Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
32Trip End Apr 29, 2012
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At lunch time I walked over to Pizzeria Bruno, a little restaurant on a street corner, where the pizzas are good, not expensive and where one can watch the people and colorful traffic of central Abidjan.
Paul arrived promptly at 2:00 with an orange city taxi, and we drove out to Kilometre 14, where he has his house, and where the Abidjan congregation meets. We arrived about 2:30 and I told the taxi to come to pick me up at 5:00, figuring that he might then arrive by 5:30…. That would allow me to get back to the hotel before dark, not an absolute necessity, but a good idea when possible.
A number of people who attend the service here had gathered, I greeted them all individually and was introduced to the new people whom I had not met previously.
We sat outside under a sort of awning made of woven leafy branches that filter the sunlight. It is now the end of what they call locally the hot season; the rains should begin soon, but it is indeed very hot at the moment.
After an opening prayer Paul introduced me and thanked me, on behalf of the congregation, for coming. I asked Paul to distribute some tri-fold brochures covering our fundamental beliefs, then spoke for about 45 minutes, giving a brief Bible study about the upcoming Holy Days. Then I gave them the opportunity to ask questions. Some of those present have been with the church for a number of years; some are quite new, so the questions varied widely:
- What does leaven represent?
· Is it wrong to eat leavened products at other times of the year?
· Some calendars put Sunday at the end of the weekly cycle (true in many Catholic countries – a rather sneaky trick on the undereducated in my opinion), how do we know that Saturday is the 7th day of the week?
· What will happen to people attending Church services but not yet baptized at the return of Christ?
· Ancient Israel was punished with captivity and slavery for breaking the Sabbath, is there a parallel for people who don't keep the Sabbath today?
· Why don’t we use lots of drum ("tam-tam") music in our services like other churches?
As I answered their questions, I often asked them questions too:
· What is the good news, “the gospel”?
· What is the salvation about which all churches speak?
· What is sin, and how can we know?
· What is the purpose of Church services?
· What are God’s goals for us, and for our work as a church?
It was a stimulating, and I believe, helpful discussion.
After about an hour and half, we stopped for a photo and a meal. The ladies had prepared something they know I could and would eat: some fried potatoes, some small pieces of fried chicken, and some raw onions and tomatoes. I sparingly ate some of the fries and a piece of chicken. As usual I didn’t eat much, both to decrease the risk of stomach trouble – they do their best, but don’t have running water that would help insure everything is clean, and also because they need the food much more than I do. So I eat enough to be polite and to show appreciate their kindness, but not much more.
They ate a favorite local meal: potato greens on rice. We ate in silence for a few minutes, people in these parts like to concentrate on a good meal since this is not something to be taken for granted. But later we continued talking and answering questions.
I asked Paul to text or call the taxi to find out what was going on. There was the usual discussion of who would make the call: who had enough units on his cell phone. Almost everyone here has a cell phone here, but they’re always just on the limit of not having any units available. They all use a pay-as-you-go, and calls cost very little, but most people have even less. One man used his phone but ran out of time halfway through the call. Someone else called and used his last minute.
The taxi was “in the garage” I was told. That didn’t sound good. I assumed it has some sor to mechanical trouble – very common here. What ensued was a sort of “who’s on first?” routine.
Where is the garage? I asked
Why is the car in the garage?
It’s not far.
I know, but did it break down?
Then why is it in the garage?
He’s just waiting in the garage.
Why is he waiting in the garage, is there some trouble?
No, it’s not far, he’s coming here.
How can he be coming here if the car is in the garage?
Finally they explained to me that “the garage” was a quarter of the city, not far from Kilometre 17. The taxi was just working in that quarter. We all laughed about the misunderstanding.
I joked with them: “that’s a mean trick to keep visitors confused!” They laughed. I told them I hope they didn’t have a quarter called “on the way” or we’d never figure out what’s going on!
I also joked with one of the ladies wearing a t-shirt with OBAMA printed on it (as you can imagine he’s a great hero here). I asked if she had voted for him in the last election. They all laughed at the thought of being able to vote in an American election.
Finally at 6:30, as the sun was setting, the taxi arrived. I shook hands all around and Paul and I drove back to the hotel. We agreed to meet at 8:30 tomorrow morning for the drive out to La Mé, so I can visit the church members there.