More village visits

Trip Start Jan 13, 2013
Trip End Feb 04, 2013

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Hotel du Guety

Flag of Cote D  , Dix-Huit Montagnes,
Sunday, January 20, 2013

The water was still off this morning so I washed out of the bucket again. Franz was back in his corner. I splashed some water on him. He flinched but otherwise didn't move; that’s a pretty confident, laid-back cockroach.

We left the hotel a little after 07:00 since we had a lot planned for the day. As usual, our first stop was the Brioche where we ordered café au lait and a pain aux raisins (raisin bread) - rather optimistically named since I have thus far found very few raisins in them, usually one or two. The boss was gone with the key to wherever the milk was kept, so we waited a few minutes. Finally the waitress said she could send for "red bonnets". I ask her to repeat. “Red bonnets, red bonnets” she said. Hmm. I ask for more information, and after more questions than it should have taken I found that “red bonnets” was a brand of concentrated milk. There was no UHT milk but she could get us canned, evaporated milk. I agreed. Shortly thereafter boiled water, Nescafé and cans of red bonnet arrived. I can’t say it was great, but it was acceptable.

We rolled out at 7:30 to make sweep of village visits.

We drove about 90 minutes to the first village of the day: named Gouvêpleu. We arrived in front of a medium-sized, round building already full of men seated in chairs around the interior circumference. The Chief of the village was present with his chief counselor both wearing boubous, and received us gravely along with other village notables. We were offered water, then a soft drink, and then introductions were made on both sides. The Chief spoke through his spokesman. Séussié was my spokesman, since to live up to the importance accorded me as a foreign visitor; it’s not meet for me to speak directly to anyone right away. I must be presented and my feelings expressed by someone else before it is fitting for me to say anything on my own behalf. It takes a certain amount of time to get down to business, but time is something they usually have plenty of. It’s sometimes interesting to follow Paul’s example and try be “all things to all men.”

When it was appropriate to speak, I explained that our mission is first to preach the gospel and briefly told them what is was and how it was different from what most Christian churches teach. We would concentrate on giving people the hope of the Kingdom of God.  Second our mission is to teach those whom God calls to His Church, so we would concentrate on education and helping people change their lives for the better. Heads nodded.

Then I took questions, some of which were:

-         Why do you keep Saturday?
·         Why do your church members drink alcohol? I answered that not all do, but we follow the Bible teaching that those who do, should do so in moderation. Almost all Christian churches in Africa teach that no alcohol should be taken. It’s also true that there are very few examples visible of drinking in moderation….
·         Are you related to this other Saturday religious group  “the white church” that gets drunk and noisy on Saturday? (No!)
·         What is your mission?
·         What will you do in our village?

This first introduction took over an hour, but it was important to give legitimacy to the people of this village who are learning about the truth. It is different enough from what most Christians teach and practice that they would easily be viewed with suspicious. Having a foreigner show up and explain that others believe this too, gives them credence, and should allow them to learn and practice in peace.

We took a group photo, and children came out of the woodwork as soon as my camera appeared. The chief asked for a photo, I told him I would send one. Then we drove about half an hour on a bad dirt track to the second village: Yadouleu. Here the Cantonal Chief received us on his terrace and apparently either hadn’t had time to send for soft drinks or wanted to see what we would do, so through his spokesman, he announced that we was offering us a sucrerie, (a curious term meaning “a sweet” which is often used for soft drinks here) and had a 1000 CFA ($2 US) note given to us. We ask someone to go buy us the drinks, so we could drink them before the Chief in a transparent manner.

After the usual formalities, when my turn to speak came I explained our work and our mission: to give hope, and to prepare for a better world to come.

The Chief was old and remained seated throughout the visit. I asked about his health. He said he was doing well, but doing well at his age was not the same as doing well as a young man. He showed me a prescription for something I couldn’t read; doctors’ handwriting is illegible in Côte d’Ivoire too.

The Chief’s counselors were very positive toward us and also had come questions to ask, among them:

·         Why do you keep Saturday?
·         Why do your church members drink alcohol?

To answer about our observance of Saturday, I explained the 10 commandments and how the 4th one had never been changed on the authority of the Bible. One of the counselors said he appreciated my answers. He was a Christian, he said, but said he had learned new things today. The Chief asked me to send him a photo.

We got back in the car and drove half an hour farther to Yapleu, where we arrival around 11:00. The village Chief and half a dozen other notable men were there in boubous to meet us. There were formalities, the official welcomes, messages through spokesmen and so on, as before

Among other things, through his spokesman, the Chief announced that this was the second time he had welcomed me in the village, the first time he had given me the keys to the village (and a boubou), this time he adopted me as his son. I wondered for a moment if that made me the new heir apparent to the village, but he clarified when he went on to say that I would always have a bedroom available in his house. It was very a very kind and generous gesture.

After the formalities when my turn to speak came, I thanked the Chief for his kind gesture, and said if I ever needed to spend the night in Yapleu I would be honored to accept his invitation. I also thanked the authorities for their help and support for the congregation here. Then to the members gathered I read the first part of Romains 13, which instructs Christians to be good and obedient citizens and to show respect for proper, legal authority. I also encouraged the village notables to exercise their functions in the fear of God and for the good of their fellow citizens.

I was ready to take questions, and there was just one comment from one of the village leaders who said he appreciated my words and wanted to note that all churches talk about the Bible, but behaviors are different and that he had noted a difference in behavior and way of life among the members or our little group here in Yapleu. He was impressed. I thanked him sincerely for his comment which was most encouraging because a big part of true Christianity is letting your light shine, as Jesus put it.

We took a photo with the dignitaries and let them go (most were really ready to go by that time – it’s not always easy being a dignitary…) and I began to do some baptismal counseling with people I had seen and counseled a first time about a year ago – the last time I was here.

