Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cameroon - May 2016

What a month we have had!  There is so much that happens every week, it will be hard to condense it for our monthly blog, but here goes. :)

The month of May started with the Elders coming over to our apartment to Skype home for Mother's Day.  More than anything for me, it brought sweet memories of waiting at home for the much anticipated call from our own missionary children.  The American Elder's were excited to visit with family.  The African Elder's, however, were not able to Skype because none of their parents had Skype capability, but they did call home.

May included a trip to the city of Yaounde, which is the other city in Cameroon where we have missionaries.  We went with the other senior missionary couple, Elder and Sister Dimond, who have now gone home.  Besides visiting the junior missionaries in Yaounde, learning how to pay all the bills, speaking in church, etc., we did a little "site seeing".  Yaounde is the city where Cameroon was dedicated for the work of the Lord.  Elder Holland came to Cameroon about 2009.  He went to the top of a hill over looking the city and gave a powerful prayer for the preaching of the Gospel.  In the prayer he pronounced some  prophecies about the church in Cameroon including the construction of temples.  Some day those prophecies WILL be fulfilled.

Overlooking the city of Yaounde.  Elder Call is reading the prayer given by Elder Holland

Standing on the rock where Elder Holland dedicated the land of Cameroon

We were obviously in our P-Day clothes, because prior to visiting the spot of dedication, we hiked through an exercise park in Yaounde. There were various exercise stations at the park.  However, we did not participate in any of the exercise stations....except one. 

There was a basketball court with a young man playing basketball.  Elder Call watched him for some moments and then could not stand it any longer...he walked over and showed the young man how to make a three-point shot. 

As previously mentioned, we were able to attend church in Yaounde and the Saints there are just as great as everywhere else in Africa.  We attended a French speaking branch and an English speaking branch.  After Sacrament in the English speaking branch, I went to Relief Society.  During the lesson, I encouraged the sisters to share their feelings about why they joined the church.  It was great to hear  their experiences. :)  Unbeknownst to me at the time, there was a non-member who also shared her positive feelings about the church.  I felt such a unity and love for the sisters, that after class I asked if I could take their picture. 

The Relief Society sisters in the English speaking branch in Yaounde.  I am standing next to the investigator who "bore her  testimony" about the peace she felt going to our church

During the month of May, we decided to get to know the Elders better.  We have begun visiting their district meetings to learn of their needs, and also invited each apartment over separately for Family Home Evening.  We fed them dinner, played some games, watched a church video and just generally had a good time.  We have the greatest Elders in the church here in Cameroon!

The Elders from the Douala apartment "haming it up" after playing scripture charades for Family Home Evening

Elder Call visiting with the junior Elders in their apartment

The junior missionaries here in Douala have not had a senior missionary couple for some months, which may have contributed to the lack of cleanliness of their apartments.  Since we have learned that "sugar" works better than "vinegar", we told the Elders if they would clean up their apartments and keep them clean, we would celebrate by taking them for pizza and ice cream.  I suppose it was enough motivation, for they really stepped up their cleaning efforts.  Each apartment "won" a trip to the pizza and ice cream store.

The Bonaberi Elders
The Douala Elders.  Elder Cicon is frowning because he just learned he was being transferred.
Since we felt our French was in need of help, in May we decided to hire a French teacher.  Our teacher is a 20 year girl who is a member of one of the branches in Douala.  She was a great help to translate for me the first time we visited the branch and I felt impressed to ask her to help us with our French.  After visiting with Elder Call, we both decided to ask her to be our French teacher. She comes over one day a week to not only help with French, but anything else we may need, like shopping.

Purita, our French instructor

Purita's life, as with many who live in Africa, is not an easy one, but she remains positive and happy.  She is also preparing to serve a mission, so she often goes out with the missionaries.  One of her "jobs" in the church is to wash the baptismal clothes after each baptism, which is not an easy task.  Baptisms occur often and her washing facilities are primitive. 

At the big marche with Purita where she helped us find mosquito nets for the Elders

Missionary work here in Cameroon also went well in May.  The missionaries had several baptisms after going for a few weeks without any.  We feel the unity and love that has grown among the Elders has truly helped with the "work".  

