Sunday, June 28, 2015

6/28/2015 - Baptisms, Ticket, Electricity Cut

The past week has been another series of adventures.

Baptisms by Skype:  There were three more baptisms in Bonaberi.  Baptized were three children living with their mother here while their father works in Texas.  The father joined the church in America and referred his wife and kids.  Some sister missionaries in Utah started teaching his wife over the internet/telephone before she made contact with our Elders, so those sisters wanted to be here for the baptism.  I contacted them via Skype and turned my laptop so they could watch the baptisms.  The sad thing is that the wife can’t be baptized because her marriage is tribal, not legal.  The missionaries living in America didn’t know the difference and baptized her husband, but until they get together and make their marriage legal his wife can’t be baptized.  We don’t know when that will be since the husband has been away for 6 years so far.
Elder Muamba, Leonel, Awatcha, Michelle, Stephan, Gregoire, mom, Elder VanAusdal

We went to Marché Centrale where Sister Coleman got her nails done at Marianne’s boutique while I walked around talking to people.  The most interesting was a long chat with an open-minded Jehovah’s Witness.  If everyone who promised to come to church actually came, there would be a big spike in attendance.  But I planted a lot of seeds.
Big traffic jam in Marché Congo street

I got my first traffic ticket (convocation)!  It was for running a red light.  I was totally innocent but the policewoman wouldn’t give us a break and confiscated my international driving permit as collateral.  We needed a miracle and the Lord came through.  Waiting for us at our apartment was Princess Stephanie and her sister.  They came with us to the police station where Stephanie greeted the man in charge, Roger, like an old friend.  She explained all of the good things we have done here and he told us what a good Christian he is.  The next morning he sent his colleague with us and we drove out to the policewoman’s corner to get my document.  Except she wasn’t there and she hadn’t left it with her supervisor.  We waited a while but finally gave up and returned to the police station the next day to get it.  Officer Roger said that they had to fight for it because the corner cop really wanted a bribe, and he recommended that the next time we just pay it.
Traffic ticket with explanation on back

A funny thing happened on our way across town with the plainclothes cop in our back seat.  We got stopped by police for no reason.  Our cop just told the other cop that he is a cop and the cop let us go.

We had to live about 28 hours without electricity due to some crazy coincidences, during which we discovered that in the overcast, rainy season the light from our windows is inadequate.  First, there was a power outage in the morning.  I asked around and saw that our neighbors had no power either so we just waited.  While it was out, the power company came to disconnect our neighbors for non-payment, but they disconnected us by mistake.  Later, power came on for everyone else but we didn’t know it.  The next morning I probed around outside and found that our power was cut.  We drove to the power company.  They refused to believe it until I went home and took photos to show them.  Then they made us wait a while before reluctantly agreeing to send someone to fix it.  They seem to hate customers.

We agreed to hire 5 more young people who want to earn money for their missions, 4 men & 1 woman.  But only 1 has actually started work.  And $4/day is pretty good pay for around here.
Prospective missionaries filling out forms at our table

We went to a “Levée de Corps” for a branch member’s mother.  It was an open casket and she looked so natural.  That is the first of 5 funeral/burial ceremonies planned for her, not counting the 3 weeks of visiting that just ended or the ceremonies in future years.  When someone old dies here their body gets treated like royalty, in the hopes that the spirit will come back and help the living, instead of coming back and creating mischief.  We don’t plan to attend the rest of the ceremonies since most are in the distant village.
Open casket ceremony

A Very Nice Hearse

A Budget Hearse (Taxis will carry anything.)

We visited 2 more architects, one of whom is an 80-year-old prince, brother to the royal head of the city.  He seems like an accomplished architect, but not a fan of computers.  He prefers a pencil.  The other architect uses AutoCad.

The Relief Society had an activity to visit a sister, Ouanko Sorele, who recently gave birth.  Her son is named Lehi.  Now we have Lehi, Nephi, Alma, & Moroni in that branch.
Mother Sorele & 3-week old baby Lehi

Sister Coleman and Lehi

Handcarts (pouspous) are everywhere, carrying anything

Trike & moto on the left side heading toward oncoming traffic

Sunday, June 21, 2015

6/21/2015 - Baptism, Restaurant, Names

An unusually calm week, with not much to report on, so this blog will be brief.

