Friday, October 7, 2016

Cameroon/Republic of Congo-September 2016

Sorry the blog has been a bit late this month, we've had some internet problems in our new apartment.

Yes, we have a new apartment.  As the title of the blog suggests, we spent the month of September in Cameroon AND the Republic of  Congo.  We have had senior missionaries leave the Brazzaville Mission in the last several months, but none have replaced them.  Thus, there was not a senior couple to fill the position in the Mission office.  The mission president, Pres. Monga, tried all he could to leave us where we were, but finally had no choice but to pull us from Cameroon to be in the office.  The plan was to have us stay in Brazzaville, but return to Cameroon every 6 weeks or so, to take care of the responsibilities there.  I had been imploring the Lord to some how find someone to replace the office couple so we would not have to leave Cameroon.  We both felt strongly that we were supposed to be in Cameroon and had unsettled feelings about leaving.  However, it appeared that my pleading was of no avail for no additional couple came, and at the end of August and the lst week in September, we took a flight to Brazzaville to receive the necessary training as the mission office couple.

We found the city of Brazzaville to be quite nice.  In the Republic of Congo, traffic laws are obeyed more strictly, there are much fewer motorcycles, and no hawkers walking in the streets.  However, though I enjoyed the positives aspects of the city, my heart was still in Cameroon, but I did my best to accept the will of God and enjoy our new assignment.  We did have a delightful time with the other senior missionary couple, the Bills, who are from the Rexburg, Idaho area.  Being Rexburg what it is, we of course had close mutual friends.  In fact, Elder Bills is the brother of my dear friend, Kathleen Gordon, who was my counselor in the Relief Society Presidency in Rexburg.

The Mission doctor (Elder Jubber) and his wife were also touring the area, so Pres. Monga took us all out to dinner.  From left to right, us, Elder & Sister Bills, Pres. & Sister Monga, and Elder & Sister Jubber.

After a few days of training, we flew back to Cameroon with the Monga's and Jubber's to have Zone Conferences in Cameroon.  After the meetings Pres. Monga was looking at his computer at the dinning room table.  He made the comment, "This is interesting; there is a senior couple coming to our mission".  That statement caught Elder Call's attention and he went over to the table to have a peek. As he looked at the computer he said, "Yes, there is a couple coming and they are specifically being called as the "office couple".  Well, that definitely got my attention and I went over to see.  As I looked at the computer and read the name of the couple and their assignment, I literally jumped up and let out a shout for joy.  My pleading had not gone unheeded after all! God in His tender mercy had found a couple to work in the office so we could return to Cameroon!  My once troubled heart, suddenly became light and filled with joy.  I know God hears and answers prayers, I just was not sure that my will was the same as His will.   Apparently it is; with a small detour to Brazzaville (for reasons only God knows) we will return to Cameroon in December when the new couple arrives.

Since we had been out of town and I had been unable to prepare food for the Douala Zone Conference, we went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant after the meetings.

                                                   Eating a delicious Chinese lunch with the Elders, Monga's and Jubber's.

Pictures after lunch.  How I miss the close association with those fine young men.  We truly grew to love each one of them.

After Zone Conference on Saturday, the Monga's and Jubber's flew up to Yaounde for Zone Conference there.  We stayed in Douala and drove up after church on Sunday because we had scheduled to do a Family Home Evening training in one of the branches.  As with many things, the African saints are willing and desiring to do the church programs, they just don't know how.  So for our training we do a mock FHE using the youth in the branch as our children.  It's a little too ideal for a typical FHE, but the members are able to understand how a FHE is structured and what is supposed to take place.  We emphasize how FHE is for Gospel learning AND to have fun together as a family.  For an activity we play hide and seek with a small picture of the temple.  The whole branch gets involved as we call out "froid" (cold) or "chaud" (hot) as the child gets further away or closer to the hidden picture.

Family Home Evening with the New Bell Branch and our "adopted" children.

