Visit to La Mé

Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
Trip End Apr 29, 2012

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This morning I rose about 7:00. Walking over to the bathroom I discovered the carpet by the door was soaking wet. I thought at first perhaps the air conditioner has caused some heavy condensation – not unheard of. But then I found that the lights were not working. The air-con was still on, but there were no lights or power in the outlets.

I prepared for the day in a bathroom lit only by the light that made its way from the outside window.On my way down for breakfast, I found workers in the hall vacuuming standing water from the carpet. There had obviously been a major leak of some kind. At the front desk, I mentioned that I had no power in my room and the attendant explained that a pipe had burst on the 8th floor, and water had gushed down from there, hitting circuit breakers and cutting power, all the way down to the ground floor. They had no power for their computers either. I noted that the water had flooded the rooms on the other side of the hall and not those on my side, for which I was grateful.

I was back in my room and ready to roll by 8:00, since we had agreed that Paul would come between 8:00 and 8:30. I spent some time reading of The Fate of Africa which impresses me more and more. I felt early on I saw some indication of political correctness, which is highly distasteful to me, but I find the author to be pretty straight-forward in his account of the events in Africa since independence, portraying leaders in their strengths but also with their not inconsiderable warts.

About 9:30 the power finally came on, and just before 10:00 Paul called to say he had arrived with Seussié and Mamadou. A manager from the car rental company was present to collect her 30,000 CFA Francs for the car and driver (gasoline would be extra, as usual). I paid the manager, collected my receipt and off we went. Kwame, the driver, told me we needed to put 10000 CFA (about $20) worth of gasoline in the car. Usually we use a diesel car and 5000 Francs in enough to get to La Mé and back (better mileage – lower cost). To be on the safe side, I decided we'd put 5000-worth in on the way out and see how things went on the way back.

On the hour-long drove to La Mé we passed crowds of people walking somewhere, makeshift markets, scores of mothers with babies strapped on their backs, more people walking somewhere, street sweeper with short brooms, yet more people walking somewhere, thousands of taxis, still more people walking somewhere, half or fully naked people who had lost their minds, and many people walking somewhere, and, you get the idea….

We passed several checkpoint, had our papers verified by armed but relaxed soldiers and finally turned onto the dirt road leading to La Mé, where our work in Cote d’Ivoire started seven or eight years ago. We arrived at our church hall a little before 11:00. While we waited to gather those who would meet with us, I distributed some photos taken during a previous visit. Photos are much appreciated gifts, since most people here don’t have any photos of themselves or their family members. Photos are not expensive by Western standards, but when one doesn’t always eat his fill every day, finding someone with a camera and paying even a few cents for a photo is an unaffordable luxury. The look of delight on their faces as they looked at their photos was a rather sobering reward for these small gifts.

When everyone was finally present, we asked a blessing on our meeting and I threw it open for questions. We continued for 2 ½ hours without a break. There were questions about the organization of Sabbath services and our Holy Day services, about the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament Passovers; about the situation of our new church association and how things stood in Europe and French Africa; about our new office in the Dallas area; how our church organizational structure was working, about our media efforts and organization, about future plans in general and about my plans for visits to, and our work in, Côte d’Ivoire, and news of people they knew. I explained our efforts on the Internet and how we believed we had learned to be more effective in our outreach, principally using that medium. Some of the questions required explanations from the Bible, some just current facts, some about plans, hopes and dreams.

One interesting cultural issue that came up was over our office employees selling their homes to move to the office in Dallas. Most Africans never sell their village home. Everyone comes from a specific tribal region and village (everyone has "his village") and, while they may move to find work or make a career, they always intend to move back home, at least when they retire. They felt badly for people who might have to actually sell their home to work in our headquarters office – to them it would be a giant sacrifice, an uprooting and a cutting off of their personal identity. They hoped we wouldn’t force anyone to sell his ancestral home!

