Saturday, March 22, 2014

3/22 - New Chapel???

March 16-22, 2014

President Cook, our mission president, visited for two days so we were able to ask all of our questions, such as how to deal with emergencies in the branches, why do meeting blocks here last 3.5 hours, and whether we can install air conditioning in the Elders apartment.  He didn’t know why the meetings last 3.5 hours and counseled against it.  He had a lot of meetings and interviews.  I drove him around and went to most of his meetings.  I am in awe of the answers he gives to some of the unusual problems he faces.

The building that we meet in in Douala is being put up for sale (for over $3M) so President Cook is going to start the approval process to start building a chapel!  The Church owns property so we visited it and found it suitable.  If approved, it will be the first chapel in Douala and a great blessing after all of the problems we’ve had lately with our rented building.
Church Property

Our Truck Parked in Front of Church Property
Speaking of which, we hosted two more baptisms at our apartment today, because our meetinghouse still has no water.  Baptisms are always exciting.
Melissa Ready for Baptism
We taught some investigators with the young Elders and President Cook.  People are so open here about faith in Christ that they can readily feel the Spirit.  The biggest problem seems to be that in the past 20 years villages have begun accepting couples living together and raising families out of wedlock.  So when they want to get baptized they have to come up with the bride-price, and most cannot easily afford it.  It might be something like 10 cows.

Their Home with Typical Cinder Block & Tin Roof Construction
President Cook is a podiatrist, so while he was here he treated Elder Leavitt's ingrown toenail.
Toenail Surgery with Audience
Here are some more random thoughts, observations and experiences:

This country has no carpeting, except for the odd throw-rug.  That’s probably good, since they don’t have vacuum cleaners, either.  Ceramic tile flooring is very popular, oddly enough, since it is so expensive in America.

Church is always an interesting experience.  We have so many friends but also too many people to remember.  And with lots of investigators coming each week, we can’t keep track of who is new and who is old.  A white Belgian investigator came last Sunday so I sat by him and tried to be a friend.  He was so argumentative and critical of the meetings that I was surprised afterward when he said that he really liked the feeling there and he wanted to know more.

With no addresses or street names people find their way around by describing landmarks, usually signs on buildings.  Our address is “next to Gicam”, and then we have to go outside and find the visitor when they arrive.  Since everyone takes taxis everywhere and the taxi drivers know the landmarks, the system works.  I think it is funny to hear people call a taxi.  They make a short kissing sound.

I think that there are two things that I will never get used to here because the American culture is too firmly ingrained in my psyche.
1.        Well-bred, upstanding citizens casually throw trash on the ground without a second thought.  Apparently the concept of not littering was never taught here.
2.       Missionary companions can and do hold hands without it being gay.  There are no openly gay people here, due to strict laws against it.  So it is normal to show brotherly affection with hand-holding, hugging, and other touching that would cause assumptions to be made in America.

One of the mature leaders in one of the branches has recently realized that marriage is important, so he has started looking around for a wife.  Having decided also that the single sisters should try to find husbands, and that their children made them less marriageable, he started urging single sisters to give custody of their children to the fathers.  (Quod sequitur, right?)  Of course, this didn’t sit well with the sisters.  Just one of the challenges of a young branch.

A bunch of letters arrived in our P.O. Box on March 17th.  Postmarks were from Dec, Jan, Feb, and March, but mostly February.  Things move at a different pace here.

I finally found a store with a selection of hardware, so I could buy a bolt to fix my license plate and a latch for the laundry room door.  Stores here are so unlike American stores that it is hard to find stuff.  Yesterday we just walked down the street sticking our heads in every store that looked promising to see what they sold.  We found a few things that we needed but not everything.

Much commerce takes place on or near sidewalks.  About a block from our home is an open shack type of structure that serves as a diner.  Extension cords provide power for 2 competing copy machines on stands in the dirt outside the diner, under umbrellas.  We go there to get copies.  They hand-feed the paper so copying is slow, and the machines are held together by lots of tape but the copies are good.  Price is about 5 cents.
Our Nearest Copy Center
Piano lesson #2 in Bonaberi drew 19 people again even though we still only have one keyboard.  Four of the original students didn’t show up but four new ones came.  Sister Coleman is teaching air-piano while Elder Coleman gives each student a few minutes of instruction on the keyboard.

Elder Okon, newly arrived from Nigeria, has had some flu-like symptoms lately (a possible sign of malaria) so we took him to the clinic today for tests.  We're still awaiting the results.  The clinic was highly recommended by previous missionary couples and locals say it is expensive so we had high expectations.  A visit costs about $12 but the lab tests came to about $90.  They also have a VIP option where the visit costs about $120 and you don't have to wait for your turn but get treated in a special office.  We chose to wait the 2 hours like everyone else.  I got to talking with the receptionist and invited him to church.

A tall crane fell over near our home causing major traffic problems.  We don't know if anyone was hurt, but it is impressive to see a crane lying on its side across the road.

The gutters here are deep ditches covered by concrete slabs called "dallettes".  Often some of the dallettes are missing, creating a serious hazard for careless drivers or pedestrians.
Very Common Hazard Everywhere

Sister Coleman's strap broke on her high-quality purse so we searched for a shop that could repair it.  We ended up in a shoe-repair shop.  We asked but they wouldn't give us a price so we handed over the purse and hoped for the best.  While we were waiting we chatted with the three women working there, gave them brochures and invited them to church.  One said she would come.  She also asked for advice on a confidential problem and took me aside.  She is living with a guy who is doing drugs and wondering if she should leave him.  I talked about the law of chastity.  That was what she wanted to hear.  Then the purse was ready and the worker smiled and said no charge.  We offered a tip but he wouldn't take anything.  That small act of generosity made our day.

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