Sunday, June 29, 2014

6/29 - Zone Expansion, Teaching, Plumbing

The Duala Zone has been expanded to 10 missionaries with the addition of Elder Niyonkuru and Elder Bacera!  Elder Bacera is fresh from the MTC and raring to go.  Elder Niyonkuru is from Burundi and has been out 9 months.  The Church has been in Burundi for 3 years and there are already 3 branches.  I keep looking for the key to get Douala growing like that.
Elder Niyonkuru

Elder Bacera

We had one baptism in Bonaberi, Igwe Timothy, a fine man.
An Investigator, Elder Roth, Frère Ebere, Timothy, Elder Waite
Monday I went street teaching with Romeo Dim.  He had visited the cobbler shop that we preached at before and said they had a list of questions.  When we got there we found only 4 cobblers and they didn’t include those with the questions.  We discussed the gospel with them for a few minutes but it felt like something was missing.  Then a stranger named Abel joined us and the spirit changed.  He said he was walking by and the Lord told him to stop and talk to us.  So we started over and taught him all about the restoration and the Book of Mormon.  He said that he loves to read and would read it and pray about it.  The other men seemed more interested by then, so we gave them more brochures.  We left them walking on air.

We had FHE with the Dim family and all 8 missionaries.  As we were just starting a discussion, the doorbell rang and a pastor, Elie, arrived with his wife, Christiane.  They listened to the discussion for a while, taking turns reading, before he asked “Who was Mormon?”  I warned him that there were 10 missionaries there anxious to tell him.  Then I gave him a short answer, but soon a lively debate ensued with scriptural quotes flying.  I managed to bring the discussion back to earth and we ended on a good note.  We then found out that they have a daughter in the USA who joined the Church so they want to know more.  I love the way the Lord sends people our way who are ready to listen.

Frère Mbeppe came to visit and ask for food for his family.  When I found out that he is an unemployed electrician I put him to work replacing two of our light fixtures that weren’t working.  He took 2 hours and got them installed but not wired right.  Then he was tired so we gave him payment and some food and sent him home.  It took me over an hour to fix all of his mistakes and get the lights working.  His most important contribution was that he knew where to buy the new fixtures for a good price.

We bought 6 sets of sheets at Marché Congo at the same boutique we got them before.  Carine, the owner/seamstress, saw us coming and got so excited.  We didn’t have to negotiate because she remembered the price and knew just what to do.  Nobody sells fitted sheets so they have to be specially made.  She sewed elastic in all 6 sheets in an hour.

We had a nice visit with Jean Marie Su, the investigator that I found.  He thinks that we should start a Church-affiliated school or hospital here to really make people aware of our presence.  He offered to donate land to build on.  I explained that if that happened it would be far in the future after much growth, but that we hope to do some small projects now.  He came to piano lessons, as did another investigator, Emerique.

Piano lessons in Bonaberi brought 9 new students, some of whom seem quite gifted!  Fortunately, we had just received 4 more pianos from the Harmon Foundation bringing our total to 10.  But it was still 2 students per piano with Sister Coleman running from student to student for two and a half hours.
Messi, a piano student, checking out our truck

I taught a class on Thursday morning on gospel principles.  About 8 students showed up within the first hour.  There was a bit of debate and it seemed everyone wanted to sound off about something.  We’ll see if it improves next time.

We had a meeting with Frère Olinga, the Temporal Affairs official, about getting the baptismal font and toilets repaired in the Douala building.  He assured me several times that everything in the building had been fixed.  After he left I went to the building for a meeting and found that it wasn't.  One toilet was disassembled and another had a fast leak that had flooded several rooms.  But, the next morning a plumber came and fixed them, so all is well at last.  Work also started on the baptismal font so maybe it will be ready for the next baptism.

One of Frère Olinga’s complaints was that many branch members come from homes without flush toilets, so they don’t know how to work them and they break them.  He recommended toilet training for the branch.

