Saturday, November 23, 2013


This next week will be full to the max!  Here are the major events of the coming week:
  • The new National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon is being installed Sunday, Nov. 24.
  • The partners’ consultation for EEL-RCA (the Lutheran Church in CAR) will be Nov. 27-28 (with people arriving Nov. 26).  It would normally be in Bouar, CAR, but insecurity means that instead of having partners go there; eight of them will come to GB, as will 13 Central Africans. 
  • The Cameroonian National Bishop and 5 South Dakotans will be visiting a couple of churches in the area and attending the hospital celebration.  They will arrive in GB Nov. 26 and leave the 30th. 
  • The Protestant Hospital of GB turns 60 this year and they have done a lot of remodeling work.  Fri., Nov. 29, there will be a re-dedication and celebration. (The women in charge will be preparing food for 250 or more.)
  • Oh, and don’t forget Thurs., Nov. 28 is Thanksgiving! (And, in a very rare confluence, also Hanukah, although we won’t be celebrating that here.)  Turkeys are available in N’gaoundéré, but not GB.  We will be having grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, avocado salad (made by the caterers) and stuffing and squash (GB has no pumpkins as we know them in the US) pies made by me.

So this past week has been jammed with preparations.  Lots of people are getting ready in lots of ways.  After all the renovation work at the hospital, workers are putting on final touches.  They put down tar-y gravel that became a simple form of black top to control the dust.  They have had some great new signs made, too. 

The guest house bathrooms have had some updating.  Both sides got a new toilet.  The other house also got a new sink and work to fix a leaky shower. 

I was asked to coordinate the food and lodging for 28.  (Fortunately, I won’t be the one doing the cooking!  Or the cleaning of the rooms and sheets afterwards…)

I also decided to have some repairs done.  The two-seater couch (that was made by putting two chairs together) was sagging in the middle so that it was truly a lover’s seat – it was hard to sit anything but close as bodies drifted toward the sagging middle.  The bolt was not big enough in the back and the one in the front was coming apart – soon the lovers would have been in a heap on the floor!  For a long time the buffet, also in the living/dining room, has had a door that swung open on its own whenever it so desired.  There was a folded paper holding it shut, but once I opened the door, I could never get it back in right.  I tied it shut, but that meant I couldn’t use the shelves inside.  The carpenter who came to look at it said that the first problem was that the concrete floor has a dip and the buffet is not level.  That contributed to the door not staying shut – and probably to the hinges on that side being loose.  I am happy to say that the door is repaired and I got a shim to make the buffet level!  In the process of doing the repairs, the carpenter also re-varnished the buffet and the couch.  I also had him repair a couple of chairs. 

 While I was at it, I got a new mat (made of woven plastic).  I am not convinced it is the best color, but at least little pieces of plastic won’t be flaking off and being tracked throughout the house.  I put the old one (whose colors I like better…) in the bedroom where there will be less traffic.  This way, too, guests can step onto the mat instead of concrete in the morning – not that it gets that cold to really worry about it. The house is ready for company again.

I have also been experimenting.  I can’t make the stuffing inside a turkey or chicken.  And, although I have made stuffing before, it has not been recently.  At the beginning of the week, I made a batch to try out Cameroonian ingredients.  Thanks to Anne Langdji for providing the spices.  (Mine are still in Baboua…)  I didn’t like it so much, so for company I will use a different kind of bread and modify the combination of spices. 

I also tried out a pumpkin pie recipe.  It was mediocre.  Anne and Pastor Andrea were passing through their way to N’gaoundéré (meetings and the Bishop’s installation) so they put in their two cents.  We agreed that the kinds of squash I used needed more sugar and I will use canned milk instead of powdered.  Also, I need to better crush the whole cloves to spread the flavor more evenly.  I wasn’t very happy with the crust either.  (When was the last time you made one from scratch??  If I were in the US, I’d have bought premade ones, but they don’t exist here…) The taste was fine, but I think I need to work on the amount of water and size of the pieces of butter/margarine.  I may try a sweet potato pie, too, since I have some great ones from Baboua. 

