Wednesday, September 7, 2016

August 2016 in Cameroon

Dear Family and Friends,

Amazingly enough, another month in Africa has come to a close.  The month of August was filled with a great deal of sorrow, followed by joy.  I will explain.

One of the greatest prophets to live on this earth was the prophet Abraham.  He lived such an exemplary life that the Lord promised him great blessings.  That is important to us because through our righteousness we can inherit those same blessings and be called the children of Abraham.  Probably the most remarkable example he gave to us was his total submission to God's will, even when it was very very difficult.  That submission was most exemplified in his willingness to sacrifice his favored and beloved son, Isaac.  However, we read that at the last moment, an angel came and saved Abraham from sacrificing his son and the Lord provided a ram in Isaac's place.  Because God is no respecter of persons and wants us to be tried and tested as Abraham, he provides us with similar experiences, only the degree of intensity is not as great. We call these experiences "Abrahamic Tests".  In other words, not wanting to do something, but willing to submit to God's will and then "rescued" at the last moment. :)

Well....August provided us with one of those Abrahamic tests.  As the months have flown by, we have been training and loving the people in Cameroon, particularly Douala.  things are going well and the mission president asked for our recommendation in making Douala a district.  We gave a positive response and thus the process is going forth.  We have felt one of our purposes in coming to Cameroon was to help and train this soon to be created district.

In the mean time, the time for the area office couple (the Bill's) to leave their mission has been rapidly coming to an end.  Pres. Monga did all he could to try and replace them and keep us in Cameroon.  However, as the days approached for their departure, it became evident that the only solution was to pull us from Cameroon to the mission office in the Republic of Congo in the city of Brazzaville.  I particularly, have been imploring the Lord to find someone as a replacement so we could stay in Cameroon.  But no replacement came.  As a result, the end of August and the first of September, we went to Brazzaville to receive training as the area office couple.

Before we left, we said some tearful "Goodbye's" to some pretty sad people.  One branch president even called Pres. Monga and begged him not to take us.  But there was no other option.  The night before we left, Elder Call and I had a long and serious conversation about submitting willingly and not begrudgingly to the Lord's will.  I decided I not only needed to go to Brazzaville, but my attitude must be positive.

We arrived in Brazzaville and had a lovely time with Elder and Sister Bills and the others we met.  We both came to the resolve, if we were to spend the rest of our mission in Brazzaville, so be it!

After spending a few days of training, we returned to Cameroon for Zone Conferences with the Monga's and Jubber's.  (Elder Jubber is the Area doctor and lives in Johannesburg.)  While sitting at the dinning room table with Pres. Monga, he began looking at his computer and said, "This is interesting, we have some missionaries coming to our mission".  Elder Call looked over and said, "It is a senior missionary couple!"  By this time, I had also come over to have a look...and sure enough.  A couple is coming whose speciality is as an office couple.  I literally jumped up and shouted for joy!  So now, we will be going to Brazzaville only for 3 months until the Sorenson's from Pleasant Grove, Utah arrive to "rescue" us. :)  We will return to Cameroon in December to do what we felt we came to do.  When we informed our disappointed Cameroonian friends of the news, their previously sad faces turned to smiles.

Now for the quick synopsis of the other events in August.  First, our French teacher, Purita, received her mission call.  Since many here have no way of receiving mail, the call was delivered to us and then we had the opportunity of taking it to Purita and her family.  She was called to one of the missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and she is excited to go.

Opening the Call

                                                          Reading the Call
Mixed emotions of excitement and sadness to temporarily "lose" a daughter and sister.

Purita is certainly prepared in every way to serve a mission.  She has done the spiritual preparation on her own, but since she needed a little help with the physical preparation, Sis. Mbengue and I took her shopping.  Sister Mbengue provided the "shopping know-how" and I provided the financial assistance.

On our way to the market to get Purita ready for her mission

It was my first time driving in down town Douala, and I was hoping it would be my last; but that wish has not been granted.  I have had to drive down town again.

After the shopping, I brought the clothes home, washed and ironed them, hung them on hangers, and put them in a closet.  (We did our shopping at the open market and things are not clean.)  Anyway, when I showed Purita the closest of clothes, all she could say was, "Wow, I am so blessed!"  I explained that the apartments on her mission will have a closest (something she does not have) and washers and dryers.  She again said, "WOW!"  I said, "Yes, you will be treated like a queen."  Her reply was, "I am already a queen".  The significance of that statement is amazing when one understands what she has been through.  Before joining the church, Purita was abused physically and sexually and suffered much depredation.  However, she now knows, and more importantly understands her identity as a daughter of God.  Oh the blessings the Gospel brings!!!!  To also understand the goodness of this sweet girl, she said to us, "I can never repay you and Elder Call for what you have done to help me...but I can show my gratitude by being the very best missionary I can be."  I know she will keep her promise. :)

As with most months, August was spent with the junior missionaries.

