Sunday, January 8, 2017

Brazzaville/Cameroon - December 2016

Chere famille et amis,

These last few weeks have been some of the hardest since arriving on our mission,  yet we have probably felt the Lord's hand in our lives more than ever before.

The month began with the arrival of a senior missionary couple, the Sorensen's, who took our place in the mission office and allowed us to return to Cameroon.  As previously mentioned, there were many tearful pleadings for this couple to arrive.  When they arrived, they mentioned how they really had not wanted to serve in an office and actually had felt a desire to serve in other capacities.  As they related their feelings, I almost felt guilty, for I knew they were a direct answer to prayer.  However, I also know God makes no mistakes and there is a reason and purpose for them being called as an office couple.

The Sorensen's, Pres. and Sister Monga and us in front of the mission office.

As we approached our departure date, it was a bitter sweet time, for we had grown to love some very dear people in Brazzaville.  Some of those "people" were the Assistant's, who visited the office frequently.

Elder Scoffield from the States


 Elder Manasse, from Madagascar

Santie and Ghilson.  Two of the most hard working men we have met.  They were both always so busy and often worked many more than 8 hours/day.  However, whenever we needed help, they were happy and willing to be of assistance.

In December, Elder Call was able to participate in the blessing of Ghilson's first baby, a girl named Isadora.  Ghilson also happens to be the bishop of his ward.

Another bitter-sweet event happened in Brazzaville before we left.  Elder Call was robbed.  He had gone to the bank, alone, to withdraw our money and the money for the missionaries.  As he was coming back to the office, he heard a noise in the back rear tire.  He stopped to check out the problem, and while he was investigating the problem, someone opened the car door, grabbed his bag, and ran.  It happened so quickly, he didn't even notice he was missing his bag until he returned to the office.

The fact that the money was gone was not our greatest worry.  In the bag was also Elder Call's i-Pad, but more importantly...our passports, our international driver's licenses, our carte de sejour (necessary to stay in Cameroon), and our airplane tickets for Douala.  To say the least, we were sick about it.  But now for God's merciful hand.  That afternoon, we received a phone call from the travel agency where we had booked the airline tickets.  We generally do them on line, but there were no seats available so we had to use a travel agency.  A man had found the bag on top of a car, looked inside and realized it had been stolen.  The only way to make any contact was the name of the travel agency.  He called them, they remembered us, and contacted us.  Before dark, we were headed on our way to recover Elder Call's bag.  The money and i-Pad were gone, but all the vital documents were there.  I can hardly express our relief.  Elder Call asked who found the bag, and one man raised his hand.  Elder Call took some money from his wallet to pay him.  The man clasped his hands together and said, "I am Muslim, I will not take your money."  I tearfully thanked him and we were on our way with the necessary documents needed to go back to Cameroon the following week.

Afterwards, we began to piece together the events of the robbery and feel this is what happened. While Elder Call was in the bank, someone put a board behind his tire with a nail hammered in it.  When he backed up, the nail pierced the tire.  However, the tire was not deflating quickly enough for the thieves, so we believe someone on a motorcycle, threw a tin can in the wheel causing a lot of clanking noise.  As Elder Call stopped to research the noise, the thieves opened the car door and took the bag.  A well planned robbery.

As proof of our speculation, I took a picture of the nail that was found in the tire after the robbery.

By the grace of God, we returned to Cameroon just in time to witness the creation of the first district in Douala!  What a joyous occasion it was.

The Douala District Presidency.  Pres. Mbengue (center), Pres Dadi (right of Pres. Mbengue) and Pres. Ngeuti.  Pres. Messy and Pres. Monga of the mission presidency are in front.

It was a particularly happy event for Elder Call and I, for we had encouraged the creation of a district.  Pres. Monga had expressed his apprehension, but particularly Elder Call had urged him and felt the people were ready and capable for a district.  We now feel Douala will grow ever more quickly.

