It is hard to believe all that happened this week. D&C 1:23 says that the weak and simple will proclaim the gospel to kings and rulers, so I guess I am weak and simple.
Since the mission president’s flight was cancelled, he came the next day and was here only 17 hours before his early morning bus. We rearranged all of his appointments and squeezed in Zone Conference and about 10 interviews. He and his wife were busy every second and didn’t get much sleep. Sister Coleman did a great job feeding all 10 missionaries and the Cooks and providing snacks for various other guests.
The next day Sister Coleman was ill with some kind of flu. Elder Ndonda also reported that he was extremely ill. I checked with Dr. Cook and started him on anti-malaria meds. He admitted that hasn’t been taking the doxycycline that all missionaries are supposed to take daily to prevent malaria.
On Wednesday Princess Tchamgoue Bernadette Stephanie took us to meet a village chief (or king), Majesté Tchatchoua Tchande Clemence Emmanuel. Chiefs really are treated like kings except without the authority to tax. We had a nice visit with him, one of his daughters and two nephews that he calls his adopted sons. His home is decorated with an impressive array of photos of him with various VIPs, such as Jesse Jackson, Desmond Tutu, and numerous Cameroon leaders. He once had an audience with the pope and is friends with Jacques Chirac. Many of his family members live in Minnesota. He asked how our church differs from his Catholic Church. We gave him most of the first discussion and presented him with a Book of Mormon. He wanted it endorsed so I wrote my testimony and we signed it. Then he wanted out phone numbers here and in California so we wrote them, too. After 2 hours we asked to be excused to get home for piano students, so he insisted that we come again for 2 more hours the next day. That appointment was cancelled when his daughter gave birth.
|Chief Tchouchoua, Wife, Princess Stephanie|
He also said that we have to come to his village, Bafang, for the burial of a former chief, who is the princess’ grandfather. I called President Cook and got permission. More on that below.
After that visit Princess Stephanie said that she wanted us to meet with another Christian. Since Sister Coleman had students I had to go alone. I hate leaving my companion but was glad that I didn’t miss this meeting. The Christian turned out to be the Commandant of the Gendarmerie, who is an ordained Pentecostal minister and wants to start his own church. He started our meeting with a prayer and we had a good time talking about how Jesus changes hearts. I briefly explained the Book of Mormon and presented him a copy with my testimony. He promised to read it and seemed anxious to get started. I noticed a piano keyboard and asked about it. He wants lessons so I offered Sister Coleman’s free services. His office is only about 4 blocks away so I think he will come. He asked me to call him next week after Wednesday.
He gave me a business card and wrote on the back “BV laisser circuler cet ami de Cameroun” (kindly let this friend of Cameroon pass), signed it, and said that if we have any problems with the police we can call him. Hooray! I have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card! I plan to carry a laminated copy of it everywhere.
I got stopped by cops three times Wednesday. The first guy said that he recognized me and that he wouldn’t stop me again, but his buddy 40 feet down the road told us to pull over. I said that we just talked to the guy back there so we let us go. Then 5 minutes later as we were coming back we got stopped on the other side of the street. We had the princess in the back seat and she rolled down her window and chewed him out in royal style for the 30 seconds it took him to check our papers. Next time I’ll have my special card.
Tuesday was May 20th, National Unification Day, kind of like our 4th of July. Almost everything was closed and there was a spectacular fireworks display in the evening, launched from an overpass on the highway. Because it was Tuesday, Monday was also treated like a holiday, making a 4-day weekend. On Wednesday the line to pay water bills at the water company had about 100 people. It didn’t seem to be moving, and then someone said that the machine is broken so I left. I still had a day before it is overdue.
Since Monday was Zone Conference, the Douala Elders postponed grocery shopping until Tuesday. Then they found everything closed so they asked if we could spare some food since they were out. We invited them over and fed them leftovers from the Zone Conference and the Cooks’ visit. Lucky for them the Cook’s visit was abbreviated so we had extra. We don’t usually keep food for six people on hand because with the heat and small refrigerator it is tough to keep it fresh.
I went to pay our electric bill and found an incredibly long line. I asked the guard at the door if I could just print my bill on the computer since it wasn’t being used. Instead, he sent me into the managers’ office where I was greeted by a Christian woman that we had met on a previous visit. She really took a liking to us and took care of me in VIP fashion, sending a courier to pay our bill. I felt guilty not waiting in line, but was much relieved, because I really didn’t have the time.
Paying our water bill was another adventure. We went back several times because 1. The power was out, 2. They closed at 3pm, 3. The line was incredibly long, 4. The machine was broken. Finally I asked Romeo and he said to skip the line and ask for help in the offices. So I asked the lady at the information booth and she said she would pay it for me. I handed over the bills and my money, got nothing in writing, and trusted "Madame Jo" to pay it. I’ll go back tomorrow for the receipt.