Now, all I have to do is make stuffing and pies for 35!  I am glad I am not preparing the whole meal.  Good thing I did all of that experimenting.

Other work continues.  Central African project teams have been completing a document that explains their work.  I have received and sent on the two from the Village School Program (I scanned their handwritten copy) and Christian Education (I typed it as the director and I revised it).  I have also seen a report of the VSP’s Curriculum Coach’s trip to visit schools. (19 of 20 are functional!  We hope that the last is functional this week).  The VSP team has also been working on a newsletter about all of their activities in the past several months.  (Watch for that soon.)

Busy, busy!  With this up-coming week promising to be even more so.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  I am thankful for your support – in all the forms that you give it.

Friday, November 15, 2013


(Thanks to Amy Hansen and Max Buchholz for sharing the pictures they took during the youth gathering last week – some of which appeared in the last blog and some in this one.)

We talk about being flexible, but what does that mean?  And, how easy is it to live with a frequent need to be flexible? 

I thought I’d give you some recent examples.  As you know from the last blog, I usually live by myself in the guest house in Garoua Boulai with the twin house next door empty.  For four days last week there were 11 of us!  We didn’t all share one bathroom (there were 2), but we ate meals at my house and had many of our meetings there.  That calls for adjustment and flexibility!

Monday I drove to Yaoundé so that the three US visitors could catch a flight home.  At first I planned to return the next day so I could attend a Church Workers’ retreat that started Wed.  That plan didn’t work out, so I decided to stay a day in Yaoundé to be able to meet with Langdjis (regional representatives).  So the plan was to leave Wed.

Then, we decided that there was too much to talk about so I would leave Thurs.  Then we decided that since there was some maintenance work that needed to be done on the car and the mechanic could work on it Thurs., I would wait another day.  Then Anne Langdji’s plans changed (see her flexibility example below), so I am now returning to GB with Drs. Solofo and Joely (who live in GB and are also currently in Yaoundé) on Saturday. 

So!  My overnight trip turned into 6 days!  I thought to bring a week’s worth of malaria and other medicines and I brought some spare cash, in case.  Clothes have been limited, but who will notice?!?

Because I have been here longer, I was able to go to the Bible Society Store in town to buy some Gbaya Bibles, got a couple of chargers for computers without them, bought a few non-essential items at the grocery store, met with some new people, and worked on a variety of projects – including the last blog entry and this one!  I have also had the pleasure spending more time with Anne, Willie, their son Micah, and the others of their household. 

Another area that is demanding flexibility are meetings scheduled for the end of November.  Five representatives from South Dakota are coming for various activities in N’gaoundéré, Garoua Boulai, and other area towns.  They will also attend the rededication of the hospital in GB (after renovations – see an early blog entry) to be held on Nov. 29.  Others from the Cameroonian church will also attend the ceremony.  At the same time, the CAR partners (from the US and Europe and a dozen church officials) are coming for their yearly consultation – to be held in GB because of the insecurity in CAR.  Lots of people!  Full guest houses, social center, meeting rooms, etc.! 

Anne Langdji and Rev. Andrea Walker (who arrives from the US Nov. 16) were planning to take the train to N’gaoundéré.  Then, Anne decided to take the train part way and get someone to meet them so they could visit a couple towns on the way.  Then, she decided to drive (hence my leaving the car in Yaoundé), leaving Nov. 22.  Then, she found out about meetings she needs to attend in N’gaoundéré Nov. 21-23.  The final decision (as of today, of course), is that Anne and Andrea will drive to GB Nov. 20 and on to N’gaoundéré Nov. 21. 

No sense getting set in one way of doing things!  Of course, there are other areas of life that demand flexibility and patience – like sharing the road with cattle, goats, dogs, and occasional chickens! 

