Sunday, November 30, 2014

11/30 - Thanksgiving, Zone Conference, Baptisms, 70 Visit, Soccer

Looking back on the week it is hard to believe that it has only been a week, with all that has happened.  It's been a week full of progress, miracles, and adventure.

Another baptism in the Douala Branch.  Etienne has been studying the gospel for a long time.  Once he burned his Book of Mormon, thinking it was evil.  But then some things happened that he saw as signs from God and his heart was changed.  He received the answers that he sought and accepted the gospel.
Elder Hatch, Etienne, Elder Colindres

Jean Marie Su told us that his wife was baptized today, November 30, in France where she is visiting!  She has been there for maybe two months and has been studying with the missionaries there.  That is exciting for us and probably even more so for the missionaries in France who seldom have baptisms.  She comes home next week.

Mission President & Sister Monga had a whirlwind visit to Douala with Elder Lono, an Area Authority Seventy.  While President Monga interviewed elders Sister Monga inspected apartments.  She was very strict.  The elders have greatly improved their apartment cleanliness since Sister Coleman started inspecting, but they are far from meeting Sister Monga’s standards.  Chipped plate?  Throw it out.
Apartment inspection in Douala

Apartment inspection in Bonaberi

Elder Lono conducted a meeting with the branch leaders.  He and President Monga gave great answers to all of their questions and encouraged them to hold more activities which will bring young adults together to get them to marry.  Everyone seems to be waiting for the perfect person and delaying marriage.

President Monga had a meeting with all of the returned missionaries and other meetings with various members and gave inspired counsel.  Both branch presidents were shown how to give loving guidance in a humble manner to members with problems.  It was wonderful.  Leaders here often seem to act like tribal chiefs and feel that they have to use a firm hand or the branch will fall apart.  Now they have seen the Christ-like way to lead.

The president told me that if we have 3 branches (which will be very soon) we can form a district, and when we have a district we can start a branch in Limbe, and he has friends who are willing to come and serve as a missionary couple here but only speak English.  Perfect!  Limbe is an English-speaking city.

Elder Lono, President Monga and I toured a villa that we might rent for the Douala Branch.  President Monga said that he will arrange it because the usual channels are taking too long and might leave us out on the street.  He also said that approval has been given to build a real chapel on the Church property!  We will probably be long gone before it happens, but that is wonderful news.

We also made progress toward buying the building in Bonaberi, taking more photos and making phone calls.

Thanksgiving fell on zone conference day.  So when zone conference ended at 1:30 we served up a big meal for all 8 missionaries, President & Sister Monga, and Elder Lono.  We served 2 turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, apple pie, ice cream, and root beer floats.  That was the first time that we’ve seen frozen turkeys here (or any other turkeys) so we made the most of it. 
President Monga teaching at zone conference

Elders Colindres, Hatch, & Mwehu role-play at zone conf.

The Zone with Sister & Pres. Monga, Elder Lono, & Sister Coleman

Thanksgiving Dinner

The Thanksgiving Dinner overflow table

Elder Legerski

We had a skype with all of the couples in the mission on Monday.  It was fun to see everyone.

President Monga has called counselors.  One is Elder Dimond, in Yaoundé.  So now, when we need a special interview or setting apart or something like that, the Dimonds can visit to take care of it.  No more waiting a month or two for the next presidential visit.  Yay!

On Saturday we played soccer with the Bonaberi Relief Society.  Attendance was low; there were about 8 women and 7 men, with all 4 of the missionaries and us playing, but it was fun.
Relief Society Soccer Game

Elders Larson & Legerski

Elders West & Rakotondrabeharison

One of the recently returned missionaries, Leonel, has joined a friend in a marketing partnership.  His friend was a university professor teaching computer graphics.  They put together an animated short video of the life of Joseph Smith.  It is very good for being done in their spare time with no funding for it.  They have an excellent artist working for them.  If you know of anyone in need of a creative animated video for advertising or whatever, I’m sure they could produce it for a very low price.  I’ll try to put a reduced version of their video on here when they get it to me.
Marketing team with art used in Joseph Smith video

Baby Moroni came to church and seemed to be back to normal health.  We wrote about giving him a blessing two weeks ago when he hadn’t eaten for two weeks and many expected him to die.  Right after that he started eating a bit and gradually improved.

Sister Tignyemb is in the hospital with malaria and diabetes so we took a truckload of family and friends to visit her after church.  She was feeling better and should go home tomorrow.  Mboppi Baptist Hospital seemed nicer than some of the others we’ve seen.
Sister Tignyemb's visitors
We were about 30 minutes late for our teaching appointment in Japoma because one of the main boulevards was blocked for a funeral.  I think it must have been a village nobleman.  When that happens they just set up awnings and chairs in whichever street they want and leave them there for 2-3 days.

Why is the main, downtown road blocked?  Oh, a funeral.

This "pouspous" is carrying young chickens.