Another interesting thing that came out in that meeting was that President Nkong and Frère Olinga had both served in the Camp Luka area of Kinshasa at the same time.  They told me that when they were there 5 years ago, the 4 missionaries in the district were baptizing 50 new members per week!  President Nkong said that it took an entire day every week to interview everyone.  Now there are 6 stakes in the city and the legendary growth continues.

The zone had zone training at our home.  I announced that I had changed the name of the Bonapriso District to “Douala District” to reduce confusion with the Bonaberi District.  The Douala District is associated with the Douala Branch.  Both the branch and the missionaries have long since moved out of the Bonapriso quarter.

Those are the main interesting things that happened this week.  Every day a new pioneering adventure in this fascinating land.
Dugout Boat on the Wouri River

Banana Boats Unloading

We are Next to Bonobos on the Evolutionary Family Tree

A Big Flower in the Bonobo Preserve

People Washing Clothes in the River (hard to see)

Menu Items Translated Curiously

Ham Sandwich & Chicken Sandwich & a Lazy Translator

Sunday, June 22, 2014

6/22 - Couples Conference, Baptist Pastors, Golfing, Bonobos

The work is progressing and the adventure is continuing.  This post covers 2 weeks because we spent a week at a 3-day Couples Conference in the Congo (Kinshasa.)  (Travel is slow here.)  We had no internet or telephone in Kinshasa, so we got way behind on our work.

We invited Princess Stephanie over for a visit.  She was thrilled.  She looked at all of the photos we took of our time together.  Sister Coleman gave her a piano book because she begged, very sweetly, for it.

We had breakfast with two Baptist Pastors and the Dims at the Baptist church.  The pastor invited us weeks ago when we were there for a funeral and we finally found the time to accept.  We gave both pastors copies of the BoM and the Restoration brochures and had a nice visit talking about how we can help each other.  Sister Coleman offered to teach piano lessons and I told them that the Church is looking for a project to do in Cameroon.  The pastor offered to help us spread the Gospel and be our friend.

We dropped in for a few minutes during Jean Marie Su’s lesson (a guy I met in the airport.)  I was hoping to meet his family but he said they are in France for a month.  He showed us the book he bought 9 years ago that got him interested in the Church.  It is a 1989 Priesthood manual.  He has decided to be baptized August 2nd.

Elder Okon got sick again.  He wasn’t taking his Doxy so we gave him malaria meds.  Then he started coughing up blood so we took him to the clinic.  Since it was near midnight there were only about 3 patients and by the time we left he was the only one.  Medical staff was sitting around watching TV.  I guess if you get sick at night you are supposed to wait until morning.  We debated whether we could leave town while he was ill, but finally gave him a detailed regimen of antibiotics and left for the Couples Conference.  He got well.

We first flew to Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo, spent the night, and rode a boat across the mighty Congo River to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The 3 couples from outside of Kinshasa shared a 3-bedroom apartment.  We had a great time visiting with all of the other couples.  They are awesome and they are the only people in the world that we can share experiences with who really understand what it is like.
Some of the Couples at the Fireside

On Sunday we went to church.  I had forgotten how large and nice the chapel is!  The meetings were well organized and directed.  I wish so much that we had a stake in Douala.  Afterwards the couples got better acquainted at a fireside in our apartment.
Future Temple Site in Kinshasa

At the start of the conference most of the couples gave presentations on various topics.  I ditched my assigned topic and just told stories of some of the miracles we've experienced in the previous 2 weeks.  I talked as fast as I could and condensed everything but only had 1/2 hour so I had to leave some out.  I also told the group that to really teach the whole city we needed 60 missionaries in Douala.  The president said that he would increase our zone to 10.

On Monday afternoon we made girl maturation kits (reuseable sanitary napkin supplies) as a humanitarian project under the direction of 2 ward members.  Too many girls drop out of school when they start menstruating, so these kits are designed to help them stay in school.  I used a sewing machine for the first time in my life.
Elder Coleman Sewing on the Hand-Cranked Machine

On Monday evening Brother Da Tarr told of his life.  He was miraculously protected by the Lord during the war in Liberia and escaped with his family.  Then he was hired by the Church and has fought constant persecution ever since.  Every year people try to get him to "cooperate" and misuse Church resources, then slander him when he refuses.  But he holds fast to his principles and trusts in the Lord.  Did Jesus cooperate with Satan?  Did Daniel cooperate with Nebuchadnezzar?

