Another visit to Yapleu

Trip Start Jan 13, 2013
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Trip End Feb 04, 2013


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Flag of Cote D  , Dix-Huit Montagnes,
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This morning little Franz was dead right next to my bed, a nearly-tragic event. I wondered why cockroaches seem to die so frequently in high traffic areas, as if they want everyone to know when they go. Big Franz wasn't around, possibly he was in mourning.

The water was still on, so I could shower; an auspicious beginning to the day.

We left the hotel at 07:00, there was no pain au raisin this morning; we had croissants instead.

We left town 07:30. After 30 minutes on the blacktopped road and just under an hour on bad dirt roads, we arrived in Yapleu, and begin counseling. I counseled 4 people individually during 2 ½ hours. I had their names written down, and when each person came in I ask his or her date of birth for my records. One of them knew the year, the others told me "I'm 50", “I’m about 50” and “I’m more than 50.” Keeping accurate birth records is a relatively new idea here in the bush. There people don’t know their birthday, and many have no government issued ID at all, so it doesn't really matter whether they know their birth date. As the song goes: “all I really got to do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why….”

Three people were ready, in addition to three I had already agreed to baptize two days ago. One lady was very zealous but not yet “according to knowledge”, as the Scripture puts it. When I told her she still needed to study and consider a few things, her face fell. She so wanted to be baptized, but not really for all the right reasons. She pleaded with me through the interpreter to reconsider, and it came out a plaintive plea in French “please try harder to baptize me!”

I reassured her that it was a question of time and understanding, and that hurrying up would not help her. I encouraged her not to lose heart, but to continue studying what I suggested for her and to pray for God’s help to continue growing in her understanding. These situations are poignant, especially when I can only come here about once a year, and the very human reaction to interpreting a “not yet” as a sort of “I failed my test.” I told her she would be the first one with whom I would visit on my next trip to Yapleu.

It was 11:30 by the time we finished the counseling. I changed into my shorts in the church hall and we drove down the road and parked and walked half a mile to the usual baptismal spot, a picturesque corner where a stream runs through a very tropical-looking stand of trees including one with large roots above ground. On arrival one of the members found a large snake that had recently been dispatched. It was thick and muscular and about 5 feet (160 cm) long and was a fairly bright orange color. Ants were now feasting on the carcass. I ask what people knew about it. No one from Yapleu had ever seen one like it before.

As usual, some village children and women gathered to watch the unusual events. We had to ask them to be quiet several times, since quiet is not really considered the normal state of affairs in sub-Saharan African life. There is almost always noise: people talking, babies crying, children arguing or playing and so on. So to have quiet is a bit of a feat.

It’s now the the dry season so the water level was low and the stream was barely flowing. It’s really not good to stand in stagnant fresh water in Africa; there are all sorts of unpleasant parasites that live in such conditions, and which can cause rather impressive symptoms, to say the least. Most of these are contracted by drinking contaminated water, but some can enter the body through even small breaks in the skin. So I said a silent prayer for protection for all of us from that threat. I slipped off my shoes and put on some plastic sandals that I had borrowed for the occasion.

After asking God’s blessing on the ceremony, Paul and I walked about to about thigh level in the water and called each of the six people forward to be baptized. Then back on dry ground I prayed for each and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given to them, according to biblical example and instruction. So Bernard, Justine, Suzanne, Helen, Medard and Alexi became part of the family. You’ll notice in the photo that Alexi is small and looks very young almost like a child. I’m not sure how that happened, but he’s actually in his mid-30s.

After the prayer I shook hands with each and welcomed them to the family and gave each formal kiss on both cheeks, in which there is really no kiss, just an approach of the cheeks on both sides of the face. This has come from the common French custom which I know well, but in this region it has evolved into a sort of forehead bump on both sides of the head; a meeting of the minds perhaps….

Then the celebrating and dancing and ululating began. It’s not a full-fledged ululating here, but very close to it, and it’s obviously very joyful. We all headed back to the house where we always meet and the newly baptized were honored with dancing and singing. Each was draped in a clean pagne and they were fanned by ladies using other pagnes to relieve the heat as they observed the celebration in their honor. A local photographer had been summoned. It was understood that he would be paid for each photo; he was using an old, film-type camera. The group was photographed and they asked me to stand with them for a photo, then individual members asked to have their photo with me too. I told our new brothers and sisters in the faith that I would have photos printed from among the photos I took and either send or bring them to them.

We had a quick bite of fish in tomato and onion sauce with fried potatoes (they know I eat those, the reason being that thus far I’ve never had a bad experience in Africa with fried potatoes; they appear to pose no threat – at least that’s my explanation to my wife…). Then we said goodbye to everyone and started the 90-minute drive back to Man.

We drove directly to the post office, so we could rent a PO Box for the use of the members here. The “receiver” had left the office on some personal errand, so I gave the money to Paul and Séussié so they could wait and get this very important item rented. This will allow them to receive mailings directly from the US and very much improve communication and literature delivery. Kony and I drove back to the hotel about 2 miles away to wait for them. I settled the bill with hotel, we’ve paid about 70 dollars a night total for three rooms, and with no running water for four days we’ve certainly over-paid, but that’s the way it is. The hotel manager was very happy when I asked to settle our accounts. “What year is it?” he asked me in French. I thought that an odd question, but I answered, “it’s 2013”. “No I mean, in what year will you next come back and visit us? I remember you came here before” I said I didn’t know, but perhaps soon.

Toward dusk a huge rainstorm swept in with high winds. The rain was very welcome, the wind was not. In continued to rain most of the evening and the night.

We had had no problems with the food at the White House, so we went back for dinner. The table we had used last night was flooded out by rain water, so we moved to a higher level in the maquis and found a table. We had to manoeuver the table around several times to position it in such a way where neither we nor the table was under a roof leak, of which there were quite a few. This would be our last dinner in Man, and I have to say I was ready for a change in the menu!
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Comments

Ken Treybig on

So good to hear about more baptisms!

Tess Washington on

Wonderful! So good to see these new brethrens! I can remember my own baptism...it was a moment that I was very eager to participate in! Parasites are real pests! We are so fortunate that we have God to protect us from such things! Thank you Mr. Meeker for all the work that you do and for having the love of God for all these people!

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