That's a huge load on that motorcycle.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

11/23 - Workers in Sync, Choir Concert

Top of Steps
We saw an incredible sight and I didn’t have my camera at that moment so I couldn’t film the action.  Workmen are building a building behind the Bonaberi meetinghouse and it is now 5 stories tall.  We heard chanting and looked over the wall.  They have erected a set of giant, wooden steps from the ground to the top of the building (see photos.)  

Bottom of Steps
Each step is about 12 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 6 feet tall.  On each step were 2 men with shovels.  Two men on the ground shoveled wet cement up to the first step.  The two men on that step shoveled it to the next step and so on up to the top of the building.  I counted 11 pairs of men all chanting and shoveling in perfect synchronization, one scoop every 2 seconds.  The chant was something like “lalalala dol-ly” repeated constantly for an hour and a half as cement worked its way up the stairs, two shovelfuls at a time.  Scoop (lalalala).  Heave (dol-ly).  Scoop (lalalala).  Heave (dol-ly).  No guardrails, no safety harnesses, and if one of the men took a step backward he could fall a long way.  One guy was barefoot.  One had no shirt.  One stopped for a few seconds and did a little happy dance.  It was like a scene from an old movie that they would never put in a modern movie because it would lack credibility.  We watched for about 5 minutes, mesmerized.

I joined a group of security guards (G4S) on my Monday morning run and had a good time running and working out with them.  Then on Friday a group of military judges and staff came running by as I was starting my run so I joined them.  They ran fast and gradually our group diminished from 6 to 3.  Then we stopped for pushups and the rest caught up.  I like running with a group because I don’t have to dodge traffic; cars go around us.

We were standing with the Elders outside their apartment in Bonaberi when a woman stopped and asked for info about the Church.  The Elders gave her some brochures and got her phone number.  I love this country!

We ate lunch at Frère Totto’s restaurant.  I ordered fish with rice and plantains.  Sister Coleman just wanted the crepes.  They served us each a salad and bread with our meals.  We are always shocked at the prices.  The total came to $1.90!  I asked how business is going.  He said that he has too many customers sometimes and needs more space.  With prices so low, I can see why.
Look like a Hawaiian restaurant, doesn't it?
The salad was pretty and tasty.

We went to Marché Centrale to a store to buy some fabric interfacing.  The guy running the shop, Kenneth, said that he is Mormon but hasn’t been to church in a while.  He promised to come soon.  His father, the owner, said that he has some land that we can use for a meetinghouse.  We looked at it but don’t think it will be of use, being undeveloped.
This possible meetinghouse site needs work.

Nearby fauna in the road

We visited another possible meetinghouse with the branch president.  He said that the requirements now are for a three-month rental that we can extend while we build a temporary meetinghouse.  We have yet to find someone who will rent for less than a year.  With our deadline about a month away it is fascinating to watch how the Africans resolve this problem, if they do.  We have been told to stay out of it so all we can do is hope that the branch has someplace to meet in January.

The branches had meetings on Saturday to watch a “District Meeting” broadcast DVD.  The church leaders said that Africans need to change some of their evil traditions but praised the great family closeness here.

After the “District Meeting” there was a choir concert/activity in the Douala Branch.  Sister Coleman wrote the script for it all, including a little FHE scene.  The choir of about 15 sang well and had a great time.  We performed for about 45 minutes before a crowd of about 6 people who applauded (in the chapel) at the end.  Then the branch president spoke and said he would try to get us uniforms, for which the choir applauded.
After the concert the choir started singing just for fun.

Bonaberi Branch had their Primary Sacrament Meeting.  The entire primary of 20 kids got up and recited perfectly all 13 Articles of Faith!  It appeared that most of the group knew them well.  These kids are bright.

We started a temple prep class in Bonaberi.  22 people attended.  There is only one returned missionary in the branch and I think he is the only member who has been to the temple.  The distance and expense makes it difficult.  It is only about 350 miles to drive to the nearest temple, but the roads are terrible.  Also it is in Nigeria, which is dangerous now due to the civil war.  So Camerounais fly to South Africa, about 3,000 miles away.  We hope that a big group will go next year, with help from the Temple Patrons Assistance Fund.

We skyped with the Nelsons, one of the mission office couples.  They are getting our new mission systems in shape.

The Bonaberi Branch clerk is an unemployed computer technician who is making jewelry and handbags to sell.  He does great work and custom-made one for Sister Coleman with a magnetic clasp for $3 plus fabric.
Custom-made handbag

Apart from everything else, we visited some members and taught some investigators.
We had to park and walk this road to Sister Olga's house.

Sister Olga, son Alain, and EQ President Momo

Driving is hazardous in this town.

This truck is on the wrong side and squished a car against the wall.

District Meeting with Elders Rakotondrabeharison, West, Legerski, & Larson

What do you mean, safety net?

Br. Pres. Nkong with Nana Francois, Etienne, Richard, Aldrich

Sunday, November 16, 2014

11/16 - Transfers, Hump Day, Teaching at City Hall

Tuesday was a crazy transfer day.  We had to pay airport parking 4 times that day with all of our going and coming.  We expected it to be simple, but it turned into another African adventure.

