Leaving Douala

Trip Start Mar 24, 2010
Trip End Apr 12, 2010

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Flag of Cameroon  ,
Monday, April 5, 2010

Today was a high day and my last day with the church members here. Mr. Mabout was early at the hotel (!), but the heavy post-Easter traffic and several blocked streets meant we only just arrived on time for the 10:00 service. There was plenty of time to observe the interesting sights one has on an African street.

When services started, we sang hymns, and had an opening prayer. There was a sermonette, we gave an offering, and then I gave the sermon I had given on the first holy day about why we must pay attention to sin.

After services, I took off my tie (I was soaked with perspiration) and those who could do so changed into more comfortable clothes in the humid heat. Those men without responsibilities conversed out side where there was a warm bust still-pleasant breeze. Mrs. Mabout and Mrs. Bikoé warmed up and served lunch to everyone: we invited the whole congregation to a meal: beef (a rarity on the local menu), grated macabo cooked in leaves (a sort of thick dumpling-type preparation), a sauce made of greens and another of peanuts, and again a glass of wine per person. It wouldn't look like much or too appetizing to westerners, but it was a real treat to the members here. One of them said "the days after feast days are very hard, when we go back to our usual food." We ate together and fellowshipped, laughing and joking quite a lot. Western jokes aren’t always funny to them, and I sometimes have a hard time understanding their jokes. They often want me to explain to make sure they get the punchline, and I’m not always sure I get it even after they explain the humor to me.  But today I found one they thought one was hilarious: two friends walking in the woods encounter a bear that starts chasing them hungrily. One runner asks the other if he thinks they can outrun the bear. His friend replies “I don’t have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you!”

They laughed and laughed at that one and retold it to each other explaining the humor to make sure everyone understood. Some humor about the human predicament cuts across culture and language lines pretty well.

After spending several more hours together, it was time to people to start for home. Several men who attended the conference had to leave to be home in time to start work tomorrow. So after making sure everyone one what he needed financially to get back home in good conditions, I shook hands all around encouraged them to keep the faith and we headed back to my hotel for the last time this trip. Mr. Mabout, Mr. Andang and Mr. Bikoé and I had a spirited conversation as we drove back. Cameroonians often have very strong opinions, and they’re not shy about sharing them. They often have strong opinions about American politics and politicians (for example Barak Obama can do no wrong in the opinion of every African I have met so far), so I have to be careful if my opinion doesn’t match another’s. I try to set the example of being able to amiably disagree on something that’s not a clear-cut Christian principle.

At the hotel I shook hands all around and teased them a little about getting the White House to consult with Mr. Mabout before making any important foreign policy decisions. Then more seriously I thanked them for their work and service and wished them well until we met again.

I walked into the hotel with a sense of relief. My work on this trip is done. It’s been a very busy two weeks, almost non-stop. But now it’s done and I can head home to my wonderful wife and daughters.

My flight tonight should leave at 10:35. I’ll really breathe a sigh of relieve when we go wheels up!
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