On Tuesday we met staff members who talked about ordering supplies, meeting houses, records, finances, transfers, cars, and health care.  Then four of the men went golfing while the rest of the group went shopping for fabric and souvenirs.  Then we watched a movie about Beatrix Potter.

The golf course was nice but seemed to have too many water hazards.  The water is always murky, so when the ball goes in, it's gone.  We lost a lot of balls and had to buy more from the ball guy that followed us around and waded through the water hunting.  We each had a caddy.  As we were leaving due to darkness after 12 holes, I noticed the caddies all talking about something in the trees so I inquired about it.  "Une bête sauvage" (a savage beast) I was told.  A lion?  No, a fox coming to hunt ducks.
There is a Golf Course in Kinshasa!

Ducks Came Walking Across the Green

On Wednesday we went to the Bonobo park, where they keep rescued bonobos.  Bonobos are the most humanlike of the great apes and are only found in one area of the DR Congo.  We walked about 2 km through the jungle and saw lots of bonobos.  Then we went back to the mission home for more talks and had dinner in a restaurant owned by Da Tarr.  We went to see the Kinshasa Orchestra but it was cancelled because they were at the British Embassy.  Seems like they would have told their patrons.
Bonobo Mother

They Call this one Arnold Schwarzenegger

More Bonobos

Bonobo Orphan Babies need lots of Affection

On Thursday we headed home.  We had to spend the night in Brazzaville so President Cook, Elder Gates, and I went teaching with the Brazzaville missionaries.  As we drove around, the driver pointed out several Church meetinghouses.  Missionary work is booming there and they are about to split the stake.

On Friday we arrived home and joined the throng at Alvine & Dadi’s wedding.  We sang in the choir and the branch president held a complete wedding ceremony, even though they had gotten legally married at the town hall in the morning.
Dadi & Alvine ready to make Vows

The Wedding Reception

On Saturday we had another baptism of just one woman, Ernestine.  As we were driving away we were slightly involved in a traffic accident.  A motorcycle tried to pass us on a crowded lane but met an oncoming speeding car, which then hit two pedestrians.  The driver said he would take the pedestrians to the hospital and take responsibility so we were free to go.  Injuries were minor but a big crowd was gathering.  We had the branch president with us, otherwise I wouldn’t have known what people were saying.  I was afraid that at some point someone would point the finger of blame at the white guy, so I was anxious to leave.  But there wasn’t any problem with that, as there were plenty of witnesses.
Ernestine's Baptism

On Sunday our convert, Noah, gave a talk, was ordained a priest, and was set apart as a branch missionary.  Jean Marie Su came to church and said that he wants a D&C and the Joseph Smith priesthood manual.  He is very excited about the gospel.

Among other adventures: We had a nice dinner at a member's restaurant (Frere Totto) and were surprised when the bill came to $2.90.  It was $1 each for food and $0.90 for the bottle of water.  It is true that you can eat cheap here, unless you want American food.
Frère Totto's Restaurant
The Elders in Douala get together every 2 weeks for a soccer game.  Branch members join in.
Elders Playing Soccer
Grace & Ivye carrying pianos

I finally got a good shot of this guy!

Hut in the Bonobo Park

Would you buy medicine at this pharmacy (the shack in the middle)?

"Plate of Raw Veggies" translated funny on the menu

Somehow steamed bananas translated as "Hammer vapor"

Sunday, June 8, 2014

6/8 - More Blessings of the Spirit, Branch Conferences

I told the missionaries about meeting Jean Marie Su at the airport (see below.)  One of them asked, “Do people always just come up to you and ask about the Church?”  I said “Yes.  Doesn’t that happen to you?”  He thought a bit and said, “Yes, I guess so.”  The missionaries have gotten so used to it that they have to be reminded that miracles are taking place all around them.  The Spirit is strong here and is leading people to the Church.  I spend 95% of my time on administrative and supportive tasks, but when I have a chance to do a little proselyting it is so rewarding.  And when someone accepts our message and the Spirit bears witness we feel good all week.  I love this country!

