Friday, April 3, 2015

Challenges: Packing

Shipping and transporting materials are a challenge here.  Once or twice a year Global Health Ministries sends a container with medical supplies (including some furniture). Others can piggy-back goods that are coming to Cameroon and CAR.  For example, partner synods have sent communion trays and little glasses.  People here are glad to get them, but imagine the packing needed so that they arrive safely!

Last year a container arrived while I was in the USA.  There were three boxes of trays and glasses marked with my name to be sure they got to CAR.  The challenges began since I was not in GB when they arrived.  When I got back, no one thought to mentions that the boxes were in the storage room. We had also delayed sending some other materials because we were concerned about them being stolen or broken because of the insecurity.

A couple of weeks ago, someone, looking for something else, rediscovered the three boxes with my name on them.  Great.  As we tried to figure out what they were (since no one had remembered to tell me that the liturgical supplies were coming marked with my name), we noticed that one box was coming apart at the bottom.  Not just coming undone, but being eaten!  It turns out the box held hand-made wooden communion trays and the termites were having a feast!  As a part of our investigation, we turned the box over.  That turned out to be a good idea because when I went yesterday to get the box to address the problem, the termites had gone – they didn't like the light/air, I guess.

So, yesterday I decided to take the boxes all apart to sort what was there and explore the extent of the damage.  The box that was partially eaten stayed outside, needless to say, even though it looked like there were no termites. (Indeed they were gone although they left behind their dirt and some partially eaten wood.)  As I took the wooden trays out to clean those that were not significantly damaged, two Bible School students passed by.  They stopped to greet me and then offered to clean the trays for me.  I passed that task off to them and they did a great job.  It turns out that the termites only ate one tray and its lid to the point where they were not usable.  The remaining 15 cleaned up nicely.

As the students worked outside, I unpacked the other boxes and found 9 metal trays, MANY little glasses, some trays for wafers, communion cloths/napkins, and some stoles.  I asked the students to come back this morning to help me finish sorting and repacking what had arrived.  They worked diligently with me as we prepared 14 new smaller packages ready to be given to congregations.  Only a handful of the small glasses – that are actually glass, not plastic – broke in transit.  Great packing, sending churches! 
Ngoffi and Semega

Sarwissi and Gaston

As you might imagine when you see shredded paper and Styrofoam peanuts, we had a bunch to clean up to do in my living room when we were done!

The supplies are now ready to go to CAR at the next opportunity. 

This is not a traditional way to spend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but I hope that Central African congregations will soon get their new liturgical supplies as (slightly late) Easter gifts. 


  1. I'm glad to hear that most of the communion trays and cups made it safely. Easter blessings!