Out of Africa?

Trip Start Sep 15, 2011
1
21
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Trip End Oct 21, 2011


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Flag of Cote D  , Lagunes,
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Paul was to have come to the hotel with a driver at 07:00 this morning. Being a time-conscious westerner, I prepared to be ready by 07:00 while figuring we'd leave more like 07:30. But starting even before 07:00 a huge rain storm dropped heave sheets of rain for two hours. I knew that would slow things down and it did, by two hours. I wasn’t thrilled about going out, because heavy rains can close roads and bring traffic to a standstill. But this was my last day in country and a lady in La Mé had ask to talk about baptism, and I didn’t want to cancel the appointment.

Just before 09:00 Paul arrived with his son, Seussié, the car company manager, and the driver, who did not give his name. I paid for the car and we loaded up and headed out toward La Mé. We could not go the most direct routes because during and right after heavy rains, certain low-lying streets are so far under water they are impassible. That’s quite an impressive scene, and one I haven’t figured out yet how to capture in photos. The rain on the windows and windshield confuses the automatic focus and prevents clear photos. We saw roads very far under water and a strong current running in the lagoon from rainwater runoff. There were also patches of road full of debris left from when the water had run in rivers across them.

The rain tapered off as we drove through Abobo, and then stopped altogether once we left the city itself. The road to La Mé was dry though puddles here and there showed there had been recent rains. The dirt road into La Mé was mostly dry, which was good, since it’s in very bad shape. Had it been soaked, I’m not sure we would have been able to make it though a few sections.

As we arrived at the church hall, I met with the members who gathered and found that there were two people who wished to discuss baptism. So I met with them in turn for about an hour each. I made some notes for them of things they needed to study further and I encouraged them to keep preparing, and that I hoped to be able to come back again early next year, perhaps January or February and that I would meet with them again at that time if they wished.

We said our goodbyes to everyone in La Mé and Paul and Séussié and I started back. We had the taxi driver pull over about a mile from the turnoff from La Mé onto the paved road and hiked back through the fields, groves and undergrowth to visit Houmarou, one of the first people I baptized in Côte d’Ivoire five or six years ago. He faces a great many trials, not the least of which is his Muslim family members that make his life difficult since he converted from Islam to Christianity. He has a physical disability which doesn’t allow him to work in the fields, so he is dependent on other forms of income, and his family was part of that. I had since set him up with a cell phone and credits which he uses as a "bush phone booth", for villagers that don’t have phones, and he can make enough from that business to make ends meet. Still it is hard with the family trying to sabotage him at every turn. We sat in his mud-brick house and encouraged him with news from elsewhere and the hope we all share for the future. He was very encouraged to hear the details of what was planned for the Feast of Tabernacles. That will be a very encouraging time.

Finally, we walked back through a light rain to the paved road and shook hands with Houmarou. He has shown great courage and fortitude in many trials. I left him with some additional assistance to help him through a financial rough spot he is facing. Actually the whole country is facing a financial rough spot as is most of the continent. It would be wonderful to be able to help everyone in need, but sadly that is far beyond our means. So we do what we can today and look forward to the world tomorrow.

We arrived back at the hotel in the afternoon. I asked Paul to print some documents about which people had asked in La Mé, and gave him some money to do so. Paul came back a few hours later with 80 or 90 pages printed, which will be helpful in La Mé.

Then it was time for Paul and Séussié to go back to their homes and regular responsibilities. They took the better part of a week off to accompany me and help with what needed to be done. It is not a chore for them, it is a learning experience in many ways for them, they take notes all the time, and they and the brethren certainly eat better than usual, since when I can I try to provide a decent meal when we get together for work. I think Paul and Séussié ate meat, poultry or fish every day and sometimes twice a day for nearly a week, which is normally a very rare experience. I also give them some help to more than make up for any loss of income. Still they do take time off, and dedicate that time to the work of the Church, they work long days, and it is much appreciated.

At the end of the afternoon, I checked out of the hotel and settled my account. Then I had an early dinner (one normally doesn’t eat dinner in a French restaurant until at least 7:00 pm), and tried to take the shuttle to the airport. But it has been reserved by others at odd hours – at least unworkable hours for my flight leaving at 9:40 pm. The shuttle wouldn’t leave until 8:00, and it takes half an hour to reach the airport. That was cutting it too close. So I needed to take a taxi.

There are not so many taxis running in Abidjan at night. The security situation has improved markedly, but it’s still not what it should be. The hotel staff was trying to locate one for about half an hour when an orange taxi pulled up by chance to drop off a passenger. We negotiated a price, and to be on the safe side, I let the driver see me writing down his license plate number on a slip of paper that also had my name, my old room number, and the date on it. I handed it very visibly to the guard at the door. He would hold it, and if anything happened to me, the authorities could trace the taxi. Orange taxis used to be considered quite safe, but lately there have been robberies and worse happening even among them, so it seemed prudent to take an extra precaution. The driver went out of his way to be pleasant during the drive, probably wanting to reassure me. He commented things we saw along the way and laughed and joked as we went.

There was no problem during the drive so I arrived at the airport in good time to check in. Now I just need to wait in the departure lounge until time to board.
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Comments

maryhendren
maryhendren on

Thanks for sharing the photos and good news, Joel. It's encouraging to hear that you have two individuals in La Me who want to be baptized. Houmarou demonstrated a lot of courage in leaving the faith of his family to become a Christian. What a creative way of helping him make ends meet through the "bush phone booth" service.

Mary

Tess Washington on

We will remember Paul, Seussie and Houmarou in our prayers...also the 2 prospective members! Mr. Meeker, I share your travel blog with a brethren who doesn't have a home computer...she loves reading about our brethrens' situation so she can pray about it too...

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