Prayer in Song

by Sister Hannah

We are with the Emmanuel Sisters and just came from Vespers.

Towards the end of the service there is opportunity for extemporaneous prayers. Very quietly, the Sister in front of me started to sing, “Go down Moses, way down in Egypt land,” and slowly and prayerfully others joined in this prayer for deliverance from oppression.

We know the historical/Biblical pain and suffering of the Hebrews. And in the American southern states this was reiterated as the slaves longed for their freedom.

In today’s conflict situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, the prayers continue. These Sisters know God is faithful and they pray earnestly, in the words of this song. The need for stability is fairly urgent and our prayers joined with theirs will surely touch the Father’s heart.

Music is Catchy!

by Sister Victoria

After a long stretch in Kuvlu, we have returned to Bafut and are spending a short time visiting again with our wonderful friends at the Emmanuel sisterhood, now our Cameroon family.

Word of our progress with the postulants in Kuvlu, both in piano lessons and psalm singing has preceded us, and now the sisters are undertaking piano lessons. They also asked if I would help them with singing their daily offices.

So, classes are underway! What a joy it is to witness their eagerness and delight in learning music for the first time, and a pleasure for me to do what I can to help them.

What God Provides

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!”

We Are Together

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!”

Bon appetit

by Sister Hannah

Most meals in our experience in Cameroon are a large portion of starch with a sauce or gravy. These are traditional inherited combinations. Also, we are wished ‘bon appetit’ at the beginning of meals, another tradition.

The other day we were out of vegetables. So the postulants mentioned picking pumpkin leaves from the garden. Should we try them? Why not?

From their bag full of dewy tender leaves I took out four for the two of us. This might work as a green sauce on spaghetti.

Cooked in a little oil and water with onion, garlic and salt it didn’t look like a sauce at all! But we stirred it into the cooked spaghetti and felt like pioneers in the gourmet field — not a bad combination. God’s resources continue to bless us. We marvel at His care for us time after time.

Courage Brothers!

by Sister Victoria

Two weeks of intense music lessons for the postulants in Kuvlu, Cameroon has proven both fun and fruitful. They have practiced hard and last Sunday we sang “Courage Brothers” in Church, accompanied by one of the girls. Just a few weeks ago some of them had never before set eyes on a piano, let alone imagined playing one. They were thrilled! These girls are very bright and the joy they feel learning something so unusual in Cameroon is giving them the impetus to learn!

Kuvlu is actually known to be a place steeped in dark arts and religious practices and it seems evident to us that God has specifically chosen this place for the new Convent to flourish and bring light to this village. Already we sense that God is at work through music and especially in the chanting of the Psalms.

Birthday cake in Cameroon

by Sister Hannah

Can you make a cake? Sister Jane asked, and I said we could try. I had made bread in a make-shift double boiler here so the same might work for a cake. This was to celebrate Ben’s 13th birthday. Ben and God’s Plan are two boys from the orphanage who have been helping cook and do chores here at the convent for a couple of months.

We gathered ingredients (no recipe) buttered the pot and launched in. No mixing bowl, no beater — a fork works — and no measuring cups or spoons, but a lot of trust in the Lord.

All dry ingredients stirred together.  Now a lesson on separating eggs, three whites to whip and fold in last, so Bee started beating with a fork. We added  oil, eggs, water, orange juice and grated rind and mixed it all. The whites soon formed beautiful peaks and got folded in.

The batter looked great and the girls said it tasted good. We took it to the outside kitchen and lowered the cake into the larger pot of boiling water over an open wood fire. Sometime later I tested for doneness, on the concrete floor — done!

Eager to celebrate, we didn’t wait til the cake was cool. We quickly adorned it with a little marmalade and lots of toasted coconut. Yum! We sang, clapped and prayed for this special young man. Ben was the first baby to come to the orphanage and has grown up with Sister Jane as Mama Jane.

He Who Sings, Prays Twice -St. Augustine

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.

A small gift

by Sister Hannah

At the Convent of the Emmanuel Sisterhood, when we have stayed there, I took a short walk almost every day.

I had a glimpse of God’s delight in His creation along the path, the red earth adorned with small and various rocks.

Along the way I looked up at some of the trees as I walked, laden with mangoes and guava, and then went past a short row of stately cedars. Here I discovered something very exciting. In the last cedar, I saw what was possibly a small orchid, and stepped off the path and looked more closely. Yes, it was an orchid, and then I found many other trees had them. Orchids are slow growing, and I hope during future visits to see many of them in bloom. The plants are less than half the size of those sold in supermarkets and florist shops, so, to me, all the more exquisite.

God planted them (or allowed them to take up residence on these trees) for His own enjoyment and to bless those who have time to see as they pass by. This humble little flower provided such a blessing: a reminder to all of us to take time to stop and smell the flowers — whatever might be growing near you!

Here I Am, Lord

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.