Elder Benjamin Archer

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

Last Letter from Elder Archer :'( :')

Well it's the last week of the mission and there's been some interesting things going on. We recently had three convert baptisms. Matthew is the nephew of a current member. They come to church every week and he decided to begin the missionary discussions in preparation for his baptism. Parfaite, whose name is one of the longest I've seen and doesn't even include "Parfaite", is a young lady we met near the market and lives next to two other members. She is very kind and also understands easily. Her parents live apart but in the same neighborhood. She spends time at both. Her mother runs a hairdressing shop and her father has a farm in his backyard. We helped one day to pull weeds out around the sweet potato plants. She is now the only member in her family but she has two member friends her age who live nearby and they come to church together. Third is Yawovi who we met in one of the farthest parts of our area. I believe he approached the missionaries first, asking to be taught the gospel. He is very zealous, yet humble. A man of his word and is sincere about what he does. He understands well and openly asks us questions. He has a wife and two baby girls Felanda and Frida, who he says will suffice. He says he always wanted to give his kids spanish names. He also lives around the corner from a couple of active members and they regularly hold family home evenings together. All of these converts are solid and they have good support around them.
We have a ghanian investigator named Celestine who is preparing to be baptised this saturday. She is also close to many of the members and they even read the french church brochures and explain them to her so she understands. She is making good progress. We were invited over to brother Eli's house yesterday for a farewell get together. We had chicken with djinkoumé which is pretty much corn flour dough made with chicken broth. Very tasty. I'd say that the anxiety that comes from the idea of going home just hit me yesterday evening. Elder Whitt, from my MTC group, came to my sector to visit his converts. I was thinking: "wow, Whitts going home! - I'm going home!"
Well I'm sure that this week will go by quickly and safely. I'm so excited to come home and tell you all about it!

See you all soon.

-Elder Archer
Picture of me with Nicola, his mom and twin sisters.
Next is the dinner at frére Eli's house. He's the one at the end of the table.
Last is me with sister Sandra. She made us amazing food! This time it was beet salad with boiled egg, onions, carrots, and tomato. She also bought us a drink and bread.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Early Farewell for Elder Archer

Baptism of Sister Ramolino and Brother Yawovi.  Brother Yawovi is one of the nicest people I met on my whole mission.  He always buys us fruit next to his house and if there's no more fruit he won't let us go until he buy us some fruit somewhere haha!
                                                                 


Three of the pictures were at our zone meeting. We had our regular
zone meeting and then we had a small party afterwards as a farewell
for me :') the sisters made rice, chicken, this white pate stuff you
see on my plate and fish. It was good. All of the missionaries in the
picture where we're standing are American and the African on the left
is our zone leader, Elder Ndibu. He planned it all! He's nice.
The picture with us and the coconuts: We were walking down the road
when a lady asked us to come over to say hello. We went inside and
greeted like 12 people, then we had a random coconut picture for fun.
Haha
   - Elder Archer

Monday, August 1, 2016

Greetings from Togo!

We were planning on having three baptisms last week. One of them went
through but the other three were moved to next week. Matthew is the
nephew of one of the members and he was baptised. This is our first
baptism at Baguida. It was a little hectic because the font filled too
slow and the members started cleaning the branch at the time the
baptismal service was to begin. It worked out and everyone was happy.

One of our dear investigators is named Yawovi. We have been teaching
him since I've been here and he comes to church regularly. He is one
of the kindest and most sincere persons I've ever met. I've noticed
recently that he refers to the church as "our church" which gives a
very endearing quality to his questions, for example: "do we pay
offerings at our church"?

Many people ask us why we don't do cash collections in our church, why
we don't pass "the basket around". It's one of those prevalent things
in nearly every church here. It makes for an interesting teaching
opportunity.