So, we were back to our beloved Cameroon, but brought an unwelcome guest with us.  Elder and Sister Sorensen had contracted a virus before coming to Brazzaville and unsuspectedly shared it with us...particularly me.  Soon after arriving in Cameroon I began experiencing the same symptoms that Elder Sorenson had, i.e. congestion, sore throat, and coughing.  The virus headed to one of my weakest areas, my lungs and shortly I felt I had a full-blown case of bronchitis.  However, knowing this was a "common" malady, we had brought some medications with us...just in I began taking an antibiotic.

As usual, sickness does not wait for a convenient time to "strike".  This was Christmas time...the time for Elder's to Skype with their families.   Since there is still no couple in Yaounde, we needed to do a "Christmas" for the Elder's both in Douala and Yaounde.  Sooo, with the thought of anxious mothers waiting to Skype with their sons in far away Africa, I arose from my "sick-bed", forgetting my antibiotics, and we headed up to Yaounde.

              An early Christmas dinner with the Elders in Yaounde.

I am not sure if it was forgetting the antibiotics, but the virus seemed to take an ever greater hold on me in Yaounde and I could feel the rattling in my lungs as I breathed.  Elder Call truly took on the major part of the work.

After just a short stay, we headed back to Douala, where I continued the antibiotics, but experienced a decrease in strength.   Again, Christmas the Grinch is impossible to stop Christmas from coming.  So another Christmas dinner, Skyping and celebration.

After we ate, we played a game with some Christmas candy we had purchased for each Elder.  We played the game where you choose a wrapped gift and you can either unwrap and keep that gift, or take someone else's gift.  The Elder's had a great time "stealing" candy.  After the game we watched the church's Christmas Devotional and those with Skyping capabilities,  Skyped home.

That week, I did try and rest, but had some previous scheduled activities that needed to be planned and carried out.  A couple of those activities were a Young Women's swimming party over at our apartment, a YM/YW Ball to make refreshments for and a Zone Conference.

Pres. and Sister Monga decided to bring their children on a mission tour.  Their children also came and participated in the Zone Conference at our apartment.

In the mean time, back to my health.  After taking antibiotics for 2 weeks, I decided I best discontinue them for I felt the bronchitis was better, though I still did not feel too great.  However, after discontinuing them I had head aches, fatigue, general malaise, body aches, dizziness, and had a dry mouth with a metallic awful taste, thus a loss of appetite.  In general, I felt terrible.

As mentioned earlier, it has been a hard few weeks but also an outpouring of the knowledge of  God's hand in our lives.  My biggest fear in Africa has been the medical facilities, or I should say the lack of medical facilities.  Last August, Pres. Monga informed us that the Zone Conference would include a visit from the area doctor, Elder Jubber. He and his wife are senior missionaries in South Africa.  Before then, I had no idea there was even an area doctor that we could consult with.  In Ghana, we had a medical doctor that also lived in Accra, but here in Cameroon I thought we were just on our own.  While Dr. Jubber was in Douala with us, he wanted to visit a medical facility.  We looked up one that previous missionaries had visited which happened to be quite close to our apartment.  Elder Call and he went to the facility and both Elder Call and Dr. Jubber were impressed.

Fast forward to my health issues.  I finally decided I needed some medical attention and decided to call Dr. Jubber, who previous to August I didn't know existed.   He listed some tests he wanted me to take and told me to go to the clinic he had visited in August.  Thus, God had prepared all along the knowledge of a reputable clinic for me to attend.

Well, the long and short of the matter is that I am in the midst of taking tests.  However, in the mean time, I seem to be getting better.  (Isn't that the way it always goes).  However, the greatest fear has been tested for and proven negative...which is malaria.  We have had an increase of mosquitoes in the apartment and thus many mosquito bites and most of my symptoms were also symptoms of malaria.

There is a wonderful song that I am unsure of the title, but it talks of trials but then of the knowledge of a God and his plan for us and repeats the words, "How can I keep from singing".  That is the feeling of my heart at this time.  There have been some difficult weeks this past month, but I recognize God in my life and thus....HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING!!!