Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Started! (At Last)

When I arrived in the Central African Republic in the fall of 2012, one of the first tasks the Christian Education director talked to me about was finding better Sunday school materials.  We searched and discussed and planned.  We became aware of the lessons (in four books) written by members of LUCSA (Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa). (I think by now they have even more book…) The problem was that the books are in English. 

So, cooperative effort!  The Directors of Christian Education from EELC (Cameroon) and EELRCA (Central African Republic) meet (with me) in Garoua Boulai in the summer of 2013 to create a plan to translate the books in to French (for Cameroon) and Sango (for CAR).  We also explored the cost of printing 1,000 copies of each for congregations and created a plan (and budget) that included training teachers on the new material and its pedagogy.  As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking which will cost a lot of money in the long run.  We submitted a request to ELCA Global Gifts and waited.

Monday and Tuesday of this week, the Directors of Christian Education and their assistants met to get the task off the ground.  Why did it take so long for us to get this started?  I think you can
imagine: insecurity in CAR, more than anything else.  We could not ask the people from Baboua to risk their lives while the road was frequently being attached by bandits.  Now, though, with UN escorts, small cars (the Central African equivalent of buses) can safely travel Cantonnier – Bouar without problems.  It is slower because travelers must wait until the convoy is ready to leave – around 10 a.m. from Baboua – and go at the slower pace in order to stay together.  Still, they can arrive without being stopped by bandits. (Picture L-R: Jean Diouf Ndoungue, Bernatte Mboudga, Dr. Joseph Ngah, Rev. Maurice Kemane, Dr. Susan Smith)

The meeting in GB (sort of a mid-way point between N’gaoundéré and Baboua) had to be scheduled over two days.  To travel the 250 km from N’gaoundéré takes three hours in a private vehicle and 3 ½ - 4 hours or longer in a bus. Monday, Dr. Ngah and Mme Mborodga got to the station at 6:30 a.m. (the projected time of departure).  They actually left at 8:20 and didn’t arrive in GB until 2 p.m.  (Even in Cameroon where travel is “easier,” it is not without complications!)  Rev. Kemane and Mr. Ndoungue from Baboua had a shorter distance but the need to wait for the escort; they arrived at 11:15. 

Despite these difficulties, we were able to meet for several hours on Monday and a couple more Tuesday morning before those from out of town (everyone by me!) had to reverse their travel.

Here’s the basics of what we decided.  We have a copy of the first four Sunday school manuals written by LUCSA; we will begin with Book 1 that has 54 lessons (one for each week of the year, more or less).  It needs to be translated into French and Sango, but there are not a lot of people qualified to do the work from English to Sango.  Christian Education of EELC will be responsible for getting the work translated into French.  Later, Christian Education of will get the lessons translated from French to Sango.  In the meantime, the Central African director will supervise an artist(s) who will draw pictures for each Bible story used in the lessons. 

The total task is huge!  Translate four books into two languages; draw two images for each story; get everything printed (we figure 1,000 copies for each of the two church bodies); train Sunday school teachers and pastors (who supervise)… and I am sure a thousand small steps in between that we are not aware of yet! 

Nevertheless, the sense of the meeting this week is, “Alleluia!  We have started!”  We’ll figure out the rest as we go along, with the help of God.


  1. I'm really happy to see this project taking place. Congratulations to everyone involved! Do you know that one of the contributers to this series is the ELCA Regional Representative for southern Africa, Rev. Phil Knutson? I have used the confirmation book from this series, and have found it very helpful in teaching confirmation classes.

  2. Yesm Rev. Phil and I talked at the last SMC that we both attended (in 2013). Wheels have been turning - if slowly! I am glad to know that you use the confirmation book. We are looking forward to using the books as well - eventually the confirmation one, but for now Book 1.