I am proud of the members here at Baguida for stepping up their game
when it comes to branch missionary work. They've held meetings after
church to discuss what can be done to further the efforts. We don't
lack members to accompany us during weekly lessons. Last Sunday
evening, we were outside, far from home and kind of late. We were
hoping that we'd find someone who would feed us. We were near a
member's home and we decided to stop by to say hello. Brother Augustin
opened his gate and he told us: "do you guys eat pâte?" Pâte is pretty
much dough made of corn flour and water that the general population
eats every day with sauce. It's the staple food. There are two things
that foreigner white people do that please Togolese the most. The
first is to have some knowledge (however small) of their language.
After establishing the fact that you took interest in learning
greetings in their language, the very first question anyone will ask
you is: "do you eat pâte?" Well yes, of course we eat pâte we
answered, and the member brother Augustin told us: "good, because I
jus got home and you're going to help me eat". His wife served us a
single lump of pâte which we shared with tomato sauce and smoked fish.
It was really good. How nice of them. He goes on visits with us with
people who live in his area.

Today, Monday, was another market day. The market always makes me feel
uneasy because there are hundereds of people, motorcycles and cars
moving constantly left and right. Being familiar with prices was one
of my biggest worries when I first started but now I have a pretty
good idea of the general cost of things. Many tourists, often from
Europe, visit the market, and not being fully aware of the value of
merchandise will consequently pay higher than would be generally
reasonable. One man today tried to sell me a t-shirt for 18,000
francs, which is like 35$, insisting that there was nothing rediculous
about that rediculous price. That can be annoying.

Until next week :)

Elder Archer

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Birthday Boy - PICTURES

Picture # 2: We hang the rabbits upside down from a tree, with some eagle scouts knots.  We ended up swinging a broom stick handle into it's head, which I think killed it, and then we cut its throat.
Picture # 1: Then we pulled the skin completely off, including the ears.
*********  The next two pictures are of me at 20 years, and the bunny feast.
Picture # 5:  Elder Atherton and I being transported by a member called Eli in his little cargo moto thing.
Picture # 6:  Our friend Frank.
Picture # 7:  We visited the waterfall again in Kpalimé, Togo.








Monday, July 11, 2016

I got to see the "true" Africa

This week was a good week. Transfers calls were yesterday. The second
companionship in our apartment is transfered out so Elder Atherton and
I will have to take over both areas, but we get the huge house to
ourselves :) That means that the mission will end here in Togo, and I
never got to train somebody :'( oh well.

This week was good. We visited our investigator Frank a little later
than usual and he invited us to eat with his family. We ate pâte with
and fish and vegetable sauce. He even bought us some soft drinks, it
was nice. He is progressing very well and he came to church for the
first time yesterday! The memebers greeted him and sat next to him and
made sure he was comfortable. He asked questions and had a good
experience.

We teach an English class on wednesdays and only a few people come. We
have a good number of investigators also but very very few come to
church :( it's sad. Everyone knows how to get there, but nobody comes.

There is a memeber named Eli who takes us around in his moto-trailer
thing. He teaches with us and sometimes gives us a lift when we come
across each other in the area. Yesterday he took us to the north to
visit somebody and then even more north. We got to see some of the
"true" Africa, the natural part with the trees and grass and rivers.
We travelled on a wide sandy road with jungle on either side until we
reached the river where some people were waiting in a canoe to be
paddled across to the village on the other side. It was cool.

There is a statue on the beach, near the road by our apartment. It is
more of a memorial for when the germans arrived. It shows two women
standing together each holding the other's one hand in the air and
behind them is a figure that looks like sails that is supposed to
represent a boat. Long ago, when the german ships were in sight, all
of the african men fled to the north and left the women near the
shore. The germans sent one of their women out onto the land to show
that they came in peace.

Well, until next week :) have a happy day.

Love,

Elder Archer

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Birthday Boy!

