Friday, September 29, 2017

September 2017 in Cameroon - Proof of God's Love for Cameroon

Dear Family and Friends,

I think this will be the last blog written from Cameroon.  (There are definitely mixed feelings about that statement).  During these months living here, we have grown to love Cameroon and the people here.  This past month we were also reminded how much God loves Cameroon.  As far as we know, there has been a senior missionary couple assigned to Cameroon since missionary work opened here.  Sometimes there have been two missionary couples, one in Douala and one in Yaounde.  However, there have also been months when only one couple has been here, which has been the case with us for the last 16 months.  Even while we were living in Brazzaville, we came to Cameroon to take care of the needs here.  However, as our mission was quickly coming to a close, no new missionary couple was being announced to take our place.  We waited and hoped and prayed that some how God would find someone to fill the need here in Cameroon.  We were particularly concerned about the junior missionaries serving here.  There have been several emergencies involving the junior missionaries serving in Cameroon, which needed immediate attention.  We know how long the process takes for a couple to come to Africa and the longer no announcement was made, the more anxious we became.

Pause on that subject for a moment...I would like to relate another experience taking place here in Cameroon.  Several months ago we got an e-mail from a wonderful couple living in Provo, Utah who had applied to work on the Mercy Ship.

Wynette and Dennis Greer

Dennis had been watching a documentary about the Mercy Ship and felt drawn to what he saw.  The Mercy Ship is basically a hospital ship, which visits under-developed countries doing free surgeries for the people living there.  The ship has been to several African countries but for the first time was coming to Cameroon.  Because of a specific statement in Dennis' patriarchal blessing, he felt compelled to apply to help on the Mercy Ship.  Thus, he and Wynette applied and were accepted to serve for 6 months; he in finances and she in food services.

When the Ship docked in Cameroon, we met the Greers.  They invited us on board the Ship for dinner and a tour.

                                                         In front of the Mercy Ship

One of the hospital rooms.  The man giving the tour is a nurse who helps with cataract surgeries.  He said they do hundreds of cataract surgeries in each country they visit.

                      Dusk on the Mercy Ship, looking towards the city of Douala.

We took the Greers to church with us, had a delightful time with them, and were looking forward to having more associations with them for our last several weeks.

Then...Monday they called us.  They told us there had been a turn of events and they were wondering if they could meet with our mission president, who happened to be in town, to see if they could serve a mission in Cameroon!!! It seems the Mercy Ship felt they needed someone with greater financial training than Dennis had, so they wanted to replace him.   Dennis and Wynette talked it over and knew we were leaving the middle of October and that just happened to be the time the Mercy Ship felt they could find a replacement for Dennis, so they decided to see if they could take our place as the senior missionary couple in Cameroon.  The first thing that came to my mind was...."Why do I ever worry!?"  God had things in control, all this time He was preparing a couple, we just didn't know it! Thus, the reason for the title of the blog...God does love Cameroon...and the missionaries and the people living here. Again I am reminded of that wonderful hymn:

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps on the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread.
Are thick with mercy and shall break,
With blessings on your head.

So, we will be spending more time with the Greers than we had initially thought.  They will be moving in with us October 7th and we will be training them to replace us until we leave October 15th.

On a light side....

For those who may not know, Elder Call quite likes grilled hotdogs, which we have not had since moving to Africa.  One day we went to this grocery store in Yaounde and outside the store they had one of those roller-type grills with hotdogs on it.  Elder call could not resist and I guess neither could I.  So we had a hotdog Cameroonian-style i.e. a hotdog on a baguette.  However, we did ask for two "dogs" in one bun since the bun was so big.

September found us again on a trip to Yaounde.  We were quite excited for not only were we going to be doing our regular training, we were going to be able to participate in another wedding.  In fact, when the couple learned we could not attend the wedding at the schedule time, they rescheduled the wedding at a time we could be there.  (Mostly since we have a car and provided the much needed transportation for the bride and groom.)

The day after we arrived in Yaounde, we received a phone call from Sister Thompson, our mission president's wife.  It seems one of the Elders was having problems with one of his eyes.  He had been to an eye doctor and had received some medications but the problem seemed to be getting worse, so she wanted us to check it out.  We agreed and learned the Elder had another appointment to see an eye doctor so we went to pick him up.  When we got there and I looked into his eye, I tried not to gasp but to remain calm.  After taking some pictures of the eye on my i-Pad, we took the Elder to the doctor who recommended we take him to the hospital for some injections.  We e-mailed the pictures I had taken of the eye to a doctor in the States that we were working with.  We did go to the hospital here, but after consulting with the doctor in the States, it was decided to send him immediately to South Africa.  Plane tickets were arranged and we took the Elder to the airport the next morning.
Elder Reed and us before taking him to the airport.  His Mom wanted a picture of him, and I do not blame her, I would have wanted the same. We heard his eye was doing better while he was in South Africa, but it was decided to send him back to the States to try and ensure complete recovery.  Not sure he will return to Africa.  He was a wonderful Elder and will be greatly missed here in Cameroon.

