Sunday, October 31, 2004

Henry the Turtle's First Blog

Editor’s Note: This blog post was written and created by Henry the Turtle, the trusted friend and associate of Rev. Wesley Magruder. Henry made his first public appearance in Cameroon today, at Bethesda UMC in Sa’a. The following comments do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Magruder family or the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church …

It’s about time! Two months after arriving in Africa, I have finally been allowed out of my shell!!

I don’t know why the Rev. took so long to pull me out of my box, but I’ve been waiting and waiting patiently. In the meantime, I’ve been studying French in my shell, but I’m really struggling with past participles … Anyway, at least I’ve mastered my new Cameroon name: Henri la tortue.

Yaounde is a nice city, but I’ve been dying to get out into the countryside. The Rev. threw me in a box in the back of the Land Rover, but at least I could peek out of the rear window. We drove past miles and miles of luscious, verdant green landscapes – for some reason, I like that color!

The town of Sa’a is located an hour’s drive north of Yaounde. After you hang a left in the middle of town, you drive for half a mile and there it is – a gate leading into Bethesda United Methodist Church. The congregation meets in the living room of the pastor’s home. He welcomed us graciously, and gave me a couple of palm leaves to sit comfortably on.

I’ve never seen a church service quite like this, to be honest. First, we sang a French hymn. Then Pastor Bikoy stood up and introduced the Rev. to the congregation. They clapped loudly for him … they obviously don’t know him very well yet! People were invited to stand and give testimonies, then we had two beautiful solos from women in the congregation.

Then I heard the Rev. stand and say that he’d brought a special friend … and for some reason, I got stage-fright. Boy, I went cold and clammy all over. That’s nothing new, of course, I’m cold-blooded, but I really got nervous this time.

The Rev. called my name several times, but I just did not want to come out. Then he whispered into my shell and I confessed to him that I was just plain scared! I didn’t know anybody there, except the Rev. and his two children, Mallory and Rachel.

Then all of a sudden, I heard everyone in the room say something very comforting: “Jesu, t’aime, Henri!” Fortunately, I know just enough French to know that those words mean, “Jesus loves you, Henry!”

And you know what? Those words convinced me to muster up all my courage and stick my head out into the strange new world of West Africa. When I think about the love of God, I feel like I can do just about anything!

I don’t need to be afraid of new faces and different surroundings. In fact, I made a whole bunch of new friends this morning. There were about ten children I’d never seen before who really liked me! They clapped when I stuck my head out. They waved at me. They smiled at me. They asked me to come back and see them again sometime.

After I went back into my shell, I heard the congregation stand and sing praises to God, clapping and calling out enthusiastically. It was so comforting that I drifted off to sleep, and didn’t wake up until I heard the Rev. giving the benediction.

Then everybody wanted to have their picture taken with me – well, all except for one little boy who was kind of scared of me. He cried whenever I got close to him. I leaned over and tried to whisper “Jesu, t’aime!” in his ear. But I don’t think he could hear me.

That’s OK. I’ll come back. Again and again. ‘Cause I love this place!