In the airport parking lot a little boy stuck out his hand so I stopped to shake hands.  His dad introduced himself (Jean Marie Su) and I did the same.  When he heard the name of the Church he was surprised that it is in Cameroon.  He had bought an LDS book somewhere 9 years ago and wanted to know more about it but didn’t know who to talk to.  We chatted a while and he seemed really ready for our message.  I gave him the only brochure in my pocket, entitled “La Chasteté.”  We swapped phone numbers and he called the next day, made an appointment, came on time, and we taught him.  Then he came to all of the meetings on Sunday, was warmly welcomed by the branch and the mission president, and made an appointment with the Elders for Wednesday.  He is sure that God directed him to me so he could find His church.

President Cook later told me that Jean Marie is an attorney and said he could help us with visas.  That could really bless the mission.

Prince Franck came over Monday morning to talk about choosing an American university to study electronics.  I gave him a list of the top colleges but he said that he wanted a religious college and cost was important.  So, I showed him the cost of BYU and told him a little about it and he quickly chose it.  Then details started coming out that amazed me.  The chief had a talk with him Sunday night about his future and told him to do everything that I tell him.  Franck told me that he wants to join my church and model his life after mine.  He said that he fasted from Saturday night to Monday morning (I had told him about fast Sunday), started reading the Book of Mormon, and felt that he is being called to follow this path.  He has never tasted alcohol.  We made an appointment for the next day to study the gospel.  Things came up and he missed his appointment but we expect to see him again soon.

Monday evening about 10pm we got a call that floored me.  An aide to congresswoman Honorable Maître Fotso Kamdem Fostine called and asked if the Honorable could visit us at our home Tuesday morning at 11am to discuss the Book of Mormon that we had given her!  We said yes, but she didn’t make it, so we’ll see how that goes.
Sister Coleman with One of the Purses that She Made

We helped Hermann Skype with the bishop in Norway.  Hermann’s the guy that has been trying to get us to buy him a plane ticket to Norway.  The bishop didn’t recognize him but said that he would call a couple of people that Hermann named and see if they wanted to help him.  Afterwards I told Hermann that it was incredible that he didn’t know anyone in his family or acquaintances who trusted him enough to loan him money for a plane ticket.  He said that his brother William would certainly do it.  So, we sent an email to his other brother, Nivard, asking for William’s phone number.  He couldn’t explain why he didn’t try that a year ago.  But we got no response.  Hermann said that he was leaving Wednesday no matter what, so we assume that he is now on a boat heading north.
Gregoire Ele, Moto Taxi Driver & 2nd Counselor

Elder Baker finished his mission and we put him on a plane for home.  He was such a great missionary.  I asked so he replied that he had baptized over 50 people.

Our Outfits for Alvine's Wedding

President & Sister Cook came to town for branch conferences.  The meetings went well.  It is probably the last time that they will come to Douala, since the mission will split and we will have a new mission president on July 1st.  It is so nice to be able to discuss issues with the President, who can give authoritative answers.  One thing that came out is that we might get 2 more missionaries.  That is great news.  We have 18 missionaries covering all of Cameroon, a country the size of California.  The field is white but the laborers are few.  If we had another 100 missionaries we could start to address the backlog of people seeking the gospel in Cameroon.
Eric (investigator), Elder West, & President Cook after teaching

I finally figured out why things scan and print funny.  The paper here is not letter size, it is A4 size, which is longer and skinnier.

We were at the Bonaberi meetinghouse and Frère Michel was passing by, so he stopped in to hang out for a while.  It is a popular gathering place.  I liked his outfit so I asked if I could take a photo.  It looks like pajamas, but guys wear outfits like this everywhere.
Frère Michel in Typical African Clothes