The Start of a New Roman Year

Sunday, January 01, 2023
Douala, Littoral, Cameroon
Today was the first of a new Roman year. Everyone at the hotel was wishing everyone else a good year “bonne année” as they say in France. The streets were empty and quiet, though there were still a few people at their street side stands, hoping to sell whatever product they had. There were no sales occurring that I could see from my window, but when one lives hand to mouth, one can’t always afford a whole day off. Many of the urban poor in Africa have no reserves of money or food to speak of. They hustle all day to eat that day, which sheds an interesting light on “Give us this day our daily bread.” People here pray that with more fervor than we probably do in the west.
As I looked at the street before the hotel, I was struck again by the clouds of bats that fill the sky first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. In these cooler periods they take to the sky to eat insects of which there are too many in Africa. They make their wobbly rounds and then land back on their trees and disappear into the leaves. The site doesn’t surprise me like it did years ago – I rarely photograph them anymore, but I still find it fascinating.
I spent most of the day on my laptop working on various projects. Some office work never stops. My next Discern column is due Tuesday, I worked on that. I worked on notes for the messages I will give when everyone arrives for our meetings on Friday and Saturday. I had some time to think calmly, which is always useful!
A member came by in the afternoon, we walked out to a table in the shade on the pool terrace where we could talk unimpeded. He’d had some issues a few years ago and had needed a time-out from church attendance, which coincided with the COVID lockdowns anyway. We had a long talk about what had happened. I explained the problem again, why it was serious, what the Bible says about it, and what course correction is needed. He was very sincerely repentant, said he understood and that he had changed and it wouldn’t happen again. So I was very happy to welcome him back. He said he had been afraid I might make the separation permanent. I told him that when we have to apply church discipline, which is quite rare, our goal is always to help the member realize his error and repent. When that happens, we are happy and relieved to welcome him back again.
He was relieved and very happy. The conversation turned to less serious subjects: family, work, the evolution of life. It was a fruitful and pleasant conversation.
In the evening I made a Facetime call to Marjolaine. It’s a great help to us now that we can talk anytime we like, for free, through VOIP apps. When I started in Africa there wasn’t any Internet access (remember a world without the Internet?), only expensive landlines. Later I used AOL, which was still expensive, and too slow for VOIP, even if it had existed. Now there is free WIFI in the hotel and the bandwidth is enough that we can easily converse. It makes separations easier to bear for both of us.
Other members will be stopping by in coming days. It’s good to have some time with them individually before we gather as a group later.

Photos & Videos


Tess Washington

Yes another Roman year!I understand exactly what you mean by having some time to think calmly! Glad to hear about the return of a repentant brethren...fascinating info about bats...they were created for such a purpose...glad to know that you have a better connection to your wife and family...our modern technology is a blessing from God to preach His gospel & for connecting with love ones even in a far away land. Appreciate the French words you give us...its a hard language for someone like me but we have brethrens that do speak the language and God is the author of languages! Thank you Mr. Meeker!

Larry Salyer

Hi Joel, Nice to see things have taken a turn for the better in the last day or so. The airport descriptions and the lack of member contact you mentioned before seemed very discouraging to me. We trust the brethren will appreciate your visit. Take care and thanks for sharing your trials and your joys.


We are happy to read about the member you re-admitted to the congregation and how the situation worked out to bring growth. So glad that other members are coming to spend time with you. We pray that the group gathering will be positive and encouraging for everyone. Thanks for commenting on the bats' morning and evening forays to hold down the insect population, always reminders of design and balance.