Sunday, March 29, 2015

3/29/2015 - Branch President Released, 4 Baptisms, Returning Missionary, Buying Insurance

There was a BIG change in the Douala Branch today.  The branch president, Marius Nkong, was released.  His counselors, Victor Mgenge and Sylvain Dadi, will run the branch until a new president is called.  After his release was announced in Sacrament Meeting he took the stand and spoke of his testimony and support for the leaders.  Then Elder Epoge, newly returned from his mission, Victor Mbenge, and Elder Dimond spoke.  Elder Dimond presided as counselor to the mission president and made the change.  We are sad to lose such a talented leader but hopeful that his counselors will be able to solve some of the numerous problems that have plagued the branch.  President Nkong has been under a lot of stress lately with his new baby, health problems, and entrepreneurial efforts.

The Bonaberi Branch had 4 baptisms, but we couldn't be there, so no photo.  They were all youth converts in the Bayard family.

The group of G4S guards was huge Monday when I joined them on a 3-4 mile run.  I counted 25.  While running home afterwards I met a friendly man who said that he is a journalist.  I invited him over and we sat in the stairwell and taught him the restoration.  We don’t invite strangers into our apartment due to security concerns in the mission.

We taught another group of 5 investigators at the Su’s FHE: Njambé Michel, Yolande, Ezekiel, Mireille, & Elie.  It was the restoration again and more good questions.  The great thing about the Su’s friends is that they are all educated and employed.  Yolande is a fashion designer and model.

Our teacher training class had 4 students, our Strengthening Marriage class one couple, but our Temple Prep class had 27 students.  Even the Dims came, after I specially invited them.  Sunday is definitely the best time to have classes, so people don’t have to pay for transportation to the church during the week.

Ruth had some pain in her elbow so we went to the clinic.  The doctor examined it and said it is probably inflammation and prescribed anti-inflammatories and heating cream which worked wonders.  The visit cost $12, the drugs $11.

Ants are becoming a minor annoyance in the kitchen.  There aren’t very many but when we kill them new ants appear.  African ants are almost too small to see but they run really fast.  Most of the time they seem to be aimlessly wandering so we can’t track them to their nest or their goal.  Why can’t they act right, like American ants?

We asked our hired helper to mop the bathroom floor.  He grabbed a bucket and headed for the kitchen to get water.  I told him that he could get it from the bathtub and then had to show him how to turn the knob to get water.  He has a cell phone and rides in taxis but indoor plumbing is still mysterious.
Assoumu Davy, our employee saving for a mission

We toured Doctor Samgwa’a Samuel’s orphan assistance facility.  He ran out of money and had to shut it down last year.  He had spent years traveling and working in Germany and Norway, during which time he found a copy of the Book of Mormon and joined the Church.  Then he had some visions which told him that he should return to “feed the people” in Cameroon, so he came back and started his orphan facility.
Doctor Samuel's pharmacy - His clinic is in back.

Doctor Samuel and his clinic, which is out of money

Clinic Reception Desk

Clinic Hallway

Buying insurance was interesting.  I recently noticed that our apartment contracts all require fire insurance.  The mission said to buy it so I started looking for an insurance agent in the branches.  I was determined to get two bids so I found two agents, explained what I was doing and asked for bids.  A bidding war ensued and we ended up with a great price.  We were happy, the winning agent was happy, and we were left wondering how they can cut their prices so much and stay in business.

We picked up a returning missionary, Elder Epoge, from the airport.  His flight was supposed to land at 9:25 pm but was cancelled, so he switched to a flight landing at 10:35 pm.  It didn’t arrive until 11:50 and the baggage took an extra hour.  We got to bed at 1:30 am Friday night.  The next day after the Dimonds arrived, President Dimond released Elder Epoge and he went home with his family.  He is the only LDS in his family but his mother and one sister came to church today.
Elder Epoge & Mom - Joyful reunion after mission

The Dimonds bought us dinner at the nearby Tex Mex Restaurant.  The first time we went there I ordered a burrito and it looked like tacos.  This time I ordered enchiladas.  Again, tacos.  They were like crisp tacos filled with ground beef and beans.  At least they came with pickles.  Wait, pickles?  Oh yeah, TIA.
My Enchilada Plate at Tex Mex Restaurant

Tiny but delicious pie from bakery store

Elder Legerski's new African garb

Sister Coleman's Favorite Apple/Orange Cart

Sunday, March 22, 2015

3/22/2015 - Baptisms, Transfer, FHE, Electricity, RS Party, Dimonds

This week I had been praying for help with my attitude after some recent frustrations and the Lord sent lots of little blessings.  Several people were especially kind, we got to teach investigators, our humanitarian school project was approved, and things seem to be working out.  It was a great pick-me-up week.