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes! I had a good day. I bought
two rabbits from the patriarch and we buchered them up and slow cooked
them with some vegetables, spices, and barbecue sauce. Then we made
some food from Ivory Coast called "foutou" which is made of (cooked)
mashed up cassava
roots and plantains. All this and drinks for four people, what a meal
for under 20$ huh. The sauce even lasted us the whole following week.
Unfortunately I do not have my camera with me, so I will send the
bunny pictures later.
Well I am still doing okay. We found some more families to teach!
There is a guy named Frank who we met who is a religion researcher guy
who doesn't currently go to a church. Still looking I guess. His wife
is a seventh day adventist but he doesn't agree with the sabbath day
being on saturday, haha, but they are together anyhow and they have
two sons. He reads many historical things and information about
churches and he says that our message about the apostasy is like the
"missing piece" to the puzzle he's been putting together in his mind.
He looks forward to hearing our message about the Restoration.

We helped clean the church on Saturday and we had to cut down a
diseased papaya tree. That was interesting. Everything on a papaya
tree is hollow, the branches the fruit and even the trunk. It came
down easily.

Last Monday we went back to the waterfall in Kpalimé. Same old same
old, but the missionaries were different. I also found a cocoa bean
pod thing on a tree and broke it open to look at the inside. That's
all the excitement there was. The trip down and back was pretty fun
though.


   - Until next time, Elder Archer

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rainy Season


So we're in the rainy season and there are lots of puddles. Some
puddles cover entire intersections in the neighborhood and we are
obliged to take alternative routes. Sometimes people place bricks or
rocks in the water to make stepping stone shortcuts. Just the other
day, Elder Atherton and I went out to one of the farthest places in
our area. There were some pretty serious looking storm clouds coming
in from the north, so we ... did what people do when in dangerous
situation these days, take pictures. Haha. Being minutes away from the
ocean I would have thought that most storms would come
in sea-side but apparently they come in from the mainland. Anyways,
Elder Atherton turned to me and said: "umm, I think we need to go
home, right now." Several minutes later we were hit with few heavy
raindrops which quickly developped into thousands of heavy raindrops
and we ran as fast as we could to find shelter. We only ran about two
blocks but we were completely soaked when we finally stepped under a
small tin-roof shelter. It was one of the hardest rains I've ever seen
and the wind was just driving it across the land. It calmed down after
around fifteen minutes and we were able to make it home to dry off. It
was quite a memorable experience.

Baguida has a nice branch with wonderful people. It had been months
since they've had a piano player in the area so they were happy to
hear the piano again in sacrament meeting. The branch mission leader
is a returned missionary so he knows how things are suppposed to work
and works hard. We accompanied the branch president this week to the
home of one of his lifelong friends. Brother Améké, like the branch
president, is one of the kindest and understanding persons I've met
out here. He knows just about everything there is to know about the
Gospel and the church but he still won't commit to a baptismal date.
The current theory of ours is that he doesn't want to go to a church
presided over by his best friend. We have several progressing
investigators but we are always finding new people to contact. The
problem with Togo is that people will never tell you no. They will
always accept an appointment on a given day but it doesn't mean that
they will be there when the time comes. That makes things difficult.

The Euro Cup soccer season has started and is on every television we
come across. Oftentimes we see large groups of people in the road
crowded in front of one television in a "boutique" or small shop. You
can hear their shouting and cheering from the apartment.

The other night I woke up late when I felt something scurry across my
legs.I heard some fluttering or buzzing sounds. There are quite a few
moths in our apartment so that's what I attributed the sound to. I was
facing upwards and a good-sized sturdy something (definitely not a
moth) dropped right onto my face and scurried across my upper body and
up onto the mosquito net. I sat up quickly, searched for the movement
and drew near to see the unmistaken elongated shape of a cockroach
climbing up my net against the moonlit window. I climbed out of the
mosquito net, found my flashlight, found the cockroach on the inner
wall of the net and I flicked it, stunned it and then swept it to the
floor and smashed it. That's probably my best cockroach experience so
far. I don't know how it got into the net... I'll have to check again.
First mosquitos getting in and now cockroaches. Maybe I'll get a
lizard next time.

Aside that little story everything has been going fine. We cleaned the
"apartment" today. The problem with living in a big house is having to
clean a lot, but everyone did their part.

Have a nice week!

Elder Archer
* This is our house =)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Back to Togo - pictures!

