Thursday, January 20, 2005

Welcome Addresses

One of the interesting traditions I discovered on my trip was the custom of the reading of the “Welcome Address.” In each church, near the beginning of the worship service, a lay leader would stand and read, then hand me a copy, of a Welcome Address.

Let me share with you some of the interesting highlights from some of these addresses ...

In Barombi Kang, Anu Aloysius, the official “Pastor Relation Officer,” read a stirring speech that went like this:

To welcome you, we shall dwell on two Biblical quotations. First, Galatians 3:27-28, ‘You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ The above words from Apostle Paul have become true because today we find you in our midst. True, because you and ourselves here do not have the same skin colour and culture. We can imagine thousands of kilometers you and your family have covered, flying over vast bodies of land, sea and oceans to attain a small country, Cameroon and today to find yourselves in Barombi-Kang. We cannot leave out the harsh climatic conditions you and your family have encountered in Cameroon. All in all, the business is the Holy Mission to spread the Gospel. Ephesians 2:19,
‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens,
with God’s people and members of God’s house, built on the foundation of the
apostles, with Christ Jesus himself as the Chief cornerstone.’ In Cameroon, you
are not foreigners nor aliens, but fellow citizens. The Holy Christian Church,
planted in Cameroon in the form of the Catholic Church, Presbyterian, Lutherans,
and Baptists, will join the United Methodist Church to pray for your safe and
long stay in Cameroon.

In the village of Penda Mboko/Matouke, I received a welcome from the Chief, whose representative read the following statement:

The village of Matouke is hereby today welcoming the quest of the said above-mentioned church which has reached into our village today … The villagers pray that this church should be carried in and out of the republic of Cameroon as a whole. The village knows that any denomination carries out the word of the Lord and no person else. The village is praying hard and harder so this United Methodist Church carries his activities well, as we do pray. The village knows that when any denomination entered in any place, the place is developed, thanks be to God! The help from the Church that the village needs are as follows: 1) electricity, 2) water, 3) health center. The village prays to the Lord for a safe return to your station.

A few moments later, the pastor of the church in this village, Ngangtanuah Arnold Tangunji, read a welcoming address that included the following:

From today, we are sure that with your presence in Cameroon, what we started as a joke has gained wonderful grounds. As a new church, in a place which has more than seven other denominations, we are doing everything possible to increase the growth of the church and solemnly seek your support and diligent directives and encouragement. The benches and other things you see here are all through our personal efforts and therefore seek your support. As Christians from other churches, too, we need educative literature materials, personal books and training opportunities to enhance the growth of the church and win more Christians, who are readily available, but need to know more about the church … The village is made up of CDC workers farmers and youths who are attending school. If you do not find many people here today, it is because some have gone to work and youth have gone to school. But on average Sundays, we are usually over 25.

The small prayer group in Banga Bakandu had high expectations for my visit; their leader said, “Since the formation of this prayer group in March 2004, this is the first day we have had a missionary visit us. Because of this many of our Christians have backslided. We believe this, your first visit, will cause a revival in our group. We know Rev. Elango has done all he can, but now that you have come, much will be done.”

Hope I can live up to that one!

In Mamfe, Pastor Samuel Egbe wrote something which may well be more Pidgin than English:

Jesus Christ have giving us power for we to assemble people’s for God. I started the work with three Sisters and two Brothers by the call of God, preaching the Gospel’s from street to street and the people started accepting the way I was preaching because of the true, is in God. People came to see miracles and left the villages to see the good work of God … The congregation is crying for help so that the children can have something to offering to God on Sunday and we are praying for HIV/AIDS for God to send down his holy spirit to healed them.

Each welcome address was unique, different in its needs, requests, and thanksgivings. I loved hearing each one of them. But my favorite part of the address was the closing. For they each ended the same way:

“Long live the Missionary.

Long live the United Methodist Church in Cameroon.

Long live the Republic of Cameroon!”

Amen to that!