Sunday, February 22, 2015

2/22/2015 - Piano Star, Bills Visit, Electric Company, Teaching Classes

Samuel finished the piano course book and has begun the application process for custody of a piano!  He is the first student to achieve that among both branches.  Since he is in the Douala Branch that has no electricity, we loaned him a piano to study at home.  He loves music and is progressing fast.  Piano lessons in Bonaberi went well with the 6-7 students who are still coming and two who are near completion.

Elder & Sister Bills came to town for two days to inspect apartments.  Our Elders worked hard and had their apartments well organized and sparkling clean.  After inspections we shopped for good quality pots and pans, a few basic tools, and one new stove to bring the apartments up to the mission standard.  Cameroon’s standard is a bit higher than the Brazzaville standard, where the Elders still wash their clothes in buckets and don’t have ovens.  Some of the Brazzaville apartments are even lacking in chairs, so the Elders eat standing up.  That will be fixed.
The Bonaberi District with the Bills & Sister Coleman
 The Bills' plane was late so we waited in the only comfortable, air-conditioned room in the airport: the restaurant.
Waiting in the airport restaurant

The menu calls this a "Mexican Salad"

We also took the Bills to Marché Congo, where they shared the gospel with a few people while Sister Coleman bought some fabric.  It was fun to have houseguests and swap stories.  The Bills are awesome missionaries.
Marché Congo

Marché Congo

Marché Congo with Sister Coleman on left buying fabric

The zone leader, Elder VanAusdal, held a training meeting for the zone.
Zone Training Meeting

Again, nobody showed up for the Douala branch council meeting, maybe because just before meeting time it suddenly started pouring rain.  The first counselor called me after a while and came to the church late so we had a mini meeting with him and his wife.  He would be an awesome branch president.  On Sunday the meeting was rescheduled for the following Wednesday.

It was a pleasure to audit the Bonaberi Branch.  They were well organized and try hard to do things right.  Afterwards we went next door to the rented storage building and took inventory.  The building owner saw our truck and stopped by to talk during the audit so we overstepped our bounds and brought the Douala sacrament table out of storage without waiting for local approval.  We're waiting for the repercussions from that.
The neighbor kids saw us moving tables and ran to help.

We went to the electric company in Bonaberi again to try to pay for electricity in the Bonaberi missionary apartment.  We had trouble finding them because they had moved from their unmarked building to another building about a mile away.  We asked a passerby and got incorrect directions.  Fortunately, we chanced to pass a small sign and Sister Coleman noticed it.  This time I brought a photo of the electric meter with the serial number clearly visible.  They said that that meter is not in their system and shuffled us from office to office.  I presented a letter I had written, signed, and stamped asking for an account.  They said they would call and send a technician to check it out.  Until they do we’ll just keep getting free electricity.  But we believe in being honest.

13 students came to our Teacher Training class, 11 to our Fortifying Marriage class, and 17+ to Temple Prep.  The entire branch except the Primary came to Sister Coleman’s first Music Conducting class at the beginning of Sunday School.  With 6 different classes to prepare for we are spending a lot of our time just preparing lessons and loving it.
Soon to be baptized Eloundou family: Anega, Eloundou, Messina, & Pelagie

Sometimes it is best to stop and wait for the herd to pass.

A white horse!

No saddle, no bridle
Woman balancing her wares as she heads for the bridge

Another heavily laden motorcycle

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2/15/2015 - Truth-telling Drink, Cop Stop, Valentine's Day, 1-Year

This past week was packed, but with the usual errands, visits, teaching, etc.  Still, there always seem to be a few new experiences and adventures.

We heard an interesting story in a talk by Frère George.  He told of a father who asked his daughters not to fool around with his neighbors.  They promised.  Then one of them had a affair with a neighbor.  When confronted she denied it but the problem didn’t go away.  Finally, the father gave her a kadi (sp?), which is a truth-telling drink.  She drank it and died, indicating that she was lying, thus indicating the importance of keeping promises.  Before dying she asked her father to forgive her for dishonoring the family.  I asked George about the kadi.  He said it is a mixture of herbs and is commonly used in Africa on people accused of various things.  It sometimes causes thieves to go blind.

The mission has issued new guidelines for all missionaries.  Apartment cleanliness is getting more attention and we will be making monthly and surprise inspections.  We installed some new shower curtains and replace a light fixture.

We had a nice teaching appointment with Randy and L’Or.  He joined the Church in India before he met her.  Now he has found the Church here and wants her to learn about it.  Unfortunately, he is a few dollars short of paying for the civil marriage, so they aren’t legal yet.  She committed to reading and praying.

