Some weeks are stressful as a missionary. Especially when working as Elder Cook put it, "On the front lines, where the pickings are slim and you (the missionaries) are all we got." Like I said over our skpye session, working in a tiny branch is frustrating most of the time. The church is moving locations, our old lease was up and the owner wanted to sell us the building for an extremely high price - so the church bailed out of that situation. Which meant that Tuesday, we needed to move all the chairs, benches, and pulpits out of the old building and into the new. So just like our family always did in the "good old days", I participated in another church move.
Tuesday we arrived at the church at 10am. Within a few minutes a handful of members showed up. With no moving truck or priesthood leader to tell us how to do it, we decided that we would at least move all the furniture out of the building and onto the driveway. We figured that at some point or another everything would leave the building, so why not get a head start before the truck arrived. For the next 2 hours we moved out the majority of things, putting my moving talents to good work! And then...we waited. Waited for the truck and further direction.
To our surprise, we learned that the new building in Bali (a neighborhood) was not yet open. The old renters had yet to leave! Well, where are we putting everything? The branch president showed up and explained that we would be storing everything in the Bonaberi branch. Now to explain what that meant, Douala (my current city) is separated into two major parts. Douala and Bonaberi. The two sides are separated by a river, and there is only one bridge to get across. As such, we have two branches - one on each side of the river. The distance isn’t terribly long, but the traffic is horrid! Last p-day we played soccer with the Elders from the other side, and it took over an hour to cross the bridge. So when our branch president told us of the plan, we were a little less than excited. But as I think the expression goes, we squared our shoulders and got to work.
Now the complications didn’t end there. Before the moving truck came, the owner of the building showed up. He was angry for some reason - declaring that we owed him money, even though the contracts had all been finalized and signed. His intent was to literally stop us from leaving! To give you a mental image, think of a narrow alleyway. At one end was our church building, then in front all our stuff, then the owner's car, then the moving truck. HEY YOU CRAZY MAN, MOVE YOUR CAR SO WE CAN LOAD OUR TRUCK! After some stupid argument, we gave him a choice. Move your car so we can leave or we will put everything back inside and stay here without paying. He opted to move his car and take his keys.
Well around 6pm we finished the move. A full day of service. And although we didn’t teach any lessons, I think this was one of the most productive days of my mission. Every hour was filled with a meaningful activity - moving the branch. As of today, all our stuff is still in storage at the Bonaberi branch. Our building in Bali is clear, but the church is making some modifications on the house, so that we can have rooms for all the different auxiliaries. Which means, we will move all the stuff from storage to Bali next week. (hopefully)
For the time being, we’re holding church in a hotel! Hotel Piano. We rented out the conference room and held Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting yesterday. The room, in the words of Elder Colindres, “is like a basement.” Yeah, pretty accurate.
Now, I said this week was stressful, and it wasn’t the church move that was hard. No, it was yesterday. As well as working in a tiny branch, being with a companion not of your own choosing can be rough. And it gets tougher, when that companion doesn’t speak the same language and has a culture almost completely opposite from yours. All week, I was getting annoyed with my companion. Just a bunch of little things that rubbed away at my patience. I tried to support it well, and just keep to myself. As you’ll learn from this story that isn’t what you should do. If someone is constantly annoying you, talk with them about it otherwise it’ll build up until you go crazy on the person!
Well, I didn’t really believe in that counsel when the week started, so when Sunday came around I had a long list of complaints. Then this happened – the young men called us to the sacrament table after church and asked, “Can we eat the blessed sacrament bread after church?” I boldly said, NO! They shouldn’t eat it and others shouldn’t eat it either. I spoke pretty boldly because this is an ordinance – something of big importance. Now, I’ll just say my companion then told them something different than what I said…ohh, I was livid.
So there goes Elder Johnson, «full-on-battle-mode» as it were, against his companion. We argued for a while over this question. I was determined to not let my companion say something that was «false». In the words of Elder Colindres again, «I’ve lived with you (Johnson) for almost a year now. When you get angry, you mean it – and today you were pissed!» At the climax, Elder Mwehu was walking away from me and I ran up behind him and pretended to kick him in the butt haha! True, I’m a missionary, but I guess I’m still a human. (and only 19)
I smile now, because looking back it was pretty funny J Okay, so here is the lesson of the story, it comes in the after-math. For the rest of the day I was upset, but also regretful for having blown up. I decided that we would talk about what happened, when we got home. I wasn’t going to let this one go. I felt inspired to do the following. We got home and ran our numbers for the week, then I said, «okay, before we close for the day we need to talk about what happened.»
First, I had us both explain our position on the question. Elder Mwehu said what he thought while I listened without interrupting. Then I did the same. After I grabbed two Church manuals, and said «we are going to read what the official church policy is on the sacrament, after we will not discuss it. We are just going to read it together.» So that’s what we did. After we discussed that next time a question on church administration is asked to us, we will direct the members to the branch president, who is called to take care of the administration aspects. I gave Elder Mwehu a hug and all was worked out –no more hard feelings.
Lesson number 1 – Follow the promptings of the spirit and things will work out. The things we did in that discussion were things I felt like we needed to do. All three of them. True, it was a little awkward to kick off, but it worked. Follow the spirit and things work out.
Lesson number 2 – Resolving problems in relationships is necessary. I remember a Liahona that said, « some people destroy their marriages (in this case it applies to a missionary companionship) because they avoid talking about the weightier matters.» Talking about problems sincerely and openly helps. I think this one will apply to me more fully when I’m married!
Lesson number 3 – Lift where you stand. It isn’t our duty as missionaries to tell the branch how to function. That is the branch President ‘s calling. We are there to teach doctrine, not run the branch. Had Elder Mwehu and I directed the young men to their leaders, we would’ve avoided the whole situation. But in trying to do something that wasn’t our responsibility, we shot ourselves in the feet. Now, if I ever become a bishop, I’ll be making sure that NO ONE eats the sacrament bread as a snack. Those are my feelings on the matter – but for right now, I’m not a Bishop. I’m a missionary. So I’ll do as the primary song says, « teach and preach and work as MISSIONARIES do. » Lift where you stand in the church – it’s much better that way!
Hopefully no one thinks I’m trying to preach to you guys. These are just things that I, Elder Johnson, learned this week from my experiences. There were many other things that happened this week. Like the New Year’s parties, but these stories were the best! Happy New Year (out here people will be saying that for a few months), best of luck on all the resolutions. Elder Colindres and I wrote our resolution for 2015 – marriage haha. I love you guys bunches –honestly I do. Make it a good week!
ps – on New Year’s Eve people threw «Flash-bang-like» flares in the air all night. It sounded like shot guns being fired all over the city. But around 12am, a fire-work went off right outside our balcony. It was so loud that it scared me enough to make me fall out of bed. haha.
Our church building "threw up" haha
A really pretty leaf, wanted to show you guys some of the beauty in Africa
January 1, the town was empty, cuz everyone was partied out.
There are trees around town that are full of little yellow birds. like 50 nests in one tree.