Elder Okon left on a flight delayed by 6.5 hours.  The airport customs folks informed us that Elder Okon would not be allowed to leave the country to work in Brazzaville until he turns in his residence card and gets an exit visa (because he is African.)  With an hour before his flight we rushed downtown to immigration, which was about to close, rushed through their paperwork, and rushed back to the airport making it in time.  Three policewomen hopped into the back seat of our truck to help us at the airport and get a free ride toward their homes. 
Douala District:  Elders Hatch, Johnson, Okon, & Colindres
Elder Mwehu, our new missionary, arrived with two missionaries who were going to Yaoundé.  We were told that they had eaten, but that was incorrect so we had to rustle up some grub at midnight.  (Their flight was 7 hours late.)  We fed them leftover pizza, hot dogs, bananas, peanuts, bread, and soda, then dropped them off at the Elders’ apartment.  In the morning we sent the two on the bus to Yaoundé.
Elders Mwehu, Kabenga, & Tshibanda

Elder Mwehu is from the DR Congo and is Elder Johnson’s new companion.  He is the first Elder we’ve had doesn’t speak any English, so Elder Johnson will be forced to live in French.  But Elder Johnson's French is good and he seems very comfortable with that.  I’m still not used to the Congolese accent and have to struggle to decipher some of Elder Mwehu’s words.
Planning session with Elders Mwehu & Johnson

We celebrated our hump day with a meal at la Méditerranée, a mostly Greek restaurant.  We are now in the most productive half of our mission, we hope.

Elder Colindres is the only missionary in the mission who speaks Spanish, so he was assigned to call all of the Spanish speaking referrals from Equatorial Guinea.  (Not to be confused with Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, Ghana, Gabon, Gambia, Guyana, guinea coins, guinea pigs, or guinea fowl.)  Equatorial Guinea is the one country in our mission without a unit of the Church and a lot of people there have been requesting info.
Elders Hatch & Johnson in front of newly mowed Church property

Elder Colindres & Frère Nana François

I found a web site that says there is a library at city hall so I dropped in during my morning run.  The first guy I met told me that there is no library there but then the librarian (Mme. Como Nichole?) came along and invited me in.  The maze of hallways to find the library is crazy and the library is mostly just stacks of papers.  The sign on the door says “Archives”.  But we came later, taught a lesson to the librarian and donated a Book of Mormon to the library.  She promised to study and pray about it.  I love it when we get to teach and testify and feel the spirit of the Cameroonians.  And it wasn't until later that I realized that we were teaching inside City Hall (Hotel de Ville.)
Douala City Hall

Interesting fact:  If you check the Wikipedia entry about the West Africa Ebola outbreak you can see in the chart at the bottom that on 30 October 2014 the number of deaths due to Ebola in Liberia actually dropped from 2704 to 2636.  Does that imply that dead people came back to life?  Yes.  Is it credible?  Sadly, no.  But there does seem to be a reduction in the spread of the disease over the past couple of months.

Gregoire Elie’s wife, Gabrielle had a cute baby boy.  They named him Yhwh, which they pronounce “eve.”  Yes, it is another spelling of Jehovah.

President Nkong’s 2-year-old son, Moroni, is seriously ill.  He hadn’t eaten for 2 weeks and is very thin.  The doctors can’t figure out what is wrong.  We took Elders Hatch and Colindres and gave him a blessing, and he started eating a little.

A new investigator came to Edimo & Odile’s home for the weekly lesson.  His name is Bakoa Thomas.  The discussion lasted an hour and a half because it was so hard to leave.  They had questions and love to talk, practically begging us to stay longer.  Those visits are fun.  We’re arranging contact with another investigator who expressed interest in hiring Odile and hoping that that works out.
Typical suburban road with kids heading home from school

I taught the investigator class and showed how to use lots of visual aids.  Most classes here tend to be dry and unimaginative, although everyone loves them anyway.

Being a missionary here is a combination of joy, excitement, frustration, ecstasy, disappointment, hope, and amazement.  The church is so new here that there is a lot of enthusiasm among the members, but they often make mistakes and go astray.  I think that it is a lot like the early Church in Missouri.  People expect perfection of others but are surrounded by members who don’t have a clear idea of how to do things.  Nobody has seen a well-functioning ward so they just try to follow the handbooks, adapting them to their circumstances and culture.  But faith is strong, miracles are common, and the Church is growing fast.
Our favorite spot to buy bananas & peanuts.  No need to get out...

We roll down a window and this is what happens.  Marketing!

School kids.  The boys are all in pink shirts.
Guys often ride on trucks like this.
Pollution controls don't seem to be enforced.  There are many smoky cars.
Wesley with Elders Mwehu & Johnson

Cute Tignyemb girls and father - love the hair

Traffic Jam - Drivers stop in the middle of the road to pick up people