Monday, April 25, 2016

Event planners: what would you do?

The new governor for the East Region, Gregoire MVOZGO, was scheduled to visit Garoua Boulai today.  People were asked to arrive at 2 p.m. (which means things would probably start at 3).  I went with two professors from the Bible School and arrived at 1:45. (Their choice.)

45 minutes later the storm clouds were clearly massing in the sky. The wind picked up after a bit blowing dust everywhere.

So, imagine the sky and the impending storm - not a surprise since this is the rainy season....  Now imagine a fairly large permanent pavilion (roof with no walls) filled with plastic chairs (which were full of people, of course) and a temporary tent beside it similarly filled. Also imagine many students in uniform lining the street.

There was also a group of three men - one drumming, one with a flute-like thing that sounded to me like a bagpipe without the bag, so no base drone, and one with a megaphone. They would play for (and flatter) various people trying to get money.

So, the scene is set.  The rains are obviously coming. What would you do??

Nothing happened here until the heavens opened and buckets of rain fell.

People in the permanent pavilion moved toward the center (but not much as it was already full). Others crowded in at the edges. Many people scrunched down between the chairs - as did I between a chair, a pillar and some legs. The sun hat I'd brought worked well as a rain hat... 

Rain came from several directions and hard for 45 minutes. I was snug as a bug in a rug but parts of me got wet anyway.  I was next to two young girls who chatted with me a little.

After the hard rain tapered off the students went back to their waiting positions - after some played in the new temporary stream. 

20 minutes later things began - sort of.  Bureau chiefs were asked to go to the nearby sous-prefecture building to greet the governor; the rest of us waited some more.

I had had enough adventure after two hours but is was difficult to leave.  I decided to start writing this as I sat and waited.  40 minutes later we were still waiting with occasional intermittent rain.  I really couldn’t see anything but periodic glimpses.

Speeches et al lasted a long time. Hearing was difficult with the noise of a nearby generator, people talking, etc.  The first couple of people faced the group under the pavilion (including the governor) and spoke well into the microphone.  Then the man I assume was the governor stood and faced out away from those under the pavilion and toward the students.  The microphone had to be moved to his spot; from that moment we heard nothing.  Hey, planners, what would you do about that??

We professors finally left after 10-12 minutes of listening to the man we couldn’t here.  Lots of others left before and with us.  I finally got home at 6 p.m.  Glad to be here!

After the rain
Politically I guess it was important for me to be present. Still, I would have been happier at home watching the rain from my porch.  This was even more of an adventure than the regional bishop's “prise de contact” yesterday!  I am glad it is over.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prise de Contact

When a leader comes into a new position, one of the early things he (sorry, they are mostly “he” here) does is to take a trip to visit the programs, institutions, towns with whom he will be working.  Regional Bishop Nguembe Djidere Nestor was elected about a year ago and was installed in the summer.  He is now finishing his month-long “prise de contact tournée” (trip around the East region to meet people and officially greet them).

The bishop saved Garoua Boulai for last – probably because he lives here.  He has been visiting the Lutheran churches in town and today came to the Bible School and Social Center.  There was a liturgy which included introducing everyone connected to the Bible School and the team that is traveling with the bishop.  Part of the tradition is to offer a gift to the new person.  It might be money (to help defray travel costs) or a gift in kind. 

Here’s a picture of some of the almost 40 goats the bishop has received!  They are staked out in his yard and part of the area in front of the Bible School.  The goats are fed on the green grass now growing abundantly and they are fertilizing the lawn as well! 

 After the liturgy, we took pictures and all walked over to the Social  Center for refreshments.

 Some of the students carried the chairs – on their heads, of course.

Tomorrow the bishop and his team will visit the French and Gbaya services of the church closest to us.  Later in the week, they will visit the hospital and Lutheran schools. 

Then, the new governor of this region is coming for his “prise de contact” on Monday!  Lots of excitement and Cameroonian flags everywhere.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April in CAR

I had the good fortune to take two recent trips to the Central African Republic and to attend the partners’ consultation (between EELRCA leaders and their international partners) in GB.  I could write a book about activities and people, but decided to make this a photo essay instead.  (With pictures in the order that they were taken, more of less…

It is usual in Cameroon for cars (acting as small buses/trucks) to be over loaded.  It is even more true in CAR where people are added to the trunk and roof (and on top of loaded trucks).

Some of the many trucks waiting for the UN convoy to start, going from Garoua Boulai, Cameroon to Bouar and Bangui.  There have been no attacks on the road for some time and some are now willing to travel without the escort.  Progress!  