1.  Me and Simon from my old area.  He is the ward mission leader.

2.  The second one is a picture of me with some children's at the conference.

3.  Third is Elder Atherton and I in front of the Lomé Independence memorial thing statue.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Back to Togo!

Well there's about three months ahead of me now and I have been
transferred back to Togo! I had learned that an American named Elder
Neubert would be replacing me. Neither he nor Elder Adjo has
experience driving a manual transmission vehicle. (Well, Elder Adjo
has a little from his driver's educaton class.) So I had about four
days (starting on Tuesday) to show Elder Neubert the ropes and ins and
outs of the bureau life and take the two on some driving practice
sessions, and we did so. On Friday night of that week, I handed the
car keys over to Elder Neubert after a final dinner appointment in
Cotonou with one of our investigator families. That was when it hit me
that I was leaving the office and Elder Adjo, whom I'd been working
with for six months. I miss him already but we will be returning home
at the same time, so we will be seeing each other again at the office.

After staying the night at their apartment, the assistants drove me to
my new area in Togo called Baguida. This "apartment" looks more like a
mansion (I'll send pictures next week). It's the largest in the
mission. I am now working with an American named Elder Atherton. We
both lived in the same apartment when I was in Togo last time, so we
know each other very well and are excited to be working together.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that this Sunday was stake
conference for Togo! I got to see most of my converts and friends from
Tokoin. That was a very special experience for me and I would say even
one of the happiest moments of my life.

Our area is very large and we do a lot of walking. I don't have the
area "mapped-out" yet in my head so I have no idea where I am when we
are outside. I had walked this place over with Elder Sagers around a
year ago so he could visit his converts before his departure, so I
recognize some places but it doesn't help much. Here's my first weird
experience: So we were teaching a woman named "Jeanne" who works at an
outdoor café. She brings people their drinks. There was a two year old
baby girl walking around the premises, which I assumed to be but am
still unsure of whether she is Jeanne's daughter or not. The only
customers were two men at a table drinking beer. At one point the
little girl started to cry. She was near the customer table and one of
them reached over and tipped his beer bottle into her mouth to give
her a drink. She stopped crying. Then he poured some more in a cup and
gave it to her and she walked away. Well, I know who's going to be an
alcoholic before five.

Anyways, I'm doing great. Feeling awesome and am looking forward to
some cool experiences. Until next time.

Love,

Elder Archer

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bus Trouble

Two Mondays ago our zone had an activity scheduled to go to Ouidah, the place with the snakes. Our zone has four Elders and four sisters and the Dyson couple picked us up in the mission van. When the sisters were finally ready half an hour after the supposed departure time, we began our journey to our activity's location which eventually ended up at the police station. 

We were on the main road about half-way out of the city in an area called Cococodji. We stopped at a red light at one of the major intersections in the area, there was one Honda accord between us and the intersection. When the light turned green the Honda accelerated into the intersection and at the same time, I saw a motorcycle leave the right side of the road toward the car's path as though the two vehicles would intersect. I assumed that the motorcycle was going to stop just before the traffic but to my surprise he continued right into the path of the Honda and the two collided. The man on the motorcycle buckled onto the hood and hit his head on car's windshield before falling off to the side and rolling in the center of the road, luckily he was wearing a helmet. His motorcycle was pretty beat up but he stood up and walked off to the side of the road. Elder Dyson had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the man who almost rolled under the van and another motorcycle hit us from behind. This man wasn't wearing a helmet and he hit his head right on the corner of the van. Contrary to standard safety procedures, some bystanders dragged this injured man over to the side of the road where he held his head and writhed in pain. Luckily the emergency call center was literally 40 feet away from the accident. An ambulance came out immediately to take the injured persons. Aside these two, no one else was hurt. We had to do a lot of waiting while the police took information and measurements and notes. Eventually they had us drive over to the small local police station where we had to write an incident report. I translated from English to French for Elder Dyson. We had to leave our van in their yard until we brought back information from our insurance provider. There are hundreds of motorcycles stacked, piled, and lined up in the police yard. The vast majority of motorcycle owners don't have a license or registered vehicle, so if they get into an accident and the police get involved their motorcycle get's confiscated and they have to pay a fine to get it back. The fun part is that this fine is determined randomly and increases each day that the motorcycle is in their possession. At the end of the day, no missionaries were injured and we made it back safely.

