Today was our third Sunday back at church, and the first “normal” service. The first week had been led by the women celebrating the founding of the Women’s group. The second week was youth Sunday and run by the youth. Today was the first day for us that the pastor got to preach.
We stepped gingerly down the muddy road from ridge-line to rock. For a block or so, we followed three not-so-little pigs, which was an amusing change from the usual chickens and goats that greet pedestrians.
And the little one said…
Later, a van-load of other missionaries passed us on the road. It was strange to see them on this route, as I knew that it wasn’t the easiest road to church by car. We trudged along and arrived at church, with no sign of the van. When stepped into Grace Baptist Church and found our seats (we were early enough to get to sit in the plastic patio-chairs rather than the backless benches), the songs had already started, and a bright-white smile flashed from a friendly face on the stage. It took me a moment to be sure, but it was Rebecca Nsom. Rebecca is a God-gifted encourager, and as I’ve mentioned here before, she was instrumental in getting me through my first weeks in Cameroon. Rebecca was worship-leader and belted out the songs in call-and-response, leading us through the songs. The translator repeated her encouragement to the congregation in French.
Praise time is blessing time! (FYI, This photo is not from this Sunday)
Halfway through the songs, I noticed the other missionaries trudging into the clearing from the neighborhood. We would find out later that they had been avoiding an accident on the main road and had gotten stuck in the mud from the evening’s rain, finally parking at the bottom of one of the hills and hoofing it to church.
When pastor Jacques’ turn had come, he stepped up to the pulpit. As is his tradition, he asked someone in the congregation to pray for the sermon…wait…that was my name! I stood up in place, and in English as I was a bit surprised, I lifted up the pastor, the sermon, and the congregation.
He launched into a rousing, interesting, and surprisingly funny sermon about Christian tendencies, starting with the Corinthians tendency to follow a specific person’s teaching (Peter, Paul, Apollos, or Jesus). Later he spoke of the tendency to see a demon around every corner. He told a story of a pastor who would arrive early to church to pray away the demons, and the pastor had said “It’s better to chase out the demons even if the place is empty, just to be sure.” He closed this section with assurance that he would and has cast out demons, but only when necessary, not for show, never for pay, and definitely not every service.
It was communion Sunday, and this being a Baptist church, I had been warned that they may now require that those who take communion to have been baptized by immersion, which I would understand. Instead, the field pastor who had come to serve communion did a survey of what the different denominations believed about communion. He discussed Evangelicals’, Anglicans’, and Pentecostals’ beliefs on symbolism of the bread and wine. He also spoke of transubstantiation and the Catholic belief that the elements become the literal blood and body. The common thread of the discourse and of the beliefs was that they all focused on the presence of God…and that’s what sets Christians apart from non-Christians. We took communion and the serviced closed with some songs, including one that we knew from Switzerland [my translation]:
“This is my body, take and eat.
This is my blood, take and drink.
For I am life and I am love.
Oh Lord, carry us in your love!”
After the service, we greeted everyone, including Rebecca. As it turns out, she had just gotten married the day after we arrived…so I introduced Mrs. Lee to Mrs. Rebecca (I think she said her new family name was Nyo. It was good to see her again, and we’ll meet her husband Richard next week.
We returned home on foot with another companion, passing the crew heading to the van or having them pass us on four different occasions. The President was coming through soon on his way between the palace and airport, so the main road would be closed for a few hours until his convoy rolled through, and this meant a lot of bumpy detours. In the end, we made it home before we would have in the van.
I hope you’re enjoying these glimpses into life here.