October 25, 2015
Hello! I’m back again. I had a nice month-long vacation in the U.S. from mid-August to mid-September. It was great to spend some time with family and friends, and it went by very quickly!
Almost immediately after arriving back in Meiganga, I took off again for a few days at Meng, the location of one of the church’s Bible schools. The purpose of this trip was a pedagogical seminar for the professors of the Bible school and the Lutheran Institute of Theology. It was taught by my ELCA colleague Susan Smith, who has a PhD in education and is called to work as an educational advisor for the Lutheran church in the Central African Republic. Unfortunately, because of the instability in CAR, she has not been able to do much of her work there and has been staying in Garoua Boulai, Cameroon (on the border with CAR). Anyway, we have been taking advantage of her expertise here in Cameroon. We had some very fruitful learning and discussion at the seminar about how we can improve our effectiveness as teachers and better reach our objectives as educational institutions of the church.
My colleagues, Dr. Susan Smith and Dr. Jean Koulagna, at Meng / Susan leading us in a discussion about educational objectives
The last week in September, I started teaching Greek to the incoming class of students, and the regular semester of courses began October 5th. Each academic year is kicked off with an opening worship service. Here are some photos of that service on Friday, October 2nd.
Dr. Koulagna, Dean of the Institute, speaking at the opening worship service for the academic year 2015-2016
It is good to be teaching again. This is now my third year teaching New Testament at the Institute, and each year I can see that I am growing in confidence and competence, much of that related to my ability to speak French, but also to having more time to hone the content and teaching strategy of my courses. When I look back now at my first year teaching, I feel a little sorry for my students at that time, as I was really struggling to keep my head above water. There is always much room for improvement, of course (that was the purpose of our pedagogical seminar), but in general, I feel much better about the work I am doing now.
Daily life: power and water
One of the ongoing struggles of life in Meiganga is that there are frequent power outages. This is especially a problem during the rainy season (April – October) when there are frequent storms. I have a generator at my house that I usually start when it gets dark and the power is out. The Institute also has a generator for the main building (provided by the ELCA), but to save money, it is only run when it is essential to have power, and that generator does not connect to the campus housing. That means that on evenings when there is no power, my house sometimes becomes the “recharging station” for cell phones and laptops.
I have written before about the water situation here. The city water service seems not to work much of the time, at least not in our neighborhood. In the spring of 2014, I was making weekly trips to a local borehole with students to fill water containers, an effort which was very time-consuming. I realized recently that I neglected to write about the improvement that came soon after that. In May 2014, retired missionary Jim Noss was visiting, and with ELCA funds, he was able to get the Institute’s back-up water system working again. He and his team installed a new pump for our borehole, fixed several broken pipes, and got our water tower back into working condition. So now we can pump water up to the water tower and supply water to the campus.
The only catch is that this system is expensive to run because it requires using the Institute’s generator to pump the water. So to save money, we have set times when the water runs and everyone fills up their containers. I also have a rain barrel on my back porch to catch rain water, which gets used for house cleaning purposes and for filling up buckets for flushing the toilet when the water is not running.
Two essentials of my existence in Meiganga – my generator (with its own little “house” to protect it from the elements), and my rain barrel.
Needless to say, this process is also a bit time consuming. But it is better than making trips to a well or borehole, which is what many people here do every day, making the trips on foot and carrying the water home on their heads. (Have I mentioned how heavy water is?!) In an area where the majority of people do not have indoor plumbing at all, I have it pretty easy, relatively speaking.
An addition to the household
Another thing I neglected to write about before: At the end of May of this year, I received a dog, Lady, from another missionary family. She originally belonged to my ELCA colleagues, Deborah and Joe Troester, who were working in CAR. When they started a new position in Tanzania two years ago, they left Lady with a family in Yaoundé. In June of this year, the family with whom Lady was staying was returning to the U.S., so Lady came to live with me. She is a black lab mix with a very sweet temperament, but also a ferocious sounding bark for scaring away any potential intruders. In other words, she is a great companion and watch dog. She is very good with children, and my cook’s grandchildren love her, as you can see in the photo below.
Finally, speaking of children, I was invited recently to speak to the Sunday school children at the local Lutheran church. Sunday school is conducted differently here than in the U.S. Generally, churches do not have an “education wing” with multiple classrooms, so Sunday school is held in one room with all the children together. Here there were only two teachers, but I was quite impressed with how well they were able to keep order and keep the children engaged. I leave you with this photo of me with the Sunday school children of the French-speaking Lutheran congregation in Meiganga (there are also Gbaya-speaking and Fulfulde-speaking Lutheran congregations in Meiganga).
+ Grace and peace +