I tried to explain that in the US and many other areas, many or most people don’t have an ancestral home, weren’t as attached to a particular locale and that many people moved often and didn’t expect to return anywhere particular later in life. I explained that I didn’t have a village, that I’d moved a dozen times when I was young (my father was a pastor) and that I didn’t have anywhere particular to which I needed to return. They were startled and rather amazed; this was a very different world view for them. I had the impression they pitied us a little, and thinking about it later I wondered if perhaps they were right! We are a bit rootless sometimes in the US and the West, and that may take a toll of which we are sometimes unaware.

After our long Q&A session, those present asked me to ask a blessing on those present and on the work of God in the country, which I was happy to do.

We took a short break and then I counseled with several people who are preparing for baptism. One lady had been preparing for quite a while, and we had had a number of visits to discuss the biblical criteria and how we needed to fulfill them. I was very encouraged to see how much she had progressed in her understanding and preparation since our last discussion and that in all good conscience I was convinced she could be baptized now. When I told her the news, she lowered her head quietly and wept for joy. I was moved to see the depth of her feeling. I told her I would return tomorrow morning for the ceremony and asked her to be ready.

I then met with a man who had begun preparing for baptism during my previous visit. He also has progressed a great deal. His sincerity and his commitment were very evident. I’ll need to see him again tomorrow morning, and we’ll see then, but I’m hopeful.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and time to start back to Abidjan, where we arrived in late afternoon. Kwame had been correct, we needed to put another 4000 Francs worth of gas ($8, a little less than a gallon and a half) in to bring the car back to its starting level. Tomorrow we’ll try to rent a diesel, which get much better mileage.

I asked Paul to find out before tomorrow how much French Bibles cost locally, so we can provide some for new people who are coming to the truth and don’t yet have Bibles of their own. Several people in the States have sent small contributions with me for such needs and there are several in and around Abidjan who need Bibles, so I’m happy we can provide some.

Tomorrow will be a very full and, I trust, productive day in this colorful country where so much progress can be seen.

Thanks to all of you who are following along on this trip and for your encouraging comments!
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Tommie Briley on

How good it is to be able to see & learn through the perspective of another’s eyes. Wonderful and touching to read of the upcoming baptism(s?)!

Tess Washington on

It is reassuring to know that even while we're asleep, God protects us from any harm.

I can still recall the time when the minister told me that he will baptize me. That was one happy moment in my life and one that I will never forget! I can feel the lady's emotion when you told her Mr. Meeker!

Jason Hyde on

Thanks for sharing the news of our brethren and the perspective you bring in the telling. We will continue to pray for your safety and for the progress of God's work in that part of the world.

Ted Franek on

Thanks Mr Meeker for keeping us so well informed of your trip. We really appreciate all you are doing for the brethren there. I feel it will be a very profitable journey.
We pray that it will be a safe one for all concerned.

Clyde Kilough on

Just had a chance to catch up tonight on all of your blogs - as usual, so very interesting and informative! Thanks for taking the time to write when I know you could be so busy with other matters. Such communications keep us connected with our brethren around the world, even though we will likely never meet them in this life. Travel safely!

Barbara Anderson on

Very interesting and helpful information that helps in praying for the brethren over there.
Praying for your trip and safety.
Keep the blogs coming.

Dave Register on

Joel, I have been reading you blogs with great interest. It is exciting to read about what God is doing in French Africa! Please let the brethren there know they are in our thoughts and prayers. You blogs bring far-away members of the Body of Christ much closer to us. You are in our thoughts and prayers for God's blessing and protection!

Judy Dane on

I always look forward to your trips and the blog that you keep. It is so easy to take for granted the luxury that we have. Thank you.

John Howard on

While reading your blog, I realized how easily I have taken for for granted our blessings. I have a number of Bibles, access to many scriptural sources via the internet, and probably more to eat than I should. I "envy" those wonderful people you are meeting and speaking to. They may be poor in material goods, but I consider them far richer than I in spiritual ones.

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