their arrival:

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