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!)