Sunday, August 3, 2014

8/3 - Released, Costly Mail, Helping Hands, Mission President

I’ve been released.  Well partly.  I am no longer a counselor to President Monga.  It seems that he didn’t get the proper approval from the Area Authorities to extend the counselor calls so he released us all.  I’m back to “Elder Coleman.”  Some branch members expressed sorrow that I won’t have the authority to straighten out the branch and said that I should keep the release a secret.  Sorry, but that's not the Lord's way.

We celebrated Pioneer Day with a P-Day party for the missionaries at our place.  We served hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon, soda, and ice cream with cookies provided by Elder Roth.  Then we watched 17 Miracles.
Checking Weight on our Scale

The Silly Photo

Celebrating Pioneer Day

The weather is now cool enough that we go running together in the mornings.

Three packages for one Elder arrived at the post office.  Since two were slightly larger than “paquet” they were classified as “colis” which made them much more expensive to receive.  (About shoebox size.)  The stated value of the contents was also rather high, so the officials said we should pay about $400 in duties, which is 62% of the value.  But they were very kind (??) and said they would only charge us $150.  I called the Elder and he said that he would pay it, so we forked over the dough.  That’s a new record for us at the Post Office.

Three days later, another Elder had a parcel (colis) for which the post office wanted $90 in duties.  They got that by adding the value of the package, $30, to the postage, $80, multiplying by 62% and adding some other taxes.  I told them that that was funny, and explained the injustice of doing that when a mother just sent her son a few items for sentimental reasons.  They finally offered to limit future charges to $60 if they are high value and $20 if they are not.  Of course, that doesn’t include the $4 fee just to pick up a parcel.  So the Elder had to fork over $24 to get his $30 package.  Still outrageous, but progress.

Sister Coleman taught a training class for the Douala R.S. Presidency.  Eventually, they all showed up.  One of the big issues was getting YW to make the transition when they turned 18.  And of course, friction with the branch president seemed to be a big issue. But she made a lot of progress.

While waiting for the R.S. counselors I got to teach an investigator who showed up 1.5 hours before his appointment with the Elders.  It is such a great feeling to teach and testify.

We asked Princess Stephanie to help us distribute invitations to some of the important officials in town.  She asked us to take her to another funeral in Bafang.  That’s not going to happen, but we did make a donation.  Then we called Chief Tchatchoua and gave him some invitations.  The next day Princess Stephanie missed her appointment with us and called later to say that she was too busy to help us.

The Church’s PR man in Cameroon, Emmanuel, showed up for Douala Branch Coordination Meeting and was questioned about his handling of the Helping Hands event.  He started yelling and wouldn’t let anyone else talk for several minutes.  I found it very unsettling.  Now I think I see why he has trouble with a lack of support from leaders.

The Helping Hands work project was picking up non-biodegradable plastic from the side of the streets.  It was a symbolic effort, since people toss trash everywhere with impunity here.  There was a light drizzle and I was the only one carrying an umbrella in our group so I felt kind of odd.  But the rain picked up a bit and some others bought umbrellas from a passing umbrella salesman, so I felt better.  One nice thing about Cameroon: if a lot of people need something, there will be people walking around selling it.  Umbrellas, food, clothing, shoes, phones, pens, sunglasses, candy, maps, fire extinguishers, windshield wipers, kleenix, etc.
Helping Hands Work Crew in Douala

Good Thing an Umbrella Salesman Came Along

The Helping Hands afternoon/evening had a dinner/debate at Gicam.  The mission president just happened to be in town, so he presided & I sat next to him.  Two governmental officials came and spoke about eliminating plastic bags. Emmanuel, arranged it all and gave lots of time for the branch presidents to talk about the church.  He showed some videos and gave time for questions.  That led to more talk about Church doctrine.  I think it was worthwhile, although expensive by African standards.  Our friends the Princess, the Commandant & his wife, and the Queen came, although some we invited didn’t make it.  Afterward, I invited two reporters into our apartment and gave them copies of the Book of Mormon and told them about it.  One said that he would come to church.
The Debate at the Scheduled Start Time

Two Branch Presidents, Elder Coleman, & President Monga

President Monga, the mission president, came to finish some missionary interviews.  He also attended both branches and met with the branch presidents.  I love it when he comes, because we can discuss all of the issues and get some needed answers.  And since he is African he understands and can explain some of the intricacies of the culture that baffle us.

We got our temporary Residence Cards, good until after our mission is complete.  We’re learning the system and getting better at it.

The water still wasn’t on at the church one week after it had been paid, so President Nkong took us to the water company to ask why.  They said that they forgot.  Then they sent someone.  We drove him to the church.  Afterward he asked for taxi money to get back.  We asked why our bill is so high.  He said that he would figure it out, but he didn’t.  The way this country operates could drive you crazy.

One of the Elders had some persistant stomach pain so we consulted with the Area doctor.  He said to start on some medicine and get some tests.  The tests came back negative, so it's an ulcer and should be gone within a month.  It's convenient that we can buy just about any medicine without a prescription.

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