We drove through the center of town and then toward Abobo on the outskirts of town. Abobo saw heavy fighting during the thrust toward Abidjan by the forces supporting Alassane Ouatara, now President. I only saw the parts of this popular quarter that were on both sides of the road, but again I didn’t see any traces of the combat.
In fact the roads were better than they were last time I was here, very slow road repairs finally having been completed. We cleared the urban area and reached the fertile open countryside.
We had to go through the Alépé security corridor, a passage about 300 meters long confined between walls, with police and army at both ends and in the middle too. We were flagged over in the central section and the driver had to open the trunk, which was empty, for a security check. I asked the driver if the soldier had asked for money and he said he had not.
The dirt road from the paved road to La Mé was in bad shape due to the rains of the season. The heavy rains cause massive runoff and cut deep passages in the road. We bottomed out a few times as Ahmed carefully calculated the best route through the washed out piste
We arrived at the church hall by 09:45 and I noticed right away that the house across from our small hall had burned down. I asked what happened. I learned that the owner had died in his house, but no one noticed for three days until the smell became overpowering. Before that they assumed the cause of the odor was something else – I don’t know what. When the body was finally removed, the stench was still so strong the village authorities decided to burn the bamboo house down.
It was a pleasure to greet the church brethren here and shake hands all around. It was my first visit for about a year and half, so it was a true pleasure to see everyone again. We started services shortly after 10:00. We sang hymns, and had an opening prayer, then Paul and Felix Tia gave some announcements.
There were then several pieces of special music, a vocal solo by Philippe, another by Charlotte, and a third song sung together by the teens. Then I gave the sermon, going through the trumpets mentioned from Revelation 8 through 16, and discussing their significance. That is always sobering reading, though with a very happy ending.
The service ended shortly before noon. I asked everyone to come outside for a group photo. Then we took a brief break, to stretch before reconvening so we could discuss the situation in the Church, how the recent transition had come about, what had precipitated it and how things stood now. I had made two trips through French Africa at the start of the year to allow members the chance to ask questions and get clarification, but wasn’t able to come to Ivory Coast because of the military confrontation, especially centered on Abidjan. So this was their belated chance to ask questions and for clarification.
I answered questions for about an hour until there were no more, and everyone was satisfied.
Next we moved to lunch which the ladies had prepared: rice and fish in a green, spinach-like sauce.
It was quite tasty, and a treat. It’s not all that common to eat fish, or meat, so any chance is very welcome and special. They had brought water to drink, but I was happy to be able to offer everyone a soda, which another special treat here.
Sixty-five US cents is quite a bit to people in La Mé, so they don’t often splurge on a soft drink. The children especially were very excited, both physically anticipating the sweet drink beforehand, and sugar-wired afterwards! Something as simple as a Fanta can really make someone’s day here.
While all this was going on, village children crowded at the door to watch the curiosity that had entered their village. I waved at them and they smiled back and laughed.
I had the chance to talk to several members individually about questions or concerns they had, I plan to come back one day next week to continue working with a lady who wants to be baptized, and to try to take care of several other issues as well.
It was late afternoon by the time we finished the day’s activities in La Mé. Félix asked if he and his wife could ride with us to Man to visit a relative who is sick, to which I agreed. We gave Mrs. Tia a ride into Abidjan; Felix will follow early tomorrow morning. We retraced our route back into Abidjan with the usual unusual sites along the way. Since yesterday, I have three times witnessed the sad site of people who have lost their reason wandering stark naked in the streets: a man yesterday, a woman and man today. Sadly this is all too common. The public mental health infrastructure is not well funded, so as long as they’re not violent or dangerous, such people are allowed to roam the city. With the stresses of a long civil war and recent combat even in the streets of Abidjan, it’s no wonder some emotionally fragile people are pushed over the edge.
This old world needs help, and the meaning of this day gives reassurance that is it coming.
Paul Tia and his son arrived to pick me up this morning at 8:30. He had a car and driver, named Ahmed, from the establishment we usually use. We took care of the prepayment right away and then were able to start out for La Mé. Abidjan didn't seem any different than the last time was here.