We went through the latest branch order of books and lesson materials that just arrived to divide it between branches and found that a lot of the order was delivered in Portugese.  I don’t know how the distribution center got that mixed up.

Wednesday was National Youth Day, so everything was closed.  Traffic was light and we saw some youth picking up trash.  I think that it is a major national holiday with some events around town that we avoided.  Missionaries are advised to avoid crowds for safety.

Thursday we were out visiting inactive members and got stopped at a random checkpoint.  They checked our documents and informed us that our annual parking permit is expired and the fine is $50.  After chatting a bit I told them I would renew it at City Hall (which we did) and they let us go because we are missionaries.  Another blessing.  But later, a member told us that we weren’t even required to have a parking permit because it is just for commercial vehicles.  We’ll look into that some more.

Friday we taught the first “Teaching No Greater Call” class in the Douala Branch.  Four people showed up, all very late.

Right after that we were going to teach a “Strengthening Marriage” class but only one couple came and then something came up and they had to leave.  So, we are going to advertise more to attract participants.

Saturday was Valentine’s Day so we celebrated.  Every year for the past 25 years or so our children have surprised us with something different on Valentine’s Day.  This time we once again thought we would be too far away, but we were once again wrong.  They planned far enough in advance and made us some special “Families Are Forever” shirts.
Wearing Our Valentine's Day Shirts on Valentine's Day

President Nkong and his wife Sonya came over on Valentine's Day and watched "Fireproof" with us.  They loved it even with subtitles.

We just passed our mission anniversary and have only 6 months to go.  It is starting to look like we won't have time to do everything we want to do here.  But we're trying.
The Old Douala Branch Meetinghouse
 We loaned a piano to star student Wilfred.
Wilfred and sister, Marceline, in front of their home.
 The kids shown below came over to join in our weekly family Skype.  The girls had fun flirting with Tyler.
Laurencia, Wesley, Samuel, Ruth, Purita, Aristide, & Martha
 We got a kick out of this new "Clean City" sign, since there are no public trash cans and everyone throws trash on the ground.  There aren't a lot of white hands here either.
Where is this advertised trash can?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2/8/2015 - Baptism, Transfers, Movie Night, Generator

A baptism!  Tamotamo Beaulivier was baptized Saturday by President Nkong and confirmed Sunday by me.  We got to teach him the missionary lessons a few times.
President Nkong and Beaulivier after Beaulivier's baptism

We had a very busy week adding transfers, movie nights, and classes to our usual activities.  We started off with a farewell dinner and testimony meeting and sending Elder Colindres home.
Farewell Dinner

Elders Larson, Rakotondrabeharison, Kabasele, Colindres, West, Johnson, Legerski, & Mwehu

Elder Mwehu

Elders Kabasele, Colindres, & West

Transfers were numerous.  Most of our Elders moved and all changed companions.  Elder VanAusdal arrived from Yaoundé and Elder Mandefu from Brazzaville.  Elder Rakotondrabeharison went to Yaoundé.
Elder VanAusdal

Elder Mandefu

Traffic jams were particularly bad.  Twice we were stuck for 1.5 hours and we nearly missed our first piano lessons of the year.

There were hundreds of people at the police station hoping to get jobs when we went for residence cards.  I’ve never seen it so packed.  Once, Sister Coleman managed to shove her way past the guard and through the gate but I had to wait outside.  Fortunately, she was able to pick up the cards and passports and get out again.
Job Seekers at the Police Station

Policeman keeping order in the crowd

Another time we chanced to meet Princess Stephanie at the police station, who told us that her chief, Majesté Tchatchoua, just lost his mother in a car accident.  So we went to his house to express condolences.  He is a very friendly, benevolent king.

We had our first movie night at the Bonaberi Branch, sponsored by us.  There are guys that push popcorn carts and sell slightly sweetened popcorn, so we bought 50 bags at 20 cents each.  Then we bought 50 small loaves of bread at 10 cents each.  We brought popcorn, bread, and water so nobody would have to be hungry, but the branch brought butter and sausage for the bread to make sandwiches and made folerie (punch).  So everybody had supper before the movie and enjoyed Mulan in French.  We also showed part of Legacy.  We hope to give the branch a fun time together and invite neighbors to a casual event where they might get interested in the Church.