This last Monday I drove the van for another zone's activity to the same place, Ouidah (about 25 miles west of Cotonou). The Togo assistants followed us in their vehicle. The activity went well, those who wanted to see the snakes saw the snakes, then we went to the beach for a little to play frisbee and look at the waves. On the way back, we encountered a puddle in the road. I decided to give it a try. I drove into the water, it was fairly deep maybe a foot or so but not too bad. We hurried along and just as the front tires were about to roll up out of the water and onto the dry ground the engine died. It would not start. Usually the missionaries stay in missionary attire during outings but this time their zone had decided to change their clothes at the beach. Everyone was wearing shorts and a t-shirt (except for my companion and I) so the ten passengers in the van hopped out and pushed the van out of the water. 

At this point we had attracted attention from the local dwellers and we had many self proclaimed mechanics come over and offer to send for a new battery or remove the starter from the engine. We wanted to try starting it by pushing but these persons were so pushy that it was difficult to get rid of them. The first guy said that "the battery is obviously dead". We told him that the battery is not the problem but that the vehicle had been in water. He didn't want to accept that and even sent for his mechanic friend who showed up and started disconnecting the battery. We told him to leave it and we finally convinced them that they shouldn't be touching things in a car that doesn't belong to them. 

We tried pushing again but the tires would skid when the car was put into gear, the motor wasn't turning. Up the road a ways, another mechanic man offered to help us and opened up the engine compartment. In the van the engine isn't under the hood but under the front seats. Kind of strange. Anyways, he started touching things and moving the car back and forth, but the motor wouldn't turn. He told us that the starter was locked up and was keeping the motor from turning and that removing it would allow the motor to turn. It bothered me that I was so ignorant on the subject as to decide whether this was a good idea or not. I guess it's better than doing nothing. We allowed to remove it and ... well... the engine still didn't want to turn. While he'd been doing this an older man approached us from a house just off to the side. He carried in his hands jumper cables and a voltage meter, finally someone who seems to know what they're doing! I figured he was some sort of retired master mechanic guy. It turns out he used to be an engineer in France (now retired) and knew the church there. He showed us the Book of Mormon that the missionaries had given him in France years ago. He just happened to live there with a freight container full of tools. He tested the battery and said it was fully charged. The others had driven into town to buy a tow rope which was too wimpy and snapped on the first couple attempts to pull the van in order to start it. The old man lent us his heavy rope to tow the van into town behind the Togo vehicle. What a nice guy.

I had the opportunity to steer a towed vehicle in a rainstorm, that was pretty cool. We moved slowly and we made it safely back to the mission home. We don't seem to have much luck with this van. 

Transfers are coming up. We'll see what changes will be made. Elder Adjo is taking driver's ed to get his license. It's brought back some memories from my own driver's ed experience. Maybe someone will replace me and he will be the driver. 
In the last picture Elder Adjo learning parallel parking in Africa
Until next time! 

Elder Archer






 
 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sad Experiences :'(

Hello Family 🙃

So another week goes by. This time some sad experiences. Brother Blessing, a convert to Elder Amoah is a tiler. He works with tiles. He is a busy person, he works far from home and usually stays and sleeps there for the work week before coming home on Saturday evening for church the next day. He lives very modestly with his parents and younger brother.

Several weeks ago, brother Blessing had called us several days in a row saying that he was told to meet someone at another branch for his Melchizedek priesthood interview but the person would never show up to the appointment. I was frustrated by this, especially when it happened the second time and we called the leader in question. It sounded as though he had just awaken and said that he didn't go to the appointment because it had rained that morning. From my experience living here I have concluded that the relationship between Beninese/Togolese people and rain is equivalent to that of American people and spiders. 

