Sunday, July 26, 2015

7/26/2015 - Baptisms, Transfers, Helping Hands

Two baptisms in Bonaberi: Kepehe Lysette (Lysette) and her daughter, Tchouayap Chinasa Okwaraji Megane (Megan).  That makes 7 weeks of baptisms!  Our missionaries are doing great.
Elder Sperry, Lysette, Megan, & Elder Mbuyi

Transfer day was well planned, well organized, and all of the missionaries cooperated.  But this being Africa, it turned into 4 trips to the airport, 3 to the bus station, 1 to the police, 2 to the hospital, 1 to a dentist, 2 to a pharmacy, 1 to Bonaberi, 2 to the Elders’ apartment, and 2 hours stuck in a major traffic jam.

We had to include a hospital visit because the doctor had given the 3 perspective missionaries (PMs) a 7:30am appointment on transfer day so we squeezed that in thinking it would be quick.  We told them to meet at our apartment at 7:00.  Two were 30 minutes late due to the rain causing traffic jams and the other was even later, so we made 2 trips.  But the doctor showed up over 2 hours late anyway.  The PMs needed x-rays, minor dental work and medication, requiring trips to the pharmacy and a distant dental office.  They finished up their medical exams and started their hepatitis shots.
The doctor gave us these bills to pay.

Coffin shops just outside the hospital (location, location, location)
The planned bus from Yaounde only had 2 seats left so the 4 Elders came in on 2 buses.  One Elder’s flight was delayed by 10 hours until 11:30pm.  Then we got word that a missionary, Elder Dina, is coming home from his mission at 5:35pm and we needed to pick him up and get him released.  We were blessed to be able to make everything happen but we are sure glad that day is over!

We were sorry to lose Elder VanAusdal but happy to gain Elder Mpongo, from the DR Congo.
Elders in transit, staying, & Elder VanAusdal, departing

Elder Mpongo just joined our team

Handsome Elders in transit

Welcome party for Elder Hermann Dina (red tie) at the airport

Elder Etherington had it the worst.  He got up at 3am to pack for a 5am, 4 hour bus ride, ate foofoo with the African missionaries in Douala because his flight was delayed, and after more delays finally arrived at his new apartment in Gabon at 3am.  24 hours to travel to a city about 300 miles away.  TIA.  At least he got to eat foofoo.  (Hey, I like foofoo!)

We worked in the Douala Branch’s Mormon Helping Hands activity.  It was sweeping and mopping in a women’s and children’s hospital.  They seemed to have emptied out the wing that we were working in so we didn’t see many patients.  Turnout of members was low due to confusion about the date.  But at the same time, across the river, Bonaberi Branch had a great turnout at their Helping Hands activity.
Mormon Helping Hands Work Party

Cleaning the hospital patio

Branch President Essomba

What is a sick Yamaha doing in the hospital?

The nurse's desk has a kerosene lamp for power failures.

The hospital is kid-friendly.

Elder Sperry

Romeo came over and offered to help with Identity Cards and Passports.  He knows how to throw his weight around and make things happen, so we have high hopes.

We tried the new restaurant called Le Moulin de France.  I had a salty crêpe with bacon, cheese, and egg.  Good but expensive.  Sister Coleman had a quiche.
Whole wheat salty crepe

We got to meet with the new temporal affairs manager, Noel, who was visiting from Brazzaville, and tell him of our experiences and concerns.  There is more accountability now and temporal affairs are working better than last year.

Sister Coleman made a set of YW values banners and delivered it to the Bali building for use by the 3 branches that meet there.  It is very cool!  I'll get a photo next week.

With 2 weeks left in our mission I should be wrapping things up and planning to leave.  But it doesn't seem possible that we could be leaving.  This is our home now.  I hope another couple is found soon to come and carry on the work in this great city.
Marché Central

Marché Central

Sheet salesman

Purita & Fleur preparing food

Sister Coleman burning sensitive documents

Packed bus with people hanging out the door in the rain

Sunday, July 19, 2015

7/19/2015 - Baptism, Blessings, Bangui, Birthday

Another baptism in Bonaberi: Bossadi Pauline.  That is baptisms every week for 6 weeks now!
Elder Muamba, Pauline, Gustave, Elder VanAusdal

Some of the little kids across the street from the church like to call out “les blancs, les blancs” (the whites, the whites) when they see us.  So, I call back “les noirs, les noirs” (the blacks, the blacks).  Everybody thinks that’s funny.

A missionary just finished his mission in Lubumbashi and came home to Bonaberi.  His name is Massoma Yannick and he is ready to jump in and help out the branch.  First he needs a job, a home, and a wife, but he’s brimming with confidence.
Massoma Yannick

We taught an FHE group at the Su’s home again.  We love those meetings and miracles.  There were 6 investigators and 3 members.  We taught the Joseph Smith story and testified of the BoM.  I explained that my testimony came through the Spirit and not through a vision.  Frère Su jumped in and said that his testimony came through a vision, and described it.  (See March 22 blog entry.)  The best part was when one of the investigators, Marthe, chimed in with her testimony.  She said that she had been studying with the missionaries when “Alma 13:4” suddenly and repeatedly started popping into her head.  She didn’t know what it was and dismissed it but that reference kept coming back to her, day after day.  Finally, she looked it up.  That verse was talking to her.  She testified that God was speaking to her through the BoM.  She scheduled her baptism for August 1st.  People here are ready for the gospel.

