Sunday, September 28, 2014

9/28 - Running Friend, Tiny Boutique, Witness to Accident

Another baptism in Bonaberi: a mature man named Baket Daniel.
President Ngeuti & Baket Daniel

As I was running home from the post office on Tuesday I met a group of 16 guards running in formation so I joined in.  They handed me a 2’x2” dowel to carry high over my head.  They chanted cadence which included the phrase “Nous sommes des commandos” (we are commandos).  After about 5 miles of a very slow run, they stopped to do exercises and combat training for a couple of hours.  I got quite sore and a bit sunburned, but I made friends with Donald and he came with us to church.
Donald, my running friend

Frère Nana found some buildings that are available that might meet our needs for a new meetinghouse so we went looking at them with him.  One was down a muddy road and would be condemned in the US.  The other two were 4 stories tall and in good shape, so I sent off the info to the Church.
Building for rent on a muddy road (no thanks)

The same road looking the other way

While we were looking at the first building I heard tires screeching and looked in time to see a man’s body flying through the air about 40 feet from us.  He was crossing the street and stepped off the median right in front of a car.  His head smashed the windshield.  I went to see if I could help, but he appeared to be dead and a crowd quickly gathered so we left.  We are supposed to avoid crowds for safety reasons.  Frère Nana said that he knew the number for an ambulance but he said in this case people would just give him first aid then put him in a taxi and take him to the hospital.  There is no 911 service and very few ambulances.  When we passed again 20 minutes later the body was gone and a policeman was talking to someone in the crowd.  Every so often I find myself feeling complacent about driving, but then along comes another reminder that traffic is dangerous here and I need an abundance of caution.
Crowd at scene of accident

After looking at buildings we dropped in on an investigator, Pascal, and his brother, Eugene.  Pascal is an auto mechanic and we had a nice chat.
The road to Pascal's house

There is a church member here named Richard who is stranded due to fighting in his country, Ivory Coast.  He escaped the war but ended up in Cameroon with no papers.  His “wife” and daughter are in South Africa and he asked me to send missionaries to teach them the gospel.  After several emails I finally got a message to their mission and the missionaries called her.  She called him to ask about it and he was ecstatic!  He is sure that she will join the Church and they will be sealed in the temple.  He said that he will be forever grateful to me.

We helped a young branch member, Marianne, transport her equipment to the marché to set up a nail & facial salon.  She has a tiny boutique less than 7x5 feet but in a good location with a good sign.  It is exciting to see someone get a business off the ground.
Installing Marianne's Sign

Tiny Salon

But when we got back to our truck someone showed us that two tires were nearly flat.  Someone had loosened the valve stems.  So, we didn’t give a tip to the guy who said that he was guarding our car.  He told us that a policeman did it.  A group gathered and someone used toothpicks to tighten the valve stems.  Then we drove slowly to a gas station for air.  The branch member said that he thinks they were trying to pull some kind of scam.  That kind of shook our faith in the idea that people won’t do evil when lots of others are watching.  That was a very busy intersection.
Marianne's brother loves being strapped on Mom's back

Taxis take a lot of abuse but keep going

Elders Rakotondrabeharison & Waite with branch members

Sunday, September 21, 2014

9/21 - Enjoying African Life

It’s been a rare, slow, relaxing week.  There were no emergencies and Sister Coleman pulled something in her back so we had to take it easy.  She has recovered.

We were finally asked to help find a new branch meetinghouse.  I don’t know how to do that, but it is nice to be asked.  I got it announced in church so all of the branch members can help in the search.

We met a Pentecostal missionary family from Louisiana in one of the upscale stores and had a nice chat.  They have lived here 10 years although in the town of Buea.  They said that we are very lucky to have been here 7 months without getting malaria.  They were just in Douala to shop and recommended some restaurants and stores that we didn’t know about.  So we were able to pick up some needed supplies at a new-to-us store.  Twice this week we had lunch at a hidden gem of a restaurant “Foyer du Marin”.
Dugout Canoe on Display in Foyer du Marin Restaurant
Lunch in Foyer du Marin: Beef Kebab & Tomato Salad

We took Princess Stephanie to her travel agency to see if they have good prices for tickets to America.  The internet was down and the agent was disorganized and crabby.  A lot of people here don’t understanding marketing.  When she called later with prices, they weren’t as good as Expedia.

We invited Majesté Tchatchoua, the chief, and his wife, the queen, to dinner.  They are a charming couple.  We learned that he is not only a village chief but a tribal chief and neighborhood chief.  But none of those jobs pay, so he makes a living as a manager at the port.