Some of the baptisms in the month of May
I told the Elders when one companionship has success, they all succeed.  So at each baptism, I take a picture of those getting baptized and ALL the junior missionaries.  I then print the picture and tack it on the missionary's wall.  Soon, their wall will be covered with the success they have had working as a team.

The junior missionaries are not the only ones to have success in missionary work.  Elder Call and I have also had a chance this month to share a Book of Mormon and will be bringing an investigator to church in June.  There is a wonderful African shop that we have visited a couple of times.  There was an immediate bonding with the owner, Suzy, even though she speaks little English and we speak little French.  She made me a purse and when I went back to get it, I also saw an African picture I liked.  When I asked the cost, she said it was not for sale, but she would make me another one.  We went back at the appointed time to get the picture and she informed us that she had not had time to make us a picture, but she would sale the one she had.  I hugged her and thanked her.  I then asked if she had read any in the Book of Mormon we had given her previously.  She told us she had and then she pointed to my missionary badge and said, "I want to go to your church".  

Suzy, the shop owner.  The purse I am carrying is the one she made for me.

Since we do not always go to the same branch each week, we decided on the week we could take her to church. When we went back to remind her about going to church with us, she asked if her girls could come too.  :)  She has been married, but is now divorced with 2 girls.  After assuring her that her girls were welcome, I invited them over for dinner after church, AND also asked if we could bring the missionaries by to meet her.  She happily said, "Yes" to both offers.  The other wonderful thing is the last time we visited her shop, her cousin was there.  He seems like a fine man and has a wife and children.  Elder Call invited him to also come to church and dinner.  We may have a houseful for dinner next Sunday, and will be excited if we do.  

The picture Suzy made that now hangs on our apartment wall
I have one last experience to share that happened in May.  When we came to Cameroon, we wondered if the Young Single Adults shared the same problem with "bride price" as they did in West Africa.  It did not take long to find out that they do.  After Elder Call did a training on Welfare Principles at one of the branches, we met a fine young man who is the branch mission leader and a returned missionary, but not married.  Elder Call pursued the reason for his unmarried status and he mentioned he had a girl friend, but they could not get married because of the bride price.  We then shared with him the wonderful examples of faith and courage among our Ghanaian "children" who followed the council of the brethren and got married without paying the bride price.  The young man, Leonard, said he would talk to his girl friend.  A few days later, he called us and said he indeed had spoken with her and she agreed there should be no bride price.  When we visited  that branch again, I spoke with Leonard and asked him about his marriage status.  He told me his girl friend had agreed that the most important thing was to get married and she was going to go against the wishes of her family and they were planning on getting married in July!  

A picture of Leonard (on the left) and a couple I met at church.
I don't remember the name of the sister, but I told her I liked her dress and wanted a picture  because I wanted one.  The dresses here are called a "kaba".  They are gathered at the bodice and are flowing and  comfortable.  I bought one when we were with Purita at the marche, but it is too big. :(  The man next to the woman with the beautiful dress is her husband.  I have no idea who the other fellow on the right is...when you go to take a picture here, everyone wants to be in it. 

I think I will end with May's adventures though I have not even mentioned Zone Conference and transfers.  OK, I have to say one thing about transfers.  We had two Elders from the States coming to Douala who had been at the MTC in Ghana.  There was a mix-up, so when we went to pick them up, they were no where to be found!  Needless to say, our mission president didn't get much sleep that night.  However, I am happy to report they were another city.  We did finally get them, fed them, gave them their sheets and mosquito nets etc, took them to their new companions and they seem to be doing fine.

I will end with my testimony about missionary work.  Twice this month, we had a visit from our mission president, President Monga.  He is a wonderful and inspiring man and it was good to spend time talking with him.   While having a meal at our apartment he did tell us that missions were supposed to be a sacrifice.  Though I believe him, I do not feel we are sacrificing much.  I liked Elder Call's response to Pres. Monga about a missionary being willing to sacrifice.  He said, "It may be a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that brings much joy".