Sunday, July 27, 2014

7/27 - Open House, Baptism, Dimond Couple

Another week, another batch of adventures.  There was a great open house, a trip to Yaoundé, a baptism, and the usual assortment of events.

Most of the week was focused on the Douala Branch Open House, which was on Saturday.  The branch mission leader, Romeo, wanted to have meetinghouse tours at 10 am followed at 11 am by a 2-hour meeting and a light meal.  I wanted meetinghouse tours, films, and cookies and punch all day.  We compromised with tours and films for 2.5 hours, a half-hour meeting, and a light meal.  The half-hour meeting dragged into 1 hour and would have gone much longer if I had let it.  But turnout was good with about 80 people and about 50 of them non-members.  Romeo designed fancy invitations and made a big sign for the busy street.  One visitor commented on how well organized we were.  We needed all 6 missionaries and many branch missionaries and other members to keep up with the flow of visitors.  The missionaries have lots of new investigators now.
Watching a Film at the Open House

Luncheon after the Open House

Lots of Open House Discussions (Elders Bacera & West)

Elders Rakotondrabeharison, Bacera, West, & Johnson

Elders Hatch & Colindres

Curiously, the building water had been cut off for non-payment, shortly after the Church employee in charge of paying assured me that that would never be a problem again.  And I begged him Thursday afternoon to get the water turned on, but he failed.  So it is with jugs of water that we had to flush the toilets during the open house on Saturday.  But nobody complained.

On my Monday morning run I met a military group and ran with them for a few miles.  One of their chants sounded something like, “mabongo bali;  bali bali;” repeated 100 times.  It sounds better when you get the pitch right.  Their route passed through an Air Force base and the guards let me in.  We ran down the tarmac past some big aircraft before exiting through another gate.  One of the non-functional planes looked like it was a moss covered 747.

After Monday piano practice we took the bus to Yaoundé for a 2-day visit with the Dimonds, Dave & Anne, who arrived 2 weeks ago.  We explained some of the intricacies of the financial system, answered questions, and had a great time talking about life here and our former lives.  We visited the Cameroon dedication site and hiked the fitness trail.  They brought special items from America that Sister Coleman had requested that are hard to get here: gold earrings, file tabs, a small French hymnal, skirt hangers, bleach pens, and good pens.  They have been here 2 weeks and seem to be well adjusted to Africa already.
Sister & Elder Dimond

The Site at which Cameroon was Dedicated

An interesting thing about the Dimonds: they got married a year ago (so they are still newlyweds) and they both retired a few days before their mission started.  So, they never really retired; they just got promoted to a much more exciting line of work.

At Bonaberi we gave talks in Sacrament Meeting and I taught a lesson on home teaching in Priesthood Meeting.

Princess Delphine was baptized after church.  She has been taking lessons for a long time but had a language barrier.  That problem was solved when Elder Okon, our Nigerian missionary, took over and started teaching her in Pidgin.  A lot of people who claim to speak English speak Pidgin, which is very difficult for us to understand.  It is heavily accented with some non-English words mixed in.
Baptism of Princess Delphine

We’re enjoying the cooler weather of the “rainy season”.  The temperature is always just right, day and night, never hot, never cold.  Sister Coleman even joins me on my morning runs for part of the way.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

7/20 - No Longer "Elder" Coleman

President Coleman is my new title!  Just when it seemed like we knew what we were doing and things were settling down, the Lord sends us more surprises and new challenges.  And, of course, many more blessings.

Our new mission president came and held a zone conference with the missionaries and meetings with the branch leaders.  The next morning at 5:30 am as I prepared to drive him to the airport he said, “I’m going to set you apart as my counselor.”  What?!!!  Then he did so, after which he told me that now I preside at all branch meetings that I attend and have to sit on the stand.  No more sitting in the back and coaching quietly as needed.  I am to represent him and give direction and training to the branch leaders.  After he left I learned that I have to go by the title of President Coleman.  Each of the big cities will have a counselor to the mission president.
Zone Conference

Photo Front Row: President & Sister Monga, Sister & Elder Coleman
Photo Back Row: Elders Ndonda, West, Colindres, Hatch, Bacera, Waite, Johnson, Roth, Rakotondrabeharison, & Okon

So I have a whole new set of responsibilities and authority.  It’s a good thing that the Lord is in charge, because I could never do it without his help.  We started with some training of leaders Friday evening, presiding at a baptism Saturday, and more training and presiding Sunday.  We both spoke in Sacrament Meeting about our new roles.