We have been running laps in a nearby parking lot of the party headquarters.  Then a guy shows up and says we can’t run there.  I ask who I have to talk to to get permission.  He says Senator Tobaimi.  So we come back later to talk to the Senator.  He is not in but an aide gives us permission to run there.  Darn.  I was hoping to meet the Senator.

Before church the branch presidency asked each auxiliary leader, “who is teaching the lesson?”  Then they asked who was teaching if that person didn’t show up.  Absent teachers are a big problem due to illness or traffic jams.

Choir practice after church was interesting.  We were late and arrived in the middle of an intense debate over whether everyone should wear pink or white shirts.  They finally decided that the men should wear white.  Then they had elections for the choir “censeur” (rule enforcer).  2 men and 3 women wanted the job.  A young man won the secret ballot.  It will be interesting to see what he actually does.
Candidates for Choir Rule Enforcer (Censeur)

The mission president said that no more P-Day excursions to the beach town of Limbe would be allowed.  He is concerned about safety due to the Boko Haram terrorist activity in Nigeria that often crosses into Cameroon.  I’m not too concerned since it is all about 500 miles north of us.  That is about a week’s travel time, the roads being what they are.

The rainy season seems to be over.  We are getting very little rain (yay), more sun (yay), and higher temperatures (boo).  Hot weather here is in the mid-80’s.  As for cold weather: I’ve never seen or wished for a heater in Africa.  I love the weather here.
District Meeting: Elders Waite, Rakotondrabeharison, Roth, & Okon

Billboard.  English is different here.  Who doesn't want plenty fun?

15 Chairs on a Motorcycle.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

9/14 - Baptism, Preaching to Pentecostals, Truck Repair

Another baptism in Bonaberi: Andre Ngnandji.
Frere Gregoire Eli baptized André Ngnandji
Prince Frank came to our apartment with his sister and promised once again to come to church, make an appointment with the missionaries, prepare for baptism, go to BYU, etc.  That is always exciting.  I asked if he could show us around the University of Douala sometime.  So on Sunday he and a friend, Didier, picked us up and gave us a tour of the two campuses.  University tuition: $100 per year.
University of Douala Classroom Building
Frank & Elder Coleman in a Classroom

Sign on a Class Wall (no tribalism allowed)
In a Classroom

This Lecture Hall Seats 1000 (obviously skinny) Students
 Then they took us to a friend's home where we came in near the end of a Pentecostal praise meeting.  After the guests left we had a nice first discussion with the Pentecostal leaders.  I was afraid they would bristle at the idea of another church but they were very interested so we bore our testimonies, left a BoM and two brochures, and exchanged phone numbers.  I’m not sure if Frank is really serious because he has missed so many appointments, but he is definitely giving us opportunities to testify.
Parfait & Sidonie, Pentecostal leaders
Sister Coleman had some great training sessions with Primary and Relief Society presidencies.  They have a lot to learn and readily accept training.  And Sister Coleman can almost get by in French now.

We had another marathon branch council meeting (almost 3 hours) in which everyone wanted to voice his or her opinion about whether we should make an annual plan or not, and other “vital” issues.  I got the impression that nobody wanted the meeting to end.  (You can’t have too much fun, right?)  Afterwards I asked Brother Njembele, the Sunday School president, if he prefers meetings that last 1 hour or 3 hours.  He replied, “What am I going to do in my neighborhood?  I would rather be here doing the Lord’s work.”  OK, I guess, if it keeps him off the streets and out of trouble…

We spoke about marriage at a youth activity.  (They call everything an activity here, even firesides.)  The youth have so few examples of legal marriages in which both husband and wife belong to the church that they asked us to come and testify of marriage.  Three couples spoke followed by questions.  One of the questions: “My parents told me to marry within my tribe.  Is that important?”  The branch president told a story of a couple from different tribes that fell in love but were forbidden to marry.  Like Romeo & Juliet they committed suicide and their families mourned. 

He counseled the young women to decide whom to marry and ask their parents to make it easy and fast, rather than passively watching their family demand a huge bride-price, thus delaying marriage and starting married life with a debt.

Other questions posed: “When you go on a date do you have to plan on marriage?”  “Do returned missionaries have to get married quickly?”
Youth Activity on Marriage

The facilities manager came from Kinshasa to train the branch councils.  We were excited to see his interest in fixing the problems in our meetinghouses.  We made a list of problems and discussed them.  Now we wait and hope.

I had to explain again at the post office that mothers send candy to their sons for sentimental reasons, not because they don’t like African food.  And it doesn’t mean the missionaries are rich, so they shouldn’t charge $60 duties on a $50 box.  But they seem determined to charge at least $20.