That afternoon we were almost an hour late to the excellent training Elder Call did on the different roles of the Branch Presidents and the Elder's Quorum Presidents. Fortunately, most of them are usually late, so no one left before we got there. Yaounde District has truly tried to capitalize on the church experiences we have had and used us heavily to help in training.  Unfortunately, since the Douala District was created, their attitude has not been the same.  However, we do continue to train the branch presidencies in Douala.

The next day was the wedding of Oliver and Carol.  It was typical, yet a simple and beautiful wedding.

It began at the mayor's home where the official wedding took place.

We then drove the happy couple to one of the branch buildings that had been simply yet tastefully decorated.  There they met family and most of those who would attend the wedding celebration.  What I appreciated about Oliver and Carol is that they did not require those in the wedding company to purchase the same material to make "wedding outfits" as most weddings do here in Douala.

                          Oliver making some remarks at the church celebrations

    Lunch with some typical Cameroonian food.  (I actually don't mind the food here).

Cutting of the cake, then dancing, and picture taking.  Pretty much the same sort of ceremony we would find in the States. :)  But now we have another righteous couple, who are much needed, to help grow the church here in Cameroon.  Oliver and Carol are saving and planning to attend the temple in Aba, Nigeria as soon as possible.   Another huge sacrifice on their part and what we often take for granted.

Elder Call's Birthday this year fell on a Sunday so we ended up eating roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy with the Bro. and Sis. Greer.  However, this year no cherry pie, but I did make an oreo cookie/cream cake that Dad loves.

I would like to end the blog by telling one last story and picture of a beautiful family here in Douala.  When we lived in Rexburg, Idaho I had the pleasure of teaching many Doctrine and Covenant classes at BYU-I. As I  prepared, I felt that in order to understand the revelations, it was necessary to understand the history behind the revelations.  As I learned of the history of the church, I often wondered what it would have been like to live at that time when the church was just getting organized.  I felt it would be exciting, but I also knew there were some very difficult times.  The church was not organized like the people were used to and also there was envying and pride that crept into the church.  Without living back in those times, I feel in many ways we have experienced in Cameroon what the church was like when it was first organized. Now, for the picture of the Dim Family.
This is a picture of the Romeo and Irene Dim with their 3 daughters and 1 son.  Romeo has an amazing conversion story that, as per usual for Africa, involves a dream. Initially he was instrumental in bringing many others to the church.  The Dim's have wanted to attend the temple and did all they could to do so, but seemed to be blocked in their attempts.  When we learned of their desire, we told them we would do all we could to help them get to the temple, but then we were assigned to Brazzaville.  When we returned to Douala we heard of a accusation against the Dim family.  Since it involved families in two different branches, Elder Call counseled the district leaders how to handle the situation.  Unfortunately, his counsel was not followed, pride entered in, and the Dim family was badly treated.  Then, because of their poor treatment, they stopped going to church.  We invited them over for dinner and almost begged them to return to church.  Though their testimonies were strong, we were all too aware of the story of the charcoal which is taken from the fire. It soon grows cold.  The members of the family that were living elsewhere for school, continued attending church, but those living in Douala would not return.  

Then we received a new mission president and with Pres. Thompson's encouragement, I wrote an e-mail which he sent to the Area Presidency asking for permission for Cameroonian's to use the Temple Patron Assistance Fund to attend the Aba, Nigeria Temple.  After we received clearance, and the Bonaberi Branch was willing to attempt a trip to Aba, we called the Dim Family.  We told them how they could now go to Nigeria and because of other things put into place, nothing could stop them from going to the temple.  To our delight, it was the promise of those temple blessings that made the Dim family lay aside the hurt they had experienced and return to church. They are now back in full fellowship and are making plans to attend the Aba, Nigeria Temple as a family to be sealed for all eternity. 

My heart is so full of gratitude to the Lord for the blessings He has to offer us.  There is no other church on the face of the earth that even comes close to the blessings the Lord has to offer those who will repent, be baptized, and come into the fold of His church.  To this I bear my solemn witness. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

August 2017 Cameroon - "The Miracle At The Border"

The title of this blog is taken from a statement by one of the branch presidents who took a group of members to the Nigerian Temple.  The story and reason behind the statement will follow.

But first, August began with a trip to Yaounde.  Besides taking care of a few necessary items, our main focus was on training the district in using the General Temple Patron Assistant Fund, GTPAF,  to go to the temple in Aba, Nigeria.  Since clearance has been given by the Area Presidency to use the fund to go to Nigeria, our excitement in training Cameroonian's how to access the fund has been high.  We arrived on Wednesday and trained the district presidency first on the procedure.  Then the next day, Thursday, a meeting was scheduled for leaders and members interested in attending the temple.  Because of the difficulty in getting to the temple in South Africa, no group from Cameroon has gone to the temple for years.  When they learned that no passports nor visa's were needed AND they could use the GTPA Fund, excitement was high and plans were immediately put in place to get a group ready to leave.

