Friday, March 3, 2017

Cameroon - February 2017

Dear Family and Friends,

Because I was late writing the blog for January, and February is a short month, the time for a new blog has certainly crept up fast.

February began with a trip to Yaounde.  While we were there, we took care of the needs of the missionaries and did about as much training in the district as they will let us.  Not only did we have scheduled trainings, but we always try and do "ad hoc training" in the branches we attend.

This is a picture of the Young Women's class I was able to attend.  The lesson was on one of my favorite topics "Zion".  In order to practice the principles of unity and love which are found in a Zion community, the class identified the girls not attending and wrote their names on the board.  The names of the Young Women who volunteered to visit them were then written by the side of the non-attenders.  The Young Women who volunteered to make a visit, committed to not only visit, but be ready to give a report the following Sunday.
Each time I visit a youth class in Africa, it makes me yearn to be a teacher here.  Most "teaching" is simply lecturing and the youth display an an inordinate amount of patience to sit and reverently listen.  However, when more engaging teaching is introduced, the youth respond with a great deal of enthusiasm and a desire to learn.

Before going to Yaounde, we received a phone call from a young single adult (Oliver) who lives in Yaounde and who we had met on previous visits.  He called to announce his engagement.  We told him we would love to meet this "lucky girl" and thus invited them over for dinner.  Elder Call spoke to him about NOT paying the bride price, which they call "the dote" here in Cameroon.  He was very interested to learn more and asked if we could also speak to his fiancee.  During dinner, the topic of the dote naturally came up.  We were able to share the pamphlet published by the church.  We also were able to show pictures of many other couples in Africa who had broken from the "tradition of Africa" in paying a bride price and followed the "tradition of the church".   By the time Oliver and his lovely fiancee, Carol, went to leave she was clutching the pamphlet as if it were made of gold for it meant they could get married without waiting for several months to save money to pay "the dote".

  The first weekend home from Yaounde, there was a Young Women's activity at our apartment.  The Young Women had been learning about the Plan of Salvation in Young Women's.  Thus, I suggested to the teacher that if they wanted to have an activity where the girls created a Plan of Salvation,  it would also partly fulfill a Personal Progress goal.  She agreed to the activity.  

                   Around our dinning room table, in the mode of creating.  

Displaying the "Plans".

Previous to the girls making their own plans, Sister Mbengue had asked if I would demonstrate the Plan of Salvation on our white board.  So I also had one to display.  

One of the most exciting things to happen in February was the beginning of the renovations for the New Bell Branch building.  It will also be used as an office for the newly created Douala District.  Elder Call and I have been heavily involved in getting this building rented and then seeing that the process necessary to begin the renovation has been pushed forward.  We were told that often the process takes over a year and we were determined that would not happen here in Douala. With the help of the knowledge we gained and the people we met while working in Brazzaville, renovations are on schedule.  If it is the only blessing Cameroon receives for our service in the mission office, it will be worth the 3 months.  However, we are continuing  to see other ways we have been able to bless Cameroon due to our service in Brazzaville.

                   Expanding the Sacrament Hall for the New Bell Branch building.

After the Douala District was created, we tried to meet with the District auxiliary leaders so we could train them and they in turn could train the branches.  In a short time, we realized that plan was not working.  First, for most district leaders we needed a translator, and secondly, if they were trained they did not have the means or resources to visit and train the branch leaders.  Thus, we have begun again to train the individual branches as we do our regular visits.  It is taking longer than we would like because there are 5 branches just here in Douala and I have 3 auxiliaries to train, i.e. the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society.  I have decided to focus on the Primary and Young Women.  I generally visit them one week and observe.  After class I visit with them about some ideas they can do and if I can bring some training material to share with them the following week.  If possible, I train them the next week, if not I train them as soon as we return to that branch.  

One auxiliary I trained  in February was the New Bell Branch Primary.  It was particularly special to me because one of the counselors in the Primary Presidency was a young woman whom I had met and whose baptism we attended shortly after arriving in Cameroon.  Her name is Anita. (She is the middle sister on the back row.)  The lesson in Primary was on the Holy Ghost.  Since I was familiar with Anita's story and still had pictures of her baptism on my i-Pad, I showed those pictures to the children and asked them to locate Anita's Mom.  (Her mother did not attend nor did any member of her family.)  When the children were unable to find any member of the family, I then asked Anita to share her story and tell why she got baptized even though she had no support from her family.  In short, she shared that it was because of the witness she had from the Holy Ghost that the church was true.  It was sweet to me and what makes it even sweeter is that we have learned that a wonderful returned missionary in the branch wants to marry her and....she has agreed.  She will soon have family support. 

Zone Conferences seem to be rolling around more often these days and there was one in February.  However, they are always a joyous time to have the missionaries over and receive a visit from Pres. and Sister Monga.

We are continuing to upgrade the missionary apartments and we hope we have moved the last set of missionaries in Douala for awhile.  By the end of this month we will have moved all the Elders in the Douala area to better apartments.  February was the month to move the Elders living in Bonaberi. 

By-the-time we arrived, they had begun the process.  
 They decided lowering the furniture out the window was easier than carrying it down the stairs.
                                              I decided I needed pictures. 
What you don't see in the pictures is that the Elders "on the ground" are not on the ground at all, but standing on chairs.

                                                The new apartment

                          Before I finish this blog, I feel to share one more picture.  
This is a picture obviously of a baptism.  Each baptism is unique, but this one was particularly special.  It is a custom here in Cameroon that after the baptism and talks, those who have been baptized are asked to bear their testimonies.  The two children bore their testimonies, but then the non-member father (who is in the above photo) bore his testimony.  He told of his belief in the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the true church on the earth.  Then he told how the circumstances in his life right now make it impossible for him to be baptized and his desire some day to follow his children in joining the church.

I would like to close by saying what a privilege it is to have the ability to be a member of the church.  There are some who desire that privilege, but are unable to for one reason or another.  I joy in my membership and thank the Lord for the opportunity to help others also realize that joy in their life.