Monday, January 26, 2015

Working with the Regional Reps

Earlier this month I was feeling frustrated because I didn't have enough work to do.  Some people I work with were getting a slow start after the new year.  Some Central Africans have become involved in the Humanitarian Aid project I wrote about last time and have had little time to come to GB to work with me as they get it off the ground.  The Village School Program has trained some new teachers and personnel have busy daily for a couple of months and couldn’t come to GB.  (More on that when I have some pictures and a more complete report on the work, but it is exciting, right?  8 people finished the training, 2 of them women.)

I talked to Anne and Willie Langdji by email and on the phone, but Anne said, “Come to Yaoundé where we can talk face to face.”  I came last Wednesday and head back to GB today.  It was a wonderful idea to come.  We have fleshed out next steps (for many projects).  We have worked on planning a training session related to the new (again) forms the ELCA is using for Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (PME).  We spent a long time working together in ways we could not have easily done on the phone or online.  I've got lots to do again and feel productive again!

While in the capital, I did some shopping, got some printing done, visited with people, etc.  Several Central Africans studying or working in Yaoundé came for lunch yesterday.  The former director of the Bible School in GB who is now a parish priest in Yaoundé stopped by this morning for some coffee.  A couple of people from the USA came Sat. night and left this morning for N’gaoundéré.  And, of course, I visited with the Langdjis.  Micah is of the age that he loves to chase and be chased.  He also has a great new toy helicopter that he can fly. 

I didn't take many pictures because the stuff I did wasn’t new and I didn’t always have my camera with me.  I must be at home here now!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Gearing Up to Build Houses

So, if you want to build 600 houses, where would you start??  This is one piece of the humanitarian aid project developed by EEL-RCA, and funded by ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response International (LDR).  In addition to the mud brick houses, the project will repair/improve sources of water, re-open two health posts, vaccinate children in villages, and provide seed (to be planted as the rainy season starts in March).  The work will be done in the area around Bohong which was particularly hard hit by fighting.  It is also an area where EEL-RCA has been working for years; it is natural to build on existing relationship and structures.

In addition to improving many aspects of the people’s lives, this project is designed to promote reconciliation and peace.  Villagers will work in teams as they improve their communities.  (Yes, where possible, teams will include Christians and Muslims and/or others who have been alienated by the crisis over the last few years.)  AVPE (French initials for the Food Security and Environmental Protection project of EEL-RCA) has been working in villages around Bohong for years.  They have been training villagers to work in teams to develop projects that provide income while also better protecting the environment.  What better place to work and extend the teamwork idea?

As a result of this project, a large handful EEL-RCA personnel, in addition to their regular project work, have agreed to help start and then supervise this humanitarian aid project.  Catherine Naabeau, Director of EEL-RCA’s Health Projects, will supervise the vaccination of children and other basic health services.  Victor Ndolade, engineer and coordinator of PASE, will lead the repair and development of clean water sources.  Paul Daina, Director of the AVPE project, will help organize and train village work teams.  Mathias Votoko, Community Developer for the Village School Program, will help organize and supervise the teams building houses.  Meanwhile, EEL-RCA central administrators (President Andre Goliké, Administrator Patrick Kelembho, Assistant Adminstrator Antoine Mbarbet, and Anicet, church chauffer) will also be key as this project moves forward.  Here in Garoua Boulai, Station Manager David Gbabiri is also helping as am I.  In Yaoundé, Willie Landgji, ELCA Regional Representative, has taken point in drafting the plan, communicating with LDR and coordinating the project overall.  Even more important will be the large number of villagers who will work together to restart their lives.

This week, the “nuts and bolts” part of the house construction has begun.  Remember these will be traditional Central African houses.  Participants will make their own fired mud bricks.  (I borrowed these pictures of bricks being made.  Mathias took them as a part of the VSP school construction program.)  They will collect grasses in the bush to make roofs.  What assistance do they need?  Yes, they need people to help them create work groups and to guide their steps (including training on more effectively working together).  But, they also need supplies.  How can they make bricks without shovels to dig the dirt, wheelbarrows to transport it, containers to store water needed in the process, etc.?