                             Members in attendance at the temple meeting

After we left for Douala, the district presidency pursued plans to go to the temple. Unfortunately the temple was full for the week chosen, and since the temple is closed in September, the trip was postponed.  However, we now feel the excitement will remain and another trip will be scheduled.

The first of August also brought the Thompson's back to Cameroon for a "real" Zone Conference.
The Thompson's had come a few weeks earlier to basically meet the missionaries but this time was a regularly schedule Zone Conference.  It was held in our apartment and then we went to a restaurant for lunch.
Since we had two trucks available, the Thompson's and us both drove the missionaries.

A picture going to the restaurant,
fortunately it was close at hand.

With missionaries, if there is a will...there is a way.  The thought of free food  provided the "will", and thus the "way" problem.

Sunday's generally turn out to be some of our favorite days.  We enjoy visiting with the members and investigators.

Elder Call with 3 of the 4 young men selling popcorn to make enough money to serve a mission.

This picture is of a beautiful investigator I met at church.  When we met, I felt an immediate attraction to her.  Then I learned her name and the bond became even greater.  She has the same name as my most favorite (and only) sister, Claudia.  When we first met, she was just investigating.  However, when I came back, she had decided to join the church.  I hope to attend her baptism.  As with many investigators here, there are obstacles to be met before they can be baptized.  It is the case with Claudia.  She has a child, but is not married to the father of the child.  He is willing to marry her, but he works outside of Cameroon.  Thus, a marriage must take place before a baptism can be scheduled.

Sunday August 20, 2017 after church services, a group of Cameroonian pioneers boarded a bus for the temple in Aba, Nigeria.  We had been working with the branch president, President Yemafo for weeks to ensure everything was prepared and ready for the trip.   The Friday before they left, a miracle took place to allow them the money needed for the trip; we felt God's hand many times in the preparations.  There had not been a temple group planned for years and thus these righteous saints have not been receiving the blessings that come with the temple ordinances. What made this trip even more unique is that we were helping the branch president, but he and his presidency were doing most of the work...and...we were not going ourselves, they were going on their own. Our purpose was to give them the skills necessary to plan additional temple trips when we leave. However, we felt we had done absolutely everything possible to ensure nothing went wrong.

                        The group of faithful and courageous Cameroonian pioneers.

So the temple group left on Sunday night, and Monday afternoon I received a phone call from Elder Call.  He was out doing errands and asked if I had said my afternoon prayers.  I told him I had not.  He then said, "Well, when you say them could you please say an extra special prayer for the temple group, they have been stuck at the border for the last 4 hours."  My heart sank, what had gone wrong?!  Apparently, in the past there have been some "church" groups which have caused problems in Nigeria. Thus, the government passed a new law requiring any church group to get special permission from the government before they could enter the country.  Because our group had not received that permission, they were told they could not enter Nigeria and they needed to turn back.  There were some in the company also desiring to turn back, but President Yemafo was undaunted.  He said, "This is God's work and God willing, we will stay until we get across the border".

President Yemafo and his beautiful wife, Chancella, who is expecting their first child in December.  Their desire was to have their child born in the covenant.

There were many phone calls made to immigration officials, and many prayers said.  Slowly, they started being allowed to cross and by 8:00pm that night, 23 of the 29 had crossed over to Nigeria.  We were able to go to sleep that night knowing that God's power is greater than man's power.  President Yemafo was the last to cross and did not cross over until about 10:00am Tuesday morning.  Tuesday was spent traveling to Aba with many police stops and necessary bribes being paid.  They reached the temple late in the afternoon, in time to eat and go to bed. Wednesday and Thursday were spent doing ordinances, and then they left to return to Cameroon at 5:00am on Friday morning.   Another of the many "miracles" was that when we were planning the number of days to be spent at the temple, initially they planned on returning on Thursday. I had felt impressed to recommend they stay until Friday morning. Afterwards I questioned myself why I had felt that way, for it didn't make much "sense"  to stay an extra day. Never-the-less, Friday was the date decided upon. After learning they had "lost" a day at the border, I knew why I had felt impressed to recommend the extended day.

This is a picture of the 7 children in the Ebere family that went to the temple.  Seraphene, in the red shirt, is our French teacher.  I would like to share her words as she related them to me and I recorded them. She stated, "We reached Aba by 7:00pm. We struggled to look for the site where the temple was located. We spent about 30 minutes looking for the temple site.  Finally, we found it.  It was at night and it was so beautiful.  I shouted, 'Oh my goodness, Moroni!' Tears of joy ran down my cheeks, we were finally at the temple."

I realize that would be a fitting end to this blog, but the month did not end there.