We tried to have a movie night at the Douala Branch Saturday afternoon but, unfortunately, they still hadn’t resolved the problems with electricity.  Fortunately, by Sunday morning they had hauled in a huge generator and hooked it up to the building.  Unfortunately, none of the air conditioners seemed to work properly with the generator power.  Fortunately, Africans are accustomed to heat and the lights, microphone and electric piano worked.  Unfortunately, the generator was installed right outside of the sacrament meeting room and was very loud.  Fortunately, everyone stayed attentive throughout the meetings and sang loudly as they love to do.  Unfortunately, the generator shut itself off about every 3 minutes.  Fortunately, Africans are very patient but after about 20 tries they gave up on the generator and by then we were grateful for the silence.  The trials of setting up a new meetinghouse.

After the services we taught the first temple preparation class in the Douala Branch.  We had 17 students and treated them to popcorn left over from the cancelled movie night.  We have loaned out all 52 of our French books and a few of the English books in our little children’s lending library.  We have photographed most of the Bonaberi Branch and about 20 families in the Douala Branch and posted photos and names on the walls for everyone to get to know each other.
Claudelia sporting a new headdress

The widow Bongongui (r) and her daughter

The post office room where we pick up packages
Beignet Salesman
Mototaxi driver bundled up for the cold (80 deg F)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2/1/2015 - Couples Conference, Banking, Driving

We had to deposit a check in the Church bank account.  The bankers gave the impression that they didn’t want the money.  First they demanded to see the people who wrote the check, who are in Kinshasa.  Then they wanted a power of attorney, which we don’t have.  Then they wanted a very detailed deposit slip.  We filled out 3 before we got it right.  Then we had to go home and get our rubber stamp because, hey, the law requires a stamp.  The next day the bank called the Church district president in Yaoundé just to verify the details.  You can't be too careful.

Sister Coleman got her nails done again at Marianne’s boutique in Marché Centrale, so once again I wandered around among the booths.  And once again people stopped me wanting to know more about the Church so I had a good time teaching, passing out brochures, and answering questions.  I love this country.

The Mbenge family threw a nice going-away dinner party for Elder Colindres and invited all of the missionaries and some branch members.

On Tuesday we flew to Brazzaville for a Couples Conference with the other couples in the mission.  The conference was full of important information and interaction.  We and the Dimonds stayed at the beautiful home of Elder & Sister Bills and had a wonderful time.
The Bills, Moodys, Dimonds, Mongas, Baileys, Nelsons, & Us

I tried a Congolese specialty at a restaurant in Brazzaville.  It is called saka saka and is made of manioc leaves.  It was like a pile of chopped spinach but tasted better and was served with fish.

Our flights to and from Brazzaville stopped in Central African Republic, which is embroiled in a long civil war.  (We were surprised to discover our plane was going there.)  We saw a large refugee encampment next to the runway and people walking across the runway after we landed.  A fellow passenger explained that the UN took control of security at the airport so people come to live there for safety.  The camp looked like a cramped village with hundreds of small shacks made of wood scraps.  The Church has a branch in the country but no missionaries and President Monga has been told not to go there, so the branch is isolated.
Tight Security at the Bangui Airport in the Central African Republic

Central African Republic seen from the plane

We passed out transfer letters on Saturday.  ALL of our Elders got them, either moving or changing companions, except Elder Colindres, who is going home.  It is going to be a busy day Wednesday.
Bonaberi District opening transfer letters

Douala District opening transfer letters

Driving here is often like a game of chicken.  Whoever is the bravest has the right-of-way regardless of the left side of the road, stop sign, or red light.  If you are bigger, faster, or driving like a maniac people will yield to you.  On the way to the airport traffic came to a halt so several cars tried their luck in the left lane.  A big truck came straight toward them.  They all tried to squeeze back into the right lane but couldn’t, so all of the oncoming traffic had to stop.  After about 2 minutes the right lane started moving again freeing up room for the cars to get back in their proper lane so the oncoming truck could move again.  That happens all of the time but this time I got a photo.
This guy shouldn't have pulled out to pass.

Elder Kabasele asked us for funds to buy 2 buckets.  He has never used a washing machine and prefers to stick with the tried-and-true, African method of washing clothes: one bucket to wash and one to rinse.  (He transferred from Brazzaville where the missionaries don’t have washing machines.)  He got his buckets.

President Monga came to Douala and visited both branches on Sunday.  He did a lot of interviews and helped us with some problems.  He got to meet in the building that still has no electricity.  It is always great to have him here.  He knows the culture from the inside.  For example, according to tradition men can't dine with their wives.  But he feels that that is contrary to the gospel and the saints should change that taboo.
President Monga (center) with Elders Colindres & Kabasele

Yannick Njampou & fiancée (she's in pink) with friends
View of a downtown road (note the napping moto-man)

Sheet salesman

Beignet salesman

Man in traditional dress (not a nightgown)