Thursday evening at 9pm we had to mediate a disagreement in an apartment between Elders.
Friday, with some trepidation, not knowing what to expect, we took an overnight trip to Bafang for the funeral of a King (Chief of a village). It is a 200km drive each way through beautiful hills, valleys, farms, and villages. There were 2 tolls and about 100 ridiculously large speed bumps so the drive took about 4 hours. Our goal was to meet and share the gospel with kings and village nobility and anyone else. We took 40 copies of the BoM and hundreds of brochures. The key, of course, was that we brought Princess Stephanie to introduce us, and we are friends with Majesté Tchouchoua. We expected him to be there but he missed it.
|View of Bafang from our Hotel Window|
The princess made hotel reservations for us which were much cheaper than we expected, at $30. After arriving and getting settled she took us to meet the highest, level 1, superior chief of Banka who is over all of the other chiefs in the area. He was in the “Sacred Room” and declined to meet with us. Then she took us to meet the Catholic Bishop but he was away so I just said a few words to him on the telephone. By then it was dark so Princess Stephanie recommended that we skip the deuil (wake) because the road is too difficult. We dropped her off at her sister’s home.
The next morning she and her princess sister took us back to the highest chief where we were told to come back at 1:00.
|Carvings in Chefferie Gateway|
|Building in Chefferie|
|E.T. Visited Cameroon|
Next we went to the burial of Chief Thomas Tcheuko Ngalee Sengape. We went about 10 miles down a difficult dirt road through the jungle, glad to be in a 4WD truck. The usher gave us plastic chairs in the front of the crowd of about 500 under awnings and tall elm-like trees in the village common area. The site would have made a great campground for those who want to get away from it all, although they do have electricity and water. The scenery was beautiful with lush foliage everywhere around the buildings, which were decorated with intricate wood carvings. Although we were an hour late it seemed that the Catholic Mass had just begun and continued for another hour. A lot was in the local language, but it was interesting to see the elegant African clothes, watch the proceedings, and examine the insects and spiders in the grass at our feet. Then was a series of eulogies for another hour followed by a meal.
|Sister Coleman by Casket Holding Purse She Made|
Finally, as we were leaving, the princess started introducing us to the nobility and her relatives. Nobody seemed interested in us so we left nothing behind except a few gifts that the princess insisted upon. At least they know that we didn’t come to take anything from them. And in case you were wondering, nobody got buried at the burial. The chief was actually buried a month ago.
|Mingling With Nobility at the Burial|
|Woman with Sticks on her Head|
|The Road to Bafang|
|A View of the Landscape|
Our next stop was the local king, Majesté Tchappi Tcheukam Joseph, Chef Supérieur. We followed him from the funeral to his chefferie (palace.) The 2 princesses gained entry and we had a short visit. We gave him a BoM and some brochures, testified of the BoM, and said that we hope to someday have a church branch there. He wanted to discuss it with his council and wanted 20 books so we gave them to him. I asked what we could do for him and he asked for roads. The princesses explained that women often give birth in the fields because the roads are so bad they can’t get to a hospital. I promised to look into it but said it is outside the scope of what the Church normally does. Most of the conversation was in the local dialect with the princesses interpreting because the chief doesn’t speak French well. One of his aides brought the book and brochures from me to him as he sat on his throne.
As we left I asked for a photo so he led us to the road to pose. The princess whispered that it is customary to pay so we gave his aide $10 and took some photos with him. If you have ever wished for decorating tips for your royal palace, just fill the room with poster-sized photos of yourself. That is the latest style.
|Princess Stephanie, Majesté Tchappi, Princess Deva Glory|
|Entrance to Chefferie|
|Courtyard at Chefferie|
We went back to town and tried once more unsuccessfully to see the highest chief. His aide apologized and blamed it on youth, since the chief is in his 20’s.
|Statues in Front of High Chief's Palace|
After the long drive back to Douala we were glad to get home. We dropped off the princess with her luggage in a dark, dirt alley downtown where she said she knows someone. Of course, most streets are dark, dirt alleys, so she didn’t fear for her life.
On Sunday I spoke in Bonaberi Sacrament Meeting on “The Church Today.” After the meeting block I got a message that the entire Douala branch had been invited to our pool for a child baptism because the branch font sprang a leak. We raced home, arranged chairs, and invited the gathering crowd inside for the service. It was the biggest crowd in our home yet with about 40 people. The family (Hippolyte) brought lunch for everyone. By the time everyone left it was about 5pm and we were late for dinner with the Nkong family, but they weren’t ready for us, so it was no problem. The more we get to know President Nkong the more impressed I am with his wisdom and kindness.
|The 3 Billy Goats Gruff walked past the Bonaberi Chapel|
That's our week. What did you do this week?