Elder Benjamin Archer

Elder Benjamin Xavier Archer
Benin Cotonou Mission
Quartier Cadjehoun #1158
Block F
01 BP 3323 Cotonou
Email: benjamin.archer@myldsmail.net

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Winter Letter

Bonjour la famille! 

I hope you are all doing fine. You are probably freezing and I'm over here ... in the sun. Hehe. 
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So I've been driving the mission bus around. "Bus". In french they say bus ("boose") instead of "van". I like driving it, it's rides pretty smooth. I found out that you're not supposed to park your "bus" in front of the minister of taxation facility's front gate or they will call the police to come take your bus away :(  now hold on a moment before you get worried.

Experience: [It was a hazy Tuesday morning, the day that certain missionaries are supposed to go to immigration to renew their visas. Elder Adjo and I are the ones that transport them there, by bus, which is what we did once they had all arrived. There is a sidewalk alongside the immigration place for parking. I have been to the immigration many times so I was familiar with where the car is parked. I found a large empty spot and I parked the van there.

We followed the others inside to the place where much waiting and little work happens. The mission bureau secretary Sister Precious told my companion and I that we could leave to run other errands since they wouldn't be finishing anytime soon.

We walked out alongside the busy road when a short old man wearing a white suit approached and he seemed to be upset. He was saying things like: "are you crazy? What were you thinking? Do we park like this?  What do you think you're doing?" I asked him if he was talking about the "bus". He said yes. We hurried over and the van and the gate that I had apparently parked in front of was open and there were two armed military watch people over there. I told them sorry sorry, I didn't realize I had blocked the entrance. The short old man said "it's not a matter of saying sorry, the police are coming to take the vehicle". I think I would have normally been quite nervous in this situation but I was actually very calm, my mind was clear, as though I didn't think much of the situation. I'm sure there was a lot of help. We just stood there for a second and I asked the group how long it would take for the police to get there. They said they didn't know. I asked if I could move the vehicle.. since that was the problem, but they said that they had already called the police so we couldn't just leave the site. 

Suddenly, the short old guy turned to my companion and said: "and you, you're African, you should have told your friend that it's not good to park here, you know that, you're an accomplice". My companion is indeed African as the man had said, but he is from Ivory Coast and I had the impression to tell the man this. "He's not from here, he is Ivorian", I said, "we are both foreigners". This simple phrase seemed to neutralize the whole situation. "Oh, he's Ivorian?" the man said. "Yes, he's not from here", I replied. The three guys exchanged glances as though they had realized an error on their part. The short old guy in white looked down and started talking to himself, kind of re-explaining to himself what had just happened, "they're both foreigners? So ... they arrive here, the white guy is escorting this Ivorian to immigration, they parked in the wrong place... huh". They also seemed to feel sorry for having called the police. Their hearts were softened, we could say. Eventually one of the military guys went back inside to call it off. He returned and told us that we could leave. We told them sorry one last time and that it wouldn't happen again. Then we left.]

So that is our immigration bus experience. Then, just a couple of days ago, we were driving the bus on a beach road and we got stuck in the sand. Normally we drive a 4x4 pickup truck but it was in the shop, so we drove the bus. Needless to say, the bus doesn't do well in the sand. A buff guy walked over and asked us if we wanted him to get the bus out. We said sure. "Avez-vous de l'argent?" "Do you have money?" he said. Haha, people here and money. He asked for 5,000 CFA which is about 9$, a good sum of money here. We refused at first but then a small army of people showed up to help, so... we agreed. The left back tire was practically buried in the sand and they picked up the back of the bus and swung it over to the more solid sand. (That makes it sound easy but they actually lifted it like five times, gradually scooting it over) Finally they got it unstuck and I pulled out a 5000 bill. Now the problem was "who am I going to give this to?" Everyone wanted it. They were like the seagulls in finding Nemo: "mine mine mine!".  I gave it to the guy who first approached us and he said he'd split it with the others.The other's seemed okay with this.

So far, the only difficulties with driving. Vehicle placement I suppose. We are now in the Harmattan season. It pretty much means that air leaves dust behind whenever it touches anything. Dusty winds. If we leave a window open, everything will be covered in a layer of dust after a few hours. It's also kind of cold in the mornings. As cold as it gets here.

We are supposed to balance our office work with missionary work in the field. It is hard to do but we are working on it. Sometimes we are very busy and sometimes it seems there is nothing to do. It's very different.

I think we will finally be able to do skype! The internet here at the office works great and we will get a webcam. I will let you know at what time we will do that.

I will send more pictures in a few days. For now here is the baguette picture. 

See you next time! :)

Elder Archer

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Back to Benin

Well, I'm in Benin now. I was transferred to the "bureau" or mission office after having spent around five months in Togo. It surprised me when I found out that Id be working in the office and I felt sad about leaving my area in Togo. I had many converts there and made many friendships. I am happy however for the new experiences to come. I work with Elder Bretherton from Ventura California and we fill out paperwork, read emails, go to the post office, take people to and from the doctor, and takepropanetankstothesistermissionarieseveryweekbecausetheyinsistonnotcookingtogetherandcookingfoodindividuallyforsixpeopleonasinglegasstoveusesupthefuelprettyquickly. We have in our apartment Elder Destribois from France and Elder Yamapia from Congo. Elder Destribois likes to talk about technical sciency things like trains, cars, engines, and astronomy. He speaks pretty good English and helps us improve our French. Elder Yamapia is also a nice guy and will be finishing his two years next week.

It feels different. I feel like I'm not a "regular" missionary anymore, just because of the difference in the daily routine. We still teach people but our schedule is so variable and inconsistent that appointments aren't really sure. Recently, however, we met a chinese man at the hospital and did some "OVB". So in French we don't say "door to door" (porte à porte), we say Ouvre Votre Bouche "open your mouth" (which can be done anywhere and doesn't necessarily require a door). We introduced ourselves, gave him a brochure, and took his number. Later on, the 29th of November, we were able to go to his house and teach him. His name is Lincoln and he has a Beninese colleague that he works with named Komla. Lincoln speaks Chinese and English. He knows practically nothing about christianity but is interested to know all about it. Komla on the other hand, speaks French and English but is part of "Assemblies of God", an evangelical church, so the two are an interesting mix to teach. We taught Lincoln how to pray and he gave a kneeling prayer at the end of the lesson! It was very special. The two enjoy our company and we will see them again next week.

We recently had a visit from Elder Vinson of the Seventy. He came to speak to the missionaries and also at district conference. He and his wife are Australian, so they speak English. BUT, he gave his whole talk in French on Sunday! He spoke slowly and simply but what he did say was correct. It was a rather wonderful gift of tongues demonstration. "The gift of tongues" here in Africa (outside of the church) translates to somebody that has been "gifted" with a knowledge of the tongue of angels, translated again: somebody who screams nonsense into a microphone for the whole world to hear. Apparently "the spirit had descended upon them" a little too violently. Anyways, the Vinson's visit was a very special experience. This took place at an interesting building called Palais des congrès (palace of congresses?).

Until next time!
 Standing next to Elder Nsengyumva at the zone conference, the first missionary in our mission from Burundi.                            

 At  Palais des  Congres with people from my first area!
Thanksgiving feast: turkey, mashed potatoes, meatballs, and cinnamon apple cobbler stuff.