The Bonaberi Single Adult group asked us to come and show them Fireproof for FHE.  They had about a dozen people, half men, half women.  We hope it inspires them to make the sacrifices necessary to get married.

Two of the young men here that are hoping to serve missions, Elvis and Petrus, are from the Central African Republic.  They have been classified as war refugees, so getting a passport is tricky.  The branch president has been working to get them alternate travel papers (Titre de Voyage) hoping that they could serve with them but I haven’t gotten the go-ahead from the Church legal department on that.  And since time is short for us, we decided to shell out the bucks to send them back to their war-torn country to get passports.

We first visited Petrus’ parents to talk about helping him on his mission.  His family is Catholic but he is 25 and his father is willing to let him choose his own religion.  We talked about their 10 kids.  We congratulated them on their fine son and the good that he will do as a missionary and told them what a great growth opportunity it will be for him.  We told them how important families are in the church and that, as a missionary, he will be required to write home every week.  We said that we wanted to help him financially to get a passport so that he could serve.  After we left, his mother called and said that they wanted to help pay for the passport!  Financially, their contribution is insignificant, but as a show of support for their son it is immensely important.  We were thrilled!  The father offered to use his influence in the government to help both young men get their passports quickly.  They left on the bus that evening for the 1,000 mile each way trip!  More blessings and miracles.

The next day we walked past the hearses and shops selling caskets and floral wreaths strategically positioned outside the gates of the Laquintinie hospital.  We were there to take 3 other prospective missionaries to get their pre-mission checkups.  One of the doctors took them under his wing, as a Christian, and saw them immediately without an appointment.  What a blessing!  The checkups cost about $2, chest x-rays $14, and lab work $90 each.  We go back next week for the lab results and dental checkups.  (Most dentists work at hospitals here.)
Valery, Fleur, & Davy at the hospital

We taught another music leading class in Bonaberi.  That is a fun thing to teach, with everyone showing his own style.

The Dimonds came for one night to attend a Seminary/Institute awards ceremony.  We love their visits.

We celebrated Sister Coleman’s birthday with lunch at 5 Fourchettes (5 forks), our new favorite restaurant.
Birthday Pizza!

I ordered pizza and salad.  The salad came between the pizza!

People are starting to say goodbye to us, now that we leave in 3 weeks.  Simon said that a lot of people will cry when we are gone.  Frère Bayard gave us a gift of some kind of natural ginger drink powder called “Zingiber’s Power” good for all kinds of ailments.  He is an herbal pharmacist.  We are going to miss our many friends here.
I love the sound if it: Zingiber's Power

Sunday, July 12, 2015

7/12/2015 - Baptisms, New Font, Flu

Two baptisms this week: one yesterday, Bikat, and one today, Solange.  (She had to work yesterday.)  And both were in our new baptismal font, designed and welded together by local craftsmen who obviously didn’t calculate what the pressure of the water would do to the sides of a rectangular vessel.  They will be returning to fix it.
Elder Tucker, Valerie, Bikat, Elder Mbikayi
Elder Mbuyi, Solange, Elder Sperry
New Baptismal Font (a bit bent)

Today (Sunday) was our first Sunday with 3 branches meeting in the Douala building.  I attended 3 Sacrament Meetings and 3 Sunday Schools.  Attendance at the New Bell Branch was 67, Village Branch 19, and Douala Branch 41.  We really need to work on reactivation in the Village Branch.  But everyone is excited.  It will really help if we can rent a building in Village so more people can afford the transportation costs.  That is on the agenda.

On July 6th (P-Day) we celebrated American Independence day and Democratic Republic of the Congo Independence Day by inviting the missionaries over for hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, carrot sticks, and apple pie.  The Americans sang The Star Spangled Banner and the Congolese sang their national hymn.  Then we played games and watched “How Rare a Possession the Book of Mormon.”
Elders Sperry & Mbikayi
The last lines of DR Congo Anthem (can you tell?)

Sister Coleman came down with the flu or something similar.  There are a lot of tropical illnesses that resemble the flu, but this one didn’t seem to be a good match for anything exotic and she tested negative for malaria.  So, she just took meds for the symptoms and suffered all week while we mostly stayed home.  I had to teach piano lessons in Bonaberi without her.  She is feeling much better today.

I showed The Lion King and Ephraim’s Rescue at movie night in Bonaberi.  It will be our last movie night and about 50 people showed up.  Now it is up to the branch if they want to organize something like that.

I held a branch presidency training session to teach the leaders of the 3 new branches how to handle branch funds.

I joined a group of 7 branch leaders who visited a young woman who had left her family to live with a girlfriend.  The goal was to convince her to return home.  We spent about 4 hours listening to everyone’s point of view.  She finally agreed to return home but on her own terms.  Samgwa’a Samuel is a very wise counselor.