Wednesday, December 6, 2017

October 2017 Cameroon/England

I will not be posting this blog, but wanted to finish the events that took place the last part of our mission and our trip to England.  We have now been home for over one month and in some ways our mission seems like a dream.  I could almost believe it was a dream except we still read our morning scriptures in French and I can read the French on store labels.

Since I will be making the blog posts in a book for future posterity, I wanted to include pictures of a couple of logging trucks.  The whole time we have been here, logging trucks have been coming from the northeast to the port in Douala.  I suppose they are shipped around the world.  The size of the logs are truly amazing and reminds me that for hundreds of years, or perhaps more that these trees have been growing.

Note the size of the people next to the truck.

On our trips to Yaounde, we would pass many logging trucks on our way up and back. It was not uncommon to see a truck broken down or large logs on the side of the road where they had become dislodged from the truck.  The logging trucks increased the danger in driving on the windy, mountain road from Douala to Yaounde.  Each trip we would pray for safety while traveling and then gratitude on our arrival.

The end of September the father of our dear friend, Romeo Dim, passed away.  We were asked to participate in the two day "celebration" and Elder Call was asked to give a talk and to dedicate the grave.  It was one of the greatest honors we received while being in Cameroon.  Often funerals in Africa are postponed for weeks and even months, we were worried we may not be able to attend.  However, the Dim family gathered quickly and Bro. Dim planned a lovely funeral.  Bro. Dim's father was Catholic, but Bro. Dim told the Catholic priest who came to help with the funeral that he would not be needed.  Bro. Dim's mother consented to the funeral arrangements made by her son which had many African traditions but was presided over by priesthood leaders.

The first day was held at the funeral chapel where friends and family could come and pay their respects.

Romeo Dim standing behind the casket.  His mother is the woman in white sitting on the front row.

After the ceremony at the funeral chapel, the body is taken to the home of the deceased.  Family and relatives stay up all night keeping watch over the body while talking, singing and crying.

The next day friends and family gather at the home where a continuation of the ceremony takes place.

Bro. Dim's mother and two sister-in-laws.

Friends sit behind and to the side of family.

                      Us with a grand-daughter, Die-belle Dim, and Elder and Sister Greer.

The body was then brought from the home and placed on a stand at the front of the congregation.

The meeting was presided over by the president of the branch, Pres. Raul in which Bro. Dim is a member.

Several talks were given including a talk given in English by Elder Call about the Plan of Salvation.  Bro. Dim's son, Emmanuel translated for him.

 After the talks, the Dim family stood and several gave thoughts about their father/grandfather or brother.

After some African music and singing, the casket was carried in a procession to the cemetery.  Flowers and pictures of the deceased were carried by family members at the front of the procession.

At the burial site, people were given the opportunity to give any last remarks they desired to say.  Then Elder Call was again given the honor of participating by dedicating the grave.  Emmanuel was asked again to translate. However, at one point in the prayer Emmanuel became so emotional he could not continue.  Fortunately, his sister Die-belle Dim was close by and was able to continue with the translation.

As with most LDS funerals, it ended with a feast at a restaurant served by family members.

This experience was one of the highlights of our mission and will be long remembered.  However, the most exciting thing is that we feel some day, in the hereafter, we will meet the wonderful man that we were privileged to be part of his funeral.  And we believe, we will be able to embrace one another as members of God's church, for we feel he will accept the Gospel and the "work" that his son and family will do for him and his wife in the temple.

The next day Pres. Yemafo and his wife brought the owner of the bus company, Gregory Dallem, and his wife to our apartment.  Mr. Dallem is the owner of the Diamond Bus Company who who took the Bonaberi I Branch to the Aba, Nigeria Temple.  He gave his commitment to try and make the bus trips to the temple more and more trouble-free.  We in turn, were able to bear our witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel and gave both he and his wife a copy of the Book of Mormon.  He promised to study it.  We hope also to meet him some day and embrace as fellow members of the Church.
From left to right: Leonel and Chancella Yemafo, Gregory Dallem and his wife, and u.

The Zone Leaders decided we needed a going-away party for us and the other Elders who were leaving.  So we met at our apartment for food and fun.

The missionaries brought food and I made was truly a feast.

Everyone just happened to wear red we needed a picture.  From left to right, Elder Call, Elder Tall, Elder Makwikala, Elder Mwamba, Elder Stephens, Elder Wright, Elder Bouthot, Elder Mamba, Elder Greer and laying down, Elder Freshour.

Since time was running out, each day was tightly scheduled.  It was Anita's 19th Birthday, so we took her and her husband (Pres. Bartholomew Nyom) out to a restaurant for dinner.

The next day, Elder Call took the Greer's to Yaounde to show them around that city.  I did not go because it was the only time left to have the Dim's over and dictate their conversion stories and testimonies to me so I could type them on the computer. I was so glad I stayed in Douala. They have amazing stories and I know the whole family will one day be powerful leaders of the church in Cameroon.  We have already used their testimonies in talks we have given.

After Elder Call and the Greer's came home from Yaounde, we were invited over for a delicious typical African dinner at the Dim's home.
Sister and Elder Greer, Bro. Dim, Elder and Sister Call, Sister Dim, Bro. Dim's cousin, Ruth.

We spent our last Sunday at the Bonaberi I Branch.  We both bore our testimonies in French. After church, Yanik, a counselor in the branch presidency, invited us over to his new "house".  He had finally been able to rent a small apartment to prepare to bring his bride-to-be from the Congo to Cameroon.   

A picture at the front door of Yanik's home.  He was so proud of it because it had a small room for a kitchen and also included a separate bathroom.  Most apartments share a "community" bath.

The only things on the wall were two pictures of the Aba, Nigeria Temple where Yanik hopes to be sealed one day.

That night the Greer's took us to the airport and we boarded the plane with mixed emotions.  Excited to see family, but knowing the hard life that the good saints in Cameroon face every day and desiring to still be with them to somehow give our assistance and love. However, we know they are in God's capable hands. What an experience Cameroon was!  It was not an easy one, but it was a testimony building and a relationship building experience for Elder Call and I.

We flew to London where we met Cassie and Todd and their family.  We spent a delightful 10 days touring famous London attractions and seeing some Church History sites.  I will not explain our trip in detail, but would like to include a few pictures.

Starting out on the tour.  We employed our previous guide, Peter Fagg.  He rented a bus and drove us around to the various locations.  It was a little chilly, but we had a great time!!

                                                     Windsor Castle


The first LDS owned chapel in England.  One can enter if one can answer certain questions including: What is the middle initial of Heber Kimball?

The apartment where Heber C. Kimball and the other missionaries were staying when Satan and his demons tried to destroy them.

                               Kensington and Chelsea - Earl's Court

                       One of the highlights for the grandkids...a soccer game.

                Sunday we went to church at the Hyde Park Chapel in London.

We had such a wonderful time and each day was filled with exciting things to see and do. We left England Monday and got home Tuesday at 2:30am due to a delay in San Francisco.  We were released from our mission Tuesday morning at 8:00am by our stake president, Pres. Kiel.  

We arrived home happy and healthy and grateful for the time spent in Cameroon and to be able to have some sweet time with family in England. 

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!