And, on a practical level, where does one go to buy 80 shovels??  Where would you go?  Do you think the Lowes’ of Home Depot in your town would have enough?  Would they have to be ordered?  How would you physically get the supplies from the store to the villages where they will be used?  Logistic.  Planning.  Teamwork of another kind.


Although we checked with stores in Garoua Boulai, no one could provide everything needed.  Instead of asking merchants here to order in supplies, it was decided that David would drive to Yaoundé (8 hours away) where he and Willie would buy these basic supplies.  The hardest to bring back were the 11 containers.  (The 10 are for 1,000 liters are chest-high.  They aren’t heavy, but they take up a lot of space.  The other is 2,500 liters – taller than I am!)  It is interesting to me that shovels and other tools come in pieces – the shovel heads and handles are assembled once supplies arrive at their destination.  It does make transport of materials a bit easier…

Yesterday, Antoine, Mathias, and Anicet came from CAR to get supplies.  They left with two full pick-up trucks and will be back later to get more of the containers.  After they deliver these supplies, of course, and get 43 groups in 5 villages between Bouar and Bohong started on the construction of their homes.

Later, EEL-RCA team members will extend the work to Bohong and other villages nearby.  Teams that work well together and who can lead/encourage others, will be given shirts like the one I am wearing here.  I guess that means I am already being cooperative since I got mine already!

Watch this blog in the future for pictures and more details of the work.  (You could also consider supporting Lutheran Disaster Response and/or the ELCA’s Global Missions!)  Those who were here yesterday have promised to bring pictures of the workin progress next time they come. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Computer Training Project


Since I started work here in CAR/Cameroon the most common question I get is, “Will you help me learn to use the computer?”  (OK, to be honest, this question might be second behind the comment, “Teach me English,” which is an indirect question…)

People want to be part of the digital age – despite the fact that they don’t have a computer – or even electricity!  They understand the advantages computers can bring.  And, they want to communicate on the Internet. 

Partners of EEL-RCA (French initials for the Evangelical Lutheran Church-Central African Republic) have provided money for programs and institutions to have computers.  Some programs/institutions have also put money in their budgets to buy them.  Some training was provided when the first wave of computers arrived, but computer use is still low.  Some programs have gotten new leaders who missed the initial training.  Also, do you remember when you started using a computer?  Was one training session enough to enable you to do all you wanted to do?  Did you even have a clear idea of what was possible (let alone how to do what you wanted)?  Here you can’t buy an Apple/Macintosh and then run town to the Apple store for lessons!  (You can buy an Apple product, I think, in Yaoundé, but PCs are much more prevalent.)

EEL-RCA has started a capacity building program sponsored by Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and East Liberty Lutheran Church (Pittsburgh, PA) that is teaching basic computer skills.  A leadership committee was formed that found Sani, a qualified trainer in Baboua, CAR and response has been strong. 

What initial capacities are we trying to build?  Principally, communication and planning.  Programs and institutions formally communicate with the EEL-RCA administration and partners through narrative and financial reports.  (Yes, they also meet in person and talk on the phone, but written summaries and explanations are critical.)  Now that humanitarian aid has been arriving in CAR through EEL-RCA, reports and management of data is even more important.  Some leaders have the needed skills (the church administrator, accountants located in each center, etc.), but now more leaders are becoming comfortable with Word (for narrative reports that includes charts) and Excel (for financial reports).  As leaders become more comfortable with software, the hope is that their planning and reporting will be more thorough and clear to those outside of the program for which reports are written. 

Another goal of the program is less tangible.  We want to help reestablish positive contact and interactions among all groups in Baboua: Christian, Muslim, and animists.  So, this short-term project is not just for Lutherans.  In fact, the trainer is a Muslim.  Anyone with a computer is welcome.  (This last requirement has received some push-back; even those without computers want to come!  The problem is two-fold.  Without a computer, a participant would be less able to put what he learns into practice.  Also, we don’t have “spare” computers.)  I have been told that at least two people have asked about buying their own computer so that they could learn and then use the new skills.  So far, everyone involved in the project has worked well together.  On their own, classes agreed to put in some extra money so they could have a coffee break on class days!  As you can also see in the pictures, participants work together in class. Cooperation abounds!

