A Busy Day of Rest

Saturday, January 07, 2023
Douala, Littoral, Cameroon
Today was our Sabbath day of rest, and we finally had everyone together, although not at the same time. We had set the time for our service at 11:00 at the request of members who would have to take public transportation to arrive. That can mean connecting on several bus lines, in order to arrive, and depending on traffic, this can take a while.
In most of the US, people are accustomed to driving where they want to go. It tends to be mostly people of very limited means or people in densely populated metropolitan centers who use public transportation (subway, train, bus, boat). The European model, which is very city-centric, leans much more on public transportation, which is usually subsidized by the State. A city like Paris or London would be unworkable without public transportation, there aren’t enough roads or parking spaces for everyone to drive a car. In fact, even the more limited vehicular traffic in European cities is already a much larger problem than is the case in the US. And to be fair, in Paris or London, it is usually faster to get around town by taking a train or subway than to go by car, which usually is the opposite case in the US.
Much of French Africa is modeled along the French system of busses, taxis and sometimes trains, in large part because few people can afford a personal automobile. So, if a trip across town is not carefully planned and if extra time is not allowed as a buffer, the chance of being late is fairly large.
We started right on time at 11:00, singing hymns, and asking an opening prayer.  The song-leader, and the man called on to pray in our name, are two of our oldest members, very faithful men, from north of the capital. I first men them in the 1990s, and they have been solid and faithful ever since. They have traversed the uncertainties and the stresses of their country’s history and that of the Church, and have come through with flying colors. I’m always encouraged when I see them.
At the start of the service we had the blessing of the little children. It’s been three years since I was last here, so there were new children, five babies or little children to be blessed. I read Mark 10:13, explained it, and how we would proceed. I underlined the fact that this was for “little children” that could be taken one’s arms.  I asked the parent to come forward and, asked God’s blessing on the ceremony as a whole. Then I either held the children and laid a hand on their heads, or if they were very small, left them in their mothers arms, and asked God’s protection for each child, from disease and accident and other unhappiness. I asked for a blessing on the parents that they would have wisdom and love, to give their children the best start in life they could, and that in due time God would draw each child to His Son. A sixth woman came forward with her young teenager. I told her I might be able to pick him up for a moment, but I wouldn’t hold him up for whole prayer, so he was past the age. I said we could always pray for God’s blessing and protection on him, but not the framework of this ceremony.
Following this blessing, I gave a sermon on how to identify the Antichrist. The members here are very interested in prophecy, and this subject is an important one, as it has been since the first century.
Right after the service, a woman arrived with two small children. She asked if I would please ask a blessing on them as well, which I did. We had a break to fellowship. A few people who had missed the service, arrived in time for lunch which was fried chicken, spaghetti, a vegetable sauce and fried plantain bananas. We also provided a glass of wine for the adults who wished to have one. This also is a real treat for them, since wine is a luxury normally reserved only for the annual festivals.
After lunch, there were sessions of counselling and other individual meetings. Two ladies came to talk about baptism. One of them was ready to be baptized, we’ll try to work that out for tomorrow. The other needs more time and preparation. Some members just thanked me for coming and settling the local situation.
Another woman, the sister of a member, had asked to speak with me. Her church-member sister had told me earlier that she was worried for her sibling, whom she felt was in real trouble. She told me her sister had no money and had asked if I would be willing to pay her bus fare so she could come and talk with me. I agreed, and had given her 10 dollars in CFA francs.
When the non-member sister arrived, she told me she had asked to speak with me because her sister trusted me, and because I was not in her church. She was afraid she would be judged harshly if she went to her own church leaders. She asked for advice on how to deal with occult forces harassing her. Many people here feel they are oppressed by evil spirits. I explain this as a mix of fear caused by superstition (this is a very superstitious place), but in this environment I believe there truly is activity by foul spirits, as we read in the Bible about the first century. She also told me about her abusive husband and asked if she should stay with him; this was a very sad story. I showed her relevant passages in the Bible (among them James 4:7 and 1 Corinthians 7:16) and gave her some practical advice. She took notes, and was very grateful. She thanked me very much before leaving. I gave her return bus fare.
Another woman asked for 2000 dollars to replace her roof. Another asked for 1000 dollars to start a chicken farm. We’ve provided quite a lot of food aid to members during the COVID restrictions, and we helped some bread-winners keep their businesses running. But there is no end of requests for help even is such a small group. So, I will study these requests carefully.
We took a group photo and fellowshipped a good bit in the afternoon.
Finally, at the end of the day I reimbursed everyone for their travel costs, and I settled the hotel bill with the owner.
Dinner was served and I wished everyone well, and God’s blessing on them before returning to my hotel.
Tomorrow will be my last day in country, tomorrow night late, I start the long trip home.

Comments

mary
2023-01-13

Thank you for the wonderful pictures of the members being able to meet together, have services, and enjoy a big meal. It is good to hear about the baptisms and the people who are being brought into contact with you...some by sad situations. I imagine that your interest, advice, encouragement must be such a contrast to the tone of life there. The picture of the little children will full plates...a good day.

Tess Washington
2023-01-14

Thank you for the write-up and all the photos! We'll remember them!

2023-03-26