“Say what? I am doing what tomorrow?”
It was Friday evening, we had just come back from vespers at the church on the Batouri Adventist Hospital campus. Dr. Olen Netteburg had given a great message in French that he thought up on the 3 minute walk down to the church, and we had just gotten into the house when Dr. Roger, the Congolese medical director of Batouri informed me that I was preaching tomorrow at another church in Batouri. That was my reaction. I can get by at work and with simple conversations in French, but preaching the next day, well, I am no Olen.
The only reason I didn’t flat out say no was that in December our pastor here in Moundou had asked me to preach on January 24. I had already mostly written out the sermon, and amazingly (read miraculously) had printed it off just before we left and brought it with me in case I had a little time to work on it on the trip. So I had my work cut out for me for Friday evening.
On the way to the church the next morning, with Dr. Roger as my guide I got to thinking:
“They know I don’t speak French well, and there are a number of Adventist churches in Batouri, and they sent all of out to preach at different churches, Kermit is at the hospital church, probably the biggest, we dropped Drs. Salomon and Odei at two other more centrally located churches. And now we are headed out of town. In fact this road is starting to resemble an advance dirt bike trail.”
The farther we went, which was a little difficult because I couldn’t find the parking brake to release it (I told Olen later he might need a new one), anyway the farther we went, the more relaxed I became. My thoughts continued.
“Yea, this is on the edge of town, in fact maybe a little out of town, I bet they are sending me to one of those little one day churches, like they have around Bere. I bet there will be 50 little kids and 10 adults, most of whom don’t speak French. So I can say whatever I want and Roger can translate and he can preach whatever sermon he wants, in fact he doesn’t even have to understand me. This way they get to show the white guy around with him embarrassing himself and everyone else.”
So as we crossed a dirt bridge over a gulley that was 6 inches narrower than the width of the pickup I was feeling pretty good. Especially since I had not planned on preaching, and had packed light, hence I had on those wrinkled Columbia cargo pants and light shirt that white people wear in Africa, with no tie. And the only closed toed shoes I had were tennis shoes, so I was wearing my black OR clogs.
Just past the bridge the road (path) widened out again and I could see the jungle (remember Batouri is in the tropics and is surrounded by jungle) ahead. In front of it was a church, with people around, probably not Baptist, and definitely not a one day church. This was a bonafide church, about three times the size of Moundou’s church. There were an amazing number of motos parked under the adjacent mango tree. I could feel my confidence deserting me and heading back across the dirt bridge toward Tchad and home, leaving me to face this on my own.
We walked in the back, it was either smile or cry, I chose a weak smile. There had to 250 people (mostly adults) in the church, the deacons were in uniforms (more on them later), most of the men were in suits and ties and nice polished closed toes shoes. The church was decorated nicely, there were two choirs, one which had a sound system with canned music to accompany them. No Dorothy we aren’t in Tchad anymore.
Roger led me to the very front row. I had one consoling thought that I clung to with all my ebbing strength. These people will never see me again, in two days I will flee across the border into Tchad a country caught in 1927, my home, where I belong, not here, not in 2015. A tall very distinguished looking man stood up to speak, he was impeccably dressed in a suit and tie, without holes, (still had the tag on the sleeve though, they never remove the tags from anything, they really take that mattress tag law seriously here). It was the Pastor, of the district, of the 32 church district, with 2400 members, most of whom seemed to be here today. I had only one question, whoever thought it was a good idea to ask me to preach in this church? They obviously had just recently changed their medications.
Sabbath School ended and Roger led me back to gathering room. Fortunately the service is pretty much the same in Cameroon as it is in Tchad, so I wasn’t too confused, and then we were on the platform looking out over a sea of faces, all miraculously dressed in just their underwear (hey it helps).
I promised a word or two about the uniformed deacons. From the front I watched as they roamed the aisles, alert for a sleeping (not for long) parishioner, or a noisy group of boys. I kind of felt like I was in the 1750’s in Massachusetts.
Anyway, next thing I knew I was in the receiving line shaking 250 hands, wishing them a “Bon Sabbat”, “Salut” and “Bonjour”. A handful even politely said thank you. The good news, I didn’t pass out, they laughed at the right places, and said “Amen” at the right places. On the other hand they haven’t asked me back, and at church in Moundou this week I found out I had been replaced on the schedule. Don’t know if the Batouri Pastor called our Pastor, or if he just forgot he asked me 2 months ago. My pride says he forgot, but…
After church Roger and I were ushered into a small room with a low table covered with food dishes. Apparently we were to eat lunch with the Pastor and his wife. Let’s see, boule, fried plantain (like a fried banana), fish heads, chicken, and meat in a peanut sauce. I politely explained I was vegetarian, and ate the plantain (excellent), boule (palatable) with the peanut sauce without the meat (spicy and not bad).
Then it was time to head back to the hospital for lunch, where we had, fried plantain, rice, fish heads, a sushi looking thing with fish, chicken, and some really, really good greens.
That evening I realized how emotionally and physically exhausting the preaching had been, how much of a toll it had taken on me. I was wasted. I finally went to bed. I woke up during the night with stomach cramps, and feeling on the verge of nausea. My first thought was the boule and peanut sauce. Man I really wanted to throw up and have diarrhea, but was denied the pleasure of either, just the cramps and nausea, and the aches.
Sunday I got up had a cup of hot chocolate, looked at breakfast and decided it looked better on the table than on my plate. I saw a few patients, most of whom I could do nothing to help, but after being on my feet for 90 minutes all I really wanted to do was crawl back in my tent, on my mat on the floor and close my eyes and wish the world away. By evening when the GI symptoms had not progressed, I faced the inevitable truth, despite the lack of fever, I had malaria. So I tried to eat a bit and started on Arthimeter. The ride home on Monday was long and miserable, but thankfully by Tuesday I was almost back to normal. Good thing too because I got really punished at work for being gone.
Be it ever so humble, there really is no place like home.
After the last blog, Batouri II, I had several questions as to what we were doing in Batouri, Cameroon. We had gone to the hospital to take badly needed supplies, and give them support and encouragement, and do some education. It was all successful, I believe, so a good trip, well worth the effort.
For those of you new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. You will also find links to other missionary blogs such as Olen and Danae Netteburg and others. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.
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