Wednesday, July 12, 2006

You Are Now Free to Move About the Country ...

I remember a Southwest Airlines TV commercial that featured a tone, followed by the words, “You are now free to move about the country.” I have no idea if it’s still being aired, given that I haven’t watched much American television in the last two years.

But it was a clever ad campaign. And I’m reminded of it because of our ordeals in trying to get the United Methodist Church registered as a legal religious association in the Republic of Cameroon.

First, a quick briefing: the previous missionary submitted the first dossier to the government, as required by law, back in late 2002. I have a kind of official “receipt” of the documents dated December 2002. This dossier is supposed to be investigated by the police, reported on by a civil servant at the Ministry of Territorial Administration, signed by the Minister of Territorial Administration, and finally signed by the President.

When this decree is signed, we will be … free to move about the country! We will receive some tax breaks, will be free of some customs requirements, and more importantly, will have an official authorization to do our work!

You may recall that about this time last year, we ran into some problems with our visas because we were not registered, and one of our volunteers was even sent home. After that incident, I got serious about following the dossier, but to this date, it appears that the file is still sitting on the same desk that it was last year. No progress appears to have been made.

What does this mean for the Mission? The truth is, we must get this situation sorted out as soon as possible. Until the authorization is granted, there are projects that we can’t start, new missionaries that we can’t invite over, and lots of supplies that we can’t get shipped into the country. Even our furlough, scheduled for next summer, is threatened.

I am working on the situation on a daily basis, making calls to various ministers, Embassy staff, and other people I think might be able to help. But it’s frustrating work.

When I related this story to a church in Alabama, I was approached by a woman after the presentation. She said, “OK, it sounds like we need to pray about this registration.” I agreed wholeheartedly. But she pressed me: “When do you want us to pray?”

Good question. I’m tempted to say, “Constantly!” But I think it’s not a bad idea to set a time and day. So … how about Wednesdays at 3 pm Cameroon time (that’s 9 am CST)? I’ll set aside an hour or so to pray, how about you?