Sunday, April 6, 2014


Rev. Kemane
Sunday School Teacher
I had the opportunity to observe an  EcoDim this morning. EcoDim is short for École de Dimanche or Sunday school.  I went with Rev. Maurice Kemane, Director of Christian Education in CAR, Rev. Pierre Hamboa, Assistant Director, and Rev. Lucien Gbawi, a local pastor who attends that church. 

The first question is what time to go.  They all assured me that Sunday school starts at 7:30 a.m. before the 9 a.m. liturgy.  OK.  We were to arrive at 7.  I met Pastor Lucien at 7 so he could show me where the church is, meaning we got there about 7:15.  (See, I am getting a little better at the flexible time stuff.) 
Local tradition dictates that guests enter the house, sit down, and be offered something to drink.  So, we went into the house of the pastor of the church (who couldn’t be present because he was in another village for the day).  We waited.  And waited – just the two of us.  There were women outside wishing dishes – seated on small stools and using basins.  You can seem them through the doorway in the picture that shows my view as I sat in the living room and waited.  (I like the idea of having a gauzy cloth on the doorway to provide some privacy but allowing for a breeze.  I suppose it would also keep out a few of the bugs…)
Pastors Maurice and Pierre arrived at 8 a.m., so much for a 7:30 start.  I was told that part of the late start was because the congregation was not notified far enough ahead so they hadn’t had enough time to prepare.  What did they prepare?  Well, first, tea (very sweet) and bottled water (for me) then rice prepared with some macaroni, onions, and probably Cubes Maggi (bouillon used in most everything). It was actually very good.  We ate that dish before Sunday school and again after it before the liturgy.  After church we had pieces of meat in a sauce with manioc (cassava) – and a separate bowl with rice for me in case I don’t eat manioc.  Another delicious dish – but by now I have had breakfast at home (probably a mistake on my part) and 3 meals, all before 11:30 a.m.!)  To complete the hospitality topic: after lunch (the third one), we were invited to the house of the President of the local district of
Women for Christ.  After we all entered her living room and waited for a bit, she offered us wine.  Meat and wine are relatively expensive and are, therefore, good items to offer guests to show that they are valued.

But, wait!  I supposed to be talking about Sunday school!  As we entered the church, children and youth sat on benches on one side of the church.  Toward the front on benches that were perpendicular, sat the Sunday School Mothers and a few children.  About 160 children were present.  They are all together for the children’s liturgy.  Much of it is call and response.  That is, the lead teacher says a line and the children repeat (often with great energy).  They did the Apostles’ Creed this way and a couple of part of the liturgy that I didn’t recognize.  At other times, the leader said a line and the children responded with another line that they knew.  They also sang some songs – sometimes with hand motions (as in the picture).  It was impressive.
At the end children came up to put their offering in the basket that one of the mothers was holding.  Their Sunday school is so active and generous that they have contributed to buying five sacks of cement and sand to aid in the construction of a new, larger church building.  (See the pictures.)

After the official liturgy, they went outside to play some games.  Because of the late start, they got to do only about 10 minutes today.  (Sorry kids!)  I am learning one of the chants that involves hand clapping and having people go into the center of the circle to dance.  (Yes, the made me go in with the Assistant Director!  No pictures – whew!)

After a short break (to eat rice – see above!), we went back into the church for the regular liturgy.  I was impressed that it started very close to the 9 a.m. start time.  Any delay was because of us, it seems. 

 Honoring guests continues in the EcoDim and liturgy.  We got to sit in plastic chairs instead of benches.  (I prefer that since they have backs; yes, I’m spoiled in that way…)  The chairs were upfront: for the EcoDim, we were in front of the altar rail which is still in front of where the children and teacher were; for the liturgy, we were behind the altar rail and even behind the altar.  It is an honor, but one I could do without!  First of all, I am there as a fellow worshiper.  But, more than that, it is hard to see and hear from there.  From these honor seats, I can’t see the board with the Bible readings either.  The picture on the right shows the congregation (probably about 250 people) when I was standing up and the second my view when I sat down. 

Hearing is also an issue because of “modern technology.”  Many congregations, including this one, now have drum sets, electric guitars, sound board, microphones, and HUGE speakers.  My problem is that very loud often comes with distortion.  They have a fancy-looking sound board, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. 

Have you ever paid attention to the fact that when listening to (or reading) something in your first language, you can often fill in small parts that you miss (or are distorted)?  Well, I can do that somewhat in French, but not in Sango (and since I only get about 15% in Gbaya, not at all in that language!)

The congregation we visited is mostly Central Africans, so the activities were in Sango.  In theory, I can understand about 80% of what is said in that language.  The sermon was preached in Gbaya and interpreted into Sango, so that was harder to follow.  But, when the microphone/speaker distortion was added, I lost more than I would like to admit.  I may have even drifted off during the sermon. (Maybe it was a good thing I was hidden by the altar…) 

The President of the local district of Women for Christ preached.  I learned a folktale about why the lizard bobs his head a lot.  (OK, I admit I only really understood it when someone told me a shortened version later.)  He is saying, “That’s true! That’s true!” after having seen something for himself.  She compared it to us Christians who can’t believe unless we have seen evidence with our eyes.  (Please don’t ask me for a fuller explanation of the sermon!)

I had a wonderful time and was greatly enriched by the Sunday school and liturgy.  It will also help me in my work with Christian Education – and I may have a new game to teach children I visit on Home Assignment in a couple of months!

Update on my FatherAs many of you know, when my father was in the hospital in March, I went to Pennsylvania to visit him.  Heseemed to be making good progress, so I came back to Garoua Boulai.  I found out today that he has taken a turn for the worse.  It has been a day of waiting – waiting to hear from my family, but even more waiting for time to pass so it would be a good time to call – considering the 5-hour time difference.  I still have only limited news.  (I am using the writing of this blog as a way to pass the time while waiting.  Distraction.We don’t know what will happen.  Please pray for my family.  

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