I only got through half the list, so I thought things over and decided to prolong my stay in the region for one more day. I’m usually only able to come here once a year and if war breaks out again, it could be much longer. If I spend a day more I can see the rest of those who began counseling last year, and hopefully they won’t have to be put off longer.

I informed everyone we would come back Wednesday and there was much rejoicing; excited talking and cheers, clapping, big smiles, back-patting and so on. I prepared to leave, but by custom, we must eat something to acknowledge the hospitality of the village, so we drove to the quarter where I have been before and were served chicken, rice and orange soda. I ate lightly; Paul really dug in. He is so happy here and really enjoys the food, even though it sometimes makes him sick. He's doing well on this trip. I gave him my yams already, and someone in Yapleu gave him a big bag of bananas and also a half a bag of rice. There is more food that luggage in the trunk now. I'm glad he'll have food to take back.

After a quick bite, we got back in the car and drove 20 bad kilometers of dirt road, which takes nearly an hour to the final stop of the day, the village of Sebapleu.

We were receive in the little shelter they have built for their Sabbath services, and were proud to show a sign that says EDAM (French for COGWA). A child was charged to make sure the sign was in every photo. As he walked around from place to place I noticed the other side was painted for the Jehovah’s Witnesses with meeting times. We’ll see what that means; it could mean a number of things. We met in the afternoon heat, and were welcomed by the village chief and his spokesman. I spoke briefly about the mission of the Church and then took just two questions (it was really hot by this time and getting later too), one of which was: Why do you keep Saturday?

The Chiefs spokesman gave us the keys to the village also made an impassioned plea beseeching us for help to build the group a proper hall of brick and tin so they can safely meet and not worry a storm will carry off their “temple” (in French Protestants often refer to their church buildings as “temples” to differentiate them from Catholic churches). This is a common first request when visiting a new group that is interested, and in response I recognized the need but didn’t commit to anything. We’ll have to see how things go. Sometimes God is calling people and these things last and work and sometimes He isn’t and they don’t. We can’t commit up front. We don’t operate like most other groups because of that. We don’t believe that “if you build it they will come” in the sense that most groups do. Only God can call.

Then we went into the village for the food required by hospitality. This time it was really bad. Either they hadn’t wiped the plates of dust or they hadn’t ever been washed after the last meal (I prefer not to think about that – but that’s what Séussié thinks; he was disgusted as well) but there was a great deal of sand and grit or something unpleasant in the rice and fish sauce. After a couple of bites I decided, hospitality or no, I wasn’t going to eat it. I hoped I had stopped eating soon enough to avoid becoming ill tonight. To avoid eating I got up and took photos.

Sebapleu is only a couple of klicks from the blacktopped road, so we were on it quite quickly. I noticed Kony was driving much slower than usual. I asked him why. He said we had a tire problem. And sure enough a few more kms down the road and a tire began thumping. We stopped, and saw a huge section was flapping. The inner tube was still holding it up but wouldn’t for much longer (they usually use inner tubes here for that reason. Kony put the donut on, and we drove much faster that we should have on a donut back to Man. On the way Kony told me he knew this was going to happen and had ordered another tire from his boss in Abidjan two days earlier, and it should have arrived today.

And when we arrived in Man, the tire had indeed arrived. Kony is having it mounted and it should be ready tomorrow.

At 7:00 pm Kony and I left for dinner. Paul had really eaten heartily at every stop today, so he said he wouldn’t have dinner with us, but showed up at 8:00 anyway, and ate some leftovers and we shared a beer.
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Marguerite Evans on

Hi Joel,
Nice to hear more about your trip. Glad that our little group shines their lights to others, and that it is truly noticed. Happy that you stayed one more day for those who wanted to counsel for baptism. Smooth way to escape eating something that might have gotten you sick. Hope you didn't get sick even with the first bites. Reading your blogs help me to pray better about the brethren there and you. Take care!

Tess Washington on

So happy to read about these villages and its people that you visited. God's will be done for these people! They need God's truths...they need the hope of the coming Kingdom of God! Wow! You are doing a great job for representing not only COGWA but God's true Church among these people! Thank you Mr. Meeker for enduring all the difficulties in going to countries like Cote! We are with you as you tell us about your travels through these villages!

Ron Kelley on

Hi Joel, I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading all your travel blogs. You need to consider writing a book someday about all your travels. I hope none of us ever complain about hotel rooms or restaurant menus again. You've set us a fine example of coping with difficult situations in the service of the people of God. Keep up the good work.

Mary Hendren on

Hi Joel,

What a busy day with four villages, meals and questions. In everyplace you were asked about the Sabbath and three of the villages had questions about alcohol. Alcohol must be troublesome when things are so difficult. The chiefs have a lot of authority and respect, and it seems you have learned the important protocols. We trust your visit will be encouraging to everyone, especially when the chiefs get their photos!


Ted Franek on

Mr Meeker,
I am really appreciative of the sacrifice you are making in the service of God's people. Thank you for the blogs with all the pictures and the comment you made about Franz......that one really got me laughing. We pray for your continued safety and successful journey.

Arnold Burns on

Hi Joel,
I really enjoy the updates on your travels and also the adventures. It seems the travel of other religious groups has set standards and have left questions in the minds concerning Sabbath keeping and consumption of food and drink. interesting how the same questions concerning the Sabbath and Alchol surfaced at these villiages. I am thankful God is allowing the truth about physical and spiritual matters to be explained. Keep up the good work and be safe and storng--God be with you.

Ken Treybig on

Hi Joel,
I'm really enjoying catching up on your trip. It's so interesting to hear how introductions must be done in each place before you can speak for yourself--and to note, as Mary did, that in every village you were asked about the Sabbath and in three of the four about alcohol.

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