Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Synode, Work, and Roof, Part 4

New Dress
A synod in CAR and Cameroon is a regional church meeting.  At the end of last week, there was an 
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon (EELC) Garoua Boulai district meeting; I was invited to attend Friday morning.  So, what’s the meeting like?  How similar is it to similar meetings in the USA?  (I can only imagine those US meetings, since I have not attended them! – although I have been to Synod Assemblies…)

The theme of the meeting was “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10a.)  Thursday evening there was the installation of delegates, opening ceremonies, formation of the synode board (pictured at right), and a concert.  The next morning (when I attended), guests were welcomed during the opening ceremonies.  A choir from the local church danced in and sang for us.  There was also a skit based on the book of Job. 

Next, the regional bishop led a Bible study on the meeting theme.  Most of the activities and speeches were in Gbaya, so I could only understand a little.  The bishop also taught in Gbaya with some phrases and Bible texts in French thrown in.  It is interesting; when one can only understand about 30%, one focuses more on presentation.  Bishop Garga-Zizi (pictured here) is a wonderful speaker.  He is animated, makes a strong connection with the audience, and delivers his message clearly.  The audience responded often and clearly followed what he was saying.  (I couldn’t get a picture of him teaching; a decorative palm stood between us.)

After the Bible study, there was a coffee break.  Women from several churches were responsible for providing something to eat and drink.  Invited guests went across the street to the catechist’s house.  We were served a drinkable porridge, bread, and yams.  (At this point I went home to continue other work.)

According to the schedule, the synode also included teaching sessions – “Christian Marriage in the Era of Globalization,” “The Importance of Language,” “Typhoid Fever and Ebola” (by Dr. Solofo), and “The 4-Year Vision of EELC – using Nehemiah 2:18.”  There was also time for committee work.  Each day at the end of the work, church choirs provided concerts.

The closing worship service happened on Sunday. (I did not attend this service because I went to the church with a (nearly complete) new roof – see below.)

Doesn’t that sound like the kind of meetings we have in the US: Teaching, committee work, time to eat, concerts or performances, and worship?  Yes, we are all Lutherans!  (Or, maybe, we can even say we are all Christians or religious groups…)

There’s been lots of work happening here in Garoua Boulai.  I have not always thought to take pictures, but I can report of some of it. 

Future Latrines
Future Well

At the Protestant hospital, UNICEF is building some new latrines (not very far along yet) and a new well.  For the latter, they brought in a huge well-drilling truck and inserted a pipe through which they could drop the pump and attachments. They dug down about 60 meters (almost 200 feet).  But, as they dropped in the pump, it would only go to 22 meters.  Workers dug down that deep – by hand!  They had to remove the pipe and found that it had been cross threaded causing a slight bend in it – enough that the pump could not get past.  Why couldn’t they have just pulled up the pipe?  Or, had the drilling truck come back?  I don’t know.  They are working to fix the problem, though.  It just takes a lot of time.  They will have water, eventually!  They will also build a water tower – a place to store the water so that the pump is not constantly running.

Work has also been down on some old, unused rooms; they are being turned into more patient rooms.  Because of the continued high number of refugees and increased population in GB, more rooms have been sorely needed.  By the end of last week, these 4 new rooms were ready for use.  The area outside was also cleaned up.  Some paving is also being done around the hospital.  Those coming for the Partners’ Consultation (for the Evangelical Lutheran Church – Central African Republic) will be able to see the improvements.

MSF (Médicin Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders) continues to work with severely malnourished children at the Nutrition Center of the Protestant Hospital.  They also continue to build and improve the area.  I will have another tour Thursday to see the extent of the work, but it is clear that they are constantly at work making improvements. 

The city of GB has also been making many improvements.  In the past I have mentioned the new tile stalls for butchers in the market and the extended market space, complete with roofs and stalls (as well as a place for women who sit on the ground).  I have also seen a sidewalk build – wooden planks banded together to cover a large drainage ditch with some of the hand-done paving along the edge.  Near the newly-finished town hall they are also building a very nice drainage ditch along the edges of the road – with stones and concrete.  Store fronts continue to be fixed up.  A new bank is almost ready to open and there is a second “fancy” bakery that has opened – I haven’t been there yet.  I am not sure why all of this is happening now, but it is great to see. 

And, on a more mundane note, workers are digging 2 new garbage pits for the guest houses on our station. The one near my house is down about 8 meters.  Workers are widening the part at the bottom so it will hold more; this project is taking extra time because the workers sometimes go to help out with other projects around the hospital and station.  The pits don’t have priority since there is still some room in the old ones and they are less visible to guests!  I am happy all this work is being done.

Roof, Part 4
You have read other updates on the roof project at Garouaseeye Church – where the walls collapsed when the roof was being added in April.  Work advances well.  There was a celebration and “opening” of the new church on Sunday, November 16.  The Regional Bishop Garga-Zizi came along with Rev. Nguia, Drs. Solofo and Joely, Jim Noss, Rev. Brian Palmer (who came from N’gaoundéré with Jim), local officials, roof-building consultants from N’gaoundéré, and me.  Jim has been instrumental in providing technical and communication support to keep this project moving forward. 

Roof 1/2 done
Putting up roof supports
Cleaning the ground nearby
It is a very big church – one of the largest within the Lutheran network.  Because of the size, the whole roof could not be completed by Sunday, so they put the corrugated metal up on ½ the building.  Then, they moved all the current benches and altar in to the covered half.  It all fit with room to spare!  They also put some mats on the ground for the children.  (Later they will need to find the means to pave the floor and get more benches.)  Part way through the service, the Bishop asked the choir to come forward from the back so we could hear them better.  They did, but ended up sitting in the un-roofed side in the sun!  Someone brought them some umbrellas for (limited) shade.

It was a joyful service.  Afterwards, of course, we were offered a “cocktail.”  That included some fish, manioc, yams, beverages, and bread with a fish spread.  It was held in the house across the street from the church.  The choir lined the path for visitors to follow and be welcomed.

Lots of fun!  I will go back again soon to get pictures of the church when both sides of the roof are complete.

As we left, Jim Noss had a young congregant drive us out!  He had fun, too!

Just a reminder:  The ELCA’s Office of the Treasurer announced a newly–refined procedure for depositing gifts that congregations or individuals send to support missionaries or ministries. They can either:
A.    Include their gifts in remittances sent to the synod office clearly marked with the missionary’s name and account number in the memo box (Susan Smith (MSG0717), or
B.     Congregations and individuals may write their checks directly to “ELCA Global Church Sponsorship” and write the designation name and 7-digit code in the memo line, (Susan Smith (MSG0717).  Mail it to:
            Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
            ELCA Gift Processing Center
            P.O. Box 1809
            Merrifield, VA 22116-8009 or

C.     Sponsors may also arrange for gifts by credit card, or for automatic monthly withdrawals from their bank account, by contacting 800-638-3522.

1 comment:

  1. Susan, it is so good to hear of your work and the continuing mission of the church in Cameroon/CAR. God's blessings to you as we all prepare for Giving Thanks in November.