Cars and trucks also share the road with motorcycles (many with drivers that are crazy – or at least non-licensed and ignorant of rules of the road). Many of these are loaded to the gills (do motorcycles have gills???) with people and merchandise.  Even walkers have to be flexible – like the time I was walking against traffic (as is always recommended) and a motorcycle came up behind me going the wrong way!  (And, the driver acted like I was in the wrong because I was in his way…)

Speaking of cars, I am often flexible about which one I am driving.  In GB I often walk, but have also been driving a Toyota Land Cruiser with Central African license plates.  To take this trip to Yaoundé I drove a newer Land Cruiser with Cameroonian plates. When I get back to GB, I will be driving a Toyota pick-up since Pr. Jackie took the one I normally drive to N’gaoundéré.  I can say that while the vehicles change, they all have diesel engines and are BIG (as compared to what I have driven in the US).

We also have to be flexible about when we use the internet and how we access it.  For 4 days before coming to Yaoundé my Camtel internet connection was down.  (I sure hope it is fixed when I get back or I will be going back to the slower Orange Flash connection.)  Here in Yaoundé Langdjis have a fast connection, but it was down for 24 hours Wed.  It often goes out for short periods, but this was longer than usual.  Just after Anne paid for time on her Orange Flash connection, the regular internet came back on.  (I am actually writing this blog entry today because I can’t be sure my internet will be working when I get to GB.  Better to do it while this connection is working!)
One final example:  before we attended church last Sunday (with the youth), I checked with the pastor about the lessons we would read in English.  He said they would be as noted in the official church list.  When we got to the church, different lessons were posted (on the board behind the pastor in the picture) for the Old and New Testament lessons although the Gospel lesson was the same.  And, although he had said he would read the Psalm in English, that day he asked that one of us do it.  We can prepare, but… 

I think I am being flexible, but can one judge about oneself?  What challenges in your life have demanded extra flexibility lately?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Youth Gathering

A dream delayed that worked out well
– even if not as expected!  Last year at the CAR Partners’ Meeting, Pastor Paul Schauer from North Dakota was talking to Pastor Abel Safa from the Central African Republic.  They hatched the dream of having some North Dakotan youth attend the National Youth Conference in CAR in April 2013.  Both pastors started planning and getting others interested in the project.  The original plan was to bring Pastor Paul and four youth to the conference.

Well, the original plans didn’t work because of the coup d’état in CAR in late March 2013.  The trip from the US and the youth conference were cancelled.  After several unsuccessful attempts, a simplified youth gathering was finally held in Garoua Boulai.  It was attended by Pr. Paul and two young people from ND; Pr. Abel and five youth from CAR; and two missionaries (Pr. Jackie who came from N’gaoundéré and me). 

Amy, Pres. Golike, Pr. Paul, Max
The four-day event had many activities, good food, and lots of time to talk – through interpreters and finding ways without them!  Here are some of the activities of the visit: introducing ourselves to each other, being oriented to the Lutheran mission in Cameroon and CAR (which were once a joint project started in about 1930 called the Sudan Mission), participating in Sunday School songs and activities, singing (with guitar) in Sango, French, and English, taking a walking tour of Garoua Boulai, playing volleyball with local (very professional-looking) players, and attending church on Sunday at Garouaseye.

Pastor André Golike, national president of EEL-RCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church-CAR), came for a visit Saturday morning.  We had great discussions with him and really appreciated that he drove about 3 hours and crossed the border in order to spend time with the youth gathering. 

Here are some pictures of the volleyball players. Our players have on the yellow uniforms that Pastor Abel brought from the Lutheran Center in Bouar.  (They were donated by OELM, the Luther Church in Germany.)  The youth were glad to put them to use!  We were also glad that the teams were a mixture of “us” and “them” or we would have been creamed.  As it was, everyone had a great time. 

