Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Trip to Togo

Our training with YSA Committees in Stakes and Districts as well as the training for each coordinating council for a 2014 YSA Summit takes us to the seven countries in the Africa West Area.  During our first mission here, we did not have the opportunity to visit the French speaking country directly east of Ghana -Togo.  We went there this weekend and had a great experience.  The city of Lome (Lomay) has about 1.6 million residents.  The country itself has about 6 1/2 million.  Lome is on the coast and we stayed at one of its largest and best hotels right on the beach.  The hotel is older and the rooms leave things to be desired.  The lighting was very poor, especially for reading, but the service was wonderful and the restaurants....well....think French pastries.  ooh la la

This is the largest pool I've ever seen at a hotel.  It was at least 5 times as big as a normal hotel pool.  The grounds were beautiful as you can see from the next few pictures.

We were picked up at the airport by Folley...his first and last names we can't pronounce or spell yet, but he goes by his middle name.  We met him at the  Area offices just two days before our trip.  He had lived in Ghana for several years so he speaks perfect English.  He is originally from Togo and lives there with his wife and 4.6 children...works for the Church in Physical Facilities.  He takes care of the 1 church owned and 8 rented buildings in Togo as well as the several rented buildings used over in the next country to the east - Benin, also French speaking.  It was so nice to have an English speaking friend there.  These next pictures were taken while traveling back and forth from the chapel to the hotel.  There are at least 3 "motos" (motorcycles) to every car.  They use them as taxis as well as just personal. Made for interesting driving.  Some streets are beautifully paved, others with lots and lots of potholes, and others wide - but just dirt with lots of bumps.

Econobank headquarters


The afternoon of our arrival, we walked out to the beach.  There were fishermen there in their boats, working on their nets and doing some fishing from shore.  It was an interesting juxtaposition to have several huge ships in the background.  The hotel was near the port.  The native boats of today haven't changed for hundreds of years. 
I got a couple of pictures of children carrying their "catch" back home.  Also a woman carrying a huge tub of fish on her head.

Saturday morning we left for the chapel for our meetings.  When we were here for our first mission, we handled all of the paperwork for Lome to become a District.  It had been just 4 mission branches - part of the Cote d'Ivoire Mission. When Cote d'Ivoire had its war in the year of 2011....just as we were leaving, they had to take all Missionaries out of that country.  Because of the French speaking, the Church sent all of those missionaries to Togo and Benin.  Well....that resulted in a huge increase of membership there.  They actually opened a Benin Mission in 2012.  Now there are 11 branches in Togo and instead of 3 in Benin, there are about 8-10...not sure exactly.  The Church just completed its first real building in April.  The same plan is used for many of the chapels here in Africa.

When we arrived, there were quite a number of young boys there playing soccer in the back.  We learned that they usually came each Saturday morning to play, then helped clean the church house before going home.  They liked having their pictures taken - especially the younger set.

Part of our training is playing games - showing them a variety that they can do when they hold activities on any level - and the Summit in particular.  Here are some pictures from our fun with them.

Folley...our new friend

Face the Cookie.  They have one minute to get the cookie from their forehead into their mouth using just facial muscles and twitches.  It is hilarious and they really loved it
We enjoyed a relaxing evening Saturday and then were picked up by Elder and Sister Eastmond, a US Missionary couple serving there, on Sunday morning to go to church.  We took a few pictures there of families.  Their babies are so adorable.

This is another new friend, Richard, who is Folley's assistant - also speaks English and sat in our Sunday meeting with President Amegandji to talk more about the Summit organizing.
We met several missionaries from the US and one said he was from American Fork.  Imagine our surprise when we determined that he was in our daughter Amy's ward and had been a home teaching companion of our son-in-law, Donald Bennion. 

Elder Rybin from American Fork
We had a wonderful afternoon at the Eastmond's apartment. Then, a relaxing evening in our dimly lit hotel room.  We returned to Accra on Monday mid-day.  The only flight they could get us on was with business class....nice roomy seating and all.  Too bad it was only a 35 minute flight!!
Off to Benin City (not to be confused with Benin, the country).  It is in Nigeria and was one of our favorite places to visit in 2010.  The former Stake President, Fred Akinbo, is now the Area Seventy.  We really love him and are looking forward to our trip there in two weeks where we will proceed with the same trainings there as well as meeting with our Website writer from that Council.