by Sister Hannah
The Sisters’ culinary adventures in Cameroon continue, as does God’s provision and protection.
Menus this week included pitas and refried beans (from two different cultures, introduced to a third). Pitas were made over a wood fire. I’d cooked and seasoned the beans and had help mashing them. So that was dinner. However, some preferred marmalade on their pitas, so we had lots of beans left.
Next day I re-worked the beans into a soup to go over rice, but only two of us chose that option for lunch. More left-overs (sigh). And I went on to dinner preparation.
Later, four young neighborhood children who often drop by for a meal showed up, and I groaned inwardly; as we just had enough for us for dinner, I didn’t think we could give them any of it. Then I remembered the soup. Would they eat such a strange soup? One postulant thought so, and ladeled it into four bowls for them.
Soon I heard the children laughing—they had eaten and their appreciation was expressed as they enjoyed a satisfied feeling. I had tears as I sensed their grateful hearts. O, wait and see what God provides. And the licked-clean bowls stacked outside the kitchen door said a terrifically simple, “Amen!”
by Sister Spero
The Feast of the Nativity of Mary (or Mary’s birthday) has been celebrated on September 8th for at least 15 centuries.
We know this because of “Romanos the Melodist,” a Jewish convert to Christianity from Syria in the late 5th century. He became a deacon in Constantinople, the center of the Christian faith at the time.
There is a story told about Romanos that he felt very inadequate when it came to music, and did not like his own voice. When he was asked to lead a special service, the All-Night Vigil, he pleaded with the Mother of God to help him, and fell asleep in his prayers. He dreamt that Mary came to him with a scroll, and said, “Here, eat this.” He woke up full of joy, and the next night, at the All-Night Vigil, he sang with such a strong, clear voice that everyone was amazed. After this he wrote many hymns, including one for the Feast of Nativity of Mary on September 8th, which is how historians date this feast.
by Sister Victoria
One of the common phrases among Christians here in Cameroon is “we are together ” meaning we have one God and we share our concerns and needs. It is no different with the Muslims here in the village of Kuvlu. They represent a large sector in the village, and our little Community, the Benedictine Sisters of Bethany have been aiming at fostering a good relationship with them.
Today I met with some our Muslim neighbours, just as they were coming out of their afternoon prayers. They could not have been warmer towards me saying, “we have one God, we are together, and we love you!”
by Sister Victoria
Yesterday was a special and blessed day for our postulants of the Benedictine Sisters of Bethany here in the village of Kuvlu. These beautiful girls have taken the step from aspirants to postulants and with that step have received their new habits.
For the past couple of months, Sr Hannah and I have been busy putting together a new psalter with antiphons so that this new Community can begin singing the psalms.
Also, this past week began a rather intense two-week “music camp”. The girls have had beginning piano lessons with a visiting instructor, and I have been teaching them to chant the psalms. Meanwhile Sr Hannah has worked on alterations to their new habits, giving them their final pressing with a charcoal iron!
At church I sat behind them and admit, my eyes welled up a little thinking of the privilege and joy it is to be a part of their lives; young women wishing to serve God.
by Sister Victoria
Just recently we made the long journey from Kuvlu to Bafut to attend the consecration service for three of the Emmanuel sisters. What an event that was! It was a whole day affair, beginning with the service at 9:30 in the morning followed by a meal for all and then drumming, singing and dancing well into the night.
It is an event for all the families, who were distinguished by wearing outfits of the same flamboyant fabric, many neighboring villagers and friends, other religious including 20 clergy, and no doubt some walk-ups. All in all, there had to be no fewer than about 500 guests.
We were blessed to experience another slice of African life in this event, very much like a large wedding where the families “gave” their daughters away to be brides of Christ.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
you will lead me by the right road
thought I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
through I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.
by Sister Victoria
Now that I have left the Cistercian Monastery after participating for three weeks in their daily offices of prayer, we are back in the remote village of Kuvlu and music classes are well underway! In our classes we are learning the different chant modes and starting to use them with the Psalms in English. At times it can be a challenge to convey what I am trying to teach and yet rewarding when they catch on to a concept.
It is such a joy to see the delight on their faces when they realize that they are learning music, a very rare experience in Cameroon.
Our Lord never insists upon obedience. He tells us very emphatically what to do, but he never takes means to make us do it. We have to obey him out of a oneness of spirit with him. That is why when our Lord talked about discipleship, he prefaced it with an “IF”—you do not need to unless you like.
Our Lord does not give me rules, he makes his standard very clear, and if my relation to him is that of love, I do what he says without any hesitation. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey him. I must do it, and when I do obey him I fulfill my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small petty incidents altogether unnoticeable and trivial, but if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances they become pinholes through which I see the face of God, and when I stand face to face with God I will discover that through my obedience thousands were blessed. When once God’s redemption comes to obedience in a human soul it always creates. If I obey Jesus Christ the redemption of God will rush through me on to other lives, because behind the deed of obedience is the reality of Almighty God.
by Sister Victoria
For the past couple of weeks, I have been at Our Lady of Bamenda Monastery studying how they sing their daily office. I will then begin the task to teach it to the aspirants of a beginning Community, the Sisters of Bethany, who are currently in our care here in Cameroon.
Although a cloistered Cistercian Community of about 30 monks, I have had the rare privilege of being invited to join them in the choir for their offices. As I sit among these men, there is something that stirs me. While listening to their rough voices, I think what I sense is their humility. Why do we avoid humility in ourselves yet can be blessed by and even admire the humility in others? That is something I am asking myself.
I believe it is no accident that this week I have come across several times the verse in Psalm 119, “Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain”. Bending is an act of humility and that is becoming my “go to” prayer, that it may someday become real in my life.
In our sickness, we need a savior, in our wanderings a guide, in our blindness someone to show us the light, in our thirst the fountain of living water, which quenches forever the thirst of those who drink from it. We dead people need life, we sheep need a shepherd, we children need a teacher, the whole world needs Jesus!
The ruler of the universe and the Word of the Father calls himself the shepherd of the sheep. Pasture us children like sheep, Lord. Fill us with your own food, the food of righteousness. As our guide, we pray you to lead us to your holy mountain, the church on high, touching the heavens. “I will be their shepherd,” he says. We who are passing over into immortality shall not fall into corruption, for he will preserve us. He has said he would, and to do so is his own wish. Such is our Teacher, both good and just. He said he had not come to be served but to serve.
Adapted from Journey with the Fathers