Food was also wonderful and varied.  It was prepared by two local women, so it was not always what people from the US would expect.  We had fish a couple of times –something we certainly eat in the US, but this had bones, heads, and tails when it is grilled (pictured), but even when it was cut into pieces and put in a sauce (sort of like a stew).  We also tried “baton de manioc.”  Manioc, or cassava is a root plant that takes days to prepare to make it safe to eat.  (It also doesn’t have high nutritional value, but the plant grows well in this area even in the dry season.)  The powder is then made into a boule (sort of like a smooth cream of wheat ball) or theses batons (sticks).  The sticks are wrapped in leaves.  The texture is sort of like rubber.  I find the aftertaste of manioc to be a bit sour with the batons more so than the boule.  These were not a big hit with those of us from the US.  We ate about 1 ½ among the five of us so I gave the rest to a neighbor.  Another dish we had was gumbo (okra) sauce with “boule” that was made from corn.  Here is Anatole eating the traditional way – with his hand. 

We picked Garaouaseye Church – one of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon – because it is very close to the border.  There are many Central Africans who belong there and many others who have family and friends from CAR (which is only about ½ mile away).  The church is small (see pictures of the outside and inside), but the congregations has built another structure next door.  During a mission trips in February, South Dakotans will help add the roof.  Then it will be the largest Lutheran Church in town – the cathedral someone said. 
The service starts at 10 a.m.  I said we would arrive a little early, but they said not to.  So, as requested, we arrived at 10:00.  We were lead to the parish house (where the Evangelist lives) by about 10 Women for Christ singing a welcoming song in Sango.  There we sat for a few minutes to be welcomed by the Pastor and Evangelists.  About 10:10 we met the four choirs at the door of the church to process in – singing and dancing.  We were seated on plastic chairs at the front – congregants sit on benches.  Throughout the service there was much joyful singing.  The service was in Gbaya, but they sang a bunch of Sango hymns in honor of our visit.  Bible readings were done in Gbaya (by the Evangelist and Pastor) and English (by us!).  Pastor Francis Gaga preached in Gbaya and one of the Central Africans interpreted it into English. 

Me with Pastor Francis

After the two-hour service, we were given a huge basket of oranges, bananas, peanuts, and crackers.  The Women for Christ stood together outside and sang some more.  Other members greeted and talked with us.  We felt very welcome and included. 

Here’s a picture taken just after before the Central Africans headed back across the border.  Included in the group are several others from CAR and Garoua Boulai. 

Monday at 6:00 a.m. The North Dakotans and I headed to Yaoundé for their 11:55 p.m. flight.  We got to Langdji’s (ELCA Regional Representatives) by 2 p.m. so we had time to take a shower, visit, and go to a French café for dinner (for which there was enough left for five of us to eat for lunch the next day). 

A wonderful visit!  Next time, we hope that the youth gathering can be in CAR again with the regularly scheduled National Youth Conference. 

Ant Update: This morning I found that a bunch of the little ants found my Kindle. An occasional ant has crossed the screen before, but this time there were more.  I banged it (gently) on a table and a bunch fell out of the hole where the recharger goes!  I did it several more times and more came out.  Over the day, I have tapped out more.  I knew they were still there because the pages were turning on their own!  I think they are all out now – no more mysteriously turning pages and no ants coming out if I tap the edge on the table… 

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Weather, Harest Offerings, and other News

The dry season has come.  It has not rained for 4-5 days, but even more, the sun feels hotter; the humidity is down; temperatures have gone up (but it still cools off nicely at night); and the breezes have picked up.  It is amazing to me that this can happen from one day to the next.  This afternoon it was 75 degrees in my bedroom with 46% humidity; 104° in the sun (22% humidity) and 84° in the shade (36% humidity).  So, OK, I was playing for part of this afternoon instead of doing some other things on my list!  It feels pleasant to me – but no wonder I feel hot when I walk to the market in the sun! 
a few days ago

a few days ago

this afternoon

this afternoon
The “lake” of a road behind the guest house has dried up, although the torn up grass where motorcycles, trucks, and people went around the huge puddle are still visible. 

There are morning glories growing up the banana plants (also behind my house). 

