March 8, 2014
Life here is a different adventure every day and we seldom know what to expect. Sometimes it is exhilarating and sometimes frustrating, but mostly it is good. The high points are feeling the joy of the gospel and seeing it in people’s eyes when they feel the Spirit. The low points are getting harassed by police. I thought that we would have plenty of down time to relax, but it seems that there is always more to do, so the days pass quickly.
|Ruth with Annie and Martha Representing both Branches|
Here is a sort of chronologically ordered list of what happened this week:
Our water failed Sunday so we had to take “bucket showers”. Fortunately we had some water stored, and the water came back on later. Some of the young missionaries lost their water for a few days and hauled buckets up from their apartment swimming pool.
|Female Lizard on Wall (note spots on head)|
Frere Jacques invited us to his home for dinner Sunday, the day after his baptism. We had a nice visit with his family and friends and an excellent dinner of fish, potato salad, fried bananas, manioc, and bread. I’m told that people think whites are afraid to touch black people, so they are astonished and very happy when we are willing to come to their home and eat with them. The colonial days weren’t very long ago here and some were alive back then. But with a smile and handshake everyone is very warm and loving.
|Yummy African Meal|
We bore our testimonies in fast & testimony meeting in Bonaberi and everyone wanted to shake our hands and welcome us.
Ruth had a French lesson with a friend from church.
The first day we arrived in Cameroon our mission president met us at the airport and we went out to lunch together. He gave a brochure to our waiter, Noah. Last Monday Noah called and said that he wanted to talk about Jesus. We invited him and the young Elders over Tuesday and had a great lesson and visit. The Spirit was strong and he was ready to accept everything. It was an exhilarating day. He made another appointment with the Elders on Friday so we joined and had another great visit. He had read the first 70 pages of the BoM and believes that it is true.
|Investigator Noah with his Friend's Mother|
Tuesday night we had the Bonaberi Branch President over for dinner and discussed branch issues and how we can help. That branch was just a group with 8 members 4 years ago. It became a branch 2 ½ years ago with about 60 members. Now it has over 120 members.
African problems are quite different than American problems but they have just as many and most can’t be solved by Americans. One of the biggest is la dote, or the bride price, which is sometimes so high that couples raise a family together but can’t afford to get married. And, surprisingly, everybody is ok with that in the villages. But without the sacred covenant of marriage their spiritual progress is limited. So, some get married in secret, which can cause big family strife if word gets out. Some negotiate payments, but since the dote is generally paid in small gifts demanded by every male relative in the entire extended family, that can be very difficult.
We met an American Baptist minister and his wife in a grocery store. There were about 6 white people in that store, which I think was more than I had seen in all of Douala up until then. The couple said that they had been there 9 years, so I asked how he liked it. He said “it is a terrible place.” He got a perforated colon and almost died in the local hospital before he could get to America for proper treatment. I mentioned that I love the pastries and she said that they were too greasy. They were “glass-half-empty” kind of folks. But we still love it here.
Wednesday we were stopped three times by police, and then again once on Friday. The first checked our papers and found everything in order and told us to go. I started the engine and started checking traffic when another cop ran over and started talking about my seat belt. I explained that I had just taken it off to reach over and get the papers from the glove box. He was chastising me in French, I think, but I couldn’t understand much when another cop came over and told him to let us go.
The 2nd cop pulled us over for not going far enough into the intersection before making a U-turn. He said that he was going to give us a ticket that costs $50 dollars and keep our vehicle registration until we paid. Ruth wrote down the name on his badge. Then another cop got involved and and started explaining again, so she wrote down his name. Suddenly the cop noticed the names on the back of a store receipt and said that we couldn’t write their names. I asked why not. He said it was not allowed and asked why we wrote them. I explained that they were keeping our registration and we wanted to know who had it so when we went to pay the fine we could tell the commissariate. He said that their names were on the ticket so we didn’t need to write them and demanded the paper they were written on. I said that I needed the receipt and asked why we couldn’t write them if they were on the ticket anyway. While I argued Ruth grabbed my phone and called a nearby Branch member, Romeo Dim, and asked if he could help us. After about 2 more minutes of arguing one of the cops asked why we were here. I said we are missionaries and suddenly everyone got very friendly and said that we should have said so earlier. I thought they were about to just let us go when Romeo showed up and took them aside. Some money changed hands (I think $10), we got our registration, we gave them the paper with their names, and everybody was happy. I’ll talk to Romeo later and find out what happened and what we owe him. The most incredible part to me was that those 3 cops seemed happy to just stand around arguing for so long. In America I would have been in handcuffs. But I think that they were just hoping for an excuse to let us go and save face, probably with a gentle demand for a bribe. If I could have just figured out what they wanted I would have paid it, but not $50.
The third stop was at a checkpoint. We hadn’t done anything wrong and our papers were in order. I was carrying 4 missionaries so one of the Elders talked to the cop and told him that we were missionaries coming from a meeting. They gave up on trying for “price of passage” and let us go.
The stop on Friday was for some ambiguous “impeding traffic” charge, which was nonsense. I let him see a bill worth $4 and he decided that since he was Christian he would take the bill and let us go. I guess that is the going rate.
We met and had lunch with a Canadian Mormon, Jeff Gibbs, who has a road construction business in Yaounde. He just had a crazy idea one day to start a business in western Africa and has been here 8 years. He offered to do what he can to help us so we’ll keep his number handy. He said that he just drove off once when the cops pulled him over. They’re all on foot, so he got away with it. He said the typical cop is paid about $100/month, so they have to supplement their income somehow.
Transfers were exciting for the Elders but a huge job for us, since various Elders had to pass through our city and had visa and other problems. But we managed to pull it off with only minor problems. After the transfer we went from 1 in 8 to 3 in 8 of our local Elders are Africans. That's exciting!
|Newly Arrived Elder Okon w/Comp: Elder Ngalamulume|
|Elder Okon from Nigeria, playing with kids|
And with all of the time we spent waiting at the airport and bus station we got to do some proselyting. Africans are so friendly and ready for the gospel that it is fun to share and I gave Church info to two men. I also had a nice chat with a French man who didn’t want to talk religion but loves Douala. He noted that some of the people here are extremely intelligent, which matches my observations. The people are held back by the 3rd world infrastructure, but they manage to make the system work.
Two more baptisms today, but in Bonaberi, not at our pool. We’ve been here three Saturdays and had baptisms on every one.
|Citcheu July at her Baptism|
Today, March 8, 2014, is International Women’s Day so thousands of women of Cameroon celebrated by all wearing dresses of the same fabric and gathering on the streets in a big party. It was quite a sight. This same fabric was worn all throughout the nation today.
|International Women's Day Revelers|