Two baptisms in the Douala Branch!  A branch member, Fotsing Noumbou David, has been trying to get his wife, Towo Rosalie Sidie Nöel, to join and she finally agreed to be baptized along with their son, Njiomeni Dimitri Erwin.
Elder West, Noumbou, Dimitri, Nöel, & Elder Kabasele

This week we said good-bye to Elder Johnson, going to Pointe Noire, and hello to Elder Sperry, coming from Pointe Noire.  Those were the only Douala transfers.  We also picked up two Elders transferring from Brazzaville Tuesday evening and put them on a plane to Yaoundé in the morning.  Elders Bakajika and Rakotonindriana.  Try saying that 3 times fast.
Elder Sperry

We had a great “FHE” at the Su’s home.  They had 5 investigators, one branch member, and us.  When everyone was nearly ready to start, Brother Su asked us to teach the lesson.  I was embarrassed to find that we had a shortage of brochures and copies of the Book of Mormon.  But we sang, prayed, taught the restoration of the gospel and fielded some great questions.  Brother Su told about his conversion and how he received a testimony of the BoM.  After praying to know if it is true he had a dream in which he saw the book surrounded by a ring of fire.  That told him it is true.  All of the investigators seemed to feel the Spirit and wanted to study and find out the truth.  Their names are Do, Sylvie, Annie, Eric, and Charles.  Charles in an anglephone (English speaker).  They all wanted to meet again next week.  What a rewarding experience!   Annie also came to the RS activity on Saturday.  We love these blessings.

Elder & Sister Dimond came to town for some dental work and a special baptismal interview.  We loved having them here to chat and discuss some our joys and frustrations.  And the sisters squeezed in some fabric shopping at Marché Congo.
Sisters Coleman and Dimond fabric shopping at Marché Congo

Buying trim;  Man on right selling blankets & pillows

During the interview, Brother Noumbou took me on a tour of his son's school.
Classrooms are small at this school with room for 15-20 kids.

Someone said "Take a photo of the teacher" so she got mobbed.

Everyone loves to photo bomb.  They are so darn cute!

We hired a young man and his sister (Assoumu Davy & Fleur Ida) who are preparing for missions.  They are taking turns spending eight hours per day at our apartment opening the gate for our truck, running errands, washing the car, washing dishes, sweeping, and doing whatever other chores that we have for them.  They should be able to earn enough for passports soon and will both be great missionaries.

We have received approval for our humanitarian project, installing toilets, septic tank, faucets, etc at an elementary school!  As soon as the funds arrive we can start.  We’ve been working on this since about June.

The cops stopped us again and wanted to see all of our documents.  One of them pointed out that our registration card is just a photocopy.  I agreed and was surprised that he didn’t insist on seeing the original.  Then he started listing things that we have to carry.  I told him that we have everything required by law.  Then he asked about a wheel block wedge.  I said that I didn’t think we had one.  He said it is a $50 fine.  So, I pulled out a list of violations and fines.  (I was emailed the list from a guy I met on a plane. – Blessing!)  I couldn’t find that violation and neither could he, so he gave up and let us go, but not before asking us for a copy of our list and, of course, to buy him a drink.  No and no.  We don’t reward police harassment.  It is blessing to know our rights and not feel intimidated.

The RS of both branches met on Wed at 7am to go work in an orphanage.  By the time everyone met and made their way to the orphanage it was 8am and we had to leave for a meeting at the electric company.  But we met the orphanage director, Sœur Therese, and one orphan who was too ill to go to school.  The RS and missionaries stayed and worked all morning cleaning and presenting gifts.
Inside the orphanage grounds

RS sisters, one holding the orphan too sick for school

On Friday we went to the church for a 7am RS activity.  They had asked us to show them how to make a cake.  At 7:45 we called the RS president because nobody was there.  She said that she is coming.  We told her to call when she gets there because we are going home.  She called an hour later so we went back to the church and got there before she did.  They said that next time they will tell us a time 2 hours later than they tell everyone else.  We taught cake-making to 4 sisters who were there by 10.  It was my simple vanilla “missionary cake” but they loved it.

The technician at the electric company, Francis, is a Christian and when he found out that he was helping to put electricity in a church he vowed to make it happen in spite of the Kafkaesque system.  People like that make out day seem brighter.  We have him a brochure and he asked for another copy in English.  He said, “Now there is one for me and one for my wife.”

Finally, on Friday with the help of some members, the Douala Branch got electricity.  Yay!

It was just in time for the big RS birthday party on Saturday.  The sisters had met weekly for 2 months and now got together all day on Friday and Saturday preparing food, playing soccer, making ties, cooking, and having a big party with speeches, songs, a skit, a parade, and great food.  The parade included all of the women who wore the same dress.  I counted at least 23.  They made and sold matching ties so I bought one.  The branch stove only has one working burner but one sister brought a small propane stove and another brought a charcoal stove so they had 3 big pots cooking.  The Cameroonians prepare the best tasting fish in the world.  The beef was also delicious.  They also served ndole, plantains, manioc, rice, and folere.  It was a feast.
RS making croquettes (dough balls)

Frying the croquettes

Cooking on charcoal and propane

Too cute to resist.  Love that hair.

