Thursday, August 3, 2017

July 2017 in Cameroon

Dear Family and Friends,

Our mission is rapidly coming to an end, and the blogs will soon be over.  As much as I dislike writing them, I am convinced my joy will exceed my "discomfort" when we have a documented history of our mission.  

July began with the welcoming of a new mission president and his wife, President and Sister Thompson who arrived in Cameroon from Canada.  What makes them even more suited for this mission is that they served as a senior missionary couple in Cameroon several years ago.  Thus, they are familiar with the area and with many of the people.  When they served as a senior missionary couple, their primary lodging was Yaounde.  However, they did also serve as the mission couple in Douala for a few months.

President Jerry and Sister Jeannette Thompson

After obtaining their visas, they came to Cameroon for a short Zone Conference and to interview all the Elders.  They are going to make a great addition to the mission.  We have already see some positive things happening.

Zone Conferences are always a fulfilling experience both spiritually and physically.  I went with an easy menu of BBQ sloppy-joes.  I make enough food to feed 20 people, but 10 hungry missionaries seem to find no problem consuming it all.  

Speaking of the missionaries, working with them has truly been one of the highlights of our mission.  We love each of them and have learned the Lord also loves them and protects them even when they may not make the most wise decisions.  I will illustrate this fact with a story.  The following picture is one of the apartments inhabited by 4 Elders.                                                                                                                                     

This particular apartment had a decorative piece separating the dining room from the living room.  The problem however was that the "pillar looking devices" did not reach the floor and the whole archway was hollow inside, which made a perfect home for mice.  One morning, very early (5:15 am to be exact) one of the Elders decided to kill the mouse who had taken up residence in the archway.  He sprayed some insecticide up the pillar and lit a match.  It was the perfect "makings" of a bomb...and... it did explode, shaking the whole apartment building and sending pieces of paster throughout the two rooms even piercing the adjacent wall.  There were two miracles.  The first one was that the mouse got away, temporarily. (One of the other Elders saw it run into the bedroom and killed it with a shoe) The other miracle was that the Elder who lit the match was totally unharmed.  When we went later on that morning to "check out the damage" the Elder responsible for the explosion was devastated and even in tears.  However, we told him, "We can replace an archway, we can not replace you".  We discussed with him, and he agreed, that the Lord had truly protected him from being hurt. 

Life is not easy in Africa, as you can imagine.  One of the greatest problems is the lack of jobs and thus lack of money.  One of the branches in Douala has 4 wonderful, young men who would like to serve missions but do not have the finances to do so. The church has provided a program to help missionaries once they enter the mission field.  However, the young people here lack the money to obtain a passport and other necessary items to prepare for a mission.  We did help purchase some clothing for one young woman to go on a mission, but the branch president of these 4 young men approached us about helping all 4! We have also been advised not to give money so we pondered on what to do.  While pondering, I remembered a senior missionary couple in Ghana who had their youth sale popcorn to earn money for a youth conference.  We asked the branch president about the idea, he consulted his young men.  They are now selling popcorn on the street.  

Our kitchen during popcorn production. One small problem is that I do not have an air-popper, thus I pop the corn over our gas stove.  It works well and in addition, I am strengthening my arm muscles as I vigorously shake the pan to prevent the popcorn from burning.

Handing over some popcorn to President Yemafo and his clerk, Frere (Brother) Gustave.  

The popcorn is actually selling well. We give the popcorn to the young men at no cost and we told them that we will match whatever money they make.  However it is a slow process and will definitely take some time. We do feel good that the young men are actually doing something to help pay for their mission preparation.

While in Africa, both in Ghana and in Cameroon, there have been a few people who have requested that Elder Call baptize them.  However, for one reason or another, it has never worked out...until this past month.

A few weeks ago one of the missionary companionships asked if we would go with them to a teaching appointment of one of their families.  We of course said, "Yes".  They were going to be teaching a lesson about eternal marriage.  The missionaries taught the lesson and we did testify about the joys of an eternal marriage.  It went well and both Elder Call and I were able to use our small knowledge of the French language since they knew no English.  After answering some questions the couple had about marriage, Elder Call asked if they were going to be baptized.  The man, Geremie (Jeremy) said they wanted to be baptized but it would not be for awhile.  Elder Call said, "Why?" This led to another discussion which ended in convincing Geremie to be baptized sooner.  After the discussion Geremie asked Elder Call if he would baptize him.  Elder Call responded that he would be honored.
The day of the baptism.  Elder Tall, Elder Call, Geremie, his wife Evelyn, Elder Odimba (who baptized Evelyn), and their three children.

One of the biggest accomplishments in July has no picture associated with it, but there will be pictures next month.  :)  Since we have been here, we have known only one couple who have gone to the temple.  The greatest reasons for that is cost and distance.  The temple in the area for Cameroon is the Johannesburg Temple in South Africa.  However, there is a temple bordering Cameroon in Nigeria which is much closer, but it is in the West Africa area.  Since Cameroon's  temple was in South Africa, we were told that members in Cameroon could only use the General Temple Patron Assistance Fund to go to South Africa. However, even using the fund, the money for Cameroonian's to get a passport and go to South Africa was nearly financially impossible.  

With a new mission president, we decided to present the idea of using the Temple Assistance Fund to go to Aba, Nigeria.  He asked us to write an e-mail explaining our reasons, which we did, and he sent it to the Africa Southeast Area Presidency.  Elder Hamilton approved the idea and the first group of 30 members will be leaving August 30, 2017!  The excitement is high for them but also for us.  One of our goals was to try and plan some temple trips.  We are currently in Yaounde and have trained the district presidency on going to Aba and will be training the branch presidents tomorrow.  

This has been a sweet thing to happen to us as we wind down our mission.  Baptisms are important but we know they only open the gate.  The temple leads to exaltation and now the saints here will have a real hope of claiming those blessings. 

God truly is no respecter of persons. We have gained a greater testimony of that fact and could not be more delighted at this time in our lives than to be with some of God's beloved children here in Africa. Because of the temple, Elder Call and I have the promise of an eternal family.  We have left that family...temporarily, to help other families become eternal.  What could be sweeter?!

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