Elder Waite is ill.  The missionary doctor said it is classic Dengue fever.  It is very common in these parts and seldom severe.  But there is no medicine for it and he was suffering from a headache and body aches, which is why it is sometimes called “Breakbone fever”.  After nearly a week he is much better.

The previous couple here had had a minor accident in the mission truck.  It was a hit & run with cosmetic damage to one fender.  It never bothered me but the leaders said to get it fixed.  The dealer quoted ~$1600 and 5 days, while two other shops each bid $140 and one day.  One shop was highly recommended by a branch member and close enough to walk to so we got it done there.  I dropped it off at 9am and picked it up at 7pm the same day.  It looks good, if you don’t look closely.  A branch member, Eberé, has a shop and said he could get it done so I pestered him for over 2 months for a quote.  He finally came through but too late.  His bid was $242, anyway.
Before Repairs

After Repairs

Sunday, September 7, 2014

9/7 - Baptizing, Visiting G.A., Branch Members

I baptized Jean Marie Su on Saturday and confirmed him on Sunday.  He bore his testimony in church about the miracle of how the Lord led him to me.  The morning of the day that he met me he had been reading the priesthood manual that he bought from a street vendor and wondering when the Church would come to Cameroon.  When he saw me and we started talking it was as if we had been friends forever.  He’s going to be a great addition to the branch.  His wife isn’t ready to join but she brought a friend to church today.

Elder West, Elder Coleman, Jean Marie Su, Elder Johnson

The baptism almost didn’t happen because nobody could figure out how to fill the font.  I finally followed the pipes and found a secret valve in a back room.  I don’t know why nobody knew about it.  The baptism was 2 hours late and in about 18 inches of water.

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the 2nd Quorum of Seventy, and counselor to the Africa Southeast Area president came to tour the mission.  He taught some great things and straightened us out in a few areas.  (New rule: no sandals.  New enforcement of old rule: no backpacks.)  His training of the missionaries and branch leaders was inspired and will really make a difference.  The branch leaders are talking about getting better organized, the Facilities Manager is coming tomorrow for a meeting with the branch council, and the missionaries have all switched to shoulder bags.
Zone Conference with Elder Hamilton

The Zone Performing for Elder Hamilton

We had to hire a car (& driver) large enough to carry all three couples during Elder Hamilton’s visit because our pickup wasn’t big enough.  At one point the battery in the rented car died so the general authority and the mission president got behind and pushed the car to start it.  I wish that I had a photo of that.

One of my burning questions for Elder Hamilton:  When can we open some of the other cities to missionary work?  Answer:  Not for a long time.  The Church doesn’t have the resources to go everywhere so we go where we can be the most productive and efficient.  Right now that is in the big cities that already have established branches.  There are many cities that have large groups of Church members but no branches.  For now, they can get together and worship as an unofficial group, but the cost of the infrastructure of establishing branches everywhere is prohibitive.  It is hard to tell people to be patient, but fortunately the Lord has revealed detailed instructions on how to worship when there is no Church unit nearby, and they are in “The Family Guidebook”.

Elder Okon, our Nigerian, required a Carte Consulaire (Carte de Sejour) to get his residence card, so we had to find the Nigerian Consulate.  We drove all over and asked several people before finding someone who really knew where it was.  He jumped in our car and directed us.  Our success at getting residence cards for the African Elders might result in those in Yaoundé coming here to get them.  Rules are interpreted differently in different cities and they haven’t been able to get them there.  I asked our police inspector and she said that they were welcome to get them here.  

On Thursday we visited some less-actives with our new Branch Mission Leader, Yannick Njampou, just back from his mission.  The families live in Cité Sikh which is a neighborhood that looks like a step back in time.  Simple cinderblock homes, banana trees everywhere, footbridges over the creek, narrow, winding foot paths between the homes, wells with buckets on ropes, women cooking on wood fires, children and friendly people everywhere.  Just a mile from the center of town but another world.  We had nice visits and one of the families came to church.
Cité Sikh

Entry Bridge to Cité Sikh

Ngo Bappa Noel with relatives & Njampou Yannick

Patricia Ntone & brother (traditional African outfit)

So many people complain about not having money for taxis to come to church that we walked to church today.  It is over two miles each way.  If we can inspire just one person to come when they are broke it will be worth it.

The video is of a crosswalk sign.  Did your mother say to walk across the street?  They don't say that here.  Maybe "run for your life."

My new filling (4 months old) fell out while flossing, so I had to go back to the dentist to get it replaced.  Again, no shots or pain, but he worked a bit harder preparing the surface and said it would stay in this time.  $40.
A Cute French Pastry

When you see this, you pull over and wait.

This Guy Should be Supporting a Baptismal Font