As mentioned before, after church we made the 4 1/2 hour drive to Yaounde to help with Zone Conference there.  Because of lack of preparation time there also,  I asked one of the dear sisters, Sister Messy, in Yaounde to help with the luncheon after Zone Conference.  She bought all the food beforehand, brought it to the apartment, and I helped her prepare and cook it while Zone Conference was taking place. Sister Messy is the wife of the 2nd Counselor in the Mission Presidency and is a wonderful person and cook.  She actually spent 4 years in Japan cooking for the Cameroonian Embassy.  What a delight it was to spend time with her.

A delicious Cameroonian luncheon.  Sister Messy is the woman standing in the back.

After returning from Yaounde, we knew we didn't have much time in Douala before going to Brazzaville, so our days were busy ones.

We like to celebrate the Elder's Birthdays, so we combined a Birthday celebration with a Baptism in Bonaberi.  I know rice krispie treats don't look like much, but both marshmallows and rice krispie's are hard to come by here in Cameroon.

Elder Olavson and Elder Ramanatsoa celebrating their Birthdays.

                     One of our favorite Saturday activities; a baptism in Bonaberi.

Since we knew by the time we returned to Douala in December, many of the Elder's would be transferred, thus we "had" to have one last Family Home Evening together.  What a special night.  The lesson began with one of Elder Call's traditional "hang men", and then ended with the Elder's sharing their feelings about the Book of Mormon.  There were some tender feelings expressed and heart felt emotions for a book that has changed the lives of a numerous amount of people...including mine.  How I love that book.

Before we knew we were returning to Douala, there was a time period when we thought we may be spending the remainder of our mission in Brazzaville and thus needed to say "Goodbye" to some dear friends.  One of those persons was Purita, our young French teacher.  I was in the kitchen alone with her one day when I knew I needed to tell her we were leaving Cameroon.  As I told her, she literally dropped to the floor, put her head in her hands, and began to cry.  I consoled her by promising her that we would not leave Cameroon until we had safely put her on the airplane for the MTC in Ghana.  We fulfilled that promise.

Purita had wanted to have a small "farewell party" and invite a few of her friends just before she was set apart as a missionary.  We told her that if that was what she wanted, we would help her.  So Purita made some African food, and Elder Call and I provided some drinks, paper products and dessert.

Purita and her Mom at the farewell get-to-getter and setting apart at the church.

Purita often went out with the missionaries in her branch, Elder Razifiarimanana from Madagascar and Elder Zobell from the States, so they also came to the "celebration". They are some of our favorite missionaries...but pretty much all the missionaries are our favorites.

To help Purita save for her mission, after we would pay her for the French lessons,  she would take a small amount of the money, and then give me the rest of the money to put away in her "mission savings account".  During part of this time her mother got sick and had to go to the hospital.  Sometimes Purita would pause and look at her money longingly and I knew she wanted to save it all...but she would say, "I need to pay for my Mom's medication".  Thus, she would only put a small amount in her "mission savings" and keep the rest for her mother's medical expenses.   At our last French lesson, we gave her all the money she had saved.  I think she was surprised at how much money she had.  (Elder Call gave generously for French lessons). She counted it and said, "Wow, I am rich!"  I believe it was probably more personal money than she had ever had in her life. However, I know she did not covet that money for her own personal desires, but was happy to give it to serve a mission.  I also know that because she did not covet that money, but used it to serve the Lord, He will bless her far beyond what any amount of money can buy.

After the party and setting apart, Purita came home with us to our apartment since her plane was leaving very early the next morning.  I had packed her suitcases and got her all ready to go.  President Messy and his wife also came and stayed with us since he had come from Yaounde to Douala to do the setting apart.  As I went over with Purita where the things were in her suitcase and she "packed" her purse, I was again able to witness and feel the excitement of a missionary about to leave home.  There is a tinge of nervousness, but a stronger desire to go and serve.  I felt I had been given a great privilege to be part of the whole process.