One of the district leaders, Elder Odimba, asked Pres. Thompson if the missionaries could go to the city of Limbe on a P-Day.  Limbe is a coastal city about 1 1/2 hours away that Elder Call and I visited the month before.  President Thompson gave his approval IF the senior missionary couple went with them.  Thus, we planned a trip to Limbe for Monday August 28th.  We were hoping by then the rainy season would be somewhat finished.  It has been raining daily here.  Three of the Elders rode in the truck with us and the others took a bus.  When we got to Limbe the Elders all packed into the truck and we went to the Botanical Gardens and a zoo, that is actually a sanctuary.

A picture taken at the Botanical Gardens holding the seed of the tree in the background.  We were told by the guide that it was near impossible to break the seed.  Of course, this knowledge became a challenge for the missionaries.  However, all their attempts to crack it were in vain.

There was a type of amphitheater at the Botanical Gardens that was a perfect picture spot. I reiterate, "perfect picture spot" not "perfect picnic spot".  The Botanical Gardens themselves were a haven for mosquitoes. Those of us with shorter pants paid a heavy price.  I was grateful Elder Call had suggested I wear gym shoes, not sandals.

There were 5 missionaries who had Birthdays within about a 3 week period of time.  I decided it would be a great day to celebrate all 5 of them.

After the Botanical Gardens we visited the zoo/sanctuary.  The purpose of the sanctuary is to protect endangered species but also to eventually put them back into the jungle.

Elder Tall and Elder Bouthot next to one of the gorilla encampments.  Our guide told us that because of their immense strength, they were hunted and killed by the natives as a show of strength.  The fence has electric current at all times otherwise the gorillas would escape.  

We had a great day and what made it even more amazing is that it did NOT rain.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, it started to sprinkle a little bit.  That morning I had said a little prayer to ask that we have a nice day and that the rain would be tempered.  After I said it, I felt a little foolish for asking such a trivial request.  I decided God indeed loves His missionaries!!

September begins our last full month on our mission.  Helping to do the Lord's work here in Africa has been an incredible experience.  Millions and maybe even billions of dollars are spent on amusement parks.  Just think, one can accept a call to serve a mission and receive many more "thrills" than any amusement park could ever offer. :) How blessed we are!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

July 2017 in Cameroon

Dear Family and Friends,

Our mission is rapidly coming to an end, and the blogs will soon be over.  As much as I dislike writing them, I am convinced my joy will exceed my "discomfort" when we have a documented history of our mission.  

July began with the welcoming of a new mission president and his wife, President and Sister Thompson who arrived in Cameroon from Canada.  What makes them even more suited for this mission is that they served as a senior missionary couple in Cameroon several years ago.  Thus, they are familiar with the area and with many of the people.  When they served as a senior missionary couple, their primary lodging was Yaounde.  However, they did also serve as the mission couple in Douala for a few months.

President Jerry and Sister Jeannette Thompson

After obtaining their visas, they came to Cameroon for a short Zone Conference and to interview all the Elders.  They are going to make a great addition to the mission.  We have already see some positive things happening.

Zone Conferences are always a fulfilling experience both spiritually and physically.  I went with an easy menu of BBQ sloppy-joes.  I make enough food to feed 20 people, but 10 hungry missionaries seem to find no problem consuming it all.  

Speaking of the missionaries, working with them has truly been one of the highlights of our mission.  We love each of them and have learned the Lord also loves them and protects them even when they may not make the most wise decisions.  I will illustrate this fact with a story.  The following picture is one of the apartments inhabited by 4 Elders.                                                                                                                                     

This particular apartment had a decorative piece separating the dining room from the living room.  The problem however was that the "pillar looking devices" did not reach the floor and the whole archway was hollow inside, which made a perfect home for mice.  One morning, very early (5:15 am to be exact) one of the Elders decided to kill the mouse who had taken up residence in the archway.  He sprayed some insecticide up the pillar and lit a match.  It was the perfect "makings" of a bomb...and... it did explode, shaking the whole apartment building and sending pieces of paster throughout the two rooms even piercing the adjacent wall.  There were two miracles.  The first one was that the mouse got away, temporarily. (One of the other Elders saw it run into the bedroom and killed it with a shoe) The other miracle was that the Elder who lit the match was totally unharmed.  When we went later on that morning to "check out the damage" the Elder responsible for the explosion was devastated and even in tears.  However, we told him, "We can replace an archway, we can not replace you".  We discussed with him, and he agreed, that the Lord had truly protected him from being hurt. 

Life is not easy in Africa, as you can imagine.  One of the greatest problems is the lack of jobs and thus lack of money.  One of the branches in Douala has 4 wonderful, young men who would like to serve missions but do not have the finances to do so. The church has provided a program to help missionaries once they enter the mission field.  However, the young people here lack the money to obtain a passport and other necessary items to prepare for a mission.  We did help purchase some clothing for one young woman to go on a mission, but the branch president of these 4 young men approached us about helping all 4! We have also been advised not to give money so we pondered on what to do.  While pondering, I remembered a senior missionary couple in Ghana who had their youth sale popcorn to earn money for a youth conference.  We asked the branch president about the idea, he consulted his young men.  They are now selling popcorn on the street.  

