Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Aggies at Work

How many Aggies named Leah does it take to change a lightbulb? …

Wait, I better be careful. For the last five weeks, I’ve had two Aggies named Leah in the same house. I’ve survived, but only barely.

Actually, Little Leah (Bouas) has been a real joy to have around the Mission. A couple of months ago, her mother wrote us out of the blue and said that she had a college daughter who wanted to spend some of her summer vacation working in Africa on the prevention of HIV/AIDS. She wanted to know if we needed any help. Maman Leah jumped at the chance – you know how Aggies are!

At first, we weren’t sure exactly what to do with Little Leah. But a few weeks before she arrived, we received word that the Mission had received a grant from the Women’s Division to put together a team of young people to give presentations on AIDS prevention and stigmatization.

So we put Little Leah to work – as the project manager of a six-person team that has spent the last two weeks training and presenting throughout the villages and towns of the Central Province. The last presentation was made on Monday in Elig M’fomo, and by the time the team had arrived back in Yaounde, they were utterly exhausted.

I managed to catch the seminar in Monatele on Sunday and was blown away – they did a fantastic job in difficult and trying circumstances.

Pastor Simeon Nomo was our pastoral representative on the team. He always opened the seminar with a few songs and introductions. Lydia Mbwoge, a 20-year old Anglophone, gave a straight talk on the prevention, transmission and treatment of HIV/AIDS. She was followed by Ebede, a young Francophone, who talked about HIV testing. Afterwards, Collins Etchi, the 24-year old Anglophone who came up with the idea of the seminar and wrote the original grant application, spoke frankly about condoms. Pastor Nomo then used a series of pictures to illustrate how quickly HIV/AIDS spreads from person to person. And Gisele, a 31-year old Francophone, gave a passionate and spiritual “sermon” about loving and respecting people who are infected with HIV/AIDS. The team then asked participants a series of questions based on what they had presented. Those who answered correctly were given special UMC T-shirts.

Finally, Pastor Nomo led the group in a closing worship service, in which he gave a clear altar call. And the response was enthusiastic – in Minkama for example, out of 60 participants, 23 came forward to give their lives to Christ.

It was an inspiring week in Cameroon … and I am reminded that this is United Methodist Christianity at its best. This is a Christianity that recognizes that piety and personal commitment to Jesus Christ must be accompanied by a love and concern for the world that God has made. This is Justice and Mercy kissing each other, as the Psalmist so eloquently wrote. This is private piety and social responsibility joined at the hip. This is the cry of the heart, head and feet in one clear song.

And this is Jesus … the One who taught his disciples to pray one day, and how to feed the multitudes the next.