Sunday, October 26, 2014

10/26 - Meetinghouse, Muslims, Motos

Exciting news about our Douala meetinghouse.  The building we have been renting has been sold and others have been deemed too expensive, so the Church is going to quickly build a temporary meetinghouse on the Church property!  We’ve owned the property for many years and I love the central location on a hillside so it will be good to get members in the habit of going there.  Then maybe soon we can start building a permanent edifice.  Of course, we still want to divide the branch and maybe rent a building closer to the south end of town where many members live.  That would help with attendance.
The Church Property in Douala

We taught again in Japoma and two new people showed up, Janette & Danielle.  The group is growing and it is fun.  We love teaching.  And the Church property is much closer to Japoma than our current meetinghouse.
Frère Nana, Odile, Janette, Danielle, Esther, Desirée, Edimo, Elder Hatch, Anustra, Elder Colindres

Sudden and unexpected transfers.  A missionary in Yaoundé was sent home for medical reasons (not Ebola) so Elder Waite was given less than 24 hours notice that he was going to Yaoundé.  He thought it was a joke.  But the next morning we put him on the bus.
Later at the bus station we picked up the Elder from Yaoundé.  On the way to the airport we found that he had some last minute issues with his travel arrangements.  We made a lot of phone calls and got it sorted out.

It is odd that in 8 months the only two missionaries we've known to go home for medical reasons went home a week apart.  And neither was due to Ebola, or Malaria, or Dengue Fever or the myriad of common African illnesses.  And for those of you worried about Ebola, the number of new cases per week peaked in September and has leveled off and dropped a bit.  So, it seems to be getting under control without ever reaching Cameroon.  If you are worried about the cases popping up in the USA, you can come here to be safe.  :-)

Wednesday was the return of the Muslims from their annual pilgrimage to Mecca, and the day we had to go to the airport.  The airport parking lot was full so we had to park on the sidewalk, as directed by a policeman.  There may have been a thousand people crowding the lot and pressing us on all sides as they waited eagerly for loved ones.  At least we knew that they are all saintly, Allah-fearing people.

We visited one of the farthest fringes of Douala to see an inactive member, Rachel, and her family.  We also stopped by to see another family, Noumbou, Towo, and Dimitri, who haven’t come since Towo got Typhus two months ago.  Driving through the massive throngs of people for maybe 10 kilometers really shows the immensity of this city and its population of millions.  It took about 4.5 hours to visit 2 families.
Rachel with her 3 kids and a niece

Towo, Dimitri, & Noumbou

Intersection with a Cop in a yellow vest

Both branches watched General Conference on Saturday and Sunday, 3 weeks after the broadcast, because it took that long to get the DVD’s.  They served sandwiches between sessions and had a really good turnout, even on Saturday.

I put the 20 books that Jeff Gibb gave me in a box with a sign-out sheet and let our piano students check them out.  It was a hit!  8 students checked out one book each including some kids that don't know English, even though all of the books are in English.  They were so excited.  A girl told me that they do have libraries here, although I've never seen one.  I wish that I had a lot more books and some in French and some about African kids.  But it's a start.  We never see pleasure reading books in people's homes.

To the uninitiated, the swarms of motorcycles (motos) can be shocking.  They seem to flow around the cars like water, going in all different directions, sometimes bumping into our car or each other and squeezing through the narrowest openings between cars.  If necessary, they go on the sidewalks or median strip or down the wrong side of the street.  They often ignore traffic lights and cops.  Anything to get their paying passengers to their destination.  It still makes me nervous, even though I haven’t hit one yet.  Fortunately, they are not fast.  They are typically 150cc or smaller, made in China, and look like they are ready for the scrap heap.  Their passengers are often carrying buckets, ladders, windows, or other precarious cargoes.  Nobody wears helmets or holds on to the driver.  They just putt along at 25 mph and pay 60 cents or a dollar when they arrive.
Just drive slowly through the swarm...

Carrying a Window on a Motorcycle is Common

Frère Momo showed us his house under construction

Soeur Bonbongui, Sonya Nkong, Alvine
 I saw a sign that said "Plage" so I wondered if there was a decent beach somewhere in Douala.  Here is what we found. 
Douala Beach on the Bay with the tide out

Douala Bay

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10/19 - Losing an Elder for Medical Reasons, Loaning a Piano

Another baptism in the Douala Branch: Adu Forson.
Elder Hatch, President Nkong, Adu, Elder Colindres
Sad news.  We couldn’t resolve Elder Roth’s headache so he had to cross the pond to the USA for diagnosis and treatment.  We really hate to lose him.  He has been such a hard-working, dedicated missionary and a great example for all.  He served well as a District Leader and inspired missionaries and branch members alike and will be missed.  I wish we had about 50 missionaries like him here, to augment the 7 great missionaries that we have now.  I really think that the missionary committee is sending the cream of the crop to this mission.  I think that when missionaries leave Africa for medical reasons they are reassigned stateside, but I hope they make an exception in this case and send him back.
Elders Roth, Rakotondrabeharison, West, & Waite (Bonaberi District)

We taught Edimo and Odile again with another neighbor joining to make a group of 5.  This time we brought Elders Hatch and Colindres, so they can take over the bulk of the teaching.  Sadly, we learned that Edimo and Odile are not legally married so they cannot be baptized until that is resolved.  Odile and her friend Esther came to a RS activity and had a good time.  It was a group discussion on unity, gossip, and calumny.  Then there was a delicious meal of ndolé, manioc, boiled plantains, chicken, beef, rice, and foleré.

