Since we were supposed to be at his church for the Sunday morning service, Pastor Joseph was a bit nervous that we had made plans to go back to Grand Popo – back to the beach – on Saturday. He understands the whole traffic situation, but he doesn’t understand our need to get as much of the beach as we can. He saw us off at about 7am on Saturday morning and we re-assured him we would meet him at his church at 9am the next day. Two hours later we were checked back into the same rooms we vacated Wednesday, and we were on the beach. This time Rufus came with us. We had so much fun swimming (if that’s what you call being slammed down by crashing waves), walking, talking, playing frisbee, football, & beach long jump and hanging out at the pool. I went on a walk with Tobi and had an interesting conversation. I asked him if he liked my message the night before. He smiled and said he did. He said I preached on obedience, and that God wants to bless us when we obey Him. Then he asked me a question.
Tobi: “Do you love God or Jesus more?”
Mom: “I love them both the same. I love God because he sent Jesus, and I love Jesus because of his willingness to come.”
T: “I love God more.”
M: “Really? Why?”
T: “Because He’s fast.”
M: “Does He run?”
T: (very matter of factly) “No, He flies.”
M: “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
T: “Well, I love them both, but I love God more.”
What followed was an attempt at explaining the trinity by drawing pictures in the sand. Not sure he got it, but it’s a start.
We wanted to try another local place for lunch so headed out for a hopefully quick lunch. We found what looked like a promising option but were disapointed when we sat down and again everything we asked for on the menu was not available. This of course was after wiping down the tables and chairs and moving them through the sand so we could all sit together. We thanked the ‘waiter’ and went on our way. We ended up finding a ‘food is ready’ place and ordered rice and stew and frites (fries). Everyone got the same thing so we could cut down on the confusion. The available meat was mutton, and you purchased it by the piece. The food started arriving randomly so some of us began eating. When we had been waiting a few minutes for what we thought was the last plate, we finally asked about it. No, we were told, they had already brought us everything. Huh. OK. Rather than wait for them to go harvest some rice, grow some potatoes, and slaughter a sheep, we opted to ask for an extra plate and divided what remained among those who hadn’t eaten. Everyone left satisfied, and we were pleased with how cheap it all was. We spent the rest of our time between the ocean and the pool, until everyone was starving and ready for dinner at 8:30. We ordered our favorites (hours in advance) and it was ready when we sat down. We packed up the car (again) Saturday night since we were leaving at 7am. We didn’t want to disappoint Pastor Joseph. Before going to bed that night, Neal and I enjoyed a lovely stroll on the beach, thankful for the time we’d had to spend there. The stars were incredible.
Sunday morning we were again off and arrived on time. I had hoped to find someplace along the road as we got closer to Cotonou to buy some bread or something for breakfast. The granola was gone. That didn’t happen. We did have a package of cookies in the car so some of us ate those. This morning’s service was the culmination of the week of meetings. Celebrating the anniversary proper, as they said. What a day it was. The service started on time at 9am. It’s a happening church so there was much to be done. Much to be done. Neal preached for about 35 minutes. By the time the final amen was said, it was after 2pm. 2pm!! We had been there for over 5 hours. It was hot. We were hot. Dripping, really. But it was good. Trae, Tanika & Tobi were sitting together and though I know Tobi knows how to sit in church, I was amazed that he sat there the entire service, sweating, without even attempting to come to me and complain. I was getting restless! And we were in really comfortable chairs. Pastor Joseph kept apologizing for the length of the service and from about 11:50 on he kept telling us it was almost over. It was fine, though, as that was why we were there. That was our plan for that day. Well, that, and we were going to start on our journey home. But the drive to Parakou was only about 5 hours so we weren’t concerned too much with time. Our plan was to leave after the service and stop at the place we ate the night we arrived in Cotonou. They had incredible schrwama’s and Tobi had a great hamburger. He said it was his favorite restaurant. We were also planning to change out of our sweaty church clothes and into our travel clothes. When the final ‘amen’ was said we tried to convince Pastor Joseph of our plan to get on the road right away. He would have none of it. He insisted that we go into his office for just a few minutes. His office was a narrow room, suitable for maybe 6 chairs/people. No fan. He had also invited all the other pastors that had attended the service into this room – making at least 20 chairs and people. But we managed to keep scooting over to make room for more of our happy family. The jolof rice and chicken, juice and cake were worth it. We were trying to leave but the kids were requested for way to many photo ops. Pastor Joseph finally had to grab us by the hand and lead us to our loaded down vehicle. He was now getting concerned about us getting on our way. They honored us with the top cake from the anniversary cake. Loaded down as we were, we found a way to fit it in. Not to be denied my schwarma, (or the opportunity to get out of sweaty clothes) we tootled our way to Tobi’s favorite eating establishment and carried out the rest of our plan. We changed and ordered the sandwiches to go. We were on our way by 3:30. Going was slow behind overloaded trucks on a narrow 2-lane road. Darkness arrived by 7, so it was 2 hours of even slower going (keeping in mind that a truckdriver may decide he’s had enough and stop his truck in the middle of the road.) There are no street lights so one has to anticipate obstacles. We arrived in Parakou before 10pm, tired, hungry, and safe. The missionaries there were able to direct us to a pizza place that would still be open. Pizza! It was wonderful, and while some of us had the foresight to save some of their pizza for the next day’s journey, some of us (who will not remain nameless, Neal) figured that they could play on the compassion of others to get some of the saved pizza the following day.
We had another night without AC, but I was surprised at how long it took me to get to sleep considering how tired I was. I did sleep though, because at some point in the night I woke up and wondered if I was sleeping next to the incredible shrinking man. Neal woke up and decided that Tobi’s single bed was cooler than ours, so he switched places with him. It was a good idea for us all. We got on our way about 8am and had an uneventful trip. The borders were quick and easy this time and the few times we allowed ourselves to stop and use the bush (bladders were all sychronized so as not to waste time), we were amazed at how much drier the climate was. Barren, but dry. We arrived home at about 4pm with enough time to unpack everything and prepare for the next day, one that would start early and be busy for us all.
We had a wonderful family and ministry time away. I’m all about memories and some great ones were made. It’s always good to get away and renew our perspective. We were encouraged by what we know is possible, and what God wants to, and is doing in Niger.
That’s all she wrote!