We initially planned to offer two-hour classes a couple of times a week.  Participants were so excited and interested the classes have turned into 6-7 hour seminars twice a week!  In addition, there are now two classes – beginners and those who are a little more advanced.  The initial class was offered to EEL-RCA program/institutions leaders using the computers programs already had.  The second class is open to government workers and other leaders in Baboua. 

In the future the project hopes to teach participants the basics of internet use and courtesy which would greatly promote communication among participants and with others outside of Baboua.  We have run into a major snag, though.  How do people in Baboua get internet access?  This is a town that doesn’t have electricity (except for rare cases, like the Lutheran station that has a generator). Charging computers is already an issue.  We had heard about USB internet keys that work in CAR, but further exploration (so far) has shown that these keys are not really very effective, especially not for operating more than one computer at a time.  We are not, however, giving up on this part of the training; we just need to explore other options to see what we can work out. 

So, skills I have come to take for granted: writing in Word, creating reports in Excel, surfing the net, communicating with others (such as you!) through email, a blog, and Facebook, are slowing coming to CAR.  I am pleased to be advising the Leadership team of this project so that we can develop skills Central Africans can take into the future.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

Celebrations with Joy

Happy 9th Day of Christmas! This is a season of celebrations.  First, we remember Jesus' birth and his second coming –whenever that will be.  The Central Evangelical Lutheran Church where I usually attend had a service in the afternoon of Dec. 24.  (It used to be held at 8 p.m. and some would stay until midnight in anticipation of Christmas Day.  This year as well as last year, the service was moved to the afternoon so that people could home by dark.  There have not been any security issues lately, but it is better to be cautious.)  I was told that the liturgy would start at 3 p.m., but as I was told again today, time here is “elastic.”  It actually started at 3:45 p.m.  A large part of the celebration was baptisms (about 60) and confirmations (about 60).  Wow.  It makes for a very long service, but imagine having so many reasons to celebrate!

On Christmas Day there was another liturgy with communion.  I was a little disappointed that people here don’t seem to know many Christmas carols.  I would be happy to learn some in French or Gbaya, but they don’t sing many.  We sang one from the French hymnal but many didn’t know it and few people have the hymnal.  (You buy your own and bring it with you.)  The choirs sang a couple, too.  Still it was a joyous occasion.

I made Christmas lunch for Dr. Solofo and Dr. Joely Rakotoarivelo, the Malagasy doctors who work at the Protestant Hospital of GB. It was good to have time to visit with them since our schedules don’t often allow much time for that.

I heard several times recently that Christmas is more a holiday for children.  They expect to get presents (as do kids in the USA, but no Santa Claus or stockings).  Girls often ask for dolls.  Like in the US, sometimes toys don’t always last long!  On New Year’s Eve I was visiting a friend and saw an abandoned leg (of the baby doll variety) on the ground near the house.  Cheap toy, rough play, or both?!?

On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, children come around singing “Oh, Noel-y.”  They will sometimes also sing a song, but they definitely expect candy!  (They repeat the process New Year’s Eve/Day, singing “Bonne Année!”

A week later, people celebrate the end of the year and the starting of a new one.  In fact, in Gbaya, they talk about Dec. 31 as “kaɗa pɛ” (end of the year) and Jan. 1 as “mbɛ pɛ” (new year).  Interesting the way language reflects the way we think about things… 

For New Year’s Eve, I was invited to share a goat dinner with Cameroonian friends.  I had seen the goat around the house for a couple of weeks before that.  When I arrived (½  hour after the appointed time –trying to be a little elastic with my time, too), we sat outside and talked.  There were girls/women cooking over wood fires near where we sat.  The friend said, “We aren't having goat tonight.  You can come back to eat with us tomorrow.”  It is not that they weren't cooking (or eating that evening); in fact, they made greens in a sauce that I found delicious.  It was that the mother of the house (and others) had worked in the garden all morning and had not had time to butcher and prepare the goat.  I couldn't accept the invitation for New Year’s Day since I had a full “party” schedule.  So, when the food was prepared and I got home from my lunch, a daughter brought me goat in sauce and manioc “cous cous.”  I couldn't eat it then as I was full, but had some later, enjoying it.  (I have to admit, though, that I liked the greens in sauce better than the goat!)  When I took the meat out of the refrigerator to heat and take a picture, I also uncovered the manioc.  (I had not put the manioc in the fridge thinking it would not be necessary for the time involved.)  I didn't realize that sugar ants like manioc too!  If you look closely at the picture, you can see them swarming the ball.  I knew that bees are attracted to manioc that is sold in the market, but now I know that it also attracts the tiny ants.  The bowl of candy is there since I had it for the children who came to visit.

