July is also a month of many celebrations in America, with the birth of the nation and the celebration of the pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley. Though we didn't do much of those celebrations, we did have our celebrations.
However, I did have to do Something for the 4th of July. Therefore, I made Rice Krispie Treats, printed off small American flags, glued the flags to toothpicks and delivered them to our missionaries.
Elder Call and I sang a tearful "Star Spangled Banner" at our apartment. (There is no place like the U.S. of A.) Then, when we delivered the treat, one of the missionaries started singing it again. There are some great voices among the missionaries, so it was a more rousing version than ours.
Our first celebration in July was a baptism in Bonaberi. The baptism was a string of baptisms every Saturday for several weeks. Baptisms are truly a reason for celebration.
The next event in July was the hope for a future celebration. One of the branches here are trying to find a new building to meet in. Currently, they meet with another branch that is located outside of their branch boundaries. The distance to church makes it difficult for the members to attend church, thus attendance has dropped. The branch president, Pres. Mbengue, called us in July and said they had found a building and wanted us to go see it.
Pres. and Sister Mbengue at his optical shop
We met the Mbengue's at his office and drove to the building. It was a beautiful building and would be a perfect meeting house for their branch and for a possible District Center, which we are hoping for sometime in the future.
Papers have been filled out and phone calls made in the hopes of being able to rent the building. It is nicer than most buildings here, which is good and bad. It would be a great place to meet, but is more expensive than other places. The owner is also asking for a three year advance payment in rent. Prayers are being said that somehow it will be approved and the New Bell Branch will have a lovely and closer place in which to worship.
The biggest celebration for the month of July was to welcome a General Authority to Cameroon. Elder and Sister Ellis from Johannesburg, South Africa came to visit the mission. Elder Ellis is the first counselor in the Africa South-east Area Presidency and also a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. It was the first time he had visited Cameroon. Meetings with the missionaries and with the district members in Yaounde were scheduled. Elder Call and I made arrangements for their stay, and prepared both apartments in Douala and Yaounde for Zone Conferences with the missionaries. I particularly wanted both apartments looking good to welcome a General Authority; thus, cleaning and painting took place in both places.
The apartment in Douala, waiting for Zone Conference with Elder/Sister Ellis and Pres./Sister Monga
After Zone Conference, Elder Call and I served everyone lunch. I tried to prepare most of the food the day before so I wouldn't have to be in the kitchen the whole time and could also listen to the training. While my duties required me to be a "Martha", I also wanted to be a "Mary". The training was inspiring and insightful. One thing Elder Ellis said was most interesting to Elder Call and I. He quoted D&C 58:10 and told the missionaries while we were trying to establish the church here in Douala, they needed to seek out those who are mentioned in that scripture, i.e. those who are self reliant and can be leaders in the church.
Eating lunch after Zone Conference meetings
Elder and Sister Ellis with the missionaries in Douala, Cameroon.
After lunch, the Ellis' and Monga's took a plane to Yaounde and Elder Call and I drove to Yaounde in our truck. We got there about the same time though it is a 45 minute plane ride and a four hour car ride.
Since we were unable to prepare a meal in Yaounde, after Zone Conference we arranged to go to a restaurant for lunch.
The Ellis' and Monga's with the missionaries in Yaounde at "The La Salsa" restaurant
The next day, Sunday, was District Conference. The church rented a government building, but it was not large enough and members had to stand out in the hall. It was a wonderful meeting with many inspired talks and Elder Call and I are even beginning to understand the French ones. Fortunate for us, Elder Ellis does not speak French, so his talks were in English.
There was a Primary chorus in which the children sang one of my favorite Primary songs, "I'm trying to be like Jesus". It is a song which always brings tears to my eyes, even when it is sung in French.
After District Conference, we spent a few more days in Yaounde paying bills and just generally seeing to the needs of the missionaries. One of the greatest blessings of this mission is to interact with the missionaries....they are incredible...each one of them!
We returned home to Douala to end the month with one more celebration; a wedding...and what a celebration it was. This was a couple in which Elder Call had met the young man at the beginning of our mission. In visiting with the young man, Leonard, Elder Call learned that he had a girl he wanted to marry but did not have money for the "bride price". Elder Call explained the church's position on the "bride price" and we both told him stories of young people we knew in Ghana who had courageously Not paid the bride price. Leonard discussed it with his girlfriend, Chancella, she agreed that there should be no bride price. Thus, she talked with her parents (her mother was more accepting than her father) but they went ahead and set a date and got married Saturday, July 30, 2016. They gave us the honor of being their chauffeur for the day, since we actually have a car. Many "wedding" cars are decorated, so we decided our truck needed a bit of decorating.
Our decorated truck or as they would say in French, notre camionette.
The dress was given to me by a sister in one of the branches. She is a seamstress and never even took my measurements or told me she was making me a dress. One day at church, she just gave me a sack and inside the sack was this dress. The people here are amazing in their love and kindness. The dress was perfect for the wedding since her colors were blue, white, and gold.
The bride coming out of the home where she prepared herself for her marriage. She was escorted by a young man from the branch and her flower girl.
Leonard and Chancella waiting at the court house to be married.
After the civil ceremony, we took them to the home where Chancella got ready. Some food had been prepared but both Elder Call and I had "troubles" with our phones, so we didn't stay to eat, but went to the nearby MTN store to get our phones working again. However, we returned to the home in time to escort them in our "fancy" truck to the meeting house for a program and celebration with dancing and food. It was a great day!
So, though we missed the July celebrations in the States, you can see we had many celebrations of our own here in Cameroon. We thank the Lord daily for the "celebration" it is to be on a mission in Cameroon where the church is just beginning to grow. I didn't report on the many training meetings Elder Call and I had this month. (I don't take pictures of the training meetings) The people here are anxious and receptive to learn how the church is supposed to function and we both feel humbled and honored to help. The church is true. I will share a training meeting we did on Family Home Evening. We did a "mock" Family Home Evening and at the end of the "pretend" lesson I bore my witness about prayer. Though it was a "pretend" meeting, my testimony was not pretend and as I bore it in my not-so-refined French, my emotions could not be contained. God lives, this is His Church, I know that! :)