There was another baptism in the Bonaberi Branch:  Bessong Joel Ngona.
Frère Martin & Joel (in white), Elders Mbuyi, Muamba, Sperry, VanAusdal (in ties)

Happy Father's Day!  Sister Coleman surprised me with breakfast and a gift of a new suit!  Very stylish and appropriate for business, church, and casual occasions.  No, it is not pajamas!  And she got a matching dress.
Father's Day Suit (Not pajamas!)

We finally dined at a “French” restaurant that we have been trying for months to find time for.  La Formule Provençale turned out to be more Camerounais than French and the buffet was limited to one-trip & 3-items, but it is a step up from the more common local restaurants.
La Formule Provençale Restaurant

We also tried a new patisserie (pastry shop), Le Moulin de France.  It's pretty good.
I like the fondant chocolat.  The brioche chocolat was good, too.

The chocolate brownies weren't sweet enough.

We visited a couple of architects to see if they looked qualified to build our new chapel.  One was very modern with a large staff and expensive equipment.  The other had an office in the front of her home and 2 interns as staff.  But they both seemed well trained and qualified.

Another student, Wilfred, finished the piano course and can apply to get a keyboard!

We taught our first class on conducting music in the Douala Branch and it went well with 10 students.

I decided that I’d better record some of the interesting names of people we know here.  Of course, each of these people also has one or more African names and the names can be in any order so it is very confusing.  As one woman told me, it is part of the suffering that Africans experience.
Messie (Messiah)
Ioyhe? (Jehovah)
Jean Baptiste (John the Baptist)
Jeanne D’Arc (Joan of Arc)
Martin Luther
Moïse (Moses)
Lazare (Lazarus)
Dieudonne (God-given)
Faith Divine
Janvier (January)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

6/14/2015 - T.C., Transfers, Teaching, Training, Talks

After watching 17 Miracles and Ephraim’s Rescue with the branches a few people asked to borrow them to watch at home.  I explained copyright law and that we only have one copy and don’t want to loan it but we can come and watch it with them.  Then I emailed the writer/producer/director, T.C. Christensen, and explained that the members here love his films but can’t get copies because they are not sold here.  Also, the prices are out of reach of almost everyone, even if there were a way to order them.  T.C. Christensen wrote back and said he would discuss it with his distributer.  Then a few days ago he wrote and gave us special permission to make up to 5 copies to keep in the church library and lend free of charge!  I feel honored that such a distinguished filmmaker would take the time to write to me, and even more so that he solved this problem to bless the saints here.  If you haven’t seen those films, I highly recommend them.

This transfer brought our workforce down to 6 Elders.  Elder West went to Brazzaville to be AP, Elder Kabasele went to Pointe Noire, and Elder Mwehu went to Yaoundé.  We received Elder Mbikayi, a DRC native.  We were especially sad to lose Elder West, who came here from the MTC and has been "ours" for over a year, almost our entire mission.

Transfer day, Monday, started off smoothly.  Then one of the Elders from Yaoundé didn’t have a needed exit visa so we prepared to rush him to immigration.  Fortunately, a kind police official asked what the problem was and arranged things.

Then the flight bringing Elders from the Congo was delayed, causing hours of frustration.  Nobody wants to give bad news to the customers so they just clam up.  The monitor in the airport was giving no information on why the flight hadn’t arrived so we went to the airline office.  They didn’t know when it would come but they promised to call us when they found out, and gave us a phone number - which nobody ever answered.  The internet has a Trans Air Congo web site but no flight status and obsolete phone numbers.  We called the couple in Pointe Noire and finally got some info.  It was delayed indefinitely due to a lack of fuel, so when the flight finally arrived over 8 hours late the missionaries were tired and famished but never complained.  We had to keep 4 extra Elders in Douala overnight and send them to Yaoundé on an early morning bus.
Elders from Yaoundé passing from the bus to the airport

The Douala Airport

Elder Mbikayi

Douala District Elders and 4 others heading to Yaoundé

The mission president called a couples conference by Skype to plan for our and another couple’s departures.  There are no replacements for us in the pipeline.  It was agreed that the Dimonds will cover both Yaoundé and Douala and make regular trips.  So now we are beginning to set things up for that.  It is probably a good thing, to teach the branches to be more independent, but the Dimonds will be very busy.  We need more senior couples.

