Sunday, September 05, 2004

First Church Communion

A dirt path riven by gulleys and streams of dirty red water winds through a dismal neighborhood somewhere in Yaounde. Concrete block houses with tin roofs sit next to shells of half-finished buildings. On this road sits the location of First United Methodist Church of Yaounde, in Pastor Billong’s living room!

The room is a large open space, similar to our own. Blue plastic chairs are arranged in rows with one middle aisle. There is a table at one end, covered with a green tablecloth, flanked by two large speakers. It’s Communion Sunday.

Only a small crowd has gathered – Bill wonders if the low turnout is because it’s also “Mil Francs” Sunday, meaning that members have been specifically asked to bring and give 1,000 CFA, which is roughly equivalent to $2.00.

Pastor David Sen’s sermon is powerful and evangelistic. He preaches from the first chapter of Nehemiah, and likens Nehemiah’s quest to rebuild the walls and hopes of the Israelites to Jesus’ healing, salvific work of restoring sinful people. He closes with a call to respond to his message; many people raise their hand for prayer.

Sen is a charismatic personality, but the act of preaching is made even more captivating by Alexi’s job of translating it into English. The two preach in tandem almost; their words tumble over and on top of each other. At times, it’s like a closely practiced duet, or dueling instruments, rather than simply an echo. The words are complementary and reinforcing, rather than simply duplicated.

The communion service was simple and touching. Flat dry wafers are dipped into red wine – distinctly distasteful, as my girls complain. “But taste isn’t the point, is it?” I counter.

I suppose that’s life in a nutshell. Taste, flavor, tints – these are merely accidental details. Other things matter more. Things like love, strength, courage, patience, faith. All of the things the apostle tells us to spend time thinking on. What is worthy of our sustained attention?