I went to Solofo and Joely’s house for lunch.  Solofo grilled brochettes which were delicious.  Solofo thought to get sparkling wine so we were able to share a toast to welcome the new year.  Their house is closer to the side road that leads out of the station.  As we ate we heard music and saw people marching past on the main road (at a distance).  Wow: a New Year’s Day parade.  None of us knew it was to happen.  Neither did a couple of other friends I mentioned it to.  We figure it was a military parade, but didn’t go closer to check it out.  
Later in the afternoon, I went to Marthe Yapana’s house.  She works here at the station and has recently completed a new house.  Her Aunt Marie has been visiting from Meiganga (where she cooks and cleans for Rev. Dr. Elisabeth Johnson.  Marie has also cooked and cleaned for the Troesters in Baboua where I first met her.)  So on this afternoon, some people were invited to a house warming.  Marthe prepared snake (boa constrictor), beef in squash seed sauce, fish, plantains, and manioc.  I had never had snake before.  The taste is fine, but I was surprised by the number of bones.  Marthe had told me that she had bought part of a medium-sized snake, but I still associate them with being pretty big around.  I also know that boas unhinge their jaws and swallow food whole
working it into their stomachs to digest it – which necessitates bones to move it along.  But, still, there were a lot more bones than meat in the piece I got! 
Marthe’s daughter did a dance of celebration for the 20 or so people assembled.  After eating, the food tables were removed and 4 couples did a dance to open the dancing part of the celebration.  Some adults danced, but lots of kids did.  Such joy on their faces!  It was a pleasure to see.

When I got home (about 6 p.m., just before it got dark), I had a visit from the Cameroonian Chief Customs Officer who is staying here at the station.  We toasted the new year and enjoyed some conversation.  Around 8 p.m. the Bible School students who had not gone to their villages for the break came to my house to toast the new year.  8 men came and 2 of their wives.  They, too, wanted to dance.  What joy was reflected in their faces – part of the celebration, and partly because they were invited to drink a beer with me.  (I know that they cannot easily afford to buy beer, so why not share with them?) 

Churches here have services on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  I choose to stay home for both although I heard the liturgies were moving.

I got the share in the joy of the season with friends in Garoua Boulai.  I also talked to my family on Christmas Day (and Mom on New Year’s Day).  I hope that you were also able to spend time with family and friends in this Christmas season.

Remember, Christmas continues until Jan.6 when we remember the Wise Men arriving at the manger.  This is only the 9th Day of Christmas, so keep celebrating!  May you find much joy in your lives now and throughout 2015.

Monday, December 15, 2014

National Bishop's Visit

As the dry season starts and before Christmas (November and December), Regional Bishops visit their districts and the National Bishop visits the regions.  They make contact with congregations and area church leaders to encourage them in their work.  The faithful like seeing their leaders as well, welcoming them with open arms. 

For the past couple of weeks the Regional Bishop for the Eastern Region, Rev. Enoch Garga-Zizi  (who lives across the street from me and is also the Director of the Bible School in GB), has been traveling around the region with the National Bishop, Rev. Ruben Ngozo.  This weekend they were in the Garoua Boulai District. 

     New church                                 Women preparing food                    Chapel Dedication, Nganko

Saturday, the church at Nganko hosted the bishops as they dedicated their new church building.  Preparations were made and then, in the afternoon, many people gathered. (I was among them.)  When we got word that Bishop Ngozo and his entourage were on their way from a nearby town, four cars and a dozen motorcycles went to the village which marks the beginning of the district.  We waited in front of the traditional chief’s house.  When they arrived, people lined the street; the bishop and some leaders who were with him, got out of the car and greeted each person (shaking hands as is the tradition here).  Bishop Garga-Zizi went before Bishop Ngozo to give each person’s name and title.