We wrote a contract and loaned out one of our 10 pianos to the best student in Bonaberi.  We said he could use it for 3 weeks and then we will loan it to another student.  Attendance is low enough now that we have pianos to spare.
Vinick & Ivy in their living room with piano in bag

Vinick at his front door

In Sacrament Meeting the Elders Quorum sang Ye Elders of Israel in the typical, African, “belt it out” style.  Everyone enjoyed it so much that there was a small round of applause afterward.  Then they changed the program to have the quorum also sing the closing hymn and some postlude music.

General Conference DVDs arrived so the branches are planning to show them next weekend.
An American businessman, Jeff Gibb, returned to Cameroon and asked us what we would like him to bring.  It’s funny but there isn’t that much that we wish for here.  He brought us a boombox, ant poison, and lots of kids’ books.  I plan to loan the books out to branch members.  There aren’t any libraries here and few kids’ books available anywhere.  They’re all in English but many members speak English.

We replaced three light fixtures in the Douala apartment and ran numerous errands, but mostly it was a quiet week with gradual progress on many fronts.

Broken pipe fixed just in time to fill the font

Five on a motorcycle

Taxis with a load like this are a common sight

Sunday, October 12, 2014

10/12 - More Marché Teaching, School Tour, CT Scan

Landry was baptized in the Douala Branch but we couldn't be there due to meetings in Bonaberi.

Our teaching appointment in Japoma went well.  M. Edimo invited all of his neighbors but only 2 came, Joseph & Esther, so it was a comfortable group.  Elder & Sister Moody were here on humanitarian business so they helped us teach.  Afterward, Odile asked for more brochures to give to friends, so we offered her some and she took about 40.  They said more people would come next week.  On Sunday Esther came with them to church.  It was so uplifting to share our testimonies with them and hear of the miracles in their lives.  Elder Moody is usually prohibited from proselyting, since he is in charge of humanitarian work and he can’t give the impression that conversion is a requirement for our help.  So he was thrilled to be able to participate.

Sister Coleman, Esther, Odile, Edimo, Nana, Elder & Sister Moody, Joseph

Then we took the Moodys to the school where we hope to do humanitarian work.  School was in session so we got to see the classrooms occupied.  The kids were so well behaved and polite.  As Sister Moody left the first classroom she said “Goodbye” and all of the kids called a loud goodbye, happy to show off their English.  Our top priority is to get the toilets working.  There was a constant trickle of boys and girls coming out to urinate in the weeds next to the playground.  Recess started as we were leaving.  I took a photo and a lot of kids ran over to be in it.
We hope to put a concrete floor in here.

Everyone's a Star!

Prince Frank called for an appointment to discuss the BoM and actually showed up!  That is rare for him.  He was a couple of hours late so he came during piano lesson time, but the power was out (wiring failure) so the pianos didn’t work anyway.  We had a nice discussion with him and Odile, who came for a piano lesson.  He had some questions about various BoM passages so we just discussed them.

Sister Coleman taught Odile a piano lesson with a powerless keyboard.  There’s actually a lot to teach without using the piano.

I had a lot of fun teaching the gospel at a crowded marketplace.  We went to teach Monsieur Maevieu at Marché Central but were unsuccessful.  He showed up late, then had a meeting, then disappeared.  But Sister Coleman got her nails done again and I taught a few discussions.  There are so many people there who want to know more.  They offer me a seat in their boutique and listen intently.  Many say they will come to church but few do.  We also found about 10 things that we were wishing for, in Maevieu’s store.  Salsa, measuring cups, brown sugar, mousetraps, saucepan with lid, large ziplock bags, plastic spoons, root beer.

One of our Elders has had a headache for about 3 weeks and it seems to be getting worse.  We have been consulting regularly with the missionary doctor and he now told us to get a CT scan.  Is that even possible in Cameroon?  It turns out that it is.  Cameroon got their first machine 4 years ago and there is one just a few blocks from our apartment.  The doctor visit and scan cost about $220 on a drop-in basis and found everything normal, except for a bit of sinus congestion.  Of course, we were worried about what the doctor might say, but the Elder was more worried about making it to his appointments with investigators.  It took 3 hours.  He wasn’t sure that he could spare the time.  We have the best missionaries in the world.
In the Waiting Room

Yes, Cameroon has a CT Scanner!

The Douala Elders broke one of their bathroom sinks, so I called Romeo and we replaced it.  Plumbing here is quite different than in the USA, so I didn’t try to do it myself.  Maybe next time.
The Sink with Broken Pedestal

The young couple I mentioned before, Simon & Ange are still trying to get married.  Here’s the long process:  First someone from his family had to ask the patriarch of her family (her brother since her father is dead) for a meeting.  Then he had to bring expensive food and gifts to the meeting.  His representative had to explain the request to her family.  Her family approved of the marriage, so now he can start saving up for the dote (bride-price).  Since he earns $50 per month and a dote is typically about $1500 it might take 5 years.  In the meantime, they have permission from the family but not from the Church to live together in “concubinage”.  We’re hoping to find a way to get permission from her family for them to marry before the dote.

And that’s life in Africa.  Great people, archaic traditions, and always new adventures.