Recently I wrote about the ceremony/celebration EEL-RCA had for me in Bouar. Now I want to share more celebrations and appreciations.
Friday, May 20 was Unity Day in Cameroon. It is a national celebration, but the the Bible School in Garoua Boulai, we also made it the day for the closing of the Bible study groups. Each Tuesday for two years we have met to read and discuss a text together and to pray for each other (and sing). We have been divided into three groups. Friday, all three groups met together for a final Bible study. I got to prepare the meditation. (They said it was because they wanted to hear my voice and thoughts one more time…)
|some students' wives|
Unfortunately, several Central Africans came into town on Saturday and wanted to have dinner with me. I felt badly that I already had plans. I had not known they were coming. In stead of dinner, they gave me a bottle of whiskey! Think I can finish it before I leave? Maybe with a little help from my friends…
Sunday, I had arranged with the pastor to have a little time during announcements to say goodbye to the congregation. It turned out to be more than that! May 22 was they day that they celebrated Mothers’ Day by having the women of the congregation lead the liturgy. The Women for Christ also had a mini-concert in the middle of the service. What a great celebration.
Saturday, the Regional Bishop stopped by to ask that I stay for both instead of just the French one that I usually attend. I arrived at 8:30 a.m. as usual even though the service often starts at 8:50 or 9. At 8:50 we began singing hymns (for 15 minutes) until the service started. (One hymn is not unusual, but 5 is.) The liturgy was joyful and the women did a great job. At they end, they had me come to the front where I gave my little speech. Then, the Women for Christ gave me and outfit – but also dressed me in it – right over the outfit I had on! The material was stiff and new so tying the head scarf was a challenge, especially on my smooth (slippery) hair! It looked great but if I moved my head it started to fall off or made it so that my head couldn’t turn!
This was not enough. The women also gave the some of the new material that all of the Women for Christ had had made into new outfits for the occasion. They said I can still be a part of them even in the USA. Then they sang to me. Fortunately, a friend got my camera that was in the pew and took a couple of pictures and a video. Wow. We finished at 11:30 a.m.
As we left, various people greeted me as one congregation left and the other entered the sanctuary. The first service ran long so there was no turn-around time. I had been thinking of finding a bathroom (to take off one set of clothes and to relieve myself) but I was escorted up to the front pew. Sigh. As the head scarf started to slip again, the Bible School student said – “It’s too big, just take it off.” I was glad to be able to turn my head again.
The second service was just as joyful and the women did a wonderful job again. Fortunately for me, I gave my short message during the announcements which come near the beginning of the liturgy. I had had a friend translate it into Gbaya so I read it to them in their language (after asking for patience!) I understood the message – not only because I wrote it, but also because I recognized some words – but reading it was a challenge. They were very appreciative of my effort at speaking Gbaya and some nods of agreement made it seem that they understood at least parts. The Women for Christ also did a mini-concert. I loved the energy and singing.
As they were to start the Bible readings and sermon, I got permission from the Bishop to leave. It is hard listening for so long when one doesn’t understand – and I really need to find a bathroom! So, I only stayed for the first hour and fifteen minutes of the second service.
Today, I am wearing my new blue outfit (without head scarf). I am invited this evening to have dinner with some people from the Protestant Hospital. (Too bad Doctors Solofo and Joely aren’t in town, but I will see them in Yaoundé later in the week.)
Wednesday, Dr. Elisabeth is coming from Meiganga with Christine who has been teaching at the seminary there for three months. It turns out we leave on the same flight Saturday! They have already announced that they want to take me to lunch. Sanda Elie is coming the same day for meetings and to say goodbye.
I am very appreciative of the kind gestures of those around me. This is an emotionally difficult time for me but I am happy to be able to share it with many friends and colleagues.
Soon it will be time for my Home Assignment visits and “Welcome Back” gatherings. There will be lots more good food, I am sure! (Maybe it is a good thing that traditional African skirts are wrap-around and that the dresses are full and loose!)