 Most villages still have traditional mud brick houses with thatched or corrugated tin roofs.  The second picture shows the underlying wood being prepared to receive new thatching.
 Leaders during a visit to the Seminary in Baboua: Anne Langdji, ELCA regional Representative; Dr. Rebecca Duerst, ELCA Director of Diakonia; Rev. Dr. Andrea Walker, ELCA Area Program Director for West/Central Africa and Madagascar; Rev. Dr. Antoinette Yindjara, Director of the Seminary.

  The same women with other church leaders in Baboua – and me peeking out from the back. 

Sewing class at Chez Marthe et Marie, the women’s center in Bouar run by FCC (Central African Women for Christ). 

Women waiting to have their babies weighed, measured, and vaccinated at the Emmanuel Health Center, Gallo.

 Catherine Naabeau, Director of the Heath Center in Bohong and Coordinator of Health Programs for EELRCA (holding mushrooms we bought on the roadside).

Map of the area of intervention of the Primary Health Care Program, Gallo with Michel Bouba, Director.

Thomas Sanda, artist standing with me by the artisan’s shop he runs in Bouar (yes, that is a huge painted rock). 

EELRCA headquarters 

and President Ndanga-Toue’s house that is being refurbished (courtesy of ELCA).

 Dinner with Rev. Dr. Ndanga-Toue and ELCA women Anne, Andrea, and Rebecca.

Antoine Mbarbet and Anne in front of a house on the Baboua station (where they both lived – at different times in the past).  Antoine is now EELRCA book keeper, chauffeur, and assistant in many other ways. 

Consultation Participants: Dr. Antoinette leading devotions at the start of the Partners’ consultation.  Also pictured are Job Mario Mamadou, EELRCA Administrative Secretary, and Rev. Martin Nouye, Director of EELRCA Youth Program.

 Patrick Kelembho, Administrator; Rev. Rachel Doumbaye, Vice President; Rev. Dr. Samuel Ndanga-Toué, President; Michel Doko, Treasurer.

Annelise Diss, DEFAP (Protestant Churches in France).

 Josephine Oumarou, President, Central African Women for Chirst; Mathias Votoko, Representative, National Church Board.

Anne Wangari, LWF representative; Willie Langdji, ELCA Regional Representative; Jakelle Cornell, representing the 3 ELCA partner synods (Western ND, Eastern ND, Texas/LA/Gulf Coast), Helmut Grimmsmann, ELM (Lutheran Church in Germany.)

VP Rachel and me

Director of the Village School in Foro (with the school’s pavilions and some students in the background.

Selling (very large!) mushrooms along the road.  This is the season.

Solar power:  recharging lamps and drying manioc (cassava) at the Seminary in Baboua.

Antoinette receiving gifts sent from the USA through Jakelle.

 Bougainvillea near “my” house in Baboua

Director of the Péouri Village School in Baboua (in their permanent building) with me.

Assisting with communion distribution during the the closing ceremony for the Bouar 1 District Conference in Kele Boukou (20 km. north of Bouar). 

Elie Sanda, ELCA Administrator (living in N’gaoundéré, Cameroon) and Josephine (FCC) after the liturgy. 

 Chicken coop (fertilizer accumulates under the structure) – village near Bouar).
 Willie and Antoine digging up a wild orchid plant for Willie to take to Yaoundé.  

Kids (being kids!) at a spring box made by PASE (EELRCA water project that has also worked a lot with the LDR humanitarian aid project).

Rutted (but not very) challenging, infrequently travelled road between Bouar and Bohong.

Bohong: evidence of destruction being cleaned up and houses rebuild after 2013-2014 fighting.

Jakelle sharing pictures of the kids (taken on her phone) in Bohong.

Close up of some of the students.

Gifts as we left Bohong: pineapples, avocados, and mangos (in the bag).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sunday School activities in Baboua, CAR

Evangelical Lutheran Church - CAR
Education Chrétienne de Base (Christian Education)
By KEMANE Maurice, ECB Director, and NDONGUE Jean Diouf, Assistant Director

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

May the grace be given to you by God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

CAR has experienced many difficult moments in the last three years but the powerful hand of God of Father is always on children.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church continues its vital work.  Sunday School in EEL-RCA is functioning and active.  We would like to give you a summary of Sunday School activities in Baboua.  In spite of hard times what our country has known EELRCA and Christian Education organize many activities. Here are some of the activities in Baboua in 2015.