Our kitchen during popcorn production. One small problem is that I do not have an air-popper, thus I pop the corn over our gas stove.  It works well and in addition, I am strengthening my arm muscles as I vigorously shake the pan to prevent the popcorn from burning.

Handing over some popcorn to President Yemafo and his clerk, Frere (Brother) Gustave.  

The popcorn is actually selling well. We give the popcorn to the young men at no cost and we told them that we will match whatever money they make.  However it is a slow process and will definitely take some time. We do feel good that the young men are actually doing something to help pay for their mission preparation.

While in Africa, both in Ghana and in Cameroon, there have been a few people who have requested that Elder Call baptize them.  However, for one reason or another, it has never worked out...until this past month.

A few weeks ago one of the missionary companionships asked if we would go with them to a teaching appointment of one of their families.  We of course said, "Yes".  They were going to be teaching a lesson about eternal marriage.  The missionaries taught the lesson and we did testify about the joys of an eternal marriage.  It went well and both Elder Call and I were able to use our small knowledge of the French language since they knew no English.  After answering some questions the couple had about marriage, Elder Call asked if they were going to be baptized.  The man, Geremie (Jeremy) said they wanted to be baptized but it would not be for awhile.  Elder Call said, "Why?" This led to another discussion which ended in convincing Geremie to be baptized sooner.  After the discussion Geremie asked Elder Call if he would baptize him.  Elder Call responded that he would be honored.
The day of the baptism.  Elder Tall, Elder Call, Geremie, his wife Evelyn, Elder Odimba (who baptized Evelyn), and their three children.

One of the biggest accomplishments in July has no picture associated with it, but there will be pictures next month.  :)  Since we have been here, we have known only one couple who have gone to the temple.  The greatest reasons for that is cost and distance.  The temple in the area for Cameroon is the Johannesburg Temple in South Africa.  However, there is a temple bordering Cameroon in Nigeria which is much closer, but it is in the West Africa area.  Since Cameroon's  temple was in South Africa, we were told that members in Cameroon could only use the General Temple Patron Assistance Fund to go to South Africa. However, even using the fund, the money for Cameroonian's to get a passport and go to South Africa was nearly financially impossible.  

With a new mission president, we decided to present the idea of using the Temple Assistance Fund to go to Aba, Nigeria.  He asked us to write an e-mail explaining our reasons, which we did, and he sent it to the Africa Southeast Area Presidency.  Elder Hamilton approved the idea and the first group of 30 members will be leaving August 30, 2017!  The excitement is high for them but also for us.  One of our goals was to try and plan some temple trips.  We are currently in Yaounde and have trained the district presidency on going to Aba and will be training the branch presidents tomorrow.  

This has been a sweet thing to happen to us as we wind down our mission.  Baptisms are important but we know they only open the gate.  The temple leads to exaltation and now the saints here will have a real hope of claiming those blessings. 

God truly is no respecter of persons. We have gained a greater testimony of that fact and could not be more delighted at this time in our lives than to be with some of God's beloved children here in Africa. Because of the temple, Elder Call and I have the promise of an eternal family.  We have left that family...temporarily, to help other families become eternal.  What could be sweeter?!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

June 2017 in Cameroon

Dear Family and Friends,

I am late again and wish I had a good excuse like "I slammed my fingers in the car door", but...since I didn't, and have no good excuse...the following is a synopsis of another adventuresome month in Cameroon.

June again testified to us of the reality of a Father in Heaven and His love for us.  Africa is not a place where one particularly wants to visit a hospital, so we try and avoid one if at all possible.  The first of June, Elder Call developed rather an annoying, large infected boil.  I do have a picture, but I will not include  it because of its location.  However as a hint...Elder Call was having difficulty sitting comfortably.  There is a doctor in South Africa that we can contact for advice, so I took a picture of the boil and sent it down to him. He wrote back and said it needed to be lanced and the pus needed to be extracted.  He gave the option of doing it myself, or taking Elder Call to a hospital.  Neither option sounded good to me.

As we pondered over our choices,  Elder Call remembered talking with one of the new missionaries, Elder Tall, who had been transferred to Cameroon.  In their conversation Elder Tall mentioned how he had spent some time working in a hospital. We thought we might give it a chance and we called to ask if by some crazy chance, he had had any experience "operating" on boils.  To our delight, he said he had assisted with many and felt comfortable helping us.  He and his companion stopped by a small shop to purchase some razor blades and were at our door in about one hour.

Elder (doctor) Tall
The boil was worse than he thought and it became necessary to make  a  couple of incisions in order to get the pus to drain.   (Something I could never have done) However, Elder Tall was amazingly competent.  If it were not for his obviously young age, we would have thought he was an experienced doctor of many years.

So again, when we needed some help,  the Lord provided a young, but qualified "doctor".  We also learned afterwards that Elder Tall was not even supposed to be here in Cameroon.  His mission began in Brazzaville and the plans were to keep him there for awhile.  However,  after two failed attempts to renew his visa to the Republic of Congo, he was transferred to Cameroon.  Oh, how the Lord moves in mysterious ways!  Elder Call took a few weeks to heal, but we are happy to say the surgery was a success and Elder Call is back to his normal energetic self.