(Note:  this was along the main paved road that is the life-line for commerce and travel in the region!  Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of other traffic!) 
National Bishop Ngozo
Regional Bishop Garga-Zizi

Then we piled back into the cars, drove around GB honking horns and returned to the church at Nganko (several miles from GB proper).  Several choirs (from local churches) lined the entry way.  The bishop was carried in on an armchair. 

The service began outside the church to bless the building and give its history.  Once we moved inside.  It was a regular liturgy, more or less. The bishop spoke three times (about ½ hour each time).  First, during announcements, he introduced his entourage and the Regional Bishop introduced those who came with him.  (This is normal, but took longer than usual since there were many visitors!) Then the National Bishop was given a chance to greet the congregation.  (Normal, when there are visitors, but not something that happens every week.)  His third speech was the sermon, based on a lesson in Acts.  There was also lots of singing – by choirs and the congregation. (That is normal.)  The service was mostly in French with the bishop using some Gbaya to repeat parts of the message. Singing was in Gbaya. (Normally, services are either in French or Gbaya, not both.  This was an exception since there were many visitors and local Gbaya people.)  The service lasted about 2 ½ hours.  (That is pretty normal for serviced here.) 

Nganko congregants organized receptions; since there were so many people, they were asked to go to one of three locations.  When we finished eating, we went back to the Lutheran Station for another reception for the people from Garoua Boulai!  We ate again, of course.  The National Bishop stayed in the guest house next to mine.

Sunday morning, at the Central Lutheran Church (a five-minute walk from my house) the French and Gbaya congregations combined for one Liturgy.  The Sous-Prefet (regional government official) and others attended.  The service was similar to the one the day before (without the blessing of the church).  Unfortunately for me, the bishop gave the same three talks.  (It was fortunate for him.  Since he is visiting MANY churches in the region, it makes sense that he would present the same sermon and information!)  One difference was giving thanks for the returned hostages and blessing them.  Bishop Ngozo also received presents as a sign of respect and honor. The GB district gave him a cow (or maybe a steer… In French you just say “un boeuf” - a beef).


After church, there was, of course, a reception!  We went back to the Social Center for more food and conversation.  Local people came to see the bishop after lunch and he left our area about 4:30 p.m. – headed to another church and more visits!  (With all that eating, drinking, waiting for events, and speaking, I am glad it was he who went on to other places and not me!)

Monday, December 8, 2014


Today I had the privilege of visiting
the traditional chief (of a neighborhood in Garoua Boulai) who had been held hostage for almost 3 months by the Miskine rebels in CAR.  I went with the Bible School students who wanted to pay their respects.  I did, too.

In this season of Advent – anticipation and waiting – I can’t help but think about all of the families who waited anxiously for the 26 loved ones to be released.  Waiting and wondering how the hostages were.  What a joy to have them back.

The chief (addressed as his majesty) welcomed us and told us some stories of his captivity.  (Fortunately for me, and probably because I was there, he spoke mostly in French with a little Gbaya.  He said there were 26 captives: 15 Cameroonians, 10 Central Africans, and 1 Polish priest who works in Baboua. 

When the rebels came into the Bethany neighborhood and took 7 people, he was able to convince them not to take his son as well.  A couple of the children of a teacher at the Bible School had just passed him on the trail.  When the rebels asked who they were, planning to take them as well, the chief said they were just children returning to town.  He saved them (and their parents) several months of hardship.  The chief said that 24 of the hostages were men and 2 were women.

When these Cameroonian hostages arrived at the camp in CAR, the chief said the rebels offered him a soda and told that he was to be treated well because they had nothing against him personally.  They saw the hostages as a way to put pressure on the Cameroonian government to release their leader.  That was the last soda and courtesy that they were given.

The hostages were chained together at the ankle and wrist.  To eat the wrist manacles were temporarily removed and then replaced.  If they had to go to the bathroom they had to ask and get permission to be unchained.  Often they were told to wait a while.  More than once a hostage wet or soiled himself because the wait was too long.  Then, the hostages were always accompanied to do their business. 