In Parish 1 there are four congregations. The Sunday school children got together on July 18 at Baboua Centre Church.  415 children participated and gave 40,100 cfa (about $62) in offering.

On September 13, 380 children gathered at Tongo Church and offered 52,950 cfa (about $81) in offering.

345 children gathered at Sango Church on October 25, 2015 contributing 57,025 cfa (about $88).
In Parish 2 there are three congregations that have been active.  255 children participated in activites at Ndiba Church contributing 41,375 (about $64).

At Lokoti Yaléwén Church 249 children came to the meeting and contributed 40,125 cfa (about $62) on June 7.

On June 6, 272 children met and contributed 57,850 cfa (about $89).

The Sunday school closing activity for the year in the Baboua District was a spiritual retreat organized at Baboua Centre Church December 10-11, 2015.  The two pictures with this report show some of the children (and assisting adults!) who attended. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

CAR 2016

After months of absence, I visited the Central African Republic with a team from the ELCA:  Rev. Dr. Andrea Walker, Area Program Director; Dr. Rebecca Duerst, Director of Diakonia; Anne Langdji, Regional Representative (who lives in Chicago – the first two came from Chicago.  The main goal of the visit was to visit the health programs in Bohong and Gallo and consult with church leaders.  I came along to help interpret and advance some of my other work. 
We arrived in the country after 45 minutes with passport formalities.  We came with a UN escort.  (Road security is better than it has been for a long time, but travelers still move with care and with an escort whenever possible.)  Here is a picture of a couple of the scads of trucks weighting for the escort to start.  Notice that the truck brings its own shade where passengers and drivers wait.  We jumped in after the UN truck (so we could move more quickly, but still with safety). 

We traveled straight to Bouar arriving about 1:30 p.m.  We did stop briefly, however Baboua however where we saw several people we knew at the market (by chance!) and Dr. Yindjara Antoinette at the seminary (along with others we work with.)

Since they we have talked to many church leaders Wednesday and visited Gallo the next day to talk about the Primary Health Care Program and the Emmanuel Health Center.  The girl with umbrella and baby on her back was waiting outside the clinic.  (I did ask – it’s not her baby but her sisters!  Girls do start young in CAR, but not this young!)  Pictured here are L-R, me, Catherine, Rebecca, Andrea and Anne.  (We’ve been travelling together long enough to be on first name basis!)  

Among meetings we shopped in to visit the Well-Baby Clinic where every Thursday they weight and measure babies (to check for malnutrition, especially) and vaccinate babies up to 11 months and their mothers. 

We also visited Chez Marthe and Marie (CMM), the women’s center and had the   opportunity to observe part of a sewing class taught by Safa Abel.  The machines are rented for three months from people around Bouar.  What a great way to resolve the problem of not having their own machines.  They all work with a treadle so they don’t need electricity.  Two members of the group ordered a skirt and an outfit to be made. 

Along the road from Gallo to Bouar, we stopped to buy mushrooms – this is the start of the rainy season when they are plentiful.  Anne insists that these are the best you could ever taste.  Notice that they are in her hat since we had no bag.  Catherine got to hold them (and pick out termites since they grow in termite nests and a few get mixed in!)
Heavy rains are very hard on road here.  This picture shows the one that runs inside CMM.  Notice that center workers are filling it in, first with large stone and then dirt to level it off.  (Maybe now that there is a new government, maybe they will start to do the same with the myriad of unpaved roads in the country!  Hope springs eternal.)

Today the group went to Bohong with several Central Africans to see the health center there and to visit some of the humanitarian work sponsored by LWF (Lutheran World Federation) and LDR (Lutheran Disaster Response).  I stayed in Bouar to get other work done – including this blog!  The old market in Bouar was razed last year and a temporary new one set up across from EEL-RCA headquarters.  This was intentional so that the market could be rebuilt.  It is not yet open, but look at one of the new buildings. 

Central African hospitality is generous. Naabeau Catherine fed us the first day.  Since they we have been hosted by Chez Marthe and Marie, Ngare Floribert and his wife Flor, both health centers, and the president.  We have been welcomed with open arms in so many ways.  It is a joy to be here. 

Tomorrow we have more meetings with church leaders and dinner at the President’s house.  We head back to Garoua Boulai Sunday.  I will stay there, of course, and Andrea, Rebecca, and Anne will continue to Yaoundé (and Chicago for 2!) the next day.

Watch this space… I hope to be able to come back to CAR next week with Willie Langdji and a couple of other people.