Two young men, Felicien & Christ, were baptized in Bonaberi and their brother, Jean Baptist, said that he is next.
Christ, Felicien, & President Ngueti

We took Marlese’s daughter, Nina, to the hospital to rest.  From what I’ve been told, she had a panic attack, couldn’t breath and fainted on the sidewalk.  The kids told her mom, who came and carried her into the house.  Someone called Romeo, her cousin-in-law, who arrived about 30 minutes later and found her not breathing and cool to the touch.  He thought, this poor mother doesn’t know that her daughter is dead!  He anointed her and commanded her spirit to return.  Then he gave her mouth-to-mouth breaths and massage and after a few minutes she gasped and started breathing but was very weak.  Six hours later they called us.  I gave her a blessing and we took her to the hospital where they put her on IV fluids.  The next day she returned home, still weak.

Monday was our first piano practice event at Bonaberi, in addition to the Thursday lessons.  I counted 15 students who showed up to practice.  We hope that by studying 2 days per week they can learn twice as fast.  It is fun to hear the kids at piano lessons calling “Seesta Coleman!  Seesta Coleman!”
Vinick, Felicien & Messie

Fleur Ida & Rosemary


Almost the whole classroom
While Sister Coleman coached students at the piano practice, I visited a nearby paint boutique owned by a branch member, George.  We talked about the different qualities of paint appropriate for Douala weather and I said a prayer for his business.
George's paint boutique, built in a storage container, with Elders Roth & Waite

Ruth’s birthday brought a lot of rain and several blessings.
Blessing #1:  Success in getting a Carte de Sejour without going to Yaoundé.  We went back to the police station to get a Residence Card (Carte de Sejour) for Elder Johnson, bringing the letters they asked for.  Then they told us that they required another letter from the Church in Douala.  I walked home and wrote one.  They wanted 100 cfa for copies, 3,000 cfa for photos, 65,000 cfa for the card, 1,000 cfa for the stamp, and after doing all of this for 2 hours we had to wait 2 days for the signature.  The temporary card is good for 18 months, which is more than he has left on his mission, Yay!  We are so excited to be able to do this locally from now on.  Next time we will know what to bring and do.  And by the way, the police station was flooded, so the Elders and Sister Coleman waded through ankle-deep water to get to the office.  I stayed back and ran errands until the water receded.

Blessing #2:  There was almost no line to pay the electric bill.

Blessing #3:  As I was leaving the electric company one of the customers saw my badge and read “Jesus Christ.”  I stopped to talk to the 2 young men and told them a little about the Church.  They expressed interest in joining the church and said they live near our meetinghouse.  I gave them brochures and called the Elders, who chatted with one on the phone and said they will meet with them soon.

Blessing #4:  The post office put a small parcel in our P.O. Box, thus avoiding the long wait for customs and the excessive fees & duties.

Blessing #5:  We ate at The Mediterranean, a European restaurant, to celebrate Sister Coleman’s birthday.  She loved that the restroom there was like an American restroom, with toilet seats, toilet paper, soap, and paper towels.  Nevertheless, one of the male customers walked over to the flowerbed in the outdoor dining area and used it, instead, reminding us that this is still Africa.
Sister Coleman's Birthday Lunch

We bought some rambutan fruit.  They look like hairy strawberries but have a delicious white fruit inside.  I tried some other fruit, too, but don’t know what it is called.

I don't know what this is but it is good
Papaya for Breakfast

One of our Elders got sick, possibly strep throat.  I checked with the Church’s Area doctor in South Africa and bought some amoxicillin.  No prescriptions needed here.
Laurencia, Patruce (back), Elizabeth, Purita, Elvis

Sunday, July 13, 2014

7/13 - Slow Week

A rare slow week.   We’re getting more rain, which means slightly cooler temperatures, and Sister Coleman loves it.  I was thinking about all of the motorcycles with umbrellas here and pondering why that doesn't work in America.  I think it is because there is no wind here.  The umbrellas are built to handle strong oncoming wind but would probably collapse in a side or rear wind.  I don't know why this country has no windy days.