The kids wanted to be near Sister Coleman.  Drawing on brochures.
 In the above photo there is a little girl with a star stuck to her hair with Velcro.  The kids tried to stick it to Sister Coleman's hair.  No luck.
Fr. Thibauld in traditional outfit including pagne (kilt)

Oh no!  She's wearing my dress!

The parade / fashion show in which everyone looks alike

We match!

One of the visitors told me how his computer career was sabotaged by a jealous family member who worked black magic to prevent any future success.  He had worked in Paris for 9 years but came back to Cameroon and is now old and retired.  I told him that the true priesthood is more powerful than any black magic and he should find out more about it.  Superstitions abound here.

Yannick Njampou has delayed his temple wedding a few months due to visa delays.  His fiancée is waiting for him in Virginia.

I try to avoid the appearance of taking photos of people, but this next shot was too good to pass up.  I got bold and just whipped out the camera and took it.  Nobody seemed to notice.
Mothers with babies selling peanuts

Pillow salesman

Monday, March 16, 2015

3/15/2015 - Apartment Repairs, Meetinghouse Work, Lost Wife

This week we got our apartment fixed up a bit and had some good experiences.
We had FHE with the Su family, four missionaries, and six friends that they invited.  There was a good discussion, many questions and a lot of testifying.

Tuesday was crazy.  I found a leak in one of our water heaters on Monday so Tuesday morning I met Romeo so he could help me buy and install a new one.  While we were out, we shopped for a new air conditioner as well.  I wanted to replace the window air conditioner that had failed.  It would have been so simple: slide out the old and slide in the new.  But nobody sells window air conditioners here anymore.  We checked about 7 stores before I just bought a “split” air conditioner that was on sale and arranged for professional installation.

While I was gone the landlord's painter, Orlando, showed up and started work inside our living room.  Fortunately, the insurance sales lady was late because I had forgotten our appointment.  So, the painter was painting, Romeo and I were installing the water heater, the air conditioner installer was installing.  Just as we finished with the water heater, the insurance lady showed up.  Just after she left, one of the water heater hoses that I didn’t replace burst and started spraying water.  So when the air conditioner was done and the painter quit for the day we went shopping for a replacement hose and other supplies.
The Painter Working on our Walls

I found a new-to-me, out-of-the-way plumbing store recently that doesn’t have traffic or parking problems.  And the prices are great.  And this time we met the owner, Zanguim Bernard, who says he is a less active branch member!  He is also a plumber and does air conditioners.  I’ve been searching for months for a church member who is a plumber.

I got tired of waiting for approval from the Douala Branch presidency, so when they didn’t show up for a meeting to install the branch sign I just did it without them.  We finally have a sign so people can find the meetinghouse.
After Installing the Plaque

Only 4 students showed up for our teacher training class but we had a good lesson and everyone got extra cupcakes to take home.  In the middle of class the clouds outside suddenly started a torrential downpour for about 10 minutes.  Then they switched to a light sprinkle.  Nobody showed up for our Strengthening Marriage class, possible due to fear of the rain.

The entire Douala Branch was invited to help move furniture, clean, and organize the meetinghouse on Saturday.  Only 3 people and the missionaries showed up, so the Elders did most of the work.  We were very productive and finally got the place in reasonable shape.  Now we need electricity.

That afternoon the Relief Societies from both branches met to plan the RS birthday celebration.  The meeting was scheduled for 1 pm but the first sister, a RS president, arrived at 2:30.  They finally started about 3:30 and the group kept arriving until about 6 pm.  I guess planning the celebration is half of the fun, so you might as well stretch it out.

We had to leave but I needed to talk to some people so Sister Coleman decided to start walking home to stretch her legs.  After a few minutes I drove home expecting to pick her up on the way.  For some reason, I drove by searching without seeing her or her seeing me.  She had misplaced her phone so I couldn't call her and it was getting dark.  I got really worried and started driving around looking for her.  Finally, I went home again and found her there after a twenty-minute walk.  We won't do that again.

We taught the last temple preparation class in Bonaberi and hope that they will organize a temple trip before we leave, but it doesn’t look likely.

We were finally able to audit the Douala Branch finances, although with no electricity, no computer, no internet, and no records, since they were all lost in the move.  We did the best we could just piecing things together using bank records and memories.  This is Africa.
Women doing laundry in buckets

Notice the tires keeping the roof in place

Elders Legerski and Mwehu

Marthe's cute hair

Yes, he is urinating in the gutter.  A common sight.