The president also mentioned that in July the mission will be down to 41 missionaries.  Our next big influx is in November.  It seems like we are still adjusting to being a new mission, even though it has been almost a year since it was created.

On the blog of 17 May I wrote about a man that asked me to buy him a cookie.  His name is Moïse and his story continues.  He wanted us to meet his pastor.  Today we finally did.  We learned that Moïse, his wife, and his pastor live about 100 km away in a small village.  But the pastor’s daughter lives near us.  We met Moïse’s wife, the pastor and his wife, and the pastor’s daughter at her home and taught them the restoration with Frere Su.  They were hoping that we could come to his church and take over the preaching.  He is too old and infirm to continue.  Tempting, but not possible.  Maybe in a few years the Church can reach that village but for now we have to work on growing the Church here.  And since the daughter lives about 2 blocks from our meetinghouse, she is likely to continue studying with us.

A funny thing happened on the way to the appointment.  We went to the wrong apartment and said that we came to see the pastor.  They said that he wasn’t there but invited us in.  As we sat on the sofa and I started to phone the pastor someone figured out that we wanted the apartment 2 doors down.  But before we left we had a brief chat, invited the two ladies to church, and gave them brochures.  Missionary work is so easy here.

We held a piano recital in Bonaberi.  10 students performed.  Three were very impressive for the short time they have had lessons.  Two accompany hymns in Sacrament Meeting now.
Piano Recital Students + 2 little photo bombers

Sister Coleman trained the Douala RS presidency and did an awesome job.

Sister Coleman organized a 2-Branch Primary training in Bonaberi.  The leaders of Douala Branch Primary attended the Bonaberi meetings to see how their Primary functioned.  Then everyone stayed an extra hour for training.  It went very well.

The primary ended 15 minutes late because the lesson wasn’t over on time.  But then all 27 children sat patiently for another 15 minutes while the leaders prepared refreshments.  I offered to help and was given the task of twisting the sandwich cookies apart to make 2 cookies.  The Primary president pulled apart all of the 2-ply napkins and then tore them in half to make 4 napkins out of 1.  Each child got 2 cookies and a few croquettes wrapped in a napkin.  And they were so cute and reverent.

We both spoke in Sacrament Meeting on families.  Two people asked for printed copies afterwards, and it wasn’t because they couldn’t understand our French.

Our power voltage started fluctuating one evening and blew out three fluorescent light fixtures and two of the fluorescent tubes.  We plug most of our appliances into voltage regulators to protect them from that, but not our ceiling lights.  I did the repairs on them, rather than call an electrician and trust him to do them right.  It looked like the last time they were wired by an amateur using an old toaster cord and dangerous splices.

It took two trips and about an hour of waiting and running for copies before we could pick up a registered letter at the post office.  It was addressed to the Church and they wanted proof that we represent the Church.  After lots of arguing they accepted my minister certificate.  If they hadn’t I was ready to pull out our calling letters, our official rubber stamps, and finally call the regional post office director who gave me his card once and said to call if we have any problems.  The bureaucracy is out of control.