June was another month of saying "Goodbyes".  There were some Elders who arrived in the mission field in Cameroon instead of first going to Brazzaville, which is the norm. This was due to a time when tensions were high with the United States and the Republic of Congo so they would not allow our missionaries from the States to fly directly to the Republic of Congo.  Thus, they came to Cameroon first....and thus...they were "our" missionaries.  Well, three more of them were transferred to Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.  So sad to see them go.
                         Having our last meal together at an outdoor "mall"

At the airport saying our final "goodbyes".  Elder Zobell, us, Elder Kincaid and Elder Russell

Our other "goodbyes" in June was to our mission president, President and Sister Monga.  They have served hard and tirelessly.  President Monga actually opened up this mission.  One thing he did was to split the companionships between black and white Elders.  Before President Monga, white Elders served together and black Elders served together.  There have been some "struggles" but on a whole we feel it was an inspired move.


The last Zone Conference at our apartment.  I made a going away cake.

                          Our last meeting with President and Sister Monga

Every month we do a lot of training, but the month of June exceeded them all. There was a new district president called in Yaounde, President Nana.  He had been the 1st counselor in the previous district presidency and will do a marvelous job.  There is some "cleaning-up" to do in Yaounde and Pres. Nana is the perfect leader for the job.  Poverty is such a issue in Africa and thus the temptation to abuse welfare money is a problem.  There was even a former branch president who promised an investigator money IF she joined the church.  As I said...he was a "former" branch president.

Anyway, the new district presidency called mostly new auxiliary presidencies.  Thus, they wanted them all to be trained, plus the "old" auxiliaries re-trained.   As a result, we spent almost 2 weeks in Yaounde.

Our training began with training the branch presidents in budgeting.  After we trained them in how, why and where their money comes from, Pres. Nana trained them in how to manage welfare issues.  It was extremely informative and we hope will be successful in eliminating so many financial abuses.

I don't always remember to take pictures at the training meetings, but there are two pictures I would like to share.  As you look at the pictures, try to determine the ages of the leaders.

This is a picture of the district Young Men's presidency.  The four young men in the front row make up the presidency.

This next picture is of the district Young Women's presidency.

I know it is difficult to tell the age of Africans, but the average age of both presidencies is somewhere in the 20ties.  The future of Cameroon is in these wonderful young people.  The challenge is getting them married and raising righteous families.

Speaking of marriages, we were actually privileged to share in a marriage celebration while we were in Yaounde.  On Wednesday, one of our former French teachers, Wesley, called and said she was getting married.  What a tender mercy it was for us to be in Yaounde for the marriage.  While living in Douala, Wesley had gotten engaged to this righteous young man from Yaounde, but her in-active mother was not happy.  She said she needed to finish her schooling and also that she was too young.  The young man, Oscar, would visit and bring gifts, but the mother was firm about her feelings against him.  When Wesley and Oscar went to the uncle to get the list for the bride price, they were handed 4 pages of items to buy.  With the discouragement of the list, and the constant contention at home, Wesley decided to move to Yaounde where she could finish her schooling and be close to Oscar.  Well, they decided being married was cheaper than living separately, so they got married.

Waiting for the arrival of the Mayor.  They were married in a home of one of the branch presidents
It's official, they are legally to get to the temple. 
Congratulating the happy couple 
Elder Call and I were probably the closet family Wesley had at the wedding.  I felt sorry that Wesley's Mom had made it so difficult for her that she was not able to participate in the marriage ceremony of her own daughter.  

Sunday we were asked to give a Young Single Adult Fireside.  Our French, or lack of, makes it difficult to give much of a lecture, so we have to rely heavily on the principles taught in the new "Teaching In The Savior's Way" manual...which is probably a good thing. 

We choose for our theme "Your Future Is As Bright As Your Faith".  We drew a picture of the Plan of Salvation on the white board and gave them a copy also to fill in the blanks, using their scriptures if needed.  

        Filling out the Plan of Salvation in groups of 3 or 4.  

                           Using their sheets to fill in the blanks on the white board.

Elder Call then led them in a discussion using Alma 13:3 which talks about having "exceeding faith and good works" in the pre-mortal life. He related how the same is required in this life in order to reach exaltation.  In other words, their future is as bright as their faith (and good works).  They did it once pre-mortally, they can do it again.

Following the discussion there was a question and answer period which went well.

For an activity, we divided them into 5 teams and played Scripture Charades using stories from the Book of Mormon.

There were some pretty good actors.

Proof of their acting ability, can you name this story in the Book of Mormon?