I was upset by this because I knew that Blessing needed to be at work but he must had sacrificed what would have been one day, but now two days of work so he could have his interview. It was later on Sunday that I found out, when he told me, that brother Blessing hadn't been at work the whole week because he didn't have enough money for transport. He asked me if I could help him with 1000 francs, which is almost 2$ so he could simply get to work. That broke my heart. I only had 500 francs with me at the time but I borrowed another 1000 from Elder Mayani to give to Blessing. Later on, brother Blessing gave me a letter that thanked me for helping him make it through a hard time. It's crazy how many people's lives here hang on a thread. People get kicked out of their homes because they fail to pay the last 1500 francs on their 5000 franc($8.60) per month rent. Many fall asleep not knowing if they'll have food to eat the next day. Many rely on unstable jobs to provide for their families.

Last Thursday night, as we pulled into the driveway at our apartment building I saw a man standing nearby with a little girl in his arms. We got out of the car and as we walked over to the building the man approached us and said: "You are missionaries right? Can you help me pray for my daughter? She drank bleach". The little girl seemed uncomfortable moving but the man told her to open her mouth to show us the scarring and damage that the bleach had done. He said that he had taken her to the hospital but was refused treatment for lack of 4700 francs. He had been wandering around all day since the morning looking for help and he found us. It was around 8pm. Elder Adjo and I brought them into the garage and gave the little girl a blessing. Then I gave the last 5000 francs I had for the month to the man and told him to go take care of his child. It saddened and bothered me that this little girl risked dying over a matter of 4700 francs. I left the man our number but I haven't heard from him since.

Then just the next day, we were delivering propane gas to the sister missionaries when a man approached our vehicle, crying, and asking us if we had anything at all for him and his family. I gave him some coins that were in the car. 

Well there are some of the sad depressing moments.

But here are some fun pictures!

1 The new president doesn't live in our neighborhood anymore, so the power goes out more often :( we had to sleep outside on couch cushions because it's too hot to be able to sleep indoors.
2 Here we are in front of the airport waiting for Elder Stanfill to arrive
3 Practicing hymns
4 I made the invitation for the conference and it was cool to see it made into a large poster
5 Me at the conference
6 Elder Adjo, me, Elder Mayani and Elder Ouizan Bi (we are all in the same apartment)

This week is transfers. I will send another email about the conference soon!

Love you all ❤

Elder Archer






Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bapteme de la soeur Cecile


This week was pretty special! Cecile and Joseph from my first area in the mission field were finally married on Monday. It took place far away so we weren't able to attend. However, today Saturday, was their baptism and we were there! This is a moment that many of us have been waiting for. The chapel was completely full and there were around six other missionaries who came who had also taught Cecile and Joseph previously.

As is customary after the baptisms, the candidates are invited to share their testimonies with everyone. I was touched by what sister Cecile had said: "I had never been baptized before. Some of my siblings have been baptized elsewhere but I was always too uncertain about baptism that I never accepted to do it.... Then, the missionaries came to my house and they showed me the importance of my life and the life after death. I have waited all this time, and now I have found God's church and am baptized. Now I know that I need to persevere with my family.."

After the service, food was served to everyone and we basically had a party. Something that I admire about the members here in Benin and Togo is that when it comes to food and feeding groups, they really know what they're doing. There is always enough to feed everyone and they somehow manage to coordinate everything so smoothly. Everyone sit down, about three sisters hand out plates and forks to everyone, then someone comes by and serves a scoop of vegetable salad right on each person's plate, then someone else tops it with lettuce, then someone else with a piece of bread, then when the salad is eaten a prompt serving of rice, then someone comes by with a piece of fish, then someone else with more vegetables, then someone with a little dab of pepper sauce, and then someone with the drinks. They know how to work together. It was a wonderful sight. It was great to see everyone again in Cocotomey.

Well it's time to go, until next time!

-Elder Archer
 1. Me with Cecile and Joseph

2. Food
 3. Me with MTC friend Elder Miller
4. Me (with Israel) Cecile, Joseph, Petite Isaac and Elder Adjo