The registered letter was from the bank that the Church uses, increasing our required checking account minimum to $100,000 (which we don’t have) or pay $150/month, and adding other exorbitant fees, such as $20 to withdraw cash.  They seem to hate customers.  I offered to help the Church find a new bank.
Cute neighbor kids sitting outside the meetinghouse

Sunday, June 7, 2015

6/7/2015 - Baptism, Division Approved, Mission Doctor

Mounda Daniel Prosper (Daniel) was baptized by Elder West in the Douala Branch.  There would have been another person baptized but she decided at the last minute that she is not yet ready.
Elder West, Daniel, Elder Kabasele

Daniel said that the woman he wanted to marry will probably not be available.  Her family is Bamilike and they worship the disinterred skull of a dead ancestor, so they won’t let her marry a Christian.  So his new plan is to marry a member of the Church.  Good plan.

The Douala Branch division was approved by Salt Lake!  Now we can start work on the logistics while waiting for President Monga to come and call two more branch presidencies.

Elder Barton, the Area missionary doctor, came to visit and tour the local medical facilities.  He was late because his flight was cancelled so he had to ride the bus from Yaoundé.  We toured the clinic and hospital that we always use and he decided that they are good enough for more couples to qualify to come here.  Yay!  He called it “underdeveloped good” which is better than a lot of underdeveloped countries.  But the doctors have good MRI and CAT scan machines and other toys.  They have neurologists but not brain surgeons.  I’m just a layman but their facilities are impressive to me.
Elder (Doctor) Barton's Visit

Oh the joy of hot and cold running water!  For weeks our water pressure was getting lower and lower until there wasn’t enough pressure for the water to climb to the hot water heater, so we had no hot water and had to take cold showers.  The reason was a mystery until a week ago when our guard noticed one of our pipes leaking behind our apartment so I shut off our water for 2 days until Monday when a plumber came and fixed it.  Then we found that our sediment filters were plugged, so I replaced them.  Now we have plenty of hot and cold water.  We have developed a greater appreciation for indoor plumbing, which is lacking in 99.9% of the homes in this country (my estimate).

Our refrigerator also got repaired on Monday after 2 days on the blink.  The repairman said it was a blocked Freon tube, so he had to flush it out and refill it.  Strange, but it works now.  We brought our food back from the Elders’ fridge where we had stored it.  The joy of refrigeration!

All of the missionaries came over to watch Ephraim’s Rescue on Monday as a P-Day zone activity.  Then they came over Wednesday for a Zone Training session.
The Elders Relaxing

Elders Kabasele, West, & Tucker

Elder Mbuyi

We visited a grandmother (Anastasie) who then insisted that we eat with her even though we had another appointment.  A prince was also visiting and said that it would be bad manners to refuse.  She served a delicious cabbage & smoked fish dish, with manioc.  The prince wanted to debate polygamy.  He said that his father had 18 wives so he is obliged to have at least 5 to grow the village.  Traditions are holding people back here.
Anastasie & granddaughter
The prince, pastor, granddaughter, neighbor kid & Anastasie

If you cross a plank to get home, you might be in Africa.

The long dirt road to Anastasie's home

The rainy season is upon us and Sister Coleman loves the cooler temperatures.  It rains every night and often during the day.  There was a thunderstorm one night in which lightening may have struck our building, since the flash and thunder were almost simultaneous and very loud.  Our main circuit breaker tripped and it destroyed our internet router, but that was the only damage.  Traffic lights are out all over town (more so than usual).  Power outages are becoming more frequent.  The Bonaberi EQ president (Stephen) said that his home is flooded.  But at least it's never cold.  Getting wet isn't so bad when you don't get cold.
Bonaberi Branch hoping the heavy rain will let up.  It did, eventually.
Motorcycle taxis with umbrellas charge more.

Movie night drew about 17 at Douala and 35 at Bonaberi.  It is funny how people seem to think nothing of arriving late to a movie.  Maybe that is why all of the movie theaters in Cameroon closed.  People just don’t care about movies.

Tomorrow is transfer day with major changes.  Eight missionaries in our mission are completing their missions and going home so there will only be 53 young missionaries in the mission.  We will only have 6 now in Douala, shrinking to 2 in Bonaberi.  In November our missionary numbers will start to grow again.

We have our plane tickets to return home, landing in San Diego August 11 at 3:47 pm.  The end is approaching.  So much to do and so little time.  Still no word on a replacement couple.