We had another wonderfullly chilly night and Wednesday morning we were ready for more beach. Not really sure how long it would take for us all to get our fill…or if that was possible. We let the kids eat the standard restaurant breakfast for a change, while Neal and I enjoyed my trusty granola. Today is the day we were heading back into Cotonou for the start of the meetings that actually brought us to Benin in the first place.
We packed up our load – everything except what we’d be changing into – and loaded it into the car. Then it was off to the beach for more sun and surf. We decided up front that we had to be driving out by 12pm so everyone had to plan accordingly.
When making our plans to come to Benin, we looked into a few different options as to where we could stay, based on what other missionaries had told us. There was another option – a very nice resort about 25 miles from where we were staying. Casa del Papa, in the town of Ouidah. We opted not to stay there, as it was about 3X the price. But we did want to see the place, so we planned to eat lunch there today, on our way back to Cotonou. It was a grand place! Three swimming pools, close to the beach, tons of activities (for a fee!) and a nice restaurant. The place was huge. We had pizza for lunch and it was enjoyed by all. We discussed it while waiting for our food and decided that we would much rather stay where we were for 3 days, then to stay in this place for 1. It was a no-brainer. It was nice, but since we all love to hang out on the beach, all we really need is a clean room with cold AC. Did I say cold AC? And the fact is, if we wanted any of those activities, we could come and do them. You have to pay for them whether you are staying there or not. We were pleased with our choice!
On to Cotonou. Casa del Papa was pretty hidden so we had to have a taxi driver lead us to it. We would have never found it on our own – driving through the narrow streets of Ouidah. Leaving however, we felt confident we knew what we were doing. How wrong we were. We may have been ok if there hadn’t have been ‘road construction’ at every turn. We knew the general direction we needed to go to get to the main road that leads to Cotonou, and we are very good at stopping to ask directions. It would have been helpful if we were actually able to speak to the people in their language. Again, Trae came to our rescue. He had been pretty valuable up to this point with important things like ordering food. Sure glad we brought him along. With Trae’s French and some sign language, we turned our vehicle around (this wasn’t easy on the narrow dirt path – not to mention the crowd of onlookers that had gathered). As suggested, we went left then right and were at yet another impasse. Either we got wrong directions, or we missed something in the the translation. Nonetheless, we were getting good at asking for help. Which we did, but we were told to turn around and go right, then left. Ummm, thanks, but that’s exactly where we just came from, and I’m sure the crowd we gathered at that location is just starting to disperse. Obviously, we made it out of the maze – I would have loved to seen an aerial view of the place – because it really did feel like a maze. Now the road that connects Benin Republic to Togo is a 2-lane ‘throughway’. Not really. Suffice it to say that it took us – on account of overloaded trucks that were nearly impossible to pass, potholes, and construction – 2 hours to travel about 35 miles.
Upon arrival in Cotonou our instructions were to call Pastor Joseph and he would meet us somewhere. That meant finding a phone center. We did that without too much trouble and he gave us directions as to the best place to meet. We arrived first so we called him again. He was still 30 minutes away. We were thirsty and hot. Trae stayed with the car while the remaining 4 of us walked down the traffice laden streets (yes, again, we were a sight) to find ourselves a coke. We had victory and walked back to the car and Trae took his turn at finding a coke. Soon Pastor Joseph showed up so Trae jumped in the car with him and we followed them to our hotel. We were very pleasantly surprised at our accomodations and were so blessed to find that again, we were going to have AC! Up to that point, we had no idea.
Let me explain how we came to be here. In October 2006, Neal was invited to speak at a Four Square nation wide conference in Benin. He met several pastors at the conference and was invited to come back. Pastor Joseph, a conference attendee, and his family are Nigerian’s and God called them to start a church in Benin. He invited Neal last year again, but he wasn’t able to make it. He was persistant, and this year it worked out for all of us to go. So except for Neal, our gathering on the busy streets of Cotonou was the first time we met him. What a joy it was to get to know Pastor Joseph, his wife Joy, and their 4 sweet and talented kids. And they were both of those things – sweet, and talented.
At our hotel, Pastor Joseph had booked 3 rooms for our family. That was huge for us, as we are usually crammed into one! It was close to 5pm and he informed us that the service started at 6. He was going home to get our food. More food? It had only been about 3 hours since our pizza, but somehow I knew that we were going to be presented with some Nigerian food that would demand an appetite. I was right. Rice and stew and pieces of fried chicken. We enjoyed, and decided we better hurry up and get ready for the service. I took a shower, but wondered why I bothered. I was already wet again before Pastor came back to the hotel to pick us up for service. Guess it’s the thought that counts?
We didn’t know what a treat we were in for. The music at this church (Kingdom Life Glory Mission) was incredible. All of us thoroughly enjoyed it. And we knew that this is exactly what we are needing/wanting in our churches in Niger. We know the power of music to draw people to the church and to Jesus, and we want to develop it in Niamey. It’s always good to get away to renew prespective, and get new ideas. Then the preacher got up (my gifted husband) and the house nearly came down. The majority of the church is made up of Nigerians so when Neal started speaking the Pidgen English he learned as a boy, the roof nearly came in. It was a great way to get their attention before he began to preach – about being an influence. By the time he was finished, there was not a dry spot on him. His clothes were literally wringing wet. The humidity here is just not something we’re used to. The service ended with invitations to bring more people the next night. We really had fun.
Back to the hotel we went, where we were told that our food would be coming. More food?! It was 9:30 for goodness sake! But we somehow, with no difficulty at all, managed to eat the food when it arrived. It was wonderful. Pastor Joseph said goodnight and went home. Then the electricity went out. The generator came on. Then it went out. Once again, we were sweating in the dark. A few minutes later Pastor Joseph knocked on our door. He was so apologetic and feeling so bad. He didn’t know what was going on, but would find out. We kept reminding him that we lived in Africa, and that we understood! A bit later he returned to tell us that they had run out of gas for the generator. Were they planning on getting more? No… at least not until he showed up! Talk about influence! Not too much later we were back in generator business. No matter that they called our rooms and asked us to turn off the AC, that the generator could not run them. No problem. (Well, to be honest, it was a little problem but I’m trying to count my blessings with a fan). Praise God from whom all blessings flow the ‘real’ electricity came back on before we even got to sleep. So it was a good night sleep for us all. Another wonderful day!