Tuesday, October 29, the Lutheran School for Biblical and Theological Studies in Garoua Boulai (which I usually call by the shorter title, Bible School), hosted a Round Table for Protestantism Week in Cameroon.  Various churches got together and picked the theme of “Walking Together” (from Philippians 3:16).  This round table had a panel of 3 local pastors with the Bible School Director as moderator.  Speakers gave a brief history of Protestantism, the basics of what it means to be Lutheran, and the status of protestant groups in Garoua Boulai.  Panelists read their remarks.  (Presenters in the US do that, too, but I find it
harder to follow than someone who speaks from notes…)  The moderator then summed up each person’s speech as he finished.  After 45-minutes, the audience (mostly Bible School students with some other local pastors/catechists – all Lutherans), asked questions.  The moderator accepted two rounds of three questions each.  It was interesting to me that he noted the three questions and then had the panelists answer them.  I think it is more common in the US that each question is answered after it is asked.  (Just noticing a difference.) 

Thursday, October 31 all the local churches had a special service for Reformation Day (the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany, and inadvertently started Protestantism).   My church at home included the 95 theses in this month’s newsletter.  I was pleased to see a modern translation of them.  I don’t know if I had ever read them all before.  Luther, a monk who spent a lot of time studying the Bible, wanted to correct excesses within the Catholic Church.  He said that indulgences could not be sold to people to lessen their time in purgatory or to buy them forgiveness for their sins.  The pope and some bishops sold these certificates to get money for cathedral-building.  I found a copy of the theses in French and posted them on the bulletin board at the Bible School.  One student joked we should post them on the door of the local Catholic Church.  I answered it was not necessary because they no longer accept the sale of certificates of forgiveness!  I encourage you to look for and read them.  Everyone could benefit from this bit of history with a reminder that we are saved by the grace of God.

November 1 was All Saints’ Day and November 2 was All Souls’ Day.  While these were mentioned and EEL-RCA recognizes Nov. 1 as a holiday, there was less mention of these days than of the reformation. 

In churches here all through October and early November, people give their harvest offerings.  So, each group (such as Women for Christ, the Bible School, each choir, youth, Sunday School, the hospital…) ask its members to make a special donation which is recorded in a notebook.  Then, each Sunday during this period several of the groups meet at the back of the church and process in dancing to present their offerings.  They carry a plate with the envelopes, often with flowers.  A special committee sits at a table in the front to receive and count the offerings.  It is a joyful time.  Yesterday, during the liturgy, various groups brought their offerings which took about 45 minutes.

Regular offerings are still given each week and sometimes special ones, too.
  (Yesterday, they also collected money for the regional synodical retreat.)  Still, these harvest offerings bring in a huge portion of the church’s budget.  Churches in the US also use special times to collect special offerings.  I am thinking of my home church, East Liberty Lutheran that celebrated its 59th anniversary yesterday.  Congregants are encouraged to give an extra anniversary gift.  And, we in the US, often give extra offerings at Christmas and Easter.  Here the tradition is to give a large harvest offering.  No church I have been a member of has been able to raise as much as the French congregation has this year (and past years, I am told) in Garoua Boulai.  An inspiration for us??? 

Did you know that pigs running around loose in the yard will dig up holes as they look for whatever it is that they eat?  I guess that would be like the pigs that people use to find truffles!  Except here, there is no one to stop them from making a mess of the yard.  Fortunately, I haven’t seen any the pigs around my house for a few days and the dug-up patches are settling back into place. 

I am convinced that every government and country has a bureaucracy – but the level may vary.  I have noticed here that usually when you go to an office for any reason, the person will inevitably say that you must go back tomorrow (or the next day, or next week) because whatever it is can’t be done that day.  S/he says s/he will have it ready by Tuesday (or tomorrow or they’ll call when it’s ready).  Then, when you go back to the office, s/he completes the task while you sit and wait – even if s/he called to say it was ready!  Why not just make you wait the first day you go?  What kind of sense does that make?  I know, I know, bureaucracies don’t make sense and are fueled by people in low-level positions who use waiting to have “power” over others.  Sigh. 

May your contacts with bureaucracy be minimal this week!  And may you enjoy sunny weather even if it is much cooler there than here. 

Continue to pray for peace and security in the Central African Republic.