I would like to end the blog with one last picture of a baptism and a inspirational Cameroonian story.  The young lady kneeling in the front was baptized about 3 years ago; her name is Marianne.  When she was taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ, she believed it with all her heart and wanted to be baptized.  At the time she was living with a man and together they had one child.  Her "boyfriend" told her that if she joined the church, he would take the child and she would never see him/her again.  (I do not know the gender of the child)  She went ahead and was baptized anyway.  Since that time she has been a faithful member and comes to church every week.  She has tried to visit her child, but to no avail...her boyfriend has kept his word.  To support herself in the future, she enrolled and graduated from a local school.  However, her dream now is to serve a mission.  When she told me her dream of serving a mission she had one concern.  She said, "Sister Call, does the church need Sister missionaries?"  My eyes filled with tears as I looked at a this faithful sister and assured her, "Yes, the church indeed needs Sister missionaries"!!  

My testimony is that the world needs missionaries.  There is so much work to be done and so many who would join, if they had the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Recently, some of our children asked if we were going to serve another mission.  Though it depends on many things, including good health, our answer has been, "Probably"....because the church also needs senior missionary couples. :)

Friday, June 2, 2017

May 2017 in Cameroon

Dear Family and Friends,

Whoa, that was fast.  I knew the time for writing another blog would come quickly, but I didn't think it would come this fast.  Thoughts of procrastination have occurred to me, but then the shaving/repentance quote keeps popping into my alas, here I am again.

The month of May began with transfers and it is certainly a time of mixed emotions.  We are happy to welcome new missionaries to Cameroon, but soooo sad to "lose" ones we have grown to love.

Left to right: Elder Gilbert, Elder Best, Us, Elder Izere, Elder Tshibanda.

The hard thing about this transfer is that these Elders went to Brazzaville, so the chances of ever seeing them again (in this life) are slim to none.

May is also the month of Mother's Day and I still remember the excitement I had as a mother with missionaries in the field anticipating their call.   With that thought in mind, Elder Call and I made careful preparations so the Elders in both Yaounde and Douala could Skype or call home.  Thus, we headed up to Yaounde the first week in May so those missionaries could call/Skype home the week before Mother's Day.  While we were in Yaounde we did many other things including arranging training meetings for the Yaounde District.  Elder Call and I are generally pretty equal in the training, but that particular time the district leaders wanted training for the Primary and Relief Society organizations.  However, I did ask Elder Call to take some time in the Relief Society training to explain the priesthood's role in Relief Society.

I try and do as much training as I can in French, but I still require a translator.  After the Relief Society training, the translator (Reuben) said to us, "I have someone I would like you to meet".  We went outside and he introduced us to his beautiful fiancee, Valvena.  We, of course, brought them to our apartment to learn more of their wedding plans.  As with most Young Single Adults here in Africa, there always seems to be an obstacle in the way to getting married, and it generally has to do with money.  Valvena's parents are members of the church, so they are not requiring much for the bride price, however, though Reuben has a job and works hard, he has not been paid for some time.  They want to get married, but are worried about setting a specific date.  We challenged them to "set a date" and then have faith that the Lord will help them "accomplish the thing that he has commanded them to do".  :)  They said they would take the challenge.

As a "special interest" story, I need to add this next picture.
Driving in Cameroon is quite "interesting".  I believe if traffic rules exist, they exist only to be broken.  As a result of the lack of traffic rules, there is often a gridlock that occurs, particularly at intersections.  We were at one of these gridlocks when Elder Call said, "Will you take the wheel, I would like to get out and take care of this mess".  So I took over the driver's seat while Elder Call got out to direct traffic.  After our truck was able to get through the intersection, I drove up to where I could pull over and wait for Elder Call to join me.  Well, I waited, and waited and waited.  After waiting for what I felt was an awfully long time, I decided to get out of the truck and find out what had happened to Elder Call.  As I approached the intersection I realized Elder Call had missed his calling in life...he makes a mighty fine traffic cop!

We returned to Douala for Mother's Day and to participate in the reorganization of two of the 5 branches in Douala.  When the Douala District was created, three branch presidents were called into the district presidency and only one was replaced.  Since the district was created in December, two of the branch presidents have continued to serve as branch presidents as well as being in the district presidency.  We are excited for the new changes and hope to see some renewed focus on district programs especially a much needed Young Single Adult program.

To emphasize the importance for a program to get YSA meeting and marrying, here is a picture of the newly called leadership in the New Bell Branch.

From left to right: the Elders Quorum president, the Relief Society president, the RS 1st counselor, the branch president, and the 1st counselor in the branch presidency. They are ALL Young Single Adults. Fortunately, the branch president got married the week after he was sustained as branch president.

After church, we had the Elders in Douala over to Skype for Mother's Day.  I also fixed them dinner and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of food they are able to consume.  The quantity of food eaten led to this picture.
After dinner there was a discussion on who had gained weight on their mission and who had lost weight.  Traditionally, white Elders lose weight and black Elders gain weight.  However, Elder Call went contrary to the "normal" tradition, thus his "reward" was to hold the scales.  

This was only 6 of the 10 missionaries that came for Mother's Day to Skype and have dinner.  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the other 4.

