A dream delayed that worked out well
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…