Whoa, that was fast. I knew the time for writing another blog would come quickly, but I didn't think it would come this fast. Thoughts of procrastination have occurred to me, but then the shaving/repentance quote keeps popping into my mind...so alas, here I am again.
The month of May began with transfers and it is certainly a time of mixed emotions. We are happy to welcome new missionaries to Cameroon, but soooo sad to "lose" ones we have grown to love.
Left to right: Elder Gilbert, Elder Best, Us, Elder Izere, Elder Tshibanda.
The hard thing about this transfer is that these Elders went to Brazzaville, so the chances of ever seeing them again (in this life) are slim to none.
May is also the month of Mother's Day and I still remember the excitement I had as a mother with missionaries in the field anticipating their call. With that thought in mind, Elder Call and I made careful preparations so the Elders in both Yaounde and Douala could Skype or call home. Thus, we headed up to Yaounde the first week in May so those missionaries could call/Skype home the week before Mother's Day. While we were in Yaounde we did many other things including arranging training meetings for the Yaounde District. Elder Call and I are generally pretty equal in the training, but that particular time the district leaders wanted training for the Primary and Relief Society organizations. However, I did ask Elder Call to take some time in the Relief Society training to explain the priesthood's role in Relief Society.
As a "special interest" story, I need to add this next picture.
We returned to Douala for Mother's Day and to participate in the reorganization of two of the 5 branches in Douala. When the Douala District was created, three branch presidents were called into the district presidency and only one was replaced. Since the district was created in December, two of the branch presidents have continued to serve as branch presidents as well as being in the district presidency. We are excited for the new changes and hope to see some renewed focus on district programs especially a much needed Young Single Adult program.
To emphasize the importance for a program to get YSA meeting and marrying, here is a picture of the newly called leadership in the New Bell Branch.
From left to right: the Elders Quorum president, the Relief Society president, the RS 1st counselor, the branch president, and the 1st counselor in the branch presidency. They are ALL Young Single Adults. Fortunately, the branch president got married the week after he was sustained as branch president.
After church, we had the Elders in Douala over to Skype for Mother's Day. I also fixed them dinner and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of food they are able to consume. The quantity of food eaten led to this picture.
After dinner there was a discussion on who had gained weight on their mission and who had lost weight. Traditionally, white Elders lose weight and black Elders gain weight. However, Elder Call went contrary to the "normal" tradition, thus his "reward" was to hold the scales.
This was only 6 of the 10 missionaries that came for Mother's Day to Skype and have dinner. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the other 4.
It is always exciting when we notice positive results from the training we do. I had done some training with the Young Women leaders about doing activities during the week. They did a few at the church but then asked if they could come to our apartment to learn how to make a cake. After checking with the branch president to get approval, and letting the YW leaders know they needed to buy the cake making supplies from their YW budget, we had a successful YW cake baking activity at our apartment.
Stirring the batter
Waiting for the cakes to cook
I felt there was another success to our training meetings that took place in May. Primary leaders have never really seen what a Primary is supposed to look like. Thus, they copy what they see in the schools, which are heavy into discipline, mostly lecture based, and lack tolerance for any form of "misbehavior". Sharing Time in Primary is generally a lecture and singing time is short with no activities. When I visit a Primary, I try to teach by word and example. Often I worry that my teaching is futile. However, this past month I revisited a Primary which was initially one of the worst in the district. I was pleasantly surprised to find the leaders implementing many of the things I had been trying to teach them. I took a video of them doing actions to the song "I Love To See The Temple". Enjoy!
You may recall that last month I reported on two weddings. One of the marriages took place so the sister could be baptized. Well, the baptism took place a couple of weeks after the marriage. It was hard to tell from the smile on the husband's face which event was more exciting for him; the marriage or the baptism.
I mentioned beforehand that the branch president of the New Bell Branch got married the week after he was sustained. We had the privilege of being involved in that event. First, we attended the bride's baptism, Anita, a year ago. I took a special interest in her for a couple of reasons; she was young and had no family support. After her baptism, she attended the New Bell Branch where she met and fell in love with Barthelemy Nyom, a handsome returned missionary.
One day towards the end of March, they came to our apartment to announce their intentions to get married but faced many challenges, the biggest being the lack of money. We told them we would help, but they also needed to do all they could. We actually set a date that very day for the marriage to take place on May 27, 2017. The first obstacle was to visit the village home of Anita to announce her intention of getting married, but to also declare there would be no bride price. That hurdle went well; the family agreed to require no bride price. We then worked with the "old" New Bell Branch president and his wife, to get everything else arranged and planned. Barthelemy and Anita honored us by asking us to be a witness couple. However, at the last minute Barthelemy had his brother be a witness in place of Elder Call. I still signed as a witness to the wedding.
At the courthouse on Monday morning to sign the legal documents.
Two other couples were getting married the same day and the court house was "standing room only". However, since I was a witness, we got front row seats.
Even though they were officially married, they wanted to be married again using the church's ceremony. Thus, late Friday afternoon at the new and "almost completed" New Bell Branch building, Pres. Mbengue married them. Afterwards he asked us to bear our testimonies about marriage. We were given no prior notification but were grateful to take a few minutes to express our thoughts about the joys of marriage. :)
After the ceremony there was dancing and celebrating, including a dinner. The missionaries sang, "Love At Home".
I made the cakes, Elder Call and I provided the drinks, paper products, and the money for the inexpensive African meal...which Sister Mbengue spent all afternoon cooking. It was one of the best arrangements I have made or may ever make regarding a wedding ceremony.
There is nothing like a wedding date to move progress forward. When the wedding date was decided, we all agreed the church ceremony should take place at the uncompleted New Bell building. Days before the wedding there still remained things to be done. However, not to be deterred, we met two days before the marriage to clean the inside and outside of the building. The outside job was overwhelming and we barely scratched the service. The next morning I had a great idea! I said, "Let's call the missionaries who live close by and see if they will do a service project to help clean up the building. The missionaries agreed. So while I made cakes in an air conditioned kitchen, Elder Call and the junior missionaries spent a hot, humid morning cleaning up the outside of the building. Elder Call took some before and after pictures.
It is hard to tell the extent of the missionaries work because the "before picture" does not show the weeds and trash that were on the ground in front of the wall. Over twenty garbage bags of trash and weeds were hauled away that day.
The district president decided if we could hold a wedding in an uncompleted building, we could hold a church meeting. Thus, Elder Call and I decided we best return to the building on Saturday to clean up from the wedding and prepare for church the next day.
In April's blog I was hoping to show a completed New Bell building. For the month of May, there still was not a totally completed building. However, it is complete enough that members in the area are now attending. I know it will be a blessing to them and to the growth of missionary work in the area. The amazing thing is that without the wedding deadline, who knows when the building would have been occupied. God truly works in mysterious ways. This IS His church and completed buildings or not, His work will roll forth. We feel privileged to be a part of that work here in Cameroon.