Sunday, April 10, 2005

Exploring in the East

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, travel, and business. I never did get to write a good, substantial blog entry on the youth camp … maybe I’ll find time this week.

Life is returning to some semblance of routine, though not for long. I will be flying to Geneva, Switzerland for a meeting next week. And we’ve recently entertained Leah’s cousin, Uncle Dougie, who visited this past week from California.

While Uncle Dougie was here, he and I, along with Pastor Billong and lay preacher Jean-Raymond, made an “exploratory” trip to the East province.

Let me start over from the beginning … about two months ago, Pastor Billong and I were talking about evangelism strategies. I asked him, “Where should the United Methodist Church in Cameroon go next?” We have churches in only three of the country’s ten provinces. Pastor Billong advised that we go east or south; he has contacts and friends each direction. I said, “Well, pick one – east or south – and we’ll travel there and do a little exploring about the possibilities of starting churches or other ministries there.”

He replied, “Well, let’s go to the East. I have a former pastor friend of mine in Bertoua.”

“Bertoua it shall be,” I said. When I discovered that Uncle Dougie was coming to visit in mid-April, I suggested that he go with us.

However, as time got closer for our trip to Bertoua, Pastor Billong had problems getting in touch with his friend, Pastor Martin. The phone number didn’t seem to work.

One week before we were to leave, Pastor Billong received a phone call from a stranger, a pastor in Bertoua (!!) who said he had been given his phone number from Pastor Martin. This pastor, Joseph Nini, was going to be in Yaounde, and wanted an appointment to speak about his plans for ministry in Bertoua.

So Pastor Billong and I met with Pastor Nini, and heard his exciting ideas for a chicken and pepper farm, as well as plans for, not one, but two, United Methodist Churches in Bertoua. Pastor Nini drew up a schedule for us. While in Bertoua, we had the privilege of meeting the provincial Secretary General, the Mayor’s secretary, several police officers, and a village chief. And on our way out of town, we visited two pygmy settlements!

I am not sure if, in the end, we will be able to start anything in Bertoua. Money is tight in the Mission, and the distance between Bertoua and Yaounde is a little daunting. However, I have a goal in mind to create a United Methodist presence in each of Cameroon’s ten provinces. This may take some time, but a door is now cracked open in the East that didn’t exist before.