Food was not well prepared.  It was often burnt or poorly cooked.  Meat was often almost raw.  The chief said that the priest once asked for some manioc (cassava) to go with some (mostly raw) chicken, but the rebels refused.  Father Mathieu insisted on saying mass each day at noon and having evening prayers about 6 p.m., even when the captors said they were not to pray. 

The chief said that he often had dreams of his dead parents and children.  He was sure that he would soon be with them.  Even the hostage chained to his side said he saw the chief’s father. 

One of the other hostages said that he wished he had refused to go and been killed before crossing the river; it would have been better.  The chief said he would not be taken again, that he, too, would rather die than go through that nightmare again.

About a day before they were released, the chief said a chicken came into the area where they were being held early in the morning.  It hopped over other hostages and squatted beside him to lay an egg.  Soon, a rebel came to take the chicken and the egg, but told the chief that the chicken’s action meant there would soon be good news for him. 

The next day, they saw some rebels talking to the priest and helping him to pack his things.  Soon after that, the rebels came to the Cameroonians and said they, too, were to be freed.  (The Central Africans were also freed, but three days later.)  The rebels walked the hostages from the camp to the river at the border with Cameroon.  They left at 1 a.m. and arrived about 6:30 a.m. – walking the whole time in the dark without flashlights.

The original plan was for all 16 of these hostages to go to Yaoundé and then to fly to Brazzaville, Congo with Abdoulaye Miskine, the leader who was being held in Yaoundé.  Fortunately, they were not forced to accompany Miskine although the chief said he thought that Father Mathieu did.  (I have heard that despite all the difficulties, this courageous, dedicated priest want to return to his work in Baboua.  May God be with him where every he goes.)

Chief, Bible School students, some visitors
The chief said he is very glad to be home among his family and neighbors.  He was touched and pleased that so many people prayed for him during his absence.  He said he gives thanks to God continually to be home.  His feet still hurt, but he is beginning to regain his strength.
So, as we await Christ’s coming (the first time to mark history and the second when he will return) this Advent, imagine what the waiting was like for these hostages.  Imagine what many people around the world feel as they wait for peace and security.  Imagine the frustration and grief of people of color in the USA who still wait for equality and peace in their daily lives.  Pray for God’s peace that passes all understanding be with all who suffer.  Pray that the Holy Spirit change the hard hearts of the rebels who took these hostages and of all of those who put greed and self-interest before the well-being of others. 

Change can come.  We can help – each of us in our corner of the world.  May we all get what we are waiting for – sooner rather than later.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wedding, November 29, 2014

A wedding is the joyous celebration of the two people who commit themselves to living together and creating a family.
I had the pleasure of attending such a celebration for Jacob Betrogo, financial administrator at the Protestant Hospital in GB, and Ruth Neusene Salatou. They live in the house next to mine, but the wedding took place in N’gaoundéré (about 3 hours northwest of GB – now that the road is paved!)

Just like in the US, fancy invitations invited guests to attend.  Here, though, they are generally delivered by hand and not by mail.  The one I got has English on the outside (probably coming from Nigeria) and had a couple of French pages inside.  At the reception, I saw others who had invitations that looked like passports.  Mine is pictured at right.

Couples are officially married twice here.  First, they are married at Town Hall; this is the civil ceremony.  Jacob and Ruth had their civil ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, November 29.  I decided not to go to N’gaoundéré until Saturday morning, so I missed that part.  (I had only been back from Yaoundé a couple of day, taught two classes, and was recovering from Plan Q – see the last blog entry.)
The church wedding where the couple makes their commitment before God and the congregation happened at the Millennium Lutheran Cathedral at 3 p.m.  Well, that was when it was scheduled to start.  It actually started at about 4 p.m.  Parts of this service are the same as a wedding in the US, but parts are different.  There was a bulletin which gives the schedule as:

  • Songs by the choirs (Yes, they had two.  Both had great, lively music, mostly in French, but some in English.)
  • Arrival of the groom.  The brides’ maids and groom’s men process in first and line the main aisle.  Then Jacob entered with a woman of his family.  He was seated on a couch (love seat size) in front of the pews.  The woman sat on a covered chair next to him.
  • Then, after some more music, the bride processed in with her father.  The groom’s men sprayed fake snow/confetti from cans as she came down the aisle.  Ruth sat next to her husband-to-be with her father on a chair next to her.  Both the bride and groom wore white.
  • Many invitees wore clothes made from material that the bride chose.  (See the people with the blue print cloth).  Others chose material that a whole group wore (choir, family, etc.) 
  • There were photographers taking video and still photos.  I have to say that I found this to be intrusive.  Many times they hid the couple and the “action” of the ceremony as they stood in the way to take pictures.  You can see one photographer in the shot of the bride’s procession.
  • Hymn
  • Welcome and Invocation
  • Confession of sins
  • Promise of Grace
  • Song by one choir
  • 2 Bible Readings (read by friends)
  • Confession of Faith
  • Song by the second choir
  • Sermon:  One pastor was the liturgist and a second preached.  He talked about the texts read and what it means to be married.  I thought, personally, that ½ hour was too long, so he lost me toward the end…
  • Liturgy of Marriage
  • Institution and Introduction
  • Vows of the couple
  • Exchange of rings
  • Benediction of the couple
  • Hymn
  • Presentation of a Bible to the couple
  • Speech by the family of the groom

  • Speech by the family of the bride
  • Speech by a representative of the church
  • Presentation of gifts (for those who were not attending the reception later)
  • Prayers
  • Photos with the family
  • Final Benediction

  • Recession lead by the couple, wedding party, and then guests.The whole wedding took about 2 ¼ hours until about 6:20 p.m.  (Too long for me, but it’s not about me, right??)  By the final recession only about ½ the congregation was left (so maybe it was too long for them, too, especially since we started an hour late).

The wedding reception was held at the Hotel Mentong Palace on the outskirts of town.  The invitation said 8 p.m.  I went with Elie Sanda (ELCA financial administrator for Cameroon/CAR) and his wife.  We didn’t go at 8, but arriving at 8:45 we were still the first to arrive.  Festivities started at 10:30 p.m.  (Sigh.  All day we did a lot of waiting.) 
The reception also started with a procession – of the bride’s maids and groom’s men and then the bride and groom.  These young people did two dances for the guests – choreographed and enjoyable.  Then there was grace and we ate.  A woman from the hotel announced the menu for two buffets then tables of guests were directed to one buffet table or the other. (So why were there different foods? ?)  Food was plentiful and enjoyable, but not very warm despite chafing dishes with flames beneath them.  A large room was full, so I’d estimate there were over 200 guests.  (They don’t have people return cards to get a count; they just make enough food!)

After we ate, the bride and groom left to change clothes.  After more than an hour of waiting, I had had enough.  It was after midnight and since Dr. Solofo and Dr. Joely were leaving I left with them. 

So what did I miss?  There was another presentation of gifts and other formalities and then dancing that went on until about 4 a.m. I heard.  I am sure it was fun.  Still, I am not much of a party person, especially when I don’t know many people and festivities get off to such a late start.  And, the waiting tired me out.  I was happy to go to the guest house for a good night’s rest!

I wish the couple all the best in their married life! 

I stayed in N’gaoundéré Sunday since Anne Langdji and Andrea Walker were arriving that evening from the Cameroonian Pastors’ Retreat.  We went to dinner at the Coffee Shop and shared news. 

When I left Monday, I took a load of medical supplies destined for the Lutheran Clinic in Gallo, CAR that had been delivered in a container from World Health Ministries.  (They were temporary stored in my entry way until the people from the clinic picked them up Wednesday.)  I also stopped in 
Meiganga to see Elisabeth Johnson (who teaches at the seminary there).  We had a delicious lunch and caught up on news.  I arrived safely back in Garoua Boulai Monday afternoon. 

By the way, I opened the can of humus (referred to in the last blog entry) yesterday.  It is OK.  A nice change of pace, but too salty for my taste.  Also, it was not very creamy.  (Served here with tomatoes and avocado with salt and pepper)  I don’t know if I will buy it again, but I am glad to have the variety and experience.  It makes me think that I will look for chick peas and tahini to make my own!  The seaweed (some of which I added to a cabbage dish) was better.  I used one of the spice packets which made the food a bit hot, but well within my low tolerance.