We attended their district meeting and afterwards celebrated birthdays of two Elders turning 19 years old this month...

had them over for dinner/Family Home Evening and since the lesson was on the Book of Mormon, played scripture charades for the activity using only stories from the Book of Mormon...

visited in the home of a member (Elder Call and I provided the FHE lesson)...

and attended church meetings to meet and encourage their investigators. 
The name of the investigator pictured here is Dimitri.  He met Elder Call his first day in church.  After Elder Call told him he would attend his baptism, Dimitri announced that he wanted Elder Call to baptize him.  However, with the move to Brazzaville, Dimitri's  baptism will have to be performed by someone else.

Normally we would have also attended the baptisms, but we were traveling in August when they held them, so we were not in attendance. Working closely with the junior missionaries has been one of the sweet blessings of our mission in Cameroon.

The month of August was also spent with a trip to Yaounde to do training in the district there.  In addition, we handle the missionary's needs/concerns which also included transfers.   There were a lot of transfers in August in Yaounde, so we decided to invite the missionaries over for dinner and have a "Goodbye Celebration Party".  After dinner we gave them their transfer letters.  

Prepared to receive the missionaries.  I planned on 1/2 loaf of bread/missionary...all the bread was consumed.

A picture of 7 of the 14 missionaries holding their transfer letters.  Elder Call does a great job with transfers including the handling of the needed transportation for all the transferred missionaries.

As mentioned before, we also came to Yaounde to do training.  One of the training meetings was on how to organize a Young Single Adult program in their district.  The members of the district presidency were in attendance and also a good amount of Young Single Adults.  The training went well and we hope activities will begin occurring soon.  In the training we are clear to mention the purposes of the YSA program including the purpose to meet, marry, and raise a righteous family.  There are way too many unmarried YSA in Cameroon.  

A picture taken after the training meeting.  If you notice, there are more boys than girls. That is typical of Africa.  However, there were a few more girls at the training, they just left right after the meeting and before the picture was taken. The girls here in Africa need some lessons on flirting...

We also did a district training on budgeting.  It seemed to go well, but we never know if the people really implement what we train.  The next day, we trained a branch council (who had missed the training on Saturday), on how to budget.  After that, we saw another branch president and he invited us to his office.  We climbed the stairs to his office and as we entered we noticed on his chalkboard a budget and monies allotted to the various auxiliaries...just as we had trained the day before.  Elder Call and I were so excited to see it,  I had to take a picture. The branch president told us that before our training, they had never had a budget.

That may seem like enough things for one month, but just a quick mention of one...or two...more. 

When we returned from Yaounde, we began helping the New Bell Branch get a building to hold their church services.  Currently, they meet in a building outside their branch boundaries and it is difficult for their members to attend.  Cameroon has traditional been a bit neglected when it comes to physical facilities.  When Elder Ellis was visiting we took him to a building we were looking to rent.  The Physical Facilities Dept. acted so slowly, we "lost" the building.  After that happened, my "fight for my children" characteristic kicked in, and I decided to write an e-mail to Elder Ellis in the presidency of the Africa Southeast Area; thanking him for his visit, but also explaining our plight here in Cameroon.  Well.....that did it.  Things have now started to happen.  Another building was located and movement is going much faster and a contract has been given.  It is not as nice as the first building, but will be very adequate when it is fixed up a bit.  

The hopeful site for the New Bell Branch.

One of the other areas we have been doing training is in the YM/YW activities, so when we see results of that training, we get particularly excited.  In August, the New Bell Branch started planning activities for their Young Women.  Their first activity was having Sis. Call help them make cupcakes at our apartment.  It went well and the girls had a great time.   To give you a "flavor" of the African way, the manner I found out about the activity was typical of Africans.  The Young Women's counselor told me they were doing an activity.  I said, "Great, what are you doing".  She said, "We are making a cake".  I replied, "Good, can I come".  She then replied, "Yes, it is at your house".  The conversation all took place in French, so I was glad I knew enough French to learn I had just been put in charge of the YW activity. :)  
Making the cupcakes, all done from "scratch" and by hand, electric mixers.

                                                Frosting the cupcakes.

There is more...(including Suzy fixing a baptismal date for Dec. 24th when we return from Brazzaville) but I am getting tired of writing and I know you are getting tired of reading.  However, I am certain that our "adventures" in Brazzaville will not nearly be as exciting...and thus not as long...which is one reason we did not want to leave Cameroon. :) My thought is that we can focus our efforts in the Congo on learning French, which would be a great asset when we return.  

To end with, I again want to bear my witness of the joy we feel for the privilege of serving the Lord in Africa.  We were told by the doctor from South Africa, who visited in August, that only about 6-7% of senior couples have good enough health to serve a mission in Africa.  Elder Call and I are among the blessed few!