Transfers went off with scarcely a hitch.  Flights were late, but that is normal here.  That gives us more time in the airport to share the gospel.  And we discovered the airport restaurant, where, for the price of a croissant we can wait in comfort watching the airplanes land, instead of standing in the crowds for hours.  Two of our Elders, Brockbank & Niyonkuru, were replaced by Elders Johnson & Hatch.
Elder Hatch

Elder Johnson
Guava Juice Ingredients: Pineapple
I bought a bottle of guava juice.  It tasted like guava.  It had a photo of guavas.  But the ingredients list had only pineapple, sugar, water, & citric acid.

This week someone came from mission headquarters to conduct Seminary & Institute Graduation services.  It was supposed to start at 2 but he didn’t arrive until 4.  And everybody waited.  Then he waited until 4:30 to start, because some people weren’t there yet.  The meeting was still going when we left the building at 6:00.  Africans are incredibly patient.

Things are moving forward on the humanitarian project but we don’t have approval yet.

Princess Stephanie brought two nieces, Rosine & Edwege, over to meet us.  We had a good time chatting and sharing the gospel.  When they found out that we have an unmarried son they asked for his phone number and email.  I asked them to sing a song, so here it is.  The language is Bamilike and it is a song of prayer.
Finally, a photo of a taxi motorcycle with umbrella (by the baptismal font)

The owner, Douala Martin Luther with his bike
Our Apartment Building (very upscale for here)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

7/6 - Baptisms, Open House, School Visits

This was a relatively easy week with no crises.  Highlights were 2 baptisms, an open house, and a school visit. 

Two converts, (Laura & Stephan?) were baptized in the Douala Branch in the newly repaired font. 

We missed the baptism to attend the Bonaberi Open House.  It was a low-key affair, probably due to the rain, although the rain stopped just before the event.  There were a few investigators and about 40 members.  The missionary in charge, Elder Ndonda, was about an hour late, but people were still trickling in so it was a good time to start the program.  The “activity” as they call it consisted of prayers, hymns, 3 talks, the Restoration video, a Q&A session, and a simple African dance by the YW/YM.  It was a good social event for everyone.
Open House Table
Open House Set Up
YW/YM Dance Performance

The rainy season is underway.  I think it lasts 2-3 months.  One of our African Elders asked, “Do you have seasons in America?  I mean other than Winter & Summer, do you have a rainy season?”  We explained that the weather varies with the seasons, but in Seattle it rains a lot and San Diego it doesn’t.  In Phoenix it is very hot and in Alaska it is very cold.  And the temperature always gets colder at night and hotter during the day.  Unlike here, where the temperature is always good, 24/7, 365.  (OK, it often gets into the mid 80’s, which is too warm for some but we have A/C.)

We had one day after a storm when our water turned yellow.  Even after our 5 micron filters I still got a lot of sediment when I filled a bottle and let it sit.  But the next day the water was clear again.
This is tap water with an inch of precipitate at the bottom.
Thursday we arrived at the piano class in pouring rain.  Attendance was still about 15 students, but many arrived an hour or more late, when the rain abated a bit.  The flashcard competition was won by Marceline, who is fairly new.  The prize was a backpack that Sister Coleman had made, with some cookies and a candy bar inside.  She spoils her students.

On Tuesday and Friday we visited Bonamouang Public School to evaluate it for a possible humanitarian project.  Romeo attended that school as a child and was surprised to learn that the Parents Association president, M. Samuel, is a friend with whom he has been sharing the gospel.  We met with him and the Director, M. Epesse, and came up with a prioritized list of projects.  I sent it to the missionary couple in charge, the Moodys, and we are now waiting for instructions from them on how to proceed.  We could do so much good there for a relatively small amount of money.  Just imagine 700 students in 9 classrooms, some with dirt floors, no drinking water, no working toilets, not enough desks so some students have to stand, and big puddles in the playground.
This Classroom needs Roof Repair

40-year-old Chalkboard

Classroom During Vacation

Five Toilet Stalls with No Water

Classroom Floor

Classroom With Most of the Concrete Floor Missing

School Entrance
Romeo Dim, M. Epesse (Director), M. Samuel (President), Sister Coleman

This classroom is no longer in use.

Playground Area

Our new mission president called and rescheduled his visit for 2 weeks away.  We’re looking forward to meeting him.

We passed out transfer letters for another complicated transfer.  9 Elders arrive and 9 Elders leave but most we are just shuttling between the bus and airport over a 3 day period.  Only 2 of our 10 are being replaced (Brockbank & Niyonkuru).
Passion Fruit

The local oranges are green but taste like California oranges.

I finally got a photo of Deido, the giant sculpture