It is always exciting when we notice positive results from the training we do.  I had done some training with the Young Women leaders about doing activities during the week.  They did a few at the church but then asked if they could come to our apartment to learn how to make a cake.  After checking with the branch president to get approval, and letting the YW leaders know they needed to buy the cake making supplies from their YW budget, we had a successful YW cake baking activity at our apartment.

Stirring the batter

Waiting for the cakes to cook

I felt there was another success to our training meetings that took place in May.  Primary leaders have never really seen what a Primary is supposed to look like.  Thus, they copy what they see in the schools, which are heavy into discipline, mostly lecture based, and lack tolerance for any form of "misbehavior".  Sharing Time in Primary is generally a lecture and singing time is short with no activities.  When I visit a Primary, I try to teach by word and example.   Often I worry that my teaching is futile. However, this past month I revisited a Primary which was initially one of the worst in the district.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the leaders implementing many of the things I had been trying to teach them.   I took a video of them doing actions to the song "I Love To See The Temple".  Enjoy!

You may recall that last month I reported on two weddings.  One of the marriages took place so the sister could be baptized.  Well, the baptism took place a couple of weeks after the marriage.  It was hard to tell from the smile on the husband's face which event was more exciting for him; the marriage or the baptism.
Three others were also baptized that day.  The woman who was married a couple of weeks earlier is in the middle with the striped shirt.  Her husband's arm is resting on her shoulder.

I mentioned beforehand that the branch president of the New Bell Branch got married the week after he was sustained.  We had the privilege of being involved in that event. First, we attended the bride's baptism, Anita, a year ago.  I took a special interest in her for a couple of reasons; she was young and had no family support.  After her baptism, she attended the New Bell Branch where she met and fell in love with Barthelemy Nyom, a handsome returned missionary.

One day towards the end of March, they came to our apartment to announce their intentions to get married but faced many challenges, the biggest being the lack of money.  We told them we would help, but they also needed to do all they could.  We actually set a date that very day for the marriage to take place on May 27, 2017.  The first obstacle was to visit the village home of Anita to announce her intention of getting married, but to also declare there would be no bride price.  That hurdle went well; the family agreed to require no bride price.  We then worked with the "old" New Bell Branch president and his wife, to get everything else arranged and planned. Barthelemy and Anita honored us by asking us to be a witness couple.  However, at the last minute Barthelemy had his brother be a witness in place of Elder Call. I still signed as a witness to the wedding.

At the courthouse on Monday morning to sign the legal documents.

Friday morning, May 27, 2017 at the courthouse where the Mayor preformed the marriage ceremony.

Two other couples were getting married the same day and the court house was "standing room only".  However, since I was a witness, we got front row seats.

Even though they were officially married, they wanted to be married again using the church's ceremony.  Thus, late Friday afternoon at the new and "almost completed" New Bell Branch building, Pres. Mbengue married them.  Afterwards he asked us to bear our testimonies about marriage.  We were given no prior notification but were grateful to take a few minutes to express our thoughts about the joys of marriage. :)

After the ceremony there was dancing and celebrating, including a dinner.  The missionaries sang, "Love At Home".

I made the cakes, Elder Call and I provided the drinks, paper products, and the money for the inexpensive African meal...which Sister Mbengue spent all afternoon cooking.  It was one of the best arrangements I have made or may ever make regarding a wedding ceremony.

                                             The newly married couple

There is nothing like a wedding date to move progress forward.  When the wedding date was decided, we all agreed the church ceremony should take place at the uncompleted New Bell building.  Days before the wedding there still remained things to be done.  However, not to be deterred, we met two days before the marriage to clean the inside and outside of the building.  The outside job was overwhelming and we barely scratched the service.  The next morning I had a great idea!  I said, "Let's call the missionaries who live close by and see if they will do a service project to help clean up the building.  The missionaries agreed.  So while I made cakes in an air conditioned kitchen,  Elder Call and the junior missionaries spent a hot, humid morning cleaning up the outside of the building. Elder Call took some before and after pictures.



It is hard to tell the extent of the missionaries work because the "before picture" does not show the weeds and trash that were on the ground in front of the wall.  Over twenty garbage bags of trash and weeds were hauled away that day.

The district president decided if we could hold a wedding in an uncompleted building, we could hold a church meeting.  Thus, Elder Call and I decided we best return to the building on Saturday to clean up from the wedding and prepare for church the next day.

Elder Call in front of the New Bell building showing off the lawn he had weeded and the hedges he had pruned two days before.

In April's blog I was hoping to show a completed New Bell building.  For the month of May, there still was not a totally completed building.  However, it is complete enough that members in the area are now attending.  I know it will be a blessing to them and to the growth of missionary work in the area.  The amazing thing is that without the wedding deadline, who knows when the building would have been occupied.  God truly works in mysterious ways. This IS His church and completed buildings or not, His work will roll forth.  We feel privileged to be a part of that work here in Cameroon.