The next morning, after breakfast, it was off to the airport.  Pres. & Sister Mbengue also came to our apartment early in the morning to go to the airport to see Purita off to the MTC in Ghana.  For me it was a tearful parting.  

The next day we packed our suitcases, went to dinner at the Dim's home and then we were off to Brazzaville.

The Dim Family.  Before we left, they sang a marvelous song in French about "all I need is God", in beautiful harmony.
Our life in Brazzaville has been quite different from the experiences in Cameroon.  I personally am learning a whole new language that I never dreamed I would be learning on a mission i.e. the language of a computer.  I am not the most computer literate person, so it has been challenging at times.  I did warn the Mission President several times that "I am NOT a secretary".  I feel he has been very patient with me and has tried to help where he can.  I also feel the Spirit has been giving me direction and helping me along the way.  Sometimes I have gone home saying, "I don't know how to do that"....then in the morning, I will have some small bit of inspiration and "voila" I am able to do more than I thought.   

Elder Call is the financial secretary, and though he has gotten frustrated at times, I believe he has been more suited for his new assignment than I have been.  The greatest preparation for my assignment has probably been using the computers when teaching at BYU-I and also writing family histories.  Who would have thought I was preparing for my mission by learning computer skills! 

                      The new "temporary" Brazzaville Mission secretary.  

                   The new awesome Brazzaville Mission financial secretary.

Besides President and Sister Monga, there are two other brethren that work in the office.  They are wonderful and I don't know what we would do without them.  One, Fere Ghilson, works mainly with the transportation and visa issues; the other, Fere Santie, takes care of the apartments and the missionary needs.  
Frere Ghilson (the one on the left) is a bishop and he and his wife are expecting their first child, a girl, any day now.  Frere Santie is married with two young children.  He is in the process of building a home for his little family.  They are both very hard workers and will do anything for us...they are a delight and blessing for us.

The Church finds nice places for the senior missionaries and Brazzaville is no exception.  We live in a 3 bedroom home, but one bedroom we use as a den.  It is a gated home with guards who are on duty 24/7.  
                              The Living and Dining Rooms.

                                                                                          The Kitchen

Though I am not certain of all the reasons we are here in Brazzaville, one reason I do know for sure...and that is...we are here for these wonderful young men and women.

We have about 74 missionaries in the Brazzaville Mission, covering three countries i.e. the Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Gabon.  If my serving in the office keeps them serving and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then I am happy to serve in the office!

Our dear friends and family, I want to end with an experience I had while attending the ward here in Brazzaville.  During Relief Society one sister was asking a lot of questions.  I really did not know what she was saying, but since I was sitting next to Sis. Monga, she interpreted somewhat for me.  After the meeting, I went up to the woman and sat down next to her and told her she had some good questions.  (I had met her before Relief Society and I knew she spoke English).  One thing led to another, and she confided in me some very personal and trying experiences she had had in her life.  Tearfully she wondered if God had forgiven her of past mistakes.  I hugged her and felt impressed to assure her that God had forgiven her.  She then told me that she really wanted to get baptized, but her "husband" was not really her husband and though they had a 7 year old son, he would not marry her.  And, since she was not married, she could not be baptized.  She mentioned that she had said to her husband, "If I die today and am not baptized, I will be unable to go to Heaven and have to go to Hell...but it will be your fault."  I replied, "Oh no, you will not go to Hell".  I then turned to D&C 137 and had her read, "For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts."    I then asked her what were her desires?  She replied, "To be baptized and be a member of the Church".  I told her, "That is what you will be judged on....the desires of your will not go to hell".  I could tell the relief in her face and in her eyes.  She wrote down the scripture reference.  After a few more minutes, we both prepared to leave.  I told her I hoped to see her next week.  Then the real miracle happened.  She said, "Oh, this is not my real ward, I just came to this ward today because I felt like it".   

No, I do not know all the reasons we are here in Brazzaville, but I do know that God is in the details of our lives.  This is His Church and He loves all His children.  To this I bear witness today and always!